Black Panther’s defining moment, Venezuela today, and eight other stories you might have missed

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1. Big little lies

Led by the man at the top, lying has been the calling card of the Trump administration. President Trump made 2,140 false or misleading claims in his first year. We’ve become so inured to the relentless barrage of often ridiculous lies that we rightfully wonder whether there is any downside to the practice. The price paid (if any) for wanton lying will once again be put to the test as the White House comes under increased scrutiny over its handling of the Rob Porter vetting, firing, and critically, the stories told in the aftermath of his departure. We’re used to the White House being contradicted by the media specifically, and reality broadly, but this time, the administration’s story is being contradicted by the FBI.

+ “While the president often makes a hash of the truth, aides took Kelly’s word at face value until they were confronted with zigzagging accounts of the events leading up to former staff secretary Rob Porter’s resignation — and Kelly’s role in them.” Politico: John Kelly is increasingly isolated as the Porter scandal rages on.

+ CNN: Porter was up for promotion despite abuse allegations.

+ David Graham in The Atlantic: “How could it be that Porter was still working with an interim clearance, and perhaps in line for a promotion, even after the FBI had delivered a report that recommended he not be granted clearance? … This shows a fundamental truth of the clearance process: There’s no mechanism to enforce it.”

2. Pushing the pedal to the meddle

“As the midterm elections approach, Russia is likely to throw more propaganda at Americans, using people sympathetic to their messages and fake personalities on social media — many of them run by bots — to sow further political and social divisions in the United States.” American intelligence officials are unanimous in their determination that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. And as the NYT reports, they all agree that Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord.

+ Bloomberg: “US forces killed scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War.”

3. Venezuela’s orphan age

“We were at Venezuela’s largest orphanage, just after lunch. The yard was an obstacle course of abandoned children. A little chunk of a boy, on the cusp of 3, sat on a play scooter. He was called El Gordo — the fat one. But when he was left here a few months ago, he was skin and bones.” WaPo: Venezuela’s economy is so bad, parents are leaving their children at orphanages.

+ More than a million people have left Venezuela in the past two years, creating yet another global migration crisis.

4. A month by the grand lake

“I found myself standing at that same spot, having gotten out of my car to take a picture of the Grand Lake’s marquee. The words “Black Panther” were on it, placed dead center. They were not in normal-size letters; the theater was using the biggest ones it had. All the other titles huddled together in another corner of the marquee. A month away from its Feb. 16 opening, Black Panther was, already and by a wide margin, the most important thing happening at the Grand Lake.” Carvell Wallace in the NYT Magazine: Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America.

5. Five ring circus

She represents America’s immigrant story. She’s relatable (and quite hangry) on social media. She’s the youngest woman to win a snowboarding medal. Oh, and she’s ridiculously awesome at her sport. ESPN: Chloe Kim fulfills her golden destiny—from “baby girl” to full-fledged dragon.

+ “I was recently asked in an interview what its like to be a gay athlete in sports. I said that it’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eye brows.” Adam Rippon won a bronze medal in South Korea. But he’s taking home gold on Twitter.

+ “How often, in ways petty and profound, the world tries to tamp down what Adam Rippon so wondrously, confidently exuded on that ice. And how terrific that so many kids may have seen it and loved it and then gone skating around their own living rooms, maybe feeling a little freer than before.” RIchard Lawson in Vanity Fair: The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon.

+ “The cheerleaders have been praised as human olive branches, a preliminary way to ease tensions during the current nuclear crises. They have been criticized as singing, dancing spearheads of a strategic North Korean propaganda campaign at the Games.” (In other words, they’re a perfect metaphor for everything related to North Korea’s participation in the Olympics.) From the NYT: A Night Out With North Korea’s Cheerleaders: Matching Snowsuits, Military Discipline and Chaperoned Bathroom Trips.

+ “The example we give to people is it’s like running up a flight of stairs as fast as you can and then trying to thread a needle.” Olympic biathletes learn to shoot between heartbeats. “During the race, a skier’s heart pumps, or beats, at roughly 90 percent of its maximum allowable rate.” (My heart rate achieves that level just trying to disembark from a chairlift…)

6. Shekel and hyde

“He said past scandals had all ‘ended with nothing’ and ‘this time as well they will end with nothing.’” So said Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli police recommended he be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in a pair of corruption cases.

7. Money talks

An administration’s proposed budget often gets almost completely rewritten by Congress. But, as WaPo reports: “the budget is an important signal of the administration’s priorities.” Here’s an in-depth look at what the proposal keeps and what it cuts.

+ One area where the proposed budget aims to save money is by overhauling “the longstanding food stamp program, replacing [part of] it with a box of canned goods that it has likened to Blue Apron.”

8. Revolving Salvador

“The FBI hatched a deal to bring him back from El Salvador in 2013, just a year after he had been deported following a lengthy prison stint in Florida. His mission: infiltrate the notorious MS-13 gang in Massachusetts.” Boston Globe: Meet the criminal who went undercover in the country’s largest MS-13 takedown.

9. Disney cruisers

“Like an oddly wholesome motorcycle gang, members wear denim vests festooned with Disney trading pins on the front. On the back are patches bearing the image of their club’s totem character. Many members own annual passes and visit Disneyland frequently. Some members have tattoos of Walt Disney himself.” NPR: Lawsuit Alleges Mafia-Like Tactics Aimed At A Disneyland Social Club.

10. Bottom of the news

“A startup called Skydio is launching the first drone capable of visually imprinting on a person, a bit like a needy duckling, and then following him or her around, deftly navigating around trees, pylons, and other obstacles while shooting video.” Check out the new drones that dodge obstacles without guidance and can pursue you like paparazzi. That sounds awesome. I mean, assuming it’s your drone…

+ An Oral History of The Wire’s Unforgettable 5-Minute ‘F*ck’ Scene.

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