Trump signs bill to avert shutdown

The federal government avoids another shutdown–at least until December 20.

A funding bill to keep the federal government open until December 20 received President Trump’s signature Thursday, averting partial government shutdowns that would have gone into effect Friday had the bill not cleared his desk. Congress will continue negotiations in the coming weeks over how to divvy up the funds among all federal agencies and keep the government funded from December 20 until the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2020.

The bill had passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 231-92 and cleared the Senate earlier by 74-20.

The next round of Congressional funding negotiations coincides with Congressional impeachment inquiries into Trump’s purported attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son.

Trump’s demand that Congress provide funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border also remains a major sticking point. One of the funding bills that is still under debate in Congress, a Homeland Security bill, includes $5 billion for border-wall construction. Democrats oppose the wall funding and are also seeking to block Trump from using “emergency powers” to allocate military funds toward the wall.

Democrats have insisted that none of the funding bills be finalized until there is agreement on all of them. But some Democrats have stated willingness in recent days to consider a “cromnibus” that combines new funding for most of the government along with continuing resolutions for the more controversial bills, such as Homeland Security.

“The wall I think is the major impediment. But that’s only one bill: the Department of Homeland Security,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said earlier in the week. “But it ought not to adversely affect the other 11 bills. They’re being held hostage, essentially.”

10 Tips for Your Next Group Trip

Wrangling up all of your crazy friends for a trip might sound like an impossible challenge, but we’re here to help.

Wrangling up all of your crazy friends for a trip might sound like an impossible challenge, but we’re here to help. We’ve put together 10 of our best ideas (and resources!) for a fun and unforgettable group trip for you and your squad.


Ship Your Luggage

This idea might sound crazy at first, but give us a minute. Imagine traveling with your besties on a dream vacay and not having to worry about your luggage at ALL. This means no schlepping your stuff around and no getting stuck at the luggage carousel. All you need to worry about is your neck pillow, your mags and your airplane snacks. Use a service like LugLess to send all of your bags (or skis, golf clubs, etc) ahead of time, and it will all be waiting for you as soon as you get to your destination.

Track It All

When you’re traveling with a big group there are so many details to track. Travefy can help you sort through every last one of ’em. Use the app to plan each day’s itinerary, ask the group questions, vote on decisions and chat with everyone in real time to work it all out. You can also easily import travel documents, share maps and collect money for any shared expenses for your group’s adventures.

Go Back to Summer Camp

If you’ve been missing your summer camp days, it might be time to recapture your youth at the Summer Camp Hotel in Martha’s Vineyard. There’s plenty of nostalgia like the hotel’s “canteen” where you can go for a snack or large ping-pong tables to keep everyone busy. But it’s also way cozier than the twin beds back in your old camp bunk. Best of all, you’ll be on Martha’s Vineyard with all your friends, so you can enjoy the beach as well as the best restaurants and activities on the island.

Take On a Unique (Airbnb) Experience

We’ve all heard of hotel alternative Airbnb, but you might not have heard about their newest creation: Experiences. In every city where Airbnb exists, hosts and non-hosts are able to put together unique, unexpected activities that your group can sign up for (and you don’t need to be staying in an Airbnb to enjoy them!). You can join in activities like rooftop silent disco yoga in Los Angeles, surf school in Bali, taxidermy class in London or glassblowing in Chicago. Wherever you and your friends are headed, search through the site and try to find some fun adventures to add to your itinerary.

Track Money

Splitwise is another must-have app if you plan on hitting the road with all of your group. The app allows you to keep a running tab of all the money you owe each other throughout the trip. If you spring for movie tickets on night one and buy everyone tacos on day three, Splitwise will keep track of it all. Each person can keep track of all of the expenses they need to be paid back for, and at the end of the trip, you can all easily pay each other without a stack of receipts and IOUs.

Let Disney Plan Your Trip

Disney might seem like an obvious choice if you’re going on a trip with kids. But believe it or not, it’s also a killer destination even if you’re just with adults. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., is the bigger of the two U.S. parks and can offer days of fun beyond the Magic Kingdom. They also have Epcot (eat your way around the world!), Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. If you’re traveling with a group of 10 people or more, Disney Group Getaways can help you plan your whole trip from start to finish.

Go on a Scavenger Hunt

A fun activity that you and your friends could do almost anywhere is a group scavenger hunt. And while you might not be up for planning one yourselves, there’s an app you can use instead. Goose Chase can help you plan your entire scavenger hunt. It allows you to build your own game by giving your group a name, choosing different types of missions and tracking everyone’s progress in real time. Keep score and make sure to bring along some special prizes for your winning team once the hunt is over.

Get Dinner Reservations Anywhere

If you’re the most organized person in your group, step up to the plate and agree to handle all the restaurant reservations. Use OpenTable to check out restaurants in a ton of different cities, and plan the meals for everyone. The app allows you to make reservations, ask questions of the restaurant and look at menus and more.

Go on an Oprah Cruise

If you and your friends really want to live your best lives this year, maybe you should all go on one of Oprah’s themed cruises. Oprah has teamed up with Holland America to put together transformative trips. O Magazine editors join leaders from Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 for a few life-changing days at sea. The trip includes things like morning meditations, O’s Reading Room, Spiritual sessions and eating guidance.

Get a Little Matchy-Matchy

You can’t plan a group trip without finding a fun item you can get for everyone to remember the vacation. A T-shirt is always a great idea for the group, but you can get a lot more creative. If you’re going on a group tropical vacay, you can get matching beach hats for all of your girlfriends. If you’re going to a great shopping destination, why not get custom tote bags for you and your friends? Once you settle on a group gift, make sure to give yourself enough time before you leave to order one for everyone.

Gervais will run jokes past attorneys

Gervais takes aim at the Academy.

Comedian Ricky Gervais is speaking out again, after receiving word he will be hosting the Oscars yet again.

The comedian, known for his witty and controversial sense of humor, said this year’s jokes will be run past his lawyers first.

“’I never do anything that terrible as it’s on network television, but I do have to show my script to a lawyer at the last minute,” he said, via The Daily Mail.

“They don’t change anything because I know the law and what I can get away with. I’ve never libeled anyone, and I’ve never had a complaint upheld,” he added.

Cummings shared topless photo after smoking marijuana: ‘It was my own fault’

Cummings talks Instagram.

Whitney Cummings is discussing the time she accidentally shared her nipple on Instgram.

The comedian addressed the incident in an appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” this week, revealing that she was smoking pot when she posted the raunchy snippet.

“It was actually my own fault. I was doing Instagram Stories one night and weed is now legal in California, which is not a good mix. I had done [a Story] and it kind of slipped a little bit,” Cummings said.

The comment comes just after Cummings issued a statement via her Twitter account, saying:

“1) In April I accidentally posted an insta story that showed nipple. Once I realized, I deleted. The people who took screen grabs are trying to get money from me, some said they have offers to sell them, some are asking for money to not post the photo.”

Attaching the topless photo, she continued, “2) They all must think I’m way more famous than I am, but they also must think I’m way more easily intimidated than I am. If anyone is gonna make money or likes off my nipple, it’s gonna be me. So here it all is, you foolish dorks.”

Cummings told Clarkson she would seek in the coming days to take back control of her Twitter account, saying she did not want people to focus on the mistake.

“I just took the bargaining chip off the table. It was the only thing I knew how to do,” Cummings told Clarkson. “It’s a boob!”

Former White House official: Quid pro quo came directly from Trump

Recently released transcripts from the House committees investigating President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine further bolster the case that Trump had directly ordered a “quid pro quo.”

White House officials have told the House in closed-door meetings that President Trump ordered the alleged “quid pro quo” making military aid to Ukraine contingent upon the Ukrainian government opening an investigation of former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. These statements appear in meetings transcripts that House investigators released on Saturday.

The testifying officials included Timothy Morrison, deputy assistant to Trump; and Jennifer Williams, a top aid to Vice-President Mike Pence. Morrison and Williams had both listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and expressed concerns about it afterward.

This was the phone call in which Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens and explore purported Ukrainian involvement in interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Williams, testifying earlier this month, said that Trump’s requests of Zelensky were “unusual and inappropriate.”

Morrison, testifying last month, said that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had told Ukrainian officials that a meeting they were seeking with Trump, as well as U.S. military aid, were both contingent on Ukraine publicly announcing investigations of the Bidens. Morrison further testified that Sondland had been “directly discussing” these matters with Trump.

“The testimony released today shows that President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky immediately set off alarm bells throughout the White House. Both witnesses provided the Committees with first-hand accounts after personally listening to the call in the White House Situation Room,” the chairs of the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees said in a statement on Saturday.

Car crashes are rising fast in states where marijuana is legal

Car crashes are increasingly a problem in marijuana-legal states, and lawmakers are unsure what to do about it.

Car accidents have spiked in the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana, as law enforcement and state lawmakers grapple with how to define marijuana-impaired driving and test drivers for marijuana. It is much more complex than enforcing laws against driving drunk, analysts said.

Colorado, Washington, and Oregon saw a combined 5.2% increase in the rate of police-reported car crashes after marijuana legalization, compared with neighboring states where marijuana is still illegal, according to researchers from the Highway Loss Data Institute, who compiled and analyzed data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The researchers also found that auto-insurance collision claims increased a combined 6% across all three states since legalization, compared with neighboring states.

Other organizations are voicing worry over the issue. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission said that the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in the state who tested positive for THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, more than doubled since 2013. Recreational sales of marijuana first occurred legally in Washington in 2014.

Helen Witty, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that “Drunk driving is still the No. 1 killer on our roads. … But drugged driving, as it’s legalized across this country, is a huge, emerging issue.”

Researchers said that policing against marijuana-impaired driving is difficult as there is no official legal definition of it, nor is there any recognized breathalyzer-like system for reliably detecting marijuana in a driver’s breath or blood. The presence of marijuana in blood also does not necessarily indicate impairment, and THC can disappear from the bloodstream in as little as a half-hour, making it difficult to capture incriminating evidence from even a driver who has consumed marijuana, said Staci Hoff, research director at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Iranians protest en masse over gas price hikes

Steep gas price hikes and fuel rations have sparked protest in cities across Iran.

One person was killed and others wounded Friday during protests in several cities in Iran over the government’s decision to ration gas and increase its cost by more than 50%. Iranian authorities instituted these measures as part of efforts to mitigate the impacts of U.S. sanctions.

The death occurred during a protest in the city of Sirjan and was reported by the local acting governor, Mohammad Mahmoudabadi. Mahmoudabadi said that the cause of death was “unclear” and that security forces only had authorization to “fire warning shots… which they did.” He added that the protest was a “calm gathering” but that some individuals exploited it to destroy public property and damage fuel stations.

Other protests broke out overnight in nine other cities, including Abadan, Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, and Shiraz. Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari also reported “sporadic gatherings across the country in different cities” on Saturday morning, following the overnight demonstrations.

The catalyst, according to Jabbari, was government announcements Friday morning that petrol use nationwide would now be rationed using “smart fuel cards,” with fuel for private cars restricted to 16 gallons a month. The government also announced that the price of fuel would jump 50% to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13) a liter, and additional charges for any fuel purchased above the allotted ration limit.

The news alarmed Iranian households that are already suffering in an economy that is forecast to shrink 9.5% this year and in the grip of major inflation and a currency crisis, according to Jabbari.

“Without any warning, the prices went up drastically and many here say that this is not something they can really deal with because it will have ramifications in other aspects of their daily life, meaning that the price of bread, eggs and other goods will also rise because of this,” said Jabbari.

Syrian president wants U.S. troops out of Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned that U.S. forces keeping guard over Syrian oilfields risk getting bogged down in another costly and bloody Iraq-style occupation, while President Trump said that he is prepared to stay and “fight for the oil.”

U.S. troops staying in Syria risk getting bogged down in another endless war like the U.S. occupation of Iraq, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said. The Syrian head of state, who is reestablishing control over his war-torn country after more than eight years of combat against the Islamic State and a multitude of antigovernment factions, issued this rebuke to U.S. President Trump’s recently announced decision to keep some U.S. forces in eastern Syria to guard local oilfields.

Assad told Russian television station Rossiya-24 TV that U.S. occupying forces risk “an Iraq-style scenario,” adding that “The U.S. occupation of Syria will give rise to a military confrontation which will lead to losses among the Americans and later to their withdrawal.”

U.S. forces withdrew from northeastern Syria in October, following a drawdown in fighting against the Islamic State. The U.S. departure from this zone allowed al-Assad’s forces and their Russian backers to take control of areas that had previously been in the hands of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who had been allied with the United States against the Islamic State.

But Trump subsequently ordered U.S. forces to secure oilfields in eastern Syria. Trump said in an interview that securing the oil deprives any residual Islamic State forces of a critical source of revenue.

But it isn’t just the Islamic State that Trump wants U.S. forces guarding the oil from: He added that other countries or groups might want to claim the oil.

“We may have to fight for the oil. That’s okay,” Trump said, and added that “we’ll negotiate a deal with whoever else is claming it, or we’ll militarily stop them very quickly.”

Majority of Italians says racist violence is ‘justifiable’

Hate speech, racist attitudes, and even hate crimes are becoming more socially accepted in Italy, a polling firm warns.

Acts of racially inspired violence are at least sometimes justifiable, a majority of Italian respondents said in a recent poll. The results follow a slew of highly publicized racist and antisemitic crimes across the country and mark the first time in a decade in which more than half of respondents did not condemn racism outright.

The polling firm SWG conducted the survey, which obtained responses from 1,500 people. A total of 45% of respondents said that racists acts are acceptable depending on the situation, while another 10% said that such acts are “always” justifiable.

The polling firm has conducted this survey every year for more than a decade, but only this year has it found a majority of respondents defending racist acts. Enzo Risso, scientific director at SWG, placed some blame on increases in hate speech online and the general public “becoming more used to” this rhetoric.

“What this means is that there has been a relaxation in attitudes towards racism—not necessarily that people have become racist, more that they are becoming more accepting of racist acts and do not consider them so scandalous,” said Risso.

Anger and vitriol against immigrants from Africa and the Middle East has flared in many parts of Europe, due partly to native Europeans associating the immigrants with increased crime and other social problems. Anti-immigrant political organizations and parties have gained members and seen their poll numbers grow in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and other nations.

But anti-Jewish activity has also increased in recent years. Italian authorities assigned Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor, a polic escort last week after she received a barrage of online threats–including death threats–from far-right extremists.

Best U.S. Resorts With Foodie Workshops

Sitting poolside or hitting the links isn’t for everyone. More and more resorts are expanding activity programs with amenities that cater to foodies.

Sitting poolside or hitting the links isn’t for everyone. More and more resorts are expanding activity programs with amenities that cater to foodies. Food is such a big part of travel and one of the best ways to learn about another region and its culinary gifts. So for the traveler who savors every bite, plans entire trips around a restaurant or just loves to try something new, these resorts are a must.

Sustainable Foodies
L.A.’s oceanfront Terranea Resort lives off the land and sea. The resort’s farm-to-table program, led by Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra, includes a sea salt conservatory that harvests salt from the Pacific Ocean. Guests can attend a salt workshop at the conservatory and learn about the salt-making process plus sample delicious cold-smoked and infused salts such as the resort’s signature citrus salt made with Meyer lemons grown on site. The tasting also includes a complimentary glass of ONEHOPE bubbly to wash it all down. Workshops are held the first Saturday of the month and reservations must be made in advance.

Farm to Table Foodies
Blackberry Farm is synonymous with chic, country living. They have a Farmstead tasting tour, hands-on farm activities, farm-to-table lunch demos, wine and whiskey tastings, cheese-making events and that’s just scratching the surface of food to-dos on property. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the ultra-luxe, Tennessee resort ups the food workshop ante with an immersive day-in-the-life chef experience.

Global Foodie
Vermont’s Essex Resort and Spa doesn’t have cooking classes; they have an entire cooking school. But don’t let that intimidate you. The Cook Academy classrooms are intimate and low-key, where beginners can learn and advanced cooks can hone. The school’s classes offer a tour of the world in cuisine, from workshops on Italian pasta to a taste of Australia to NOLA classics. And the course list wouldn’t be complete without a demo and tasting of Vermont maple syrup.

Gourmet Foodies
The Wynn Las Vegas isn’t just about gaming. The resort’s Master Class series features workshops led by master chefs, sommeliers, bakers and artisans. Topics range from sushi-making to the world of sparkling wine, making these courses a great option for honeymoons or just a romantic date night.

Forage Foodies
Foodie workshops aren’t typically described as an adventure but that’s what they are at the La Tourelle Resort and Spa. Firelight Camps, the resort’s glamping site, makes travelers work for their food by taking guests on a 70-acre foraging expedition. The adventure ends with a hands-on feast where Food Network star Emma Frisch shows guests how to incorporate found-ingredients.

Spice Foodies
Learn the art of tea blending at New York’s Inns of Aurora. Laura Coburn, the resort’s Director of Serenity (coolest title ever) leads customized tea sessions at the property’s wellness space, The Loft. Coburn teaches guests about the healing properties of spices and herbs plus provides a unique, tailored tea recipe for each guest.