As the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 enters its eighth week with no debris found, authorities are moving the focus of the investigation underwater.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters at a news conference in Canberra on Monday that it is "highly unlikely at this stage that we will find any aircraft debris on the ocean surface." Noting that the flight has now been missing for 52 days, Abbott indicated that the search would be "entering a new phase" by concentrating efforts underwater.
Abbott's announcement echoes the plan put forth by Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein last week, who told reporters that authorities would be "increasing the assets that are available for a deep-sea search."
Malaysia and Australia are joined by China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Britain, and the United States in the search for the missing plane, which has become the most expensive search in aviation history. Kimberly Alters
Sen. Bob Corker wants to know how a measure enriching him was slipped into the GOP tax bill he now supports
On Friday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced that he will vote for the final $1.47 billion Republican tax bill being rushed through Congress, despite his lone GOP no vote when it passed in the Senate. His original concern was the $1 trillion or more the bill will add to the federal deficit — the Congressional Budget Office on Friday put the final deficit hole at $1.455 trillion over 10 years — but Corker said Friday the imperfections are worth helping U.S. businesses. On Friday night, the International Business Times found a newly added provision that would open big tax breaks to real estate developers like President Trump, Jared Kushner, and Corker.
On Saturday, Corker insisted he had not known about the "Corker kickback" before he switched his vote. On Sunday, he asked Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) for an explanation. "The suggestion was that it was airdropped into the conference without prior consideration by either the House or the Senate," Corker said. "Because this issue has raised concerns, I would ask that you provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into conference report. I think that because of many sensitivities, clarity on this issue is very important."
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) provided something of an explanation on ABC's This Week, telling host George Stephanopoulos the measure was added in during "a very intense process" where "the Democrats refused to participate, and what we've tried to do is cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed."
It's possible specifically helping real estate LLCs was incidental, as the new provision "combined a capital-investment approach that the House favored with the Senate's tax-cut mechanism," Bloomberg reports. But while "the new law will include lots of what you might call unintended consequences," Axios says, noting how it might increase moving U.S. factories overseas, "often they were intended by the hidden hands that put them there." Peter Weber
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to scrap net neutrality rules, allowing broadband internet providers to treat traffic to websites differently (choke certain sites, speed up others), and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a self-consciously geeky video through The Daily Caller in which he claimed to "restore internet freedom" by, among other things, dancing with a light saber. Mark Hamill, who knows some stuff about light sabers, was not amused, and said so.
Cute video Ajit "Aren't I Precious?" Pai -but you are profoundly unworthy 2 wield a lightsaber-A Jedi acts selflessly for the common man-NOT lie 2 enrich giant corporations. Btw-did you pay John Williams his royalty? @AjitPaiFCCorpShill #AJediYouAreNOT pic.twitter.com/SpIcOEySUY
— @HamillHimself (@HamillHimself) December 16, 2017
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) jumped in, trying to explain Star Wars to Luke Skywalker with a condescending tweet that presupposes people hate Google and Netflix but love Comcast and Time Warner/Spectrum.
.@HammillHimself Luke, I know Hollywood can be confusing, but it was Vader who supported govt power over everything said & done on the Internet. That's why giant corps (Google, Facebook, Netflix) supported the FCC power grab of net neutrality. Reject the dark side: Free the net! https://t.co/nARkMvIEYk
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 17, 2017
And, well, yeah.
Thanks for smarm-spaining it to me @tedcruz I know politics can be confusing, but you'd have more credibility if you spelled my name correctly. I mean IT'S RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU! Maybe you're just distracted from watching porn at the office again-mh https://t.co/nHpJVG1Wpe
— @HamillHimself (@HamillHimself) December 17, 2017
"Smarm-splaining" — the neologisms are strong with this one (even if the spelling isn't). You can decide who won that spat — the iconic actor with a hit movie in theaters or the unpopular senator — and read more about what net neutrality (or lack thereof) actually means for you from The Week's Jeff Spross. Peter Weber
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to Arizona on Sunday, after spending half a week at Walter Reed Medical Center amid chemotherapy treatment for a malignant brain tumor. McCain's office released a statement from Dr. Mark Gilbert, the chief of neuro-oncology at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute, saying McCain "continues to improve" after responding well to treatment for a viral infection and is "responding positively" to the cancer treatment. McCain's office also said the 81-year-old senator "looks forward to returning to Washington in January," confirming that he will miss this week's vote on the Republican tax plan.
McCain's absence doesn't appear to put the $1.5 trillion tax bill's passage in jeopardy, as all 51 other Republican senators have indicated they will vote in favor. "The word is John will come back if we need his vote," President Trump said Sunday. "It's too bad. He's going through a very tough time, there's no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote." A Republican close to McCain told CNN he left Walter Reed "exhausted, but okay." Peter Weber
A blackout at the Atlanta airport has forced the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights a week before Christmas
At 1:06 p.m. on Sunday, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport went dark, after an electrical fire damaged two Georgia Power substations serving the airport, including its "redundant system" in case of power failure. Thousands of passengers at the world's busiest airport were trapped for hours on grounded airplanes, trams between terminals, or in the dark airport, and the FAA quickly declared a ground stop, causing the cancelation of about 1,000 flights in and out of Atlanta on Sunday, with hundreds of flights scrapped for Monday, a week before Christmas.
Power crews restored electricity at Concourse F at 7:30 p.m., six and a half hours after the blackout began, and several other areas got power shortly before midnight. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said officials don't yet know what caused the fires, adding, "We certainly understand that the outage has caused frustration and anger and we are doing everything that we can to get folks back home right away."
CNN's Betsy Klein was stuck on a Delta airplane on the tarmac for seven hours, and she live-tweeted the experience. When she finally got off the plane at 9 p.m., she said, the airport was sweltering, nobody appeared to be in charge, and it was hard to find the exit — a trip that entailed a lot of walking, including up and down stalled escalators. She described people sleeping on baggage claim carousels and jockeying for power outlets.
— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) December 18, 2017
Still, after seven hours on a packed plane, with no food or water for the last few hours, she was happy to finally deplane.
The deplaning pic.twitter.com/UZlQmxs69Z
— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) December 18, 2017
Alabama's Senator-elect Doug Jones (D) made an appearance on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, talking with host Jake Tapper about his win at the polls this past week, his plans for his new role in Washington, and President Trump.
Jones broke with fellow Democrats who have said the president should resign because of sexual harassment accusations made against him. "Those allegations were made before the election, and so people had an opportunity to judge" last year, Jones said. "We need to move on and not get distracted by those issues."
Jones also indicated he won't be a strict party-line voter in the Senate given his may GOP constituents. "Now, don't expect me to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats," he said. "I'm going to talk to people on both sides of the aisle, try to figure out what I think is in the best interest of my state and in the country."
Watch the full CNN interview below. Bonnie Kristian
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short had a testy conversation with NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday in which he maintained the Trump administration is not internally debating whether to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller from his probe into Russian election meddling efforts.
Todd raised the subject of emails the Trump transition team claims Mueller obtained unlawfully, but Short pleaded ignorance of the specifics of that situation. Instead, he argued the Russia investigation in general has been wasteful and unnecessary, which led to this rapid-fire exchange:
Todd: Ok, but is the president going to continue to cooperate?
Short: He is continuing to cooperate —
Todd: Or is he setting the stage —
Short: No, come on, Chuck.
Todd: For firing Bob Mueller?
Short: No, there's no conversation —
Todd: There's no way he's going to fire him?
Short: There's no conversation about that whatsoever in the White House, Chuck.
Todd: None whatsoever?
Short: You guys keep bringing that up. We have continued to cooperate in every single possible way with that investigation. [NBC]
Mueller's office denied accessing the emails unlawfully, stating it has always "secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process" when obtaining communications for the investigation. Watch an excerpt of the NBC interview below. Bonnie Kristian
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 17, 2017
Britain's Prince Harry has interviewed former President Obama for a radio show set to air later this month. Though recorded in September, the first teaser clip of the conversation was shared by Kensington Palace social media accounts Sunday.
Clocking in under a minute, the short video sees Obama and the prince joking as they prepare to begin their interview. "Do I have to speak faster, because I'm a slow speaker?" Obama asks. "Do I need a British accent?" Harry assures him that won't be necessary, but warns against leaving Obama's trademark "long pauses between the answers." Watch the teaser below. Bonnie Kristian
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 17, 2017