Blog Posts by Holly Bailey

  • Chris Christie secretly underwent major weight loss surgery

    Christie at an April 30 town hall in New Jersey (Mel Evans/AP)

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie secretly underwent lap-band stomach surgery in February amid concern from his family and friends over his weight.

    “I’ve struggled with this issue for 20 years,” Christie told the New York Post, which broke the story.

    The move comes after years of concern and criticism over Christie’s girth, especially as he has been repeatedly mentioned as a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. But Christie insisted in an interview with the Post that his move was not motivated by politics—but rather a desire to be there for his wife and kids as he gets older.

    “For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them,” Christie said. Asked specifically about his political future, Christie insisted the surgery was “so much more important than that.”

    According to the Post, Christie agreed to the surgery last fall after his 50th birthday. He had surgery on Feb. 16—checking into the facility under a false name

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  • Bill Clinton and Bloomberg unveil ‘climate risk’ project

    Clinton and Bloomberg at a 2009 CGI meeting (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)NEW YORK—Former President Bill Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new climate initiative Monday to help cities measure their risk for severe weather and natural disasters. The hope is to help curb the impact of deadly storms like Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of New York City last October.

    The project will be run through C40, a coalition of major cities around the world that united to study the impact of climate change on their municipalities. The group, chaired by Bloomberg, merged two years ago with the Clinton Climate Initiative—an offshoot of Clinton’s philanthropic foundation.

    Known as the C40 Risk Assessment Framework, the "climate risk" project, as Bloomberg referred to it, would develop a consistent set of measures by which cities could assess their risk of a natural disaster, including hurricanes and floods.

    “Cities simply cannot afford to close their eyes and hope for the best,” Bloomberg said, as he and Clinton unveiled the project

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  • Authorities search woods near Boston Marathon bombing suspect’s college

    Fireworks found in a backpack allegedly owned by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (via DOJ)

    Federal investigators are searching various sites around Dartmouth, Mass., near where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to college as authorities continue to look for evidence related to the attack.

    Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, confirmed the searches in an email amid local reports that law enforcement officials were spotted combing through a wooded area not far from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where Tsarnaev was a student.

    “The searches at various locations in Dartmouth, Mass., today are part of the ongoing investigation into the marathon bombing,” she said. “Residents should be advised that there is no threat to public safety.”

    The Standard-Times newspaper in nearby New Bedford quoted a local man who spied dozens of local police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms searching a nature area with police dogs. A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office confirmed that FBI agents also were involved in the search.

    The search came as the New York Times and NBC News quoted unnamed federal officials who said Tsarnaev told authorities he and his brother Tamerlan, who was killed during a gunbattle with police on April 19, originally had planned to carry out their attack on July 4. But the bombings allegedly were moved up because the brothers completed building their explosives ahead of time.

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  • Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade in danger after Superstorm Sandy

    A participant at Coney Island's 2012 Mermaid Parade (Lee Celano/Getty Images)

    It’s been more than six months since Superstorm Sandy ravaged the coastal areas of New York and New Jersey, but the deadly storm is on the verge of claiming another high profile victim.

    Coney Island’s famed Mermaid Parade, an annual event dating back to 1983 in which thousands of people dress up like fantastical sea creatures and march through the streets to welcome the beginning of summer, is on the brink of cancellation because of damage from Sandy.

    While the parade route hasn’t been affected, the parade’s organizer, Coney Island USA, suffered nearly $500,000 in damage when Sandy sent more than five feet of water into its headquarters along Surf Avenue last October. Rebuilding the facility—which includes a museum dedicated to Coney Island as well as a performance space for the area’s legendary freak show, burlesque dancers and old-time strongmen—has left the nonprofit group cash-strapped and unable to front the estimated $190,000 cost of the parade.

    On Monday, the group will launch a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising the funds needed to hold the parade, which is tentatively scheduled for June 22. It attracted 750,000 people last year and has generated millions in revenues for businesses in Coney Island, which was hard hit by Sandy.

    “It is painful to say it, but if we can’t raise the money, there will be no Mermaid Parade. For real,” Dick Zigun, head of Coney Island USA and the founder of the parade, told Yahoo News. “It would be a blow to the neighborhood and to the city. But we just can’t afford it.”

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  • Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton to address Bill Clinton forum

    Chris Christie (John Moore/Getty Images)Cue the 2016 buzz: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton will be among the featured speakers at next month’s meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative America conference.

    Sponsored by former President Bill Clinton, the gathering kicks off June 13 in Chicago and will focus on how to create jobs and improve the U.S. economy.

    According to a release from the Clinton Foundation, Christie is one of only two Republicans currently slated to address the conference. The other is Scott Smith, mayor of Mesa, Ariz. Other speakers tentatively set to appear include Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chelsea Clinton, actress Eva Longoria and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

    It will be Hillary Clinton’s first appearance before the group, which is an offshoot of her husband’s Clinton Foundation.

    “I’m thrilled that Hillary will be participating in CGI America for the first time,” the former president said in a statement announcing the

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  • HBO documentary focuses on women who searched for bin Laden

    A still from the film "Manhunt" (courtesy HBO)

    In Kathryn Bigelow’s movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jessica Chastain played Maya, a young CIA operative whose stubborn pursuit of Osama bin Laden played a major role in the al-Qaida leader’s death.

    The film garnered both awards (including a Golden Globe for Chastain) and controversy—largely because of graphic scenes depicting the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. But an undisputed—and to some, surprising—revelation in the film was its disclosure of the key role a female CIA agent played in the search for bin Laden.

    Now a new documentary goes further—making clear it wasn’t just one female CIA operative relentlessly searching for bin Laden, as Bigelow’s dramatization suggests, but rather a whole team of women who began sounding the alarm about the al-Qaida leader almost a decade before the 9/11 attacks made bin Laden a household name.

    “Manhunt,” which premieres Wednesday on HBO, tries to tell what director Greg Barker describes as “the real story” behind the 20-year hunt for bin Laden. It includes interviews with several members of the so-called Sisterhood, as the team of female analysts assigned to track bin Laden came to be known within the CIA.

    Many of those interviewed, including retired agents Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Barbara Sude, speak on camera for the first time about their role in the bin Laden pursuit. And all, in some ways, appear to have inspired the female heroine of “Zero Dark Thirty,” from their headstrong efforts to convince colleagues that bin Laden was a serious threat to their fight to be taken seriously by male colleagues amid job pressures that came to dominate their lives.

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  • Obama and predecessors mark opening of George W. Bush library

    DALLAS—President Barack Obama praised his predecessor George W. Bush as a “good man” who should be commended for his resolve in trying to keep the country safe after the 9/11 attacks, and for his foresight in leading the fight for immigration reform.

    Obama’s remarks came as he and the other four living presidents along with dozens of state, federal and foreign dignitaries gathered here to mark the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

    Obama, who has been a fierce critic of Bush’s handling of the country, and his colleagues followed the tradition of past presidential library ceremonies by putting political differences aside. Obama praised what he called Bush’s “compassion,” “generosity” and “personality,” and said, “To know the man is to like the man.”

    Remarking on the rare gathering of all five presidents, Obama spoke of the “exclusive club” that he shares with Bush as well as Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter—who were also in attendance. But, he said, “it’s more like a support group.”

    He recalled finding a letter in his desk from George W. Bush upon arriving in the Oval Office in 2009 offering his successor advice.

    “He knew I would come to learn what he had learned,” Obama said. “Being president above all is a humbling job. There are moments when you make mistakes. There are times when you wish you could turn back the clock.”

    But, Obama noted, “We love this country and we do our best.”

    Obama’s remarks came after former Clinton and Carter offered similar praise of Bush. Among other things, they touted Bush’s efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

    But Clinton’s remarks seemed more like a roast of his successor, as he spoke warmly of Bush and talked about how

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  • Barbara Bush says Jeb Bush shouldn’t run for president

    Barbara Bush with former President George H.W. Bush and Jeb Bush in 2002. (Joe Burbank/Getty Images)DALLAS—Just hours before her son George W. Bush formally opens his presidential library here, former first lady Barbara Bush dismissed talk of a presidential run by another son, Jeb, in 2016.

    In an interview with NBC’s ‘Today" show, Barbara Bush said she believed Jeb, a former Florida governor, was “the best qualified” to seek the Republican presidential nomination, but that he shouldn’t run.

    “We’ve had enough Bushes,” Barbara Bush told NBC, adding there are other “people out there” who are qualified. “It’s a great country. There are a lot of great families and it's not just four families or whatever.”

    Her remarks come just a day after George W. Bush told ABC and CNN that he believes his brother should seek the presidency. Former first lady Laura Bush, who joined Barbara Bush in the “Today" show interview, said her brother-in-law would be a “terrific president,” but declined to say whether she thinks he'll run.

    “We don’t know, and we’re just letting him decide,” Laura Bush said.

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  • From president to painter, George W. Bush’s artistic pursuits surprise even his friends

    One of Bush's many dog paintings (via Gawker)

    DALLAS—Even among his friends, George W. Bush always has been known as the man who can’t sit still—a guy so fidgety he could barely make it through the long ceremonies he was required to attend as president.

    So it was to some a surprise when an email began making the rounds among Bush’s friends and former staffers more than a year ago announcing that the former president had picked up a new hobby: Bush, the email said, had become a painter.

    “When I first heard about it, I literally couldn’t imagine it,” said Karen Hughes, a longtime friend and adviser to the former president. “I immediately emailed him, and was like, ‘Is this true?’”

    For the next hour, Hughes recalled, her email was “lighting up” with messages from her former boss, who sent her pictures of the dozens of portraits he’d painted.

    “Even then, I literally could not believe it,” she said with a laugh. “George W. Bush, painting. I think it’s a surprising image to anybody who knows him because he’s so high-energy.”

    Indeed, the most surprising image of Bush in the postpresidency hasn’t been of the former leader in his rare public appearances, but of his artwork, which first became public when a hacker infiltrated email accounts of some members of the Bush family.

    There were portraits of dogs, including of his beloved Scottish terrier, Barney, and several landscapes. But the pieces that attracted the most scrutiny were a pair of self-portraits the former president painted: one of him peering into a mirror in the shower, the other of his knobby knees and feet in a bathtub filling with water.

    Immediately, commentators wondered what the artwork could mean—but

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  • As new library opens, Bush hopes for a reassessment of his legacy

    Bush at his new library on Wednesday (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    DALLAS—More than four years after George W. Bush left the White House, there seems to be one word the former president has adopted to describe how he feels about the decisions he made in office: “comfortable.”

    Bush has repeatedly used the word in interview after interview over the last several days as he returned to the spotlight to promote Thursday’s opening of his presidential library here on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

    "I'm comfortable with what I did," Bush told the Dallas Morning News in an interview published last week. "I'm comfortable with who I am."

    Asked about one of the most controversial aspects of his presidency—his decision to invade Iraq—Bush upped the ante even further, telling ABC’s Diane Sawyer that he’s “very comfortable” with that decision.

    “I am comfortable in the decision-making process. I think the removal of Saddam Hussein was the right decision for not only our own security but for giving people a chance to live in a free society,” Bush declared.

    Indeed, those closest to him insist Bush is not someone who second-guesses the decisions he made as president. But that doesn’t mean he is not concerned about his legacy and the way the public perceives him.

    Aides say the 43rd president personally played a role in choosing what went into “every single exhibit” at his library. He and his supporters hope the facility will encourage the public to reassess his presidency—particularly on domestic issues that were overshadowed by controversy over his handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “He literally looked at every exhibit and said, ‘I want this, I want that,'” said Mark Langdale, who, as head of Bush’s private foundation, oversaw construction of the library. “He views this as a way for the public to get all the facts so that they can make an educated decision about how they regard him and what he did in office.”

    In some ways, it appears that at least some of that reassessment has already started. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released earlier this week found 47 percent of those polled approve of Bush. That’s the highest approval rating he’s received in seven years. Still, the former president’s numbers remain dismal at best. A CNN poll released Wednesday found that 55 percent of those polled believe Bush’s presidency was a “failure.” That is, however, an improvement over 2009, when 68 percent thought he was a “failure.” When he left office, Bush dismissed his low poll numbers and insisted history would be his ultimate judge—a statement he’s

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