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July 6, 2015

On Sunday, Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador, the first stop on his tour of South America that will include visits to Bolivia and Paraguay.

The pontiff, born in Argentina, is visiting three of the poorest and smallest countries on the continent just weeks after releasing his encyclical calling on leaders to hear "the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" due to climate change. "From the peak of Chimborazo to the Pacific coast, from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you," he said upon his arrival. "May you never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and your elderly, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country."

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as Pope Francis made his way to Quito, Reuters reports, with many waving flags featuring his picture and others throwing gifts. On Monday, he will deliver a mass in the coastal city of Guayaquil, and on Wednesday, he will fly to Bolivia to visit the Palmasola prison and is expected to speak up for the rights of indigenous people. While in Paraguay, the pope will meet with several social activists. Catherine Garcia

8:39 p.m.

A federal judge on Thursday struck down early-voting restrictions passed by Wisconsin Republicans during a lame-duck legislative session in December.

The measure limited early voting in Wisconsin to no more than two weeks before an election. It was signed into law by former Gov. Scott Walker (R), just a few weeks before he left office and was replaced by Gov. Tony Evers (D). Judge James Peterson on Thursday afternoon blocked the law, saying it was nearly identical to early-voting restrictions he struck down in 2016. He also blocked other laws passed during the lame-duck session, including one that bans voters from using expired student IDs as identification at the polls.

Over the last several years, major cities, including the overwhelmingly Democratic Milwaukee and Madison, have offered several weeks of early voting, NPR reports. Republicans have said this isn't fair, as smaller, more conservative communities can't afford to offer weeks of early voting. Catherine Garcia

7:49 p.m.

If you work for the White House and have any travel scheduled, you better hope your passport says "Melania Trump."

On Thursday afternoon, President Trump put the kibosh on a secret overseas trip House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) planned on taking to meet with troops in Afghanistan. Just a few hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that another trip was off, as Trump canceled the U.S. delegation's jaunt to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Sanders said the trip was canceled "out of consideration for the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay and to ensure his team can assist as needed." Trump tweeted earlier this month that he was no longer going to take his "very important trip" to Davos, and the delegation would have been led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, attending.

So far, there is just one person in the White House who hasn't had her travel plans canceled, and that's first lady Melania Trump. She boarded Air Force One on Thursday afternoon and flew down to Palm Beach, Florida, home to Trump's beloved club Mar-a-Lago. Maybe if everyone back in Washington is lucky, she'll send them a postcard. Catherine Garcia

6:37 p.m.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) apologized on Thursday for anti-LGBTQ comments she made while working for her father Mike Gabbard's organization, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage.

The Alliance for Traditional Marriage pushed for an amendment to Hawaii's state constitution banning same-sex marriage and advocated against pro-gay rights lawmakers, Politico reports. In the 1990s, Mike Gabbard said homosexuality is "not normal, not healthy, morally and scripturally wrong," and while running for Hawaii state legislature in 2002, Gabbard defended her father and her work for his group. Gabbard apologized for her comments in 2012, but since announcing last week that she will run for president in 2020, her past remarks are once again under scrutiny.

On Twitter, Gabbard said that she grew up in a socially conservative home and in her past, she "said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, hurtful to people in the LGBTQ+ community and their loved ones. I'm deeply sorry for having said and believed them." Now, she is a member of the House LGBT Equality Congress, and knows that "LGBTQ+ people still struggle, are still facing discrimination, are still facing abuse and still fear that their hard-won rights are going to be taken away by people who hold values like I used to. I regret the role I played in causing such pain, and I remain committed to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality." Catherine Garcia

6:02 p.m.

President Trump may want House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to fly commercial, but first lady Melania Trump certainly doesn't have to.

After the speaker suggested she might rescind her invitation for Trump to deliver the State of the Union address, the president promptly shelved what he called her "public relations" trip to "Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan" scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Members of Congress usually use Air Force One for these trips.

Air Force One still took off that afternoon, but it didn't head overseas, Politico's Jake Sherman and aircraft-watching CivMilAir tweeted. It was using code that typically means the first lady is onboard, and it was headed for Mar-a-Lago's city of Palm Beach, Florida.

Pelosi hadn't announced her Congressional Delegation, or codel, trip before Trump issued the letter, in which he encouraged her to either "negotiat[e] with him" about the ongoing government shutdown or take a commercial flight to Afghanistan. Pelosi responded by saying her codel was stopping in Brussels to meet with "top NATO commanders, U.S. military leaders and key allies." She was also headed to Afghanistan to meet with troops and "obtain critical national security and intelligence briefings," adding that a stop in Egypt was never part of the plan.

As NPR's Kelsey Snell pointed out, codels are usually not publicly announced for security reasons, making Trump's "flying commercial" suggestion useless. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:51 p.m.

Everything experts warned would happen after California's wildfires subsided? It's happening.

Massive snow, rain, and wind storms have rocked the state from top to bottom this week, leaving at least six dead, The Associated Press reports. And with thousands of acres of trees gone after October's massive wildfires, mudslides and flash floods were quick to follow.

Heavy rain and snow started falling Tuesday in "a significant part of California" thanks to a "storm rolling in from the Pacific Ocean," an Accuweather meteorologist told USA Today earlier this week. Conditions have remained harsh ever since, bringing a winter storm warning to southern California and blizzards to the tops of the Sierra Nevadas through Thursday. Four people died in storm-related car accidents, one died when a tree fell on a homeless encampment in Oakland, and another died while fleeing a falling tree, per AP.

While rain helped douse the Camp Fire in northern California in November, it also increased the risk of deadly floods and mudslides because no vegetation remained to absorb the runoff, experts said. Those risks became a reality this week as up to 7 inches of rain were expected through Friday in the ravaged town of Paradise, with the National Weather Service issuing a flash flood watch in the town's Butte County.

The storms came a week after President Trump said he would cut off federal disaster funding to the state because "with proper forest management," the wildfires "would never happen." Thousands of families are still rebuilding after last year's fires, and the government shutdown could delay recovery efforts even further. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:26 p.m.

Pennsylvania's 12th District just got a new representative. And now it needs another one.

Less than three weeks after he was sworn into office, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) has announced he's stepping down. Marino is going to "take a position in the private sector" after "spending over two decades serving the public," he said in a Thursday statement. He didn't exactly say what that private sector job is, but broke down three of the eight bills he's introduced that became laws in the press release.

Before easily winning his seat last fall, Marino served as a four-term senator for Pennsylvania's 10th District, which was redistricted into the 12th. President Trump nominated him to be the federal "drug czar" in 2017, but he withdrew his name after a report showed he pushed for a pharmaceutical industry-backed bill that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its biggest tool to fight prescription opioids entering the black market. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will now have to schedule a special election for the heavily Republican district, per Politico.

Marino's decision is especially ironic seeing as just last week, he introduced an amendment to the constitution that would let representatives serve 4-year terms. In a statement accompanying the proposed amendment, Marino said he'd "serve 12 years and then let new blood and ideas take the reins," but apparently he let go a few years early. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:45 p.m.

All Keanu Reeves' John Wick ever wanted was to hang out with his puppy, Daisy. But after losing his dog — not to mention his wife, house, car, and pretty much everything else to hordes of gun, knife, and grenade-launcher-toting gangsters in the first two John Wick films, it doesn't seem like things are getting any easier for the perpetually-pulled-out-of-retirement-by-a-righteous-code-of-honor hitman, if the first trailer for John Wick 3: Parabellum, released Thursday, is any indication. From the looks of things, the series' world-building maximalism, rain-splashed neon colors, and, of course, femur-snapping violence are entirely present in the franchise's second sequel — with a swaggering Halle Berry now added for good measure.

John Wick 3: Parabellum opens on May 17, and will look to build on the surprising box office success of John Wick: Chapter 2, which earned $171.5 million — more than double that of the original, which pulled in $88.8 million. Reeves could certainly use a hit, with his much-derided new sci-fi thriller, Replicas, having earned a paltry $2.9 million, according to Box Office Mojo — or roughly $11 million less than the bounty placed on our hero's head in John Wick 3: Parabellum.Jacob Lambert

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