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The scientific case for eating bread

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Breads are displayed at "Le Bricheton" ecologic bakery in Paris

Bread has long been a foundational part of the human diet, but a revolt against it has been building for years—and seems to be reaching a crescendo. Today, many regard bread as a dietary archvillain—the cause of bigger waistlines and the possible origin of more insidious health concerns. Popular books and health gurus claim that bread and the proteins it harbors can cause or contribute to foggy thinking, fatigue, depression, and diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to cancer.

But go digging through the published, peer-reviewed evidence on bread and human health, and most of what you’ll find suggests that bread is either benign or, in the case of whole-grain types, quite beneficial.

“We have conducted several meta-analyses on whole-grain consumption and health outcomes like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality,” says Dagfinn Aune, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “When looking at specific sources of grains, whole-grain bread, whole-grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, and wheat bran were all associated with reduced risks.”

 “Bread isn’t the baddie it’s made out to be.” 

Asked if bread should be considered a “junk” food, Aune says the opposite is true. “Whole-grain breads are healthy, and a high intake of whole grains is associated with a large range of health benefits,” he says, citing links to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and mortality. In fact, his research has found that eating the equivalent of 7.5 slices of whole-grain bread per day is linked with “optimal” health outcomes.

While Aune doesn’t see “much benefit” in eating white bread, he says the evidence tying it to increased weight gain or other negative health outcomes is much less robust than the data on whole-grain bread’s positive effects.

Among people who study bread and whole grains, Aune is not an outlier.

“Bread itself is not the culprit,” says Nicola McKeown, a scientist with Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. While McKeown says refined-grain (white) bread is “nutrient-weak,” she also says that weight gain cannot usually be attributed to a single food. She also points out that most Americans consume less than a single daily serving of whole grains, and 90% don’t eat enough fiber. Eating more whole-grain bread is a good way to make up these deficits.

Others agree. “If you look at these large diet studies on people who live the longest with the least disease, fiber and whole grains are always major components,” says Joanne Slavin, PhD, a professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Slavin says the fiber in whole-grain foods and breads slows the small intestine’s absorption of fat and carbohydrates in ways that improve fullness and limit spikes in blood sugar. Farther down the digestive tract, these whole-grain fibers feed healthy gut bacteria and improve colon health.

While she doesn’t advocate for the unchecked consumption of white bread, Slavin points out that it and other starchy carbs—white rice, pasta, potatoes—form the foundation of most diets worldwide and aren’t an obvious issue if you’re watching your total caloric intake.

Of course, bread presents serious problems for people who have celiac disease or nonceliac gluten sensitivity. While some consider the latter of these two conditions controversial, and its symptoms remain hard to pin down, roughly 6% of adults may suffer from one or the other of these gluten-related disorders, says Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

But for the other 94% of us, bread isn’t the baddie it’s made out to be.

While olive oil and fatty fish get most of the positive press, bread (and not just the whole-grain types) is considered a “major” component of Mediterranean-style diets, which have repeatedly been linked to health and longevity. Studies that have specifically looked at bread in the context of these diets have found that people who eat the most whole-grain breads—six slices or more a day—are the least likely to be overweight or obese.

 “There aren’t many compelling reasons to single out bread as one of your dietary nemeses.” 

Even when it comes to white bread, the evidence tying it to obesity and health problems is patchy. Research has associated refined carbohydrates—a group that includes white bread, but also cookies, cakes, and soda—with an elevated risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity. But studies that have assessed the health effects of white bread and refined grains independent of sugary snacks and drinks have turned up both positive and negative results.

A comprehensive review on bread and obesity that appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition found that white bread consumption may “possibly” lead to increased abdominal fat. But more research is needed, the authors of that review say. The vast majority of the evidence supports the latest US Dietary Guidelines, which state that a “healthy” 1,800-to-2,000-calorie diet could include six slices of bread a day—including up to three slices of “refined-grain” white bread.

If you’re wondering how to shop for whole-grain breads, a 2015 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the “most healthful” products can be identified by their total carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio. You’re looking for breads with a carb-to-fiber ratio lower than 10:1, the Harvard study says. (So, if a bread has 15 grams of total carbs per slice or per serving, you’d want it to have more than 1.5 grams of dietary fiber.)

To sum it up, there aren’t many compelling reasons to single out bread as one of your dietary nemeses. Eating white bread all day isn’t a great way to stay slim. But if you’ve been shunning all bread—including the whole-grain types—out of the belief that it’s fattening and unhealthy, the existing evidence suggests you’re doing your health more harm than good.

This story was originally published on Medium.

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Lullabot at DrupalCon Seattle

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We're excited to announce that 14 Lullabots will be speaking at DrupalCon Seattle! From presentations to panel discussions, we're looking forward to sharing insights and good conversation with our fellow Drupalers. Get ready for mass Starbucks consumption and the following Lullabot sessions. And yes, we will be hosting a party in case you're wondering. Stay tuned for more details!

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Re-Imagined

Karen Stevenson, Director of Technology

Karen will talk about the challenges of the original Drupal AMP architecture, changes in the new branch, and some big goals for the future of the project.

Autopsy of Vulnerabilities

Zequi Vázquez, Developer

Zequi will explore Drupal Core vulnerabilities, SA-CORE-2014-005 and SA-CORE-2018-7600, by discussing the logic behind them, why they present a big risk to a Drupal site, and how the patches work to prevent a successful exploitation.

Design a Decoupled Application - An Architecture Guide Based Upon the Drupal Admin UI

Sally Young, Senior Technical Architect (with Matthew Grill, Senior JavaScript Engineer at Acquia & Daniel Wehner, Senior Drupal Developer at Chapter Three)

Discussing common problems and best practices of decoupled Drupal has surpassed the question of whether or not to decouple. Sally, Matthew, and Daniel will talk about why the Drupal Admin UI team went with a fully decoupled approach as well as common approaches to routing, fetching data, managing state with autosave and some level of extensibility.

Drupal Admin UI

Sally Young, Senior Technical Architect (with Lauri Eskola, Software Engineer in OCTO at Acquia; Matthew Grill, Senior JavaScript Engineer at Acquia; & Daniel Wehner, Senior Drupal Developer at Chapter Three)

The Admin UI & JavaScript Modernisation initiative is planning a re-imagined content authoring and site administration experience in Drupal built on modern JavaScript foundations. This session will provide the latest updates and a discussion on what is currently in the works in hopes of getting your valuable feedback.

Enterprise Content Inventories

Greg Dunlap, Senior Digital Strategist

Greg will take you on a tour of the set of tools we use at Lullabot to create predictable and repeatable content inventories and audits for large-scale enterprise websites. You will leave with a powerful toolkit and a deeper understanding of how you use them and why.

Front-end Web Performance Clinic 2019

Mike Herchel, Senior Front-end Developer

If you're annoyed by slow websites, Mike will take you on a deep dive into modern web performance. During this 90 minute session, you will get hands-on experience on how to identify and fix performance bottlenecks in your website and web app.

How DevOps Strengthens Team Building

Matt Westgate, CEO & Co-founder

Your DevOps practice is not sustainable if you haven't implemented its culture first. Matt will take you through research conducted on highly effective teams to better understand the importance of culture and give you three steps you can take to create a cultural shift in your DevOps practice. 

How to Hire and Fire Your Employer

April Sides, Developer

Life is too short to work for an employer with whom you do not share common values or fits your needs. April will give you tips and insights on how to evaluate your employer and know when it's time to fire them. She'll also talk about how to evaluate a potential employer and prepare for an interview in a way that helps you find the right match.

Layout Builder in the Real World

Karen Stevenson, Director of TechnologyMike Herchel, Senior Front-end DeveloperWes Ruvalcaba, Senior Front-end Developer, & Ellie Fanning, Head of Marketing

Karen, Mike, Wes, and team built a soon-to-be-launched Drupal 8 version of Lullabot.com as Layout Builder was rolling out in core. With the goal of giving our non-technical Head of Marketing total control of the site, lessons were learned and successes achieved. Find out what those were and also learn about the new contrib module Views Layout they created.

The Imaginary Band of Drupal Rock Stars

Matthew Tift, Senior Developer

The words "rockstar" and "rock star" show up around 500 times on Drupal.org. Matthew explores how the language we use in the Drupal community affects behavior and how to negotiate these concepts in a skillful and friendly manner.

Using Personas as an Inclusive Design Tool

Helena McCabe, Senior Front-end Developer (with Carie Fisher, Sr. Accessibility Instructor and Dev at Deque)

Helena and Carie will examine how web accessibility affects different personas within the disability community and how you can make your digital efforts more inclusive with these valuable insights.

Diversity & Inclusion: Building a Stronger Drupal Community

Marc Drummond, Senior Front-end Developer Greg Dunlap, Senior Digital Strategist (with Fatima Sarah Khalid, Mentor at Drupal Diversity & Inclusion Contribution Team; Tara King, Project lead at Drupal Diversity & Inclusion Contribution Team; & Alanna Burke, Drupal Engineer at Kanopi Studios)

Open source has the potential to transform society, but Drupal does not currently represent the diversity of the world around us. These members of the Drupal Diversity & Inclusion (DDI) group will discuss the state of Drupal diversity, why it's important, and updates on their efforts.

Why Will JSON:API Go into Core?

Mateu Aguiló Bosch, Senior Developer (with Wim Leers, Principal Software Engineer in OCTO at Acquia & Gabe Sullice, Sr. Software Engineer, Acquia Drupal Acceleration Team at Acquia)

Mateu and his fellow API-first Initiative maintainers will share updates and goals, lessons and challenges, and discuss why they're pushing for inclusion into Drupal core. They give candy to those who participate in the conversation as an added bonus!

Personalization for the Perplexed

Jeff Eaton, Senior Digital Strategist

Personalization has become quite the buzzword, but the reality in the trenches rarely lives up to the promise of well-polished vendor demos. Eaton will help preserve your sanity by guiding you through the steps you should take before launching a personalization initiative or purchasing a shiny new product. 

Also, from our sister company, Drupalize.Me, don't miss this session presented by Joe Shindelar:

Gatsby & Drupal

Joe will discuss how Gatsby and Drupal work together to build decoupled applications, why Gatsby is great for static sites, and how to handle private content, and other personalization within a decoupled application. Find out what possibilities exist and how you can get started.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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11 days ago
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Why You Can’t Rake America Great Again

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Suddenly, everyone on the Internet purports to be an expert in forest management. Various memes, rants, and ill-advised presidential opinions are seeking a bogeyman to blame for the deadly wildfires in California. This is my attempt to bring something rational to that conversation. 

Could it really be this simple?! If only those dang libtards just wouldn't get in the way!!!!1!! (Facebook)

The Theory: Controlled Burns Could Have Prevented the Fires

As far as crackpot conspiracy theories go, this one actually holds water. In forests, it’s not big, mature trees that contribute to wildfire, it’s brush and debris—and yes, sometimes even dry leaves. Controlled burns are an effective tool for reducing these fuel loads. 

The Reality: You Can’t Burn Everything

There are a couple of big, obvious problems with using controlled burns for fire prevention:

  1. They’re expensive;
  2. They’re vastly limited in area.

The U.S. Forest Service is going broke trying to fight fires right now. And when the firefighting budget is blown, extra money is drawn from the fire prevention budget. I’m sure you can see the problem: as the Forest Service spends more money fighting fires, it has less money to spend preventing them. This is clearly unsustainable.

Yet there does not appear to be political will in Washington to fix this issue. The omnibus spending bill that was signed into law earlier this year with much fanfare will begin increasing the Forest Service’s firefighting budget by $100 million annually in 2020. Trouble is, the Forest Service currently spends $2.5 billion fighting fires each year—$100 million is a drop in that bucket. Heck, it spends $390 million a year doing removal of hazardous fuels, and even that amount has not been shown to have a demonstrable effect on reducing the frequency or severity of fires

(Reality isn't terribly viral, but this is the problem we're facing. )

The Forest Service manages 190 million acres of land across the country. Yet controlled burns are carried out manually, on an acre-by-acre basis. In order to perform them safely, controlled burns need to be done during the rainy season, when only the very dry wood that really fuels wildfires will catch. And they require extensive fire breaks in order to control the intentional blaze, which means firefighters have to manually go into the area and cut through the brush. That’s incredibly labor intensive and, adding insult to injury, burns must be repeated every ten years because brush grows back. So controlled burns have to be targeted at specific high-risk areas only. That’s a problem, because in California alone right now, an area the size of Maryland is in need of controlled burning. No one has the resources to do that. 

Memes like this one use a thin layer of truthiness to spread partisan political propaganda. By obfuscating reality, they make achieving real solutions more difficult. (Facebook)

The Theory: “Radical” Environmentalists Get in the Way of Forest Management

Al Gore teamed up with notoriously liberal spotted owls and they’re intentionally making our forests more fire-prone by preventing logging. I read about it in Hillary’s emails. 

The Reality: Everyone Benefits from More Resilient Forests

As I covered extensively in this article, environmental litigators and logging companies are actually working together to create new, sustainable logging practices that are both profitable and healthy for our forests. The claim that the kind of logging or hazardous-fuels reduction that could prevent fires is being held up in court for environmental reasons simply isn’t true. 

The Theory: Fire Is a Natural Part of Our Environment

It is! It’s estimated that before 1800, about 7,000 square miles of California burned annually, due both to natural causes and fires set by Native Americans. During last year’s record-setting fire season, only 1,500 square miles burned. 

The Reality: Lots of People Live Here Now

In the 13 Western states, over 60 percent of homes built since 1990 have been built in something called the wildland-urban interface. Read: places prone to wildfire. The total value of those homes exceeds $500 billion

Simply standing by while those homes and communities burn down, and those lives are lost, is not possible—fires must be fought. As wildfires worsen, we do need an ecosystem-wide reconsideration of how and where we build and live, so that we can better coexist with the natural function of these environments. Doing that will be really hard, really expensive, and really time consuming. In California alone, adapting to climate-change-worsened wildfire could be 120 times more difficult than adapting to sea level rise, according to research I wrote about last year. 

The Theory: More Logging Would Prevent Wildfires

Hey, it’s logical. Fewer trees means there is less fuel to burn. 

The Reality: Logging Only Helps Next to Homes

For logging to help make our forests more fire-resistant, all the debris and brush that’s left behind after trees are removed must also be removed. That’s challenging and expensive, as detailed above. And even then, logging hasn't been shown to actually reduce instances or severity of fire in our forests

The only areas where logging has been scientifically shown to help with wildfires is immediately adjacent to homes and other buildings. Removing fuel sources from these areas can help prevent wind-driven embers from spreading to structures. 

The Theory: This Is Caused by Anything but Climate Change

Wherein we all avoid talking about the elephant in the room. 

The Reality: A Hotter Planet Equals Drier Fuel

My future mother-in-law has a beautiful cabin up in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s been in the family since the 1920s, but I fear it won’t be around much longer. The majority of the huge, old-growth redwoods (along with over 100 million other trees in the state) that have always surrounded it have been killed either by drought or by invasive bark beetles. While that’s happened, heavy winter precipitation has caused booms in brush growth, which then dies out in the record-high summer temperatures. Across the forest surrounding the cabin, dead trees tower above forest floors stacked with dead logs and dry kindling. It’s a perfect recipe for a fire. 

The changes we see around that cabin are changes that are observable across the American West.

You don’t need a conspiracy theory to explain what happened: Extreme winter weather drove an explosive growth in brush, which then died out in the summer heat, and became fuel for fire. Conditions were so dry outside Paradise, and in southern California, that these fires weren’t some freak occurrence—they were inevitabilities. As the climate continues to warm, those conditions will continue to spread north. If you want to discuss the causes of wildfire, you have to discuss climate change.

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19 days ago
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The NRA did away with free coffee for its employees, and we all know what that means

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A cup of coffee with cream.

When companies begin imposing austerity measures, however subtle, employees notice.

In most cases, they can shrug off the change, assuming the Cheez-Its will reappear when the budget is rebalanced. But there’s a tipping point, and the National Rifle Association apparently reached it last week when it killed the one office perk that arguably deserves constitutional protection. It stopped supplying free coffee inside its Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters.

“The whole building was freaking out,” a former NRA employee still in touch with current staffers told The Trace, whose reporters confirmed the coffee crisis was real after contacting three other sources close to the organization.

It turns out the cutback is merely the latest piece of evidence that the NRA is short on cash. In what gun-regulation advocates will read as a hopeful sign, membership fees were reportedly down by $35 million in 2017, and total assets dropped from $217 million to $196 million.

To shore up the coffers, the gun group has increased annual dues two years in a row. It’s also suing the state of New York for tens of millions of dollars, arguing that the state’s tough gun regulations have unfairly cost the group lost income and legal fees. Much of any cash that’s available is said to be going toward the lawsuit.

Soon, it may whittle the number of publications it produces from six to one, and slash the budget for training and education.

“Perhaps the most vivid evidence of belt-tightening at the NRA was its drastically reduced spending on the 2018 midterm elections,” the Trace says. The NRA spent less than $10 million on candidates for the House and Senate; it doled out twice as much on congressional races in 2014 and 2016. (And in this year’s midterms, pro gun-control groups outspent the NRA for a change.)

In a statement, a spokesperson for the gun advocacy group did not deny the coffee moratorium. But critics warn the NRA could be exaggerating its money woes to stir up energy and generous donations from its loyal supporters.

If that’s true, the coffee cut feels like a drastic act for the sake of an illusion. After all, this is the golden era of haute office coffee. Employers have felt pressure to keep up with trends, supplying expensive on-tap cold brew, top-of-the-line espresso machines, and supplies to quell small uprisings by renegade tea gangs.

In light of the NRA news, hold your warm mug a little closer this morning, and remember that any office coffee complaint you harbor is a nice problem to have. Also: the NRA no longer has it.

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21 days ago
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Watch a Wales rugby legend explain why he didn’t press charges after a homophobic hate crime

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Gareth Thomas is the second-highest try scorer in Welsh international rugby union history, and one of its most-capped players ever (that’s rugby slang for appearances in games at the international level). He captained the British and Irish Lions team. He is now 44. He also is gay.

Thomas came out publicly in 2009, making him the first openly gay professional rugby union player. (He retired from playing rugby in 2011.) As he told The Guardian, coming out was one of the most painful experiences of his life, largely because of the backlash and ridicule he faced from other players and a portion of the public:

“It didn’t make me angry, it just made me really sad – and that’s a horrible emotion,” he said, reflecting on a homophobic chant waged against him during a 2009 match he was playing for the Crusaders.

“I can deal with anger. I can release my anger in the game and use it to motivate me. But when something makes you sad… I remember thinking to myself: ‘Why have I gone through all this serious amount of pain… to be standing here, the subject of abuse. Was it worth it?’”

Last night (Nov. 17), nearly 10 years after publicly coming out, Thomas was attacked by a 16-year-old boy in his home city of Cardiff, in what officials are calling a homophobic hate crime.

Instead of pressing charges, Thomas requested to engage with the teenager via restorative justice, a rehabilitation process by which offenders reconcile with their victims, usually with a conversation moderated by a third party.

Thomas and the teenager engaged in a restorative discussion the same night as the attack. In the process, the boy apologized to Thomas.

On Nov. 18, Thomas shared a video on Twitter explaining why he chose restorative justice, and what he hopes society at large learns from his experience: “This morning I have decided to make what I hope will be a positive video. Last night I was the victim in my home city of a hate crime for my sexuality,” he says.

“Why I want it to be positive, is because I want to say thank you to the police who were involved and were very helpful and allowed me to do restorative justice with the people who did this, because I thought they could learn more that way than any other way.”

Thomas’ response epitomizes the culture-shifting power of empathy, and vulnerability at scale.

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22 days ago
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Melania Trump racked up $174,000 in hotel bills for a day trip to Toronto

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Melania Trump and Justin Trudeau

US first lady Melania Trump ran up a six-figure hotel bill for a one-day trip to Toronto last year, according to federal spending records.

Government spending data show at least six separate Toronto hotel charges ranging from just under $12,000 to nearly $49,000 for a total of roughly $174,000. She did not spend the night.

The total was roughly eight times what it cost to house the first lady’s advance team, whose $18,000 in hotel expenses were broken out separately; in addition to the hotel charges, the first lady’s trip involved $21,000 in transportation costs.

Reports from the press pool that accompanied Trump on her September 23, 2017, Canadian excursion showed that her schedule involved multiple hotel stops. Based on those reports, this was her itinerary for the day:

12:09 pm (Sept. 23): Arrives in Toronto. The first lady travels to a downtown Sheraton, meets with Britain’s prince Harry for 20 minutes, and then departs for the Ritz-Carlton.

4 pm: Returns to Sheraton. The first lady meets with US athletes competing in the Invictus Games (an event for disabled veterans created in 2014 by prince Harry) for 20 minutes. She delivers a speech that was one minute, 15 seconds long.

6:35 pm: Arrives at Air Canada Centre. The first lady greets prime minister Justin Trudeau and his family and watches the opening ceremony of the games from a VIP suite.

12:12 am (Sept. 24): Returns to Andrews Air Force base in Maryland.

How Trump and her staff ran up nearly $200,000 in hotel bills for a 12-hour trip is unclear (the total was nearly double the $95,050 bill for a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, where she stopped for a day last month during a trip to Africa). All six charges for the first lady’s Toronto hotel bills were paid to “miscellaneous foreign awardees” rather than a specific hotel. These links will take you to the documents for each amount, rounded here to the nearest thousand:

Hotel rooms: $35,000

Hotel rooms: $12,000

Hotel rooms: $19,000

Hotel rooms: $49,000

Hotel rooms: $43,000

Hotel rooms: $16,000

The top rate at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel is currently $574 CAD ($435) per night for a premium suite, plus $100.56 CAD in taxes for a total of $674.56 CAD:

At the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, standard rooms start at $679 CAD. The most expensive suite, the 2,415 square-foot Ritz-Carlton Suite, goes for $8,000 CAD per night, plus $1,401.60 CAD in taxes

Additional hotel charges for the FLOTUS advance team for the Toronto trip came to $18,000. Three separate transportation charges for the same trip came to $21,000: one for $13,000, one for $5,000 and one for $3,000.

Asked about the details of the expenses, the first lady’s office referred specific questions to the US State Department, which told us we would need to file Freedom of Information Act requests for more information. Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, also said, via email:

What I can tell you is that when the President or First Lady travels, there are people who travel ahead on the advance team to ensure safety measures, medical care, communications, motorcade needs and logistics are all in place.
Mrs. Trump travels with a much smaller contingent of staff than that of her predecessors, but the entities I mentioned above are legally required for all official travel.

The previous first lady, Michelle Obama, spent $18,320 on transportation over 10 days in Copenhagen, Denmark, during a 2009 trip that included speeches and meetings to push for Chicago to be the site of the 2016 Olympic Games. Her two-day visit to Chengdu, China, in 2014 cost over $220,000 in hotel bills, the Weekly Standard reported then. The figure included expenses for her advance team, communications staff, and security.

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25 days ago
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