hoka shoes

Posts Tagged ‘ today

Inside Barron Trump’s Life Today

Melania Trump smiling at son Barron Trump

The last time an American president had a son growing up in the White House, The Beatles were an unknown Liverpool band, and the Berlin Wall had only begun construction. That boy was John F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the iconic JFK, of course. The year was 1961.

Not until 2017 would another young man grace 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A long string of older presidents like Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had mostly grown children. George W. Bush had only daughters. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, too. But finally, after nearly 60 years, Barron Trump — side by side with parents Donald and Melania Trump — uneasily made his way to the White House.

Barron was only 10 years old on his first day as first son, looking understandably steve madden shoes overwhelmed by the Inauguration Day crowds and pomp. He’s kept a “low profile” since then, notes NBC News. At least until now, as the world is starting to notice the burgeoning and handsome young man in the people’s house. But he’s obviously doing his best to navigate a very strange situation to which very few people alive can relate. First kids have a lot on their plate, close as they are to the nasty business of grown-up politics, and they don’t always come out unscathed. So, Barron Trump’s life today, despite his parents’ best efforts to keep him protected, is somewhat complicated.

Barron Trump got COVID-19

Barron Trump profile view

It was major news when Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 following his presidential debate with Democrat candidate Joe Biden in September 2020. But the infection was part of a larger outbreak at the White House that afflicted many staff. Unfortunately, both Melania Trump and young Barron Trump also came down with the disease, according to The Washington Post.

After Melania got the news about her diagnosis, she had the same reaction as any mother. “Naturally my mind went immediately to our son,” Melania shared while recapping her battle with coronavirus via the White House’s website. “Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms,” she added. The former model went on to write about the bonding family experience of this incredibly scary event: “In one way I was glad the three of us went through this at the same time so we could take care of one another and spend time together. He has since tested negative.”

Barron has attended a K-12 private school in the Washington D.C. area called St. Andrew’s Episcopal School since 2017, according to CNN, where he was set to begin his freshman year at the time. Due to COVID-19 concerns, though, the school began the year online-only, implementing a plan for in-person academics starting in October 2020. It was a weird beginning to high school for young Barron, but he would thankfully get to reunite with his friends and with the confidence of some immunity.

Barron Trump is really tall now

A taller Barron Trump walking alongside Donald and Melania Trump

When Barron Trump emerged from Air Force One with his father, Donald Trump, in August 2020 — for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began — it was hard to believe how incredibly tall he’d gotten. It felt like just yesterday, a 10-year-old Barron was accompanying his presidential dad on Inauguration Day. Well, watch out pops, there’s a new man of the house.

Barron’s height is not exactly known — so comparisons are in order. Donald’s doctor claims he stands at 6’3″, according to USA Today. At one time, perhaps this was true: This Nicki Swift scribe used to cover The Apprentice press conferences at Trump Tower, and no doubt, POTUS Trump is a large and imposing dr martens boots man. Someone standing 6’1″ was definitely looking somewhat up at him. But at age 74 in 2020, it’s plausible gravity may have done him dirty, as a more recent photo from the G7 summit shows The Donald appearing shorter than the credibly 6’2″ Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

So, let’s say 6’0″ even for POTUS 45 as a minimum. That still makes Barron’s towering appearance next to his own tall father almost unbelievable. Melania Trump is supposedly 5’11”, so the speculation is that Barron, only 14 at the time, is already 6’6″! That’s the same height as NBA GOAT Michael Jordan. Most boys keep growing until about age 16, according to Healthline. Combined with his current age, if Barron really is 6’6″, one online adult height calculator estimates he could potentially end up as tall as 6’10”.

Barron Trump is under attack

Donald Trump waving while walking alongside Barron and Melania Trump outside

Many among the mainstream media, Hollywood celebrities, and academia hold disdain for Donald Trump. That’s not exactly a secret — and the feeling is definitely mutual. But unfortunately, some have dragged an innocent child into things.

Even before Barron Trump was in the White House, Rosie O’Donnell was criticized for baselessly insinuating that he was autistic. In 2020, Jezebel appeared to frame the president’s affection for his son as, well, odd, with the headline: “Trump Calls Son Barron ‘Tall’ and ‘Handsome’ In Bizarre Ramble.” Speaking of Barron’s quick recovery from COVID-19, The Donald did get somewhat Seussian, saying, “My Barron. My tall Barron. He’s very tall. My beautiful Barron. Handsome. He is handsome. But my beautiful Barron had it. He recovered, like, so fast.” But expressing love for your own child is apparently not that “bizarre,” as the site later changed its headline following mild backlash.

During DJT’s 2019 impeachment hearing, Barron got another unfortunate shoutout. Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan said in her testimony, “So while a president can name his son Barron, he can’t MAKE him a Barron.” The joke bombed, however, as it turns out entering a 13-year-old boy into the impeachment record wasn’t that necessary. Melania Trump hit back on Twitter, and Karlan apologized later in the hearing with, “It was wrong of me to do that,” but couldn’t get through the mea culpa without another shot at Barron’s father: “I wish the president would apologize for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

Barron Trump beats a Hollywood bully

Profile of Barron Trump walking outside with Melania and Donald Trump

Actor Peter Fonda was a counter culture icon in the 1960s. He wrote and starred in the groundbreaking 1969 cult classic, Easy Rider, about three stoner hippies motorcycling aimlessly across America — only to be pointlessly gunned-down by rifle-toting rednecks with bad teeth.

Fonda and sister Jane Fonda — who infamously posed hey dude for a regrettable photo op with communist militants in a misbegotten protest of the Vietnam War — are none-the-less progressive icons. But in 2018, Peter took his disdain for conservatives out on a child, tweeting in all caps (via Snopes), “WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER’S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES AND SEE IF MOTHER WILL STAND UP AGAINST THE GIANT A**HOLE SHE IS MARRIED TO…”

An outraged Melania Trump reported Peter Fonda to the secret service, according to People. Donald Trump was justifiably angry, too. Realizing that young Barron Trump was obviously not involved in a controversial zero-tolerance US-Mexico border policy, Fonda issued an apology (via CBS News): “I went way too far. It was wrong and I should not have done it.” For his part, Barron never had to say a word.

The White House told the media to back off of Barron Trump

Barron Trump hugging Donald Trump

Peter Fonda wasn’t the first entertainment figure to take a swipe at the president’s youngest son. On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, a veteran Saturday Night Live writer named Katie Rich tweeted that the then-10-year-old Barron Trump “will be the country’s first homeschool shooter,” according to Business Insider.

As swift backlash engulfed Rich, she deleted the tweet and later apologized: “I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I’m so sorry.” However, the damage was done, and Rich was suspended from SNL indefinitely, per Deadline.

At the time, the White House felt like it needed to take a stand and back off the Barron bashers. “It is a longstanding tradition that the children of presidents are afforded the opportunity to grow up outside of the political spotlight,” the statement read, as noted by Business Insider. “The White House fully expects this tradition to continue. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.”

Chelsea Clinton came to Barron Trump’s defense

Split image of Barron Trump's profile and Chelsea Clinton smiling

If anyone knows what it’s like growing up in the White House, it’s Chelsea Clinton. “I’ve had so much vitriol flung at me for as long as I can literally remember, people saying awful things to me even as a child,” she told The Guardian in 2018. The daughter of POTUS 42 was only 12 years old when her dad, Bill Clinton, took over the Oval Office.

Conservative radio goliath Rush Limbaugh immediately compared Chelsea to a dog, in at least two separate instances, according to Snopes. There’s even video receipts. Limbaugh later made a sneering faux apology where he went further: “She may be the most unattractive presidential daughter in the history of the hoka shoes country.” Wow. “Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly?” the late Senator John McCain also allegedly quipped in 1998 to a group of fundraisers. “Because Janet Reno is her father.” This remark comes via The Guardian, only because The Washington Post thought it “too vile to repeat.”

For her part, Chelsea took to her Facebook page in 2017 to defend Donald Trump’s youngest son, writing, “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does — to be a kid.” She went further on the Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast, saying (via the Independent) that she feels “very protective” of Barron, adding, “Don’t objectify this kid. I think he just turned 14 … I have a whole lot of sympathy for any critiques, criticism, pain, anger you want to hurl at his parents. But leave him alone.”

Barron Trump is a man of the world

Profile of Barron Trump walking outside in a red jacket

Anyone who has tried to bang their head against a wall learning a foreign language as an adult envies the advantage of having a mother like Melania Trump. The first lady was born in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, and began working as a model in Milan, Paris, and New York in the 1990s, according to Biography. Because of that international lineage, Barron Trump grew up in a worldly household. “He talks three languages,” Melania told People in 2009. “He speaks my language — Slovenian — English and French.”

Being trilingual has also provided a blooming Barron some small measure of privacy in the White House, even with the watchful Secret Service always skulking. Melania’s parents also spend a lot of time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, doting on their grandson. When that side of Barron’s family is together, they all speak Slovenian, according to author Mary Jordan in her book, The Art of Her Deal (via CBS News). “And it’s kind of interesting,” writes Jordan, “the Secret Service has no idea what they’re saying.”

What These Stars From My 600-Lb Life Look Like Today

My 600-lb Life star Nikki Webster, Close-up

Plenty of reality shows feature dramatic transformations, but few chronicle the intense metamorphoses that are documented on the popular TLC program My 600-lb Life. Since its inception in 2012, dozens of men and women have had their lives changed, thanks to the intervention of Dr. Younan Nowzaradan. Based in Houston, Texas, Nowzaraden performs weight loss surgery on patients who oftentimes are desperate to improve their quality of life bluetooth headphones before it’s too late. And while the journey is never easy for these people, it’s worth it to be able to reclaim their lives and accomplish goals they had previously given up on.

Some of these brave souls have gone on to become social media stars, thanks to their reality television fame. That gives us additional access into their lives, allowing us to keep up on what happens — even after their follow-up segments have aired. So without further ado, here’s the skinny on some of the most popular stars from My 600-lb Life. You won’t believe how amazing they look today!

Melissa Morris achieved her lifelong dream after My 600-lb Life

My 600-lb Life star Melissa Morris, before and after

The OG of My 600-lb Life, Melissa Morris was the very first person featured in the show. These days she’s in a much different place. While an episode of My 600-lb Life: Where Are They Now? revealed that Melissa’s weight has fluctuated over the years, you can see on her Instagram page that that she’s living her best life every day.

If you’re familiar with Melissa’s journey, you know that having children was something she desperately wanted. Despite her unlikely odds (a doctor once told her she only had a 2 percent chance of getting pregnant, according to her TLC interview), Melissa sperry shoes became a mom to Allona on May 1, 2010. Today, she’s a mom three times over, according to a post on her Instagram page.

On top of her motherhood duties, which definitely keep her busy, Melissa also speaks publicly about her journey. She’s also been active in Weight Watchers for several years now. Additionally, she’s been going to concerts, enjoying time at the beach, catching baseball games, and reading books. There’s no slowing her down!

My 600-lb Life star Zsalynn Whitworth found a man worthy of her love

My 600-lb Life star Zsalynn Whitworth, before and after

Season 2 of My 600-lb Life opened with Zsalynn Whitworth’s story, which famously included her manipulative and unsupportive husband, who prioritized his fetish over Zsalynn’s literal life. Fortunately for her, the couple finally got a divorce, which she confirmed in a follow-up segment. They still share joint custody of their daughter, but the romance is long since over.

In the segment, Zsalynn also got candid about her emotional state. She admitted that she struggled with loneliness and depression, as well as her cravings for sweets following the divorce. In spite of those challenges, however, she decided that she wants to press forward and finally get skin removal surgery. She also expressed a desire to be more active and start dating — certainly worthy ambitions.

And it paid off! From the looks of it, Zsalynn found someone special. Check out this adorable photo she posted on Facebook of her making goo goo eyes at a new man — good for you, girl! Additionally, you can see just how much her daughter Hannah has grown up to be her mama’s mini-me in this photo. Looks like everything’s going swimmingly for Zsalynn now!

My 600-lb Life’s Paula Jones is now a confident selfie queen and outspoken advocate

My 600-lb Life star Paula Jones, before and after

Paula Jones, who had an especially emotional episode in Season 2 of My 600-lb Life, is living the dream of long-term weight loss success these days. For one, you can tell just by looking at pictures of Paula on her Instagram and Facebook pages that she’s in great shape, especially when you consider where she started.

She’s not afraid to pose in a swimsuit, or post selfies with salomon boots her arms bared, which shows that she knows she’s cute! But Paula also keeps herself accountable, admitting when she has to stick to her diet and work out on the reg. And while she’s faced health issues like kidney stones, that hasn’t stopped her from staying the course of her weight loss journey.

These days, Paula speaks publicly at weight loss events. She’s also outspoken about the obesity epidemic, which has claimed the lives of some of her friends and loves ones. “It is so senseless since it is preventable,” she shared in a post. “It just isn’t easy.” Indeed it isn’t, but Paula sure is a role model.

Legendary ‘Today’ show weatherman Willard Scott dies at 87

Willard Scott, who forecast the weather for NBC’s “Today” show for more than three decades and spent 65 years at NBC, has died, Al Roker said in an Instagram post on Saturday.

“We lost a beloved member of our @todayshow family this morning. Willard Scott passed peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by family, including his daughters Sally and Mary and his lovely wife, Paris,” Roker captioned a series of steve madden shoes heartwarming photos of him and Scott.

Roker went on to call Scott his “second dad” and said Scott’s “generous spirit” helped his career get to where it is today.

“Willard was a man of his times, the ultimate broadcaster. There will never be anyone quite like him,” Roker concluded.

Scott, born March 7, 1934, in Alexandria, Virginia, joined “Today” in 1980 and became known for wishing fans turning 100 a happy birthday. He began his career at NBC in the company’s Page Program, a learning and development program that provides exposure to the media industry. He worked at the affiliate station in Washington D.C. in 1950, according to Today.

In 1955, Scott became the host of “Joy Boys,” a radio show on the NBC station WRC. He stayed with the program until it ended in 1974.

In the 1960s, he also hosted children’s television shows and appeared on WRC playing a range of characters, including Bozo the Clown. He became the first person to play Ronald McDonald and appeared in D.C. area commercials as the clown, according to “Today.”

During the 1970s, Scott became a forecaster for NBC’s local channel 4 station and in March 1980 he replaced Bob Ryan as “Today’s” weatherman.

Scott brought his over-the-top personality to “Today” dressing up for weather updates as Boy George, a giant Cupid and Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda. In a 1987 New York Times interview, Scott addressed some of the backlash from dressing up as the “Chica Chica Boom Chica” songstress.

“People said I was a buffoon to do it. Well, all my life I’ve been a buffoon. That’s my act,” he said.

Scott semi-retired in 1996 and was replaced on “Today” by Al Roker, although there were times he would fill in for Roker. He officially said ecco shoes goodbye to television in 2015 after 35 years as a “Today” forecaster. But in 2019, he surprised Roker for his 65th birthday by appearing in a video with other “Today” cast and crew.

Scott’s accomplishments on the small screen won him the Private Sector Award for Public Service by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

Scott is survived by his wife Paris Keena, whom he married in 2014 following the death of his previous wife Mary Dwyer Scott, and his two children.

Who are the Taliban today?

After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan some 25 years ago, Americans became accustomed to news of public executions, bans on everything from televisions to kite flying, and brutal repression of women.

Now, just days after they retook the country, it has come as a surprise to many in the United States to see Taliban leaders speaking at press conferences and being interviewed on live television by Western anchors.

The Taliban clearly see value in communicating openly with Western media outlets, but some experts worry that Americans may be getting a distorted sense of who the Taliban are from this more open approach. The real question, they say, is whether the group has really become more moderate, brooks shoes or if it has just learned to say what Western governments want to hear.

Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said American media coverage has largely overlooked the “most important figure” in the Taliban: Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhunzada.

Akhunzada is the supreme leader of the Taliban, or what one expert describes as the “amir-ul-momenin,” the “commander of the faithful.” The supreme leader “stands at the top,” and “under him is the Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council) of which he is not a member and that advises him,” wrote Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, arrives to hold the first press conference in Kabul on Tuesday after the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, in Kabul on Tuesday, at the first press conference after the group’s swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Most media coverage has focused on Abdul Ghani Baradar, the English-speaking chief deputy under the supreme leader. Baradar has engaged in negotiations with U.S. officials and spoken publicly, but Haqqani said skeptically that “journalists think people who speak English are the most important in the Taliban.”Baradar is very influential, and senior to the Taliban’s two other deputies: Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqub (the son of the Taliban’s first leader, Mullah Omar) and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Another significant figure is Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai.

Baradar and Sirajuddin Haqqani are on the Leadership Council. Stanakzai is not. Neither are the spokesmen for the Taliban who have been highly visible of late, such as Sohail Shaheen and Zabihullah Mujahid.

But Baradar is still junior to Akhunzada, the supreme leader, who has kept a low public profile of late, allowing leaders underneath him to speak for the group. Haqqani, the former ambassador, noted that a key clue to Akhunzada’s worldview is that his 23-year-old son, Abdur Rahman, reportedly died in a suicide skechers uk bombing in 2017, less than a year after his father had been chosen as supreme leader of the Taliban.

“That should give you an idea of how moderate he is capable of being,” Haqqani said.

Ruttig wrote a detailed article exploring how the Taliban may have evolved since the U.S. military stormed into Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. He concluded that “there have been some tangible changes in media and communications, the education system, and the relations with [nongovernmental organizations],” but that this “does not indicate positive changes toward women’s rights, political freedoms, and political participation.”

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, then head of the Political Office of the Taliban, at a meeting in Moscow in 2019 organized by the former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, marking a century of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, then head of the Taliban’s political office, at a 2019 meeting in Moscow organized by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 

“It is difficult to untangle to what degree the changes in the Taliban’s policies, rhetoric, and behavior reflect a reaction to political necessity, are tactical lip service, or represent a genuine shift in ideology,” Ruttig wrote.

Haqqani, who fought political battles with extremists in Pakistan, was far more pessimistic.

“They’ve learned something in the last 20 years: that you have to say these things” about women’s rights, he said. “The real change is going to be nominal and minimal. The lesson they seem to have learned is not to whip hey dude shoes women in front of Western cameras.”

The television interviews with Western journalists don’t mean the group has changed, according to Haqqani. “The fact that so many people are panicking is that they in their hearts know who these people are,” he said.

The question of whether the Taliban have moderated their views may miss a larger point about Afghan society. As one expert noted, much of the Taliban’s conservatism is popular in large swaths of the country.

“In fact, the Taliban’s positions and attitudes stem from Afghan cultural norms as much as they do Islamic doctrine, which influences them in both strongly conservative and relatively progressive directions,” Borhan Osman, a senior consultant on Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group, wrote in the New York Times.

“The socially conservative views the Taliban espouse are common among rural Afghans, as well as a substantial share of urban educated youth.”

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on Monday.
Taliban fighters stand guard in Kabul on Monday. 

To the degree that the Taliban have moderated their positions — for example, by allowing girls to go to school — it has come as the result of changes in public opinion and of their expanding influence over the past several years, which has led them to consider how to effectively govern a vast and decentralized country.

The Taliban “seem to have reached a conclusion internally that their 1990s model of government is not tenable today,” Osman wrote.

Regardless of those changes, many fear that even a more moderate Taliban will be repressive.

“As the Taliban have said, their ideology is the same, but they have more ‘experience,’” Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “I take this to mean that their political leadership has learned in the last 20 years how to manipulate rhetoric to try and gain international legitimacy, it has learned to maneuver on the world stage, but on the ground in Afghanistan — they haven’t shown any indication that anything will be different from the last time they were in power.”

There is “no indication that it will be any different from their regressive and draconian rule 20-some years ago,” Afzal concluded.

Who are the Taliban today?

After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan some 25 years ago, Americans became accustomed to news of public executions, bans on everything from televisions to kite flying, and brutal repression of women.

Now, just days after they retook the country, it has come as a surprise to many in the United States to see Taliban leaders speaking at press conferences and being interviewed on live television by Western anchors.

The Taliban clearly see value in communicating openly with Western media outlets, but some experts worry that Americans may be getting a distorted sense of who the Taliban are from this more open approach. The real question, they say, is whether the group has really become more hey dude moderate, or if it has just learned to say what Western governments want to hear.

Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said American media coverage has largely overlooked the “most important figure” in the Taliban: Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhunzada.

Akhunzada is the supreme leader of the Taliban, or what one expert describes as the “amir-ul-momenin,” the “commander of the faithful.” The supreme leader “stands at the top,” and “under him is the Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council) of which he is not a member and that advises him,” wrote Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, arrives to hold the first press conference in Kabul on Tuesday after the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, in Kabul on Tuesday, at the first press conference after the group’s swift takeover of Afghanistan. 

“The leader takes the final decision,” Ruttig wrote earlier this year.

Most media coverage has focused on Abdul Ghani Baradar, the English-speaking chief deputy under the supreme leader. Baradar has engaged in negotiations with U.S. officials and spoken publicly, but Haqqani said skeptically that “journalists think people who speak English are the most important in the Taliban.”

Baradar is very influential, and senior to the Taliban’s two other deputies: Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqub (the son of the Taliban’s first leader, Mullah Omar) and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Another significant figure is Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai.

Baradar and Sirajuddin Haqqani are on the Leadership Council. Stanakzai is not. balenciaga shoes Neither are the spokesmen for the Taliban who have been highly visible of late, such as Sohail Shaheen and Zabihullah Mujahid.

But Baradar is still junior to Akhunzada, the supreme leader, who has kept a low public profile of late, allowing leaders underneath him to speak for the group. Haqqani, the former ambassador, noted that a key clue to Akhunzada’s worldview is that his 23-year-old son, Abdur Rahman, reportedly died in a suicide bombing in 2017, less than a year after his father had been chosen as supreme leader of the Taliban.

“That should give you an idea of how moderate he is capable of being,” Haqqani said.

Ruttig wrote a detailed article exploring how the Taliban may have evolved since the U.S. military stormed into Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. He concluded that “there have been some tangible changes in media and communications, the education system, and the relations with [nongovernmental organizations],” but that this “does not indicate positive changes toward women’s rights, political freedoms, and political participation.”

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, then head of the Political Office of the Taliban, at a meeting in Moscow in 2019 organized by the former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, marking a century of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, then head of the Taliban’s political office, at a 2019 meeting in Moscow organized by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. 

“It is difficult to untangle to what degree the changes in the Taliban’s policies, rhetoric, and behavior reflect a reaction to political necessity, are tactical lip service, or represent a genuine shift in ideology,” Ruttig wrote.

Haqqani, who fought political battles with extremists in Pakistan, was far more pessimistic.

“They’ve learned something in the last 20 years: that you have to say these things” about women’s rights, he said. “The real change is going to be nominal and minimal. The lesson they seem to have learned is not to whip women in front of Western cameras.”

The television interviews with steve madden shoes Western journalists don’t mean the group has changed, according to Haqqani. “The fact that so many people are panicking is that they in their hearts know who these people are,” he said.

The question of whether the Taliban have moderated their views may miss a larger point about Afghan society. As one expert noted, much of the Taliban’s conservatism is popular in large swaths of the country.

“In fact, the Taliban’s positions and attitudes stem from Afghan cultural norms as much as they do Islamic doctrine, which influences them in both strongly conservative and relatively progressive directions,” Borhan Osman, a senior consultant on Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group, wrote in the New York Times.

“The socially conservative views the Taliban espouse are common among rural Afghans, as well as a substantial share of urban educated youth.”

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on Monday.
Taliban fighters stand guard in Kabul on Monday. 

To the degree that the Taliban have moderated their positions — for example, by allowing girls to go to school — it has come as the result of changes in public opinion and of their expanding influence over the past several years, which has led them to consider how to effectively govern a vast and decentralized country.

The Taliban “seem to have reached a conclusion internally that their 1990s model of government is not tenable today,” Osman wrote.

Regardless of those changes, many fear that even a more moderate Taliban will be repressive.

“As the Taliban have said, their ideology is the same, but they have more ‘experience,’” Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “I take this to mean that their political leadership has learned in the last 20 years how to manipulate rhetoric to try and gain international legitimacy, it has learned to maneuver on the world stage, but on the ground in Afghanistan — they haven’t shown any indication that anything will be different from the last time they were in power.”

There is “no indication that it will be any different from their regressive and draconian rule 20-some years ago,” Afzal concluded.

Exclusive: More Americans predict Trump will win the presidential debates than Biden, USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll shows

Could the debates do for President Donald Trump what the conventions didn’t?

A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll indicates many voters think that’s possible.

A greater share – 47% – predicted Trump will win the debates than the 41% who said Democratic candidate Joe Biden will.

That’s despite the fact that only 33% of respondents who watched at least some of the conventions said the political events made them more likely to support Trump; 37% said the conventions made them less likely.

Independents picked Trump over Biden as the likely winner of the debates by 10 percentage points: 47%-37%.

“Trump is gonna run all over Biden,” said Curtis Saffi, 38, an independent from Hampton, Georgia, who plans to vote for Biden. He expects a different outcome, however, in the vice presidential debate.

“Kamala Harris,” Saffi added, “she is gonna be all over (Mike) Pence.”

President Donald Trump's supporters remain committed, though former Vice President Joe Biden leads in several polls.
President Donald Trump’s supporters remain committed, though former Vice President Joe Biden leads in several polls.

While 79% of Democrats predicted their presidential nominee will come out on top in the debates, 87% of Republicans said Trump will.

“I feel like it’s just gonna be a one-sided show,” said David Brockman, 38, a Trump supporter from Columbus, Indiana, who was among those polled.

Dana Carbonell, 35, a Democrat from Weehawken, New Jersey, said Biden will win if he “does a good job of factchecking Trump.”

Trump, she said, has “got his broken record of lies that he just keeps repeating.”

The first of the three presidential debates will be held Sept. 29.

The first 2016 debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton attracted 84 million viewers, the record for a presidential debate.

Large shares of voters have told Pew Research Center over the years that the debates were very or somewhat helpful in deciding who to vote for. But only 10% of those who voted in 2016 said they had definitely made up their minds “during or just after” the debates. Almost two-thirds said they had decided around the time of the conventions or even before.

Election 2020: Chris Wallace, Susan Page among moderators for presidential and vice presidential debates

Biden leads Trump by 50%-43% nationally in a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll conducted in the days following the conventions. It was one of a number of post-convention polls showing either a small bump for Trump or no bounce at all.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the parties conducted most of their conventions online rather than in the packed arenas of prior years.

Four out of 10 respondents to the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll who had viewed the conventions thought this year’s version worked better. Three out of 10 thought the format was worse. The rest saw it as the same or had no opinion.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken Aug. 28-31 by landline and cell phone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 points.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: More pick Donald Trump over Joe Biden to win presidential debates