May 14, 2014

Josh Kelly suffered from epilepsy, a brain disorder that forced him to drop out of high school nine days before graduation. But Kelly was determined not to miss out on another educational milestone. For nearly a decade, Kelly attended Idaho State University working toward a degree in geology, with his faithful service dog, a black pit bull named Cletus, by his side. The pair would dutifully walk two miles both ways to catch the bus to campus.

Unfortunately, Kelly passed away in February just two classes shy of his degree. Nonetheless, ISU granted him a posthumous degree on May 10. In the young man's place, Kelly's tearful father, Terrell, walked across the stage with Cletus by his side, accepted the diploma, lifted it to the sky and said almost inaudibly, "This is for Josh."

In honor of Kelly's hard work and his service dog, who gained celebrity status among the students, the undergraduate study hall in the geosciences department has been officially named "Cletus' Corner." Watch the video below. --Lauren Hansen

8:11 a.m. ET
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U.S. military chiefs have prepared new options for how President Trump might respond to the North Korean threat, including "a military response," CNN reports. "What we have to do is prepare all options because the president has made clear to us that he will not accept a nuclear power in North Korea and a threat that can target the United States and target the American population," said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Wednesday.

North Korea is "very much at the top of" Trump's mind, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said. Last week, Trump added that the North Korean regime "is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly."

A primary concern is North Korea's increasing ability to hide missile and nuclear test preparations from the United States' satellites. Some experts, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, warn that North Korea's advances might be more rapid and sophisticated than previously predicted, and that the nation could even achieve the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the territorial U.S. before the estimated three-to-five-year timeframe.

"All options" are on the table in the case of another test, CNN reports. "Administration officials say war with North Korea in our lifetimes is not impossible," Axios writes. Jeva Lange

7:56 a.m. ET

Last week, through a series of decrees, Saudi King Salman promoted his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, to crown prince, demoting his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who had been interior minister and counterterrorism czar as well as crown prince, and removing him from the royal line of succession. Now, Nayef has been confined to his palace in Jidda, as a precautionary measure to protect Mohammed bin Salman, 31, from internal challenge, The New York Times reports, citing four current and former U.S. officials and Saudis close to the royal family.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry told the Times that the accounts of Nayef being confined to his palace are "baseless and false," but the Times' sources say the restrictions are not only real, but also extend to other family members:

The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef's daughters, according to a former American official who maintains ties to Saudi royals. A married daughter was told that her husband and their child could leave their home while she had to stay, the former official said. One Saudi close to the royal family said the new restrictions had been imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman's promotion. After the announcement, Mohammed bin Nayef returned to his palace in Jidda to find that his trusted guards had been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi and a former American official. Since then, he has been prevented from leaving the palace. [The New York Times]

To demonstrate that the changing of the line of succession is going smoothly, Saudi state media has been replaying this video of Mohammed bin Salman kissing the ring of Nayef, who wishes him well:

The palace arrest suggests that not everyone in the royal family agrees with King Salman's changes, and that the new crown prince believes public appearances might foment unrest. "It's an indication that [Mohammed bin Salman] does not want any opposition," a senior U.S. official tells the Times. "He doesn't want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that [Mohammed bin Nayaf] was plotting anything anyway." Peter Weber

7:27 a.m. ET

Iraq announced the collapse of the Islamic State within its borders on Thursday after Iraqi troops recaptured the grand mosque of Mosul, Reuters reports.

The 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is the symbolic heart of ISIS's de facto capital, where leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate three years ago to the day, on June 29, 2014. ISIS blew up the mosque last week as forces closed in following an eight-month U.S.-backed siege on Mosul.

Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told state TV "[ISIS's] fictitious state has fallen" and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi "issued instructions to bring the battle to its conclusion." Baghdadi is thought to have fled Mosul and gone into hiding on the Syrian border, The Guardian reports. Jeva Lange

7:06 a.m. ET
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After months being blocked by the courts, and 72 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court partially lifted those judicial stays, what remains of President Trump's travel ban on refugees and visitors from six majority-Muslim countries will go into effect a 8 p.m. EDT on Thursday, according to a State Department cable sent out Wednesday and subsequently obtained by The Associated Press. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to review Trump's travel ban and the injunctions against it, ruling that in the meantime the ban could go into effect, but only for would-be visitors who don't have "bona fide relationships" within the U.S. The ruling affects new visas for people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.

Wednesday's cable lays out what the Trump administration considers "bone fide" family and business relationships. For family, that means only "close" family — parents, spouses, children, siblings, or sons- or daughters-in-law already living in the U.S., but not grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, siblings-in-law, or cousins, AP says. Legitimate business relationships must be "formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading" the ban, though journalists, students, workers, or lecturers with valid employment contracts or invitations are exempt.

People who already have valid visas won't be affected, and consular officials will have some discretion with certain other categories of applicants, such as adopted children, infants, and certain people with business in the United States. The rules will presumably stay in effect until the Supreme Court issues its decision, no earlier that this fall. Peter Weber

6:00 a.m. ET

On Thursday, police in Melbourne, Australia, announced criminal sex abuse charges against Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican finance chief and a top adviser to Pope Francis, saying he will face trial for unspecified multiple "historical sexual assault offenses," suggesting he is being accused of sexual abuse many years ago. At the Vatican, Pell said he would take an immediate leave from his position as the top Vatican official, but not step down, and return to Australia to fight the allegations. "I repeat that I am innocent of these charges, they are false," he said, and he is looking forward to answering them in court after months of "relentless character assassination."

Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said Pell has been ordered to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18, that none of the multiple allegations against him have yet been tested in court, and that "Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process." Pell, 76, was archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney before Pope Francis put him in charge of reforming the Vatican's finances in 2014. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be accused of sexual abuse in the church's slowly unfolding sexual abuse scandal. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said it was with regret that the Holy See learned of the charges, and said the financial reforms would continue during Pell's absence.

Earlier this year, a high-level Australian state commission found that 7 percent of Catholic priests in the country were accused of sexually abusing minors between 1950 and 2010. Pell, who has faced accusations of mishandling clerical sex abuse when he was an archbishop, testified twice in person and once over video, citing age and illness. The accusations that he himself sexually abused anyone are more recent; Victoria detectives interviewed him at the Vatican last year. Peter Weber

4:49 a.m. ET

The Senate GOP health-care bill has "one major flaw," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "And I don't want to get too wonky, but it's a hot pile of garbage." Senate GOP leaders delayed a vote on the bill until after the July 4 holiday, he added, and "it's a smart move. You don't want to strip people of health care until after the holiday that mixes booze and explosives."

There's lots of blame to go around, Colbert said, noting a New York Times article that suggested Trump had failed as a closer. "Yeah, usually he's a great closer — I mean, just look at his casinos," Colbert said, accurately but unkindly. Trump did not like another article in the Times that suggested he knew nothing about the basics of the health-care plan, so he hit back on Twitter, insisting that he totally understands health-care policy and only wants victory for America. "Oh yes, he totally understands health care — he thinks you can win it," Colbert said, switching to his Trump-tweet voice: "At the next Olympics, the U.S. will take gold in the 400m prostate exam."

Trump is blaming Democrats, but he hasn't given up, promising a great surprise with the reworked bill. Right now, it's polling as low as 12 percent. "Gee, I don't know why Democrats don't want to jump on board the SS TrumpCare," Colbert shrugged.

Trump isn't just swatting at the Times. Colbert reminded his audience about Trump's framed fake Time magazine covers, suggesting that Trump could "do better than that. If you're going to fake a magazine cover, put yourself on the cover of O. Living his best life. Radiant." Trump tweeted that The Washington Post, which broke that story, and its parent company, Amazon, should pay more internet tax — which, first, isn't a thing, Colbert noted. "Second, Mr. Trump, we know you think The Washington Post is fake news, you don't have to keep telling us. I mean, Obama didn't wake up every morning and tweet: 'Still first black president. #iamthedream'."

Colbert ended with some jokes about the "GoldenEye" ransomware outbreak that has seized up computers from Chernobyl to U.S. companies like Merck, Oreo, and Nabisco. "No!" he said, drawing a line. "Our presidential elections are one thing, but how dare you hack our drugs and our cookies — that's how we cope with the results of our presidential election." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:47 a.m. ET

Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled their secret health-care plan, and "it turns out, 13 rich white guys alone in a room isn't how good legislation happens," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "It's how Suicide Squad happens. But while Suicide Squad destroys your will to live, this bill destroys your ability to live." Especially if you rely on Medicaid, which will be cut deeply and structurally in the Senate GOP bill.

"That's not ObamaCare repeal, that's JohnsonCare repeal," Bee protested. "Please don't kill Medicaid — it's only 52 years old." Most Americans — including most Republicans — like Medicaid, she noted, adding incongruously that "a lot of Americans don't have a clear idea of what Medicaid covers," and never have. So she ran through which 20 percent of Americans use Medicaid, from children to the elderly in nursing homes. "Allowing states to cap Medicaid benefits also threatens the expensive long-term care that was so very important to Republicans back when it was keeping Terry Schiavo alive," Bee said, and if you don't get the reference, she includes footage and a cameo by Mike Pence.

Since President Trump promised not to cut Medicaid, Republicans are insisting that the $772 billion in cuts aren't actually cuts, and Kellyanne Conway's version of that argument apparently caused Bee to suffer from hallucinations. "Okay, they're not cuts, the plan just won't let Medicaid grow to keep up with medical costs and 70 million aging baby boomers who never lost their taste for pharmaceuticals," she translated. "Basically it's like telling your kid, 'We were planning on buying you new clothes as you got older, but instead we'll just have you wear the same onesie until you're 53.'"

The bill is on hold, Bee noted, but it won't stay that way. There is some decidedly NSFW language and some rude jabs at Paul Ryan, but if that doesn't bother you, watch below. Peter Weber

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