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October 15, 2014

Amal Alamuddin Clooney might be on her way to remembrance for her involvement with a controversial part of the Parthenon.

Last month, Doughty Street, where Clooney is a barrister, announced that Clooney would visit Athens from Oct. 13-16 to advise the Greek government about the Elgin Marbles. The Elgin Marbles are a set of Greek marble sculptures that were originally part of the Parthenon and other acropolis buildings. They are currently on display at the British Museum, but Greece has long hoped to reclaim the statues.

The 2,500-year-old Elgin Marbles, which date to the fifth century B.C.E., have fueled a wider debate among art historians over whether works of art should be returned to their home countries. The discussion about the sculptures' location has become "the West's longest-running cultural row," The Guardian notes. The sculptures were moved to London in the early 19th century, "when it was considered fashionable for major European powers to collect ancient art from other cultures," according to The Associated Press. They gained their current name when Lord Elgin sold them to the British Museum between 1801 and 1805.

Clooney, along with lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, hosted talks with various government officials in Greece, including the Greek prime minister and the culture minister. Clooney and Robertson also visited the Acropolis Museum, which is home to the portion of the Elgin Marbles that aren't in the U.K.

Costas Tassoulas, Greece's culture minister, said at a press conference Wednesday that UNESCO, the U.N.'s cultural branch, is urging Britain to reconsider a year-old proposal to join in a "mediation process" to decide the sculptures' fate. Greece hopes to regain all of the Elgin Marbles that were once part of the Parthenon. If its efforts are successful, the country would display the collection at a museum near the Acropolis Hill. Meghan DeMaria

7:44 a.m.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has some thoughts on the backlash to his Dancing with the Stars casting, arguing that having contestants like himself on the show will actually help "bring the country together."

Spicer spoke in an interview with Mediaite after on Wednesday being announced as one of the cast members of the ABC competition series' latest season, drawing criticism including from host Tom Bergeron. Hours after Spicer's casting was unveiled, Bergeron released a statement slamming the choice and saying he asked the executive producer to avoid "inevitably divisive bookings from any party affiliations" this season.

Spicer now says he hopes that Bergeron changes his mind about this.

"My overall hope is that at the end of this season that Tom looks at this and says, bringing people together of very diverse backgrounds, whether it's in politics or other areas, and allowing them to show America how we can engage in a really respectful and civil way, is actually a way to help bring the country together as opposed to bring it apart," Spicer said.

He also responded to criticism of his hiring from others, such as The New York Times' James Poniewozik, who wrote that booking Spicer would allow him to "tap-dance out of infamy." Spicer said this isn't "what I want" and that he's just going on the show "to enjoy myself and if more people like me, then that's great."

Spicer is the only contestant from the world of politics joining Dancing with the Stars this season, although in the past, some of the eponymous dancing stars have included former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). The new season, likely to be filled with plenty of awkwardness should Bergeron not have a change of heart about Spicer's ability to "bring the country together" with his tap dancing, will kick off on Sept. 16. Brendan Morrow

7:00 a.m.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced Thursday morning that he will run for Senate, exactly a week after he dropped out of the crowded Democratic presidential race. "I've always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done — but this is no time to walk away from the table," he said in a video message. "I'm not done fighting for the people of Colorado." Hickenlooper will be the 12th Democrat lining up to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R), considered one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents, and he is expected to enter the race in the top tier. A poll this week found him 13 points ahead of Gardner in a hypothetical matchup. Peter Weber

6:24 a.m.

President Trump said a lot of things in his digressive 35-minute back-and-forth with reporters Wednesday afternoon, from the quixotically amusing — Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell raised interest rates "too fast, too furious" — to the messianic, mendacious, and undiplomatic.

Trump also elaborated on his statement Tuesday that "Jewish people that vote for a Democrat" show "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Some of his Republican Jewish supporters had defended the comment, widely criticized by Jewish groups and Israeli politicians, saying Trump meant Jewish Democrats are disloyal to themselves, not Israel. On Wednesday, Trump clarified: "I think if you vote for a Democrat, you are very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people."

Trump comments flirted "with a notion that has fueled anti-Semitism for generations and has been at the root of some of the most brutal violence inflicted upon Jews in their history," Julie Hirschfeld Davis explains at The New York Times. "The accusation that Jews have a 'dual loyalty' ... dates back thousands of years. It animated the Nazis in 1930s Germany," and today "it is a common refrain of white supremacists who claim there is a secret plot orchestrated by Jews to replace white people through mass migration and racial integration."

Trump insisted his comments weren't anti-Semitic.

In fact, "when it comes to Jews, President Trump presents a puzzle," writes Yair Rosenberg at The Washington Post. "His daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism. ... He loudly proclaims his support for Israel and has long employed Jews in prominent positions in his businesses. But Trump also seems to say a lot of anti-Semitic things," including his frequent suggestion that "American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States."

"So is Trump a philo-Semite or an anti-Semite? The answer is both," Rosenberg writes. "Trump believes all the anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. But he sees those traits as admirable. To Trump, the belief that Jews are foreign interlopers who use their wealth to serve their own clannish interests is not a negative — as it is for traditional anti-Semites — but rather a positive." Yes, "this form of 'positive' anti-Semitism is better than the negative kind," he adds, but "it is still deeply dangerous."

Read Rosenberg's essay on Trump's philo-Semitism at The Washington Post and a brief history of the "dual loyalty" slur at The New York Times. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m.

It turns out that President Trump was actually very serious about buying Greenland from Denmark, and he was so offended when Denmark's prime minister called the idea "absurd," he called off a forthcoming visit, angering Denmark, which saw it as a slight to their queen, and that reaction made Trump even madder, so he called the prime minister "nasty," Conan O'Brien recapped on Wednesday night's Conan. "So now the whole thing is a big f---ing mess."

"Everyone's mad at everybody over this initial idea," O'Brien said, but "President Trump knows real estate, if he knows anything," and "all this angry back-and-forth is just classic haggling over a real estate purchase — this is what people do. Every side plays hard to get, right?" To help ease the deal through, O'Brien reiterated, he is traveling to Greenland to "kick the tires on this deal, and I'm gonna get this deal done."

Still, "buying a property the size of Greenland is a huge, huge undertaking, there's a lot of money involved, and I wanted to make sure I'm getting the U.S. a good deal," O'Brien said. "That's why tonight I'm going to get advice on buying Greenland from a top real estate team," HGTV "Property Brothers" Drew and Jonathan Scott. And they had some... ideas. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:31 a.m.

Three Democrats have dropped out of the 2020 presidential race but none of them seems ready to retire from politics. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) is running for another term in Congress, and according to multiple people familiar with their thinking, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is going to run for Senate in 2020 and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will seek a third term as governor.

Inslee, who ended his presidential run on Wednesday night, plans to announce his plans to seek re-election in an email to supporters on Thursday, two people close to the governor tell The Associated Press. Washington doesn't have gubernatorial term limits, though the last governor to serve more than two terms was Dan Evans (R), who led Washington from 1965 to 1977. Several Washington state Democrats have announced they might run for governor, but only if Inslee doesn't. He already has some Republican challengers, but no Republican has won the governorship in more than 30 years, AP reports.

People familiar with Hickenlooper's plans told The Denver Post and The Colorado Independent on Wednesday that the former governor will challenge vulnerable incumbent Sen. Cory Garner (R-Colo.), despite earlier saying he wasn't interested in becoming a U.S. senator. "Hick has been making calls to various elected officials telling them he's running, and asking for their support," one Democratic insider told the Independent.

The Democrats already running for Colorado's Senate seat have indicated they won't exit the race if Hickenlooper enters it. But prominent Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), urged Hickenlooper to jump into the race, seeing him as their best shot at toppling the first-term incumbent. An Aug. 16-19 poll from Emerson University bolsters that assumption, showing Hickenlooper beating Garner 53 percent to 40 percent, well outside of the poll's ±3 percentage point margin of error. Peter Weber

2:28 a.m.

President Trump may not have given himself the Medal of Honor, but he has awarded himself several fictitious prizes, like "Michigan Man of the Year."

"Donald Trump is lots of things, but Michigan Man of the Year is not one of them," Chris Hayes noted Wednesday night on MSNBC. "It's not even an award that exists in real life, just in Trump's brain. And in Trump's brain, he's won lots of awards."

Citing an essay by Deadspin's David Roth, Hayes provided video evidence of "the strange reality in which Donald Trump seems to live, an alternate universe in which he's the star and big winner in a never-ending, televised award show." It's all fake, he said, "but the real question is does Donald Trump believe it's true or does he just thing we're all stupid?" Trump provided one plausible answer back in 2011.

At Deadspin, Roth provided another explanation:

Trump is a being of pure reaction and grievance and avarice, and as such is never really very difficult to parse. When he lies about money it's because he wants people to think he has more of it than he does; when he lies about golf it's because he wants people to think he's a better golfer than he is. Those lies tell you something about how Trump wants to be seen, but they're incidental to the bigger questions of who and what he is. Stranger lies like the Michigan Man one reveal more about how he sees the world and understands his relationship to the other people in it, which is fundamentally as someone cleaning up at an endless televised awards show. [David Roth, Deadspin]

In the case of his fake awards, Roth adds, "some dumb speech, long forgotten, grows into a great honor bestowed by strangers who admired him ... something he can bring up, whenever he is feeling under-appreciated or anxious or when nothing else will come." Read the full essay at Deadspin. Peter Weber

1:28 a.m.

In order to help mountain lions and other animals struggling with isolation in the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles is building the world's largest wildlife corridor, which will cross busy Highway 101.

"The ecosystem needs to be reconnected for all wildlife," Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told The Guardian. "Segmentation impacts animals both large and small, lizards and birds up to mountain lions." Animals were able to travel unimpeded before roads were carved into their habitat, and ecologists are worried now that mountain lions especially are stuck in just one area, making it difficult to mate. "We want these animals on the landscape and the population will go extinct if we don't do something soon," Pratt said.

The 165-foot long bridge will be surrounded by trees and bushes, so the animals won't even know they are on it. "The science tells us this is the better design," Pratt told The Guardian. "Some animals will use tunnels, some will not. We looked at the best solution for all wildlife so all creatures can use this." The $87 million bridge is now in its final design phase, and is expected to open in 2023. Pratt said if Los Angeles can undertake such a project, "it can work anywhere." Catherine Garcia

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