U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 26, 2017


John Minchillo/Associated Press


1. 1 dead and 14 injured in Cincinnati nightclub shooting
At least one person is dead and another 14 injured after gunfire broke out in a Cincinnati, Ohio, nightclub around 1 a.m. local time on Sunday. Police are actively investigating the incident at the Cameo Night Club and say they have no reason to suspect terrorism. “It’s a large and complicated homicide scene,” said Cincinnati Police Department Sgt. Eric Franz. “At this point we have multiple witnesses we’re interviewing and we have nobody in custody.” Early reports suggested multiple shooters, but police later indicated there may be just a single attacker. Several victims are undergoing emergency surgery.

Source: CNN, ABC News

2. Health-care bill blame game begins
Following Friday’s canceled vote on the American Health Care Act, the GOP plan to reform ObamaCare which failed significantly because of intra-party opposition, the finger pointing has begun. President Trump has blamed Democratic leadership and, to a lesser extent, the House Freedom Caucus that organized conservative resistance in Congress. Privately, he is believed to share the critique of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership which other Republicans have begun to publicly level. Outside of Washington, the AHCA was generally unpopular, but its demise — coupled with Trump’s assertions that ObamaCare will now “explode” on its own — has produced widespread uncertainty.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

3. Trump-recommended show calls for Ryan to resign
“Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.,” President Trump tweeted Saturday — hardly an unusual post for a president known for his love of cable news shows. But in that evening’s episode, Judge Jeanine Pirro kicked off her program with a demand for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to resign. “He failed to deliver the votes on his health-care bill,” she said, insisting the de facto demise of the bill “is not on President Trump” because “no one expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances … of Washington.” Pirro said she did not discuss her message with the president before the show. While Trump has not explicitly blamed Ryan, the House speaker is in a difficult position after alienating the most conservative and moderate wings of his party alike.

Source: The Hill, The New York Times

4. EU affirms unity on eve of Brexit trigger
Leaders of the 27 European Union nations that will remain in the organization following the United Kingdom’s forthcoming exit met Saturday in Rome on the occasion of the 60-year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community, an EU forerunner. The conference adopted the Rome Declaration, a brief statement affirming mutual “pride in the achievements of the European Union,” including “common institutions and strong values, a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, a major economic power with unparalleled levels of social protection and welfare.” British Prime Minister Theresa May, who did not attend the meeting in Rome, is expected to begin the formal Brexit process Wednesday by triggering Article 50.

Source: CNN, Bloomberg

5. Fights erupt at pro-Trump rally in California
Violence broke out at a Make America Great Again rally south of Los Angeles on Saturday as supporters of President Trump scuffled with counter-protesters. About 2,000 Trump fans were gathered in Huntington Beach, California, when multiple fights erupted in the crowd. At least one Trump supporter was pepper-sprayed by a Trump opponent wearing a black mask, who was then tackled, punched, and kicked by multiple rally attendees. Four counter-protesters were arrested, local law enforcement said, three of them for illegal pepper spray use. Attendees described the event as a celebration of Trump plus Vice President Mike Pence, veterans, first responders, and patriotism in general. “Thanks you for all of the Trump Rallies today,” Trump tweeted Saturday night. “Amazing support. We will all MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Source: Los Angeles Times, Reuters

6. U.S. military acknowledges Mosul airstrike with alleged high civilian casualties
The U.S. military on Saturday took responsibility for a March 17 airstrike in the Islamic State-occupied portion of Mosul, Iraq, that is alleged to have killed as many as 200 civilians. The strike is part of a pattern of high civilian casualties which led U.S.-supported Iraqi troops to announce a pause in their assault on Mosul to reassess tactics. U.S. Central Command has launched an investigation into “the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.” If local reports are accurate, this strike would be the single “greatest loss of civilian life since the United States began strikes” against ISIS in 2014, The Washington Post reports.

Source: The Hill, The Washington Post

7. Top Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn expected to resign his post
Boris Epshteyn, a Trump administration official who manages several media surrogates for the president and is a high-profile surrogate himself, is expected to resign his post, perhaps for a less prominent role in the White House, multiple reports suggested Saturday evening. The reason for Epshteyn’s departure from his current position is unknown, though the former campaign staffer reportedly has a combative relationship with press contacts. “We are discussing opportunities within the Administration,” an unnamed senior administration official told Politico.

Source: Politico, The Hill

8. Vegas strip weathers pig-masked robbery, active gunman
The Las Vegas Strip was the scene of two dramatic but apparently unconnected crimes on Saturday. The first, which took place at the Bellagio hotel and casino around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, was an armed robbery attempt at a jewelry store perpetrated by at least one suspect wearing a rubber pig mask and wielding a sledgehammer. Later that morning, a man opened fire on a double decker bus, killing one person and injuring another before initiating a lengthy standoff with law enforcement. The Strip was shut down while the attacker hid in the stopped bus until mid-afternoon, at which point he surrendered to police without incident.

Source: The Associated Press, The Week

9. Hong Kong chooses Beijing-backed candidate amid contentious political climate
Hong Kong’s chief executive election on Sunday ended with a victory for Carrie Lam, formerly the semiautonomous city’s second-highest official and the favored candidate of Chinese leadership in Beijing. Lam was chosen with 67 percent support from a 1,194-member committee, which democratic activists in Hong Kong allege is illegitimate because it precludes a direct vote by the city’s 7.3 million people and is stacked with pro-Beijing elites. Lam will be Hong Kong’s first female chief executive. “Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness,” she said in her victory speech. “My priority will be to heal the divide.”

Source: Reuters, The Associated Press

10. Uber suspends self-driving car program after crash
A crash in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday has led ridesharing company Uber to suspend its self-driving car program. No one was seriously hurt in the incident, but the self-driving Volvo was flipped on its side after another vehicle “failed to yield” appropriately at a left turn. “There was a person behind the wheel” of the Volvo at the time of the crash, said an Uber representative, and it “is uncertain at this time if they were controlling the vehicle at the time of the collision.”

Source: Reuters, BBC News

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 25, 2017


Drew Angerer/Getty Images


1. House GOP cancels do-or-die health-care vote
House Republican leadership pulled the American Health Care Act from the lower chamber floor Friday afternoon, backing out on a scheduled vote just moments before it was set to begin. House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a press conference Friday he recommended to President Trump that the bill be withdrawn, and Trump agreed. As many as 34 Republicans opposed the GOP-backed health-care bill ahead of Friday’s vote; if the legislation lost more than 22 Republican votes, it would not have passed the House. Ryan said Friday the withdrawal means the GOP is “moving on” from the issue of health-care reform, echoing an ultimatum the president issued to House Republicans late Thursday: Pass this bill, or live with ObamaCare.

Source: Politico, Bloomberg

2. President Trump blames Democrats for health-care bill failure
President Trump told reporters Friday afternoon the de facto defeat of the American Health Care Act was “perhaps the best thing that could have happened.” ObamaCare is “exploding,” Trump argued, and the real “losers” are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who “own ObamaCare.” Trump ultimately blamed “no votes from the Democrats” for the bill’s demise, despite the fact that more than enough Republicans to sink the bill were also opposed. Several members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which was prominent among the AHCA’s GOP critics, on Friday pointed instead to the president’s rushed timeline and uncompromising attitude as the source of the bill’s failure.

Source: The Washington Post, ABC News

3. Democrats cheer GOP health-care implosion
Democratic leaders were gleeful Friday over the implosion of the GOP’s American Health Care Act. The bill’s de facto loss is “a victory … for the American people” and a “great day for America,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), “for our seniors, for people with disabilities, for our children, for our veterans.” New Jersey’s Sen. Bob Menendez (D) took to Twitter to assure Republicans “that burn is covered under the Affordable Care Act,” while the House Democratic Caucus tweeted a snarky gif of a building being demolished.

Source: The Week, House Democrats

4. White House ‘agenda moves on’ after health-care loss
The Trump administration is ready to move on to addressing tax policy after the downfall of the health-care plan it supported, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday. Trump is “disappointed” by the loss, Spicer conceded, but is now motivated by “a desire to do fundamental tax reform, something we haven’t seen since 1986,” Spicer told Fox News. “The agenda moves on.” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chair of the House tax committee, affirmed he is prepared “to work with the administration to get this done.” The health-care bill failure “made a big challenge more challenging,” he said, “but it’s not insurmountable.”

Source: Politico, Reuters

5. Mosul assault paused over civilian casualty concerns
U.S.-supported Iraqi forces paused their fight to retake the Islamic State-occupied portion of the city of Mosul on Saturday in response to concerns about a high civilian casualty rate. “The recent high death toll among civilians inside the Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans,” said a representative of the Iraqi troops. “It’s a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics. No combat operations are to go on.” At least 200 people were reportedly killed in a single U.S. coalition airstrike in Mosul, and the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights counts an unconfirmed 700 civilian deaths attributable to coalition strikes and forces since the siege on the western half of the city began in mid-February.

Source: BBC News, Reuters

6. Manafort to testify before House in Russia investigation
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Fridayannounced President Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, offered to be interviewed over ongoing questions about Trump campaign staff’s alleged collusion with Russia. FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers have also been asked to return for a private, classified interview with the committee, Nunes added. Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) lashed out at the decision to make the hearing private, slamming Nunes for an “attempt to choke off public info” and speculating the decision was made at the White House’s behest. A poll released Friday found most Americans prefer an independent investigation.

Source: The Week, Talking Points Memo

7. 2 remain in custody in connection to London attack
Two men remain in custody Saturday for questioning in connection to the deadly attack at Westminster Bridge in London on Wednesday. The attacker, a 52-year-old English native born Adrian Russell Ajao but known as Khalid Masood, was fatally shot by police at the scene of the crime. Police are now investigating whether Masood “acted totally alone inspired by terrorist propaganda, or if others have encouraged, supported or directed him.” The two men currently detained were among 11 people arrested so far; of the others, seven have been released without charges and two women have been released on bail.

Source: BBC News, Yahoo News

8. Eric Trump to share ‘quarterly’ business updates with President Trump
President Trump will receive regular updates on his family business, his son Eric Trump indicated in an interview with Forbes published Friday. While maintaining he is “deadly serious” about avoiding any conflicts of interest, Eric also revealed he is keeping his father apprised of some business matters. “Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports, and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it,” Eric said, noting the updates would likely be “quarterly.” President Trump previously indicated he would not talk to his sons about the business at all.

Source: Forbes, The Week

9. Google to shutter Gchat
Google announced Friday it will shutter its beloved Google Talk service this summer. All remaining clients using Google Talk — colloquially known as “Gchat” — will be transitioned to the newer communications app, Hangouts, by June 26. Google Talk was created in 2005 as a way for Gmail users to exchange instant messages, but in 2013 the company began prompting users to switch to Hangouts, a more modern and integrated messaging system. Users still communicating over Google Talk will receive prompts to voluntarily switch to Hangouts in the coming weeks, but any remaining holdouts will be automatically transitioned.

Source: Google, New York Magazine

10. Florida bests Wisconsin in nail-biter 84-83 game
The Florida Gators bested the Wisconsin Badgers in a nail-biter 84-83 game of the NCAA basketball tournament’s Sweet 16 round late Fridaynight. After lagging behind Wisconsin for the first half of the game, the Gators pulled ahead for much of the second half. A concerted comeback by the Badgers produced a tied game with just four seconds left on the overtime clock when Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored two points. The game seemed finished — until Florida’s Chris Chiozza sprinted down the court to make a running 3-pointer just as the buzzer rang out in Madison Square Garden. Florida will next face South Carolina on Sunday.

Source: Bleacher Report, Fox Sports

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 24, 2017

Trump attends Women in Healthcare panel at the White House in Washington

Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images


1. House delays health vote as Trump calls for do-or-die Friday showdown
The House’s Republican leaders postponed a Thursday vote on their proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare to give President Trump time to find a compromise with conservatives who are vowing to push it farther to the right or defeat it. Trump offered on Thursday to drop key mandates from the current law, but conservatives insisted on more concessions. The chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), said talks were ongoing. President Trump issued recalcitrant Republicans an ultimatum, telling them to pass the GOP health-care legislation on Friday or reject it, leaving ObamaCare in place while he moves on to other priorities.

Source: The Washington Post

2. Trump issues permit approving Keystone XL pipeline construction
The Trump administration issued a presidential permit on Fridayapproving the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. President Trump had earlier signed an executive order to move the project forward, arguing that the pipeline would create thousands of jobs. The $8 billion pipeline has faced fierce protest from environmental activists, who point to its use of Alberta’s carbon-laden tar sands as a contributor to climate change. “We cannot let the Trump administration undo the progress that people all over the country have made to ensure we avoid catastrophic climate change,” said Greenpeace’s Diana Best. Former President Obama blocked the project in 2015, claiming it would contribute to climate change and would not reduce fuel prices for American drivers.

Source: The Associated Press

3. British police identify London attacker as British-born Muslim convert
London authorities on Thursday identified the attacker who killed four people outside British Parliament as Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old native of England with a long criminal record. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault, which left police officer Keith Palmer, a British schoolteacher Aysha Frade, American tourist Kurt Cochran of Utah, and 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes dead, and more than 40 others injured. Armed officers also fatally shot Masood, a Muslim convert born Adrian Russell Ajao, after he allegedly plowed through pedestrians on a bridge, then fatally stabbing the police officer. “An act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy,” Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament, which was briefly locked down on Wednesday. “We are not afraid, and our resolve will never waver in the face of terrorism.”

Source: The New York Times, BBC News

4. Schumer vows to vote against Neil Gorsuch, calls for filibuster
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that he would vote against confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and encouraged his fellow Democrats to filibuster to block a vote. “[Gorsuch] will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be ‘no’ and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Schumer said, adding that Gorsuch is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology.” Senate hearings on Gorsuch’s nomination concluded Thursday, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is aiming for an April 3 vote to confirm Gorsuch.

Source: The Washington Post

5. CBO says GOP health plan amendments reduce cost savings
The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday released a revised report on the House GOP’s plan to replace ObamaCare, factoring in amendments made since the original report two weeks ago. The updated assessment concluded that the legislation now would reduce the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years, down from $337 billion, but still would add 24 million more people to the ranks of the uninsured by 2026. The CBO’s original report estimated the American Health Care Act would leave 52 million uninsured by 2026, compared to just 28 million under ObamaCare. Premiums would still be expected to jump by 15 to 20 percent at first, then gradually fall to 10 percent lower than under ObamaCare.

Source: Congressional Budget Office, The Hill

6. Hosni Mubarak freed 6 years after ousting by Arab Spring protesters
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 88, was freed Friday from imprisonment, six years after he was ousted from his three-decade reign by Arab Spring protesters. Mubarak’s fall had once been seen as a hopeful model of Arab citizens holding their leaders accountable for human rights abuses and corruption, only for Mubarak’s example to eventually fizzle out in court, where he received just one conviction on a minor corruption charge. “At this point, I really don’t care,” said activist Ahmed Harara, who lost sight in both eyes after being shot by police in the 2011 Cairo protests. “I realized years ago that this is not just about Mubarak and his regime — it’s an entire system that has now resurrected itself.”

Source: The New York Times, CNN

7. House intel chair apologizes for going straight to Trump with monitoring claim
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Thursday apologized for not informing the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, before going public with allegations that intelligence agencies may have inadvertently intercepted Trump transition team communications during the course of normal foreign spying. Nunes, a member of the Trump transition team executive committee, went to the White House to share the information with President Trump. Schiff said Nunes’ actions were “wholly inappropriate,” and called into question his “ability to conduct an independent investigation.”

Source: Politico

8. Israel arrests teen suspect in U.S. Jewish center threats
Israeli authorities on Thursday arrested a teenage hacker with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship on suspicion that he was behind most of the recent threats against Jewish community centers in the U.S. The 18-year-old teenager has not been charged yet, but Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities are confident the suspect was responsible for a wave of threats in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, including at least one against an airline flight, that have fueled fears of a surge of anti-Semitism. “This is the guy we are talking about,” Rosenfeld said. A lawyer for the teen said he suffers from a brain tumor that can affect his behavior.

Source: The New York Times

9. Canadian school board ends students’ U.S. trips over Trump travel ban
The Toronto District School Board, which runs Canada’s largest school system, said Thursday that it would stop scheduling student trips to the U.S. to shield students from “potentially being turned away at the border.” The school board, which serves about 245,000 public school students, said it would let 24 scheduled U.S. trips proceed, but bring all of the students home if one is turned away. The move came in reaction to President Trump’s temporarily blocked travel bans aiming to keep people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. “We’re committed as a school board to equity, inclusiveness, and fairness,” said board chair Robin Pilkey, “and it’s not appropriate that some students would not be able to attend based on their country of birth.”

Source: CBC

10. Xavier upsets Arizona on first day of Sweet 16
Xavier, a No. 11 seed, upset No. 2 seeded Arizona, 73-71, on Thursdayon the first day of the Sweet 16 in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. The Musketeers are the lone double-digit seed left. Gonzaga, a No. 1 seed, held off West Virginia, a No. 4 seed, to earn its spot in the Elite Eight, which begins Saturday. Top-seeded Kansas trounced Purdue and Oregon narrowly beat Michigan to advance. The Sweet 16 continues on Friday to determine the remaining four teams making it into the Elite Eight, with Wisconsin playing Florida, Kansas playing UCLA, Baylor squaring off against South Carolina, and UNC facing Butler.

Source: Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 23, 2017


Daniel Sorabji/Getty Images


1. Terror attack kills three in London
A man killed at least three people and injured 40 more in an attack with a vehicle and a knife at Britain’s Parliament on Wednesday, sending lawmakers and tourists dashing for safety. Two of the people killed were among pedestrians the attacker plowed through on Westminster Bridge near the Parliament building. The other was a police officer stabbed at the House of Commons. Police then fatally shot the alleged assailant. Investigators are treating the attack as terrorism, and believe the assailant acted alone but was inspired by international terrorists. The alleged attacker was British-born and had been investigated by British spies, but was not “part of the current intelligence picture,” according to Prime Minister Theresa May. Some of the wounded pedestrians had what were described as “catastrophic” injuries, and one woman was pulled, alive but badly hurt, from the River Thames. Police arrested seven people in connection with the attack in overnight raids.

Source: NBC News, The Associated Press

2. Report: FBI may have evidence of Russia-Trump team coordination
The FBI is reviewing information suggesting that people linked to President Trump’s campaign might have communicated with suspected Russian operatives about coordinating the release of information harmful to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year, U.S. officials told CNN on Wednesday. FBI Director James Comey on Monday confirmed to lawmakers that his agency was investigating alleged Russian efforts to influence the election, including possible cooperation between Trump associates and Moscow. The officials said the information included human intelligence, business and phone records, as well as accounts of face-to-face meetings, but that it was not considered to be conclusive.

Source: CNN

3. Conservative resistance threatens health bill
President Trump continued pressuring wavering Republican lawmakers to support the House leadership’s proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare ahead of a planned Thursday vote. Conservatives are vowing to oppose the plan because they say it doesn’t go far enough in rolling back the Affordable Care Act’s provisions, and some moderates are balking because of expectations that millions more Americans will wind up uninsured. Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said his group has more than enough votes to defeat the bill. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said enough fence-sitters were getting behind the legislation to pass it. “The count keeps getting stronger for us,” Spicer said. “There is no Plan B. There is Plan A and Plan A. We’re going to get this done.”

Source: Reuters

4. House intelligence chair: Trump aides possibly intercepted in normal foreign surveillance
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that it was possible that communications involving President Trump or members of his transition team were picked up inadvertently in normal surveillance of foreign nationals. “What I’ve read seems to me to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal. I don’t know that it’s right,” Nunes said. “I don’t know that the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read.” Nunes went to the White House to brief Trump on the reports, which were unrelated to Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama had him wiretapped. Trump said he felt “somewhat” vindicated by what Nunes told him. “I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” he said.

Source: The Washington Post

5. Democrats step up Gorsuch questioning ahead of confirmation hearing’s final day
Democratic senators grew more aggressive in their questioning of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, on Wednesday, the third day of his confirmation hearing. Gorsuch deflected questions from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) about the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” prohibiting a president from accepting gifts from foreign agents, part of a grilling on Trump’s foreign business interests. Gorsuch said that due to “ongoing litigation” he had to be “very careful about expressing any views.” Some Democrats pressed a new strategy to delay Gorsuch’s confirmation, arguing that the vote shouldn’t take place until the FBI’s investigation into communication between the Trump campaign and Russia is completed. Republicans praised Gorsuch and expressed confidence that his confirmation was assured ahead of the final day of his hearing.

Source: The Washington Post, The Hill

6. 30 Syrian civilians reportedly killed in U.S.-led coalition airstrike
At least 30 Syrian civilians were killed this week in an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, witnesses, activists, and Syrian state TV said Wednesday. The attack occurred Tuesday in Raqqa province, where the coalition is supporting forces advancing toward the city of Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital. The strike reportedly hit a school where civilians took shelter Tuesday night in the town of Mansoura. The U.S. military is investigating the report, which came after a strike by U.S. warplanes last week reportedly killed 49 people in western Aleppo province.

Source: The New York Times

7. Trump Jr. faces backlash over tweet following London attack
Britons harshly criticized Donald Trump Jr. for tweeting criticism of London’s mayor in the wake of yesterday’s attack. “You have to be kidding me?!” President Trump’s eldest son tweeted. “Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.” The comment referred to a September article in a British newspaper in which Khan reacted to a bombing in New York City, but Trump misrepresented the quote. Khan did not say that terror attacks were part of city life. He said that supporting police in terrorism preparedness was “part and parcel of living in a great global city.” Ciaran Jenkins, a correspondent for Britain’s Channel 4, asked Trump via Twitter whether he thought “goading” Khan was “helpful.” Trump declined to discuss the matter, saying, “I’m not going to comment on every tweet I send.”

Source: The Telegraph, The Washington Post

8. Acosta vows to avoid partisanship in Labor Department if confirmed
Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s second labor secretary nominee, said in his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he would not let partisanship influence his department. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Acosta did not do enough as assistant attorney general to prevent an official under him from “inappropriately” hiring mostly conservative lawyers in DOJ’s civil rights division during the George W. Bush administration. Acosta said he would not allow partisan hiring at the Labor Department if confirmed. He also defended a controversial plea deal he struck with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Acosta, now a law school dean, declined to say how he would handle Obama administration rules, such as one expanding the number of workers eligible for overtime pay.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

9. Police say suspect in fatal Manhattan stabbing wanted to kill a black person
New York City police said Wednesday that a white suspect who turned himself in for the fatal Monday stabbing of a 66-year-old African-American man, Timothy Caughman, said he came to New York from Maryland because he want to kill a black person. The suspect, James Harris Jackson, surrendered to police at the Times Square substation after surveillance images showing him running down a street after the stabbing was widely publicized. “His intentions were to come here to harm male blacks,” NYPD Chief of Manhattan Detectives William Aubry said. “The reason why he picked New York is because it’s the media capital of the world, and he wanted to make a statement.”

Source: CBS News, The Associated Press

10. U.S. trounces Puerto Rico to win its first World Baseball Classic title
The U.S. beat Puerto Rico 8-0 on Wednesday to win its first World Baseball Classic title. Pitcher Marcus Stroman helped shut out the Puerto Rican team, which entered the finals unbeaten in two weeks of play, by throwing six no-hit innings. The U.S. offense was propelled by Ian Kinsler’s two-run home run, a single, and two runs scored in a rout before 51,565 people at Dodger Stadium. “We wanted to put USA on top of the baseball world, where it belongs,” Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said.

Source: Los Angeles Times, The New York Times

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 22, 2017


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


1. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch weathers grilling by Democrats
President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, sought to put himself above politics and assert his independence as he faced sharply partisan questioning as his confirmation hearing continued on Tuesday. Democrats grilled Gorsuch on everything from abortion rights to President Trump’s travel ban. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Gorsuch whether a president’s decisions on national security were reviewable by the courts, and Gorsuch replied, “Nobody is above the law in this country.” Gorsuch also said that Trump had not asked him to say whether he would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision. “I would have walked out the door,” Gorsuch said. “That’s not what judges do.” The hearing continues on Wednesday and Thursday.

Source: The Associated Press, The New York Times

2. Trump pressures Republicans to get behind ObamaCare replacement plan
President Trump on Tuesday warned Republicans to get behind the House GOP’s proposal to replace ObamaCare or face defeat in next year’s midterm elections. “I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,'” Trump said, according to several meeting participants in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.” The GOP bill would reduce future federal financing for Medicaid and replace income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits. It would also repeal ObamaCare tax hikes. Some conservatives oppose the plan because they say it doesn’t go far enough, leaving doubts about whether Republicans have the votes to pass the legislation. Democrats are fighting it because it is projected to leave millions more Americans without insurance.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

3. Labor nominee Alexander Acosta heads into confirmation hearing
Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta heads into his confirmation hearing on Wednesday with support from Big Labor, suggesting a relatively smooth path ahead. Acosta was President Trump’s second choice for the job, stepping in after fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder dropped out. Acosta is likely to face tough questions over a plea deal he approved as U.S. attorney for a billionaire in a child sex case, but Republican senators said his three previous confirmations for federal positions suggest he won’t face too much opposition. In prepared remarks, Acosta, who will be the first Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet if confirmed, vowed to work with Congress to help Americans get the training they need to get good, safe jobs.

Source: McClatchy, The Associated Press

4. New details emerge on ex-Trump campaign chief’s alleged Russia ties
A Ukrainian lawmaker on Tuesday released financial documents that he said showed that Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Trump, laundered $750,000 in payments from the party of Ukraine’s pro-Russia former president, Viktor Yanukovych. The revelations came soon after FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that his agency was investigating allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s election, and possible coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign. The Associated Press reported early Wednesday that Manafort also secretly worked for a Russian billionaire close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, promoting Putin’s interests and countering Kremlin opposition in former Soviet republics more than a decade ago.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

5. North Korean missile test fails
A North Korean missile exploded just after launch on Wednesday, U.S. and South Korean military officials said. “It may have exploded right after it took off from a launch pad,” a South Korean military official said. The failure came in the latest in a series of weapons tests by the isolated, unpredictable communist nation that have escalated tensions in the region. Just last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a trip that took him to Japan, South Korea, and China that the U.S. was ending its policy of strategic patience with North Korea, and that all options, including military action, were on the table.

Source: Reuters

6. Trump to attend May NATO summit
The White House announced Tuesday that President Trump will attend a summit with leaders of NATO nations on May 25 in Brussels. Trump has chafed NATO allies by calling for them to increase their defense spending, and by proposing an alliance with Russia to fight the Islamic State. “The president looks forward to meeting with his NATO counterparts to reaffirm our strong commitment to NATO, and to discuss issues critical to the alliance, especially allied responsibility-sharing and NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism,” the White House said in a statement. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits Washington, D.C., on April 12.

Source: Reuters

7. Retailer files unfairness lawsuit against Ivanka Trump’s brand
An upscale San Francisco clothing boutique, Modern Appealing Clothing, has lodged a class action suit against Ivanka Trump’s brand, accusing it of leveraging her father’s presidency to gain an unfair advantage over rivals. Modern Appealing Clothing filed the claim last week in California arguing that sales for Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories brand “have surged since the election” by exploiting “the power and prestige of the White House for personal gain.” The lawsuit comes as Ivanka Trump is seeking security clearance and getting an office in the West Wing, where she reportedly will offer President Trump “her candid advice.” Ivanka Trump’s company declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Judge sentences friend of Dylann Roof to 27 months
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Joseph C. Meek Jr., a friend of convicted murderer Dylann Roof, to 27 months in prison for misleading authorities who were investigating Roof’s racist massacre at a black church. Meek, 22, pleaded guilty last April to misleading FBI agents in interviews shortly after the 2015 shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left nine churchgoers dead. In a night of drinking and drug use a week before the attack, Roof had told Meek of his plan to kill black people at a church to start a race war. Meek did not report the threat, although he considered it serious enough that he hid Roof’s handgun. A tearful Meek had asked for leniency and apologized to the victims’ families, saying he was “really sorry a lot of innocent lives were taken.”

Source: The New York Times

9. Gong Show host Chuck Barris dies at 87
Game-show creator Chuck Barris died Tuesday at his home in Palisades, New York. He was 87. Barris cranked out a string of iconic shows starting in 1966 with The Dating Game, hosted by Jim Lange. In that show, young people questioned three members of the opposite sex who were hidden from view to determine who would be the best date. Barris followed that up with The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, an unpredictable talent show that Barris hosted.

Source: The Associated Press

10. Disney sued over Oscar-winning animated film Zootopia
Production company Esplanade Productions on Tuesday filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Walt Disney Pictures over its Oscar-winning animated film Zootopia. The suit alleges screenwriter and producer Gary Goldman, who has worked on projects including Total Recall and Minority Report, has twice pitched a similar concept to Disney on behalf of Esplanade Productions, and that Disney used Goldman’s ideas for Zootopia. Goldman said his vision was to “explore life in America through a civilized society of animals”; Disney’s film “explores prejudice through a bunny’s quest to become a respected police officer.” Disney said Goldman’s lawsuit is “riddled with patently false allegations” and vowed to “vigorously defend against it in court.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 21, 2017



1. Comey confirms Russia investigation in House hearing
FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday that his agency is investigating whether Russia tried to influence last year’s election, and “whether there was any coordination” between Russia and President Trump’s campaign. Comey declined to provide specifics on whether anyone in particular is suspected of a crime, saying he didn’t want to “wind up smearing people.” The extraordinary acknowledgement of the investigation, which started last July, contradicted Trump’s assertion that “Russia is fake news” his political enemies were using to undermine him. Comey also said there was no evidence to support Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had him wiretapped during the campaign.

Source: The New York Times, The Washington Post

2. Gorsuch vows to ‘apply the law,’ not make it
Judge Neil Gorsuch vowed Monday not to forget the “modest station we judges are meant to occupy in a democracy” if he is confirmed to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. In his opening statement in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the appeals court judge stressed “the importance of an independent judiciary,” saying it was up to Congress to make laws, up to the executive branch to enforce them, and up to judges to “apply the law in people’s disputes.” Gorsuch is a highly respected conservative jurist. Democrats, in their opening statements, questioned whether Gorsuch would favor businesses over individuals, and questioned the fairness of confirming President Trump’s nominee when Republicans refused to even consider former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Gorsuch will face questions from committee members on Tuesday.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

3. House GOP leaders release proposed changes to health law
Top House Republicans late Monday unveiled proposed amendments to their proposal to replace ObamaCare in a bid to win over more lawmakers before a scheduled Thursday vote. The changes would let the Senate increase tax credits for people age 50 to 65, speed up repeal of some ObamaCare tax increases, and make sharper cuts to Medicaid, including letting states impose work requirements for some Medicaid recipients. Members of the House Freedom Caucus said they would still have enough “no” votes to defeat the bill. President Trump plans to reach out to fence-sitters personally on Tuesday in a bid to win over enough votes to pass the plan.

Source: The Associated Press, CNN

4. U.S. bans large electronic devices from cabins of some U.S.-bound flights
The Trump administration plans to prohibit travelers on some airlines flying out of several Middle Eastern and North African countries from carrying large electronic devices into the cabins of U.S.-bound flights in response to an unspecified terrorist threat. The rule affects foreign airlines operating out of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Morocco. No American carriers will be affected. Passengers will be able to carry the affected devices, including tablets, laptops, and cameras, in checked luggage.

Source: Reuters, Los Angeles Times

5. Prosecutors grill ousted South Korean president
South Korean prosecutors on Tuesday began questioning ousted former President Park Geun-hye in connection with the corruption investigation that got her ousted from office this month. The interrogation was expected to last hours at a prosecutors’ office. Prosecutors are trying to determine whether there is enough evidence to ask a court for a warrant to arrest Park over the allegations of bribery, extortion, and abuse of office. Park made the latest in a series of apologies before the meeting. “I am sorry to trouble the people,” Park said. “I will respond faithfully to the investigation.”

Source: The New York Times

6. Fox News sidelines commentator after wiretapping claim
Fox News has pulled former judge Andrew Napolitano off the air over his claim that a British intelligence agency had wiretapped Trump Tower during last year’s election campaign at the request of former President Barack Obama. U.S. intelligence agencies say there is no evidence of such a surveillance effort, and the British government called the claim “ridiculous.” Trump has cited Fox in support of his recent tweet accusing Obama of “wiretapping” him, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week quoted Napolitano in defense of Trump’s allegations.

Source: The Hill

7. IRA leader turned peacemaker Martin McGuinness dies
Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army leader turned peacemaker, died early Tuesday at a hospital in his hometown of Derry. He was 66. McGuinness was diagnosed with a rare heart disease in December. In 1972, he was the IRA’s second-in-command in Derry during the Bloody Sunday killing of 14 civil rights protesters by soldiers, and he was a leader of the paramilitary organization when it was carrying out bombings in the city. Twice imprisoned — once after being caught near an explosives-laden vehicle — he went on to be a key negotiator of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, and served as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland alongside three Democratic Unionist Party leaders from 2007 to January of this year. Prime Minister Theresa May said she could never condone McGuinness’ earlier path, but he “ultimately played a defining role in leading the republican movement away from violence.”

Source: BBC News

8. Trump drops on Forbes‘ list of world’s wealthiest people
President Trump has dropped 220 spots on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires in the year since he ran for, and won, the White House. The list, published Monday, put the net worth of the nation’s first billionaire president at $3.5 billion, a drop of $1 billion since the release of last year’s rankings. Trump is now tied with 19 others as the world’s 544th richest person. Forbes notes that Trump’s fortune was affected by some one-time expenses, such as the $66 million he put into his presidential campaign and the $25 million he had to fork over to settle the Trump University lawsuit. It was his core real estate business that had the biggest impact, however. “Forty percent of Donald Trump’s fortune is tied up in Trump Tower and eight buildings within one mile of it,” Forbes said, adding that, “Lately, the neighborhood has been struggling (relatively speaking).”

Source: Forbes, CNN

9. FBI finds missing Tom Brady Super Bowl jerseys
The FBI has recovered New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s jersey from Super Bowl 51, the NFL announced Monday. The jersey was stolen from the Patriots’ locker room after last month’s game, in which the Patriots made a historic overtime comeback to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28. The FBI found Brady’s Super Bowl 51 jersey and his game jersey from the Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl 49 in 2015, which had also gone missing, “in the possession of a credentialed member of the international media,” the statement said. “I know they worked hard on this case,” Brady said in a statement, “and it is very much appreciated.”

Source: ESPN

10. Philanthropist David Rockefeller dies at 101
Billionaire banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller died Monday at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York. He was 101. Rockefeller was the world’s oldest billionaire, and the last surviving grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller. He served as Chase Manhattan’s president, chairman, and CEO over 35 years at the company, expanding the bank’s international presence and having a hand in U.S. foreign policy and financial affairs. He also won a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 for his philanthropy, and gave more than $900 million over his lifetime to numerous causes, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and his alma mater, Harvard University.

Source: The New York Times, Bloomberg

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 20, 2017

Image result for Neil Gorsuch

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images


1. House panel to hold hearing on Russian election meddling
The House Intelligence Committee on Monday is scheduled to hold a hearing on Russia’s alleged attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), told Fox News on Sunday that he had seen no evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign. “I’ll give you a very simple answer: ‘No,'” he said. “… There’s no evidence of collusion.” The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, also of California, offered a differing opinion, saying there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion.” The panel, which also is looking into President Trump’s insistence that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped, has called in FBI Director James Comey and Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, to testify.

Source: NBC News, The New York Times

2. Duke suffers stunning loss to South Carolina
The South Carolina Gamecocks upset the Duke Blue Devils 88-81 Sunday night to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Duke, the No. 2 seed in the East Region, entered the season ranked No. 1, and after injuries and other setbacks headed into the tournament a title contender after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Duke finished the first half of Sunday’s game with a lead, as expected, over the No. 7 seeded Gamecocks, but could not keep up in the second half as South Carolina shot 71 percent from the field. North Carolina, another ACC powerhouse and the South Region No. 1 seed, narrowly escaped a similar fate on the tournament’s fourth day, blowing a 17-point lead before scoring the game’s final 12 points to beat Arkansas and advance. In the women’s tournament, No. 1-seeded Notre Dame held off No. 9 seed Purdue, 88-82, to reach the round of 16.

Source: Fox Sports, The Associated Press

3. Ryan says House GOP will make changes to health bill
House Republicans are working on amendments to their plan to replace ObamaCare, aiming to increase tax credits for older Americans and add a work requirement for some Medicaid recipients, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday. Democrats oppose the proposal because they say it will cause millions of people to lose their health insurance. The GOP is split over the repeal ObamaCare, a key campaign promise of President Trump, with conservatives saying it leaves too much of the core of former President Barack Obama’s signature health-care reform law in place. Ryan said the House leadership would bring the proposal to a vote on Thursday.

Source: Reuters

4. Senate committee scheduled to start Gorsuch confirmation hearing
Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, heads into his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Gorsuch is a highly regarded federal appeals court judge, and has faced no opposition over his legal credentials. Democrats, who say Gorsuch has sided with business interests over individuals, have vowed to oppose him on principle because Republicans refused to even consider former President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat left vacant when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a confirmation vote before the Senate’s Easter recess begins April 8. Washington, D.C., lawyer Tom Goldstein, who publishes the ScotusBlog website, said Democrats “don’t have the votes and don’t have the goods” to block Gorsuch, so “it would be shocking” if he wasn’t confirmed in the coming weeks.

Source: NBC News

5. Gallup: Trump approval rating falls to new low
President Trump’s job approval rating fell to a new low of 37 percent in the latest Gallup tracking poll, which was released on Sunday. Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the poll said they disapproved of Trump’s performance. The three-point drop in Trump’s approval rating came as House Republican leaders face bipartisan opposition to their plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, a key Trump campaign promise. A Fox News poll conducted earlier this month put Trump’s approval rating at 43 percent, a five-percentage-point decline since last month.

Source: Gallup, The Hill

6. Uber’s No. 2 quits
Uber’s president, Jeff Jones, is leaving the ride-hailing company after just six months on the job, Recode reported Sunday. Jones left Target last fall to join Uber as its No. 2 executive, and one of his jobs was repairing the business’ image, which has been tainted by charges of sexism and sexual harassment. “It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber,” Jones said in a statement. His departure comes shortly after Uber’s embattled CEO, Travis Kalanick, began a search for a chief operating officer to help him get the company back on track.

Source: Recode, CNN

7. Ex-North Carolina police chief detained at airport
Former Greenville, North Carolina, police chief Hassan Aden said Sunday that he was detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for 90 minutes because of his name. The alleged incident occurred earlier this month when Aden, 52, was returning from Paris after a visit to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday. Aden said a customs officer asked whether he was traveling alone, then told him to “take a walk.” “I was like, ‘Oh boy, here we go,” said the Italian-born Aden, a naturalized citizen who has lived in the U.S. for 42 years. Aden served in the Alexandria, Virginia, police force for 26 years before taking the job in North Carolina in 2012. He retired in 2015.

Source: The Washington Post

8. 3 American soldiers killed by Afghan officer
Three U.S. soldiers were shot and wounded on Sunday in what appeared to be an insider attack by a member of the Afghan armed forces. The U.S. military identified the attacker as an Afghan officer, saying he opened fire on the Americans at a base in Helmand province. Coalition security forces returned fire to “end the attack,” and killed the alleged attacker, Navy Capt. Bill Salvin said. The shooting occurred during a military training exercise. Such “green on blue” attacks were common years ago, but became rare after most foreign troops left Afghanistan in 2014.

Source: USA Today

9. Former N.Y. Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin dies at 88
Pulitzer-Prize-winning former New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin died Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88. Breslin, who also was a best-selling author, was a fixture in New York City journalism for decades, chronicling city life with a sharp wit and blunt, brash prose. Breslin won a 1986 Pulitzer for commentary. The Pulitzer committee noted that his columns “consistently championed ordinary citizens.” With Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe, Breslin was credited with helping to create “New Journalism,” which infused news reporting with a more literary approach. He once explained what kept him cranking out columns for so long by saying, “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

Source: The New York Times, CBS News

10. Beauty and the Beast smashes Hollywood records
Beauty and the Beast took in $170 million at the North American box office over its debut weekend, breaking the record for the biggest March opening that was set last year by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Disney musical, which mixes live-action scenes with fully digital characters, also made $180 million in overseas ticket sales, putting it on track to make $1 billion worldwide before it leaves cinemas. “The world is a pretty cynical place right now, and Beauty and the Beast gave audiences an opportunity to go back to a time of innocence,” said Greg Foster, chief executive of IMAX’s filmed entertainment.

Source: The New York Times

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 19, 2017

James A. Finley/Associated Press


1. Rock legend Chuck Berry dies at 90
Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry died Saturday at his home in Missouri after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful, local police reported. He was 90 years old. Dubbed “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll” by Bob Dylan and the “alpha and omega of rock and roll” by former Rolling Stone editor Joe Levy, Berry ranks as perhaps the genre’s most influential trailblazer, a skilled songwriter and guitarist remembered for hits like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.” A black performer who came to fame during the Jim Crow era, Berry’s groundbreaking music was popular across racial lines. “He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being musicians and performers,” said the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger in response to Berry’s death. “His lyrics shone above others and threw a strange light on the American dream.” A new album, Berry’s first in decades, is due in June.

Source: The New York Times, Reuters

2. Rex Tillerson and Xi Jinping promote cordial U.S.-China relations
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday held an apparently cordial meeting, emphasizing friendly relations between China and America. “You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this,” Xi said to Tillerson. “The joint interests of China and the United States far outweigh the differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for us both.” The meeting in Beijing is the final stop of Tillerson’s diplomatic tour through Asia, and its amicable tone stood in noted contrast to President Trump’s Friday Twitter allegation that China “has done little to help” America deal with provocation from North Korea. Tillerson and Xi did not publicly address North Korea on Sunday even as Pyongyang tested a new rocket engine.

Source: The New York Times, Reuters

3. North Korea tests new rocket engine
North Korea successfully conducted a “high-thrust engine test” of “historic significance,” the totalitarian nation’s state media reported Sunday. The new engine will be a “great leap forward” for Pyongyang’s missile ambitions, the report said, noting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed the world will “soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.” Pyongyang’s announcement was timed to coincide with the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Sunday. China is North Korea’s only major ally, but neither man mentioned the test publicly.

Source: CNN, BBC News

4. Homeland Security requests proposals for Trump’s border wall
The Department of Homeland Security on Friday evening released a request for prototype proposals for the planned U.S.-Mexico border wall, revealing further details of the Trump administration’s goals. The contract notices describe a “physically imposing wall” made of reinforced concrete and standing as tall as 30 feet. One document emphasizes the wall should look “good from the north side,” while being “difficult to climb or cut through.” Congressional Republicans have estimated the wall will cost as much as $15 billion.

Source: The Associated Press, The New York Times

5. Germany rejects Trump Twitter claim it owes ‘vast sums’ to NATO
President Trump tweeted Saturday morning that Germany “owes vast sums of money to NATO,” a post that came a day after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which Trump said he stressed the importance of NATO allies paying their “fair share,” a reference to the alliance’s requirement that members spend 2 percent of GDP on defense. Germany pushed back on the allegation Sunday. “There is no debt account at NATO,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement, noting that German military “spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against [Islamic State] terrorism.”

Source: The Week, Reuters

6. Driver in custody after reportedly claiming to have a bomb near the White House
A man was detained by the Secret Service late Saturday night after approaching a White House gate in a “suspicious” vehicle and, per CNN’s report, claiming to have a bomb. No bomb has been discovered, and President Trump was not in the White House at the time of the incident. This comes after a different man was detained for jumping a pedestrian barrier near the White House earlier on Saturday, and a week after a man was arrested inside White House grounds having scaled the fence of the property.

Source: Reuters, The Hill

7. Kellyanne Conway’s husband reportedly tapped for key DOJ post
George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, has reportedly been picked to lead the Justice Department’s civil division, a prominent role that would see him responsible for defending President Trump’s immigration executive order in court. George Conway is a corporate lawyer with financial litigation expertise. He is a partner at his firm and has argued before the Supreme Court. Conway was previously reported to be under consideration for the role of U.S. solicitor general. The DOJ has yet to confirm reports of his selection for this civil role.

Source: CNN, Los Angeles Times

8. Tax reform coming in ‘late spring to summer,’ Spicer says
Expect the Trump administration’s tax reform plan a little later this year, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Ireland’s Independent in an interview published in the paper’s Sunday edition. “We are going to have tax reform after we get healthcare completed,” Spicer said. “I think we are looking at late spring to summer.” Trump is expected to propose three simplified tax brackets and a higher standard deduction. Critics argue his proposal will mostly help the very wealthiest Americans, like Trump himself.

Source: Reuters, Forbes

9. Iraqi forces close on strategic mosque in Mosul fight
U.S.-supported Iraqi forces on Sunday are closing in on a strategic building, the al-Nuri Mosque, as they continue the fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. The eastern half of the city, which is the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq, has already been liberated; ISIS terrorists in the western half control a shrinking territory. The mosque is important because it is where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014. An estimate 2,000 ISIS fighters remain in Mosul after a six-month siege by Iraqi troops.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters

10. Top seed Villanova ousted by Wisconsin in upset game
The Villanova Wildcats, the No. 1 team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, unexpectedly lost to the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers 65-62 in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday. The upset win means Wisconsin will now advance to its fourth consecutive Sweet 16 round. For March Madness brackets, the game meant widespread chaos, as 47 percent of brackets had Villanova in the final four; 31 percent put the team in the championship game; and 18 percent said Villanova would be the tournament victor. As CBS Sports tweeted, “Uhhh…nobody saw this coming.”

Source: Bleacher Report, NPR

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2017

Pat Benic-Pool/Getty Images


1. Trump meets with Germany’s Merkel
President Trump held his first face-to-face meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. In the joint press conference after their discussion, Trump stressed the importance of NATO allies paying “their fair share,” saying “many nations owe vast sums of money.” Merkel said she was “gratified to know” Trump believes NATO is “important,” given the president’s past criticisms of the alliance. Though Trump championed a “stronger America” and emphasized prioritizing U.S. citizens at the start of the press conference, he later called a German reporter’s suggestion that he is an isolationist “fake news.” Prior to the news conference, the two leaders endured an uncomfortable sit-down in the Oval Office, during which Trump apparently declined to shake Merkel’s hand.

Source: CBS News, Talking Points Memo

2. Trump administration files appeal over revised travel ban
The Trump administration filed paperwork Friday to fight a ruling by a federal court in Maryland that imposed a temporary restraining order against President Trump’s revised travel ban. The judge ruled the executive order violated the First Amendment, and claimed statements made by Trump during the campaign proved “animus toward Muslims.” The Maryland decision against the ban is narrower than a similar ruling made in Hawaii; however, if the Justice Department were to appeal the Hawaii ruling, the case would be sent to the same San Francisco appeals court that shot down the first version of Trump’s travel ban last month. Trump has suggested he would take the case as far as the Supreme Court.

Source: The Washington Post, The Week

3. China advises Tillerson to take a ‘cool-headed’ approach to North Korea
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi met Saturday in Beijing to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Wang pushed Tillerson to take a “cool-headed” approach after Tillerson on Friday warned a military response was “on the table” if North Korea further threatened South Korean or U.S. forces. Earlier Friday, President Trump tweeted China “has done little to help” the U.S. deal with North Korea. After a two-hour talk Saturday, Tillerson said he and Wang agreed to work together to get North Korea to “make a course correction and move away from the development of their nuclear weapons.”

Source: CNN, Reuters

4. Trump blames Fox News for wiretap confusion, Fox pushes back
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said there are “no indications” President Trump was wiretapped by former President Barack Obama. Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer alleged later Thursday that Obama was able to get intelligence on Trump through the British spy agency GCHQ — a theory first floated by former judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News. When asked Fridayabout spreading the baseless allegation, Trump said: “All we did was quote a very talented legal mind … So you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.” In response, Fox anchor Shep Smith said the network “cannot confirm [Napolitano’s] commentary” and “knows of no evidence of any kind” that Trump was surveilled.

Source: CBS News, The Week

5. Man fatally shot at Paris’ Orly Airport after attempting to seize soldier’s gun
Paris’ Orly Airport temporarily suspended all flights Saturday after security officers fatally shot a man who had reportedly wrestled a soldier to the ground at the airport in an attempt to grab the soldier’s gun. No bystanders were injured, but 3,000 were evacuated from Paris’ second-largest international airport. Prior to the airport incident on Saturday morning, the man reportedly shot at police officers during a traffic stop, wounding one officer in the face, before fleeing and stealing a woman’s car. Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said the man’s identity, which has yet to be revealed, is “known to police and intelligence services.” France’s anti-terrorism division is handling the investigation.

Source: Reuters, The Associated Press

6. Fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was reportedly investigating Tom Price
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was reportedly investigating Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price when he was fired by the Trump administration last week. Price traded over $300,000 worth of health-related shares while he was voting on related legislation as a Georgia congressman in the House of Representatives. Price has argued his trades were lawful, while critics say he was using his office to make money. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was reportedly investigating Price at the time of Bharara’s dismissal, a person familiar with the investigation said. Bharara met with Trump shortly after the election and at the time, announced he had agreed to stay on under the incoming administration.

Source: ProPublica

7. Secret Service agent’s laptop containing Trump Tower floor plan stolen
The U.S. Secret Service confirmed Friday that an agent’s laptop was stolen from her car in New York City. The laptop, which has yet to be recovered, apparently did not hold classified information and officials said the laptop is protected by “multiple levels of security.” However, the highly encrypted laptop reportedly does contain Trump Tower floor plans and the building’s evacuation protocol, as well as details on the ongoing criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. “There’s data on there that’s highly sensitive,” a police source said. “They’re scrambling like mad.”

Source: The Guardian, CNN

8. Poll finds 90 percent of Americans are open to path to citizenship
A majority of Americans don’t support President Trump’s hard line stances on immigration, a CNN/ORC poll released Friday revealed. While Trump has pledged to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall and strictly enforce U.S. immigration laws, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the nation’s top priority should be offering undocumented immigrants a path to legal citizenship. Just 26 percent say stopping illegal border crossings should be a top priority, while 13 percent say the main concern should be deporting undocumented immigrants. A notable 90 percent support offering undocumented immigrants who “hold a job, speak English, and are willing to pay back taxes” a path to legal citizenship, CNN reported. Trump has floated the idea of an immigration reform compromise, but has offered few details.

Source: CNN

9. Monopoly to replace the boot, thimble, and wheelbarrow with three new tokens
Hasbro announced Friday that it will replace the boot, the thimble, and the wheelbarrow tokens in the upcoming version of Monopoly with a rubber ducky, a penguin, and a T. rex. The toy company’s decision was based on an online survey of more than 4.3 million Monopoly fans from around the world. Other proposed replacement tokens were a smiley-face emoji, a monster truck, and a cell phone. With these changes, the only original tokens remaining in the upcoming version will be the top hat and the racecar, after the iron was replaced in 2013; the new tokens will join the existing battleship, cat, and Scottie dog pieces. The next edition of Monopoly is due out this fall.

Source: The Huffington Post, The Associated Press

10. USC defeats SMU in a buzzer-beater, marking one of few NCAA first round upsets
The first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament came to an end Friday with few upsets or surprises. An exception was the game between No. 11 USC and No. 6 SMU. USC rallied from a 15-point deficit at halftime to win by 1 point in a buzzer-beater, 66-65. Though No. 7 South Carolina and No. 10 Marquette were close for most of the game, South Carolina pulled out a win, 93-73. No. 3 UCLA sailed to a win over No. 14 Kent State, 97-80, and No. 2 Kentucky rallied after a tight first half to defeat No. 15 Northern Kentucky, 79-70. No. 9 Michigan State beat No. 8 Miami (Fla.), 78-58; No. 10 Wichita State bested No. 7 Dayton, 64-58; and No. 7 Michigan defeated No. 10 Oklahoma State by 1 point, 92-91.

Source: ESPN, The New York Times

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 17, 2017

Stacy Revere/Getty Images


1. Senators dismiss wiretap claims, but Trump stands by them
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said in a joint statement Thursday that there were “no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also confirmed — “at least so far with respect to our intelligence community — that no such tap existed.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, however, said Trump “stands by” the allegation, which Trump made in a tweet nearly two weeks ago without offering any evidence. Spicer pointed to a claim by a Fox News commentator, former judge Andrew Napolitano, that Obama used British intelligence and security agency GCHQ instead of U.S. intelligence agencies, a charge GCHQ called “utterly ridiculous.”

Source: Reuters, BBC News

2. Tillerson says military action against North Korea ‘on the table’
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that military action against North Korea was “on the table” if the country’s isolated communist government elevates “the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action.” Tillerson made the remarks in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea during his first trip to Asia as the top U.S. diplomat. Sanctions and diplomacy have failed to curb the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs, but previous administrations avoided talk of military action because the South Korean capital of Seoul, with more than 20 million people, is just 30 miles south of the DMZ, within range of North Korean artillery. Tillerson said, “We do not want things to get to a military conflict,” but Washington’s “strategic patience” policy is over.

Source: CNN

3. Republicans vow big changes to Trump budget
President Trump’s budget proposal came under intense criticism in Congress on Thursday, with even some of his closest allies saying it has no hope of being passed. Defense hawks said Trump’s $54 billion hike in military spending wasn’t enough, while Democrats and some Republicans said that paying for the extra defense spending by sharply cutting the budgets of other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, would cause extensive harm. “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless, and counterproductive,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a member and former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Source: The Washington Post

4. Flynn earned $68,000 from ‘Russia-related entities’
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, was paid nearly $68,000 from “Russia-related entities” in 2015, according to documents released Thursday by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. Most of the money came from Russia’s state-run broadcaster RT for a December 2015 speech Flynn made in Moscow. U.S. intelligence agencies consider RT to be a Kremlin propaganda tool. Flynn last year acknowledged making the speech, but said he was paid by his speakers bureau, not Russia. Flynn received $11,250 from the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, and another $11,250 from Russian charter cargo airline Volga-Dnepr Airlines. Flynn recently registered retroactively as a foreign agent for work he did to benefit a company linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Source: CNN, The Washington Post

5. Trump and Merkel to discuss NATO, Russia, in first face-to-face meeting
President Trump hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House on Friday in the first face-to-face meeting between the West’s two most powerful leaders. Trump, who harshly criticized Merkel for letting hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, has signaled that he will ask Merkel to back his call for North Atlantic Treaty Organization members to pitch in more for their common defense. Merkel, a close ally of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is expected to focus on NATO funding and relations with Russia. “The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor’s views on her experience interacting with Putin,” a senior administration official said.

Source: Reuters

6. Letter bomb injures one at IMF Paris office
A letter bomb exploded at the International Monetary Fund’s offices in Paris on Thursday, slightly injuring one person. French authorities said they were investigating the incident as a possible terrorist attack. The blast occurred one day after German authorities found a package bomb they believed had been sent by a Greek terrorist group to the Berlin office of Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble. The French letter bomb appeared also to have been sent from Greece.

Source: The New York Times

7. Florida governor replaces anti-death-penalty prosecutor
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Thursday removed prosecutor Aramis Ayala from the trial of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd after she said she would no longer seek the death penalty in first-degree murder cases. Loyd, who was wanted for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, is accused of fatally shooting Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton when she tried to catch him. Ayala said she made her decision because capital punishment doesn’t deter crime or protect citizens. Scott said he was using his executive authority to replace Ayala with State Attorney Brad King because Ayala would not “fight for justice.” “These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law,” he said, “and justice must be served.”

Source: NBC News

8. Student arrested for French school shooting
French police arrested a 16-year-old student for allegedly opening fire at a school in southeastern France on Thursday. At least two students were injured, as was the principal when he tried to intervene. Witnesses said the attacker entered a classroom carrying a long gun, several pistols, and a small grenade, looking for specific people. Prosecutor Fabienne Atzori said there was no reason to believe that the attack had anything to do with terrorism. “The motivation of the student appears linked to bad relations with other students in this high school in which it appears he had some difficulty integrating,” she said. Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the attack, which occurred in the town of Grasse, appeared to be “a crazy act by a fragile young man fascinated by firearms.”

Source: CBS News, The New York Times

9. Mount Etna eruption injures 10
At least 10 people were injured when Sicily’s Mount Etna volcano erupted on Thursday, sending molten rocks raining down on tourists, journalists, and a scientist. About 35 tourists and a BBC camera crew went to the area to observe the volcano erupting, but were caught by surprise when flowing magma hit snow and caused an explosion. BBC video of the incident shows an explosion of steam and hot rocks, and people rushing to get away. “The material thrown into the air fell back down, striking the heads and bodies of people who were closest,” said Umberto Marino, president of the Italian Alpine Club chapter in Catania, after he took some of the injured to safety.

Source: The Associated Press

10. First day of NCAA tournament light on upsets
The No. 12 seeds managed to pull off just one upset as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament kicked off in earnest on Thursday, as Middle Tennessee State beat No. 5 seed Minnesota 81-72 to move into the second round. Another No. 12, Princeton, nearly advanced, but lost to Notre Dame 60-58 after having a shot at an upset in its final possession. UNC-Wilmington came close, too, but squandered a 15-point lead and lost 76-71 to Virginia. The fourth No. 12 seed, Nevada, lost to Iowa State, 84-73. Two No. 1 seeds, North Carolina and Kansas, take their turns on Friday trying to avoid being the first regional top seeds to be upset by a No. 16 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. “I’ll tell you what,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose Tar Heels face No. 16 Texas Southern. “Every coach of the No. 1 always worries like the dickens about it the night before. It’s something you always think about.”

Source: The Associated Press