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January 11, 2019

The White House is largely empty as the partial government shutdown hits Day 20 — only 156 of the Executive Mansion's 359 full-time employees are allowed to show up for work. Secret Service agents are working without pay, desks of furloughed employees sit empty, and "the White House has stopped paying its water bill," The New York Times reports. "With paychecks failing to fatten the bank accounts of some 800,000 federal workers, the pain of this partial shutdown bit into all corners of America — even the White House, where there is often very little sympathy for those whose job it is to keep Washington running."

It is DC Water's job to keep the water running, and on Jan. 2, the Treasury Department informed the D.C.-area water utility that its largest customer — the federal government — would pay only $11.5 million of its $16.5 million quarterly water bill because of the shutdown. This $5 million past-due bill "brings up an interesting question," DC Water chairman Tommy Wells said at a recent board meeting. "Is there a time from nonpayment when we cut someone's water off?" A second board member asked, "1600 Pennsylvania Ave., is that what you're talking about?" There was laughter, WAMU reports. But the answer is yes, after 30 days.

"Conceivably, DC Water can shut off service for nonpayment to any customer," spokesperson Vincent Morris told WAMU. DC Water knows that this particular customer, the federal General Services Administration, is good for the money, Morris said, but he agreed that using the threat of a water shutoff to force a government-opening agreement is "an interesting idea." "Water is leverage," Morris noted. "No one wants to go without it." In a follow-up story, WAMU noted that while DC Water owns the pipes, the Army Corps of Engineers owns the treatment plant, so the federal government could, theoretically, cut off the water for the entire D.C. area — which is also leverage.

In any case, the discussion was mostly hypothetical. "We are not turning off water to the White House," Morris told The New York Times on Thursday. Peter Weber

8:52 p.m.

Capitol Police arrested 70 people on Thursday during protests against the Trump administration's immigration policies.

The protesters were arrested inside the Russell Senate Office Building, with Capitol Police saying they were unlawfully demonstrating in the rotunda. Thursday was the Catholic Day of Action to oppose immigration policies like detaining migrants in overcrowded facilities without adequate necessities. The Sisters of Mercy traveled from Chicago to Washington, D.C., for the protests, and one nun, 90-year-old Sister Pat Murphy, was arrested.

The situation in immigrant detention centers is "immoral," Murphy told ABC News during a phone interview. "These are our brothers and sisters and they are part of the human family," she said, adding, "I mean, any person with any human compassion would reach out. What is going on is, it's just abominable. It's a horrific situation that's happening right now." Murphy, who has been with Sisters of Mercy for 71 years, said it's not fair that people are "being punished because our immigration system is broken, it's shattered, it doesn't exist." Catherine Garcia

7:36 p.m.

President Trump will most likely nominate attorney Eugene Scalia to be the next Labor secretary, three people familiar with the matter told Politico.

Scalia is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and is a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In 2006, he represented Walmart in the retail giant's fight against a Maryland law that would have forced the company to spend more money on employee health care.

Last week, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta stepped down following outrage over a 2008 plea deal he arranged with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in Florida. Acosta's deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will step into the role on Friday. Catherine Garcia

7:01 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it will not ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide associated with health problems in children.

During the Obama administration, the EPA produced scientific studies showing chlorpyrifos could damage brain development in children and prohibited its use, but in 2017, Scott Pruitt, then the agency's administrator, reversed course. This led to a legal battle, and in April, a federal appeals court told the EPA it had to make a final decision on the ban by July. In a statement, the agency said there is not enough data to show that an unsafe amount of pesticide residue is left in or on treated foods.

Sold under the name Lorsban, chlorpyrifos cannot be used in homes, but can be used by farmers, who spray it on more than 50 nut, fruit, vegetable, and cereal crops, The New York Times reports. Since the legal battle began, several states, including California and New York, have announced they are looking into banning chlorpyrifos. Catherine Garcia

5:40 p.m.

Nothing can adequately prepare you for your first glimpse at the Cats movie.

Universal Pictures on Thursday debuted the highly-anticipated first footage from its upcoming musical adaptation after months of teases about Taylor Swift's attending of "cat school" and the film's supposedly revolutionary use of, as the filmmakers describe it, "digital fur technology." And, well, here it is.

From start to finish, the trailer is a wild ride that doesn't even attempt to ease viewers into how surreal literally every character in the film looks. That online reactions to the initially funky-looking CGI Genie in Aladdin and the extremely distressing new Sonic the Hedgehog don't even hold a candle.

Cats' cast includes, believe it or not, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Ian McKellen, and Judi Dench, who discussed their experience making the film in a recent behind-the-scenes reel featuring such quotes as "these are people but they're cats ... there is nothing else like it." Indeed, there isn't. Take a deep breath and watch the trailer below. Brendan Morrow

4:42 p.m.

Tom Cruise still has that need for speed, even three decades later.

At San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, Cruise made an unannounced appearance following a Terminator: Dark Fate panel to reveal the first trailer for the long-awaited Top: Gun Maverick, a follow-up to the 1986 original that's set for release next year. The footage, which dropped online shortly after its Comic-Con debut, shows off Cruise's return as Maverick and some seriously impressive-looking flying sequences.

Cruise, who in recent years has infamously done his own, increasingly insane stunts for the Mission: Impossible franchise, promised the Comic-Con audience similar authenticity in Maverick, saying, "Everything you see in this film, obviously, it's for real," Variety reports. "We're working with the Navy. All of the flying that you see in this picture, everything is real." He also described the movie as a "love letter to aviation."

Top Gun: Maverick will hit theaters on June 26, 2020, and Cruise said Thursday that after a 34 year wait, "I felt it was my responsibility for me to deliver for you." Watch the trailer below. Brendan Morrow

4:35 p.m.

The U.S. Navy has "destroyed" an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, President Trump announced Thursday afternoon.

The U.S.S. Boxer was sailing in the strategic strait when the drone came within 1,000 yards of it and ignored "multiple calls to stand down," Trump told reporters. It then took "defensive action" and used electronic jamming to down the drone, Trump continued.

The attack comes after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Thursday claimed responsibility for seizing a foreign tanker that went missing this past weekend in the Strait of Hormuz, The Washington Post notes. It's the latest international incident in the waterway that connects the Persian Gulf with the rest of the world, and also comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Iran shot a U.S. drone in that area last month, but while America says it was in international airspace, Iran claimed it was flying in Iranian territory. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:55 p.m.

Toys 'R' Us is getting a reboot.

The retailer, which closed all its locations in the U.S. in 2018 after the company filed for bankruptcy, is being relaunched by Tru Kids Brands with the opening of two new stores this year, CNN reports. One of the new locations will be in Houston, Texas, while the other will be in Paramus, New Jersey, and the company's aim is to open 10 new stores by the end of 2020, The Washington Post reports.

But Toys 'R' Us won't be coming back without some major changes, as Tru Kids Brands has reworked the stores' design so they're more "fun and interactive" as to "better fit within today's retail environment," CEO Richard Barry told the Post. The two new locations will be smaller — 6,500-square feet compared to about 40,000 square feet before — and they'll emphasize open areas for children to play in, the Post notes. The stores will also sell fewer toys than before, CNN reports. Previously, lenders had teased a "new and re-imagined" Toys 'R Us on the horizon.

Ahead of this relaunch, though, The Associated Press notes that it's unclear "how much support the new model will get from suppliers, who were burned by Toys 'R' Us' quick demise." The company in 2018 announced it would close all of its stores in the United States six months after filing for bankruptcy, resulting in the loss of more than 30,000 jobs, per The Washington Post.

For Toys 'R' Us kids in Texas and New Jersey, the new locations will open this fall. Brendan Morrow

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