Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 7, 2017

Trump walks back Obama-era birth control mandate, authorities determine Las Vegas gunman was alone in his hotel room, and more


Trump walks back Obama-era birth control mandate

The Trump administration on Friday announced an Obama-era requirement that employers cover birth control in their health insurance plans is being rolled back, effective immediately. Employers, including colleges and universities, that have "sincerely held religious beliefs" or "moral convictions" against birth control will be exempt from covering contraceptives. The Trump administration interpreted the Affordable Care Act as not explicitly requiring employers to cover birth control, citing risks associated with certain contraceptive methods and claiming the mandate could promote "risky sexual behavior" among teens and young adults.


Authorities determine Las Vegas gunman was alone in his hotel room

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Friday announced investigators are now "confident" Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was alone in his suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel when he opened fire on thousands of concertgoers Sunday night, killing 58. The possibility that Paddock had an accomplice was raised when police found a phone charger in the room which they initially could not match to any of the phones Paddock owned. A match has since been found. Paddock took his own life before authorities breached his room, and his motive for the attack remains unknown.


White House teases new response to Iran's 'bad behavior'

Furthering rumors that President Trump will soon exit the Iran nuclear deal, the White House on Friday hinted at a forthcoming "broad strategy" overhaul of U.S.-Iran relations. "The president isn't looking at one piece of this. He's looking at all of the bad behavior of Iran," said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, including "ballistic missile testing, destabilizing of the region, Number One state sponsor of terrorism, cyber attacks, illicit nuclear program." The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran does not have an "illicit nuclear program," and the Trump administration has repeatedly certified Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.


North Korea expected to test another long-range missile

North Korea is expected to test another long-range ballistic missile on or before this coming Tuesday, U.S. analysts and a Russian lawmaker have predicted. Monday is the anniversary of Pyongyang's original nuclear weapons test in 2006, and Tuesday commemorates the 1945 establishment of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. The Kim Jong Un regime "gave us mathematical calculations that they believe prove that their missile can hit the west coast of the United States," reported Anton Morozov, a Russian member of parliament on the lower house's international affairs committee, describing Pyongyang's mood as "rather belligerent."


Southern states brace for weekend hit by deadly Hurricane Nate

Tropical Storm Nate left an estimated 21 people dead after passing over Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras on Thursday before being upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane late Friday. Nate is on track to make landfall near New Orleans as soon as Saturday and sweep toward Alabama and Florida. "There is no need to panic," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) after declaring a state of emergency. "Be ready and prepare." The hurricane "will be a quicker moving storm than the last few we have had," said CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.


Feds reveal foiled ISIS-linked plot for terror in New York

The FBI on Friday revealed the prosecution of three men accused of unsuccessfully plotting "the next 9/11" attack in New York City in 2016 out of sympathy to the Islamic State. The men allegedly intended to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, to bomb the subway system, and to open fire on crowds at several concert venues last summer. The plot was foiled significantly thanks to an undercover FBI agent posing as another ISIS supporter. One suspect, arrested in New York, has already plead guilty. The other two will be extradited to the United States from Pakistan and the Philippines for trial.


Trump baffles with 'calm before the storm' remarks

President Trump raised questions with potentially ominous comments he made while taking photos with members of the military at the White House Thursday. "You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm," he said. As reporters asked what "storm" he had in mind, Trump repeated his comment, eventually adding that "you'll find out" one day what he means. Pressed to clarify Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not offer further explanation, instead reiterating that journalists must "wait and see."


Democrats distance themselves from Weinstein amid allegations

Sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have led a dozen prominent Democrats, including Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), to donate thousands of dollars of his campaign contributions to charity. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is likewise giving Weinstein's donations to groups that promote women's engagement in politics and abortion rights. "The difference between [President] Trump, Bill Cosby, and Weinstein — none," said DNC member Bob Mulholland. Weinstein also contributed to the presidential campaigns of both former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.


Investigators find head, legs of journalist Kim Wall

Copenhagen police on Saturday announced the discovery of a bag containing the head, legs, and clothing of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who went missing in August after she boarded the submarine of inventor Peter Madsen, whom she was interviewing for a story. Wall's dismembered torso was discovered 11 days later, and Madsen has been charged with murder. The bag found by divers off the coast of Denmark Friday also contained a knife and pipes from a car used to weight it down. Wall's head did not show signs of any "blunt violence to the skull," contrary Madsen's story of an accidental fall.


AOL Instant Messenger to be discontinued in December

AOL Instant Messenger will be discontinued effective Dec. 15, 2017 after 20 years in use, the company announced Friday. "If you were a '90s kid, chances are there was a point in time when [AIM] was a huge part of your life," wrote Michael Albers, the communications product vice president at Oath, which owns AOL, so AIM's demise marks an end of an era. Still, with alternatives like Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger, "it's hard to imagine that many people are still using AIM, so ... this upcoming shutdown [isn't] likely to make a huge difference," notes The Verge.


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Group of 7 pledges almost $20B in aid for Ukraine
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