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Kids who read ‘Harry Potter’ are less prejudiced and more mature, study says

Did you read “Harry Potter” books as a kid? You’re a better human being than most, scientists say. 

» RELATED: ‘Pawgwarts': Animal shelter gets inspiration from Harry Potter 

Researchers from universities in Italy published a paper in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that explored how story reading can be a powerful strategy in improving human attitudes.

Many of the fictional groups in “Harry Potter,” including muggles, were marginalized much like immigrants, homosexuals and refugees are in the real world. That’s why scientists wanted to use the novels to examine the “perception of stigmatized groups” among elementary, high school and university students. 

>> Read more trending news

First, they administered a six-week course on “Harry Potter” to 34 fifth-graders. By the end of the course, the students were asked to fill out a questionnaire on immigration. They found that those who read the book discussed topics such as bigotry and prejudice, while those who didn’t read it did not. 

Next, they studied 117 high school students and discovered that those who dived into “Harry Potter” had more positive perceptions of the LGBT communities than those who did not.

Lastly, they assessed college students. They noticed that those who read it had less of an emotional connection with Voldemort, the villain of the series, and had "improved attitudes toward refugees," the study read.

» RELATED: There's now a Harry Potter wizarding school in Central Texas

“Results from one experimental intervention and two cross-sectional studies show that reading the novels of ‘Harry Potter’ improves attitudes toward stigmatized groups among those more identified with the main positive character and those less identified with the main negative character,” the authors wrote. 

“Participants reading about Harry Potter's interactions with characters belonging to stigmatized groups may have learned to take the perspective of discriminated group members,” they said, adding, “and in turn, applied this enhanced ability to understand disadvantaged groups to real-world out-group categories.”

» RELATED: 2 new Harry Potter-related books coming this fall

Since their findings demonstrated that reading “Harry Potter” books yielded positive attitudes among children, they believe their studies could help reduce prejudices against disadvantaged groups. 

For future experiments, they hope to test other popular novels that may have similar effects. 

» RELATED: The kids of 'Harry Potter:' Then and now

Kiss frontman Gene Simmons fires up Twitter after comments that women can’t balance career, family

Gene Simmons, the facepaint-clad frontman for the legendary band Kiss, has riled up some fans thanks to his views of women in the workplace.

Simmons wrote in his new book, “Gene Simmons On Power,” that women should “get over your biological urges,” The New York Post reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Simmons went on to explain, “It’s natural to want to have kids, but, sorry, you can’t have it both ways. You have to commit to either career or family. It’s very difficult to have both.” 

His comments ignited a fire on Twitter. 

Donna Brazile criticizes Barack Obama's 'titanic ego' in her new book

Former interim Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile apparently had much to say about former President Barack Obama in her revealing book.

An excerpt from Brazile’s newest book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” focused heavily on the relationship between certain high-profile Democrats and how certain egos and competencies affected the DNC’s debt, reports The Daily Caller.

>> Donna Brazile tells critics of her new book to 'go to hell'

“We had three Democratic parties: The party of Barack Obama, the party of Hillary Clinton, and this weak little vestige of a party led by [Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz] that was doing a very poor job getting people who were not president elected,” Brazile wrote, criticizing the former DNC chairwoman for incompetence. Her criticisms focused primarily on the three. She even wrote at one point, “[Obama] left it in debt. Hillary bailed it out so that she could control it, and Debbie went along with all of this because she liked the power and perks of being a chair but not the responsibilities.”

Brazile accused Obama of caring “deeply about his image” and using the DNC to fund “his pollster and focus groups.” This was especially odd considering Obama was in his second term as president, so he was unable to run for the position again, she said.

>> On Rare.us: President Trump uses Democratic primary 'rigging' allegations to blast his Justice Department

“As I saw it, these three titanic egos – Barack, Hillary and Debbie – had stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes,” she added.

Brazile said Obama, Clinton and Schultz loved the Democratic Party dearly and sincerely but “leeched it of its vitality and were continuing to do so.”

In another portion of the book, which was highly publicized, Brazile stated that she found “proof” that the DNC rigged the nomination process in favor of Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Several Democrats shared their support of Brazile’s claim, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Warren told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday, “What we’ve got to do as Democrats now is we’ve got to hold this party accountable.”

>> Read more trending news

Brazile walked back her statements on Sunday, telling George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “This Week,” “I found no evidence. None whatsoever.”

Brazile took over as interim chair for the DNC in July 2016 after Schultz was forced to step down, the result of an email leak that revealed DNC staffers aided Clinton’s campaign over Sanders’ in the primary. Schultz later argued that the primary was “by the books” and “followed the rules.” A WikiLeaks email leak a few months later revealed that Brazile provided Clinton's team with some key details of the presidential debate questions ahead of time.

George H.W. Bush calls Trump ‘a blowhard’ in new book

It’s a breach of etiquette by a former president, but George H.W. Bush did not mince words when describing Donald Trump.

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“He’s a blowhard,” the 41st president tells historian Mark Updegrove in the book “The Last Republicans,” which goes on sale Nov. 14.

Former President George W. Bush also rebuked Trump, CNN reported, saying that “This guy doesn't know what it means to be president.”

Those stinging comments mark the first time the former presidents are speaking out about Trump in such stark terms, as part of a new book about the father and son by historian Mark Updegrove, titled “The Last Republicans.”

Both men went on the record to give Updegrove their candid assessments of Trump, as well as their thoughts on the 2016 presidential election, CNN reported.

The elder Bush’s comments about Trump were made in May 2016, CNN reported.

“I don't like him. I don't know much about him, but I know he's a blowhard,” said Bush, now 93. “And I'm not too excited about him being a leader.”

When Updegrove asked the former president what he thought Trump’s goals might be in running for president, Bush said Trump had “a certain ego.”

George W. Bush’s comments were slightly less inflammatory than his father’s, although he told Updegrove that while he thought Trump could unify the country, it would require “humility,” CNN reported.

“If you look at the Bush family, it makes perfect sense. Donald Trump is everything that the Bush family is not,” Updegrove told CNN. “George Bush grew up thinking about the greater good. Donald Trump is manifestly narcissistic. It's part of his brand. And that brand is the antithesis of the Bush brand.”

CNN reached out to both former presidents' offices for further comments and they both confirmed that they had spoken with Updegrove on the record, but as a policy do not comment on books.

In the end, neither Bush voted for their party's nominee. George H.W. Bush confirmed that he voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. George W. Bush told Updegrove he left the top of the ballot blank.

"I voted 'None of the Above' for president, and Republican down ballot in 2016," he told CNN.

The White House released a statement Saturday about the Bush family comments, calling the war in Iraq “one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”

Playboy features first transgender Playmate

Ines Rau became the first transgender Playmate, as the French model is in a pictorial and centerfold for the magazine’s November/December issue, the magazine announced.

>> Read more trending news

Rau previously appeared in the magazine’s May 2014 A-Z issue.

“It’s how I celebrated my coming out, actually,” Rau told the magazine. “I took that chance, and then I signed with an agency.”

Although Rau is the first transgender Playmate, she isn’t Playboy’s first transgender model, Cosmopolitan reported. The first was Tula, who appeared in the September 1991 issue. 

Hugh Hefner, the founder and publisher of Playboy, died on Sept. 27. He becomes the first man to appear solo -- and 11th overall -- on the cover of the magazine. A 1965 photograph by Larry Gordon was used to pay tribute to Hefner, the magazine said. The first six pages of the November/December issue are dedicated to Hefner, who published the first issue of Playboy in December 1953..

In a tweet Wednesday, Hefner’s son Cooper Hefner, the magazine’s chief creative officer, said that the magazine and society “should be fighting for a more open world.”

There’s now a Harry Potter wizarding school in Central Texas

Feeling bummed about never receiving your Hogwarts letter?

Well, you may be able to live out your Harry Potter dreams after all.

>> Read more trending news

Worthwich School’s annual Worthwich Wizarding Weekend, described as a “3-day magical retreat to Worthwich School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” is taking place in Killeen, Texas, Oct. 27-29.

And yes, it’s eerily similar to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The retreat is for adults 21 and up and lasts three days, with a curriculum of classes including potions, charms, defensive magic, divination, astronomy, herbology, magical creatures and flying lessons. First-year students even get sorted into their houses, just like at Hogwarts (no word on if there’s a magical Sorting Hat, though). 

The weekend kicks off with wand-making classes, pumpkin carving and magical shopping, followed by a sorting ceremony. There will be screenings each night, magical sporting games and classes throughout the weekend. Tickets, which are $400 per person for the entire weekend, include lodging, food and drinks. 

You can buy tickets and get more information here.

Worthwich also offers regular wand making classes in Austin and across Texas, as well as Harry Potter trivia nights. 

New 'Fifty Shades of Grey' novel coming -- this one from Christian Grey's perspective 

Get excited, “Fifty Shades of Grey” fans, because a new novel is headed your way.

Famed author E.L. James announced Tuesday she will be releasing a new novel in the series, but this time, she will tell the story from Christian Grey’s point of view instead of the original protagonist, Anastasia Steele.

>> Read more trending news 

“Hello all. I’m delighted to let you know that ‘Darker: Fifty Shades Darker,’ as told by Christian, will be published in the US and UK on 28th November 2017. Other territories to follow. I do hope you enjoy it,” she wrote on social media.

All three of James’ original “Fifty Shades” novels are New York Times Bestsellers. The author released “Grey,” the first book in the series as told through Grey’s perspective, in June 2015. A description on Amazon describes the new perspective as such: “In Christian’s own words, and through his thoughts, reflections and dreams, E. L. James offers a fresh perspective on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the world.”

James’ original story steamed up the internet in 2011 as a piece of web-only fan fiction before its popularity pushed it into a hard-copy novel. The movie, starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, came out in 2015.

Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Librarian rejects Melania Trump’s Dr. Seuss book donation, calls it ‘racist propaganda’

First lady Melania Trump responded to a Massachusetts librarian who rejected her gift of Dr. Seuss books while calling them “cliché” and “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes” in an open letter.

>> Read more trending news 

The letter read, in part, as follows: 

“Dear Mrs. Trump,

“Thank you for the ten Dr. Seuss titles that you sent my school library in recognition of this year’s National Read a Book Day... 

“My school doesn’t have a need for these books. And then there’s the matter of the books themselves. You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature...

“Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. 

“I am honored that you recognized my students and our school. I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out. Books can be a powerful way to learn about and experience the world around us; they help build empathy and understanding. In return, I’m attaching a list of ten books (it’s the librarian in me) that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband’s administration.”

Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School, faced backlash after writing an open letter rejecting Trump’s donation of Dr. Seuss books to her school. While parents supported her statements, the Cambridge School district distanced itself from the letter.

“The opinions expressed in the Horn Book editorial were those of the writer and not a statement on behalf of Cambridge Public Schools,” officials explained in a statement. The school added that the response “was not a formal acceptance or rejection of donated books, but a statement of opinion on the meaning of the donation” and reportedly “counseled” Soeiro on “all relevant policies, including donations policies and the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”

Trump’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, later responded to the comments.

“Mrs. Trump intends to use her platform as First Lady to help as many children as she can. She has demonstrated this in both actions and words since her husband took office, and sending books to schools across the country is but one example,” Grisham said in a statement. Grisham added that the divisive nature of the letter was “unfortunate” and that Trump “remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere.”

Springfield, Massachusetts, Mayor Domenic Sarno, who presides over Seuss’ hometown, heavily criticized Soeiro’s characterization of Seuss.

Children dismissed from private school because parents have open marriage

Akia Brown released her self-published memoir in February. A few months later, she learned her decision to reveal her life in print would get her children dismissed from their school.

>> Read more trending news 

The book, “Beyond Love,” details Brown’s journey from a single parent in Detroit to her current life as a mother of six in Atlanta who said she is happy in an open marriage with her husband.

It took a few months for news of her book to travel to administrators at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Georgia, where her daughter had been a student for two years and her son was set to begin pre-kindergarten this fall.

In late July, Brown received a call from two administrators at the school. Via speaker phone, they told her that her daughter would not be allowed to return and her son was being denied admission.

Mount Paran is a private Christian, nondenominational, college preparatory day school that serves students ages 3-12. Parents are required to sign a covenant agreement upon enrollment, school officials said. The admission policy states:

The applicant and his/her parents must express a belief of biblical teachings, and a willingness to follow them, as well as student and parent’s affirmation of faith. Parents and students must read and agree to support the Statement of Faith (p. 4-5 in parent/student handbook on MPCS website), commit to uphold Christian principles in their daily lives, and actively participate in a local church body. As a covenant Christian school, MPCS reserves the right to determine whether Mount Paran Christian School is an appropriate placement for the applicant and/or the family. MPCS reserves the right to deny acceptance, terminate, or suspend enrollment of students at the school’s discretion with non-disclosure of reasons.

In this case, the school did give a reason -- Brown and her husband’s open marriage -- but Brown wanted the opportunity to plead her case.

“They haven’t even read the book. I don’t know how they even found out about the book,” Brown said.

She said her daughter, a shy first-grader, was flourishing at Mount Paran and misses her friends. She and her husband had made sure their children were supported academically and socially, she said.

In the book, Brown describes her nontraditional life. Her husband, Brian Maurice Brown, was incarcerated for almost 10 years on drug charges. In 2012, he started BMB Records, which has hosted a roster of hip-hop artists including Charli Baltimore and Ray J.

According to a recent story in the Detroit News, the company has been under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration since 2013. Brian Maurice Brown has not been charged with a drug-related crime.

Over the years, their relationship evolved from husband and wife to one between her, her husband and at least two other women, which they refer to as “wife-in-laws.” In the vein of urban nonfiction, Brown offers salacious details, but she contends the book is about unconditional love.

Brown said she was able to enroll her children in a new Christian school. She told the school administrators right upfront what happened and explained her views, an opportunity she said she never had at Mount Paran.

“Yes, (the book) discusses open marriage – or what others may consider an open marriage – but the real meaning and everything I have ever talked about is unconditional love and having a forgiving heart,” Brown said.

Gucci Mane has hit on book charts with new autobiography

Gucci Mane’s decision to offer an unvarnished glimpse into his roller coaster life in “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane” is one of the smartest in his rehabilitated career.

After its first week of release, the book from the Atlanta rapper and writer Neil Martinez-Belkin sits at No. 24 on the Amazon Best Sellers list. It’s also No. 11 on the site’s Most Sold and Read through its own services (Kindle, Audible.com, Amazon.com) and, unsurprisingly, No. 1 in books about rap and hip-hop.

Last week, Gucci Mane visited a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan for a book signing (and was heckled by anti-fur activists, whom he calmly ignored), but according to the book’s publishing rep, he has no other events planned.

It is odd that Gucci Mane hasn’t slated an Atlanta appearance considering that his autobiography is firmly rooted in the city he has lived in since moving from Alabama with his family in 1989.

If you haven’t spent time with Gucci Mane’s unflinching recap of his life -- his early years of running drugs to Alabama, the numerous arrests that often overshadowed his musical output, his crippling addiction to “lean,” the three-year sentence at the U.S. Penitentiary in Indiana, almost losing his love, Keyshia Ka’oir (they’re now engaged) -- it’s worth the dive.

Gucci Mane, born Radric Davi, and Martinez-Belkin unspool some of the most traumatic incidents in the rapper’s life with vivid detail and sharply recalled conversations. But what is most impressive is Gucci Mane’s obvious self-reflection. This exercise might have started as a way to share his life with fans, but readers can sense as he comes to realizations about what he lost -- and how much more there was, and is, to lose.

In one passage he says, “I was spending money like it was never going to stop coming. Why would it? Some nights I was making ninety thousand dollars. I was pulling in sixty thousand at these stadium shows, like Hot 97’s Summer Jam or Hot 107.9’s Birthday Bash, and then I’d do an after-party and bring in another thirty thousand. I had songs all over the radio. The royalty checks were flowing. It never occurred to me that any of this could be temporary.”

As it should be, the Atlanta rap scene is highlighted as Gucci Mane -– who gets his nickname from his father, the original “Gucci Mane” –- delves into his ongoing beef with rapper Young Jeezy, describes working with his “go-to producer” Zaytoven and Mike Will Made It and shouts out to the ascension of 2 Chainz and Future.

Of working with Mike Will on his 2012 mixtape, “Trap Back,” Gucci Mane says, “Mike Will has me feeling like this ... is a job sometimes. Recording is supposed to be fun, and re-doing verses and ad-libs is not my idea of a good time. It’s not something I typically do. But when we were working on ‘Trap Back,’ I could tell that Mike Will wanted to see me come back and win just as bad as I wanted it. He knew what time it was.”

After spending three months at Jackson State prison in Georgia for a probation violation (an experience that included lice shampoo and rats “the size of cats”), Gucci Mane was released to find that 2 Chainz – whom he’d known for 15 years – and Future – a newcomer to Gucci Mane – were the new kingpins on the scene.

It became an easy collaboration among the three after Mike Will Made It recruited Future and 2 Chainz to hop on Gucci Mane’s song, “Nasty,” and a new respect manifested between Gucci Mane and Future.

Future, Gucci Mane says, “was certified Zone 6, so that made me even more inclined to work with him. Also I liked what a studio rat this dude was. I recorded every day but I also hit the clubs at night and enjoyed myself. Future didn’t leave the studio. All he did was record.”

AfterGucci Mane’s release from federal prison in 2016, the image-reconstruct began immediately. He lost a ton of weight, produced a successful homecoming concert at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, was featured in a major profile in the New York Times and, with fiancée Ka’oir, signed on for a reality show on BET to highlight their upcoming wedding (reportedly Oct. 17 at 10:17 a.m.).

The date “The Autobiography of Gucci Mane” arrived also marked his final day under probation – two years earlier than scheduled.

Perhaps it is a new chapter, indeed.

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