September 1, 2018

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama joined other Washington notables and the McCain family in honoring the late Sen. John McCain at his funeral on Saturday at the National Cathedral.

Both men drew implicit contrasts between McCain and President Trump, who was reportedly not invited to the funeral. McCain "detested the abuse of power and could not abide bigots and swaggering despots," Bush said. "He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators."

Obama likewise decried the tone of Trump-era politics. "So much of our politics can seem small and mean and petty," he said. "Trafficking in bombast and insult, phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but is instead born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that, to be better than that."

He also got in a joke at his own expense. "What better way to get the last laugh than make George and I say nice things about him before a national audience?" Obama said, referencing McCain's primary loss to Bush in the 2000 election and general election loss to himself in 2008.

Watch the full service below. Bush's eulogy begins around two hours and 38 minutes in, and Obama is the following speaker. Bonnie Kristian

August 30, 2018

You may think it's unbearably hot where you live, but at least humans get to enjoy air conditioning. Not so for our water-bound friends.

Soaring temperatures likely killed an estimated 2,000 striped mullet fish in Southern California last week, LiveScience reported Thursday.

The waters in Malibu Lagoon and Malibu Creek reached up to 82 degrees Fahrenheit last week, which has California State Parks officials suspecting that it simply got too hot for the poor fish to take. Craig Sap, the superintendent of California State Parks' Angeles District, said it was the biggest mass-fish-mortality event he'd ever seen.

Scientists say climate change has brought increasingly extreme heat to California, and this summer has been plagued by wildfires worsened by record-high temperatures across the state. The sizzling temperatures have brought unprecedented heat even to the coast, where weather is typically mild.

The lagoon-turned-hot-tub likely cooked the striped mullet to death, says LiveScience, and now officials are figuring out what to do with thousands of deceased fish bodies that are floating in the waters. State Parks staff have begun removing them — to predictably disastrous results. "The smell now that we're moving them is pretty odoriferous," said Sap. Read more at LiveScience. Summer Meza

August 26, 2018
Roy Jones/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Celebrated playwright Neil Simon died Sunday in Manhattan from complications of pneumonia. He was 91.

Simon was born in the Bronx on July 4, 1927, and launched his career as a writer for Sid Caesar and Phil Silvers. He made his mark on Broadway with Barefoot in the Park in 1963 and The Odd Couple in 1965; in 1966, he had four Broadway shows going at the same time. From 1965 to 1980, his plays and musicals were performed more than 9,000 times, and in 1991, he won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Lost in Yonkers. He also received accolades for the 1980s trilogy Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound.

In 1983, a Broadway theater was named after him, an honor rare for a living playwright. Simon was married five times, and is survived by his wife Elaine Joyce; daughters Ellen Simon, Nancy Simon, and Bryn Lander Simon; three grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Catherine Garcia

August 26, 2018

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was widely memorialized Sunday following his death Saturday. Here are three must-read reflections on McCain's life from those who knew him.

From McCain's fellow Arizonan, Sen. Jeff Flake (R), at The Washington Post:

"I am grateful for John McCain"

We may never see his like again, but it is his reflection of America that we need now more than ever. He was far too self-deprecating to ever have thought of himself as just such a towering figure, so I will go ahead and say it. He showed us who we are and who we can be when we are at our best. [Jeff Flake via The Washington Post]

From former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), McCain's partner in campaign finance reform, at The New York Times:

"John McCain was a committed leader. He was also really fun."

His fundamental respect for diverging viewpoints, his willingness to befriend people from different parties and philosophies, his intense desire not for political dominance but to get things done, and yes, his sense of humor, would have served our divided nation and fraught world well. John McCain, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, had the heart to demand joy in life. [Russ Feingold via The New York Times]

And from John Lehman, who advised McCain's 2008 campaign, at The Wall Street Journal:

"A life of service, lived with good-natured irreverence"

[W]hen McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer and began the long ordeal of his treatment, his character was undiminished. He always bore a laconic smile and frequently offered wisecracks, invariably comforted his many visitors, and occasionally hurled verbal thunderbolts at his former adversaries. ... He showed not a tinge of apprehension about his next great adventure. [John Lehman via The Wall Street Journal]

Read other remembrances from McCain's family, friends, and erstwhile political foes here. Bonnie Kristian

August 26, 2018

Sen. John McCain's family, friends, and even political foes offered their remembrances and well wishes after his death on Saturday.

His wife, Cindy McCain, daughter Meghan McCain, and McCain's one-time campaign rival, former President Barack Obama, all hailed McCain's courage, strong will, and fidelity to American ideals in statements on Twitter:

From McCain's years in the Senate, Former Vice President Joe Biden said he "cast a long shadow," and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recalled McCain's "wicked sense of humor" that "made every tense moment come out better." Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described McCain as one of a "few truly great people" he has ever met, and "a truth teller — never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare." Schumer has proposed renaming a Senate office building in McCain's honor.

President Trump, who had a contentious relationship with the Arizona senator and reportedly did not wish to speak of him while he was alive, posted a brief tweet offering "deepest sympathies and respect." To the McCain family, he added, "Our hearts and prayers are with you!" Bonnie Kristian

August 25, 2018
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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) died Saturday at 81, his family said in a statement.

McCain was diagnosed with gliobastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, last summer, and his family announced Friday he had decided to discontinue medical treatment because "the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict."

McCain had represented Arizona in the Senate since 1987. Before holding elected office, he was a captain in the U.S. Navy and earned a Purple Heart for his service in the Vietnam War, where he spent five years as a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton after being captured in 1967.

As a lawmaker, McCain was a conservative with unapologetically hawkish foreign policy views. He first rose to national prominence with his failed bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, for which he traveled the country in a bus nicknamed the "Straight Talk Express." He eventually triumphed in 2008, becoming his party's presidential nominee and running against then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). McCain lost to Obama, but his stringent refusal to bow to racist rhetoric has been lauded over the last decade as a rare decent moment in politics.

McCain was also famous for his "maverick streak," perhaps best epitomized by his arrival on the Senate floor amid cancer treatment in 2017 to cast a decisive vote against his own party's health-care bill, which would have undone Obama's signature Affordable Care Act. In his memoir released earlier this year, McCain wrote that Obama called to thank him for his vote.

"I have had the most fortunate life of anybody you will ever talk to," McCain said in an interview reflecting on his years last October, "and I have nothing but gratitude — gratitude and joy, because I've had the most fortunate life that anybody has ever had." Bonnie Kristian

August 18, 2018

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan died Saturday after a brief illness, his family reported via his personal foundation. He was 80 years old.

Born in Ghana in 1938, Annan began work at the U.N. in 1962, rising through the ranks to serve as secretary general from 1997 to 2006. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the U.N. in 2001.

Current U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Annan "provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving, and a path to a better world." Annan is survived by his wife and three children. Bonnie Kristian

August 16, 2018
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for The Fox Theatre

"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin died Thursday while in hospice care at home in Detroit, her publicist confirmed to The Associated Press. She was 76.

The legendary soul and pop singer was reportedly "ill for a long time" with pancreatic cancer, and her friends and family had been warned that "death is imminent" just days ago. While receiving palliative care, Franklin was surrounded by family who said she was "alert, laughing, teasing, able to recognize people." Her nephew told People that "family is there with her. She's home."

"In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart," Franklin's representative said in a statement following her death. "We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family."

Franklin's singing career goes back to 1960, when she began recording hits like "Respect" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Her last performance was at a benefit for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in November 2017. Summer Meza

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