October 18, 2017

It took four late-night talk show hosts to tell the story of Conan O'Brien's gift horse. O'Brien kicked it off on Friday's Late Show, and Letterman told his version Tuesday on Jimmy Kimmel Live, on tour in Brooklyn. Letterman approached the horse story indirectly, describing his penchant for giving humorously inappropriate gifts — tires for a niece's wedding, his tie collection to Kimmel, cigarettes for his producer's son's bar mitzvah, and a horse to O'Brien, as thanks for a very nice article O'Brien wrote about Letterman before his retirement.

The idea, Letterman explained, was that he would send Conan a horse, Conan would send it back, and Letterman would get a refund. Instead, O'Brien kept it, and Letterman said he was irked at both the financial hit and the fact that Conan is now griping publicly about his gift. "You did send him the horse, in all fairness," Kimmel pointed out. "Yeah, it was a joke — take a dump on the stage, load him up, get him back — that's what it was," Letterman said. "The point is, no good deed goes unpunished." "And also, you know what?" Kimmel replied. "When in doubt, an edible arrangement is a nice gift." But Kimmel, who also likes a good practical joke, had his own gift for Letterman.

O'Brien took about nine minutes to tell Stephen Colbert his side of the story. Conan, it turned out, was expecting a nice bottle of wine, or — when he heard about the size of the package — a vintage Porsche. The story ended happier for the horse than for O'Brien. "I learned then that Dave is a genius, but he's an evil genius," Conan said. "He knew exactly what he was doing." Watch below. Peter Weber

9:59 a.m. ET

Earth's mightiest gang of heroes is about to get a whole lot mightier.

Disney on Tuesday released the first trailer for Captain Marvel, the latest Marvel superhero film. The flick stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who gains otherworldly powers and joins an alien military unit. Upon returning to Earth, she tries to piece together her mysterious past.

The new footage focuses on Danvers' relationship with a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who still has both of his eyes at this point. That's because Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, as an opening beat in a Blockbuster Video makes clear — which also means Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) will return to the film franchise after being killed off in 2012's The Avengers.

Marvel fans have been jonesing for a glimpse at Captain Marvel ever since the final scene of Avengers: Infinity War earlier this year, in which Fury pages Danvers for help following Thanos' decimation of half the universe. The pager he uses in that scene makes an appearance in this clip, teasing the film's Infinity War connection.

After this solo movie, which hits theaters on March 8, 2019, Danvers will appear in the untitled fourth Avengers film in May 2019. Considering Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige calls Danvers the most powerful Avenger, she will likely play a key role in defeating Thanos and bringing the fallen heroes back to life. Watch the first trailer for Captain Marvel — Marvel Studios' first female-centric superhero movie — below. Brendan Morrow

9:55 a.m. ET
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Long before President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the Supreme Court, Christine Blasey Ford told her friends that he sexually assaulted her back in high school.

Ford "was up and down about whether she was going to go public" with the allegations, her friend Kirsten Leimroth told The Mercury News on Monday. Leimroth said that Ford told her about the alleged assault "well before" she came forward, and that it's "preposterous" to imagine she would make it up.

"There's absolutely no way it's made up. She can't even go home," said Leimroth, explaining that Ford's kids are staying elsewhere and she shut down her social media accounts as safety precautions. "Why would she do that?" Ford couldn't decide whether coming forward would "do any good," continued Leimroth, because it wasn't an "actual rape." Ford alleges that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her during a party in the 1980s. She reportedly thought Kavanaugh might be confirmed anyway, and wondered whether it was worth putting herself through the public scrutiny. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations.

Another friend, Rebecca White, said that Ford told her about the alleged assault back in 2017, and mentioned that her alleged assailant was a federal judge. White said that Ford described the event as "violent" and "physically scary," and found it difficult to see that Kavanaugh had become "a super powerful guy."

Ford told a third friend, Jim Gensheimer, that she was scared Kavanaugh defenders would try to assassinate her character. "I've been trying to forget this all my life, and now I'm supposed to remember every little detail," he recalls her saying. Read more at The Mercury News. Summer Meza

9:39 a.m. ET
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears to have misled Congress when he testified that the Justice Department had "initiated" including a question about U.S. citizenship on the U.S. census, according to newly unredacted documents released Monday as part of a lawsuit. Ross said in March that the Justice Department had pushed for the citizenship question, which hasn't been included in the census since 1950, so it could enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The new documents add to the evidence that Ross was the driving force.

In a September 2017 email to Ross, Commerce official Earl Comstock said he had approached the Justice Department in May to "discuss the citizenship question," and "Justice staff did not want to raise the question given the difficulties Justice was encountering in the press at the time (the whole Comey matter)." Comstock said he then tried the Department of Homeland Security, and they pointed him back to the Justice Department, so he asked a Commerce Department lawyer to explore "how Commerce could add the question to the census itself." A few months later, the Justice Department formally requested the citizenship question.

The Census Bureau's chief scientist, other researchers, and a bureau-sponsored marketing campaign have found that including the citizenship question depresses the participation of Latinos, Asians, and other minorities, skewing the constitutionally mandated decennial head count. Ross "personally lobbied the attorney general to submit the memorandum that the secretary 'then later relied on to justify his decision,'" plaintiffs' lawyers argued in the lawsuit, one of six around the country seeking to strike the citizenship question.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, who's overseeing the lawsuit in Manhattan, had ordered the Trump administration to release the unredacted memos, saying they "go to the heart" of the central question of Ross' intent in adding the citizenship question. Furman has potentially scheduled a trial to start Nov. 5, though Justice Department lawyers are arguing against a trial and Ross deposition. Peter Weber

9:36 a.m. ET
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A new poll has the Republican National Committee very concerned about the upcoming midterms.

The internal RNC poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows that about half of Republicans, and 57 percent of Trump supporters, don't believe Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, Bloomberg reports. According to the report, the RNC is worried this complacency will lead GOP voters to stay home, and subsequently hand the House to the Democrats.

The Democrats' prospects of winning at least 23 additional seats in the November midterms and thus retaking the House have been steadily climbing in recent months. FiveThirtyEight puts the chances at about 82 percent. Even in the RNC poll, 71 percent of overall voters said it was likely to happen. The report notes that Republicans must now make it their mission to clearly communicate to voters that the midterms matter, adding that Trump supporters don't seem to think "there is anything at stake in this election."

One reason for this false sense of security might be President Trump's utter confidence that Republicans could actually end up with an even bigger majority than before the midterms. GOP strategists told Axios in August that they feared Trump's prediction of a "red wave," in combination with Trump voters' tendency to dismiss anything negative about the president as "fake news," might suppress turnout and spell real trouble.

The poll was conducted from August 29 through Sept. 2 by speaking to 800 registered voters over the phone. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. Read more at Bloomberg. Brendan Morrow

7:55 a.m. ET
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Following months of speculation over how Roseanne Barr's character would be written out of the upcoming Roseanne spinoff The Conners, the comedian just casually spoiled it.

During a recent appearance on the YouTube talk show Walk Away, Barr, who was fired from ABC over a racist tweet in May, said that her character dies of an opioid overdose in The Conners, the new series that's almost exactly the same show as Roseanne but without Barr's involvement. Barr added that she's not happy with her character's fate. "It's so cynical and horrible," she said, per Deadline. "She should have died as a hero or not at all."

Some fans had already guessed this was coming, as the last season of Roseanne involved the title character being addicted to painkillers, which she takes to deal with a knee injury. By the end of the season, she is preparing to undergo surgery, so presumably, that surgery, and the subsequent overdose, will happen off-screen between Roseanne and The Conners.

Barr also suggested that killing off her character like this is an "insult" to "the people who loved that family and that show." The Conners will premiere on Oct. 16 on ABC. Brendan Morrow

6:31 a.m. ET

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, their third meeting since a historic summit in April. After an elaborate welcome ceremony at the airport and a ride through Pyongyang in an open-air limousine, the two leaders began official talks Tuesday afternoon. Kim told Moon he hoped the talks would produce a "bigger outcome at a faster pace" than the previous summits and Moon said it was "time to bear fruit." This is the first visit to Pyongyang for a South Korean president in at least a decade.

The talks are expected to focus on reducing military tensions and increasing economic cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and furthering nuclear diplomacy as denuclearization talks have stalled between North Korea and the U.S. over lack of agreement on details and timing.

"When the two Korean leaders met for the first time back in April, the simple fact that they were meeting was itself a major step," but "this time, Mr. Moon has to make real progress in persuading the North Koreans to make concrete steps to denuclearize," says BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker. "Otherwise, the flurry of inter-Korean summits and the much-hyped Singapore meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump this year will be seen as glossy photo ops, and the U.S. leader may begin to lose patience."

Top executives from South Korean business conglomerates, or chaebols, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and SK Group traveled to Pyongyang with Moon and they will meet with North Korea's deputy prime minister to focus on economic ties. South Korean officials said they don't expect any economic breakthroughs given the sanctions on North Korean. Peter Weber

5:23 a.m. ET
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Russia said Syrian antiaircraft missiles shot down a Russian Il-20 military reconnaissance plane early Tuesday as it was preparing to land at Khmeimim air base on Syria's Mediterranean coast. Russia blamed Israel for the friendly fire incident, which killed all 15 Russian service members on board, and threatened to retaliate with an "appropriate response."

Israel was conducting airstrikes on Syrian targets, and "the Israeli pilots were using the Russian aircraft as a shield and pushed it into the line of fire of the Syrian defense," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. "We view the actions of the Israeli military as hostile." Konashenkov said a recovery operation is underway in the Mediterranean, where the plane went down.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Israel maintain a special hotline to prevent their aircraft from clashing over Syria, but Russia said Israel did not warn it of this attack until one minute before the strike, preventing Russian aircraft from getting out of the way in time. Israel, which typically does not claim responsibility for its strikes on Syria, said it does not respond to "foreign reports." Peter Weber

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