July 31, 2015

It looks like Donald Trump won't be giving away rides on his luxurious, ultra-classy helicopter in Iowa any time soon.

After initially telling The Daily Mail that he was going to attend "The World's Fair," the GOP presidential candidate clarified on Wednesday that he was really planning on flying his chopper out to Iowa for the state fair. "I'm going to try giving kids lifts in the helicopter," he said. "You know, young kids. Yeah! If I can do it — if I'm allowed to do it. ... It'll be magnificent."

Unfortunately for Trump, it's going to remain a magnificent dream. A spokeswoman for the fair told the Des Moines Register that Trump has not asked for permission, and if he does, he'll be denied. "He is welcome to land his helicopter anywhere outside the grounds and take people on rides or whatever he would like to do," she said. "But that will not be happening on Iowa State Fair grounds." Catherine Garcia


Amazon has officially announced its second global headquarters will be split between New York City and... some part of Virginia it's calling "National Landing."

As reports projected, the company revealed Tuesday that it'll route 25,000 new jobs to its "HQ2" in New York's Long Island City neighborhood, and another 25,000 to Arlington, Virginia. Except Amazon's official announcement says its Washington-area headquarters will be in National Landing — a place Amazon seems to have pulled out of thin air.

Save for Amazon's announcement, a quick search of The Washington Post reveals no previous references to this mystery area. So, reasonably, Twitter lit up with locals questioning just what a National Landing entails. Luckily, Amazon included a handy map to explain where this so-called National Landing office will, well, land.

Yes, "Amazon in Arlington" will be just west of Reagan National Airport, in the D.C. metro area currently known as Crystal City. Plenty of people think the area's glimmering name is a bit of misnomer anyway, which could be why Virginia is officially okay with Amazon co-opting three whole neighborhoods. In a Tuesday statement, Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia called National Landing "a newly branded neighborhood encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard." In a similar vein, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) released a Tuesday video rehashing the state's only noteworthy slogan as "Virginia is for Amazon Lovers."

Amazon also unveiled its plans for a 5,000-employee Operations Center of Excellence on Tuesday. This office is slated for Nashville's neighborhood of The Gulch, which is surprisingly not the made-up name in this situation. Kathryn Krawczyk


It looks like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen isn't the only member of the Trump administration on the way out.

The president is also looking for candidates who could replace White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, ABC News reported Tuesday. Right now, the leading contender is reportedly Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's 36-year-old chief of staff. President Trump has met with Ayers about potentially taking over for Kelly, and they had an "extended conversation" on Election Night, ABC News reports. Some sources said that this is essentially a "done deal," though others said it's not final yet.

It sounds like part of the reason Trump is interested in Ayers is that he sees him as someone who's politically savvy, which he doesn't think is true of John Kelly, per ABC News. Kelly has been rumored to be on the outs with Trump for months on end, but some believe the end is finally nigh now that the midterm elections have passed.

Trump is also reportedly getting ready to fire Nielsen, who has received support from Kelly even as some in the administration criticize her approach. Kelly, who last week was the one to phone Jeff Sessions and tell him he was being forced to resign as attorney general, has reportedly threatened to resign should Nielsen be fired. Now, it sounds like that won't be a problem for Trump, who is ready to get rid of both of them, despite the fact that he had previously asked Kelly to stay on until 2020, reports CNN. Brendan Morrow


Conflict between Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip is at its most intense since 2014, The Associated Press reports.

The IDF estimate Hamas has launched about 400 rockets since Monday, and Israeli strikes have reportedly hit around 100 targets in Gaza, including the building housing Hamas's television station. Six Palestinians have been killed in this round of strikes, though reports vary as to how many were militants. Another two dozen people have been wounded, and one Israeli civilian has also died.

U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt on Twitter Monday reiterated U.S. support for Israel against Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist organization. "Terrorists in Gaza are again attacking Israel with tools of war," he wrote. "These rocket & mortar attacks on Israeli towns must be condemned by all. Israel is forced once again into military action to defend its citizens. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks."

Truce negotiations facilitated by the United Nations, Egypt, and Qatar are underway, and further escalation is expected if they are derailed by this week's violence. Bonnie Kristian


Winter is coming — next spring.

HBO announced in a teaser video Tuesday that Game of Thrones' long-anticipated final season will premiere in April 2019. Before you get too excited, there's no new footage in the teaser; it's just a 30-second compilation of some of the series' highlights. But snuck in right at the end is confirmation that the series is coming back within a few months.

HBO had previously only said that the show's last season would air sometime in the first half of the year, making fans worry that the premiere could be as late as the summer. Many had guessed the show would return in April, as this used to be the series' typical premiere month, and star Maisie Williams even said as much in an interview once. But Season 7 came out in July, and Williams later reversed her comments, both of which opened up the possibility of a later-than-usual start.

There's no trailer for the final season of Game of Thrones yet, but some details were recently revealed in an Entertainment Weekly cover story, including that the first episode will feature a lot of callbacks to Season 1 as Daenerys Targaryen makes her arrival in Winterfell. The show's cast and crew have also been promising that the final season features the biggest battle sequence of all time — not just on television, but in movies, too. If that's the case, it sounds like the extended 20-month wait between seasons should turn out to be well worth it. Just don't hold your breath for those books. Brendan Morrow


President Trump has your new go-to excuse for getting out of dreary mandatory functions: Blame it on the Secret Service.

On Saturday, Trump was scheduled to appear at an American cemetery in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. But when a "light steady rain" persisted just outside Paris, per Reuters, the White House said Trump would skip out "due to scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather."

The change of plans inspired trolling from even the French army, and dredged up Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's rain-soaked 2017 speech honoring WWI troops who endured much more than wet suits and hair. "On that day ... the rain wasn't rain, it was bullets," Trudeau said. Three days later, a seemingly defensive Trump still hadn't let it go.

Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron all managed to make it to Saturday ceremonies throughout France. And somehow, Chief of Staff John Kelly made it to the cemetery visit Trump missed, the White House statement said.

Trump did ditch his umbrella for a cemetery visit in France the next day — where he complained about the weather. But when he returned to the U.S. on Monday, Trump didn't make a traditional Veterans Day appearance at Arlington National Cemetery. And as France's U.S. Embassy displayed in a tweet, the weather was perfect. Kathryn Krawczyk


About 200 of the firefighters battling California's deadly Camp Fire are inmates, a local ABC affiliate reports, who have joined a volunteer firefighting program through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The inmate firefighters earn $2 per day plus $1 per hour for their work, which is well above average for prison wages in the state. They can also receive time off their sentences. Previous blazes have seen far larger groups of inmates at work; around 2,000 participated in efforts to stop the Mendocino Complex Fire earlier this year.

Despite the training and experience inmates accrue through the firefighting program, they likely will not be able to become firefighters upon release. California firefighters are required to be licensed emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and EMT licensure can be blocked for anyone with a criminal record.

"The persistent, horrific wildfires year after year make this human rights issue even more pressing for the men and women fighting these fires every day who cannot do so once released," Katherine Katcher of Root and Rebound, which works on prison re-entry issues in California, told Reason. The state's licensing rules, Katcher said, "shut people out of living wage careers that they are trained and qualified for solely because of old, expunged, and irrelevant convictions." Bonnie Kristian


CNN will press charges over a press pass.

After the White House suspended CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press credentials last week, the news network filed a lawsuit Tuesday, arguing that Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated, CNN reports.

There are six defendants in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.: President Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine, Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, and an unnamed Secret Service officer who took away Acosta's pass.

Acosta's access was suspended after he would not give over the microphone to a White House intern while attempting to ask Trump a follow-up question at a press conference. The White House subsequently claimed that Acosta was being suspended because he "[placed] his hands on a young woman," releasing a deceptively sped-up video as proof. Counselor Kellyanne Conway defended this decision Sunday. "You have to show respect to the White House, to the presidency certainly, to the president," she said.

The network is seeking a preliminary injunction so that Acosta's pass can be returned, as well as a ruling that Trump can not take such actions in the future. "If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials," CNN said. Brendan Morrow

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