April 22, 2014

A Louisiana lawmaker is giving up his effort to make the Bible his state's official book after critics dubbed the effort a pointless distraction.

Republican Rep. Thomas Carmody introduced legislation earlier this year that would have designated the Christian text as the Bayou State's official tome, saying it "would be appropriate" given that the state motto already references God. And Carmody insisted his goal was neither to promote Christianity nor to create a backdoor to to establish a state religion; the bill said nothing about biblical teachings or dogma.

Still, some critics remained skeptical that the bill could truly be religiously impartial. Others worried the particular Bible Carmody picked would not be inclusive enough of various branches of Christianity.

So with the Bible debate trumping more important legislative matters, Carmody said Monday he was scrapping the bill so lawmakers could "concentrate our efforts on those things that are much more important." Jon Terbush

6:50 p.m. ET
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The man tasked with leading the communications effort out of the White House isn't apologizing for his vulgar, expletive-laced rant against two of President Trump's closest advisers.

During a phone conversation Wednesday night, Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming White House communications director, unleashed on unsuspecting New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza his uncensored opinions on Trump's chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and chief of staff, Reince Priebus. The conversation was not off the record, Lizza said, which is why he published an article Thursday evening with details of the call — at one point, Scaramucci said, "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own c—k," and called Priebus a "f—king paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac."

Not long after the piece went up, Scaramucci tweeted, "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA." Scaramucci may not want to tell Priebus and Bannon he's sorry for what he said, but he needs to apologize to the American people for putting certain images in their heads. Catherine Garcia

5:56 p.m. ET
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Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) held a news conference Thursday evening about their party's health-care efforts, expressing their concern that the House will pass the Senate's "skinny repeal" of ObamaCare this week without bringing the bill to conference.

Senate leadership has been toying with a "skinny repeal" plan that would focus on eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, employer mandate, and medical device tax, while largely leaving the rest of the health-care law in place. Votes on a straight repeal of ObamaCare with a two-year window to replace, as well as a repeal-and-replace bill favored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), failed earlier this week, prompting senators to take up the "skinny repeal" plan.

Graham called the bill a "fraud" and "terrible policy," stating that unless House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) can assure him that the "skinny" bill "will not become the final product," he will vote against it. McConnell has indicated the bill would simply serve as a way for the Senate to pass a lowest-common-denominator piece of legislation that would pave the way for conference with the House, and has reportedly been in communication with Ryan about that strategy. Still, Graham said he would like a more solid guarantee. "It's like pornography, you know it when you see it," Graham said of what would be a sufficient pledge.

McCain called for a bipartisan approach to create a better health-care bill. "Right now I am voting no," McCain confirmed, and he joined Graham's call for the bill to go to conference with the House. Johnson said that "virtually nothing we're doing in any of these bills" would properly address the underlying problems of the health-care system.

Given the existing opposition to the bill by Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), if any one of the three senators were to vote no on the "skinny repeal" bill, it would not pass. Shivani Ishwar

5:34 p.m. ET
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Newly minted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci directed some very interesting communications at The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza during a phone conversation Wednesday night. On Thursday afternoon, Lizza published details of his conversation with Scaramucci, after Scaramucci had called into CNN earlier in the day to interrupt an interview Lizza was giving.

Lizza said Scaramucci initiated their Wednesday night phone call and never requested it take place off the record, and said the bombastic new White House employee called to ask Lizza to reveal a source. Lizza had tweeted that Scaramucci was dining with President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and former Fox News co-president Bill Shine, and Scaramucci was apparently convinced White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had given Lizza the information.

The details Lizza published of their conversation are ... colorful:

"I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus — if you want to leak something — he'll be asked to resign very shortly." The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn't been invited. "Reince is a f--king paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac," Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: "'Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the f--king thing and see if I can c--k-block these people the way I c--k-blocked Scaramucci for six months.'"

[...] Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own c--k," he said, speaking of Trump's chief strategist.

[...] "Okay, the Mooch showed up a week ago," he said. "This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, okay?" [The New Yorker]

Scaramucci also told Lizza that he had to end their call so he could "start tweeting some sh-t to make this guy crazy," referring to Priebus, Lizza said. Minutes later, Scaramucci sent the tweet about leaks in which he cryptically tagged Priebus.

Read Lizza's entire recounting at The New Yorker. Kimberly Alters

4:41 p.m. ET

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Thursday floated a new idea for fixing New York City's beleaguered subway system: corporate sponsorship. Speaking at a breakfast for the Association for a Better New York, Cuomo announced a new "adopt-a-subway" program to allow private business to flood individual subway stations with cash, which would then be used to make improvements at those stations.

Joe Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city's subway system, clarified that it's "very possible" Cuomo's adopt-a-station plan would grant naming rights to the businesses. Businesses could sponsor general subway improvements starting with contributions in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars," Gothamist reports. To sponsor improvements on the individual station level, businesses would need to contribute up to $600,000, depending on the size and location of the station.

Per Gothamist, Andrew Albert, a non-voting member of the MTA board, said relying on private companies to infuse money for improvements would "run the risk of having improvements only made in specific areas. ... I could name far-flung stations throughout the system that would be a hard sell." Lhota apparently told reporters that details of the adopt-a-station plan were still being finalized.

In the meantime, anyone interested in pooling some funds to sponsor 42nd Street-Bryant Park-Tweet Angrily at Gov. Cuomo Station should contact me immediately. Kimberly Alters

4:37 p.m. ET
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For die-hard Apple lovers, it's a time of mourning: As of Thursday, the technology company has officially discontinued the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle. The music players were the last devices the company offered that were not programmed with iOS, and they are no longer available for purchase on Apple's online store and will soon be phased out of retail stores.

The iPod Shuffle revolutionized the digital music industry in 2005 as the first iPod with faster flash storage and no screen. The iPod Nano debuted later that year, replacing the iPod Mini and paving the way for the creation of the iPhone. These products, however, were never updated to support Bluetooth or Apple Music and thus were out of sync with the company's later innovations.

Apple customers should not be too disappointed, however: The company will be slashing the price of the iPod Touch in light of this change. Lucy Friedmann

4:14 p.m. ET
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President Trump on Thursday awarded the Medal of Valor to five officers who responded to the congressional baseball practice shooting on June 14. In a ceremony in the White House's East Room, Trump bestowed the award honoring public safety officers' bravery on Alexandria Police Department Officers Nicole Battaglia, Alexander Jensen, and Kevin Jobe and on Capitol Police Special Agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey.

Griner and Bailey were among those injured after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers gathered for a baseball practice. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), congressional staffer Zach Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika were also injured; Scalise was discharged from the hospital Tuesday, six weeks after the incident.

A statement from Scalise was read at the ceremony, in which Scalise specifically thanked Griner and Bailey for saving his life. "Everyone who was at the ballpark that morning owes their lives to the selfless and brave actions of these heroes, and I cannot thank them enough," Scalise said in the statement. Becca Stanek

2:37 p.m. ET

Days after President Trump delivered a highly politicized speech at the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree on Monday night, Boy Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh on Thursday offered a formal apology:

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party, or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program. [Michael Surbaugh, via Scouting Wire]

In his speech, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama; jokingly threatened a Republican senator and his Health and Human Services secretary over the ObamaCare repeal; and made a crack about the "fake media" underestimating the size of his "record-setting" crowd. Boy Scouts and their mothers were not pleased.

Read Surbaugh's full statement here. Becca Stanek

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