Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 27, 2017

Trump and the GOP shift their focus to tax cuts, South Carolina and UNC round out the Final Four, and more


Trump, GOP pivot to tax cuts after health-care setback

President Trump and the Republican-led Congress are shifting their efforts to passing major tax cuts, needing a legislative win after failing to repeal and replace ObamaCare last week. Many of the tax cuts Trump was aiming for were included in the GOP health-care plan, so the tax overhaul will not be as extensive as Trump originally planned. It still is expected to include a large corporate tax cut and possibly individual savings in what would be the first major overhaul of the tax code in decades. "They have to have a victory here," said Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist and former Trump adviser. "But it is going to have to be a bit less ambitious rather than going for the big bang."


South Carolina and UNC join Gonzaga and Oregon in Final Four

The South Carolina Gamecocks and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday, joining Oregon and Gonzaga in the national semifinals. South Carolina upset the Florida Gators, a regional No. 4 seed, to win the East Region, 77-70. South Carolina, a No. 7 seed, had already upset the No. 2-seed and preseason No. 1 Duke Blue Devils, and No. 3 seed Baylor. North Carolina beat Kentucky in the South Region final, 75-73, on a last-second 18-foot jumper by sophomore forward Luke Maye, a former walk-on. South Carolina and Gonzaga face off Saturday in the first Final Four trip for both. North Carolina will be making its 20th appearance, a tournament record.


Hundreds arrested in Russia protests

Russian police arrested more than 700 demonstrators in Moscow as a wave of protests against corruption in President Vladimir Putin's government erupted across the country. The Kremlin had issued bans in an attempt to head off the rallies, but tens of thousands of people defied the warnings and poured into the streets, chanting, "Shame! Shame!" Police in riot gear conducted mass arrests in several cities. Protest organizer and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was among the first arrested in Moscow. He appeared in a Moscow court on Monday. American journalist Alec Luhn, an accredited reporter for Britain's Guardian newspaper, was detained but later released. The U.S. State Department condemned the crackdown.


South Korean prosecutors seek former president's arrest

South Korean prosecutors announced Monday that they were seeking the arrest of Park Geun-hye, the former president who was ousted over a corruption scandal. Park and her longtime friend and confidante, Choi Soon-sil, have been accused of colluding to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations created to support Park's policies. Both deny any wrongdoing. Prosecutors say arresting Park will prevent her from destroying evidence. A court hearing is expected to take place Thursday.


U.S.-backed forces capture Syria base from ISIS

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured a key air base from Islamic State militants in north Syria on Sunday. The victory marked the first major advance by the Kurdish-led forces since American planes airlifted the fighters into ISIS-held territory four days earlier. The Tabqa air base is strategically important, sitting 28 miles west of Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital. The SDF is closing in on Raqqa as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces simultaneously try to drive ISIS out of the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Islamist extremist group's last urban stronghold in that country.


Merkel gets boost from party's win in state election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's re-election bid got a boost on Sunday when her center-right Christian Democrat party won a state election that was widely seen as a test of her support. Merkel's party took 40.7 percent of the vote in Saarland, a tiny state of about a million people that borders France. The state's popular Christian Democrat governor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is such a close ally of the chancellor that many people call her "the mini-Merkel." Merkel, who has faced a backlash over her open immigration policy, faces a potentially strong challenge as she seeks a fourth term in the Sept. 24 vote from Martin Schulz, who was recently unanimously chosen as the candidate of the rival center-left Social Democrats.


London attacker sent WhatsApp message just before rampage

A top British security official said Sunday that Khalid Masood sent a WhatsApp message shortly before plowing into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament last week. Intelligence agencies can't access the message, however, because it is encrypted, the official said. Home Secretary Amber Rudd urged WhatsApp, a popular messaging app owned by Facebook, and rival services to make their platforms accessible to intelligence agencies to conduct lawful investigations and monitoring of terrorism suspects. "We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp — and there are plenty of others like that — don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other," Rudd said. The London attack left a police officer and three civilians, including an American tourist, dead. Masood was fatally shot by police.


U.S. airstrike kills al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan

A U.S. airstrike in southeast Afghanistan has killed an al Qaeda leader, Qari Yasin, who was believed to have been behind a 2008 suicide truck bombing that killed more than 50 people at a Marriott hotel in Pakistan, the Pentagon said over the weekend. Yasin also has been blamed for other attacks, including one in which gunmen sprayed gunfire at a Sri Lankan cricket team's bus in Lahore, Pakistan. Eight people died in that attack. "The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.


Eight presumed dead in Japan avalanche

Eight Japanese high school students were presumed dead after an avalanche hit at the Nasu Osen Family Ski Resort early Monday. About 70 people, including children and teachers from several schools, were in the area, about 120 miles north of Tokyo. The students were practicing moving through heavy snow as part of a mountain-climbing training program when the group was engulfed by the avalanche. Rescue efforts are underway, the Kyodo news agency said. Forty of the survivors were injured.


Stanford and Mississippi State win spots in women's Final Four

Stanford and Mississippi State advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA women's basketball tournament on Sunday. Stanford upset top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 after Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot by Akire Ogunbowale to seal her team's first appearance in the national semifinals since 2014. Mississippi State, a No. 2 seed, upset Baylor, a top seed, 94-85 in overtime to earn its first trip to the Final Four, led by 5-foot-5 point guard Morgan William with a career-high 41 points. On Monday, undefeated UConn plays Oregon, and South Carolina plays Florida State to see who will round out the Final Four.


Xi 'forcefully' trying to get China back to Mao's economic vision
Xi Jinping stands above portrait of Mao Zedong.
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British diplomats reportedly expecting more French blowback for submarine deal
Johnson and Macron.
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Biden lifts travel ban for vaccinated foreign nationals
British Airways.
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Pro-Putin party on track to retain parliamentary majority in Russian election
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