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March 17, 2017

Republican Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) deemed President Trump's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's budgets "short-sighted" in an interview Friday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "These are investments the country ought to be making," said Cole, a member of the House Appropriations and Budget Committees. He made clear he was not in favor of the 2018 budget blueprint's proposal to significantly slash NIH funding and reallocate CDC funding to states, suggesting Trump should instead look to entitlement reform to support "wise" increases to military spending.

Cole argued that defense spending — which Trump's budget blueprint calls for ratcheting up by $54 billion — is no more important than investing in health research. "You're much more likely to die in a pandemic than a terrorist attack, and so that's part of the defense of the country as well," Cole said. "The CDC is what protects you from things like Ebola and Zika. The NIH, we have 1.6 million Americans a year that contract cancer. About 600,000 die. That is more people than died in the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history."

The Oklahoma congressman also voiced concern about the budget's call for cutting the Environmental Protection Agency's budget by as much as 30 percent. Cole pointed out "almost half" of the EPA's $8.3 billion budget goes to "grants for clean water and tribal grants, things of that nature." "I think those are popular and pretty well-served," Cole said, though he conceded that some of the agency's regulatory measures "are not particularly popular, and I don't think particularly helpful."

Catch Cole's interview below. Becca Stanek

12:16 p.m. ET
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Pakistan has released designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed, outraging the U.S. Justice Department, which has a $10 million bounty on his head over his ties to a group that killed 168 people in a 2008 Mumbai attack, The Associated Press reports. "The Pakistani government should make sure that [Saeed] is arrested and charged for his crimes," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Prior to his release, Saeed had spent 10 months under house arrest in Pakistan. He is accused of founding the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group; India accuses Lashkar-e-Taiba of being behind the devastating Mumbai attack. "[Saeed] was not only the mastermind, he was the prime organizer of the Mumbai terror attacks in which many innocent Indians and many people from other nationalities were killed," said India's External Affairs Ministry in protest of the accused terrorist being allowed to "walk free and continue with his evil agenda."

Saeed addressed thousands of his followers after his release, claiming he was detained for protesting India's oppression of the people of Kashmir, The New York Times reports. "My struggle is aimed at safeguarding the interests of Pakistan," he said. "I want Kashmir's freedom from India and this is my crime. I was arrested for it." Saeed's spokesman, Yahya Mujahid, called his client's release a "victory of truth." Jeva Lange

11:36 a.m. ET
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A South African court on Friday doubled Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, to 13 years and five months, The Guardian reports.

Prosecutors challenged the double amputee's initial sentence of six years as being too lenient, and the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that it should be increased to 15 years, minus just over a year and a half for the time Pistorius has served. "This is an emotional thing for them," said Steenkamp family spokeswoman Tania Koen. "They just feel that their trust in the justice system has been confirmed this morning."

Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day in 2013. He said he thought she was an intruder when he shot her through a bathroom door. He was originally convicted of manslaughter, but the appeals court upgraded the conviction to murder. Jeva Lange

11:02 a.m. ET
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Navy announced that it had ended the search for three crew members lost in the crash of a Navy aircraft in the Philippine Sea near Okinawa, Japan, on Wednesday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families," said Rear Adm. Marc Dalton in a statement, as reported by NPR.

The twin-engine, propeller-driven C-2A Greyhound was carrying 11 crew and passengers to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it went down. "[E]ight U.S. Navy and [Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force] ships, three helicopter squadrons, and maritime patrol aircraft covered nearly 1,000 square nautical miles in the search for the missing sailors," the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

The Navy confirmed an investigation is ongoing. The crash came after the 7th Fleet, based in Japan, had several deadly collisions involving ships in the Pacific. Jeva Lange

10:46 a.m. ET

President Trump is a man who knows how to have a holiday. While the White House has been quick to confirm that the president is doing executive work throughout his stay at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, Trump couldn't help but brag that he is also "quickly" playing 18 holes with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson at his course in Jupiter, Florida. "Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!" he tweeted.

Golfing or not, when tragedy struck abroad on Friday, Trump was quickly back online. "The world cannot tolerate terrorism," he wrote, condemning an attack in Egypt on "defenseless" Sufi Muslim worshipers as "horrible and cowardly." Jeva Lange

10:25 a.m. ET
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An estimated 115 million Americans are expected to participate today in the annual bargains bonanza Black Friday, CBS News reports. "Unemployment has dropped, so people are really thinking that folks are going to head to the stores and head online this season," said USA Today business reporter Charisse Jones. "They're thinking sales will be up about 6 percent and $1.4 trillion will be spent by consumers."

Investment banking firm Jefferies found that only 13 percent of customers said they'd be spending more on Black Friday this year, compared to 17 percent last year, indicating that more people are shopping online throughout the month than on just one day. Adobe Analytics reports that this year's "Cyber Monday," for example, could see customers spending $6.6 billion on internet deals.

Read tips for getting the biggest bang for your buck on Black Friday here at The Week. Jeva Lange

10:13 a.m. ET
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Lawyers for President Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, have ended an agreement to share information with Trump's lawyers about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing four people involved in the case.

Trump's lawyers reportedly believe the move could mean Flynn is cooperating with Mueller's team. Lawyers sometimes pull out of such information-sharing agreements when their clients start negotiating deals with prosecutors.

Flynn had ties with Moscow before he joined Trump's campaign, and the White House has been preparing for his possible indictment since Mueller's team filed charges in October against Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign aide Rick Gates, and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Read more about what this means for the Mueller investigation at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

10:06 a.m. ET
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At least 200 people were killed Friday and more than 100 others injured when Islamist militants attacked a Sufi mosque in Egypt's Sinai province, state run news agency MENA reports. "I can't believe they attacked a mosque," one cleric from the town told The New York Times, speaking anonymously out of fear that he could also be attacked.

The attackers planted bombs inside the mosque, then fired on worshipers as they tried to flee, The Associated Press reports. Extremists in the region have targeted Christian churches in the past, but attacks on mosques remain relatively rare. The worshipers at the mosque attacked Friday were Sufi Muslims, who are considered heretical by Sunni extremists. Jeva Lange

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