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August 17, 2015

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took on the preachers and the sinners — or, more precisely, the TV preachers who prey on their congregants to finance their lavish lifestyles, and the IRS that is legally bound to let them. "There are roughly 350,000 congregations in the United States, and many of them do great work: Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor," Oliver explained, lest you think he is anti-religion. "But this is not a story about them — this is about the churches who exploit people's faith for monetary gain."

Televangelists were a big deal in the 1980s, until many of them were publicly disgraced, but "though you may not realize it, televangelism is thriving in this country," Oliver said. You may have heard of Creflo Dollar's congregation-funding drive for a new $65 million private jet, but that's apparently a common request for televangelists. And it's only the tip of the iceberg.

This would all be funny, Oliver said, if there weren't real victims — and not just financial ones. Cue a terrible story about a woman who sent Gloria Copeland and her husband thousands of dollars instead of getting cancer treatment, because Copeland said that was a better bet. And to follow the money, Oliver sent hundreds of dollars to televangelist Robert Tilton over seven months of correspondence — and he shared the highlights with viewers.

Everything these "prosperity gospel"–touting preachers do is not only legal, but tax-free, Oliver noted sourly, but he wasn't just shooting spitballs. He talked to a tax lawyer and founded "Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption," a real church per IRS guidelines, "and it was disturbingly easy," he said. It's not clear if he really wants you to send him and "Wanda-Jo Oliver" (Rachel Dratch) money to prove his point, or perhaps to get him busted by the IRS, but it's probably safest to sit on your wallet and wait for the follow-up episode. There is some mild swearing, but you'll learn something if you watch the video above. Peter Weber

September 22, 2017
Courtesy image

If your art collection has outgrown your wall space, closet those canvases and install the Depict Frame ($899), a 49-inch screen fashioned like a framed painting. Though it's not the first digital canvas — Samsung's Frame TV also displays art — the image here is superior. Color-­calibrated and coated with a matte finish, the 4K UHD screen is optimized for displaying fine art in sharp detail. Using an app, you can cycle through images in Depict's collection, to which new pieces are added each month. For $20 a month, you can upload your own works, and that subscription also grants access to a curated collection of thousands of paintings. The Week Staff

September 22, 2017

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) friendship won't be ending over a difference of opinion on the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill. Shortly after McCain announced Friday that he would vote against Graham's effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, Graham tweeted that he respected McCain's opinion, though he disagrees with it:

Graham proceeded to lay out his case for the bill, which he's angling for Republicans to vote on next week:

He ended his series of tweets with a vow to "press on."

Three 'no' votes would kill the bill, and McCain is the second Republican, following Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), to oppose it. Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill by a simple majority vote. Becca Stanek

September 22, 2017

On any given day, Washington, D.C.'s utility company, Pepco, spends its time concerned about things like power outages and power lines — certainly not domesticated rodents. All that changed when 8-year-old Serenity wrote the company with a "firm, straightforward request" for a hamster, NBC Washington reports.

Serenity had made the understandable mistake of mixing up Pepco with Petco, the pet supply company. She promised in her letter to work extra hard at school and around the house if she could get the pet. "Lest her point be missed, at the bottom of the letter, she drew a hamster that took up half the page," NBC Washington writes.

Despite not exactly being in the hamster business, Pepco decided to surprise Serenity on Friday. Take a look at the photos below. Jeva Lange

September 22, 2017

The National Weather Service of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is reporting an "extremely dangerous situation" due to a dam failure that threatens Isabela Municipality and Quebradillas Municipality in the territory's northwest. "Buses [are] currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can," the agency reported, adding: "Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life."

The flooding follows Hurricane Maria's thrashing of the Caribbean; Puerto Rico remains completely without power, and it's expected to get as much as 35 inches of rain in some areas by Friday. Now a Category 3, Maria was packing winds of up to 125 miles per hour as it slammed the southeastern Bahamas on Friday. Jeva Lange

September 22, 2017
John Moore/Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton's forthcoming political thriller, which he co-authored with bestselling author James Patterson, is headed to the small screen, Variety reported Friday. Showtime has acquired the television rights for The President Is Missing, which won't even be published until 2018.

"Bringing The President Is Missing to Showtime is a coup of the highest order," Showtime president and CEO David Nevins told Variety. "The pairing of President Clinton with fiction's most gripping storyteller promises a kinetic experience, one that the book world has salivated over for months and that now will dovetail perfectly into a politically relevant, character-based action series for our network."

The President Is Missing "will offer readers a unique amalgam of intrigue, suspense, and behind-the-scenes global drama from the highest corridors of power," according to the press release. "It will be informed by insider details that only a president can know." Learn more about the forthcoming TV show at Variety. Jeva Lange

September 22, 2017

Mere minutes after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was a "no" on the Graham-Cassidy bill, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel was tweeting his thanks. Kimmel's rapid response solidified just how invested he is in stopping the GOP health-care bill, which he has been tenaciously criticizing all week.

Though McCain hasn't technically completely killed Republicans' latest attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare, as he did in July when he cast the deciding vote, his opposition nudges the Graham-Cassidy bill that much closer to its demise. Already, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced his opposition, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Friday she's "leaning against" voting in favor of the bill.

Three "no" votes would kill the bill, and make Kimmel's day. Becca Stanek

September 22, 2017

In the words of one confused White House official to Politico, "no one is quite sure what [Tom Price] is doing." Trump's health and human services secretary has reportedly exceeded $300,000 in chartered flights since last May, including one befuddling charge of $25,000 for a 135-mile flight from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., on a private jet.

Notably, President Trump campaigned as an enemy of wasteful government spending, even signing an order in March that required "a thorough examination of every executive department and agency, to see where money is being wasted, how services can be improved, and whether programs are truly serving American citizens," in the words of one White House official to the Washington Examiner.

Even more bewildering, Price himself has been an outspoken opponent of wasteful spending, as Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) pointed out Friday:

HHS spokesperson Charmaine Yoest defended Price's flights as necessary. "He has used charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule," she told Politico, characterizing his flights on Learjets as evidence of his focus "on hearing from Americans across the country." Jeva Lange

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