Ed Sheeran will guest star on 'Game of Thrones' next season

Published: Monday, March 13, 2017 @ 3:52 AM
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017 @ 3:52 AM

            Ed Sheeran will guest star on 'Game of Thrones' next season

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is going to guest star on "Game of Thrones" Season 7.

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Yeah, you read that right. And you can think Maisie Williams for it.

“Game of Thrones” showrunners reportedly made the announcement at a South by Southwest panel Sunday. According to showrunner David Benioff, the series' executives made the call as a special surprise to Williams, who is a big fan of the singer.

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“For years, we tried to get Ed Sheeran on the show to surprise Maisie, and this year we finally did it,” Benioff said during the panel, according to Variety. Variety reportedly reached out to HBO for further details, and a spokesperson confirmed Sheeran would be on the show but simply said, “He has a role. No more details.”

Interior Department first federal agency to allow dogs at work

Published: Friday, March 24, 2017 @ 3:07 PM

Interior Department first federal agency to allow dogs at work

The cabinet secretary who rode in on a horse his first day of work is leading the pack to make his the first federal agency to be dog-friendly. 

Interior secretary Ryan Zinke announced the “Doggy Days at Interior” program Thursday to nearly 70,000 employees, which would allow them to bring their pooches to work in an attempt to boost morale at the federal agency that includes the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, according to The Washington Post

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The program will be tested May 5 and Sept. 1 at the department’s Washington headquarters.

“Today is National Puppy Day, and I don’t know about you, but it makes me think of how much my family dog, Ragnar, makes my day better,” Zinke wrote in an email Thursday. “Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day.”

The dogs will have to be housebroken, vaccinated and have no history of aggression, according to the Post. Zinke also has rules for coworkers who have concerns about having dogs in the workplace including allowing them to work outside of the office. 

Zinke hopes the program will help improve morale at the department, which is ranked 11 out of 18 in a federal government survey.

“Scientific studies show having a dog around the office improves morale and productivity, and having dogs around the office has health benefits like reducing stress levels,” Zinke wrote the Huffington Post reported. “Research suggests it might make you trust your coworker more and improve collaboration, too. I’m willing to give it a shot and hope you’ll work with me in this new endeavor.

Zinke rode Tonto, a U.S. Park Police horse that lives at the stables on the Mall, on his first day of work.


With protesters outside, Republicans at local GOP dinner stressed unity

Published: Thursday, March 23, 2017 @ 7:49 PM
Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017 @ 5:08 PM

Republicans had a good showing in November’s election but now need to focus on unity in order to accomplish their goals, Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Rob Secaur said Thursday’s annual Montgomery County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner.

With factions of his party fighting it out in Washington, D.C., Secaur’s words seemed especially on point. On Friday, a vote on a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was canceled after it failed to muster the votes for passage.

House Republicans withdraw health care bill

Groups opposing the GOP health care plan protested outside the county party dinner, held at the Mandalay Banquet Center in Moraine. Tom Young, a Republican member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said it is the first time he can remember protesters at a Lincoln Day dinner.

About 50 people lined the roadway, wearing birthday party hats and blowing horns as cars pulled into the Mandalay. The hats were in honor of the 7th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

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“I’m outraged at the Republican plan to destroy the health care system,” said protester Joy Schwab of the Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance.

Thursday’s protest was organized by Dayton Indivisible for All and other progressive groups who have called on U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, to hold a town hall meeting with constituents to hear their concerns. Turner has not scheduled a town hall, but on March 18 the groups calling for one held a constituent town hall for him. Turner did not attend.

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“We need a public forum where we can ask Mike Turner questions and express our concerns in this time of huge uncertainty and all kinds of tumultuous change,” said Davin Flateau of Dayton Indivisible for All.

Turner’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Thursday’s protest. In a previous interview Turner said he meets with lots of groups but does not consider Dayton Indivisible for All to be legitimate.

“We are of course completely baffled why he doesn’t consider us ‘legitimate,’” said Flateau. “I’m not sure there’s any logic behind it.”

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Turner was the scheduled speaker at the GOP dinner but local party officials said he was unable to attend because of the debate over the Obamacare replacement bill. 

Stepping in to replace him was Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo, who said Republicans must remain united and true to their principles following their successful November election.

“From my house to literally the White House, Republicans control,” said Mingo, who plans to run for state treasurer. “But we also have opportunity, opportunity to do good and to ensure that voters understand that they made a wise decision in granting us the privilege of serving in 2016.”

RELATED: Groups hold town hall without Rep. Mike Turner

Opposition to abortion and support of the Second Amendment are areas where there is no room for compromise, he said.

Mingo also said the party must have compassion for those in need, but must always encourage self-reliance.

He received a standing ovation from the packed banquet room when he offered up a conservative response to the issue of race relations in America.

“That solution is simply love and fellowship,” said Mingo, who is black. “We have the capacity to come together as one.”

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Amy Schumer drops out of live-action ‘Barbie’ movie

Published: Friday, March 24, 2017 @ 5:05 PM
Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017 @ 4:54 PM

Amy Schumer drops out of live-action ‘Barbie’ movie

According to a new report from Variety magazine, actress and comedian Amy Schumer will not appear in the live-action “Barbie” film, as previously planned. 

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News that Schumer would star in the production was announced in December

This week, Schumer announced that she would no longer be able to participate in the production due to scheduling issues. 

“Sadly, I’m no longer able to commit to ‘Barbie’ due to scheduling conflicts,” the actress said in a statement to Variety. “The film has so much promise, and Sony and Mattel have been great partners. I’m bummed, but look forward to seeing ‘Barbie’ on the big screen.”

“We respect and support Amy’s decision,” a spokesperson for Sony said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing Barbie to the world and sharing updates on casting and filmmakers soon.”

Sony will more than likely have to stick with the previously planned June 29, 2018 release date since Mattel has already produced merchandise and plans with that date in mind. 

According to IMDb, the film is about a doll who sets off on an adventure in the real world after being expelled from ‘Barbieland’ for not being perfect enough.

Sony is still seeking a director for the comedy.

House Republicans withdraw health care bill

Published: Friday, March 24, 2017 @ 11:07 AM

House Republicans pulled their health care overhaul bill off the House floor Friday afternoon at President Donald Trump’s request after it became apparent the measure would fall short of the 216 votes needed for passage.

It signaled a huge defeat both for Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who attempted to cajole enough Republican members to sign onto a piece of legislation that not many of their constituents appeared to like.

Recent polls show the bill has little support across the country.

The decision to pull the bill came during a closed-door meeting of House Republicans where reporters standing outside could hear a recording of the Rolling Stones’ hit song, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Supporters argued the bill is an improvement over the existing health law known as Obamacare, which passed Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote. But the replacement ran aground as conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus saw it as just another version of Obamacare with some referring to it as Obamacare Lite.

Despite much arm-twisting by Trump and House Republican leadership, the number of holdouts appeared to hold steady and even increase.

Ohio Republicans Jim Jordan of Urbana and David Joyce of Russell Twp. announced Friday they would vote against the bill, which had been scheduled for a floor vote this afternoon.

While Jordan, one of the House’s most conservative Republicans, had been expected to vote against the bill, Joyce is a more moderate lawmaker who represents one of the most politically divided districts in Ohio.

“After listening to constituents, business leaders and medical professionals throughout my district, I came to the conclusion the” Ryan bill “was not a better solution,” Joyce said in a statement.

“I’m eager to support legislation that doesn’t reduce funding in the Medicare trust fund and actually helps lower healthcare costs for the more than 465,000 people in my district who obtain their health insurance via their employer,” Joyce said.

“Those individuals, who make up 65 percent of the district, have seen nothing but higher premiums, higher deductibles, and higher co-pays,” Joyce said. “We need to find solutions to help them and their families. The middle class cannot keep bearing the brunt of everything.”

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, said he was undecided Friday after previously saying he would oppose the measure.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, has said he wants to see more money Medicaid put into the bill.

Among Ohio lawmakers who say they support the plan are Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who is running for governor in Ohio, and Columbus area Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., who has been a vocal supporter of the bill.

With some moderates peeling off and the conservative Freedom Caucus appearing not to be onboard, the bill appeared by mid-day to be in major trouble.

Still, Renacci said, “I plan to vote in favor of taking the first step towards rescuing our health care system from the disastrous failures of Obamacare.

Tiberi said his constituents “deserve more choices. They deserve better access.”

He said the bill would put “people’s power back in their hands, not in Washington’s hands.”

In the end, frustration over how the bill came to the floor seemed to mirror the frustration with what was in the bill itself. Republicans complained that the GOP leadership and the Trump administration had tried to force a vote despite members’ concerns, telling members the vote would be a “litmus test” in the future.

“This is just the same movie, but they’ve changed the title and changed the names of the players,” one Republican source said, comparing it to Democratic efforts to approve the 2010 health law, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

Pointing out that passage of the law led to major Democratic losses in the 2010 congressional elections, the GOP source asked, “Why the hell would we try to do the same thing and ram it down someone’s throats?”

“The idea that this is the first thing they do is just ludicrous, and particularly in such a partisan manner.”

Since passage of Obamacare, Republicans have complained the law did nothing to control the rise in premiums in the individual insurance market while burdening taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars to expand eligibility to Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health coverage to low-income and disabled.

One of the major demands by conservatives was to eliminate an Obamacare requirement that required private insurers to provide a minimum package of benefits, including ambulance services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, and treatment for mental health and substance abuse.

Conservatives have argued that such a mandate drives up the cost of health care and prevents insurance companies from offering a wider range of policies in the individual market. Defenders of the mandate say it prevents insurance companies from offering middle-income people policies that provide skimpy coverage.

As a compromise, Ryan has suggested allowing the states — not the federal government — to establish a minimum package of benefits.

In addition, Ryan wants to add $15 billion to a $100 billion fund known as a patient state stability fund, which would allow states to finance insurance pools for high-risk patients, such as those with chronic diseases. According to a memo circulated by Ryan’s office, the extra money would give states a chance to provide maternity, mental health and substance abuse services in the minimum package of benefits.

The vast majority of Americans already are covered with insurance, either private or through the government. About 156 million Americans receive health insurance through their employers while 55 million seniors are on Medicare and 74 million people are on Medicaid.