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February 13, 2018

Fox News host Sean Hannity has claimed with no evidence whatsoever that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., that he is in cahoots with the entire "liberal media," and that under his watch, a Democratic National Committee staffer was killed because he supposedly gave emails to WikiLeaks. Never one to miss something that definitely isn't there, Hannity's latest conspiracy involves "secret sperm cells" in Obama's official portrait. Yes, really.

Artist Kehinde Wiley's bold portrait of Barack Obama has been well received, with The Boston Globe calling the painting and its pair, Amy Sherald's portrait of Michelle Obama, "socio-cultural documents to surviving with grace and elegance." Obama praised Wiley's work at the unveiling Monday, saying: "What I was always struck by whenever I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power and privilege."

Hannity sees, well, something else. "Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley's wildly non-traditional portrait of the commander-in-chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling," Hannity's website alleges, "with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique — concealing images of sperm within his paintings."

Maybe not so much. Hannity got one thing right, anyway: It is nontraditional. Wiley's portrait of Obama "dismantles so much and creates new visions of masculinity that black men rarely have the public permission to explore," argues Teach for America's Brittany Packnett. Jeva Lange

Update 5:14 p.m. ET: Hannity later deleted the post from his site. In a statement, he said: "Earlier today my web staff posted content that was not reviewed by me before publication. It does not reflect my voice and message and, therefore, I had it taken down."

11:14 a.m. ET
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There's a new argument in the Apple vs. Android rivalry. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged Turks to stop using iPhones as a way to stick it to the U.S., reports The Guardian.

Erdogan argued that Turkish citizens should boycott American electronic products in order to protest the sanctions imposed last week. President Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum after Erdogan declared "economic war." Turkey's detention of an American pastor angered U.S. evangelicals, reports The Guardian, pushing Trump to punish the nation with strict sanctions that have contributed to the Turkish lira's downward spiral. Now, Erdogan wants revenge.

"We will boycott U.S. electronic products," he said. "If they have iPhone, the other side has Samsung." Erdogan additionally encouraged citizens to use Turkish smartphone brands. Turkey's president dug his heels in on his theory that the economy is suffering as a result of a larger conspiracy against the nation. "They do not refrain from using the economy as a weapon against us, as they tried in the areas of diplomacy, military, or efforts for social and political instability," he said.

Erdogan didn't offer any other details about his proposed boycott, but his defiance makes it clear that he's not ready to ease the diplomatic tensions between him and Trump. The lira recovered slightly Tuesday, but the nation still faces an economic crisis that could worsen before it improves. Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

10:53 a.m. ET
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The names of more than 300 Catholic priests facing child sex abuse allegations in Pennsylvania will be revealed Tuesday — and some of them are still in service.

Pennsylvania's attorney general launched an investigation into six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses after separate probes into the other two dioceses revealed rampant abuse, per The Associated Press. Now, two years and hundreds of allegations later, the 900-page report is ready to be released.

The report contains more than 90 names from Pittsburgh's diocese, including priests Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said were still in ministry, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "There is no priest or deacon in an assignment today against whom there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse," Zubik said Friday, implying that those facing unsubstantiated claims may still serve. Zubik acknowledged he'll have to meet with concerned parishioners whose priests appear on the list.

Decades of abuse allegations will appear in Tuesday's report, which was set to be released six weeks ago but was delayed by priests' petitions, per The Morning Call, a local Pennsylvania newspaper. Names of priests currently challenging the accusations will also be redacted in Tuesday's report.

Still, the Tuesday report will be one of the world's largest collective records of church sexual abuse, the Morning Call says. One piece of the report, which was kept largely secret until its impending release, damningly declares that "priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all." Kathryn Krawczyk

10:12 a.m. ET
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If you're a Republican candidate looking to throw a fundraising dinner, the location of choice in 2018 is a Trump-branded property.

This was not so four years ago, a McClatchy analysis has determined. In 2014, political fundraisers spent less than $35,000 on events at Trump properties — and that's for the entire two years of the midterm election cycle. Fully $15,000 of that spending came from a single campaign's spending at Mar-a-Lago.

In the 2018 cycle, by contrast, about 125 GOP campaigns and other political organizations have already spent more than $3.5 million at President Trump's properties. That includes spending for catering for fundraising dinners, hotel stays, and especially meals at Trump's hotel restaurant in Washington. "The simple fact is that our supporters and friends are excited when we" host them at a Trump location, a representative of America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, told McClatchy.

About $800,000 of that $3.5 million in political spending comes from Trump himself. His 2020 campaign has spent almost $700,000 renting space in Trump buildings, plus tens of thousands more on catering and hotel costs. The Republican National Committee, the Republican Governors Association, and the National Republican Senate Committee are major spenders as well.

Unsurprisingly, Democratic campaigns and organizations have steered clear. Bonnie Kristian

9:49 a.m. ET
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At least 23 people died and another 14 were injured when a bus crashed near Quito, Ecuador, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The long-distance bus was traveling overnight, and flipped after hitting another vehicle outside of Ecuador's capital, officials said. At about 3 a.m., the bus was passing through an area known as "dead man's curve" when it crashed and overturned. Emergency officials said the bus was Colombian-registered and was carrying Colombian and Venezuelan passengers who were on their way to Quito.

The tragedy unfolded just one day after another bus carrying Ecuadorean soccer fans crashed while traveling near Cuenca. The bus also overturned, killing 12 and injuring 30 who were traveling home after a match, BBC reported. Read more about the Quito incident at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

9:42 a.m. ET
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Two in 3 Americans are ready for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to wind down his probe into Russian election meddling efforts and alleged Trump campaign collusion. In fact, a new CNN poll finds, they'd like him to be finished by the midterms.

While answers vary along predictably partisan lines — fully 72 percent of Republican respondents said they're ready to shut it down — even most Democrats (57 percent) would like the investigation to end before it's time to vote. Mueller has led the inquiry since May 2017.

The same survey found 3 in 10 say Mueller's conclusions will be "extremely important" to their voting decisions. Democrats and those who disapprove of President Trump are more likely than average to want the probe results available to inform their vote. Additionally, 7 in 10 say Trump should testify for Mueller if requested, and 56 percent say they believe the president has already tried to interfere in the investigation. Bonnie Kristian

9:30 a.m. ET

At least 22 are dead after a bridge collapsed in the Italian city of Genoa on Tuesday, Italy's deputy prime minister told Reuters.

A harsh storm in the northern Italian city likely caused the raised highway to collapse, creating what "looks like an immense tragedy," Italy's transport minister wrote on Twitter. Tons of concrete and steel fell onto buildings, cars, and an industrial site below, raising concern about gas leaks, per The Associated Press.

At least 20 vehicles were involved in the crash, and rescuers have already pulled two people alive from the rubble, Italian news agency ANSA reported. Search dogs and around 200 firefighters are combing for more victims, though torrential rain is slowing efforts, The New York Times reported. It's an "apocalyptic scene," a witness told Sky Italia, per Reuters.

The bridge had previously shown "signs of problems," Italy's deputy transport minister told the Times. The bridge was restructured in 2016, and its foundation was being strengthened and constantly monitored at the time of the collapse, Reuters said. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:26 a.m. ET

It's unclear what prompted President Trump's mean tweet about former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman on Tuesday morning, but he sent this short diatribe exactly 18 minutes after CBS This Morning posted a new recording from Manigault Newman that purports to lend credence to her claim that the president was recorded saying the N-word.

Trump's new attacks on Omarosa — "crazed, crying lowlife" and "dog" — follow earlier tweets in which he called her a "loser" and "not smart." In other words, as author Isaac Fitzgerald noted in response to Trump's tweet, the president's not doing much to undermine Manigault Newman's assertion that he's a racist. Peter Weber

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