I enjoyed watching both seasons of House of Cards, Netflix's shadowy and Shakespearean political comedy/tragedy/farce portraying the rise of the ruthless politician Frank Underwood. But I tried not to take it too seriously. After all, Washington's political elite might be out of touch with the rest of the country — as shown by years of awful Congressional approval ratings — but House of Cards is a work of fiction, and a dark, murderous, and cynical one at that.
Cui Tiankai, China's Ambassador to the United States, on the other hand, thinks House of Cards faithfully mirrors real life:
"I have seen both seasons of House of Cards, which I think embodies some of the characteristics and corruption that is present in American politics," said Cui Tiankai, speaking as a participant on a televised People’s Daily panel coinciding with the Chinese People’s Political Consultive Conference.
The Chinese diplomat, who previously studied in Washington, DC — the setting of House of Cards' intricate political machinations — added that the show's story of bipartisan competition and corruption largely mirrored recent affairs. [South China Morning Post]
Of course, some Chinese people disagreed with the ambassador. While America's political system might be bad, they reasoned, it can't be as bad as China's one-party dictatorship:
Members of China's online microblogging community offered an alternate voice, and several criticized Cui for his comments.
"Americans are such that they do not hide their drawbacks, and through debate, constantly compromise to improve their government," one Sina Weibo commentator wrote. "They see the problems of their [government], and also recognize their own shortcomings."
"Of course there are issues with a two party system," mused another blogger. "But a one party dictatorship can really harm people." [South China Morning Post]
These critics are right. According to Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, while the United States is the 19th least corrupt nation in the world, China ranks a lowly 80th. John Aziz
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most prolific scorer in NBA history, underwent successful quadruple-bypass surgery in Los Angeles, according to a statement released Friday by UCLA Health. Abdul-Jabbar had the procedure done Thursday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after being admitted there with cardiovascular disease earlier this week.
Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and is most known for his 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era. In his 20 years in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar won six championships and was named league MVP six times. He is expected to make a full recovery. Kimberly Alters
A San Diego man trying to board a bus in his wheelchair was stripped of his transit pass because he didn't have proper "proof" of his disability. A transit cop told Joey Canales, 31, that he wasn't carrying the proper paperwork and confiscated the pass. "My disability is not hidden," Canales told the officer, who also issued him a ticket.
On Friday at 6 p.m., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will appear on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, where he's expected to lay out details of his future announcement about whether he'll run for president. Baier has been interviewing potential candidates in his series The Presidential Contenders: 2016.
Speaking with reporters before heading to New Hampshire this weekend to join several fellow potential and confirmed GOP candidates, Huckabee was predictably cryptic. "I will at least give people an understanding of when there will be an announcement and where," he said.
In January, Huckabee ended his own show on Fox News to explore a second shot at the White House — he won the Iowa GOP caucuses in 2008. Earlier this week, he also stated his nationally broadcast radio show would end in May. Stephanie Talmadge
The merger between Comcast and Time Warner, America's first- and second-largest cable providers, may not be so inevitable after all. The Department of Justice's antitrust lawyers are reportedly considering blocking the merger, sources told Bloomberg, for fear that "consumers would be harmed" by Comcast's $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable, which would create a nationwide cable giant.
Officials at the FCC's antitrust division, who are also reviewing the deal, reportedly "aren't negotiating" with Comcast about ways to fix the deal to prevent it from falling apart.
In light of these details, Comcast issued a statement saying there is "no basis" for a federal lawsuit to stop the merger, and maintained that the acquisition would result in "significant consumer benefits," like faster internet speeds, better video quality, and cost savings. Meghan DeMaria
A new Labor Department report has revealed that most U.S. workers would have been better off in 1972.
The report found that weekly wages in 1972 for most U.S. employees were about $811 in today's dollars. This past March, U.S. workers averaged around $703 per week.
The Labor Department's report looked at average weekly earnings for production and "non-supervisory employees," which account for the majority of the U.S. workforce, The Wall Street Journal reports. For those workers, real average weekly earnings fell 0.4 percent from February to March.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) April 17, 2015
Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly earnings increased by 2.3 percent, compared with a year earlier, but the Journal notes that the recent spike in real average earnings is "largely due to low inflation, rather than surging paychecks." Meghan DeMaria
Iraqi forces have killed Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former deputy of Saddam Hussein, government officials reported to The Associated Press on Friday.
Al-Douri has been declared dead or captured before, but Reuters notes that Iraqi officials released images of a body with red hair like al-Douri's, and said they have begun DNA tests to confirm the death. Officials said they believe al-Douri was killed during a joint operation between Iraqi troops and Shiite militias near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which Iraq took back from Islamic State militants earlier in April.
Depicted as the "king of clubs" in a U.S.-issued deck of playing cards used to help troops identify key regime fugitives, al-Douri helped the Baath party plot its 1968 coup, and then served as vice president to Hussein until the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the regime, in 2003. Sarah Eberspacher
If you're the owner of multiple cats — and one's a food bully — the SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder ($150) "will make you purr as loudly as the gadget's whirring motors," says Jonathan Margolis at How To Spend It. The cover won't open until a sensor detects the microchip that's embedded under the correct cat's skin or on a collar-worn tag. The cover closes automatically when the cat moves away, keeping food safe from flies, dogs, and greedier cats. Sure, "it takes a bit of time and patience" to train a cat not to be spooked by the movement, but the "excellent" manual "makes light work of it."