December 3, 2019

North Carolina's new congressional map is already changing the 2020 game.

On Monday, a panel of judges agreed that a Republican-drawn congressional map of North Carolina can replace the 2016 map deemed to contain "extreme partisan gerrymanders." That's already spelling good news for Democrats in 2020's House elections, Sabato's Crystal Ball predicts.

Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics revised its predictions for four North Carolina House races on Tuesday, all in districts currently held by Republicans. Three of those districts moved left, while two of them shifted soundly into Democrats' favor. All in all, that amounts to a likely two-seat gain for Democrats in North Carolina come next year, with a slight chance to grab a third.

Then again, not everyone thinks the slightly fairer maps are giving Democrats the representation they deserve. As David Leonhardt argues in The New York Times, "Republicans only narrowly won the statewide popular vote in congressional elections, 50 percent to 48 percent," so even five of the state's 13 congressional seats isn't enough for Democrats. Read more from his opinion here. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:29 p.m.

A resolution recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday.

"From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire carried out a force deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, of whom 1.5 million were killed," bill co-author Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. "We must never be silent in the face of atrocity."

Turkey has denied a genocide occurred, and after the House passed its version of the bill in October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complained about it to President Trump, NBC News reports. Previously, the resolution was blocked three separate times by three Republican senators, at the request of the White House.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a co-author of the bill, said he is "thankful this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide. [They] will be able to see the Senate acknowledge what they went through." Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also praised the move, calling it a "victory of justice and truth. On behalf of the Armenian people worldwide, I express our profound appreciation to the Senate for this landmark legislation." Catherine Garcia

7:14 p.m.

During the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing on Thursday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tried to shift the focus away from President Trump to former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

Gaetz introduced an amendment to the articles of impeachment that would refer to the "corrupt" hiring of Hunter Biden by the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Hunter Biden has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, which Gaetz gleefully mentioned. "It's a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car," he said.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) was next to speak, and without uttering any names, he reminded the entire room that Gaetz himself was arrested for driving under the influence (the case was later dropped). "I would say the pot calling the kettle black is not something that we should do," Johnson said. "I don't know what members, if any, have had any problems with substance abuse, been busted in a DUI, I don't know, but if I did, I wouldn't raise it against anyone on this committee. I don't think it's proper." As Johnson spoke, CSPAN's cameras zoomed in on Gaetz, who looked pained. Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

If you love Keanu Reeves, clear your schedule on May 21, 2021, because Hollywood is treating you to a double feature.

Warner Bros. has announced that The Matrix 4 will arrive in theaters on that date, which also happens to be the date Lionsgate had previously scheduled for the fourth John Wick movie. Honestly: Just cut out the middleman and give us the John Wick vs. Neo movie of our collective dreams. Read more at The Wrap. Scott Meslow

5:22 p.m.

Let's hope Vacation is all you ever wanted, because you're about to get a lot more of it.

The Griswold family — immortalized on the big screen in the movies Vacation, European Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation, and an Ed Helms-starring reboot you probably forgot about — is bound for the small screen, reports Deadline.

The new TV series, titled The Griswolds, will premiere on the upcoming streaming service HBO Max, and promises to explore the family's "daily lives in the suburbs of modern-day Chicago," because nothing says "Vacation adaptation" like a bunch of people sitting around at home. Read more at Deadline. Scott Meslow

4:55 p.m.

The upcoming Game of Thrones prequel spinoff House of the Dragon is set hundreds of years before the events of the original series, which makes it rather unlikely that fan favorites like Tyrion Lannister or Arya Stark will be popping in for cameos.

But one Game of Thrones actor who could actually, plausibly appear in House of the Dragon says she might be down to reprise her role: Carie van Houten, who played the "red witch" Melisandre.

Melisandre was eventually revealed to be very, very old in one of many Game of Thrones plot twists that didn't actually go anywhere — but hey, at least that gives the spinoff something to explore. Read more at Entertainment Weekly. Scott Meslow

4:52 p.m.

Between HBO's Big Little Lies and and Apple TV+'s The Morning Show, Reese Witherspoon has spent much of 2019 on the small screen. But there's one big-screen character she's keen to revive: Elle Woods, the protagonist of 2001's Legally Blonde and its sequel.

A third Legally Blonde hasn't formally been greenlit, but Witherspoon confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that it's on her list: "We discussed it and thought, maybe it's time to revisit" — and given that the last Legally Blonde movie ended with Elle Woods setting her sights on the White House, the 2020 election could be about to get very interesting.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter. Scott Meslow

4:49 p.m.

Everything may be proceeding as some Star Wars fans had foreseen.

A wild new clip from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker released Thursday provided one last-minute bombshell reveal from the film, one that very strongly suggests a fan theory surrounding Emperor Palpatine will end up being true.

In the clip, Palpatine, who was thought dead in Return of the Jedi but has somehow returned in The Rise of Skywalker, communicates with Kylo Ren and tells him, "I have been every voice you have ever heard inside your head." The line starts in Palpatine's voice, then morphs into Supreme Leader Snoke's voice, and finally turns into the voice of Darth Vader.

The clip's implication seems to be that Palpatine isn't just suddenly back now but has actually been quietly manipulating Kylo for years. This immediately brings to mind Kylo speaking with Darth Vader's charred helmet in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and asking his grandfather to "show me again. The power of the darkness."

It wouldn't make sense for Anakin Skywalker to show his grandson visions of the darkness considering he turned from the Dark Side before he died. But ever since Palpatine's return was announced for The Rise of Skywalker, some fans speculated he was actually the one behind these visions all along, with Palpatine just tricking Kylo into thinking he was communicating with his grandfather. That certainly appears to be where The Rise of Skywalker is heading.

The addition of the Snoke voice could also imply he was merely a puppet of Palpatine or was even just Palpatine himself, which might explain why Palpatine's theme briefly popped up on Star Wars: The Last Jedi's score during a Snoke scene. Does this mean Palpatine alone was responsible for turning not one, but two members of the Skywalker bloodline to the Dark Side?

We'll find out for sure when The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on Dec. 20. Brendan Morrow

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