December 3, 2019

North Carolina's new congressional map is already changing the 2020 game.

On Monday, a panel of judges agreed that a Republican-drawn congressional map of North Carolina can replace the 2016 map deemed to contain "extreme partisan gerrymanders." That's already spelling good news for Democrats in 2020's House elections, Sabato's Crystal Ball predicts.

Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics revised its predictions for four North Carolina House races on Tuesday, all in districts currently held by Republicans. Three of those districts moved left, while two of them shifted soundly into Democrats' favor. All in all, that amounts to a likely two-seat gain for Democrats in North Carolina come next year, with a slight chance to grab a third.

Then again, not everyone thinks the slightly fairer maps are giving Democrats the representation they deserve. As David Leonhardt argues in The New York Times, "Republicans only narrowly won the statewide popular vote in congressional elections, 50 percent to 48 percent," so even five of the state's 13 congressional seats isn't enough for Democrats. Read more from his opinion here. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 18, 2018

The times they are a changin', and it's no longer the "Wild West" at Fox News, one insider told Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman. The transformation, which comes as the company has settled nearly 20 recent gender and racial discrimination lawsuits, goes way beyond the company promoting Suzanne Scott to be its first female CEO, too.

"People are terrified," one person told Sherman. "They kicked [new National Rifle Association president] Ollie North out and put in a prayer room. We've got a new trans policy. You're not allowed to be transphobic."

Speaking of that "prayer" room, it is "complete with Muslim prayer rugs," Sherman writes. It's no wonder, then, that "people's heads are blowing up." Read more about the changes afoot at Fox News at Vanity Fair. Jeva Lange

March 7, 2018

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was personally involved in removing language from the HUD mission statement that promises all Americans "inclusive communities" that are "free from discrimination," HuffPost reports.

Under former President Barack Obama, the mission statement read:

HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities, and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.

The new mission statement reads:

HUD's mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing, and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.

HUD's assistant secretary for public affairs, Amy Thompson, told HuffPost that the changes were made "in an effort to align HUD's mission with the secretary's priorities and that of the administration" and that the department is accepting feedback from staff. It is fairly common for mission statements to be changed, especially under new administrations, but Carson's modifications will no doubt worry some because of actions HUD has already taken, including removing training materials that help ensure transgender people receive equal access to homeless shelters.

Carson has previously criticized Obama's fair housing laws. "These attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse," he argued in 2015. "There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous." Jeva Lange

August 4, 2017

Dunkin' Donuts is taking the brand for a donut-less test ride to see if dropping the tire-shaped treat from its name will make it more appealing to customers, Nation's Restaurant News reports. "While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin' Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as 'Dunkin'," the company said in a statement.

Dunkin' Donuts is also looking "to appeal to more health-conscious consumers" with the name change, NPR writes.

A Pasadena, California, Dunkin' Donuts location will be the first to go by just "Dunkin'," with more expected to follow during a trial period. There are more than 12,300 Dunkin' Donuts locations worldwide, although if the new name catches on, the brand at least won't have to come up with a new motto: "America runs on Dunkin'" has been used by the company for more than a decade. Jeva Lange

September 29, 2015

The microblog is dead, long live the microblog. Twitter is apparently working on a new product that will enable users to bypass its signature 140-character limit, Re/code reports:

It's unclear what the product will look like, but sources say it would enable Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service. Users can already tweet out blocks of text with products like OneShot, but those are simply images, not actual text published on Twitter. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment. [Re/code]

If that sounds terrible, don't panic just yet: There's no promise that the long-form feature will make it to consumers, Re/code says. However, the loosening of the restrictions — which constitute the network's principal appeal to hard-core users, but limit its broader appeal — appears to be part of the company's overall strategy for growth. Earlier this year, Twitter tossed out the 140-character limit for direct messages. Jeva Lange

September 1, 2015

Change is hard and Google, which has used the same recognizable four-color wordmark since 1999, is shaking things up with the introduction of a spiffy new sans-serif logo. Comfort yourself with this, at least: The new logo isn't here just to shake things up — it's actually got a real, functional purpose.

Losing the little "tails," or serifs, on the letters makes the font more legible when it's written in tiny sizes. Fast Company points out that if you're reading off of a 2.5-inch Android Wear watch, or a cell phone, the new font will now be just as readable as if it were projected on a 50-inch TV. The new logo is also animated, morphing into small dots that playfully circle each other on screen — which matches the playful look of the new wordmark, too.

And of course there's the fact that it's consistent. Now that Google belongs to the parent company Alphabet, which itself uses a sleek, modern, sans-serif look, the new logo keeps it all in the same (font) family. Jeva Lange

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