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May 20, 2014

Miley Cyrus has given Morrissey another reason to mope. During a gig in Belfast on Monday, the dada experiment and noted twerkaholic took a break from her usual antics to cover The Smiths' gloomy ballad, "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out." Though the rendition is a little better than Cyrus' attempts at Beatles classics, that's a fairly low bar to clear.

And amid all the low-register warbling and glitter and neon lights there was, of course, a tongue-thrusting selfie. --Jon Terbush

9:20 a.m. ET

Tens of thousands of schoolteachers are walking off the job in Arizona on Thursday, in the state's first statewide teachers' strike. Teachers in four Colorado school districts, including two of the state's largest, are also walking out today, a day before a statewide demonstration on Friday.

In both states, the teachers are seeking higher pay — the average annual salary for teachers in Arizona is $47,403 and in Colorado, $51,808, versus a national average of $59,660 — and increased funding for schools, after years of cuts and shortfalls. In Colorado, lawmakers are also considering changes to the state's public pension system that would reduce take-home pay for teachers.

In Arizona, where teachers overwhelmingly approved the strike, there is no set end to the walkout. Many of Arizona's school districts, including its largest, will be closed at least Thursday and Friday, and churches and community groups are working to provide inexpensive or free emergency day care for parents. All four Colorado districts closed today are expected to be open Friday, while the state's largest district, in Denver, will be closed Friday. Teachers have already gone on strike in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky this spring. Peter Weber

8:09 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Embattled White House physician Ronny Jackson said Thursday that he is "regretfully withdrawing" his name to be veterans affairs secretary, saying that while he had expected tough questions about the Department of Veterans Affairs, "I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity." He called the allegations against him "completely false and fabricated." The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee had indefinitely suspended confirmation hearings this week as lawmakers received allegations from current and former colleagues that Jackson had crashed a government vehicle while drunk, drank on the job, and handed out prescription drugs "like candy." Peter Weber

7:17 a.m. ET

The Senate has scheduled a final confirmation vote for CIA Director Mike Pompeo early Thursday afternoon, and with four Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) saying they will join all Republican in supporting Pompeo for secretary of state, his confirmation is all but assured. The Senate will then leave for a weeklong recess, and if confirmed, Pompeo will immediately fly to Brussels for a NATO summit. "The secretary-designate Mike Pompeo is prepared to travel to the meeting of foreign ministers to reaffirm our commitment to NATO and coordinate the alliance's response to Russian aggression," a senior administration official told Axios.

Pompeo was narrowly endorsed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, avoiding an embarassing negative recommendation only after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) flipped to back him, and on Wednesday's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee dug a bit into Pompeo's history and past statements on gay rights and Islam, providing some examples of why the CIA director has so little Democratic support to be America's face to the world.

The hawkish former Kansas congressman "is about to be our nation's top diplomat, and he's already given up on diplomacy," Bee said. "Ellen Pompeo is a national treasure, and Mike Pompeo is a racist, war-mongering homophobe. And it looks like the only thing preventing him from being our new secretary of state is the common decency of the Senate — so, basically, nothing is standing in his way." The clip is mostly safe-for-work, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

5:48 a.m. ET
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Democrats have a real shot to pick off three Republican Senate seats in November, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll that shows the Democrat beating all three Republicans vying for an open seat in Arizona, ousting Sen. Dean Heller (R) in Nevada by 6 percentage points, and leading the GOP candidate in Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), by a statistically insignificant 1 point. "The poll provides new evidence that Republicans' hold on the Senate may not be as solid as it once looked," Axios notes, though "the overall Senate map in this election still favors the GOP."

Democrats need to pick up two seats to gain control of the Senate in November, and a previous Axios/SurveyMonkey poll showed five Democrats at risk of losing their seats to Republican challengers. At the same time, Axios warns, "Democrats have been clearly outperforming in the special elections since Trump became president." On the issues, Republicans may be buoyed by the economy, but half of all voters in the three states surveyed want to fix the Affordable Care Act while only about 30 percent want to repeal it, and 64 percent of voters support protecting DREAMers and 71 percent favor a path to citizenship for immigrants rather than deportation.

The poll was conducted online April 2-23 with 1,667 registered voters in Arizona, 1,332 in Nevada, and 1,639 in Tennessee. The modeled error estimate is 4 percentage points for Arizona and Tennessee and 5 points for Nevada. Peter Weber

5:12 a.m. ET

President Trump's bromance with French President Emmanuel Macron may have hit a snag on Wednesday, but Trump didn't take long to rekindle an old flame. "I don't know if you've checked Twitter today, but right now my Twitter feed is just tweets from Donald Trump and Kanye West," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "I think Kanye's lobbying for a job as Trump's new communications director — he could just change his name to Kellyanne Kanye."

Colbert read the Kanye tweet where he identified Trump as his "brother" who shares his "dragon energy" and defended his "right to independent thought." "Yes, we have the right to independent thought, and I independently think that Kanye has lost his mind," he said. "But then things took an even stupider turn, because Trump actually responded to Kanye — I assume because an alarm went off in the White House that someone on Twitter was being crazier than him." Either way, this is "a total bro-fest," Colbert said. "Look for their new album, Yeezy & Sleazy."

"In a related story, Trump just made Kanye the new secretary of dragon energy," Jimmy Fallon said on The Tonight Show. "Which is amazing — I didn't even know that was a job."

"I don't even know what happened here — I think Kanye West just realized he's too rich to not be Republican," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show. "And you know that this is also going to confuse people on Fox News, right? Because they're probably going to be like: 'Why don't these celebrity rap thugs stay out of politics and — sorry, this guy understands the American people!'" Noah reminded everyone that Kanye said George W. Bush hated black people: "When George Bush sees this on Twitter, he'll be, like, 'What the f--k? I know I was a bad president, but this guy's friends with Nazis!'" Watch below. Peter Weber

4:25 a.m. ET

On Tuesday night, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, for a state dinner at the White House, capping a publicly affectionate day between the two presidents, and Wednesday's Late Show began with a cheeky red carpet recap of the dinner guests.

If Tuesday was a Trump-Macron lovefest, "today, Trump's brand new best friend, his cher ami, addressed a joint session of Congress, and he reminded everyone assembled of the long history of friendship between our two nations," Stephen Colbert said. Then "the speech took a shockingly honest turn when he threw shade at Trump's America First policy" — and Trump's denial of climate change and rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, which, Macron pointed out, both the U.S. and France signed. "Oh honey, you think just because America signed something we won't leave it?" Colbert asked. "Why don't you talk that over with first lady Ivana Trump?"

Colbert jumped from "casual infidelity" to the flailing nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. He ran through some of the new detailed allegations. "These are pretty scandalous revelations, just in the last 24 hours, but honestly we shouldn't be surprised," Colbert said. "Would a sober man describe Trump's health this way?" After reminding people of Trump's physical, Colbert noted that at the White House, they reportedly called Jackson "the candy man," but "that's just a nickname. His official title was secretary of you good?" The "candy man" allegations inspired Colbert to sing a special new version of the Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory song. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:23 a.m. ET

Former FBI Director James Comey took questions from students at Virginia's College of William & Mary, his alma mater, Wednesday night in an hour-long town hall event broadcast on CNN. One student asked if President Trump has a credible argument that Comey broke the law when he gave his friend Daniel Richman one of his memos recording his encounters with Trump and asked him to disclose its substance to the media. Comey said no, "I think he's just making stuff up," and he explained why. "The bottom line is, I see no credible claim by any serious person that that violated the law," he said.

CNN's Chris Cuomo played that clip for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and it did not change her opinion of Comey's actions. "He gave memos to his friend Daniel Richman," she said, "with the intent that Richman would leak it to the media and hoping to trigger a special counsel." She had what she portrayed as a bombshell about Richman, but Cuomo did not see why it was relevant and told her so.

Comey also discussed the idea of a "deep state" with CNN's Anderson Cooper, arguing that "there's no deep state, but there is a deep culture and a commitment to the rule of law" in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence communities.

Comey also explained why he was a Republican in the 1980s but is now "embarrassed and ashamed" that the GOP has abandoned "the notion that character matters, and values matter most of all," and he also told a terrifying story of being held hostage as a high schooler by the "Ramsey rapist." Comey said he does not have a nickname for Trump. "I call him the president of the United States, because I respect the office," he explained, and "no matter my concerns about him, I want him to be successful." Watch below. Peter Weber

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