Top News Stories for Today – March 9, 2017
ISIS leader hiding abandons his fighters
US and Iraqi officials believe the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival. It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the Islamic State “caliph,” who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014.
Intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group’s leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population center his group has ever held. He has proved to be an elusive target, rarely using communication that can be monitored, and moving constantly, often multiple times in one 24-hour cycle, the sources say. From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way, the sources say. New York Post
House approves GOP health care plan
At about 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s replacement plan for the Affordable Health Act, on a party-line 23-16 vote. The markup session began Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., and the other House committee with jurisdiction over the legislation, the Energy and Commerce Committee, is still debating the bill.
GOP leaders unveiled the plan on Monday night, and Democrats objected to marking up the bill without a score from the Congressional Budget Office of how much it would cost and how many people it would insure. They used parliamentary tactics to draw the proceeding out, including making the Energy Committee clerk read the entire bill out loud, a process that took an hour. The bill has faced strong opposition from major medical groups, Democrats, and conservative lawmakers. President Trump has vowed to push it through. CNN, The Week
American Medical Association opposes American Health Care Act
On Wednesday, the American Medical Association, the largest US organization of doctors, joined the list of powerful groups that oppose the American Health Care Act, the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. AMA President Dr. Andrew W. Gurman said that while the ACA is “imperfect, the current version of the AHCA is not legislation we can support.”
As written, the AHCA would “reverse the coverage gains achieved under the ACA, causing many Americans to lose the health care coverage they have come to depend upon.” In a letter to House leaders, AMA chief executive Dr. James L. Madara also criticized the ACHA’s proposed changes to Medicaid, saying they would harm “people with low incomes” and reduce the number of insured Americans by several million. American Medical Association, The Week
North Korea attempted to sell nuclear material online
In 2016, North Korea tried to sell a type of lithium metal used for making miniaturized nuclear weapons to an undisclosed buyer, a new UN report says. Investigators from the U.N.’s Panel of Experts, which oversees the implementation of economic sanctions against North Korea, said a front company run by the state-owned Green Pine Association Corp. attempted to sell the lithium online. The US and U.N. say that Green Pine specializes in making missile systems, submarines, and maritime military equipment.
Enriched lithium, or lithium-6, can be used to produce tritium, which increases the explosive power of nuclear detonations, and can be used in bombs with smaller amounts of uranium or plutonium. It’s believed that North Korea has vast amounts of lithium in its soil, and nuclear experts told The Wall Street Journal that the amount of lithium-6 Pyongyang was trying to sell and its level of purity could give clues into its intended use. The Wall Street Journal, The Week
China seeking international law of Internet
China is seeking an international agreement to enhance state control over the internet in order to fight cyberattacks and cyberterrorism. Beijing wants to extend the existing idea of sovereignty over land and sea to cyberspace. Beijing has released its first white paper discussing how it will persuade different countries to join together in an international partnership. The idea is to enhance the power of individual governments over cyberspace and reduce the role of the private sector.
Analysts see it as a grandiose plan to extend the Chinese idea of censorship across large parts of the world. China has been criticized in developed countries for controlling the internet with a heavy hand and not allowing Google, Facebook, Twitter and many foreign news websites to be seen in China. VOA
Former ambassador Huntsman offered Russian post
Jon Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah and 2012 presidential candidate, has accepted Trump’s offer to become ambassador to Russia, a person close to Huntsman told NBC News Wednesday. He has served as an ambassador before — to Singapore under former President George H.W. Bush and China under former President Barack Obama.
During the 2016 presidential race, Huntsman endorsed Trump, but later called on him to drop out of the race after the Access Hollywood video came out showing Trump boasting about grabbing women without their consent. Trump has said he wants to strengthen ties between the US and Russia, and the appointment comes as allegations swirl surrounding connections between multiple Trump advisers and Russian officials. NBC News
Hawaii becomes 1st State to sue New Travel Ban
Hawaii has become the first state to sue to stop President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban. Attorneys for the state filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Honolulu. The state had previously sued over Trump’s initial travel ban, but that lawsuit was put on hold while other cases played out across the country.
Hawaii gave notice Tuesday night that it intended to file an amended lawsuit to cover the new ban, which plans to goes into effect March 16. The revised executive order bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. It doesn’t apply to travelers who already have visas. VOA
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