August 1, 2018

The Labor Department said Tuesday that its employment-cost index rose 2.8 percent between June 2017 and June 2018, as did wages and salaries. That's the strongest increase for both measures of worker pay since right before the brutal recession of 2008, The Wall Street Journal reports, in another sign that "employers have raised pay to attract and retain workers" in response to the tightening labor market. At the same time, the Journal notes, inflation "is eating at some of the gains for workers." The Commerce Department said Tuesday that over the same 12-month period, prices for personal-consumption expenditures were up 2.2 percent, and core inflation rose 1.9 percent. Peter Weber

June 1, 2018
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TBS/Turner

Samantha Bee accepted a Television Academy Honors award Thursday night for Full Frontal's coverage of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements. And in her acceptance speech, Bee addressed the elephant in the room: her widely criticized use of the term "feckless c--t" to refer to Ivanka Trump on Wednesday night's show. Earlier Thursday, Bee apologized to Trump for her "inappropriate and inexcusable" comment, and TBS also issued a mea culpa: "Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake too, and we regret it." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested TBS cancel the show.

"Every week I strive to show the world as I see it, unfiltered," Bee told the audience at NeueHouse in Hollywood, according to a copy of the speech obtained by IndieWire. "Sometimes I should probably have a filter. I accept that. I take it seriously when I get it right and I do take responsibility when I get it wrong." She explained the context for her slur — the treatment of immigrant children by President Trump and previous administrations — and lamented that "we spent the day wrestling with the repercussions of one bad word, when we all should have spent the day incensed that as a nation we are wrenching children from their parents and treating people legally seeking asylum as criminals."

Bee circled back to the controversy when discussing the #MeToo pieces, applauding her writers and the women who stepped forward: "Leaders of the #MeToo movement are changing the world. And we are honored to stand with you and support you as best we can. There is power in saying what you feel without apology ... okay, and sometimes you also have to apologize." She thanked TBS: "You always have our back." The Television Academy disinvited the press Thursday afternoon from the post-awards reception, citing "today's events involving Samantha B.," and Bee and her Full Frontal crew skipped the red carpet. Peter Weber

May 25, 2018
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When President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was finally given full Top Secret security clearance on May 1, so was his wife, Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter, who also works in the White House, Axios reports, citing "a person briefed on the matter." In March, the FBI was reported to be scrutinizing a Trump hotel deal in Vancouver, Canada, that Ivanka had played a large role in setting up with a Malaysian developer; apparently the FBI has resolved those questions.

So now, Axios says, Kushner and Ivanka Trump will both "be able to sit in on high level White House meetings, and access information like foreign intelligence and the president's daily intelligence briefing." That makes sense for Kushner, who reportedly perused the daily intelligence briefing before his security clearance was downgraded in February. As for the first daughter, a lot of people — including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, reportedly — wonder what exactly she does in the White House. Peter Weber

May 18, 2018

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was released from the hospital on Friday, more than two months after he and daughter Yulia were found slumped over on a park bench in Salisbury, England, after being exposed to a Novichok nerve agent. Yulia Skripal was released from the hospital on April 9 and moved to a secure location. The U.S. and European allies blamed Russia for the poison attack and expelled diplomats and presumed intelligence agents. Sergei Skripal, 66, was a Russian military intelligence officer who Russia jailed for passing on secrets to Britain, then released in a 2010 spy swap. Peter Weber

May 4, 2018
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President Trump is addressing the National Rifle Association's annual conference in Dallas on Friday, the fourth year in a row he's spoken at the gun group's national meeting. His participation was announced earlier in the week, long after Vice President Mike Pence's Friday attendance was confirmed. Trump had briefly clashed with the NRA after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, chastising Republican lawmakers for being "afraid of the NRA" and saying he would stand up to the group by backing tougher gun laws. He did not, ultimately.

"It's kind of hypocritical of him to go there after saying so many politicians bow to the NRA and are owned by them," said David Hogg, a Parkland survivor and advocate for new gun laws. "It proves that his heart and his wallet are in the same place." Some gun-rights advocates criticized Trump for signing a law that beefs up background checks. Peter Weber

April 9, 2018
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Todd Brassner, who died after a fire gutted his apartment on the 50th floor of Trump Tower on Saturday evening, was an art dealer and bon vivant with an extensive art collection and about 250 vintage guitars and ukuleles in his apartment. His collection, listed as worth more than $3 million in a 2015 bankruptcy filing, included a 1975 portrait of himself by Andy Warhol, who had been a friend.

According to friends, Brassner, 67, was in declining health and had been trying to sell his apartment since President Trump was elected. "He said, 'This is getting untenable,'" Stephen Dwire, a musician and music producer who had been friends with Brassner since they were 14, told The New York Times. "It was like living in an armed camp. But when people heard it was a Trump building, he couldn't give it away." Brassner had purchased the unit in 1996, and he estimated in 2015 that it was worth $2.5 million.

Fire officials have not determined the cause of the blaze. Like other residential units in Trump Tower, Brassner's apartment had a smoke detector but no sprinklers — Trump and other real estate developers had lobbied New York's city council in 1999 against a proposal to retrofit older residential towers with sprinklers, arguing it would add $4 per square foot to the cost of an apartment, the Times says. Officials in then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration agreed that it would be too expensive.

"We send our prayers and deepest condolences to Mr. Brassner's family and loved ones," a Trump Organization spokeswoman said Sunday. On Saturday, before the fire was extinguished and Brassner's death confirmed, Trump tweeted: "Fire at Trump Tower is out. Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!" Brassner inherited money from his father soon after filing for bankruptcy in 2015, and "he showed up at my house the next day in a brand-new red Lamborghini," fellow art collector Stuart Pivar said. "That was Todd." Peter Weber

April 2, 2018
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Carlos Alvarado, a novelist and former labor minister, won Sunday's presidential runoff election in Costa Rica, easily beating evangelical Christian pastor and singer Fabricio Alvarado to keep the ruling center-left Citizen Action Party in power for another term. The two Alvarados are not related. With 95 percent of the ballots counted, Costa Rica's Supreme Electoral Council said Sunday night, Carlos Alvarado has 61 percent of the vote while Fabricio Alvarado has 39 percent. Polls had shown the two men running neck and neck.

Fabricio Alvarado, representing the National Restoration Party, took first place in the first round of voting in February, running on a platform of opposing same-sex marriage. The San Jose-based regional Inter-American Court of Human Rights said in January that Costa Rica should allow same-sex marriage. Carlos Alvarado, 38, who backed the call for same-sex marriage, will be Costa Rica's youngest president. "Costa Rica is an amazing country and we want to not only preserve its great democracy, its peaceful nature, its respect for the environment and human rights, but we also want to move Costa Rica forward," Carlos Alvarado said after casting his ballot on Sunday. Peter Weber

February 7, 2018
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Last Wednesday, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry admitted to having an extramarital affair with Nashville Police Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr., the head of her security detail until his resignation Jan. 17. Barry, a Democrat, and Forrest are both married, and their affair apparently began in the spring of 2016, just months after she took office. On Tuesday, USA Today reported that Barry had also recommended Forrest's daughter, Macy Amos, for a job in the city's legal department. Amos got the job in January 2016.

Amos, by all accounts, was qualified for the entry-level job — a recent law school graduate, she had interned with the two previous Nashville mayors as well as the sheriff's office, and clerked at the Davidson County Circuit Court — and Metro Law Department Director Jon Cooper said it was his decision to hire her, not Barry's. "The mayor did recommend Macy during a meeting I had with her at some point, as did a number of people in the legal community," Cooper told USA Today. Amos, 26, was the "logical choice" for the job, he added.

A spokesman for mayor, Sean Braisted, said that "Barry was not having an affair with Sgt. Forrest when Macy Amos was interviewed, hired, or started working for Metro," and "Amos is an exemplary employee who earned her job because of her qualifications and passion for Metro Government." Government ethics experts say the situation is murky but problematic. "We will never know if she was hired on her own merits or not," Columbia Law School professor Richard Briffault said of Amos. "That's why we have ethics. There need not have been anything improper here at all, but now there's a cloud." Peter Weber

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