There's nothing funny about this story: 21-year-old Marco Gusmini was killed on Thursday afternoon near Cevo, Italy, when a giant crucifix sculpture fell over and crushed him. The local tragedy is only international news because the 100-foot-tall cross, with 20-foot statue of Jesus affixed, was dedicated to Pope John Paul II, who will be canonized on Sunday along with one of his two papal namesakes, Pope John XXIII. According to La Repubblica, Gusmini had resided on Via Giovanni XXIII — John XXIII Street — in the nearby town of Lovere.
— la Repubblica (@repubblicait) April 24, 2014
There are those, of course, who will see this as an ill omen — as Michael Brendan Dougherty noted Thursday, John Paul II's imminent sainthood isn't without controversy, both because it comes so soon after his death and because the charismatic Polish pope failed to address the sex abuse of children by Catholic clergy that happened or came to light under his long watch. And Good Pope John is credited with only one miracle, when you generally need two for canonization.
But portent or not, the curved sculpture — designed by Enrico Job to celebrate the pope's 1998 visit to Brescia, held up by steel cables — did sort of look like an accident waiting to happen:
I'm going to come down on the not-omen side. But even if this is somehow John Paul II's fault, metaphysically speaking, it won't affect Sunday's canonization: Sainthood doesn't work on an addition/subtraction scale. He is credited with posthumously saving two lives; he wouldn't have one miracle taken away because of some frayed cables, bad timing, and a 1,300-pound statue of Cristo Redentore — Christ the Redeemer. Peter Weber
Right after claiming he killed ObamaCare, Trump calls the resulting premium hikes 'an ObamaCare mess'
On Monday, President Trump told reporters that ObamaCare is dead, killed by his executive orders last week. Because he ended the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) to insurance companies, used to subsidize health care for millions of low-income customers — 70 percent of whom live in states Trump won — "there is no such thing as ObamaCare anymore," Trump said. His action prompted Congress to start working on a short-term fix, he added, instead of "having lunch and enjoying themselves." A minute later, Trump blamed the purportedly dead law for insurers raising premiums:
Sadly, the Democrats can't join us on that which will be the long-term fix, but I do believe we will have a short-term fix because I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess. This is an ObamaCare mess. When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor care delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats. [Trump]
The Congressional Budget Office predicted in August that ending the CSRs would raise premiums and the federal deficit, and on Monday, Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner announced that rates on ObamaCare exchanges will rise an average of 30.6 percent, rather than 7.6 percent, "due to President Trump's refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018 and Congress' inaction to appropriate funds." Trump said he thinks Republicans will still "get the health care done," adding that while most GOP senators "are really, really great people ... a few people disappointed us. Really, really disappointed us. I can understand how Steve Bannon feels."
Over the weekend, incidentally, Bannon told the Value Voters Summit he feels that ending the CSRs will "blow up" the ObamaCare exchanges. Peter Weber
Bannon tells 'Values Voters Summit' Trump pulled CSR payments to 'blow up' Obamacare exchanges, make prices skyrocket. pic.twitter.com/pt4pjhYZoW
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) October 15, 2017
A North Korean official announced Monday that Pyongyang has no interest in diplomacy with the United States until it develops an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach "all the way to the East Coast of the mainland U.S.," CNN reports.
"Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States," the official said.
Trump has gone back and forth on whether talking with North Korea is any sort of "answer." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on the contrary, told Fox News that diplomacy will continue "until the first bomb drops." Jeva Lange
President Trump claimed Monday that former presidents, including Barack Obama, did not call the families of fallen soldiers, sparking quick and furious outcry on social media. "The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed," Trump said. He added, "The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it."
Trump on soldiers killed in Niger: "President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls ... I call when it's appropriate." pic.twitter.com/sgj5iEuDhz
— Axios (@axios) October 16, 2017
Alyssa Mastromonaco, who served as deputy chief of staff for operations under Obama, tweeted: "That's a f---ing lie. To say President Obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA — he's a deranged animal."
What a gross, slanderous thing for Trump to say that other presidents didn't call the families of dead soldiers.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) October 16, 2017
Only Monday, but I'd be surprised if Trump utters a more despicable lie this week than saying Obama didnt call families of slain US troops
— Tom Kutsch (@tomkutsch) October 16, 2017
NBC News' Peter Alexander challenged Trump on the remarks. "Earlier you claimed President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers," Alexander said. "How can you make that claim?"
"I don't know if he did," Trump answered. "I was told that he didn't often [call]. And a lot of presidents don't, they write letters." Trump also admitted he had not called the families of the U.S. soldiers killed in Niger 12 days ago. Jeva Lange
Trump just said President Obama didn't call fallen soldiers' families — now he said he doesn't know. https://t.co/7niEZdPMNc
— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) October 16, 2017
A prominent Maltese journalist known for cracking corruption scandals involving her country's highest officials was killed by a car bomb near her home in Bidnija, Malta, on Monday, The Guardian reports. Four months ago, Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, linked Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to the Panama Papers scandal. Muscat and his wife "denied claims that they had used secret offshore bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan's ruling family," the BBC writes.
Caruana Galizia's investigative work has been hailed abroad, with Politico calling her "a one-woman WikiLeaks" and listing her as one of the 28 people "making and shaking Europe." In her last post, published hours before her death, Caruana Galizia wrote: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate."
On Monday, Muscat condemned Caruana Galizia's murder: "I will not rest until I see justice done in this case," he said. "Our country deserves justice." Jeva Lange
A federal judge refused Monday to toss out any of the charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in the ongoing corruption trial stemming from his alleged use of office to secure business deals for a friend in exchange for gifts, CBS News reports. Menendez allegedly did government favors for Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen for years in return for lavish presents, including a luxury suite in Paris, flights on a private plane, and thousands of dollars in donations.
Menendez's team argued unsuccessfully that a 2016 Supreme Court decision narrowing the definition of bribery should allow for Menendez's case to be tossed. "None of what Menendez did qualified as quid pro quo corruption under the revised test, his lawyers said, because Menendez never agreed to perform any specific act when he received specific favors from Melgen," NBC News writes.
Menendez's defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, also said prosecutors were trying to turn gift-giving that had been common over a 25-year friendship into something it was not: "These two men refer to each other as brothers," Lowell said.
"We are living in a real world of reality and common sense," concluded U.S. District Judge William Walls. "The jury will decide whose version of what happened or didn't happen is more likely than not." Jeva Lange
President Trump made it clear Monday that the Affordable Care Act is absolutely, positively, no-buts-about-it dead. "ObamaCare is finished," Trump said. "It's dead, it's gone. It's no longer — you shouldn't even mention it."
— ABC News (@ABC) October 16, 2017
"There is no such thing as ObamaCare anymore," Trump added Monday for good measure. Jeva Lange
London was transformed into a post-apocalyptic landscape out of Blade Runner 2049 on Monday as former hurricane Ophelia pulled smoke and red Sahara dust over southern England and Wales:
— Dominic Lipinski (@domlipinski) October 16, 2017
— Paul (@Paul_Pierce4708) October 16, 2017
— Jonathan Bunn (@JonJBunn) October 16, 2017
— BBC Weather (@bbcweather) October 16, 2017
— Andrew James Brown (@caute) October 16, 2017
— Anna (@mausszi) October 16, 2017
Residents of Ireland's southern coast — where 110-mph winds have knocked out power and torn off roofs — expressed frustration with their neighbor's photos. "People in England — we will read your tweets about the 'eerie calm' and 'odd reddish light' after we find the roofs of our houses," one user tweeted. At least three people have been killed in the storm, The Times reports. Jeva Lange