There were Maine objections. The Graham-Cassidy bill, Republicans’ latest attempt to repeal Obamacare, all but collapsed yesterday when Sen. Susan Collins, one of three Republicans who opposed July’s repeal attempt, joined John McCain and Rand Paul in saying she won’t support it. GOP senators have until Sept. 30 to pass a bill with a simple majority: After that they’ll be forced to find a bipartisan solution. Many see their inability to repeal Obamacare — a longtime campaign promise — as a major embarrassment for the party and the president.
The Presidential Daily Brief
This could swiftly go down in flames. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho yesterday claimed Pyongyang’s right to shoot down American planes, even in international airspace, saying that President Donald Trump’s tweeted taunt that North Korea’s leadership “won’t be around much longer” amounted to a formal declaration of war. The White House brushed off Ri’s interpretation as “absurd.” As tensions continue to mount, analysts fear that an errant tweet could touch off military confrontation. A U.N. spokesman warned, “Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.”
Will we call it “Kurdistexit”? About 72 percent of Iraqi Kurds headed to the polls yesterday to vote on independence for the northern region — a first step toward Kurdistan seceding from Iraq. While voters are expected to approve breaking away, Baghdad’s not happy: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the referendum “unconstitutional” and has refused to discuss it, while Iraq and Turkey are planning joint military exercises. But the Kurdistan Regional Government seems unfazed, and Kurds celebrated in the streets last night, even as votes are still being counted.
Let the games begin. Japan’s set a deadline to launch its new electronic currency, J Coin: It should be up and running before the expected tourist influx for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. J Coin, valued the same as the yen, is meant to facilitate smartphone payments and wean Japan off paper money, while avoiding the fees of debit and credit cards. Japan currently conducts 70 percent of transactions in cash, compared to an average of 30 percent in other developed countries. Regulators will unveil more details of J Coin in coming days.
Know This: At least six Trump administration advisers, including Ivanka Trump and Steve Bannon, reportedly used private email accounts for White House business. Israeli police say a Palestinian gunman shot three Israelis in the West Bank today before being shot himself. And almost 60,000 people have been evacuated away from Bali’s Mount Agung as authorities anticipate a volcanic eruption.
Read This: Kim Jong Un’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated in an airport in February — and this longread gets to the heart of who did it, and why.
Hear This: How was John Lennon’s death 63 years in the making? OZY’s newest podcast, The Thread, pulls on the strands of history to see hidden connections. Listen today to episode 1 of The Thread, which has already jumped into the top 50 on Apple’s charts, and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is your new final warning. American numerologist David Meade had predicted the end of the world Saturday, when Earth would collide with the mysterious planet Nibiru. When that didn’t pan out, Meade declared the event, indicated by verses and codes he gleaned from the Bible, has been postponed to Oct. 21. Skeptical? Well, the prediction’s certainly brought verifiable tribulation to the life of another David Meade, an entertainer in Northern Ireland who reports that heavy traffic has crashed his website and he’s been receiving death threats, presumably from disappointed believers.
He’s too big to ban. Opponents of President Trump have long called for Twitter to take action against his tweets, arguing that they violate the company’s policies by targeting specific people with threats and harassment or even by inciting violence. But Twitter reportedly uses another criterion that keeps it from deleting Trump’s tweets or personal account: They’re newsworthy. The service explained its position — and promised to update its public guidelines shortly — after Trump tweeted threats to North Korea that some see as escalating a potentially deadly conflict.
It’s hard to believe his eyes. A French man stuck in a vegetative state since a 2001 accident began to show signs of life after doctors installed an experimental implant to stimulate his vagus nerve. Six months later, the 35-year-old is classified as “minimally conscious” and can follow movements with his eyes. He reportedly even cried in response to music. Researchers hope this high-profile case could help secure funding for clinical trials — and potentially change the lives of the millions who sustain traumatic brain injuries every year.
It’s a sweet deal. Africa produces 57 percent of the world’s cashews, plucked from the bottoms of tangy, fleshy “cashew apples.” Some 100,000 tons of the fruit are discarded annually, but a new project is helping stem that tide in Benin. With U.S. Agriculture Department assistance, BeninCajù is converting this potential garbage into $170 million worth of juice. But first producers must overcome a local superstition that the juice is poisonous, and the practical issue that it ferments quickly, so processors have to put the squeeze on.
They’re not picking sides. Instead of kneeling during the national anthem — as increasing numbers of players, coaches and owners have since President Trump lashed out at peaceful protests against racialized police violence — the Dallas Cowboys found a middle ground last night: They knelt before the anthem, but stood while it was sung. The opposing Cardinals linked arms during the song, performed by Jordin Sparks, who protested in her own way. On her hand she’d written “Proverbs 31: 8-9,” which reads, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”