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Japan Is Apparently Struggling to Meet Its Ninja Quota

There are a lot of reasons to visit Japan—the food, the fashion, the eclectic city streets of Tokyo—but now some are worried that the demand for ninjas has gotten so high that there aren't enough of them to entertain the influx of people visiting the country, the Telegraph reports.

Back in the day, ninjas were a legendary warrior force in Japan. According to the Independent, they were often recruited to work as spies or assassins, dishing out their distinct brand of violence using throwing stars or poisoned darts. Working as a ninja in Japan today is a lot more of a PR gig but still requires a special skill set in the art of ancient ninjutsu—unarmed combat, acrobatics, and sword fighting.

Apparently, some people who manage these entertaining ninja squads say that they're just not seeing these basic skills in many of their applicants and the demand has gotten out of control.

"With the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan on the increase, the value of ninja as tourism content has increased," Takatsugu Aoki, manager of the Tokugawa Ieyasu and Hattori Hanzo Ninja Squad, told a local Japanese newspaper. "There are more employment choices while ninja shows held across the country have become popular, not to mention other attractions."

Aoki's squad has seen a major drop in applicants since 2016, when more than 230 people applied to join its seven-person ninja team. The gig was advertised globally and boasted a salary of $1,600 a month. So far this year, the squad has received only 22 applications, and Aoki believes competition is partially to blame.

"I feel there is a ninja shortage," he said.

All Your Favorite Marvel Heroes Team Up in the First ‘Defenders’ Trailer

After each facing off against their own respective bad guys, Netflix's Marvel heroes are back in the first trailer for The Defenders, pulling their individual super powers together to face-off against some very well-dressed ninjas.

In the official trailer Netflix dropped Wednesday, Matt Murdock—blind lawyer by day, Daredevil by night—comes to the legal aid of Jessica Jones, a super strong private detective. Meanwhile, the unbreakable Luke Cage meets Danny Rand and tries to figure out what his whole glowing fist thing is all about. Soon the team learns it has to work together (and tolerate one another) to beat on some fancy ninjas, led by Sigourney Weaver's villainous Alexandra, in a long white hallway.

Like it did with its respective Avengers heroes, Marvel has already produced each of the good guys' backstories in individual lead-ups to the blockbuster event. The plan started well with Daredevil, which was a brutal, dark contrast to the Marvel Cinema Universe films. The second series, Jessica Jones, was widely celebrated for its handling of sexual abuse. Luke Cage faltered in the second half of the season and seemed to be suffering from superhero overload. Then the whole train sort of fell apart with the wildly panned Iron Fist, a show about a blond white guy learning mystic Asian kung-fu, which was criticized both for being both kind of racist and completely boring.

Still, the superhero gravy train rolls on and The Defenders will hit Netflix in August. Check out the trailer above and watch all your favorite Marvel heroes—plus, I guess, Iron Fist—trade moody quips before bashing on some bad guys while Nirvana plays in the background.

The Defenders premieres on Netflix on August 18.

Milo Yiannopoulos Got $12M to Start a Touring Company for Trolls

A few secret investors reportedly gave former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos $12 million to start a new company to bring right-wing YouTubers on tour, Vanity Fair reports

Milo Inc., which will be based out of Miami and employ around 30 people, is a media company meant to compete with the Blaze and Infowars. But from the sounds of it, the new venture will be less like like a conservative news outlet and more like Live Nation for trolls, or an American Idols Live tour if all of the singers were replaced with people yelling about globalism.

"I'm the proof of concept," Yiannopoulos told the magazine. "The thing about me is that I have access to a talent pipeline that no one else even knows about. All the funniest, smartest, most interesting young YouTubers and all the rest of them who hate feminism, who hate political correctness." 

Yiannopoulos got his start as the instigator of Gamergate and kicked off the current culture war related to free speech on college campuses. He then lost his editing job at Breitbart, a six-figure book deal, and a speaking slot at CPAC after old footage resurfaced of him saying relationships between younger boys and older men can be "hugely positive experiences." 

After that happened, it seemed like Yiannopoulos was done. But on April 21, he wrote a Facebook Post announcing a multi-day event called Milo's Free Speech Week planned for later this year in Berkeley, California. He also released a weird compilation video declaring that MILO IS COMING––although there was no real indication of what that meant. But now we now know he's apparently returning to ring-lead a group of racist teen vloggers.

"This generation that's coming up, it's about 13, 14, 15, now have very different politics than most other generations," he told Vanity Fair in an odd choice of words for someone who's career was recently derailed for seeming to condone child molestation. "They love us. They love me, and I'm going to be actively hunting around for the next Milo."

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

Republicans Want to Expel College Kids for Heckling

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Republican lawmakers in the state are sponsoring a bill that would suspend or expel University of Wisconsin college students who disrupt campus speeches by heckling or protesting.

The Campus Free Speech Act would require administrators at the University of Wisconsin to develop a disciplinary policy for those who interfere with anyone's right to express themselves, and would prevent state schools from taking stances on social issues. What's more, it would give speakers the right to sue UW if their events were shut down by students.

The pending legislation comes at a time when tensions between liberal protestors and conservative speakers are at an all-time high. In the past few months, universities across the country have routinely dissolved into chaos as polarizing figures have tried to speak there. Late last January, a man was shot during a Milo Yiannopoulos protest at the University of Washington. Students effectively blocked eugenicist Charles Murray from speaking at Middlebury University in March, and on Wednesday, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter canceled her scheduled appearance in Berkeley after administrators said they couldn't protect her from possible violence.

Back in 2015, the University of Chicago released a report that said campus protestors there "may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe." A conservative think tank called the Goldwater Institute later published a model of how to turn the Chicago report into law, and Wisconsin is just the latest state to consider adopting a version of it. It's already happened in Colorado, and Republicans in Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia are also apparently considering introducing similar bills.

The legal director of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Associated Press that the bill was "unnecessarily draconian." Meanwhile, one of the bill's key sponsors argues that the Campus Free Speech Act will protect free expression by expelling students who use it to voice their distaste for unpopular viewpoints.

"All across the nation and here at home, we've seen protesters trying to silence different viewpoints," Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement on Thursday. "Free speech means free speech for everyone and not just for the person who speaks the loudest."

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

United Settled with the Guy Dragged Off Its Plane

On Thursday, United Airlines made strides to move past its recent PR nightmare, announcing it had reached a settlement with passenger David Dao after he was forcefully dragged from one of its planes earlier this month. 

Dao's lawyers said their client had reached a settlement with the company for an undisclosed amount after threatening to take legal action, the New York Times reports. Dao was left with a broken nose, missing teeth, and a concussion after three security agents pulled him from his seat and down the aisle of a Kentucky-bound flight. Dao, a doctor, had refused to give up his seat for a United employee because he said he had patients to see.

"United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago," Dao's lawyer, Thomas A. Demetrio, said Thursday. "For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded."

Before the settlement was announced, United released an updated list of procedures Thursday based on its investigation of the incident. Now, if a United flight is completely booked, like the one Dao was on, the airline will ask the last person who paid for a seat to give his or hers up. Additionally, people who have already taken their seats, are disabled, or unaccompanied minors will not be asked to give up their seat. The airline will now offer passengers up to $10,000 to give up their spot, should the flight be overbooked—a practice United also said it would keep to a minimum.

Charles Hobart, a spokesperson for the airline, also confirmed the agreement, telling the Times, "We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do."

The Pentagon Is the Latest Agency to Investigate Michael Flynn

Earlier this week, lawmakers investigating Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said it was likely he broke the law when he took money from foreign governments after his retirement. Now, the Department of Defense is looking into the matter, thanks to new documents that show Flynn was warned about taking foreign money, Politico reports.

Back in 2014, when Flynn retired from the Army in 2014, he received a letter from the Defense Intelligence Agency warning him about taking money from foreign entities. The documents say that under the Constitution's emoluments clause it's illegal for a former military official to accept "consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary" without running it by the government first. 

According to Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Flynn was paid by foreign governments after he retired and did not disclose some of those payments to the government. One, Cummings says, was a $45,000 speaking fee from the Russian-backed network RT in 2015. 

"These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon," Cummings said in a statement Thursday. "Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents."

Now, to find out exactly how much Flynn tried to conceal—and how much the White House knew—the Oversight Committee will have to get its hands on the documents he filed before joining Trump's team. But according to the Hill, the White House is being less than cooperative, saying it doesn't have them.

"There is a paper trail that the White House does not want our committee to follow," Cummings said. "I honestly don't understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn."

Flynn stepped down from his post as Trump's national security adviser just 23 days after joining the administration amid accusations he misled the White House about phone conversations he had with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He's also a central figure being investigated in the FBI's ongoing probe of Russia's alleged election meddling, according to CNN

During the campaign, Flynn avidly supported Trump and criticized Hillary Clinton for using a private email server.

"If I did a tenth of what she did, I'd be in jail today," he once said at a campaign rally.

The Secret Service Doesn’t Like @realDonaldTrump Either

The barrage of proclamations, admonitions, and borderline calls for war President Donald Trump fires off from his Twitter account every day have created a big-league security problem for the Secret Service, Politico reports

The president has reportedly drawn an unprecedented number of threats from folks who are pissed off at what he says on Twitter, making it tough for the agents, charged with protecting him, to do their jobs. Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who worked under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told Politico that Trump's "Twitter thing" has "generated a tidal wave of threats" that the service is too understaffed to fully address.

"It's an arithmetic impossibility to interview every single person who sends a threat. It's not possible," he told Politico. "By necessity they have to triage what's credible and what's not and it's tough to do by just looking at a 140-character tweet." 

The Secret Service is already stretched pretty thin trying to protect Trump's family and children, spanning DC and New York and—pretty regularly—taking trips across the country to the "Winter White House" at Mar-a-Lago, the New York Times reports. In March, the agency asked the White House to OK adding $60 million to the force's roughly $2 billion budget, hoping to cover the high cost of protecting the Trumps.

Aside from the fact that their jobs are more difficult than ever, it doesn't help that the Secret Service has faced a few sloppy PR scandals recently. In March, a laptop full of sensitive information was jacked from an agent's car. A day later, a man scaled the White House fence and wandered around the grounds for 17 minutes before he was detected. And earlier this month, an agent on Vice President Mike Pence's detail was caught meeting a prostitute at a Maryland hotel.

While the Secret Service can't ask Trump to stop tweeting, getting him to put his phone down—like he did before the election—might give them a bit of a reprieve and put him out of harm's way.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

Right-Wingers Are Lining Up Behind the New Healthcare Bill

In an announcement on Wednesday, the House's right-wing Freedom Caucus said it has agreed to back the revised version of the Republican healthcare plan, the Hill reports.

After first helping to sink the original Republican healthcare bill, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the group of ultra-conservative House members decided to lodge its support behind the bill following a few changes. Lawmakers managed to appease the group after tacking on the MacArthur-Meadows amendment, which essentially lets states opt out of certain Obamacare rules.

Under the new amendment, states can choose to offer high-risk pools and decide whether or not they want insurers to cover some services like maternity care, preventative visits, or mental health benefits, the Associated Press reports. States would have to apply for federal waivers if they wanted to skip out on some of the existing Obamacare provisions. Although the amendment offers states a bit more flexibility, Freedom Caucus members admit that, for them, it still doesn't go far enough.

"While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs," the group said in a statement. "We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill. Our work will continue until we fully repeal Obamacare."

The Freedom Caucus boasts roughly three dozen members, giving the bill a boost toward the 216 House votes it needs to move to the Senate. However, the new amendment isn't likely to garner a ton of support from moderate Republicans, many of whom are still against the AHCA and concerned with how it could allow states to weaken protections for people with preexisting conditions. 

"The amendment doesn't address the things that I had concerns about—the things I think are detrimental to the people I represent," Representative Dan Donovan, a centrist from New York, told Politico.

‘Silence of the Lambs’ Director Jonathan Demme Has Died at 73

Jonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning director behind The Silence of the Lambs and frequent Neil Young collaborator, died Wednesday at the age of 73 from health complications, IndieWire reports

Over his prolific filmmaking career, Demme directed everything from major motion pictures to episodes of television shows and shot documentaries and music videos. As a Hollywood filmmaker, Demme is probably best known for directing Philadelphia, an emotional film about the AIDS crisis starring Tom Hanks, and The Silence of the Lambs. Lambs earned Demme an Oscar for directing in 1991.

Demme also worked with a slew of iconic musicians. In the 80s, he directed Stop Making Sense, a documentary about the Talking Heads. He also worked with Neil Young a number of times, directing Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006), Neil Young Trunk Show (2009), and Neil Young Journeys (2011). If that wasn't impressive enough, he also helped direct two music videos for Bruce Springsteen—"Streets of Philadelphia" and "Murder Incorporated." More recently, he directed the 2016 documentary Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids.

In his later years, Demme worked with Anne Hathaway, directing 2008's Rachel Getting Married, and explored the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the 2011 documentary I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad, and The Beautiful. He also lent his hand to directing a few episodes of the true-crime television drama The Killing.

In 2010, Demme was first treated for esophageal cancer and heart disease. It wasn't until recently, in 2015, that complications from the diseases began to rapidly deteriorate his health. He died in New York on Wednesday morning, and he is survived by his wife, Joanne Howard, and his three children. 

Former NYPD Cops Allegedly Traded Gun Licenses for Prostitutes

On Tuesday, authorities formally charged three retired NYPD officers and a former city prosecutor for helping get people gun licenses in exchange for a wide range of bribes—from cash to prostitutes to extravagant vacations, BuzzFeed News reports

The culprits allegedly worked together inside the NYPD's licensing division to run their bribery scheme from 2010 to 2016, CBS News reports. Paul Dean, a former lieutenant, and Robert Espinel, a former officer, are charged with accepting lavish bribes from "expediters" who charge people looking to speed up their firearm licensing.

Gaetano Valastro, a former NYPD detective, allegedly worked as an expediter and bribed Dean and Espinel to move the process along for his clients. Those bribes sometimes came in the form of "cash, paid vacations, personal jewelry, catered parties, guns, gun paraphernalia, and other benefits," according to federal prosecutors. According to DNAinfo, the officers also scored "food, alcohol, parties, dancers, and prostitutes" from other expediters in exchange for their services.

"The alleged corruption pervaded the license division up to its senior level," Joon Kim, acting US attorney for New York's Southern District, said Tuesday. 

John Chambers, a former New York assistant district attorney, was also charged Tuesday in the scheme. He allegedly looked to represent people who had issues with getting gun licenses and is accused of bribing David Villanueva—the guy who ran the NYPD's licensing division from 2010 to 2015, but who was arrested back in June of 2016 on corruption charges. According to the criminal complaint, Chambers offered Villanueva a fancy $8,000 watch and tickets to Broadway shows and sports games.

According to BuzzFeed News, Dean, Espinel, and Valastro are facing charges for conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion. Chambers's lawyer, Barry Slotnick, told CBS News that his client will plead not guilty to his conspiracy charges.

This is just the latest development in a long-running corruption investigation of the NYPD's licensing division, launched by the force's internal affairs department and the FBI back in 2013, according to the New York Times. The last big splash came with Villanueva's arrest in 2016, around the same time two top NYPD officers were arrested for accepting bribes in exchange for services unrelated to firearms licensing. 

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.