February 24, 2018

Heavy rains over the weekend are expected to exacerbate deadly flooding in the Midwest and southern Plains regions. Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes in affected areas from eastern Texas through southern Indiana, and at least three people, including one child, have been killed in connection to the floods.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has declared a 30-day state of emergency, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has issued a disaster proclamation for three counties. The National Weather Service advises caution of flash floods and tornadoes throughout the weekend. Bonnie Kristian

1:32 p.m. ET

The first trailer for the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood documentary is here, and it's a tearjerker.

Won't You By My Neighbor follows the classic children's show from its low-budget start on a Pittsburgh public TV station to earning its place in pop culture history. It promises an inside look at how Fred Rogers introduced tough topics to children, how he used the show as a vehicle for equality, and an explanation for his welcome message that became documentary's title.

It also promises to give you goosebumps.

Tuesday would've been Rogers' 90th birthday, and there are a few other ways to celebrate beyond watching the trailer: Twitch is hosting a marathon of the show, while Entertainment Weekly picked up fresh details on another Rogers-inspired film, You Are My Friend. The latter film is not a biopic, director Marielle Heller insists, and stars Tom Hanks as Rogers as he befriends a "cynical journalist."

We're still waiting for a glimpse of Hanks in a cardigan, but in the meantime, you can watch the trailer for Won't You By My Neighbor below. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:14 p.m. ET
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Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn dismissed Cynthia Nixon as being an "unqualified lesbian" after the actress announced she is going to challenge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. Quinn, who made her comments to the New York Post, also expressed irritation that Nixon endorsed her Democratic primary opponent for New York City mayor in 2013, Bill de Blasio.

"Cynthia Nixon was opposed to having a qualified lesbian become mayor of New York City," Quinn said. "Now she wants to be an unqualified lesbian to be the governor of New York. You have to be qualified and have experience. She isn't qualified to be the governor."

Quinn additionally praised Cuomo, saying the incumbent has "accomplished [a lot] including a $15 minimum wage" and "opposing fracking."

Nixon responded to Quinn in a statement, saying "her being a lesbian and my being a lesbian" is not the issue, and that the race is about "the corruption in Albany."

Cuomo has also taken shots at Nixon, a former Sex and the City star, telling reporters: "If it's just about name recognition, I'm hoping that Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Billy Joel don't get into the race." Jeva Lange

12:28 p.m. ET
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Trump administration appointees directed the cancellation of a successful teen pregnancy prevention program, despite opposition from Department of Health and Human Services experts, an NBC News report found.

The federal Teen Pregnancy Program was abruptly ended in August 2017, after seven years spent training more than 7,000 health care workers and 3,000 organizations, NBC News reports. The $213 million program helped lead to an all-time low in teen pregnancies and had bipartisan and medical expert support.

But HHS employees newly appointed by the Trump administration worked to end it in favor of pro-abstinence programs, NBC News reports. Internal notes and emails obtained by NBC News found that appointees overrode career HHS experts' objections and violated federal laws, making decisions that obstructed the authority of Congress. In one note from July 2017, the director of the Office of Adolescent Health — which oversaw the Teen Pregnancy Program — wrote that she was told that her "responsibility" was to "implement the administration's agenda, whether we like it or not," and that she should "get in line."

HHS officials said that the shuttered teen pregnancy program was ineffective and did not fit within President Trump's proposed budget. Experts counter that a substantial amount of the program's funding had already been invested, and terminating the program meant wasting millions in taxpayer money that had been put towards partially-completed research.

Trump administration appointees included Teresa Manning, an anti-abortion activist, and Victoria Huber, who ran abstinence-only and religion-based sex education programs in Ohio. Read the full report at NBC News. Summer Meza

12:27 p.m. ET

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken into custody by the police over allegations that he received suitcases containing millions of euros in illegal campaign financing from the government of then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, The Associated Press reports. Sarkozy has denied the allegations, which first arose in 2013 and were later fueled by French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine telling an investigative website that he was involved in the transportation of the cash.

Sarkozy served from 2007 to 2012 and initially extended a welcome to Gadhafi. Sarkozy was later involved in advancing NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi's troops; the Libyan leader was eventually captured and killed by rebels in 2011.

Overall, Sarkozy is accused of accepting some 50 million euros from Gadhafi's regime during his presidential campaign in 2006 and 2007. "Such a sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time of 21 million euros," writes AP. "In addition, the alleged payments would violate French rules against foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds."

Separately, Takieddine is accused of providing illegal campaign funds to conservative politician Edouard Balladur in 1995. Jeva Lange

11:53 a.m. ET

President Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone Tuesday morning, congratulating Putin on his electoral victory over the weekend. In a statement, the Kremlin said Trump called to "congratulate" Putin on his win, calling the conversation "constructive" and "businesslike."

Putin won re-election Sunday, apparently with more than 75 percent of the vote, though "videos of ballot-stuffing at polling stations across Russia surfaced throughout the day," The Washington Post reports. Critics have dismissed the election as a "charade," the Post adds.

The White House on Monday had denied there was a call between Trump and Putin scheduled for Tuesday, CNN's Kaitlan Collins noted. It has yet to release its own readout of the call. In 2012, when Putin began his second stint in office, former President Barack Obama called to congratulate him on his victory. Kimberly Alters

Update 1:09 p.m. ET: The White House released its readout of the call, which you can read here.

10:50 a.m. ET
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President Trump will loosen rules governing the export of lethal drones to U.S. allies, Reuters reports, and may announce these changes as soon as this month.

The president has been lobbied by American drone manufacturers, who say foreign rivals are beating them on the international market thanks to fewer restrictions in their home countries, like China and Israel. Trump is expected to cast the change as a feature of his "Buy American" campaign, which also includes his steel and aluminum tariffs plan. Though rules may not be changed for the Predator drone, the white craft that has become the face of the U.S. drone war, sources told Reuters that both surveillance craft and smaller drones that carry fewer missiles over shorter distances will be affected.

In recent years Washington has only approved armed drone sales to the United Kingdom and Italy, but potential buyers under the new rules include South Korea, Japan, Australia, and India, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, plus NATO allies and "many of the 35 signatories to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)."

Read The Week's Peter Weber on whether U.S. drone strikes amount to war crimes. Bonnie Kristian

10:41 a.m. ET

Severe storms hit Alabama on Monday night, causing major damage and leaving debris that trapped several people as winds shredded buildings and cut off power lines.

Tornadoes swirled and hail pelted the region, slamming northern Alabama and bringing strong winds and stormy weather to parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina.

"There has been significant damage tonight in parts of Alabama," Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a statement. That damage caused at least one person to be injured in Jacksonville, a city northeast of Montgomery, CNN reports, where winds tore apart homes and roofs. Fire department crews were deployed to search for people trapped by debris, and several areas implemented curfews to keep people sheltered until the worst of the storms had passed.

Baseball-sized hail came down in some parts of Alabama, causing significant damage to cars and buildings:

Severe weather is expected to continue through Tuesday, but without the threat of tornadoes, reports CNN. Summer Meza

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