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March 14, 2014

The life of an internet meme: First we were supposed to swoon over a video of 20 complete strangers sharing a first kiss, then we were supposed to be outraged that the "beautiful" lip-locking of "strangers" — all paid models and musicians — was really part of a viral clothing ad. Then came the parodies. Now, Jimmy Fallon has squared the circle, bringing the whole short-lived internet sensation to its logical internet conclusion. Is it goofy? Of course. Dumb? Maybe. But, as with most things involving puppies and kittens on the internet, it's also kind of adorable. Please let this be the last word on "First Kiss." --Peter Weber

3:37 a.m. ET

On Wednesday morning, President Trump announced that he will hold a campaign-style rally in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, next Tuesday, his first trip out West since his inauguration. On Wednesday evening, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked him to reconsider. "I am disappointed that President Trump has decided to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville," Stanton wrote. "If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation. It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit."

Trump told Fox News earlier this week that he is "seriously considering a pardon" for Arpaio, a supporter and anti-immigration stalwart who lost his bid for re-election as Maricopa County sheriff last year and was recently convicted of criminal contempt; at his scheduled Oct. 5 sentencing hearing, Arpaio, 85, could get up to six months in jail. Stanton said that the Phoenix Convention Center is a public space that anyone can rent, "and that includes the Trump campaign," adding that assuming sound judgment does not prevail, he and the Phoenix police department will be focused on "keeping everyone — those attending the rally, those expressing their First Amendment rights outside and the general public — safe." Peter Weber

1:57 a.m. ET

It took three weeks for Dana, a lion rescued from a defunct zoo in Aleppo, Syria, to make the journey to her new home in Jordan, and during her first night at the al-Ma'wa reserve, she gave birth to a lion cub named Hajar — Arabic for "the immigrant."

Dana was one of 12 animals, including four other lions, two bears, and two tigers, to leave Syria for Jordan, thanks to the efforts of the animal charity Four Paws. The team had been concerned she might give birth while in the cage she had to travel in; had that happened, Dr. Amir Khalil said, the cub probably would not have survived. The vet thinks Dana waited until Friday, when she arrived in a secure area, to finally have her cub. "She is a mom, she had the instinct," he told ABC News. "It's a miracle."

Not much is known yet about the cub, as it is bonding with Dana and hasn't been examined by Khalil. Its fur is white, which could change, and it is estimated to weigh 3.3 to 4.4 pounds. An ultrasound done in Turkey showed that Dana was carrying two cubs, and a follow-up ultrasound will reveal if she is still expecting, or if the second cub was born at the same time as Hajar and died. Dana and Hajar already have a strong bond, something Khalil is grateful to see. "After the dark," he said, "there is light." Catherine Garcia

1:16 a.m. ET

It wasn't something you hear on Fox News every day: A host on the conservative-leaning network making comments critical of President Trump.

Following his jaw-dropping press conference Tuesday where he blamed "both sides" for violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which ended in the death of counterprotester Heather Hayer, Kat Timpf, a co-host of The Fox News Specialists, said she was "disgusted" by the whole spectacle. It didn't take long for viewers to react, with many tweeting that Timpf, as well as co-host Eboni K. Williams, needed to be fired. In one case, Timpf told The Associated Press Wednesday, she was told she's a "disgrace to the white race."

Timpf said she's had to stop checking her email, and while the threats are hitting her hard, she won't be silenced by those who object to her opinions. "It doesn't seem like it's too difficult to do the right thing and respond by saying, 'Nazis are bad,'" she said. "I can't believe that my stance is a controversial stance, or something you need to even take a stand on at all these days. It's really upsetting." If she ends up losing the support of some viewers, Timpf told AP, that's fine, because "there's nothing in my head that has me even considering approaching things in any other way than I have approached it." Catherine Garcia

1:02 a.m. ET

After President Trump's initial response to the white nationalist "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville, where he condemned the violence "from many sides," the top uniformed U.S. Navy officer, Adm. John Richardson, decided it was a good time to issue a statement affirming that the U.S. Navy "forever stands against intolerance & hatred."

After Trump dug in on Tuesday, insisting that "both sides" were to blame for the Charlottesville melee, and said there are some "very fine people" among the torch-wielding alt-right marchers as well as the people protesting against them, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, tweeted that there is "no place for racial hatred or extremism" in the Marines.

He was soon joined in what might be viewed as subtweeting the president, or perhaps just a restatement of military values, by Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Army chief of staff, and then by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein.

Several prominent Republicans — including the last two GOP presidents — have stepped up to denounce racism and white supremacy after Trump's comments, and the business leaders on two of Trump's advisory committees jumped ship, "but it was the statements from the country's top uniformed military leaders that broke most dramatically from the president," the Los Angeles Times argues.

None of the uniformed military leaders mentioned Trump by name, but Trump's Veterans Affairs secretary, David Shulkin, did on Wednesday, when he said that Trump speaks for himself but as far as Shulkin is concerned, "it is a dishonor to our country's veterans to allow the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged." Peter Weber

August 16, 2017
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism sent a letter to members of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan, condemning the comments made by President Trump in the aftermath of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

The letter, sent Wednesday evening, was signed by Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein, as well as his successors, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz and Rabbi Elie Weinstock, New York reports. The rabbis said they were "appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right. While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence."

Because of his close ties to Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, Lookstein was invited to speak last year at the Republican National Convention; he was going to give the invocation but changed his mind after backlash from the modern Orthodox community, New York reports. While President Trump on Tuesday blamed the violence on "both sides," his eldest daughter tweeted on Sunday that there should be "no place in society for racism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED." Catherine Garcia

August 16, 2017
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The latest Stephen Bannon interview comes from a surprising source: The American Prospect, a progressive publication.

Bannon associates told CNN and Axios that the White House chief strategist did not know his conversation with magazine co-founder Robert Kuttner would be turned into an article, published Wednesday, and that he had called to chat with Kuttner because he liked his stance on China in a recent story. Kuttner said media-savvy Bannon — who was a topic of conversation during former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci's phone call with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, which led to his firing — never asked for the conversation to be off the record.

Bannon told Kuttner there is "no military solution" to North Korea and its nuclear threats; said the "economic war with China is everything" and the U.S. must be "maniacally focused on that"; and called white nationalists "losers," "a fringe element," and "a collection of clowns." He also made it sound like he has final say in staffing ("I'm changing out people at East Asian Defense; I'm getting hawks in") and discussed his fights with colleagues ("There's Treasury and [National Economic Council Chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying").

Axios' Jonathan Swan spoke with some of Bannon's associates, including one described as being "not an enemy of his," who all saw this as a terrible move by Bannon. That person told Swan, after reading the article, "Since Steve apparently enjoys casually undermining U.S. national security, I'll put this in terms he'll understand: This is DEFCON 1-level bad." You can read more about Kuttner's conversation with Bannon at The American Prospect. Catherine Garcia

August 16, 2017
Pool/Getty Images

A White House spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the Trump administration will make this month's payment to insurers for ObamaCare subsidies for low-income customers.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday estimated that if the payments were stopped, the most popular ObamaCare plans' premiums would probably go up 20 percent in 2018. President Trump has threatened to cut off the subsidies — worth about $7 billion this year — and insurers would likely hike up premiums or leave ObamaCare markets altogether if they are eliminated, Politico reports. Insurers rely on those subsidies to keep costs down for millions of lower-income ObamaCare customers, and even if the payments stop, they will still have to provide discounted rates.

Some Republicans, like Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, criticized Trump's decision to continue the payments, but Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, appreciated it, and pushed for Congress in the future to appropriate money for the program. "These two actions will help make insurance policies available at affordable policies," he said in a statement. "Congress owes struggling Americans who buy their insurance in the individual market a breakthrough in the health-care stalemate." Catherine Garcia

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