Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 29, 2017

Trump waives a shipping law as Puerto Rico complains of aid delays, HHS Secretary Tom Price vows to pay back taxpayers for flights, and more


Trump waives shipping law to speed aid to Puerto Rico

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it was waiving the Jones Act, a century-old shipping law that prevented the use of foreign ships to deliver disaster aid to Puerto Rico. Under the law, only U.S. ships can transport goods among U.S. ports, which Puerto Rican officials said was slowing the arrival of food, water, medicine, and other supplies the U.S. Caribbean island needed after a devastating blow from Hurricane Maria last week. "It is an act of justice. It will allow Puerto Ricans to rebuild," said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said. The change came as thousands of people lined up at San Juan harbor to board a cruise ship in one of the largest evacuations to the U.S. mainland since the storm.


Price says he will pay back taxpayers for his seats on charter flights

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Thursday that he would reimburse the government for a fraction of the taxpayer money used to pay for his use of domestic private planes. "The taxpayers won't pay a dime for my seat on those planes." Price said in a statement. Politico reported that Price had spent $400,000 in public money to pay for two dozen charter flights. A day before Price announced he would pay back the cost of his seats, about $52,000, President Trump said he was "not happy" about the travel arrangements. Politico also reported that Price, accompanied by his wife, used military aircraft to fly to Africa and Europe this spring and Asia later in the summer, costing taxpayers more than $500,000.


Trump adviser says he can't 'guarantee' lower taxes for middle class

President Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said Thursday that the GOP's tax cut plan was "purely aimed at middle-class families," but he couldn't guarantee that some of those families wouldn't see their taxes rise. "There's an exception to every rule," Cohn, the director of the White House Economic Council, told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "I can't guarantee anything." Cohn said a typical family of four with $55,000 in income would get "a substantial tax decrease" of $650 to $1,000. Democrats and other critics have called the proposal an attempt to shower corporations and the super rich with trillions of dollars in tax cuts that would inflate the deficit.


Twitter shuts down 201 accounts linked to Russian operatives

Twitter told congressional investigators on Thursday that it had shut down 201 accounts linked to Russian operatives who placed political ads on Facebook during last year's electoral campaign. The company also found three accounts from Russia's RT news site that spent $274,100 on Twitter ads last year. Congressional investigators interviewed Twitter representatives as part of a widening inquiry into how Russian operatives used social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google to spread divisive fake news stories during election season. The Twitter accounts taken down last month were linked to 470 accounts and pages that Facebook last month tied to a Russian troll farm, the International Research Agency.


ISIS releases audio statement from reclusive leader

The Islamic State on Thursday released an audio recording that it claimed was made by the Islamist extremist group's reclusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. If authentic, it would break an 11-month silence for Baghdadi. The man identified as Baghdadi praised ISIS militants, and urged them to target "media centers of the infidels." "You soldiers of the caliphate, heroes of Islam, and carriers of banners: Light a fire against your enemies," he said. Baghdadi has only appeared in public once. Russian authorities said in June there was a "high probability" he had been killed by a Russian airstrike in the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS's de facto capital. U.S. officials later said he was probably still alive, although his whereabouts are unknown.


Kushner failed to disclose private email account used for official business

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, did not disclose the existence of a private email account, which he has used for official business, during an interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, CNN reported Thursday. The chair and vice chair of the committee wrote Kushner's attorney to express their displeasure after learning of the account through news reports. They demanded that the attorney make sure Kushner had handed over all documents from the account, social media accounts, and messaging apps that could be related to the committee's investigation into Russia's attempts to influence last year's presidential election, and possible collusion by Trump associates.


Rep. Steve Scalise returns to Capitol 15 weeks after shooting

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday, 15 weeks after he was shot by a man who opened fire on GOP lawmakers and staffers practicing for a charity baseball game. Scalise, who was once in "imminent risk of death," walked into the House of Representatives using crutches, and was met with applause from both sides of the aisle. "You have no idea how great this feels, to be back at work here in the people's House," Scalise said. "I'm definitely a living example that miracles really do happen."


Economy grew at faster pace than estimated in second quarter

The U.S. economy expanded at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the second quarter of 2017, slightly faster than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The figure was revised up from the 3.0 percent rate reported last month. The pace quickened substantially from the 1.2 percent rate of the first quarter, marking the fastest growth in two years. The change came thanks to businesses' investments in inventory. The good news is fading somewhat in the third quarter. "The destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the resulting disruption ... are expected to be a drag on third-quarter growth," said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "Nonetheless, the economy remains on track."


Rail-commuter stampede kills 22 in Mumbai

A rush-hour stampede at a rail station in Mumbai killed 22 people and injured dozens more, Indian officials said Friday. Overcrowding and a sudden rain sparked the stampede on a covered footbridge leading into the station, where some passengers sought shelter from the rain at the same time as a rush of passengers tried to leave. The footbridge serves passengers on two main rail lines at Elphinstone station and adjoining Parel station. "Everybody tried to leave at once and it appeared one of them slipped and fell, triggering the stampede," railway spokesman Anil Saxena said.


Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus reveals she has breast cancer

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus announced Thursday that she has breast cancer. "One in eight women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one," she said via Twitter. The 56-year-old actress got her diagnosis a day after winning her sixth straight Emmy for her starring role in Veep. "The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends," Louis-Dreyfus' message continued, "and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let's fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality." Her announcement was met with hundreds of messages of support. "If laughter if the best medicine," one Twitter user posted, "cancer has no chance when it comes to you!"


Russian state TV military analyst backpedals criticism of Ukraine invasion
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U.S. reopens embassy in Kyiv
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Afghan solider.
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