HUFFPOST HILL - You Didn't Build That (Trump Did)

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President-elect Trump once again took credit for something he wasn’t responsible for, so by week’s end he’ll presumably be boasting about Chuck Grassley’s return to tweeting about the History Channel. A man interrupted a Christmas mass in Philadelphia by yelling “Pizzagate is real!” making it the least rude thing to ever happen in that city. And Alt-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos inked a book deal, and if that disgusts you, why not buy a book that doesn’t advocate white nationalism ― like, say, Eliot’s book? This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, December 29th, 2016:

THE AUDACITY OF NYET - This ends with a very apologetic meal at Trump Tower hosted by the incoming president on January 21st. Akbar Shahid Ahmed: “President Barack Obama sanctioned Russian officials and entities on Thursday in response to Moscow’s reported hacking during the U.S. presidential election. ‘All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,’ the president said in a statement. In addition to hitting two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies and four individual intelligence officers with sanctions banning them from travel and business with U.S. companies or individuals, Obama ordered 35 Russian operatives posted at diplomatic facilities in Washington and San Francisco to leave. The administration is also closing down two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York used to gather intelligence, according to the president’s statement. Obama’s successor, president-elect Donald Trump, has cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was responsible for unearthing and releasing material damaging to Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Wednesday, Trump said it was time to “’move on’ and repeated that he believes it’s impossible to know who targeted Clinton.” [HuffPost]

Question: With Russia tensions escalating, will Russia House suffer?

PALADINOUT? - Amanda Terkel: “The Buffalo Board of Education voted 6-2 Thursday to issue a stunning ultimatum to Carl Paladino, one of their own members who has been under national fire for his racially charged comments about the Obamas: Resign within 24 hours, or the board will petition the state to remove you. Paladino was Donald Trump’s New York campaign co-chair and currently sits on the nine-member Buffalo school board. In recent days, he’s faced intense criticism for his answers to a local newspaper’s questionnaire about what he would like to see happen in 2017. Paladino said he’d like President Barack Obama to die from mad cow disease and called first lady Michelle Obama a man who should go live with gorillas. Buffalonians sick of Paladino making their city look bad mobilized Thursday, first for a protest downtown in Niagara Square and later at a special school board meeting at city hall. The board met to consider a fiery resolution that said if Paladino did not resign within 24 hours, they would petition New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to remove him. Elia has so far declined to weigh in on the controversy.” [HuffPost]

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SYRIA CEASEFIRE REACHED - Louisa Loveluck and Andrew Roth: “The Syrian government announced a new cease-fire Thursday, effective from midnight, as part of a broader deal that could tamp down violence across the war-ravaged country ahead of a return to peace talks. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reestablished control over the northern city of Aleppo earlier this month, forcing beleaguered rebels to flee what was once their largest stronghold and handing the government a victory that appeared to bring the war’s endgame into view. The Assad government, backed by Russia and Iran, is in its strongest position since the start of the more than five-year war, while rebel groups are mostly boxed into the northwestern province of Idlib and hold no strategically significant urban areas. In a statement posted to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, the military declared a ‘comprehensive’ cessation of hostilities to begin early Friday following ‘victories and advances’ by Syria’s armed forces.” [WaPo]

DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE SECURITY BRIEFINGS, EVERYTHING WILL BE A-OK - Jared Kushner, with his security clearance, will make sure everything goes smoothly. Austin Wright: “For much of President Barack Obama’s second term, Congress sought to pass a formal authorization for the war against the Islamic State — both to signal the country’s resolve and to provide a check on the president’s unfettered war powers. That failure to act now means Donald Trump will effectively have free rein to wage what he calls a global U.S. war on radical Islam, a prospect that terrifies many Democrats…. Some Democrats are starting to lay the groundwork for a new push next year for a war resolution, but the chances of passage remain low. Without a new resolution, Trump is likely to have almost unlimited powers as he takes over U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and potentially ratchets up ongoing efforts to hunt down and kill suspected terrorists the world over.” [Politico]

TRUMP TAKING CREDIT FOR BASICALLY EVERYTHING GOOD NOW - At what point does he unmask himself as the creator of @dril? Ashley Alman: “President-elect Donald Trump took credit Wednesday for bringing a total of 8,000 jobs to the U.S., when those jobs were part of a previously announced commitment that there’s no evidence Trump was involved in. During brief remarks outside his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump said 5,000 jobs at Sprint Wireless would be returning to the U.S. from abroad and 3,000 would be created at OneWeb ‘because of what’s happening and the spirit and the hope.’ ‘I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they’re going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States,’ Trump said. ‘They’re taking them from other countries, they’re bringing them back to the United States. And also OneWeb, a new company, is going to be hiring 3,000 people.’ … In fact, those Sprint and OneWeb jobs Trump says he created were part of a $50 billion investment plan Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. developed in October, ahead of his election. The plan was announced earlier in December following a meeting between SoftBank’s billionaire owner, Masayoshi Son, and the president-elect. Trump took credit for that investment plan too, even though (again) it predated his election.” [HuffPost]

OBAMA’S GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER OF LOVELY SCENERY CONTINUES - Coral Davenport: “President Obama designated two new national monuments on Wednesday, protecting 1.35 million acres of federal land surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes in southeastern Utah and about 300,000 acres around Gold Butte in Nevada, northeast of Las Vegas…. Mr. Obama has designated about 553 million acres of public lands and waters as parks, monuments or wilderness areas, more than any of his predecessors. While Mr. Trump has vowed to undo Mr. Obama’s environmental agenda, White House officials said they did not believe he would have the authority to reverse the designations. No president has undone a predecessor’s designations in the law’s 110-year history.” [NYT]

CHINA CLOWNS TRUMP BIGLY - Mike Ives: “President-elect Donald J. Trump’s golden quiff, bushy eyebrows and preening gestures were immortalized this week in China — though perhaps not in a way that he would like. They appeared on a giant rooster statue, just above some three-toed feet and a blood-red wattle that hangs below a gilded nose and mouth. The statue, which was installed outside a shopping mall in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan, was built to celebrate the coming Year of the Rooster in the Chinese lunar calendar and comes less than a month before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. It is 23 feet tall.” [NYT]

CAN EVANGELICALS’ POLITICAL REPUTATION GET ANY HIGHER? - This recalls our favorite passage from the Bible, when Jesus entered the temple and told the merchants and moneychangers, “Keep it up, gang!” Sebastian Murdock: A televangelist who encourages her followers to get closer to God by sending money to her has been invited to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Paula White spent much of the 2016 presidential campaign convincing evangelicals to vote for Trump, assuring them that he ‘accepts Jesus as his Lord and savior,’ she told Politico. Now she’ll be praying with Trump at his inauguration…. But the popular pastor, who Trump originally became smitten with after seeing her preach on television, has some issues of her own. White is often criticized for preaching the ‘prosperity gospel,’ which suggests that God is happiest when his followers are rich, The Daily Beast points out. She’s even written a sermon titled ‘Why God Wants You Wealthy’ (it costs money to download).... In 2007, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) launched a congressional probe into the spending habits of White’s ministry, along with five other pastors. Grassley had questions regarding the televangelists’ use of church-owned airplanes and luxury homes. The Senate inquiry was eventually dropped, in part because White refused to cooperate with investigators.” [HuffPost]

TRUMP IS THE BEST ORATOR. EVERYBODY SAYS SO - Of course he thinks he can equal two of the greatest public speakers to ever hold the presidency. Robert Costa: “President-elect Donald Trump privately told several visitors to his winter retreat in Florida on Wednesday that he is writing the first draft of his inaugural speech and is looking to presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy for inspiration, according to three people familiar with the conversation. Trump told them that Reagan’s ‘style’ and Kennedy’s articulation of grand national ambitions are central to how he thinks through his own speech, which will be given Jan. 20, the people said…. Trump made his private remarks during lunchtime at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson, Democratic lobbyist Thomas Quinn and Newsmax Media chief executive Christopher Ruddy, who is a longtime friend of the president-elect.” [WaPo]

TRUMP EYEING SOMETHING TERRIFIC FOR VETS, TOO - Make America’s Commitment to Veterans a Sham Again. Zachary Tracer, Shannon Pettypiece and Jennifer Epstein: “President-elect Donald Trump met at his Florida resort on Wednesday with leaders of top U.S. nonprofit hospital systems to discuss overhauling health care for veterans, including by allowing them to more readily visit hospitals outside the Veterans Affairs system. The group weighed public-private partnerships and other options that would make it possible for veterans to go to any hospital for care, inside the VA system or outside of it, a senior transition official said after the meeting. Some veterans advocacy groups have cautioned against expanding access to care outside the government-run hospitals under the Veterans Health Administration, fearing the system may be weakened by privatization.” [Bloomberg]

HELLER RULES OUT RUN FOR GOVERNOR’S OFFICE - Elena Schneider: “Republican Sen. Dean Heller announced Thursday that he will run for reelection in Nevada in 2018, after saying earlier this month that he was considering a bid for governor…. Heller is one of just eight GOP senators up for reelection in 2018, and he is the only one from a state Hillary Clinton carried. He is set to be Democrats’ top Senate target in an election that will mostly have the party on defense around the country. It is unclear who Democrats might nominate to oppose Heller, though.” [Politico]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a trailer for a movie about this terrible year.

TRUMP ZEITGEIST UPDATE - Benjamin Freed: “The real-world effects of the online conspiracy theory known as ‘Pizzagate’ continue to ripple beyond Washington. A believer in the repeatedly disproven conspiracy recorded himself interrupting a Philadelphia cathedral that was celebrating Mass on Christmas with screams of ‘Pizzagate is real!’ and shared the video on social media. The video was first reported Thursday morning by the New York Daily News, which identified the man as 47-year-old Howard Caplan. In the 90-second clip, Caplan can be heard standing up in one of the rear pews and yelling, ‘Pizzagate is real! Pizzagate is real! The Catholic church has been sexually abusing children—thousands of them for decades.’” [Washingtonian]


- How to make rope from tree bark.

- This week’s raddest thing: a paper airplane machine gun.

- Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill on a British children’s show in 1980.


@ChuckGrassley: If u don’t like history now is time to go HISTORY CHANNEL and u can watch PAWN STARS@LOLGOP: Republicans who aren’t bothered by the idea of a foreign power trying to pick our president, imagine if it were California.

@ProffJeffJarviss: Idea: turn Twitter into a wiki and make all tweets editable by all users

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com)