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March 7, 2014
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Celebrities: They don't have to deal with any of our day-to-day nuisances. Except, apparently, they sometimes do (insert tiny violin here). Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar date this year was her real-life civilian BFF Laura Simpson, who wrote a rather fascinating recap of the event for Myspace. Among the interesting tidbits of behind-the-scenes intel is this:

I decide to use the restroom before I sit. Jessica Biel holds the door open for me and compliments my dress — no human being should be allowed to have her face and body. I get inside and Margot Robbie from Wolf of Wall Street shows me her Kardashian-sized diamond ring in line for the toilet and says, 'I feel like a guy with a gun should be following me — I could be halfway to Mexico with this by now.' [Myspace]

Stars: They're just like us. Except their bathroom-line chatter is a bit... fancier.

Among other things we learn from the story: Non-famous people on the red carpet are treated like crap (surprise), Westboro Baptists picket the entrance to the event, and Brad Pitt naturally smells amazing. Read the story in full here. Samantha Rollins

1:52 p.m. ET

Politically, Meghan McCain and Joe Biden have a lot to argue about. But emotionally, they're on the same page.

McCain, the daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), and the former Democratic vice president shared a heartwarming moment on The View on Wednesday as McCain emotionally discussed her father's cancer diagnosis. The senator was diagnosed with gliobastoma earlier this year — the same cancer that Biden's son, Beau, passed away from in 2015.

On the show, McCain tearfully told Biden how she thinks about Beau almost every day because of the shared diagnosis. Biden quickly walked over to McCain and grabbed her hand, describing how Beau looked up to her father and his courage, long before they were affected by the same illness.

Biden and the senator are longtime friends. "There is hope," Biden told McCain. "And if anybody can make it, your dad [can]." Watch the whole exchange below. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:12 p.m. ET
Screenshot/Youtube/Liberty Day Institute

President Trump's ex-ghost-hunting federal judicial nominee — deemed "not qualified" by the American Bar Association but nevertheless approved by Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote — will not ultimately "be moving forward" in the appointment process, NPR learned from a Trump administration official Wednesday. Brett Talley, 36, was in line for a lifetime appointment despite having never tried a case in his life, only practicing law for three years, and forgetting to mention his wife is the chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn and is apparently a person of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

The head of the judiciary committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, urged President Trump not to proceed with the nomination of Talley on Tuesday, CNN reports. The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, weighed in, saying: "I would hope that Chairman Grassley's request that the White House pull these nominations leads him to reconsider the breakneck speed at which the Judiciary Committee has been considering nominees."

The next step in Talley's nomination process would have been a full Senate vote, where it was unclear he even had the support to be confirmed. Trump, on the other hand, had earlier directly praised Talley as being an "untold story" that "nobody wants to talk about." Jeva Lange

12:32 p.m. ET
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Roll 'em up — in the name of science.

A new Michigan State University study recently found that a chemical present in marijuana may be able to slow mental decline in HIV patients. Nearly 50 percent of HIV patients experience a decrease in cognitive ability over time due to the fact that the virus attacks the human immune system, sometimes causing "chronic inflammation" in the brain, the researchers wrote.

The lead author of the study, Norbert Kaminski, and his co-author, Mike Rizzo, discovered that chemical compounds in THC — formally known as tetrahydrocannabinol — reduced the number of inflamed white blood cells present in HIV patients. "This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer," Rizzo told MSU Today.

Kaminski and Rizzo came to their conclusion after taking blood samples from 40 HIV patients and analyzing the inflammation levels in white blood cells for smokers and non-smokers. The pot-smoking patients fared far better than their sober counterparts, the researchers found. The results were stark: "Those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV," Kaminski said.

The scientists did caution that marijuana consumption won't entirely prevent white blood cell inflammation, and they also had some good news for HIV patients who don't want to smoke pot. Knowing the medicinal benefits of THC could lead to alternate treatment methods, like "people taking a pill that has some of the key compounds found in the marijuana plant," Kaminski said.

Read the full study here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

12:16 p.m. ET
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Republicans in the House and Senate have reportedly reached an agreement for the final version of their tax overhaul bill. Aides told The Associated Press that while certain details still need to be reviewed, the final legislation will likely be unveiled later this week.

Although specific details were not immediately available, lawmakers had been working on getting the bill to a final vote next week that would lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, The New York Times reports. The versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate lowered the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. The individual rate is being lowered due to the concerns of wealthy taxpayers, who are afraid that because the Republicans want to eliminate several individual deductions, their taxes will go up.

The Times adds that "it is not clear if Republican senators will roundly endorse the deal." Jeva Lange

12:11 p.m. ET
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Look to the skies tonight to catch one of the year's best and brightest meteor showers.

The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak Wednesday night, streaking across the night sky from sunset to sunrise, NASA says.

Sky & Telescope magazine called the Geminids "one of the two best meteor showers of the year." A thin moon means there won't be much light to distract from the show, and the brightest meteors should even peek through light pollution. Space.com suggests heading out around 10 p.m. local time to catch one or two meteors per minute.

Accuweather predicts the southern and western U.S. will get best view of the shower. If you're in the northeast or Midwest, snow clouds may block your view. So if you'd rather not freeze for little or no reward, catch NASA's Geminid livestream here, starting at sunset. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:25 a.m. ET
REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) has been tapped to replace resigning Sen. Al Franken (D), who announced last week that he would leave the Senate amid mounting allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced the decision Wednesday.

Smith will serve out the remainder of Franken's term after he finalizes his resignation from Congress, and in accepting Dayton's appointment Wednesday she announced she would also run in next year's election to retain the seat. "Though I never anticipated this moment, I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward," Smith said. Kimberly Alters

11:10 a.m. ET
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Santa made some early stops across the country this week. But instead of sliding down chimneys, he quietly walked through Walmart's automatic doors.

Anonymous do-gooders paid off layaway tabs at Walmart and Toys R Us stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Arizona this week. The benefactors at Walmarts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, described by NBC New York as "Secret Santas," each picked up bills totaling $40,000 or more. At the Pennsylvania Walmart alone, the donor helped about 200 families, NBC New York reported.

Dec. 11 was the last day to pay off holiday layaways at the Millville, New Jersey Walmart. Its Santa arrived two days earlier — just in time for employee Shantay Jenkins, who told USA Today that she had $713 of merchandise on layaway:

People were coming in to cancel their layaways and come to find out it was paid off for them. Another customer called to see if we could hold the layaway a couple days longer because they didn't get their paycheck yet, and we were able to let them know it was paid off and to come and pick it up. [USA Today]

The New Jersey store's manager is the only one who knows that particular donor's identity. Pennsylvania and Arizona's donors remain a complete mystery — and put your office Secret Santa to shame. Kathryn Krawczyk

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