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10 things you need to know today: September 16, 2019

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Harold Maass
Brett Kavanaugh in Washington
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1.

Trump dismisses Democrats' call for Kavanaugh impeachment

President Trump on Sunday dismissed Democratic presidential candidates' calls for impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh following a New York Times report revealing a previously unreported sexual misconduct allegation dating to Kavanaugh's years as a student at Yale. The Times reported that a Yale classmate had alerted senators and the FBI to the allegations during Kavanaugh's confirmation. He denied allegations of sexual misconduct during his confirmation hearing. Trump urged Kavanaugh to fight back. "Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue," Trump tweeted Sunday. The Times article said at least seven people had confirmed the new allegation that Kavanaugh had his pants down at a drunken party when friends pushed his penis into a female student's hands. [Reuters, The New York Times]

2.

Oil prices surge after attack disrupts Saudi production

Oil prices jumped by 15 percent Sunday after weekend drone attacks on key oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia. Half of the country's oil production was halted, and a damage assessment is expected on Monday. The ongoing impact on oil prices and gasoline prices will depend on how bad the damage is and how long repairs take, industry analysts said. Saudi Arabia's stock market also was shaken by the news, and fell on Sunday. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there is "no evidence the attacks came from Yemen." U.S. officials have instead pointed the finger at Iran, but Tehran has denied involvement. President Trump said the U.S. is "locked and loaded" but waiting to decide how to react until after Saudi Arabia determines definitively who was behind the strikes. [Reuters, CNBC]

3.

UAW union goes on strike against General Motors

United Auto Workers went on strike against General Motors on Monday following the collapse of talks on a new contract over differences on pay and health-care benefits. The union represents more than 46,000 GM workers at more than 50 U.S. facilities. This is the UAW's first national strike since 2007. The UAW extended its contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler while negotiations with those automakers continue. GM said Sunday the auto company's offer to the union includes more than $7 billion in investments, more than 5,400 jobs, higher pay, and improved benefits, but union leaders said the sides are far apart on economic issues, despite some progress being made in the negotiation. [USA Today, The Detroit News]

4.

Democrats tell Trump gun bill won't 'get the job done' without background checks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they told President Trump on Sunday that his gun-control proposal "will not get the job done" unless it includes universal background checks for gun buyers. Trump is expected to unveil his proposal this week in the aftermath of a series of deadly mass shootings in August. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that "these horrendous shootings, in my opinion, deserve a response," but that Republicans were waiting to see what gun bills Trump would sign into law before proposing legislation. [Reuters, CBS News]

5.

Polling firm projects outsider and media magnate qualify for Tunisia runoff

A polling firm on Sunday projected that Kais Saied, an independent outsider, won the first round of Tunisia's presidential election with 19.5 percent of the vote. Jailed media magnate Nabil Karoui was in second place with 15.5 percent, according to the projections by Sigma Conseil. Abdelfattah Mourou, the candidate of the moderate Islamist Party Ennahdha, appeared to be in third place at 11 percent. The North African nation's prime minister, Youssef Chahed, did not appear to be among the top four in the field of 26 candidates. Preliminary official results are expected Tuesday, after which the top two contenders are expected to advance to a Nov. 3 runoff. The vote was Tunisia's second free presidential election since its Arab Spring revolt led to the end of 22 years of dictatorship. [The Associated Press, The Telegraph]

6.

New York set to ban flavored e-cigarette sales

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday that the state's health commissioner this week would recommend banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The commissioner will make the proposal to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council, which has the power to issue emergency regulations that could be enforced in two weeks. Cuomo said it was unacceptable to market flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy that have been blamed for rising vaping among teens. "These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people," he said. Nearly 40 percent of the state's high school seniors and 27 percent of its high school students overall use e-cigarettes, according to the state health department. High school use was just 10.5 percent in 2014. [The Associated Press]

7.

Johnson meets with Juncker seeking Brexit revisions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson heads to Luxembourg on Monday for his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in an effort to revise Britain's deal on its exit from the European Union. Johnson has vowed to lead the U.K. out of the EU as scheduled on Oct. 31, with or without a Brexit deal, although Parliament has passed a law to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Johnson said Monday in a Daily Telegraph column that he believes "passionately" that he can negotiate revisions to the divorce agreement that his predecessor, Theresa May, struck with the EU, only to have Parliament reject it three times. [The Associated Press, The Telegraph]

8.

Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy Sunday days after reaching a tentative settlement with many of the state and local governments that accuse the drug manufacturer of fueling the opioid crisis. The settlement reportedly could be worth $12 billion. The Sackler family, which owns the company, agreed to pay at least $3 billion and relinquish control of the company. Some of Purdue's legal battles are continuing. About half of the states declined to sign the settlement, which is expected to lead to the end of the company. Purdue's profitable and highly addictive painkiller OxyContin has been closely linked to the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharma marketed the time-released opioid as a safer narcotic painkiller, but it was blamed for a rise in addiction and overdose deaths. [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]

9.

It: Chapter Two holds onto domestic box office lead

It: Chapter Two held onto its spot at the top of the weekend box office, bringing in $40.7 million in the U.S. and Canada. The haul in its second weekend brought the total for the film, featuring the evil clown Pennywise, to $153.8 million, according to studio estimates. Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, smashed expectations and earned $33.2 million, the best ever for a film from STX Entertainment. The film got a boost from excellent reviews and Oscar buzz for Lopez. Hustlers, based on a New York magazine article, is the true story of strippers struggling with the recession's effects on their Wall Street customers, and start a side hustle, drugging rich clients, running up big credit card bills, and taking a cut. [The Associated Press]

10.

Cars frontman Ric Ocasek dies at 75

Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the new wave band The Cars, died Sunday in New York City. He was 75. Ocasek was found unresponsive in his Manhattan home late Sunday afternoon by his estranged wife, model Paulina Porizkova. He appeared to have died of natural causes. The Cars' self-titled debut album marked a milestone for new-wave music, hit the top 20 on the Billboard 200, and included the hit singles "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl." The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Ocasek was best known as The Cars' frontman, rhythm guitarist, and main songwriter, but he also was a successful producer, working with everyone from Weezer to No Doubt to Bad Brains. [Billboard, Page Six]