Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 27, 2017

Trump declares the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, delays the release of some JFK files, and more


Trump declares opioid epidemic a public health emergency

President Trump on Thursday declared the opioid epidemic to be a national public health emergency. The declaration clears the way for the federal government to waive some regulations and give states greater leeway to use federal funds to confront the crisis, which is killing more than 100 people per day. "As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue," Trump said. "It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it." Trump stopped short of declaring a broader state of emergency that would have let states tap into the federal Disaster Relief Fund available after a tornado, hurricane, or other catastrophe.


Government releases trove of JFK files, but Trump keeps some secret

The federal government released 2,800 long secret documents on President John F. Kennedy's assassination, but President Trump, under pressure from FBI and CIA officials, held back some of the records over national security concerns. The government released the records in compliance with a 1992 law calling for the dossier's release in 25 years. It kept thousands of pages of documents classified, pending a further six-month review. The released documents included one about a call intercepted by the CIA from Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to a KGB officer at the Soviet embassy in Mexico. The files also included mention of a man who called the FBI's Dallas office and claimed to belong to "a committee organized to kill Oswald," who was subsequently killed in police custody by Jack Ruby.


House approves budget, clearing path for tax cuts

House Republicans narrowly passed a budget resolution on Thursday that clears the path to passing a GOP tax-cut plan by the end of the year. "We need to get the tax bill out of the Senate by Thanksgiving," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican. The measure passed 216-212, with all House Democrats and 20 Republicans opposing it. The budget measure would make room for a tax bill to add $1.5 trillion to federal deficits over a decade. The $4 trillion 2018 budget will include $1.3 trillion in cuts to all non-Medicare health-care initiatives, plus a $473 billion cut to Medicare itself and $653 billion in cuts to other welfare programs, such as food stamps and pensions.


Mattis says in DMZ that diplomacy, not war, is key to resolving North Korea crisis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday during a visit to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea that the solution to the crisis over the North's nuclear weapons program is diplomacy, not war. "We're doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically — everything we can," he said, making his first trip to the DMZ as defense secretary. Mattis also said, however, that North Korea's effort to build and improve its nuclear arsenal is meant to "threaten others with catastrophe," and said the U.S. remained committed to forcing Pyongyang to disarm. Mattis pledged solidarity with South Korea. He is in South Korea for talks with his counterpart in Seoul ahead of President Trump's scheduled visit to South Korea next month.


Federal judge strikes down 2 Alabama abortion restrictions

A federal judge on Thursday struck down two Alabama abortion restrictions essentially banning the procedure in the second trimester, and limiting how close clinics where abortions are performed can be to public schools. The "fetal-demise law" effectively banned the most common second-trimester abortion method, called dilation and evacuation, which essentially outlawed abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. "Because these laws clearly impose an impermissible undue burden on a woman's ability to choose an abortion, they cannot stand," U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote. The ACLU of Alabama challenged the laws on behalf of two Alabama women's health clinics.


U.N. experts blame Syrian government for deadly sarin attack

United Nations experts on Thursday blamed Syria's government for a sarin nerve gas attack that killed more than 90 people in April, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press. The U.N. conclusion supported initial findings by the U.S., France, and Britain, which said a Syrian military plane dropped a bomb containing sarin on the town. The U.S. responded to the attack by bombing the Syrian air base that allegedly launched the strike. "Today's report confirms what we have long known to be true. Time and again, we see independent confirmation of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime," said the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley. Syria and Russia, its most powerful ally, denied the government was behind the attack, which provoked international outrage after photos and videos were widely distributed showing shaking children dying.


CVS makes $66 billion bid to buy Aetna

Pharmacy chain CVS Health Corp. has offered to buy Aetna, the nation's third largest health insurer, in a deal worth more than $66 billion, people familiar with the matter said Thursday. Aetna shares shot up by more than 11 percent on the news, while CVS shares dropped by three percent. A merger would give CVS greater leverage to negotiate lower prices from drug makers. A deal could face tough scrutiny from antitrust regulators, however, because it would link one of the nation's biggest pharmacy benefits companies with one of its leading health insurers, potentially affecting health plans nationwide.


Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Intel blast past Wall Street's expectations

Technology giants Amazon, Google-parent Alphabet, Microsoft, and Intel released quarterly earnings reports Thursday that crushed Wall Street's expectations, sending their shares up in late trading. As a group, they made $2.2 billion more in profit than they did in the same quarter of 2016. Alphabet led the way, with $1.1 billion more profit and $9.5 billion more revenue than a year ago. Its net income of $9.57 per share smashed analysts' average estimate of $8.31 per share. Amazon's stock made the biggest jump late Thursday, rising by 7.6 percent, after its revenue rose by $11 billion to a record $43.7 billion. The tech giants' gains lifted U.S. stock futures early Friday, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq-100 jumping by 0.4 percent to lead the way.


Australian High Court disqualifies five lawmakers over dual citizenship

Australia's High Court ruled Friday that five federal lawmakers, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four senators, were not eligible to serve in Parliament because they have dual citizenship. The ruling ended months of uncertainty, during which two of the four senators deemed ineligible resigned. Australia's Constitution says citizens of other countries are not eligible to run for federal Parliament. The decision threatens Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's coalition's one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Joyce has renounced his New Zealand citizenship, which he unkowingly had through his father, and will run in a Dec. 2 special election to regain his House seat. "It is a tough game, politics," he said.


Navy rescues two Americans lost in Pacific for five months

The crew of a Navy ship rescued two American women who spent five months lost at sea after their sailboat's engine failed in a storm, the Navy said Thursday. "They saved our lives," Jennifer Appel said, saying she felt "pure relief" when she saw the rescuers on the horizon. Appel and Tasha Fuiaba were traveling from Hawaii to Tahiti with their two dogs when the engine gave out. They continued powered by their sails, but got lost and went off course. A Taiwanese fishing boat finally spotted them Tuesday thousands of miles from Tahiti, about 900 miles southeast of Japan. The fishermen contacted the U.S. Coast Guard at Guam, and the 610-foot USS Ashland took Appel, Fuiaba, and their dogs, on board after deeming their boat "unseaworthy."


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