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August 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump might have some company on the debate stage in September. Politico reported Tuesday that the Commission on Presidential Debates has advised universities hosting the upcoming general election debates to have a third lectern ready to go "just in case." When asked about the possibility of Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein making the stage, Commission on Presidential Debates Co-Chair Mike McCurry told Politico, "Some of our production people may have said, 'Just in case, you need to plan out what that might look like.'"

Producers from the commission insist the directive they've given universities is more about being as prepared as possible than it is a "reflection of the state of the race," Politico reported. For a candidate to debate, he or she must "appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College," the commission determined last year, and have at least 15 percent support in the national polls. Johnson has 8.8 percent support right now, and Stein has about 3.8 percent.

The commission says it might "consider giving an inch" to a third-party candidate who nears the requisite percentage. "We won't know the number of invitations we extend until mid-September," McCurry said.

As of now, there are three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate scheduled. The first debate is slated for Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Becca Stanek

4:00 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has quickly risen from an obscure Kansas congressman best known for pushing Benghazi conspiracy theories to President Trump's CIA director and then top diplomat, "the last survivor of the president's original national-security team and his most influential adviser on international affairs," Susan Glasser writes in a new profile of Pompeo in The New Yorker. But in early 2016, he backed Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) in the Republican presidential primary, and on the day of the Kansas caucuses, he stood in for Rubio and savaged Trump.

Trump, like President Barack Obama, would be "an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution," Pompeo told a booing crowd of GOP caucus-goers in Wichita. Noting that candidate Trump said he would order soldiers to commit war crimes and they would obey, Pompeo said U.S. service members "don't swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other president. ... They take an oath to defend our Constitution." Backstage, Trump demanded to know who was thrashing him, Glasser recounts.

"I realized, listening to the speech of Mike Pompeo back in 2016, that I've never really heard him go off on Trump in a video form," Glasser recounts in a video accompanying her profile. "Mike Pompeo is very, very sensitive about even the appearance of being caught out disagreeing with Donald Trump. I think he is worried about the idea that Donald Trump is gonna remember back to March 5, 2016."

Trump reportedly was reminded of it after announcing Pompeo as CIA director, but he kept him anyway. Now Pompeo is "among the most sycophantic and obsequious people around Trump," a former senior White House official told Glasser. A former U.S. ambassador was more blunt: "He's like a heat-seeking missile for Trump's ass."

Pompeo's biography is interesting and impressive — first in his class at West Point, former Army captain, Harvard Law graduate, unsuccessful Koch-funded Kansas businessman, congressman, and now Trump whisperer and, as Glasser puts it, probably "the most conservative, ideologically driven secretary of state ever to serve." Read the entire profile at The New Yorker. Peter Weber

2:04 a.m.

After 11 weeks of protests, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said the government wants to hold "open and direct" conversations with demonstrators.

"Work will start immediately to build a platform of dialogue," she said. "We hope this dialogue can be built upon a basis of mutual understanding and respect to find a way out for Hong Kong." Lam also said political leaders will start investigating complaints against police, one of the demands made by protesters. "I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to calm and turning away from violence," she said.

The protests started with the introduction of a bill that would let people arrested in Hong Kong be extradited to China. The measure has been shelved for now, but protesters want the bill to be totally withdrawn. The demonstrators have shut down Hong Kong's airport and clogged the streets near the financial district. On Sunday, a peaceful rally drew approximately 1.7 million protesters, and it was a very different scene from the earlier protests, when riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas; this time, there was a light police presence. Catherine Garcia

1:41 a.m.

President Trump's next round of tariffs on Chinese imports will raise the average trade war cost for U.S. households to $1,000 per year, from $600, because the new duties will largely hit finished consumer goods, JP Morgan Chase researchers said Monday. The tariffs would largely negate any extra money consumers got from Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut, and unlike with tax-subsidized farmers, "there is no simple way to compensate consumer," Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, JP Morgan's head of U.S. equity strategy, wrote to investors.

Consumer spending is the brightest spot in the U.S. economy right now, and facing slowdowns in manufacturing and business spending, and other warnings signs of a possible recession, the White House is now exploring a payroll tax cut to encourage Americans to keep their wallets open, The Washington Post and The New York Times report, citing several people familiar with the discussions. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is also reportedly advocating a capital gains tax cut, which would mostly benefit wealthy investors but, unlike the payroll cut, wouldn't require approval by Congress.

Payroll tax cuts, typically popular among Democrats because they benefit middle class workers, either drain money from Social Security and Medicare accounts or add to the ballooning deficit, already up 27 percent from last year. The White House said Monday that "cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time," despite Monday's White House discussions and an internal white paper exploring the idea.

Publicly, Trump administration officials have been dismissing the idea of a recession, but "Trump has sent mixed messages," the Post notes. He tweeted that the economy is "very strong," then specifically urged the Federal Reserve to cut already-low interest rates by 100 basis points and pump more money into the economy through "quantitative easing." Cutting benchmark interest rates to 1.25 percent would give the Fed "little additional wiggle room to maneuver if a full-fledged recession began," the Post reports, and quantitative easing is "an extreme step that central bankers take when they are trying to urgently address a slumping economy." Peter Weber

1:21 a.m.

It was a study in contrasts: On one side, the well-maintained Alexandria National Cemetery, on the other, the overgrown and rundown Douglass Memorial Cemetery.

Three years ago, Griffin Burchard, now 16, was in Alexandria, Virginia, on a Boy Scout service trip. He was helping to remove dead wreaths at the national cemetery, but couldn't stop looking at the Douglass Memorial Cemetery, a historic black cemetery named in honor of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Burchard saw leaves everywhere, he told The Washington Post, limbs falling off of trees, and damage caused by flooding, and wanted to do something about it.

This year for his Eagle Scout project, Burchard spearheaded a major renovation of the cemetery, assisted by other Boy and Girl Scouts. He first received a permit from the city to start the cleanup, and then conducted research on the cemetery, learning that at least 1,900 people were buried there between 1890 and 1975. Burchard earned $200 through recycling, and used that money to pay for a new sign, featuring a Douglass quote: "Without a struggle, there can be no progress."

Last Thursday, during a brief ceremony at the cemetery, Burchard said Douglass was a "great example of a citizen who impacted his community," adding that the project "made me want to be a great citizen." As there is no church or nonprofit taking care of the land, Burchard also hopes someone in the area will express interest in becoming the cemetery's regular caretaker. Catherine Garcia

12:22 a.m.

Kimberly Williams saved Dan Magennis' life, from nearly 900 miles away.

Last Tuesday, Magennis called Comcast with a question about his cable. The Walker, Michigan, resident was home alone, and had the phone on speaker. Suddenly, he was unable to answer the representative's questions, and couldn't move his right leg. Magennis said he realized he was having a stroke, but couldn't communicate that to the representative, Williams.

Williams was in her office in Jackson, Mississippi, but told M Live she had "confidence in my heart, I knew something was wrong with him." Williams moved fast, and started searching online for police departments near Magennis' house. She finally reached the Walker Fire Department, and five minutes later, paramedics arrived at Magennis' house and rushed him to the hospital.

Doctors quickly determined Magennis had a blood clot on the left side of his brain, and he was in surgery within an hour. Timing is critical with stroke victims, and Williams' fast thinking helped save Magennis' life. He left the hospital two days after surgery, and said he is so grateful for Williams. "It was absolutely unexpected," he said. "But I'm still here today. It's incredible." Catherine Garcia

August 19, 2019

Greenland is still not for sale, and this is not a parody account.

Lest you were concerned, President Trump is not apparently ordering White House graphic designers to come up with joke images featuring his private, for-profit company on taxpayer time. He's just sharing memes he comes across on social media. Perhaps he saw this one on his son Eric's feed.

Well, the joke's on somebody. Peter Weber

August 19, 2019

Despite its fractured leadership, the Islamic State is gaining strength in Iraq and Syria, conducting frequent guerrilla attacks and once again beheading people in public, U.S. and Iraqi military and intelligence officers told The New York Times.

ISIS was pushed out of its last bit of territory in Syria five months ago, but it still has an estimated 18,000 fighters, and more and more are being recruited at Al Hol, a tent camp in northern Syria housing 70,000 people — many of them relatives of ISIS fighters. American intelligence officials said they consider this camp, managed by Syrian Kurds, a breeding ground for future terrorists.

President Trump has ordered troops out of Syria, but a recent inspector general's report said this has made it harder to support Syrian allies fighting ISIS, and they are only able to focus on keeping militants out of urban areas. In July, Trump said the U.S. and allies did "a great job," but it's time for troops to leave. "We'll be out of there pretty soon," he added. "And let them handle their own problems."

ISIS sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq are carrying out assassinations, abductions, and sniper attacks, conducting 139 deadly attacks in northern and western Iraq during the first six months of the year. Earlier this month, a police officer in a rural village two hours north of Baghdad was publicly beheaded by armed men who said they were part of ISIS. The terrorist organization is supported by business endeavors like fish farming and cannabis growing, the Times reports, and it's believed they have hidden away as much as $400 million. Catherine Garcia

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