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    The founder of world-renowned circus Cirque du Soleil has been detained in French Polynesia in a drug-trafficking investigation. A French police official told The Associated Press that Guy Laliberte is expected to appear before a judge Wednesday in the territory’s capital of Papeete, on the island of Tahiti. His detention also was confirmed by Lune Rouge, a Montreal-based company headed by Laliberte. It said Laliberte is being questioned about cannabis grown for personal use on his private island of Nukutepipi. The company says Laliberte is a medical marijuana user, but he “categorically denies” involvement in the sale or trafficking of controlled substances. Local broadcaster Polynesie 1 says police detained a person close to Laliberte recently for drug possession and found photos of cannabis plantations in the person’s cellphone.
  • Actor Charles Levin, who played numerous roles on television comedies such as “Seinfeld” and “Night Court,” has been identified as the man whose body was found last summer in an Oregon ravine, authorities said. The death was ruled accidental, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday. Levin, 70, played a character who performs circumcisions on a “Seinfeld” episode. His other TV credits included “Alice,” ″Hill Street Blues,” and ″Doogie Howser, M.D. Levin also had roles in movies, including “The Golden Child,” ″Annie Hall” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Jesse Levin reported his father missing on July 8, police said. The actor, who had been living in Grants Pass, Oregon, was last seen June 27. Levin’s orange Fiat was found on a remote and almost impassable road July 13, with the remains of his dog, a pug named Boo Boo, inside. A body was found outside the car down a steep ravine. Police didn’t confirm the identity until this week. Levin’s body was found with no clothing on. A pile of clothes found nearby was “not known to be associated with Charles” but police didn’t say in the report to whom they belonged. The woman who rented a townhouse to the actor for years told police that she had sold the property and had given Levin until July 1 to move out, according to police reports. Police searched Levin’s home and said it looked like he was in the middle of moving but said they didn’t find anything suspicious. In an email, Jesse Levin told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the family was still reeling from his father’s death and that the ongoing interest and publication of the details of the case were distressing to his family. “He died several months ago, and in our grief we are focusing on the life of the human being,” he said. “We request that the news media do the same, or move on entirely,” he wrote. ___ Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com
  • Author Maya Angelou and performer RuPaul are among the inductees for the next class of California Hall of Fame. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, announced the inductees on Wednesday. The class includes soccer player and two-time World Cup champion Brandi Chastain, skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk, actor and comedian George Lopez, chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, astrophysicist France A. Córdova, author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, civil rights leader James M. Lawson Jr. and winemaker Helen M. Turley. The class will be inducted during a ceremony on Dec. 10, though Angelou died in 2014. The California Hall of Fame started in 2006, and inductees are selected each year by the governor and first partner. Newsom is a Democrat and says the inductees “embody California’s innovative spirit.”
  • The Rhode Island Historical Society has preserved a rare, 210-year-old theater curtain depicting a sweeping view of Providence. The organization was celebrating the completion of the conservation work on Wednesday for their 198th annual meeting. The society said it knows of no other older surviving piece of American theater scenery. Executive Director Morgan Grefe said it’s amazing that a fabric curtain survived more than two centuries to tell the story of Providence. “Here we are in 2019, still talking about it and being surprised by what it has to tell us,” she said. Painted in 1809 by John Worrall, the curtain measures 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide and 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall. The drop scene was used in the city’s only theater in the early 1800s to entertain audiences between shows in the early days of stage performances in New England. The historical society took possession in 1833 when the theater closed. “It was seen as a spectacle and something that needed to be saved. We were the folks in town that saved things,” Grefe said. The panorama of the city is displayed in the organization’s ballroom in Providence, serving as a backdrop for many public programs. Conservators recently removed decades of dust, painted worn sections along the seams and repaired small tears. The historical society and a private donor paid for the work. The organization’s files and research on the curtain date to the time it was painted and experts haven’t been able to find an older piece of surviving American theater scenery, said Richard Ring, the deputy executive director for collections and interpretation. “Most folks who would’ve gotten theater curtains would’ve said that they can’t handle it and gotten rid of them,” he said. “That’s why it’s a rare survival. It takes so much effort to keep it the way it is for so long.” The historical society invites the public to view the curtain at its office on Benevolent Street from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday.
  • Rapper Kodak Black was sentenced Wednesday to more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to weapons charges stemming from his arrest just before a scheduled concert performance in May. The 22-year-old Black admitted in August that he falsified information on federal forms to buy four firearms from a Miami-area gun shop on two separate occasions. Black was able to obtain three of the weapons: a 9 mm handgun, a .380-caliber handgun and a semi-automatic Mini Draco weapon. Authorities said one of the guns was found at the scene of a March shooting in Pompano Beach, although he has not been charged in that case. Black also faces drug, weapons and sexual assault charges in other states that remain pending. He has had several previous arrests. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno could have sentenced Black to the maximum of 10 years, and prosecutors wanted eight years in part because Black allegedly was involved in a jail fight that injured a corrections officer. “I think it’s time for us to give some tough love in this case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Brown. “I just don’t see how and when he’s taken these things seriously.” But Moreno noted that Black has given money anonymously to charitable causes and could continue to do so behind bars. “My suggestion would be you continue to be generous,” the judge said. Black is a Florida native who was born to Haitian American parents as Dieuson Octave and who now goes by the legal name of Bill Kapri. He was arrested during the Rolling Loud hip-hop festival in May that was marred by several violent incidents, including an unrelated shooting at a seaside property owned by President Donald Trump. Black has remained in custody since then his arrest. “I have made some decisions I’m not proud of making,” Black said in court. “I do take full responsibility for my mishap.” Black's better-known singles include 'Skrt,' ''Zeze', 'Roll in Peace', 'Tunnel Vision', and 'No Flockin.' _____ Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt
  • The Supreme Court seems likely to overturn a lower court ruling in favor of an African-American media mogul and comedian who’s suing cable giant Comcast for racial discrimination. The justices appeared to be in broad agreement Wednesday that an appeals court applied the wrong legal standard in allowing business owner Byron Allen’s $20 billion suit against Comcast to go forward. Allen has a separate $10 billion lawsuit against Charter Communications. Allen says the cable companies refuse to carry his television channels because he’s black. The companies say his programming isn’t very good. The issue at the court is whether Allen needs to show in his complaint that race was among the factors in Comcast's decision not to offer him a contract or whether it was the decisive factor. Alarmed by the Supreme Court’s intervention, civil rights groups have warned that the court could make it much harder to prove race discrimination in contracting under a civil rights law that dates to 1866. A ruling for Comcast probably would not be the final word. Several justices indicated they think the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco should take another look. A three-judge appellate panel allowed the Comcast suit to go forward after a federal judge dismissed it three times. Allen’s Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios has 10 television networks, including Cars.tv, Comedy.tv, Pets.tv, Recipe.tv and JusticeCentral.tv. Last year, he bought The Weather Channel. He also has a movie distribution company. But Comcast and Charter Communications, the nation's two largest cable providers, have passed on carrying Allen's channels. The now-merged AT&T and DirecTV carry the channels after Allen sued them and they settled. A decision is expected by late June.
  • An Arizona woman accused of abusing her adopted children who starred on her popular YouTube channel has died, authorities said Wednesday. Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said Machelle Hobson died Tuesday at a Phoenix-area hospital. Her death was ruled natural and there was no crime suspected in it, according to Scottsdale police. Hobson, 48, had been accused of starving her children and using pepper spray to punish them. She had been hospitalized with “extreme health issues” at the end of May and released from jail custody on June 12 because of her diagnosis, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lauren Reimer said in a statement. Authorities said she hadn’t been hospitalized since then but it’s not known where she was before she was admitted again. A judge in August declared Hobson incompetent to stand trial, the Arizona Republic reported. Hobson’s criminal case was on hold while authorities worked to restore Hobson to competency to stand trial. Authorities have said Hobson locked up children in a closet for days without food, water or access to a bathroom. YouTube terminated Hobson's channel after determining the channel violated its guidelines. Episodes featured skits about children stealing cookies and a boy with superpowers. A spokeswoman for the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, the agency prosecuting Hobson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. KNXV-TV reported that the office planned to wait for an official death certificate before dismissing charges against Hobson but would pursue her assets, including “more than $100,000 in cash” that would go to her children now in state custody. Police have said the children were taken out of school so they could keep filming the video series and hadn't been back for years. Hobson's biological daughter, who is an adult, alerted police of the abuse, prompting officers to visit Hobson's home in the city of Maricopa, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Phoenix. The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed the children from the home.
  • Cattle rancher Jeffery Gatzke in South Dakota was listening in as he worked on his tractor in his workshop. The first public hearing on impeaching President Donald Trump is a political show, he thinks, but one he wanted to tune into. Nadxely Sanchez, 18, watched on her phone, splitting her attention during a psychology lecture at Marquette University in Milwaukee. As a child of immigrants, she says she takes Trump’s presidency personally: “Living in the Trump era right now is scary and we’re just wondering what’s going to happen next.” Randy Johnson, a 63-year-old semi-retired Tennessee man and Trump voter, cast his fishing line into the Gulf of Mexico from a seawall in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was happily missing the opening gavel. “Oh, is that today?” he said. If Americans have devoured past live hearings in Washington, following each dramatic twist and turn, many seemed only to nibble and graze on Wednesday’s proceedings. They scanned headlines on their phones, read social media posts or clicked on snippets of video pushed out online. They planned to catch up with highlights or clips later, from a range of sources, and were content to let it play in the background. The fractured and filtered way the country consumed the testimony — and all news — may have consequences. Democrats are hoping to use a series of hearings to tell a complex tale of overseas intrigue involving unfamiliar figures and a distant war. There were signs Wednesday that many Americans were falling back on their partisan allegiances, rather than diving into the details. “I get bits and pieces,” said Bee Quarterman, a 64-year-old census worker in Savannah, Georgia. “Just enough to know what’s going on.” As she walked into a barber shop for a lunchtime haircut, she glanced up at the hearing on the TV and said Americans should “just go to the ballot box” to settle whether Trump should remain in office. House Democrats argue Trump abused his power when he solicited a political favor from the president of Ukraine and held up millions in foreign aid as leverage. Polls show more Americans support impeachment than oppose, although the partisan divide on the question is striking and consistent in the weeks leading up the hearings. In putting two respected and measured U.S. diplomats on live television Wednesday, Democrats were hoping, if not for a national epiphany, then at least a day that would stand out from the partisan acrimony and circus-like atmosphere of Trump-era Washington. “I don’t want to say it will be the tipping point, but I think it will be the beginning of a week or two where it will be very difficult for the president to change the subject,” said Adam Cutler, a Denver technology manager and Democrat who arranged to work from home so he could watch the day’s events. Democrats’ goal is a shift in public opinion that mirrors 1973, when the nationally televised Watergate hearings helped sink President Richard Nixon’s approval ratings before his 1974 resignation from office. But other recent examples offer Democrats less hope. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s testimony about his investigation into interference in 2016 election produced little change in Trump’s approval. Live hearings on accusation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh did not prevent his ascension to the Supreme Court. For Gatzke, a 50-year-old farmer and rancher from Hitchcock, South Dakota, the Ukraine affair was just the Washington establishment’s latest attempt to thwart an outsider president. 'He is not one of them and they don’t like it,' he said, just before the hearings began. Gatzke caught as much as he could during his morning chores on the farm, before he had to load up cattle for the processing plant. His wife, Sheila Gatzke, watched, too, and fumed about what she claimed was testimony based on “hearsay,” a defense Trump has pushed and his Republican defenders on the committee echoed on Wednesday. Christian Jacobs, 50, sat in a beach bar in St. Petersburg, wearing a fedora and reluctantly watching the drama on television. “I did not want this,” he said, glancing at the TV with and sipping in a breath from his marijuana vape pen. A Democrat, he had initially balked at impeachment but has come around to it as details trickled out about Trump’s behavior with Ukraine. “I’m so afraid, left to his own devices, what else he may do,” Jacobs said of Trump. Jim Borelli’s response to the turmoil and conflict in Washington? Pray. The 60-year-old attorney in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas, read his Bible at a coffee shop, part of his daily devotional, after listening to part of the hearing Wednesday morning. One of the daily readings was a verse from the Book of Wisdom which he found “appropriate for today,” the Democrat said, noting that it reads in part, “for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.” “I pray that our leaders exercise wisdom in the impeachment process,” he said. He watched part of the hearing with his 95-year-old mother but said it’s hard to talk about politics with some people in the current environment. “I think we are in a bad space,” he said. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Bryant Randall, a freshman at Louisiana State University, didn’t like what he saw either. But that’s because the registered Republican found the Democrats’ case unpersuasive. “All the witnesses who have come forward so far are saying, ‘I interpret this as a quid pro quo,’” Randall said. “I don’t care how you interpret it. I care about what the facts are.” While Democrats control the House and likely have the votes to impeach Trump, they would need about 20 Republican senators to vote to convict him of high crimes and misdemeanors before he would be removed from office. That’s tempered some Democrats’ hopes of what they can achieve in the impeachment inquiry. Pilar Esperon waited for a train in Boston’s South Station Wednesday, with a nearby television turned to the hearing. Few were watching. Esperon, who works in real estate in New York City, was scrolling through the news coverage on her phone. She said she already believes Trump committed an impeachable offense. “So all you’ll get is a lot of posturing by a lot of people in front of the camera,” the Democrat said. “I don’t think anything will really move the needle.” At the University of Cincinnati students took refuge from the cold in the warm library and its Starbucks stand. Math majors Mary Tabor, 20, of Louisville, Kentucky, and Olivia Fenner, 23, of Cincinnati were studying together and both said they’d catch up on impeachment developments at night with non-traditional news shows. Tabor said she’ll watch Seth Meyers’ late-night show on NBC. Fenner is a fan of YouTube star Philip DeFranco, who talks about pop culture with news. “It’s entertaining,” she explained. “But I still get my news; I know what’s going on. It’s a better outlet for me.” In Portland, Maine, psychiatric nurse Seth Morrill says he and his friends are interested and talking about the impeachment, and he planned to watch clip later. He’s become skeptical of how such events are spun by the media. “I like to watch for myself and digest it for myself rather than have other people give me the information,” the Democrat said. “I know it’s important. It’s significant for the county. I just feel like maybe I can get the information other ways,” he said. “It’s not something I felt that I needed to carve out time for.” Signs of Washington fatigue are easy to find. At the Holmes II barber shop in Savannah, live impeachment broadcast was showing Wednesday on three TVs. Barbers and their customers barely seemed to look up as they talked about NFL football and new phone apps. Owner Anthony Harris, has cut hair at the shop since it opened in 1994, said he’s not surprised people are tuning out impeachment. “It’s kind of monotonous. He’s on the news every day, all day, for all kinds of things,” said Harris, a 56-year-old independent who leans Democratic. “It’s gotten to the point now where people are even tired of listening.” ___ Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; Philip Marcelo in Boston; Ivan Moreno in Milwaukee; Stacey Plaisance in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas; Dan Sewell in Cincinnati; John Raby in Nitro, West Virginia; Heather Hollingsworth in Overland Park, Kansas; and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.
  • Maren Morris is walking to the 2019 Country Music Association Awards with a lot of feelings. As the most-nominated act at an event for a music genre dominated by its male performers, Morris has become one of the key female faces of country music. She will pay tribute to her producer busbee, who died in September at age 43 and shares two nominations with Morris for his work on her acclaimed project, “GIRL.” And Wednesday night’s show will mark the pregnant singer’s “kid’s first awards show” — as she put it. “Dolly Parton touched my stomach earlier when we were rehearsing, so he's been touched by an angel,” Morris said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. Morris, who won a Grammy for her debut hit “My Church” in 2017, has a chance to win up to multiple trophies at the CMAs thanks to her work as an artist, songwriter and producer. Her six nominations include female vocalist of the year and album of the year for “GIRL,” which she co-wrote and co-produced, while the title track is up for single of the year and song of the year. “GIRL” topped Billboard's country airplay chart this year, the first time a solo female had a No. 1 hit on that chart in well over a year. Morris, 29, said winning album of the year would be a big deal, especially since busbee, who also produced her debut album “Hero,” worked on most of the songs on “GIRL.” “It's bittersweet going into Wednesday because it just feels like he should be here,” she said of the producer, who also worked with Pink, Florida Georgia Line and Shakira. “He just had such an impact on this town, on me as an artist, as a friend, as a neighbor. So it just feels like we're going to be celebrating no matter what Wednesday. And we're also going to be like sad that our friend isn't here to celebrate with us because this record would not sound the way it does without him.' Busbee has a chance to posthumously win album of the year for “GIRL.” “(Busbee) and I were freaking out when the nominations came in,” Morris said, “and I know that he would have worn the most badass tux and watch and probably sneakers, but now he'll be there in spirit.” Busbee was also nominated for musical event of the year for Morris and Brothers Osborne’s collaboration, “All My Favorite People,” a song he produced, but lost to Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ ubiquitous No. 1 hit, “Old Town Road,” the CMAs announced on ABC’s “Good Morning America” early Wednesday. Another early winner was Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” for music video of the year. Morris will kick off the CMA Awards with her supergroup The Highwomen, which includes Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby. They will perform with several top female performers in the genre’s history — including Parton, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood — showing that even though female acts are rare on the country charts and country radio, they are still around and putting out epic music. “I feel like this is a great blessing that we were given and we're going to have the time of our lives,” Morris said. “Opening the show and it being all about honoring women in country music the entire night is just perfect. It's very on brand.' Morris isn’t the only women who could make history at the CMAs: Underwood, who is hosting the show with Parton and McEntire, could be the first female to win entertainer of the year since 2011, when Taylor Swift took home the honor. Underwood is the sole women competing for the top prize along with Garth Brooks, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church and last year’s winner, Keith Urban. No women were nominated in the top category in 2018 and 2017. When asked about the CMAs deciding to honor women with an opening performance and having three female hosts, Urban said: “It’s crazy it has to come to that.” “You would think it’s just a balanced, fair, here it is, here’s all the music that we make and a nice big mix of it. But high time this is happening. I mean, all you gotta do is play it, just play the records. That’s it. Not rocket science. There’s so much great music being made by girls in this town. Just play it,” he said. Underwood’s other nominations include female vocalist of the year and album of the year for “Cry Pretty,” which marks the first time the singer co-produced and co-wrote each song on a project. Others competing for album of the year include Church’s “Desperate Man,” Thomas Rhett’s “Center Point Road” and Dan + Shay’s self-titled third album, which featured the hits “Speechless,” “All to Myself” and “Tequila,” which won the duo its first Grammy earlier this year. Kris Kristofferson will be honored with a performance featuring Sheryl Crow, Dierks Bentley, John Osborne and Chris Janson. Other set to take the stage are Brooks & Dunn, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Kacey Musgraves with Willie Nelson, Stapleton with Pink, and Lady Antebellum with Halsey. The CMAs will air live at 8 p.m. Eastern from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. ______ AP Entertainment Producer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report from Nashville.
  • Millions of Americans likely saw the House’s first day of open impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump on Wednesday. The open question is how many actually heard it. For six hours, career diplomats George Kent and Bill Taylor sat before Congress and answered questions. But from the immediate media response, it was hard to shake the sense that the proceedings didn’t pierce partisan gridlock or pre-set opinions. “There was not even the slightest hint that any Republican is taking the evidence that they were given ... and reconsidering,” Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace said at the hearing’s conclusion. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos admitted, “part of me is wondering, what do facts matter anymore in these debates?” All three networks — ABC, CBS, NBC — bumped regularly scheduled programming for the hearing. CNN and MSNBC aired the hearings. PBS and Fox broadcasting streamed coverage and left it up to local affiliates to decide whether to carry it. MSNBC brought a surprise hire into its coverage: George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a prominent social media critic of his wife’s boss. “I don’t think the Republicans made much headway,” George Conway said. “You saw some non-partisan professionals tell us the facts, and the facts were quite damning.” The network played it coy about Conway’s appearance, however. He was identified onscreen as a “conservative attorney” and anchor Brian Williams said it was, “yes, that George Conway.” But MSNBC never explicitly said who Conway’s wife worked for. Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus was part of CBS’ coverage, leading to one blunt exchange with anchor Norah O’Donnell. “Presidents don’t get impeached because they acted inappropriately,” Priebus said. “Presidents get impeached because they conducted themselves in such a way that they committed a high crime or misdemeanor as outlined under the Constitution.” Retorted O’Donnell: “I think Bill Clinton was impeached for acting inappropriately.” On Fox, Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who made the case for Clinton’s impeachment, appeared as an analyst. He said before the testimony that a bribery charge against Trump will “seem like a stretch” to the public. During one break, he noted that Trump eventually released the withheld aid to the Ukraine that is a central point of the Democrats’ case. That led Wallace to point out that the aid was released two days after a whistleblower revealed it was being held up. Wallace said that Taylor “was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president.” And Taylor may have a career in broadcasting: Wallace said he sounded like CBS News legend Edward R. Murrow, while Stephanopoulos said, “I hear the echoes of Walter Cronkite.” Viewers who kept the sound turned down had different experiences depending on where they tuned in. While CBS, for example, did little more than identify the participants through its onscreen chyrons, ABC and CNN actively used the screen to sum up testimony. For instance, a CNN chyron quoted Taylor: “I Told Pompeo I Would Have to Resign if US Policy of Support for Ukraine were to Change.” Fox, meanwhile, did not use chyrons to offer highlights of the testimony but did run a long message string about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his involvement in the Ukraine. Fox also identified Taylor onscreen by saying: “President Trump dismissed Taylor as a never-Trumper.” A few hours later, California Rep. Eric Swalwell asked Taylor in the hearing, “Are you a never-Trumper?” “No, sir,” he replied. Prominent news websites summed up their view of the day. The lead headline on the New York Times’ site at one point was, “Impeachment Testimony: ‘Trump Cares More About the Investigation of Biden.’” The Washington Post bannered: “New Testimony ties Trump more directly to Ukraine pressure.” The headline on Fox’s website was “Bombshell or Hearsay? Impeachment Hearing sees Claim Trump Asked of ‘Investigations,’ GOP decries ‘low-rent’ Russian Sequel.” Partisan sites had their own takes. The conservative site Redstate’s main headline was “Ambassador Bill Taylor Pushes a Farcical Tale of an Overheard Phone Call and the Media Proclaims it as a ‘Bombshell.’” On the liberal Talking Points Memo, it was “In Impeachment Surprise, Taylor Unveils New Evidence Directly Implicating Trump.” Partisans also pushed out favorite moments online. Republicans emphasized clips of attacking GOP lawmakers Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes. For Democrats, a favorite came when Taylor, in response to a question by the GOP counsel, said the back-channel of diplomacy was “not as outlandish as it could be.” One of former President Barack Obama’s speechwriters, Jon Favreau, tweeted that it could make for a potential campaign slogan: “Trump 2020: Not as Outlandish as it Could be.” ___ This story has been corrected to show Kellyanne Conway’s title is White House counselor.