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July 17, 2017

In 1968, George A. Romero made Night of the Living Dead on a shoestring budget of $114,000. It earned $30 million at the box office, launched the modern zombie genre, and set the rules about the animated undead that writers and directors still abide by 50 years later. Romero, who followed it up with several more Dead movies and other films in various genres, died in his sleep on Sunday in Toronto after a brief battle with aggressive lung cancer, his manager, Chris Roe, said Sunday night. He was 77 and surrounded by his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter, Tina Romero, listening to the score of The Quiet Man, a favorite film.

Night of the Living Dead didn't use the word "zombie," previously depicted as a living person enchanted through voodoo, but it set the ground rules for the zombie genre: Slow-moving undead flesh-eaters whose bite kills and infects its victims, turning them into zombies. Romero's most successful follow-up was Dawn of the Dead (1978), and after the 1985 commercial and critical flop Day of the Dead, he retired the franchise until 2005, when he released the star-packed Land of the Dead.

Romero's zombies were always social or political commentary, stand-ins for perceived political or societal ills, including racism, conformity, materialism and mall culture, and class warfare. "The zombies, they could be anything," Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. "They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It's a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it." People would say, "You're trapped in this genre — you're a horror guy," he added, but he disagreed. "I say, 'Wait a minute, I'm able to say exactly what I think.' ... I'm able to talk about, comment about, take snapshots of what's going on at the time. I don't feel trapped. I feel this is my way of being able to express myself."

Romero was born in the Bronx in 1940, and was always a fan of film. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh in 1960 and learned his trade working on movie sets and on Pittsburgh-based Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Nobody took his first zombie movie seriously, but now "people write their thesis about it," he told USA Today in 2010. "I don't think it deserves half of the treatises about it." You can watch the trailer for Romero's 1968 cult classic below. Peter Weber

4:45 p.m. ET
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in his prison cell while serving a life sentence, has been posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease CTE. Hernandez's lawyer, Jose Baez, announced in a news conference Thursday that Hernandez's was "the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age." Hernandez was 27 when he died in April.

Baez has filed a lawsuit against the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of Hernandez's daughter. CTE is linked to repeated head trauma, and numerous football players have recently been diagnosed with the disease.

Hernandez's family released his brain to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center for a CTE study. Becca Stanek

4:04 p.m. ET
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Facebook will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the 2016 election, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch announced Thursday in a blog post. "We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we've concluded that sharing the ads we've discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help," Stretch wrote.

Though Facebook gave the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the social networking site took back select ads shown to congressional investigators before they could be thoroughly examined, citing privacy concerns. The move sparked complaints from government officials and the public.

In a Facebook Live event after the announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to "make sure that Facebook is a force for good ahead in democracy." Becca Stanek

3:16 p.m. ET

If Tom Hanks had gotten his way last fall, the world would've been a very different place. Former Saturday Night Live castmember Bobby Moynihan has revealed that Hanks didn't really want to play the now iconic role of David S. Pumpkins, and tried to talk his way out of wearing the pumpkin suit. "He thought it was very bizarre and was like, 'Hey, I think Chris Hemsworth [the following week's host] would make a great David Pumpkins,'" Moynihan recalled.

Hanks, who obviously ended up playing the haunted house character flanked by dancing sidekick skeletons, has since come to his senses about how bizarrely good the sketch is. The official SNL YouTube video of the sketch has racked up more than 8.3 million views, and rumor has it Hanks might reprise his character again this fall.

Breathe a sigh of relief that Hanks didn't get his way as you watch the brilliant Halloween sketch below. Becca Stanek

2:42 p.m. ET
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Republicans have just days left to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with only 50 votes and no Democrats. With two no votes already — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — "undecided" Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) could cast the decisive vote against it. As a result, one Republican Senate aide told Independent Journal Review on Thursday that the bill's sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), are potentially considering "buying" Murkowski's vote by letting her state more or less keep ObamaCare.

The draft is by no means final, nor is it certain that Murkowski would accept the revision. For her part, Murkowski has told reporters that when it comes to the Republican legislation, "what I'm trying to figure out is the impact on my state."

Independent Journal Review lists three provisions that could benefit Murkowski's state. "Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive ObamaCare's premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states" and the draft "delays implementation of the Medicaid per capita caps for Alaska and Hawaii," IJR reports. Politico also reports of a potential "Medicaid delay" that would "apply to Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana, based on their low-density populations."

For the rest of America, Graham-Cassidy would convert ObamaCare's subsidies and Medicaid payments to block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply and change its structure. Read the full details at IJR. Jeva Lange

1:30 p.m. ET
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A new study in the wake of the Flint, Michigan, water contamination crisis uncovered unsettling trends in fertility rates and fetal deaths during the time period the city was grappling with high levels of lead in its water supply. The working paper by West Virginia University's Daniel Grossman and University of Kansas' David Slusky concluded that "between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water."

Fetal deaths, when pregnancies last longer than 20 weeks but don't result in a live birth, rose 58 percent from April 2014 to 2016. Fertility rates dropped by 12 percent during that time period. "Either Flint residents were unable to conceive children, or women were having more miscarriages during this time," Slusky said.

The timing of these shifts is notable, as it was in 2014 when Flint's water was contaminated with dangerous levels of lead after the local government, under a state-appointed emergency manager, changed the city's water sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that lead "can damage a developing baby's nervous system, causing miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as infertility in both men and women," USA Today reported.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, however, concluded in July 2015 that there was no "evidence that indicates the water switch" affected fetal death rates. Becca Stanek

1:17 p.m. ET

President Trump announced a new executive order on Thursday that will allow the Treasury Department to target companies and individuals that trade with North Korea, CNN reports. "It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime," Trump said during a press conference with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.

The order will allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "discretion to target any foreign bank knowingly facilitating specific transactions tied to trade with North Korea," Trump said.

Trump also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping's decision to limit financial relations with North Korea through Chinese banks as being "very bold" and "unexpected," The Washington Post reports. "I must tell you this is a complete denuclearization of North Korea that we seek," Trump added.

Earlier in the week, Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that he might "totally destroy" North Korea if Pyongyang continues to menace the United States and its allies. Trump has also warned that "talking is not the answer" for dealing with the regime earlier this month. However, when asked at Thursday's press conference if a dialogue with North Korea is still possible, CNN reports that Trump answered: "Why not?"

Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

12:09 p.m. ET

Director Wes Anderson returns in 2018 with Isle of Dogs, his first film since 2014's Grand Budapest Hotel, and the highly anticipated trailer has just landed. Isle of Dogs marks Anderson's return to stop-motion animation — his first since 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox — and the voice roles are stacked: Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, and Edward Norton are just some of the names on the bill.

Set in a dystopian future where Japan has banished canines, Isle of Dogs follows a boy, Rex (played by Norton), as he searches for his lost dog on a radioactive garbage island. Anderson has cited the influential Japanese director Akira Kurosawa as one of the inspirations for the film, although Isle of Dogs has sparked backlash for "whitewashing" its Japanese characters with white voice actors. Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, both a part of Anderson's cast, have faced such allegations before, for rolls in Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange, respectively.

Isle of Dogs will be in theaters in the U.S. on March 23, 2018. Watch the trailer below. Jeva Lange

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