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August 12, 2016

Leslie Jones, Olympics superfan, had a pretty incredible Thursday in Rio.

First, the actress and comedian met snowboarder and two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White.

"I've watched you for years, homie!" she shouted with glee. "I watched you when you had crazy Carrot Top hair, now you're all Backstreet Boys looking!" She went on to run into legendary gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi, who asked her to do a cartwheel in a hallway:

Later, she made her way to the aquatic center to watch members of Team USA, including Michael Phelps and Simone Manuel, win gold. While there, she encountered another Olympics enthusiast: Matthew McConaughey.

Jones' entire joyful Twitter feed from the day, which includes videos showing what it's like behind the scenes in Rio, is definitely worth a look. Now, we wait to see what Friday has in store for her. Catherine Garcia

6:33 a.m.

Volodymyr Zelensky, a comic actor with no political experience who played an accidental Ukrainian president on TV, was sworn in as president on Monday. During his inauguration ceremony, Zelensky announced he is "dissolving the Verkhovna Rada," or parliament, setting up snap elections. Parliamentary elections had been scheduled for October, but Zelensky campaigned on cleaning out parliament of lawmakers he accused of corruption and self-enrichment. "People must come to power who will serve the public," he said on Monday.

Zelensky, 41, crushed outgoing President Petro Poroshenko in last month's presidential runoff election, earning 73 percent of the vote. In his inaugural address, Zelensky said his top priority is ending the five-year-old conflict with Russian-back separatists in Eastern Ukraine. "I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there," he said. "I'm ready to lose my popularly and, if necessary, I'm ready to lose my post so that we have peace." Zelensky gave his address in Ukrainian, but he switched to Russian to express his conviction "that for this dialogue to start, we must see the return of all Ukrainian prisoners."

Zelensky has released few details of his governing agenda, but he laid out a broad vision for Ukraine in his address. "We must become Icelanders in football, Israelis in defending our land, Japanese in technology," he said, and "Swiss in our ability to live happily with each other, despite any differences." Although he was trained as a lawyer before becoming a TV star, Zelensky gave a nod to his fame as a comedian. "Throughout all of my life, I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh," he said. "In the next five years I will do everything so that Ukrainians don't cry." Peter Weber

5:29 a.m.

The Trump administration is going to start unveiling its long-promised Israeli-Palestinian peace plan at a June 25-26 economic "workshop" in Bahrain, the White House announced Sunday. The conference, involving finance ministers and business executives, is being described as Phase 1 of the peace initiative, with the second part, dealing with difficult political solutions that have thwarted earlier peace attempts, being rolled out later this year.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead the U.S. delegation with Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law. Kushner and Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt have worked on the plan for two years.

The goal of June's conference is to secure tens of billions of dollars from wealthy Gulf Arab states and donors in Europe and Asia. The reported target of $68 billion would go toward infrastructure, industry, and government reform in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. "Just as they have done in their sometimes highly leveraged real estate businesses," The New York Times says, Trump and Kushner "hope to use other people's money to achieve their goals. The vast bulk of the funds they hope to generate as part of the plan would come from other nations, not the United States."

Middle East experts cast doubt on the efficacy of putting the economic carrots in front of the political thorns. Israel, whose government has only taken a harder line against Palestinians since the last election, is expected to send its finance minister. The Palestinian Authority, which has ruled out the Trump administration acting as peace brokers due to its pro-Israel leanings and actions, is not expected to send anybody. On Sunday, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the conference "futile," since "any economic plan without political horizons will lead nowhere," and any political plan that doesn't "include a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital" is a nonstarter. Peter Weber

4:01 a.m.

John Oliver used his last Game of Thrones lead-in to discuss death. "Specifically, this story is about the people who investigate deaths when they happen," he explained on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "And if you're thinking, 'I don't want to see that on TV,' are you completely sure about that? Because death investigators aren't just supporting characters on some of the most popular shows."

"In real life, every year about 2.8 million Americans die," Oliver said, and while doctors identify cause of death on most death certificates, "if someone dies under suspicious or unnatural circumstances, their body may be sent for further examination and possibly a forensic autopsy. That's what happens to about a half a million bodies each year, and those investigations are incredibly important. A death certificate isn't like a degree from USC — it actually means something." Autopsies are important in murder investigations, but they also highlight trends in drug deaths, help identify defective products, and warn of infectious disease outbreaks.

"So tonight, let's learn about our death investigation system, specifically how it works, why it's such a mess, and what we can do about it," Oliver said. First, medical examiners and coroners aren't synonymous — medical examiners must be doctors, coroners are often elected, with shockingly few qualifications. That's "frankly weird enough," he said, but "in some jurisdictions, the coroner is also the county sheriff, and that has led to some serious problems."

The medical examiner system is better, but there are problems there, too, Oliver said. "The resources crunch is so bad that some offices wind up outsourcing work to private contractors, and this is where this story gets absolutely incredible." He focused on one contractor. "Look, I know this issue is tempting to ignore — it combines two things that people hate thinking about the most: Death and municipal funding," he said. But he tried to make it palatable, roping in Beyoncé, Glenn Close's spleen, and Tracy Morgan. (There's NSFW language.) Peter Weber

2:25 a.m.

All the major players in the intensifying standoff between the U.S. and Iran say they do not want war, usually with a caveat. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia's foreign affairs minister and and the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps both reiterated that their countries aren't looking for war but aren't afraid to fight, either. President Trump has similarly said he doesn't want war with Iran, but.

On Sunday afternoon, Trump tweeted: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" Trump's threat to obliterated Iran may have been in response to initial reports of a rocket fired into the Green Zone in Iraq — the State Department confirmed Sunday night that a "low-grade rocket" landed harmlessly about a mile from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad — but Matthew Gertz at Media Matters has another theory:

Gertz had more evidence Trump was live-tweeting Fox News, including Trump's tweet attacking his favorite network for hosting Democrat Pete Buttigieg. Still, it's not like Trump has been silent about Iran over the past week. In a Fox News interview broadcast Sunday night, but recorded last week, Trump said he's "not somebody that wants to go in to war, because war hurts economies, war kills people, most importantly." But, he said, "I just don't want them to have nuclear weapons and they can't be threatening us."

"The current tensions are rooted in Trump's decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions," The Associated Press reports. "Iran has said it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels if a new nuclear deal is not reached by July 7. That would potentially bring it closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran insists it has never sought." Peter Weber

12:18 a.m.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, did a Fox News town hall on Sunday, and he took a few moments to criticize the network's own prime-time opinion hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. President Trump didn't tweet about that, but he did criticize host Chris Wallace for noting that the 37-year-old mayor, a war veteran and Rhodes Scholar who speaks several languages, "has a lot of substance" and a "fascinating biography," while never saying the same things about Trump.

Now, if you were an outside journalist, like The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, you might recap Trump's tweet as: "The president openly tells a news network they are not doing enough to favor him." A Fox News stalwart like Brit Hume had a slightly different angle, but he also found the tweet offensive enough to merit a rare rebuke of Trump.

Trump, who had his own one-on-one interview air on Fox News Sunday night, was retweeting Hume sticking up for him a few hours later, so no bad blood there. Former Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), now a conservative talk show host, tweeted that the whole episode highlights an "under-reported" fact about Trump: "He really doesn't do much. People assume that, as president, he's really busy. He's not. He watches TV, he tweets, he does rallies. About it." Peter Weber

May 19, 2019

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in Montgomery, Alabama, on Sunday, protesting against the state's new abortion law, the most restrictive in the nation.

Under the law, almost all abortion procedures are prohibited, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The only exemption is if the woman's health is at risk. The march ended at the state capitol, where protesters shouted, "My body, my choice!" and were joined by representatives from Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. "I think it's barbaric," protester Melissa Perdomo told WSFA. "It's a step back."

Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said her organization and the ACLU will "be taking the state of Alabama to court very soon. We'll see Gov. [Kay] Ivey in court. We've fought bills before and haven't lost a fight yet, and we don't plan to lose this one, either." Protesters also gathered in other Alabama cities, including Huntsville and Mobile. Catherine Garcia

May 19, 2019

In 2016 and 2017, anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank flagged several transactions involving accounts controlled by President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as suspicious, but executives chose to ignore their reports, current and former bank employees told The New York Times.

Multiple transactions, some involving Trump's now-shuttered foundation, set off alerts in a computer system that detects potentially illegal activity, the employees said. Workers are supposed to look over these transactions, and those deemed suspicious are reported to the Treasury Department unit covering financial crimes.

In one case, the computer system flagged several transactions involving Kushner's real estate company during the summer of 2016. Former anti-money laundering specialist Tammy McFadden told the Times she looked over the transactions, discovered money had been moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals, and determined these transactions should be reported. Instead of going to Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering experts, her report and supporting documents went to New York managers who were part of the private banking arm, which works with the extremely wealthy, the Times reports. They chose not to forward her report to the government, and McFadden told the Times she believes their decision was motivated by their desire to maintain a close relationship with Kushner.

Deutsche Bank has lent both Trump and Kushner companies billions of dollars, even when other financial institutions wouldn't work with Trump. Congressional and state authorities investigating the relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank have requested records related to Trump; in April, the Trump Organization sued the bank, attempting to block it from complying with congressional subpoenas. For more on the suspicious Kushner and Trump-related transactions, visit The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

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