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Daily Briefing

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

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Harold Maass
A celebration in Taiwan
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1.

Trump unveils proposal for immigration overhaul

President Trump on Thursday revealed his new proposal to revamp parts of the country's immigration system, seeking to favor people with certain skills over those with family ties to people already in the U.S. The program would offer more opportunities for immigrants with specialized training or job offers who are proficient in English and pass a civics test. Trump unveiled the plan, which was developed by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, at a ceremony in the Rose Garden. The proposal cuts back on family-based immigration and calls for construction on Trump's long-promised southern border wall, but does not address the legal status of undocumented immigrants, including so-called DREAMers who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children. Critics said the plan had no chance in Congress. [The New York Times]

2.

Taiwan becomes first place in Asia to approve same-sex marriage

Lawmakers in Taiwan on Friday approved a bill making the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. The vote came after Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in May 2017 that a law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman was unconstitutional. The judges called for changing the law within two years. Taiwan has a large gay community but the subject of same-sex marriage remains controversial. In a November referendum, 67 percent of voters rejected same-sex marriage. Conservative groups in recent months campaigned for a law that would have drawn a line between heterosexual and "same-sex unions." The successful bill had the backing of LGBTQ groups. It includes limited adoption rights — the child must be related to one of the spouses. [CNN]

3.

Missouri House approves bill to ban abortion at 8 weeks

The Missouri House on Friday passed a bill banning abortion at eight weeks, with exceptions in medical emergencies but not in cases of rape or incest. The legislation was passed by the state Senate on Thursday, and now goes to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R), who has indicated he will sign the bill into law. If passed, doctors who perform abortions after eight weeks would face between five and 15 years in prison. The bill includes a "trigger" banning abortion outright if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Restrictive anti-abortion laws in Alabama, Georgia, and several other states are expected to face legal challenges that could reach the Supreme Court.

4.

Trump disclosure forms show mixed year for his businesses

President Trump's businesses showed mixed results in 2018, according to a financial disclosure form released Thursday. Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, brought in $22.7 million, nearly 10 percent less than the year before, while his Washington hotel, where many of his supporters stay, had revenue of $40.8 million, slightly more than in 2017. The filing offered an updated general view of the president's finances. His 2017 disclosure reported revenues of $453 million and assets totaling $1.4 billion or more. No full tally of his 2018 finances was immediately available, and the forms don't show profits and losses. [The New York Times]

5.

Trump administration cancels $929 million for California high-speed rail

The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it was canceling $929 million in funding that had been earmarked for California's high-speed rail program in 2010. The Federal Railroad Administration said the cancellation, after an appeal by California, came because the state "repeatedly failed to comply" and "failed to make reasonable progress on the project." The FRA also said it was considering seeking the return of $2.5 billion already sent to California, and assessing "all options." The move marked an escalation in President Trump's fight with the state over a host of issues, including immigration and vehicle emissions standards. Trump vowed to cut the funding after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in February that the state was scaling back the rail system due to rising costs and delays. [Reuters]

6.

Saudi Arabia blames Iran for drone strike on oil pipeline

Saudi Arabia on Thursday accused Tehran of orchestrating a drone strike that shut down a Saudi oil pipeline this week. A newspaper with ties to the royal family urged the U.S. to respond with "surgical" strikes on Iran. The Trump administration has been warning of a possible looming attack by Iran on U.S. interests in the region, and has moved U.S. warships and bombers to the Persian Gulf. Four oil tankers were sabotaged Sunday off the United Arab Emirates, and Yemeni rebels who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition and are aligned with Iran have claimed responsibility. Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted that the drone attacks on two Saudi Aramco pumping stations were "ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis," the Yemeni rebel group. [The Associated Press]

7.

Judge orders Manning back to jail for refusal to cooperate with new grand jury

A federal judge on Thursday ordered former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to return to jail after she refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Manning had just been released after spending 62 days in jail for refusing to testify before a previous grand jury, whose term expired earlier this month. "I would rather starve to death than change my position in this regard," Manning told the court. "Confinement serves no purpose." Manning served seven years in prison for leaking secret government documents to WikiLeaks and was released in 2017 after former President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence. U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger said Manning is merely being asked to "come answer questions truthfully." [NBC News, NPR]

8.

Flynn told investigators of possible obstruction attempts

During his interviews with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told investigators that people with ties to the Trump administration and Congress contacted him in an attempt to interfere with the Russia investigation, according to documents made public Thursday. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the administration to hand over a transcript of a voicemail left by President Trump's attorney in November 2017, when Flynn was considering cooperating with Mueller, reminding Flynn of Trump's fondness for him. Sullivan also ordered prosecutors to provide a transcript of Flynn's conversations with Russian officials. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia's ambassador. [The Washington Post, CNBC]

9.

5 more states sue accusing Purdue Pharma of fueling opioid crisis

Five more states on Thursday filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma accusing the drug maker of contributing to the nationwide opioid epidemic. The suits by Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Wisconsin, and West Virginia, which accused Purdue of using deceptive marketing practices to boost sales of the drug OxyContin, brought to 44 the number of states taking legal action against the company. "This filing today represents another step forward to stop the senseless deaths and bring accountability to the system," West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey said. The states, excluding Kansas, also targeted former Purdue Pharma president Richard Sackler, who resigned from the company's board in 2018. [NBC News]

10.

Architect I.M. Pei dies at 102

Architect I.M. Pei, who designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, has died, his family announced Thursday. He was 102. Born in China, he came to America in 1935. After graduating from Harvard, Pei started designing high-rises with William Zeckendorf's New York City firm Webb & Knapp. He launched his own firm, I.M. Pei & Associates, in 1955, and had a storied international career, designing such buildings as the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Pei's modernist structures were known for clean lines and simple geometry. Some, including the Louvre pyramid, shocked people before being praised as masterpieces. [The New York Times]