February 4, 2016
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In December, New Jersey ordered JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), a group that practices "gay conversion" or "reparative" therapy, shut down for violating state consumer fraud laws. Therapists with ties to JONAH have found refuge and clients in Israel, and they're not alone, The Associated Press reports. Many of the people seeking to overcome their homosexual attractions are Orthodox Jewish men who want to marry women and have families, or students at Orthodox seminaries. Israel's Health Ministry warns against therapy aimed at turning gay men straight, but there is no law against it. Several U.S. states have banned such therapy for minors, and leading U.S. medical groups call it ineffective and harmful.

"Since there is such a strong religious presence here, and I think political correctness isn't as prevalent, there's more openness about it, about this kind of therapy here," Dr. Elan Karten, a U.S.-trained psychologist who has treated some 100 people battling same-sex attraction in his eight years in Jerusalem, tells AP. He is one of about 20 or 30 licensed psychologists or social workers, plus 50 non-licensed therapists, who practice conversion therapy in Israel, according to Rabbi Ron Yosef, a critic of the anti-gay therapy. Another critic is Chaim Levin, who used to be a client of JONAH but is now suing them in New Jersey. JONAH is "exporting hatred and junk science to Israel," he tells AP. "People need to know." Peter Weber

11:14 p.m. ET
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Donald Trump quietly paid out $25 million on Tuesday night to settle litigation against his now defunct Trump University, one day before the deadline and three days before he is set to be inaugurated.

The funds were deposited into an escrow account by the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative (Trump University had to change its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative after New York officials told them to stop using the word "university"), and the $25 million will settle three lawsuits that said Trump University misled students into thinking they would learn actual useful tips about real estate by instructors handpicked by Trump. The settlement was reached on Nov. 18, and $21 million will go to thousands of class members in two cases out of San Diego, and $4 million will take care of a suit filed by the New York attorney general. A final approval hearing is set for March 30 in San Diego federal court. Catherine Garcia

10:24 p.m. ET
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Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz flew to Senegal early Thursday for a meeting with President Macky Sall after last-minute efforts to get Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh to peacefully step down failed, Reuters reports.

In a December election, Jammeh was defeated by real estate developer Adama Barrow, but a week after conceding, changed his mind. With the support of other leaders in the region, Senegal has threatened to invade Gambia in order to forcefully remove Jammeh, who has ruled for more than two decades and once said he would preside over Gambia for "a billion years." Barrow was supposed to be sworn in on Thursday at the national stadium, but a spokesman said the ceremony will now take place at an undisclosed location. As a precaution, tourists have been evacuated from the Gambian capital, Banjul. Catherine Garcia

9:28 p.m. ET
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Sonny Perdue, the Republican former governor of Georgia, has been chosen to lead the Agriculture Department, Trump transition officials told Politico Wednesday, the last position in the Cabinet to be filled.

A formal announcement is expected to be made on Thursday. Perdue was one of the first members of Donald Trump's Agricultural Advisory Committee, launched in August. Perdue earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia in 1971, and was a captain in the Air Force. Since 1977, he has owned several agribusiness and transportation companies, and in 2011, launched Perdue Partners, which facilitates the exports of U.S. goods and services. Catherine Garcia

8:52 p.m. ET

An investigation is now underway into how a German shepherd was treated on the set of the new movie A Dog's Purpose.

TMZ posted a video it says was filmed during the movie's production, showing a dog that appeared to be too frightened forced into churning water by a trainer, The Associated Press reports. American Humane, an organization that ensures animal safety on movie and television sets, said Wednesday it has hired an independent investigator to look into the incident, and has suspended the safety representative that worked on A Dog's Purpose.

Actor Josh Gad, who provides the dog's voice in the movie, released a statement on social media, saying he has asked Universal Pictures to explain the "disturbing images." The movie is "one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen," he said, but he is also "shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will." Catherine Garcia

8:03 p.m. ET

This is a much better gift than china — for their 20th anniversary, Scott Chafian of Suffolk, Virginia, will give his wife, Cindy, a kidney.

Cindy has polycystic kidney disease, which can cause the kidneys to shut down, and has been on dialysis for nearly two years. She's undergone several surgeries, and as Scott watched his wife's health get progressively worse, he knew he had to help her. With her blessing, Scott explored how to go about donating his kidney. In October, they found out he was a match, and the surgery was set up before Christmas.

On January 24, the day before their anniversary, Scott and Cindy, who have five children, will undergo their surgeries. "Instead of celebrating by having a big party, we're going to celebrate by being in different hospital rooms," Cindy told NBC Los Angeles. "He is literally giving me the gift of life." Scott thinks he's the lucky one. "She's been so sick for several years now," he said. "She'll say I'm giving her life back, but I'm getting my wife back." Catherine Garcia

7:10 p.m. ET
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On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Navient Corp., the country's largest servicer of student loans, claiming the company violated several acts and went out of its way to cheat borrowers.

"For years, Navient failed consumers who counted on the company to help give them a fair chance to pay back their students loans," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. "At every stage of repayment, Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs. Too many borrowers paid more for their loans because Navient illegally cheated them and today's action seeks to hold them accountable." Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, services private and federal loans worth more than $300 billion for more than 12 million borrowers.

The CFPB alleges that Navient misapplied or misallocated borrowers' payments, and incentivized customer service representatives to push borrowers into forbearance as opposed to income-based repayment plans, which racked up additional interest charges of up to $4 billion from January 2010 to March 2015. The agency also claims Navient violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, and the Dodd-Frank reform act, and allegedly told credit reporting agencies disabled Americans defaulted on their loans, when really they were discharged under a special program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Navient called the allegations "unfounded." Catherine Garcia

5:31 p.m. ET
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) brought a bottle of Trump water to Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee Scott Pruitt's Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, apparently to prove a point about the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan. "Trump water, natural spring water," Markey said. "On the label it says, 'Pure, fresh, and free from contaminants. This is water the way it was meant to be.'" While Trump hotel guests have the "luxury" of drinking this water instead of tap water, Markey said, low-income Americans don't have that option.

The big wind-up was so Markey could ask Pruitt if he would commit to making environmental justice for low-income communities a top priority if confirmed. Pruitt heartily agreed. You can watch the moment in its entirety at C-SPAN. Becca Stanek

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