Top News Stories For Today – Feb 9, 2018
Winter Olympics kick off
The first events of the 2018 Winter Olympics began on Thursday in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but the Games officially kicked off Friday with the opening ceremony at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium at 8 p.m. in South Korea, 6 a.m. on the US East Coast. Americans can watch Olympic coverage on NBC or NBCOlympics.com.
The US flag was being carried by Erin Hamlin, a bronze medalist in luge, while North and South Korean athletes marched in together, led by South Korean bobsledder Won Yun-jong. Ninety-one countries will be participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics, but Russian athletes will have to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia, under the International Olympic Committee flag, after Russia was banned for violating anti-doping laws. USA Today, CNN
House passes budget deal
The House approved the sweeping budget bill early Friday, clearing the way for the government to re-open. But not before the federal government shut down. It was the second government shutdown in less than three weeks, and last only a few hours. The measure now heads to President Trump for his signature.
The spending legislation passed 71-28, with wide bipartisan support. The bill would reopen the government while showering hundreds of billions of dollars on defense and domestic priorities, speeding disaster aid to hurricane-hit regions, and lifting the federal borrowing limit for a year. But first it must pass the House, where opposition from the left and the right made the outcome uncertain. House votes were expected later Friday morning. The Washington Post
Colombia boosts military near Venezuelan border
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday that he was boosting the military presence along the border with Venezuela as tens of thousands of Venezuelans have tried to escape food and fuel shortages and a clampdown on civil rights. “This is a tragedy and I want to reiterate to [Venezuelan] President [Nicolas] Maduro: This is the result of your policies,” Santos said.
Santos said Colombia would also no longer issue special cards to Venezuelans, allowing them to temporarily cross the border to buy food, medicine and other goods that are scarce at home. Colombia estimates 600,000 Venezuelans are living in Colombia, twice as many as last August. Santos called on the international community to help provide aid to the Venezuelans in his country. VOA
Dow falls sharply for 2nd time this week
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 1,000 points, or 4 percent, during Thursday trading. The S&P 500 also dropped 100 points, or 3.75 percent. The losses met “the accepted definition of a correction,” Bloomberg notes, citing concerns about rising interest rates for ongoing market turmoil.
On Monday, the Dow recorded its largest ever single-day plunge, dropping more than 1,100 points by the time markets closed, but it recovered more than 560 of those points Tuesday. President Trump on Wednesday scolded the market for its declines, saying it was making a “big mistake” by falling in spite of “so much good (great) news about the economy.” Bloomberg, Reuters
DREAMers in the military won’t be deported
Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, known as DREAMers, who are serving in the military will not be deported, even if the program expires in March before Congress can come up with an immigration deal. “We would always stand by one of our people,” he said.
Mattis’ promise extends to DACA recipients who are on active duty, in the active reserves, veterans who were honorably discharged, and new troops who have signed contracts and are waiting to go to boot camp. He also said he confirmed with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a phone call on Thursday that such protections are in place. The Hill
Britain targets global corruption
Politicians, public figures and criminals suspected of buying property with corrupt money will be forced to explain their wealth or see their assets seized under new legislation, Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), that has come into force in Britain this month.
The anti-corruption organization Transparency International has identified five properties they say British authorities could immediately begin investigating using Unexplained Wealth Orders. Among them are two apartments overlooking the River Thames that are worth about $15 million, owned by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov, whose self-declared annual salary is $157,000. London’s Belgravia district lies another $ 20 million house, owned by Toyin Saraki, the wife of the president of the Nigerian Senate, Bukola Saraki, is at the center of corruption allegations, too. VOA
Trump proposes reduction of drug costs
President Donald Trump will propose lowering prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing them to share in rebates that drug companies pay to insurers and middlemen, an administration official said.
A senior administration official outlined the plan Thursday on condition of anonymity ahead of the release of Trump’s 2019 budget plan next week. Pharmaceutical companies now pay rebates to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to help their medications gain a bigger slice of the market. Insurers apply savings from rebates to keep premiums more manageable. Under Trump’s proposal, seniors covered by Medicare’s popular “Part D” prescription benefit would be able to share in the rebates for individual drugs that they purchase at the pharmacy. Associated Press
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