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July 7, 2014
CC by: Nick Richards

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?

11:47 a.m. ET
PETER DEJONG/AFP/Getty Images

It's official: President Trump is headed to France for Bastille Day. The White House on Wednesday announced that Trump has accepted French President Emmanuel Macron's invitation to attend celebrations in France commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, a decisive moment in the French Revolution. This year's Bastille Day also marks the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.

Aside from attending the annual military parade in Paris on the national French holiday, Trump will also talk economic and terrorism-related issues with Macron. "President Trump looks forward to reaffirming America's strong ties of friendship with France, to celebrating this important day with the French people," the White House said in a statement.

That reaffirmation might be needed, given Macron and Trump's recent interactions. The two shared an uncomfortably long, white-knuckled handshake in Brussels last month. Shortly after that, Macron issued a brutal rebuttal to Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, during which Macron repurposed Trump's campaign slogan by calling on the world to "make our planet great again." Becca Stanek

11:24 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google News has a new look. On Tuesday evening, Google rolled out a redesign of its page that aggregates news stories.

Gone is the search engine-like results page, replaced by a sleeker card-based interface that boxes off stories with related coverage. Users can more easily click around to different topics, thanks to a customizable sections sidebar.

Alongside the increased focus on customizability is a greater emphasis on facts, a relevant addition in the era of "fake news." The newest version of Google News makes fact-checking more readily accessible, with a Fact Check block now planted in the right rail, featuring the latest investigations from sites like PolitiFact and Snopes.

The goal of the redesign was to make the News feature more streamlined and more user-friendly. "Right now, Google News shows too much, and in that it shows too little," Google product manager Anand Paka told Poynter. "Users are not able to connect with the journalism that they come to Google News to see. Our goal here was to make readability a prime focus and pick out elements that are the most important."

Google said the updates will be rolled out worldwide "in the coming days." Becca Stanek

10:32 a.m. ET

CNN's Chris Cuomo has had just about enough of Republicans crying "fake news," and he let GOP Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) know it during an interview Wednesday morning. The confrontation was sparked by Johnson claiming that the debate over Senate Republicans' plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare is "completely distorted using incorrect information."

Cuomo, who had been discussing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's recently released cost estimate of the Senate bill, demanded to know whether Johnson was suggesting he was "using misleading information" by citing the CBO's estimates. "You let me know what I'm saying that is inaccurate," Cuomo said. "Because this whole 'fake' thing needs to end, and it needs to end right now. You tell me what I'm getting wrong, or we'll deal with the numbers as the CBO puts them out."

Johnson insisted he wasn't referring specifically to Cuomo's statements. "I'm talking about the fact that people don't understand the 22 million, and it was a wrong baseline," Johnson said, pointing to the CBO's estimate that 22 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 under the GOP health-care plan than under ObamaCare. The CBO, Johnson claimed, had used an outdated baseline assumption to make that comparison.

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

10:30 a.m. ET

It's a good weekend to get out of town — and not just because of the holiday. American drivers will be treated to the lowest seasonal gas prices in more than a decade, Bloomberg reports, with a national average of $2.21 a gallon, the cheapest Fourth of July fill-up since 2005. This weekend will also mark the first time in 17 years that gas prices are expected to be lower for Independence Day than they were on New Year's Day, Bloomberg adds.

The national average has been as much as $1.04 a gallon more expensive in the past decade than it will be in 2017. And the low prices may be inspiring Americans to get on the road: A record 44.2 million people plan to travel at least 50 miles away from home this weekend, AAA reports.

"It's thrilling to see gas prices falling just in time for the most-traveled summer holiday," said GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Perhaps we can finally get rid of the myth that gas prices go up for the holiday." Jeva Lange

10:03 a.m. ET
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

Workers employed at a Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump to manufacture shoes have spoken to the media for the first time, detailing nightmarish conditions, long hours, and abuse at the hands of managers, The Associated Press reports. In one particularly upsetting incident, the workers recalled a manager bludgeoning an employee on the head with the heel of a stiletto. "There was a lot of blood. [The employee] went to the factory's nurse station, passing by me," one of the workers recalled.

Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co. is used by several other fashion brands in addition to Ivanka Trump's. Trump's brand, though, has come under particular criticism for its association with the company because of Trump's retained ownership interest in her brand while serving in the government. On Tuesday, for example, the president's eldest daughter skewered China, which has been demoted by the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report to the lowest possible level, claiming the government report was a "clarion call into action in defense of the vulnerable and the exploited" — but she has yet to comment on the conditions at her supplier's factory.

Recently, three human rights investigators for the New York-based China Labor Watch were detained and accused of secretly recording inside the factory. The group's founder, Li Qiang, said the reports out of the Ganzhou factory are "among the worst he has seen in nearly two decades investigating labor abuses," AP writes. "His group says pay can be as low as a dollar an hour, in violation of China's labor laws. According to China Labor Watch investigators, until recently, workers might get only two days off — or less — per month."

Read more about the factory at The Associated Press. Jeva Lange

10:01 a.m. ET
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Historically, successful presidents are both "revered and feared" by their fellow party members in Congress, The Washington Post reported. President Trump, it seems, is neither.

In spite of Trump's "mix of bravado, threats, and efforts to schmooze with GOP lawmakers," the roiling Republican debate over health care has revealed Trump might not be the commanding force he thinks he is, the Post reported:

In private conversations on Capitol Hill, Trump is often not taken seriously. Some Republican lawmakers consider some of his promises — such as making Mexico pay for a new border wall — fantastical. They are exhausted and at times exasperated by his hopscotching from one subject to the next, chronicled in his pithy and provocative tweets. They are quick to point out how little command he demonstrates of policy. And they have come to regard some of his threats as empty, concluding that crossing the president poses little danger.

"The House health-care vote shows he does have juice, particularly with people on the right," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said. "The Senate health-care vote shows that people feel that health care is a defining issue and that it'd be pretty hard for any politician to push a senator into taking a vote that's going to have consequences for the rest of their life."

Asked if he personally fears Trump, Graham chuckled before saying, "No." [The Washington Post]

Shortly after the article was published, Trump on Wednesday morning fired off one of his signature "pithy and provocative tweets" making clear just how much stock he puts in The Washington Post's reporting:

Read more on the story at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

9:22 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Five months after visiting the Obama White House to celebrate their 2016 World Series win, the Chicago Cubs expressed mixed feelings about the team's invitation to the Trump White House on Wednesday. "I just don't feel like I want to go," reliever Pedro Strop admitted to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Other Cubs were similarly ambivalent, with pitcher Justin Grimm saying he'd go if he didn't have family in town and relief pitcher Hector Rondon adding, "I prefer to stay in my room, get rest, and get prepared for the game."

Of 22 players interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times, 10 said they were skipping the White House visit. But first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "I'm going because it's the United States of America, and I'd rather not live anywhere else except this country. It's an honor. No political ties. It's the White House." Pitcher Mike Montgomery, who is also attending, was not quite as enthusiastic as his teammate but said it would be "maybe a little disrespectful to turn it down."

Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. is turning down the invitation — because he has better plans. "I'm trying to go see, like, the dinosaur museums," he said. Jeva Lange

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