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August 12, 2018
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It started as a whim, and turned into an opportunity all artists dream about.

University of Miami student Matthew Hanzman is studying political science, but decided nine months ago that he wanted to "give this art thing a good shot," he told The Miami Herald. The 21-year-old began painting, and now more than 70 of his pieces will be on display at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where he is the first painter in the Emerging Artists Showcase.

Miami is "eclectic" and "vibrant," Hanzman said, and he told The Miami Herald his artwork "reflects Miami's diversity." One piece, "Forever," is an acrylic on canvas that "demonstrates graffiti, street culture that's not typically associated with fine art," he said. "My art isn't instantly gratifying, it slowly reveals itself to the viewer." Hanzman is about to start his senior year at the University of Miami, and while he's not giving up his political science studies, he's now "completely obsessed with art," he said. "I hope to keep this going in the future." Catherine Garcia

9:49 a.m. ET
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Many of Woody Allen's past collaborators have distanced themselves from him, but at least one has now come to his defense.

Javier Bardem, who starred in Allen’s 2008 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, said at the Lumière Film Festival this week that the filmmaker is a “genius” and that he'd “work with him tomorrow," Variety reported Wednesday. He also warned that "public accusations are very dangerous."

Allen's adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1992 when she was seven years old. Allen denies the allegation, and New York State's Department of Social Services at the time said they found "no credible evidence" to support it, per The New York Times. Farrow stood by her claim in 2014, and her brother, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, has said his sister's allegation is credible. Although the claim against Allen has been public knowledge for years, the #MeToo movement has spurred many actors who have worked with him to publicly announce they would not do so again, including Michael Caine, Colin Firth, and Greta Gerwig.

Bardem, however, equates this to a "public lynching" of Allen, writes The Hollywood Reporter. He says that if Allen were found guilty in a court of law, things would be different, but for now, "nothing has changed."

Whether Bardem would actually have the chance to work with Allen again remains to be seen, however. The director's latest movie may not be released at all, as several cast members have expressed regret about working on it and donated their salaries to charity. The New York Post reports that Allen has yet to secure financing for any future movies. Brendan Morrow

8:51 a.m. ET
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President Trump appears to be hoping Texas voters have forgotten about the 2016 Republican primaries.

On Twitter Wednesday, the president expressed his support for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after watching his debate with Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke, saying that Cruz has actually "long had my Strong Endorsement!"

This comment seems to raise some questions about how Trump defines "long." Trump famously gave the Texas senator the nickname "Lyin' Ted" back in 2016, accused his father of being involved in the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy, and tweeted out a picture of his wife while threatening to "spill the beans" about her, per CNN. Their feud was even more vicious than that of typical political rivals. Cruz called Trump a "sniveling coward" and refused to endorse him when he spoke at the Republican National Convention, prompting viewers to boo him off the stage.

Trump's attacks on Cruz, in fact, were so brutal that O'Rourke borrowed them during the debate, saying the "Lyin' Ted" nickname stuck "because it's true." Brendan Morrow

8:42 a.m. ET

Congressional Republicans are once again distancing themselves from a shocking tweet made by President Trump.

After Trump referred to adult film star Stormy Daniels as "horseface" on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told CBS on Wednesday that there is "no place for that kind of language" and that Trump "should not have said that." Ryan conducted the interview alongside Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who called Trump's insult "unacceptable," adding she disagrees with the way the president addresses women.

Several other GOP members of Congress have also criticized Trump for this comment against Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded to the tweet by saying, "that's not the way men act," while Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) said that the insult was "unbecoming of any man, let alone the POTUS." Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), typically an ardent Trump defender, felt the tweet went too far, saying that although Trump may be "a street fighter," he's "also the president." Watch Ryan's comments to CBS below. Brendan Morrow

8:18 a.m. ET
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "single biggest regret of my time in Congress," he told Bloomberg News on Tuesday, is "our failure to address the entitlement issue." McConnell said that the mushrooming federal deficit, which the Treasury Department just said grew to $779 billion last fiscal year — 77 percent higher than when McConnell became majority leader in 2015 — is "very disturbing," but he blamed Medicare and Social Security spending, not the $1.5 trillion tax cut he steered through last year.

"I think it's pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult if not impossible to achieve when you have unified government," McConnell said. Because cutting Social Security and Medicare are politically toxic, he added, it will be "very difficult to do entitlement reform, and we're talking about Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid," while Republicans run everything. While top GOP lawmakers have recently proposed cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to shrink the deficit, Democrats reiterated Tuesday that they won't be on board if they win one or both houses of Congress.

When advocating for the tax cuts last December, McConnell predicted they would at least pay for themselves due to stronger growth. The White House blamed the ballooning deficits on stagnant tax revenue and higher spending. "Business tax revenue fell sharply in the first nine months of this year because tax rates were cut under last year's law," The Washington Post notes. "McConnell blamed the recent run-up in the deficit on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but there haven't been policy changes in those programs to explain the major run-up in the debt in the past two years. The bigger changes have instead been bipartisan agreements to remove spending caps on things such as the military, and last year's tax cut." Peter Weber

7:44 a.m. ET
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It seems Idris Elba has landed his next role. It's not James Bond, but for musical fanatics, it's equally iconic.

Elba is reportedly in talks to join the cast of Cats, the new movie adaptation of the popular (and incredibly bizarre) Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. He'd be playing Macavity, who is essentially the story's villain, per Deadline. In the long-running musical, a group of cats gathers together to decide which of them will be sent to a sort of cat heaven referred to as the "Heaviside Layer."

The Cats movie already had a fairly random lineup of cast members including Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, and James Corden. Tom Hooper, whose filmography includes the Oscar-nominated 2012 adaptation of Les Misérables, will direct, and Steven Spielberg will produce,Variety reports.

It's certainly a great time to be an Elba fan, as he's also currently filming the Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. Both that and Cats come out in 2019, so be prepared for Elba to get furious and — ahem — furry-ous next year. Brendan Morrow

6:38 a.m. ET
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any involvement by the Trump campaign is still chugging along, quietly, but "Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation," Bloomberg News reported early Wednesday, citing two U.S. officials. "Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry," whether there is clear evidence of collusion, and whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

If Mueller does issue those reports, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may still prevent them from being sent to Congress or made public. Rosenstein has been privately pressuring Mueller to wrap up his investigation as quickly as possible, and President Trump has been doing so publicly, Bloomberg reports, but a lot could change after the Nov. 6 elections: Notably, Rosenstein and/or Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be gone, giving Mueller a new boss, and Democrats could win control of one or both houses of Congress, changing the political calculus in Washington.

"That suggests the days and weeks immediately after the Nov. 6 election may be the most pivotal time since Mueller took over the Russia investigation almost a year and a half ago," Bloomberg says. "So far, Mueller has secured more than two dozen indictments or guilty pleas. ... And because Mueller's investigation has been proceeding quietly, out of the public eye, it's possible there have been other major developments behind the scenes." Former federal prosecutors say Mueller appears in no hurry to close up shop and probably has several important leads he is still nailing down. You can read more about what Mueller may be up to Bloomberg News. Peter Weber

5:50 a.m. ET
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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has told his staff that Suzanne Israel Tufts, a political appointee at HUD, has been named acting inspector general of the Interior Department. The role of internal watchdog at federal agencies is traditionally nonpartisan, and the Interior Department's inspector general's office has several investigations ongoing into conduct by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, making the installation of a political appointee all the more unusual, The Washington Post reports.

That's not the only strange thing about Tufts' apparent appointment. The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General said it "has received no official communication about any leadership changes," and an Interior Department spokeswoman, Faith Vander Voort, referred questions to the White House, noting that the inspector general "is a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position, which would be announced by the White House." The White House has not announced Tufts' nomination and did not respond to the Post's request for comment. A HUD spokesman said Tufts was on temporary loan to Interior, but Carson described her departure as permanent.

Tufts is a lawyer from Queens with no experience in government oversight; when she was hired at HUD, she replaced a career official who had objected to Carson's costly office makeover, the Post reports. The current acting Interior inspector general, Mary Kendall, is a longtime government lawyer who has served as deputy inspector general since 1999. She took over as acting inspector general in 2009; President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as inspector general but the Senate never voted on it.

Kendall's investigations of Zinke include a Montana land-investment deal involving the chairman of Halliburton and a foundation tied to Zinke and his wife, Lola; Lola Zinke's government travel with her husband; a casino project blocked after Zinke met with MGM Resorts International lobbyists; and whether the shrunken boundaries for Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument were drawn to benefit a Utah Republican state lawmaker. Peter Weber

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