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May 16, 2018

Attention true crime fans: HBO and Sky are teaming up to run a four-hour documentary series called The Case Against Adnan Syed, chronicling the murder conviction of Adnan Syed that inspired the wildly popular Serial podcast, Variety reported Wednesday.

Syed was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. He is currently awaiting a retrial on all charges, after an appellate judge granted him a new trial earlier this year. Sky said the ambitious documentary series will re-examine the events leading up to Lee's disappearance and present “groundbreaking" revelations.

Academy Award nominee Amy Berg will direct the series, which has been in production since 2015. There no release date yet. Read more at Variety. Mary Catalfamo

5:26 a.m.

These facts are uncontested: Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife met and befriended a 21-year-old male pool attendant at Miami's tony Fontainebleau hotel in 2012; they invested in a gay-friendly South Beach youth hostel at the recommendation of the pool attendant, Giancarlo Granda, and named him co-manager; they introduced Granda to Donald Trump at Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia in 2012; Falwell endorsed Trump for president in early 2016; and Trump's former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen told comedian Tom Arnold in March that he had intervened to protect the Falwells by trying to bury racy, kinky photos of them in late 2015, in a dispute involving the "pool boy" and the hostel.

Any strings tying those events together are speculative and disputed, as is their relationship to the 2016 presidential race, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Falwell, the son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell Sr., isn't an ordained minister, but his unexpected, pivotal endorsement of the thrice-married Trump "became a permission slip for deeply religious conservatives who were attracted by Mr. Trump's promises to make America great again but wary of his well-known history of infidelity" and other typical deal-breakers, the Times says. Trump's subsequent and enduring strength among white evangelicals helped propel him to the Republican nomination and the White House.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had been counting on strong evangelical support, and in mid-January 2016, Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, told the Cruz campaign that Falwell had committed to endorsing Cruz, two people involved in the campaign told the Times. When a top Cruz adviser called to speed up the endorsement, Falwell said he couldn't endorse anyone, blaming Liberty's board, then a few days later, he endorsed Trump, the Times reports.

The Falwells have denied that there are any compromising or embarrassing photos of them and say they were unaware Cohen had allegedly intervened on their behalf. Cohen, in jail, has not commented on the allegations Arnold covertly recorded him sharing. Read more about the bizarre story at The New York Times. Peter Weber

4:20 a.m.

"By now it's well established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and they're not done interfering," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. According to the FBI, Russia is already meddling in the 2016 race, so "keep an eye out for any suspicious online accounts — like anyone who says they're voting for Bill de Blasio," he joked. "But this week, we learned that the Pentagon is fighting back against the Russians," hacking into the country's power grid, according to The New York Times.

And also, according to the Times, nobody told Trump about the operation, and for "the reason you fear," Colbert said. "The military thinks they can't share intelligence with the commander in chief because he'll either stop the program entirely to protect Russia or go blabbing about it." He imagined the conversation with Vladimir Putin, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

2:50 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric reached a settlement with 14 local California governments on Tuesday to pay $1 billion in damages for a series of wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes. PG&E, which declared bankruptcy in January in anticipation of tens of billions in wildfire-related damages, said Tuesday's settlement is "an important first step toward an orderly, fair, and expeditious resolution of wildfire claims." Baron & Budd, the Texas law firm representing the 14 California communities, said the settlement will cover "taxpayer losses."

"This money will help local government and taxpayers rebuild their communities after several years of devastating wildfires," Baron & Budd said in a statement. "The cities and counties will be in a better position to help their citizens rebuild and move forward." The town of Paradise, mostly destroyed in 2018's Camp Fire, will get $270 million, and other money will cover damages from a 2015 fire in Butte County and 2017 fires in Northern California wine country. PG&E's downed power lines have been linked to several wildfires in the state. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

Trash doesn't stand a chance near Florida's Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier.

For 15 years, scuba divers have been meeting at the beach for an annual cleanup event, donning their masks and picking up trash from the ocean floor. Organizers decided it was time to break the Guinness World Record for the largest underwater cleanup, and 633 divers came out on Saturday to participate.

Guinness' Michael Empric counted as each diver entered the water, and for their time to count, they had to stay submerged for at least 15 minutes. Divers of all ages took part in the cleanup, with some coming from other states. They picked up signs, bottles, fishing weights, and other pieces of trash, and cheered when Empric let them know they shattered the previous record, set in Egypt in 2015. "Obviously, trash was collected, but the beauty of it is with 633 divers, we were able to do a very thorough cleaning," diver and environmentalist R.J. Harper told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "I have 600 new friends just as a result of this." Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m.

President Trump held a big re-election rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night, and for those Trump super fans unable to get into the venue, The Late Show explained the consolation prize:

Trump's "supporters started lining up nearly two full days before the event — apparently he hasn't brought all of America's jobs back, considering this is a Tuesday," Stephen Colbert said in his monologue. Trump tweeted about the pre-rally enthusiasm, with only a touch of vainglory. "He sees himself as a rock star!" Colbert said, combing his Trump voice with a Billy Idol classic: "You know, 'It's a nice day for a white rally.'" The actual band that played to warm up Trump's "45 Fest" crowd was called The Guzzlers, and Colbert gave them a bit of free publicity.

"Trump's rally tonight has added urgency because everyone's talking about how bad his poll numbers are — even Fox News' Bret Baier," Colbert said. "Ouch. Fox News, you pledged to be there for him for better or worse. You keep this up, he's going to leave you for a younger network. ... And Trump was watching Bret," tweeting that "polls are always bad for me," "More Fake News @BretBaier," and there's "something weird going on at Fox." Colbert agreed: "Something weird going on at Fox. They've started reporting — and I hope I'm pronouncing this right — the truth?"

At The Daily Show, Trevor Noah offered some thoughtful advice to Democrats hoping to be the target of the kind of insults Trump hurled during his actual Orlando rally: Don't try to roast Trump, because that's his game and he excels at it; focus on policy, because nothing intrigues swing voters more and deflates Trump quicker. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:18 a.m.

When you're the only student in the only school on a tiny island, your graduation draws a crowd.

Gwen Lynch lives with her family on Cuttyhunk, a Massachusetts island. On Monday, she finished the eighth grade and graduated from Cuttyhunk Elementary School, with about 100 people coming out to celebrate the milestone. One face stood out from the crowd: the commencement speaker, actress and comedian Jenny Slate.


Slate's boyfriend runs a writing workshop on the island, and she agreed to deliver a special message to Lynch. Before writing her speech, she chatted with the teenager, and learned all about her hopes, dreams, and life on the island. "I started to realize that you, who go to school by yourself on an island that is basically empty half the year, are still way cooler and more popular than I was as a teenager, who lived in a town and went to a school with lots of other people," Slate joked.

Lynch, who will attend a New Hampshire boarding school in the fall, wants to become an engineer, and Slate told her she was impressed by her moxie. "I hope you keep saying what you want to achieve and that you want to put your very own name on it," she said. "There is no shame in wanting to be recognized for your good work. Your no-frills confidence is pure and powerful." Catherine Garcia

12:05 a.m.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) attended President Trump's re-election rally in Orlando on Tuesday night. Graham and Rubio, both of whom ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, used to be critical of Trump's rhetoric and policies, employing language now used only by Democrats and #NeverTrump Republicans. Scott, when he was Florida's governor and running for Senate, skipped a Trump rally in Florida. These days Graham is Trump's golfing buddy and Rubio mostly supports Trump's polices.

During Trump's Tuesday night rally, which New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman described as "a bleak panoply of grievance and anger at Democrats, the media, and a reference to the Academy Awards," some journalists noted Rubio's previous critiques of Trump. Rubio tweeted back.

For a sense of how 2016 Rubio viewed Trump's divisive and ugly rallies, here's one example:

Rubio didn't seem entirely comfortable with Trump's rhetoric on Tuesday, but what's he supposed to do? Stay in Washington? Peter Weber

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