February 4, 2016
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Despite support from her fellow Republicans and the fact that she did better in Iowa than some of her counterparts, Carly Fiorina was not invited to participate in the ABC News Republican debate on Saturday.

The network said Fiorina did not meet its criteria — namely, she did not finish in the top three in the Iowa caucuses, and is not averaging in the top six in polls nationally and in New Hampshire. There won't be an undercard debate this time around, and Fiorina sent the Republican National Committee a letter asking that it "demand that media executives step aside and let voters hear from all of us." She received support from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and even rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who said she "deserves to be there." Also in her corner is the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who tweeted that Fiorina did better in Iowa than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and ABC would be wrong to "exclude" the "only woman" in the field.

In addition to Fiorina, Jim Gilmore was not asked to attend the debate. Invitations were sent to Donald Trump, Cruz, Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Christie, Kasich, and Jeb Bush. Catherine Garcia

8:50 a.m. ET
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Alabama is poised to vote Tuesday in a Republican runoff election between Senate candidates Luther Strange, the state's incumbent junior senator who is endorsed by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, a controversial conservative backed by Trump loyalists like Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Sarah Palin. "It's certainly a critical national race," political science professor Cal Jillson told Al.com. "All eyes will turn to Alabama over the next week."

RealClearPolitics' average of polls between Sept. 16 and 23 shows Moore with a strong lead going into Tuesday: 51.4 percent of voters lean Moore while just 42.6 percent lean Strange. "There are those who think that the potential success of Moore's candidacy could be a jumping off point for insurgent challengers to sitting GOP senators in 2018," explained Geoffrey Skelley, the associate editor of the University of Virginia Center for Politics' Sabato's Crystal Ball. Skelley added that while "a Moore win will galvanize insurgent forces in the GOP … it wouldn't necessarily guarantee the start of something bigger."

The race has been expensive and grueling, with Trump, who is popular in Alabama, even rallying for Strange in Huntsville on Friday. Still, there is grave concern in Washington that Moore will win nevertheless: "With Strange on the ropes and time running out, the party has launched a coordinated, scorched-earth campaign to take down Moore," Politico writes. "The sheer breadth of the anti-Moore campaign has stunned Alabama's political class: It includes non-stop TV ads, a meticulously crafted get-out-the-vote effort, and detailed, oppo-research-filled debate prep sessions for Strange."

The winner of the run off election will face a Democratic challenger on Dec. 12, but is expected to easily win in the deeply conservative state. On Tuesday, just 12 percent of the state's 3.3 million registered voters are expected to cast a vote between Moore and Strange, Al.com reports. Jeva Lange

8:10 a.m. ET

President Trump said Monday that his weekend onslaught against athletes who kneel for the national anthem "has nothing to do with race."

"It's about respect for our Country, Flag, and National Anthem," Trump tweeted, boasting that "many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total)."

The Associated Press counted more than 200 players who knelt or sat during the national anthem in solidarity against Trump, who had urged owners on Friday to fire "son of a bitch" players who declined to stand. Football players like Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, had priorly declined to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America.

"Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country," Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon. "Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!" Jeva Lange

7:47 a.m. ET
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Authorities in Puerto Rico are warning that Hurricane Maria has set the country back decades, with Gov. Ricardo Rossello stressing to The Washington Post that "we can't start overlooking us now that the storm passed, because the danger lurks." Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez added to The Associated Press that "the devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years."

Over the weekend, evacuees from a damaged dam in the territory's northeast began to return home because easing pressure on the infrastructure with a spillway apparently averted a potential crisis. Uncertainty about the situation in other parts of the island remains, though, with Rossello telling the Post on Sunday that he has yet to hear from six mayors in municipalities in the southern region.

Officially the death toll in Puerto Rico is 10 people, but there is concern that number could rise as communication with remote parts of the island returns. "Hysteria is starting to spread," said Manati Mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez. "The hospital is about to collapse. It's at capacity. We need someone to help us immediately."

"We are U.S. citizens that just a few weeks ago went to the aid of other U.S. citizens even as we're going through our fiscal downturn and as we were hit by another storm," added Rossello. "Now, we've been essentially devastated. Complete destruction of the power infrastructure, severe destruction of the housing infrastructure, food and water are needed. My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it's time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly."

Critics of the Trump administration are quick to point out that the president spent his weekend tweeting about the NFL while not once addressing the crisis in Puerto Rico. More than 3 million Americans live on the island. Jeva Lange

7:24 a.m. ET
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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

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