August 23, 2012

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that a rock band known for its frighteningly over-the-top makeup, flamboyant stage outfits, and pyrotechnic-packed concerts is choosing not to take an understated route with its latest piece of memorabilia. Indeed, in predictably excessive fashion, KISS' newest offering is a 3-foot-tall, 2-foot-wide photo book that weighs nearly 50 pounds. Only 1,000 copies of the aptly-named Kiss Monster ($4,250) will be produced, and each one is signed by the band's current members. Source: A.V. Club The Week Staff

3:35 p.m. ET

A crew of three astronauts blasted off Wednesday afternoon, embarking on a flight from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station, where they will spend five months conducting research.

The Soyuz MS-08 rocket successfully launched NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, into space. The crew will orbit the Earth for two days, before docking at the ISS on Friday, where they will join three other astronauts, who are from Russia, Japan, and the United States.

Once all six members are at the station, NASA reports, they will conduct research to test how certain materials react to a space environment, study the effects of microgravity on bone marrow, and develop the "Veggie" plant growth facility that provides astronauts with "salad-type crops."

Watch the liftoff below, via CBC News. Summer Meza

3:21 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, President Trump defended his controversial decision to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election earlier this week, tweeting that "getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing" and adding, "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!"

The Washington Post had reported that Trump was warned in all caps by national security advisers not to congratulate Putin, although he went ahead and did it anyway. Aides also told the president he needed to condemn the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England earlier this month, which has been widely blamed on Moscow; Trump didn't bring this up, the Post adds.

Analysts say Russia's election was undemocratic, and there are videos showing ballot box-stuffing. Jeva Lange

2:32 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised benchmark rates for the sixth time since the financial crisis, following the conclusion of its two-day meeting, the first under new Chairman Jerome Powell, CNBC reports.

The hike, of a quarter of a point, raised the Fed's key rate from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, its highest level in a decade. The Fed additionally signaled it would raise the rate two more times this year and three times in 2019. "The economic outlook has strengthened in recent months," the committee said in a statement.

Rate hikes "lead to higher rates for businesses looking to invest or consumers looking to buy cars or homes," writes The Washington Post, but they "also fight inflation and make the Fed better prepared for a future recession." Jeva Lange

1:10 p.m. ET

Do you dread walking into a store only to have some chipper salesperson pop up out of nowhere and ask, "Do you need help finding anything?" You're not alone, Racked reports. A stunning 95 percent of people "want to be left alone in stores," per a new study of 2,900 North American shoppers conducted by HRC Retail Advisory.

Many other studies have looked into the effect of salespeople on shoppers, including an extremely relatable one from 2016, where researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that attractive salespeople actually scared off potential customers (never mind that the sample was 164 "socially inept" men with "obsessive interest in computer technology who visited a shop selling figures based on Japanese comics," as The Telegraph puts it).

Customers seem to prefer to be the ones to make the first move — another study, in 2014, by a University of Pennsylvania professor, found that 50 percent of potential customers will still seek out an employee for advice or questions while shopping.

Still, if there is an alternative to interaction, people prefer it. The HRC study also found that 85 percent of people would rather use a scanner to find out the price of an item than be forced to ask another human. Jeva Lange

12:15 p.m. ET

Former CIA Director John Brennan appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Wednesday to unload his candid thoughts about President Trump's leadership, as well as Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He is mean-spirited; he is dishonest; he has shown a lack of integrity; he has continued to, I think, demean the office of the presidency," Brennan said of Trump. Brennan served as CIA director under former President Barack Obama, from March 2013 until January 2017.

Brennan has been a vocal opponent of Trump on Twitter, taking issue with his recent firing of Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI. He said that Trump's "impetuousness" and "ignorance" compelled him to speak out, even as he admitted he'd never criticized a president's character so harshly before.

"I worked for six presidents," said Brennan. "I didn't agree with some of their policies, but all of them, all of them, were trying to do what they thought was best for the United States. That's not Mr. Trump, he is self-absorbed and he is trying to just promote his own interests."

Trump's "fawning over Putin" also struck Brennan as problematic, as he theorized that Trump had reason to fear the Russian president and speculated that Russian officials may "have something" to hold over Trump. Watch the rest of Brennan's appearance below, via MSNBC. Summer Meza

11:45 a.m. ET
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Last year, White House Counsel Don McGahn drew up a nondisclosure agreement for senior staff at President Trump's insistence, even while quietly reassuring aides that the document was practically unenforceable, The New York Times reports. The issuing of an NDA that covers even unclassified and non-confidential White House matters was a first, and it likely could not actually dictate the statements of federal employees were it to be tested, experts say. One former official said he was told that the nondisclosure agreement "was merely meant to reassure the president," the Times writes.

When he was still a private citizen, Trump often used nondisclosure agreements to maintain his and his company's images. By imposing blanket restrictions in the White House, though, he veers into potentially violating the First Amendment, critics argue. "You can't blanket wipe out speech, and you have to show there's a compelling government purpose for doing so," said former President Barack Obama's top ethics lawyer in the White House Counsel's Office, Norm Eisen.

Trump's paranoia evidently stems from concern about "people using information about him in books later on," the Times' Maggie Haberman added on Twitter.

Apparently no one in the White House takes the document seriously, though. The official who recalled being told the NDA was meant to placate the president added that "no one in the White House thought they were signing away their First Amendment rights," The New York Times writes. Jeva Lange

10:47 a.m. ET

Lawyers for Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen appeared on CNN on Tuesday night to battle it out over the ongoing legal dispute regarding a nondisclosure agreement Daniels, a former adult film actress, signed in 2016.

Arthur Schwartz, representing President Trump's personal attorney Cohen, mostly traded barbs with Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti over the nitty-gritty of the contract that barred the actress from discussing an alleged affair with Trump. But Schwartz clashed with host Anderson Cooper when the conversation turned to whether or not Cohen had violated the NDA by publicly discussing it and confirming that he had paid Daniels $130,000 for her silence. (Trump has steadfastly denied he was ever involved with Daniels.)

Schwartz shut down the suggestion, and said that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had already violated the agreement before Cohen publicly discussed the payment last month. Cooper pointed out that the story was leaked to The Wall Street Journal, and Schwartz continued to insist that Daniels was the first to break the contract.

"How had she violated the contract?" asked Cooper.

"Because she leaked it," said Schwartz. "She's the one that was out there leaking the information."

When Cooper asked how he knew that Daniels had leaked the story, Schwartz simply claimed that the details would "come out in court," and that Daniels was seeking more money. Cooper pushed him on his claim, seeking to clarify that Schwartz didn't actually have any evidence that Daniels herself had leaked the story to the Journal.

"I'm assuming she did," responded Schwartz.

At that point, Daniels attorney Avenatti chimed in: "Well, you know what they say about people that assume." Watch the entire showdown below, via CNN. Summer Meza

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