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November 12, 2018

As late as last week, President Trump claimed he was in no rush to reach a nuclear deal with North Korea because "the sanctions are on, the missiles have stopped, the rockets have stopped." And while it is true that North Korea has suspended its missile testing since Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un started discussing a deal, Pyongyang has been "moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images," The New York Times reports, a network "long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed" during Trump's North Korean thaw.

"The sanctions are collapsing," too, the Times notes, "in part because North Korea has leveraged its new, softer-sounding relationship with Washington, and its stated commitment to eventual denuclearization, to resume trade with Russia and China." But the bigger deception is that North Korea "has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads." Pyongyang has an estimated 40 to 60 nuclear warheads, and it continues to make the materials to build new warheads, weapons experts say.

The 16 secret bases were identified in a study published Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Beyond Parallel program. Victor Cha, a Koreas expert almost named ambassador to South Korea by Trump, led the team studying the images. "What everybody is worried about is that Trump is going to accept a bad deal — they give us a single test site and dismantle a few other things, and in return they get a peace agreement," Cha said. Trump "would then declare victory, say he got more than any other American president ever got, and the threat would still be there." Read more about the bases and the "great deception" at The New York Times. Peter Weber

3:31 a.m.

Three Democrats have dropped out of the 2020 presidential race but none of them seems ready to retire from politics. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) is running for another term in Congress, and according to multiple people familiar with their thinking, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is going to run for Senate in 2020 and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will seek a third term as governor.

Inslee, who ended his presidential run on Wednesday night, plans to announce his plans to seek re-election in an email to supporters on Thursday, two people close to the governor tell The Associated Press. Washington doesn't have gubernatorial term limits, though the last governor to serve more than two terms was Dan Evans (R), who led Washington from 1965 to 1977. Several Washington state Democrats have announced they might run for governor, but only if Inslee doesn't. He already has some Republican challengers, but no Republican has won the governorship in more than 30 years, AP reports.

People familiar with Hickenlooper's plans told The Denver Post and The Colorado Independent on Wednesday that the former governor will challenge vulnerable incumbent Sen. Cory Garner (R-Colo.), despite earlier saying he wasn't interested in becoming a U.S. senator. "Hick has been making calls to various elected officials telling them he's running, and asking for their support," one Democratic insider told the Independent.

The Democrats already running for Colorado's Senate seat have indicated they won't exit the race if Hickenlooper enters it. But prominent Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), urged Hickenlooper to jump into the race, seeing him as their best shot at toppling the first-term incumbent. An Aug. 16-19 poll from Emerson University bolsters that assumption, showing Hickenlooper beating Garner 53 percent to 40 percent, well outside of the poll's ±3 percentage point margin of error. Peter Weber

2:28 a.m.

President Trump may not have given himself the Medal of Honor, but he has awarded himself several fictitious prizes, like "Michigan Man of the Year."

"Donald Trump is lots of things, but Michigan Man of the Year is not one of them," Chris Hayes noted Wednesday night on MSNBC. "It's not even an award that exists in real life, just in Trump's brain. And in Trump's brain, he's won lots of awards."

Citing an essay by Deadspin's David Roth, Hayes provided video evidence of "the strange reality in which Donald Trump seems to live, an alternate universe in which he's the star and big winner in a never-ending, televised award show." It's all fake, he said, "but the real question is does Donald Trump believe it's true or does he just thing we're all stupid?" Trump provided one plausible answer back in 2011.

At Deadspin, Roth provided another explanation:

Trump is a being of pure reaction and grievance and avarice, and as such is never really very difficult to parse. When he lies about money it's because he wants people to think he has more of it than he does; when he lies about golf it's because he wants people to think he's a better golfer than he is. Those lies tell you something about how Trump wants to be seen, but they're incidental to the bigger questions of who and what he is. Stranger lies like the Michigan Man one reveal more about how he sees the world and understands his relationship to the other people in it, which is fundamentally as someone cleaning up at an endless televised awards show. [David Roth, Deadspin]

In the case of his fake awards, Roth adds, "some dumb speech, long forgotten, grows into a great honor bestowed by strangers who admired him ... something he can bring up, whenever he is feeling under-appreciated or anxious or when nothing else will come." Read the full essay at Deadspin. Peter Weber

1:28 a.m.

In order to help mountain lions and other animals struggling with isolation in the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles is building the world's largest wildlife corridor, which will cross busy Highway 101.

"The ecosystem needs to be reconnected for all wildlife," Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told The Guardian. "Segmentation impacts animals both large and small, lizards and birds up to mountain lions." Animals were able to travel unimpeded before roads were carved into their habitat, and ecologists are worried now that mountain lions especially are stuck in just one area, making it difficult to mate. "We want these animals on the landscape and the population will go extinct if we don't do something soon," Pratt said.

The 165-foot long bridge will be surrounded by trees and bushes, so the animals won't even know they are on it. "The science tells us this is the better design," Pratt told The Guardian. "Some animals will use tunnels, some will not. We looked at the best solution for all wildlife so all creatures can use this." The $87 million bridge is now in its final design phase, and is expected to open in 2023. Pratt said if Los Angeles can undertake such a project, "it can work anywhere." Catherine Garcia

12:57 a.m.

Yes, yes, George Conway may be nervous that his wife, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, is working with a clinically narcissistic sociopath whose mental condition is deteriorating, but people who like President Trump are apparently growing concerned, too.

"Some former Trump administration officials in recent days said they were increasingly worried about the president's behavior, suggesting it stems from increasing pressure on Mr. Trump as the economy seems more worrisome and next year's election approaches," The New York Times reports. MSNBC anchor Stephane Ruhle is apparently hearing similar concerns.

"Trump has seemed particularly erratic" this week, the Times recaps. "In recent days, he proudly quoted a radio host declaring that Israeli Jews love him as if he were the 'King of Israel' and 'the second coming of God,' while Mr. Trump himself accused Jews who vote for Democrats of 'great disloyalty.' Speaking with reporters on the South Lawn on Wednesday, he suggested that God had tapped him to lead a trade war with China. 'I am the chosen one,' he said, glancing heavenward."

Trump also abruptly canceled a trip to Denmark on the dubious grounds that its prime minister was "nasty" about not selling him Greenland, flip-flopped on tax cuts and gun policies, and undercut the no-recession message his economic advisers have been spreading, Dan Balz adds at The Washington Post. Combined, Trump's behavior "portrays an administration and White House in chaos" and "a president who changes his mind whenever it suits him, whose statements shift with the moment, and who uses words carelessly and sometimes destructively," thus "leaving observers — no doubt including his own advisers — to wonder what and how he thinks about the issues before him."

"After the past two days, there is only one thing to say," Balz concludes: "Be braced for Thursday." Peter Weber

12:16 a.m.

While congratulating a World War II veteran for receiving a Medal of Honor, President Trump revealed that he wanted to give himself the award, but was talked out of it by aides.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force, bestowed upon distinguished members of the military. Trump met several recipients at the American Veterans' annual convention Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, and singled out one of them, Woody Williams, during his speech.

"That was a big day," Trump said. "Medal of Honor. Nothing like the Medal of Honor. I wanted one, but they told me I don't qualify, Woody. I said, 'Can I give it to myself anyway?' They said, 'I don't think that's a good idea.'" A few people in the audience laughed, Politico reports.

Trump did not explain what he did to think he deserved a Medal of Honor. His aides were right to tell him he wasn't eligible, as you have to serve in the military and show bravery while facing danger in order to qualify. Catherine Garcia

August 21, 2019

ABC News and Univision are partnering to host the next Democratic primary debate, and they released details on Wednesday night about what viewers can expect.

The debate will be held at Texas Southern University in Houston, moderated by chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, World News Tonight anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis, and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. One debate will definitely take place on Sept. 12, and a second will be held on Sept. 13 if enough candidates qualify. Participants will have 1 minute and 15 seconds to answer direct questions, and 45 seconds for rebuttals.

Under Democratic National Committee rules, if 10 or fewer candidates meet the requirements to participate, the debate will only take place on one night, but if there are more than 10 candidates, the debate will spill over into a second night. If this happens, on Aug. 29 ABC News will randomly assign candidates to a night. To qualify, candidates must receive at least 2 percent support in at least four specific polls, plus contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 400 unique donors from 20 states.

ABC News said that so far, 10 candidates have qualified for the debate: former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Catherine Garcia

August 21, 2019

If you watch Bravo or enjoy low-calorie cocktails, you know who Bethenny Frankel is.

Beloved by fans for her snarky commentary, Frankel was one of the original Real Housewives of New York and its biggest star, and she used her time on the show to successfully advertise her brand, Skinnygirl, and score a spinoff, Bethenny Ever After. She left RHONY after Season 3 in 2010 and returned in 2015, but announced on Wednesday she's exiting the franchise once again, telling Variety she wants to "explore my next chapter. It's time to move on and focus on my daughter, my philanthropy, and my production partnership with Mark Burnett, producing and starring in shows which represent a shift in the conversation for women."

Frankel's first foray in reality television was on 2005's The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. In addition to starring on RHONY and Bethenny Ever After, Frankel briefly had her own talk show, Bethenny, and another Bravo spinoff, the real estate-themed Bethenny & Fredrik. She has also written several books and launched a charity, B Strong, which has assisted hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, Houston, and North Carolina. Catherine Garcia

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