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December 7, 2017
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On Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs Department released an annual survey showing that the number of homeless veterans rose 1.5 percent in 2017 versus 2016, the first increase since 2010. Also on Wednesday, Politico reported that VA Secretary David Shulkin has decided to end a $460 million program to provide housing for homeless vets.

The VA had quietly announced the decision to end the program, administered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in September, but faced blowback when officials brought up the decision in a Dec. 1 phone call arranged by Shulkin's Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans. Veterans' advocates, state agencies, and even HUD officials attacked the decision, five people on the call tell Politico. VA officials briefed congressional staffers on Tuesday, and all 14 members of the Senate appropriations VA subcommittee asked Shulkin to reconsider the decision. One of the senators, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), called the move "a new low" for the Trump administration and "especially callous and perplexing" given the rising number of homeless vets.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Shulkin said "there will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs," and he "will solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most." The VA decided to shift the funds from the program — in which HUD gives housing vouchers to veterans and VA connects vets with apartments and manages their cases — to local VA hospitals, who can use the money as they see fit, as long as they deal with homelessness.

The defunded program has served 138,000 vets since 2010 and roughly halved the number without housing, Politico says, citing HUD data. "The people in this program are the most vulnerable individuals," says Matt Leslie at Virginia's Department of Veterans Services. "If someone's going to die on the streets, they are the ones." Peter Weber

3:53 p.m. ET

President Trump is coming to Brett Kavanaugh's defense.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Trump said that Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee who California professor Christine Blasey Ford claims attempted to rape her at a high school party in the 1980s, is an "incredible individual," per CBS News. Trump also said that he feels "so badly for [Kavanaugh] that he's going through this," adding that "this is not a man that deserves this." Kavanaugh has denied the allegations against him and reportedly told Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that he wasn't at the party in question.

Trump additionally criticized Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), who in July received a letter Ford wrote detailing her allegation; the president asked why Feinstein did not bring the matter up earlier, in her meetings with Kavanaugh. Ford has said she requested anonymity from Feinstein and only decided to come forward with her story this weekend after the media began to report on her confidential letter.

Prior to Tuesday's news conference, Trump had been uncharacteristically quiet about the Kavanaugh allegation, having yet to send a single tweet about it. He did, however, say earlier Tuesday that while he hasn't spoken to Kavanaugh, "I'm totally supportive, I'm very supportive," per CNBC. On Monday, he said that Kavanaugh was "one of the finest people that I've ever known," while saying that "we want to go through a process" regarding the allegation. Watch Trump's Tuesday comments below. Brendan Morrow

3:43 p.m. ET
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Once again, Netflix has given the people a much-desired revival. This time, the streaming service is working on a live-action adaptation of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Netflix announced Tuesday it will adapt Avatar alongside its original creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino. The series is set to go into production in 2019 and will be produced in partnership with Nickelodeon, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Avatar: The Last Airbender first premiered on Nickelodeon in 2005 and subsequently went on to win both Emmy and Peabody Awards. The animated series follows a young boy named Aang as he tries to master control of the four elements — earth, air, fire, and water — and bring together four nations of warriors to take on an oppressive villain, all with the help of his friends.

In a press release, the creators revealed that they're thrilled to bring the world of Avatar back to life. "We can't wait to realize Aang's world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build upon everyone's great work on the original animated series and go even deeper into the characters, story, action, and world-building," Konietzko and DiMartino said.

In 2010, M. Night Shyamalan directed a live-action Avatar film that was promptly panned. But Netflix says it's committed to honoring the creators' vision, so hopefully the new adaptation will, as General Iroh once told Aang, "come to a better place." Read more at The Hollywood Reporter. Amari Pollard

3:38 p.m. ET
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As Spock once said, "In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see." But a new scientific discovery may be more than just wishful interpretation.

Researchers have discovered a planet that matches the description of Planet Vulcan, Spock's home planet, that Star Trek's original creator Gene Roddenberry gave almost 20 years ago. Of course, it's not the exact same planet from the fictional franchise, but it is a real-life rock with very Vulcan-like properties.

In collaboration with astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Roddenberry declared back in 1991 that if Vulcan really existed, it would likely orbit the real-life star 40 Eridani A, Science reported. Because 40 Eridani A is a few billion years old, Roddenberry theorized that a planet orbiting that star would have had enough time to develop a civilization as advanced as the Vulcans. 40 Eridani A is an orange dwarf about 16 light years away from Earth, and it is sometimes visible in the night sky.

Now, the Dharma Planet Survey, which is a widespread effort to catalogue planets in star systems near to our own, has found a planet orbiting 40 Eridani A — right where Vulcan would be. The planet, officially dubbed HD 26965b, is about twice the size of Earth and has a year that lasts only 42 days, Space explained.

The Dharma Planet Survey's findings are due to be published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in October. Read more about our new "Planet Vulcan" at Space. Shivani Ishwar

3:12 p.m. ET
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Facebook may offer users unlimited gender options, but choosing anything other than "male" may have cost them a job.

That's what three female Facebook users found when looking for work on the social network, a new complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday alleges. The complaint is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communication Workers of America and could be the first step toward a lawsuit against Facebook.

Screenshots attached to the EEOC complaint show how Facebook lets advertisers target their messages to "single dads," "soccer moms," and a variety of other gender-based interests. The female complainants also attached screenshots showing, when they clicked "Why am I seeing this?" on an ad, that the employers "wanted to reach men ages 21 to 50" or another specific demographic. The complaint specifically cites 10 employers found to have tailored their ads to a certain age and gender. Meanwhile, gender-based ads were outlawed in newspapers decades ago, the ACLU noted in a blog post.

Past investigations found advertisers could tailor ads to people of a specific race or sexual orientation, and Facebook subsequently shut down those targeting options. Still, gender- and age-based targeting persists, the ACLU maintains. And if this EEOC complaint doesn't convince Facebook to clean up its gender-biased act, USA Today suggests the company could face a lawsuit. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:50 p.m. ET
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Some Republicans have been growing anxious that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) might be in danger of losing his re-election campaign to rising Democratic star Rep. Beto O'Rourke. But a new poll of the Texas Senate race may ease their concerns.

Quinnipiac University found in a poll released Tuesday that among likely voters in the race, Cruz leads O'Rourke 54 percent to 45 percent. Previous polls had shown O'Rourke closing in on the incumbent senator, with Cruz having a perilously small 1-point advantage in an Emerson poll conducted in August. But as ABC News reporter Adam Kelsey points out, Emerson polled all registered voters while Tuesday's Quinnipiac survey is among likely voters specifically. Quinnipiac additionally found that 93 percent of respondents had already made up their minds about the election.

Per Real Clear Politics, Cruz's 9-point lead in the Quinnipiac poll is his best showing since June, when he scored a 10-point advantage over his Democratic opponent in a survey from CBS News/YouGov.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted by speaking to 807 likely voters over the phone from Sept. 11 - 17. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points. Read the full results here. Brendan Morrow

2:04 p.m. ET
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During the opening monologue of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, comedian Colin Jost quipped that the audience watching at home consisted of merely "hundreds" of people. He was exaggerating — but not by as much as host network NBC would have hoped.

Per Nielsen, the company that measures television ratings, approximately 10.2 million people watched the 2018 Emmys, Deadline reports. That's over 1 million fewer viewers than watched in 2017, when 11.4 million people tuned in, per Variety. Indeed, 10.2 million is yet another new low for the television awards show; the 2016 ceremony drew what was then the smallest audience of all time with 11.3 million viewers, Variety reports, but that seems downright massive compared to 2018's dismal showing.

Lest one assume the ratings drop was simply because the show was on a Monday this year rather than a Sunday, the Emmys were also held on a Monday in 2014 — and that show scored 15.6 million viewers, Deadline reported at the time.

Instead, television ratings have just been in steady decline across the board as consumers cut cable and grow disinterested in live events like awards shows. But as The Wrap points out, there's a silver lining: By dropping about 11 percent, this year's Emmys at least didn't see as sharp a ratings dip as the 2018 Oscars, which experienced a decline of 16 percent in 2018. So that's something. Brendan Morrow

1:30 p.m. ET
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For companies looking for flexible office space in Manhattan, WeWork just seems to work.

The coworking company now officially occupies the most space in Manhattan, The Wall Street Journal reports, surpassing JPMorgan Chase for the record. WeWork now rents 5.3 million square feet throughout the borough, edging out JPMorgan Chase's occupation of 5.2 million square feet — a development that reveals how flexible leases are undermining traditional real estate.

Because WeWork rents out large office blocks and divides them up among tenants, it can offer smaller spaces and shorter leases than a normal landlord. These flexible plans, paired with attractive amenities like lounges and beer on tap, originally attracted small startups. But even big firms such as Amazon and Verizon have hopped on the coworking train, driving WeWork's recent growth, the Journal points out.

This freedom comes with a price. Square footage in a coworking spot often costs double or triple what a traditional office does, and flex-space companies pack about three desks into the space typical offices usually reserve for one, the Journal says.

Still, growing interest in flex-space spots has led WeWork and its peers to dominate 9.7 percent of new Manhattan leases so far in 2018. The same companies only made up 3.3 percent of leases in 2017, per the Journal. WeWork has grown even more dramatically than its coworking peers, boosting its total space around the world from 19.5 million square feet in 2017 to 36.4 million so far in 2018. And with larger companies starting to pour in, the Journal expects WeWork and pals to start slinging a lot more cucumber water in the next few years.

Read more about WeWork's rise at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

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