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April 17, 2018

On Monday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation to replace the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) that Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump have used to wage military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. The new AUMF would allow the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and designated associated forces," but it requires the White House to notify Congress about any military action undertaken using this authorization within 48 hours. Congress has 60 days to object or tacitly sign off on the use of force.

There is mounting support in Congress to revisit the aging war-powers authorizations, as more moderate lawmakers join liberals and libertarians in their concern over what three presidents have largely taken as carte blanche for military action. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a cosponsor of the legislation, points out that only 22 senators and fewer than 150 House members were in Congress when it approved the 2001 AUMF.

But this Corker-Kaine proposal, which is scheduled to get a committee vote next week, has tepid support from GOP leaders, and it isn't clear it has the votes to move forward. The new AUMF, billed as a compromise, faces criticism because it doesn't automatically expire, instead giving Congress a chance to review the authorization every four years. "For too long, Congress has given presidents a blank check to wage war," Kaine said in a statement. "Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war." Corker said it gives president "the flexibility to be successful that they now have, but it also keeps Congress in the loop in having the ability to stop it." Peter Weber

5:36 p.m.

The alphabet just isn't cutting it anymore.

Sesame Street, known for its puppet-filled preschool lessons, revealed Monday that it's rolling out a new collaboration with Apple TV+. Yet just as Apple's new service cuts cable for streaming, the Sesame-produced Helpsters will swap the ABC's for CSS, TechCrunch explains.

Sesame Workshop was just one of the many big entertainment industry names joining forces with Apple's streaming service in the past year. Apple revealed a lot more about the service and its stars at a Cupertino, California event on Monday, where Big Bird appeared to introduce Sesame's newest Muppet star. Cody, a fuzzy, yellow, and undefinable creature, will lead the Helpsters — a team of puppets determined to help kids code.

Cody, who, as TechCrunch aptly puts it, "has learned to speak in PR soundbites," said that "coding fosters collaboration, critical thinking skills and is an essential language that every child can learn." It's not likely that kids are going to sit down and start writing C++ after an episode, but rather will learn broader concepts that eventually help them follow the patterns all coding languages rely on.

Beyond unveiling Cody and seemingly — and disappointingly — hinting that Big Bird won't be on the show, the Monday Apple event didn't reveal much about Helpsters. Cody did, however, make sure to let us know Helpsters will be chock full of "fun music" and "cool dance moves." Kathryn Krawczyk

5:33 p.m.

When glaciers are in the news, things are usually looking worse for the wear. But a new NASA study published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience brought some surprisingly good tidings.

The report shows that the Jakobshvan Isbrae glacier in Greenland, which was previously one of the Earth's fastest-shrinking glaciers, is actually growing thanks to cooling ocean waters off the western coast of Greenland.

Jason Box, a Greenland ice and climate scientists who was not part of the study, told The Associated Press that the discovery "was kind of a surprise" given that most glaciologists had gotten used to a "runaway system."

Box added that Jakobshvan Isbrae is one of the most important glaciers in Greenland because it discharges the most ice in the northern hemisphere.

Unfortunately, there is one caveat — the authors of the study said that the growth is most likely temporary. In fact, per The Hill, the discovery may ultimately be bad news because it means that the ocean temperatures play an even greater role in glacial retreats and advances than scientists previously thought. Read the full study at Nature Geoscience. Tim O'Donnell

4:48 p.m.

The 2019 NFL regular season schedule won't be revealed until April, but the league did announce that longtime rivals the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears will open the season at Solider Field in Chicago.

The news is noteworthy on two fronts: Green Bay and Chicago are two of the NFL's oldest franchises. The Bears, then the Decatur Staleys, were one of the league's charter members in 1920, while the Packers joined a year later. The 2019-2020 season will mark the league's 100th year of existence, so the NFL selecting such storied franchises makes quite a bit of sense.

It also means the league is shirking tradition. The defending Super Bowl champion has opened the season since 2013, but this year the New England Patriots will have to wait until the season's first Sunday night game to take the field. Admittedly, the franchise has had quite a few opportunities to open the season — much to the chagrin of non-Patriots fans everywhere — thanks to their nearly two decade run of unparalleled success.

But New England has also been embroiled in a bit of off-the-field controversy this offseason following owner Robert Kraft's charge for soliciting a prostitute. The NFL will instead be able to delay discussing the incident on opening night with a likely celebratory emphasis on the game's history. Tim O'Donnell

4:36 p.m.

When prosecutors thought they had enough evidence to arrest Michael Avenatti for allegedly extorting Nike, well, they just did it.

On Monday, the Southern District of New York unveiled extortion charges against the former lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, saying Avenatti claimed he'd release damaging information about Nike unless the company paid him $20 million. As this handy presentation prosecutors cooked up shows, Avenatti allegedly committed one of those offenses as recently as last Thursday.

Take a look at Avenatti's current Twitter feed, and the drama escalates. Avenatti tweeted Monday morning that he would soon hold a press conference about "a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike" — something he allegedly told Nike he would do if he didn't get paid. In fact, court documents reveal Avenatti was told he would have a meeting with Nike lawyers on Monday morning. FBI and SDNY officers were actually there waiting to arrest him.

Avenatti's alleged co-conspirator in the case is fellow celebrity lawyer Michael Geragos, who is representing Jussie Smollett. Avenatti alone was also charged in a separate case in Los Angeles on Monday. Those prosecutors say Avenatti committed wire and bank fraud, embezzling clients' money to pay off his business debts and falsifying tax documents to get loans, per CNN. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:03 p.m.

The Michael Avenatti Nike extortion saga just got even stranger.

Prosecutors on Monday indicted Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' former lawyer, for allegedly trying to extort $20 million from Nike, saying he and a co-conspirator threatened to release damaging information about the company unless they were paid millions of dollars. While prosecutors didn't name the co-conspirator, The Wall Street Journal reports that it is celebrity attorney Mark Geragos.

Geragos was hired as a member of the legal defense team of Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who has been charged over allegedly staging a fake hate crime against himself, in February, per CBS Chicago. He's also currently a lawyer for Colin Kaepernick, per The Daily Beast. Geragos' previous clients have included Michael Jackson and Chris Brown.

Geragos and Avenatti allegedly met with Nike lawyers on March 19 to make their demands, and the Journal reports Boies Schiller subsequently recorded another conversation with Avenatti at the request of prosecutors. Avenatti tweeted that he would soon be "holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike" shortly before the charges against him were announced.

Geragos has also been a CNN legal analyst, but CNN said on Monday that he is no longer a contributor for the network, per reporter Justin Baragona. CNN itself on Monday backed up the Journal's reporting, noting Geragos had not responded to a request for comment. Brendan Morrow

3:43 p.m.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to cut his visit to the U.S. short on Monday after his country began bombing Hamas targets in the disputed Gaza Strip. Yet judging by the very uninformative video President Trump tweeted after the curtailed visit, and by Monday comments by Vice President Mike Pence, he's undoubtedly on their good side.

Last week, Trump unexpectedly tweeted that he'd recognize Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights, a region long the subject of an Israeli-Syrian dispute. Netanyahu visited the U.S. shortly after to be there when Trump made the proclamation official. And even though Netanyahu's Gaza Strip bombing started while he was still in America, Golan Heights was the only topic in the wordless, dramatically scored video Trump shared later.

Trump did acknowledge Israel's apparent attack on Hamas terrorist cells in the Palestinian territory of Gaza on Monday, saying he supported "our friends in Israel as they carry out an incredible way of life in the face of great terror," per CNN. The bombing came after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv last week, which did not cause any damage, but which Israel blamed on Hamas, Reuters says.

Netanyahu left before he could make his annual speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference. Benny Gantz, a centrist whom Netanyahu faces in a tough upcoming election, still made an appearance. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, used his AIPAC slot to decry Democrats who boycotted the conference. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:01 p.m.

Apple is officially entering the streaming wars.

Apple on Monday announced its brand new streaming service, Apple TV+, during an event in Cupertino. After showing off a montage of clips from upcoming original shows, the company described Apple TV+ as "not just another streaming service" but rather "the destination where the world's greatest storytellers will bring their best ideas to life."

Several of those storytellers were in attendance on Monday to speak briefly about their shows. The line-up consisted of Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, J.J. Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and even Big Bird.

The event ended with Oprah Winfrey, who said she's excited to work with Apple because the fact that they're "in a billion pockets" represents a "major opportunity to make a genuine impact." She's working on two documentaries for Apple, one about sexual harassment and one about mental health, and says Apple will also stream book club conversations. "I want to literally convene a meeting of the minds connecting us through books," she said.

Apple ended its event without revealing how much the service will cost, which had remained one of the biggest unanswered questions heading in. But it was announced that the service will be ad-free and available in more than 100 countries, with content being downloadable and new programming coming each month. It's set to launch sometime this fall — meaning it will likely debut around the same time as Disney's streaming service, Disney+. Brendan Morrow

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