Flying used to be so much easier: Not too many decades ago, you'd just walk up to the gate with your ticket, board the plane, take your seat, light up your cigarette, and wait for the stewardess to bring you a complimentary cocktail, a deck of cards, and hot meal.*
On Sunday, the TSA added yet another layer of annoyance for U.S.-bound air travelers from certain foreign airports: Before boarding the plane, you may now have to turn on your electronic mobile devices, presumably to prove they aren't covert explosive devices. Watched too much battery-draining World Cup action on your iPhone while waiting in the long security line? Too bad. "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft," the TSA said in its statement, adding that "the traveler may also undergo additional screening."
U.S. officials say they aren't responding to a specific threat, but ABC News reported last week that terrorists in Syria and Yemen are working on "creative" new bomb designs to take down a U.S.- or Europe-bound airliner, presumably using U.S. or European nationals who have joined the civil war in Syria. The new bombs may be housed inside toothpaste tubes, shoes, and cosmetics packages, ABC News reported. This fear isn't exactly new, as this 2005 Slate article explains:
No one worried too much about electronic devices in carry-on baggage until the 1989 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The device that destroyed that plane — and killed 270 people — turned out to have been hidden inside a boom box. After this incident, Congress briefly considered banning electronic devices in the cabin. Instead, the FAA asked airlines and airports to exercise more scrutiny over cell phones, radios, alarm clocks, computers, and other electronics. As a result, many travelers were asked to turn on their laptop computers at screening checkpoints, to prove that they functioned normally. [Slate]
The laptop power-up rule isn't that common now, after a big uptick following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. No word on how long or how widespread the smartphone rule will be in effect. --Peter Weber
*Air travel was also much more expensive, and who misses cigarette smoke in the cabin?
The Republican candidate for the vacant Montana House of Representatives seat, Greg Gianforte, allegedly assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs at a campaign event Wednesday night. Jacobs described the situation on Twitter:
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
Buzzfeed News reporter Alexis Levinson was directly outside the room in question, and she described "angry yelling" and a "giant crash." The Guardian posted audio of the encounter, where Gianforte can be heard shouting angrily, "I'm sick and tired of you guys:"
Gianforte's campaign put out a response accusing Jacobs of having "grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground." This account is rather divergent from the recorded one, not least because it says Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower his recorder and he refused, which cannot be heard at all.
Jacobs wrote an article detailing Gianforte's ties to sanctioned Russian companies last month. The election is tomorrow. Ryan Cooper
Good news, poor people — Ben Carson is here to explain why you aren't a millionaire.
"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," the retired neurosurgeon, former presidential candidate, current Housing and Urban Development Secretary, and not an economic adviser said during a SiriusXM town hall recorded Tuesday night and released Wednesday. "You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back to the bottom."
Carson has been vocal about being poor growing up, and said that while he does believe the government is able to give a "helping hand" to people trying to lift themselves out of poverty, there are too many programs that are "sustaining them in a position of poverty. That's not helpful." HUD provides affordable housing and rental assistance to low-income families, and under President Trump's proposed budget released Tuesday, the department's budget would be cut by $6 billion. Catherine Garcia
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions applied for his security clearance, he neglected to share meetings he had in 2016 with Russian officials, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.
The SF-86 form requires a person list "any contact" they or their family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the last seven years, officials told CNN, and Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times in 2016, did not mention these gatherings. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN that Sessions and his staff were told by the FBI they did not need to list meetings he had with foreign ambassadors that took place while he was still a senator.
"My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business," Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney specializing in national security law, told CNN. During his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, Sessions, an early Trump supporter, also did not disclose his interactions with Kislyak. Catherine Garcia
Last summer, U.S. spies gathered information on senior Russian officials discussing how to influence Donald Trump through his advisers, three current and former American officials told The New York Times.
They specifically focused on two men with indirect ties to Russian officials: Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, his foreign policy adviser. The information was deemed credible enough by intelligence agencies to pass along to the FBI, but it remains unclear if the Russians actually did try to influence Manafort and Flynn, who have both denied any collusion with the Russian government before the 2016 presidential election.
The U.S. spies heard some Russians bragging about how well they knew Flynn, the Times reports; in 2015, Flynn earned more than $65,000 from several companies linked to Russia, including the government-funded RT news network. For his part, Manafort spent more than 10 years working for political organizations in Ukraine, forging a close relationship with Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who was a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan testified that last summer, he was convinced "the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive." By the end of former President Barack Obama's term, he still had "unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf against either in a witting or unwitting fashion." Catherine Garcia
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require the president to alert Congress if anyone in the executive branch happened to, say, reveal some classified information to certain hostile nations. Murphy rolled out her bill just over a week after reports surfaced that President Trump had revealed highly classified information passed to the U.S. from Israel in an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials.
Murphy's bill, the Prevention and Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies (POISE) Act, would require the president "to promptly notify the House and Senate congressional intelligence committees when any U.S. executive branch official, including the president himself, intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions."
As a former national security specialist at the Pentagon, Murphy said she's witnessed how damaging it can be to spill classified information. "When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world," she said in a statement. "Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information." Becca Stanek
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's cost estimate of the American Health Care Act released Wednesday predicted some steep costs for the elderly. Vox's Sarah Kliff reported that low-income Americans over the age of 64 would see premiums increase by a whopping 800 percent under the GOP-backed plan:
CBO estimates that in states requesting AHCA waivers, premiums for low-income elderly enrollees would go up 800 percent. That is not a typo. pic.twitter.com/W7QC4z9UUS
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) May 24, 2017
Under ObamaCare, Americans over the age of 64 with an annual income of $26,500 pay a net premium of $1,700. If the AHCA were to become law, that same population would pay a net premium of $13,600.
The score the CBO released Wednesday updates its previous evaluation of the bill, released in March, to reflect changes that Republicans made to the bill before passing it in the House earlier this month. Overall, the updated score predicted an additional 23 million Americans would be uninsured by 2026 if the AHCA were to replace ObamaCare. The bill would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion. Becca Stanek
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its score of the American Health Care Act on Wednesday, updating its projections to accommodate the version of the bill that passed the House earlier this month. The CBO offered an initial score of the GOP health-care bill in March, after it was first drafted but before it was amended to amass enough Republican votes to pass the lower chamber.
The two major amendments made to the bill during negotiations sought to make the bill more amenable to the far-right Freedom Caucus members, who felt the first draft did not go far enough to repeal ObamaCare, while retaining the support of more moderate Republicans, who worried about constituents reliant on ObamaCare policies.
As a result, the second iteration of the bill included two key changes, delegating certain coverage mandates to states: They would have the option to waive the ObamaCare mandate that insurers cover certain essential health benefits, including maternity care and mental health treatment; and they would have the option to waive the requirement that insurers charge people of the same age the same premiums regardless of health status, also known as "community rating."
In its updated score Wednesday, the CBO predicted these two waivers would destabilize the insurance market, due to "market responses to decisions by some states to waive [the aforementioned] two provisions of federal law":
Quite a paragraph in the CBO report - expects law would greatly destabilize insurance markets. pic.twitter.com/FQnMsfagz5
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) May 24, 2017
The CBO predicted that in states that exercise their waiver right in both cases, young, healthier individuals would opt for insurance plans with lower premiums rather than purchasing plans from insurers that have retained the community-rating provision. When healthier individuals are not required to purchase insurance, or when they can purchase cheaper plans from alternate providers, those insurers providing more comprehensive coverage to sicker or older individuals are forced to charge higher premiums to those individuals to balance their costs.
Overall, the updated CBO score predicted the American Health Care Act would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 than ObamaCare, while reducing the federal deficit by $119 billion. Senate Republicans have already set to work overhauling the bill. Read the CBO's full report here. Kimberly Alters