July 5, 2017

For the 29th year in a row on Tuesday, NPR hosts, reporters, and commentators read the Declaration of Independence aloud to celebrate the Fourth of July. NPR also tweeted out the founding document, signed 241 years earlier, because not everyone listens to public radio. Some of those people, probably unaware of NPR's July 4 tradition, took some of the tweeted lines the wrong way, presumably mistaking the 1776 resistance against King George III for the "Resistance" opposed to President Trump's policies and agenda.

Others found the whole idea of reading the Declaration of Independence unbalanced, for unexplained reasons. Some of the commenters, when informed of their mistake, gamely took this as a learning experience.

And perhaps one of the lessons from the social media debacle is a reminder of just what a revolutionary declaration Thomas Jefferson wrote and delegates to the Continental Congress risked their lives to sign. Or you could take away the same conclusion Axios' David Nather reached when the Indiana GOP tried to solicit "horror stories" about ObamaCare, and it backfired: "The outcome was predictable, given how the internet works — you're never, ever just reaching like-minded people." Either way, you can read more awkward responses to NPR's attempt at civic engagement at BuzzFeed and HuffPost. Peter Weber

June 15, 2017
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Late Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued an unusual statement on anonymous sources, warning Americans to "exercise caution" when reading the news.

People need to think before "accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous 'officials,' particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated," Rosenstein said. "Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations."

David Cay Johnston, a columnist and author of The Making of Donald Trump, tweeted that The New York Times and The Washington Post both check their stories that use unnamed sources with the Justice Department before they run, and Rosenstein's "bizarre" statement "makes sense if he's channeling/speaking for Trump." Others are wondering if this statement portends a bombshell story coming in the next few days. Catherine Garcia

June 14, 2017

We know that Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-Calif.) questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday made Sessions nervous, because he told us so.

Some people noticed the exchange, and found it strange, including Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Luckily for Sessions, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stepped in to save him from Harris and her nerve-racking questions, as she was trying to get the attorney general to explain why he was not answering questions from her and other senators. Harris, a former California attorney general and prosecutor, was the only senator interrupted by a colleague during the hearing, as some people noticed, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who did his own grilling of Sessions on Tuesday.

And, interestingly enough, Harris was also interrupted by a GOP colleague a week earlier, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the witness.

Maybe Harris is interrupted by her peers because she insists on getting a yes or no answer from loquacious witnesses, or because she asks questions too rapidly, or too incisively, or too forcefully. Former Trump campaign communications adviser Jason Miller had his own theory, suggesting on CNN that the junior senator from California was being "hysterical" during her questioning. Kirsten Powers did not buy that explanation.

Thanks to the magic of video, you can watch the entire exchange and decide for yourself. Peter Weber

April 21, 2017
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump met with former Colombian Presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, an undisclosed meeting that Colombian media says was arranged by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio, Uribe, and Pastrana are all prominent critics of the peace deal Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos negotiated with the FARC guerrilla group. Next month, Santos is meeting with Trump in Washington, and he will urge Trump to support the peace deal, which won Santos the Nobel Peace Prize, by maintaining the $450 million in foreign aid that former President Barack Obama pledged to implement the agreement, McClatchy reports.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to confirm that the meeting had taken place. On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told McClatchy that Trump had "briefly said hello when the presidents walked past them," saying the two presidents happened to be visiting Trump's private club with an unidentified member. "There wasn't anything beyond a quick hello," she said.

On Twitter, meanwhile, Pastrana thanked Trump for the "cordial and very frank conversation about problems and perspectives in Colombia and the region," and Uribe ally and former vice president Francisco Santos told McClatchy that the former presidents had raised concerns with Trump about the turmoil in Colombia and Venezuela, and the FARC peace deal, in a short but direct meeting.

Colombian analysts focused on the damage to the peace process if Trump pulled funding or publicly opposed the peace plan, while in the U.S. observers were more concerned about the ease with which well-connected foreign leaders can meet with the president to press their case, without any public record. Mar-a-Lago's membership rolls are not public, the media is kept at arm's length when Trump is down there, and the club has no visitor log. You can read more about the meeting and the Colombian politics at The Miami Herald. Peter Weber

March 15, 2017

It turns out Sean Hannity isn't the only person at Fox News who has a bone to pick with newspapers. On Tuesday's Fox & Friends First, host Heather Childers had a brief segment on the pressing topic of newspaper apparel — or, as Childers put it: "Media bias on full display: Newspapers now cashing in on T-shirts splashed with anti–President Trump rhetoric." That rhetoric is: "Journalism Matters," from the Los Angeles Times; "Speaking Truth to Power Since 1847," from the Chicago Tribune; and "Democracy Dies in Darkness," from The Washington Post.

You can draw your own inference about what that says about Fox News and/or Trump. Peter Weber

February 17, 2017
Dylan Rives/Getty Images for SOBEWFF

On Thursday, as people throughout the U.S. were skipping school and work to highlight President Trump's anti-immigration policies in a "Day Without Immigrants" protest, Trump Vineyard Estates sought permission from the Labor Department to bring 23 more foreign workers to Virginia to help plant and harvest grapes. The vineyard, also known as Trump Winery, is requesting the foreign laborers using H-2 visas, or temporary permission to work in the U.S. in jobs qualified Americans can't or won't do, BuzzFeed News reports. The H-2 program has brought to the U.S. more than 100,000 foreign workers since 2003, and Trump businesses have sought to hire at least 286 guest workers since he launched his presidential campaign in mid-2015.

Trump does not appear to own the vineyard — though he suggested he did during the Republican primary last year, saying at a press conference: "I own it 100 percent, no mortgage, no debt." Instead, it is registered to his son, Eric Trump. So technically this does not violate the two rules Donald Trump laid out for his administration in December: "BUY AMERICAN and HIRE AMERICAN! #USA" On the other hand, Trump got permission to hire 64 foreign guest workers at Mar-a-Lago this winter through the H-2 program. The pay for the Trump Winery job is $11.27 an hour, by the way, though it requires working in very cold weather with "feet in bent positions for long periods of time." Peter Weber

January 8, 2017
Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images

In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the publisher of a newspaper that was often critical of him in order to work out a deal for positive coverage, Israeli media reports.

Israel's Channel 2 says Netanyahu was recorded while negotiating with Arnon Mozes, publisher of Yediot Aharonot. Netanyahu reportedly proposed helping the struggling newspaper out by slashing the circulation of its main competitor, Israel Hayom, and limiting that paper's weekend supplement. Israel Hayom is mostly supportive of Netanyahu, and is backed by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican Party donor and patron of Netanyahu. Channel 2 reports that the tape was recorded at the request of Netanyahu's former chief of staff, Ari Harrow, and it was found during an investigation of Harrow on suspicion of financial irregularities.

There is no evidence that any agreement came out of the meeting, but that it likely happened is enough to upset many. "We expect in a democratic country that the journalistic coverage will come from the editorial echelon, from the reporters, the editors — people who are driven by the public good and the supply of information," Prof. Rafi Mann of Ariel University in the West Bank told Israel Radio. Netanyahu, who has been questioned twice by police in the last week as part of a corruption probe, has long had a combative relationship with Israeli media outlets, and previously accused Mozes of orchestrating a "ridiculous campaign of slander" against him, The New York Times reports. Catherine Garcia

January 5, 2017

"It's easy to think 2016 was unusually deadly for celebrities," says The Wall Street Journal's Tanya Rivero, and she isn't kidding. David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds, George Michael — you can probably name a dozen more. "But was 2016 really the particularly cruel year it appeared to be?" she asked, and to answer, she brought on MarketWatch editor Quentin Fottrell, who recently wrote an article on the subject. Objectively, he said, there were maybe some more celebrity deaths than usual, but not by much — and part of the problem is that there are just more celebrities and types of celebrities, plus more ways to mourn them.

The BBC said it published more obituaries in 2016 than in 2015, but when CNN looked at celebrities with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grammy awards, or Sports Illustrated covers, they counted 34 A-list deaths, a big jump from the previous year but a decline from 36 in 2006. If you don't remember 2006 as a particularly brutal year for stars, remember, "Facebook had just a few million users back in 2006, the last time there were this many so-called A-list celebrity deaths in one year," Fottrell said. "Now it's nearly 2 billion." Focusing on the deaths of celebrities isn't frivolous, especially in a year when a reality TV star won the presidency, he added. "Celebrities reflect, in many ways, our values."

Whether or not 2016 was cursed for celebrities, Fottrell says 2017 probably won't be much better, given the rising mortality among baby boomers and the expansion of fame — and social media will make the deaths more visible. "To put it in its crudest, simplest terms: There are just more famous people around and more of them are going to die," said sociologist Ellis Cashmore at Aston University in Birmingham, England. Aram Sinnreich at American University notes that even if 2016 wasn't exceptionally deadly for the stars, "it definitely felt like a reaping." Part of that is the caliber of the celebrities we lost. "We don't have a new David Bowie, Prince, or Carrie Fisher," all of whom were trailblazers, Sinnreich said. "It's not just about losing these individuals. It's about coming to grips with the fact that we haven't replaced them." You can read Fottrell's article at MarketWatch. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads