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February 7, 2017
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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) expressed unreserved outrage over Tuesday's 51-50 Senate confirmation of President Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos: "It's not a job for amateurs who don't know the first thing about education," said Franken in his statement, after Vice President Mike Pence took the Senate floor to cast the tie-breaking vote. "I voted against the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, because she is the most incompetent Cabinet-level nominee I have ever seen."

Republicans have called DeVos, a school-voucher proponent, the kind of reformer the education system needs. Democrats have criticized Republicans' support for DeVos, pointing to her family's $200 million in donations to conservatives. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) grilled DeVos on that point during her Senate hearing, demanding to know: "Do you think, if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?"

Franken echoed Sanders' frustration Tuesday. "Last night I urged my Republican colleagues to oppose [DeVos'] nomination, because if we cannot set party loyalty aside long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president's nominees, then I don't know what we are even doing here," he said in his statement. "Betsy DeVos has demonstrated that she is fundamentally unqualified to lead the Education Department, and it's a shame that Republicans voted to confirm one of their major donors instead of looking out for our children." Jeva Lange

9:51 a.m. ET
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After securing its first black Bachelorette — and all the positive press that came along with the poise and humor of Rachel Lindsay — the Bachelor franchise nonetheless found itself in the midst of controversy this month after allegations of sexual misconduct shuttered production on its summer spin-off show, Bachelor in Paradise.

On Wednesday, CNN Money offered a glimpse at the contract contestants of Bachelor in Paradise sign before appearing on the show, acquired from a "source close to production." The contract requires contestants to forfeit a breathtaking amount of control over their own likenesses:

After reviewing parts of the contract provided to her by CNN Money, Nicole Page, a New York-based entertainment attorney at Reavis Parent, said that it meant, from the producers' perspective, "I can basically take your image and do whatever I want with it and I own it and you have no recourse." [...]

If a news program twisted the facts about people in this way, they could be sued — and they would likely lose the case. But all of this kind of manipulation is fine on Bachelor in Paradise. The contract makes that clear: Contestants sign away to producers "the right to change, add to, take from, edit, translate, reformat or reprocess... in any manner Producer may determine in its sole discretion." And, once the producers have done all that editing, the contestants understand that their "actions and the actions of others displayed in the Series may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavorable nature and may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation, or condemnation." [CNN Money]

Contestants further cede their right to a jury trial should they sue the show for any reason, agreeing to subject their claims to the confidential arbitration process. Another lawyer told CNN Money that the contract is "clearly ... one-sided."

An investigation by parent company Warner Bros. into the alleged incident during filming of this season Bachelor in Paradise, in which consent between two intoxicated contestants during a sexual encounter was at issue, concluded there had been no wrongdoing. Production will resume, though the contestants involved will likely not return to the show. Read more about the rules of Bachelor in Paradise at CNN Money. Kimberly Alters

9:44 a.m. ET

President Trump appointed a registered foreign agent earning six figures from the Saudi government to the Commission on White House Fellowships, The Center for Public Integrity reports. The Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has reportedly paid Richard Hohlt some $430,000 for advice since January.

"Trump's decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President's Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president's vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests," The Center for Public Integrity notes.

Serving on the commission means Hohlt is one of 19 others responsible for making recommendations of candidates for the prestigious White House fellowships (past recipients include former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Trump's transportation secretary, Elaine Chaio). Hohlt confirmed he met this month to interview candidates, which is the commission's only annual responsibility.

"Appointing someone who is registered under FARA as doing work for Saudi Arabia does seem odd at a time when [Trump has] made a very big deal about not having people leave the [government] and then do work where they have to register under FARA," Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, told The Center for Public Integrity.

Read the full report at The Center for Public Integrity. Jeva Lange

8:52 a.m. ET
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An independent report found that the Church of England concealed a former bishop's sexual abuse of young men for two decades, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to call the church's behavior "inexcusable and shocking," The Guardian reports.

"The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward. This is inexcusable and shocking behavior," Welby said. The bishop in question, Peter Ball, was jailed in 2015 for admitting to the abuse of 18 men between the ages of 17 and 25 who had sought his guidance over spiritual concerns. Neil Todd, one of Ball's victims, attempted suicide three times before killing himself in 2012.

Welby ordered the review of how the church handled the case, with investigators finding Ball "was seen by the church as the man in trouble who the church needed to help."

"The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself," the report concluded. Dame Moira Gibb, who chaired the investigation, recommended the church "demonstrate the individual and collective accountability of bishops" and make efforts to improve the support of victims of clerical abuse.

"We can never be complacent," Welby said in response to the report. "We must learn lessons." Jeva Lange

8:23 a.m. ET

Ever since Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, reporters have struggled to figure out how to address his exaggerations, insinuations, spins, misinformation, and outright lies. All of the above came to a head during his speech on Wednesday night in Iowa, and in her coverage of the event, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman refreshingly did not tip-toe around calling Trump out when he was wrong.

And he was wrong a fair bit:

Haberman added that Trump, in a moment of apparent self-awareness, "tried to catch himself at one point, saying, 'I have to be a little careful, because they'll say, 'He lied!'" Read Haberman's full coverage of the event here. Jeva Lange

8:00 a.m. ET

Trevor Noah described his reaction to the newly released dash cam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile in a heartbreakingly sober segment of Wednesday's The Daily Show. "I won't lie to you," Noah said. "When I watched this video, it broke me. It just, it broke me."

Last week, officer Jeronimo Yanez was ruled "not guilty" for the shooting of Castile, a point that Noah found particularly disturbing. "It’s one thing to have the system against you," he explained. "But when a jury of your peers, your community, sees this evidence and decides that even this is self-defense, that is truly depressing. Because what they're basically saying is: In America, it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because they are black."

"Forget race," Noah added. "Are we all watching the same video?" Jeva Lange

7:23 a.m. ET
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National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers reportedly told the Senate and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team that President Trump had asked them to publicly announce there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, CNN reports based on statements by multiple people familiar with the hearings.

The request from Trump was made in March, apparently just a few days after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed a probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A public hearing earlier this month did little to elucidate what unfolded in the intelligence directors' conversations with the president, in part because when the intel chiefs sought guidance from the White House on whether the talks were protected by executive privilege, they did not receive an answer. Both firmly stated they did not feel pressure from the president to interfere in the ongoing investigation, although they described their interactions with Trump as uncomfortable and strange, and did not ultimately act on his request.

Rather, the directors "recounted conversations that appeared to show the president's deep frustration that the Russia allegations have continued to cloud his administration," CNN reports. Read more details of Coats' and Rogers' conversations here. Jeva Lange

1:42 a.m. ET

When the deputy overseeing their work detail passed out last week, six Georgia inmates rushed to save his life, performing CPR and calling 911 from his phone.

They were outside doing lawn maintenance at a cemetery in hot weather — it was 76 degrees with 100 percent humidity — when the officer, who asked not to be identified, collapsed. The inmates immediately opened his shirt and took off his bulletproof vest, then began CPR. "When that happened, in my opinion, it wasn't about who is in jail and who wasn't," inmate Greg Williams told WXIA. "It was about a man going down and we had to help him."

The officer was unconscious for about a minute, and then started breathing again. "They really stepped up in a time of crisis and show that they care about my officers," Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats told WXIA. "That really speaks a lot about my officers, too, how they treat these inmates. They treat them like people. Like family." To show their appreciation, the officer's family later treated the inmates to lunch and dessert. Catherine Garcia

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