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March 6, 2018

Parker Curry, 2, went from standing in awe before a painting of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery to having a Taylor Swift dance party with the former first lady in her living room.

At the portrait's unveiling last month, Obama said she was thinking of girls who "will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution." When Curry went to the gallery last week, another visitor took a photo of her staring intently at the modernist painting of Obama, and it went viral. Her mother, Jessica, took Parker and her infant sister, Ava, specifically to see the portraits of the Obamas. She told BuzzFeed News she was trying to get Parker to "to turn around so I could take a picture, but she wouldn't cooperate. She just wanted to stare at it. She was fascinated."

On Tuesday, Obama tweeted that she just had just met Curry at her house for one incredible play date, and shared a video of the pair dancing. "Parker, I'm so glad I had the chance to meet you today (and for the dance party)!" Obama said. "Keep on dreaming big for yourself ... and maybe one day I'll proudly look up at a portrait of you!" Catherine Garcia

5:02 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday provided provisional statistics suggesting that overdose fatalities likely decreased for the first time in three decades in 2018. While that's good news, the response by most experts is temperate for several reasons.

For starters, nearly 68,000 people died from overdoses, which is lower than 2017's total which topped 70,000, but still a high number. And 2018's numbers are still expected to increase once the complete data set comes in.

Further, overdoses caused by heroin and prescription painkillers decreased, possibly resulting from fewer opioid prescriptions from doctors, but deaths related to fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines all continued to rise.

Finally, there's an important distinction distinction to be made. The data represents a decline in overdose deaths, but not necessarily overdoses, in general. Along those lines, Valerie Hardcastle, a Northern Kentucky University public health expert, told The Associated Press that the increased availablity of Narcan might be a major factor in the decline. Narcan is a nasal spray version of naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids in an emergency situation.

"It's fantastic that we have fewer deaths, don't get me wrong," she said. "But I'm not sure it's an indication that the opioid problem per se is diminishing. It's just that we have greater availability of the drugs that will keep us alive."

Still, Stanford University professor Keith Humphreys called the preliminary data "the first real sign of hope we've had." Tim O'Donnell

4:58 p.m.

Don't expect to see any FaceApp memes coming from the 2020 Democrats anytime soon.

The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday urged every 2020 campaign not to use FaceApp, the popular app that allows users to apply filters to photos and has recently been used on social media to age-up pictures, noting it was "developed by Russians," CNN reports. The app was created by Wireless Lab, which is based in Russia.

The DNC's chief security officer, Bob Lord, told the 2020 campaigns the organization has "significant concerns about the app (as do other security experts) having access to your photos, or even simply uploading a selfie." Concerns were previously raised about the app, which notes in its privacy terms that by using it, you "consent to the processing, transfer and storage of information about you in and to the United States and other countries," The Washington Post reports. The company said on Wednesday that "the user data is not transferred to Russia."

Lord said in his warning to 2020 campaigns that "it's not clear at this point what the privacy risks are," per CNN, but that "the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks." Brendan Morrow

4:42 p.m.

What could go wrong here?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued recommendations Tuesday that propose cutting just how many nuclear power plant inspections it conducts every year. The suggestion is supposed to be a cost-saving measure, but as commission members and lawmakers have said, it could obviously backfire in a major way, The Associated Press reports.

There are more than 90 nuclear power plants in the U.S., and they're inspected by the commission once a year. Yet these recommendations suggest cutting the "time and scope" of inspections, and also reducing other types of inspections "from every two years to every three years," AP says. The suggestion comes both as President Trump's administration suggests regulatory cuts to save money, and as the nuclear power industry pushes the NRC to cut down on inspections.

Earlier this week, House Democrats in the Energy and Commerce Committee voiced their concerns about possible cuts in a letter to NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki, namely calling out the proposed replacement of inspector assessments with "industry self-assessments." The recommendations "may eventually lead to a disaster that could be detrimental to the future of the domestic nuclear industry," the letter continued. The NRC ended up not fully endorsing that suggestion in its Tuesday recommendations. Still, commission member Jeff Baran told AP that the recommendations would "take us in the wrong direction."

The suggestions will now face a vote from the entire commission, a majority of whom have been appointed or reappointed by Trump. While they make their decisions, may we suggest watching HBO's Chernobyl? Kathryn Krawczyk

4:21 p.m.

Several Game of Thrones stars took their Emmys fate into their own hands this year, and it paid off big time.

Game of Thrones on Tuesday picked up 10 Emmy nominations for its cast, which turns out to have been more than the network was even aiming for. After all, Gwendoline Christie, Alfie Allen, and Carice van Houten weren't actually entered for Emmys by HBO, the network confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.

Instead, the actors who played Brienne of Tarth, Theon Greyjoy, and Melisandre submitted themselves for Emmys, paying $225 for the entry fee in the process, according to the Reporter. Allen was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, while Christie was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and van Houten was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

The Reporter's Scott Feinberg notes that while it isn't unusual for actors to self-submit when they aren't thought to have much of a shot at nabbing an Emmy, "it is uncommon for those entries to result in nominations." Indeed, even for awards prognosticators, these nominations came as a surprise, and they're the very first Emmy nominations for all three actors — including Allen, whose sister in 2007 famously wrote a song about how much of a slacker he is. A lot, clearly, has changed since then.

Allen said on Tuesday that his nomination "really surprised me," Entertainment Weekly reports, while Christie similarly admitted that "I never ever thought this would happen," Variety reports. "I really didn't." Rise, Gwendoline of Game of Thrones: a nominee of the 2019 Emmys. Brendan Morrow

3:12 p.m.

Outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May gave a "valedictory" speech on Wednesday, as she and the country prepare to move on without one another. Eyes seemed to remain dry, however. Perhaps unsurprisingly, left-leaning media and politicians were largely unimpressed with the conservative's swan song.

May spoke about her concerns that absolutist politics have come to play too great a role globally and domestically. "An inability to combine principles with pragmatism and make a compromise when required seems to have driven our political discourse down the wrong path," she said during the farewell speech.

That sounded nice and the analysis is true, The Guardian wrote in an editorial, which while critical of May, did attest to the "solidity of her character." But the paper argues that ultimately the entire speech was "unoriginal" and "blunted by a characteristic lack of candor." The editorial added that it is "sad" but unsurprising that even now May "lacks the introspective capacity to draw and share valuable insights from her experience in office."

Labour Party MP David Lammy was even less forgiving in his critique.

Meanwhile, The Independent decided to "read between the lines" and provided some suggestions for what May really meant by some of her more careful word choices throughout the speech. The conclusion, per the paper? "We are all doomed." Tim O'Donnell

3:07 p.m.

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo an international health emergency, The Associated Press reports.

This announcement comes days after the Congolese Health Ministry said that the virus had spread to Goma, which has a population of more than one million people. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee made its decision on Wednesday after having met three other times since the outbreak began last year without choosing to declare it an international health emergency. More than 1,600 deaths have been reported since August 2018, and in June, the first death outside of the DRC was reported when a young boy died in Uganda.

Four other times has such a declaration of an international health emergency been made, AP reports, with the last one coming during the West Africa Ebola outbreak that began in 2014.

"It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts," Tedros Adhanom, WHO's director general, said in a statement. "We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system." Brendan Morrow

2:58 p.m.

Surprise, surprise, she's back!

Gossip Girl is coming to HBO Max seven years after it went off the air. WarnerMedia's new streaming service — set to launch in 2020 — has ordered 10 episodes of the rebooted series and is bringing fans back to the inner circles of the Upper East Side elite, reports TVLine.

The creative team behind the original CW hit series is set to return, with creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage executive producing and Joshua Safran stepping in as showrunner. It's unknown whether the original cast will make appearances in the reboot, but HBO Max has revealed that the series "will address just how much social media — and the landscape of New York itself — has changed in the intervening years."

Based on Cecily von Ziegesar's book series, Gossip Girl ran on The CW from 2007-2012 and exposed the world to the talents of Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, and Penn Badgley. The show has remained a staple in pop culture and the reboot is sure to fill many viewers' hearts with nostalgia. But, until then, xoxo. Amari Pollard

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