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November 11, 2018

A video published on Sunday shows Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) joking about a "public hanging," a comment she says is being taken out of context.

Hyde-Smith faces Democratic former congressman and agriculture secretary Mike Espy, who is black, in a Nov. 27 runoff. In the video, shot Nov. 2 in Tupelo, a cattle rancher introduces Hyde-Smith to a small group of people, and she says, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." In a statement, Hyde-Smith said she "referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."

Espy's campaign spokesman disagreed, calling her comments "reprehensible. They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state." The NAACP says that between 1882 and 1968, 581 lynchings took place in Mississippi, the most of any state.

The video was posted on social media Sunday by the publisher of the Louisiana news site The Bayou Brief, who told The Associated Press he received the video Saturday night from a "reliable, trusted source" who got the footage directly from the person who filmed it. Hyde-Smith was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) earlier this year after longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran retired due to health issues. If Espy wins, he'll be the first black person since Reconstruction to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate, and if she is victorious, Hyde-Smith will be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the state. Catherine Garcia

1:42 p.m.

Santa Claus is not the only one coming to town this season.

It's also time for the return of a comet we only see once every five years — 46P/Wirtanen, or as it's more commonly known, the Christmas comet. This glowing green speck has been growing brighter in the sky since November, but on Sunday it will reach its peak, becoming visible even to the naked eye.

At its closest, comet 46P will be less than 7 million miles from the Earth, the tenth-closest comet we've seen since 1950, CNN reported. It won't get this close again for another 20 years, so grab your binoculars or telescope, find a patch of clear sky, and start looking.

CNN noted that the comet, while visible, usually appears with a fuzzy halo. Because comets are made of ice, as 46P passes the sun, parts of it melt and are absorbed into the expansive atmosphere that travels with it, creating the glowing green cloud that we'll be able to see this weekend.

You can check Time and Date to figure out when is best to try to see the Christmas comet for your location. But if you're worried that light pollution will hurt your chances, the Virtual Telescope Project will also be livestreaming the comet's trajectory on Sunday starting at 5 p.m. ET. Read more about the Christmas comet at CNN. Shivani Ishwar

1:28 p.m.

President Trump has just lost yet another potential chief of staff candidate.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Friday released a statement taking himself out of consideration to replace White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

"I've told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment," said Christie. "As a result, I have asked not to be considered for this post." He called it "an honor" to be considered.

Christie reportedly met with Trump about the role on Thursday evening, and Axios reported that he was a top contender. Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs reported later in the day that Christie was a "leading candidate," and The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey reports Trump considered him "a front-runner." CNN says, however, that Trump did not formally offer Christie the job.

When Trump announced that Kelly would be leaving the administration, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, was reportedly the only person he had in mind to replace him, but Ayers turned down the job. Trump said Thursday he has five candidates in mind — apparently, according to one report, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It remains to be seen when a decision will be made, but White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway recently suggested Kelly could end up staying in the job longer than expected. Brendan Morrow

1:10 p.m.

Two chiefs of staff walked into the White House Christmas party and, naturally, they had to capture the moment.

Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus popped up at the White House Christmas party Thursday night, despite not being an administration employee for more than a year now. Current Chief of Staff John Kelly was also there, and seeing the man he replaced drew a rare smile from Kelly as they posed in front of Christmas trees that would not make Nancy Reagan proud.

Perhaps Kelly cracked a grin because he realized Priebus is exactly where he'll be in a few weeks: anywhere but the White House. Perhaps Priebus looks more reluctant because he's reportedly still President Trump's phone buddy, and often hears about Trump's frustrations with Kelly. Perhaps neither of them should be smiling on Twitter because this pleasant party memory is better suited for Instagram.

Regardless, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wanted to make it very clear that Kelly and Priebus weren't hanging out with him.

12:58 p.m.

Johnson & Johnson had evidence for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos but did not disclose these findings with the Food and Drug Administration, a Reuters investigation discovered.

This investigation comes as the company is being sued by thousands of plaintiffs who say the talc in its products causes cancer. According to the report, Johnson & Johnson told the FDA in 1976 that asbestos was not "detected in any sample" of talc, but they didn't mention three tests that did find asbestos in its talc. In one of the tests, the amount of asbestos was reported to be "rather high." One professor looked at a sample of Shower to Shower powder and wrote that there was "incontrovertible asbestos."

Johnson & Johnson disputed the findings of this report, saying that "thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer" and that these findings were outliers. A New Jersey judge in June said that "providing the FDA favorable results showing no asbestos and withholding or failing to provide unfavorable results, which show asbestos, is a form of a misrepresentation by omission." Following the publication of this piece, Johnson & Johnson stock dropped 10.8 percent, and CNBC reports it's on pace for its worst day since 2002. Read the full investigation at Reuters. Brendan Morrow

11:59 a.m.

Friday marked six years since 28 people, mostly children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On the same day, another threat to the school forced its evacuation.

At around 9 a.m. Friday, police say the Newtown, Connecticut school received a bomb threat and evacuated everyone inside, local ABC affiliate WCVB reports. Police later said the threat was likely not credible, but school was still canceled for the rest of the day, per local station Fox 61.

A wave of bomb threats were emailed to businesses, schools, and government buildings across the U.S. on Thursday, but were determined to be a hoax. Sandy Hook's threat didn't seem to be connected to these widespread threats, police told Fox 61. The building where the Sandy Hook shooting happened in 2012 was previously demolished and a new school was rebuilt. Police began sweeping the existing school after everyone was evacuated.

Local gun control group Newtown Action tweeted the news and asked readers to "please stand with our community as we attempt to survive another tragic anniversary." Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) quickly responded with the tweet below. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:19 a.m.

Conservative magazine The Weekly Standard is shutting down after 23 years in print, its owners announced Friday.

The Weekly Standard, once published by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, rose to prominence as it influenced former President George W. Bush's administration. It was sold to Clarity Media Group in 2008, and soon proved a persistent critic to President Trump and the rise of the far right.

That neoconservative voice may have been its downfall, though, CNN points out. The Weekly Standard's finances faltered as far-right publications such as The Daily Caller and Breitbart grew. It reportedly searched for a new owner earlier this year, but The Daily Caller later reported the magazine wouldn't last until 2019, per The Ringer.

The Weekly Standard editor Steve Hayes broke the news to staffers in an email on Friday. Read all of it below. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:18 a.m.

Facebook has just disclosed yet another leak, this time affecting millions of users' private photos.

The social media platform said Friday that it discovered a bug that may have given up to 1,500 third-party apps improper access to photos from up to 6.8 million users. Normally, the apps would only be permitted to access photos that a user has actually posted on their Facebook timeline, but because of this bug, the apps could access pictures that weren't publicly posted. This would include pictures shared on Facebook's Marketplace or on Facebook Stories, as well as pictures that a user uploaded but didn't end up posting.

The apps had access to these photos for 12 days in September 2018, Facebook says. This issue would have only affected users who authorized the app to access photos. "We're sorry this happened," Facebook said. You can find out whether any of your pictures were affected by the bug here.

This is just the latest security scandal for Facebook, which is still reeling from revelations earlier this year that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, was able to gain access to Facebook users' private information. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress the scandal was "my mistake, and I'm sorry." Brendan Morrow

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