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Director Who Long Reigned in Many Realms

Credit Sam Falk/The New York Times

Director Who Long Reigned in Many Realms


Mr. Nichols, one of America’s most decorated directors, had a protean résumé of critic- and crowd-pleasing work that earned him adulation both on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Mike Nichols, one of America’s most celebrated directors, whose long, protean résumé of critic- and crowd-pleasing work earned him adulation both on Broadway and in Hollywood, died on Wednesday. He was 83.

His death was announced in a statement by the president of ABC News, James Goldston. A spokeswoman for ABC said the cause was cardiac arrest.

Dryly urbane, Mr. Nichols had a gift for communicating with actors and a keen comic timing, which he honed early in his career as half of the popular sketch-comedy team Nichols and May. In works such as “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Carnal Knowledge” on screen and in a wide variety of comedies and dramas on stage, he accomplished what Orson Welles and Elia Kazan, but few if any other directors have: He achieved popular and artistic success in both film and theater. He was among the most decorated people in the history of show business, one of only a dozen or so to have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.

On Broadway, where he won an astonishing nine Tonys (including two as a producer), he once had four shows running simultaneously. He directed Neil Simon’s early comedies “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple” in the 1960s, the zany Monty Python musical, “Spamalot,” four decades later, and nearly another decade after that, an acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller’s bruising masterpiece, “Death of a Salesman.”

In June 2012 at age 80, he accepted the Tony for directing “Salesman.” When his name was announced at the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the neighborhood where he grew up, he kissed his wife, the broadcaster Diane Sawyer, stepped to the stage and recalled that he once won a pie-eating contest in that very theater.

“It was nice but this is nicer,” he said. “You see before you a happy man.”

The first time Mr. Nichols stepped behind the camera, in 1966, it was to direct Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in an adaptation of Edward Albee’s scabrous stage portrayal of a marriage, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including one for best director. Though he didn’t win, the film won five.

Mr. Nichols did win an Oscar for his second film, “The Graduate” (1967), a shrewd social comedy that defined the uncertainty of adulthood for the generation that came of age in the 1960s. The film made a star of an unknown actor, Dustin Hoffman, who was nearly 30 when he played Benjamin Braddock, the 21-year-old protagonist of the film, a Southern Californian and a track star who sleeps with the wife of his father’s best friend and then falls in love with her daughter. A small, dark, Jewish New York stage actor (though he was born and raised in Los Angeles), he was an odd choice for the all-American suburban boy whose seemingly prescribed life path has gone awry.

“There is no piece of casting in the 20th century that I know of that is more courageous than putting me in that part,” Mr. Hoffman said in an interview in The New Yorker in 2000.

By the end of Mr. Nichols’s career, he was bravely casting the star Hoffman of a different generation — Philip Seymour — with whom Mr. Nichols made the rollicking political film “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007), and, later, more provocatively, the Broadway production of “Death of a Salesman.” He cast Mr. Hoffman, then 44, to play Miller’s tragic American in defeat, Willy Loman, a man in his 60s. In addition to Mr. Nichols’s Tony Award for directing, the play won for best revival.

He had also turned his attention to television, winning Emmy Awards for directing adaptations of two celebrated plays for HBO: Margaret Edson’s “Wit” (2001), about a woman dying of cancer; and Tony Kushner’s epic AIDS drama, “Angels in America” (2003).

Driven, forceful and, for all his wit and charm, known occasionally to strafe the feelings of cast and crew members, Mr. Nichols was prolific — too prolific, according to some critics who thought he sometimes chose his projects haphazardly or took on work simply for money.

Not every project was a winner; he had a number of duds, and for periods — part of the 1970s, when he made the science fiction thriller “The Day of the Dolphin” and a period comedy about bumbling hustlers, “The Fortune”; and the late ’80s and early ’90s, when his uninspired work included “Regarding Henry,” a sappy tale about a hard-driven lawyer who learns the true meaning of life as he recovers from a shooting; and “Wolf,” the macabre tale of a book editor (Jack Nicholson) who turns into a werewolf — his career lost a bit of luster.

Still, his projects almost always had a high-profile glow, mainly because stars flocked to work with him.

He directed Julie Christie, Lillian Gish, George C. Scott, Richard Dreyfuss and Morgan Freeman on Broadway. Off Broadway he directed Steve Martin and Robin Williams as Vladimir and Estragon in “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett. Outdoors in the Delacorte Theater in Central Park he directed Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Christopher Walken, John Goodman and Kevin Kline in Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”

Mr. Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Ron Silver, Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen and Gene Hackman all worked with Mr. Nichols more than once. When he directed Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley as appealingly bickering newlyweds in “Barefoot in the Park,” they were largely unknown. When he directed Burton and Taylor in “Virginia Woolf” they were the biggest stars in the world.

“A director’s chief virtue should be to persuade you through a role; Mike’s the only one I know who can do it,” Burton said after the film was finished, a remarkable compliment from a renowned actor for a fledgling director. “He conspires with you to get your best. He’d make me throw away a line where I’d have hit it hard. I’ve seen the film with an audience and he’s right every time. I didn’t think I could learn anything about comedy — I’d done all of Shakespeare’s. But from him I learned.”

Understanding How Alcohol Uniquely Affects Women

Understanding How Alcohol Uniquely Affects Women

By Constance Scharff, Ph.D.

When it comes to processing alcohol, men and women are quite different. Contrary to common belief, men and women of almost the same height and weight do not experience similar effects after consuming equal amounts of alcohol.

Your Teen’s Brain On Weed: Is It Safe?

Your Teen’s Brain On Weed: Is It Safe?

By Karen L. Schiltz, Ph.D.

Ever since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis use ten months ago, parents have been asking me if it is really safe for their teen. They remember weekends of smoking during college and think that it is harmless. On the other hand, teenagers to young adults have assumed that such use is normal and perfectly o.k. However, recent research suggests otherwise.

 It is estimated that 69 percent of 12th graders have tried alcohol, 45 percent have tried marijuana, and 23 percent have used it in the past month. Seven percent of these students have used it daily.

Obama to shield 5 million from deportation

President Barack Obama turns to leave after shaking hands and speaking about immigration. | AP Photo

Obama to shield 5 million from deportation

White House reveals details of new immigration plan after weeks of silence.

The White House is in full-out sales pitch mode for President Barack Obama’s announcement Thursday that he will shield about 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, circumventing Congress to provide the most sweeping changes to immigration policy in decades.

Obama is meeting with key Democratic lawmakers. Aides are speaking with advocates and lining up surrogates who will help promote the plan. A Facebook video with the president released Wednesday afternoon drew more than 1 million viewers and was shared more than 23,000 times, reaching the feeds of more than 5.5 million people.

The White House even managed to get Univision to delay its live telecast of the Latin Grammy Awards, with its audience of about 10 million viewers, for Obama’s speech at 8 p.m. Eastern time — although it won’t be aired by the four major broadcast networks.

All this for an announcement that’s going to set off a political firestorm. The White House has said the executive actions are needed because Congress won’t act, while GOP leaders say the president is going beyond his authority and poisoning the well for any future immigration talks.

The executive actions will cover 4 million undocumented immigrants who would qualify for deferred deportations by using criteria such as longevity in the United States and family ties, according to sources briefed on the discussions. An additional 1 million would receive protection through other means, two sources said.

There will be no special protections for farm workers or parents of Dreamers because there were concerns about those pieces clearing the legal bars, sources said. But, administration officials said in their calls, many people who fall into those categories would qualify if they have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Dreamers, by contrast, are undocumented immigrants who were brought as minors to this country by their parents.

A controversial enforcement program known as Secure Communities will be scrapped and replaced with a new program, the sources said. The executive actions also are expected to make modest changes to allow technology companies to keep high-skilled workers.

“Everybody agrees our immigration system is broken,” Obama said in the Facebook post. “Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. What I am going to be laying out are the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress.”

Ashton Kutcher’s History of Idiocy

Ashton Kutcher’s History of Idiocy

By Marlow Stern

The Punk’d star suggested it’s OK for Uber, a company he’s invested in, to launch smear campaigns against journalists critical of it. It’s not the first time he’s said something very stupid. 

“Ashton Kutcher Is Smarter Than You.” That was, believe it or not, the actual headline to a blow-jobby 2009 Newsweek feature on the man who foisted trucker hats, Kabbalah bracelets, and Dude, Where’s My Car? on an unsuspecting and wildly impressionable public.

These days, that headline seems far from prophetic.

Sure, the 36-year-old was one of the first celebs to discover Twitter and has a nice track record as a venture capitalist, throwing bones at startups like Foursquare and Airbnb, and serving as co-founder of the VC firm A-Grade Investments. But he recently shared some bizarre, highly-problematic views while attempting to defend one of the companies he’s invested in, the mobile ridesharing app Uber.

It’s a tale full of sound and fury, told by several idiots, signifying… idiocy. First, BuzzFeedNews reported that Uber planned to launch an escort-like promotion in France pairing riders with “hot chick” drivers. The promo featured several stunning women in their underwear. That led Sarah Lacy, a prolific tech editor at PandoDaily, to proclaim Uber app non grata, firing off a lengthy screed about how it’s a “misogynistic” extension of “asshole culture.” This led Uber executive Emil Michael to suggest at a company dinner that they should consider shelling out “a million dollars” to hire a team of opposition researchers and journalists to fight back against journalists writing negative things about them in the press, saying they’d look into “your personal lives, your families.” Not a big fan of the Fifth Estate, apparently.

So Kutcher, who is an investor in Uber, decided to piggyback off Michael’s statements, tweeting, “What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?” He added, “Everyone is guilty and then tasked to defend themselves publicly. Questioning the source needs to happen... Always! So as long as journalist are interested and willing to print half truths [sic] as facts... Yes we should question the source.”

Now, let’s set aside the fact that Kutcher thinks the plural of “journalist” is “journalist.” Even the most simpleminded of people could see how problematic it is for a company like Uber, that maintains detailed travel logs on each of its users, to be threatening to stalk and harass journalists who are merely providing a public service. The company should be more focused on the internal problems that have spurred such widespread criticisms, from their inadequate security to the laundry list of women who have reportedly been assaulted, kidnapped, and even killed by its drivers.

This is far from the first time Kutcher’s swam laps in the sea of stupidity.

Let’s begin with the dumbest thing he’s said—that time he defended Penn State head coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the series of child abuse allegations against his assistant Jerry Sandusky. Back in 2011, Kutcher tweeted (and then deleted): “How do you fire Jo Pa?  #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.” He later apologized for the error, and ceded control of his Twitter handle to his company, Katalyst Media (although not for long). Even George Clooney called him an asshole for the gaffe.

The Coming GOP Freakout Over Immigration

The Coming GOP Freakout Over Immigration

With an executive order this week that will affect 5 million undocumented immigrants, the president is daring the Republicans to fight back—and alienate Latino voters.

When President Obama announces his executive order giving legal status to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants, he will do it over the objections of nearly every Republican in Congress. And that’s just fine with Democrats.

“We have waited long enough for House Republicans,” Harry Reid said Wednesday. “Since they won’t act, the president should, and he will.”

Likewise, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, who often has to contort his answers from the podium to cover every base and offend no audience, was notably at ease as he discussed the president’s immigration plans during his press briefing later in the day. “The president often says only the tough issues reach his desk,” Earnest said with half a smile. “This might be the one exception.”

After a humiliating defeat on Election Day, when Latino voters stayed home in droves and Democrats lost every race they expected and many they didn’t, the president’s party now sees an early opportunity to turn the tide back against Republicans. By moving unilaterally, the thinking goes in Washington, Democrats will get credit from Latinos for securing legal status for millions, all while goading the GOP into a potentially fatal reaction on the issue that has danced on racial, class, and political divides for decades.

“I’d say ‘advantage Obama’ on the politics of this,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-reform group. “He’s going to recover lost ground in the Latino community for himself and for Democrats. This is a big, bold move that’s going to protect millions of people.”

Bill Cosby: A decades-long career crumbles

A decades-long career crumbles

NBC has scrapped development of a new sitcom starring Bill Cosby and TVLand will stop re-airing “The Cosby Show.”

Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator.

On Wednesday, NBC — the network that roared back to television supremacy in the 1980s thanks to Cosby’s warmhearted family sitcom — joined the list of entertainment companies and TV programs that have abandoned projects or distanced themselves from the 77-year-old comedian and actor amid the cascade of shocking headlines.

NBC scrapped development of an upcoming TV sitcom starring Cosby, one day after Netflix, the video streaming service, backed away from a special that would have saluted Cosby for his long career and comic gifts. Also on Wednesday, cable’s TVLand channel said it would stop airing re-runs of “The Cosby Show,” his iconic, career-making sitcom. Scheduled appearances on “The Queen Latifah Show” and “Late Show with David Letterman” have also been canceled in recent weeks.

Cosby’s growing isolation from an industry that once embraced and profited from him comes amid a series of testimonials from women who said he drugged them and sexually abused them over three and a half decades — an image diametrically opposed to the affable father and humorous grandpa figures that Cosby cultivated.

The allegations, which date from 1969 until 2005, have been remarkably consistent in their details. In each alleged instance, Cosby supposedly lured a young, ambitious woman seeking career counseling, plied her with an unknown substance that disabled her, and then abused her when she was unconscious or unable to resist.

Rancorous Debate Ahead of Obama’s Immigration Speech

Parties Push to Sway Public Before Obama’s Immigration Speech

The fight to sway public opinion about President Obama’s soon-to-be-announced executive action on immigration was intensifying before the president’s scheduled address to the nation on Thursday evening from the East Room of the White House.

Mr. Obama is expected to announce that he will protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide many of them permits to work legally in the United States. Mr. Obama has said he intends to act on his own in the face of Republican opposition to immigration legislation.

Conservative critics of the president were accusing him of a vast abuse of power, while immigration advocates and Democratic supporters praised Mr. Obama for asserting his authority on behalf of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on Wednesday that the president was “provoking a constitutional crisis,” and he predicted that Mr. Obama’s actions would make it harder for Congress to ever agree on a more lasting overhaul of the immigration system.

“I believe his unilateral action, which is unconstitutional and illegal, will deeply harm our prospects for immigration reform,” Mr. Cornyn said. “It will be deeply harmful to our nation’s tradition of the rule of law and deeply harmful to the future of our democracy.”

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, a fierce opponent of Mr. Obama’s actions, accused the president of “throwing this nation into a crisis.” And Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, warned that the president’s speech could set off violent reactions among Americans who disagree with it.

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Mr. Coburn said in an interview with USA Today. “You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy. You could see violence.”

What It’s Like to Be a Woman Who’s 6’2”

What It’s Like to Be a Woman Who’s 6’2”

By Ann Friedman

When I was 12 my mom took me shopping for pantyhose at Younkers department store in my Iowa hometown. I had a piano recital coming up, and a recent growth spurt meant the tights in the children’s section no longer fit. On the back of the hosiery packaging there was a matrix chart: height on one side and weight on the other. You were supposed to find the box where your height and weight intersected, and the color code would tell you which size to purchase. As I dragged my finger along the package to find my size, I felt a wave of panic. At 6’2”, I was off the matrix. A total freak.

It was an objective confirmation of how I already felt. I was the tallest person in my junior high school — bigger than all the other girls, all the pre-growth-spurt boys, even all the teachers. And there was nothing I wouldn’t have given to be just an inch or two shorter. I try to remember that feeling now, when women I don’t know approach me and say things like “What I wouldn’t give to be your height.” I’ve spent my entire life hovering almost a foot taller than most women. And while it’s often been a source of insecurity, the older I get, the more comfortable I am with myself. I’m far less comfortable with the feelings my body seems to bring out in other women.

Being a very tall woman means being very visible. You know that feeling you had during your most awkward adolescent years — that everyone was staring at you? That feeling is my life. People are staring. And, often, they’re not just staring. They want to talk about it. My height is something I discuss every day. Strangers ask about it when I’m browsing the nail polish at Target. Children point and stare. Women sitting outside cafés remark on it loudly as I walk past them. A pack of frat boys in a bar once chanted “six-footer!” at me. If I wear heels or if I’m in a small town, the comments increase fivefold. The questions are always the same: How tall are you? Are your parents tall? Do you ever wear heels? How tall is your boyfriend? Or, sometimes it’s just a statement: You’re really tall.

Obama to shield 5 million from deportation

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Obama to shield 5 million from deportation

By Carrie Budoff Brown, Seung Min Kim and Anna Palmer

President Barack Obama will announce Thursday that he is shielding about 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, circumventing Congress to provide the most sweeping changes to immigration policy in decades.

Obama released a video Wednesday previewing his primetime speech and his Friday trip to Las Vegas, where he will promote the executive actions he’s taking.

“Everybody agrees our immigration system is broken,” Obama said. “Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. What I am going to be laying out are the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress.”

Senior administration officials began calling immigration reform proponents and lawmakers Wednesday to fill them in on plans for the rollout and the details of the proposal. Obama will host several Democratic lawmakers for dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening to brief them on his immigration plans — invitees include Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid (Nevada), Dick Durbin (Illinois) and Chuck Schumer (New York), lawmakers involved in immigration policy such as Sen. Robert Menendez (New Jersey) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (California), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa (Texas) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chairwoman Judy Chu (California), according to multiple congressional aides.

The executive actions will cover 4 million undocumented immigrants who would qualify for deferred deportations by using criteria such as longevity in the United States and family ties, according to sources briefed on the discussions. Another 1 million would receive protection through other means, two sources said.

There will be no special protections for farm workers or parents of Dreamers — two categories that groups had lobbied hard for — because there were concerns about those pieces clearing the legal bars, sources said. However, the administration officials noted in their calls, many people who fall into those categories would qualify if they have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Dreamers, in contrast, are undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents as minors.

3 Unintentionally Offensive Things NEVER to Tell Your Spouse

3 Unintentionally Offensive Things NEVER to Tell Your Spouse

By Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.

The three all-too-common phrases I have in mind pertain to remarks—whether well-meaning or not—virtually guaranteed to antagonize your mate. Regardless of your motive, the likely reaction to such ill-chosen expressions will range from their going completely silent on you to their exploding at your seeming lack of empathy and understanding. Frankly, men are more guilty ..

Elizabeth Warren to Banks: Prove You Can Protect Customer Data From Hackers

Elizabeth Warren to Banks: Prove You Can Protect Customer Data From Hackers

By Erika Eichelberger

Elizabeth Warren is off to a running start in her new leadership role with the Senate Democratic caucus. She called out Walmart for its terrible labor practices. She wrote an op-ed this week warning the president against appointing Wall Street insiders to the Federal Reserve. And Tuesday morning, she called on financial institutions to prove that they can protect customer data from cybercriminals.

Over the past year, cyber attackers have stolen roughly 500 million records from financial institutions, according to federal law enforcement officials. In a joint letter also signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Warren asked 16 firms—including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley—for detailed information about cyber attacks they experienced over the past year and how they plan to prevent future breaches.

"The increasing number of cyberattacks and data breaches is unprecedented and poses a clear and present danger to our nation’s economic security," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. "Each successive cyberattack and data breach not only results in hefty costs and liabilities for businesses, but exposes consumers to identity theft and other fraud, as well as a host of other cyber-crimes."

Janice Dickinson Says Bill Cosby Raped Her

Janice Dickinson Says Bill Cosby Raped Her

 By Margaret Hartmann

On Tuesday night, Janice Dickinson became the 15th woman to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault, and the third in the last month, saying the comedian drugged and raped her in 1982. The 59-year-old America's Next Top Model judge told Entertainment Tonight that she met Cosby while trying to get a role on his show, and he later called to invite her to Lake Tahoe, where he was performing. He said he wanted to help with her singing career and offer her the Cosby Show job. Dickinson claims that after dinner Cosby gave her red wine and a pill, which she asked for because she was having menstrual cramps. "The next morning I woke up, and I wasn't wearing my pajamas, and I remember before I passed out that I had been sexually assaulted by this man," she said.

Dickinson continued, "Before I woke up in the morning, the last thing I remember was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me. And I remember a lot of pain. The next morning I remember waking up with my pajamas off and there was semen in between my legs."

Why It's So Hard for Millennials to Find a Place to Live and Work

Why It's So Hard for Millennials to Find a Place to Live and Work

Derek Thompson

The paradox of the American Dream: The best cities to get ahead are often the most expensive places to live, and the most affordable places to live can be the worst cities to get ahead.

So what'll it be: Dayton or San Francisco?

Alright, so that's not the most common choice for young people getting ready to start their lives. But it's an instructive question.

Dayton is the most affordable housing market in the United States, according to Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko, while San Francisco is the least affordable place to live in America. But the San Francisco-San Jose area has a better record of social mobility than just about any region in the country, according to Harvard economist Raj Chetty. In other words, a variety of factors make it the best place for young person to work his or her way into the middle class and beyond. As for Dayton and other Ohio cities, they account for four of the 12 worst cities for that same measure of upward mobility.

The Dayton-SF dilemma isn't about Ohio vs. California. It's about a broader dilemma for young workers and, in particular, young couples looking to buy a home, raise children, and achieve the American Dream. The cities with the least affordable housing often have the best social mobility. And the cities with the worst social mobility often have the most affordable housing. When good jobs for the middle class and affordable homes are living in different cities, it represents a slow-motion splintering of the American Dream.

The First Rule of Amnesty Fight Club

The First Rule of Amnesty Fight Club

The First Rule of Amnesty Fight Club

By Robert Tracinski

Don’t make this a battle between Congress and the president. Make it a battle within Congress.

The latest reports say that President Obama is planning to spring his executive amnesty plan on the nation as early as this week, halting deportations and giving a kind of pretended legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

President Obama says he’s doing this because Republicans in Congress have refused to act on immigration reform. But of course he’s doing it before the new Republican Congress has even been sworn in. What he really means is that he has refused to negotiate with Republicans on an immigration bill. He wanted to dictate terms and tell Congress what kind of legislation it had to pass. Now that this has failed, he wants to turn immigration into an advantageous political issue, rallying Hispanic voters to support the president against the new congressional majority.

This is intended to put Republicans in a bind about how to respond, and the general view is that there are no good options. A retaliatory government shutdown, defunding the White House, toothless lawsuits, or impeachment—all of them have serious drawbacks. But if the Republicans simply lie back and do nothing, they risk alienating many of the voters who just gave them a big majority.

I propose a better option. It starts with recognizing the first rule of Amnesty Fight Club.

Those who saw the deeply odd 1999 movie remember that the first rule of Fight Club is: “You do not talk about Fight Club.” (The second rule: “You do not talk about Fight Club.”) The first rule of Amnesty Fight Club is: Do not talk about amnesty. The second rule: Do not talk about immigration.

Why? Because this isn’t about amnesty or immigration. It’s about executive power. And Republicans need it to not be about immigration.

That’s what Obama wants. That’s what he’s counting on. On the left, the conventional wisdom—if you can call it that—seems to be that Democrats lost the midterm elections because they didn’t get enough turnout from Hispanic voters. An electoral strategy that depends on huge advantages and big turnout from a couple of racial minorities is precarious and disturbingly dependent on racial appeals. We can see that in the fact that Obama now finds it necessary to tear up the Constitution just to scare up a few more Hispanic voters in the next election.

Deportation Relief for Young Immigrants May Not Include Parents

Deportation Relief for Young Immigrants May Not Include Parents

Every time Berzabeth Valdez heads out to work from her mobile home on the outskirts of Houston, it crosses her mind that she might not come back.

Ms. Valdez, 48, is a Mexican immigrant who has been living in Texas for 11 years without legal papers, and so without a driver’s license. For her commute to her job as a restaurant manager, she keeps her taillights in working order and never speeds.

“We are terrified of the police,” Ms. Valdez said. “One traffic ticket could end in deportation. I could lose my whole life, everything I have gained for my family.”

One of Ms. Valdez’s daughters grew tired of living with those fears and joined an organization of young undocumented immigrants. The youths, who call themselves Dreamers, won protection from deportation from President Obama in 2012 and continued to press him to extend those measures to others here illegally.

Now Mr. Obama is preparing to announce changes to the immigration enforcement system that could allow as many as five million immigrants to remain and work legally. But as the White House deliberates final details of the plan, the youths could be facing a bittersweet ending, as officials are considering leaving out their parents.

“It’s getting so hard to call my Mom,” said María Fernanda Cabello, 23, Ms. Valdez’s activist daughter. “I’ve had to tell her, there is a victory coming and I don’t know if you’re part of it.”

Israel Retaliates for Synagogue Attack

Israel Retaliates for Synagogue Attack

Israel destroyed the home of an alleged terrorist suspected of a deadly car attack last month in the wake of Tuesday's separate attack on a synagogue. WSJ's Nick Casey reports.

Renovo: Fast as a Ferrari and Electric

Renovo: Fast as a Ferrari and Electric

The all-electric $500,000 Renovo coupe accelerates from zero to 60 miles an hour in just over three seconds. The WSJ’s Deborah Kan goes for a spin in Silicon Valley.

Reagan and Bush Offer No Precedent for Obama's Amnesty Order

Reagan and Bush Offer No Precedent for Obama's Amnesty Order

David Frum

Past executive actions were smaller—and they didn't work.

“What about Reagan in 1987? And George H.W. Bush in 1990?”

This has become a favorite Democratic and center-left rebuttal to Republicans angry at reports that President Obama may soon grant residency and working papers to as many as 5 million illegal aliens. If Obama acts, he’d rely on precedents set by Republican predecessors. Surely that should disbar today’s Republicans from complaining?

Hollywood’s Long List of Male Scumbags

Hollywood’s Long List of Male Scumbags

It took a lot to make the public and entertainment industry remember the allegations against Dr. Huxtable. Why have we forgotten about everyone from Bill Murray to John Lennon, too?

“I wonder how he sleeps at night.”

That’s what Barbara Bowman said about legendary comedian Bill Cosby during an interview on HuffPost Live last Friday. Bowman had just written an op-ed for TheWashington Post detailing alleged sexual assaults by Cosby in the mid-1980s.

“[There was the time] in Atlantic City, which was the final incident, where he came straight out and attacked me in his suite and tried to rape me and tried to tear off my clothes and he was trying to tear off his belt buckle and his pants,” the 47-year-old actress recounted. “I was screaming and yelling and scratching and wrestling to get away from him, and at one point he just got angry and viciously mad and threw me out.”

Bowman is one of over a dozen women who has accused Cosby of sexual assault over the years. Cosby is frequently listed among the greatest comedians of all time. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. And there is, of course, Cliff Huxtable and that string of delightful Jell-O commercials.

But Bill Cosby is far from the only famous man who has been accused of sexual assault, rape, or violence against women. And it’s astounding how many of them have been gift-wrapped a free pass from an adoring public.

Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, and he now stars as a loveable cartoon TV detective. Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old and has since won an Oscar to a standing ovation. Sean Connery is the celebrated embodiment of rugged cool, who has openly championed beating women in order to keep ’em in line. Bill Murray has been accused by his ex-wife of repeated, brutal physical abuse. Rick James was arrested for torturing and sexually abusing a woman for three days straight, only to have his image rehabilitated by Dave Chappelle years later. John Lennon is one of the most worshipped artists who has ever drawn breath, and he has copped to battering the shit out of women.

Also, who could forget Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, CeeLo Green, Julian Assange, Terry Richardson, Tupac Shakur, Gary Glitter, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nicolas Cage, and Chris Brown.

And then there’s Woody Allen—the other world-famous funnyman who recently came under fire for alleged horrific abuse.

Why Democrats need rich people, too

Why Democrats need rich people, too

Elizabeth Warren was doing Tuesday what Elizabeth Warren usually does: sticking up for the little guy.

The populist Democratic senator from Massachusetts was in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, hosting an event to push Wal-Mart to raise wages and improve working conditions. “No one in this country should work full time and still live in poverty,” she said, wearing a green wristband to show solidarity with Wal-Mart workers. “Today a person can work full time, and a momma and a baby on a full-time minimum job cannot keep themselves out of poverty — and that’s wrong.”

A few hours earlier, Warren, joined by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), fired off letters to 16 financial institutions demanding more information about how they’re protecting consumers from fraud and identity theft. Later in the day, she cast her vote against the oil-and-gas interests backing the Keystone XL pipeline.

This would seem to be Warren’s moment. Exit polls in the midterm elections showed that 63 percent of voters thought the economy favors the wealthy, while only 32 percent said the economy is fair to most Americans. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, has made a leadership position for Warren. Presidential rumors persist, though she shows no signs of running.

Warren’s populism is appealing — not fiery or vengeful but compassionate and grounded in fairness. She also has the virtue of being correct: People don’t feel improvement in the economy because the gains haven’t been shared evenly, income inequality has widened and wages haven’t increased along with stock prices and corporate profits.

Yet there’s a limit to how far Warren, and the Democrats, can go with their little-guy theme, for one simple reason: They can’t afford it.

Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration Is Unlikely to Include Health Benefits

Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration Is Unlikely to Include Health Benefits

Millions of undocumented immigrants who are set to be granted a form of legal status by President Obama as early as this week will not receive one key benefit: government subsidies for health care available under the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Obama is preparing to use his executive authority to provide work permits for up to five million people who are in the United States illegally, and to shield them from deportation. But an official familiar with the administration’s deliberations said on Tuesday that such people would not be eligible for subsidized, low-cost plans from the government’s health insurance marketplace,

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president has not announced details of the plan, said the immigrants would most likely be treated the same way that so-called Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children — were under a similar executive action in 2012. The Dreamers did not receive health care benefits.

The decision would reflect the political sensitivities that arise when there is a collision between two of the most divisive issues in Washington: health care and immigration. It would also underline the White House preference for not risking the fury of conservative lawmakers who have long opposed providing government health care to illegal immigrants, and who fought intensely to deny such immigrants coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“The costs of extending these programs to millions of low-wage illegal immigrants would be enormous,” said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. “This is yet another danger posed to Americans by the president’s unconstitutional action.”

But a White House decision to deny health care benefits to the immigrants would also fall far short of the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants would also be unlikely to receive benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and to some legal residents.

How California Is Making Life Easier for Undocumented Immigrants

How California Is Making Life Easier for Undocumented Immigrants

By Alexia Fernández Campbell

While the federal government dithers on immigration reform, California has taken action to become the most immigrant-friendly state.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—California isn't waiting for Congress to act on immigration reform. The state has passed about a dozen laws in the last two years that allow undocumented immigrants to get subsidized health insurance, student loans, financial aid, and professional licenses to practice law and medicine.

These efforts have earned California the reputation as the most immigrant-friendly state in the nation. And the most welcoming place of all is Santa Clara County in Silicon Valley. Not only does it score the highest in the state for integrating immigrants, but it also boasts the second-largest percentage of foreigners in the nation after Miami.

America's high-tech capital attracts a global mix of workers, from Indian computer programmers to Vietnamese entrepreneurs and Mexican day laborers. Immigrants make up 38 percent of the population in the San Jose metro area, which includes Santa Clara County and most of Silicon Valley, according to 2013 Census Bureau data. That's an even higher share of immigrants than Los Angeles and New York.

Silicon Valley's undocumented workers played a highly visible role in pushing the state to expand opportunities for its poorest immigrants, with many speaking publicly for the first time about their legal status. They realized they didn't have to wait for Washington to pay attention, says Jazmin Segura with Educators for Fair Consideration, a nonprofit group that advocates for expanded access to higher education for undocumented students.

"There is definitely a lot of frustration that things are not moving at the federal level," says Segura, who helped draft the new law that will allow people without Social Security numbers to obtain professional licenses. "I think California has shown so much leadership and is recognizing the contribution of immigrants to the state."

Harry Reid to Obama: 'Go big' on immigration action

Reid: 'I don’t expect' Keystone bill to fail

Reid to Obama: 'Go big' on immigration action

By Rebecca Shabad

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday called for President Obama to “go big” with his executive action on immigration.

“I believe that whatever the president decides to do on his executive order, he should go big — as big as he can — and there’s precedent for him going back to [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower,” Reid said during a press conference.

Presidents since Eisenhower have issued executive orders on immigration 39 different times, Reid noted. He argued that Republicans didn’t cause a fuss when Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush took actions that gave legal status to groups of immigrants. 

Congress will eventually have to step in and pass immigration reform, Reid added, because “executive action is not a substitute for congressional action.”

Republicans angered by Obama's promise of action have threatened to include measures to stop him in a government funding bill that must be approved by Congress in December. Reid and Democrats are already seizing on that debate as evidence that Republicans are looking to shut down the government.

Ted Cruz blasts e-fairness as “massive national sales tax”

Ted Cruz blasts e-fairness as “massive national sales tax”

By Todd J. Gillman

Sen. Ted Cruz joined other opponents of an online sales tax plan on Tuesday, calling it a giveaway to Amazon, Best Buy and other big retailers at the expense of consumers and small start-ups.

“The last thing we should be doing is pass a massive new national sales tax,” he said, joining a number of conservative House members and others who oppose the Marketplace Fairness Act. “Don’t mess with the Internet.”

The bill would let states and cities collect sales taxes from online sellers, even if those businesses have no physical presence in their jurisdiction. The change could generate $340 billion in state and local tax revenue over a decade.

Speaker John Boehner, a longtime opponent of an online sales tax bill, said this month that he won’t let it move forward this year.

Backers – including top senators in both parties – hope to tie it to a moratorium on Internet access tax. The current moratorium expires Dec. 11, though Texas is exempt and already allows such levees.

The National Governors Association is among the groups urging Congress to tie the issues together as a way to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act. The National Retail Federation likewise wants to see it enacted during the lame duck session of Congress.

But with Republicans winning a huge number of Senate seats and poised to fully control Congress in less than two months, Cruz said, “It would be the height of lunacy” to impose the tax now.

The Kardashians aren’t just trashy. They’re dangerous.

The Kardashians aren’t just trashy. They’re dangerous.

As you surely know, last week Kim Kardashian posed — naked — on the pages of Paper Magazine. The stated goal? #BreakTheInternet.

Most cultural critics rolled their eyes and cried stunt. But the Kardashians aren’t just trashy. They’re dangerous—actively exploiting and reinforcing racial and gender biases that bite us in the ass.

Kim Kardashian’s picture is an almost exact replica of a 1976 portrait, also shot by photographer Jean-Paul Goude. The original version features Carolina Beaumont, who is black. The portrait was published in Goude’s book called, ahem, “Jungle Fever.”

Both images harken back to even more offensive representations of black women, particularly of Saartjie Baartman — the “Hottentot Venus” — a black woman with a large rear end who was violently exploited as a sexual object in a traveling “freak show” during the slave trade era.

For centuries since (and likely before) black women and their bodies have been smeared by stereotypes of hyper-sexuality simultaneously displayed and denigrated, their individuality and self-determination suppressed by the whims of the white male gaze. Goude, a white man, embodies this exploitative obsession. “Blacks are the premise of my work,” he said in 1979. “I have jungle fever.”

As Yomi Adegoke wrote in the Guardian in September, non-black women have a history of appropriating black women’s bodies and culture. Black women’s big bottoms were “the butt of fashion industry jokes for years,” Adegoke writes, until Jennifer Lopez, Iggy Azalea and even Miley Cyrus started boasting their own rear attributes,  “Why does a black butt only look good in white skin?” Adegoke wrote. 


But I think Kardashian does have a talent — exploiting the fetishization of women of color to line her own pocket. She’s like a buck-naked Trojan horse for a devious message: that the rest of us shouldn’t get our panties in a bunch about sexism and racism because, hey, Kim Kardashian is a woman of color, and she’s laughing about it.  All the way to the bank.

It’s as impossible to untangle for Kardashian as it is for her entire family. Just a week ago, Kim’s sister Khloe Kardashian posted a picture on Instagram of herself, Kim and sister Kourtney Kardashian with the caption: “The only KKK to ever let black men in.”

It’s like saying, “Hey, people of color, don’t be so freaked out about the Ku Klux Klan threatening ‘lethal force’ against protesters in Ferguson because, ya know, the KKK is a joke.  The Kardashians said so!” Khloe also posted a Halloween picture of herself next to Scott Disick (longtime partner of Kourtney), dressed as an Arab sheik, with the caption, “Sheik P*ssy.”* Why can’t everyone just have a sense of humor about racism and sexism like the Kardashians?

How to Become Your True Self

How to Become Your True Self

By Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.

Social scientists have addressed one of the central questions of our lives: How do we become our best and truest self? The goals we set and the plans we make are critical, but how do we know whether we are pursuing the goals that will result in a meaningful and fulfilling life?

The Dark Science of Pop Music

The Dark Science of Pop Music

 By Derek Thompson

The music industry is tracking listeners as they stream, download, and search for music. It's changing the sound of pop—but for the better or the worse?

The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn 77 percent of all revenue from recorded music.

Pop music is a sentimental business, and predicting the next big thing has often meant being inside that crowded bar, watching a young band connect with the besotted, swaying throng. But now that new artists are more likely to make a name for themselves on Twitter than in a Nashville club, Culbertson is finding that the chair in front of his computer might be the best seat in the house.

New tools may soon further diminish the importance of actually hearing artists perform. Next Big Sound, a five-year-old music-analytics company based in New York, scours the Web for Spotify listens, Instagram mentions, and other traces of digital fandom to forecast breakouts. It funnels half a million new acts through an algorithm to create a list of 100 stars likely to break out within the next year. “If you signed our top 100 artists, 20 of them would make the Billboard 200,” Victor Hu, a data scientist with Next Big Sound, told me. A 20 percent success rate might sound low, until you gaze out at the vast universe of new music and try to pick the next Beyoncé.

Last year, the company unveiled a customizable search tool called Find, which, for a six-figure annual subscription, helps scouts mine social media to spot artists who show signs of nascent stardom. If, for example, you wanted to search for obscure bands with the fastest-growing followings on Twitter, Find could produce a list within seconds.

The company has discovered that some metrics, such as Facebook likes, are unreliable indicators of a band’s trajectory, while others have uncanny forecasting power. “Radio exposure, unsurprisingly, is the most important thing,” Hu says. It remains the best way to introduce listeners to a new song; once they’ve heard it a few times on the radio, they tend to like it more. “But we discovered that hits to a band’s Wikipedia page are the second-best predictor.” Wikipedia searches are revealing for the same reason Shazam searches are. While getting a song on the radio ensures that people have heard it, Culbertson says, “Shazam tells you that people wanted to know more.”

To get a song on the radio in the first place, music labels confront a paradox: How do you prove that it will be a hit before anyone has heard it? DJs consider unfamiliar songs “tune-outs,” because audiences tend to spurn new music. In the past, labels sometimes pressured or outright bribed stations to promote their music. Songs became hits because executives decided they should be hits.

But radio, too, has come to rely more on data, and now when label executives pitch a station, they’re likely to come armed with spreadsheets. The search for evidence of a song’s potential has become exhaustive: you can’t just track radio data, or sales, or YouTube hits, or Facebook interactions, or even proprietary surveys and focus groups. To persuade a major radio station to play a new song, labels have to connect all these dots.

Jerry Brown’s legacy will be decided at the ballot box — again.

Jerry Brown’s legacy will be decided at the ballot box — again.

n an era of constant television advertising, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) stands out. Brown won an unprecedented fourth term in office this month with 59 percent of the vote, without running a single TV spot. Late campaign finance reports showed he maintained almost $21 million in his bank account just two weeks before Election Day.

Despite the big bankroll, Brown wants more. He will appear at a fundraiser Monday in Sacramento with lobbyists and their clients, who will fork over $5,000 checks written to his reelection campaign.

Why does Brown need the money? The 76-year-old governor is barred by law from seeking a fifth term four years from now, and he’s not likely to run for a U.S. Senate seat or some other elected office when his fourth term is over. Despite an endorsement from comedian Bill Maher, Brown isn’t likely to take a fourth shot at the presidency.

Instead, Brown’s campaign war chest is likely to be spent on establishing his legacy through a different type of campaign: advocating for ballot initiatives that advance his legislative and policy goals by bypassing the legislature itself. He can also expend the money on other candidates.

Some of Brown’s biggest achievements in his third term came at the ballot box. In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 30, which raised income taxes on the wealthy and the sales taxes. Brown and first lady Anne Gust controlled virtually the entire campaign.

In 2014, Brown spent at least $3.3 million on television advertisements for two more ballot measures — one a massive $7.1 billion water bond that will build infrastructure aimed at helping the state recover from a years-long drought, the other that bolsters the state’s rainy day fund to help it weather the next economic recession.

Even before Election Day, Brown made clear that his campaign war chest would help him avoid losing influence in Sacramento. “I do think having a credible war chest will overcome whatever infirmities lame-duck governors might ordinarily suffer from,” Brown told the Los Angeles Times.

Aerial Views From MH17 Wreckage Site

Raw Video: Aerial Views From MH17 Wreckage Site

Aerial video has been released showing the progress of efforts to collect debris from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, four months after the plane was brought down.

Mexico’s Holy Warrior Against the Cartels

Mexico’s Holy Warrior Against the Cartels

Padre Goyo, with his clerical collar and his bulletproof vest, is an icon for those fighting drugs and corruption. But some in the church think he goes too far.

MORELIA, Mexico—If you want to know about the Mexican priest Padre Gregorio López, first of all you need to know that his parish is located in the small city of Apatzingán, at the heart of a region in southern Mexico known as a fiefdom of the Knights Templar drug cartel. Then you need to know that he considers it his religious obligation to drive the cartel out of the city and out of the state of Michoacán.

The lengths to which the padre is willing to go to achieve that end have carried his reputation far beyond the rough-and-tumble region known as Tierra Caliente, so named for an average annual temperature that rounds down to 95 degrees.

Land theft, the extortion of farmers, and the rise in kidnappings and murders were grievances left to simmer for years in the countryside. A year ago, in the fall of 2013, the frustration boiled over. Farming communities across the region rose up in arms, in some cases with guns and four-wheel-drive vehicles more in keeping with the army or a drug cartel than poor farmers.

In January, the president of Mexico put the law enforcement of Michoacán in trusteeship and a federal commission, once in place, began exerting pressure on the leaders of the self-defense movement to disarm and incorporate their ranks into a new rural police force. Most of the groups obliged. But the most authoritative spokesman for the movement, a surgeon named José Manuel Mireles, refused and continued to rally forces until the commission had him and 80 of his followers arrested in June for carrying unlicensed firearms.

Padre Goyo, as he is known to parishioners (Goyo is short for Gregorio), soon grew famous in the midst of this turmoil because of his straight talk and the occasional disclosures he made about public officials and the criminal underworld.

At a moment when Mexico is pretty desperate for heroes, when the disappearance of more than 40 students, allegedly at the hands of corrupt politicians, cops, and the cartels has inflamed the country, Goyo is just the kind of figure to capture the public imagination.

He is an animated, energetic man in his late forties, of average height and sturdy build with a high forehead, tan face, and dark hair winged with gray at the temples. He speaks in emphatic bursts, with the parish priest’s fondness for parables and jokes that bring a quick smile and a twinkle to his dark eyes when he sees he is understood. He was born to a humble family of farmers in a village of 500 not far from Apatzingán, majored in philosophy in Morelia and studied theology for four years at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He speaks with the authority of a native of this land as well as the authority of priest.

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