The FBI allegedly placed a handful of Muslim men on the government's no-fly list in an attempt to pressure them into becoming confidential informants, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court.
According to the suit, the FBI approached at least four Muslim men and asked them to spy on their local communities. In exchange, the agency offered financial compensation and assistance in obtaining citizenship, while also dropping a not-so-subtle reminder that it controlled who went on the no-fly list. When one of the men, Awais Sajjad, refused to cooperate, the FBI "kept him on the list in order to pressure and coerce [him] to sacrifice his constitutionally-protected rights," the suit alleges.
The suit names Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and two dozen FBI agents as defendants. Jon Terbush
On Sunday, President Trump hailed what he called the great successes of his first four weeks in office, telling governors at a White House gala that "the borders are stricter, tighter. We're doing a really good job." The first part of that at least appears to be true. But noted French historian Henry Rousso and Australia's best-selling children's author, Mem Fox, were both erroneously detained and mistreated at two different U.S. airports in February, and their remarkably similar stories aren't encouraging.
Rousso, 62, was pulled aside by Customs and Border Protection agents after he arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Feb. 22, on his way to an academic conference at Texas A&M University; he would have been deported to Paris if the university hadn't intervened. Fox, 70, was detained after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 6 on her way to a conference in Milwaukee. Both were held for multiple hours and questioned aggressively about their visas; each had traveled to the U.S. dozens of times, and both say they are not sure they will ever return.
The CBP agents appeared to be convinced, incorrectly, that Rousso and Fox were violating immigration work laws because they received honoraria to cover travel and hotel costs. Rousso was held for 10 hours, finally released at 1 a.m. and told the CBP agent who first pulled him aside was "inexperienced." Fox was held for just under two hours, and CBP agents realized her visa was valid for her trip after 15 minutes of intense questioning in front of about 20 other people being detained, she says. "I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "When I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby." She lodged a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and got a "charming" email response, she tells The Washington Post. "I took it as an apology from all of America."
Fox's bestselling books, including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, are about the importance of tolerance and acceptance, also the theme of her talk in Milwaukee. Rousso is an expert on France's history after World War I, especially its role in the Holocaust and Vichy collaboration with Nazi Germany. Jason Mills, an immigration lawyer who helped secure Rousso's release, said such treatment of a visiting scholar was unusual, but immigration officers view their jobs differently under Trump: "Now they're looking really hard for reasons to deny, instead of reasons to admit." Peter Weber
Republicans have been railing against the Affordable Care Act since before it even passed, John Oliver noted on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, they can't just gripe about ObamaCare — and in fact, "all week long, Republicans have been dealing with an unexpected problem: constituents at town halls furious that ObamaCare might be taken away."
"So tonight, let's look at ObamaCare: what it does, what needs fixing, and how Republicans plan to replace it," Oliver said, and he started off by taking everyone back to "just how bad things were before it was passed." ObamaCare fixed some of the systemic problems — getting rid of coverage denial for pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. But even so, he said, "ObamaCare is not perfect. It had and has serious flaws," and Obama's "famously misleading" and structurally impossible claim about being able to keep your doctor has dogged the law.
On the other hand, in "something of a pattern," the GOP has "happily complained about the flaws in the law" while "often undermined the whole thing," Oliver said. "That time is now over. It is their turn to present a plan, and the clock is ticking." The GOP's replacement plan is frustratingly elusive, but we have a sense of "what Republicans want to do" from previous plans put forward by HHS Secretary Tom Price and House Speaker Paul Ryan, "and from these talking points that Ryan gave out ahead of the congressional recess."
Oliver walked viewers though the pros and cons of talking points they'll be hearing a lot about from the GOP — "refundable tax credits," "health savings accounts," Medicaid "block grants," and "state high-risk pools" — and the one crucial term Republicans won't define: "continuous coverage incentive," or their mechanism to punish people who drop insurance coverage at any time. "Republicans are in a real bind here," Oliver said. "They need a plan, and soon. And what Price and Ryan have given them so far seems to shift costs from the government to the people, and from the healthy to the sick, and fewer people are going to be covered." Oh, and since the GOP keeps on bringing up Obama's promise about keeping your doctor, he added, "let me remind you what Donald Trump has promised that you are going to do." Watch below — there is quite a bit of NSFW language, plus an unpalatable image of a man in a thong. Peter Weber
The lead-in to the presentation of the best screenplay Oscar at Sunday's Academy Awards had nothing to do with script-writing and everything to do with Jimmy Kimmel's celebrity feud with Matt Damon. In the pre-shot video, Kimmel is seated in a movie theater, talking about the first time he saw Damon's 2011 film We Bought a Zoo. "That's the thing about Matt, you know," Kimmel mused: "He has almost no discernible talent, but he works." Things didn't improve for Damon when he walked out onstage as the "and guest" to co-presenter and longtime friend Ben Affleck, who was obviously in on the joke and joined the ribbing.
Kimmel got the last laugh in this clip, but Damon didn't fare so poorly in the end: The film that won was Manchester By the Sea, which Damon produced with the winning screenwriter, Kenneth Lonergan, and starring Ben Affleck's younger brother, Casey, who went on to take the best leading actor Oscar. You can watch Kimmel end on a high note, however, below. Peter Weber
To honor Bill Paxton, the star of Twister who died on Saturday, close to 200 storm chasers used GPS coordinates to spell out his initials on a map showing Oklahoma's stretch of Tornado Alley.
— Spotter Network Inc (@spotternetwork) February 26, 2017
The Spotter Network came up with the tribute on Sunday, with its president, John Wetter, telling The Associated Press the group has done this for a handful of chasers, but never for someone not in the field. In Twister, Paxton famously played a storm chaser researching tornadoes in Oklahoma.
The National Weather Service also remembered Paxton, tweeting that Twister was "an inspiration to many budding meteorologists over the last 20 years. Thank you, Bill Paxton, a.k.a. Bill 'The Extreme' Harding." Catherine Garcia
Mel Gibson lost the Oscar for Best Director and Meryl Streep didn't win Best Actress, but they can at least cry into their swag bags, filled with thousands and thousands of dollars worth of random items.
This year's Oscars host, Jimmy Kimmel, and each of the nominees in the actor, actress, supporting actor and actress, and director categories received gift bags put together by Lash Fary. They were given so many products that they actually didn't come in bags — they were crammed into two large pieces of luggage. The most expensive retail item included was the $599 Oomi Intelligent Smart Home, the Los Angeles Times reports, which allows the A-listers to control their lights and security systems at home through an app. They also were gifted trips to Hawaii, Italy, Northern California, and the Golden Door spa; customizable Crayola crayons; an electric scooter; and a CPR kit.
None of this is sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and last year they sued Fary, alleging trademark infringement. Fary told the Times he makes it clear his gift bags, distributed by Distinctive Assets, are not affiliated with the Academy. He also revealed that only about 10 percent of nominees ever redeem the trip vouchers — in 2009, for example, Viola Davis, then nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category, received a free African safari, Fary said, and she calls him every year for an extension. This is a marketing expense for the companies that participate, he said, as "we're not doing this as philanthropy. One of the questions I often get is, why are we gifting people who are rich and famous? Well, a gift doesn't have anything to do with a person's means or their bank account. And it's not exactly free, because the brands get to leverage the celebrities' names." Catherine Garcia
President Trump and wife Melania Trump hosted 46 governors and their spouses at the black-tie Governors' Ball on Sunday evening, the first big social event of the Trump White House. President Trump appeared pleased with the night and his first month in office, telling the governors in his dinner toast that thanks to the first lady, the candle-lit "room, they say, has never looked better, but who knows?" He was also impressed with the turnout: "I hear this is a record number of governors, 46, and that's the highest number that has ever shown up to this evening." ("No fact-check was immediately available," The Washington Post said, perhaps a touch self-deprecatingly.)
"I can say that after four weeks — it's been a lot of fun — but we've accomplished almost everything we've started out to accomplish," Trump said, contradicting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "The borders are stricter, tighter. We're doing a really good job. Gen. Kelly has done a great job, militarily," he added, referring to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. "We're very happy with the way things are working but, again, we've made a lot of promises over the last two years and many of those promises already are kept so we're very honored by that." He suggested the big topic for Monday's meeting with the governors will be health care, and ended by raising his glass of water. Watch below. Peter Weber
Guess what, Anne Hathaway and James Franco? Your stint hosting the Oscars in 2011 is no longer the most embarrassing moment in Academy Awards history. That honor now goes to everyone involved with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announcing La La Land as the winner of the Best Picture award, rather than the actual winner, Moonlight.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, Beatty and Dunaway presented the Oscar for Best Picture. Beatty opened the envelope, looked at the card, then started rummaging around for another piece of paper. The audience laughed, thinking he was joking around, and Dunaway even urged him to get on with it and name the winner. He handed Dunaway the envelope, and she declared that La La Land won.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2017
The La La Land team came up onstage and the producers had enough time to thank several people before the error was realized — Beatty and Dunaway had announced the wrong movie, and Moonlight was the real winner. After having to be told several times "this is not a joke," the audience whooped and cheered, host Jimmy Kimmel tried to smooth things over, and Beatty explained that the card he was given had said "Emma Stone" and "La La Land" and he "wasn't trying to be funny."
Stone told reporters she was holding her Best Actress envelope "the whole entire time." Eagle-eyed former teenage doctors shared images on social media showing Beatty holding an envelope that said "Actress in a Leading Role," and because there are two sets of cards for every category, it is entirely possible that Stone had one card and Dunaway and Beatty the other. Still, there are now more questions than answers — were Bonnie and Clyde set up to make it look like they wanted to rob Moonlight of its win? Are we sure Denzel Washington really lost to Casey Affleck? How does Russia fit into all this? Can I be in charge of the show next year?
UPDATE: In a statement released early Monday, accounting firm PwC took responsibility for the embarrassing mix-up, explaining that "the presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope," and "we are currently investigating how this could have happened." PwC, which has tallied votes for the Academy for 83 years, apologized to "Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers." Catherine Garcia