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September 14, 2018

In February 2017, Elon Musk announced that his SpaceX rockets would take two unidentified space tourists on a trip around the moon by the end of 2018. That timeline was pushed back to 2019 earlier this year, but on Thursday night, SpaceX dropped a surprise announcement.

Who is this mystery passenger? Probably not Musk, who dropped a clue — a Japanese flag emoji — on Twitter when asked about the space tourist. The original plan had been to send the two space tourists around the moon on a Dragon spacecraft powered by a Falcon Heavy rocket, which SpaceX successfully launched in May. The BFR, which Musk has described as the biggest rocket ever made, is still in the development stage.

If Musk does end up being one of the passengers on his around-the-moon vacation, he wouldn't be the only billionaire space tourism entrepreneur to ride on his own spacecraft. "Before the end of the year I hope to be sitting in a Virgin Galactic spaceship, going to space," Virgin chief Richard Branson told Bloomberg TV in May. Peter Weber

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

8:09 a.m.

The narrative of the 2020 Democratic primary shifted following a strong performance by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in the first debate in June. But two months later, a new poll puts us roughly back where we started.

While Harris experienced a major polling bump following her break-out first debate, during which she confronted former Vice President Joe Biden on busing, she's been slipping ever since the second debate in July. In the latest poll from CNN and SSRS released on Tuesday, she's down to 5 percent support, a 12-point drop from a post-debate June poll that had her at 17 percent support.

This poll brings Harris down to 10 points behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 9 points behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as 24 points behind Biden; she had been just five points away from the former vice president in June. CNN notes that this 5 percent support for Harris is about where she was before the first presidential debate.

Biden went up seven points in the CNN/SSRS poll compared to the one conducted in June, putting him at 29 percentage points, 14 points ahead of his closest rival, Sanders.

After a performance in the second Democratic debate that clearly did not make as much of an impression on voters as her first, Harris will next have a chance during the third debate in September, which will now have at least 10 candidates. With this CNN poll, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro has met the qualification requirements. Should just one more candidate qualify, the debate will be split into two nights again, meaning Harris may or may not get another rematch with Biden.

CNN's poll was conducted by speaking to 1,001 adults nationally over the phone from Aug. 15-18. The margin of error is 6.1 percentage points. Read the full results at CNN. Brendan Morrow

7:00 a.m.

"After the back-to-back attacks in Dayton and El Paso, this president once again signaled he was open to tougher background checks to help curb gun violence," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Monday night. "But once again, he's lost his spine." On Sunday, Trump was noncommittal and evasive, telling reporters that the U.S. already has "very strong background checks right now," echoing messaging from the National Rifle Association.

Cuomo pointed to internal congressional Republican talking points on gun legislation, including falsely blaming "violence from the left" and claiming universal background checks are a Democratic ploy to start a federal gun registry with an eye toward seizing guns. His guest, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the NRA has gotten to Trump.

NRA officials have lobbied Trump and his top aides since Dayton and El Paso, arguing that background checks aren't effective at preventing mass shootings and that many states Trump needs to win in 2020 are rich in NRA members who don't want new gun restrictions, White House aides and other sources tell The Washington Post. Also, "Trump's campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month's shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats." An unidentified White House official insisted to the Post that "the president is not backing down."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told advisers he won't allow consideration of gun legislation unless Trump is fully on board and it has widespread Senate Republican backing; Trump seems keen to let the Senate take the lead. "I think he personally wants to do something," Brendan Buck, a top aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tells the Post, "but I'm not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about." Peter Weber

4:45 a.m.

President Trump is apparently at least half-serious about purchasing Greenland, and Conan O'Brien is all in. "What if we, the United States, did buy Greenland?" he asked on Monday's Conan. "It might just be a good idea, it seriously might. And as the elder statesman of late night, what if I negotiated the deal? Seriously, what if I handled this historic negotiation? I have as much, if not more, negotiation experience as Trump."

Greenland and its colonial overlord, Denmark, both insist the semiautonomous island territory is not for sale. "But if there's anything I've learned from watching hundreds of hours of Property Brothers, saying 'It's not for sale' is the classic opening gambit — that means you're ready to go, yeah?" O'Brien said. "Greenland is definitely for sale. And ladies and gentlemen, if we don't move fast, some other country is going to overpay for it."

"So all right, Denmark, you want to play hardball?" O'Brien asked. "I'm ready to sweeten the deal. There's a couple of ways we could do it. First, we could do a straight trade: Greenland for Florida, okay? Trust me, this is our best state — and please do not google 'Florida.' Not convinced yet? How about this, Greenland? Once you're part of the United States, you'll be enrolled in the U.S. health care system. Also, please do not google 'U.S. health care system.'" He listed some other perks of joining the U.S.

"And here's the best part: To make sure this purchase goes through, I, Conan O'Brien, am going to personally travel to Greenland," becoming "the first American host to visit Greenland since Arsenio Hall did a week of shows there in 1989," he joked. Andy Richter pretended to remember those fictional shows. And Conan laid out some pretty high stakes for his negotiation. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:00 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has quickly risen from an obscure Kansas congressman best known for pushing Benghazi conspiracy theories to President Trump's CIA director and then top diplomat, "the last survivor of the president's original national-security team and his most influential adviser on international affairs," Susan Glasser writes in a new profile of Pompeo in The New Yorker. But in early 2016, he backed Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) in the Republican presidential primary, and on the day of the Kansas caucuses, he stood in for Rubio and savaged Trump.

Trump, like President Barack Obama, would be "an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution," Pompeo told a booing crowd of GOP caucus-goers in Wichita. Noting that candidate Trump said he would order soldiers to commit war crimes and they would obey, Pompeo said U.S. service members "don't swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other president. ... They take an oath to defend our Constitution." Backstage, Trump demanded to know who was thrashing him, Glasser recounts.

"I realized, listening to the speech of Mike Pompeo back in 2016, that I've never really heard him go off on Trump in a video form," Glasser recounts in a video accompanying her profile. "Mike Pompeo is very, very sensitive about even the appearance of being caught out disagreeing with Donald Trump. I think he is worried about the idea that Donald Trump is gonna remember back to March 5, 2016."

Trump reportedly was reminded of it after announcing Pompeo as CIA director, but he kept him anyway. Now Pompeo is "among the most sycophantic and obsequious people around Trump," a former senior White House official told Glasser. A former U.S. ambassador was more blunt: "He's like a heat-seeking missile for Trump's ass."

Pompeo's biography is interesting and impressive — first in his class at West Point, former Army captain, Harvard Law graduate, unsuccessful Koch-funded Kansas businessman, congressman, and now Trump whisperer and, as Glasser puts it, probably "the most conservative, ideologically driven secretary of state ever to serve." Read the entire profile at The New Yorker. Peter Weber

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