10 things you need to know today: November 8, 2017
Democrats score big wins in Tuesday elections, Trump says hero prevented Texas church gunman from killing "hundreds," and more
Democrats score wins in sign of Trump backlash
Democrats scored their first big victories since last year's election on Tuesday, capitalizing on opposition to President Trump to win gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey. Polls had suggested a tight race in Virginia, but Democrat Ralph Northam wound up beating former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie, who mimicked some of Trump's nationalist rhetoric, by nearly nine percentage points. Trump tweeted that Gillespie failed to "embrace me or what I stand for." In another closely watched race, Democrat Danica Roem became Virginia's first openly transgender elected official by defeating incumbent Republican candidate Del. Bob Marshall, who once called himself the state's "chief homophobe" and introduced a transgender "bathroom bill" earlier this year.
Trump dismisses gun control, credits armed hero with saving 'hundreds' in Texas
President Trump on Tuesday dismissed a question about whether "extreme vetting" of gun purchasers could prevent mass shootings like the one that killed 26 people at a Texas church, saying that "hundreds more" could have died if an armed citizen hadn't been there to "neutralize" the killer. The killer, Devin Patrick Kelley, was wounded by a civilian as he left the scene of the massacre, but fatally shot himself after crashing following a chase. House members observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims on Sunday, but Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) pointedly walked out and posted a video that went viral in which he said he would not be silent. "What we need is we need action," he said. "We need to pass gun safety legislation now."
Maine voters approve ObamaCare Medicaid expansion
Voters in Maine on Tuesday approved a first-of-its-kind referendum to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, going around Gov. Paul LePage (R), who has vetoed the ObamaCare expansion five times. Assuming the state legislature doesn't step in, Maine will become the 32nd state to expand Medicaid. Supporters of the referendum outspent opponents, and organizers are already pushing similar referenda in some of the remaining 18 states, mostly controlled by Republicans, that have declined the ObamaCare program, 90 percent of which is funded by the federal government. In Maine, 80,000 more low-income adults will now qualify for Medicaid, adding to the more than 11 million people covered under the ObamaCare expansion program.
Trump arrives in China seeking help reining in North Korea
President Trump arrived in China on Wednesday seeking to increase pressure on President Xi Jinping to do more to get North Korea to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. A senior administration official said Trump would urge the Chinese leader to suspend oil exports to North Korea, close North Korean bank accounts, and expel tens of thousands of North Korean workers. Earlier Wednesday, in an address to South Korea's National Assembly, Trump called for China and other countries to unite to confront North Korea's combative communist government. "It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together because the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows, and the fewer the options become," Trump said.
Texas church gunman briefly escaped mental health facility in 2012
The gunman who killed 26 people at a Texas church on Sunday briefly escaped from a mental health center in New Mexico in 2012, according to information from a police report obtained by media outlets Tuesday. The attacker, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been caught trying to bring guns onto Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where he was stationed, in what was believed to be an attempt to follow through on death threats against superior officers. He was sent to a mental health facility in New Mexico but escaped, and was picked up by police in El Paso. Police believe Kelley acted alone in the church massacre, which investigators say appeared to have been linked to a dispute with his mother-in-law, who attended the church.
Senators announce bipartisan bill to stop domestic abusers from buying guns
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) are jointly drafting a bill to "prevent anyone convicted of domestic violence ... from buying a gun," Flake announced Tuesday. Congress made it illegal for people convicted of domestic abuse to buy a gun in 1996, but poor databases and background checks can let abusers obtain weapons anyway; Flake and Heinrich aim to close a loophole that has let the military fail to report domestic violence misdemeanors to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Flake's announcement came after a Texas church massacre that left 26 dead. The attacker, Devin Patrick Kelley, had pleaded guilty to a 2012 domestic assault, but the Air Force did not enter the conviction into the database.
Syria to join Paris climate accord, isolating U.S.
Syria announced Tuesday at the Bonn climate conference that it would join the Paris climate accord, leaving the U.S. as the only country refusing to embrace the deal. Former President Barack Obama had signed on, but President Trump is pulling out. The only other holdout, Nicaragua, announced in September that would embrace the accord. The 2015 agreement calls for sharp cuts to global carbon emissions, which scientists blame for global warming. Trump has called climate change a "hoax," and said when he decided to abandon the deal in June that he "was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said Trump's decision has isolated the U.S. and put it "in an embarrassing and dangerous position."
Italy to investigate discovery of 26 dead Nigerian women, girls
Italian officials said Tuesday that they were investigating the deaths of 26 young Nigerian women and girls whose bodies were retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend. "It is a tragedy for mankind," said Salvatore Malfi, the prefect in the port city of Salerno, where the bodies were taken. About 400 migrants who were rescued at sea in recent days also were taken to Salerno. Marco Rotunno, the communications officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy, said the young women, estimated to range in age from 14 to 18 years old, were found by the Spanish Navy along with survivors on nearby rubber dinghies who had departed from Libya. Rotunno said it is likely that they were victims of sex-trafficking rings.
Former star MLB pitcher Roy Halladay dies in plane crash
Two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay was killed Tuesday when his single-engine plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. Halladay was the only person on board when the single-engine plane, registered to his father, went down in six-foot-deep water and flipped upside down. Halladay retired after the 2013 season due to constant back injuries. Halladay played Major League baseball for 16 years, first with the Toronto Blue Jays and then with the Philadelphia Phillies. An eight-time All-Star, he pitched the 20th perfect game in baseball history in 2010, and less than five months later, he pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history.
Twitter drops 140-character limit for almost everyone
Twitter on Tuesday started lifting its iconic 140-character limit to give nearly all of its users 280 characters. The microblogging service has tested the new limit for weeks. Once the rollout is complete, only those tweeting in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean will have to stick to the original limit, as those languages use fewer characters. Nine percent of tweets in English reach the old limit, and people either spend time whittling down their posts or simply abandoning them. Twitter is making the change to get people to tweet more, part of an effort to boost its lackluster user growth.