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HeadlinesJune 29, 2017

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Senate GOP Leaders Scramble to Save Healthcare Bill Amid Revolt

Jun 29, 2017

Republican leaders scrambled Wednesday to rescue a Senate plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, after nine Republican senators said they could not support their party’s bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped to finish a revised bill by Friday and would submit it to the Congressional Budget Office for review ahead of plans to take up the measure after a week-long recess for the Fourth of July holiday. McConnell abandoned a push for a vote this week after some Republicans balked over the CBO’s finding that the Senate bill would cause 22 million Americans to lose their health insurance over the next decade. At the White House, President Trump predicted the Senate would still pass a repeal of Obamacare.

President Donald Trump: “Healthcare is working along very well. We could have a big surprise with a great healthcare package. So, now they’re happy.”

Reporter: “What do you mean by big surprise, sir?”

President Donald Trump: “I think you’re going to have a great, great surprise. It’s going to be great.”

Protesters Flood Senate Offices in “Last Stand” on Healthcare

Jun 29, 2017

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, demonstrators flooded the offices of several Republican senators Wednesday in what they called a “last stand” to prevent a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. At a sit-in protest at the offices of Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, protesters chanted, “Kill the bill! Don’t kill me!” Similar protests targeted Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rob Portman of Ohio and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Meanwhile, constituents of Lisa Murkowski flooded the Alaska senator’s office urging her to vote “no” on the Republican healthcare bill. They were met by Murkowski’s aide, Kevin Sweeney.

Kevin Sweeney: “Senator Murkowski is a very deliberate senator. Senator Murkowski—and she’s shown us in the past. She’s shown us in the past that she wants to do what’s right for Alaska. But she needs to know exactly what it is that she’s doing. She wants to know what the impact of this is going to be on Alaskans.”

Protester 1: “It’s going to kill people. It’s not hard to figure out.”

Protester 2: “Remove 22 million Americans from their insurance.”

Protester 3: “This bill already has actuarial tables attached to it, as, obviously, drafts, that show the only way these numbers come about, through the CBO, is if people die early.”

During Wednesday’s protests, police arrested 40 people on misdemeanor charges of unlawful crowding, obstructing or incommoding.

Parts of Trump Travel Ban Set to Take Effect

Jun 29, 2017

President Trump’s ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries will partially take effect this evening, after the Supreme Court said it will examine the constitutionality of the order. The ruling will affect some travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time, foreign nationals from those countries who can’t show a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the United States will be barred from entering the country. The ban is set to last for 90 days, meaning it will expire ahead of an expected ruling from the Supreme Court in October.

NATO to Send More Troops to Afghanistan

Jun 29, 2017

In Afghanistan, leaders of NATO said the military alliance will send more troops to work with U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, extending the longest war in U.S. history. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday 15 nations will contribute to the increase, though he did not say how many additional troops NATO members would send. U.S. military leaders have asked for an additional 3,000 to 5,000 troops, after President Trump gave the Pentagon authority to set troop levels.

Lawyer Who Authored Torture Memos Grilled at Confirmation Hearing

Jun 29, 2017

Back on Capitol Hill, anti-torture protesters interrupted a Senate panel Wednesday as it heard testimony from the Trump administration’s pick to become the Transportation Department’s top lawyer. The protests came during a confirmation hearing for Steven Bradbury, who formerly served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. In 2005, Bradbury authored memos justifying the Bush administration’s use of torture in interrogations. This is Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth questioning Bradbury.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: “You were an architect of the legal justification for detainee abuse in the form of waterboarding and other forms of torture. In my opinion, that alone should disqualify you for future government service. And while you’re nominated to serve at DOT and not at Justice, your willingness to aid and abet torture demonstrates a failure of moral and professional character that makes you dangerous regardless of which agency you serve in.”

Steven Bradbury’s confirmation hearing came as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights blasted what he called President Trump’s “persistent flirtation” with torture. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said, “The president of the United States of America has said that torture could be necessary in certain circumstances. There is no longer any pretense. They are breaking long-held taboos. … The dangers to the entire system of international law are therefore very real.”

CNN Reporters Resign After Network Withdraws Report on Trump Adviser

Jun 29, 2017

In media news, three reporters with CNN resigned this week, after their network retracted a report alleging a senior Trump adviser is under investigation by Congress. CNN’s story cited a single anonymous source who alleged the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating whether the adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, met with the chief executive of a Russian investment fund ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration, and whether the pair discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia. The retraction prompted a Twitter rant from President Trump, who tweeted, “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing New York Times & Washington Post? They are all Fake News!”

WaPo: Trump Properties Displayed Fake Time Magazine Covers

Jun 29, 2017

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports the Trump Organization publicly posted framed copies of a fake Time magazine cover lauding Donald Trump at at least five Trump properties. The phony Time cover features a portrait of Trump next to the headlines, “The 'Apprentice' is a television smash!” and ”TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTSEVEN TV!” Time magazine has asked President Trump to remove the fake covers from Trump properties.

Associated Press: EPA Chief Met Dow CEO Ahead of Pesticide Approval

Jun 29, 2017

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency met privately with Dow Chemical’s CEO ahead of an EPA decision to allow the use of a pesticide that has sickened farmworkers and is known to cause brain damage in children. The Associated Press reports EPA chief Scott Pruitt met for about half an hour with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a hotel in Houston, Texas, on March 9. Twenty days later, Pruitt’s agency unexpectedly reversed course and approved use of the pesticide, which is manufactured by Dow.

EPA to Roll Back Drinking Water Safeguards, Protections for Waterways

Jun 29, 2017

Meanwhile, the EPA has announced new plans to roll back an Obama administration policy that environmentalists say will remove drinking water safeguards for one in three Americans and threaten wetlands and thousands of streams that flow into larger rivers and lakes. The 2015 regulation determined more than half of the country’s waterways are covered under the Clean Water Act. In a statement Tuesday, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced plans to rescind the rule and launch a review of which water bodies will fall under federal protection.

New EPA Water Safety Official Worked as Fossil Fuel Lobbyist

Jun 29, 2017

Meanwhile, The Intercept reports that the person Trump has appointed to head the EPA agency charge of water safety is a former lobbyist with deep ties to a fossil fuel advocacy group that promotes the Dakota Access pipeline and controversial offshore drilling efforts. Dennis Lee Forsgren will help oversee the EPA’s Office of Water, which implements the landmark Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts that were passed in the early 1970s. This includes studying the toxic effects of fracking on groundwater safety, the downstream consequences of industrial pollutants, and the environmental impact of oil spills.

Amid Deaths, Thousands of Migrants Rescued in Mediterranean

Jun 29, 2017

In Libya, rescue workers recovered the bodies of five migrants Wednesday who drowned in the Mediterranean as they attempted the perilous journey to Europe. The bodies were found as Libya’s coast guard said it picked up some 5,000 migrants at sea. Meanwhile, the Italian Navy brought hundreds of migrants ashore Wednesday, including an infant who died of heat-related causes shortly after he and his mother were rescued. The International Organization for Migration said some 11,000 migrants have been pulled from unsafe and overcrowded boats this week alone.

Mexico: Journalists Call for End to Attacks on Media Workers

Jun 29, 2017

In Mexico City, journalists and their supporters rallied Wednesday outside the National Palace to call on the government to take action to end a spate of attacks on media workers. The protest came as the Committee to Protect Journalists said Mexico is the world’s deadliest country for reporters so far in 2017. This is Mexican investigative reporter Álvaro Delgado.

Álvaro Delgado: “There is a serious crisis of violence against journalists that is not new but has deepened in recent years. It is in the context of the violence that exists in the country, but to a large extent the crisis has worsened by the disdainful and often complicit conduct by the government of Mexico.”

The protest came after the body of journalist Salvador Adame was discovered in the state of Michoacán, more than a month after he was kidnapped. Adame is at least the seventh journalist to be killed in Mexico this year.

Court Date Set for Trial of Alleged Leaker Reality Leigh Winner

Jun 29, 2017

Back in the United States, a court in Georgia has set an October 23 court date for U.S. intelligence contractor Reality Leigh Winner, who has pleaded not guilty on charges of leaking a top-secret document claiming Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before last November’s election. Winner has been denied bail and is still being held in jail in Lincoln County, Georgia.

Minnesota: $3 Million Settlement Reached in Philando Castile Death

Jun 29, 2017

In Minnesota, the city of St. Anthony will pay nearly $3 million to the family of Philando Castile to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on manslaughter charges for killing Castile during a traffic stop last year. A family lawyer said the settlement will help benefit the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, set up to help victims of gun violence and to provide relief for the grieving. The settlement follows a similar deal struck last week in Ferguson, Missouri, between the city of Ferguson and the parents of Michael Brown over the killing of their son by white police officer Darren Wilson in 2014.

Netherlands: Widows of Hanged Nigerian Activists Sue Shell Oil

Jun 29, 2017

In the Netherlands, the widows of nine men who were hanged by Nigeria’s military government in 1995 have filed suit against Shell Oil in a Dutch court, charging the company with complicity in the deaths. Among those hanged was Ken Saro-Wiwa, who led the movement against Shell’s oil practices in the Ogoni region. Despite widespread international protests, Saro-Wiwa was hanged under the Nigerian dictatorship after a sham trial along with eight other Ogoni rights activists.

Arkansas: Driver Destroys Ten Commandments Monument Outside Capitol

Jun 29, 2017

And in Little Rock, Arkansas, a driver plowed into a monument to the Ten Commandments on Wednesday, destroying the religious display less than a day after state officials erected it on the grounds of the state Capitol. A video posted to Facebook showed the moment the monument was destroyed.

Michael T. Reed: “Oh, my goodness! Freedom!” [pop music, crash]

The driver, Michael T. Reed, was arrested on felony charges. Reed is accused of a similar act in 2014 that destroyed a public monument to the Ten Commandments in Oklahoma. Arkansas officials have vowed to rebuild their state’s monument, even though the American Civil Liberties Union has promised to challenge the display as a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

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