October 17, 2019

An Illuminati-loving self-help author is now in charge of honoring the smartest high school seniors in the country.

Last week, President Trump named Colorado lawyer George Mentz to the Commission on Presidential Scholars, which chooses academically excelling high school seniors to honor with a national award. Mentz is "a prolific author of self-help Illuminati books and operator of an education company that sells more than a hundred types of certifications," reports The Denver Post.

Mentz, a longtime Trump supporter and donor, is the author of The Illuminati Secret Laws of Money, The Illuminati Handbook, 50 Laws of Power of the Illuminati, and 100 Secrets and Habits of the Illuminati for Life Success. Several of those books are co-authored with someone named "Magus Incognito," and generally share how mindfulness can lead to prosperity. Mentz cautioned The Denver Post about getting "too excited" about his word choice, essentially saying the term "Illuminati" is used as a marketing tactic.

Mentz is also the current owner of the Global Academy of Finance and Management and former CEO of the American Academy of Financial Management, both of which "award certifications, allowing applicants to add an alphabet soup of titles after their names," The Denver Post writes.

A Wall Street Journal article from 2004 found that for one certification:

Applicants who already have certain professional designations, like a CFA or CPA can simply take the test without going through the course. In some cases, they can skip the test altogether and just pay for the certification, according to George Mentz, the Academy's general counsel.

"It's not a comprehensive course," Mr. Mentz says. "That's why we call it a certification, not a designation." [The Wall Street Journal]

Another Journal article from 2010 found that AAFM listed people on its board of advisers who said they'd never advised the company.

Read more at The Denver Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect changes in the The Denver Post's original reporting. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:06 a.m.

Haifa is home to Israel's largest population of Holocaust survivors, and Yad Rosa is working around the clock to help them make it through the coronavirus pandemic.

Shimon Sabag started Yad Rosa 20 years ago, and over the last 10 months, has had to completely change the way the charity helps these elderly survivors. "This is the moment of truth," Sabag told The Washington Post. "Holocaust survivors see the finish line, but emotionally they are collapsing."

There are 192,000 registered Holocaust survivors in Israel, and even before the pandemic, many were struggling — a quarter live below the poverty line, the Post reports, and many of the charities tasked with offering assistance are underfunded. The first Israeli to die of COVID-19 was an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor from Hungary, and since then, roughly 5,300 survivors have tested positive for the virus and 900 have died, the Israeli government said.

A Bar-Ilan University study found that for many survivors who witnessed diseases like tuberculosis and dysentery sweep through concentration camps, the isolation they are now experiencing is making them remember the past. "They're returning back to memories of the ghetto, of the camps, of death," psychiatrist Isabella Greenberg told the Post. "Some of my patients feel that this is like Auschwitz."

Yad Rosa has changed its services to better assist survivors feeling especially vulnerable now. For those who do not want to travel by bus, volunteers drive them to their appointments and to get the COVID-19 vaccine — they've already helped more than 1,500 get the shot. Dozens of volunteers man a call center, where they check in on survivors to see if they need food, medicine, or just a chat. Contractors have made repairs in the homes of survivors, and more than 2,000 people receive daily food deliveries.

Renate Kaufmann, 83, survived the Holocaust in Germany by spending two years hiding in secret spaces. Yad Rosa recently delivered her a wheelchair, and she told the Post that she looks forward to being able to go outside again one day, but until then, must remain patient, just like she was decades ago. "Who is safe?" she said. "There is no safe place in this world." Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

12:28 a.m.

Former Vice President Mike Pence has lived in public housing since 2013, first the Indiana governor's mansion and then the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory. In fact, he and his wife, former second lady Karen Pence, are currently "homeless," not having owned a house in years, and "couch-surfing" back home in Indiana, Business Insider reports.

The Pences are reportedly staying either at a cabin used by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), staying with family, or moving frequently to evade murderous Trump supporters. But Stephen Colbert's Late Show imagined Pence actually couch-surfing on Wednesday night, and in its re-enactment, things go a little awry. Peter Weber

January 27, 2021

First lady Jill Biden intends on taking an active role in a Biden administration task force set up to reunite migrant children and their parents who were separated at the southern border during the Trump era, three people familiar with the matter told CNN.

In 2017 and 2018, under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy, several thousand migrant children were separated from their parents. A federal judge instructed advocacy groups and law firms to find the parents so they can be reunited with their children, but according to the latest court filing, they have been unable to reach the parents of 611 kids.

Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for Biden, told CNN on Wednesday that the first lady's chief of staff, Julissa Reynoso, will "monitor the federal reunification effort given her background as a lawyer." President Biden is expected to announce the creation of a reunification task force in the near future, and a person familiar with the matter told CNN that high-ranking officials from the Health and Human Services Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department will lead the effort. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2021

During a Wednesday phone call, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) let GOP lawmakers know he wants all infighting to stop, asking them to "cut this crap out."

Two representatives and an aide on the call told CBS News and CNN that McCarthy made the plea without calling anyone out by name. One known issue involves Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who as conference chairwoman is the No. 3 House Republican. Ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump want her pushed out of the role, angry at Cheney because she voted to impeach Trump earlier this month on a charge that he incited an insurrection.

McCarthy made it clear that if Republicans are turning on one another, they won't be able to focus on blocking Biden administration policies and winning the majority in 2022, people on the call said. The congressional aide told CBS News McCarthy sounded frustrated, while one lawmaker told CNN he relayed a hopeful message, saying "the only thing that can stop us from taking the majority is us."

McCarthy has held some private conversations with members, and reminded lawmakers on the call "no attacks on one another," the lawmaker told CNN. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) also asked his colleagues not to get angry in public about the metal detectors installed outside the House floor in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Several Republican lawmakers have been seen angrily confronting security officers after setting the detectors off, and Hudson said rather than throw a public fit, they need to let leadership know they are unhappy so they can work on modifications. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2021

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) supports sanctions against colleagues who make extremist remarks, saying he hopes House leadership takes "measures that will send the message that this is unacceptable."

On Tuesday, CNN reported that before being elected last year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) liked a comment on social media that said "a bullet to the head" would be a quick way to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Greene, an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy, also liked comments about executing FBI agents for being members of the "Deep State" and responded to a person asking if "we get to hang" former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton now by saying the "stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient."

In an interview with ABC News' Powerhouse Politics podcast, Reed said he doesn't know Greene but has "expressed concern about the rhetoric and the information that I'm seeing with her, and I would hope some folks would maybe talk to her." Greene represents the Republican Party as well as her constituents, and her fellow members of the GOP "all have to answer for" her remarks, Reed said. Democrats and Republicans both have to call out "any rhetoric that is of that extreme nature," Reed continued, and Greene's online behavior was "offensive" and "appalling. It cannot be accepted."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday morning said he "planned to have a conversation" with Greene. In a statement, Greene said that CNN wants to "cancel me and silence my voice," and called the report about her online comments "a hit piece on me focused on my time before running for political office." Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2021

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) sensible fashion non-statement raised $1.8 million for charitable organizations in Vermont.

For President Biden's inauguration last Wednesday, Sanders wore a simple Burton Snowboards jacket and mittens made from recycled wool. Agence France-Presse photographer Brendan Smialowski snapped a photo of a cozy Sanders sitting in a folding chair, legs and arms crossed, that resonated with the internet — soon, images began appearing showing Sanders sitting on the moon, riding the New York subway, and hanging out with the Golden Girls.

His campaign put the image on sweatshirts, T-shirts, and stickers last Thursday, and the items immediately sold out; more products were released over the weekend, and those were snapped up by Monday morning. Sanders announced on Wednesday that in just five days, $1.8 million was raised for a variety of charitable organizations in Vermont, including Meals on Wheels and senior centers. He said he was "amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week," and happy to use his "internet fame to help Vermonters in need."

Fundraising is not enough, Sanders added, as "even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress, and I will be doing everything I can in Washington to make sure working people in Vermont and across the country get the relief they need in the middle of the worst crisis we've faced since the Great Depression."

The mittens Sanders wore were crafted by Vermont elementary school teacher Jen Ellis, who has made additional pairs for Passion 4 Paws Vermont and Outright Vermont to auction off. Burton Snowboards also donated 50 jackets to the Burlington Department for Children and Families in Sanders' name. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2021

Cloris Leachman, the award-winning actress known for such roles as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died at 94.

Leachman died from natural causes at her home in California on Tuesday, Variety reported.

The beloved actress rose to fame while portraying landlady Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time, in the 1970s. She won two of her eight Primetime Emmy Awards for the role, which she reprised in the spinoff, Phyllis, and she's tied with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for most acting honors at the Emmys, NBC News reports.

Leachman also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1972 for her performance in The Last Picture Show, and the long list of her other memorable work includes Young Frankenstein and Malcolm in the Middle, with the latter winning her two additional Emmys in the 2000s. In 2011, she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame — and Variety notes that at age 82, she became Dancing With the Stars' oldest contestant in 2008.

"Cloris Leachman was a comedy legend," the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tweeted Wednesday. "From a groundbreaking role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show to the films of Mel Brooks and her Oscar-winning turn in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show, she never lost her ability to shock, delight and surprise us. She will be missed." Brendan Morrow

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