July 7, 2016

Beyoncé posted a powerful letter Thursday on her website, sharing her grief and anger over the officer-involved shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

"We are sick and tired of the killings of young men and women in our communities," she wrote. "It is up to us to take a stand and demand that they 'stop killing us.' We don't need sympathy. We need everyone to respect our lives." It doesn't matter a person's "race, gender, or sexual orientation," she continued, this is a "fight for anyone who feels marginalized, who is struggling for freedom and human rights." Her letter wasn't a "plea to all police officers, but toward any human being who fails to value life. The war on people and all minorities needs to be over."

Beyoncé called on people to channel their anger and frustration into action by contacting politicians and legislators to "demand social and judicial changes." While the shootings may leave people feeling hopeless, "we have to believe that we are fighting for the rights of the next generation, for the next young men and women who believe in good," she wrote. During her concert Thursday night in Glasgow, Beyoncé held a moment of silence, and displayed the names of police brutality victims on a giant screen. Catherine Garcia

2:04 p.m.

Nevada is keeping things on brand for the state's Democratic presidential caucuses Saturday.

As everyone saw in Iowa, caucuses are susceptible to precinct-level ties, and when there's a tie, well, you need a tie-breaker. In the Hawkeye state, they resorted to a good old-fashioned coin flip to determine which candidate received the up-for-grabs delegate. In Nevada, though, they'll use playing cards, which makes sense considering the state's relationship to card games.

In tie-breaking situations, the precinct leader must shuffle an unopened deck of cards at least seven times and remove extra cards like Jokers and directional cards. Then each group representing a tied candidate will draw from the deck and the high card wins (if cards of the same rank are drawn, it'll resort to suit, with spades being the highest.)

May the best card win. Tim O'Donnell

1:37 p.m.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. underperformed in 2019, but its boss is playing it cool.

The conglomerate's stock rose 11 percent compared to a 31.5 percent total return in the S&P 500, but CEO and chair Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors in his annual shareholder Saturday, which is in line with his longstanding opinion that long-term performance should be prioritized over short-term fluctuations in the stock market.

He defended the company's decision to invest heavily in stocks despite even though it's been several years since Berkshire Hathaway made a major acquisition of a company. He said while he'd prefer to buy a whole company, the "fickle" stock market means stocks are the safer bet.

The 89-year-old Buffett also said the company is well-prepared for the future should he or his 96-year-old business partner and Berkshire vice chair Charlie Munger die. “Charlie and I long ago entered the urgent zone,” Buffett wrote. “That’s not exactly great news for us. But Berkshire shareholders need not worry: Your company is 100% prepared for our departure.” Read more at The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

11:31 a.m.

President Trump wants the Democratic presidential candidates to be careful Saturday during the Nevada caucuses.

After it was reported Friday that U.S. intelligence officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is considered the Democratic frontrunner by many, that Russia was in some way attempting to interfere with the election process and aid his campaign (Sanders denounced the efforts), Trump sent a tweet Saturday warning the Democrats about Moscow's motives.

So apparently Trump, who also reportedly recently learned Russia was attempting to interfere on behalf of his 2020 re-election bid, doesn't think the Sanders story is a hoax. That word, it seems, is reserved for him. Tim O'Donnell

11:01 a.m.

Saturday was a "momentous day" in South Sudan, but experts caution the young country still has a very difficult to path peace ahead of it.

Rebel leader Riek Machar was sworn in as vice president Saturday in Juba, the capital, as part of a unity government with rival President Salva Kiir. The two sides are hoping to end a years-long civil war that has led to at least 400,000 deaths and left millions of people homeless. The civil war was preceded by the country's bloody conflict to secede from Sudan in 2011.

Two previous peace attempts between Machar and Kiir had failed, but key concessions were made last week which prompted the agreement. "This action signifies the official end of the war and we can now declare a new dawn in South Sudan," Kiir said at the ceremony. "Peace has come to stay, not to be shaken again ever in this nation."

Still, there's a long way to go, argued Alan Boswell of the International Crisis Group, who was in Juba for Saturday's ceremony. "In other ways, though, it is a crawling step forward and doesn't drastically change the situation in this country," he told The Washington Post. "South Sudan isn't going to emerge from being a failed state overnight. It will take the work of generations to put its shattered pieces back together — even to get it back to where it was at independence." Read more at The Washington Post and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

8:45 a.m.

The United States and the Taliban are inching closer to a peace settlement, but it won't be easy, The Associated Press reports.

A reduction in violence agreement between the two sides went into effect early Saturday in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has halted offensive operations. If it's successful, the week-long truce will be followed by a peace accord, scheduled to be signed Feb. 29, wrapping up the 18-year conflict and paving the way for American troops to gradually head home. If that deal is signed, the Afghan government plans to launch its own negotiations with the Taliban.

But U.S. military officials do not anticipate a smooth process. It will reportedly be challenging to determine if any attacks — which are anticipated to be carried by so-called "spoilers" who are opposed to peace talks from happening at all — in the next week will breach the truce because of the decentralized nature of the Taliban's operations. "There are going to be a lot of opportunities for any militia commander, element of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other local forces who don't want to seal a deal, to conduct violence," said Seth Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Officials said Washington, Kabul, and the Taliban will maintain a channel to discuss any issues, such as allowing the Taliban to deny responsibility for an attack. Still, the "case-by-case" assessment will likely be difficult, and nobody is precisely sure how the U.S. will measure success. Read more at The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

7:56 a.m.

President Trump is telling his staff he wants to block the publication of former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book until after he leaves office, The Washington Post reports.

The book, titled The Room Where It Happened promises to reveal a firsthand account of interactions between Trump and Bolton (which reportedly includes a conversation in which Trump said he ordered the Ukraine quid pro quo), has a scheduled release date of March 17. But the National Security Council warned Bolton last month after reviewing his draft that it contains "significant amounts of classified information." Still, Bolton was told the council will try to make sure it gets published.

Trump, on the other hand, has reportedly privately called Bolton a "traitor" and argues every conversation in the book between Bolton and Trump should be considered classified. He also reportedly brings the book up frequently with his team, asking for news on whether Bolton will be allowed to go forward with publication.

Two sources familiar with the matter told the Post that Trump has insisted the book remain on the backburner until at least after the November the election, while Trump himself reportedly told television news anchors during an off-the-record lunch earlier this month that Bolton "can do this" after his presidency, "but not in the White House."

Bolton is reportedly growing concerned the White House will claim a large amount of details are classified without specifying why, which could set up a long legal battle over the publication. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

February 21, 2020

WarnerMedia has dropped some news that, if you're a Friends fan, might just make your day, your week, your month, or even your year.

A Friends reunion special has been officially announced for WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service, HBO Max, where the classic sitcom will also find its new home after its departure from Netflix. To be clear, this won't be a new episode of Friends, but rather an unscripted special in which the cast reunites on the soundstage where the series was shot for what's described as "a celebration of the beloved show."

The special had previously been rumored, but it was officially confirmed on Friday. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer are all on board, and Variety reports they'll each be paid at least $2.5 million, not too shabby at all for what essentially sounds like a DVD bonus feature.

As far as an actual revival of the series goes, don't get your hopes up: creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman have repeatedly ruled it out, meaning this is about as close as we're likely ever going to get.

Still, being able to promote HBO Max as the exclusive home of a highly-anticipated Friends reunion is a big deal for WarnerMedia, which reportedly paid more than $400 million for five years of the show's streaming rights. Both the special and the entire series will be there for you when HBO Max launches this May, at which point the streamer will have one thing to say to potential subscribers: how you doing? Brendan Morrow

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