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January 10, 2019

The Academy has a real mess on its hands with the 2019 Oscars, and they're hoping Earth's mightiest heroes can rescue them.

The group that puts on the Oscars has evidently settled on not having a single host this year; instead, the broadcast will feature a line-up of celebrities in different segments rather than being anchored around one person, as first reported by Variety and then by The Hollywood Reporter. But the Reporter adds that in an attempt to make up for the lack of host, the Academy's plan is to bring in the cast members of the Avengers films, among other stars.

It's unclear who might be available or how exactly they might be factored into the show, but the Reporter notes that ABC is hoping for as many Marvel stars as possible, noting that Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Samuel L. Jackson already appeared on 2013's show. Seeing as Disney owns both Marvel and ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscars, this pairing does seem natural, especially since it can serve as a shameless plug for both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, the former of which opens just a week after the big night.

Comedian Kevin Hart was originally tapped to host the Oscars, only to step down within days after past homophobic tweets resurfaced. Although the prospect of him returning to host was briefly raised last week, Hart ruled it out, and the Academy has apparently not been able to find a replacement. Now, Variety reports the group is "scrambling" to put together a star-studded lineup that would fill the void and draw in as many viewers as a big-name host might. After last year's dismal numbers, the Academy can only pray the Avengers will prevent their ratings from being snapped in half. Brendan Morrow

7:27 a.m.

On Wednesday, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was sworn in as Kazakhstan's interim president, after longtime ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev's surprise resignation on Tuesday. Nazarbayev, 78, has led Kazakhstan since 1989, two years before it became an independent nation after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Tokayev, previously the speaker of the Kazakh Senate, will serve out the rest of Nazarbayev's term, until 2020.

After being sworn in, Tokayev immediately proposed changing the name of the capital, Astana, to Nursultan in honor of Nazarbayev, and he appointed Nazarbayev's oldest daughter, Dariga, as Senate speaker, putting her first in line for the presidency. It is unclear if either Tokayev, a 65-year-old former diplomat, or Dariga Nazarbayeva will run for president in the next election, but there has been speculation for years that Nazarbayev was grooming his daughter to take his place.

"Nazarbayeva, a 55-year-old mother of three, has in the past led Kazakhstan's main television station and served as a deputy prime minister, while also devoting time to her passion for opera — which she has performed publicly," Reuters notes. Her father, meanwhile, isn't giving up power. Last year, with assent from parliament and the constitutional court, Nazarbayev became leader-for-life of the powerful Security Council, and he will also remain head of the ruling party. "Nazarbayev is not stepping down; he is stepping up," said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

Nazarbayev "has been widely praised for maintaining stability and ethnic peace in Kazakhstan, a large, oil-rich nation south of Russia and west of China," The Associated Press reports. "Even though he has faced criticism for marginalizing the political opposition and creating what is effectively a one-party state, the political regime that Nazarbayev has built is more liberal than those in the de-facto dictatorships in the neighboring Central Asian countries." Peter Weber

6:12 a.m.

Mozambique began three days of mourning on Wednesday for the hundreds killed by Cyclone Idai, which caused what emergency workers are calling the most destructive flooding in southern Africa in 20 years. The death toll stands at more than 200 in Mozambique, 98 in Zimbabwe, and 56 in Malawi, but the final number of dead is expected to top 1,000. "The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days," Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said in Geneva.

The Red Cross says at least 400,000 people have likely lost their homes in central Mozambique, where flooding has covered an area of more than 150 square miles. The cyclone destroyed up to 90 percent of Mozambique's second-largest port, Beira, a city of 500,000 that also provides access to landlocked countries in the region.

The European Union and Britain have pledged financial and other aid, and the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said America was "mobilizing to provide support" to partners in the three affected nations, but provided no details. You can learn more and see images of the flooding in the CBS News report below. Peter Weber

5:07 a.m.

President Trump and George Conway are now in open warfare on Twitter, and Stephen Colbert not unhappily listed some of Conway's critiques of Trump that led to this point, including that Trump "administration is like a like a s--tshow in a dumpster fire." That's especially "awkward," Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, because Conway's wife, Kellyanne Conway, "is one of the flaming trash pile's star turd jugglers."

"But not everyone loves Twitter as much as the president," Colbert said, pointing at the $250 million lawsuit Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed against Twitter for allowing accounts to insult him. Nunes specifically complained about two parody accounts, @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow, and he included some of the offending tweets. "The only time you can see jokes that crushing is every time you finish a popsicle," Colbert said. And trying to get in on that sweet parody-account action — @ColbertCow went from 1,200 followers to 154,000 and counting after the lawsuit — Colbert unveiled his own, @DevinNunesSkin. "Still thin," he said. "Devin, we look forward to your lawsuit."

Jimmy Kimmel called Nunes "captain of the Donald Trump Fan Club" and "that one zit on the end of your nose that keeps coming back," and he was similarly baffled at the lawsuit. "He is literally suing an imaginary cow," he said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "And maybe the craziest part of all ... last Congress, Devin Nunes cosponsored a bill called the 'Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act.' And now he's suing a cow. It's almost like he's a hypocrite." Kimmel insincerely begged people not to follow @DevinCow on Twitter.

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah made a show of following @NunesCow. "What a snowflake," he said. "Look, man, I think it's terrible when kids are bullied online, but as a grown man, this should not be a problem for you." He helpfully explained to Nunes how to block trolls and avoid clicking on his mentions. Watch that, and some jokes about Patriots owner Robert Kraft and pigeons, below. Peter Weber

3:41 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday held an afternoon phone briefing on his trip to the Middle East and "international religious freedom." But the one member of the State Department press corps invited to participate in the call was "un-invited after RSVPing," told the call was for "faith-based media only," CNN reports. The State Department said it won't release a transcript of the call or a list of participating outlets, and "officials would not answer questions about whether a range of faiths was included."

On Tuesday, Religion News Service listed some of the participants in the call: Jewish Telegraphic Agency (Jewish), Algemeiner (Jewish), World Magazine (evangelical Christian), America Magazine (Catholic), The Leaven (Catholic — Kansas City archdiocese), and Religion News Service ("a secular news service that covers religion, spirituality, and ethics").

A participant in the call shared a transcript with reporters on Tuesday evening, showing "Pompeo faced questions about the Israeli election, terrorism, and the omission of the word 'occupied' when describing the Golan Heights and the West Bank," CNN reports. In a subsequent briefing with the traveling press corps, CNN says, Pompeo "was asked similar questions and provided similar responses."

Former State Department spokesman Jack Kirby told CNN it's "inappropriate and irresponsible" not to release the transcript of "any on-the-record interview in which a Cabinet official participates," and excluding "beat reporters from something as universally relevant as religious freedom in the Middle East strikes me as not only self-defeating but incredibly small-minded."

The Trump administration is expected to unveil its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after Israel's election, and earlier this month the White House hosted a group of evangelical Christian leaders "to reassure them about the plan," Axios reported. Pompeo declined to comment on the White House's outreach in Monday's call, RNS reports, but he said a "broad base of people" will be briefed, and "as an evangelical Christian myself, I've always understood the centrality of that place." Peter Weber

2:22 a.m.

President Trump is both modestly bragging about donating his $400,000 salary to the Homeland Security Department and proposing to strip $5 billion from the DHS budget, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "So Trump's paycheck donation is like robbing a restaurant then, on your way out, throwing a nickel in the tip jar."

Trump "gets paid nothing to be president, and today he earned every penny," Colbert continued. On Tuesday, Trump hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, "often called the 'Trump of the Tropics,' which is also what Trump will be called when his climate policies turn Ohio into a rain forest." Colbert scratched his head over Trump's ad-lib at a joint press conference about socialism's "twilight hour" and chuckled at his suggestion that Brazil join NATO.

Yes, "why isn't Brazil in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?" Colbert pondered in Trump voice. "And, while I've got them on the phone, I'm going to ask why aren't I in the NAACP?" Watch below. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m.

The Killers, Miley Cyrus, Dead and Company, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z, and Imagine Dragons are among the acts that will play Woodstock 50 this August in Watkins Glen, New York.

The three-day festival will take place Aug. 16-18, marking the 50th anniversary of the original. Tickets go on sale April 22. Prior to the lineup being announced on Tuesday, Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang told Rolling Stone the 50th celebration would feature "hip-hop and rock and some pop and some of the legacy bands from the original festival. ... I want it to be multi-generational."

Several acts that performed in 1969 are on the lineup, including Santana, John Fogerty, John Sebastian, Country Joe Mcdonald, Canned Heat, and Hot Tuna. "I don't expect it to be the same," Fogerty said Tuesday. "The mood in the country is different, similar in many respects, but different. I'm very glad that I'm able to be here 50 years later celebrating it." Catherine Garcia

1:31 a.m.

The people who know what's going on in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation are, as usual, not talking, so Mueller watchers are left digging for clues about when the special counsel's final report will be completed, who will be able to view it, and whether any more indictments are coming. Another clue dropped Tuesday, in a court filing by two members of Mueller's shrinking staff, Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben and prosecutor Adam Jed.

The two-page filing requests more time to respond to a Washington Post filing seeking access to redacted portions of records in Paul Manafort's criminal case. "Counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government," Dreeben and Jed write, indicating that The Washington Post did not oppose pushing the date back to April 1, from March 21.

What does this tell us? "That the special counsel investigation may be wrapping up — or maybe it's not" — but "either way, they're very busy," CNN reports. More helpfully, CNN notes that "broadly throughout the Mueller probe, Dreeben's public court filings show he has dedicated his time to fighting defendants' attempts to dismiss indictments, media requests to unseal documents, and appeals including a mystery grand jury matter involving a foreign-owned company that's awaiting Supreme Court action."

There are lots of other signs that Mueller's investigation is winding down, including the departure of seven of 17 lawyers and expected imminent exit of senior prosecutor Andrew Weissmann. But "Dreeben, by all appearances, works long hours still," CNN reports. "He regularly arrives to the office minutes after the notoriously early Mueller," and "FBI agents and prosecutors continue to swarm in and out of Mueller's office daily — and even have visited the courthouse for non-public matters at least twice" since last week. Peter Weber

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