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November 14, 2017

More than 12.7 million Australians participated in a voluntary postal survey asking if they support or oppose same-sex marriage, and a majority voted in favor of it, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced Wednesday.

Of the votes cast, 61.6 percent were in support of same-sex marriage and 38.4 percent were opposed. Politicians are expected to start talking about a bill to legalize same-sex marriage as early as this week. "It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said of the result. "They have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality. They vote yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love." Catherine Garcia

1:56p.m.

President Trump's appeal to seniors may not be working out as well as he'd hoped.

A Morning Consult/Politico survey published Wednesday found that among voters whose number one concerns are Social Security and Medicare, 52 percent said they would vote for a Democratic candidate in a congressional election if it were held today, compared to 33 percent who said they'd vote for a Republican. No specific candidates were named; voters were just asked generally which party they'd favor.

The poll also found that among voters who prioritize Social Security and Medicare, 60 percent disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, while 37 percent approve. In the 2016 election, 53 percent of seniors voted for Trump. Additionally, the majority of these seniors' issues voters, 65 percent, say the country has gotten off on the wrong track. Overall, Social Security and Medicare was the second most prevalent issue — 17 percent consider it a top priority, coming in only behind the economy.

Respondents were polled in the days following a USA Today op-ed Trump wrote, in which he promised to defend Medicare and Social Security from "the radical socialist plans of the Democrats." The president argued Democrats would eviscerate the programs, disproportionately affecting seniors. Fact-checkers debunked many of Trump's claims, and it seems senior issue voters weren't buying it either. Seniors historically have skewed Republican, notes Morning Consult, but analysis suggests the demographic is coming around to Democrats' pledge to push Medicare-for-all.

The Morning Consult/Politico poll was conducted from Oct. 11-14 by speaking to 1,959 registered voters online. The margin of error is 2 percentage points. Brendan Morrow

1:32p.m.

Joe Arpaio lost his Senate bid earlier this year, and he blames The New York Times for ruining his chances of running again.

The former Maricopa County sheriff has accused the Times and a member of its editorial board of libel, Politico reports. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Arpaio says a Times opinion piece published after he lost Arizona's GOP Senate primary this year is full of "false, defamatory factual assertions" that could prove harmful when he runs for the Senate again in 2020.

Arpaio's 24-year stint as sheriff was marked by the opening of an outdoor tent jail he called a "concentration camp," federal lawsuits alleging he championed racial profiling, and a slew of other not-so-positive career highlights. He was convicted of contempt of court while fighting one of those racial profiling cases, and received a pardon from President Trump last year.

But apparently, a Times op-ed published after Arpaio lost the GOP primary for Sen. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) seat is what actually made Arpaio look bad. In the piece, columnist Michelle Cottle writes that Arpaio's "24-year reign of terror was medieval in its brutality." The sheriff conducted "racial profiling on a mass scale," she wrote. In the suit, Arpaio contends these allegations were "carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure” his reputation within the law enforcement community, The Washington Post reports. Arpaio also worries the allegations will stymie donations as he runs for the late Sen. John McCain's seat, temporarily held by Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Arpaio is seeking $147.5 million in damages as well as legal fees from the Times and Cottle, Politico details. The Times "intend[s] to vigorously defend against the lawsuit," a spokeswoman told the Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:48p.m.

Even without its former leading lady, The Conners had a solid debut on ABC this week.

The first episode of the Roseanne spin-off drew about 10.46 million viewers on Tuesday night, writes The Hollywood Reporter, which is about the same audience size that Roseanne was maintaining when it ended last May. The finale of Roseanne, the last episode that actually had actress Roseanne Barr in it, drew 10.58 million viewers.

Roseanne was canceled after Barr sent a racist tweet calling a black woman an "ape," only for ABC to order a spin-off featuring everyone but Barr. In the debut, it's revealed that Barr's character died of a drug overdose off-screen.

The Conners' premiere did, however, attract a significantly smaller audience than the premiere of the Roseanne revival, as about 18.4 million people tuned into that last March. The initial boom dropped off as the tenth season went on, and the show began averaging about 10 million viewers per episode near the end of its run.

The real question, though, is how The Conners will continue to perform throughout the season. Are viewers satisfied with the new Roseanne-free lineup, or did they simply tune in to satisfy a morbid curiosity about how her firing would be addressed? Could this situation be like Kevin Can Wait, in which the episode with the female lead's death drew 10 million viewers, only for the ratings to immediately tank until the show was swiftly canceled? Or will it be more like Two and a Half Men, which continued for years after Charlie Sheen's firing? No matter which way it shakes out, viewers can presume that Barr will continue to tweet angrily about it. Brendan Morrow

12:02p.m.

New horrifying details are emerging about the evidence Turkey claims to have in the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish officials reportedly shared with the United States details of an audio recording that suggests Khashoggi was killed minutes after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The audio reportedly includes the voice of Salah Al Tabiqi, a Saudi forensic specialist, who tells others in the room to listen to music while he dismembers Khashoggi.

Audio leaked by a Turkish newspaper also suggests Khashoggi had his fingers cut off and was beheaded, and that the Saudi consul general told operatives to "do this outside," The New York Times reports. "You will put me in trouble," he reportedly said.

The United States is awaiting the completion of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance. The journalist arrived at the consulate earlier this month and has not been heard from since. Saudi Arabia's government has denied any knowledge of what happened to him, but Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he is expanding the probe to find details.

President Trump seems to be leaning toward believing Saudi officials' denials; on Tuesday he compared accusations that they were involved in Khashoggi's death to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Both, he said, are cases of being considered "guilty until proven innocent." Pompeo, after speaking with Saudi leaders Tuesday, said he did not yet "want to talk about any of the facts." Brendan Morrow

11:35a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn't "want to talk about any of the facts" regarding the disappearance of Jamal Khoshoggi.

The U.S.-based Saudi journalist hasn't been seen since he entered Turkey's Saudi Arabian consulate on Oct. 2, prompting a meeting between Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. Before Pompeo left Riyadh on Wednesday after the meeting, a reporter asked him if the Saudis had indicated whether Khashoggi was "alive or dead."

"I don't want to talk about any of the facts," Pompeo responded, and the Saudis "didn't want to either." Instead, the Saudis just want "the opportunity to complete this investigation" into Khashoggi's disappearance, Pompeo said, adding that it is "reasonable" to let them do so.

Few details have emerged from Pompeo's meetings with bin Salman and Saudi King Salman. But Pompeo and bin Salman apparently did make a joint call to President Trump, in which bin Salman "totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish consulate," Trump tweeted Tuesday. Turkish officials reportedly have evidence that Saudi operatives killed Khashoggi, but Trump has pushed to presume Saudi Arabia's innocence until the investigation is complete. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:51a.m.

President Trump apparently needed more than a cash boost from his father to create his booming real estate business.

He and the Trump Organization also worked with "accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass" in recent decades to profit off real estate projects around the world using "deceptive practices," an investigation from ProPublica and WNYC revealed on Wednesday.

In the past, the Trump Organization has claimed it wasn't deeply involved with these sketchy characters. Putting the Trump name on a project with questionable partners was just for marketing purposes, and the Trump Organization wasn't actually developing these buildings, it explained. But the ProPublica probe seems to reveal otherwise — and also alleges the Trump family attracted investors and buyers with false sales and ownership figures.

In one of a dozen examples, Trump told a Florida newspaper in 2005 he had a "substantial stake" in a tower being built in Tampa. "In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project," ProPublica writes. In another, Ivanka Trump told Portfolio she "sold over 90 percent" of a 1,000-unit building in Panama. Three months later, just 79 percent of the units were gone — and some of them were sold, for lower rates than she claimed, by a broker with ties to the Russian mafia. The project eventually went bankrupt and was stripped of its Trump name.

"These statements weren't just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers and investors about the viability of the developments," ProPublica and WNYC explain. And when the projects failed, as they often did, the Trumps reportedly still profited before distancing themselves from the failures.

The Trump Organization didn't respond to ProPublica/WNYC's request for comment, and the White House had no comment. Read more at ProPublica and WNYC. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:49a.m.

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

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