September 6, 2013

A sorority at the University of Alabama reportedly offered some of its members free drinks, Hummer limo rides, and other incentives for voting in the district's Board of Education election. In an email, sorority members residing in a district in Tuscaloosa were encouraged to vote for two candidates who were university alumni. The members were offered free limo rides to the election, "points" for their sorority, and vouchers for free drinks at a local bar. Both candidates were elected by a slim margin. Samantha Rollins

8:11 a.m. ET

Following the election of Republican Greg Gianforte to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's vacated House seat in Montana on Thursday night, Democrats might be feeling pessimistic after a series of close, but ultimately unsuccessful, special elections. Yet "these are tangible signs of progress for Democrats and indicators that the House could be in play in 2018," Axios writes. "Princeton electoral politics statistician Sam Wang, citing a 12-point GOP underperformance in the Kansas race, and a 7-point underperformance in Georgia [which will have a runoff between the Democrat and the Republican candidates in June], emails Axios that 'even a 5-point underperformance in November 2018 would be enough to put House control within reach for Democrats.'"

As it turns out, this could even be a case of history repeating itself. A "similar situation" occurred in 2009 "when three blue-state seats opened up following Obama's win," Axios writes. "The GOP gained ground in each of those special elections (without winning), foreshadowing the 2010 midterms when Republicans picked up 63 seats and took control of the House."

Read the entire analysis at Axios. Jeva Lange

8:01 a.m. ET

"Jamie Foxx, the most talented man on Earth," Jimmy Fallon said at the end of their game of Random Genre Generator on Thursday's Tonight Show, and Foxx's performance made a pretty good case that Fallon wasn't just gushing. Foxx certainly has the musical and acting skills to excel at Fallon's game, which matches a song with a genre of music, purportedly at random, forcing the participant to sing the song in the correct style. Fallon is good at this, too, and his '50s crooner rendition of "Can't Feel My Face" is spot-on. But Foxx drew some hard combinations, and he spun them into gold. This is why he's a star. Watch below. Seriously. Peter Weber

7:37 a.m. ET

Large physical brawls are often messy and chaotic, and it's difficult to sort out who punched whom, who kicked whom, and who started the whole thing to begin with. Sometimes, though, it is crucially important to do so, such as in the case of the fight between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail and unarmed protesters, many of whom were American citizens, last week.

Already recollections of the brawl have devolved into a game of he-said she-said. The U.S. State Department expressed its "concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms" and on Thursday called in Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kiliçto meet with U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon about the incident. Turkey parried by accusing United States personnel of "aggressive and unprofessional actions" and the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it gave the U.S. ambassador to Turkey a "written and verbal protest" of actions that are "contrary to diplomatic rules and practices" and demanded a "full investigation of this diplomatic incident."

Luckily, cameras happened to be rolling and their footage can offer some answers. In an extremely detailed play-by-play, The New York Times has broken down split-seconds of the fight, following actors in the incident including "men in dark suits," "men in khaki," "civilian supporters of Erdogan," and "the president's entourage."

Explore the brawl, and reach your own conclusions, at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

7:24 a.m. ET

A group of eight to 10 gunmen dressed in military uniforms attacked a bus and pickup truck carrying Coptic Christians to St. Samuel Monastery in Egypt's Minya province, about 140 miles south of Cairo, witness and Egyptian officials say. At least 20 people were killed in the attack, including children, The New York Times reports, citing Egyptian state media reports; The Associated Press puts the toll at 24 dead, 25 wounded. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but groups linked to the Islamic State said they had carried out other recent attacks on Egypt's Coptic minority, and ISIS's Egyptian branch pledged stepped-up attacks against Christians after Pope Francis visited Egypt last month.

"We are having a very hard time reaching the monastery because it is in the desert," Ibram Samir, a Christian official in Minya province, tells The New York Times. "It's very confusing. But we know that children were killed." Egypt's Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and they have long complained of harassment and discrimination, but attacks against the community have increased since Pope Tawadros II and other Coptic leaders backed President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi after he took control of the government from a democratically elected president from the Muslim Brotherhood. Peter Weber

6:54 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On May 11, the Director of National Intelligence's office declassified some rulings by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, explaining why the National Security Agency had limited its surveillance of emails and text messages from American citizens. Most of the ruling concerned the NSA's apparently since-corrected use of Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, but, as Circa notes, 83 pages into the 98-page ruling, the FISA court reserved some criticism for the FBI, too.

The FBI has access to certain FISA data from the NSA, but it's required to follow privacy "minimization procedures" and it can't share the FISA data with anyone outside the government, among other restrictions. But on at least two occasions, the FBI shared raw FISA data with private contractors (whose names and functions are redacted), apparently for analytical purposes, and the court notes that the government acknowledged in October that it's "investigating whether there have been similar cases in which the FBI improperly afforded non-FBI personnel access to raw FISA-acquired information on FBI systems."

The contractors were trained on FBI minimization procedures and "stored the information only on FBI systems, and did not disseminate it further," the court said, and though the FBI has correct its identified violations involving contractors, "the court is "nonetheless concerned about the FBI's apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI is engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported."

In a statement to Circa, the FBI said that "as indicated in its opinion, the court determined that the past and current standard minimization procedures are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and met the statutory definition of those procedures under Section 702." Congress has to renew the FISA Amendments Act this year, or it expires, and lawmakers are trying to figure out where to draw the line between privacy rights and legitimate counterterrorism and law enforcement. Peter Weber

5:23 a.m. ET
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Boston on Thursday night, 135-102, sending them to the NBA Finals — where, for the third straight year, they'll face off against the Golden State Warriors. This is the first "threematch," or match of a rematch, in NBA history, though there won't be a threepeat — the Warriors won in 2015 and Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to win last year. Cavs star LeBron James has more impressive bragging rights — this will be his eighth consecutive trip to the Finals, and ninth overall. Game 1 will be on June 1, and the teams seem pretty evenly matched: Golden State has a better record, but in the two times they faced each other in the regular season, each team took one game. Peter Weber

4:20 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the House Republican health-care bill, and it no longer projects that 24 million fewer people will have health insurance in a decade — now it's only 23 million. "To put that in perspective," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, "if you lay 23 million people end-to-end, they would reach a country where you can get health care." The CBO also said the bill would raise premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850 percent, he noted. "So I think the GOP repealed and replaced your grandpa."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) says the Senate will start from scratch, since "I don't know how we get to 50" votes with the House version. Well, Colbert said, "if this passes, getting to 50 will also be the new lifespan goal."

"The CBO is already having a huge political impact," Colbert said, recapping Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, then playing the audio Jacobs captured of the altercation. "That's good reporting right there," Colbert said. "He knows there's no video, so he's narrating his own body-slam."

The election was Thursday (spoiler: Gianforte won), and the body-slamming was Wednesday night. "It's gotta be pretty damaging, I just don't know how anyone could vote for a candidate who body-slams people," Colbert deadpanned, cueing up a clip of President Trump body-slamming someone. "I forgot: nothing matters. But that reporter may have gotten off easy." He played an actual commercial where Gianforte shot a computer screen, but ended up expressing fake sympathy for the congressman-elect, and showed that he, Stephen Colbert, has been known to body-slam interlocutors, too.

Meanwhile, the Russian investigation is still looming over Trump "like a congressman over an unconscious reporter," Colbert said. We now know that former FBI Director James Comey kept detailed notes of his questionable communications with the White House, and "news of these notes has some people freaking out," especially White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, he said. "The Comey note that Priebus is most worried about would've been written back in February," when Priebus reportedly called Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, and asked them to "knock down" the reports of communications between Trump's associates and Russia. There is a Chumbawamba joke in there, and also a questionable Masterpiece Theatre one, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

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