It's not all bad
April 11, 2013

Seven years ago, Evie Branan suffered a stroke that put her in a semi-coma. Then, in May 2011, she tumbled out of bed in her Michigan nursing home, hit her head, awoke, and spoke these nine magical words: "I want to go to a Bob Seger concert." Tonight, Branan gets her wish. A limo will pick the 79-year-old up and take her to the performance, which she'll enjoy from the front row. To top it off, she'll get to meet Seger and the band. "I'm going to hug him and give him and great big smooch," Branan told NPR. Lauren Hansen

Democrats Debate
7:01 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The five declared Democratic candidates for president will debate each other in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, but the CNN moderators are expected to focus the debate on the two leading contenders, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Also on the stage will be former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.). "The debates will alter the race," said Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic strategist and veteran of President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. "Clinton will no longer be running against herself," she said, adding that time is running out for the bottom three candidates, and one in particular: "This is the last best chance for Martin O’Malley."

The Democratic Party is pretty united on policy issues, so CNN will be trying to spark fights over whatever fissures it can find whenever possible. The candidates, meanwhile, will likely play to the Democratic base. "There is a consensus around the idea that the path to the nomination and the path to the White House necessitates mobilizing the Obama coalition," said former Obama official Dan Pfeiffer, referring to the growing ranks of young, liberal, minority, and unmarried female voters whose support helped elect and re-elect Obama. "That works for us because two things have happened: The country has moved to the left on social issues and economic issues, and the politics of national security now lean more toward avoiding the next Iraq than looking for the next Iraq."

The debate will start at 9 p.m. ET and last about two hours. CNN is streaming the debate on its website if you don't have cable, and also offering virtual-reality coverage for NextVR customers. Peter Weber

Crisis in Syria
6:04 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, as Syrian pro-government demonstrators were holding a rally celebrating Russia's military support in front of the Russian Embassy in Damascus, the capital, at least two shells landed inside the embassy compound, The Associated Press reports. It's unclear if there were any casualties, AP said, attributing the attack to insurgent groups in the Damascus suburbs.

Russia's intervention in the multisided civil war has prompted at least some of the disparate rebel factions to band together, The Wall Street Journal notes. Similar alliances have formed between more moderate U.S.-backed groups and the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, among other factions, pretty regularly over the past four and a half years, but rebel groups say that having a common Russian enemy might make these alliances more enduring. As the Reuters video below shows, the Russian-backed Syrian military has claimed several victories over the past few days, at least briefly retaking towns captured by insurgents over the past year. Peter Weber

last night on late night
5:08 a.m. ET

Over the weekend, The New York Times ran an article on the "overwhelmingly white, rich, older, and male" millionaires and billionaires financing the 2016 presidential race — just 158 families have contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, or half of all money donated. On Monday's Late Night, Seth Meyers took a closer look at what that means for the election and democracy.

One effect is that campaigns last a lot longer than they used to in the era before the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. These days, Meyers said, "candidates with little or no support can keep running because at any point, a super PAC could revive their campaign" — which, he added, explains Bobby Jindal's continued run. Another side effect, Meyers said, is that "candidates have to do increasingly ridiculous things to curry favor with the wealthy donors." The most pernicious effect, though, is that when the winning candidate takes office, he or she is indebted to a handful of very wealthy people, and that affects the laws that are passed. He ended with some examples and a quote from Charles Koch that, Meyers aid, sounds "like every Batman villain right before they get caught." Watch below. Peter Weber

Peter Weber

last night on late night
4:29 a.m. ET

Kirsten Dunst was on Monday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live to talks about Season 2 of Fargo, the FX drama in which she has a starring role. Jimmy Kimmel said the show is great and Dunst agreed: "It's nice to promote something and not have to lie about it." Kimmel asked her to elaborate about which projects she's lied about, and she wisely declined. Dunst put on weight for Fargo, Kimmel noted, then asked, "Is it a nightmare or is it a fun thing to have to gain weight for a role?" Dunst chose option C.

"Well, listen: I was in Calgary," she said. "It was cold, and so I ordered in a lot of pizza, a lot of Thai... I just had different cheeses and breads together, and now I'm like, 'Yeah, I gained weight for this role.' But really I just sat in my bed, watched Friday Night Lights, and, like, ate." Kimmel pivoted to Friday Night Lights, and for fans of the show, Dunst's Fargo costar and boyfriend were in the show and original movie, respectively, and she has a lot of juicy gossip she won't tell you. Enjoy the tease below. Peter Weber

Colbert Nationalism
3:59 a.m. ET

Monday's Late Show audience was pumped about Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate. "You just made the people at CNN turgid," Stephen Colbert said after their cheers. He introduced Tuesday night's lineup — well, at least two of the five candidates — then noted that CNN is really hoping for a sixth: Vice President Joe Biden. "They've got an extra podium, just in case Biden drops by, like you do," Colbert said. "You know, this year's presidential debates are basically an open-mic night — could be Biden, could be Carrot Top."

But CNN isn't just hoping Biden will drop by — reporter Jim Acosta spun a pretty elaborate fantasy involving Biden, aviator glasses, and a yellow Corvette. As long as "we're reporting breaking, up-to-the-minute fan fiction," Colbert said, why stop at Biden making a surprise appearance? For the next minute or so, Colbert poked fun at Acosta and one-upped him, unveiling his own podium for Biden and fantasizing about who else might show up at the Democratic debate. The "bizarro world" Donald Trump might give you nightmares. Watch below. Peter Weber

Tears in Your Beers
2:58 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Early Tuesday, SABMiller agreed to a sweetened takeover offer from larger rival Anheuser-Busch InBev, in a deal that values No. 2 global brewer SABMiller at $104.5 billion. SABMiller's board agreed to unanimously recommend the deal to shareholders after rejecting four previous offers in recent weeks. If the merger passes regulatory scrutiny, the combined company will sell more than 30 percent of the world's beer, combining brands like AB InBev's Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois with SABMiller's Pilsener Urquell, Miller, Coors, Grolsch, and Peroni, plus lots of smaller and local brands. If AB InBev can't get regulatory clearance or its shareholders reject the terms, it has to pay SABMiller $3 billion. Peter Weber

a wedding to remember
2:15 a.m. ET

A very special guest didn't RSVP to Brian and Stephanie Tobe's nuptials but showed up anyway: Barack Obama.

On Sunday morning, as they were getting ready for their wedding at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, Brian and Stephanie first heard that the president was playing golf in the area. Eventually, they received word that he was at the golf course at their venue, and soon they were "stacked up against the window, looking out as we see him coming down across the green," Stephanie told NBC Los Angeles. Their wedding photographers, Jeff and Erin Youngren, were on the course snapping photos, and when Erin saw a brief opening for the couple to come down and meet the president, she let them know it was now or never. Dressed in their wedding attire, the pair booked it.

"I picked up my wedding dress and just started running down the hall," Stephanie said. She darted ahead, leaving her groom in the dust, but "I didn't care," she said. "I just had to get there." She was cleared by security, and the crowd parted as she made her way toward Obama. "I was in a state of complete shock," Stephanie said, and she started to cry. Stephanie and Brian both shook hands with the president, and Obama told Brian "specifically not to step on my dress," Stephanie said. "It was just really nice, totally unexpected. I never thought we'd have a chance in the world to meet him." After all the photos were taken and the president left, the wedding was only delayed by about an hour. Stephanie says she is still in disbelief. "Honestly, I'm normally a pretty shy person, but man, yesterday, for the wedding day and in that moment, I didn't care about anything," she said. Catherine Garcia

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