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March 1, 2018
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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has canceled a pricey furniture order that raised eyebrows earlier this week, CNN reports. On Thursday, Carson's longtime adviser provided a statement exclusively to CNN in which Carson said he was "as surprised as anyone" to find out that the set — a $31,000 bundle including a table, hutch, and 10 chairs — had been requested for his office. "I have requested that the order be canceled," Carson said.

The order had come under scrutiny earlier this week, as The New York Times noted that HUD had appeared to request the $31,000 order late last year — "just as the White House circulated its plans to slash HUD's programs for the homeless, elderly, and poor." Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had announced Wednesday that he was opening an investigation into whether the redecoration request constituted "excessive spending."

A HUD spokesman initially told the Times that while Carson did not know about the order before it was placed, the secretary was fine with the $31,000 price tag and did not intend to return the set. But in Thursday's statement, Carson said, "I made it known that I was not happy about the prices being charged and that my preference would be to find something more reasonable." Kimberly Alters

9:53 p.m. ET
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The leading candidate to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee is Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor and registered Republican, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post Tuesday night.

Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. All 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are men, and they've decided to bring a woman in to ask Ford and Kavanaugh questions while they are under oath during Thursday's hearing.

Mitchell is the sex crimes bureau chief for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix, and has spent 26 years there. Mitchell did not respond to the Post's request for comment, and the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to comment. Catherine Garcia

9:34 p.m. ET
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The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Friday morning on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.

On Thursday, the panel will hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who said she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. Under committee rules, a vote must be scheduled three days in advance, and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said a vote might not take place. "If we're ready to vote, we will vote," he tweeted. "If we aren't ready, we won't."

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said it's "outrageous" for a vote to be scheduled "two days before Dr. Blasey Ford has had a chance to tell her story." Catherine Garcia

5:18 p.m. ET
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Snapchat is getting political. Well, kind of.

The short-term messaging app is partnering with TurboVote to encourage its young users to register to vote in time for the U.S. midterm elections, it announced Tuesday. Anyone over the age of 18 will now receive a voter registration link when they click into their profile, reports The Verge. Snapchat will also deploy in-app alerts, messages, relevant news stories linked through Snapchat's registration page, and a filter to promote National Voter Registration Day on Oct. 2.

In its latest move, the tech giant is following behind Instagram, which also partnered with TurboVote recently to mobilize its users. Historically, young voters have shied away from political participation, but Snapchat is hoping to reverse that by providing resources to its 100 million American users. Come November, Snapchat will be able to judge whether its efforts paid off. Read more at The Verge. Amari Pollard

5:02 p.m. ET
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Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to at least three years in prison, a decision that was welcomed by many of the women who have publicly accused him of sexual assault.

After Cosby was sentenced as result of his conviction on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, at least one woman in the courtroom raised her fist in the air and said "Yes!" reports The Associated Press. Janice Dickinson, a former model who testified that Cosby assaulted her, threw back her head and laughed in the courtroom upon hearing the sentence, reports HuffPost. She reportedly looked at Cosby and said "See, I got the last laugh, pal."

The former comedian, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women, was denied bail. Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said that "equal justice under the law" meant that Cosby should not be treated differently based on "who he is or who he was," reports BuzzFeed News' Julia Reinstein. O'Neill spoke directly to Cosby in announcing his sentence: "You claimed her silence was consent," he said. "That is not the law."

In a press conference following the sentencing, women who have come forward with allegations said they were glad to have achieved "justice." Chelan Lasha, who also testified during Cosby's trial, said she has "waited 32 years for this day, hoping my nightmare will go away." Representatives for Cosby maintained that he was wrongfully convicted, and said he was the victim of "the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States."

Cosby left the courtroom in handcuffs for his three- to 10-year sentence, which will begin immediately. Summer Meza

4:36 p.m. ET
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Although Disney dramatically fired writer-director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the film will still tell the story he had planned.

The company has "every intention" of using Gunn's script for the upcoming movie, actor Sean Gunn, James' brother, recently told Tulsa World. Disney fired James Gunn from the project in July after offensive tweets he'd sent years ago, which included jokes about pedophilia, resurfaced. Disney said at the time that it was severing their relationship with him because his tweets were "indefensible," though critics who disagreed with Disney's decision pointed to the fact that Gunn had addressed the controversial tweets in the past, and that they were resurfaced in the first place by alt-right troll Mike Cernovich.

Either way, Gunn was fired from the project. But he had already fully completed his screenplay, leaving open the question of whether Disney would still make the movie using that script or start from scratch. The stars of the multi-billion dollar franchise were strongly in favor of Disney keeping Gunn's script, with Drax actor Dave Bautista saying he'd ask to be released from his contract if Disney didn't do so. The actors also put out a statement in July saying Gunn should be re-instated as director, though that door appears to be closed after Disney CEO Bob Iger recently doubled down on the decision to boot him in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Gunn will need to receive a writing credit if his script is retained. For now, production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is on hold, and while nobody is quite sure when it will resume, Sean Gunn says Marvel has assured him that it still plans to make the film at some point. Needless to say, though, the previously-anticipated May 2020 release is now out of the question. Read more at Tulsa World. Brendan Morrow

3:33 p.m. ET
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After threatening to change its name for about a year and a half, Dunkin' Donuts has finally pulled the trigger.

The company announced Tuesday that starting in January, it will officially be known as just Dunkin'. A tweet posted to the official Dunkin' Donuts Twitter account said that "after 68 years of America running on Dunkin', we're moving to a first-name basis." Per CNN, this reflects the chain's efforts to re-brand itself as being "beverage-led," although the donuts are still staying on the menu. CEO David Hoffmann said the move is part of an effort to "modernize the Dunkin' experience for our customers," Business Insider reports.

This idea was first floated in April 2017, when a single location opened that was just called Dunkin', CBS News reported. Earlier this year, that name was applied to more locations, though the company clarified at the time that it would make a final decision about whether to roll the abridged name out nationwide at a later date, per Business Insider.

The decision has now been made, and you can expect the logo to start changing on signs across the country in a few months. And unlike that time IHOP briefly started calling itself IHOB, this decision appears to be permanent. Brendan Morrow

2:12 p.m. ET
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Bill Cosby on Tuesday was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for his conviction on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University women's basketball administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. He was declared a "sexually violent predator," and will appear as such on a sex-offender registry for the rest of his life, reports The Associated Press.

The former comedian's defense lawyer argued that Cosby was no longer a threat to the public due to his age, 81, and the fact that he is legally blind. Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill decided that prosecutors had presented "clear and convincing" proof otherwise.

Constand submitted a victim impact statement in support of a strong sentence for Cosby. "Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it," she wrote. "He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others." Cosby opted not to make a statement when the judge gave him a chance to speak in court Tuesday.

Cosby was facing up to 30 years in prison for three counts of indecent aggravated assault. More than 60 women have accused him of sexual misconduct, but only Constand's report led to criminal charges. Cosby has been on house arrest since his conviction in April. Summer Meza

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