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February 13, 2018

Credit to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for thinking outside the box — or, rather, thinking up a new box. Nestled in President Trump's 2019 budget proposal is a plan to transform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program into an "America's Harvest Box" full of government-picked nonperishable items. The boxes would be distributed to the roughly 16 million U.S. households getting at least $90 a month in food stamps. Perdue called his Harvest Box idea "a bold, innovative approach" that would give low-income families the "same level of food value as SNAP" at considerably lower costs.

"Secretary Perdue wanted to give it a chance," White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Monday. "We thought it was a tremendous idea." Apparently unimpressed with the "America's Harvest Box" branding and enticing pitches like "same level of food value," however, Mulvaney called the idea a "Blue Apron-type program" — which, Politico notes, compares Perdue's boxes to the "high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers."

The Blue Apron comparison has other problems, too. Blue Apron specializes in delivering fresh fruit, meat, and produce to customers' doors. The Harvest Boxes would include staples like shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, pasta, cereals, beans, canned meat and fish, and canned fruit and vegetables — in other words, nothing fresh. And USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh said states would have "flexibility" in how they got the boxes to SNAP recipients, adding, "The projected savings does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients."

The plan has already gathered an unusual coalition of detractors — advocates for the poor, Walmart, rural mom-and-pop markets — and it faces long odds in Congress, which would have to approve the program. SNAP recipients would still get half of their monthly disbursement on a special debit card, like under the current system. Peter Weber

3:06 p.m.

The latest 2020 poll from Quinnipiac sure doesn't look great for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday shows de Blasio, who launched his 2020 presidential campaign last week, with an 8 percent favorable rating. Forty-five percent of voters said they have an unfavorable opinion of him, while 48 percent say they haven't heard enough about him.

Other Democratic contenders like Washington Governor Jay Inslee and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper have similarly low favorability ratings, but these are candidates most voters say they haven't heard enough about, which wasn't the case with de Blasio.

The New York City mayor's net favorability, which is calculated by subtracting his unfavorable rating from his favorable rating, among all voters is -37 percent. For comparison, former congressman Beto O'Rourke's net favorability is -12 percent. Fewer than one percent of Democratic voters said they would vote for de Blasio in the 2020 primary.

De Blasio's favorability rating is also quite low even among Democrats: just 14 percent, compared to 35 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him.

At least one polling expert was stunned at how bad this showing was, with CNN's Harry Enten writing, "These numbers are about the worst I've seen for a non-scandal'd politician."

Of course, this isn't the first round of poor polling de Blasio has received, with a previous Quinnipiac poll finding that 76 percent of New York City voters didn't want him to run for president. Faced with a question about this poll upon jumping into the race, de Blasio said last week, "I think about polling in general, it's not where you start, it's where you end."

Quinnipiac's poll was conducted by speaking with 1,078 registered voters over the phone from May 16-20. The margin of error is 3.8 percentage points. Read the full poll at Quinnipiac. Brendan Morrow

2:19 p.m.

Cannabidiol, one of the compounds in marijuana, has been all the rage lately. It's been in burgers, sodas, and even skin care products. Now, a new study suggests it might be useful as a medical treatment. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Tuesday, found that cannabidiol, known as CBD, reduced cravings and anxiety in patients being treated for heroin addiction.

Other medications often prescribed for opioid addiction, such as buprenorphine and methadone, also work by reducing cravings for the drug. But in many cases, these medications are not pursued as part of the patient's treatment, because their use is highly regulated and restricted, CNN explained. So exploring less restricted methods of treatment may be key in continuing to stem the nationwide opioid epidemic.

While CBD is available in many over-the-counter products, the exact concentrations of the substance are difficult to determine. This study used an FDA-approved cannabis-based medication called Epidiolex in order to control the precise amounts of CBD being administered. "We are not developing a recreational cannabis," said Yasmin Hurd, the study's lead author. "We are developing a medicine."

Before this method is approved as a treatment for opioid addiction, further studies will have to be conducted, following patients over long periods of time to determine the long-term effectiveness. But "we need to utilize every possible treatment" to help those struggling with addiction, said Julie Holland, a psychiatrist not involved in the study. For that reason, "this is an extremely significant paper." Learn more at CNN. Shivani Ishwar

1:56 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team reportedly isn't so sure he should testify publicly before Congress.

The special counsel's team has "expressed reluctance" to the idea of him providing public testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, CNN reports, with the team noting that Mueller doesn't "want to appear political." Mueller never once spoke publicly during his investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's behavior surrounding the meddling. The probe concluded with a report that did not establish a criminal conspiracy with Russia but laid out several instances of potential obstruction of justice.

Negotiations between Mueller's team and the committee are still ongoing, and "numerous options" are reportedly being considered, but CNN notes that one would be for Mueller to provide testimony behind closed doors. This is not what Democrats have had in mind, though. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have said that Mueller providing public testimony is "the only way to begin restoring public trust" in the handling of his investigation.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) previously said Mueller "will come at some point" and that "if necessary, we'll subpoena him, and he will come." Brendan Morrow

1:46 p.m.

The creator has spoken.

The Game of Thrones' series finale was divisive, to say the least, but George R.R. Martin, the author of the HBO show's source material, the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, seemed fairly content with how it all played out. Martin didn't state specifically whether he enjoyed the episode or not in his most recent blog post on Monday evening, but he commended the showrunners, writers, directors, cast, and crew for all their work over the years. "There are so many memories," he wrote. "And no time to do them all justice."

While Martin's words certainly fall in the feel-good category, some fans likely care more about finding out if his forthcoming novels will conclude in the same way the show did. And Martin figured as much. He was a bit vague in his answer, but said that some parts will be the same, while others differ. He did write, however, that some of those differences will happen simply because he has created several characters in the books who never even made it onto the screen. So it's not unreasonable to infer that several of the major characters who were featured in the show could very well meet similar fates on the page.

Martin also said it's "silly" to ask whether the books or the show will be the "real" ending to the story. Instead, he wrote, he'll just let the internet argue about it. Read the full post here. Tim O'Donnell

1:30 p.m.

There's a whole lot of confusion about whether former White House Counsel Don McGahn is obligated to provide testimony concerning Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference before the House Judiciary Committee. But it might just boil down to standard legal ethics, Fox News' Andrew Napolitano said.

The White House explicitly ordered McGahn to defy a subpoena for his testimony, while the committee, chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), says his appearance is "not optional." McGahn followed the White House's orders on Tuesday when he didn't show up for the scheduled hearing. In the end, though, the courts will decide what will happen going forward.

Napolitano, Fox News' judicial analyst, told Fox & Friends on Tuesday that McGahn certainly could defy President Trump's orders, but if he did he would be burdened by "very, very serious legal ethics issues." When any lawyer — White House-affiliated or not — is asked by a former client to withhold information about their relationship, they should honor the request until a judge makes an official decision on the matter, Napolitano explained. "Now the client says 'don't say anything.' You follow the client's instructions until a court tells you otherwise," Napolitano said. Read more at Fox News. Tim O'Donnell

1:13 p.m.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit push is getting desperate.

After three consecutive Parliamentary rejections of her deals to exit the EU, May on Tuesday told MPs that she'd let them vote to hold a second Brexit referendum and possibly make the whole plan disappear altogether. There's just one condition: MPs have to vote for May's most recent EU-approved deal first, Reuters reports.

May will execute her fourth and likely final Brexit deal vote in June. And to make that last effort count, May said Tuesday that she'd include a provision in the deal that allows the House of Commons to vote to hold a second referendum, which "must take place before the Withdrawal Agreement can be ratified," CNBC reports. That effectively means that MPs could opt to hold another nationwide vote on leaving the EU, but if voters reject Brexit in a second referendum, that deal and Brexit will be scrapped altogether.

Since the U.K. voted to leave the EU two years ago, every deal May and other MPs have put on the table to do so have been flatly rejected. May has since narrowly survived two confidence votes in her leadership, and said in March that she'd resign if Parliament just agreed to the Brexit plan she'd proposed so many times. Yet even May's sacrificial lamb move wasn't enough for May's opposition Labour Party. Its leader Jeremy Corbyn started calling for a second Brexit referendum in February, and said last week that the talks "have gone as far as they can." That revelation left May accepting calls to officially draft her departure plan. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:10 p.m.

The Game of Thrones series finale continues to draw some scathing reviews — not just from average fans but now from three prominent Democrats.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) teamed up in a spoiler-filled video posted on Warren's Twitter account on Tuesday to pan the finale, with Ocasio-Cortez describing herself as "disappointed" and "sad" and Warren saying she's feeling "meh" about it. In particular, they were critical of the show's treatment of its female characters.

"I feel like we were getting so close to having this ending with just women running the world, and then last two episodes, it's like 'Oh, they're too emotional," Ocasio-Cortez said. "'The end.' It's like, ugh, this was written by men."

Warren strongly agreed, expressing disappointment over Daenerys Targaryen's conclusion and that Sansa Stark did not end up on the Iron Throne. "Come on, Sansa!" Warren said. "Go for the big one!" Ocasio-Cortez concluded that "we need to get some feminist analysis up in HBO," and Warren concurred, adding, "they need some help on this."

This analysis comes after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) previously offered an even more withering assessment of the highly-divisive Thrones finale, telling Now This she's "so pissed off" about it. "I hated it," Gillibrand said, complaining that the show "destroyed" her two favorite characters, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. "I'm angry and upset," she said.

With two 2020 Democrats now coming out swinging against Thrones, perhaps that petition to remake the last season, which has racked up more than 1.4 million signatures, may soon become an official campaign platform. Brendan Morrow

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