10 things you need to know today: April 25, 2017

Trump softens demand for border wall funding as shutdown looms, Arkansas carries out first double execution in 17 years, and more

Donald Trump at the U.S. Treasury Department
(Image credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Trump eases back on border wall demand as shutdown looms

President Trump indicated Monday that he was open to delaying his demand for money to start building his promised border wall, potentially removing an obstacle to a deal that would avoid a looming government shutdown. Congress has to approve a spending bill by Friday to keep government agencies funded through September, and Trump told a gathering of journalists from conservative media outlets that he would be willing to hold off on his push for wall funding until the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate to pass a spending bill, so they will need some Democrats to go along, but Democrats have said including money for Trump's wall on the Mexican border is a deal-breaker. Democrats also are angry over Trump's threat to withhold some ObamaCare subsidies for low-income people. If no agreement is reached, Trump faces the embarrassing prospect of marking his 100th day in office with a government shutdown on Saturday.


2. Arkansas carries out first double execution since 2000

Arkansas carried out the nation's first back-to-back executions in 17 years on Monday night. First, the state put to death Jack Jones, who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1995, shortly after 7 p.m. Lawyers for the second inmate, Marcel Williams, filed for a stay, saying the first execution had been botched, but a judge lifted the stay just before 9:30 p.m., local time. Williams, who was convicted of raping and murdering a 22-year-old woman he kidnapped from a gas station in 1994, was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. The executions were part of an unprecedented flurry of eight executions over 11 days that the state scheduled because its supply of a key lethal injection drug is expiring at the end of the month, but several of the other executions have been blocked by courts.

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The Associated Press Reuters

3. North Korea marks military anniversary with live-fire artillery exercises

North Korea conducted a major live-fire artillery drill on Tuesday to celebrate the founding of its military as tensions continued to rise over its missile and nuclear weapons program. Fears have risen in recent weeks that Pyongyang would soon launch its sixth nuclear weapons test, in defiance of United Nations sanctions. The U.S. made a show of force with the docking of an American submarine in South Korea as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group sailed toward Korean waters. Diplomats from South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. met in Tokyo to discuss North Korea, and the White House plans to host an unusual private briefing on North Korea for the entire Senate on Wednesday.

Reuters The Washington Post

4. Obama makes first public appearance since leaving White House

Former President Barack Obama on Monday made his first appearance at a public event since the end of his presidency in January, vowing at the University of Chicago to encourage young people to improve their communities and the nation. "This community taught me that ordinary people, when working together, can do extraordinary things," Obama said. Obama has stayed out of the public eye on an extended vacation since leaving the White House and is starting work on a memoir, but his Chicago appearance was the first in what is expected to be a series of events in the U.S. and Europe. "The single most important thing I can do," he said, is helping "in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world."

The New York Times

5. Trump plans proposal to slash corporate tax rate

President Trump plans to propose a sharp cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, White House officials said Monday. The proposal is expected to be unveiled Wednesday as part of an outline for a tax code overhaul being unveiled just before the end of Trump's first 100 days in office. Experts say such a cut would be likely to increase the national debt, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the tax cuts, which Trump has promised will be the biggest in U.S. history, would not hurt the federal government's bottom line. "The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth," Mnuchin said Monday.

The Washington Post

6. New Orleans begins removing Confederate monuments

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Monday kicked off the process of removing four monuments to the "Lost Cause of the Confederacy." The first statue taken down was the Battle of Liberty Place statue on Iberville Street, which was originally erected to honor members of the "Crescent City White League" who battled the racially integrated city police and state militia. Workers who dismantled the obelisk wore flak jackets, helmets, and scarves to hide their identities due to concerns for their safety. The project began after a long fight over the future of the monuments, which critics say are symbols of racism but supporters say have great historical significance.

Nola.gov The New York Times

7. Rebels kill 25 police officers in India

Maoist rebels in India killed at least 25 security officers in an attack on a police patrol on Monday. Another seven officers, members of the Central Reserve Police Force, were wounded. Roughly 100 security forces were ambushed while guarding a new road and bridge being built in a densely forested area in eastern India, where rebels known as Naxalites have been fighting the government sporadically for half a century, hoping to establish communist rule in the region. The group has a history of targeting road projects.

The New York Times

8. Google co-founder's startup unveils 'flying car' prototype

Google co-founder Larry Page's aviation startup, Kitty Hawk, unveiled the prototype of its long-rumored "flying car" project, an "ultralight" multi-rotor aircraft that can lift off and land vertically. In a demonstration video posted online Monday, the Kitty Hawk Flyer takes off over a lake with a rider perched on top, looking more like a motorcycle or personal watercraft rider than a pilot. Kitty Hawk says it has Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly the aircraft, which won't require a pilot's license, in "uncongested areas." "We've all had dreams of flying effortlessly," Page said. "I'm excited that one day very soon I'll be able to climb onto my Kitty Hawk Flyer for a quick and easy personal flight."

CNN The New York Times

9. Former Fox News guest says Hannity didn't sexually harass her

Former Fox News guest Debbie Schlussel eased back on her allegations against host Sean Hannity on Monday, saying that she would not characterize his treatment of her as sexual harassment, as numerous news outlets reported. "Sexual harassment has a special meaning under the law, and I would never accuse him of that," said Schlussel, who is a lawyer. "I never thought I was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity, I thought he was weird and creepy not someone I liked." Hannity said that Schlussel's account of his alleged unwanted sexual advances was "100 percent false and a complete fabrication," and that he had retained lawyers "who are now in the process of laying out the legal course of action we will be taking against this individual." He described Schlussel as a "serial harasser."

Lawnewz Los Angeles Times

10. Researchers find rare copy of Declaration of Independence in England

Harvard University researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen have found a rare second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence in England. Sneff got the first indication of the document's existence in 2015 when she spotted a listing in a catalog for the West Sussex Record Office for a "Manuscript copy, on parchment, of the Declaration in Congress of the 13 United States of America." At first, the pair did not suspect the document was anything more than a 19th century copy of the Declaration of Independence — the original version kept at the National Archives in Washington was the only known parchment copy. Twenty months of research convinced Sneff and Allen that the Sussex version, which has signatures out of order, with John Hancock not listed first — was probably a copy made in the 1780s in New York or Philadelphia.

The Washington Post

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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.