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April 25, 2019

North Korea presented the United States with a $2 million bill for Otto Warmbier's hospital care — and the U.S. agreed to pay it, The Washington Post reports.

When a U.S. envoy, Joseph Yun, went to Pyongyang in 2017 to bring the detained American student home, the Post reports he was issued a $2 million bill. Warmbier had fallen into a coma after he was detained in 2016 and remained unconscious for 15 months, dying six days after he finally returned to the U.S.

Yun signed a pledge agreeing the U.S. would pay this $2 million bill under orders from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump, the report says. Otto Warmbier's father, Fred Warmbier, told Post he hadn't heard about the hospital bill but that it sounds like a "ransom" for his son.

Trump had previously touted the fact that "we got our hostages back" from North Korea and "I paid nothing." CNN reports that the U.S. has not paid the bill, with a Trump administration official saying, "We made clear that they never going to get anything." Another source said that the bill did not come up during Trump's summits with Kim Jong Un but noted that it could come up in the future. Brendan Morrow

11:09 p.m.

ABC News and Univision are partnering to host the next Democratic primary debate, and they released details on Wednesday night about what viewers can expect.

The debate will be held at Texas Southern University in Houston, moderated by chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, World News Tonight anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis, and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. One debate will definitely take place on Sept. 12, and a second will be held on Sept. 13 if enough candidates qualify. Participants will have 1 minute and 15 seconds to answer direct questions, and 45 seconds for rebuttals.

Under Democratic National Committee rules, if 10 or fewer candidates meet the requirements to participate, the debate will only take place on one night, but if there are more than 10 candidates, the debate will spill over into a second night. If this happens, on Aug. 29 ABC News will randomly assign candidates to a night. To qualify, candidates must receive at least 2 percent support in at least four specific polls, plus contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 400 unique donors from 20 states.

ABC News said that so far, 10 candidates have qualified for the debate: former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Catherine Garcia

10:06 p.m.

If you watch Bravo or enjoy low-calorie cocktails, you know who Bethenny Frankel is.

Beloved by fans for her snarky commentary, Frankel was one of the original Real Housewives of New York and its biggest star, and she used her time on the show to successfully advertise her brand, Skinnygirl, and score a spinoff, Bethenny Ever After. She left RHONY after Season 3 in 2010 and returned in 2015, but announced on Wednesday she's exiting the franchise once again, telling Variety she wants to "explore my next chapter. It's time to move on and focus on my daughter, my philanthropy, and my production partnership with Mark Burnett, producing and starring in shows which represent a shift in the conversation for women."

Frankel's first foray in reality television was on 2005's The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. In addition to starring on RHONY and Bethenny Ever After, Frankel briefly had her own talk show, Bethenny, and another Bravo spinoff, the real estate-themed Bethenny & Fredrik. She has also written several books and launched a charity, B Strong, which has assisted hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, Houston, and North Carolina. Catherine Garcia

9:25 p.m.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced on Wednesday night he is quitting the 2020 presidential race.

Inslee broke the news on The Rachel Maddow Show, and said he is happy that his campaign raised the profile of climate change. "I've been fighting climate change for 25 years and I've never been so confident of the ability of Americans now to reach critical mass to move the ball," he said. "I believe we are going to have a candidate to fight this battle, and I'm inspired by the people I've met across the country."

Inslee said he will support the eventual Democratic nominee, and hopes to help all of the candidates raise their ambition levels when it comes to climate change. He also told Maddow he will make a statement on Thursday regarding whether he will run for governor again. Catherine Garcia

8:57 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said 16 states have reported 153 cases of serious respiratory illnesses in people who vape.

Most of the patients said they had difficulty breathing and experienced chest pain before going to the hospital, and several also said they used products containing THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes a person high. Officials are trying to get to the bottom of what exactly is causing the illnesses, and are now trying to determine which products were used. Doctors say it will be difficult to track the illness, because it is not mandatory to report vaping-related lung disease.

The cases were reported from June 28 to Aug. 20, with mostly teenagers and young adults affected. The CDC said it has not received any reports of death linked to the illness. Catherine Garcia

8:02 p.m.

A California state senator who authored a bill to restrict vaccine exemptions was assaulted in Sacramento on Wednesday by an anti-vaccine activist, police said.

State Sen. Richard Pan (D) was walking with a colleague when Kenneth Austin Bennett pushed him from behind, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bennett livestreamed the incident on Facebook, and is heard saying, "I probably shouldn't have done that." When he uploaded the video, he added the caption: "Yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us, and for treason." Pan, he continued, "got what he deserved, he would be hanged for treason for assaulting children, for misrepresenting the truth."

Pan was not hurt in the incident. Bennet was cited for assault and has been released. In 2018, Bennett tried to challenge Pan in the primary, but did not qualify for the general election. Earlier this year, he filed a recall petition against Pan, accusing him of committing treason because he wants more kids in the state to be vaccinated.

Ever since Pan wrote his 2015 bill tightening vaccine requirements for kids in schools, he has been targeted by anti-vaxxers, his spokeswoman Shannan Velayas told the Times. "This is moving from a peculiar fringe curiosity to a violent extremist movement," she said. "Unfortunately, this is not a surprise when violent rhetoric is used." Catherine Garcia

7:02 p.m.

One day after saying the White House was considering new tax cuts to boost the economy, President Trump reversed course, telling reporters he isn't contemplating reducing capital gains and payroll taxes.

"I just don't see any reason to," he said Wednesday. "We don't need it. We have a strong economy." Trump and his aides have been pushing this narrative, saying there is no recession in sight and dismissing warning signs like an inverted yield curve last week and the growth in economic output dropping to a 2.1 percent annual rate in the second quarter, well below the 3.1 percent growth rate in the first three months of 2019.

Trump's announcement on Tuesday that he was interested in pay cuts came as a surprise to several White House staffers who told The Wall Street Journal they haven't been considering any of Trump's ideas. "The president threw it out ... but he was just throwing things out," one official said regarding payroll tax cuts.

Trump has been urging the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates quickly, which the Journal notes is usually done when the economy is struggling. He's bashed Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on several occasions, accusing him of holding U.S. growth back, and on Wednesday, the president compared Powell to "a golfer who can't putt." Catherine Garcia

5:16 p.m.

A startup aiming to produce coffee sans coffee beans was awarded $2.6 million in funding from Horizon Ventures, which also funded Impossible Foods, the Observer reports.

Atomo, a Seattle-based company, calls their product "molecular coffee." It's made from naturally sustainable ingredients, which they keep secret, reports GeekWire. The company hopes to reduce the environmental impact of coffee production by eliminating the need for farming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that if the Earth continues to warm, areas suitable for coffee farming will face environmental obstacles that make cultivation more difficult, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.

"Instead of coffee bean farming, we are sourcing as many ingredients from upcycled natural products to help reduce cost and waste within the supply chain," co-founder Jarret Stopforth told the Observer.

The coffee-free coffee grounds would join the likes of dairy-free milks and meatless meat, and could hit store shelves as soon as 2020.

But don't worry about your brew being replaced just yet. Atomo doesn't want to take over the coffee industry, but to become a "sustainable partner," says CEO Andy Kleitsch. Read more at the Observer. Taylor Watson

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