FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
August 16, 2012

5
Percent of Americans who identify as atheists, according to a new poll by the Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism

1
Percent of Americans who identified as atheists in the 2005 poll

13
Percent of people worldwide who identify as atheists 

Source: Slate The Week Staff

1:58 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

President Trump will nominate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) as ambassador at large for religious freedom, a position out of the State Department.

If confirmed by the Senate, Brownback, a social conservative, would monitor and respond to global threats to religious freedom. After the news broke on Wednesday, Brownback tweeted, "Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause."

Brownback is deeply unpopular in Kansas. He cut income taxes, but instead of jumpstarting the economy like he promised voters, the state was left with gaps in its budget, and lawmakers had to curb spending and raise taxes. Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley said in a statement Brownback's policies "have bankrupted our state and led to destroying nearly every agency of state government as well as his own political career. He is moving on not because of anything he accomplished in Kansas, but because of who he knows in Washington, D.C." Catherine Garcia

12:33 a.m. ET

After Politico published a piece Wednesday night about new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci still being able to profit from an ownership stake in his investment firm, Scaramucci tweeted that he will contact the FBI about the "leak" of his financial disclosure — and he tagged Reince Priebus, President Trump's chief of staff, in his message.

This didn't come as a surprise to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, who tweeted a bombshell:

Politico's report was the first one to reveal details from the disclosure form Scaramucci filed with the Office of Government Ethics, which showed that from Jan. 1, 2016, to the end of June, when he joined the Export-Import Bank, Scaramucci earned $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge Capital, plus more than $5 million in salary. Scaramucci founded SkyBridge in 2005, and is still listed on its website as the managing director of the investment firm, Politico reports, even though he's been a government employee for more than a month.

RON Transatlantic and HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate, are in the process of buying the firm, and the sale is being closely watched by federal regulators. A White House adviser told Politico Scaramucci, a major fundraiser for Trump during his campaign, joined the Export-Import Bank in June as a way to get access to Trump while waiting for SkyBridge's very complicated sale to go through. Politico notes that he had security credentials that allowed him to gain access to Trump whenever he wanted, and could go around senior White House staffers, like Priebus.

Just a few hours after the report came out, Scaramucci tweeted his intentions of contacting the FBI and Justice Department, cryptically tagging Priebus, too:

@Reince45 hasn't responded, and perhaps most shocking of all, neither has @realDonaldTrump.

Update: Scaramucci has deleted his tweet mentioning Priebus, and posted a new message, with a screenshot of an Axios report with the headline, "Scaramucci appears to want Priebus investigated by FBI." "Wrong!" Scaramucci wrote. "Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45." Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
iStock

At least one person was killed and seven injured Wednesday night when a ride at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus malfunctioned, police said.

Three of the people hurt in the accident are in critical condition. A video posted to YouTube showed "seats of the ride breaking off and bodies flying through the air," NBC News reports. Gov. John Kasich (R) told reporters a full investigation will take place, and he has ordered all rides shut down until additional safety inspections are conducted. "I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life, and that people were injured enjoying Ohio's fair," he said.

Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for Ohio's Department of Agriculture said the ride was looked at "about three or four times over the course of two days" by his team and a third party. Every summer, hundreds of thousands of people attend the fair, which opened on Wednesday. Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump, still upset with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Department of Justice's Russia investigation, has been talking with his close advisers about possibly replacing Sessions through a recess appointment next month if Sessions resigns, four people briefed on the discussions told The Washington Post Wednesday.

Trump has been raging at Sessions in interviews, on Twitter, and at White House events, and some advisers say he wants Sessions to resign rather than be fired, setting up a clean need for a replacement. Trump has been watching several news programs that have discussed a recess appointment, the Post reports, and that's how the seed was planted. Because Trump often changes his mind on things throughout the day, and also floats ideas and hypothetical situations, some advisers told the Post they think he's not really contemplating making a recess appointment, and is only venting about his frustration with Sessions.

Replacing Sessions could be the first step in getting Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Justice Department's Russia investigation, fired, but several of Trump's closest advisers, including chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, have warned Trump that if he ordered Mueller to be let go, it would be a "catastrophe," the Post reports. For his part, Sessions has made no moves to hint that he will be stepping down. Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the Senate Republicans' "skinny repeal" bill passes, getting rid of ObamaCare's individual and employer mandates, it could result in 16 million Americans losing their health insurance.

It's not entirely clear yet what is in the "skinny bill," as it won't be released until after a voting session that is expected to start Thursday, but a senior Democratic aide told The Hill the CBO said if the bill includes defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing the Community Health Center Fund and Prevention and Public Health Fund, premiums would be about 20 percent higher every year than under the current law.

Senate Democrats released the CBO's estimate on Wednesday evening, after the Senate rejected in a vote of 45-55 a proposal to repeal ObamaCare without immediately replacing it. On Tuesday, the Senate also voted against a modified version of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to replace and replace ObamaCare. It is unclear if McConnell has enough votes for the skinny repeal bill to pass. Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
AFP/Getty Images

Foxconn, the giant Taiwanese electronics manufacturer and a major supplier to Apple for iPhones, will open a 20-million square foot plant in southeast Wisconsin, the company announced Wednesday.

Over four years, the company will invest $10 billion to build the plant, which could employ up to 13,000 people and will make LCD display panel screens. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said the state will award $3 billion in incentives for the project, with the package needing approval from state legislature. He also said it will be the largest economic development in Wisconsin history, Reuters reports.

During a ceremony at the White House with Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, President Trump took credit for the plant, saying, "If I didn't get elected, he definitely wouldn't be spending $10 billion…this is a great day for America." Catherine Garcia

July 26, 2017
Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

In an attempt to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro into canceling this Sunday's election to choose members of an assembly that will rewrite the country's constitution, the United States on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on 13 current and former government officials, military officers, and managers at the state-run oil company.

They are being accused of undermining democracy, corruption, and alleged human rights abuses, The Guardian reports. The targeted officials include Nestor Reverol, who in 2016 was indicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges and the next day was promoted to interior ministry for security; army chief Jesus Suarez; and national police director Carlos Perez. Maduro said the Venezuelan government does not "recognize any sanctions," and the vote is still on.

Opposition leaders are boycotting the vote, which they believe will push Venezuela into an authoritarian regime; Maduro said instead, it will usher in peace following months of deadly anti-government protests. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads