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January 3, 2018
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On Tuesday, H. Brandt Ayers, the chairman of Alabama's Consolidated Publishing and former publisher of one of its newspapers, The Anniston Star, acknowledged that he had spanked at least one female reporter in the 1970s. Former Star editor Trish O'Conner said she had received a phone call from "very, very upset" 26-year-old police reporter Wendy Sigal in 1974. "She said Brandy had been to her apartment. He told her she had been a bad girl and she needed to be spanked — and he spanked her." Ayers, who was about 39 at the time, confirmed that account, The Star reports:

Ayers claimed Sigal had been out of work because of a psychological ailment. "I called the doctor and asked what should do, and he said 'calm her down,'" Ayers said. He said he asked the doctor if spanking would work, and the doctor said yes. Ayers said Tuesday he didn't recall the name of the doctor. O'Connor and one other Star reporter said they'd never heard of management contacting employees' doctors when they were home sick in the 1970s. [The Anniston Star]

Ayers also tacitly confirmed the account of another Star reporter, Veronica Pike Kennedy, who said Ayers spanked her in the newsroom in 1975, when she was in her early 20s; another former Star reporter said he witnessed the assault on Kennedy, and two other unidentified women told The Star that Ayers had also spanked them against their wishes, with sexual overtones. Ayers, who was publisher until 2016, said he has no intention of stepping down as chairman of his family's publishing company. "Of course not," he said. "I am the third generation of a family that has served honorably, even courageously, in the public interest." You can read more at The Anniston Star. Peter Weber

12:40 a.m. ET

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

12:06 a.m. ET
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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

July 18, 2018
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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

July 18, 2018
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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

July 18, 2018
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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

July 18, 2018
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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

July 18, 2018
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On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court pulled a measure to split up the state from the November ballot.

Proposition 9 was sponsored by venture capitalist Tim Draper, and called for the division of California into three states: California, Northern California, and Southern California. A conservation group sued, arguing the measure would abolish the state constitution, which cannot be done as a ballot initiative. The court ruled that "significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition's validity" and the "potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election."

The court agreed to rule on the measure's constitutionality at a later date, but University of Illinois law school dean Vikram Amar told the Los Angeles Times "they would not have removed it from the ballot unless it was their considered judgment that it is very likely not a valid measure that can go to the voters."
 Catherine Garcia

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