10 things you need to know today: June 29, 2017
GOP leaders rush to revise health bill, Vatican cardinal charged with sex abuse in Australia, and more
McConnell aims to finish revised draft of health bill Friday
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other top Republicans said Wednesday that they hoped to complete a revised draft of their proposal to replace ObamaCare on Friday so it can be submitted to the Congressional Budget Office. That would set the stage for the nonpartisan CBO to assess its impact on the budget and the number of Americans who would be estimated to have health coverage under the plan, so that lawmakers could start working on it after returning from next week's July 4 recess, and vote on it before an August recess. The CBO score on the first draft of the bill, released Monday, predicted an additional 22 million people would be uninsured by 2026 under the GOP's Better Care Reconciliation Act than under ObamaCare.
Vatican cardinal charged with sex offenses in Australia
Australian police on Thursday charged a top Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, with "historical sexual offenses," meaning crimes that allegedly occurred years ago. Pell is the top member of the Catholic Church in Australia, and serves as Pope Francis' chief financial adviser. He is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged so far in the church's years-long sexual abuse scandal. Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said there were multiple complainants in the case, but gave no further details. Pell called the charges "false," adding that, "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me." The Vatican said it learned of the charges with "regret," and granted Pell, 76, a leave of absence to fight the allegations. He is due to appear in a Melbourne court on July 18.
Revised Trump travel ban to take effect
The Trump administration is preparing to roll out new travel restrictions Thursday night on people entering the U.S. from six predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The introduction of parts of President Trump's revised 90-day travel ban comes three days after the Supreme Court temporarily lifted parts of Trump's executive order and said it would review the case in the fall. Under the new policy, the U.S. will honor existing visas, but anyone applying for a new visa reportedly will have to show a "formal, documented" relationship with a parent, spouse, child, sibling, or close in-law in the U.S. The Trump administration says the pause is necessary to improve the vetting process to keep out terrorists. Critics say the current vetting process works and the policy discriminates against Muslims.
Trump lashes out against media
President Trump lashed out at The New York Times on Wednesday, calling a report in the paper "fake news" because it said he had little involvement in Senate Republicans' faltering push to replace ObamaCare. The Times article cited a Republican senator saying Trump "did not have a grasp of some basic elements" of the Senate's health-care plan. "The failing [New York Times] writes false story after false story about me," Trump tweeted. "Some of the Fake News Media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare. Wrong, I know the subject well." He also tweeted a muddled attack on The Washington Post — referencing Amazon, whose CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Post, and "internet taxes" — while blasting the paper as "FAKE NEWS!"
Mattis says Syria dropped chemical weapon attack after U.S. warning
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government appeared to have dropped an alleged plan to launch another chemical weapons attack after the U.S. warned of dire consequences. "It appears that they took the warning seriously," Mattis told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a NATO meeting. "They didn't do it." Syria's most powerful ally, Russia, had warned the U.S. to expect a proportionate response if the U.S. took pre-emptive steps against Syrian troops, even if the U.S. claimed it was to stop a chemical attack.
Homeland Security announces new security measures for U.S.-bound flights
The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced new security measures for U.S.-bound flights from overseas airports. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the measures "will be both seen and unseen, and they will be phased in over time." The airlines will have to comply with tighter screening of electronic devices and more effective use of bomb sniffing dogs, but laptops and tablets will be allowed in carry-on bags. Kelly said that any carrier that does not comply could be included in a ban on laptops in carry-on luggage. Since March, passengers on flights arriving in the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority countries have been barred from carrying devices larger than a cellphone on board, although those restrictions could be lifted on airlines and airports that adopt new security policies. "The threat has not diminished," Kelly said. "In fact, I am concerned that we are seeing renewed interest on the part of terrorist groups to go after the aviation sector."
Dozens arrested in Capitol Hill protest against Medicaid cuts
Dozens of people were arrested Wednesday for refusing to leave senators' offices during a protest on Capitol Hill against cuts to Medicaid in Senate Republicans' proposal to replace ObamaCare. Protesters filled a hallway outside the office of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Some of the people who were arrested refused to go willingly, and had to be carried out by officers. Many yelled, "No cuts to Medicaid!" as they were removed from the building. Alison Barkoff — director of advocacy for the Center for Public Representation and one of the organizers — said the health bill as proposed seeks "tax cuts for the wealthy on the backs of people with disabilities."
Blue Apron lowers IPO price
Blue Apron on Wednesday priced its initial public offering of stock at $10 per share, after saying in an updated filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was lowering its range to $10 to $11 per share, down from an initial target range of $15 to $17 per share. The stock starts trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Blue Apron is selling 30 million shares, so the IPO will raise $300 million. Although initial stock offering pricing often fluctuates as companies gauge interest, Blue Apron's drop marks a significant change for what is viewed as the year's next big IPO. At $10 a share, Blue Apron, which delivers meal kits with fresh ingredients, would be valued at just below $2 billion. Some analysts suspect Amazon's massive $13.7 billion bid for Whole Foods two weeks ago raised a cloud over Blue Apron, potentially dampening investor enthusiasm for the IPO.
Aspiring YouTube star dies in shooting stunt
A pregnant 19-year-old Minnesota woman was charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday for allegedly fatally shooting her boyfriend in a YouTube stunt gone wrong. According to a criminal complaint obtained by the Star Tribune, the woman, MonaLisa Perez, told police that her boyfriend, Pedro Ruiz III, wanted to make a video of her shooting a book, to see if the bullet would go all the way through. Ruiz, an aspiring YouTube star, reportedly held the book, a hardcover encyclopedia, in front of his chest, and Perez allegedly fired a single shot from a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol as the couple's 3-year-old daughter watched. Perez called 911, but Ruiz, 22, died at the scene.
Perjury charge dropped against Texas trooper who arrested Sandra Bland
A judge on Wednesday dismissed a criminal perjury charge against Brian Encinia, the former Texas state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman whose 2015 death in a Texas jail set off national protests. Prosecutors recommended dropping the misdemeanor charge, the only one Encinia faced in the case, on the condition that he surrender his police credentials and sign a sworn statement promising to never again take a job in law enforcement. Encinia was fired as a state trooper last year. He was indicted in January 2016 on the allegation that he made a false statement under oath about the traffic stop that led to Bland's arrest. Bland was moving to Texas from Illinois to start a new job when Encinia stopped her for failing to signal while changing lanes. The encounter escalated when he told her to put out her cigarette and ordered her out of the car when she refused. She was found hanging in her cell days after her arrest.