January 17, 2012

A health department official has criticized a free-breakfast program for New York City schoolchildren, saying free food may make them obese. Health official Gretchen Van Wye said some kids were eating two breakfasts, which could make them fat. Anti-hunger activist Joel Berg called that concern "preposterous," saying that most poor kids had no breakfast, not two. The Week Staff

6:55 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday night, President-elect Donald Trump repeated his pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and as Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with congressional Republicans, the big question was how long before the repeal takes effect, with options ranging from six months to three years. Also on Tuesday, the two major trade groups representing hospitals warned Trump and GOP leaders in Congress that repealing ObamaCare could cost U.S. hospitals $165 billion by 2026 and force "an unprecedented public health crisis."

When Democrats wrote the Affordable Care Act over 14 months, they carefully balanced the needs of the various sectors in the health care industry, and the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals argued in a Washington, D.C., press conference that the flood of uninsured patients would cause massive losses at hospitals. If it repeals the law, the hospital industry said, Congress needs to step in with financial aid. The groups, citing a study, estimated that based on the only ObamaCare repeal law Congress has passed (and Obama vetoed), 22 million more people will be uninsured in a decade, and the strain to hospitals from those patients would be "unsettling," as FAH president Charles Kahn III said.

Republicans have put together a repeal vote that can pass with a simple majority in the Senate, avoiding a Democratic filibuster, but any replacement legislation would need Democratic assent. Peter Weber

5:53 a.m. ET
Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said early Wednesday that rebel forces fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been driven from Aleppo's Old City and that Assad's forces now control all parts of the quarter. The Syrian army, with help from Russian and allied militias from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, have been mounting a push to drive the rebels from the eastern part of the city, and after two weeks, they now control about 75 percent of eastern Aleppo. A rebel official in Turkey told Reuters that government troops control some but not all of the Old City.

If Assad's forces drive the rebels out of Aleppo, once Syria's commercial hub, it will mark a turning point in the civil war. Food supplies are depleted and all hospitals destroyed by months of heavy bombardment in eastern Aleppo, and tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in the besieged rebel-held areas. The rebels on Wednesday proposed a five-day cease-fire to evacuate civilians and 500 critically injured people. Peter Weber

5:14 a.m. ET

On Tuesday's Late Show, Stephen Colbert said he hears from a lot of viewers that he's like their TV dad, adding that in unspecified "uncertain times like these," it's important for parents to talk with their kids. "That's right, Dad's calling a family meeting," he said, but he wasn't leading it alone. "You know, I'm merely a father figure, I don't have any real power around here," Colbert said. "That's why I also invited a father figure who has actual authority, your Pops Joe."

"Hey champ, how're you doing?" Vice President Joe Biden said, sitting next to Colbert on the couch in nearly matching blue pullover. "Look, Pops and I, we've been worried about all these sudden changes," Colbert said. "We know that you're worried about the changes the family's going through." "It happens to every family, but I'm telling you, this terrible feeling you're having right now, it isn't permanent," Biden said. "It'll be over in four years, maybe eight." That was the closest the parental chat ever came to explicitly referencing Donald Trump, but there was a lot of tiptoeing up to the line.

"You've got to always do your best to mow the lawn," Colbert said. "Doesn't matter that somebody else is about the get the job of mowing the lawn after you, even though as far as you can tell that person has never touched a lawnmower in his life." "Look, kid, it doesn't matter who's mowing it," Pops Biden agreed. "The point is, it's the greatest lawn in the world, and no matter our differences, we're all responsible for its upkeep. And I've got to believe that in their heart, the next mower is going to do the best they can to make sure that lawn, that everyone feels safe to have a picnic on it." "That's a beautiful metaphor," Colbert said. "Metaphor?" Biden asked. "Metaphor, okay. I'm talking about mowing the lawn. What are you talking about?" "Same thing," Colbert said quickly. Watch the TV dads try to obliquely comfort a hurting national family below. Peter Weber

4:30 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina, President-elect Donald Trump held his second "thank you" victory rally at a venue outside Fort Bragg, pledging to unify the country and pour more money into the military, and formally introducing retired Gen. James Mattis as his nominee for defense secretary. He called "Mad Dog Mattis" one of "the most effective generals that we've had in many, many decades," and when Mattis said he hoped Congress would issue him a waiver from the mandatory seven-year gap between military service and serving as defense secretary, Trump concurred. "You'll get that waiver, right?" he said. "If you didn't get that waiver, there will be such a lot of angry people."

The rally was generally more subdued than the one Trump held in Cincinnati last week. Trump did boast about winning North Carolina and other swing states, but he stopped the crowd from booing when he mentioned the news media. He laid out a vision of a militarily restrained foreign policy, as most recent presidents have, and pledged to repeal ObamaCare, stop illegal immigration, and renegotiate trade deals. Peter Weber

3:35 a.m. ET

For the first time since Gallup began asking 49 years ago, fewer than half of Americans say they want to scrap the Electoral College and choose a president though a popular vote. After Donald Trump's election in November, only 49 percent of Americans say they want to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College, down from about 60 percent over the past 16 years and a high of 80 percent in 1968, when Richard Nixon narrowly won both the popular vote and Electoral College. Support for keeping the current system is 47 percent, up from 35 percent.

"The reason for this shift in opinion is clear," says Gallup's Art Swift: "In the aftermath of this year's election, the percentage of Republicans wanting to replace the Electoral College with the popular vote has fallen significantly."


Gallup did not ask why Republicans have suddenly embraced the quirky American system of choosing presidents, but "one possible reason is that Republicans are aware that President-elect Trump would not have won the presidency without winning the Electoral College, and that Republicans possess a state-by-state advantage in this area, at least for now," Swift says. A majority of Republicans, 56 percent, say they know Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, while 23 percent say Trump won, Gallup found. Overall, 66 percent of Americans correctly said that Clinton won the popular vote, versus 15 percent who picked Trump and 18 percent who were unsure. Meanwhile, Clinton's lead in the popular vote keeps on growing:

Gallup conducted its poll Nov. 28-29 with 1,021 adults living in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points. Peter Weber

2:50 a.m. ET
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images

Everyone who works or volunteers on President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has to sign a nondisclosure agreement, Politico reported on Tuesday, after obtaining a copy of the agreement. The document reportedly bars all members of the transition team from disclosing policy briefings, personnel information, budgets, contracts, draft research papers, donor information, or any other information about major parts of transition business. Transition team members are also ordered to inform on any colleges they suspect of leaking information, and anyone found violating the clause is subject to legal orders and job termination.

Trump is famous for using NDAs in his business and even private life, and transparency watchdog groups are concerned that if he carries this practice to the White House — as he has suggested he might for high-ranking appointees — it will obfuscate what's happening in Trump's executive branch. But the transition NDA has at least one omission from Trump's previous nondisclosure agreements: There is apparently no "disparagement" clause. So if you want to know what is going on inside Donald Trump's presidential transition, you're probably out of luck — but the worst thing that can legally happen to a transition staffer who insults Trump is that he or she likely won't get a job in the Trump White House. Peter Weber

1:53 a.m. ET
Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

A shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck 12 miles off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province at 5:03 a.m. local time, causing buildings to collapse in Meureudu and other towns in Pidie Jaya district. The Indonesian army chief in Aceh said that at least 54 people were killed in the earthquake, though the number may well rise as search-and-rescue teams recover bodies from the rubble of buildings.

The U.S. Geological Survey said there is no tsunami risk from this earthquake. A massive magnitude 9.2 earthquake off the coast of Aceh in December 2004 caused a tsunami that left massive destruction in towns bordering the Indian Ocean, including killing more than 120,000 people in just Aceh province, on the northern tip of Sumatra island. Peter Weber

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