John Oliver knows you probably don't want to watch a 15-minute segment on abortion, so he began the main story of Sunday's Last Week Tonight by talking about breast implants. After he abruptly switched topics, earning a gasp from the audience, he pleaded with his viewers: "Before you change the channel, I know this is a polarizing topic." Actually, most people's views on abortion are somewhere in the middle, Oliver said, though if you are part of the 19 percent who told Gallup that abortion should never be legal, "you are, frankly, excused from watching the rest of this."
Oliver started off by saying that, thanks to the 1992 Supreme Court ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey, "women can be asked to jump through a few hoops, just not too many," to obtain an abortion under state laws. The effect of that ruling is that in four states, there is only one abortion clinic, and lots of other states are implementing so-called TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) that are forcing the closure of dozens of clinics. Oliver walked through some of those laws, what they claim to do — protect women's health, mostly — and what they actually do, then issued his call to action. "Abortion cannot just be theoretically legal," he said. "It has to be literally accesible."
Because a frank discussion of abortion and abortion laws is a tough topic for a comedy show, Oliver mixed in some jokes for levity. To end on a note more conducive to a good night's sleep, he finished up the show with a video of baby sloths in a bucket, and because he has a TV show of his own, he brought in an adult sloth wearing a night cap to try to head off any nightmares (assuming you're not terrified of sloths). If a discussion of abortion laws and some mildly NSFW language doesn't bother you, watch below. Peter Weber
Prosecutors say alleged secret agent Maria Butina offered sex for a job, was in touch with Russian intelligence
Alleged Kremlin agent Maria Butina lied to obtain a student visa in 2016 and offered to have sex with an American in order to get a job at an unidentified special interest organization, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Butina, who was arrested Sunday, is charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of the Russian government, with prosecutors saying she was part of a campaign to influence high-level politicians to go along with Russian objectives. She allegedly started by infiltrating conservative circles, including the National Rifle Association, in order to gain access to politicians, all while staying in contact with Russian intelligence operatives and an oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin.
Prosecutors said she lived with a Republican political operative that she referred to as her boyfriend, but she had "disdain" for him and made him do her homework for classes at the American University, The New York Times reports. It's believed that Butina worked under the direction of Alexander Torshin, the deputy head of the Russian central bank with ties to Russian security services. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied Butina bail, after prosecutors argued she was a flight risk. If convicted, Butina could face up to 15 years in prison. She has not been charged with espionage, and this case is not part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling. Catherine Garcia
Columbo is now living the dream, enjoying life on a horse ranch in Maine just days after being found on the side of the road, injured after being hit by a car.
Mountain biker Jarrett Little was on a ride near Columbus, Georgia, when he found the stray dog near a sewage plant. His leg was broken, his ribs were showing, and there was no way he could walk. Little hoisted him up on his back, and rode seven miles into downtown Columbus, where he stopped at a bike shop so Columbo could get some food and water. There, Little met Andrea Shaw, in town on business.
Columbo immediately sidled up next to her, and Shaw, an animal lover, was smitten, too, and decided she would take care of his medical treatment and take him home to Maine. She gave him the name Columbo in honor of the town, then took him to the vet. He's healing now, with staples and pins in his back leg and a full cast on his front leg due to a broken toe, and Shaw said he's loving getting to know his new family, including Shaw's young son, husband, and other dogs. "I already can't imagine what it would be like without him, and it's only been a week," she told Inside Edition Catherine Garcia
Teacher on plane receives donations from fellow passengers who overhear her gushing about her students
When Kimberly Bermudez got off her Southwest Airlines flight to Jacksonville, she was $530 richer, but the money isn't for her — it's for the first-graders she teaches at a low-income elementary school in Chicago.
While chatting with the passenger next to her last week, Bermudez shared the challenges of being a teacher at a school where some kids come to school hungry and others are homeless, but also the joy they bring her. She told him she often uses her own money to buy kids clothes and hygiene products, and her fellow passenger said his company donates to schools like hers.
Bermudez said her school would welcome any and all donations, and soon felt a tap on her shoulder. The man sitting behind her said he'd been listening to their conversation, and he wanted to help. He handed Bermudez a stack of cash and told her, "Do something amazing." Not long after, the man across the aisle said he didn't have much cash on him, but wanted to give her something, and slipped Bermudez $20. Before the plane landed, the man in front of Bermudez also joined in, giving her $10.
Bermudez told The Washington Post she started to cry, and explained she wasn't trying to fundraise. One of the men told her "that's why we're giving it to you. Use your voice. Use your gift of talking." Bermudez received $530, and said she plans on using the money to buy books, backpacks, and school supplies for her kids. Catherine Garcia
Enraged diplomat at 'a loss' over White House even considering letting Russia question former ambassador
A livid diplomat told The Daily Beast's Spencer Ackerman that he's at "a f—king loss" over the White House refusing to rule out letting Russian officials question a former U.S. ambassador.
Russian prosecutors said on Wednesday that they wanted to interview Michael McFaul about a case against Russian President Vladimir Putin's foe, Bill Browder; McFaul said he was not in Russia during the pertinent time frame. When asked about Russia's request, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would only say there had been "some conversation" about it between President Trump and Putin Monday in Helsinki; State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert later called the idea "absolutely absurd."
Ackerman spoke to several current and former State Department officials, who can't believe the White House isn't squashing the request. "It's beyond disgraceful," a current diplomat said. "It's fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government."
Trump, the diplomat declared, has been "[defecating] on our NATO allies and kissing Putin's ass," because he "cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it." In a callback to Trump's Access Hollywood tape, the diplomat added, "Either he's compromised by Putin or he's a pussy, in which case he should grab himself." Catherine Garcia
During a meeting in Trump Tower on Jan. 6, 2017, Donald Trump, just weeks from being inaugurated as president of the United States, was shown highly classified intelligence that indicated Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered cyberattacks to influence the 2016 U.S. election, The New York Times reports.
Trump was briefed by former CIA Director John Brennan; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and Adm. Michael Rogers, former director of the National Security Agency, with the evidence including texts and emails from Russian military officers and information from a source close to Putin who covertly told the CIA how Russia executed its disinformation and hacking campaign.
Several people at the briefing told the Times Trump sounded "grudgingly convinced," but since the inauguration, has been reticent to publicly call Putin out, as seen in Helsinki on Monday, yet quick to ridicule Brennan and Clapper. One of Trump's closest aides told the Times Trump is afraid if he ever admits the campaign was successful, it will delegitimize his presidency. For more about the meeting, and the lengths Brennan went to protect the human sources who funneled information to the CIA, visit The New York Times. Catherine Garcia
FBI Director Christopher Wray affirmed on Wednesday that he is confident in the assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and said Moscow is still working to sow discord in the United States.
Russia is using propaganda and fake news items to "spin up" Americans, Wray said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, and he brushed off Russian President Vladimir Putin's idea of having his country help U.S. authorities investigate 12 Russian military intelligence officials indicted last week on hacking charges. The offer is "not high on our list of investigative techniques," Wray said. Catherine Garcia
The Interior Department's deputy inspector general notified House Democrats on Wednesday that its internal watchdog has launched an investigation into a real estate deal involving a foundation started by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Montana and several developers, including Halliburton Chairman David Lesar.
The probe will look into whether Zinke violated conflict of interest laws. The real estate deal involved his wife, Lola Zinke, signing an agreement allowing developers, including Lesar, to build a parking lot for a redevelopment project that could raise the value of land Zinke owned nearby, Politico reports.
Critics say Zinke and his family shouldn't be involved in any business deals with anyone connected to oil and gas, as Zinke is one of the chief regulators overseeing those industries. Catherine Garcia