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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 424)

Ken Starr: Trump’s impeachment ‘a very ugly chapter in our constitutional history’

Westlake Legal Group STARR1 Ken Starr: Trump's impeachment 'a very ugly chapter in our constitutional history' fox-news/shows/life-liberty-levin fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/judiciary/federal-courts fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives/democrats fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/person/nancy-pelosi fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Charles Creitz article 859c9f86-f4c0-5ca6-9543-d818b0572cee

The way House Democrats have gone about impeaching President Trump suggests that longtime apprehensions about an “imperial presidency” should now give way to fears of an “imperial House,” according to former independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

The impeachment of President Trump is proving to be an “ugly chapter” in American legal history, Starr told Mark Levin in an interview airing Sunday at 8 PM ET on “Life, Liberty & Levin.”

The phrase “imperial presidency” refers to an increase in executive power beginning in the mid-20th century, as presidents from Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to both Bushes and Barack Obama have been perceived to exceed the checks on executive power provided by the Constitution.

As a result, successive administrations have seen an increase in the ranks of White House staff and added bureaucracies such as the National Security Council, established under President Harry Truman in 1947. The term “imperial presidency” was coined by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a Kennedy adviser who published a book by that name in 1973.

SEAN HANNITY: WHAT DID OBAMA KNOW ABOUT RUSSIA INVESTIGATION, AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT

Starr noted that the House of Representatives has accused Trump of obstructing Congress, but added that the administration makes a worthwhile argument that they are exercising their Article II powers as well as challenging congressional subpoenas, which has long been the practice in Washington.

“It certainly is not obstruction of justice, because the president was essentially saying: Let’s go to the Article III branch [the courts]. That is our system,” Starr said, adding that the House Democratic majority has deemed that process to be too lengthy.

GREGG JARRETT: BARR’S FOX NEWS INTERVIEW SHOULD HAVE BRENNAN, STEELE CALLING THEIR ATTORNEYS

“It shouldn’t be viewed as an obstruction of Congress either unless Congress just has unchecked power and a system that’s so rich with checks and balances as we learn in school.”

Levin noted that the “obstruction of Congress” charge may be suspect because the Republican-controlled Senate is also part of the ‘Congress’ — and has not alleged obstruction the way the Democratic House has.

He asked Starr if the new dynamic reveals the rise of an “all-powerful House of Representatives” rather than one that respects its constitutional purview, as well as whether the precedent set by Trump’s impeachment is as “gravely concerning” as it sounds.

“We used to talk about the imperial presidency, but now we can talk about the imperial and imperious House of Representatives,” Starr replied. “So this is a chapter in our history. It’s already proving to be a very ugly chapter in our constitutional history.”

Starr said the House is essentially demanding the president disclose his most sensitive correspondence with his advisers — adding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in her legislative branch capacity, is privy to her own close counsel.

“As a matter of constitutional law, the president has the right to protect those conversations confidentially,” he said, adding that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the nearly-impeached President Richard Nixon, ruling that he needed to preserve confidentiality with his White House advisers in order to carry out the “chief magistrate” functions of the presidency.

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Starr reiterated that such confidentiality can still be adjudicated by a court on a case-by-case basis.

“The president gets to protect those, presumptively. It can be overcome. But that’s why judges and the Article III branch sets [it].”

“So, I think since Sept. 24, we’ve had a very ugly, anti-constitutional — some would say unconstitutional — certainly, as Robert Bork would say, an anti-constitutional exercise in power by the House of Representatives and specifically by Speaker Pelosi.”

Westlake Legal Group STARR1 Ken Starr: Trump's impeachment 'a very ugly chapter in our constitutional history' fox-news/shows/life-liberty-levin fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/judiciary/federal-courts fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives/democrats fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/person/nancy-pelosi fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Charles Creitz article 859c9f86-f4c0-5ca6-9543-d818b0572cee   Westlake Legal Group STARR1 Ken Starr: Trump's impeachment 'a very ugly chapter in our constitutional history' fox-news/shows/life-liberty-levin fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/politics/judiciary/federal-courts fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives/democrats fox-news/politics/house-of-representatives fox-news/person/nancy-pelosi fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/media/fox-news-flash fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc Charles Creitz article 859c9f86-f4c0-5ca6-9543-d818b0572cee

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GOP Congressman Says Trump’s Indifference to Russia’s Meddling Into U.S. Elections a ‘Huge Problem’

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Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

Westlake Legal Group santaschool1_slide-fb83017698a64070703841f3d1c59f2bb9227bb0-s1100-c15 Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

Dressed as Santa, Tim Zander gives pointers on how to be the perfect Santa to applicants at a workshop run by Weihnachtsmann2Go (Santa2Go). Rob Schmitz/NPR hide caption

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Rob Schmitz/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

Dressed as Santa, Tim Zander gives pointers on how to be the perfect Santa to applicants at a workshop run by Weihnachtsmann2Go (Santa2Go).

Rob Schmitz/NPR

At a workshop in Berlin, Santa arrives to train a handful of apprentices how to act like him. “From out of the forest I appear, to proclaim that Christmastime is here!” he exclaims.

Santa — real name Tim Zander — wears a long, red robe and matching hat, and he pulls on his beard slowly as he recites a traditional poem. He then segues into pointers on how to channel one’s inner Santa.

“A really epic arrival is good, just like I just performed,” he tells a roomful of recruits, “complete with the bells, the ho-ho-ho, and a heavy knock on the door. But not so hard that you break it.” The applicants, one wearing a full Santa suit, sit around a conference table, taking notes.

Throughout Europe and North America, throngs of Santa impersonators like Zander have been busy preparing children for Christmas. But in Germany, the number of people willing to play Santa Claus has dropped precipitously, after a student union that traditionally supplied candidates stopped doing so last year out of a lack of interest among students. It was a code-red Santa emergency.

Westlake Legal Group santaschool2_slide-30fe47d54ce62cf58eae4b7061b8f4b6b6f288e1-s1100-c15 Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

Petra Henkert, manager of a Berlin Santa Claus agency, says the number of Santas she employs in Berlin has dropped precipitously in the past two years. Rob Schmitz/NPR hide caption

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Rob Schmitz/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

Petra Henkert, manager of a Berlin Santa Claus agency, says the number of Santas she employs in Berlin has dropped precipitously in the past two years.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Many Santa impersonators don’t do it for money — they do it in the spirit of Christmas. In Germany, Santas are employed through agencies. During last year’s crisis, Berlin’s Santa agencies convened, and like members of OPEC, they set a pricing scheme so they could all benefit equally. They called it “Santa’s Honor Code.” But this hasn’t helped the Santa shortage.

Local tradition dictates that Dec. 24 is a day when families arrange for Santa to make home visits. Until a few years ago, Petra Henkert, an e-learning business employee who has run a Berlin Santa agency on the side for the past 20 years, oversaw more than 500 Santas visiting 6,000 families. Now, 200 are trying to meet the needs of an estimated 8,000 families.

In the past, she says, the Santas under her watch didn’t ask for much. “But now, supply and demand regulate the market, and that’s a very dangerous development,” she says. “One agency has chosen to keep prices at 45 euros per Santa visit, but I’ve had to go up to 66. Others are asking for up to 120 euros.”

That’s more than $130. But amid a booming Berlin economy, “Getting paid for working on Christmas Eve is no longer attractive,” says Henkert of her typically young Santa force. “They’d rather go to their families, because they can make money elsewhere.”

Frederik Tholey, 32, is the founder of Weihnachtsmann2Go (Santa2Go), the agency that employs Tim Zander. Tholey says his Santa numbers are down this year, too, even though the job requirements aren’t complicated.

Westlake Legal Group santaschool4_slide-b3fb8e4e1a5671d156696dd0af2f07b0b7e5bf49-s1100-c15 Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

An applicant performs in a test-run as Santa at a workspace rented by Tholey’s agency in Berlin, Germany. Rob Schmitz/NPR hide caption

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Rob Schmitz/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

An applicant performs in a test-run as Santa at a workspace rented by Tholey’s agency in Berlin, Germany.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

“Basically, the entrance barriers are not so high,” he says of his applicants. “I mean, you need a proper costume. You need to be good with children.”

In return for a modest service fee, his agency connects families with Santas who live in the same vicinity by using an algorithm that plans Santas’ stops so they’re never more than 20 minutes away from their next appointment. The website appears to be a cross between Uber and a Santa dating site.

Westlake Legal Group santaschool3_slide-a481f849d5a5deac7e7761b07876de8793c54751-s1100-c15 Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

At a training workshop run by Weihnachtsmann2Go (Santa2Go), the agency provides costumes, bells and beards to aspiring Santas. Rob Schmitz/NPR hide caption

toggle caption

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Westlake Legal Group  Ho Ho, Oh No! Germany Has A Santa Shortage

At a training workshop run by Weihnachtsmann2Go (Santa2Go), the agency provides costumes, bells and beards to aspiring Santas.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Tholey shows his Santa trainees a PowerPoint presentation filled with advice. “Always be prepared for the tough questions from your clientele,” he tells them. “‘Where are the reindeer? Is your beard real?’ And in the worst-case scenario, just avoid the question altogether and sing a song instead.”

As other applicants observe, Tholey helps dress a 62-year-old would-be Santa named Berndt in a Santa outfit and asks him to do a test-run.

“Ho ho ho,” Berndt mumbles as he enters the room from outside.

He then launches into “Knecht Ruprecht” by Theodor Storm, the traditional poem Santa recites in Germany, but stumbles over one of the lines. He pauses for a second and then suggests they forget the poem and move on to “O, Christmas Tree.”

It’s a smooth, confident transition — one the jolly one himself might make. By the end of training, Berndt’s hired — one of a vanishing elite spreading Christmas cheer through Berlin.

Austin Davis contributed to this story.

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The End Of The Great White Male Writer?

Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Amazon/Getty

“Farewell To…” is an end-of-decade series that explores some of the biggest cultural trends of the last 10 years. HuffPost’s culture team says bye to the celebrity feminist litmus test, so long to some of our favorite internet-famous animals, RIP to the movie star and looks ahead for what’s to come.

At the dawn of this decade — Aug. 31, 2010, to be precise — Jonathan Franzen’s sprawling novel “Freedom” was published to the orgasmic applause of the literary establishment. His face, veiled in chiaroscuro, appeared on the cover of Time Magazine next to the words “Great American Novelist.” The New York Times published multiple rave reviews. 

Then the wave of adulation crashed on a rocky shore. Before the book itself had even gone on sale, technically speaking, best-selling but critically little-regarded authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner tweeted their exhaustion with white men like Franzen being celebrated as “literary darlings” by institutions like the Times. Weiner even coined a hashtag more catchy than it was translatable: “Franzenfreude,” she tweeted, “is taking pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen.”

Though Franzen’s book was a bestseller and one of the most acclaimed novels of the year, his coronation as the American bard was squelched by the backlash.

2010, it seemed, was the year the whole book world strapped in for a serious debate about whether the most illustrious literary publications had a misogyny problem. Endless blogs and essays were published on “Franzenfreude,” many grappling sincerely with the evidence that female authors were harmed by sexism in review coverage.

Westlake Legal Group 5dfd3645250000d00798ed9a The End Of The Great White Male Writer?

picture alliance via Getty Images (Photo by Horst Galuschka/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“It hardly seems like a coincidence that when a generation of celebrated novelists dies out (Bellow, Mailer, Updike), the new ones anointed are typically white men,” wrote Meghan O’Rourke in Slate. “When Zadie Smith — whose work occupies a similar literary space to Franzen’s, at once engaged by the domestic and the social — is on the cover of the Times and Time, perhaps women writers can start to feel differently.” 

At around the same time, VIDA, an organization founded by Cate Marvin, Erin Belieu and Ann Townsend in 2009, released its first report on gender representation in literary publications. It found that the numbers — in terms of bylines and authorship of books reviewed — skewed severely male. The data and the outrage were aligned, and yet what followed is nonetheless surprising: People and publications changed.

Since 2010, VIDA has published an annual report, which, as the years pass, shows that the number of female authors in literary publications is inching upward. 

“There definitely seems to have been some progress, overall,” Sara Iacovelli, the VIDA Count director and president of the board of directors, told HuffPost in an email. A decade ago, for example, The New York Times Book Review had an overall gender split of 37.5% women and 62.5% men; in 2018, the most recent count, the percentage of women was up to 48%.

Iacovelli cautioned against too much optimism over the past decade’s results. Of the Times, for example, she noted that for all its topline improvement since 2010, “those nine years it fluctuated up and down a bit, and still never crossed the 50% threshold. For all that’s happened since 2010, it’s hard to applaud such a small uptick as a step towards inclusivity.” 

Instead of one or two exceptional writers who depart from the white male norm, the 2010s have seen a more diverse mixture of star authors.

Still, there’s evidence that the needle has moved. Though few publications have reached parity, the overall trend has been a shift in that direction. Even the dismal New York Review of Books stats (27.1% women in 2018) have shown an almost twofold improvement over 2010 (16.2%). 

Instead of one or two exceptional writers who depart from the white male norm, the 2010s have seen a more diverse mixture of star authors. Women including Donna Tartt (“The Goldfinch”) and Hanya Yanagihara (“A Little Life”) were hailed for their sprawling, ambitious novels; critics buzzed about Lauren Groff’s “Fates and Furies,” Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!” and Meg Wolitzer’s “The Interestings” and “The Female Persuasion.”

Perhaps the most high-profile author of the decade, Elena Ferrante, is neither a man nor, in fact, American. Not all of these authors have been universally embraced as great, but the pool of writers deemed worthy of consideration as such, by critics and readers alike, has expanded and diversified. 

“What was once insular is now unifying,” National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas told the crowd at the 2019 National Book Awards Gala, where the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry honors all went to writers of color. “What was once exclusive is now inclusive.”

Lucas took over the foundation in 2016, at a time when the high-profile awards had a somewhat checkered record with representation. Though historically the honorees had skewed heavily white and male, that began to change around 2010. (However, there had been some other recent embarrassments, like 2014 host Daniel Handler’s racist jokes following author Jacqueline Woodson’s win for “Brown Girl Dreaming.”) Lucas, the first woman and person of color to helm the foundation, made representation and inclusivity a focus of her messaging. When looking back at the past decade, she told HuffPost in an interview, a multipronged effort to build a more inclusive literary scene has indeed paid dividends.

Westlake Legal Group 5df3de31240000f10c5a3407 The End Of The Great White Male Writer?

Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Amazon/Getty

“A lot of it is scale,” Lucas said, pointing out that Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison had won National Book Awards for fiction in prior decades. Now these wins aren’t exceptions in a sea of white male honorees. The main difference over the past decade, she argued, is that “we’ve gotten to a place where I feel like it’s not shocking to see.”

Of the past 10 National Book Awards for fiction, six have gone to women and seven to writers of color, including two wins for novelist Jesmyn Ward. Prior to Jaimy Gordon’s 2010 win for “Lord of Misrule,” the past five fiction awards had gone to white men. Until Ward’s first win in 2011, the last to go to an author of color was the 1999 award, presented to Ha Jin for “Waiting.”

Lucas insists that this dramatic shift is not the result of a top-down directive, but has grown organically from assembling thoughtful, diverse panels of judges and from broader trends in the literary industry. She suggested that innumerable factors are at work in driving those trends, starting with the hard work of past generations. 

“I grew up reading Toni Morrison and having it valued in my home. And I wanted to work in books eventually, because I fell in love with literature,” she said. “A generation that grows up with people who are writing in the ’70s and ’80s, having access to more work than we might have in the ’50s or ’60s, or ’40s or ’30s, is going to change who is interested in doing the work, just because it feels relevant.” 

Morrison herself, in addition to being one of the most widely acknowledged great American novelists, was an advocate for Black authors, ushering many into print in the course of her career as an editor at Random House in the late 1960s and 1970s. “I wanted to give back something,” she told Hilton Als in 2003. “I wasn’t marching. I didn’t go to anything. I didn’t join anything. But I could make sure there was a published record of those who did march and did put themselves on the line.”

Westlake Legal Group 5dfd31e9250000730698ed92 The End Of The Great White Male Writer?

Astrid Stawiarz via Getty Images NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 04: Lisa Lucas speaks onstage as Tan France hosts the 2019 Audie Awards at Gustavino’s on March 4, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for the Audio Publisher Association)

Lucas pointed to the presence of more people of color and women in influential positions — on university faculties, in powerful roles in publishing, on awards committees, writing for media outlets — as a force in expanding who is encouraged and recognized.

Some of the very institutions targeted for critique by VIDA and other advocates have changed leadership, perhaps partially in response. Lucas, then the publisher of arts journal Guernica, was tapped to head the National Book Foundation in 2016 after advising a recruiter to consider a woman or person of color to replace the departing director. Pamela Paul, who took over at The New York Times Book Review in 2013, has expressed that it’s a priority for her publication’s pages to be gender-balanced and racially diverse. 

Lucas also argued that readers have been hungry for books reflecting the multiplicity of human experience and have rewarded publishers for devoting more resources to them. “The arts have to stay in business, whether it’s a nonprofit arts institution or a for-profit arts organization,” she said, adding that over the past decade, arts nonprofits and the publishing industry both came to realize “that there’s a big hole artistically, that people are not being served well.”

After all, it’s long been accepted that women read more than men, and a 2014 Pew survey also found (if only by a statistically insignificant margin) that Black Americans read more than white ones. It stands to reason that readers would be responsive when publishers started seeking out and promoting more great fiction by and about people whose lives resemble the lives of their readers, rather than sticking with white men. 

“Obviously there’s always been work produced by people of color,” she pointed out. “It’s not like they weren’t there. I think what happens is you also realize their value over the course of the past 10 years, and when you realize something’s value, you get more of it and you get more of a machine under it that can support and include it.”

And yet it took many decades to get there. “When I think about the year 2009 and the person that I individually was and the way that I understood the world that I lived in, versus 2019, we have had a real reckoning,” Lucas said. “I think that reckoning seems fast and sharp, because it’s like all of a sudden we’re considering all these things we haven’t considered for quite some time. But it was a slog. It was a lot of people doing very hard, uphill work for a very long time.” 

I think that reckoning seems fast and sharp, because it’s like all of a sudden we’re considering all these things we haven’t considered for quite some time. But it was a slog. National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas

If decades of work really began to pay off in the past decade, it’s worth asking: Why now? To some degree, it was perhaps simply a tipping point, a culmination of many years of underrecognized work. The media ecosystem of the 2010s — a confluence of concerted activism and empowerment-porn digital media trends — likely played a role as well. Blogs and startup outlets, many staffed by young women and people of color, found an audience hungry for ongoing coverage of cultural imbalances.

The initial wave of Franzenfreude passed, of course, but Franzen remained a target of bitter bloggers and readers. His 2015 novel “Purity” was largely well-reviewed (though not, full disclosure, by me), but the lingering distaste for what he represented had been kept so fresh in the public mind that it would have seemed ludicrous to once again present him as the greatest working American novelist. By then, he was simply one among many. 

In the initial response to Weiner and Picoult’s critiques, Chris Jackson, executive editor of publishing imprint Spiegel and Grau at the time, wrote a blog expressing his embarrassment that he didn’t read as much fiction by women as by men — that, in fact, in a conversation with a fellow editor, he’d been unable to immediately recall a novel he’d read by a woman recently. Already an ardent advocate for diversity in publishing, he admitted that “apparently I’ve been ignoring the literary output of half the human population.” He announced that he’d committed to reading one book by a woman for every book he read by a man. He’s now the publisher and editor-in-chief of Random House’s One World imprint, which publishes a race- and gender-diverse list of authors and makes “represent[ing] voices from across the spectrum of humanity” part of its mission statement. 

Jackson’s “reading women” challenge became a genre in itself. Bloggers published essays about their years of reading only women or writers of color or international writers and wrote listicles of books by women or writers of color or international writers or queer writers that everyone should read before turning 30. News outlets published endless takes about the state of things, questioning whether staid institutions were doing enough to bring nonwhite, nonmale writers to the table.

The content cycle was fueled by reports from organizations like VIDA and the continued efforts of activists. The scrappy, clickbaity, deeply flawed digital journalism model of the decade lent itself better to democratizing acclaim and to shredding hidebound norms than it did to enshrining new Great American Novelists with reverential profiles. 

Among the flaws of this model, and indeed of some of the activism that it sprang from, was that it contained its own glaring structural inequities. Literary media and, in particular, the publishing industry have long employed plenty of white women, though often in lower-level roles. With the advent of the VIDA Count and the Franzenfreude complaints, many were eager to finally focus attention on the obstacles faced by women writers, while mostly ignoring still higher obstacles placed in the way of writers of color, LGBTQ writers and writers at the intersection of these identities.

But activism around the whiteness of book publishing began to break through to the mainstream discourse as well. In a 2014 New Yorker essay, “MFA vs. POC,” acclaimed Dominican-American author Junot Díaz blasted American MFA programs for their homogeneity and the damage it inflicted on students of color. “In my workshop,” wrote Díaz, who attended Cornell University’s MFA program, “the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. […] In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color.” 

Westlake Legal Group 5df3de31240000f10c5a3407 The End Of The Great White Male Writer?

Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Amazon/Getty

At around the same time, the eminent and prolific children’s book author Walter Dean Myers took to the pages of The New York Times to ask, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” Myers wrote movingly about his own childhood as a voracious reader, the revelation that was discovering James Baldwin as a teenager, and his own efforts to write books that Black children could see themselves in.

“In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature, the field was nearly empty,” Myers wrote. “Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.”

It seemed as if many decision-makers, at least, did not care. Myers’ essay was pegged to a study from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, which found that of the 3,200 books the center received in 2013, only 94 were about Black characters. 

Not long after, BookExpo America announced the panel lineups for its first BookCon. The Blockbuster Reads panel, which featured what Publishers Weekly called “an all-star panel of children’s authors,” was composed of only white men. The rest of the announced panels were also entirely white. In response, authors and activists launched a viral hashtag, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, to draw attention to the whiteness of children’s book publishing.

Finally, the event company behind BookCon, ReedPop, responded that it would add more diversity to that year’s lineup; as part of this compensatory effort, it added a panel called “The World Agrees: #WeNeedDiverseBooks.” Ellen Oh, one of the authors behind the hashtag, later co-founded an organization named We Need Diverse Books, which spread its advocacy into a number of avenues, including awarding grants, publishing anthologies and coordinating mentorships.

But it wasn’t just the hoary old-white-men institutions of publishing that harbored these blind spots. In a 2012 Rumpus piece, Roxane Gay published a survey of the race and gender of authors reviewed in The New York Times the previous year. She opened by musing that, observing the efforts of VIDA and Jennifer Weiner to track gender inequity, she’d wondered when race would be given such close attention. “Race,” she observed, “often gets lost in the gender conversation as if it’s an issue we’ll get to later.” Her conclusions were grim: Roughly 88% of the authors reviewed in 2011 were white. 

In its 2014 report, the VIDA Count finally added a Women of Color report, though with many caveats about its incomplete dataset, which was gathered through surveys sent to writers. Two years later, it added information about age, disability and education level. “As we’ve grown,” Iacovelli told HuffPost, “we’ve worked to make the VIDA Count more intersectional, and to decenter white cis women from the narrative about who’s ‘missing’ from prestigious pubs.”

“If you want to build a better book world,” she wrote, “you have to think intersectionally.”

While we have seen a recent increase in awards given to women and people of color, and an increase in bylines and books reviewed by women … that doesn’t negate a long history of gatekeeping, and it doesn’t necessarily signify a permanent change. VIDA Count director Sara Iacovelli

All this work, as spotty and inconsistent as it was, does seem to have gotten us somewhere. It’s almost strange now to remember that at the beginning of this decade, there seemed to be more celebrated novelists in America named Jonathan than there were celebrated novelists who were women: Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Lethem. Our literary wunderkinder were young white men hungry for laurels; our literary sages were aging white men who waited by the phone each year for a call from the Nobel Committee.

Sure, The New York Times may have recently called poet and novelist Ben Lerner “the most talented writer of his generation.” It’s hardly enraging when, if anything, the fanfare surrounding his latest novel, “The Topeka School,” has been more muted than the laudatory coverage of Irish novelist Sally Rooney. The Times labeled her “the first great millennial author” in an August 2018 headline. 

But a decade is hardly enough to solve such entrenched problems, even if the progress seems striking. We have not arrived at a literary utopia. “While we have seen a recent increase in awards given to women and people of color, and an increase in bylines and books reviewed by women in many of the publications we count, that doesn’t negate a long history of gatekeeping, and it doesn’t necessarily signify a permanent change,” Iacovelli told HuffPost.

What comes next, unfortunately, may be still more difficult than eking out the changes we’ve seen thus far. Much of the publishing industry remains the same; media and activist criticism may lead editors to consider acquiring or assigning review coverage more diversely, but it seems to have done little to change industry working conditions that are unfriendly to nonwhite, nonwealthy people. The vast majority of publishing employees are still white, and wages are still prohibitively low for entry-level positions. 

In the children’s book world, awareness about the lack of diversity in the industry seems to have spurred more change in writing about people of color than in writing by people of color. In 2018, CCBC reported that the number of children’s books about Black people had quadrupled from that abysmal 2013 report to 405 (11%). The number of books by Black authors was half the number of books about Black characters: just 202, 5.5% of the books surveyed, were by Black writers. The superficial changes, themselves only partially successful, mask an underbelly that crawls with injustice. 

Even the activists and progressive organizations that got us here often disappoint. In 2018, Díaz was accused of misogynistic and sexually inappropriate behavior by multiple women. In March of this year, VIDA announced a change in leadership and plans to “focus inward and re-examine our foundations” after “[i]t had become clear that despite VIDA’s past efforts and intentions, a climate of white feminism with racist, cis-centrist, and ableist overtones was allowed to persist with no accountability measures in place.”

Though a gender count for 2018 was released as usual, the intersectional report was delayed, the new board announced, so that the organization could develop a better survey methodology. “We are an all-volunteer org and there’s a lot that goes into getting this right, so we want to be sure to give it enough time and care,” Iacovelli said.

The book world remains riddled with less visible forms of exclusion and inequity — notably, overwhelmingly white workplaces where microaggressions against people of color are endemic, pay gaps persist and few can even afford to forge a career without a financial safety net. Perhaps the 2020s will see the end of the Standard-Issue White Editor With Family Money. For now, the 2010s may have laid the Great White Male American Novelist to rest, or at least knocked him down a few pegs. 

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13 People Shot At House Party In Chicago, Police Say

Westlake Legal Group 5dff69b0250000ae0898eea8 13 People Shot At House Party In Chicago, Police Say

CHICAGO (AP) — A shooting early Sunday at a house party held in honor of someone who was killed in April left 13 people wounded, four of them critically, Chicago police said.

The shooting stemmed from a dispute at the memorial party, Chief of Patrol Fred Waller said at an early morning news conference. He said shots were first fired just after 12:30 a.m.

The victims range in age from 16 to 48 and suffered “different and various gunshot wounds to their bodies.”

Two people were being questioned, Waller said. One of them was arrested with a weapon, he said, while the other was wounded. Waller said police recovered a revolver.

“It looked like they were just shooting randomly at people as they exited the party,” Waller said.

Waller did not provide details on the person who was being memorialized, including who the person was. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who visited victims Sunday, said the party was celebrating the birthday of a person who had been killed.

Waller described three different shooting scenes at the residential location in the city’s Englewood neighborhood, a predominantly low-income stretch of the city roughly 10 miles (16 kilometers) southwest of downtown that has high crime. The shooting started inside, then more shots were fired as people began spilling out of the house. Shots were also fired at a third place nearby, Waller said.

He described the shooting as an “isolated incident.”

The shooting comes as the city has been on the verge of closing out 2019 with sizable drops in shootings and homicides for the third straight year. Through roughly mid-December, about 475 people were killed, compared with 549 in 2018, which is a 14% drop. In 2016, the number of homicides was roughly 750, according to Chicago police data.

The declines happened citywide, including in historically high-crime areas. Still, Chicago still has more violent crime than New York and Los Angeles. Both cities had about 1,800 shooting victims combined, while Chicago has had about 2,500 this year, according to the Chicago Tribune, which tracks shootings.

Police have credited Chicago’s drop in crime to the use of technology used to predict where shootings might occur, while experts also credit anti-violence programs that offer jobs and gang conflict mediation.

Lightfoot, who met with victims at the University of Chicago Hospital, urged those with information about the shooting to come forward, even if they want to do so anonymously.

“It’s a terrible tragedy and frankly an incredible act of cowardice,” she told reporters. “People in that house know what happened and we’ve urged them to overcome their fears and come forward with information.”

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Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal

Computer plate umpires could be called up to the major leagues at some point during the next five seasons.

Umpires agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball in the development and testing of an automated ball-strike system as part of a five-year labor contract announced Saturday, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association also agreed to cooperate and assist if Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to utilize the system at the major league level. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because those details of the deal, which is subject to ratification by both sides, had not been announced.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game on July 10. Plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

Westlake Legal Group AP-umps-2 Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal New York fox-news/sports/mlb fnc/sports fnc da1bbe57-2131-52ac-87ad-4fef678b9f3e Associated Press article

FILE – In this July 10, 2019, file photo, home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere, left, huddles with officials while wearing an earpiece connected to a ball and strikes calling system before the Atlantic League All-Star minor league baseball game in York, Pa. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

MLB’S TOP PROSPECTS DEAL WITH GOOD, BAD OF ‘ROBOT’ UMPIRES

The Atlantic League experimented with the computer system during the second half of its season, and the Arizona Fall League of top prospects used it for a few dozen games this year at Salt River Fields.

MLB has discussed installing the system at the Class A Florida State League for 2020. If that test goes well, the computer umps could be used at Triple-A in 2021 as bugs are dealt with prior to a big league callup.

“It would change the game for the good. It would continue the effort to eliminate human deficiency,” Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt wrote in a story for The Associated Press in October. “We have replay everywhere else in the game. Like it or not, replay gets the call right.”

It is not clear whether the Major League Baseball Players Association would need to approve computerized ball and strikes.

“We are aware the umpires and MLB are in negotiations over a new CBA,” said players’ union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman. “MLB will have their negotiation with them, and they will need to discuss with us.”

Several AFL prospects praised the TrackMan system for calls on the inside and outside corners, but said it struggled with breaking balls low or high around the strike zone.

Westlake Legal Group AP-umps-1 Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal New York fox-news/sports/mlb fnc/sports fnc da1bbe57-2131-52ac-87ad-4fef678b9f3e Associated Press article

FILE – In this July 10, 2019, file photo, Ron Besaw, right, operates a laptop computer as home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere, gets signals from radar with the ball and strikes calls during the fourth inning of the Atlantic League All-Star minor league baseball game in York, Pa. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

“This idea has been around for a long time and it’s the first time it’s been brought to life in a comprehensive way,” Morgan Sword, MLB’s senior vice president of economics and operations, said on the night the Atlantic League experiment started.

‘ROBOT UMPIRES’ DEBUT IN INDEPENDENT ATLANTIC LEAGUE

Humans still will be needed to determine checked swings and to make sure TrackMan doesn’t call a strike on a pitch that bounces and goes through the strike zone.

“I think it’s a little naive to think that simply letting computers generate strike or ball,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said during the World Series. “It’s incredibly naive to think that there’s not going to be pitfalls in that scenario, as well.”

Westlake Legal Group AP-umps-3 Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal New York fox-news/sports/mlb fnc/sports fnc da1bbe57-2131-52ac-87ad-4fef678b9f3e Associated Press article

FILE – In this July 10, 2019, file photo, a radar device hangs from the roof behind home plate at PeoplesBank Park during the third inning of the Atlantic League All-Star minor league baseball game in York, Pa.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Humans will make safe/out calls — subject to video review back in the New York control room, a system that started on home run calls in 2008 and extended in 2014 to many umpire decisions.

There were 1,356 video reviews during the 2019 regular season, taking an average of 1 minute, 16 seconds. MLB said 597 calls or 44 percent were overturned, 277 or 20 percent confirmed and 463 or 34 percent allowed to stand because there was not enough evidence to confirm or overturned. The remaining 19 calls were for rules checks or record keeping.

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As part of the labor contract, the sides agreed to raises in compensation and retirement benefits along with provisions to allow earlier retirement.

Westlake Legal Group AP-umps-2 Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal New York fox-news/sports/mlb fnc/sports fnc da1bbe57-2131-52ac-87ad-4fef678b9f3e Associated Press article   Westlake Legal Group AP-umps-2 Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal New York fox-news/sports/mlb fnc/sports fnc da1bbe57-2131-52ac-87ad-4fef678b9f3e Associated Press article

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Kentucky will accept refugees, governor tells Trump administration

Westlake Legal Group U3EPxWnrMBDm0Dbw3xtF2kWTr-gyDkAkSy1biHlWIrU Kentucky will accept refugees, governor tells Trump administration r/politics

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Why We Love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Seventy winters ago, a 39-year-old World War II veteran living in Manhattan took the gamble of his life. Armed with a notebook inked with leftover melodies, Johnny Marks settled into a cramped office with an upright Crawford piano on the sixth floor of the Brill Building at Broadway and 49th Street. 

The Brill Building was perhaps the most important address in American music, the site of New York’s sonic resurgence as the big band era eclipsed the once-dominant novelty songwriters from Tin Pan Alley, 20 blocks south. Brill publishers were behind hits for stars including Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, and some of its songwriters ― Cole Porter, Irving Berlin ― were even more famous than the heartthrobs who sang their tunes.

Marks lived at the fringes of this glitz and glamor. He had been struggling to make a name for himself as a songwriter since the Depression, and was finally starting his own publishing operation, St. Nicholas Music, because none of the respectable, established publishing houses would get behind his latest song. 

It wasn’t hard to see why. His most successful song to date, “Happy New Year Darling,” was a throwback to the holiday schmaltz and comedy bits that Tin Pan Alley writers were now struggling to get on the air. Nobody remembers it today, and it was already all-but-forgotten in 1949. His newest tune was even goofier ― a children’s song for Christmas, totally out of step with the jazzy romanticism that dominated the postwar charts. Undeterred, Marks was betting everything that he could rival the biggest names in show business.

It was off to a slow start. Marks had pitched a demo for his new song but the biggest stars weren’t interested. Both Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby turned him down before Marks got a foot in the door with Gene Autry. The “Singing Cowboy” himself didn’t actually like the song, but his wife loved it, and she talked her husband into recording it as the B-side to another Christmas single he was recording for Columbia Records. By the end of the year, Marks’ little ditty about a flying red-nosed reindeer named Rudolph was the biggest song in the country. 

Crosby released a new version the following year. Then Sinatra, and then the Supremes and the Temptations. By 1980, more than 500 different renditions had been commercially released. By the end of the century, it was the biggest Christmas song ever written, and so closely identified with the holiday that it is hard for subsequent generations to imagine the holiday without it. No one since Charles Dickens had so profoundly altered the mythology of Christmas itself. 

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was a new fable that embodied the transformation of Christmas from a second-tier Christian holiday into a secular celebration of postwar America. Marks himself wasn’t even Christian ― like many of the great songwriters from the 1950s and ’60s, he was Jewish ― but he understood the way the holiday spirit captured both the optimism and escapism that were overtaking the national mood. America wanted to be a place where anybody could make it, and a story about a skinny reindeer with a funny nose turned toy-delivery hero was perfect for a nation where a booming, consumer-driven economy promised families that tomorrow would always be better than today. 

Rudolph celebrated a national ideal that never quite existed. And most Americans still long for it today, even when it has perhaps never been farther from our grasp. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dfcdc1d250000c480d30db5 Why We Love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

NBC via Getty Images Sam the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Hermey the Elf.

Marks’ story ― assembled here from obituaries, multiple New York Times features published between 1969 and 1985, an academic journal article, a People magazine profile, and a brief, on-camera interview from 1972 ― is not a rags-to-riches tale. Marks bet everything on “Rudolph,” but he had a lot to wager. Both of his parents had graduated from college ― a rarity in the early 20th century ― and his father had a masters in engineering from Cornell. Veterans benefits were substantial, and included help with home mortgages and small business loans, and Marks, who had finished the war as a captain with a chest full of medals, had not been able to spend all of the money he was paid while on active duty. 

So though Marks always described the first two decades of his songwriting career as “years of heartbreak,” he was still able to scrape together $25,000 (about a quarter of a million dollars today) to launch St. Nicholas Music.

Marks also had the good fortune to marry into a creative family. In 1947, he wed Margaret May, who was born into an affluent Jewish family in the New York suburb of New Rochelle. Her brother, Robert, was an ad copy man for Montgomery Ward, and it was Robert who first conceived of the Rudolph character ― for a promotional pamphlet that the department store handed out to lure in shoppers. Robert presented Rudolph’s story as a poem, cribbing the meter from “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the 1823 poem better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” the Ur-text for the American Santa Claus myth. 

By the standards of modern children’s literature, Robert’s poem is a bit of a clunker. The plotting is slow (32 ponderous pages compared to the song’s two svelte verses), the rhymes often forced (“people who live there” with “presents to give there”), the metaphors at times vaguely grotesque (“the fog was as thick as a soda’s white fizz”). But Montgomery Ward thought it was good enough to give away for free, and the retailer distributed millions of copies in 1939. 

But it was hard to gauge the poem’s popularity. Montgomery Ward didn’t renew Rudolph for another run in 1940, or 1941, or any of the war years. Paper rationing made extravagances like promotional Christmas literature essentially impossible. And so Rudolph disappeared from the public eye ― but not before catching Marks’ attention. When he saw the Rudolph pamphlet his brother-in-law had created, Marks flagged it in a notebook he carried to document random moments of song inspiration. 

He banged out a melody for “Rudolph” on the piano, but wasn’t happy with it. In the original version, Marks envisioned the tune dropping low when it reached the “nosed” of “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” ― a cute, but rather lifeless theme, which Marks put on the back burner until he was struck by a melodic thunderbolt in 1949. Instead of dropping low, Marks tried leaping high to the C. The charming result transformed a random corporate Christmas promotion into a cultural phenomenon. 

Gene Autry’s recording sold more than 12 million copies and remained Columbia’s best-selling single well into the 1980s. But that was the tip of the iceberg. By 1980, more than 130 million discs bearing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” had been sold. 

Marks’ song was so successful that the marketing gurus of the early 1960s began to wonder if it might translate to television. And so in 1963 producers with the young stop-motion animation house Videocraft International pitched Marks on writing the music to a Rudolph-themed TV special. Like St. Nicholas Music 15 years prior, Videocraft was a startup with a lot to prove. It had never produced a feature-length film. 

Christmas specials were not a new idea in 1963, but there were not yet any classics. Charles Schultz would not get to work on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” until the summer of 1965, and the Grinch would not steal Christmas for CBS viewers until 1966. Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” had been a box office flop in 1946, and did not become a national holiday viewing tradition until television producers noticed that its copyright had lapsed and decided to put it on air in 1974.

But by 1963, Marks was an imposing figure in the music business who lent the animated project prestige and commercial promise. He’d followed “Rudolph” with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day,” making St. Nicholas Music one of the most commercially dominant publishing houses in the country, despite its relatively thin output. He’d served on the board of the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the most powerful organization in the American music business at the time.

And Videocraft struck gold when it partnered with General Electric, which put up $500,000 for the project — enough to secure the participation of a bona fide star in Burl Ives. Ives was such a big name that the screenwriters had to invent a new character and a new narrative to device to make use of him. Careful viewers will realize that the Ives-voiced snowman who narrates televised ”Rudolph” is totally superfluous to the underlying plot ― but it was the smoothest way to get their biggest star’s voice on the best songs Marks had written for the special, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold,” both of which Ives released on a hit Christmas record the following year.

The animated “Rudolph” amplified all of the misfit themes from May’s original story. The red-nosed reindeer was paired with an elf named Hermey who refused to do the one job he was allotted in life: assembling toys. As they journey together, Rudolph and Hermey encounter the sad inhabitants of The Island of Misfit Toys: a Charlie-in-the-box who isn’t named Jack, a depressed doll, a spotted elephant. The theme of the feature ― that there is a place for everyone somewhere, no matter how strange or different they might seem — was not only obviously subversive in the conformist, predominantly segregated society of the early ’60s, it carried an unmistakable current of queerness. Rudolph’s father Donner is humiliated by his son’s effeminate, shiny nose and keeps trying to make a “buck” of him by covering it up. Hermey is fastidious and delicate, contrasted sharply with the other gruff and bulbous elves. The whole thing is so gay the screenwriters reassured the audience of their wholesome intentions by writing a female admirer for Rudolph.

People loved it. Like Marks’ song, the Rudolph TV special became a cultural sensation. It remains the longest-running television special ever made. Broadcasts of Rudolph were still crushing ratings well into the 21st century, and CBS, which purchased the broadcasting rights after NBC aired the original, continues to air it every December despite newfound competition from streaming services. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dfcdc82250000c480d30db6 Why We Love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

NBC via Getty Images

By the mid-1960s, the Rudolph story ― a product of Montgomery Ward, General Electric and NBC, but also the queer-friendly product of two Jews ― had simultaneously come to embody the most subversive currents in American culture and the bustling mainstream economy of the postwar world.

In championing the misfit as a latent hero, Rudolph lent a moral legitimacy to the consumerist elements of the Santa Claus tale. Animated Rudolph puppets hawked GE appliances in television ads, while within the special itself, toys were portrayed as vehicles for the expression of every child’s unique personality. Even Rudolph’s red nose became acceptable when it saved Santa’s toy operation from ruin. There was a place for everyone in this world of expanding prosperity for all, and the key was to figure out where you fit in.

Of course the real world was far more complex. The expansion of affluence in the 1950s and ’60s was wildly uneven. Though the double-digit unemployment rates of the Great Depression were long gone, the poverty rate among black households at the close of the 1950s was 50%, more than double the rate for white families. Had Marks’ family sailed for the United States a few decades later than they did ― say, during the Holocaust ― they would have almost certainly been turned away thanks to a restrictive immigration law that had been on the books since 1924. Montgomery Ward was so hostile to its own workers that the company refused to recognize its labor union during a wartime strike, prompting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to send federal troops to seize the company’s headquarters. The gains of the era for working families came through struggle and confrontation, not happy trips to the shops on Main Street.

But America can’t shake the ideal of a time when, for all its faults, the country did seem to be improving. For most families ― of any color ― the prospect of a better future was more plausible in 1964 than it had been previously in their lifetime or those of their parents. And the future was indeed bright ― the poverty rate for black and white families plummeted over the course of the next 15 years. 

We romanticize the past when the present is too much to bear, and for the past 30 or so years, the present has become progressively more unbearable. Wages are down for everyone outside the top 10% of workers. Entire once-prosperous communities have been hollowed out by globalization. The racial wealth gap is wider today than it was in the early 1980s; over the same period, the wealth of a typical black household has been halved. In most respects, the world of Rudolph’s TV heyday was both more prosperous and more egalitarian than our own.

Every year, ASCAP publishes a list of the 25 most popular songs licensed at Christmas. Songs written between World War II and the first screening of “Rudolph always dominate the list. Even the more contemporary exceptions, like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” are essentially pastiche reimaginings of ’50s and ’60s pop with a complement of digital synthesizers. When we think of the most wonderful time of year, we instinctively imagine ourselves in a different era.

And why shouldn’t we? Who wouldn’t prefer city sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style to a “Cyber Monday” Amazon special we discovered through a Facebook ad distracting us from the conspiracy theories our high school friends have posted? In the 21st century, we have all the evils of the postwar world and none of its charm.

We love Rudolph because because he revives a promise ― however far-fetched ― that the political economy of America has reserved a prosperous place for us all. That is a dream worth pursuing, even if it has never truly been fulfilled. 

Merry Christmas.

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Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returns to Earth, lands in New Mexico after failed mission

Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft landed in the New Mexico desert on Sunday morning — days after the NASA mission failed because the capsule’s clock was improperly set, and the capsule ended up in the wrong orbit.

The Starliner launched by the Atlas V rocket Friday morning, but the capsule’s clock was not synced up properly with the timing on the rocket. The Starline “had a Mission Elapsed Time (MET) anomaly causing the spacecraft to believe that it was in an orbital insertion burn, when it was not,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted shortly after the launch.

RELATED: BOEING STARLINER FAILS MISSION, WON’T REACH ISS AFTER LAUNCH DEBUT

“Because #Starliner believed it was in an orbital insertion burn (or that the burn was complete), the dead bands were reduced and the spacecraft burned more fuel than anticipated to maintain precise control,” he added. “This precluded @Space_Station rendezvous.”

An industry source with knowledge of the matter told Fox News on Friday that the Atlas rocket performed as intended, placing the Starliner into orbit.

Sent into space with only a test dummy in order to prepare for a flight with a real crew next year, the Starliner was supposed to spend a week at the International Space Station. Because of the mishap, the capsule was launched into the wrong orbit shortly after it launched. The station docking was scrapped, and Boeing and NASA decided to bring the spacecraft home as soon as possible.

BEER IN ORBIT: WHY SPACE IS THE NEXT FRONTIER FOR ALCOHOL

“We started the clock at the wrong time,” Jim Chilton, a senior vice president for Boeing, said Saturday. “As a result of starting the clock at the wrong time, the spacecraft upon reaching space thought she was later in the mission and, being autonomous, started to behave that way.”

Westlake Legal Group AP19354622776478 Boeing's Starliner spacecraft returns to Earth, lands in New Mexico after failed mission Nicole Darrah fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox news fnc/science fnc article 53610b91-2edb-50a2-a680-54c99767e242

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule on an Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force station, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Starliner spacecraft did not reach the proper orbit.(AP Photo/Terry Renna)

Hoards of people watched the Starliner’s initial flight take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last week. It was visible for at least five minutes, but as news of a setback began to emerge, the mood quickly turned negative. NASA officials deferred to Boeing for updates.

Boeing, which has been working on the Starliner since 2010, was awarded a $4 billion contract by NASA in 2014 to work on the Starliner, as it looks to compete with SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew provider.

In March, the Elon Musk-led company successfully completed a similar demonstration. SpaceX has one more hurdle, a launch abort test, before it will carry two NASA astronauts on its Dragon capsule, which could happen as soon as spring 2020.

“Orbit is hard,” SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said in a tweet to Boeing. “Best wishes for landing & swift recovery to next mission.”

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It’s been nearly nine years since NASA astronauts have launched from the U.S. The last time was July 8, 2011, when Atlantis — now on display at Kennedy Space Center — made the final space shuttle flight.

Since then, NASA astronauts have traveled to and from the space station via Kazakhstan, courtesy of the Russian Space Agency, costing the space agency $86 million per ride.

Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and James Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group AP19354622776478 Boeing's Starliner spacecraft returns to Earth, lands in New Mexico after failed mission Nicole Darrah fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox news fnc/science fnc article 53610b91-2edb-50a2-a680-54c99767e242   Westlake Legal Group AP19354622776478 Boeing's Starliner spacecraft returns to Earth, lands in New Mexico after failed mission Nicole Darrah fox-news/science/air-and-space/spaceflight fox news fnc/science fnc article 53610b91-2edb-50a2-a680-54c99767e242

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Why We Love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Seventy winters ago, a 39-year-old World War II veteran living in Manhattan took the gamble of his life. Armed with a notebook inked with leftover melodies, Johnny Marks settled into a cramped office with an upright Crawford piano on the sixth floor of the Brill Building at Broadway and 49th Street. 

The Brill Building was perhaps the most important address in American music, the site of New York’s sonic resurgence as the big band era eclipsed the once-dominant novelty songwriters from Tin Pan Alley, 20 blocks south. Brill publishers were behind hits for stars including Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, and some of its songwriters ― Cole Porter, Irving Berlin ― were even more famous than the heartthrobs who sang their tunes.

Marks lived at the fringes of this glitz and glamor. He had been struggling to make a name for himself as a songwriter since the Depression, and was finally starting his own publishing operation, St. Nicholas Music, because none of the respectable, established publishing houses would get behind his latest song. 

It wasn’t hard to see why. His most successful song to date, “Happy New Year Darling,” was a throwback to the holiday schmaltz and comedy bits that Tin Pan Alley writers were now struggling to get on the air. Nobody remembers it today, and it was already all-but-forgotten in 1949. His newest tune was even goofier ― a children’s song for Christmas, totally out of step with the jazzy romanticism that dominated the postwar charts. Undeterred, Marks was betting everything that he could rival the biggest names in show business.

It was off to a slow start. Marks had pitched a demo for his new song but the biggest stars weren’t interested. Both Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby turned him down before Marks got a foot in the door with Gene Autry. The “Singing Cowboy” himself didn’t actually like the song, but his wife loved it, and she talked her husband into recording it as the B-side to another Christmas single he was recording for Columbia Records. By the end of the year, Marks’ little ditty about a flying red-nosed reindeer named Rudolph was the biggest song in the country. 

Crosby released a new version the following year. Then Sinatra, and then the Supremes and the Temptations. By 1980, more than 500 different renditions had been commercially released. By the end of the century, it was the biggest Christmas song ever written, and so closely identified with the holiday that it is hard for subsequent generations to imagine the holiday without it. No one since Charles Dickens had so profoundly altered the mythology of Christmas itself. 

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was a new fable that embodied the transformation of Christmas from a second-tier Christian holiday into a secular celebration of postwar America. Marks himself wasn’t even Christian ― like many of the great songwriters from the 1950s and ’60s, he was Jewish ― but he understood the way the holiday spirit captured both the optimism and escapism that were overtaking the national mood. America wanted to be a place where anybody could make it, and a story about a skinny reindeer with a funny nose turned toy-delivery hero was perfect for a nation where a booming, consumer-driven economy promised families that tomorrow would always be better than today. 

Rudolph celebrated a national ideal that never quite existed. And most Americans still long for it today, even when it has perhaps never been farther from our grasp. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dfcdc1d250000c480d30db5 Why We Love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

NBC via Getty Images Sam the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Hermey the Elf.

Marks’ story ― assembled here from obituaries, multiple New York Times features published between 1969 and 1985, an academic journal article, a People magazine profile, and a brief, on-camera interview from 1972 ― is not a rags-to-riches tale. Marks bet everything on “Rudolph,” but he had a lot to wager. Both of his parents had graduated from college ― a rarity in the early 20th century ― and his father had a masters in engineering from Cornell. Veterans benefits were substantial, and included help with home mortgages and small business loans, and Marks, who had finished the war as a captain with a chest full of medals, had not been able to spend all of the money he was paid while on active duty. 

So though Marks always described the first two decades of his songwriting career as “years of heartbreak,” he was still able to scrape together $25,000 (about a quarter of a million dollars today) to launch St. Nicholas Music.

Marks also had the good fortune to marry into a creative family. In 1947, he wed Margaret May, who was born into an affluent Jewish family in the New York suburb of New Rochelle. Her brother, Robert, was an ad copy man for Montgomery Ward, and it was Robert who first conceived of the Rudolph character ― for a promotional pamphlet that the department store handed out to lure in shoppers. Robert presented Rudolph’s story as a poem, cribbing the meter from “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the 1823 poem better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” the Ur-text for the American Santa Claus myth. 

By the standards of modern children’s literature, Robert’s poem is a bit of a clunker. The plotting is slow (32 ponderous pages compared to the song’s two svelte verses), the rhymes often forced (“people who live there” with “presents to give there”), the metaphors at times vaguely grotesque (“the fog was as thick as a soda’s white fizz”). But Montgomery Ward thought it was good enough to give away for free, and the retailer distributed millions of copies in 1939. 

But it was hard to gauge the poem’s popularity. Montgomery Ward didn’t renew Rudolph for another run in 1940, or 1941, or any of the war years. Paper rationing made extravagances like promotional Christmas literature essentially impossible. And so Rudolph disappeared from the public eye ― but not before catching Marks’ attention. When he saw the Rudolph pamphlet his brother-in-law had created, Marks flagged it in a notebook he carried to document random moments of song inspiration. 

He banged out a melody for “Rudolph” on the piano, but wasn’t happy with it. In the original version, Marks envisioned the tune dropping low when it reached the “nosed” of “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” ― a cute, but rather lifeless theme, which Marks put on the back burner until he was struck by a melodic thunderbolt in 1949. Instead of dropping low, Marks tried leaping high to the C. The charming result transformed a random corporate Christmas promotion into a cultural phenomenon. 

Gene Autry’s recording sold more than 12 million copies and remained Columbia’s best-selling single well into the 1980s. But that was the tip of the iceberg. By 1980, more than 130 million discs bearing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” had been sold. 

Marks’ song was so successful that the marketing gurus of the early 1960s began to wonder if it might translate to television. And so in 1963 producers with the young stop-motion animation house Videocraft International pitched Marks on writing the music to a Rudolph-themed TV special. Like St. Nicholas Music 15 years prior, Videocraft was a startup with a lot to prove. It had never produced a feature-length film. 

Christmas specials were not a new idea in 1963, but there were not yet any classics. Charles Schultz would not get to work on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” until the summer of 1965, and the Grinch would not steal Christmas for CBS viewers until 1966. Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” had been a box office flop in 1946, and did not become a national holiday viewing tradition until television producers noticed that its copyright had lapsed and decided to put it on air in 1974.

But by 1963, Marks was an imposing figure in the music business who lent the animated project prestige and commercial promise. He’d followed “Rudolph” with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day,” making St. Nicholas Music one of the most commercially dominant publishing houses in the country, despite its relatively thin output. He’d served on the board of the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the most powerful organization in the American music business at the time.

And Videocraft struck gold when it partnered with General Electric, which put up $500,000 for the project — enough to secure the participation of a bona fide star in Burl Ives. Ives was such a big name that the screenwriters had to invent a new character and a new narrative to device to make use of him. Careful viewers will realize that the Ives-voiced snowman who narrates televised ”Rudolph” is totally superfluous to the underlying plot ― but it was the smoothest way to get their biggest star’s voice on the best songs Marks had written for the special, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold,” both of which Ives released on a hit Christmas record the following year.

The animated “Rudolph” amplified all of the misfit themes from May’s original story. The red-nosed reindeer was paired with an elf named Hermey who refused to do the one job he was allotted in life: assembling toys. As they journey together, Rudolph and Hermey encounter the sad inhabitants of The Island of Misfit Toys: a Charlie-in-the-box who isn’t named Jack, a depressed doll, a spotted elephant. The theme of the feature ― that there is a place for everyone somewhere, no matter how strange or different they might seem — was not only obviously subversive in the conformist, predominantly segregated society of the early ’60s, it carried an unmistakable current of queerness. Rudolph’s father Donner is humiliated by his son’s effeminate, shiny nose and keeps trying to make a “buck” of him by covering it up. Hermey is fastidious and delicate, contrasted sharply with the other gruff and bulbous elves. The whole thing is so gay the screenwriters reassured the audience of their wholesome intentions by writing a female admirer for Rudolph.

People loved it. Like Marks’ song, the Rudolph TV special became a cultural sensation. It remains the longest-running television special ever made. Broadcasts of Rudolph were still crushing ratings well into the 21st century, and CBS, which purchased the broadcasting rights after NBC aired the original, continues to air it every December despite newfound competition from streaming services. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dfcdc82250000c480d30db6 Why We Love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

NBC via Getty Images

By the mid-1960s, the Rudolph story ― a product of Montgomery Ward, General Electric and NBC, but also the queer-friendly product of two Jews ― had simultaneously come to embody the most subversive currents in American culture and the bustling mainstream economy of the postwar world.

In championing the misfit as a latent hero, Rudolph lent a moral legitimacy to the consumerist elements of the Santa Claus tale. Animated Rudolph puppets hawked GE appliances in television ads, while within the special itself, toys were portrayed as vehicles for the expression of every child’s unique personality. Even Rudolph’s red nose became acceptable when it saved Santa’s toy operation from ruin. There was a place for everyone in this world of expanding prosperity for all, and the key was to figure out where you fit in.

Of course the real world was far more complex. The expansion of affluence in the 1950s and ’60s was wildly uneven. Though the double-digit unemployment rates of the Great Depression were long gone, the poverty rate among black households at the close of the 1950s was 50%, more than double the rate for white families. Had Marks’ family sailed for the United States a few decades later than they did ― say, during the Holocaust ― they would have almost certainly been turned away thanks to a restrictive immigration law that had been on the books since 1924. Montgomery Ward was so hostile to its own workers that the company refused to recognize its labor union during a wartime strike, prompting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to send federal troops to seize the company’s headquarters. The gains of the era for working families came through struggle and confrontation, not happy trips to the shops on Main Street.

But America can’t shake the ideal of a time when, for all its faults, the country did seem to be improving. For most families ― of any color ― the prospect of a better future was more plausible in 1964 than it had been previously in their lifetime or those of their parents. And the future was indeed bright ― the poverty rate for black and white families plummeted over the course of the next 15 years. 

We romanticize the past when the present is too much to bear, and for the past 30 or so years, the present has become progressively more unbearable. Wages are down for everyone outside the top 10% of workers. Entire once-prosperous communities have been hollowed out by globalization. The racial wealth gap is wider today than it was in the early 1980s; over the same period, the wealth of a typical black household has been halved. In most respects, the world of Rudolph’s TV heyday was both more prosperous and more egalitarian than our own.

Every year, ASCAP publishes a list of the 25 most popular songs licensed at Christmas. Songs written between World War II and the first screening of “Rudolph always dominate the list. Even the more contemporary exceptions, like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” are essentially pastiche reimaginings of ’50s and ’60s pop with a complement of digital synthesizers. When we think of the most wonderful time of year, we instinctively imagine ourselves in a different era.

And why shouldn’t we? Who wouldn’t prefer city sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style to a “Cyber Monday” Amazon special we discovered through a Facebook ad distracting us from the conspiracy theories our high school friends have posted? In the 21st century, we have all the evils of the postwar world and none of its charm.

We love Rudolph because because he revives a promise ― however far-fetched ― that the political economy of America has reserved a prosperous place for us all. That is a dream worth pursuing, even if it has never truly been fulfilled. 

Merry Christmas.

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