President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are, by the looks of things, probably not exactly going to be best friends. On Friday, when trying to highlight some common ground between them, Trump dredged up a major diplomatic scandal between the U.S. and Germany. "As far as wiretapping by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said, a reference to the National Security Agency secretly tapping phone calls of the German chancellery for decades, a revelation that first came to light in a 2013 WikiLeaks report.
Merkel truly looks bewildered by Trump saying "at least we have something in common" re: Obama wiretapping https://t.co/gRQF2U37Bf
— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) March 17, 2017
In regards to Trump's own claims of being wiretapped by Obama, on Thursday the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said there are "no indications" that anything of the sort happened. Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer alleged Obama was able to get intelligence on Trump through the British spy agency GCHQ — a theory that was first floated by former judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News. Spicer quoted Napolitano as saying: "Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI, and he didn't use the Department of Justice, he used GCHQ." The United States later formally apologized to Britain for citing the untrue rumor, though Spicer denied later Friday that the White House regretted repeating the allegation.
When accused Friday of spreading the baseless accusations, Trump shrugged off responsibility. "We said nothing. All we did was quote a very talented legal mind ... So you shouldn't be talking to me you should be talking to Fox." In response, Fox News' Shepard Smith said Friday: "Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop." Jeva Lange
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday released its cost estimate of Senate Republicans' health-care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The CBO score revealed that by next year, 15 million additional people would be uninsured under the plan, as opposed to under ObamaCare, the current law. The CBO attributed this steep drop to the fact that the "penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated" under the BCRA.
By 2026, 22 million more people would be uninsured under the BCRA, the CBO said. The organization had predicted 23 million more individuals would be uninsured under the House GOP's health-care bill than ObamaCare; the BCRA is the Senate's version of the House measure, which passed early last month.
The CBO also estimated that the BCRA would reduce the federal deficit over the next decade by $321 billion — $202 billion more in savings than the estimate for the House bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pushing for a vote on the BCRA this week. Five Republican senators have already announced their opposition to the bill unveiled last week; Republicans can only lose two votes and still pass the bill. Becca Stanek
On Monday, Michael Bloomberg dedicated $200 million to helping American mayors address prolific issues in their communities via his Bloomberg Philanthropies charitable organization. Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, told The New York Times that the American Cities Initiative will help mayors implement policy changes typically reserved for the state and federal government. "It's really efficiency in government, how you marshal resources and how you deal with the public, explain to them, bring them along," Bloomberg told the Times.
Bloomberg's initiative will include a so-called "Mayors Challenge," which asks city officials to submit innovative policy solutions by October. These proposals may tackle any issue facing their communities. Bloomberg's own priorities include climate change, gun laws, and the opioid epidemic; earlier this month, he vowed to contribute $15 million to the United Nations in an effort to replace funding lost by President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
The rewards for the Mayors Challenge will vary, with 35 cities winning $100,000, four receiving $1 million, and one winner earning $5 million, ABC News reported. American cities must have at least 30,000 residents to apply. Winners will be announced in October 2018. Elianna Spitzer
Banner urging Nevada senator to 'vote no on TrumpCare' spotted flying by the capital of West Virginia
Either a plane headed to Nevada got terribly lost in West Virginia on Monday, or someone got their senators mixed up. Spotted flying above West Virginia's state capital was a plane toting a banner urging Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R): "Keep your word. Vote no on TrumpCare."
— Rob Byers (@RobByersWV) June 26, 2017
If West Virginians were trying to urge their Republican senator to vote no on TrumpCare, aka the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the person to talk to would be Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Heller, who represents a state more than 2,200 miles away from Charleston, has already announced his opposition to the Senate's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Becca Stanek
Climate change could get much worse much faster if these 'natural sponges' fail. And it looks like they're failing.
Climate scientists are uncertain if the world's "natural sponges," which for decades have helped absorb global carbon dioxide emissions, will be able to keep up with the amount of emissions being produced from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, The New York Times reports. In fact, the sponges might already be failing: Even as the amount of carbon dioxide being produced has stabilized in recent years, carbon dioxide levels in the air rose at record rates in 2015 and 2016.
That's where concerns about the "natural sponges," like the land surface and the ocean, come into play. "In essence, these natural sponges were doing humanity a huge service by disposing of much of its gaseous waste," the Times writes. "But as emissions have risen higher and higher, it has been unclear how much longer the natural sponges will be able to keep up." In other words, even if "emissions were to stay flat for the next two decades, which could be called an achievement in some sense, it's terrible for the climate problem," said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pieter Tans.
Should [the natural sponges] weaken, the result would be something akin to garbage workers going on strike, but on a grand scale: The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would rise faster, speeding global warming even beyond its present rate. It is already fast enough to destabilize the weather, cause the seas to rise and threaten the polar ice sheets. [The New York Times]
More research still needs to be done to confirm scientists' worst fears. But "I'd estimate that we are about at the emissions peak," said Chinese Academy of Sciences professor Wang Yi. "Or if there are further rises, they won't be much." Read more about the problem at The New York Times. Jeva Lange
Sean Spicer downplays Russia's involvement in the 2016 election hack, claims 'other countries' were potentially involved
In an off-camera briefing at the White House on Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer apparently claimed that President Trump believes other countries, in addition to Russia, might have been involved in hacking the 2016 election:
Spicer on if Russia hacked election: "He believes that Russia probably was involved and potentially other countries." pic.twitter.com/MysOoQwP6q
— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) June 26, 2017
Trump has long disputed the evidence that the Kremlin was involved in trying to swing the election, claiming during the campaign that "it could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?"
In a weekend interview with Hugh Hewitt, CIA Director Mike Pompeo also dismissed alarming evidence about Russia's involvement in the election. Pompeo said the news that "this election was meddled with by the Russians ... is frankly not particularly original. They've been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy. So in some ways, there's no news."
Nintendo announced Monday that it will release a miniature version of its Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition this fall. The system, first launched in 1991, will come with two controllers and 21 games, including classics like Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, and F-ZERO, along with a previously unreleased sequel to Star Fox, Star Fox 2.
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) June 26, 2017
This release comes on the heels of last year's mini NES Classic Edition, which was so popular that Nintendo struggled to meet demand. The limited edition gaming system was discontinued before many buyers got their hands on it.
Official NFL store sells Redskins novelty license plates featuring an illustration of the wrong Washington
If you only have a passing interest in football, you might be forgiven for thinking the Washington Redskins play in Washington state. But if you are the NFL itself, you should probably know better.
Which makes this vanity plate, briefly for sale in the NFL's official online store, absolutely hilarious:
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) June 26, 2017
As The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg so calmly puts it: "HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A PLACE CALLED WASHINGTON, D.C.? TURNS OUT IT IS THE CAPITAL OF THIS COUNTRY WEIRD RIGHT? AND IT ISN'T ACTUALLY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. THERE'S A DIFFERENT TEAM THAT PLAYS IN THAT STATE, AND REDSKINS FANS HATE THAT TEAM. ALSO GO TO GEOGRAPHY CLASS OR WHATEVER."
The Redskins, for whatever it's even worth at this point, play in Maryland. Jeva Lange