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    Mel Brooks: 'Stupidly Politically Correct Society is the Death of Comedy'

    Filmmaker and stage producer Mel Brooks says his western parody "Blazing Saddles" could not be made in today's fraught political climate, warning "stupidly politically correct" sensibilities will lead to the "death of comedy."

    In an interview with BBC's Radio 4's Today, posted Thursday, the acclaimed producer and director declared political correctness is "not good for comedy."

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    Valerie Plame Wilson Apologizes After Anti-Semitic Story Tweet

    Former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was forced to apologize Thursday after she shared an article on her Twitter feed that contained anti-Semitic overtones.

    Wilson, who was forced to resign from the CIA in 2006 after her status as an undercover operative was made public by an official in the Bush administration, caught plenty of heat after initially tweeting a link to the story that appeared on UNZ.com.

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    Illinois Court Upholds Murder Conviction of Drew Peterson

    The use of hearsay testimony to convict former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson in the death of his third wife was proper, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday in upholding the conviction.

    The high court, in a unanimous decision , found that hearsay testimony from Peterson's dead third wife and missing fourth wife did not violate his constitutional right to confront his accusers because of evidence that Peterson killed them to prevent their testimony.

    The 63-year-old former police sergeant from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook is serving a 38-year sentence in the 2004 death of ex-wife Kathleen Savio. He'll follow that with 40 more years after a conviction last year on allegations that he plotted to kill the prosecutor who put him behind bars.

    Savio's body was found in a dry bathtub in 2004, weeks before a scheduled hearing to determine monetary and child custody issues related to her divorce from Peterson. Her death was initially ruled accidental, but the case was reopened after the 2007 disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Savio's body was exhumed, an autopsy was conducted and her death was ruled a homicide.

    Stacy Peterson is presumed dead, though her body has never been found. Drew Peterson remains a suspect in her disappearance, but he has never been charged.

    Prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death and no witnesses placing him at the scene, so they relied on hearsay — statements Savio made to family members and in a written statement to police before she died and that Stacy Peterson made to her pastor and a divorce lawyer before she vanished.

    Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness' direct knowledge. The Illinois court's ruling, written by Justice Mary Jane Theis, found proper use of hearsay — typically forbidden in criminal proceedings because it can't be challenged — under a legal doctrine of "forfeiture by wrongdoing."

    "We cannot say that the trial court's finding that the state proved that defendant murdered Kathleen to prevent her from testifying was 'unreasonable, arbitrary, or not based on the evidence presented,'" Theis wrote.

    An attorney for Peterson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

    Illinois adopted a hearsay law in 2008 tailored to Drew Peterson's case, dubbed "Drew's Law," which assisted in making some of the evidence admissible.

    Peterson was transferred from a state prison in Chester, Illinois, to a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, in February, after Illinois prison officials cited concerns that he posed a security threat.

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    NTSB: Sleep Apnea, Speed Cited in NYC-Area Train Crashes

    The engineers of two commuter trains that slammed into New York City-area stations in the last year were both suffering from severe sleep apnea and have no memory of the crashes, according to investigative reports and interview transcripts made public Thursday.

    The National Transportation Safety Board said the common circumstances of the Sept. 29, 2016, New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the Jan. 4, 2017, Long Island Rail Road crash in Brooklyn warranted combining findings and recommendations in a single investigative report to be released early next year.

    Neither engineer had been diagnosed with sleep apnea before the crashes, according to the documents. People with the disorder are repeatedly awakened and robbed of rest as their airway closes and their breathing stops, leading to dangerous daytime drowsiness.

    NJ Transit engineer Thomas Gallagher told investigators he only remembered looking at his watch and the speedometer, blowing the horn and ringing the bell before his packed rush-hour train slammed into Hoboken Terminal at more than double the 10 mph speed limit.

    A conductor standing on a platform told investigators he couldn't see the engineer through the cab window as the train rumbled into the station, indicating Gallagher may have slumped down or fallen.

    Falling debris from the impact killed a woman standing on a platform. About 110 people aboard the train were hurt.

    "The next thing I remember was a loud bang," Gallagher recalled, according to a transcript of his Oct. 1, 2016, interview. "I was getting hit with dust and dirt. I was thrown about the cab. I hit my head, the back of my head, I presume on the wall behind me. And then I had a period where I was going in and out of consciousness."

    LIRR engineer Michael Bakalo told investigators he only remembered approaching Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and then getting thrown from his seat. He said he wasn't aware of the impending crash. More than 100 people were hurt when the train crashed into a bumping post at the end of the tracks.

    The impact launched the lead car into the air and it came to rest on top of the concrete platform.

    "At that point I didn't know what the hell was going on," Bakalo said. "I remember being thrown from the seat because I was into the dashboard area, and just, you know, screaming and smoke, and people were laying on the floor in front of me."

    The documents released by the NTSB on the two crashes don't come to any conclusions on what caused them but offer a glimpse into what investigators have learned so far.

    The NTSB has scheduled a hearing on the crashes for Feb. 6.

    The LIRR train passed through two signals requiring speeds of less than 15 mph. The speed limit for Track 6, which has a curve, is 5 mph. The locomotive engineer told investigators that he passed the signals at a speed not exceeding 5 mph.

    But another engineer, Stephen Outlaw, who was standing on the platform at the time of the crash, told investigators the train appeared to be going too fast.

    "I'm watching the train, I'm just standing there, the first car went past me and I thought to myself that's pretty fast for Track 6," Outlaw said, according to a transcript of his interview with investigators.

    "So I'm waiting to see, like, when the brakes come on," he said. "And then the third car went past me and I said, 'No, this is not going to work.' "

    Moments later, there was a loud explosion and smoke.

    LIRR has had 17 instances of trains striking terminal bumpers since 1996. There was another incident of an engineer falling asleep and four other incidents attributed to "unknown human factor" on an LIRR list supplied to the NTSB.

    Sleep issues have been blamed in several recent rail crashes, including an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea in the engineer of a Metro-North commuter train that sped into a 30 mph curve at 82 mph and crashed in New York City in 2013, killing four people.

    In August, federal regulators abandoned plans to require sleep apnea screening for train engineers and truck drivers, arguing it should be up to railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees.

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    Sally Yates to Lecture at Georgetown Law School

    Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is joining Georgetown University Law School as a lecturer, The Hill is reporting.

    Yates was fired by President Donald Trump after refusing to defend his travel ban, the website noted.

    "Sally Yates is an extraordinary public servant who has had a career of the greatest consequence," William M. Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law, said. "It is a privilege to have her join our faculty this fall."

    Ironically, Trump's 23-year-old daughter, Tiffany, is a student at Georgetown Law, Click Here to comment on this article

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    Chelsea Clinton: I Didn't Block Trump After His Golf Ball Retweet

    Chelsea Clinton commented on a ThinkProgress report that President Donald Trump blocked a woman on Twitter with Stage 4 cancer after the woman criticized the president.

    Clinton, the daughter of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, noted that she did not block the president on Twitter after he sent out an edited GIF video that showed Trump hitting his former opponent with a golf ball.

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    Kilmeade Responds to Jimmy Kimmel Calling Him 'Little Creep'

    Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of "Fox & Friends," responded Thursday morning to ABC's Jimmy Kimmel calling him a "little creep" Wednesday night.

    Kimmel, host of a nightly talk show on ABC, has been discussing the healthcare bill proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La. because his baby son has a birth defect. Kimmel has said that Obamacare allows lower-income families who have children with similar conditions to get coverage, but the new bill does not.

    Kilmeade on "Fox & Friends" urged Kimmel to speak directly to lawmakers about his criticism of the healthcare bill, according to the Washington Examiner.

    "This is what I would like to say on this. I hope your son gets better. I hope your son gets all the care he needs. I'm glad you're interested. You're doing a great job in bringing the dialogue out. But you should do what we're doing. Talk to the people that wrote it," Kilmeade said, referring to the lawmakers who sponsored the bill, according to the Examiner.

    Kilmeade called Kimmel one of the "Hollywood elites" who is "pushing their politics on the rest of the country."

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    Ivanka Trump Faces Courtroom Showdown Over $785 Sandals

    Edgardo Osorio's prized sandals sit on a glass shelf inside his Madison Avenue boutique under zebra-striped arches and golden chandeliers. The shoes have skinny heels, frills, and a tassel dangling from a dainty ankle strap that weaves up the leg. These days, they're available in all kinds of colors and materials, but their signature suede style comes in a bold lipstick red.

    Osorio, the co-founder and creative director of fashion label Aquazzura, calls the sandal one of his most iconic creations. Coveted by celebrities and fashion bloggers alike, these $785 suede numbers became a true "It" shoe since gaining traction in 2015. They helped catapult the designer and his label to international prominence. So when he discovered that the clothing brand run by the daughter of now-President Donald Trump was making a similar item for only $65, he called in the lawyers.

    Fed up with alleged duplicate shoe designs, Aquazzura fired off multiple lawsuits over his Wild Thing sandal. Arguably similar styles hit store shelves under labels including Mollini, Missguided, and Jessica Buurman. Aquazzura didn't challenge the smaller brands, but instead went after what he claimed to be the larger copycats: Steve Madden, Marc Fisher, and Ivanka Trump.

    "One of the most disturbing things in the fashion industry is when someone blatantly steals your copyright designs and doesn't care," his label posted on its Instagram account in March 2016. "You should know better. Shame on you @ivankatrump! Imitation is NOT the most sincere form of flattery." Aquazzura sent a cease-and-desist letter to Trump about the shoe, asking her company to stop selling its sandal. 

    "Based on Aquazzura's prior dealings with your client's company, and on the obvious and purposeful copying of our client's shoe, we anticipate that you will challenge Aquazzura's rights in its design, maintaining that the designs lack secondary meaning, and that your client is therefore free to knock them off with impunity," the letter said, citing some of the elements of infringement. To avoid a court battle, Aquazzura demanded Trump's company remove all pictures of the sandal in question from its website and social media, stop advertising the shoe, destroy all existing pairs, disclose its manufacturer, hand over profits from sales of the offending shoe, and "agree in writing under oath not to offer for sale any knock-off" again. Aquazzura gave Trump a week to comply, or else face legal action. 

    Trump did not comply, so two months later, Aquazzura sued her along with Marc Fisher. In a complaint filed in June 2016 in Manhattan federal court, the company accused Trump of infringement, unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices. "Seeking the same success Aquazzurra experienced but without having to put in the hard creative work, defendants resorted to knocking off plaintiff's popular designs," the complaint stated. Trump has denied any wromngdoing. Darren Saunders, attorney for the defendants, said Wednesday that the two sides are in settlement talks. Lawyers for Aquazzura declioned to comment.

    Intellectual property spats are common in the fashion industry, but most quarrels are resolved before parties get near a courtroom. Such lawsuits are immensely expensive, complex and can drag on for years. When a mega-company goes after a mom-and-pop, matters are often settled with a nasty letter. But when two equally matched companies with deep pockets and a history of bad blood find themselves on opposite sides, the attorneys fees can add up, and a trial just might happen.

    "I've seen people go all the way when they can't even afford it — to teach someone a lesson," said trademark lawyer Sonia Lakhany.

    Colombia-born Osorio and his company arrived on the Italian shoe scene in 2011 when he was just 25, after stints at storied fashion houses Roberto Cavalli and Ferragamo. Based in Florence, his brand broke out of a pack of upstart labels with a few hot styles: cutout booties, pointy lace-up flats, and those sandals. Osorio's shoes are now sold by more than 300 retailers around the world. Aquazzura's own flagships are in big cities, including the global fashion centers of London, Paris, and New York.

    Five years isn't a long time in the sexy shoe department, but star power helped Aquazzura quickly convince shoppers to don its pricey pairs. Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, and Rihanna have all been spotted in Osorio's kicks, while Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid sported Aquazzura booties. The label also partnered with model Poppy Delevingne to create a celebrity-infused capsule collection, a one-off set of designer clothing. It did the same with New York socialite Olivia Palermo.

    Predictably, the glossies and fashion blogs fawned over the chic heels, sandals, and boots. "We've never met a pair of Aquazzura shoes we didn't want to buy," a WhoWhatWear fashion editor wrote. Harper's Bazaar gushed over the fringe sandals, declaring them "fiercely fashion forward." Vogue even lauded an Aquazzura wallpaper collection as "the most beautiful thing you'll see this spring."

    Aquazzura's celebrity following meshed with Osorio's over-the-top extravagance. Last year, he decided to hold his 30th birthday party in Florence's Palazzo Corsini, a two-day bash complete with a surrealist ball. Guests arrived in full costume to dine under towering gold candelabras. Osorio sported a massive headpiece with two curved angel wings pointed skyward, like a mythical deity turned haute couture. In the world of high fashion, he had arrived.

    There won't be any ritziness if Aquazzura's fight with Trump ends up at a lower Manhattan courthouse. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest set trial for next March, triggering a production line of legal filings, evidence demands, and depositions of witnesses from both sides in preparation for their day in court. Come next spring, if a settlement hasn't been reached, the trial may begin exactly two years after Aquazzura's angry Instagram post.

    Ivanka Trump wants nothing to do with the case, let alone a trial. She tried to duck a deposition by arguing she shouldn't be forced to testify because she isn't involved in the design or sale of her company's allegedly offending shoe.

    "Trump was not aware of the Aquazzura style 'Wild Thing' shoe at the time she signed off on the season line that contained the Ivanka Trump style 'Hettie' shoe," Saunders, her lawyer, argued in a letter to the judge. "The burden of a deposition of Ms. Trump would far outweigh any likely benefit to Aquazzura." Saunders added that her role as a "high ranking government official" should preclude her from having to submit to a deposition. (Trump was appointed to be an assistant to her father in the White House).

    On June 23, Forrest rejected Trump's argument. "She is alleged to have personal involvement in the events at issue in this lawsuit," the judge ruled. "She cannot avoid a deposition in this matter."

    "It's so connected to our brand, this is who we are."

    Ivanka Trump's fashion brand has had a rocky history when it comes to copycat allegations. Less than a year after she began selling footwear, her company was called out by New York designer label Derek Lam for allegedly copying a sandal style. A cease-and-desist letter was sent, and while Trump's representatives denied the allegations, her brand pulled the shoes from online shops and store shelves. Then in 2012, California clothing brand Mystique sued Trump's trademark holding company over a different pair of sandals. She rejected the claims. Seven months later, the parties reached a settlement. In 2016, the Trump label was the target of two patent infringement lawsuits, which were both dismissed.

    As for Aquazzura's Wild Thing sandal, that case largely comes down to something called trade dress. Aquazzura is trying to show that its style is so distinct and well-known that consumers equate the design with the label. "Any time you have trade dress involved in fashion, you're saying 'We're the Louboutin red' or 'We're the Burberry flat,'" said Lakhany, the trademark attorney. "They're saying 'it's so connected to our brand, this is who we are.'"

    In this case, the key design component is the red fringe. Lakhany expressed doubt as to whether that was enough to hang a lawsuit on: "I don't know if the red fringe design can hold up to Louboutin red and Burberry plaid."

    In addition to Wild Thing, the Aquazzura complaint stated that Trump's company had copied a pointy-toed black pump, the Forever Marilyn shoe, and a strappy low-heeled sandal, the Belgravia. At the same time last year, Aquazzura sued Steve Madden for infringement on three different shoe designs. Madden disputed the allegations. That fight settled "in principle" in April according to court records, but the judge subsequently reopened the matter a month later at Aquazzura's request. (Spokespeople for Madden and lawyers for Aquazzura declined to comment.) 

    Meanwhile, life goes on for Trump and Osorio as trial nears. Her sandals continue to be sold on Amazon.com and Bluefly.com, and Aquazzura is opening new stores, including a boutique in Costa Mesa, Calif. Osorio has remained quiet about his battle with the first daughter since the saga began. That is, until April when he took the stage at a conference in Muscat, Oman. Appearing at a swanky resort and spa, Osorio and the moderator chatted about his rising popularity and glitzy stores. In an aside, he addressed the Trump spat with both a sly dig and a humble brag.

    "The funny thing is that, whether it's her or anyone else, when it's good, everyone wants to copy it and make money off it," he said.

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