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September 21, 2011

A record 28 million viewers may have tuned in to see Ashton Kutcher's debut as Charlie Sheen's replacement on Two and a Half Men, but some argue that it's Sheen who's still "duh, winning." Many critics attributed the ratings spike to curiosity over how the show would handle Sheen's departure, and found the all-too-frequently naked Kutcher less than hilarious. Perhaps the series' new star could cover up with this referential t-shirt ($27). The Week Staff

5:57 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, the venerable Merriam-Webster dictionary schooled the ACLU on Twitter — "trolled" would be too strong a word. It started out with President Trump's new rules on immigration:

"You said it, not us," the ACLU responded. "Can ACLU petition to have the word 'vetting' retired or at least disassociated after all this is over?" asked a Twitter user from California, Shawna Iwaniuk. "Bury it with 'yolo.'" The ACLU roped in Merriam-Webster, which went in an unexpected direction:

On Monday, Merriam Webster got sassy with The Associated Press Style Guide — and remember, this is a dictionary playfully sparring with a copyeditor's rule book:

This is all part of the digital reinvention of the 189-year-old dictionary company. Merriam-Webster decided to put its dictionary online for free consumption in 1996, a decision the company credits for its continued success, says James Sullivan at The Boston Globe, and "its Twitter account, run out of the company's New York office by social media manager Lauren Naturale... has been duly noted as an astute, quirky, and humanizing exemplar of corporate communications."

The dictionary's social media presence "is impressive and unexpected," dictionary expert David Skinner tells The Globe. "Lexicography, remember, is not show business.... Sure, the age of social media bestows all sorts of minor celebrity on one type of person or another, but that Merriam-Webster has been able to make lexicographers look cool is still kind of shocking to me." If you want to learn more about how this happened, you can read an interview with Naturale, who has headed Merriam-Webster's social media since 2016, at Vox. Peter Weber

5:17 a.m. ET

MSNBC's Morning Joe barred Kellyanne Conway from appearing on one of President Trump's favorite morning talk shows, and host Joe Scarborough explained why on Tuesday's Late Show. "It got to a point where Kellyanne would keep coming out, and everything she said was disproven, like, 5 minutes later," he said, "and it wasn't disproven by fact-checkers, it was somebody else in the administration." "There's a quicker way to say that entire sentence," Stephen Colbert replied: "She just lied." "Well, yes, exactly," Scarborough conceded.

Colbert noted that, based on Trump's Twitter feed, the president is still a faithful Morning Joe watcher. Scarborough agreed, saying he and co-host Mika Brzezinski say "Hi Donald" to the camera every morning. Colbert pointed out that even he calls Trump "Mr. President," and Scarborough laughed. "He's been Donald Trump forever, he's been Donald forever, you know?" he said. "So it's kind of hard to start calling him Mr. President — and I'll be really honest with you, the way he's acted over the past month has made it even harder to call him Mr. President."

Scarborough said that as Republican and a conservative, he was not a fan of President Bill Clinton, but he rooted for him once he took office, and people shouldn't cheer against Trump, either. "I actually think we should pray for our president," he said. "But that requires all of us as Americans to do what we can when the president is not doing what he needs to be doing, to stand up and do our part too." He said it was important for all Americans, especially Republicans and Republican senators in particular, "to stand up right now and speak out."

"The Republican Party needs to know that there is going to be a time after Donald Trump, and they are going to be judged for the next 50 years on how they respond to the challenges today," he said. When the audience started cheering, and Scarborough feigned confusion, Colbert chided him, "You were totally going for that," adding, "I wish I shared your optimism that there will be a time after Donald Trump." Scarborough ended with his thoughts on who's really in charge in the White House, and what Trump needs and isn't getting from his inner circle. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:22 a.m. ET

President Trump visited the Smithsonian's new Museum of African American History and Culture on Tuesday. It was an exciting, delayed "field trip," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, though beforehand "he was so worried Steve Bannon wouldn't sign his permission slip." After his tour, Colbert said, Trump praised "the greatest figures in African American history, like Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and Ben Carson," before mentioning Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — and quickly pivoting to his own win in South Carolina. "Yes, he loves those states where he won by double, double, double digits, but he seems to hate the country where he lost by millions, millions, millions of votes," Colbert zinged, adding, "he's still president, he's just a loser president."

Colbert touched on the Department of Homeland Security's new directives on how to carry out Trump's immigration orders, but mostly to introduce a story about hunters in Texas who shot each other and falsely blamed illegal Mexican immigrants. "It's like the old joke: Knock, knock. Blam, blam, blam!" he said, after explaining the particulars of the tale.

Trump has already hit the links an impressive six times in his first month in office, Colbert noted, and when the audience laughed he had them golf-clap instead. "Now, we know that the president has been to the golf course six times, but for some reason his aides would not confirm that Trump played golf each time he went to the course," he said. "Sure, he could be on the course for any reason — we know he loves making fun of people's handicaps." The reason they are being cagey is likely because Trump frequently criticized President Barack Obama's golfing and said he himself wouldn't have time to golf as president. "Well, then that's good news," Colbert said. "If Trump has time to be out on the golf course, I guess that means America is great again."

Colbert ended his monologue with a look at Pope Francis' recent lecture about today's youths. The pope "addressed a vexing theological issue: texting at dinner," blaming it for starting wars, he noted, and also said today's kids have bad manners. "I don't get it — Francis was supposed to be the cool pope, but now it seems like he's turning into Curmudgeon I," Colbert said. He ended with a clip for his new premium cable show, Old Pope, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

2:15 a.m. ET
Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Malaysian police say there have been attempts to break into the morgue where the body of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged older half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is being held.

Nine days ago, after he said a woman sprayed chemicals in his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Kim Jong Nam died from a seizure on his way to the hospital. Authorities investigating his death announced Tuesday they want to question a senior North Korean diplomat and a man linked to Air Koryo, the state airline in North Korea, and police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said it's "strongly believed" that four suspects left Malaysia on the day Kim died and fled to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. He added that police know the identities of the attempted morgue raiders, but declined to name them.

Police have arrested four people in connection with Kim's death — a Vietnamese woman, a Malaysian man, a North Korean man, and an Indonesian woman who claimed she was tricked into participating in an attack against Kim. Khalid says this isn't true, and the suspects all practiced the operation in public spaces. The incident has strained ties between North Korea and Malaysia, one of just a few countries that has open relations with Pyongyang. Catherine Garcia

2:13 a.m. ET
Andrew Harrer - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump's decision to put his chief political strategist, former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon, on the National Security Council's principals committee (while demoting the director of national intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) disturbed a lot of people, because the top-tier NSC committee is meant to be an apolitical decision center and because of Bannon's own controversial views on war, race, and religion, plus his lack of national security experience.

On Facebook and in email chains, people who think Bannon's seat on the NSC is a grave mistake are being urged to call Senate Homeland Security Committee members, asking them not to approve Bannon's promotion. "The Senate Committee on Homeland Security is taking calls about Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council (NSC)," the email says, and "we're told that they're tallying calls." This may not be "fake news" — maybe the Homeland Security Committee is tallying calls, and it never hurts to call your senator or sign a petition to express your views — but Bannon almost certainly doesn't need Senate confirmation to sit on the NSC principals committee.

Congress has the power to change that, and a group of Democratic senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee has introduced a bill that would effectively remove Bannon from the NSC. So Bannon critics could call the GOP senators on that committee to urge a vote on the Strengthening Oversight of National Security Act, but even if the GOP-controlled Senate and House passed such a law, they would need a two-thirds supermajority to overcome Trump's likely veto.

The only realistic path to getting Bannon off the NSC in the near term is for new national security adviser H.R. McMaster to push hard for his removal. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said McMaster will have "full authority to structure the national security team as he wants," and if he wanted to excise Bannon from the principals committee, "with something like that, he would come to the president and make that recommendation," and "the president would take that under serious consideration." If it's true that Trump's wasn't fully aware he was putting Bannon on the NSC, maybe he'd even say yes. Peter Weber

1:19 a.m. ET
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

By now, the elephants, antelopes, and zebras know the sound of the water truck, and wait patiently as their dry waterhole is replenished with what Patrick Kilonzo Mwalau calls a "very precious commodity."

Mwalau is the founder of Tsavo Volunteers, which brings water to parched areas of Tsavo, Kenya, where animals are desperate for a drink. Heavy rains aren't expected until November, and at least four times a week, Mwalau and his team rent trucks that deliver 12,000 liters of water to two different watering holes 27 miles away. Each truck costs $250, and Mwalau has started a GoFundMe to help with the costs. "We have many elephants concentrating in very few water holes, fighting to drink water, and this has made the smaller elephants lacking water," Mwalau, known as the "Elephant Guardian," wrote on the GoFundMe page. "They become very thirsty and they end up spending a lot of time and energy walking very far distances with young ones searching for water."

Donations have started to stream in, and permanent solutions are now possible. "Elephants are becoming endangered from poaching and we need to save the ones we have left by providing water for them until the drought peril is over," Mwalau said. Catherine Garcia

12:27 a.m. ET

President Trump had a big weekend, and Jimmy Fallon's caricature of the 45th president laid out the highlights on Tuesday's Tonight Show. "In case you didn't hear the news, I'll tell you now: I shot four under par, my best golf score yet," he said. "But that's not what the fake news media reported on, so it's time for me to take matters into my own, abnormally gigantic hands. The only way to ensure that the news you're watching isn't fake is if I'm the one delivering it, which is why I'm starting the Trump News Network." With a snap of his fingers, Fallon's Trump was behind the TNN anchor desk.

The first Trump news story was about the super-real attack in Sweden. (Just ask Sweden!) "Nextly, President Me just announced his pick for national security adviser, H.R. McMaster," Fallon's Trump said. "Now normally when I'm talking to H.R. it's because one of my female employees is threatening to sue, but now H.R. is going to stand for Huge Ratings." His next segment was on sports, touting a "new study" that "finds that golf is totally work." After a brief weather report from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (Jo Firestone), Trump ditched today's fake stories for tomorrow's, hitting his "Bad Things Button." It created some bad news for Finland, if you can believe it. You can watch Fallon's borderline too-close-to-reality-for-parody TNN rollout below. Peter Weber

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