Top News Stories for Today – January 18, 2017
Trump will have to choose US intelligence or Russia
A White House spokesman says President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will have to choose whether to side with the US intelligence community, or Russia and WikiLeaks. Josh Earnest was responding to a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s accusing President Barack Obama’s administration of attempting to undercut Trump by spreading false information.
US intelligence agencies released a report concluding that Russia, under Putin’s orders, worked to undermine the US presidential election and aspired to help Trump win. Trump has blamed the intelligence community for leaking unsubstantiated information, which also linked Trump to the Russian government, and questioned whether Central Intelligence Director John Brennan was responsible. In a Twitter post last week, the president-elected compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany. VOA
President Obama will hold his final news conference on Wednesday, two days before he leaves office, the White House said. Obama is wrapping up his eight-year presidency with his approval rating at 60 percent, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.
That is his highest mark since 2009, putting him near the top in the list of outgoing presidents. He’s outranked only by Bill Clinton, who had a 66 percent approval rating in January 2001, and Ronald Reagan, who left office in January 1989 with a 64 percent rating. CNN, The Week
Obama commutes Chelsea Manning
On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified military documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. After nearly seven years in jail, Manning will be released in May 2017, long before her initial release date of May 2045; she was originally sentenced to 35 years, which The New York Times reported marked “the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.”
Many, including NSA leaker Edward Snowden, have urged Obama to commute Manning, who has twice tried to commit suicide and gone on a hunger strike to fight for gender reassignment surgery. Obama commuted the federal sentences of 209 people Tuesday, including Manning. The New York Times, American Civil Liberties Union, The Week
George H.W. Bush hospitalized
Former President George H.W. Bush, 92, is in the hospital in Houston after experiencing “shortness of breath,” his office said early Wednesday, adding that the 41st president is “being monitored as a precaution and is resting comfortably.” His chief of staff, Jean Becker, told the Houston Chronicle earlier that Bush would likely be released from Houston Methodist Hospital in a few days, adding, “He’s fine and he’s doing really well.”
This isn’t the first time Bush has been hospitalized for shortness of breath — he spent a week in the hospital in December 2014 with the same symptoms, and six months later fell and broke a bone in his neck at his summer home in Maine. Bush, president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s that compels him to use a wheelchair or motorized scooter, but jumped out of an airplane on his 90th birthday in June 2014 and took a group of wounded vets fishing over the summer. NBC News, Houston Chronicle, The Week
Apprentice contestant sues Trump
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice who accused Donald Trump of making unwanted sexual advances during a 2007 business meeting, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump over statements he made in response to her allegations. In October, Zervos alleged that Trump kissed her on the lips, groped her breast without consent, and pressed himself against her during the meeting.
The suit, filed Tuesday, claims that Trump went on to publicly call Zervos a liar while on the campaign trail, and say Zervos and the other women who have accused him of sexual harassment only want “10 minutes of fame.” Her attorney, Gloria Allred, said Zervos would be willing to dismiss the lawsuit without any monetary damages if Trump would agree to retract his remarks about her and admit the accusations she made against him were true. NBC News, The Week
3 large earthquakes hit Italy
A series of three strong earthquakes hit central Italy in the space of an hour Wednesday, shaking the same region that suffered a series of deadly quakes last year and has been buried under more than a meter (three feet) of snow in recent days. There were no immediate reports of casualties but tremors were felt as far away as Rome, where the subway was closed as a precaution and parents were asked to pick up their children from schools.
Heavy snowfall in the quake-zone over the past week, which has dumped more than 1.5 meters in some places, was complicating transport and emergency response efforts. The region is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Rome. VOA
Repealing Obamacare without replacement
If you fall into the camp that thinks Obamacare is expensive, wait till you hear how expensive it’ll get if it’s repealed without a replacement. That’ll quickly strip 18 million Americans of their insurance and cause premiums to double. That’s according to the Congressional Budget Office – and they’re non-partisan. The number of uninsured people could climb to 32 million by 2026, the report from the nonpartisan office said. Premiums, which would rise by up to 25% initially, would double by 2026.
President-elect Donald Trump wants Obamacare gone, gone, gone and says he’s nearly done crafting a plan with “insurance for everybody.” To that, Republican lawmakers say, please do share. Tom Price, Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, says he too has a plan. But he too isn’t sharing. Democrats quickly jumped on the report, saying the GOP plan will hurt Americans and raise health care costs. CNN
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