10 things you need to know today: December 23, 2017
Trump signs GOP tax overhaul into law, U.N. Security Council unanimously votes for strict sanctions on North Korea, and more
Trump signs GOP tax overhaul into law
President Trump signed the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax plan into law Friday, fulfilling the party's promise of cementing the legislation before Christmas. There were rumors Trump might not ink the measure until Jan. 3 to avoid triggering cuts to entitlement programs that could jeopardize negotiations to avert a government shutdown, but the House and Senate both voted Thursday to approve a spending package that would fund the government until Jan. 19. The sweeping tax law — which slashes the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and lowers income tax rates for six of seven tax brackets while doubling the standard deduction — did not earn a single Democratic vote. Trump celebrated the signing with several posts on Twitter.
U.N. Security Council unanimously votes for strict sanctions on North Korea
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to place heavy new sanctions on North Korea, limiting oil exports to current levels and ordering North Korean workers abroad to return home within two years. Friday's 15-0 vote was also significant because the U.S. was joined by Russia and China, which historically have been wary of escalating sanctions against Pyongyang. "President Trump has used just about every lever you can use, short of starving the people of North Korea to death, to change their behavior," said White House adviser Thomas Bossert this week. "We don't have a lot of room left here." Trump on Twitter touted the vote as evidence the "World wants Peace, not Death!"
U.S. to sell anti-tank missiles to Ukraine
The United States will sell anti-tank missiles and other weapons to Ukraine, the State Department announced Friday, a change from past practice of providing only military training while permitting small arms sales. The Ukrainian government has been battling Russian-supported separatists following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and Friday's news is seen as an escalation of U.S.-Russia tensions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, issued a statement calling for "disengagement and the withdrawal of heavy weapons" in the Ukrainian conflict.
Court rules latest travel ban violates federal law
A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Friday night that the latest iteration of President Trump's travel ban violates federal law, and its issuance by the president via executive order exceeds executive branch authority as delegated by the Constitution. The court's unanimous decision says the ban improperly overrides congressional lawmaking power, engages in "nationality discrimination," and does not demonstrate "nationality alone" is a basis for immigration exclusion. This ruling will not inhibit the travel ban's implementation, but it does bring the ban one step closer to a final ruling from SCOTUS.
Thomas Fire becomes largest in recorded California history
Southern California's Thomas Fire became the state's largest wildfire in recorded history Friday night, state officials said. The blaze has now burned 273,400 acres, which is about 427 square miles, and has destroyed more than 1,000 structures. One firefighter was killed fighting the fire, which is now 65 percent contained. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are still battling the Thomas Fire around the clock and are expected to continue to do so until at least early January, depending on weather conditions. Firefighters' worst case scenario would see the Thomas Fire going through downtown Santa Barbara.
FBI reports arrest of would-be Christmas attacker
The FBI on Friday said it arrested a former Marine, Everitt Aaron Jameson, and charged him with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Jameson allegedly was inspired by the Islamic State and planned to detonate an explosive on San Francisco's Pier 39 on Christmas. He allegedly told an undercover federal agent he intended to use the explosion to "funnel" the crowd to a spot where he could shoot them. Jameson denied the allegations, and in mid-December he reportedly told the undercover agent he had "reconsidered" his plan and decided not to go through with it.
Flooding, mudslides kill 100 in Philippines
At least 100 people were killed Friday by flash flooding and mudslides caused by Tropical Storm Tembin on the Philippines island of Mindanao, and dozens more remain missing Saturday morning. "Many people were swept to the sea as flood waters quickly rose due to the high tide," said Manuel Luis Ochotorena, a disaster agency official. "They never heeded the warnings." In the towns of Tubod and Piagapo, several homes were crushed by boulders moved by the mudslides. Rescuers have had trouble finding bodies of the storm's victims because of the mud.
Second court rejects Trump request to stop transgender recruitment
A federal appeals court on Friday became the second court this week to rule against the Trump administration's plan to stop transgender people from joining the military beginning on Jan. 1, 2018. Both courts rejected the administration's request to override a previous court order to stay Trump's transgender recruitment policy. It must be remembered that all transgender recruits "seek during this litigation is to serve their nation with honor and dignity, volunteering to face extreme hardships," Friday's decision said, adding that the White House has "not shown a strong likelihood that they will succeed on the merits of their challenge."
White House plans to split asylum-seeking families to deter illegal immigration
The White House and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are seeking approval from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for a policy of separating parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border from their children and detaining them in separate facilities, The Washington Post and The New York Times report. The plan is intended to deter illegal immigration from violence-torn Central America. "People aren't going to stop coming unless there are consequences to illegal entry," an unnamed DHS official told the Post.
Bitcoin plunges nearly 20 percent in a day
Bitcoin plunged by as much as 21 percent early Friday, falling below $13,000 before climbing back toward $14,000 later in the morning. The digital currency was on track for its worst week since 2013 after peaking near $20,000 on Sunday. It started the year under $1,000. Bitcoin's volatility has fueled concerns over whether its recent gains were sustainable or evidence of a bubble. "A manic upward swing led by the herd will be followed by a downturn as the emotional sentiment changes," said Charles Hayter, founder of industry website Cryptocompare in London. "A lot of traders have been waiting for this large correction."