say cheese
October 21, 2019

Before federal prosecutors accused him of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, businessman Lev Parnas was posting photos on his private Instagram account showing him hobnobbing with various members of the Trump family, Rudy Giuliani, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Earlier this month, Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Giuliani associates, were arrested and charged with campaign finance violations and conspiracy to influence U.S. politics on behalf of a Ukrainian government official. The Wall Street Journal's Shelby Holliday found Parnas' Instagram account, carefully curated to show Parnas hanging out with powerful Republicans. In one picture, he's seen with his son and President Trump, who is giving a thumbs-up sign, and in another, he's on a private plane with Giuliani. Parnas also made a slideshow featuring photos with Trump and his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr.

Holliday reports that Parnas zigzagged across the country ahead of the 2018 midterm elections to support GOP politicians, posting photos along the way, and on the day after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, Parnas uploaded a picture showing him at dinner with Trump's legal team. The caption read: "Congratulations team [T]rump!!! Job well done!!! Even during our celebration dinner everybody hard at work!!! #trump2020." Trump said of Parnas and Fruman, "I don't know them, I don't know about them, I don't know what they do."

Parnas was also photographed at events with DeSantis in the days leading up to the November election, Politico reported Monday. He is seen next to DeSantis at a Nov. 4 campaign rally in South Daytona and a later event in Boca Raton. Last week, DeSantis — whose campaign received $50,000 from a company created by Parnas and Fruman — said Parnas was at "a lot of" Republican events but "was like any other donor, nothing more than that." The DeSantis donation has been turned over to the U.S. Treasury. Catherine Garcia

August 28, 2017

Of all the perks, powers, and privileges President Trump enjoys as leader of the free world, the one that makes him "happiest" is posing for photos in the Oval Office, Trump's aides told Politico. One senior White House official estimated that Trump has "probably taken 10,000 pictures" during his 219 days in office:

He tells aides, from senior White House advisers to his private bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to snap the photos on cell phones, or he shouts for Shealah Craighead, the official White House photographer, to come in. The often impatient president will sometimes pose for several minutes per sitting, taking variations of a photo with a single group. He even stands with people to inspect the photos.

"Check the lighting," one senior White House official said, describing his comments. "Are your eyes closed? Do you want another? He knows these are special moments for people." [Politico]

After the photo ops, Trump's aides rush to send the photos to the visitors, in the hopes they'll be shared on social media. "It's the fastest I've seen them do anything," one adviser told Politico.

Perhaps the photo ops remind Trump of his old days, when he was posing at Trump Tower alongside trophies and Shaquille O'Neal's shoes. Or perhaps Trump just really likes the look of him sitting behind the Resolute Desk flanked by his important visitors. "In the way he does the photos, he's a star in every one," said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. "He loves being in demand for a photo every minute. It is a narcissistic supply."

Learn more about Trump's prized photo sessions at Politico. Becca Stanek

May 31, 2017

These days, there is not a whole lot about flying to make a person grin. But if you're flying JetBlue in the near future, here is one good reason to crack a smile: Your face might be able to be used as a boarding pass.

The airline is testing "facial-recognition check-in" for flights between Boston and Aruba next month, CNN Money reports. Passengers will be asked to stand before a kiosk that compares their face scan to their photo in the U.S. customs database — that being whatever is on your passport. A screen will then tell the passengers when they can board.

JetBlue is partnering with SITA for the facial recognition cameras, and it won't have access to the photos. SITA will, but it told CNN Money it won't store them.

Flights to Aruba from Boston on JetBlue in June cost as little as $371 round-trip right now. Say cheese! Jeva Lange

September 12, 2016

Is taking a photo of your ballot an expression of free speech or a potential receipt for a ballot-buyer? A federal court of appeals plans to decide just that Tuesday when a group of judges from the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston will evaluate a New Hampshire ban on ballot selfies, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Ballot secrecy laws date back to an era when it was more common to try to buy votes, and since at least 1979 it has been illegal for a New Hampshire voter to show his or her ballot to anyone else as a means of confirming for whom he or she voted. In 2014, that was clarified to include "taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media."

But in court in 2015, the ban was ruled unconstitutional because New Hampshire officials didn't give any evidence indicating ballot selfies have ever actually been used in a vote-buying operation or as a means of coercion. Rather, free speech advocates say that by banning selfies, New Hampshire is infringing on a person's political speech. "The ballot selfie captures the very essence of that process as it happens — the pulled lever, the filled-in bubble, the punched-out chad — and thus dramatizes the power that one person has to influence our government," Snapchat Inc., the social media company behind the eponymous temporary photo-messaging app, argued in a filing on the case last April.

Even lacking any solid evidence, New Hampshire doesn't see it the same way as Snapchat, The Wall Street Journal reports. A lawyer working in support of the ban argued in March: The ban "[ensures] purity and integrity of our elections by protecting the longstanding tradition of the secret ballot." Jeva Lange

May 17, 2016

Thanks to a confluence of ramped-up dairy production, the strong U.S. dollar, and decreasing global demand, America is experiencing a glut of cheese so big it works out to three extra pounds for each person in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. There is actually an excess supply of many agricultural commodities, including beef, poultry, pork, corn, and wheat, but the amount of cheese being warehoused in cold storage to wait out the tidal wave of dairy is at a record high.

The cheese glut started with dairy farmers, who expanded production when prices for milk and cheese were high a few years ago. This year, they are expected to produce a record 212.4 billion pounds of milk, and since cheese stores better than milk, they are funneling much of the excess to cheese makers, who now have a record 1.19 billion pounds of cheese in commercial cold storage. There's no easy fix for farmers. Prices are so low no dairies are making money, Michigan dairy owner Carla Wardin tells The Wall Street Journal. Still, for dairy farmers, "you do the exact same thing ... You milk more cows."

This is good news for the cold storage industry, and for cheese lovers. Retail cheese prices are already down 4.3 percent from a year earlier, and they fell to a six-year low of $1.27 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last week, The Journal reports. Americans typically eat 36 pounds of cheese a year, but "someone is going to eat all of this meat and dairy," said USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam. "How much room do you have in your stomach?" You can read more about the cheese glut at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

February 25, 2016

Death-by-selfie is an especially embarrassing and tragic way to go, but it is becoming less and less unusual as people seek out extreme and clever shots without paying attention to their surroundings. Mumbai, India, is the selfie-death capitol of the planet, with 19 of the world's 49 selfie-linked deaths having occurred within its limits since 2014, The Associated Press reports. Not coincidentally, Mumbai is also one of the world's largest cities, with nearly 12 million citizens and a rapidly expanding smartphone market.

Selfie deaths most often occur when people fall off ledges or cliffs while taking their own photos. Earlier this month, a college student lost his balance in the Indian city of Nashik while taking a selfie on a rock near a dam. He tumbled into the water and drowned, along with another student who dove into the water in an attempt to save him.

In order to prevent further loss of lives, Mumbai is creating 16 "no-selfie zones" throughout the city. The locations all tend to be risky picture-perfect locations, such as spots along the coast where there is no railing. Getting caught in the off-limits areas results in a 1,200 rupee fine, or about $18.

The city also plans to launch an awareness campaign, the message of which can only be: Impressing your friends with a cool selfie on Facebook is definitely not worth losing your life over. Jeva Lange

January 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton has lamented the "tyranny of the selfie," but even she has to admit they have their uses. As the Iowa caucus quickly approaches, Clinton has been working to connect with potential voters by appearing more natural and personable. Oftentimes, that means pictures are involved:

[Clinton] talked about the snow in New York and her granddaughter, and she helped an older woman snap her first selfie. "Here, I'll show you, it'll be fun!" she said, grabbing the iPhone and extending her arm. [The New York Times]

There is also the fact that when things get awkward, a picture is a convenient interruption:

When Joseph Miller, 13, of Vinton, squeezed his way to the front of the crowd to ask how Mrs. Clinton would make college affordable for his generation, she crouched down to tell him face to face about her "New College Compact" and why it is different from Mr. Sanders' plan.

"I'm not going to take care of rich people, O.K., I don't want to give them free college," she said. "My opponent's plan is to give free education to everybody." Joseph stared blankly and then said, "That's good with me."

Mrs. Clinton asked, "Want a selfie?" [The New York Times]

Read more about Clinton's Iowa campaign at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

September 29, 2014

When Michael Whitington was arrested after a bank robbery in Denver, he didn't seem too disappointed that he didn't get away with the crime.

Whitington, 45, has gained national attention after his mugshot went viral. In the photo, taken after his arrest on Sept. 23, Whitington is grinning ear-to-ear.

Whitington allegedly robbed a bank in a Denver mall and then hopped onto a light-rail train. He's been charged with a count of robbery and will appear in court Tuesday. Whitington is being held in jail, and The Associated Press says it is not yet clear whether or not he has a lawyer. But, come on — who wouldn't want to represent this sweet face? --Meghan DeMaria

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