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February 13, 2018

Credit to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for thinking outside the box — or, rather, thinking up a new box. Nestled in President Trump's 2019 budget proposal is a plan to transform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program into an "America's Harvest Box" full of government-picked nonperishable items. The boxes would be distributed to the roughly 16 million U.S. households getting at least $90 a month in food stamps. Perdue called his Harvest Box idea "a bold, innovative approach" that would give low-income families the "same level of food value as SNAP" at considerably lower costs.

"Secretary Perdue wanted to give it a chance," White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Monday. "We thought it was a tremendous idea." Apparently unimpressed with the "America's Harvest Box" branding and enticing pitches like "same level of food value," however, Mulvaney called the idea a "Blue Apron-type program" — which, Politico notes, compares Perdue's boxes to the "high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers."

The Blue Apron comparison has other problems, too. Blue Apron specializes in delivering fresh fruit, meat, and produce to customers' doors. The Harvest Boxes would include staples like shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, pasta, cereals, beans, canned meat and fish, and canned fruit and vegetables — in other words, nothing fresh. And USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh said states would have "flexibility" in how they got the boxes to SNAP recipients, adding, "The projected savings does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients."

The plan has already gathered an unusual coalition of detractors — advocates for the poor, Walmart, rural mom-and-pop markets — and it faces long odds in Congress, which would have to approve the program. SNAP recipients would still get half of their monthly disbursement on a special debit card, like under the current system. Peter Weber

8:11 p.m.

A panel of eight federal judges on Tuesday dismissed 83 complaints filed against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by "lawyers, doctors, professors, and concerned citizens, among others."

The complaints lodged against him stem from his heated Senate confirmation hearings, accusing Kavanaugh of misconduct and making disrespectful statements to senators, Reuters reports. The panel threw out the complaints because the federal law governing judicial conduct does not apply to Supreme Court justices, only lower court judges.

Kavanaugh was a federal appeals court judge when President Trump announced in July he was nominating him for the Supreme Court. Before he was confirmed in October, Kavanaugh was accused by several women of sexual misconduct, allegations that he denied. Catherine Garcia

7:00 p.m.

The U.S. State Department granted a visa on Tuesday to a Yemeni mother fighting to see her dying two-year-old son at a hospital in San Francisco.

Shaima Swileh's son, Abdullah, has a genetic brain disorder. Her husband, Ali Hassan, is a U.S. citizen, and he brought Abdullah to California in the fall for treatment. As a Yemeni citizen, Swileh was not able to get a visa under the Trump administration's travel ban, and was not allowed to travel to the U.S. with her family. They filed for a waiver, but Abdullah's health began to worsen, and he was put on life support last week.

Hassan wanted his wife to be able to kiss their son one final time, but also didn't want the toddler to suffer, and had given up hope that the waiver would come through. A social worker at the hospital contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento, and their lawyers sued this week. "This will allow us to mourn with dignity," Hassan said in a statement. Swileh will fly to San Francisco on Wednesday.

Waivers are granted on a case by case basis, with applicants having to prove they are not security threats and that their entry is in the national interest. "We hope this case makes the administration realize the waiver process is not working," Basim Elkarra of CAIR told The Associated Press. "Thousands of families have been split apart, including families who have loved ones who are ill and are not able to see them in their final hours. I'm sure there are more cases like this." Catherine Garcia

5:27 p.m.

No one could find evidence of the middle-class tax cut plan President Trump kept promising before November's midterms. Now, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin won't even confirm it ever existed.

In a Tuesday interview, Mnuchin told Bloomberg the administration's top priority for next year is fixing 2017's tax overhaul. And as for the mysterious tax cut, well, Mnuchin said he was "not going to comment on whether it is a real thing or not a real thing."

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed last December and lauded in a documentary series from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) released Tuesday. But its final form largely neglected promised tax cuts for the middle class, instead largely benefiting high-income Americans while raising the federal deficit by an projected $1.4 trillion in 10 years. Mnuchin didn't mention those issues when talking to Bloomberg, but said the administration will issue "some minor technical corrections" in early 2019.

Flash forward to October, just weeks before the midterms, and Trump again starts mentioning "a major tax cut for middle-income people." Mnuchin also affirmed he and House Republicans were working on a new tax plan to be released "shortly," Bloomberg says. Republicans, meanwhile, didn't know what Trump and Mnuchin were talking about.

When Bloomberg asked about that October hint on Tuesday, Mnuchin simply said "we have other things we're focused on." Which seems to be a fancy way of saying it's very, very far on the back burner. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:43 p.m.

Even Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) barber thinks he's running.

The Ohio senator is known for easily hanging onto his Senate seat despite his state going nearly all red in the most recent midterm elections. He's also known for his uncombed curls, recently trimmed short by Ohio barber Carlo Sarti, Cleveland.com reports.

After the Democrat secured an easy victory in a now-red state last month, some suggested he'd be the ideal choice to take on President Trump in 2020. Brown seemed to hear them, and revealed he was "seriously" considering a run just days after the midterms. Brown soon debuted a shorter, less messy hairstyle, leading some — including Sarti — to say he looks like he's leaning toward a run.

Not necessarily, Brown's wife Connie Schultz soon said. Brown was just too busy for weekly haircuts, so he had Sarti cut it shorter, the Pulitzer-winning journalist tweeted. Sarti, though, told Cleveland.com that Brown "looks more like a candidate for president" after the trim. He also has a sense of Brown's bipartisan popularity: Sarti doesn't talk politics with customers, but "most of 'em" like Brown, he said. And regardless of how customers feel politically, they're excited when they see Brown in the shop, Sarti added.

Brown still hasn't confirmed if he'll seek the Democratic nomination, but rest assured, his haircuts at Carlo's cost far less than $400. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:27 p.m.

Saturn's iconic rings will one day be no more. The ring formation around the sixth planet from the sun is experiencing "ring drain," says James O'Donoghue of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The planet's magnetic field is causing the rings to be pulled inward by gravity, creating a dusty rain of ice particles. Every half hour, enough water is drained from the rings to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, O'Donoghue said in a NASA press release.

This revelation, along with information from Cassini spacecraft research, led scientists to estimate that the rings will cease to exist in fewer than 100 million years — a short time relative to Saturn's 4-billion-year existence, O'Donoghue says.

Saturn's rings are made of chunks of water ice varying in size — some are microscopic while others are several yards wide. The particles are balanced between Saturn's gravity and their orbital velocity, creating rings, per NASA.

But scientists aren't sure whether Saturn has always had rings. New research supports the idea that they formed later in the planet's existence and are unlikely to be more than 100 million years old. If this is the case, the rings may have formed when the gravitational pull from a comet or asteroid caused small, icy moons that were orbiting the planet to collide, says NASA.

O'Donoghue notes that humans are lucky to be around during the lifetime of Saturn's ring system, but that, if rings are temporary, we may have missed out on seeing the beauty of ring formations around Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, too. Taylor Watson

3:49 p.m.

Something's brewing over at Netflix and it's because of one special witch.

Following the release of A Midwinter’s Tale, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina holiday episode that dropped on the streaming service last week, Netflix announced on Tuesday that the series will be renewed for another season. It has ordered 16 episodes of the show, which will be split into two parts, reports Variety. Production is set to begin in 2019.

The highly anticipated series premiered in October, just in time for Halloween. The dark take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch of the Archie Comics and the 1990s sitcom was so well received that Netflix extended it after initially ordering 20 episodes of the show. It currently has a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it "bewitchingly beautiful."

Throughout the series Sabrina, who is played by Kiernan Shipka, struggles with her dual identity as both a mortal and a witch as she tries to keep her two worlds intact. The chief creative officer of Archie Comics and Chilling Adventures showrunner, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is excited to continue developing the strange town of Greendale and its inhabitants. "Praise Satan! I'm so grateful to my partners at Warner Brothers, Netflix, Berlanti Television, and Archie Productions for supporting this darker vision of the world’s most famous teen witch," said Aguirre-Sacasa in a statement.

Season 2 is bound to bring lots of surprises as Sabrina travels deeper down the path of Night. The next installment of Season 1 will premiere on April 5, 2019. Watch the full teaser below. Amari Pollard

3:25 p.m.

A New York state senator apologized Tuesday afternoon after publicly telling a Republican aide to kill herself.

Candice Giove, the deputy communications director for the New York state Senate's Republican majority, on Twitter accused Democratic State Senator Kevin Parker of misusing a parking placard and blocking a bike lane. In response, Parker simply wrote back, "Kill yourself!" Giove, naturally, was shocked, asking, "Did a Senator just write this to me?"

Parker has since deleted the original tweet and apologized, writing Tuesday afternoon, "I sincerely apologize. I used a poor choice of words. Suicide is a serious thing and and [sic] should not be made light of." But even after this apology, Parker continued to attack Giove, going after her in two tweets in which he said that she is "on the wrong side of history for every important issue facing New York State!"

He didn't stop there. In an interview with The New York Daily News conducted after his apology was issued, Parker said Giove is just an "internet troll" and "to call her anything more is fake news." He added that she "continues to represent the forces of evil," while simply conceding that by telling her to kill herself, he "probably used the wrong words." Brendan Morrow

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