10 things you need to know today: March 8, 2017

WikiLeaks releases documents on CIA hacking tools, Hawaii plans first court challenge to Trump's new travel ban, and more

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, England
(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. WikiLeaks releases documents on CIA hacking tools

WikiLeaks on Tuesday released documents it said described Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools. If proved authentic, the latest leak by the anti-secrecy site would deal a significant blow to U.S. intelligence agencies by exposing methods they use to spy on people using smartphones, computers, and internet-linked smart TVs. WikiLeaks said the collection of documents was bigger and more significant than the trove of National Security Agency documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The initial release included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, but WikiLeaks said its full collection of CIA material includes several hundred million lines of computer code.

The New York Times

2. Hawaii plans first challenge to Trump's revised travel ban

Lawyers for the state of Hawaii plan to file the first court challenge attempting to block President Trump's revised executive order temporarily halting travel from six majority-Muslim countries to the U.S. Hawaii challenged Trump's first order on immigration and refugees. After the first executive order was blocked by courts, Trump signed a new order that restricts citizens of Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya from receiving U.S. visas for at least 90 days, and bans all refugees for 120 days. "To be sure, the new executive order covers fewer people than the old one," Neal Katyal, a lead attorney for Hawaii, told CNN, but it still "suffers from the same constitutional and statutory defects." Hawaii is asking for a hearing before the new executive order takes effect on March 16.

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3. GOP leaders face conservative backlash against health care proposal

Powerful conservative groups and lawmakers on Tuesday harshly criticized House Republicans' plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, casting doubt on the bill's prospects. Democrats also oppose the proposal. Some of the conservative critics called the plan, which is backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), "ObamaCare lite," "RyanCare," or "RINOcare," a reference to the conservative insult "Republican in name only." Club for Growth's president, David McIntosh, called the bill a "warmed-over substitute for government-run health care," and Heritage Action for America chief Michael Needham said the GOP proposal "not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of ObamaCare but expands upon them." President Trump gave the plan a boost, however, calling it "wonderful" in a morning tweet, and House leaders advanced the bill, scheduling a committee hearing for Wednesday.

The Washington Post The Associated Press

4. Jewish groups receive more bomb threats

The Anti-Defamation League and several U.S. Jewish community centers received fresh bomb threats on Tuesday. Jewish facilities and organizations across the country have faced a wave of threats since January. Federal officials are investigating more than 120 menacing calls to Jewish organizations in three dozen states, as well as vandalism at several Jewish cemeteries. Several of the latest threats resulted in temporary evacuations. The White House, some senators, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio all condemned the latest threats. "This is a moment in time, in history, where forces of hate have been unleashed," de Blasio said. "It is exceedingly unsettling."

The Associated Press

5. Senate Democrats call for special counsel on Russian election meddling

Senate Democrats on Tuesday called for appointing a special counsel to lead the criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said the move was necessary to avoid any appearance of influence by the Trump administration. "This is about the integrity of the process and the public's faith in our institution of justice," said the panel's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. The committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, said the Justice Department could handle the inquiry. "There are times when special counsels are appropriate," he said. "But it's far too soon to tell here."

The New York Times

6. U.N. chief urges help to ease Somalia hunger crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on world leaders to help ease Somalia's worsening hunger crisis, saying that six million people in the African nation — nearly half the population — need aid. "Every single person we have seen is a personal story of tremendous suffering. There is no way to describe it," Guterres said after visiting a cholera ward about 150 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, during his first trip to the field since taking office. Somalia is suffering a prolonged drought and a cholera outbreak blamed on a shortage of clean water.

The Associated Press

7. Judge denies tribes' request to block Dakota Access Pipeline completion

A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes to halt work on a final piece of the Dakota Access Pipeline, clearing the way for oil to start flowing through the pipeline as soon as next week. The tribes said that the pipeline had damaged culturally significant sites and threatened the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation's drinking water source, Lake Oahe, on the Missouri River in North Dakota. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the tribes' request for a preliminary injunction, saying it was unlikely that they could win their lawsuit. Former President Barack Obama had called for a halt to construction so the Army Corps of Engineers could seek an alternative route, but President Trump ordered construction to resume.


8. Freight train hits bus in Mississippi, killing 4 passengers

A CSX freight train hit a charter bus at a railroad crossing in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Tuesday, killing four people on the bus and injuring 35 more. The bus was carrying more than 40 passengers, many from a senior center, to a casino from Austin, Texas. Passengers said the bus got stuck trying to cross the tracks, and the driver yelled for everyone to get off as the train approached. Biloxi city spokesman Vincent Creel confirmed that signs at the crossing warned of low ground clearance, suggesting large vehicles could get stuck. The crossing at the city's Main Street has been the scene of several crashes in recent years.

Reuters The New York Times

9. Embattled Uber CEO searches for second-in-command

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick confirmed Tuesday that he is looking for a chief operating officer to serve as his second in command. The search comes as Kalanick and his ride-hailing service faces a backlash over sexual harassment allegations and a series of controversial public moves by Kalanick, including an argument with an Uber driver that was caught on video. A week ago, Kalanick acknowledged making mistakes and said he needed to "fundamentally change as a leader and grow up." Some analysts said Kalanick needs to find someone capable of fixing offensive aspects of Uber's aggressive culture without stifling the creativity that made it rocket to a value of $68 billion.

The Mercury News

10. Wildfires blamed for 7 deaths in Southwest, Great Plains

Wildfires spread across four states in the Southwest and the Great Plains on Tuesday, with the blazes now covering more than one million acres and killing at least seven people. Five people were killed in Texas, including three ranch workers who died in the Texas Panhandle trying to save cattle. Dry conditions and high winds have raised the risk of wildfires across the region, but forecasters expect winds to drop on Wednesday, potentially helping firefighters. About 400,000 acres were burned in both Oklahoma and Kansas, 325,000 in Texas, and 30,000 in Colorado. Another 6,000 acres are burning in Florida swamps near Naples.

CNN The Associated Press

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.