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10 things you need to know today: January 14, 2019

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Harold Maass
Lindsey Graham at a press conference
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1.

Graham urges Trump to open government temporarily

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an outspoken ally of President Trump, on Sunday said he urged Trump to approve temporary measures to reopen the federal government, which enters its 24th day on Monday and already is the longest partial shutdown ever. Trump is refusing to accept any deal on funding federal agencies until Democrats agree to allocate $5.7 billion for his promised wall on the Mexican border. Graham said Trump should agree to reopen shuttered agencies for a limited period, possibly three weeks, to allow talks on border security spending, and declare a national emergency to get money for the wall if no progress is made on a deal. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday found that 53 percent of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown, while 29 percent blame congressional Democrats. [Reuters, The Washington Post]

2.

Judge blocks Trump birth-control coverage rules in 13 states, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam on Sunday temporarily blocked Trump administration rules that would let more employers refuse to provide free birth control in employee health plans. The ruling blocks the new regulation from taking effect on Monday in 13 states and Washington, D.C., pending the outcome of their lawsuit against it. The Trump administration rule gives a broader range of employers the right to claim exemption from the Affordable Care Act requirement that employer insurance plans provide birth control services. Previously, only explicitly religious groups could opt out due to religious objections. Under the Trump rule, nonprofit groups, for-profit companies, other nongovernmental employers, and schools and universities would have the right to be excused, too. [NBC News]

3.

Report: White House requested military options to strike Iran

President Trump's National Security Council last year asked the Pentagon to provide military options for a strike against Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing current and former U.S. officials. The request, under the direction of Trump's hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton, came after a militant group aligned with Iran launched three mortar rounds into an empty lot on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in September. Nobody was hurt. Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis and other officials were alarmed by the NSC's request, and successfully opposed retaliating. NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said it's the council's job to present the president with "a full range of options" to protect diplomats and U.S. interests. [The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times]

4.

McCarthy promises 'action' after Steve King's white supremacy remarks

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Sunday that "action will be taken" against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) over his questioning of why people find the terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" offensive. "I'm having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party," McCarthy said on CBS's Face the Nation. McCarthy said he would discuss the matter with King on Monday. McCarthy did not specify what actions he might take, but some lawmakers have suggested censuring King or stripping his committee assignments over the comments King made to The New York Times, the latest in a series of remarks on society and immigration that critics have called racist. After his latest comments, he said on the House floor that he isn't "anti-immigrant." [The Hill]

5.

Los Angeles Unified School District teachers set to strike Monday

More than 25,000 teachers plan to go on strike Monday in Los Angeles for the first time in 30 years. Class sizes, hiring of more nurses and counselors, and pay are among the sticking points. The district on Friday offered a 6 percent raise spread over two years; the union wants 6.5 percent to take effect all at once. The district is the nation's second largest, with 694,000 students. District officials said schools would remain open, staffed by substitutes and administrators. The showdown in blue-state California follows walkouts that hit the red states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona last year. United Teachers Los Angeles secretary and negotiations team co-chair Ilene Inouye said the strike "is a last resort." [Politico, NBC Los Angeles]

6.

Winter storm death toll rises

The death toll from a winter storm that battered the Midwest rose to at least nine people on Sunday. The dead included a state trooper who was responding to a crash. The storm started hitting parts of the region on Friday with sleet and slush. It snarled traffic, causing more than 800 snow-related crashes in Missouri alone. At least 57 people were injured in the state, and four people were killed. The icy weather also forced the cancellation of dozens of flights, and cut power to thousands of homes and businesses. The storm moved on to cover the Washington, D.C., area with several inches of snow. [The Washington Post]

7.

Trump warns U.S. will 'devastate Turkey economically' if it attacks Kurds

President Trump warned Sunday that the U.S. would "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. Critics of Trump's decision to withdraw America's 2,000 troops from Syria have said the move would leave Kurdish allies fighting the Islamic State vulnerable to attack by Ankara, which views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists allied with Kurdish insurgents within Turkey. Trump also tweeted a warning to Kurdish forces, telling them not to "provoke Turkey." U.S. Defense Department officials said last week that the U.S. withdrawal had begun with shipments of military equipment out of Syria. [The Associated Press]

8.

Indonesia recovers Lion Air jet's cockpit voice recorder

Navy divers found the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea in October, killing all 189 people on board, Indonesian officials said Monday. Remains of some of the victims were also found near the black box on the sea floor, said Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy maritime minister. The plane crashed in 98-foot-deep water, and the recorder was found beneath 26 feet of seabed mud. "This is good news, especially for us who lost our loved ones," said Irianto, the father of Rio Nanda Pratama, a doctor who died in the crash. "Even though we don't yet know the contents of the CVR, this is some relief from our despair." The device was sent to a Navy port in Jakarta and will be given to investigators. [CBS News]

9.

May makes last-ditch appeal for support ahead of key Brexit vote

British Prime Minister Theresa May is making a last-minute appeal for her Brexit plan ahead of a key vote in Parliament on Tuesday. May is telling factory workers that if her plan fails, it is more likely that Parliament will scrap Brexit entirely than let the U.K. leave as scheduled in March with no deal. A significant number of Brexit supporters now argue a "no deal" Brexit is the best option. Brexit opponents are hoping to force a second referendum or, according to one plan being floated, let Parliament take control of the process. May is warning Monday that if lawmakers stop the U.K. from leaving the European Union as called for in a referendum, "people's faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm." [BBC News, Reuters]

10.

The Upside bumps Aquaman out of top spot at box office

STXFilms' The Upside knocked Aquaman out of the top spot in the domestic box office, making a better-than-expected $19.6 million in its debut weekend. The remake of the popular French film The Intouchables originally was rated R, but STX worked with the producers and director Neil Burger to recut it to get a PG-13 rating after acquiring the film in the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy aftermath. That gave it access to a wider audience. Aquaman dropped to No. 2 after spending three weekends at No. 1. It added $17.3 million domestically and another $27.9 million overseas. The weekend haul brought Aquaman's global total to just over $1 billion. It is now the second-highest-grossing DC Comics movie adaptation, behind only The Dark Knight Rises, which made just under $1.1 billion. [Box Office Mojo]