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Amundson appeared a mix of thrilled and nervous. It’s not every day that Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, the second gentleman of the United States, requests a special order. Her bookstore has a modest collection. What if she didn’t have it?

But Emhoff wasn’t looking for a book about some wonkish domestic policy agenda or a foreign entanglement. He asked, instead, if Amundson had Seth Rogen’s memoir. (Yes, that Seth Rogen.)

Amundson laughed internally, she recalled later, because it was — well — all so unexpected. She definitely did not have it.

Denied his preferred literary adventure, Emhoff laughed, pulled out his credit card and told her to pick out a book for him, wrap it up, and not tell him what it was. Amundson wrapped up “Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops.”

Fun Doug had lost out to serious Douglas once again.

The tale, recounted by Amundson and the owner of the coffee shop, was a distillation of life being the first second gentleman in history. Emhoff is a historic figure in his own right, a smart and accomplished entertainment lawyer who is using his perch to get more vaccines in arms, bring more attention to food insecurity and local businesses decimated by the pandemic. But, he’s still just kind of a dude.

Aides say he didn’t want a life in the public eye. But he’s also amenable to doing the political work that comes with the post.

Each vice presidential spouse has tackled the job a bit differently. But there’s a fairly common blueprint. You support the veep, host parties (usually in clothing made in America), choose a non-controversial platform — helping disadvantaged kids or veterans or children victimized by bullying — team up with the first lady on another non-controversial policy area, and repeat for four more years if there’s a second term.

Still, if Emhoff sometimes seems like he’s making things up as he goes along, it’s because he (and every second spouse before him) is.

“There is nothing in the Constitution about the first lady and there’s certainly nothing about the second lady or second gentleman. So they have a lot of leeway to do as much or as little as they want,” said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.”

Emhoff’s staff isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. When he began envisioning what his role might look like, he met and talked with the sorority of women that came before him — especially the current first lady, Jill Biden. “He is not the first second spouse, so many of the things he will be doing are things that have been done before,” Emhoff’s chief of staff Julie Mason told POLITICO. “Some of them might be new to him.”

But Emhoff also isn’t just another spouse of a sitting VP. He’s the first with XY chromosomes. And how he adds his own “Douggie” flair to the gig will set the template not just for future second gentlemen, but also for male spouses of powerful women across the country. Aides say Emhoff is cognizant of how important it is for kids (and adults) to see a man fully embrace the concept of being a supportive husband to a powerful woman while shaking up outdated gender stereotypes. It’s given an additional weight to his role.

“I hope it normalizes that we as a country have gotten to a point where we’re comfortable seeing a man in that position supporting his wife,” Andersen Brower said. “And at the same time, we have to kind of calibrate how excited we are about it, because it is so absurd that it’s taken us this long.”

The role-modeling began after the election. Emhoff quit his high-powered job (which accounted for most of the more than $1.6 million the couple raked in last year) for a one-class-a-semester teaching job at Georgetown University; his first in-person class begins in August. And then, as he built his team — a small group of nine — the focus was first on playing cheerleader.

“We came in here and the first thing he did was raise his hand to see how he could be helpful with the pandemic response and recovery,” Mason said. “He was not elected to office. His No. 1 job is to support the vice president, to support the administration.”

As soon as the administration began, Emhoff was dispatched to dozens of events — many in person, including visits to small businesses and vaccination clinics. Often, he promised to take back the conversations he had there to the Naval Observatory, where he and the vice president now live. As he’s done these events, Emhoff has also worked with his team to figure out what his own platform might be. Aides say they aren’t in a rush and it’s typical for there not to be an announced initiative this early in the administration. But outside of vaccinations, there’s one policy area Emhoff seems more interested in than others: food security.

Almost every roundtable or stop has something to do with food and nutrition, something that even during the campaign was a focus. As he visited food banks, aides say he was struck by the lack of equity and access.

Back in February, when now-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was being virtually sworn in by Harris, he said he talked to Emhoff, who had called to congratulate him on his confirmation. Vilsack told Harris, “We want to get him involved in nutrition,” to which Harris replied that her husband “cares a great deal about that.” Senior Emhoff aides say it’s almost a sure thing that food security will end up being an initiative as he charts out his role in more detail. But his involvement on the topic is still in the planning stages.

But being a supportive spouse with a passion for food security hasn’t been without its challenges. Emhoff is the only one of the “four principals” — as aides refer to the Biden and Harris couples — with limited experience in public life. And that has required some adjustments.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who shared a coffee with Emhoff near the water in Annapolis last week, said Emhoff mentioned to him how weird he found the bubble that now surrounds him. He noted the need to make “appointments to see your children.” Even the things that look spontaneous to the outside — like a quick stop at a precious independent book store — now take extensive planning and scheduling.

“There’s definitely a period of adjustment in learning how the systems operate here,” Mason said. “You can’t always do things as much on a whim as maybe you would have before.” But, she said, Emhoff has never complained to the staff about it.

To maintain a semblance of normalcy in his life, Emhoff holds scheduled Zoom calls on a regular basis with his family, and has gone out to see D.C. on the weekends with friends, an Emhoff aide says. One of those friends is Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who became close with Emhoff during the 2020 campaign. Buttigieg said the two still “trade texts quite often.” They sometimes talk about the platform Emhoff plans to build (of which food security has come up) or what they’re watching on Netflix. But typically they talk about the adjustments that come with their new lives.

“There’s still got to be that holy shit cloud, hovering over them. Like, ‘Wow, we’re really doing this.’ And he has to figure out how to build a platform, an office, a team and then also, like, make sure he’s being really supportive,” Chasten Buttigieg said in a phone interview. “But he seems very peppy, like he really wants to like ‘go, go, go, go, go’ and that comes with a lot of concern for getting the moment right.”

As he plays the role of supportive husband of a powerful woman — and adjusts to the responsibilities and attention that come with it — Emhoff has garnered a group of loyal fans of his own. #DougHive may not match the size, stature or aggressively defensive tone that Harris’ #KHive possesses. But that’s what comes when you’re proudly second fiddle.

“He lets her lead. That’s quite remarkable to see. And the fact that he’s a white male married to this strong Black woman, I think he knows what that means,” said Danielle Garrett, a musician and teacher in Pennsylvania and active member of the Facebook group titled “Doug Emhoff, Esquire: Our Second Gentleman.” The group of more than 800 and counting posts links about nearly every move Emhoff makes: from a picture of him with his daughter Ella at her graduation or moments like Emhoff sitting by himself before the joint session of Congress last month blowing kisses to Harris. (Garrett posted that one with the comment “What a true gent!!” with three heart emojis.)

Emhoff’s “clearly just being himself,” Garrett said, which makes him the type of relatable figure that seems rare in politics.

It has not only served his wife well — it’s helped him, too. For proof: After he left her store, Amundson, the bookshop owner, said she went looking for a way to get the Seth Rogen memoir to Emhoff as soon as she could.

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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