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Trump Called Waffle House Hero James Shaw Jr. To Thank Him For Disarming Shooter

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Trump applauded Shaw for his “heroic actions,” in a phone call Monday, according to the White House.

President Donald Trump on Monday personally thanked the man responsible for wrestling a gun from a shooter at a Waffle House in Tennessee last month.

Trump had a phone call with James Shaw Jr., 29, on Monday morning to “commend his heroic actions and quick thinking,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said during a daily press briefing.

“Mr. Shaw saved lives when he wrestled a gun from an active shooter who had opened fire,” Shah said.

Shaw has been hailed as a hero for tackling and disarming a man as he shot up a Waffle House restaurant outside Nashville, Tennessee. Four people were killed in the shooting, and two others were injured, but police said Shaw’s actions likely prevented many others from being shot. 

Shaw, who has a 4-year-old daughter, has raised over $240,000 for the victims of the Waffle House shooting. He met on Saturday with Never Again activists and survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting for what one of the attendees called a “legendary breakfast.” 

Tennessee State University, Shaw’s alma mater, held a ceremony this month to honor him and announce the creation of a scholarship in his name. The reluctant hero has insisted that anybody under the same circumstances could do what he did.

“I was just trying to save myself. I did this with no recognition,” he said at the Tennessee State University event. “But it seems like it inspired so many people throughout the world. For that, I am greatly, greatly appreciative. To all of you, thank you.”

Shaw did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

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Fox News Host Neil Cavuto Tells Trump He Stinks In Fiery Takedown

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“I guess you’re too busy draining the swamp to ever stop and smell the stink you’re creating.”

Fox News host Neil Cavuto had some harsh words for Donald Trump on Thursday: Mr. President, you stink. 

The host listed some of Trump’s worst lies and misstatements, including claiming there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election and the recent revelation that he repaid his personal lawyer Michael Cohen for $130,000 in hush money given to porn star Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, after he’d repeatedly denied knowing about the situation.

“How can you drain the swamp if you’re the one that keeps muddying the water?” Cavuto asked. “You didn’t know about that $130,000 payment to a porn star until you did.” 

Cavuto, one of the few hosts on Fox News who calls out the president, said Trump cannot criticize the press for reporting “fake news” when he repeatedly makes false statements without correction.

“Your base probably might not care,” Cavuto added. “But you should. I guess you’re too busy draining the swamp to ever stop and smell the stink you’re creating. That’s your doing. That’s your stink. Mr. President, that’s your swamp.”

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“A job that was taken by a robot 30 years ago ... is not coming back, no matter what the president of the United States says.”

Flint Can Teach The U.S. About So Much More Than Poisoned Water

In a diner just down the road from the factory where he works, Art Reyes is talking about assembly line jobs and the robots that have taken them over.

He pauses to order a couple of the city’s signature Coney dogs (hot dogs topped with chopped onion and a mixture of fine-ground beef hearts and spices). Coneys and the restaurants that still serve them are survivors of a more prosperous era, when Flint was known as a hub of industry and the automaker General Motors employed half the city.

Today, Flint is better known for violence, economic strife and an ongoing water crisis that exposed tens of thousands of residents to lead-tainted drinking water. It’s a far cry from the city’s heyday in the 1960s, when Flint was the epitome of the American dream and people flooded in for well-paid, secure manufacturing jobs. Even those without a college education could expect GM to provide them with what Reyes describes as a “good, solid, middle-class life.” Today, he notes, for the most part, “those jobs no longer exist.”

This job decline is true across the U.S., which saw nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs disappear from 2000 to 2010 — about a third of the sector’s total. Hardest hit were the Rust Belt states; Michigan alone lost 440,000 of these jobs

Arguments abound in the Rust Belt as to where the manufacturing jobs went. Some support the narrative, spun loudly by Donald Trump, that free trade has allowed countries like China and Mexico to steal jobs; others blame unions.

There’s no easy explanation for what happened to places like Flint. But the influence of technology, particularly automation, is conspicuously absent from many debates taking place at the highest levels. Trump never mentions it when talking about reversing manufacturing job losses. His Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, questioned last year about the threat of automation and artificial intelligence, said they were “so far in the future” that they were “not even on my radar screen.” 

For Reyes, 50, a lifelong Flint-area resident who has worked at GM for 30 years, there’s no question that automation played an outsize role in changing the city permanently. He has watched tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs leave. He has also watched with dismay the appearance of “Make America great again” hats on the heads of his colleagues, stunned that they would buy Trump’s promise to bring back manufacturing jobs, which Reyes says are gone forever. While heavy industry still has a presence in the city, much of the work in factories like GM’s Flint Assembly Pant, where he is an electrician, is done by robots.

A 2015 Ball State University study supports Reyes’ view. Led by economics professor Mike Hicks, researchers found that U.S. manufacturing is, in fact, enjoying healthy growth. The problem? It isn’t benefiting human workers. Hicks and his co-authors found that productivity increases, largely driven by automation and technology, were responsible for almost 88 percent of manufacturing job losses in recent years. Machines allow factories to produce more with fewer people.  

The upside, Hicks said, is that technology tends to create more jobs than it kills, and he thinks that will continue to be the case. But he cautions against confusing job creation with a return to old employment trends. “The new job will come about, but it may take two or three years, it might not be in the same place, and it certainly isn’t going to require the same set of skills,” he said.

As researchers like Hicks sound the alarm about a coming wave of machines and AI likely to upend many medium- and low-skill jobs, Flint could serve as an indicator for challenges to come. That is, if America would only pay attention.

Reyes sits outside the GM Flint Assembly Plant, where he works as an electrician, April 29.
RACHEL WOOLF FOR HUFFPOST
Reyes sits outside the GM Flint Assembly Plant, where he works as an electrician, April 29.

In hindsight, there were warning signs about how machines might alter Flint. Back in 1960, the city was the setting for a speech by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, who spelled out the potential effects of automation. He spoke of deserted industrial towns across West Virginia, Oregon and Wisconsin and of people reliant on meager government food handouts. This could be the future for many more people, he predicted, “unless we recognize that machines should provide a better life for people and not a life of desperation for men who are 45 years and 50 and who can’t find a job.”

At its peak in the 1970s, GM employed some 80,000 people in Flint; it now employs about 7,200. The company significantly curbed its operations in the city in the ’80s, shuttering plants or moving them to the suburbs or to other countries. As the auto industry declined, so did Flint’s population, from almost 200,000 in 1960 to roughly 100,000 today.

From 2005 to 2013, Reyes, in his role as a union leader, helped former GM factory employees through programs like Michigan’s No Worker Left Behind, a free tuition program to help people acquire training or degrees. Where people ended up, he says, “ran the gamut.” He knows of one man who worked with marketing giant Amway and retired with a solid living in Florida. But he also knows a man who, already burdened with family struggles, killed himself.

Reyes was helping people, but he was helping them through bleak times. He remembers going home one day and telling his wife that he’d had the worst day of his life, then arriving home the next day and saying the same thing again.

Overall, he says, people who went into training programs tended to make a better adjustment. “They had something to look forward to,” he says, adding that people who weren’t willing to move on “ended up very bitter and had a harder time.”

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, retraining workers will be a continuing ― and needed ― trend. A 2017 poll by the company found that about two-thirds of public, private and not-for-profit organizations saw “addressing potential skills gaps related to automation/digitization as at least a top-ten priority.”

Looking back, Reyes says, he finds it interesting that a lot of the people he helped find new jobs and skills didn’t go into technology or full-time work for big companies like GM. He saw a lot of them become independent contractors or entrepreneurs.

“They’d been burned by a major corporation,” he recalls. “The more time they seemed to have had in the shop, the more likely they went into business for themselves.”

Machinery sprays paint on a pickup truck at GM’s assembly facility in Flint, March 23. The base coat is applied by
RACHEL WOOLF FOR HUFFPOST
Machinery sprays paint on a pickup truck at GM’s assembly facility in Flint, March 23. The base coat is applied by 18 robots.

If Flint has a lesson to teach about automation, it might simply be, “Get used to it.”

The new normal for manufacturing is on full display at the GM Flint Assembly Plant paint shop, where the drab aluminum shells of vehicles go to get their eye-catching colors. There are hardly any people on the floor. And yet the place is a whirl of activity. An assembly line moves parts past small herds of robotic arms that spray on the paint. A few workers at various stations add finishing touches while electricians sit at a lone desk monitoring the machines’ vital signs. 

For two decades, Reyes tried to resist just this kind of automated workplace. He held various offices with the powerful United Automobile Workers union, bargaining on contracts at a time when automation was a chief concern. The attitude in the 1980s was that the robots were taking away jobs — and it was true. Thirty years on, however, his attitude toward technology has changed, even if he remains unhappy about what it has done to so many of his former colleagues.

“It’s not even an acceptance. It’s an acknowledgment that there’s a proper place for technology,” he says.

Though he no longer bargains for the union, he doesn’t want his fellow union members to kid themselves about the reality of modern manufacturing.

“I will continue to try to convince them that a job that was taken by a robot 30 years ago ... is not coming back, no matter what the president of the United States says,” Reyes maintains.

Nevertheless, manufacturing still has a future in Flint. It’s just a different kind of future, with a smaller workforce. GM seems to be hanging on to its few remaining workers in the city. Since the recession, the company has poured nearly $3 billion into its facilities here, modernizing and automating where possible. But the 300 people employed in the paint shop before a $600 million revamp two years ago have kept their jobs.

Plus, the improvements to the shop mean that people no longer have to climb into enclosed spaces and apply noxious chemicals to the car frames — which makes for a healthier work environment. In the 1960s, by contrast, humans performed every job, no matter how dirty or dangerous.

A robot puts a sealant on a pickup truck at the GM Flint plant.
RACHEL WOOLF FOR HUFFPOST
A robot puts a sealant on a pickup truck at the GM Flint plant.

Some union leaders recognize they need to adapt to new technology. Eric Welter, the UAW Local 598 shop chairman, is a full-time bargainer and says his job is to make sure workers aren’t left in the dust. “It’s really important that we embrace technology and figure out how to be a meaningful part of it rather than fight it,” he says. “Because UAW and General Motors have a good partnership and my people make good wages, I need to make sure we are also efficient, otherwise we’ll price ourselves out of the market. Part of that efficiency is automation.”

As the face of Flint’s industry continues to change and it grapples with its water crisis, it is trying to distance itself from the image of a crumbling Rust Belt city. Its small downtown is undergoing a revitalization project and is now home to a number of trendy restaurants and shops.

Reyes wants to play a role in what’s next. In 2016 he was elected to the board of trustees at Flint’s Mott Community College, saying it needed to play a role in diversifying Flint’s economy. “I may not have been able to stem the flow as it happened so long ago,” he says, “but I sure as hell can help the next generation of workers feel less of the sting.”

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More women sign up to defend Brokaw and tension in NBC grows

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More than 100 women have signed a letter defending former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw following a sexual harassment allegation by a former colleague.

Among the names defending Brokaw are some high-profile personalities, including MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Mika Brzezinski, White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and NBC special anchor Maria Shriver.

"As professional women, we fully endorse the conversation around abuse of power in the workplace. In the context of that conversation, we would like to share our perspectives on working with Tom Brokaw," the letter reads.

"Tom has treated each of us with fairness and respect. He has given each of us opportunities for advancement and championed our successes throughout our careers. As we have advanced across industries — news, publishing, law, business and government — Tom has been a valued source of counsel and support. We know him to be a man of tremendous decency and integrity," the letter says.

Linda Vester's allegations about Brokaw's behavior were first reported Thursday by Variety and The Washington Post.

Several dozen women signed on to the letter the next day. The total number of signees has doubled since then. "People keep emailing, asking to add their names," said Liz Bowyer, one of the signees.

The current total is 115 names, including producers, anchors, directors, executives and others in the media business.

Brokaw is a towering figure at NBC and a role model for many in the television news industry. Many women and men at NBC credit him with advancing their careers, and that's why some people wanted to write the letter.

But there is considerable tension behind the scenes at NBC about the letter and the broader effort to defend Brokaw.

Sources described debates between friends and within peer groups about whether to sign on and what message the letter was intended to send.

As one of the sources put it: "What does it mean if your name is not on the letter?"

Vester's attorney, Ari Wilkenfeld, had no new comment on Saturday.

On Friday he said Vester spoke out because she feels "NBC needs to prioritize actually listening to and protecting their employees who have been victimized."

Vester was a young reporter at NBC in the early 1990s when, she says, Brokaw "groped and assaulted" her.

Brokaw angrily denied the claims in a letter to colleagues on Friday. The letter was subsequently published by news outlets.

He called Vester a "character assassin" with a "grudge against NBC News.

"She has unleashed a torrent of unsubstantiated criticism and attacks on me more than twenty years after I opened the door for her and a new job at Fox News," Brokaw's wrote.

He added that he played a key role in introducing Vester to former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, who later hired her.

Ailes, who died in 2017, left the network amid sexual harassment allegations.

NBC News had no comment on Saturday about the supportive letter.

Vester left the TV news business in 2006. She told The Washington Post Thursday that she chose to speak out now "because NBC has failed to hire outside counsel to investigate a genuine, long-standing problem of sexual misconduct in the news division."

The network promised to conduct an internal review of its workplace culture after "Today'" host Matt Lauer was fired last year. He faced claims of "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."

NBC News chair Andy Lack said in a memo on Friday that the "review is nearing its conclusion."

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Joy Reid Says She Doesn’t ‘Believe’ She Wrote Anti-LGBTQ Posts

The MSNBC host added Saturday that cybersecurity experts have not been able to prove her blog was hacked, as she initially claimed.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid said she doesn’t “believe” she wrote the anti-LGBTQ statements she has previously alleged were the result of a cyberattack on her now-defunct blog.

Reid addressed the alleged posts Saturday on her show, MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” amid mounting scrutiny over her claims that her old blog, The Reid Report, had been hacked.

“I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me,” Reid said, “but I can definitely understand based on things I have tweeted and I have written in the past why some people don’t believe me.”

Reid added that the cybersecurity experts she hired to investigate the alleged cyberattack have not been able to prove that her blog had been hacked.

“I’ve not been exempt from being dumb or cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for,” Reid said. “I own that. I get it. And for that I am truly, truly sorry.”

Reid already apologized in December for writing homophobic posts about former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) between 2007 and 2009 after Twitter user @Jamie_Maz shared screenshots of the posts.

Last week, @Jamie_Maz tweeted dozens more screenshots, also allegedly from Reid’s old blog, that included statements such as “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing” and “adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types.” 

Yet this time around, Reid had steadfastly denied writing the posts, claiming on Monday her blog was hacked and that a cybersecurity expert had identified “unauthorized activity.” This appears to contradict with her Saturday comments alleging the outside experts were unable to prove she was hacked.

Reid did not address on Saturday her seemingly contradictory statements about the alleged hacking or detail whether cybersecurity experts were continuing to investigate the matter.

A representative for MSNBC did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment about Reid’s differing statements.

Jonathan Nichols, Reid’s hired cybersecurity consultant, said in a statement Tuesday that he “found evidence Joy Reid’s now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, was breached after a review of suspicious activity.” He did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Reid’s comments Saturday that appeared to state otherwise.

As HuffPost and other outlets have reported, only a pretty bizarre course of events would have led to those allegedly fraudulent homophobic blog posts.

Reid, who has been noticeably silent on social media since claiming her blog was hacked, shared a post on Instagram about heading “back to work.”

Reid opened her show Saturday ― the first episode since news broke on Mediaite of the screenshots on Monday ― by addressing the scandal and apologizing for past homophobic and transphobic comments on her blog and in her tweets. 

She then dedicated the next 30 minutes or so of her two-hour show to discussing how “hurtful speech” affects marginalized communities with a panel of LGTBQ activists. 

“I can only say that the person I am now is not the person I was then,” Reid said. “I like to think I’ve gotten better as a person over time ― that I’m still growing.”

Her attorney, John H. Reichman, said in a statement Wednesday that her team had “received confirmation the FBI has opened an investigation into potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid.”

The FBI would neither confirm nor deny the existence of such an investigation when asked by HuffPost.

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