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February 25, 2016
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A glaring lack of diversity in children's books has led Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers to launch an imprint centering on Muslim characters and stories, The New York Times reports. The brainchild of Zareen Jaffery — who recalls growing up as a Pakistani-American Muslim unable to relate to Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume — the new imprint will not emphasize theology or Islamic doctrine but instead the experience of being Muslim.

"I remember looking at books and trying to figure out, 'What does it mean to be American? Am I doing this right? The truth is, I didn't see myself reflected in books back then," Jaffery explained.

The imprint, Salaam Reads, will publish nine or more books a year. Many different age groups will be targeted, from board books to picture books to middle and young adult books:

So far, Salaam Reads has acquired four books that will come out in 2017, including Salam Alaikum, a picture book based on a song by the British teen pop singer Harris J. Others planned for release next year are Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin, a picture book about four kindergarten friends who learn about one another's holiday traditions; The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand by Karuna Riazi, about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi-American who sets out to save her brother from a supernatural board game, and Yo Soy Muslim, a picture book by the poet Mark Gonzales. [The New York Times]

Other brands are also expanding to appeal to Muslim consumers, such as Uniqlo and high-fashion labels like Dolce & Gabbana, which have invested in lines specifically for Muslim women. Jeva Lange

2:07 p.m. ET
JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images

IKEA is setting aside its signature minimalist design style for something a little more ... ostentatious.

The Swedish furniture company is going a little avant-garde with some upcoming "pretty, ugly, lovely objects," Fast Company reported Friday. Instead of clean lines and simple functionality, IKEA is collaborating with decidedly un-IKEA-like artists who are bringing a new sensibility to the store's decor items.

In its latest "maximalist" collection, artist Per B Sundberg is creating a line of "future antiques" that are meant to look one-of-a-kind, quirky, and handmade. Poodle-shaped candle holders will be sold alongside sculptural trinkets that would definitely add some intrigue to any apartment — especially if that apartment was previously furnished with IKEA's comparatively dull Grönlid sofa.

The line is set to launch next month, with items like banana-shaped vases available for less than $30. "Each piece of the Föremål collection is different, representing more than function and going beyond reason," the company said in promotional materials. Indeed, shoppers looking for both reasonable, inexpensive flatware and "beyond reason" skull-shaped planters need look no further. Read more at Fast Company. Summer Meza

12:28 p.m. ET
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At least 324 people in the southern Indian state of Kerala have died in the past nine days after heavy rain caused severe flooding, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Rescuers evacuated thousands of people in Kerala, entering with helicopters and boats Friday to help. Many people were stranded on their rooftops, rescued by one of more than a dozen helicopters. More than 220,000 have evacuated to state-run relief camps, following weeks of rain that has caused landslides and destroyed homes and bridges all over the region.

While monsoon season is deadly every year in India, officials said this season was unprecedented in its severity. Kerala's hospitals are reporting shortages of oxygen, gas stations are running out of fuel, and a major airport in the state suspended all flights, citing a flooded runway.

Across seven Indian states, more than 1,000 people have died since monsoon season began in June, with Kerala being hit hardest. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

10:52 a.m. ET
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The income gap keeps growing. Chief executives at 350 of the largest companies in the U.S. now make 312 times more than their average employee, research from the Economic Policy Institute found.

Compensation for CEOs keeps growing, The Hill reported Friday, while employee compensation stagnates. In 2017, CEOs made an average of $18.9 million, a 17.6 percent increase from the year before. Meanwhile, the wages of average workers increased just 0.3 percent.

The think tank said that pay for CEOs has grown at a much faster rate than stock prices or corporate profits at these major companies. Executive compensation has risen nearly 1,000 percent since 1978, which continues to push the CEO-to-worker pay ratio wider. In 2016, the ratio was 270-to-1, while in 1995 it was 112-to-1. Back in 1965, the ratio was just 20-to-1.

"CEO pay continues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typical worker pay," the institute report said. "Higher CEO pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance. Exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers." See more results at the Economic Policy Institute. Summer Meza

10:30 a.m. ET
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The federal prosecutors handling the fraud case against Paul Manafort spent two weeks laying out their case before the jury. But when it comes to their lunch orders, they remain decidedly mum.

Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, is facing 18 charges of financial crimes after being indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. The jury has been deliberating since Thursday morning — and while reporters await any word from the jury room, they're scrambling for any news at all about the high-profile case.

But Mueller's team has proven to be quite taciturn, The New York Times reports, going so far as to withhold comment about their lunch orders. The Times explains that because the federal lawyers, reporters, and Manafort's defense team are all housed within close quarters in Alexandria, Virginia, where the trial is being held, reporters often encounter the prosecutors on the street or in the hotel lobby. Lead prosecutor Greg Andres was spotted awaiting a delivery from Shake Shack in the entrance area of the local Westin hotel — but when reporters asked Andres later whether he had actually received an order from the burger chain, "he laughed, then paused," the Times says. Finally, his answer: "I can't say."

Another day, Mueller lawyer Uzo Asonye entered an elevator with a colleague — only to abruptly cut her off, as there was a reporter already inside. Asonye "turned to the reporter with a smile," the Times reports, and said, "Sorry, I can't talk to you."

Reporters have caught glimpses of the Mueller team's snack table, noting the presence of "Life Savers and orange-colored Starbust candy," so perhaps the lawyers' reticence is due to the fact that they have bad taste in sweets. Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters

9:50 a.m. ET

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway reported to her job at the White House on Friday morning, donning a bright pink blouse and a glowing smile. But, in a development most Americans can understand, her cheery demeanor faltered when she actually had to start working.

As she walked down the White House driveway, Conway was met by a group of reporters asking questions about President Trump's military parade, which CNBC reported Thursday was estimated to cost $92 million. The commander in chief canceled the affair in a fit of Twitter rage early Friday anyway, but one reporter mentioned that the American Legion, a veterans' organization, said the money should go toward the Veterans Affairs Department instead. "Well, that's your perspective," Conway replied. Veterans are "happy [at the VA], mostly," she added, outlining the president's desire to give veterans options for health care aside from the VA.

When a reporter pressed Conway on her claims, noting that veterans say there is still work to be done when it comes to their health care, the former pollster replied, "That's their opinion, and it sounds like you share it, since you're in the business of opinion, not news, most days." She then slammed Americans for not demonstrating proper respect for the military and defense officials, prompting the inevitable questions about her boss' decision to revoke the security clearance of a former CIA director.

Apparently fed up, Conway responded, "Why is everybody so obsessed with the president of the United States?" while standing just feet from the residence and workplace of the president of the United States. "It's kind of weird." Watch Conway's difficult walk to work below. Kimberly Alters

9:44 a.m. ET
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

China's military is "likely training for strikes" against the U.S. and is rapidly expanding its long-range bomber operations, a Pentagon report released on Thursday warned.

CNN reports that the Pentagon's "Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China" found new development of "nuclear capable bombers" that could be used "across land, sea, and air." The Pentagon said that over the last three years, China has been training in key maritime zones that would prepare it for an attack on the U.S. and its allies.

The increased military spending and focus on specialized airstrikes come as China and the U.S. struggle to resolve diplomatic tensions over trade, reports CNBC. The Pentagon said it wasn't clear why Beijing was flexing its military muscles, except that it wanted a "demonstration of improved capabilities."

China's pursuit of nuclear capabilities has also been ramped up, re-assigning the Chinese air force to "a nuclear mission" in a historically "comprehensive restructure" of the entire military. Chinese President Xi Jinping has exerted increased control over the military, seeking to strengthen its image on the world stage and accusing the U.S. of using a "Cold War mentality" in its defense efforts. Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

8:55 a.m. ET

The Pentagon announced Thursday night that the flashy, Bastille Day-like military parade President Trump had demanded would be pushed backed to at least 2019, but it did not give a reason. On Friday morning, Trump offered an explanation: The "local politicians who run Washington" had thwarted him with their financial demands.

Also Thursday, CNBC reported that the Pentagon raised its estimate for the parade's cost to $92 million, a big jump from the original estimate of $12 million. It's theoretically possible the D.C. city council wanted $80 million for security and cleanup costs, but either way, a new F-35 fighter jet costs about $100 million (the entire F-35 program is currently expected to cost $406.1 billion). So maybe instead of buying 9/10 of a jet, Trump can find another use for that $92 million. Peter Weber

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