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February 22, 2019

Could the voting system used to determine the Oscars' Best Picture winner make all the difference this year?

The Academy uses a preferential ballot to select Best Picture, which means voters don't simply check off one movie to win. Instead, they rank all of the nominees. When ballots are collected, a film wins if it was ranked first by more than 50 percent of the Academy.

But that's a difficult feat considering there can be as many as 10 choices. If no film captures a majority, whichever receives the fewest votes is eliminated, and those who ranked that eliminated film first have their second pick moved up to first. For example, let's say someone ranked Vice first, followed by Roma. If Vice receives the fewest votes during the first round, this person's Best Picture pick is now Roma. The elimination and movement goes on until one film earns more than 50 percent of the votes.

A common theory among Oscars pundits is that when the Best Picture race is fairly open, many voters' second or third favorite takes the prize. Or, as the Los Angeles Times puts it, the movie that is "least disliked" will win.

So what's the least disliked this year? Many have argued it's Black Panther, while others think it could be The Favourite, which tied with Roma for the most nominations. The system may not help Green Book, though, seeing as controversy around the film has divided viewers, much like last year's losing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Bohemian Rhapsody could be set back for similar reasons, although the Academy has shown a surprising amount of love for that film.

It may be, however, that the system simply benefits the existing frontrunner, Roma. The technical accomplishments of Alfonso Cuarón's film can't be denied, even if it's not every Oscar voters' very favorite, and that may be enough to push it over the top. Brendan Morrow

6:33 p.m.

President Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett as Secretary of the Air Force, he announced on Tuesday.

"She will be an outstanding Secretary!" Trump tweeted. Barrett is the former chair of the Aerospace Corporation, and was the first civilian woman pilot to land an F-18 fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, The Arizona Republic reports. She is also a former ambassador to Finland and advised former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 1994, she became the first female Republican to run for governor in Arizona, but did not win the nomination.

Heather Wilson resigned as Secretary of the Air Force in March, in order to become the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Catherine Garcia

5:32 p.m.

In public, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains optimistic about his efforts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his United Socialist Party from power. But, privately, The New York Times reports, Guaidó and his advisers are beginning to feel the pressure from Maduro's forces after the opposition's failed military uprising in April.

"The persecution has been savage," Guaidó, who is recognized by several countries, including the United States, as Venezuela's legitimate interim president, told the Times.

Nowadays, Guaidó is often stationed inside one of several safe houses, while his deputy chief of staff Rafael Del Rosario remains in exile, after escaping Venezuela with his family by foot, aided by soldiers sympathetic to Guaidó's cause. Several other soldiers and legislators who stood by Guaidó in April are reportedly either in jail or being harbored in foreign embassies.

The situation has the opposition seriously considering negotiating with Maduro, which Guaidó had previously rejected, the Times reports. Last week representatives from the opposition and Maduro's government traveled to Norway for preliminary talks, though Guaidó maintains that the goal is to remove Maduro. Even the United States, Guaidó's most fervent supporter, has taken a step back from the situation, as President Trump has turned his attention more heavily toward Iran in recent weeks, making it even more unlikely that the Venezuelan opposition could secure U.S. military support if the situation intensifies. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

4:41 p.m.

More subpoenas are on the way for former White House employees and Hope Hicks, once the Trump administration's communications director, is next in line.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued subpoenas on Tuesday to Hicks and Annie Donaldson, the chief of staff to former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who failed to show up to his scheduled hearing before Nadler's committee earlier on Tuesday. The two new subpoenas are part of a sprawling congressional investigation into the actions of the Trump administration, which spun off from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 Russian election interference. Nadler wants Hicks and Donaldson to answer questions concerning possible obstruction of justice on behalf of President Trump during Mueller's investigation, Bloomberg reports.

Donaldson kept very detailed notes of her meetings with McGahn, which were frequently cited in Mueller's report on his investigation, The Hill writes, while Hicks was considered to have played a "pivotal role," in the White House, serving as one of the president's most trusted advisers.

Hicks' and Donaldson's subpoenas order both of them to turn over documents by June 4 and then testify later that month — Hicks is scheduled for June 19, Donaldson for June 24. Tim O'Donnell

4:26 p.m.

Two Hollywood productions have just scrapped plans to film in Georgia over the state's new abortion law.

Director Reed Morano told Time on Tuesday that she has called off plans to scout locations in Georgia for her new Amazon Studios series The Power following Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signing a law that effectively bans abortion after six weeks. "We had no problem stopping the entire process instantly,” Morano said. "There is no way we would ever bring our money to that state by shooting there." Location scouts had been working in Savannah for months, one of whom already bought a house there and told Time, "we're in panic mode."

Additionally, the upcoming Kristen Wiig comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has also pulled out of Georgia, a representative for Wiig confirmed to Time. Wiig will star in this film and co-wrote it along with Annie Mumolo, whom she previously collaborated with on the hit 2011 comedy Bridesmaids.

This comes after a number of producers had announced plans to boycott Georgia, which has become a popular filming location thanks to its generous tax incentives. The Wire creator David Simon was among those who said his company wouldn't film in the state over the law. The Motion Picture Association of America previously said amid these boycotts that "the outcome in Georgia will also be determined through the legal process" and that "we will continue to monitor developments."

Some have objected to the Georgia boycotts, arguing they will only unjustly hurt the thousands of members of the film industry there. Morano told Time that while "I'm sorry if the work moves away from where you live ... having this basic fundamental right for women is more important than anything in this moment in time." Brendan Morrow

3:45 p.m.

Faced with a question that used a simple real estate term, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson became confused — and appeared to believe he was actually being asked about cookies.

During a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, Carson was asked a question by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) about REOs, which stands for real estate owned.

"Do you know what an REO is?" Porter asked. Carson responded, "An Oreo?"

Porter clarified that she was not, in fact, asking Carson a cookie-related question, but Carson still sounded unfamiliar with the term, thinking the last letter stood for "organization" after being pressed. The Washington Post's Drew Harwell observed that REO is "literally one of the first terms taught to new real-estate agents" and "one of the defining symbols of the housing crisis."

The term was something Porter found herself having to explain, though, telling Carson, "that's what happens when a property goes to foreclosure: we call it an REO." Watch the strange moment, which Porter herself shared on her Twitter account while expressing bewilderment, below. Brendan Morrow

3:35 p.m.

More than 500 abortion ban protests sprouted up throughout the United States on Tuesday, as demonstrators decried the recent wave of restrictive abortion legislation.

In the last week, the Republican governors of Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri signed into law several bills effectively banning abortions between six and eight weeks. The measures are considered part of a larger plan to challenge the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

Tuesday's largest protest was held on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke at the event, reportedly going after Republican lawmakers who have "distanced themselves" from Alabama's law, while also voting for judges who have criticized Roe v. Wade. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) spoke as well, opening up to the crowd about her personal experience.

Several Democratic presidential candidates also showed up to the event, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

But the rallies didn't stop in the capital. They've taken place all over the country, including in St. Louis and Atlanta. Protesters also marched on the Alabama statehouse on Monday. Tim O'Donnell

3:34 p.m.

Baby sharks have been up to some things that weren't covered in the song.

New research published in the journal Ecology on Tuesday has found a surprising factor in the diets of newborn tiger sharks. Small songbirds, like the sparrows you might see in your backyard, have somehow ended up far enough from home to become prey to the marine predators.

Scientists performed what's called a "gastric lavage," a harmless procedure that flushed out the contents of the stomach for testing, on over 100 juvenile tiger sharks. Out of 105 specimens studied, 41 of them had partially digested birds. All of the bird remains came from North American land birds, National Geographic reported — a strange find, given that most of the sharks were tested far from shore in the Gulf of Mexico.

The study concluded that the most likely scenario is that these birds had been caught in autumnal storms during their annual migration; this would explain why most of the birds seemed to be eaten during the fall. As for why it was mostly baby sharks eating these birds, it's possible that mother tiger sharks have taken notice of the abundance of easy prey, and specifically give birth in the area so that "the young can capitalize on the seasonal songbird scavenging opportunities," National Geographic explained.

Further research will be required to determine the exact link between tiger sharks and terrestrial songbirds, but this discovery just goes to show that nature can interact in weird, unexpected ways. Read more at National Geographic. Shivani Ishwar

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