The Senate plans to vote on the latest iteration of the Republican health-care bill next week, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. "It is the leader's intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week," the spokesperson told Politico.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would convert ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid payments into block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply. On Tuesday, a group of 11 governors, including five Republicans and independent Gov. Bill Walker (Alaska), urged the Senate to drop Graham-Cassidy, joining the AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and other patient advocacy groups, plus Jimmy Kimmel.
Efforts to write an alternative, bipartisan health-care bill proved fruitless. Republicans have a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes. Three GOP defections would kill the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill; Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) remain undeclared swing votes. Jeva Lange
A copy of an Adolf Hitler speech was found in the home of a man accused of killing two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last week in what authorities now suspect were racially motivated attacks, The Associated Press reports.
Donald Smart, 49, a dishwasher, and Bruce Cofield, 59, who was homeless, were at first thought to have been killed randomly two days apart. Police have since charged Kenneth Gleason, 23, who is white, with two counts of second-degree murder as well as for allegedly shooting into the home of a black family in an incident where no one was injured. Gleason's DNA was found on shell casings in his car that matched ammo used in the attacks, The Advocate reports.
If Gleason had not been arrested last week, "he could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this community together," said Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam on Tuesday.
District Attorney Hillar Moore said that if Gleason is convicted, his case "would qualify for the death penalty."
"It appears to be cold, calculated, planned [against] people who were unarmed and defenseless," Moore said. "We don't need to prove motive. There are a lot of things that are unanswered." Read more about the case at The Advocate. Jeva Lange
On Monday, Hurricane Maria strengthened into a Category 3 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of up to 120 mph. The storm is expected to cross over the Leeward Islands, the eastern Caribbean islands recently ravaged by Hurricane Irma, before moving over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Wednesday.
The 11am update shows Maria rapidly intensifying to a major cat 3 hurricane with further strengthening forecast. pic.twitter.com/jt4QH0yRhK
— WFXR Weather (@WFXRWeather) September 18, 2017
Hurricane warnings are now posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, as well as the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, St. Lucia, and Martinique, many of which were hit by Irma. The National Hurricane Center says "additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," with winds potentially reaching 140 mph.
Puerto Rico is already bracing itself for another potentially devastating storm. "We have an extremely weak infrastructure that has already been hit by one storm," Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Monday. "This is going to be a catastrophic event."
It's not yet clear whether Maria poses a threat to Florida, though it remains a possibility. Becca Stanek
Google allowed advertisers to target ads for people searching racist and anti-Semitic phrases like "black people ruin neighborhoods" and "Jewish control of banks," BuzzFeed News discovered, through its own experimental ad campaign.
Google would also suggest other offensive phrases based off the keywords. "Why do Jews ruin everything," for example, prompted advertisers to also run ads on "the evil Jew":
Here's a quick breakdown of how the campaign was built. Typing an exact match for "why do jews ruin everything" into Google's ad buying tool generated 77 additional keyword suggestions, from "jews ruin the world" to "jewish parasites." The keyword tool generates suggestions from the text on the destination website copy, and also pulls from search trends. Google is looking into the way the tool works, and making updates to it, the company told BuzzFeed News. [BuzzFeed News]
Google has since disabled all the keywords found by BuzzFeed News, although "Blacks destroy everything" is reportedly still appearing as eligible to run ad campaigns on.
On Thursday, Facebook said it will no longer let advertisers reach users who have said they are interested in anti-Semitic topics, including "how to burn Jews," or who called themselves "Jew haters," which were apparently categories created by an algorithm. Read more about Facebook's advertising at The Week and Google's at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange
On Friday, a judge acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder charges concerning the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith, St. Louis' KMOX reports.
Stockley, who is white, shot Smith, a 24-year-old black man, after a high-speed chase stemming from what appeared to be a drug transaction in a parking lot. Dashcam footage captured Stockley saying "going to kill this [expletive], don't you know it" before Stockley and his partner rammed Smith's van and Stockley got out and shot five rounds into the car, killing Smith. Stockley's defense attorney argued Stockley fired in self defense after Smith refused to put his hands up and appeared to be reaching for an area where a gun was later found. Prosecutors say Stockley planted the gun, which was discovered to have his DNA on it but not Smith's, The Associated Press reports.
Stockley was charged by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce with first-degree murder in May 2016, after new evidence was discovered.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) activated the Missouri National Guard on Thursday, prior to the verdict, in anticipation of an acquittal, CNN reports. "As governor, I am committed to protecting everyone's constitutional right to protest peacefully while also protecting people's lives, homes, and communities," he said in a statement, calling the National Guard a "necessary precaution."
Likewise, protesters vowed to demonstrate if Stockley was acquitted. "The reaction is going to be something that the city, and St. Louis, doesn't want to see or want to have," one protester told KMOX. "There's going to be disruption everywhere. If we don't get justice, there will be no peace." Read more about the case at St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jeva Lange
Multiple U.S. soldiers were injured during a training exercise Thursday, after an explosion occurred at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. ABC's local affiliate WTVD said military officials confirmed 15 soldiers were hurt in the incident, which the station reported occurred "when a vehicle rolled over on a remote part of the base."
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Rob Bockholt told The Associated Press that the injured soldiers were taken to Womack Army Medical Center for treatment, but did not confirm the number of soldiers injured, the extent of their injuries, or the cause of the explosion.
Fort Bragg services more than 50,000 active duty personnel. Kimberly Alters
This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more details become available.
The U.S. government announced Wednesday that it is phasing out federal agencies' use of security software made by the Russian brand, Kaspersky Lab. The directive was given "months" after the General Service Administration took Kaspersky off of the list of approved vendors because of a possible "vulnerability" in Kaspersky "that could give the Kremlin backdoor access to the systems the company protects," The Washington Post reported. At least six federal agencies use Kaspersky software.
"The department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks," the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. "The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security."
In a statement to the Post, Kaspersky denied claims it had "inappropriate ties with any government," noting that "no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization." "The only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab, a private company, is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight, and it's being treated unfairly even though the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage or offensive cyber efforts," the company said.
Federal agencies must discontinue use of Kaspersky software within 90 days. Becca Stanek
The International Olympic Committee officially announced Wednesday that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics, Sports Illustrated reports. It will be the city's third time hosting the Olympics and the first time the Games have been hosted in the U.S. since Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. The last Summer Games to be held in the U.S. were in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The event is expected to cost Los Angeles $5.3 billion, which city officials claim "will be covered by sponsorships, ticket sales, and other revenue sources," Sports Illustrated writes. The IOC additionally announced Wednesday that Paris will host the 2024 Olympics, also marking the city's third turn as host. Jeva Lange