How to talk politics at your family Thanksgiving meal this year

— Mealtime talk is always fraught this time of year. In this post-election climate, even the most innocent mention of politics or social issues could threaten to turn MawMaw’s house into the thunder dome.

Don’t worry your elastic-waisted britches about it. Daniel Post Senning, an etiquette expert from the Emily Post Institute, gave us some great pointers on how to handle the election aftermath with class. Here’s how to keep your holiday companions from throttling each other:

1. Stick to non-threatening conversations If you really want to ensure a PG-rated family gathering, stick to what Senning calls “Tier 1” topics: Pop culture, sports and shared experiences like the weather, the food, family matters or even the holidays themselves.

“Tier 2” conversations, on the other hand, are things like politics, religion and sex, and they tend to create deeper divisions. “Those are important discussions to have,” Senning says. “But they are controversial and require a level of discretion, care and tact to navigate. You have to think about your audience and the potential impact of those discussions.”

In other words, you may think it’s fascinating the Pope has said abortion can be forgiven by priests. That doesn’t mean it’s the first thing you should mention after grace.

2. Don’t take the bait

Obviously at some point, one of your dinner partners may launch a unilateral political offensive. Don’t feel like you have to engage. “[Goading] is not a license to respond in kind,” Senning says. “It’s never an obligation that you provide a counter argument or that you have to share what you think.”

Remember, you’re the master of your own emotions. Is it worth spoiling the evening’s Honey Baked Ham halo just so you can give your belligerent cousin the what-for? No. Smile and take one for the team. “You’re never going to help the situation, and it will probably just escalate it,” Senning says.

3. Admit when you’ve put your foot in your mouth

Nightmare scenario: You think your whole table is of one political or religious mind, so you spew a hot take they can all enjoy. Surprise! You’re met with icy silence.

Don’t fall on your butter knife just yet. Senning says there’s a graceful way to get out of this common faux pas. “Whenever you find yourself in that situation, showing a return to self-awareness is a good way to regain trust,” Senning says. ‘Fess up and acknowledge that it’s just your opinion, and that others may not share it. In fact, it could be the start of a new understanding. “Moments like that are opportunities to build bridges,” Senning says.

4. Don’t be afraid to right the ship

If you see the conversation starting to tip into potentially hazardous territory, don’t be afraid to take the wheel. “Try to guide the conversation back into safer territory,” Senning says. “That’s usually a host’s prerogative, but anybody can do it, and any talented conversationalist will recognize safe territory.” In fact, chances are you won’t be the only one trying to save the atmosphere. When you interject with a compliment about the food or a riff on the perils of Black Friday, you’ll be giving other people an opportunity to chime in and get things back on track.

5. If you must bring up a tough subject, do so with compassion

“Whatever, CNN,” you may be thinking. “My family/chosen holiday gathering absolutely THRIVES on sparkling, diverse topical conversation.” Neato, friend. That’s really great. But if you’re going to go there, be prepared for what you might find. “If you are going to talk about these things, you have to be willing to listen to someone that has a different opinion than you do,” Senning says. “Showing some awareness of that reality communicates a certain grace and awareness and consideration of others.”

Thousands of Seattle teachers take a powerful #BlackLivesMatter stand

— Thousands of Seattle teachers made for an inspiring sight when they wore Black Lives Matter shirts en masse to reinforce their commitment to black students in their public schools.

Educators and students from schools all over the district united Wednesday under banners and raised fists. They wanted to highlight that in order for “black lives to matter, black education has to matter.”

“This movement is also broader than police accountability. In a school system as dramatically unequal as ours, it’s incumbent upon educators and families to stand up and say something about this,” Jesse Hagopian, one of the event’s organizers and a history teacher at Garfield High School, told radio station KUOW-FM.

More than half of the district’s 53,000 students are non-white, and African-Americans make up the largest minority group. An Education Department report released earlier this year showed just how much blacks and Latino students still lag in terms of opportunities.

“Equity anchors the work of our union,” a statement from the Seattle Education Association said. “Eliminating the opportunity gap and providing an equitable quality public education is at the forefront of our mission.”

See more pictures at the SEA Facebook page. With so many schools participating, it’s really quite a sight.

Tulsa officer’s emotional post after NC, OK police shootings

As a second night of protests rent the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, a police officer from another town feeling the pain of an officer-involved shooting wrote an emotional and compassionate plea on Facebook.

Popsey Floyd is an officer at the Tulsa Police Department. Last week, the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, sparked mourning and discontent in his city.

Floyd’s words tried to cut through the air of uncertainty.

“I work for you. I will protect you,” he writes. “I know you may be upset about the recent events all over the country and now here in Tulsa. I don’t have the answers that you are looking for, but I will continue to be the solution.”

Floyd also suggested that those who wish to see a change in their police force should consider being a part of it.

“The Tulsa police department is hiring. If you believe that change is required, please join the department and be the change that you are seeking.”

His post has been shared more than 3,000 times and residents and complete strangers are leaving comments of support.

“I can’t speak for everyone but I have seen the impact [you] have made downtown!” someone wrote. “It is an honor to know [you].”

“Peace be with you as you continue to protect my hometown,” wrote another.

Floyd told CNN affiliate KJRH that he knows what it’s like to be afraid or mistrustful.

“I grew up thinking you had to be scared of the police just based on stories that I heard,” he said.

He also said it’s difficult, as an officer who truly cares about people, to watch the pain Tulsa and its citizens are enduring.

“I read the posts. It affects me. I have kids, I have a wife and it affects me,” he said. “So I want [people] to know that…things go on in the world, you know. We listen, we pay attention, and we support you.”

What not to do when you win the Powerball this weekend

— $478 million!

That’s the amount of the current Powerball Jackpot for Saturday’s drawing. Go ahead, dream about what you would do with it. Private island, maybe? Your own Dairy Queen franchise? Choose carefully, because unscrupulous spending is a common plague among the tout nouveau riche. If you do win a big chunk of cash, you can probably afford to hire someone smart to make decisions for you. Until then, you can just read about these cautionary tales for free.

Don’t spend millions bailing your fiancé out of jail

Brace yourself for the roller coaster love story of Marie Holmes and her fiancé/partner Lamar “Hot Sauce” McDow. The Shallote, North Carolina, woman won a portion of a $564 million jackpot in February 2015, taking home about $88 million. Since then she has spent more than $20 million of it bailing her dear Hot Sauce out of jail.

Holmes spent $3 million to spring Mr. Sauce the first time in November 2015. Less than a year later, he was popped for drug trafficking charges, and Holmes donated another $6 million to the Free Hot Sauce Fund. The third time was a paltry $10,000, but the fourth time was the real winner. In January this year, Hot Sauce tried to organize a street race and his beloved had to put up $12 million — $12 MILLION — to free him.

Don’t try and divorce your husband without telling him you’re a brand-new millionaire

The next time you dream about winning a huge sum of money and then leaving your spouse out to dry, remember Denise Rossi (and maybe consider counseling?).

In 1996, Rossi hit it big, winning $1.3 million from the California Lottery. A few days later, she blindsided her husband by asking for a divorce. Oh, and she never mentioned the fact she was a newly-minted millionaire. Rossi was all over the “take the money and run” philosophy.

She would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling California asset disclosure laws. During her divorce proceedings, her new-found fortune was found out and, get this, the court awarded the whole thing to her husband! Well, ex husband. Oddly enough, they weren’t able to reconcile.

Don’t allow a philandering relative to claim your money for you

In 2012 Etta May Urquhart was obviously delighted to find she had won a $51 million California jackpot. However, things got ugly when, as her accusations go, she and her son Ronnie Orender decided it would be easier on her if he signed the winning ticket and went with his parents to claim the earnings. A year later, Urquhart straight up sued her son, alleging he had swindled her out of her money. She also claimed elder abuse. The lawsuit eventually reached an undisclosed settlement. Still, though. m=Money makes people crazy.

Don’t buy your tickets too late

You know how if you come to a bus stop and the bus isn’t there, it’s no big deal and you wait, but if you just missed the bus, you stew and rage against the unfairness of it all and what could have been if you only made it? That’s sort of like Margit Arrobio’s story, except the bus in this case is a fat wad of cash.

The Pasadena, California, woman (why is it always California?) bought a few Powerball tickets in 2013, when the jackpot was at a sensible $360 million. The next morning watching the news, she discovered she held a winning ticket. All of the numbers matched. The dream of owning her own Dairy Queen franchise was finally within reach!

Except, it wasn’t really a winning ticket, because Arrobio had bought the tickets an hour after the Powerball cutoff time. Margit! No! Her life must have felt like the sound they play when you lose on “The Price is Right.”

Don’t not claim your winnings

Those who ascribe to the Ricky Bobby school of thought — “If you’re not first, you’re last” — may be missing out on millions of sweet lotto dollars. Second place prizes for Powerball and MegaMillions drawings are worth at least $1 million, and CNN Money reports an estimated 114 of these million-dollar payouts went unclaimed in 2015. Listen, the lottery odds will never, ever sway even remotely in your favor, but at least make sure you’re not missing out on free money!


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Red Cross apologizes for ‘super racist’ safety poster

— The Red Cross is apologizing after a poster depicting pool safety rules was circulated on Twitter and flamed for being “super racist.”

The poster, which shows a crowd of cartoon children committing an array of poolside do’s and dont’s, was spotted at the Salida Pool and Recreation Department in Salida, Colorado.

A Twitter user put a picture of the poster online, where people debated whether it was, in fact, offensive or not.

Those who found the poster questionable said it showed children of color doing dangerous activities labeled as “Not Cool,” while all of the acceptable, “Cool” activities were depicted with lighter-skinned people.

“Seriously, @RedCross? Behaving white kids are ‘cool’; children of color depicted as misbehaving/’not cool’ #racism” wrote one critic.

Though there were those that thought the interpretation was a bit of an overreach, the Red Cross swiftly apologized, replying to the original tweet and later issuing a statement.

“We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone. As one of the nation’s oldest and largest humanitarian organizations, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do, every day,” it wrote on its website.

The organization also said it has removed the image from its website and app, and has requested the poster be removed from aquatic facilities. The Salida Rec Center also tweeted that it had removed the poster and “didn’t scrutinize it like we should have.”

The poster was originally part of the Red Cross’ 2014 “Aquatics Centennial Campaign.”

“We are focusing on areas with higher-than-average drowning rates and participants who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to take swim lessons,” the Red Cross wrote.


™ & © 2016 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Emotional photo reveals Haitian West Point grad’s American dream

— If you need proof that triumph can have many faces, look no further than this stunning photo of recent West Point graduate Alix Idrache.

Idrache graduated and became a second lieutenant along with more than 950 of his classmates Monday. Amidst the pomp and circumstance, an Army Staff Sergeant photographer caught him during an emotional moment.

While making it through the U.S. Military Academy is certainly accomplishment enough, Idrache left a beautiful message on the school’s Instagram that explained why the day was so special to him.

“Three things came to mind and led to those tears,” he continued. “The first is where I started. I am from Haiti and never did I imagine that such honor would be one day bestowed on me. The second is where I am. Men and women who have preserved the very essence of the human condition stood in that position and took the same oath…”

“The third is my future. Shortly after leave, I will report to Ft. Rucker to start flight school. Knowing that one day I will be a pilot is humbling beyond words. I could not help but be flooded with emotions knowing that I will be leading these men and women who are willing to give their all to preserve what we value as the American way of life. To me, that is the greatest honor. Once again, thank you.”

The photo received thousands of likes, shares and congratulatory messages on West Point’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

On Tuesday, Idrache wrote another message on his Facebook page:

“I woke up this morning and found my face all over Facebook and with it myriad of amazing comments about my accomplishments. I am humbled and shocked at the same time. Thank you for giving me a shot at the American Dream and may God bless America, the greatest country on earth.”

The word “inspiring” sure does get tossed around a lot these days, but in this case, it fits just perfectly.