Category: New Posts


Working-class white women drift toward Dems…

Working-class white women drift toward Dems...

(First column, 10th story, link)

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In Virginia, Republicans confront fearful electoral future…

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Mulvaney's move to join impeachment lawsuit rankles Bolton allies…

(The Washington Post) –

mulvaney bolton
National Security Advisor John R. Bolton (L) and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in the Oval Office last July. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s last-minute effort to join a lawsuit that could determine whether senior administration officials testify in the impeachment inquiry was an unwelcome surprise to former top national security aides, highlighting internal divisions among President Donald Trump’s advisers in the face of the probe.

Former national security adviser John Bolton’s advisers and allies were taken aback to learn late Friday that Mulvaney had gone to court seeking to join a separation-of-powers lawsuit filed against Trump and the House leadership, according to people familiar with their views, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry.

The suit was filed by Bolton’s former deputy, Charles Kupperman, who is asking a federal judge to determine whether a congressional subpoena takes precedent over a White House order not to comply with the inquiry. Bolton is willing to testify if the judge rules in favor of the House, The Washingon Post previously reported.

People close to Bolton and Kupperman said the two were flabbergasted by Mulvaney’s surprise request to join the lawsuit, because they and others on the national security team considered Mulvaney a critical player in the effort to get the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into Trump’s political opponents.

Bolton views Mulvaney as a key participant in the pressure campaign, a situation that the then-national security adviser referred to derisively as “a drug deal,” according to congressional testimony by his aides. The two men were barely on speaking terms when Bolton left his post in September, according to White House officials.

Charles Cooper, a lawyer for Bolton, declined to comment on Mulvaney’s effort to join the suit, saying only, “We will provide our answer in court.”

William Pittard, an attorney for Mulvaney, said the chief of staff is simply seeking to resolve the competing demands of two branches of government.

“As acting chief of staff, Mr. Mulvaney intends to follow any lawful order of the president and has no reason to think that the order at issue is unlawful – other than the fact the House has threatened him with charges of contempt and obstruction for following it,” Pittard said.

Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law expert at Harvard Law School, said Mulvaney’s last-minute move could be an attempt to give himself legal cover to put off the House demand. By attaching himself to the Kupperman case, Mulvaney could avoid having to testify in the House inquiry for months if the suit is appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

“I think he’s trying to be shielded from having to obey his legal duty to comply with an obviously valid subpoena,” Tribe said.

Bolton and Mulvaney are key potential witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry, but have so far refused to comply with requests to testify because of the White House claims that senior advisers have “absolute immunity” from cooperating with the congressional probe.

President Trump has repeatedly urged aides not to cooperate and was a key writer of a lengthy White House letter that decried the process, officials said.

Mulvaney had previously signaled he would follow the president’s direction and not show up at the hearings, and his top aides also have rebuffed House requests for their testimony.

The acting chief of staff’s legal filing Friday signals a shift in his approach toward the inquiry. Mulvaney is now attempting to join a lawsuit filed by officials who have signaled they would defy the White House and testify to Congress if so ordered.

In going to court, Mulvaney appears to have acted on his own, hiring a private attorney to intervene in the suit. Typically, the White House Counsel’s Office and the Justice Department would be involved in legal matters regarding the White House chief of staff.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Pittard said Mulvaney’s legal action was necessary to get clarity from the courts at a time when he faces an order from the White House not to comply and threats of contempt from the House.

“He is genuinely caught between two conflicting orders.” Pittard said. “He intends to follow the orders of his boss, the president, yet doing so has led to threats from the House. Asking the court to resolve a genuine conflict like this is not unreasonable in the least.”

Pittard said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was consulted before Mulvaney went to court and raised no objections. Mulvaney’s legal filing, Pittard added, makes clear his action is aimed at the House, not the president.

“This is non-adversarial toward the president, and in no way indicates any distance between Mr. Mulvaney and the president,” said a person close to Mulvaney, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe his thinking.

However, the suit Mulvaney seeks to join lists the president and House leaders as defendants.

The unusual legal maneuvering lays bare a deepening divide among top advisers to Trump as House impeachment investigators continue to gather evidence about the effort to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into his political opponents.

Mulvaney has acknowledged that he blocked releasing nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at the president’s request. In an October news conference, Mulvaney said he withheld the aid because of the president’s interest in having Ukraine investigate a discredited theory that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 campaign. Mulvaney later said his comments were misinterpreted.

If Bolton is ordered to testify, he is expected to corroborate the accounts of former aides – such as Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman and adviser Fiona Hill – who testified that Bolton was alarmed that military aide was being withheld from Ukraine as the president and his aides pushed that country to open investigations that could damage Democrats.

In a letter to House Democrats on Friday, Cooper wrote that Bolton was “personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.”

Congressional investigators have not yet subpoenaed Bolton, though they have sought his appearance, a request Cooper said he would decline without a subpoena and an instruction from the courts.

In his letter Friday, Cooper emphasized that Bolton and Kupperman’s testimony was particularly important and sensitive because of the role they played in national security matters.

“Information concerning national security and foreign affairs is at the heart of the Committees’ impeachment inquiry, and it is difficult to imagine any question that the Committees might put to Dr. Kupperman that would not implicate these sensitive areas,” he wrote.

He noted that Kupperman and Bolton could receive special immunity from testifying because they are part of “an exceedingly narrow category of aides entrusted with discretionary authority in such sensitive areas as national security or foreign policy.”

Mulvaney’s legal filing could breathe new life into the Kupperman suit after House lawyers withdrew their subpoena of him last week and asked for the case to be dismissed. Instead, the House said it would look to another case involving former White House counsel Donald McGahn, which is more advanced, as a key test case.

However, presiding U.S. District Judge Richard Leon declined to dismiss the Kupperman suit. Late Saturday afternoon, Leon ordered lawyers for Mulvaney, Kupperman, Bolton and the government to join him in a conference call Monday afternoon to discuss Mulvaney’s request and how to proceed.

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I started using Alexa before it was cool. I bought a first-generation Echo a few months after its launch because showed me a banner ad as I was shopping for new speakers. After it arrived, my then-roommate, a software engineer at Google, eagerly compared Alexa’s capabilities with those of her Google Assistant. Alexa didn’t really measure up. But as far as I was concerned, it did everything I wanted: it played my favorite songs, sounded my morning alarms, and sometimes told me the news and weather.

Five years later, my simple desires have been eclipsed by Amazon’s ambitions. Alexa is now distributed everywhere, capable of controlling more than 85,000 smart home products from TVs to doorbells to earbuds. It can execute over 100,000 “skills” and counting. It processes billions of interactions a week, generating huge quantities of data about your schedule, your preferences, and your whereabouts. Alexa has turned into an empire, and Amazon is only getting started.

Speaking with MIT Technology Review, Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist, has now revealed further details about where Alexa is headed next. The crux of the plan is for the voice assistant to move from passive to proactive interactions. Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life. This will require Alexa to get to know you better than ever before.

In fact Prasad, who will outline his vision for Alexa’s future at WebSummit in Lisbon, Portugal, later today, has already given the world a sneak preview of what this shift might look like. In June at the re:Mars conference, he demoed a feature called Alexa Conversations, showing how it might be used to help you plan a night out. Instead of manually initiating a new request for every part of the evening, you would need only to begin the conversation—for example, by asking to book movie tickets. Alexa would then follow up to ask whether you also wanted to make a restaurant reservation or call an Uber.

Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist of Alexa.

Jeremy Portje

To power this transition, Amazon needs both hardware and software. In September, the tech giant launched a suite of “on the go” Alexa products, including the Echo Buds (wireless earphones) and Echo Loop (a smart ring). All these new products let Alexa listen to and log data about a dramatically larger portion of your life, the better to offer assistance informed by your whereabouts, your actions, and your preferences.

From a software perspective, these abilities will require Alexa to use new methods for processing and understanding all the disparate sources of information. In the last five years, Prasad’s team has focused on building the assistant’s mastery of AI fundamentals, like basic speech and video recognition, and expanding its natural-language understanding. On top of this foundation, they have now begun developing Alexa’s intelligent prediction and decision-making abilities and—increasingly—its capacity for higher-level reasoning. The goal, in other words, is for Alexa’s AI abilities to get far more sophisticated within a few years.

A more intelligent Alexa

Here’s how Alexa’s software updates will come together to execute the night-out planning scenario. In order to follow up on a movie ticket request with prompts for dinner and an Uber, a neural network learns—through billions of user interactions a week—to recognize which skills are commonly used with one another. This is how intelligent prediction comes into play. When enough users book a dinner after a movie, Alexa will package the skills together and recommend them in conjunction.

But reasoning is required to know what time to book the Uber. Taking into account your and the theater’s location, the start time of your movie, and the expected traffic, Alexa figures out when the car should pick you up to get you there on time.

Prasad imagines many other scenarios that might require more complex reasoning. You could imagine a skill, for example, that would allow you to ask your Echo Buds where the tomatoes are while you’re standing in Whole Foods. The Buds will need to register that you’re in the Whole Foods, access a map of its floor plan, and then tell you the tomatoes are in aisle seven.

All of the Alexa-enabled products from Amazon’s latest product launch in September.

courtesy of Amazon

In another scenario, you might ask Alexa through your communal home Echo to send you a notification if your flight is delayed. When it’s time to do so, perhaps you are already driving. Alexa needs to realize (by identifying your voice in your initial request) that you, not a roommate or family member, need the notification—and, based on the last Echo-enabled device you interacted with, that you are now in your car. Therefore, the notification should go to your car rather than your home.

This level of prediction and reasoning will also need to account for video data as more and more Alexa-compatible products include cameras. Let’s say you’re not home, Prasad muses, and a Girl Scout knocks on your door selling cookies. The Alexa on your Amazon Ring, a camera-equipped doorbell, should register (through video and audio input) who is at your door and why, know that you are not home, send you a note on a nearby Alexa device asking how many cookies you want, and order them on your behalf.

To make this possible, Prasad’s team is now testing a new software architecture for processing user commands. It involves filtering audio and visual information through many more layers. First Alexa needs to register which skill the user is trying to access among the roughly 100,000 available. Next it will have to understand the command in the context of who the user is, what device that person is using, and where. Finally it will need to refine the response on the basis of the user’s previously expressed preferences.

“This is what I believe the next few years will be about: reasoning and making it more personal, with more context,” says Prasad. “It’s like bringing everything together to make these massive decisions.”

The elephant in the room

From a technical perspective, all this would be an incredible achievement. What Prasad is talking about—combining various data sources and machine-learning methods to conduct high-level reasoning—has been a goal of artificial-intelligence researchers for decades.

From a consumer’s perspective, however, these changes also have critical privacy implications. Prasad’s vision effectively assumes Alexa will follow you everywhere, know a fair bit about what you’re up to at any given moment, and be the primary interface for how you coordinate your life. At a baseline, this requires hoovering up enormous amounts of intimate details about your life. Some worry that Amazon will ultimately go far beyond that baseline by using your data to advertise and market to you. “This is ultimately about monetizing the daily lives of individuals and groups of people,” says Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer privacy advocacy organization based in Washington, DC.

When pressed on this point, Prasad emphasized that his team has made it easier for users to periodically auto-delete their data and opt out of human review. Neither option actually keeps the data from being used to train Alexa’s myriad machine-learning models, though. In fact, Prasad alluded to ongoing research that would switch Alexa’s training process to one where models can quickly be updated anytime there is new user data, more or less guaranteeing that the value from said data will be captured before it’s disposed of. In other words, auto-deleting your data will mean only that it won’t still be around to train future models once training algorithms have been updated; for current models, your data would be used in roughly the same way. (In follow-up requests, an Amazon spokesperson said the company did not sell data collected by Alexa to third-party advertisers nor to target advertising, unless the user were accessing a service through Alexa, such as

Jen King, the director for privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, says these types of data controls are far too superficial. “If you want to give people meaningful control, then you have to be able to respect their decision to completely opt out or give them more choices over how their data is being used,” she says. “Giving somebody functional help in a location-specific way could be done in an extremely privacy-preserving manner. I don’t think that scenario has to be inherently problematic.”

In practice, King envisions this to mean several things. First, at a bare minimum, Amazon should have users opt in rather than opt out to letting their data be used. Second, Amazon should be more transparent about what it’s being used for. Currently, when you delete your data, it’s not clear what the company may have already done with it. “Imagine that you have an AI surveillance camera in your home and you forgot it was on and you were walking around the house naked,” she says. “As a consumer it would be useful to know, when you delete those files, if the system has already used them to train whatever algorithm it’s using.”

Finally, Amazon should give users more flexibility about when and where it can use their data. Users may be happy, for example, to give up their own data while wanting their kids’ to be off limits. “Tech companies tend to design these products with this idea that it’s all or nothing,” she says. “I think that’s a really misguided way to approach it. People may want some of the convenience of these things, but that doesn’t mean they want them in every facet of their life.”

Prasad’s ultimate vision is to make Alexa available and useful for everyone. Even in developing countries, he imagines cheaper versions that people can access on their smartphones. “To me we are on a journey of shifting the cognitive load on routine tasks,” he says. “I want Alexa to be a productivity enhancer … to be truly ubiquitous so that it works for everyone.”

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NEW YORK – Two of President Donald Trump’s senior advisers undermined and ignored him in what they claimed was an effort to “save the country,” former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley claims in a new memoir.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly sought to recruit her to work around and subvert Trump, but she refused, Haley writes in a new book, “With All Due Respect,” which also describes Tillerson as “exhausting” and imperious and Kelly as suspicious of her access to Trump.

“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley wrote.

“It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” Haley wrote of the views the two men held.

Tillerson also told her that people would die if Trump was unchecked, Haley wrote.

Tillerson did not respond to a request for comment. Kelly declined to comment in detail, but said that if providing the president “with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice from across the (government) so he could make an informed decision is ‘working against Trump,’ then guilty as charged.”

In the book, which was obtained by The Washington Post ahead of its release Tuesday, Haley offers only glancing critiques of her former boss, saying she and others who worked for Trump had an obligation to carry out his wishes since he was the one elected by voters.

The former South Carolina governor, widely viewed by Republicans as a top potential presidential candidate, has repeatedly sought to minimize differences with Trump while distancing herself from his excesses. Haley, 47, writes that she backed most of the foreign policy decisions by Trump that others tried to block or slow down, including withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

In a New York interview with The Post coinciding with the book release, Haley also dismissed efforts by House Democrats to impeach Trump. She said she opposes Trump’s efforts to seek foreign help for political investigations in a call with Ukraine’s president, but that the actions are not impeachable.

“There was no heavy demand insisting that something had to happen. So it’s hard for me to understand where the whole impeachment situation is coming from, because what everybody’s up in arms about didn’t happen,” Haley said.

“So, do I think it’s not good practice to talk to foreign governments about investigating Americans? Yes. Do I think the president did something that warrants impeachment? No, because the aid flowed,” she said, referring to nearly $400 million in sidelined military aid.

“And, in turn, the Ukrainians didn’t follow up with the investigation,” Haley said.

In her book, Haley points to several examples of disagreements with Trump. She said she went privately to the president with her concern that he had ceded authority to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two leaders met in Helsinki in 2017 and with her objection to what she called Trump’s “moral equivalence” in response to a deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, later that summer.

Haley’s experience as governor during the 2015 murders of nine black churchgoers inside a historic African American church in Charleston by an avowed white supremacist made Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville painful, Haley wrote. Trump said “both sides” had been to blame for the violence.

“A leader’s words matter in these situations. And the president’s words had been hurtful and dangerous,” Haley wrote. “I picked up the phone and called the president.”

Haley did not air any objections publicly, however.

Haley also recounts for the first time that she was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder following the Charleston murders. She described bouts of sobbing, loss of appetite and focus, and guilt for feeling that way when the victims and their families had suffered so much more.

In a CBS interview that aired Sunday, Haley said Trump was “not appropriate” to demand that four black or Hispanic Democratic members of Congress “go back” to their countries. Three of the women were born in the United States and all are U.S. citizens.

But Haley also defended Trump, saying “I can also appreciate where he’s coming from, from the standpoint of, ‘Don’t bash America, over and over and over again, and not do something to try and fix it.'”

Haley is the U.S.-born daughter of Indian immigrants, and writes in the book about the painful experience of being an outsider in the American South, neither white nor black. Her family was frequently ostracized, she wrote, and the Haley was essentially disqualified from a children’s pageant because Bamberg, South Carolina, only crowned one white winner and one black winner.

In writing about the administration, Haley recalls a disagreement she had with Tillerson and Kelly following an Oval Office showdown over her suggestion that the United States should withhold funding for the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians.

Kelly and Tillerson argued that cutting aid could lead to violence, greater threats to Israel, loss of U.S. influence and political problems for Arab allies, she writes. That view is common among Mideast watchers and Trump critics, who say the administration’s approach is punitive and shortsighted.

Haley said she had the backing of Trump’s Mideast peace envoys, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, but he was not in the room. She did not spell out the views of then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

In the meeting, Haley wrote, Trump seemed to be swinging away from her view, but told the three of them to go resolve their differences elsewhere. In Kelly’s office afterward, Kelly told her, “‘I have four secretaries of state: you, H.R., Jared, and Rex,” she wrote. “‘I only need one.'”

Tillerson and others had an obligation to carry out the president’s agenda because he had been elected, not them, Haley wrote. If they disagreed strongly enough, she said they should quit.

“I was so shocked I didn’t say anything going home because I just couldn’t get my arms around the fact that here you have two key people in an administration undermining the president,” Haley said in The Post interview.

On another occasion, Haley said Kelly stalled and put her off when she wanted to get in to see Trump. When she went around him, he complained. Kelly also made it clear that he thought Trump’s decision to make Haley a full member of the Cabinet, and have her attend National Security Council meetings, had been “terrible,” and that he would ensure the next U.N. ambassador did not carry that rank, she wrote.

Trump gave Haley a warm sendoff last fall, while Kelly’s departure was announced in chillier terms weeks later. Haley’s successor, Kelly Craft, who assumed the U.N. job in September, does not carry the same rank Haley did. Tillerson, meanwhile, was fired by Trump via Twitter in March 2018.

“I have found in politics that when you are a woman in politics you encounter two types of people,” Haley said in the interview, conducted at her publisher’s offices in Lower Manhattan.

“You encounter people who respect you for your skill and your knowledge and the work that you’re trying to do, and support you in that process. Or you encounter people who disregard you and see you as in the way. That would happen at times,” Haley said.

Asked whether she was calling Kelly sexist, Haley said she had no personal quarrel with the retired four-star Marine general, whom she called a patriot.

“It’s a way of saying that sometimes he was not as conscious of the job I was trying to do,” Haley said.

Trump liked her direct approach and was respectful when they disagreed, Haley said.

She wrote that each had taken the other’s measure during the Republican primary, when she first backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and publicly called on Trump to release his tax returns. Trump tweeted that “the people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”

“Trump had been kicked, and he was hollering. But what he didn’t know then was, when I get kicked, I holler too,” Haley wrote.

She fired back with what she describes as “Southern-woman code.”

“Bless your heart,” she tweeted.

The book’s title is a reference to Haley’s comment last year publicly refuting an assertion by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow that she had suffered “momentary confusion” about forthcoming U.S. sanctions on Russia.

In a detailed blow-by-blow account, Haley wrote that she had gone on television at the request of the White House to address the U.S. response to a deadly April 2018 Syrian chemical weapons attack and the U.S. view that Russia was complicit. When asked about punitive sanctions, Haley said she answered with the latest information she had, which was that Trump had approved new sanctions that would be announced shortly.

But Trump had changed his mind and no one told her, Haley wrote, and then White House staffers hung her out to dry. The Post reported at the time that Trump changed his mind after Haley spoke.

Haley said when a promised White House statement holding her blameless failed to materialize later that day or the next, she gave Kelly a deadline of the close of the following day – a Tuesday – before she went public. Kudlow’s remark to reporters on that Tuesday afternoon was evidence that Kelly did not intend to “fix this,” she wrote.

Bucking some members of her staff who urged her to let it slide, Haley told a reporter: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

Kudlow called within 15 minutes to apologize, and then went public with a mea culpa.

“Women are cautious about politics, for good reason,” she wrote. “It’s not a pretty business. It’s often hateful. It would be wonderful if we could change our politics in America to make it less nasty and less personal. But until that happens, especially if you’re a woman, you have to stand up for yourself. Always.”

The book leaves the door open to a potential return to politics, but is silent about any White House ambitions. In the interview, Haley waved off the question. She will evaluate her next steps year by year, she said.

“I’m not even thinking that way. I’m thinking more of, we need to do all we can to get the president re-elected. And then from there, deciding how I will use the power of my voice,” Haley said.

“I know I’m too young to stop fighting, I know that. And I know that I need and want to be involved in some way that’s helpful.”

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President tweets 82 times — in one day…

Trump’s tweets, by the numbers: Trump tweeted or retweeted “Schiff” 11 times in reference to House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). He referenced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) twice.

  • He mentioned “impeachment,” “impeach” or “impeachable” nine times, “Democrats” five times, and “whistleblower” 11 times.

Trump also posted an endorsement for “Triggered,” a new book written by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and praised Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, for “Bringing the word ‘Nationalism’ back into the mainstream.”

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Clint Eastwood Refuses to Evacuate WARNER BROS. During Fire…

The lot was evacuated “as a precautionary measure” due to the blaze.

A brush fire covering 34 acres broke out Saturday afternoon above the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank. 

As of Sunday, the Barham Fire remains active and 15 percent contained. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, there have been no civilian injuries, but one male firefighter sustained a non-life threatening injury to his arm and was taken to a hospital in the area. 

Earlier in the afternoon, the progress of the fire stopped with ground and air crews continuing to fight the perimeter of the fire. 

“The containment goal remains within a ‘box’ west of Forest Lawn Cemetery, east of Coyote Canyon Drive, south of Forest Lawn Drive and north of Wonder View Drive,” LAFD spokesperson Brian Humphrey said in a statement. 

The fire began near Barham Boulevard and Forest Lawn Drive. No building structures have been damaged or are threatened, according to the LAFD. 

While there have been no formal evacuations ordered, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Entertainment told The Hollywood Reporter that the lot was evacuated on Saturday afternoon “as a precautionary measure” by the studio. 

Actor Scott Eastwood took to Instagram to share that despite being ordered to evacuate, his father Clint stayed to continue because there was “work to be done.”  

Composer Christopher Drake tweeted about the lot’s evacuations, writing, “Had to evac my studio at Warner Bros for the first time ever due to smoke from the #Barhamfire right behind the studio lot. WB is on total lockdown at the moment.”

As for Universal Studios Hollywood, there are no evacuation orders in effect for the theme park or nearby studio lots.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti shared a statement on Twitter, urging those in the area to “be aware of emergency vehicles and firefighters.”

Burbank police shared a photo of the blaze, seen below.

The fire’s cause is under active investigation. The LAFD stated Sunday morning that the fire was 15 percent contained. 

Nov. 10, 12:48 p.m. Updated with Scott Eastwood post.

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'Great centrist hope'…

It is said that every senator looks in the mirror and sees a future president, and now Michael Bloomberg is having a similar moment of self-infatuation. Yet far more important than his idealized view of himself is what he sees in the 2020 field of Democrats.

Insiders from his camp say the former New York mayor doesn’t think any of the three leading candidates, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, can defeat President Trump.

Welcome to the club. Bloomberg’s conclusion, although self-serving, reflects a general unease among many Democrats. Mere months ago, the party was celebrating a field of 25 candidates who comprised a Noah’s Ark of group identities, but the mood has changed dramatically.

After panderfest forums, boring speeches and inconclusive debates, many Dems now sound like Peggy Lee as they ask, “Is that all there is?”

While most remain wildly enthusiastic about defeating Trump, they are far from ready to unite behind a single candidate. Even worse, the ideological split in the party is so serious that it might not be healed before Election Day.

Polls capture the problem. Biden, a relative moderate, still leads the pack nationally, but he has slipped to fourth in Iowa and is barely hanging on to second in New Hampshire. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are second and third in most national surveys, meaning their socialist-leaning policies are popular, but neither candidate is strong enough to force the other out of the race and consolidate the far, far-left flank.

I cited that mess last month when I urged Bloomberg to get in the ring. Noting that he had flirted with running before only to pull back, I wrote that “he’s 77 years old and, his megabillions notwithstanding, he’s not getting any younger. If not now, when?”

He was hesitant because he knew he could not defeat Biden for the moderate lane, and his candidacy might end up helping Warren or Sanders. As a result, Bloomy was holding back until Biden either ­cratered or quit.

So what changed? My guess is that Bloomberg finally realized that Biden can’t go the distance. The former veep is lackluster on his best days, and his money woes are a tell that he has peaked.

Bloomy also has to know that fellow New Yorker Trump is not going to let the public forget that Hunter Biden got rich when his father was vice president. Indeed, House Dems’ bid to impeach Trump over Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine could well finish off their own presidential front-runner because GOP members will repeatedly shift the ­focus to the Biden family’s suspect roles there.

Still, even with all that baggage, Joe Biden might survive until it would be too late for newcomers to get into the presidential race.

Indeed, the filing deadline for the Alabama primary was Friday, and it’s this week for New Hampshire and Arkansas. Facing a yes-or-no decision, Bloomberg let it be known he intends to run.

Count me as delighted. While there’s a big mountain to climb for him to win the nomination, it is actually easy to see how he could help save the party from following Sanders or Warren into the political wilderness. That alone would be a major achievement and a service to the nation.

America succeeds when the two parties must compete for centrist voters, a fact that tends to moderate radical impulses on both sides. Trouble is, the nation is polarized, and Dems are in the process of banishing moderates, with Warren especially vicious in demonizing those who don’t agree with her pitch to break the bank on Medicare for All and other harebrained schemes.

Like an Occupy Wall Street brat, she welcomed Bloomberg into the race by ridiculing his wealth and calling him greedy. “Bloomberg has chosen to protect his wealth over everyone else — and that’s why he’d rather spend enormous amounts of money on a presidential run than pay taxes,” she wrote in a fundraising pitch.

That’s the kind of militant class warfare that turns off many in her party. One prominent New York Dem who is supporting ­Biden said while there were major ­unknowns about how Bloomberg would perform in retail politicking and debates, the former mayor would be his choice if ­Biden collapses.

“Mike’s not warm and cuddly, but I won’t support any of the others,” he said.

Another Dem veteran who worked for Bloomberg said it was important to remember that the voters the party needs to win over are in the swing states, not on the coasts. “There are large numbers of middle-class voters in the Midwest who are looking for somebody who can beat Trump and speak to the issues they care about,” he said.

As examples, he cited Bloomberg’s record of raising student test scores, creating jobs and cutting crime as issues being ignored by the other candidates. At the same time, Bloomberg is left-wing orthodox on abortion, climate change and gun control.

The easy response to the optimism is to note that there is little outward evidence that Bloomberg will be well-received on the trail. Jewish, divorced and living with a woman not his wife, a Democrat turned Republican turned independent turned Democrat again, he got just 6% support among Dems in a recent poll, with 32% saying they would never support him. Hardly an auspicious start.

But start is the key word. His willingness to open his mammoth vault gives him the ability to compete in multiple states continually and potentially tap into that yearning for someone new and closer to the center. A no-nonsense mayor, executive and philanthropist, he could honestly describe himself as a liberal with sanity.

Which is exactly what Democrats need.

The infinite stupidity of ‘racist’ math

Reader Chi Mo says Seattle has outdone New York in the loony department, writing: “Their educators want to declare math racist. This is truly sad as math is the universal language and we should be bolstering basic math education, not denigrating it. As scientists acknowledge, if there are intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe, they may not understand any earth language, but will probably understand the math.”

Same old ‘Bull’ from anti-biz Blas

Say this for Mayor Bill de Blasio: When he gets a dumb idea in his head, it stays there. And stays there and stays there.

As The Post reports, de Blasio is again trying to move the “Charging Bull” sculpture from Bowling Green Park, citing unspecified security concerns. Last year, City Hall claimed crowd-control issues in a failed bid to move the popular bronze bull, which has been at the same spot since 1989.

Face it, de Blasio hates the bull because he hates capitalism. Maybe he’d be happier in Cuba. Or better yet, Venezuela. Go, Mayor, go!

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Israel President: Climate of Vicious Hatred Could Spark Assassination…

Crowd at Rabin Square, November 2 2019

Crowd at Rabin Square, November 2 2019.

The climate of vicious hatred and incitement based on opposing political ideologies, which is now permeating Israel and seeping down to the next generation, could spark another political assassination, President Reuven Rivlin and Dalia Rabin, the daughter of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, implied on Sunday.

They were speaking at the President’s Residence at the Ner Yitzhak (a candle for Yitzhak) ceremony, which marks the official beginning of a series of annual memorial events on the Hebrew anniversary of Rabin’s death.

A massive memorial rally is held annually at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on the Saturday night closest to the anniversary of the murder, according to the Gregorian calendar.

In addition to four generations of the Rabin family – currently headed by the prime minister’s 94-year-old sister Rachel Rabin Yaakov and including his son Yuval, and some of the prime minister’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren – there were two former leaders of the Labor Party: former prime minister Ehud Barak and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog. 

Current Labor leader Amir Peretz was also present, as was Shimon Sheves, who was director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office under Rabin and who is today involved in cyber security.

Prior to the ceremony, Labor Party veterans in conversation with each other were mourning not only Rabin, but also the decline of the party’s glory days, with Labor having all but sunk into oblivion.

Relating to the resurfacing of conspiracy theories about her father’s assassination, Dalia Rabin said that in the past, she had preferred to ignore them, but under the present circumstances, she felt compelled to respond that her father was killed by a Jewish person who was spurred by a different political ideology.

From the very night of the assassination 24 years ago, there were those who agreed with the assassin, Yigal Amir, she said, but only in the last decade, has it been accepted for people to say so out loud.

It is not uncommon, she said, for young people who visit the Rabin Center to say that Amir was right, and that if they had been around at the time, they too would have killed Rabin.

 Both Rivlin and Dalia recalled an address that Rabin had given to the Federation of Jewish Communities of North America in the year he went to Washington to sign a peace accord with Yasser Arafat.

Rabin had said to the representatives of American Jewry in relation to the peace treaty that it represented “a new agenda for the Jewish people in the Diaspora and for the State of Israel. We are one, whether we are in Montreal, or in Jerusalem, Miami, Chicago, Ramat Gan or Netanya. We are one people, separated only by our addresses.”

The underlying message was that Jews, regardless of their differences and their geography, share a common destiny.

This was the interpretation both by Rivlin and Rabin’s daughter.

Dalia warned that the nation should wake up before it is too late.

Rivlin said that we must not forget the social deterioration into hatred, incitement and bloodshed that preceded Rabin’s assassination, and to do everything in our power to ensure that such a phenomenon never occurs again – especially on the grounds of political ideology.

Recalling the nightmare that most Israelis though could never happen Rivlin urged all political camps to tone down their rhetoric and to refrain from spewing hatred.

“This is not our way. This is not the way of the people of Israel,” he declared.  “We have to be cognizant of the destruction we could wreak with our own hands.”

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But Top Choice for Only 4% of Dems!

The poll found that among voters overall, Bloomberg fares about as well as Warren, Sanders and Biden when matched up against Trump. Forty-three percent of voters nationwide said they would support Bloomberg in a hypothetical election, while 37 percent said they’d vote for the incumbent Republican, a 6-point advantage that matches Warren’s margin over Trump. But, 21 percent of voters said they were undecided, a larger share than in the other general-election matchups. The head-to-head matchups have a 3-point margin of error.

If he were to run, Bloomberg would enter the 2020 Democratic contest with higher name recognition among the party’s electorate than 11 current contenders, including fellow billionaire Tom Steyer of California. But Bloomberg does have baggage, with a quarter of likely Democratic primary voters expressing unfavorable views of him — higher than any of the 15 candidates currently in the race.

Bloomberg’s net favorability — the share of voters who approve of him minus those who disapprove — is worst among the party’s youngest voters (ages 18-29) and those who identify as independents, while it’s best among the oldest Democratic primary voters (ages 65 and older) and those who say they’re conservative, who make up a small share of the overall Democratic party.

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Beats Trump by 6 points in hypothetical matchup: poll…

Former New York mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergActor Robert De Niro: Trump must be ‘held accountable’ with impeachment inquiry Scaramucci: Trump sees Bloomberg as threat Biden brushes off Bloomberg challenge: ‘I’m pretty far ahead’ MORE leads President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer National Security Adviser John Bolton gets book deal: report Trump administration proposes fee for asylum applications, spike in other immigration fees Biden expresses shock that Trump considers attending Russia May Day event MORE by 6 percentage points in a hypothetical 2020 match-up, a new poll shows.

Bloomberg, who on Friday filed as a Democratic presidential candidate in Alabama but has not announced an official campaign, leads Trump, 43 to 37 percent with 21 percent unsure, according to the Morning Consult/Politico survey released early Sunday.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDecember Democratic debate venue switched to Loyola Marymount University Strategists say Warren ‘Medicare for All’ plan could appeal to centrists Ocasio-Cortez: Exxon Mobil ‘knew exactly what it was doing’ MORE (I-Vt.) leads Trump, 45 to 40 percent with 16 percent unsure. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDecember Democratic debate venue switched to Loyola Marymount University Strategists say Warren ‘Medicare for All’ plan could appeal to centrists JPMorgan CEO: Notion I’m not a patriot ‘dead wrong’ MORE (D-Mass.) leads the president, 45 to 39 percent with 15 percent unsure, and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDecember Democratic debate venue switched to Loyola Marymount University Biden expresses shock that Trump considers attending Russia May Day event Strategists say Warren ‘Medicare for All’ plan could appeal to centrists MORE leads him, 44  to 40 percent with 16 percent unsure. The survey has a 3-point margin of error for the head-to-head matchups.

Pollsters also found, however, that Bloomberg pulls 4 percent support in the crowded Democratic field, and has the highest disapprovals of any candidate, with 25 percent. His net favorability is highest among primary voters 65 or older and those who identify as conservative, and lowest among self-identified independents and those aged 18-29.

The poll, conducted Nov. 8 among 2,225 voters considering voting in their respective state primary or caucus, shows Biden continuing to lead the Democratic field with 31 percent, followed by Sanders with 20 percent and Warren with 18 percent.

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegDecember Democratic debate venue switched to Loyola Marymount University Actor Robert De Niro: Trump must be ‘held accountable’ with impeachment inquiry Buttigieg acknowledges ‘struggle’ with racial inequality in South Bend police force, calling it a ‘national challenge’ MORE, with 8 percent, and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDecember Democratic debate venue switched to Loyola Marymount University Biden expresses shock that Trump considers attending Russia May Day event Harris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: ‘This is some sh-t’ MORE (D-Calif.), with 6 percent, round out the top five.

Those results have a 2-point margin of error. 

If he enters the race, observers expect Bloomberg to skip the early contests, and run in the “Super Tuesday” primaries.

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