Top News Stories for Today – January 12, 2017

Top News Stories for Today – January 12, 2017

Senate begin repealing ObamaCare

Senate begin repealing ObamaCareEarly Thursday, after voting down dozens of amendments proposed by Democrats over seven hours, Senate Republicans approved a budget resolution measure officially beginning the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with no replacement yet proposed.

The resolution, which passed on a partisan 51-48 vote — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined all Democrats present in voting nay — instructs relevant committees to draft legislation to repeal ObamaCare by Jan. 27. The House plans to vote on the resolution Friday. The budget resolution maneuver allows Senate Republicans to excise large parts of the law with a simple majority, but any laws to replace ObamaCare will likely need at least 60 votes. The Washington Post, USA Today, The Week



Steele in hiding after Trump dossier

Christopher Steele in hiding after Trump dossierAn ex-MI6 officer who is believed to have prepared memos claiming Russia has compromising material on US President-elect Donald Trump is now in hiding, the BBC understands. Christopher Steele, who runs a London-based intelligence firm, is believed to have left his home this week. The memos contains unsubstantiated claims that Russian security officials have compromising material on Mr Trump. Trump said the claims were “fake news” and “phoney stuff”.

Mr Steele has been widely named as the author of a series of memos – which has been published as a dossier in some US media – that contains extensive allegations about Mr Trump’s personal life and his campaign’s relationship with the Russian state.

Among the allegations are that Moscow has a video recording of Mr Trump with prostitutes and damaging information about his business activities. BBC



Trump’s Cabinet Senate hearings

Trump’s Cabinet Senate hearingsPresident-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet hearings continue Thursday with secretary of defense nominee James Mattis, secretary of housing and development nominee Ben Carson, and CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo.

Former ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson, retired Gen. John Kelly and Sen. Jeff Sessions — Trump’s picks to run the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department — all broke with the President-elect on some major issues, during Senate hearing.

Tillerson supports a massive trade deal that Trump has denounced. He also warned of the dangers of Russia and said he’d support providing arms to Ukraine. He also said “I do not oppose” the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the proposed 12-nation pact that Hillary Clinton once called the “gold standard” of trade deals. Trump, though, has promised to rip up the Asia-Pacific pact.

Homeland Security pick Kelly said he would “absolutely” abide by US laws prohibiting the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. That was a break with Trump’s campaign promise to bring back waterboarding and “worse” forms of torture in the fight against terrorism.

Sessions also split with the President-elect on waterboarding and rejected his calls for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He said “I have no belief and do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States. We have great Muslim citizens who have contributed in so many ways,” Sessions said. “Americans are great believers in religious freedom and the right to exercise their religious beliefs.” CNN, ABC News, Times of Israel, The Week



Mexico won’t pay for Trump’s wall

Mexico won't pay for Trump's wallOn Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump assured Americans that while taxpayers will initially fund his border wall, Mexico will eventually reimburse the cost. “I don’t feel like waiting a year or year and a half,” Trump told the media at his first press conference in nearly six months. “We’re going to start building.

Mexico in some form and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall.” But later on Wednesday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto explained that would not be the case. “It is evident that we have some differences with the new government of the United States, like the topic of the wall, that Mexico of course will not pay,” Peña Nieto told foreign diplomats in a speech. This is not the first time Peña Nieto has taken a firm stance on the issue; after a September meeting with Trump, he insisted he “made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.” Politico, CNN, The Week



World food prices stable

World food prices stableWorld food prices remained stable in December from the month before as strong gains in vegetable oils and dairy largely offset falls in sugar and meat, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 171.8 points in December, versus 171.9 in November.

Across the whole of 2016, the index fell 1.5 percent from the previous year, representing its fifth consecutive annual decline, FAO said. VOA



Japan’s Abe starts 4 nation trips

Shinzo Abe to visit Pearl HarborJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived Thursday for a two-day visit to Manila as the Philippines has boosted ties with China while taking a hostile stance toward Tokyo’s main ally the United States.

The Philippines is Abe’s first stop in a four-nation swing as the Japanese leader presses efforts to boost his country’s trade and security engagements amid China’s rise to Asian dominance. He will later travel to Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Duterte visited Japan in October when he and Abe agreed to cooperate in promoting regional peace and stability and acknowledged the importance of their alliances with Washington.

Japan is now among the top trading partners of the Philippines and one of its largest aid providers. It has also provided patrol ships to help the Philippines protect its territory amid longstanding territorial rifts with China. Japan has expressed readiness to finance a major railway project in the south, where Duterte hails from, something that China also pledged. VOA



Biological link between stress and heart disease

Biological link between stress and heart diseaseFor the first time, Researchers at Harvard University in Massachusetts have discovered a brain structure, called the amygdala, is more active in people who suffer from chronic stress. That in turn, the evidence shows, promotes an immune response that can lead to heart disease. Dr. Ahmed Tawakol is a cardiologist and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and lead author of the study.

Tawakol said the amygdala is the region of the brain that is most responsive to external threats, and has shown to be more active in those with stress disorders, even at rest. The study involved the brain imaging of almost 300 individuals who researchers then followed for up to five years to see how many suffered a cardiac event. During the follow-up period, Tawakol said 22 of the study participants suffered a heart attack or stroke. VOA



Taliban releases video of hostages

Taliban releases video of hostagesThe Afghan Taliban released a new video of kidnapped US citizen Kevin King, 60, and of Australian citizen Timothy Weeks, 48, begging US President-elect Donald Trump to make a deal for their release. The two teachers were abducted together five months ago in western Kabul near the university.

On the video, Weeks, who says the recording was made January 1, says that four heavily armed Taliban soldiers kidnapped them one night in early August. The two have a haggard look and appear emotional in the video. The nearly 13-minute long Taliban propaganda video shows the two men pleading to Trump to negotiate a prisoner swap. CNN


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