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August 20, 2018

The Republican National Committee announced Monday that it received unprecedented financial support last month, raising $14.2 million and breaking a record for July donations in a non-presidential election year, reports CBS News.

The organization has raised a total of $227.2 million this cycle. "We've used our unprecedented grassroots support to build the biggest field program we've ever had to defend our House and Senate majorities," RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told CBS. "History might be against us, but we're making sure every voter knows we're the party of results. All the Democrats have is resistance."

The RNC has five times as much funding as the Democratic National Committee as November's midterm elections loom closer. Democrats are hoping to flip 23 Republican-held districts to take control of the House, while the GOP hopes to fend off opponents in an effort to maintain a majority. Read more at CBS News. Summer Meza

November 16, 2018

The CIA has "high confidence" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, officials first told The Washington Post.

The CIA reportedly drew its evidence from, among other things, a phone call between Khashoggi and bin Salman's brother Khalid bin Salman, in which Khalid told Khashoggi to visit the Saudi consulate where he was killed. The crown prince told Khalid to make the call, per the Post. A team of 15 Saudi operatives then reportedly flew via government airplane to Istanbul for the murder.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 17 Saudis "involved in" Khashoggi's murder earlier this week. But this is furthest the U.S. has gone toward implicating Saudi Arabia for the crime, per reports from multiple sources.

Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and Turkey has long maintained the Saudi government was responsible. Saudi Arabia once said the murder was a predetermined rogue operation, but shifted to say it was a random killing when announcing charges against 11 alleged perpetrators earlier this week. Bin Salman is close with President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and some have suggested the Trump administration avoided implicating Saudi Arabia to preserve an alliance with the country.

A spokeswoman for America's Saudi consulate told the Post claims in the CIA's "purported assessment are false." Kathryn Krawczyk

November 16, 2018

Democrat Stacey Abrams on Friday said that it was not possible for her to win the gubernatorial race in Georgia, admitting defeat against Republican Brian Kemp, who had already declared victory in the hotly contested race, reports NPR.

On Election Day, the race was too close to call, and Abrams accused Kemp of suppressing votes as Georgia's secretary of state in an effort to become governor. "I acknowledge that [Kemp] will be certified the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial elections," Abrams said, saying her remarks were not a concession speech. "Concession means to acknowledge an act is right, true, or proper. ... I cannot concede that." She said she would file a federal lawsuit to contest the "gross mismanagement" of the election. Abrams' campaign has said there was evidence of "misconduct, fraud, or irregularities" that may have been enough "to change or place in doubt the results."

Kemp responded to her speech by applauding her "passion and hard work," but said "we can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past" and must "move forward." Watch Abrams' remarks below, via CBS News. Summer Meza

November 16, 2018

President Trump once convinced drug manufacturer Pfizer to curb its price hikes. This time, he may not be so lucky.

America's biggest drug manufacturer announced Friday it would increase prices on 10 percent of its prescriptions in January, Bloomberg reports. The move comes after Republicans lost the House in last week's midterms — something experts suggest isn't a coincidence.

The price hike affects 41 prescription drugs in Pfizer's portfolio, The Wall Street Journal has learned. Most of the drugs will see a 5 percent price increase, but some could be up to 9 percent. "Newly approved medicines and sterile injectables" aren't included in the hike, the Journal writes.

Pfizer announced a similar increase on more than 40 drugs back in July, with many slated for price hikes of 9.4 percent and even higher. Trump quickly criticized the move on Twitter, and after a conversation between the president and Pfizer CEO Ian Read, Pfizer said it would delay the increases "to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the health-care system."

After Friday's revelation, Andy Slavitt, the former head of Medicare and Medicaid, suggested in a tweet that Pfizer was "back to business" now that the midterms are over. After all, Democrats will soon take over the House, limiting Trump's ability to revamp the health-care system. Trump also still hasn't enacted his plan to lower drug costs, Bloomberg notes. And Read, who the Journal says "supports the Trump administration," is stepping down as Pfizer's CEO in January.

A spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar criticized the move, telling Bloomberg it shows the "perverse incentives of America's drug pricing system." Kathryn Krawczyk

November 16, 2018

First they're sour, then they're sweet. Now, they're a cereal.

That's right, Sour Patch Kids, the gummy candy shaped like small children, is joining the likes of Reese's and bringing candy to the breakfast table. Sour Patch Kids cereal will make its debut Dec. 26, and will be sold exclusively at Walmart, reports Today.

Unlike other candy cereals like Post's Oreo O's, which create delicious chocolate milk in your bowl, the $3.98 neon-colored box of Sour Patch Kids cereal will purposefully turn your milk sour. The cereal will have a "sour coating" and "sweet finish," just like the candy, says Mashable.

If you actually want to try this questionable concoction, Today says you'll find it on various retailers' shelves across the country starting in June 2019. Don't worry, you don't need ID to buy it. Taylor Watson

November 16, 2018

President Trump got a boatload of flack for not making the traditional Veterans Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery. And unlike his rainy day debacle in France, he doesn't have anyone else to blame.

In a Friday interview, Fox News' Chris Wallace asked Trump why he didn't stop by Arlington earlier this week. "I should have done that," Trump responded, before adding that he "was extremely busy on calls for the country." Still, in what The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey called "a rare showing of regret," Trump continued to say "in retrospect he should have" made the visit and he "will virtually every year."

On Saturday, Trump also skipped a rainy World War I memorial service just outside Paris due to what the White House called "scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather." But the president wasn't bogged down by international calls that time — It was apparently the Secret Service's fault. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 16, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' revamped campus sexual assault plans, more than a year in the making, are here.

DeVos has long sought to bolster the rights of college students accused of sexual assault, officially announcing her intent to revamp Obama-era rules last September. Those new rules, which Devos said "ensur[e] a fair grievance process," were unveiled Friday.

Under former President Barack Obama's administration, Title IX, the law that outlaws gender discrimination in schools, was implemented in a way that was meant to strengthen the power of sexual assault victims. But DeVos argued that premise in September 2017, saying Obama-era policies have "failed too many students" because the "rights of one person can never be paramount to the rights of another."

This new proposal reflects that same stance. Obama-era rules required colleges to investigate any "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," NPR notes. But the DeVos policy redefines sexual harassment as conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive" that it disrupts a student's learning environment, per Friday's statement. The new rules also rely heavily on "a presumption of innocence throughout the grievance process," and require schools hold "live hearing[s]" featuring "cross-examination."

Jess Davidson, executive director of End Rape on Campus, told Politico "this rule will return schools back to a time where rape, assault, and harassment were swept under the rug." A previous Education Department analysis showed these changes would cut sexual harassment inquiries by 39 percent, saving up to $400 million over the next decade. The publication of this proposal opens up a 60-day public comment period. Read the whole plan here. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 16, 2018

Three months out from the 2019 Academy Awards, and Oscar season is already in full swing.

Nominations for the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards were announced Friday, with Eighth Grade, First Reformed, If Beale Street Could Talk, Leave No Trace, and You Were Never Really Here nabbing spots in the Best Feature category. Over the past eight Independent Spirit Awards ceremonies, the winner of Best Feature has gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars five times, and every winner has at least received a Best Picture nomination.

Meanwhile, the nominees for Best First Feature are Hereditary, Sorry to Bother You, The Tale, We the Animals, and Wildlife.

The nominations for Best Female Lead went to Glenn Close (The Wife), Toni Collette (Hereditary), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Regina Hall (Support the Girls), Helena Howard (Madeline's Madeline), and Carey Mulligan (Wildlife), while the nominations for Best Male Lead went to John Cho (Searching), Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting), Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), Christian Malheiros (Socrates), and Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here).

We the Animals scored five nominations total, the most of any film, although it's not actually up in Best Feature. Eighth Grade, First Reformed, and You Were Never Really Here took four, If Beale Street Could Talk and Leave No Trace scored three, and Hereditary earned two. Considering this ceremony is intended to recognize independent film, though, don't take the absence of movies backed by major studios, like A Star Is Born, as a bad omen.

The 2019 Independent Spirit Awards will be held on Feb. 23, 2019, one day before the 2019 Academy Awards. Read the full list of nominees at Deadline. Brendan Morrow

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