March 28, 2014

Italy's new government is cleaning out its garage. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is putting 150 flashy government-owned vehicles for sale on eBay in an attempt to cut costs as the country aims to reduce a 2 trillion euro debt. Bidding ends April 15 for dozens of Alfa Romeos, BMWs, Lancias, and even a Maserati.

Although selling the cars won't do much to dent Italy's massive debt, the move is a symbol of Renzi's promise to cut back on ostentatious spending during a time of economic hardship. Currently, most of the bids are for a grey Alfa Romeo 166 that's going for 8,600 euros. Jordan Valinsky

3:17 a.m. ET
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On the heels of Bill O'Reilly being let go from Fox News amid allegations of sexual harassment, another Fox News host, Sean Hannity, is being accused of asking a former network contributor to go back to his hotel room with him; after she declined, he allegedly retaliated by never inviting her back to appear on Fox News.

In an interview with Oklahoma radio host Pat Campbell, Debbie Schlussel said that before going on Hannity's show, he invited her to a book signing in Detroit. As she prepared to leave the event, Hannity asked her, "'Why don't you come back with me to my hotel?'" she said. "And I said no, I have to get ready for the show." Before they went on the air, Hannity allegedly said the pair should "double-team" another guest, a phrase Schlussel said she thought was "weird," and when the show started, "Every time I tried to open my mouth and say something, they yelled at me and said obey your host, you can't say anything or else we're gonna shut off your microphone."

Schlussel told Campbell that once the show was over, Hannity again invited her back to his room, and she rejected his advances. He later called her and "yelled at me," she said, and she "got a very weird feeling about the whole thing, and I kind of knew I wouldn't go back on his show. I wasn't booked on a show again." This wasn't that out of the norm for the network, she asserted. "This kind of stuff is all over the place at Fox News and anything that has to do with Sean Hannity."

In a statement to the New York Daily News, Hannity said Schlussel's allegations are "100 percent false and a complete fabrication." He called her a "serial harasser who has been lying about me for well over a decade" and said he will "fight every single lie about me by all legal means available to me as an American." Previously, Schlussel has accused Hannity of running a scam charity and plagiarism. Catherine Garcia

2:35 a.m. ET

The Trump White House is insisting that Congress include $1.4 billion in funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall in a spending bill that has to pass this week to avoid a government shutdown. Republican leaders in Congress are unenthusiastic about the demand, in part because they need Democratic support to pass a spending bill and Democrats are generally opposed to funding President Trump's border wall. So are many Republicans, including several who represent areas along the border. In fact, The Wall Street Journal found, "not a single member of Congress who represents the territory on the southwest border" said they support the border wall funding request.

There are nine House members from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California whose districts abut the Mexico border, and eight senators from those states. The three GOP House members argue that the money would be better spent on other border-related measures, as do Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have voice skepticism of Trump's wall, but they declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal about the budget request. All six Democratic House members and four border-state Senate Democrats were staunchly opposed to the wall.

White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, who is pushing the funding demand, was unmoved. "You're always going to have constituencies within both parties that have local issues — we get that," he told The Journal, insisting that GOP leadership was on board because "they know it's a priority for the president." The representatives of border districts, even those advocating for stricter border security, say Trump's focus on a physical wall is misplaced and a waste of taxpayer money. Drug smugglers and human traffickers "will go over, through, or under physical barriers, sometimes pretty quickly," Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) told The Wall Street Journal. Last month, the newspaper found similar sentiments among Arizona's border ranchers, who strongly support Trump. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:12 a.m. ET
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A new report by the Anti-Defamation League finds that there has been a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since the 2016 presidential election.

The ADL has recorded 541 anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017, up 86 percent from a year earlier, with six physical assaults; 380 episodes of harassment, including 161 bomb threats; and 155 acts of vandalism, including destruction at three cemeteries. "There's been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016," said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, "and what's most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months."

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that in New York City this year, through March 5, 55 anti-Semitic crimes were reported, up 189 percent from the same time period in 2016. Both of these studies say the election and political climate are partly to blame for the increase in incidents, and Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, told NBC News that technology is also making it easier to commit hate crimes. "Extremists and anti-Semites feel emboldened and are using technology in new ways to spread their hatred and to impact the Jewish community on and off line," Segal said. Catherine Garcia

1:25 a.m. ET
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President Trump wakes up to Fox & Friends, regularly slips out of the Oval Office to watch cable news in the small adjoining dining room, and keeps the TV on when he retires to his private residence, sometimes hate-watching shows critical of him and discussing it on the phone with friends, The Washington Post reports. "Once he goes upstairs, there's no managing him," one adviser said. Some confidants say Trump still watches MSNBC's Morning Joe, but Trump tells The Associated Press he no longer tunes in to negative coverage of himself on CNN and MSNBC, to his own surprise. "I don't watch things, and I never thought I had that ability," he said. "I always thought I'd watch."

What's undisputed is that Trump's cable news habit has upended Washington. Politicians and White House staff who appear on TV seem to have as much influence as those who meet with Trump in the Oval Office, proving TV to be one kind of great equalizer. But at the same time, White House aides and congressional Republicans are exasperated that Trump "can seem to be swayed by the last thing he sees on TV, a medium geared more for entertainment than actual policymaking," The Washington Post reports, or when they have to scramble "to reverse-engineer information to support his dubious assertions" on Twitter. And there are other ways Trump's TV habit affects the real world, The Post says:

The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions or a request for more information, and appears on TV himself when he wants to appeal directly to the public. ... Foreign diplomats have urged their governments' leaders to appear on television when they're stateside as a means of making their case to Trump. [The Washington Post]

Trump's advisors and allies say the 70-year-old president is served well by his "sophisticated understanding of how to communicate, the power of television," as senior counselor Kellyanne Conway says. And while Trump's obsession with cable news, especially Fox News, is unusual for a president, The Washington Post notes, in other ways it's "unremarkable, based on his profile. Fox News' average prime-time viewer last year, for instance, was 68 years old and mostly white, and the average American watches more than four hours per day, according to Nielsen data." You can read more about Trump and TV at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

1:06 a.m. ET

Put away the masks, creams, cleansers, and serums — a University of California, San Diego, professor says he has developed an acne vaccine that can take care of the disease.

"This is the first vaccine for human beauty," Prof. Eric Huang of the Department of Dermatology told NBC 7. "I think this vaccine has a huge market in the whole world." Huang said acne is caused by an overgrowth of the p. acnes bacteria inside a lesion, and when the bacteria releases a toxin called Christie-Atkins-Munch-Peterson (CAMP) factor, it causes inflammation. The human body can't neutralize this factor on its own, but the vaccine can. "It does not kill the bacteria," he said. "The vaccine neutralizes the bacteria, which everybody has."

After five years of work, there are two types of vaccines — therapeutic and preventative, which will be given to children in elementary school. The vaccine has been tested on mice and worked well, Huang said, and now, he needs to team up with a pharmaceutical company for large-scale clinical trials; if that happens soon, after FDA approval, the vaccine could be available within three to five years. Catherine Garcia

12:07 a.m. ET
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Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has no qualms about going after President Trump and his administration, and on Sunday, he called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "a racist" and "a liar," following his controversial remarks about Hawaii.

Last week, while discussing Trump's second travel ban that would have kept people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, Sessions said he was "amazed" that a federal judge "sitting on an island in the Pacific" had the power to block such an executive order. Lawmakers from the island in the Pacific, a.k.a. the great state of Hawaii, immediately criticized his comments, including Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, who said Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, "voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It's my home. Have some respect."

During an appearance Sunday on This Week, Sessions said he couldn't understand why no one saw the hilarity in his statement, suggesting that "nobody has a sense of humor anymore." Lieu — whose Twitter cover image shows side-by-side photos of the crowds at former President Barack Obama's first inauguration and Trump's, and whose bio states he doesn't "take orders from Vladimir Putin" — tweeted in response, "Dear 'Attorney General' Sessions: You are a racist and a liar. Actually, just joking. Oh wait, your record shows you are a racist and a liar." Ha. Ha. Ha? Catherine Garcia

12:04 a.m. ET

Former child star Erin Moran, best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham, little sister to Ron Howard's Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, was found dead Saturday at her home in Indiana. She was 56. Moran began acting when she was just 5, appearing in commercials and playing bit parts before she landed the role of Joanie at age 12. After 10 years of Happy Days, Moran and costar Scott Baio had a brief spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi, but after that, Moran never had a leading role again.

Moran was born Oct. 18, 1960, in Burbank, California, the fourth of five children raised in North Hollywood by their finance manager father and a mother who encouraged Moran's acting career and got her an agent. After Happy Days, Moran said she had mixed feelings about being a child star, and she took a break from Hollywood in the mid-1980s. "Such sad sad news," Howard wrote on Twitter Saturday night. "RIP Erin. I'll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens." You can watch a short remembrance of Moran's career below, from USA Today. Peter Weber

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