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October 18, 2018

Jared Kushner seems to think the mounting international tensions sparked by Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance will blow over.

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser has urged him to stand by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thinking the outrage sparked by the suspected murder of a Washington Post columnist "will pass," The New York Times reports.

Kushner reportedly pointed to other recent incidents that the public largely moved on from, such as when 40 children were killed in a Saudi-led airstrike last month. CNN reports that Kushner and the crown prince have a close relationship and have communicated privately on WhatsApp.

Saudi Arabia is considering placing blame for Khashoggi's suspected death on one of the crown prince's advisers, reports the Times. Officials will reportedly admit that bin Salman ordered General Ahmed al-Assiri to capture Khashoggi so he could be brought to Saudi Arabia for interrogation, but will say he didn't authorize Assiri to kill him. Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month to obtain a marriage document and has not been heard from since. The United States has reportedly been briefed on the Saudis' plans to blame Assiri.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States would give Saudi Arabia a few more days to complete its investigation, at which point they will examine the facts before deciding whether to respond. Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

1:53 p.m.

As numerous Fox projects are brought under the Disney umbrella, not all of them may survive intact.

Steven Spielberg's upcoming West Side Story remake is one of a number of films that had been in the works at Fox prior to the recent Disney sale. But The Hollywood Reporter reports that some of these projects "are being met with scrutiny," with Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn reportedly "questioning the apparent plan to have young characters smoking onscreen" in West Side Story.

Disney has indicated it will continue releasing R-rated movies like Deadpool under the Fox banner and just not branding them as family-friendly Disney movies, so it's unclear whether this means the studio is now eying West Side Story as a traditional Disney release. If that's the case, Horn has suggested that smoking wouldn't be allowed. The Reporter quotes a previous interview the Disney chief gave in which he named Bohemian Rhapsody as a movie Disney couldn't release before the Fox purchase because it includes smoking and "there are certain things we just can't include because we'll get letters."

Additional details about this apparent smoking dispute weren't available, but the good news is that West Side Story is at least moving forward. As the Reporter notes, other projects that were previously in the works at Fox but are being purged from Disney's slate weren't so lucky. Brendan Morrow

1:29 p.m.

John Delaney might be the most hopeful 2020 hopeful out there.

Despite being the first Democrat to launch a 2020 run back in 2017, the former Maryland congressmember has failed to gain any ground in the many 2020 primary polls since. So in what's probably another futile attempt to generate some buzz, Delaney has launched a campaign to "#UnfollowTrump" on Twitter "and hit him where it actually hurts him ... his ego."

The call to arms went out to Delaney's 19,500 Twitter followers, as well as his mailing list of unknown proportions. Even if all those people followed Delaney's directive, there's a strong chance Trump, with his 59.9 million-user following growing every day, wouldn't even notice the difference. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:17 p.m.

Avengers: Endgame could soar to unprecedented box office heights.

Experts expect the Marvel sequel to surpass Avengers: Infinity War's opening weekend of $257 million, with many predicting a gross of between $260 million and $270 million. That would be enough to give the movie the new biggest domestic opening in history.

But it could beat even these lofty expectations, with Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter writing that a stunning $300 million domestic opening might be on the table. Only six movies in history have even achieved a domestic opening greater than $200 million. Not everyone is convinced a $300 million debut is actually possible, though.

Endgame is also eying a global debut of at least between $850 million and $900 million, the Reporter notes, which would be a new record. This seems like a fairly conservative estimate, but The Wrap and Deadline suggest it could climb as high a $1 billion, thanks in part to the fact that it's opening in China and the U.S. in the same week.

In terms of final worldwide gross, Endgame looks likely to at the very least surpass Infinity War's $2 billion total. But by how much? In light of the glowing critical reviews and record-breaking opening day in China, it's not unreasonable to think that despite the summer competition, it could edge past Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Titanic to become the second highest-grossing movie ever made.

To do so, Endgame would need to increase Infinity War's box office earnings by about 7 percent, which would take it past Titanic to $2.2 billion. For comparison, the final Harry Potter installment increased its predecessor's worldwide gross by about 40 percent. But could the intimidating three-hour running time make beating Titanic a difficult feat?

Given the massive hype surrounding Endgame, one thing's for sure: if it falls short of that insane $300 million U.S. opening and $1 billion global debut, don't expect another film to achieve that milestone anytime soon. Brendan Morrow

1:11 p.m.

At least 60 people have died in South Africa after flooding overtook the Southeast province of KwaZulu-Natal, reports BBC.

The region, which contains the city of Durban, has been hit with heavy rain since Monday. A South African broadcaster says more than 1,000 people may be displaced due to the flooding, which has caused mudslides and buildings to collapse.

More floods could be on the horizon, and a government spokesperson told CNN there is a 50 percent chance of more rain. The affected areas are still under a severe weather warning, reports BBC.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited areas impacted by the flooding, including one location where seven members of the same family perished due to flood damage. Read more at BBC. Marianne Dodson

12:21 p.m.

More than 12,000 Boy Scouts have allegedly been sexually abused by more than 7,000 troop leaders and volunteers in the organization, reports ABC News.

Newly released court documents provide testimony substantiating the claims, writes ABC News. Expert witness Janet Warren, who is a professor at the University of Virginia's medical school, revealed during a January trial she has been evaluating the Boy Scouts of America's handling of sexual abuse cases from 1944 to 2016. During this trial, which centered around sexual abuse allegations at a Minnesota children's theater, Warren said that there were 7,819 perpetrators and 12,254 victims within the organization, reports ABC News.

Attorney Jeff Anderson publicized these numbers on Tuesday and said 130 of the alleged abusers live in New York and could face legal repercussions.

The Boy Scouts of America said they never knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth, but did confirm that Warren has worked with the organization to conduct research on the database detailing alleged abuse.

"We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, and we have paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice," the Boy Scouts of America told ABC News.

The organization was previously charged with concealing child molesters and reports of abuse; however, the numbers suggested by Warren are significantly higher than any past allegations, per ABC News. Marianne Dodson

12:00 p.m.

James Holzhauer is kicking Daily Doubles and taking names.

On his fourth day on Jeopardy! two weeks ago, Holzhauer easily crushed Jeopardy!'s one-game winnings record of $77,000, pulling in $110,914. He's since passed $1 million in earnings and crushed a few more records on the way — and his fellow Jeopardy! elites have a few theories on how he's done it.

Just a few days after setting a new one-game record, Holzhauer did it again with a $131,127 haul. He now claims the top seven single-game winnings spots, per the official Jeopardy! recordbooks. Holzhauer also hit the $1 million mark in the shortest number of games — 14 — on Tuesday night, and has the second-highest regular-season winnings total of all time.

Ken Jennings, who still has the highest regular-season win total of all time, told The Associated Press that Holzhauer is doing so well because "Most Jeopardy! players never think about maximizing winnings." Jennings says he "wouldn't have the stomach to bet $60,000 on a Final Jeopardy clue," but Holzhauer, a professional sports better, told Wired that he doesn't have a "mental block" because "it's only money." 2017 Tournament of Champions winner Buzzy Cohen also credits Holzhauer's board-hopping strategy, saying the game show prodigy "took a playbook that has existed and executed it flawlessly."

But it's not all fun and Final Jeopardy! for everyone. Seeing as "every game show has a prize budget" largely "determined by way of averages of what has been won in the past," a former Game Show Network programming head tells The Atlantic that "James's performance, I'm sure, is causing grief for an accountant somewhere." Kathryn Krawczyk

11:47 a.m.

Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee's death is forcing politicians to face hard truths, as dormant sectarian violence threatens to resurface in Northern Ireland.

At McKee's funeral in Belfast on Wednesday, the priest administering the service, Father Martin Magill, commended Northern Irish politicians — unionists and republicans alike — for their joint statement condemning violence and urging for calming following McKee's murder.

Many notable political leaders were sitting in the front pews, including Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. But after the compliment, Magill directly challenged those in front of him, sparking a standing ovation from attendees.

The 29-year-old journalist was killed last Thursday while watching a riot in Derry, Northern Ireland, by stray bullets from dissident republicans believed to be affiliated with the New Irish Republican Army, a recently formed Irish nationalist militant group that does not recognize the terms of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998, which put a halt to sectarian violence in North Ireland.

In addition to McKee's murder, a large bomb detonated in Derry in January, though there were no casualties.

The New IRA apologized for McKee's death, but the response from Derry's citizens was not positive.

Tim O'Donnell

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