Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 23, 2017

Trump urges House Republicans to pass Senate's budget, McCain appears to mock Trump's bone-spur draft deferment, and more


Trump calls on House Republicans to pass budget, tax cuts

President Trump on Sunday urged House Republicans to pass the Senate budget proposal and start working to pass tax reform, saying that haggling with the Senate would delay a much-needed legislative accomplishment and could hurt the GOP in next year's midterm elections. "We are on the verge of doing something very, very historic," Trump said, according to a person who was on the call. Trump's participation in the call to the House Republican Conference ramped up pressure on House Republicans to get behind the Senate's spending plan even though it adds $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade due to tax cuts.


McCain appears to mock Trump's Vietnam draft deferment

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made what was widely interpreted as a veiled criticism of President Trump in an interview aired Sunday, criticizing wealthy Americans who avoided being drafted during the Vietnam War. "One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur," said McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "That is wrong." Trump, who questioned McCain's status as a war hero during last year's campaign, received four draft deferments as a student and a fifth that was reportedly due to a doctor's diagnosis that he had a bone spur in his heel.


McConnell prepared to hold vote on bipartisan health bill if Trump will sign it

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that he would call a vote on the bipartisan health-care proposal negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), provided President Trump indicates he is prepared to sign it. The proposal would revive the insurance subsidies Trump recently ended for two more years, while loosening some ObamaCare rules. The Alexander-Murray bill has the support of all 48 Senate Democrats plus 12 Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC Sunday. Trump has sent mixed signals about the plan, calling it both "a good start" and "a short-term fix."


U.S.-backed fighters seize oil field from ISIS

U.S.-backed fighters scored a key victory over the Islamic State by driving the Islamist extremist group's fighters back and seizing Syria's largest oil field. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by U.S. air power, have been racing with Syrian government forces to secure oil-rich areas along the Iraqi border as ISIS retreats. The Al-Omar oil field was a critical source of income for ISIS for three years. Syrian troops, backed by Russian warplanes and Iranian-sponsored militias, were fighting nearby, and took over most of the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour, and the town of Mayadeen, an ISIS stronghold across the Euphrates River from the Al-Omar field.


WHO rescinds Mugabe's goodwill ambassador honor after uproar

The World Health Organization said Sunday it had rescinded its appointment of longtime Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a "goodwill ambassador" following an outcry by critics who regard him as a tyrannical dictator. The organization "listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns," said WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus, known as Tedros, in a statement released Sunday. Tedros, an Ethiopian and the first African to hold the director general post, had announced Mugabe's appointment to the largely ceremonial goodwill ambassador position, praising Zimbabwe as "a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies," and saying that Mugabe would serve as an advocate for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases in Africa.


Japan's Abe wins big in snap elections

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition scored a resounding win in Sunday's snap elections, taking 312 seats and holding onto its two-thirds super majority in the 465-seat lower house. The victory increases Abe's chances of securing a third three-year term as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party ruling bloc and becoming Japan's longest-serving premier. The result also puts him in a position of strength to push for revisions to the country's pacifist constitution. The U.S.-drafted constitution technically bans Japan from maintaining armed forces, but Japanese governments have interpreted the provision to mean Japan's military can only be used for self-defense. Abe wants to clarify the status quo, but critics fear that could mark a step toward a more active military role overseas.


Argentine President Macri's coalition gains strength in midterms

Argentine President Mauricio Macri's governing coalition scored some key wins in the country's midterm elections on Sunday, bolstering its strength in a vote interpreted as a referendum on the center-right leader's first two years pushing his tax and fiscal reform plan to boost the South American nation's economy. A Macri ally, Esteban Bullrich, beat the president's predecessor and political rival Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, giving Macri's coalition two seats in the district and Kirchner's one. "We are the generation that is changing history," Macri told supporters in Buenos Aires. "This is only just beginning." Kirchner declared herself the leader of the opposition and repeated her criticism of Macri's policies, saying "austerity will only cause pain to most of the population."


Fidelity pushes out two executives accused of sexual harassment

Fidelity Investments is scrambling to address years of complaints about workplace conduct after pushing out longtime employee C. Robert Chow, 56, earlier this month after he was accused of making inappropriate sexual comments to colleagues. Fidelity also recently fired star tech fund manager Gavin Baker, who was accused of sexual harassment. Brian Hogan, president of the mutual fund giant's high-profile stock-picking division, held an emergency meeting last week to remind his staff that the company has a "zero tolerance policy" on inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Hollywood writer/director James Toback and New Orleans celebrity restaurateur John Besh also have been accused of serial sexual harassment.


Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl faces sentencing for desertion

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Monday goes before a military judge who will determine his punishment for walking off his post in Afghanistan and endangering the comrades who searched for him. The judge will consider numerous factors, including the five years Bergdahl spent as a prisoner of Taliban-linked militants, and wounds several U.S. service members suffered while searching for him. Bergdahl told Britain's Sunday Times that returning home after his release in a prisoner swap was as difficult as being a prisoner. "At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, 'I'm the guy who's gonna cut your throat,'" he said. "Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who's going to sign the paper that sends me away for life."


Letterman receives Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Comedians and actors ribbed and praised celebrated late-night TV legend David Letterman on Sunday night as he accepted the Kennedy Center's 20th Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. "No one from his generation influenced American comedy more," late night host Jimmy Kimmel said. Several people poked fun at the bushy beard Letterman has grown since his retirement from The Late Show in 2015. "Dave is incredibly accomplished," comedian Amy Schumer said. "Over the course of his life, he has successfully transitioned from a standup comic to a late-night host to a civil war re-enactor." Letterman ended the night with Twain's definition of patriotism: "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."


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