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November 9, 2018

On Friday, a judge in Arizona will hear a challenge from four local Republican parties who sued Wednesday night to limit the votes counted in Maricopa and Pima counties, the state's two biggest and most Democratic counties, or expand the ability of rural, Republican-leaning counties to count contested mail-in ballots, too. Thanks to votes counted mostly in Maricopa County, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema took a narrow lead in Arizona's still-unresolved Senate race.

Pima, Maricopa, and a handful of other Arizona counties allow voters to "cure" or resolve discrepancies between their on-file signatures and the ones on their ballot for five days after an election; other counties allow voters to "cure" their ballots only up until polls close on Election Day. The Yuma, Navajo, Apache, and Maricopa County Republican parties want the judge to stop Maricopa and Pima county election officials from contacting voters after Election Day or allow all counties too. On Thursday, Maricopa County officials said only about 5,600 ballots need such verification, The Associated Press reports, but every vote will count in this neck-and-neck race.

As of Thursday night, Sinema leads Republican Martha McSally by about 9,000 votes, out of 2.2 million cast. Maricopa County has about 345,000 ballots to count, a famously arduous and time-consuming process in Arizona, and about 127,000 are still to be counted elsewhere in the state. Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said his office, using a 1980s-era computer system, can tally only 75,000 votes a day, and it may not be finished until Nov. 15. "We know there's urgency out there, but we want to get it right, not quick," he said. Peter Weber

12:51 p.m.

There was no time for Shatterhand after all.

The next James Bond movie on Tuesday was finally given an official title, and it's not the rumored and widely-mocked Shatterhand. Instead, as is revealed in an extremely dramatic Twitter video, it's actually No Time to Die.

As to whether Shatterhand was ever actually intended to be the name of the movie, or whether it was just a working title, isn't exactly clear. Still, despite all those Twitter jokes, it did make some degree of sense, seeing as Shatterhand is the alias used by Ernst Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, and Christoph Waltz is returning as Blofeld in the movie. Instead, while that old title certainly turned a few heads, this one is reminiscent enough of classic Bond names that fans should probably get used to it in no time.

MGM on Tuesday also released an official plot synopsis of the film, which will see Bond "enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica" when Felix Leiter asks him for help. "The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology," the plot synopsis reads, per The Hollywood Reporter.

This 25th Bond movie sees Daniel Craig returning as the character after saying he'd rather "slash my wrists" than do so, although this one is expected to be his swan song. With "time" in the title, could the film be going the Avengers: Endgame route with a time travel adventure back into Bond's history? Could that "new technology" be time travel related? Almost certainly not, but let the terrible fan theories commence until No Time to Die hits theaters in April 2020. Brendan Morrow

12:13 p.m.

The fracturing of Italy's governing coalition resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.

Italy's League Party, known for its anti-immigrant position, and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement joined forces in 2018 after an unlikely power-sharing agreement that saw Conte, a law professor without previous political experience, step in as an independent prime minister. But that alliance has disintegrated following disagreements over key policies, concerns that the League secretly sought funding from Russia, and what The New York Times described as a "mutinous power play" by Italy's Interior Minister and League Party leader Matteo Salvini.

In an hour-long speech, Conte said Salvini's decision to call for an early election was "irresponsible" and accused him of putting personal and party interests above national ones by way of initiating a government crisis. Salvini spoke after Conte and maintained he would repeat his actions all over again if he had the chance. "I am a free man," he said. "I am not afraid of the judgment of Italians."

Five Star party leader Luigi Di Maio said "the League will have to answer for its faults" one day and that working with Conte "was an honor."

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella will oversee the country's next steps. He could call for early elections, which is what Salvini wants, or he could announce discussions with party leaders on forming a new coalition government, BBC reports. Five Star leaders are reportedly considering entering a power-share with the Democratic Party, a center-left opposition party. Tim O'Donnell

11:10 a.m.

NASA has confirmed plans to send a spacecraft to "the most promising place to look for life beyond Earth" — Jupiter's icy moon, Europa.

The Europa Clipper mission will work to advance understanding of both our cosmic origin and life outside of Earth, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA in a press release. The Europa Clipper will be ready for launch sometime between 2023 and 2025.

The decision to move forward with the mission brings NASA "one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world," Zurbuchen says.

Scientists think Europa's ocean, which is beneath a 10-to-15-mile ice shell, may contain twice as much water as Earth's oceans combined. If some form of life is discovered on Jupiter's moon, that would confirm life exists in at least two places that orbit the same star — the sun. Then, it would be "reasonable to suspect that life springs up in the universe fairly easily," according to NASA.

Maybe we won't need to storm Area 51 to find some alien comrades after all. Taylor Watson

10:55 a.m.

Enough with the worrying, former Vice President Joe Biden's brain surgeon says.

As some voters murmur that the gaffe-prone Democratic presidential candidate's age is cause for extra concern this campaign cycle, Dr. Neal Kassell — the man who performed surgery on Biden three decades ago following two brain aneurysms — came out swinging for his former patient.

Kassell dismissed fears about the 76-year-old Biden's mental faculties, noting that he's "as sharp as he was 31 years ago" and assuring people that the hemorrhage and subsequent operations did not result in any brain damage. "I am going to vote for the candidate who I am absolutely certain has a brain that is functioning," Kassell told Politico. "And that narrows it down to exactly one."

Biden's physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, backed up Kassell. "Vice President Biden is in excellent physical condition," he said. "He is more than capable of handling the rigors of the campaign and the office for which he is running."

In fact, several experts told Politico that voters are placing too great an emphasis on the age of several candidates, particularly the five septuagenarians who are running, including Democratic candidates Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 70, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 77, as well as 73-year-old President Trump and his lone Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is 74.

"They have prospects for survival that extend well beyond the four-year term of the office," said Dr. Jay Olshansky, who led an American Federation of Aging Research study last month that sought to determine how likely it is that a candidate would die while in office. "The bottom line is their chronological age does not matter at all." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

10:37 a.m.

Apple is getting ready to overload consumers with subscription services, and without a bundle, signing up for all of them won't be cheap.

The company is set to launch its Netflix competitor, Apple TV+, this fall, and a new report from Bloomberg suggests a $9.99 per month price point is being targeted. This is just one of a number of monthly services Apple is set to offer or already is, including one for music, one for news, and one for games, plus a monthly subscription for more iCloud space.

To put the ever-expanding collection of monthly services in perspective, a person signing up for Apple's music, news, TV and movies, and game services, as well as the 200GB iCloud storage option, would currently be spending about $38 a month, or $455 a year, although there is also a cheaper iCloud option. For comparison, you can get an iPhone 7 from Apple for $449 or a trade-in deal for an iPhone XR for $479.

Then again, Apple's "grand plan," NBC News notes, is to bundle these services together and "sell consumers on a full package," although details of this potential package haven't been revealed. Bloomberg speculates one version of this could be Apple tying its subscription services to its iPhone upgrade program.

These, of course, are just Apple's subscription services. For those who want to keep up on all the latest in TV and movies, the streaming market is about to be totally flooded with new streaming platforms from Disney, NBCUniversal, and WarnerMedia on the way. It seems inevitable that bundles will have to emerge for those consumers who can't possibly sign up for all of this, bringing them right back to the world of cable subscriptions they were trying so hard to escape in the first place. Brendan Morrow

9:41 a.m.

Apple is about to enter the streaming wars in a big way, and we're now learning more about how the new platform will compare to its main rivals.

Apple TV+ is now set to launch by November of this year, Bloomberg reports. If something about a streaming service launching in November is ringing some bells, it should: that just so happens to be the month that Disney is planning to debut its similarly-titled new streaming service, Disney+.

Apple is reportedly targeting a $9.99 price point for its service, which would make it more expensive than the $6.99 a month Disney+. It would, however, be less expensive than the standard Netflix plan, which costs $12.99 a month, although the cheapest Netflix option is $8.99 a month. Disney will also bundle Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month.

Unlike Netflix, Bloomberg reports that Apple is considering, at least for certain shows, releasing three episodes at once but then debuting episodes weekly from there rather than dropping the entire season in one go. It hasn't been confirmed how Disney+ will go about this, although weekly releases also seems likely, with a report earlier this year suggesting the Disney+ Star Wars show The Mandalorian won't drop its entire season on the same day like a Netflix original.

Plenty of original content for Apple TV+ is in the works like The Morning Show, a drama series about a Today-esque show starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell, while Disney is planning originals based on some of its biggest brands, such as Star Wars and Marvel. The Financial Times recently reported that Apple has $6 billion set aside for original movies and TV shows, below the $15 billion that Netflix is spending this year, although NBC's Dylan Byers disputes this and reports the number is "significantly" smaller. Disney plans to spend $1 billion on original Disney+ programing by 2020.

Get ready to reach peak streaming when both services launch this fall. Brendan Morrow

9:33 a.m.

And then there were 10.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on Tuesday became the 10th Democratic presidential candidate to qualify for the September Democratic primary debate in Houston. Castro had been close to qualifying for a while, after crossing the donor threshold and polling at 2 percent in three DNC-approved polls, but a new CNN poll, in which the former mayor of San Antonio hit 2 percent for the fourth time, put him over the line.

Castro joins fellow Texan former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the stage in his home state.

The qualification means that the debate scheduled for Sept. 12 is at capacity, as the DNC is still capping the number of candidates on one stage at 10. So, if any other candidates — such as billionaire Tom Steyer or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — pick up the 2-percent polling numbers they need within the next eight days, there will have to be a second night of debates on Sept. 13. Tim O'Donnell

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