Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 9, 2017

House GOP plan to replace ObamaCare clears first hurdle, a judge rules Hawaii can challenge Trump's revised travel ban, and more


GOP starts push to replace ObamaCare in House

The Republican proposal to replace ObamaCare cleared its first hurdle early Thursday when the House Ways and Means Committee approved the legislation in an 18-hour session. House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to mollify resistance from fellow Republicans, saying the legislation is "what good, conservative health care reform looks like." Democrats, in the minority on committees in the GOP-led Congress, fought the plan in meetings of two committees by offering doomed amendments that would have kept the bill from raising deficits or stripping anyone of health insurance coverage. Opposition grew on Wednesday, with the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the AARP coming out against the Republican proposal, saying it would hurt vulnerable Americans. The proposal would end fines for those who don't buy insurance, and replace income-based subsidies with age-based tax credits to help people pay for coverage.


Judge rules Hawaii can launch first challenge to Trump's revised travel ban

A judge on Wednesday ruled that the state of Hawaii could challenge President Trump's revised executive order temporarily barring refugees, and travelers from six majority-Muslim nations. Hawaii had tried to block Trump's original ban, and U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu said the state could revise its original lawsuit to launch the first challenge to the new executive order, which Trump issued this week. The state's lawyers are now asking the court to temporarily block Trump's revised policy, which excludes Iraq from the list of nations covered by the travel ban. A hearing is scheduled to take place on March 15, the day before the travel ban is due to take effect.


ISIS claims responsibility for Afghan military hospital attack

At least four gunmen disguised as doctors killed at least 30 people at the main military hospital in Kabul on Wednesday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which also left at least 30 people wounded. Afghan government forces fought with the terrorists for seven hours to regain control. The 400-bed facility, Sardar Daud Khan hospital, is Afghanistan's main medical center for wounded army soldiers fighting both the Taliban and, increasingly, a group affiliated with ISIS.


Marines arrive in Syria to support fight against ISIS in Raqqa

U.S. Marines have arrived in Syria to support U.S.-backed rebels preparing an offensive against Islamic State forces in Raqqa, the Islamist extremist group's de facto capital, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The Marines, from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, brought M777 Howitzers capable of firing 155mm shells. The Americans set up an outpost from which they will be able to use the artillery to help the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of militias that launched an effort to retake the city in November. The deployment escalates the U.S. war in Syria, where several hundred U.S. Special Operations troops have been advising local opposition forces for months.


Activists mark International Women's Day with strike

Many women skipped school or work on Wednesday in a strike marking International Women's Day. The "Day Without Women" event was organized by leaders of the women's marches that drew more than a million participants in Washington, D.C., and other cities on the day after President Trump's inauguration, although the crowds were far smaller on Wednesday, numbering in the hundreds in some places. The aim was to show the economic power of women in the U.S. A crowd of about 1,000 people, mostly women, gathered near Trump Tower in New York City, waving signs with slogans such as "Misogyny out of the White House now" and "Resist like a girl." First lady Melania Trump marked the day by hosting a luncheon at the White House, saying: "As an immigrant myself, having grown up in a communist society, I know all too well the value and importance of freedom and equal opportunity."


Trump reportedly taps Huntsman as ambassador to Russia

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has accepted an offer from President Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Politico reported Wednesday. Huntsman ran for president in 2012, and has extensive diplomatic experience. He served as ambassador to Singapore under former President George H. W. Bush, and as ambassador to China under former President Barack Obama. Huntsman, who called on Trump to withdraw from the presidential race last year after a video surfaced in which Trump joked about assaulting women, will be taking on a high-profile post rendered all the more sensitive by investigations into alleged Russian interference in last year's election.


Report: Contractors suspected in CIA leak

Central Intelligence Agency contractors were probably behind the leak of documents released by WikiLeaks this week, intelligence and law enforcement officials told Reuters on Wednesday. The documents, which some experts said appeared authentic, described hacking tools the CIA allegedly can use to spy on smartphones and other gadgets. Companies with CIA contracts have been checking to see which employees had access to documents included in the leak. The White House said President Trump was "extremely concerned" about the breach.


Comey says he plans to stay for full 10-year term

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that he intended to serve his entire 10-year term. "You're stuck with me for another six-and-a-half years," Comey said during a cybersecurity conference at Boston College. The statement came shortly after Comey reportedly urged the Justice Department to refute President Trump's tweets over the weekend accusing former President Barack Obama of having his phones tapped during the election campaign last year. Trump has offered no evidence to support the claim, and The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Obama was livid over the accusation.


Fire kills 22 at Guatemala children's shelter

A fire tore through a state-run shelter for teens on the outskirts of Guatemala's capital on Wednesday, killing 22 girls and injuring dozens more. The blaze started when someone set fire to mattresses in a girls' dorm after dozens of teens tried to escape the overcrowded facility, and most of them were captured and locked in their dorms. Distraught parents rushed to two local hospitals, the morgue, and the shelter to plead for information on their children. Many of the victims were badly burned, so it might take DNA tests to identify them. "They only took her from me to burn her," said one mother, whose pregnant 16-year-old daughter arrived at the center nine days ago. "I blame the state for what has happened."


Texas lawmakers advance controversial transgender bathroom bill

A Texas Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require people to use public bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. Republican supporters of the legislation, which was designed to prevent transgender people from choosing restrooms according to the gender with which they identify, said it was necessary to protect women in public bathrooms. Opponents say the bill, similar to a controversial North Carolina law, discriminates against transgender people. Several national groups, including the NAACP and American Library Association, have threatened to cancel conventions in Texas if the legislation passes.


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