June 29, 2016

In the face of mounting criticism over its lack of diversity, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just rolled out its longest and most diverse list of invitations to date. Of the 683 prospective new members, 46 percent are female and 41 percent are people of color. Among those invited are Idris Elba, John Boyega, and Alicia Vikander.

The Academy doesn't have the best track record when it comes to representation: Despite a viral protest campaign calling out its lily-white membership in 2015 using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, the organization failed to significantly improve upon its remarkably heterogeneous makeup last year. At the beginning of 2016, an estimated 92 percent of voting members were white, while about three-quarters were male. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the issue back in February, promising the organization would "continue to take action and not just speak."

Selma director Ava DuVernay has called this most recent effort "a good start." Here's hoping next year's nominees reflect the change. Roxie Pell

May 26, 2016

Donald Trump's top adviser Paul Manafort says the Trump campaign has good reason for not considering any women or minorities for the position of vice president. "That would be viewed as pandering, I think," Manafort said in an interview with The Huffington Post, ruling out both groups as potential contenders.

Rather than limit its selections to this or that demographic, Manafort said the campaign will focus its attentions on finding "an experienced person to do the part of the job [Trump] doesn't want to do." "He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO," Manafort said.

So does Team Trump have a certain dream veep in mind? Right now, Manafort said, there is a "long list of who that person could be ... and every one of them has major problems."

Head over to The Huffington Post for Manafort's perspective on other aspects of the race — including why his boss is definitely "gonna win," and easily. Becca Stanek

May 24, 2016

Sen. Bernie Sanders' request Tuesday for a recanvass of the results from the Kentucky Democratic presidential primary is apparently proof that he really is going to fight for every last vote he can get. Though results show a nail-bitingly close race between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, with Sanders losing by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote, the review of voting tallies from each of Kentucky's 120 counties that Sanders' campaign has requested isn't likely to change the results much at all. The recanvass, which is different from a recount, is merely a review of voting tallies from voting machines and absentee ballots.

Both Sanders and Clinton have already won 27 delegates each from the primary contest. The only thing still up for grabs is one delegate, from the state's sixth congressional district. If the recanvass finds Sanders won that district, then he could win that last remaining delegate. However, current tallies show Clinton leading by about 500 votes in that district.

That one extra delegate is the best-case scenario for Sanders. If he isn't found to win the sixth district, but the recanvass wins him enough votes elsewhere to tip the state as a whole his way, then he'll still walk away from the recanvass in the exact same place he started: 766 delegates behind Clinton. Becca Stanek

May 23, 2016

Bernie Sanders supporters have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to extend voter registration in California until the day before the state's June presidential primary. The Democratic Party has opened its primary to voters with no party preference, but there is "mass confusion" about the rules, said William Simpich, the Oakland civil rights attorney who filed the suit. The lawsuit says voters don't understand the rules, which are set by the party and differ from those in other elections. Read more at the Los Angeles Times and The Hill. Harold Maass

May 18, 2016

Though Phil Robertson, patriarch of reality television's Duck Dynasty family, was initially a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), he says he's now totally onboard with Donald Trump. In an interview with Fox News, he even volunteered himself for a role in the Trump White House. "I can see it now: 'Trump wins,' and the camera is panning and his spiritual adviser is me," Robertson said. Specifically, Roberson says he can "help [Trump] along with concepts like loving your enemies, loving your God, loving your neighbor."

While Robertson admitted he was somewhat "forced into the Trump train," he says he knows Trump is still a better option than likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. "The people have said, 'We want Mr. Trump,'" Robertson said. "So Mr. Cruz goes down, I love him, but now I'm on the Trump train and I'll do everything I can to help him. Hey, we have to be loyal to the party."

Watch the interview below. Becca Stanek

May 11, 2016

Despite recent tensions, Donald Trump says he still wants House Speaker Paul Ryan to remain chairman of the Republican National Convention this summer in Cleveland, Politico reports. "I'd love frankly for him to stay and be chairman," Trump said in an interview with Fox's Bill O'Reilly Tuesday night.

Ryan had offered Monday to step down as chairman of the convention if Trump asked, due to ill feelings that arose last week after he refused to endorse Trump, saying he wasn't ready. His remarks prompted Trump to say he was similarly "not ready to support Speaker Ryan's agenda."

The presumptive Republican nominee and the speaker of the House are set to meet Thursday to talk things out. Becca Stanek

May 10, 2016

The general election hasn't even started and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) already seems to be tired of talking about his party's presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Ryan's spokesperson sent out an email begging reporters to stop focusing only on the speaker's meeting with Trump this week and to consider what else is going on in Washington instead. "You should know that Thursday's Ryan/Trump meeting is not the most important thing happening in D.C. this week," spokeswoman AshLee Strong wrote in an email to reporters. "While it's a busy week on the political front, it also happens to be an important week on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives."

A good replacement topic for the Trump beat, Strong suggests, is the upcoming vote on 18 bills addressing the nation's opioid epidemic. "While politics may have your attention right now," Strong wrote, "we hope you'll have time to review and write on this important and thoughtful action the House is about to take to tackle the disturbing opioid epidemic."

Hang in there, Paul — only six more months to go. Becca Stanek

May 9, 2016

America's evangelicals tend to vote Republican in presidential elections, but now that Donald Trump is the GOP's presumptive nominee, they're at a loss. "In a sense, we feel abandoned by our party," Pastor Gary Fuller of Gentle Shepherd Baptist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, told The Washington Post. "There's nobody left." Fuller said he initially planned to support Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and even invited the former candidate's pastor father to speak to his congregation, but with Cruz out of the running, Fuller, like many other evangelicals, finds himself "dismayed and adrift," The Post reports.

Just last week, a coalition of nearly 60 Christian leaders wrote an open letter urging voters to reject Trump's "vulgar racial and religious demagoguery" and warned that he poses a "moral threat" to our nation. One professor who signed the letter even went so far as to call Trump "fundamentally antithetical to the Christian faith."

However, their other choice, Hillary Clinton, doesn't seem a much better match to evangelicals' conservative outlook either. Clinton's liberal stance on social issues clashes directly with evangelicals' views, leaving them all the more unsure of how to vote. "I got the idea of 'Who would Jesus have voted for, Herod or Pilate?' and probably neither one," Fuller said, "and that's where I feel we're at here."

Read the full story on evangelicals' rejection of Trump and their upcoming tough choice over at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads