March 10, 2014

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the most popular politician in the world — at least if the Hermit Kingdom's state-run media is to be believed. Running uncontested in the first election for the Supreme People's Assembly since assuming control of the country, Kim was the unanimous choice in his district, which reported a perfect 100 percent turnout. (For reference, only 61.8 percent of voters turned out for the 2012 U.S. presidential election.)

"This is an expression of all the service personnel and people's absolute support and profound trust in supreme leader Kim Jong-un as they single-mindedly remain loyal to him," the Korean Central News Agency said, according to the Associated Press. Jon Terbush

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

3:10 a.m. ET

Four polls on the Senate Republican health-care bill were released on Wednesday, and the first three were straight-up brutal, with support for the Better Care Reconciliation Act at 17 percent (Marist), 16 percent (Quinnipiac), and 12 percent (USA Today/Suffolk University). "That's a level of popularity so low that it's difficult to believe the bill is being entertained," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Fox News released its own poll Wednesday evening, and the bottom line was only a little better:

Still, 27 percent support is nothing to crow about, and Republicans should perhaps be concerned about the 24-point drop among GOP voters in a month — 51 percent support the Senate bill versus 75 percent who supported the House health-care bill in May. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act is getting increasingly popular:

Despite it being a Fox News poll, neither it nor the Senate GOP's push to rewrite the BCRA in 48 hours to ensure passage in July were featured prominently on Fox News Wednesday night. Same on Tuesday night, when Senate leaders' decision to delay a vote on the bill was the top story elsewhere, notes David Weigel at The Washington Post. Instead, Fox News has been talking about CNN, Sarah Palin suing The New York Times, and Susan Rice. "The lack of 'ObamaCare repeal' coverage, unthinkable just six months ago, reflected a general decline of conservative interest in what had united Republicans for seven years," Weigel writes, continuing:

Meanwhile, the White House and a symbiotic conservative media have largely moved on to other topics of media bias and cultural warfare. Fox's multiple segments on the CNN sting came after White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters to watch it. Rush Limbaugh, whose dominant talk show was live during the Senate news, barely mentioned it at all. ... On [Fox News], the only one that has scored presidential interviews this month, the repeal fight is covered as a priority of President Trump that his allies in Congress are doing a poor job of managing. [The Washington Post]

"Having spent years attacking ObamaCare, it may be a bridge too far for conservative talkers to urge Republicans to do it faster and with less transparency," Wisconsin talk-radio host Charlie Sykes tells Weigel. "How do you do a talk show saying: Hey, it's great that they did in secret! It's great — no hearings." Peter Weber

2:01 a.m. ET

Inspired by a tragedy, Bishop Curry V hopes that his new invention, the Oasis, saves the lives of kids like him.

In 2016, an estimated 39 children in the United States died of heat stroke after being left in hot cars, including one infant who lived near Curry, 10, in McKinney, Texas. This stuck with Curry, and he decided to try to come up with a solution. The Oasis is a fan that attaches to a car seat and can tell when a car is not moving and if there is a child in the seat. If there is a child buckled in and the temperature in the car reaches a dangerous level, the Oasis will begin to blow cold air and send a message to the parents. If they fail to respond, police and paramedics are called. "It would be a dream to have lots of inventions that would save many lives," Curry told NBC5.

Curry's invention has an intellectual patent, and once he gets a formal patent, he will be able to start making a prototype. Curry has raised more than $30,000 online for startup costs, and wants Oasis to be available to the public by 2018. Catherine Garcia

1:39 a.m. ET
Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is hosting South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, at the White House on Thursday and Friday, and their first meeting will focus on the threat from North Korea — the two leaders have different views on how to interact with Pyongyang. But Trump and Moon are also expected to discuss economic issues, like trade. Trump, as a candidate and president, has made several critical comments about South Korea, calling the five-year-old free-trade pact "a horrible deal," saying Seoul should pay the U.S. for its THAAD missile-defense system, and arguing in a debate that "South Korea is a money machine but they pay us peanuts ... South Korea should pay us very substantially for protecting them."

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster quickly walked back the THAAD payment threat, and on Wednesday night, a senior White House official told reporters in a background briefing that Trump and Moon probably "will have a friendly and frank discussion about the trade relationship." But the official White House briefer also directly contradicted Trump's frequent assessment of South Korea as a freeloader.

"South Korea in many respects is the model ally because they are spending somewhere in the order of 2.7 percent of their GDP on their defense," the official said, according to Axios. "Burden-sharing is always going to be part of the conversation with our allies. President Trump has made that clear, but we shouldn't view South Korea as somehow laggard on that front." In fact, South Korea has spent an "enormous amount of money to help host U.S. troops in their country including through things like ... the new base, south of Seoul, which 92 percent of that cost was shouldered by South Korea."

Given the political and geopolitical differences between Trump and Moon, some observers are nervous about Thursday's cocktails and dinner and Friday's meeting. But Choi Jong-kun, a professor at Seoul's Yonsei University and a foreign policy adviser to Moon, shrugged. "It's a meeting between two people who haven't met each other, so anything can happen," he told The Wall Street Journal. "But the alliance is not just about the personal relationship, but about institutional consistency." Peter Weber

1:34 a.m. ET
Pool/Getty Images

A private fundraiser at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday brought in an estimated $10 million, organizers said, with the money being split between President Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Trump spoke for 30 minutes in front of 300 supporters, party leaders, and major Republican donors, some who paid more than $30,000 for entrance, 40 months ahead of the 2020 election. Not having any legislative victories to tout, Trump instead praised his own deregulation efforts and said health-care reform has to be done, two people present at the event told Politico. He also went after the media, primarily CNN, suggesting that he is a victim of their reporting, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Before the fundraiser began, dozens of protesters gathered outside, chanting against the GOP health-care bills. Catherine Garcia

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