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February 22, 2019

After months of endless confusion and controversy, the 2019 Oscars is nearly here. Here's what to expect from what could be the most bizarre Academy Awards in years:

1. Roma wins Best Picture: Netflix's film is the heavy favorite, although the Academy has never chosen a foreign-language Best Picture, so don't count out Green Book. In fact, nearly all of the nominees have a shot — yes, even Bohemian Rhapsody. Roma's Alfonso Cuarón should also take Best Director.

2. Rami Malek, Glenn Close, Mahershala Ali, and Regina King win: The four acting prizes look essentially locked up, although there could potentially be an upset win for Rachel Weisz over King.

3. No host, but plenty of presenters: The Academy is proceeding without a host for the first time in three decades, and the show is expected to rely on presenters to keep the night moving — including some from outside of Hollywood like Serena Williams and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). The last host-less Oscars was an infamous disaster, so is another train wreck in store?

4. Musical performances: The songs are back on after the Academy briefly considered cutting all but two, although Black Panther's Kendrick Lamar and SZA won't be coming. Still, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will sing "Shallow," and Jennifer Hudson, Bette Midler, and Queen + Adam Lambert will also perform.

5. The Academy put on blast? Almost everyone had a reason to be mad at the Academy's leadership over the past six months due to a variety of since-rescinded changes, including a proposal to not give out all the awards live. After the most contentious Oscars rollout ever, don't be surprised to see a rogue presenter — Frances McDormand, anyone? — call out the producers and speak against similarly awful tweaks to 2020's show.

6. So much for three hours: Remember when the Academy vowed to rein the show into a tight three hours? Well, they've since given up, so expect another late night. Brendan Morrow

6:50 p.m.

President Trump announced on Thursday that the Department of Agriculture is creating a program that will give $16 billion in aid to farmers affected by the trade war with China.

"We will ensure that our farmers get the relief they need — and very, very quickly," Trump said. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue blamed China for having to launch the program, telling reporters that "all of this would have been moot if China had acted appropriately and fairly."

Soybean farmers in particular have been hit hard by the U.S.-China trade debacle. Soybeans are the largest U.S. export to China, with a value of $12.4 billion in 2018, USA Today reports. After Trump put tariffs on Chinese goods last year, China retaliated by putting a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybean imports, causing prices to drop.

Under the program, the Department of Agriculture will send payments to counties based on the number of crops planted and losses. The first payments will be send in July or August, and Perdue said two additional payments will be made in the fall and early next year if the U.S. and China still have not reached a trade agreement. Most of the $16 billion package will go to pay farmers, while $1.4 billion will be used to purchase excess products, like milk and beef, which will be distributed to food banks. Catherine Garcia

5:24 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is chalking up a delay in putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill to bureaucracy. Her great-great-great-great niece isn't buying it.

In a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Mnuchin affirmed the long-awaited replacement of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill wasn't coming until 2028. He went on to blame the setback on addressing "counterfeiting issues," but Tubman's descendant Ernestine Wyatt told CNN's Newsroom on Thursday that Mnuchin's excuse actually "smacks of racism."

With the redesign first being announced in 2015, Wyatt declared that Mnuchin has “had time for this to happen." His defense is "just a nice way of trying to say we don't want this, we're not going to have this, under any circumstances will we have this," she continued. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:42 p.m.

President Trump during a press conference on Thursday spent several minutes calling on numerous aides to explain to the press how calm he was while meeting with Democrats a day earlier.

During a press conference ostensibly about his $16 billion farm aid package, Trump talked about his decision on Wednesday to walk out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), which Pelosi characterized as a "temper tantrum."

Trump insisted on Thursday he walked out in a perfectly calm fashion and proceeded to pick out White House officials and ask them to back up his account. First up was White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who insisted Trump was "very calm" and did not throw a "temper tantrum." Conway also seemed to suggest there exists a tape of the meeting.

Trump then asked the same of White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, Director of National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, all of whom insisted Trump was calm in the meeting.

While describing his calm demeanor, Trump also repeatedly tore into Pelosi by saying she has "lost it" and describing her as "crazy," a "mess," and "not the same person." He also once again declared that he is an "extremely stable genius."Brendan Morrow

4:37 p.m.

The Espionage Act just became relevant again.

For the first time in the law's 100-year history, the Department of Justice has accused a journalist of violating it, charging Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with 16 counts of receiving or publishing classified information. Thursday's indictment also charges Assange with one count of conspiracy to receive the leaked documents from Chelsea Manning, and reinstates Assange's April charge of conspiring to violate computer hacking laws, The Daily Beast reports.

Assange's charges stem back to 2010, when then-Army intelligence analyst Manning allegedly leaked classified Department of Defense information to Assange for publication. Assange was charged in April with conspiring to help Manning hack those computers after London's Ecuadorian embassy revoked his asylum claim.

Thursday's charges immediately rang alarm bells for journalists, with The Daily Beast writing that it is a "stunning escalation of the Trump administration's war on the press." "Legal scholars believe that prosecuting reporters over their work would violate the First Amendment," The New York Times continues, which is partly why former President Barack Obama's administration never charged Assange under the Espionage Act. The DOJ's National Security Division head John Demers countered those concerns by saying "the department takes seriously the role of journalists in our democracy ... But Julian Assange is no journalist."

Assange was also sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail in the U.K., and Sweden has reopened a 2010 rape investigation into him. Sweden and the U.S. have both moved to extradite Assange after his prison stay. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:01 p.m.

Kids who are the victims of racially-motivated bullying may be at risk in more ways than one, a new report has found.

The report analyzed data from the California Healthy Kids Survey, a voluntary survey administered to children through their schools. The results point to a worrying link between bullying and drugs and alcohol for children in California high schools from 2013 to 2018, U.S. News reported on Thursday. The data suggests that children who were bullied for their race, ethnicity, or origin were 11 percent more likely to drink alcohol, 9 percent more likely to use marijuana, and 8 percent more likely to use opioids or other medication not as prescribed.

The study found that black and Asian students were the most targeted for bullying, with 22 percent and 20 percent of each group reporting having been bullied at least once in the 2017-2018 school year. White students were the least affected by bullying, but that figure was still at 11 percent.

Being under stress can lead to risky or unhealthy habits even in adults. So the fact that it's affecting adolescents in schools is concerning, given that the still-developing brains of teenagers are already "more likely to engage in risky behavior," explained Virginia Huynh, a professor in child and adolescent development.

Read more about the survey and its results U.S. News. Shivani Ishwar

3:55 p.m.

Count this as another victory for Democrats.

President Trump had long resisted signing off on disaster funding for Puerto Rico and several other states, recently claiming he'd only approve the bill if it included $4.5 billion in border wall money. But on Thursday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Trump had agreed with Democrats to sign the bill, no border funding necessary, NBC News reports.

Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria's 2017 devastation, with things getting even worse in March when Congress and Trump failed to renew additional food stamp aid for the island. Trump later claimed Puerto Rico got $91 billion in funding and, despite that number being not quite accurate, argued the island didn't need any more money. Thursday's agreement, though, seems to mark a change of pace.

The bipartisan bill, which Shelby credited Trump for "break[ing] the gridlock" and agreeing to in a Thursday press release, gives Puerto Rico an additional $605 million for the food stamp Nutrition Assistance Program and $304 million to Community Development Block Grants. It also contains a provision forcing Trump to allow $8.9 billion in withheld aid to get to Puerto Rico, and another provision "ensuring more damaged facilities in Puerto Rico will be repaired or replaced," per a bill breakdown from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Billions of dollars in other aid will go toward flooding, hurricane, and wildfire damage on the mainland. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:37 p.m.

Facebook removed nearly as many fake accounts in the first quarter of 2019 as it has monthly active users, and it estimates fake accounts make up a growing percentage of the platform.

The company in its Community Standards Enforcement Report released on Thursday revealed that from January to March of this year, it removed a staggering 2.19 billion fake accounts. To put that record number in perspective, Facebook in the first quarter of this year said it had 2.3 billion monthly active users, The Washington Post reports.

The number of fake accounts deleted in this first quarter was up significantly from Q4 2018, when Facebook says it removed 1.2 billion accounts. Facebook on Thursday explained it has seen a "steep increase in the creation of abusive, fake accounts" in the past six months, especially because of "automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at onetime."

Facebook said that most of these accounts are deleted "within minutes of registration" and not counted as part of its number of monthly active users. But in its report, the company also said that "we estimated that 5 percent of monthly active accounts are fake," which The Associated Press reports is up from from between 3 and 4 percent in the previous report.

Facebook VP of Analytics Alex Schultz on Thursday said the "prevalence number for fake accounts includes both abusive and user-misclassified accounts," with an example of the latter being "when a person sets their pet up with a profile, instead of a Page." Overall, he said the company is "confident that the vast majority of people and activity on Facebook are genuine." Brendan Morrow

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