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Westlake Legal Group > News Releases (Page 31)

Italian vinegar makers lose court battle over ‘balsamic’ term

The European Union‘s top court ruled Wednesday that Italian vinegar makers from Italy‘s Modena province can’t stop German competitors from using “balsamic” and other terms to advertise or describe their products.

The protection of the name Aceto Balsamico di Modena does not extend to the use of “non-geographical individual terms,” the European Union (EU) Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled.

The term has been protected as a “geographical indication” since 2009 but does not mean exclusive use of the word, the court said, according to the BBC.

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Westlake Legal Group Balsamic-Vinegar-iStock-1 Italian vinegar makers lose court battle over 'balsamic' term Louis Casiano fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/germany fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article 421d9a77-c033-5d74-84b2-e842f382e9de

A European Union court ruled Wednesday that Italian vinegar makers can’t stop competitors from using the “balsamic” term.  (iStock)

“The term ‘aceto’ [vinegar] is a common term and the term ‘balsamico’ [balsamic] is an adjective that is commonly used to refer to a vinegar with a bittersweet [flavor],” the court said.

The EU uses geographical indications to protect food and drinks whose quality, reputation and other characteristics relate to a specific geographical origin, according to the BBC. Modena, in northern Italy, is famous for its balsamic vinegar, which is made from several grape varieties.

Mariangela Grosoli, president of the consortium for the protection of Aceto Balsamico di Modena, called the decision “unjust” in a statement to Bloomberg.

“The reality is that many European countries have partly wanted to take possession of the worldwide success achieved by the balsamic vinegar of Modena — this is the only vinegar to be bittersweet and to use the word balsamic,” he said.

Other Italian vinegar producers called the ruling confusing and disappointing.

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The case reached the court after Germany’s Federal Court of Justice sought guidance in a dispute between Italian producers and a German firm that sells vinegar-based products labeled “Aceto” or “Aceto Balsamico.”

Wednesday’s ruling means the terms are now allowed.

Westlake Legal Group Balsamic-Vinegar-iStock-1 Italian vinegar makers lose court battle over 'balsamic' term Louis Casiano fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/germany fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article 421d9a77-c033-5d74-84b2-e842f382e9de   Westlake Legal Group Balsamic-Vinegar-iStock-1 Italian vinegar makers lose court battle over 'balsamic' term Louis Casiano fox-news/world/world-regions/italy fox-news/world/world-regions/germany fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article 421d9a77-c033-5d74-84b2-e842f382e9de

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Key Moments from the First Impeachment Hearing in the Judiciary Committee

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_165421116_48a4c371-3d52-456b-a2d8-424bdda35a80-articleLarge Key Moments from the First Impeachment Hearing in the Judiciary Committee Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry

Noah Feldman, left, Pamela S. Karlan, and Michael Gerhardt were sworn in to testify before Congress on Wednesday.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats to testify at the first impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee said that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political gain clearly met the historical definition of impeachable offenses.

Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard, argued that attempts by Mr. Trump to withhold a White House meeting and military assistance from Ukraine as leverage for political favors constitute impeachable conduct, as was the act of soliciting foreign assistance on a phone call with Ukraine’s leader.

“President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” Mr. Feldman said. “Specifically, President Trump has abused his office by corruptly soliciting President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election.”

Michael J. Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina, argued that Mr. Trump had “committed several impeachable offenses” by taking actions regarding Ukraine that were worse than Richard Nixon’s misconduct during Watergate.

“If left unchecked, the president will likely continue his pattern of soliciting foreign interference on his behalf in the next election,” Mr. Gerhardt said.

Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, told lawmakers that the president’s attempt to “strong arm a foreign leader” would not be considered politics as usual by historical standards.

“It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power,” she said. “PIf we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who was invited to testify by the committee’s Republicans, offered the lone dissent, arguing in his opening statement that Mr. Trump should not be impeached.

In a 53-page written statement submitted to the committee, Mr. Turley made it clear that he is not a supporter of the president. But he argued that the Democratic impeachment case is dangerously “slipshod” and premature.

“If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president,” he said.

Offering an exhaustive and colorful account of the history of impeachment, Mr. Turley agreed with the other panelists that “a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven.”

But for that to be the case, he said, the evidence has to be stronger. and argued the current case is destined for “collapse in a Senate trial.”

Westlake Legal Group 00impeachment-archetypes-videopromo-image-articleLarge-v2 Key Moments from the First Impeachment Hearing in the Judiciary Committee Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry

The Impeachment Inquiry’s Main Players

Here are the lawmakers to watch as the process unfolds.

Several Republicans accused the three scholars invited by Democrats as having arrived at the hearing with an anti-Trump bias.

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida noted that Mr. Gerhardt contributed four times to former President Barack Obama, and that Ms. Karlan donated to the campaign of Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.

Representative Tom McClintock, Republican of California, tried without success to get the witnesses to raise their hands if they voted for Mr. Trump.

“I have the right to a secret ballot,” Ms. Karlan objected.

Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, asserted that Mr. Gerhardt, Ms. Karlan and Mr. Feldman arrived with their minds made up about whether the president should be impeached and removed from office.

“What I’m suggesting to you today is a reckless bias coming in here,” Mr. Biggs said. “You’re not fact witnesses. You’re supposed to be talking about what the law is. But you came in with a preconceived notion and bias.

The witnesses did not always sit and take it. After Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the panel’s top Republican, accused the scholars of failing to have any knowledge of the facts of the impeachment case, Ms. Karlan took him to task.

“Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she told him. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

Melania Trump, the first lady, lashed out at Ms. Karlan, who was invited by Democrats to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, for mentioning her 13-year-old son while making a point in the hearing.

Discussing the distinction between kings and presidents, Ms. Karlan said that, “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility. While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

Mrs. Trump took to Twitter to chide Ms. Karlan for the comment, echoing a chorus of outrage from Mr. Trump’s allies about it.

“Only in the minds of crazed liberals is it funny to drag a 13-year-old child into the impeachment nonsense,” Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, said in a statement.

Representative Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, read the tweet aloud during the hearing and Ms. Karlan later apologized, saying, “it was wrong of me to do that.” But she added that she wished the president would also apologize for the things that he has done.

Viewers of Wednesday’s impeachment hearing could be excused for thinking that there were two completely separate panels — one when Democrats were asking the questions and another when Republicans were talking.

In fact, there was just one panel of four witnesses, sitting next to each other. But it was often hard to tell that the fourth witness — Mr. Turley — was there when Democrats had the microphone, because they all but ignored him.

That was particularly stark during the 45 minutes of questioning led by Representative Jerrold Nadler, the panel’s chairman, and the committee’s lawyer. At one point, the lawyer said he had a question for the entire panel, only to ignore Mr. Turley’s presence.

But Republicans did the same thing when it was their turn, directing almost all of their questions to Mr. Turley and letting the three scholars invited by the Democrats to simply sit silently while the cameras focused on Mr. Turley.

The witnesses disagreed about one of the major legal issues facing the House: whether,Mr. Trump’s actions amounted to solicitation of a bribe — one of the specific offenses listed in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment.

Ms. Karlan, a witness invited by Democrats, put it bluntly: “If you conclude that he asked for the investigation of Vice President Biden and his son for political reasons, that is to aid his re-election, then, yes, you have bribery here.”

But Mr. Turley, the Republican-invited witness, said it was not clear. Citing the case of a French king who gave money and “other benefits, including apparently a French mistress,” to an English king in exchange for signing a secret treaty, Mr. Turley suggested that the example was too different from the accusation against Mr. Trump.

He also noted that the Supreme Court in 2016 unanimously threw out the public corruption conviction of Bob McDonnell, the former governor of Virginiasaying a federal bribery statute had to be interpreted narrowly.

But Mr. Feldman said that the meaning of the word “bribery” for impeachment purposes was broader than any federal statute.

“Bribery had a clear meaning,” to the framers, Mr. Feldman said. “If the House believes that the president solicited something of value in the form of investigations or an announcement of investigations, and that he did so corruptly for personal gain, then that would constitute bribery under the meaning of the Constitution and it would not be lawless. It would bribery under the law.”
— Charlie Savage

If Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee were hoping that Wednesday’s hearing would provide sound bites they can use to support their position on impeaching President Trump, they were not disappointed.

The three law professors invited to testify by the Democrats on the committee delivered a series of powerful one-liners.

Mr. Gerhardt said seeking election interference from a foreign leader would be “a horrifying abuse of power.” He said Mr. Trump’s refusal to obey congressional subpoenas is “direct assault on the legitimacy of this inquiry.”

Mr. Feldman declared that “if we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy.” And Ms. Karlan offered the following, pithy line that Democrats will no doubt seize upon: “President Trump must be held to account.”

But Mr. Turley, who was invited to testify by Republicans, offered one-liners that Mr. Trump and his allies can use as well. He declared the evidence against the president to be “wafer-thin” and he colorfully compared the Democratic case for impeachment to be lacking.

“This isn’t improvisational jazz — close enough is not good enough,” Mr. Turley told the lawmakers. If that wasn’t clear enough, Mr. Turley said the case for impeachment “is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous.”

Senators used their weekly closed-door luncheons on Wednesday to discuss how they would handle a trial of Mr. Trump should the House impeach him.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, gave a presentation outlining the mechanics of a trial, according to a senior aide who discussed the private lunch on condition of anonymity. Mr. Schumer played video clips from the 1999 trial of Bill Clinton. (Only seven of the 47 Democrats were in the Senate back then.)

Republicans, for their part, had lunch with Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Tony Sayegh and Pam Bondi, who have been temporarily hired by the White House to help orchestrate Mr. Trump’s impeachment strategy.

Mr. Cipollone told senators that the president was eager to present a case for his defense in the Senate, should the House vote to impeach him.

“But he said over a number of times, we don’t think there is any reason the House should send this to the Senate,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri.

Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, raised the prospect of bringing witnesses to the chamber as part of a Senate trial, saying it would be critical for Mr. Trump to be allowed to mount a defense “given the fatally flawed process in the House.”

In a nod to the uncertainties of a possible trial, the Senate on Wednesday released its 2020 legislative calendar with no month of January included, leaving the timing of any impeachment proceeding there entirely up in the air.
Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson

Within the first hour of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel lived up to its reputation for partisan rancor. Republicans interrupted the proceedings to present Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the committee’s chairman, with a letter demanding a day of minority hearings.

They also forced votes on motions to call Mr. Schiff to testify before the panel and to suspend and postpone the hearing.

Democrats knocked each down along party lines, but the proceeding stood in stark contrast with those of the relatively staid and orderly proceedings of Intelligence Committee that carried the impeachment inquiry for the last two months.

In between the Republican parliamentary maneuvers, Mr. Nadler made no effort to cover up the unruly circumstances, but he put the blame on Mr. Trump.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the storm in which we find ourselves today was set in motion by President Trump,” Mr. Nadler said. “I do not wish this moment on the country. It is not a pleasant task that we undertake today. But we have each taken an oath to protect the Constitution, and the facts before us are clear.”

When his turn to speak arrived, Mr. Collins offered a hard-edged rebuke of the Democrats.

“This may be a new time, a new place and we may be all scrubbed up and looking pretty for impeachment,” Mr. Collins said. “This is not an impeachment. This just a simple railroad job and today’s is a waste of time.”
Nicholas Fandos

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Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait

Who is the boss? Former first lady Michelle Obama or former President Barack Obama?

The artist who painted the 44th president for the National Portrait Gallery may have an answer.

Kehinde Wiley hesitated at first when asked by The Associated Press this week at Art Basel Miami, but he eventually revealed: “I got a call and [Obama] said, ‘The first version that you made, I love it, but Michelle doesn’t.”

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Westlake Legal Group Kehinde-Wiley-AP Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

Kehinde Wiley arrived at Creative Minds Talks during Art Basel on Monday in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

“I swear I wasn’t going to talk about this,” he added.

Turns out the former first lady thought the piece was missing some of Wiley’s signature style, he said.

Westlake Legal Group Barack-Michelle-Obama-AP Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

Former first lady Michelle Obama may have rejected the first version of the official portrait of former President Barack Obama. (AP)

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“There’s something really great about stepping outside of yourself and creating history and creating legacy,” the artist added.

The finished work of art featured a 7-foot portrait of the former president sitting in a field of flowers, including chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago; jasmine, a nod to Obama’s childhood in Hawaii; and African blue lilies to symbolize Obama’s late father who was from Kenya.

Before Obama, Wiley had been known for giving voice to the voiceless: taking people who historically have come from a perceived place of nonexistence and putting them squarely in the forefront of his works.

He said he had to prepare himself when he was commissioned to depict the most powerful man in the world.

Westlake Legal Group Obama-Portrait-Kehinde-Wiley-Smithsonian Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

The finished work of art featured a 7-foot portrait of former President Barack Obama sitting in a field of flowers. (Smithsonian)

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“I’m in the Oval Office, my hands are shaking,” he told The Associated Press, recalling how he and Obama went through various poses and paged through art history books discussing the importance of letting the president’s personality shine through.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group Obama-Portrait-Kehinde-Wiley-Smithsonian Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article   Westlake Legal Group Obama-Portrait-Kehinde-Wiley-Smithsonian Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

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Body-positivity blogger exposes the reality behind the ‘perfect’ Instagram photo

Westlake Legal Group Perfect-Body-istock Body-positivity blogger exposes the reality behind the 'perfect' Instagram photo Gerren Keith Gaynor fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/health/healthy-living/mind-and-body fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc e6e0dddc-ee7c-5ab0-9a10-fdfbc2f61786 article

A body-positivity blogger from Finland is debunking the myth of the “perfect” Instagram photo.

Sara Puhto, 23, is poking fun at social media’s impossibly flawless standard in a series of Instagram photos, which she started doing as early as 2018.

In a side-by-side image, Puhto demonstrates what’s considered the “perfect” Instagram snap versus how she looks in real life.

On the left, she poses perfectly with a subtle, modelesque angle to accentuate her curves — stomach sucked in, buttocks poked out. On the right, however, Puhto stands upright with her head to the sky as she smiles and allows her tummy to stick out naturally.

BODY-POSITIVE BLOGGER SAYS GAINING WEIGHT ‘SAVED MY LIFE’

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“In photos I constantly suck in my tummy or try and hide it and stick out my booty as much as possible. But why?” she captioned the photo.

“We’re constantly flooded with photos of ‘perfection’ on social media and see advertisements about ways to change your body to fit a certain idealized body trend.”

Rather than striving for perfection, she encouraged her 319,000 followers to learn to accept the skin they’re in.

“We constantly work on changing our bodies, but why don’t we focus more on changing the way we look at our bodies,” Puhto wrote. “Don’t focus on negativity, focus on accepting and loving what you dislike about yourself. You have this body and it allows you to live life.”

“We should all allow ourselves to experience life to the fullest without the fear of judgment about our bodies, by ourselves or by others,” she added.

Puhto’s followers praised her for exposing social media’s dangerous beauty standards and having the courage to show her real self.

“You’re beautiful and amazing. You should be proud of the message you are sending and actively changing unhealthy ideals,” one Instagram user commented.

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“Your posts have helped me out so much,” another person said. “I always beat myself up for being bloated,”

Yet another follower added, “You’re the reason I love my own body.”

Westlake Legal Group Perfect-Body-istock Body-positivity blogger exposes the reality behind the 'perfect' Instagram photo Gerren Keith Gaynor fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/health/healthy-living/mind-and-body fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc e6e0dddc-ee7c-5ab0-9a10-fdfbc2f61786 article   Westlake Legal Group Perfect-Body-istock Body-positivity blogger exposes the reality behind the 'perfect' Instagram photo Gerren Keith Gaynor fox-news/style-and-beauty fox-news/health/healthy-living/mind-and-body fox news fnc/lifestyle fnc e6e0dddc-ee7c-5ab0-9a10-fdfbc2f61786 article

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Out Magazine slams Pete Buttigieg for past volunteering for ‘homophobic’ Salvation Army

Out Magazine went after South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg over his past volunteering for the Salvation Army, a charity that regularly has faced allegations of homophobia.

In a piece published Tuesday, Out senior staff writer Rose Dommu reported how photos from 2017 “resurfaced” showing the mayor appearing in the iconic Salvation Army apron and ringing a bell outside of a restaurant while as he helped raise money for the organization, something he had done in years past.

“The gesture would be super nice of Buttigieg if the Salvation Army didn’t have a well-documented history of discriminating against LGBTQ+ people in need,” Dommu wrote. “In the 1990s, the Salvation Army dodged a San Francisco ordinance requiring government-affiliated businesses to offer benefits to workers with same-sex partners by citing exemption on religious grounds. In 2012, Salvation Army spokesperson George Hood claimed that same-sex relationships go “against the will of God.” The organization has also referred website visitors to conversion therapy groups and circulated internal memos opposing marriage equality.”

Dommu acknowledged how Salvation Army Communications Director David Jolley told Out last month that the charity “evolved [in its] approach” in helping the LGBT community, citing its efforts of having dorms exclusively for transgender people, a detox facility in San Franciso for HIV/AIDS patients, and helping transgender sex-trafficking victims in Baltimore.

Westlake Legal Group Pete-Buttigieg-2017 Out Magazine slams Pete Buttigieg for past volunteering for 'homophobic' Salvation Army Joseph Wulfsohn fox-news/politics/elections/presidential-primaries fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/pete-buttigieg fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc e8a49685-ad5d-555b-b52e-100810e26227 article

“While that’s all admirable, it’s still fighting against decades of persecution and intolerance justified by religion,” Dommu continued. “Even famously homophobic chicken peddlers Chick-fil-A recently severed its relationship with the Salvation Army, and when you’re gay and less sensitive about anti-queerness than Chick-fil-A, that’s pretty bleak.”

The reporter went on, “Maybe Pete Buttigieg should have supported an organization that was created to cater to the needs of queer people — there’s plenty of them!”

Critics and some members of the LGBT community hit back on social media.

“The @SalvationArmyUS is not ‘homophobic,'” Federalist senior contributor Chad Felix Greene wrote. “At this point LGBT media is just spreading bigotry and hatred.”

“It’s a charity that helps poor people you bleeping idiots,” Washington Examiner’s Brad Polumbo reacted.

However, Buttigieg wasn’t the only candidate with ties to the Salvation Army. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., held a “signature drive” at the Salvation Army Lewis Center in Indiana. The organization made the largest campaign contributions to her and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. during the 2020 election cycle, both over $1,800, according to OpenSecrets.org. The charity also donated to the presidential campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and tech businessman Andrew Yang as well as the senate campaigns of Cory Booker, D-N.J., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

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Booker also paid a visit to the Salvation Army in 2013 in Atlantic City.

Neither Out Magazine nor Dommu immediately responded to Fox News’ request for comment. The Buttigieg campaign also declined comment.

Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report. 

Westlake Legal Group Pete-Buttigieg-OUT-cover Out Magazine slams Pete Buttigieg for past volunteering for 'homophobic' Salvation Army Joseph Wulfsohn fox-news/politics/elections/presidential-primaries fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/pete-buttigieg fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc e8a49685-ad5d-555b-b52e-100810e26227 article   Westlake Legal Group Pete-Buttigieg-OUT-cover Out Magazine slams Pete Buttigieg for past volunteering for 'homophobic' Salvation Army Joseph Wulfsohn fox-news/politics/elections/presidential-primaries fox-news/politics/elections/campaigning fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/pete-buttigieg fox-news/media fox news fnc/media fnc e8a49685-ad5d-555b-b52e-100810e26227 article

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Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait

Who is the boss? Former first lady Michelle Obama or former President Barack Obama?

The artist who painted the 44th president for the National Portrait Gallery may have an answer.

Kehinde Wiley hesitated at first when asked by The Associated Press this week at Art Basel Miami, but he eventually revealed: “I got a call and [Obama] said, ‘The first version that you made, I love it, but Michelle doesn’t.”

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER

Westlake Legal Group Kehinde-Wiley-AP Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

Kehinde Wiley arrived at Creative Minds Talks during Art Basel on Monday in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

“I swear I wasn’t going to talk about this,” he added.

Turns out the former first lady thought the piece was missing some of Wiley’s signature style, he said.

Westlake Legal Group Barack-Michelle-Obama-AP Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

Former first lady Michelle Obama may have rejected the first version of the official portrait of former President Barack Obama. (AP)

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“There’s something really great about stepping outside of yourself and creating history and creating legacy,” the artist added.

The finished work of art featured a 7-foot portrait of the former president sitting in a field of flowers, including chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago; jasmine, a nod to Obama’s childhood in Hawaii; and African blue lilies to symbolize Obama’s late father who was from Kenya.

Before Obama, Wiley had been known for giving voice to the voiceless: taking people who historically have come from a perceived place of nonexistence and putting them squarely in the forefront of his works.

He said he had to prepare himself when he was commissioned to depict the most powerful man in the world.

Westlake Legal Group Obama-Portrait-Kehinde-Wiley-Smithsonian Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

The finished work of art featured a 7-foot portrait of former President Barack Obama sitting in a field of flowers. (Smithsonian)

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“I’m in the Oval Office, my hands are shaking,” he told The Associated Press, recalling how he and Obama went through various poses and paged through art history books discussing the importance of letting the president’s personality shine through.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group Obama-Portrait-Kehinde-Wiley-Smithsonian Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article   Westlake Legal Group Obama-Portrait-Kehinde-Wiley-Smithsonian Michelle Obama may have rejected first version of her husband’s official portrait Frank Miles fox-news/person/michelle-obama fox-news/person/barack-obama fox news fnc/politics fnc fa5501b9-ae29-5074-8bfa-cd2e975450fb article

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Noeel: Electric Eel Lights Up Christmas Tree In Tennessee

Westlake Legal Group ap_19337811843442-88868b006741bba351bbf0a37402f0b92339df28-s1100-c15 Noeel: Electric Eel Lights Up Christmas Tree In Tennessee

The Tennessee Aquarium says a system connected to an electric eel’s tank enables his shocks to power strands of lights on the nearby tree. Thom Benson/AP hide caption

toggle caption

Thom Benson/AP

Westlake Legal Group  Noeel: Electric Eel Lights Up Christmas Tree In Tennessee

The Tennessee Aquarium says a system connected to an electric eel’s tank enables his shocks to power strands of lights on the nearby tree.

Thom Benson/AP

An electric eel in Chattanooga, Tenn., is sparking a little holiday cheer.

Every time Miguel Wattson the electric eel releases a jolt of electricity, a festively-decorated Christmas tree next to his tank at the Tennessee Aquarium flickers and glows.

“There is a sensor directly in his exhibit that picks up when he produces electricity,” Aquarist Kimberly Hurt, who cares for the electric eel, tells NPR.

The aquarium had already connected the sensor to a soundboard and a light board to correspond with Wattson’s bursts, says Hurt. “It’ll light up the board. It also does make some noise so people can hear when he’s producing electricity.”

So it wasn’t a huge leap to also have Wattson’s sensors connected to a Christmas tree, for a seasonal spin on the display.

Take a look at the electric eel in action:

[embedded content]

Tennessee Aquarium YouTube

We should clarify that the electricity produced by the eel is not literally powering the lights on the tree – the sensors and other equipment are “translating when he’s producing electricity to the lights,” Hurt says.

You might notice that the tree sometimes emits small flickers of light, and at other times puts out stronger, brighter bursts. Hurt says these correspond with different kinds of electric eel shocks, which can peak at about 800 volts.

An electric eel will emit high-voltage shocks in situations like “self-defense, or trying to stun a possible food item or a prey item,” Hurt adds. So, the tree is the brightest at Wattson’s meal times.

She says the smaller flickers are used to communicate with other eels or help detect their surroundings. These smaller jolts are only about 10 volts, according to the aquarium.

This isn’t the first time the aquarium has made creative use out of Wattson’s bursts of electricity. The fish has had a Twitter account since 2014 (@EelectricMiguel) which puts out prewritten tweets whenever the probes in his tank detect a jolt of power above a trigger threshold. The account has attracted some 30,000 followers.

Many of the tweets triggered by Wattson are, appropriately, electric-sounding, like “ZIPPITY-ZAPPITY-ZOOP!!!” or “CRACKLE!!!!!” Some are a little sassier: “The problem with being an electric eel these days is the constant requests to recharge people’s phones. I have better things to do, people!”

The Tennessee Aquarium is planning to bring back the electric eel tree-lighting exhibit in future years. It’s worth noting that several other aquariums have put up electric eel demonstrations like this for Christmas, too.

Hurt says the display aims to get people excited about the species at the aquarium. “We want people to be interested in these animals and interested in protecting the waters that they live in,” she says.

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China’s Genetic Research on Ethnic Minorities Sets Off Science Backlash

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BEIJING — China’s efforts to study the DNA of the country’s ethnic minorities have incited a growing backlash from the global scientific community, as a number of scientists warn that Beijing could use its growing knowledge to spy on and oppress its people.

Two publishers of prestigious scientific journals, Springer Nature and Wiley, said this week that they would re-evaluate papers they previously published on Tibetans, Uighurs and other minority groups. The papers were written or co-written by scientists backed by the Chinese government, and the two publishers want to make sure the authors got consent from the people they studied.

Springer Nature, which publishes the influential journal Nature, also said that it was toughening its guidelines to make sure scientists get consent, particularly if those people are members of a vulnerable group.

The statements followed articles by The New York Times that describe how the Chinese authorities are trying to harness bleeding-edge technology and science to track minority groups. The issue is particularly stark in Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier, where the authorities have locked up more than one million Uighurs and other members of predominantly Muslim minority groups in internment camps in the name of quelling terrorism.

Chinese companies are selling facial recognition systems that they claim can tell when a person is a Uighur. Chinese officials have also collected blood samples from Uighurs and others to build new tools for tracking members of minority groups.

In some cases, Western scientists and companies have provided help for those efforts, often unwittingly. That has included publishing papers in high-profile journals, which grants prestige and respectability to the authors that can lead to access to funding, data or new techniques.

When Western journals publish such papers by Chinese scientists affiliated with the country’s surveillance agencies, it amounts to selling a knife to a friend “knowing that your friend would use the knife to kill his wife,” said Yves Moreau, a professor of engineering at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

On Tuesday, Nature published an essay by Dr. Moreau calling for all publications to retract papers written by scientists backed by Chinese security agencies that focus on the DNA of minority ethnic groups.

“If you produce a piece of knowledge and know someone is going to take that and harm someone with it, that’s a huge problem,” said Dr. Moreau.

The scientific reaction is part of a broader backlash to China’s actions in Xinjiang. Lawmakers in the United States and elsewhere are taking an increasingly critical stance toward Beijing’s policies. On Tuesday, the House voted almost unanimously for a bill condemning China’s treatment of Uighurs and others.

Dr. Moreau and other scientists worry that China’s research into the genes and personal data of ethnic minorities is being used to build databases, facial recognition systems and other methods for monitoring and subjugating China’s ethnic minorities.

They also worry that research into DNA in particular violates widely followed scientific rules involving consent. In Xinjiang, where so many people have been confined to camps and a heavy police presence dominates daily life, they say, it is impossible to verify that Uighurs have given their blood samples willingly.

China’s Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Science and Technology did not respond to requests for comment.

In September, Dr. Moreau and three other scientists asked Wiley to retract a paper on the faces of minorities it published last year, citing the potential for abuse and the tone of discussion about race.

“The point of this work was to improve surveillance capabilities on all Tibetans and Uighurs,” said Jack Poulson, a former Google research scientist and founder of the advocacy group Tech Inquiry, and another member of the group that reached out to Wiley. Even if the authors obtained consent from those they studied, he added, that would be “insufficient to satisfy their ethical obligations.”

Wiley initially declined, but said this week that it would reconsider. Last week, Curtin University, an Australian institution that employs one of the authors of the study, said it had found “significant concerns” with the paper.

Science journals are now setting different standards.

In February, a journal called Frontiers in Genetics rejected a paper that was based on findings from the DNA of more than 600 Uighurs. Some of its editors cited China’s treatment of Uighurs, people familiar with the deliberations said.

The paper was instead accepted by Human Genetics, a journal owned by Springer Nature, and published in April.

Philip Campbell, the editor of Springer Nature, said this week that Human Genetics would add an editorial note to the study saying that concerns had been raised regarding informed consent. Springer Nature will also bolster guidelines across its journals and is contacting their editors to “request that they exercise an extra level of scrutiny and care in handling papers where there is a potential that consent was not informed or freely given,” it said in an email.

The paper published in Human Genetics was a subject of a Times article on Tuesday that raised questions about whether the Uighurs had contributed their blood samples willingly. Those Uighurs lived in Tumxuk, a city in Xinjiang that is ringed by paramilitary forces and is home to two internment camps.

Scientists like Dr. Moreau are not calling for a blanket ban on Chinese research into the genetics of China’s ethnic minorities. He drew a distinction between fields like medicine, where research is aimed at treating people, and forensics, which involves matters of criminal justice.

But Dr. Moreau found that recent genetic forensics research from China focused overwhelmingly on ethnic minorities and was increasingly driven by Chinese security agencies.

Of 529 studies in the field published between 2011 and 2018, he found, about half had a co-author from the police, military or judiciary. He also found that Tibetans were over 40 times more frequently studied than China’s ethnic Han majority, and that the Uighur population was 30 times more intensely studied than the Han.

Over the past eight years, he wrote, three leading forensic genetics journals — one published by Springer Nature and two by Elsevier — have published 40 articles co-authored by members of the Chinese police that describe the DNA profiling of Tibetans and Muslim minorities.

Tom Reller, a spokesman for Elsevier, said the company was in the process of producing more comprehensive guidelines for the publication of genetic data. But he added that the journals “are unable to control the potential misuse of population data articles” by third parties.

The principle of informed consent has been a scientific mainstay after forced experiments on inmates in Nazi death camps came to light. To verify that those standards are followed, academic journals and other outlets depend heavily on ethical review committees at individual institutions. Bioethicists say that arrangement can break down when an authoritarian state is involved. Already, Chinese scientists are under scrutiny for publishing papers on organ transplantation without saying whether there was consent.

In its own review of more than 100 papers published by Chinese scientists in international journals on biometrics and computer science, The Times found a number of examples of what appeared to be inadequate consent from study participants or no consent at all. Those concerns have also dogged facial recognition research in the United States.

One 2016 facial recognition paper published by Springer International was based on 137,395 photos of Uighurs, which the scientists said were from identification photos and surveillance cameras at railway stations and shopping malls. The paper does not mention consent.

A 2018 study, focused on using traffic cameras to identify drivers by beard, uses surveillance footage without mentioning whether it got permission from the subjects. The paper was also published by Springer.

A second 2018 Springer article that analyzes Uighur cranial shape to determine gender was based on “whole skull CT scans” of 267 people, mostly Uighurs. While the study said the subjects were “voluntary,” it made no mention of consent forms.

The latter two papers were part of a book published by Springer as part of a biometrics conference in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in August 2018, months after rights groups had documented the crackdown in the region. In a statement, Steven Inchcoombe, chief publishing officer of Springer Nature, said that conference organizers were responsible for editorial oversight of the conference proceedings. But he added that the company would in the future strengthen its requirements of conference organizers and ensure that their proceedings also comply with Springer Nature’s editorial policies.

Two papers assembled databases of facial expressions for different minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Hui, another Muslim minority. The papers were released in journals run by Wiley and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Wiley said the paper “raises a number of questions that are currently being reviewed.” It added that the paper was published on behalf of a partner, the International Union of Psychological Science, and referred further questions to it. The engineers institute did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The science world has been responding to the pressure. Thermo Fisher, a maker of equipment for studying genetics, said in February that it would suspend sales to Xinjiang, though it will continue to sell to other parts of China. Still, Dr. Moreau said, the issue initially received little traction among academia.

“If we don’t react in the community, we are going to get more and more into trouble,” he said. “The community has to take a major step and say: ‘This is not us.’”

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Washington family stunned by Olive Garden waiter singing ‘Happy Birthday’

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A Washington mom and her twin daughters were in for quite a shock when an Olive Garden waiter came over to sing “Happy Birthday” to the 17-year-olds and gave a rendition that left the entire restaurant quiet.

Amy Haddox told Fox News she and her husband had taken their twin daughters, Hannah and Ella, to the Kennewick Olive Garden to celebrate the girls’ birthdays.

“The restaurant was packed,” Haddox said. “It was a busy restaurant on the Saturday night of a holiday weekend.”

So when the group settled in to have a birthday celebration, they weren’t expecting much beyond a quick and “cheesy” song — “a ‘Happy-Birthday’-from-a-restaurant kind of thing,” Haddox said.

DENNY’S WAITRESS WHO WALKED 14 MILES FOR WORK COMMUTE IS GIFTED CAR BY DINING COUPLE

However, that was far from what they received when waiter Alphonso “Alphy” Nichols walked over.

“When he started singing, we were like holy crap,” she said. “It definitely was not what we were expecting.”

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“The restaurant was silent. You could hear a pin drop,” she continued. “Everyone stopped what they were doing to listen.”

Haddox said she was not aware of Nichols — or his incredible voice — but others in the area are, as he routinely shows off his amazing talent singing “Happy Birthday” for patrons who come in.

“Literally right after he was done, another table said they had a birthday,” Haddox said.

Haddox shared the video on Facebook, where it went viral. Many commented on how enchanted they were by Nichols’ voice.

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But none were more impressed than those at the restaurant, including Hannah and Ella.

“There was tons of cheering and applause,” Haddox said. “He was very humble. He wasn’t looking for any accolades. He sang and then walked away.”

“It was special,” she added. “Even if he did do it for everyone, you could just see it in [the girls’] faces how special they felt and how amazing they thought he was.”

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According to the Tri-City Herald, Nichols is known to the community for his singing prowess. In 2017, he was reportedly signed to local label West Coast Records. He also hosts a YouTube channel where he uploads his music.

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‘Big Bang Theory’ star Johnny Galecki and girlfriend Alaina Meyer welcome first child together

Westlake Legal Group galecki-8617 'Big Bang Theory' star Johnny Galecki and girlfriend Alaina Meyer welcome first child together Nate Day fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/events/babies fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc f9218a82-9bb7-5c51-9059-2aa55c0fac06 article

Bazinga!

Johnny Galecki of “Big Bang Theory” fame has welcomed a son with girlfriend Alaina Meyer.

The actor, 44, posted a black-and-white photo to Instagram of his baby’s hand wrapped around his and Meyer’s fingers.

BEN AFFLECK’S EXES JENNIFER LOPEZ, LINDSAY SHOOKUS HAVE DINNER TOGETHER

“With full and grateful hearts we welcome our beautiful son into this incredible world,” Galecki said. “Thank you for all of your love and support.”

Meyer, a 22-year-old model, also posted a photo.

JULIANNE HOUGH ADDRESSES HER AND GABRIELLE UNION’S ‘AGT’ DEPARTURES

“With full and grateful hears we welcome our son into this world,” she similarly captioned the photo. “Thank you for all your love and support.”

Meyer announced back in October on Instagram that the baby would be named Avery.

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“My amazing mama and auntie put together the most amazing celestial shower,” she wrote on Instagram. “I am so grateful for the sweetest, most amazing night, celebrating Avery.”

Westlake Legal Group galecki-8617 'Big Bang Theory' star Johnny Galecki and girlfriend Alaina Meyer welcome first child together Nate Day fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/events/babies fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc f9218a82-9bb7-5c51-9059-2aa55c0fac06 article   Westlake Legal Group galecki-8617 'Big Bang Theory' star Johnny Galecki and girlfriend Alaina Meyer welcome first child together Nate Day fox-news/entertainment/tv fox-news/entertainment/events/babies fox-news/entertainment/celebrity-news fox-news/entertainment fox news fnc/entertainment fnc f9218a82-9bb7-5c51-9059-2aa55c0fac06 article

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