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December 11, 2017
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Kim Jong Un is building an arsenal to rain missiles from the sky — and apparently those aren't his only celestial ambitions. USA Today reported Monday that North Korean state media claims Kim has the ability to manipulate the weather.

After the supreme leader made his way up to the peak of Paektu Mountain, an active volcano on the border of China and North Korea, a blizzard apparently stopped in its tracks. North Korea's state newspaper Rodung Simun said that the "fine weather" atop the volcano was so paradisal as to be "unprecedented" — proof that the "peerlessly illustrious commander" could bend the weather to his will. Perhaps even more impressive was that Kim's black leather shoes apparently remained unscuffed after his arduous climb.

The Kim family has a special connection with Paektu Mountain. It is said that when Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was born, so too was a new star, while a double rainbow appeared in the sky over the volcano. In 2009, snow apparently melted on the mountain's peak during Kim Jong Il's birthday, prompting observers to claim "that even the nature and the sky unfolded such mysterious ecstasy in celebration of the birthday of leader Kim Jong Il."

The younger Kim, then, has apparently inherited some of the superhuman abilities of his father, who was supposedly the author of more than 1,500 books and six of the world's superior operas. Kelly O'Meara Morales

6:53 a.m. ET

If Congress doesn't pass a spending bill by midnight Friday, the federal government will start shutting down Saturday, with most of the impact starting Monday. About 850,000 federal workers would be sent home without pay, or furloughed, though employees deemed "essential" would stay on the job without pay (in the last shutdown, Congress paid all federal employees retroactively). A shutdown wouldn't be pretty, especially if if lasted for more than a few days, and it would cost the government in ways big and small.

Things that wouldn't change: The U.S. Postal Service would deliver mail as normal, Social Security and Medicare would be unaffected, veterans would still get health care, and air traffic controllers, Forest Service firefighters, and FDA food safety inspectors would stay on the job. And "it's a stretch, at best, to think the military would bear the brunt of a partial government shutdown," as President Trump and other Republican leaders have argued, The Associated Press says. "All military members would be required to report for work as usual. Paychecks would be delayed only if the shutdown lasted beyond Feb. 1." The White House wants to keep national parks and memorials open.

But the 850,000 employees not working will stall activities at most federal agencies, and that will cause some havoc. Most intelligence analysts would be furloughed, AP says, and 61 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be sent home during a bad flu season. The IRS would likely furlough thousands of employees as it tries to implement the new GOP tax law, and biomedical and public health research at the National Institutes of Health would grind to a halt, adversely affected some projects. "Day 1, the world doesn't fall apart," J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, tells AP. But "things start to crumble" over time. Peter Weber

5:50 a.m. ET
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The federal government appears headed for its first shutdown since 2013, but if you had plans to visit a national park or monument next week, you may not be out of luck. The Trump administration is still trying to figure out which federal employees would be furloughed and which would stay on the job during a shutdown, but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is working to keep national parks open even if park employees are sent home, The Washington Post reports. The goal: "to minimize anger over the disruption of services."

The idea of keeping national parks and monuments open was reportedly pushed by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who told Fox Business this week that a shutdown "would look very different under a Republican administration than it would under a Democrat." In the last two shutdowns, Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress and a Democrat was in the White House, and Republicans shouldered most of the blame for ruining vacations. This time, "there is no desire to weaponize closing of public parks or monuments for partisan, political reasons," said John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Mulvaney's office.

How to keep the parks open is still being worked out, and there are risks involved with allowing unsupervised tourists to wander around federal lands. But politics aside, this seems like a nice gesture. After all, if Trump isn't changing his vacation plans for a government shutdown, why should you? Peter Weber

4:42 a.m. ET

The U.S. is hurtling toward a government shutdown, 9 million children are on the verge of losing health care, and North Korea has the bomb, but on Wednesday night President Trump "stayed laser-focused — by announcing the winners of his 'Fake News Awards,' the Fakeys," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday, "and I'm sad to say, The Late Show was snubbed." It wasn't for lack of effort. "Like everything from Donald Trump, this award ceremony was overhyped and underwhelming," Colbert said. Trump had "pumped this as a big event," but all he did was tweet out a broken link to the Republican National Committee website. "404 Error — yes, presidency not found."

Eventually, they got the link to work, and the winners were ... just a poorly formatted listicle. "There isn't even a trophy," Colbert groused. "You can't just make a list and and call it awards." The RNC justified hosting Trump's listicle because the media has "spent 90 percent of the time focused on negative coverage," a claim Colbert found reasonable. "Well, yeah — Trump is bad at being president 90 percent of the time," he said. "Just this week, we are preparing for a government shutdown, found out that Trump had an affair with a porn star, and almost lost Hawaii. It's only Thursday!"

Jimmy Kimmel was also underwhelmed with Trump's presentation. "But I have to say, it was very thoughtful of the president to hand out awards to the media — the Dishonest and Corrupt Media Awards, but still, they're awards," he said on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "And since he did that for us, on behalf of the media, I think it's only fair that we extend the same honor to him." The categories for Kimmel's "Dishonest and Corrupt President Awards" include "Least Convincing Display of Love," "Best Fabricated Numbers," and "Outstanding Achievement in Obama Fan Fiction."

At least Jordan Klepper at The Opposition found the awards a success. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:47 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, the Justice Department dropped its charges against 129 of the remaining 188 defendants arrested during sometimes-violent protests during President Trump's inauguration a year ago. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff said in a court filing that the government "is focusing its efforts" on the 59 remaining "defendants who engaged in identifiable acts of destruction."

The Justice Department had planned on a series of trials throughout most of 2018, employing a novel strategy, prosecuting the arrested protesters, journalists, and bystanders not for acts of violence or vandalism but because they had knowingly participated in a march they knew would turn violent. That strategy suffered a setback in December when a judge and jury threw out all charges against the first group of six protesters. Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the Defend J20 Resistance, said his group will work to help the remaining 59 defendants from "what is clearly a political prosecution." The next trial is scheduled to start March 5. Peter Weber

3:16 a.m. ET

On Thursday, Carl Higbie resigned as head of external affairs for the federal government's volunteer services organization after CNN's Andrew Kaczynski dug up comments he had made on the radio disparaging black people, women, Muslims, gay people, veterans with PTSD, and other groups. President Trump appointed Higbie, a Trump campaign surrogate and spokesman for his Great America PAC, in 2017 to be the public face of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which oversees programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

Many of the comments were from Higbie's time as host of the internet radio show "Sound of Freedom." In one December 2013 episode, for example, Higbie said "the black race" has "a lax of morality," and black women "think that breeding is a form of employment." You can read and listen to more of his comments at CNN. "Effective immediately, Carl Higbie has resigned as chief of external affairs at CNCS," agency spokeswoman Samantha Jo Warfield said in a statement. The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Peter Weber

2:24 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a lower court's order that North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly redraw the state's congressional map by Jan. 24, well before the 2018 election, on the grounds that it is excessively partisan. The state can continue using the current map through the appeals process, meaning North Carolina will likely use its gerrymandered map in 2018.

When Republicans approved the district map's criteria in February 2016, they were pretty open about the goal being to keep 10 of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House seats in GOP hands, despite the close partisan split in the state. The three-judge federal panel ruled earlier this month that such "invidious partisan discrimination" violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause, with two judges also saying it violated the First Amendment. All nine Supreme Court justices weighed in on the appeal from North Carolina Republicans, and the court order notes that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the stay.

The eventual outcome of the North Carolina case will be swayed by whatever the high court decides in a raft of gerrymandering cases this term from Wisconsin, Maryland, and Texas. Peter Weber

1:56 a.m. ET
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Depending on who you ask, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie either did or did not get shunned at a super special entrance to Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday.

Christie tried to pass through a gate he used as governor that would have let him bypass security, a person with knowledge of the incident told ABC News. He was turned away, with an agent showing him the way to the security line for regular people. Christie was accompanied by a state trooper, and as an outgoing governor, he could have a security detail for up to six months. Throughout the incident, ABC News says, Christie was polite to everyone and didn't make a scene about being stopped at the entrance.

On Twitter, though, Christie called the report "pure fiction," tweeting that he was actually led to the entrance and informed "that this was the wrong way to enter." Christie said he was directed to the right spot, and not only was "neither option the way I entered [the] airport as governor," but agents also "never denied me entry at either place."

Look, it's hard out there for former governors who leave office with rock-bottom approval ratings. When you're used to being able to do things like order the closing of every beach in the state ahead of the 4th of July, then open one up just for you and your family to enjoy, only to get annoyed when people have the nerve to be upset by photos showing you and your beach chair just chilling in the sand, it can be hard to adjust to regular life. Let's cut Christie some slack. Catherine Garcia

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