Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

Published February 21 2018

New York

Diving into toilet for poospiration

Toymakers have gone to the toilet for their latest creations. Mattel’s upcoming Flushin’ Frenzy game sends a brown plastic poop flying into the air. And its rival, Hasbro stuck with the potty humor after its 2017 hit, Toilet Trouble, and released Don’t Step In It, a game where players are blindfolded and have to avoid stepping in poop that’s molded out of a clay-like substance. Toy analysts and experts say the potty-related toys are hitting stores now because of the popularity of the poop emoji, which has apparently made it more acceptable for parents to buy poop toys for their kids. At the New York Toy Fair this weekend, toymakers showed off all things poo: action figures, squishy toys and more. "Yeah, poop is a theme," says Juli Lennett, the toy analyst at market research company The NPD Group. "Kids think it’s funny." There’s poo for collectors, too: Flush Force, by toymaker Spin Master, sells 150 nickel-sized mutant critters. Poopeez, meanwhile, makes tiny squishy collectibles with character names such as Pooji, Skid Mark and Dumpling. "We really believe poop is for everyone," said Ashley Mady, who created Poopeez and works for toy company Basic Fun. Just, uh, don’t play with the real thing, kids.

North Carolina

Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99

The Rev. Billy Graham, the most widely heard Christian evangelist in U.S. history forging global conservative links, died Wednesday at 99. "America’s Pastor," as he was dubbed, suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments and died at his home. Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the nation. Early on, he abandoned the common Southern practice of speaking only before racially segregated audiences, saying he refused to "preach Jim Crow." In the early 1990s, Graham suggested AIDS was a "judgment" from God, later walking back the statement. And in 2002, Graham apologized for his 1970s derisive comments — recorded on former President Richard Nixon’s tapes — about what he claimed was Jewish domination of the news media. Tributes to Graham poured in from major leaders, including President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama.


Trebek to moderate GOP debate

We’ll take "surprising side gigs" for $1,000! Jeopardy host Alex Trebek will moderate a debate among Republican hopefuls vying for the Pennsylvania gubernatorial nomination. Trebek will question candidates at an Oct. 1 forum sponsored by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the organization announced. He’s certainly an unusual choice. But Trebek, a native of Canada and a naturalized U.S. citizen, is apparently living out a dream. He told the Hill in 2013 that he’d be a tough and persistent questioner if he ever landed the gig of moderating a presidential debate. So how did he land this job? A chamber spokeswoman said a staff member simply suggested Trebek, and he was available.

New York

Much-touted MS-13 sweep keeps even most basic details secret

It was a tally so impressive that President Donald Trump touted it at his State of the Union address: Since May, agents cracking down on the violent gangs terrorizing the working-class suburbs of Long Island had swept up 428 gang suspects, including 220 members of the notorious MS-13. But the sweep, Operation Matador, also has been shrouded in secrecy. Federal and state authorities have declined repeated requests from the Associated Press for even basic information made public in most law enforcement operations, such as the names of those arrested and the crimes they are accused of committing. And while they say 44 of those arrested have been deported, they refuse to say what happened to the rest. The lack of transparency comes amid accusations by immigration rights groups that the government is using unsubstantiated rumors of gang affiliations to detain innocent people. Federal immigration judges have already ordered the release of some detainees arrested on suspicion of being MS-13 members when the government couldn’t produce any evidence of gang activity.


Transit bosses in toilet trouble

Transportation officials are under fire for authorizing a no-bid contract for a tiny, $100,000 restroom. WCVB-TV reported the 115-square-foot restroom and adjoining kitchenette was installed last year at the State Transportation Building inside the new state Transportation Department and MBTA board room. The project was fast-tracked and not put out to bid, which is usually done for state projects to make contractors compete and keep costs down. Former state inspector general Greg Sullivan called the cost "outrageous." The restroom is about 40 steps from a spacious public restroom. — tbt* wires