So That Happened: Obama, Warren Team Up To Save Older America

February 28, 2015 by  
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So, that happened. This week, the Republican-led House Agriculture Committee began what they termed a “top to bottom” review of the federal food stamp program. In a surprising twist, the committee’s new management struck a soft and empathetic tone toward a government program they’d previously demonized.

Listen to this week’s “So, That Happened” below:

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Some highlights from this week:

“People who resent this will not be happy until the supplemental nutrition assistance program is changed from SNAP into the beans and rice program, or BARP.” — Arthur Delaney

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are teaming up on a plan to bring more security to retirees by making it harder for fly-by-night financial advisers to screw their clients for their own personal gain. But why did dozens of Democrats sign a letter opposing this idea?

“This is the biggest thing Obama has done on financial reform since Dodd-Frank. It’s basically the only thing he’s done, but it’s a pretty big deal.” — Zach Carter

Finally, the 2016 invisible primary continues, and the big winner this week, we are told, is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Of course, this only lasted until the Republican contender compared Wisconsin protesters to Islamic State terrorists. We’ll also remind you that it is February of 2015, because sometimes it seems we forget that.

“He beat down a recall election. He’s taken all sorts of fire and all he’s done is impress donors and become a conservative folk hero. Scott Walker is the one guy who doesn’t have to pretend that he took 2012 seriously. Scott Walker is the ‘Bold As Love’ campaign.” — Jason Linkins

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“So, That Happened” is available on iTunes. We’ve been working to create an eclectic and informative panel show that’s constantly evolving, a show that’s as in touch with the top stories of the week as it is with important stories that go underreported. We’ll be here on a weekly basis, bringing you the goods.

Never miss an episode: Subscribe to “So, That Happened” on iTunes, and if you like what you hear, please leave a review. We also encourage you to check out other HuffPost Podcasts: HuffPost Comedy’s “Too Long; Didn’t Listen,” the HuffPost Weird News Podcast, HuffPost Politics’ “Drinking and Talking,” HuffPost Live’s “Fine Print” and HuffPost Entertainment’s Podcast.

This podcast was edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and engineered by Brad Shannon, with assistance from Christine Conetta and Adriana Usero.

Have a story you’d like to hear discussed on “So, That Happened”? Email us at your convenience!
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Mo’Nique Debunks Lee Daniels’ ‘Blackball’ Comments: ‘There Were No Demands’

February 27, 2015 by  
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Earlier this week, Lee Daniels clarified comments Academy Award winner Mo’Nique made claiming that the director told her she had been “blackballed” in the years following her 2010 Oscar win for her role in “Precious.”

In his response, Daniels said that wasn’t exactly what he said and suggested Mo’Nique should “play ball” in order to sustain a successful career. He also made comments saying she failed to meet “certain demands” as part of her role in “Precious”, a film directed by Daniels.

“I love her, and I’ve spoken to her. And she’s brilliant, and I like working with brilliant people. But sometimes artists get in their own way — I know I certainly do often, I have my own demons that I get in front of myself…I think there were demands that were made from her on the ‘Precious’ campaign, that everyone knows about, that hurt her. And I told her that,” he said.

On Thursday, the comedienne responded to his interview and appeared on CNN Tonight with host Don Lemon where she debunked reports that she had specific “demands” while promoting “Precious.”

“Actually, there were no demands,” she admitted. “There was a request from the movie studio, and they called and requested that I fly to France for the Cannes Film Festival. I simply said, ‘I respectfully decline.’ Because if you can remember at the time there was a talk show called, ‘The Mo’Nique Show,’ I was doing a comedy tour, I was actually in the awards season of the awards, and I’m also a wife and I’m a mommy. So when they called, I had a couple of days just down time, I wanted to spend that with my husband and my kids.”

The 47-year-old actress went on to reveal her ultimate decision to forgo promotional duties in France resulted in the studio’s longstanding guidelines not to compensate actors.

“When the third call came and they said, ‘What is it going to take to get Mo’Nique to France to the Cannes Film Festival?’ And my husband said, ‘Is there a number associated with it?’ And they said, ‘oh, we would never pay for anyone to do any promotions for a movie.’ And we said, ‘We understood.’ Because what people didn’t know was, I was paid $50,000 to do the movie ‘Precious,’” she continued. “And it really wasn’t about the money, I’m not complaining because I signed up to do it with my friend.”

Check out Mo’Nique’s CNN interview in its entirety in the clip above.

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‘The O’Reilly Factor’ Ratings Soar Amidst Controversy Over Host’s War-Reporting

February 26, 2015 by  
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LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – “The O’Reilly Factor” has long been the most popular program in cable news, and the controversy surrounding host Bill O’Reilly’s war-reporting experiences has only helped elevate the show’s ratings.

Wednesday night’s “Factor” delivered easily the program’s largest audience of 2015 in the key news demo of adults 25-54 (705,000) — up 24% week-to-week, up 62% year-over-year and more than four times the audience of cable news runner-up “Anderson Cooper” on CNN (162,000).

It also dominated in total viewers, moving back past the 3 million mark (3.084 million) while its MSNBC (907,000) and CNN (535,000) competition drew about half as much combined. MSNBC was above average in total viewers with its exclusive town hall meeting with President Obama, but it wasn’t even close.

O’Reilly didn’t address the Mother Jones story on his Falkland War reporting from 1982 during Wednesday’s show, but it’s likely that he’s getting a bump from the controversy’s aftermath.

Since last week, reports have emerged challenging O’Reilly’s past assertions about his experiences in El Salvador, whether or not he witnessed the suicide of a man tied to Lee Harvey Oswald and most recently, whether he came under attack while covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots for the syndicated newsmagazine series “Inside Edition.”

Fox News execs have staunchly backed their star host, slamming on Thursday what the network called “the unproven accusation du jour.”

As media observers have noted, the deluge of reports questioning O’Reilly’s past reportage is likely to only rally his core audience to the show. Monday’s episode of “O’Reilly Factor,” in which O’Reilly defended himself by broadcasting excerpts of CBS News coverage of the protests he was covering in 1982, drew the largest overall “Factor” audience (3.34 million) since November.
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Everything You Need To Know About The College Class On Beyoncé

February 25, 2015 by  
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Rutgers Professor Kevin Allred had been teaching his Beyoncé college class since long before her self-titled surprise album dropped. Back in December of 2013, Allred scrapped his original syllabus and incorporated many of Beyoncé’s new songs and videos. Inspired by a piece by Daphne Brooks looking at Beyoncé as a protest singer in “B’Day,” Allred curated a list of theoretical readings to overlay with Beyoncé’s songs and videos for a course he started back in 2010.

There are two obstacles which Allred faced in building “Politicizing Beyoncé: Black Feminism, US Politics & Queen Bey.” For one, he doesn’t run a TMZ office or pretend to have insight into Beyoncé’s personal life. His goal is to apply critical lens to her artistry and public persona. The other issue is that of privilege. As a white man, Allred understands that he does not have all the necessary access points for analyzing Beyoncé’s work. To combat that he crafted a syllabus pulling from only black, female writers.

We may never truly know Beyoncé, but this course gets us a few steps closer to analyzing her work. At its core, “Politicizing Beyoncé” is about reading the ways she shifts conversations about gender, sexuality and race. Here are some of the observations Allred and his students have made.

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Beyoncé is constantly performing as a character.
This is one of the clearest things Allred took from Brooks’ reading of “B’Day.” Of course, Beyoncé’s earliest character is Sasha Fierce, but there’s also Mrs. Carter and more nuanced versions of public persona that pop up across her work. Allred has compared her to Nicki Minaj, who also adopts personas, though she works more with differing dispositions and delivery than the kind of thing we see with Beyoncé. “She is fragmenting herself into these many different pieces,” Allred said. “There are elements of concept art in her characters.” And it’s crucial to read her work through that lens.

Mrs. Carter focuses on the reality of intersectionality.
Mrs. Carter is especially interesting because (especially in light of her explicit feminist messages) she draws up the reality of intersectionality and what feminism means for women of color. There has been a lot of (nonsense) discussion about whether Beyoncé counts as a feminist, but by taking her husband’s name in the title of her tour, she makes the bond of marriage a position of strength. “She calls herself a feminist, so we have analyze that as a lens for looking at her work,” Allred said. The Ms. Carter character has been linked to the differing notions of marriage held by black and white feminists.

Sasha Fierce subverts the gender binary.
“Sasha Fierce is her first big alter ego,” Allred said. “It’s all about boundaries of gender and sexuality, this over the top drag type performance.” In addition to stressing partnerships over traditional relationships, Beyoncé has used Sasha Fierce to challenge basic notions of femininity. Allred points to the reaction the video received. “You have to take into account all of the stuff that happened its release,” he said. “There was a lot of speculation about whether that one dancer was a woman or a man, and that seems deliberate. It looks simple, but she appears to deliberately play with light and shadow for that illusion.”

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There is a reading of “Single Ladies” which contradicts racial notions of class status.
At the end of the video, Beyoncé flips her wedding ring around. “She’s calling the notion of single into question,” Allred said. “So, isn’t it possible she’s also calling ladies into question?” What he’s referring to here is not just gender but the upper class white woman iteration of the word “lady.” “You can see it as her taking ownership of the label,” he said.

She often focuses on playing out the unfair expectations of black female stars.
The best example here is “Partition,” which Allred sees as closely connected to “Jealous.” There’s this very active performance of female sexuality at play in the video, and it seems to involve Beyoncé approaching the decision to use her body erotically. “She is playing out the stereotype of the black woman,” Allred said. “She is showing us the decision of deciding to engage with the fantasy society wants to see.”

“Grown Woman” can be seen as a signal that she is taking charge of her career in defiance of such expectations.
Allred reads the bonus track off “Beyoncé” as an analogy to Melissa Harris Perry’s crooked room. “The black woman experiences the room as crooked because it is built by the white man,” Allred said. Her skewed environment and childish pageantry dress are symbols for her taking charge of her career in light of these perspectival obstacles. “As she’s grown up, she’s encountered these stereotypes,” he said. “But then she walks out and builds a room of her own.”

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There is power in her hyper-sexuality.
When “Beyond The Lights” director Gina Prince-Bythewood was asked whether she thinks any pop stars authentically employ sex positivity, she immediately responded: “Beyoncé.” Look at her VMAs performance. There were plenty of risque moments on that stage, but during every moment she felt in control. That comes from both her ownership of her career but also notable staging choices. “When there are men present they are not touching her,” said Allred. “There is distance. She is not shaking her body in someone’s face, she’s doing it for her.”

She actively rails against the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype.
Allred notes that he sees this on two levels. He points to the scene in her documentary where she tries to give lighting instructions. No one is listening to her, and a man has to come in to have the team get it right. This idea, that we often ignore women or characterize them as shrill when trying to make a point is echoed by the way she lets other rally in her favor. Note her nod to the Beyhive at the Grammys. Or just Kanye. “You know she could just tell Kanye to stop if she wanted,” Allred said. “But she lets him go off for her and just sits back and nods.”
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O’Reilly Lied About Suicide Of JFK Assassination Figure, Former Colleagues Say | Blog | Media Matters For America

February 24, 2015 by  
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Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally “heard” a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O’Reilly’s claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy’s death further undermine O’Reilly’s story.
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How Crazy Am I To Think I Know Where MH370 Is?

February 23, 2015 by  
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In the year since the vanishing of MH370, I appeared on CNN more than 50 times, watched my spouse’s eyes glaze over at dinner, and fell in with a group of borderline-obsessive amateur aviation sleuths. A million theories bloomed, including my own.
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Grading The Best & Worst Moments Of The 2015 Oscars

February 23, 2015 by  
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It took Richard Linklater 12 years to make “Boyhood,” and it felt like it took 13 to get through the Oscars ceremony that snubbed his movie. We made it out alive by the skin of Neil Patrick Harris’ lame jokes. Snark aside, a handful of Oscar moments did distract from the epic length of Sunday’s awards. Below, the best and worst.

BEST: The opening number. We won’t waste our breath bemoaning the cliché of A) musical numbers about the year’s nominees or B) Neil Patrick Harris singing at at awards shows, because that is useless. Instead, we’ll praise the clever opening, which got the #OscarsSoWhite and #CumberbatchGonnaLose jokes out of the way within seconds and rapidly segued into chirpy appearances from Anna Kendrick, Jack Black and a few Stormtroopers (via a song composed by “Let It Go” writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, no less).
Grade: 7

WORST: NPH’s recurring joke about the lock box. Octavia Spencer didn’t understand what was going on either.
Score: 4.5

BEST: “Ida” director Pawe? Pawlikowski’s speech. He ignored the music cues and continued talking for a full minute, and we didn’t complain once. It’s Poland’s first Academy Award in the category!
Grade: 7.5

BEST: “Everything Is Awesome.” If you said to yourself after about an hour, “This would be so much better on acid,” then you were probably quite pleased with the raucous performance of this “Lego Movie” sensation. The Lonely Island! Tegan and Sara! Questlove! And, far more importantly, Oprah holding a Lego Oscar.
Grade: 8.5

BEST: Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech. The audience — particularly Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez — went wild as the “Boyhood” winner championed women’s equal pay. And we thought Streep’s shimmying was exciting!
Score: 9

BEST: Emmanuel Lubezki’s second consecutive Best Cinematography win. The guy has shot what feels like every beautiful movie of the past 20 years, and it took him five nominations (“A Little Princess,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “The New World,” “Children of Men” and “The Tree of Life”) before he finally won last year for “Gravity.” His “Birdman” victory is equally deserved.
Grade: 8

BEST: Meryl Streep quoting Joan Didion during the In Memoriam intro. Seriously, these shows should be renamed the Streeps.
Score: 7

WORST: Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch’s omission from In Memoriam. Rivers not only revolutionized the red carpet; she also wrote and directed 1978′s “Rabbit Test” and notched credits in a handful of other titles during her long career. Elaine Stritch shared screentime with Rock Hudson (“A Farewell to Arms”), Ellen Burstyn (“Providence”), Woody Allen (“Small Time Crooks”), Winona Ryder (“Autumn in New York”) and Jane Fonda (“Monster-in-Law”), among others. Somehow’s the Academy’s In Memoriam panel deemed them unworthy.
Score: 2

WORST: The reminder that Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo were snubbed. They presented Best Documentary together. It still hurts. (Especially when the host can’t pronounce your name. Did Brad Pitt teach you nothing, NPH?)
Score: 4

jennifer aniston david oyelowo

BEST: John Legend and Common’s “Glory” performance and win. The ballads that preceded it (Adam Levine’s “Lost Stars,” Tim McGraw’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” Rita Ora’s “Grateful”) were a snooze, but the duo brought out a choir and melted the room with a stunning speech about the ongoing struggle for equality.
Score: 8.5

BEST/WORST: Lady Gaga’s “Sound of Music” tribute. She was good, but let’s process the fact that, at 11:15 p.m., with seven awards left to go and 15 minutes until the show’s slated end, a pop star sang a tribute to a movie that is 50 years old.
Score: 5

lady gaga julie andrews

BEST: Julianne Moore’s speech. “There’s no such thing as Best Actress.” But there is: It’s you, Julianne. It’s always you.
Score: 8

WORST: NPH’s Oscar predictions (or whatever that was, exactly). We were 30 minutes over schedule when this silly gag with the lock box returned. #FreeOctavia.
Score: 3.5

WORST: “Boyhood” lost Best Picture and Best Director. Congrats, “Birdman,” but Richard Linklater will still be the most popular person at the after-parties.
Score: 4.5

WORST: The length. Boy, do we love us some Oscars. But this telecast lasted more than three-and-a-half hours so Neil Patrick Harris could chuckle at his own jokes? No thanks.
Score: 3

Overall grade: 6
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Bill O’Reilly’s CBS Colleague Says Buenos Aires Was Not A ‘Combat Situation’ After Falklands War

February 22, 2015 by  
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Buenos Aires was neither a “war zone” nor a “combat situation” after Argentina surrendered to Britain in the Falklands War, says one of Bill O’Reilly’s former colleagues at CBS who was with him in the capital at the time.

“It was an ‘expense account zone,’” writes Eric Jon Engberg, a retired CBS correspondent, in a Facebook post. “We — meaning the American networks — were all in the same, modern hotel and we never saw any troops, casualties or weapons.”

On Thursday, Mother Jones accused the Fox News host of lying about having “reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands” and “survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War.”

Since then, O’Reilly has been on a tear against the “left-wing media,” calling the report “garbage” and Mother Jones editor David Corn, who broke the story along with reporter Daniel Schulman, a “despicable guttersnipe.”

O’Reilly says he never claimed to be in the Falklands, but that the riots he witnessed in Buenos Aires — 1,200 miles from the islands — constituted “combat.”

“Would you consider a riot a general combat definition?” conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked O’Reilly on his show yesterday.

“Yeah, when it’s in a war setting, of course,” O’Reilly responded.

Reports from Buenos Aires after the Falklands War show rioters breaking windows and throwing stones and sticks. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and clubs. But there were no reported fatalities.

“The riot around the presidential palace was actually short-lived,” Engberg writes. “It consisted mostly of chanting, fist-shaking and throwing coins at the uniformed soldiers who were assembled outside the palace. I did not see any police attacks against demonstrators.”

In addition, Engberg calls into question O’Reilly’s claim that he “was out there pretty much by myself because the other CBS News correspondents were hiding in the hotel.”

“If he said such a thing it is an absolute lie,” Engberg writes. “Everyone was working in the street that night, the crews exhibiting their usual courage. O’Reilly was the one person who behaved unprofessionally and without regard for the safety of the camera crew he was leading.”

Engberg said O’Reilly ignored orders from CBS Bureau Chief Larry Doyle to keep camera lights off in order to avoid attracting attention and being injured: “According to Doyle, O’Reilly returned to the hotel in a rage over the fact that his cameraman wouldn’t turn on the lights to photograph angry crowds. Doyle defended the cameraman and chewed out O’Reilly for violating his instructions on lights.”

Corn said the revelation from the CBS veteran raises further questions about O’Reilly’s integrity.

“This account from a veteran CBS News correspondent and a former colleague of O’Reilly — who witnessed O’Reilly’s short stint in Buenos Aires at the end of the Falklands War — is additional confirmation of what we reported and raises additional questions for O’Reilly,” Corn told The Huffington Post. “Will he responsibly respond to all the questions or will he continue to rely upon invective and bombast?”

UPDATE (8:42 p.m): A Fox spokesperson responded to the allegations via email:

The O’Reilly Factor invited Eric Engberg to appear on the program this Monday and he refused. The Factor has also contacted CBS News and asked them to release the footage in question.

O’Reilly plans to address Engberg’s claims on the Howard Kurtz show tomorrow at 11 a.m EST.
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Harshing Brian Williams

February 21, 2015 by  
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I don’t know about you, but I’m really feeling sorry for NBC’s Brian Williams.

Seriously, did anyone ever have any expectation of depth, truthfulness, or quality reporting from him?

Maybe I feel this way because I’m a serious news junkie and, as such, I read a lot more than watch news or commentary on the tube.

If you are a serious news addict, and consequently crave history, you should know that Brian Williams and his ilk are, in the traditional sense, actors rather than scribes.

My disdain for the nightly news started with a single lecture in a labor history class at Cornell University by a young, angry, but brilliant Marxist history professor with a big Fidel Castro beard.

He taught me that you can’t read a history book without first asking: Who wrote the history? What was the author’s education and background? What school of history did he or she belong to?

You see, the interpretation of prior renderings of history and the subsequent writing of new history are always evolving and subjected to new political and economic concepts of both the past and the immediate present.

So the writing of history is always biased and subsequently inaccurate in a subjective manner.

The same holds true with the news, particularly today, when there are so few sources of it and those sources have been captured by an international oligarchy of the super wealthy information giants and government officials who exert great control over its accuracy, its dissemination, and its interpretation.

I hate to be so super cynical, but the interpretation of our present history and events, and our news, too, is steeped in our super-fast culture of institutional lies (like our inflation and unemployment rates) and the self-serving promotion that drives an out-of-control 24/7 news cycle, our economy, our deteriorating political and criminal justice systems, and our lives, too.

I haven’t watched a network nightly newscast in decades, rejecting its unending debasing over time of excellence in television news reporting by ugly 20th-century guys like Howard K. Smith on ABC and Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and the simultaneous evolution of Barbie and Ken dolls, shallow, 21st-century network entertainment-journalism now typified by the long-legged anchors on Fox News, cute Anderson Cooper on CNN and, yes, that good-looking hunk Brian Williams on NBC News.

It’s really ugly Walter Cronkite’s fault. He led the way in making the nightly news a personal platform for rendering the news as political speech. He successfully wrote and acted the history of the era with his anti-Vietnam War and anti-Nixon views rather than just being an unbiased scribe of historical events.

Much better-looking superstars like Williams have followed in his footsteps. As an embedded reporter during the Iraq War, Williams was merely a shallow thespian looking to be an actor in a historical event rather than a historical scribe, much like Cronkite did when reporting from Vietnam.

So when an aging news rock star like Brian Williams tells a harmless buba meisah (Yiddish for a grandmotherly story of dubious truth based on rumor, gossip or stemming from a desire to impress others) about being shot at in a helicopter, should he really get suspended from reporting (and a cool $10 million) for six months and hung out to dry for falsely reporting “the news”?

In this age of lies and deception, Williams’ embellishment of his actions should have just been another newsworthy event in itself, another buba meisah of the age subject to the interpretation of historians of eras to come.

Published in Context Florida on February 19, 2015

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary (stevenkurlander.com) and writes for Context Florida and The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y. Column courtesy of Context Florida.
kurly@stevenkurlander.com
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Wayne Barrett: What Rudy Giuliani Knows About Love

February 20, 2015 by  
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Rudy Giuliani knows a lot about love.
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