This time it’s personal. Ahead of France’s presidential runoff vote on Sunday, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron traded insults and barbs in a final, ill-tempered debate. Polls suggest Macron won the matchup, which saw Le Pen call the former economy minister an arrogant “smirking banker,” while Macron responded that Le Pen was a “hate-filled” liar. The lengthy debate, while heated, isn’t expected to swing enough votes to change Macron’s substantial lead, despite a bloc of left-wing voters vowing to abstain.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Third time’s the charm. After twice collapsing from lack of support, a revised AHCA has been passed by the House of Representatives. The updated bill, which overhauls the current subsidy-based system, removes protections for those with pre-existing conditions but promises $8 billion to help cover those costs. The bill passed by a narrow margin of 217-213, marking President Donald Trump’s first major legislative victory — however, the bill still needs to face the Senate, where it’s likely to undergo amendments as many senators have expressed concerns that it’s too harsh in its current iteration.
One victim has been reported dead along with the suspect in an “active shooter” situation on campus at North Lake College, in Irving, Texas. It is believed that the shooter committed suicide following gunfire. Police say there seems to be no continuing threat on campus, however they will maintain a presence to ensure safety for students and staff. The story is continuing to unfold.
Sometimes you don’t want to be first. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has announced he’ll solve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis by taking it to federal bankruptcy court, a first for any U.S. state or territory. While Puerto Rico isn’t eligible to use Chapter 9, as local governments do, it’s filing for bankruptcy-like restructuring of its $123 billion in debt and pension obligations under Title III of last year’s PROMESA law, which recognizes the territory’s partial sovereignty. If this works, some on-the-edge states like Illinois might take a similar route in the future.
James Comey is currently testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in an FBI oversight probe. In his opening statement, Chairman Chuck Grassley said, “a cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity,” and that the hearing would hopefully restore public faith in democratic institutions through “transparency.” Comey is expected to be grilled on the timing of his announcement that the Clinton email investigation would be reopened, which Hillary Clinton noted yesterday might have contributed to her loss. Comey has said he is “mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.”
The British Prime Minister has said her role in Brexit negotiations was deliberately misrepresented by EU authorities in a calculated attempt to affect the results of the UK election. Speaking outside 10 Downing Street today after meeting with the Queen to formally dissolve parliament ahead of June’s election, May said the EU’s stance on Brexit has “hardened,” adding ”some in Brussels… do not want talks to succeed.” Her comments come after her dinner with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week, and EU officials subsequently saying British authorities were in a “different galaxy.”
There’s a new sheriff in town. The Justice Department has reportedly declined to charge the two white officers who were filmed shooting and killing Alton Sterling last summer in Baton Rouge. Video of Sterling’s death prompted protests nationwide against police brutality toward Black citizens. The decision came just hours after a Dallas officer was fired for fatally shooting a 15-year-old Black student, and a South Carolina officer pleaded guilty to shooting Black motorist Walter Scott in 2015. Together the cases could reignite debate over prosecution of police.
Russia’s making overtures. Though leaders in both countries described Washington-Moscow relations as being at an all-time low in recent weeks, that could be turning around. President Vladimir Putin called President Donald Trump yesterday for a 30-minute discussion — their first since last month’s American airstrikes on a Syrian base — and both agreed to press for a cease-fire. The U.S. has been largely shut out of recent Syrian peace negotiations, but after the call, Trump announced he’ll send a representative to talks beginning today in Astana, Kazakhstan.
They struck at rush hour. A suicide bomber reportedly detonated his car, loaded with explosives, near an armored NATO convoy this morning. While the official vehicles, built to withstand blasts, left the scene under their own power, nearby civilian vehicles were destroyed, killing eight people and wounding another 28. ISIS claimed responsibility for the blast, though some initially suspected it was part of the Taliban’s promised “spring offensive” to target foreign troops. Hundreds of U.S. Marines will be sent to Afghanistan this spring to assist NATO-led missions.
Know This: French presidential hopefuls Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will face off today in a TV debate ahead of the runoff vote this Sunday. New Zealand’s Maori say a Playboy model’s nude Instagram photo atop the sacred Mount Taranaki was culturally insensitive. And officials in Brazil say monkey killings by panicked citizens who fear the resurgence of yellow fever could actually worsen the recent outbreak.
Remember This Tune: This season’s hit Broadway musical, which just garnered 12 Tony nominations, isn’t a historical epic like Hamilton. Rather, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which stars recording artist Josh Groban, is based on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
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Something’s rotten here. The same day Taylor Dumpson took office as American University’s first Black female student body president, bananas tied to nooses were found around the Washington, D.C., campus. The words “Harambe” and “AKA,” a reference to the historically Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, were scrawled on the peels. Last fall bananas were also used to harass Black students in racially motivated incidents. University President Neil Kerwin said the “crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry” is currently under investigation with help from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Now that’s an entry-level job. Wikipedia, like many websites, is banned in China — but the nation’s 720 million internet users aren’t going without. Instead, the government is creating the Chinese Encyclopedia, asking for 20,000 scholars and editors to add 300,000 entries before a planned 2018 launch. While billed as a Chinese version of Wikipedia — one that plans to “overtake” its predecessor, according to editors — the new project won’t be freely editable by users, and it’s unclear how much power the government will have to curate.
Mice work if you can get it. Research on rodents suggests science could one day increase human stamina without exercise by targeting a receptor called PPARd. While similar results from activating PPARd have been seen before, a new Salk Institute study focused on injections of molecule GW501516, which allowed sedentary mice to burn fat rather than glucose and run 110 minutes longer than normal without training. However, critics caution that GW501516 is already being used by humans: It’s a banned performance enhancer known on the black market as Endurobol.
So the news is fake but the ads are real? The White House has accused the network of censorship after it refused to run a $1.5 million Trump re-election campaign ad calling CNN and other networks “fake news.” The spot, released Monday to tout the president’s first 100 days in office, features a “Fake News” banner plastered across images of mainstream news anchors, including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. CNN offered to air the commercial with the defamatory graphic removed — but the White House refused, calling the decision “shameful.”
“This is the perfect tribute.” So says Tom McDonald, a New York City man on a mission to flush the cremated remains of his lifelong friend — a plumber and fellow Mets fan — down ballpark toilets all over the country. So far, he’s managed 16 stadiums in tribute to Roy Riegel, who died 9 years ago. With support from Riegel’s family, McDonald’s scattered his friend’s ashes from a peanut can, and hopes to spoon the rest down a toilet at North Carolina’s Durham Athletic Park, where Bull Durham was filmed.