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March 20, 2014

Could this be a publicity stunt or an inside job? Sure. But the fact that Wheel of Fortune contestant Emil made his extraordinarily lucky (or talented?) guess on the first try, combined with the stunned reaction from host Pat Sajak and seasoned letter-turner Vanna White, suggest that it's probably a legitimate game-show miracle.

Among those impressed? Sajak:

Peter Weber

7:24 a.m. ET
Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

After 12 years in office, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in Sunday's national elections, though it was the worst showing since 1949 for both her conservative Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). The recently formed Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won about 94 seats in the 709-seat Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, making it the third-largest bloc and the first right-wing nationalist party to win seats since World War II. Merkel's bloc will have about 246 seats.

The SPD, which had governed in coalition with Merkel's Christian Democrats, said it will go into opposition, leaving Merkel with a narrow path to a governing majority, likely with the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens — called a "Jamaica coalition" because the parties' colors form the Jamaican flag. Merkel said she'd hoped for a "better result." But the AfD had its own issues. At an AfD news conference on Monday, party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry, who had unsuccesfully pushed for excluding extremist members, announced that "after long reflection," she wouldn't caucus with her party in the Bundestag, then walked out without taking questions. "I'd like to apologize in the name of my party," co-chairman Joerg Meuthen said after she left. "This wasn't discussed with us." Peter Weber

6:15 a.m. ET

Players in all 14 of Sunday's National Football League games and most NFL team owners registered their objections Sunday to President Trump's two days of comments and tweets about NFL players who protest racism and police violence during the pregame national anthem. Dozens of players knelt but virtually all of them locked arms during the national anthem in solidarity against Trump's comments in Alabama on Friday night that owners should fire "son of a bitch" players who declined to stand during the anthem. At least three owners joined their teams on the field during the anthem, two singers took a knee, and the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and all but one Pittsburgh Steeler stayed in their locker rooms until after the anthem was finished.

In a long series of tweets, Trump portrayed the protests begun by unsigned former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as against the American flag, but even NFL players, coaches, and commentators who disagree with kneeling during the anthem — and many of them do — recognized the protests as about being against racial injustice and the mistreatment of minorities. On Fox Sports, for example, Terry Bradshaw said the players were exercising their constitutional rights, adding, "not sure if our president understands those rights, that every American has the right to speak out and also to protest."

Sunday's displays of protest were an unprecedented rebuke and show of solidarity, in a league with enforced conformity and short contracts, though Trump seemed fine with one form of protest against him.

Some of the fans booed the players who knelt on Sunday. But all but two team owners — Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson — issued statements supporting their players or criticizing Trump. Most surprisingly, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, a friend of Trump's and generous political donor, said he was "deeply disappointed" by Trump's comments. Miami Dophins safety Michael Thomas had a more personal response. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m. ET

If you don't believe that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, watch John Oliver orchestrate politicians of all stripes saying that phrase in sync. "It's true, 'small businesses are the backbone of our economy' is that rare thing that every politician agrees on," along with "support the troops," something NSFW about Ted Cruz, and Sen. John Thune's (R-S.D.) good looks, Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But despite what you might have heard, America is not in a "golden age of small-business startups," thanks, he argued, to rampant corporate consolidation.

Decades of virtually unchecked "merger activity has helped make some sectors of our economy ridiculously consolidated," Oliver said, citing airlines, rental companies, beer, search engines, and other industries. "In fact, look, full disclosure here, even our own parent company, Time Warner, is currently trying to merge with AT&T, which makes this story a little dangerous for us to do," he said, adding to the danger by savagely insulting AT&T multiple times. The U.S. has had antitrust laws on the books for more than 100 years, and there is some benefit to consolidation, Oliver explained, "but since the late 1970s, that balance has tipped decidedly in favor of being merger-friendly, which has led to real problems," for workers and consumers alike. It is past time to more strictly enforce those laws, he said, suggesting that should be a political no-brainer.

"The point here is, we seem to have forgotten how important antitrust is, and now we're all being forced to live with the consequences," Oliver said. "Because this issue affects almost everything you do." You can watch his examples below, including the "menacing tone of a Bond villain" Luxottica's CEO used in describing his acquisition of Oakley. Be warned, some of it is NSFW. Peter Weber

3:12 a.m. ET

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver had a wry laugh at a pair of private-jet scandals in President Trump's administration, starting with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's extensive use of chartered private jets to travel the country at taxpayers' expense. Oliver didn't just poke at Price, a millionaire, taking publicly funded private jets, but also at CNN's graphics department, showing his own saltier alternative transportation methods to get Price to Philadelphia on the cheap. He also had a laugh, apropos of nothing, at Price's onetime mustache.

"But for sheer brazenness here, Price has to take a fully reclinable back seat to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a man whose appearance provides us with the answer to: 'What if income inequality dressed up as me, John Oliver, for Halloween?'" Oliver said. He ran through the various flaps about Mnuchin and his new wife, including their government-jet trip to Kentucky and a breathtakingly tone-deaf request. "It's true, a man worth an estimated $300 million asked to use a government jet for his European honeymoon," he said. In denying impropriety, Mnuchin "causally insulted the entire state of Kentucky," Oliver said, and you can watch him recreate that moment below. Peter Weber

2:35 a.m. ET

Senate Republicans and President Trump have not given up on their last-ditch effort to significantly modify Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, which needs to pass this week to avoid a filibuster from Democrats. On Sunday night, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) released a new draft of their Graham-Cassidy bill, designed to win over holdouts in part by sending more money to Alaska, Maine, Arizona, and Kentucky, the home states of four key senators.

The new version of Graham-Cassidy also includes a special carveout for Alaska, a 25 percent increase in federal matching Medicaid funds. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has not said how she plans to vote, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are pretty hard no votes, and on Sunday's CNN State of the Nation, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said it would be "very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill," citing its changes to Medicaid, weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and the lack of a Congressional Budget Office analysis of its effects.

In addition to the new funds for certain states, the new draft would make it easier for states to scrap federal insurance requirements, often without a waiver, including increasing the caps on out-of-pocket costs and allowing insurers to drop coverage for maternity care, mental health treatment, drug addiction, and other benefits now deemed essential. It would also allow states to create "multiple risk pools" for healthy and sick people. "This revised bill is tantamount to federal deregulation of the insurance market," said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "If there were any doubt that people with pre-existing [conditions] are at risk of being priced out of individual insurance, this bill removes them."

The main hospital, doctor, and insurance groups released a rare joint letter Saturday opposing the bill, though GOP donors are reportedly upset that ObamaCare is still law. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin that "right now, they don't have my vote. And I don't think they have Mike Lee's either," referring to a GOP colleague from Utah. Republicans can only lose two votes. Peter Weber

12:43 a.m. ET
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Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, has used a private email address he set up after the election to communication about White House matters with other administration officials, Politico reported Sunday and Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, confirmed. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, set up the private family domain and new email addresses in December.

Kushner mostly "uses his White House email address to conduct White House business," Lowell said in a statement. "Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account," mostly "forwarded news articles or political commentary." To comply with the Presidential Records Act, Kushner forwarded all non-personal emails to his White House account, Lowell said, and "all have been preserved in any event." The lawyer did not say who determined which emails were personal and which were business-related.

Other White House officials have also conducted business over personal email, including former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Politico reports. During the 2016 campaign, Trump relentlessly hammered opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of private email while secretary of state, a practice that led to a lengthy FBI investigation. Trump still talks of having the Justice Department prosecute Clinton. There is no indication that Kushner sent classified information over his private email account, and a government official tells The New York Times that unlike Clinton, the Kushners did not set up a private server. Still, Politico says, "Kushner's representatives declined to detail the server or security measures on it." You can read more at Politico. Peter Weber

12:00 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

On Sunday evening, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation placing indefinite travel restrictions on visitors from eight nations: Chad, Libya, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Somalia. Sudan was dropped from Trump's original travel bans, the latter of which expired Sunday, while Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela were added. The proclamation, which Trump administration officials say carries the weight of an executive order, spells out different restrictions for different countries, ranging from total bans for North Korea, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Chad to just a ban on Venezuelan government officials and their families. It goes into effect Oct. 18.

A senior administration official said the new travel restrictions are "conditions-based, not time-based," and could be revisited if a country becomes willing or able to meet minimum passenger screening and information-sharing standards. Trump's ban on refugees, set to expire Oct. 24, will be addressed separately. It is unclear how the new proclamation will affect the Supreme Court challenge to Trump's travel bans set to be litigated in oral arguments Oct. 10.

Trump's second ban, most of which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect over the summer, affected Muslim-majority countries. With the new ban, "six of President Trump's targeted countries are Muslim," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the U.S. — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban. ... President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list." The White House denies that the ban targets Muslims specifically. Peter Weber

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