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September 14, 2018

One of the most famous and highest-grossing actresses in China hasn't been seen in months, and nobody knows what happened to her.

The New York Times reports that Fan Bingbing, a wildly popular actress in China who has also starred in some American films like Iron Man 3 and X-Men: Days of Future Past, has mysteriously vanished. BBC reports that her last public appearance was in early July. Her disappearance may be related to the fact that she was accused of tax evasion in June, per The Hollywood Reporter, leading to speculation that she has been detained by authorities.

But The New York Times reports that she hasn't actually been charged with a crime, and Chinese authorities will not confirm whether she is being investigated at all, although a general investigation into tax evasion in the industry launched in June and resulted in new restrictions on actors' salaries. The Times notes that those close to Fan doubt that her unexplained disappearance only has to do with taxes, though, and there are rumors that she may have fled the country. Her social media pages have not been updated in four months.

In addition to being missing, Fan has also suddenly become a pariah in China, with brands she used to represent completely cutting ties with her and studios scrubbing her from movie posters. In one case, Fan was reportedly removed from a film entirely. One report from August suggested she had been banned from acting for three years, per Variety, but neither this — nor nearly anything else about this strange saga — has been confirmed. Brendan Morrow

3:07 p.m.

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo an international health emergency, The Associated Press reports.

This announcement comes days after the Congolese Health Ministry said that the virus had spread to Goma, which has a population of more than one million people. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee made its decision on Wednesday after having met three other times since the outbreak began last year without choosing to declare it an international health emergency. More than 1,600 deaths have been reported since August 2018, and in June, the first death outside of the DRC was reported when a young boy died in Uganda.

Four other times has such a declaration of an international health emergency been made, AP reports, with the last one coming during the West Africa Ebola outbreak that began in 2014.

"It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts," Tedros Adhanom, WHO's director general, said in a statement. "We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system." Brendan Morrow

2:58 p.m.

Surprise, surprise, she's back!

Gossip Girl is coming to HBO Max seven years after it went off the air. WarnerMedia's new streaming service — set to launch in 2020 — has ordered 10 episodes of the rebooted series and is bringing fans back to the inner circles of the Upper East Side elite, reports TVLine.

The creative team behind the original CW hit series is set to return, with creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage executive producing and Joshua Safran stepping in as showrunner. It's unknown whether the original cast will make appearances in the reboot, but HBO Max has revealed that the series "will address just how much social media — and the landscape of New York itself — has changed in the intervening years."

Based on Cecily von Ziegesar's book series, Gossip Girl ran on The CW from 2007-2012 and exposed the world to the talents of Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, and Penn Badgley. The show has remained a staple in pop culture and the reboot is sure to fill many viewers' hearts with nostalgia. But, until then, xoxo. Amari Pollard

2:00 p.m.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a 2020 presidential candidate, tried to unanimously pass the House-passed extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund without a roll call vote on Wednesday, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stepped in to block it.

The bill, which has been the subject of testimonials from several 9/11 responders like the late Luis Alvarez, is not considered to be in danger. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said it will pass by August.

But Paul, who is known for preferring to slash budgets, said "at the very least" he wants to have a debate. "Any new program that's going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years should be offset by cutting spending that's less valuable," he said on the Senate floor.

In short, Paul is reportedly concerned about the "open-ended nature" of the bill which would provide protections for first responders until 2090. Most other Republicans reportedly consider the bill too important and are ready to spend. Tim O'Donnell

1:59 p.m.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) apparently likes bringing business into his personal life.

While joining President Trump for a round of golf this weekend, Paul asked Trump to send him to meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, four U.S. officials tell Politico. Paul's plan, the officials say, is to soften the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran — and Trump reportedly approved of it.

Paul's reported request just after Iran announced it violated enrichment levels set under the international nuclear deal Trump pulled the U.S. out of. Trump has responded with a so-called "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran, which comes in the form of economic sanctions. Administration officials who support the maximum pressure move are "rankled" by Paul's apparent involvement in the deal, seeing as he's known to oppose foreign intervention, Politico reports. After all, Paul sent a letter alongside a bipartisan group of senators last month expressing concern over Trump's deployment of troops to the Middle East.

Zarif is in New York City this week for talks with the U.N., which is presumably where Paul would talk with him, Politico says. But Paul and his office have declined requests for comment, leaving the possible meeting up in the air. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:14 p.m.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who served the bench between 1975 and 2010 and died on Tuesday at age 99, was known for playing a major role during a crucial era for the Court and his evolving legal views.

Described by The New York Times as a "low-key Republican" who became an "ardent champion" of the court's liberal wing, Stevens wrote the majority opinions in major cases, including one that prevented military commissions from conducting trials for Guantánamo detainees and another declaring that the Constitution does not permit executing the mentally disabled.

But the bow tie-wearing justice wasn't held in high regard for his jurisprudence alone. Stevens was also reportedly known around the court for being a nice guy, treating others "with sensitivity and respect," the Times reports.

One former law clark, Christopher Eisgruber, wrote in a 1993 essay about Stevens' actions during a party for new law clerks. An older male justice instructed one of the few female clerks present at the party to serve coffee before Stevens arrived. When he got there, Stevens walked up to the young clerk and thanked her for serving the coffee. Then he made her stop. "I think it's my turn now," he said before taking over the job.

Read more about the heartwarming anecdote and Stevens' legacy at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

12:28 p.m.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) during a congressional hearing on Wednesday offered a brutal assessment of Facebook's cryptocurrency Libra, suggesting it will make the company more dangerous to the United States than Osama bin Laden.

Sherman spoke as members of the House Financial Services Committee questioned Facebook's David Marcus about the company's forthcoming cryptocurrency, Libra, which it announced last month.

"We're told by some that innovation is always good," Sherman said. "The most innovative thing that happened this century is when Osama bin Laden came up with the innovative idea of flying two airplanes into towers. That's the most consequential innovation, although this may do more to endanger America than even that."

Lawmakers hit Marcus with difficult questions throughout both Wednesday's hearing and a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) urging Facebook to stop its development of Libra because she has "serious concerns" that if it goes forward, the company will "wield immense economic power that could destabilize currencies and governments," CNN reports.

But Sherman went much further in the hearing, going on to call Libra a "godsend to drug dealers and sanctions evaders and tax evaders" and blast CEO Mark Zuckerberg as someone who "invades the privacy of ordinary Americans and sells it to the highest bidder."

Sherman also told Zuckerberg that "if cryptocurrency is used to finance the next horrific terrorist attack against Americans, 100 lawyers standing in a row, charging $2,000 an hour, are not going to protect his rear end from the wrath of the American people." Watch the congressman's comments below. Brendan Morrow

12:27 p.m.

Human anatomy means nothing when it's time to form a snappy comeback.

On Tuesday, the House voted to condemn President trump for his racist attacks against four Democratic congresswomen, while Trump tweeted to defend himself by saying "I don't have a racist bone in my body." 2020 contender and former Vice President Joe Biden got a crack at all those developments on Wednesday, and when confronted with Trump's claim of a racism-free skeleton, Biden responded by saying "that means he has no bones."

Biden has repeatedly called Trump "racist" over the course of his presidency, and the recent controversy over Trump telling congressmembers to "go back" to the countries they came from has been no exception. Yet in response to Republicans in the House refusing to do so during Tuesday's condemnation vote, Biden told ABC News "they know better." He did stop short of calling the GOP House members racist themselves. Kathryn Krawczyk

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