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May 1, 2014

There was once a time when the hotline psychic Miss Cleo's face was all over television, her Jamaican lilt urging couch potatoes to "Call me now!" for a reading. And people did: the Federal Trade Commission said that the Psychic Readers Network made more than $1 billion in shady profit.

In February 2002, the FTC filed a complaint against the company and Miss Cleo, alleging that they misrepresented the "free" readings and did not disclose the correct fees in advertisements. That was the beginning of the end for Miss Cleo, who says that she was just a spokeswoman, not the mastermind behind Psychic Readers Network.

She's kept a pretty low profile since, until now; today, she's featured in a new documentary, Hotline, which takes a closer look at telephone hotlines and their place in today's digital world:

Vice interviewed Miss Cleo (real name: Youree Dell Harris) in Toronto and asked her about everything, from what she did before joining the Psychic Readers Network to how much money she really made.

Some of the more interesting tidbits she shared include the fact that she was not "fresh from Jamaica," although her television accent would have you believe otherwise, and she never went to jail, despite rumors today that she's still rotting away in a cell. She made 24 cents a minute from each call (compared to the other psychics, who made 14 cents) and comes from a long line of "spooky people." Read the entire interview at Vice, and watch the video below to instantly be transported back to a commercial break during The Ricki Lake Show. --Catherine Garcia

8:01 a.m. ET
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Previous economic research has suggested that a family's economic advantages (or disadvantages) usually dissipate within a few generations. New research by Italian economists Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Moretti begs to differ. The Bank of Italy economists used a unique tool, a 1427 census of Florence, to compare the wealth and occupation of Florentine families 600 years ago to those same families in 2011. "The top earners among the current taxpayers were found to have already been at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago," Barone and Moretti explain in an essay on their findings at the Center for Economic Policy Research's Vox site.

If you're looking to see how the Medici family has fared, you're out of luck — the researchers replaced family last names with letters to maintain confidentiality. But Barone and Moretti did find "evidence of dynasties in certain (elite) professions," they write, noting that there's a higher probability a Florentine today will be a lawyers, banker (like the Medici family), medical doctor, pharmacist, or goldsmith if he or she has the last name of a family that was intensely involved in the same profession in Renaissance Florence. They also report finding "some evidence of the existence of a glass floor that protects the descendants of the upper class from falling down the economic ladder."

Barone and Moretti say they can't universalize their findings, noting in their working paper, "Intergenerational mobility in the very long run: Florence 1427-2011," that "Florence in the 15th century was already an advanced and complex society, characterized by a significant level of inequality and by a rich variety of professions and occupational stratification." But Quartz's Aamna Mohdin says that the new findings are "further evidence on how the rich remain rich," including research in England that a family's socioeconomic status can persist for more than 800 years. You can read more about Florence's lack of economic mobility, including Barone and Moretti's methodology and caveats, at Vox or in their research paper. Peter Weber

7:38 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump trails Hillary Clinton by just two points nationally, a new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday reveals. Clinton leads the presumptive Republican nominee just 47 percent to 45 percent — a narrow edge just barely outside the poll's 1.2-point margin of error. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) boasts a 12-point lead over Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup, 52 percent to 40 percent.

The poll surveyed 12,969 registered voters online between May 23 and May 29. Becca Stanek

7:37 a.m. ET
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Actor Kit Harrington slammed the film industry for "sexism towards men" in an interview with The Sunday Times, accusing the system of "a double standard."

"If you said to a girl, 'Do you like being called a babe?' and she said, 'No, not really,' she'd be absolutely right," Harrington said. "I like to think of myself as more than a head of hair or a set of looks."

Some thought the Game of Thrones actor's comments came across as tone-deaf. "I think what he is actually describing is feeling objectified, which certainly isn't a phenomenon belonging to a single gender," Aimée Lutkin observed for Jezebel.

Still, "it's demeaning," Harrington said. "Yes, in some ways you could argue I've been employed for a look I have. But there's a sexism that happens towards men. There's definitely a sexism in our industry that happens towards women, and there is towards men as well ... At some points during photoshoots when I'm asked to strip down, I felt that." Jeva Lange

7:15 a.m. ET
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Journalist Katie Couric admitted to deceptively editing an exchange with gun rights activists in Under the Gun, a documentary she produced and narrated about gun violence. "I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League," she said in a statement Monday evening.

The edit made the activists appear stumped and ashamed by her question about felons and terrorists purchasing guns if there are no background checks, when in fact they responded quickly to the criticism and had candid answers. The discrepancy was exposed by The Washington Free Beacon last week. Jeva Lange

6:22 a.m. ET
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On Monday, Iraqi counterterrorism forces, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, started to push into Islamic State–held Fallujah, capturing about 85 percent of the city's southern Nuaimiya area. At dawn on Tuesday, ISIS launched a counterattack, two officers with the special forces told The Associated Press, and Iraqi forces repelled the four-hour assault. ISIS used tunnels and snipers to attack Iraqi forces, and sent out six car bombs, the officers said, but the explosives-laden vehicles were destroyed before they reached Iraqi troops.

There are an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, and on Tuesday the Norwegian Refugee Council aid group warned that "a human catastrophe is unfolding in Fallujah." Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the group, said that the "warring parties must guarantee civilians safe exit now, before it's too late and more lives are lost." Peter Weber

5:33 a.m. ET

Previews of the J.K. Rowling play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child begin June 7 at London's Palace Theatre, but on Tuesday, Rowling's Pottermore site released the first photos of the lead characters in costume. Jamie Parker is a grown-up Harry Potter, complete with the lightning scar on his forehead, and Poppy Miller is his wife, the former Ginny Weasley. Playing their youngest son, Albus Severus Potter — the titular cursed child — is Sam Clemmett, dressed in hand-me-down Hogwarts robes.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being presented as the eighth installment of the Harry Potter saga, following the seven books. Rowling, who wrote the play with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, says she is thrilled with the casting. Parker "simply is Harry now," she said. "There's a kind of relief in watching him, he gets it so right." And Miller's Ginny is "kind and cool, exactly as I imagined her," Rowling added. The play will run in two parts, with the first performed as a matinee and the second at night. Peter Weber

5:00 a.m. ET

"While Donald Trump is widely disliked, he is especially disliked by women," Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show last week, "as Trump is well aware." He played a video of Trump speaking at a rally in New Mexico, telling the crowd, among other things, "I want to set records with women." Noah was slightly repulsed: "It sounds like Trump is getting speech ideas from a pervert's Tinder profile."

Trump does have some female admirers, but "there's a reason the large majority of women are not Trump fans," Noah said, playing another recent clip of Trump saying he can't stand Hillary Clinton's voice. But then he dug into the Trump archive, unearthing a 1994 interview on Prime Time Live with Nancy Collins in which Trump explained why he didn't want his wife at the time, Marla Maples, to work outside the home. "Now, these clips aren't online, so pretty much nobody has seen them since they aired in 1994," Noah promised. And sure, times have changed in 22 years, but even in year two of the Bill Clinton presidency, Trump knew what he was saying would be construed as "chauvinist." And to show that some things never change, he went ahead and said what was on his mind anyway. Watch below. Peter Weber

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