Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 19, 2018

A shutdown vote looms in the Senate, the Supreme Court blocks an order for North Carolina to redraw its congressional map, and more

1

House passes stopgap spending bill, but Senate Democrats could block it

House Republicans on Thursday pushed through a stopgap spending bill aimed to avert a government shutdown, but Democrats said they had enough votes to block the measure in the Senate. The current spending resolution runs out at midnight Friday. The new resolution would keep government agencies funded through Feb. 16. It would extend the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and delay several taxes in the Affordable Care Act, but does not include new protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, which Democrats are demanding.

2

Supreme Court blocks order for North Carolina to redraw congressional map

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a lower court's order for North Carolina to redraw its congressional map because it appeared to have been designed to favor Republicans in violation of the Constitution. Republicans got 53 percent of the statewide vote in 2016 but won 10 of the state's 13 House seats. The lower court had given North Carolina until Jan. 24 to create a new map, but the Supreme Court's conservative majority granted GOP lawmakers' request to suspend the Jan. 9 decision. The Supreme Court did not explain its decision, which made it likely that the current district lines would remain in place in the November midterms. The Supreme Court is already examining cases from Wisconsin and Maryland in which plaintiffs argue that such partisan gerrymandering violates voters' rights.

3

Report: FBI investigating if Russian banker illegally funneled money to NRA

The FBI is investigating whether Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, in violation of a federal law against using foreign money to influence U.S. elections, McClatchy reported Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter. Torshin is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a lifetime member of the NRA. He met with Donald Trump Jr. during the organization's 2016 gala in Kentucky. Bloomberg News reported in 2016 that Spanish authorities believe Torshin helped mobsters launder money through Spanish properties and banks. The NRA said it spent a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, with $30 million going to help Trump.

4

Trump administration announces protections for pro-life medical workers

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would expand protections for medical professionals who object to performing such procedures as abortions and gender reassignment, or dispensing contraceptives, due to religious objections. The rules will let them stick to their objections without penalty. Civil rights, gay rights, and abortion rights groups, as well as some medical groups, criticized the move, saying the Trump administration was trying to legitimize discrimination. The Department of Health and Human Services will create an oversight entity called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division to oversee matters concerning the "conscience rights" of doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers.

5

Amazon releases list of 20 cities in running for second HQ

Amazon on Thursday released the list of 20 finalists in its headquarters contest, dubbed HQ2. Last September, the tech giant invited cities across North America to explain why they offered the best location for a second headquarters to complement the company's main hub in Seattle. Some of the largest U.S. cities, including New York and Los Angeles, are among the contenders, as is Toronto in Canada. Amazon also is considering many smaller metropolitan areas, such as Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennessee. Amazon has said it expects to create roughly 50,000 jobs and invest $5 billion in the winning city.

6

Pope Francis accuses some Chile sex abuse victims of slandering bishop

Pope Francis, on the last day of his visit to Chile, accused some victims of Chile's most notorious pedophile priest of slandering a Catholic bishop by saying he was complicit in covering up the crimes. The Vatican sentenced the priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, to a lifetime of "penance and prayer" in 2011. Victims said his protege Juan Barros, appointed as a bishop in 2015, witnessed some of the abuse but did nothing. Pope Francis said without proof such allegations were "all calumny." Some victims expressed shock. "As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all," tweeted Barros accuser Juan Carlos Cruz.

7

Report: Lawyer used shell company to pay porn star for silence on Trump tryst

President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, set up a shell company a month before the 2016 election and used it to pay for former porn star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep quiet about alleged sexual encounters with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Both parties used pseudonyms to hide the payment of $130,000, but Cohen used his own name as "authorized person" for the company, according to the Journal. Cohen says Trump and Clifford have repeatedly denied having an intimate relationship. Cohen also denies making any payment to Clifford. This week, the magazine In Touch Weekly ran a 2011 interview in which Clifford described a 2006 encounter with Trump, although she has since denied they had an affair.

8

Exiled Zimbabwe opposition leader dies in New Mexico helicopter crash

An exiled Zimbabwean opposition leader, Roy Bennett, was among five people killed in a helicopter crash in New Mexico, the New Mexico State Police said Thursday. His wife, Heather Bennett, also was killed. The private Huey Bell UH-1 helicopter had six people on board. Only one survived, with injuries. Bennett, a former treasurer general of the opposition MDC party, served time in prison under former President Robert Mugabe, and recently told CNN that his country would never again let a dictator take over. "Roy was a resolute and committed fighter for democratic change in Zimbabwe," the MDC said in a statement.

9

USA Gymnastics cuts ties with Karolyi Ranch training center

USA Gymnastics said Thursday that it would sever ties with the Karolyi Ranch in rural Texas, which was long a training center for elite American gymnasts but was also one of the places where former team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts. USA Gymnastics had faced a torrent of criticism for continuing to hold training at the ranch, and some of the athletes Nassar molested had objected to having to return to the center to train ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Nassar has pleaded guilty to seven sexual assault charges.

10

New Zealand prime minister announces pregnancy

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday that she is expecting her first child in June. She said she would take six weeks of maternity leave. Ardern, 37, said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters would take over in her absence, but she would be "contactable and available" if members of her center-left coalition government need her input. Her partner, Clarke Gayford, will be a stay-at-home dad and primary care-giver. "Knowing that so many parents juggle the care of their new babies, we consider ourselves to be very lucky," she said. Ardern will be just the second elected world leader to give birth while in office. Benazir Bhutto had a daughter in 1990 while serving as Pakistan's prime minister.

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