March 22, 2016

Toronto City Councillor and former Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford has died at the age of 46, The Associated Press reports. Earlier reports said Ford had been battling a rare cancer, liposarcoma, in palliative care. His 2014 diagnosis with the disease prompted him to end his mayoral re-election bid.

Ford was infamous for holding "wild parties" while in office, and he was a heavy drinker who was frequently filmed while publicly intoxicated. Ford later admitted to having smoked crack cocaine and driving while drunk during his term. He apologized to the public for "making mistakes."

In October, Ford acknowledged that his cancer had spread and was threatening his life. "I'm optimistic, and I'm a realist too. If that has spread once, where else has it gone? If I pass before my time, I just ask people to please try to help out Dougie and Stephanie and Renata in any way you can," he said, mentioning his wife and two children.

The Ford family described Ford as a "dedicated man of the people" who "spent his life serving the citizens of Toronto," The Toronto Star reports. Jeva Lange

1:30 p.m. ET
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

America's newest national monument is situated in Maine's North Woods. On Wednesday, President Obama designated 87,500 acres of the forest as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, marking the 413th preserved area in the National Park Service, National Geographic reports, and Maine's second national monument.

The designation came at the request of Burt's Bees founder Roxanne Quimby, who donated the land valued at $60 million to the federal government this week in honor of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary. Quimby had been trying to make the area a national park for years, but her proposals had been met with resistance from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine). The state's Republican Gov. Paul LePage opposed its creation as an "ego play" by "rich, out-of-state liberals," while residents worried it would invite a "federal government intrusion," The Associated Press reported.

The new monument is expected to create hundreds of jobs in the region. The Washington Post reported this could be the "last large new national park ever established on the East Coast." Becca Stanek

12:20 p.m. ET

Numerous sources reported Wednesday that American University of Afghanistan, located in Kabul, is under attack. "Several gunmen attacked the American University in Kabul and there are reports of gunfire and explosions," an Afghan interior ministry official told Reuters.

Hundreds of students and several American professors, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Massoud Hossaini, are believed to be trapped inside the university compound. Many have reportedly managed to escape through emergency doors.

The attack comes just weeks after two professors were kidnapped on Aug. 8 from the university by five gunmen in Afghan military uniforms. Becca Stanek

11:22 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump's new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is confident there are more people voting for Trump than polls would suggest — they just don't want to admit it. In an interview with the UK's Channel 4, Conway explained why the polls, which overwhelmingly show Trump lagging behind rival Hillary Clinton, don't tell the whole story. "Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election," Conway said. "It's because it's become socially desirable, especially if you're a college-educated person in the United States of America, to say that you're against Donald Trump."

When asked if she had any numbers to support that claim, Conway demurred, saying it's "a project we're doing internally" and that she can't yet discuss the details. "I call it the 'undercover Trump voter,'" Conway said, "but it's real."

Head over to Mediaite to watch Conway explain her theory on Channel 4. Becca Stanek

11:08 a.m. ET

Donald Trump will be sharing a stage with Brexit leader Nigel Farage in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday night. Sky News' Darren McCaffrey reports that Farage will not endorse Trump, but will be "there to tell the Brexit story."

"Brexit is just massive over here," Farage told The Daily Telegraph, referring to the United States. He added: "I went to the [Republican] convention in Cleveland and I just could not believe that ordinary people [were] talking to me about Brexit." Trump has deemed himself "Mr. Brexit" on Twitter, despite apparently not closely following the vote, which took place in June and determined Britain will leave the European Union.

"Trump's GOP is essentially a European far right party. Increasingly making it official," NBC News' Benjy Sarlin said. Jeva Lange

10:31 a.m. ET
Insomniac via Getty Images

Cook County, Illinois, which includes the city of Chicago, has decided that concerts featuring rap — along with country, rock, and electronic music — do not count as music or culture.

The announcement is part of a transparent attempt to bolster tax revenue, as smaller venues hosting such concerts are exempt from a 3 percent amusement tax if the events are classified as "live theatrical, live musical, or other live cultural performances." Cook County now says such musical performances don't count — a rule change that allows the county to demand $200,000 in back taxes from one venue alone.

Questioned on the matter at a hearing this week, the county government held its ground. "Rap music, country music, and rock 'n' roll do not fall under the purview of 'fine art,'" a county official insisted, perhaps to the surprise of Chicago natives like Kanye West, Common, and Chance the Rapper.

Pat Doerr of the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago says he believes the county's decision will eventually be struck down in court, but not before some venues are forced to close by the financial strain of a lengthy legal battle. Bonnie Kristian

10:26 a.m. ET
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, the next chapter of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) political revolution will begin, starting with the launch of an organization called Our Revolution. The group will be focused on tackling economic inequality, which was Sanders' flagship issue during his presidential campaign — but as The New York Times reported Wednesday, this new movement is already being weighed down by lingering problems from Sanders' primary run:

Several people familiar with the organization said eight core staff members have stepped down. The group's entire organizing department quit this week, along with people working in digital and data positions.

After the resignations, Mr. Sanders spoke to some who had quit and asked them to reconsider, but the staff members refused.

At the heart of the issue, according to several people who left, was deep distrust of and frustration with Mr. [Jeff] Weaver, whom they accused of wasting money on television advertising during Mr. Sanders' campaign; mismanaging campaign funds by failing to hire staff or effectively target voters; and creating a hostile work environment by threatening to criticize staff members if they quit. [The New York Times]

Of all those concerns, perhaps the biggest is the fear that Sanders' former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, would be okay with using "dark money" — something Sanders has frequently railed against for its lack of transparency. Claire Sandberg, who worked on Sanders' presidential campaign and was formerly the organizing director of Our Revolution, told The New York Times that if the group did indeed use dark money, it would "betray its core purpose by accepting money from billionaires and not remaining grass-roots funded and plowing that billionaire cash into TV instead of investing it in building a genuine movement."

Head over to The New York Times for more on the drama behind Sanders' latest project. Becca Stanek

10:20 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago police have been left scratching their heads over Donald Trump's claim that he met with a "top" officer who told him the city's crime problem could be solved completely in a week.

"How?" Trump told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on Monday. "By being very much tougher than they are right now. They're right now not tough. I could tell you this very long and quite boring story. But when I was in Chicago, I got to meet a couple of very top police. I said, 'How do you stop this? How do you stop this? If you were put in charge — to a specific person — do you think you could stop it?' He said, 'Mr. Trump, I'd be able to stop it in one week.' And I believed him 100 percent," Trump said.

Chicago police spokesman Frank Giancamilla, however, vehemently disagreed with Trump's story. "We've discredited this claim months ago. No one in the senior command at CPD has ever met with Donald Trump or a member of his campaign," Giancamili told Chicago 5 in a statement. Trump's campaign clarified to the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday that their candidate hadn't spoken to "top" officers so much as he had spoken to "some talented and dedicated police officers on a prior visit."

Whoever it was, Trump claimed the officer he spoke with had a plan to solve Chicago crime. "I'm sure he's got a strategy," Trump told O'Reilly. "I didn't ask him his strategy." Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads