Analysis: Bannon book spat shows limits of loyalty

By The Washington Post | PUBLISHED: January 4, 2018 at 9:24 am | UPDATED: January 4, 2018 at 9:26 am By James Hohmann | Washington Post None of this is normal. Try to picture Barack Obama declaring that David Axelrod had “lost his mind,” George W. Bush saying that Karl Rove “is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look,” or Bill Clinton’s lawyers sending James Carville a cease-and-desist letter threatening “imminent” legal action. Conversely, imagine Robby Mook saying that Chelsea Clinton is “dumb as a brick.” You can’t. Because all those scenarios are inconceivable. But that’s just another Wednesday in this chaotic White House, which once again plunged into crisis mode after the publication of excerpts from a forthcoming book by Michael Wolff called “Fire and Fury.” President Donald Trump’s insistence that Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist and a top aide at the White House until five months ago, was a mere “staffer” who had “very little to do with our historic victory” is akin to Joseph Stalin trying to erase Leon Trotsky from the history of the Russian Revolution. “It was the kind of story-shaping statement that, not so long ago, Trump and Bannon might have written together,” writes Michael Kranish, one of The Post’s Trump biographers. “In reality, Bannon has been a guiding figure for Trump for years . . . according to associates of both men.” This is part of a well-established pattern for the thrice-married Trump, who treats partners and aides as disposable once they’ve outlived their usefulness to him and downplays their roles after they run into trouble. Remember when Sean Spicer said that former campaign chairman Paul Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time” and that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was “a volunteer of the Continue Reading

Behind A Huge Bribe, A Tale Of Pollution, Profit, And Economic Transformation

MORENO VALLEY — The largest bribe the FBI has ever paid to a public official in a sting operation wasn’t to a United States senator or even a state lawmaker. It was to a lowly city councilman in this gritty, unglamorous Los Angeles exurb, where a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line, and local headlines play a steady drumbeat of grim news such as the daytime murder of a grandmother at a gas station. Councilman Marcelo Co didn’t seem particularly interested in improving the town. Even as he ran for office in 2010, he faced criminal charges for renting out apartments that were slummy and unsafe. Midway through his first term, he was caught on tape taking $2.36 million in cash from an undercover agent he thought was a land developer. Co told the agent that for enough money he would vote “yes” on any land-use plans. “I don’t care if it’s the shittiest can of worms,” Co said.Despite Moreno Valley’s depressed property values, control over its land is actually worth a fortune. Indeed, nearly every major retailer in the world covets the kind of real estate the city offers: empty acres near freeways and train tracks at the epicenter of one of the largest but least noticed land rushes in America.This arid flatland, shimmering and indistinct in the heat and smog, is just perfect for warehouses. These are not, however, warehouses as most people think of them. These are massive, futuristic behemoths that have proliferated on a scale seen nowhere else on the continent to usher in goods from Asia to consumers across a vast swath of the United States.Americans have grown to expect the goods they want delivered to their homes or nearby store shelves within days or hours. But all this two-day shipping, click-to-ship, and get-it-on-your-doorstep-by-noon-tomorrow has come at a price, paid by the people who live in the shadows of the mega-warehouses: lung-stunting, cancer-causing pollution and, in some Continue Reading

Second Act New Works Festival shows potential

More than half a century ago a Southern Utah professor started a little theater festival. He probably had no idea that his little project would grow into an internationally known, Tony Award-winning, professional regional theater.That, of course, is the story of Fred Adams and Cedar City’s Utah Shakespeare Festival.This past week another Southern Utah theater professor has followed in Adams’ footsteps. Michael Harding’s Second Act New Works Festival might fail. Or it might turn into a national sensation. There’s a good chance it could end up somewhere in between, turning into a success but maybe never quite attracting the attention of USF.What is known is that it’s full of potential and it’s off to a good start.As of Friday night for this analysis, the festival was 2/3 over. It began Monday night and was set to continue its free play readings through Saturday night — seven plays in six days.During the course of those first four days, the festival celebrated a different kind of theater. Unlike USF, Tuacahn or even the many community theater companies, from Hurricane Valley Community Theater to Parowan Community Theatre, its focus is on new works — plays that are still searching for their audience and identity. The festival is designed to workshop these plays through readings.There is no set and often no props or costumes. The actors typically either sit or stand behind lecterns where they read directly from the script. Acting comes into play with their voice and occasionally with gestures, but they do not physically interact with each other often.It's basic because the focus is on the words — the plot, structure and rhythm of the play.At the end of each reading, the actors, directors and playwrights gather in the Eccles Black Box Theater at Dixie State University, which is hosting the festival, and participate in a talkback session with the audience. They welcome comments and questions, both positive and Continue Reading

What’s lurking in Arizona university biolabs may surprise

Scientists in Biosafety Level 3 labs at Arizona's three state universities conduct research with broad implications.Their results impact people locally, nationally and even globally.Researchers at Arizona State University's BSL-3 laboratories believe they're close to developing new treatments and vaccines for HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS.Their work, if successful, would represent a major breakthrough in fighting acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a disease that kills approximately 14,000 people in the United States and 1.5 million people worldwide every year. READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT: Deadly diseases lurk In little-known Arizona university biolabsThe HIV work is one of four major areas of study at ASU's biolabs. Other research concentrations involve monkeypox, a potentially fatal disease related to smallpox, plus plague and tuberculosis.AIDS remains a serious threat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 658,500 people in the U.S. and 39 million people worldwide have died from AIDS since the epidemic began in Africa in the late 1950s and arrived in the U.S. in the late 1970s.Researchers at ASU are testing two possible treatments, said Bertram Jacobs, chairman of the university's Institutional Biosafety Committee."Even though there are treatments for HIV, can we find better ones and cheaper ones? Can we find ones that are available and useable throughout the world?" Jacobs asked.One possible treatment researchers are pursuing is a low-cost, plant-based extract that might be able to inhibit HIV replication. ASU scientists already have been able to show positive results in laboratory-controlled cultures. He declined to identify the particular plant.Researchers in Tempe also are part of a large consortium funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that is trying to develop an HIV vaccine. They hope to begin human clinical trials next year."We've been saying 'A year from now' probably for the last two years, but Continue Reading

Joe Torre, we hardly knew ya

On my mind... First, THE book, Yes, that one. The one that's been filling our pages with mostly criticism, Joe Torre's book. First off, I have known Joe Torre a little bit since the time he managed the Mets. I like Joe, an affable sort of fellow who anybody would welcome as a friend. I always saw him (and still do) as an honest straight shooter, who would never steer you wrong. He was "good people," which, in Marine Corps lingo, is the best thing you can say about a person. By now most of us are aware of Joe's dedication, efforts and money he devotes to his foundation that benefits abused children. It is something he holds tightly to his heart. Only a decent person would devote a good part of his life trying to ease the emotional pains of damaged youths. He's been there and knows about childhood traumas. With all of this, I must say, I, too, wonder why Joe would even think of writing negatively about the players he once managed. Thinking about their faults and even disliking them and saying it to a confidant is one thing, but to put it in PRINT for all to read? Once in print, Joe and his coauthor, Tom Verducci, a fine journalist who honed his writing skills as a newspaperman, had to know this kind of "snitching" book would be a winner. Write something nicey-nicey and who's going to read it? Right? So, is this the point or not? What's happening now is that Joe has left himself open to all kinds of speculation. Did he want to "get even" with the Yankees because of the lousy way they treated a man who had done so much for them? Joe, a level-headed guy, never before gave any sign of being vindictive. However, after the Yankees gave Torre a take-it-or-leave-it insult of a contract offer, I can see Joe going out the doors of Yankee Stadium muttering to himself, "those ungrateful SOBs." Clearly, Joe held onto these things because, according to his book, some of his gripes go back years. Spilling the beans would be good. Writing the book Continue Reading

Excerpt: ‘Spiral of Denial’ reveals culture of steroid abuse in football

The following is an excerpt from Matt Chaney's "Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football," a comprehensive analysis of steroid use in football and its impact on society. Chaney used anabolic steroids as a college football player for Southeast Missouri State in 1982. He has worked for decades on the issue as a witness, researcher, and writer. "Spiral of Denial" is available on Thursday here. Just before 11 o'clock on a gray Tuesday morning in southern Pennsylvania, November 2005, a white limousine bus approached Gettysburg. The travelers were middle-aged men and ex-football players, Steelers of yore, late for the funeral of former teammate Steve Courson. Now, one of the Men of Steel called ahead to the church, St. James Lutheran, where about 150 mourners waited. People had been gathering in town since Monday. Like a tardy schoolboy, the player apologized on the phone, saying his group was prevented a timely departure from Pittsburgh, a four-hour journey. Some of them had risen before dawn but to no avail, he said, and he requested delaying the funeral until their arrival. Church officials relented and the holdup was announced, to the chagrin of many in the pews. A "busload of Steelers" was promised, exciting no one. Entering old Gettysburg, the great battlefield spread about the local hills, the ex-Steelers knew what, and who, awaited them: a potentially adverse situation with people unimpressed by football mythology. This would be no autograph session with loyal fans, no one celebrating the Super Bowl glory years. Instead, the funeral congregation was family and close friends of Steve Courson, people who understood the issue of muscle drugs in football, and who personally knew Courson and his 20-year fight to shed light on its consequences. The Steelers' franchise and alumni players were not highly regarded by most people waiting at the church. For ex-Steelers on the bus, steroid use on their historic teams was no secret. Rather, it Continue Reading

In ‘The Gargoyle,’ she’s loved him for centuries

THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson. Doubleday, $25.95 You just might have missed it, but the pre-publication hype around Andrew Davidson's first novel, "The Gargoyle," has been intense. The Canadian writer and his agent turned down a preemptive bid of $1 million. At auction, the book garnered $1.25 million, though international rights bring that figure close to $2 million. Oh, and the author is tall, dark and handsome. That counts in publicity world. Yet this story of a coke-addled porn star who falls in with a woman claiming he first romanced her in the 14th century more than stands up to the attention. While Davidson's deep research informs the more arcane subjects he pursues - read and learn - the love story is swoonworthy. Out of control on drugs, the beauteous narrator, who goes unnamed, swerves to avoid a hallucinatory cascade of arrows and slams through a guardrail before the car explodes. He emerges burned beyond recognition, almost beyond belief. Recovery is excruciating. The only thing that keeps him going is his elaborate plan to commit suicide on the day he's released. Then a wild-haired woman shows up at his bedside, and everything changes. Marianne Engel is a sculptress as well as a psychiatric patient at the hospital. On their meeting, she searches for signs of recognition from him. She worries that he might not be who she thinks he is. But he is. Or at least could be, if one is willing to entirely suspend all belief in reality as we know it. She tells him he was formerly a mercenary who came to the convent where she had been housed since birth in 1300. He had been burned badly in battle, and she nursed him back to health. Together they ran away and married. She feeds him this story bit by bit, continuing after she brings him home to her stone fortress, where she carves gargoyles that fetch high prices in an elite market. To carve, she sleeps on a slab of rock so as to hear the voice of the creature calling out to her what form it Continue Reading

Meet ‘Annie’s’ real Daddy Warbucks, creator and director Martin Charnin

Martin Charnin is the real Daddy Warbucks.No, he’s not a billionaire businessman. But “Annie,” the musical he conceived and first directed in 1976, is his baby, a daughter he “adopted” (technically, adapted) from the long-running comic strip “Little Orphan Annie.” And for nearly 40 years, he has been her fierce protector.So Charnin, 81, pulls no punches in describing Broadway’s most recent revival, directed by James Lapine, the Sondheim collaborator and three-time Tony Award winner, in 2012.“They decided to invest it with kind of a dark overtone, undertone — I don’t know what kind of tone they brought to it,” says, who also wrote the lyrics for the show.“They changed it, and because they changed it, all of the heart and the joy (was missing), and the audience didn’t respond to it. It did not have good word of mouth, and when they wanted to send it out on the road, the request from all of the presenters was, ‘We don’t want that “Annie,” we want The “Annie.” ’ And that’s when I got involved and rejoined the mission. Because it is one of my great goals in life to be the keeper of the flame and make sure that ‘Annie’ gets done properly.”For the record, Lapine’s revival ran for more than a year on Broadway, although it was still a money loser, and its producers decided not to tour it. Thus it will be Charnin’s “Annie” making a stop at Tempe’s ASU Gammage Wednesday through Sunday, May 4-8.“Pragmatically, every time you do it, you learn something,” Charnin says. “The minute you cast the show, the material changes, and the fun of it and the excitement of it is to see how different actors have different takes on the material. No two productions that I’ve done — and I’ve done 19 of them — have ever had the same scenic structure.GET SOCIAL WITH Continue Reading

Corrections & Clarifications

To report corrections & clarifications, contact:Please indicate whether you're responding to content online or in the newspaper.The following corrections & clarifications have been published on stories produced by USA TODAY's newsroom: February 2018Life:An earlier version of this report incorrectly credited the 1996 Summer Olympics performance of The Power of the Dream. Celine Dion sang the theme at the opening ceremony; the song was performed again at the closing ceremony by Rachel McMullin and a choir of other children.​ Sports: A previous version of this graphic incorrectly located hockey player Megan Keller's hometown on the map. Sports: An earlier version of this story misidentified the U.S. hockey player who is quoted in the third paragraph. Opinion: An earlier version of this column mischaracterized who could receive a tax credit for campaign donations. It would be refundable and available to all Americans who file taxes. Sports: A photo in some editions Feb. 8 incorrectly identified the person next to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The person was special teams coach Joe Judge. Sports: A headline in some Feb. 12 editions had an incorrect result of Serena and Venus Williams’ doubles match in the Fed Cup. The sisters lost. Twitter: On Feb. 11, a previous tweet misidentified Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson. Continue Reading

PRACTICAL MAGIC. Nicole Kidman zooms in on her dark movie material while keeping her private life in focus

It isn't hard to go into murky emotional woods with Nicole Kidman. In movies like "The Others" (2001), "Dogville" (2003) and "Birth" (2004), the ­actress' innate serenity and porcelain beauty mirror the spooky unreality of a ghost tale, a moralistic parable and a mystery about reincarnation, respectively. She describes her new film, "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," opening Friday, as "a very weird fairy tale. " Asked if there's anything fairy taleish about herself, she says "Not at all" before offering an image of her inner life that seems like a drawing in a children's storybook. "My life ... sometimes it feels likes it floats rather than being actually earthed, and at other times I feel like I'm brought down to earth very quickly," she says. Yet that sense of "floating," she insists, isn't always good. "I try and be very open to things that come along, to have my eyes and ears open. But that's a hard place to exist in. It's quite raw sometimes. "But ultimately, I'd rather be like that than closed off. You develop scar tissue. Though it's a really hard way to live. " Right now it's real life that's difficult for the 39-year-old actress. On Oct. 19, her husband since June 25, country star Keith Urban, who was born in New Zealand but like Kidman was raised in Australia, voluntarily went into a treatment center to deal with an alcoholism problem. Kidman was "at his side," as celebrity magazines said. Before meeting the red-headed Oscar winner, Urban had battled, and defeated, addiction demons, but now they involve his new superstar wife - who lives with him in Nashville - and so the 39-year-old musician reportedly wanted to address his drinking before it got worse. (His new CD, "Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing," is due in stores Tuesday.) Asked about life with Urban, Kidman simply says that "It's beautiful to have a family, and love, to be part of a union. " In the years since her 2001 divorce from Tom Cruise - after nine Continue Reading