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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 17, 2019

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Harold Maass
French President Emmanuel Macron gives a televised address
YOAN VALAT/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

Macron calls for rebuilding Notre Dame in 5 years

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday he wanted Paris' Notre Dame cathedral rebuilt within five years following a massive fire that destroyed the 850-year-old landmark's spire and nearly its entire roof. "We will rebuild the cathedral and make it even more beautiful," Macron said in a televised address. "We can do it." Experts cautioned that it could take up to 15 years to complete the work. The iconic Gothic cathedral's rose windows and two main towers survived, and the stone structure was declared structurally sound. Still, within hours, donors had pledged more than $1 billion to reconstruct the destroyed portions. French billionaires and major businesses announced millions of dollars in donations. Police believe the fire was started by accident, possibly related to ongoing renovation work. [The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press]

2.

Trump vetoes resolution against involvement in Yemen war

President Trump on Tuesday vetoed a congressional resolution that sought to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. "This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future," Trump said in a statement. It was only the second veto of Trump's presidency. The U.S. now can continue aiding Saudi Arabia in a bombing campaign aiming to contain expansion in the region by Iran, which supports the rebels. Human rights groups say the Saudi-led effort has targeted civilian facilities and disrupted aid shipments, exacerbating a devastating humanitarian crisis. [The Washington Post]

3.

Barr orders immigration judges to deny asylum seekers bail

Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday ordered immigration judges to stop allowing bail for asylum seekers who have established "a credible fear of persecution or torture" in their home country. President Trump recently stepped up his criticism of the "catch and release" system. The policy reversal could leave thousands of immigrants in detention for months or years until their cases are heard. "Basically if you pass the initial asylum screening you can now be indefinitely detained," said immigration attorney Eileen Blessinger. The ruling won't take effect for 90 days, and several groups have promised legal challenges. "Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process," said the ACLU's Omar Jadwat. [CNN, The Washington Post]

4.

Colorado schools on alert after Columbine threat

Colorado authorities on Tuesday placed Columbine High School and 21 other public schools on a "lockout" security alert due to a "credible threat." After the lockout, which allows operations to continue but restricts entry and exits from schools, officials announced that Denver-area schools would be closed Wednesday. The incident came four days before the 20th anniversary of the April 1999 Columbine massacre, which left 12 students and a teacher dead. Authorities launched a search for a suspect identified as Sol Pais, 18, whom they said was "infatuated" with Columbine. Pais flew to Colorado from Miami and bought a pump-action shotgun. She is "armed and extremely dangerous," police said, and was last seen in the foothills of Jefferson County, wearing a black T-shirt, black boots, and camouflage pants. [Reuters, The Denver Post]

5.

Egyptian lawmakers approve extending Sisi's rule

Egypt's Parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes to the national constitution that could allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to rule until 2030. The 531-22 vote in the pro-Sisi Parliament would give the former military leader unprecedented control over the judicial system. The changes to the constitution will also declare the military "the guardian and protector" of Egypt's democracy and constitution, which critics argue will give the armed forces too much political power. While the amendments still need final authorization by public vote, Sisi's government has already clamped down on opposition by blocking online petitions urging people to vote against the changes. [The Washington Post]

6.

New Interior secretary already under investigation

The Interior Department's inspector general has launched an investigation into ethics complaints against Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who was just confirmed by the Senate last week. Eight Democratic senators and four government ethics watchdog groups requested inquiries after allegations revealed in The New York Times suggest that Bernhardt, a former lobbyist, used his previous position as Interior deputy secretary to support a policy advocated by a former client. The Times also reported that Bernhardt kept working as a lobbyist after filing documents saying he had stopped, and that he blocked a report on a chemical pesticide's threat to endangered species. [The New York Times]

7.

Trump to allow lawsuits against companies over confiscated Cuba property

The Trump administration plans to let Cuban-Americans and other U.S. citizens sue foreign companies in U.S. courts for using properties Cuba's Communist government has confiscated since Fidel Castro's revolution six decades ago, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing a senior U.S. official. The policy shift, part of an effort to pressure Cuba over its support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, reportedly will be announced Wednesday. It could discourage foreign investment on the island by exposing U.S., European, and Canadian companies to legal battles. President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, is expected to announce the decision in a Miami speech in which he also will announce new sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, countries he calls a "troika of tyranny." [Reuters]

8.

Burned Louisiana black churches get donations inspired by Notre Dame

A crowdfunding campaign for three Louisiana black churches recently destroyed by an arsonist received a wave of new donations on Tuesday inspired by the reaction to the fire at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. The nearly week-old campaign started the day with about $92,000, but more than $750,000 in donations poured in after it was shared widely on social media. "These communities need to know that people care about them and what they're going through," Jessica Piombo, a California professor, wrote on the campaign's GoFundMe page. "Every little bit counts." Holden Matthews, the white 21-year-old son of a sheriff's deputy charged with setting the Louisiana church fires, was charged earlier this week with hate crimes on top of the arson allegations he already faced. [The New York Times, NBC News]

9.

Apple and Qualcomm settle royalty dispute

Apple and Qualcomm said Tuesday that they had agreed to dismiss their dueling lawsuits around the world. As a trial had started in a San Diego federal courtroom in an Apple complaint against Qualcomm, the companies said they had reached a six-year agreement under which Apple will pay unspecified royalties on Qualcomm patents. Apple, maker of the iPhone, and Qualcomm, the biggest provider of mobile chips, had been battling over how Qualcomm charges royalties on its patents on mobile chips. Qualcomm in the 1990s pioneered technology now critical in mobile devices, allowing it to charge royalties on smartphones even if they don't have Qualcomm chips. The settlement suggests Apple will drop its objection to the arrangement, assuming Qualcomm's royalties aren't set too high. Qualcomm shares jumped by more than 20 percent after the news. [The New York Times, CNBC]

10.

States battered by last weekend's storms brace for more severe weather

Another blast of severe weather is forecast for the southern Plains, the Midwest, and the South, starting Wednesday, just days after violent, tornado-spawning storms last weekend killed nine people. The storms will hit the Plains on Wednesday, moving east through the Midwest on Thursday before extending from the mid-Atlantic to northern Florida on the East Coast by Friday. About 118 million people live in areas that could get severe storms, some possibly with tornadoes. "Some of the same communities devastated by this weekend's severe weather in the South will be at risk again," according to AccuWeather meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. [USA Today]