Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 3, 2017

Republicans target Obama policies as new Congress begins, House GOP votes to gut ethics watchdog, and more


GOP aims to unravel Obama's legacy as new Congress convenes

Members of Congress

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The 115th Congress begins Tuesday with Republicans, set to control the House, Senate, and presidency for the first time since 2006, planning to start dismantling many Obama-era financial and environmental regulations, and undo parts of Obama's signature healthcare reform law. President Obama is meeting with fellow Democrats on Wednesday to discuss how to prevent ObamaCare from being gutted. Democrats also have identified eight of Trump's Cabinet nominees whose confirmations they could delay for weeks or even months, in a break with Senate tradition. With Republicans holding a 52 to 48 majority and needing only a 51-vote majority for confirmation, Democrats can't defeat the nominees without GOP defections.


House Republicans curtail power of ethics watchdog

House Republicans voted on Monday to sharply reduce the power of an outside ethics watchdog and remove its independence. Over the objections of House Speaker Paul Ryan and other leaders, rank and file members moved to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the House Ethics Committee, barring the watchdog from reviewing any criminal violations by members of Congress and requiring it to turn over complaints to the ethics committee or law enforcement agencies. The move came without advance notice on the eve of the start of the new Congress as Republicans, controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, prepare to push through their priorities. The independent ethics office was set up in 2008 following corruption scandals that sent three lawmakers to jail.


At least 64 killed in string of Iraq bombings claimed by ISIS

A series of five car bombings killed 64 people in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, on Monday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. The deadliest bombing killed 30 people at a market in the mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City, a frequent target of ISIS attacks. Authorities said that attacker pretended to be recruiting day laborers, and detonated his explosives as people gathered around his truck. The bombings came as Iraq pushes to drive ISIS out of its last strongholds in the country. In Turkey, authorities arrested 12 people in Istanbul raids in the intensifying hunt for an attacker who killed 39 people in a nightclub on New Year's Eve. ISIS also claimed responsibility for that attack.


Obama to give farewell speech in Chicago next week

President Obama plans to give a farewell address next week in his hometown of Chicago, the White House announced Monday. The speech on Jan. 10 at the McCormick Place convention center could be his last high-profile opportunity to defend his legacy before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. Obama said in an email to supporters that the speech would be a chance for him to say thank you and to celebrate with his supporters "the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here."


Police question Netanyahu in corruption investigation

Israeli police on Monday began their questioning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a corruption investigation. Before investigators arrived at his central Jerusalem residence, Netanyahu repeated his denial of any wrongdoing, telling his political opponents to "hold off partying." "Nothing will happen, because there is nothing," he said. Netanyahu's rivals have pushed for an investigation, but opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union said he was not celebrating. "This isn't a happy day," he said. "This is a hard day for the state of Israel. We are not gloating."


SpaceX prepares for return to orbit

SpaceX said Monday that it had completed an investigation into the September explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket during a pre-launch test, and concluded that the accident was triggered by the failure of a high-pressure helium tank used to pressurize the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The explosion destroyed the booster and its $195 million satellite payload. SpaceX said it was correcting problems linked to the mishap and planning to resume launches Jan. 8 with a mission blasting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles to send 10 Iridium NEXT satellite telephone relay stations into orbit.


Roof found competent for penalty phase of church massacre trial

A federal judge ruled Monday that admitted white supremacist Dylann Roof is competent to enter the penalty phase of his trial on hate-crime charges for killing nine black worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Judge Richard M. Gergel also said Roof was competent to represent himself, as he plans to do when jurors begin considering whether to sentence him to death, or to life in prison. Roof has said he will not call any witnesses or present any evidence. The jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty on 33 counts, including 18 that carry the death penalty.


At least 56 die in Brazil prison riot

At least 56 inmates were killed in a two-day riot that ended Monday at a prison in northern Brazil. The incident at the Anisio Jobim penitentiary started as a fight and escalated into an overnight battle in which several inmates were decapitated. The clash stemmed from a dispute between two drug-trafficking gangs. A local gang, called the Northern Family, attacked inmates linked to the Sao Paulo-based First Capital Command, Brazil's largest narco-trafficking gang. The gangs smuggled guns into the prison and took 74 inmates and 12 police officers hostage.


Syrian rebels back away from peace talks

Several Syrian rebel groups said Monday that they were freezing the possibility of entering peace talks that Russia is preparing in Kazakhstan due to government cease-fire violations. "The regime and its allies have continued firing and committed many and large violations," said the mostly moderate rebel groups in the Free Syrian Army umbrella group. Russia and Turkey back opposing sides but brokered a cease-fire deal as a step toward peace talks.


USC beats Penn State 52-49 to win Rose Bowl

A last-second field goal gave the USC Trojans a 52-49 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions during Monday's Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California. The teams were tied 49-49 in the fourth quarter, and Matt Boermeester's 46-yard field goal for USC as the clock ran out was enough for a victory. USC led Penn State 27-21 at halftime, but the roles reversed in the third quarter, with Penn State ahead 49-35. This was the highest scoring game in Rose Bowl history.


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