“Pure evil.” That’s how President Donald Trump described the mass shooting on Sunday night that left at least 58 dead and more than 500 injured at a Las Vegas country music festival — the deadliest such attack in modern U.S. history. The shooter, identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, reportedly opened fire on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, sending thousands fleeing in panic. Police believe Paddock, who’d stockpiled at least 23 weapons in his room, later killed himself. Trump will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He says it’s decided. After a day of clashes reportedly injured more than 800 people over an independence referendum in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, its leader, Carles Puigdemont, claimed victory for the separatist cause. National courts outlawed the plebiscite, and federal authorities seized ballot papers as riot police using rubber bullets clashed with people trying to vote. Puidgemont said the result sets the stage for a declaration of an independent Catalan republic, but Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that no referendum had been held and the Madrid government doesn’t recognize secession efforts.
He’s rolling up his sleeves. President Donald Trump will visit storm-stricken Puerto Rico Tuesday, but he’s already waded into island politics, battling with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. She blasted Trump’s Homeland Security chief for calling the recovery “a good-news story.” If federal efforts to provide food and water to island residents fail, Cruz said, “something close to genocide” will result. Trump called it partisan sniping, tweeting that 10,000 federal workers were “doing a fantastic job,” while “others in Puerto Rico … want everything to be done for them.”
“Save your energy, Rex.” That’s what President Donald Trump tweeted today following Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statements that U.S. officials have back-channel communications with North Korea. “He is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In China for talks on the two nations’ nuclear standoff, Tillerson told reporters, “We can talk to them,” but a State Department spokesperson said there was “no indication” Pyongyang was interested in negotiating its nuclear disarmament.
The bill came due. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday amid scrutiny of his practice of chartering private jets at government expense. “I’m not happy, OK?” President Trump said before the announcement, answering reporters’ questions about Price’s expenses — and subsequent offer to pay back $51,887 of travel bills reportedly topping $1 million. His downfall, also blamed on a failure to replace Obamacare, triggered statements from other cabinet members distancing their travel practices from Price’s, but the president’s much-ridiculed vow to “drain the swamp” of Washington entitlement suggests more heads may roll.
They aren’t taking any chances. The U.S. government is pulling its nonessential embassy staff out of Cuba, citing unexplained attacks that have injured 21 people connected with the mission. Suffering from issues ranging from sleep deprivation and dizziness to hearing impairment and cognitive difficulties, workers are believed to have been targeted with a sonic weapon, though an FBI investigation has failed to pinpoint a cause. Cuban officials have sought to reassure their U.S. counterparts they’re not trying to harm them, but for now, Americans are keeping their distance.
Are they whistling Dixie? Last week President Donald Trump unveiled his tax reform plan, both simplifying and reducing income taxes, but after high-profile legislative failures on health care, skepticism abounds. The battle lines are forming: Opponents say that despite Trump’s protestations, the plan benefits wealthy Americans by repealing estate and alternative minimum taxes, and even the president specifically with a cut for “pass-through” corporations — Trump reportedly owns 500 of them. But some of the biggest pushback may come from Washington lobbyists, whose clients don’t want their arcane loopholes “reformed.”
All eyes on the bench. With a full contingent of justices, the U.S. Supreme Court begins its 2017-2018 term Monday prepared to decide a range of hot-button issues. First, there’s President Trump’s latest travel ban, along with whether there’s a right to discriminate against gay people. The court’s also expected to strip unions of the ability to collect fees from non-members who benefit from their collective bargaining. Another case asks if partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional — something that has the potential to shift the balance of power toward Democrats.
It’s not “if,” but “when.” That’s how experts see Iraqi Kurdistan’s overwhelming vote for independence on Monday. Kurds have enjoyed autonomy since 1991, and when ISIS conquered large parts of Iraq and government troops fled in 2014, Kurdish peshmerga forces seized the city of Kirkuk along with 40 percent of Iraq’s oil supplies. So it’s clear why officials in Baghdad suspended international flights Friday and are poised to send troops to Kirkuk. Meanwhile Turkey, vehemently opposed to a Kurdish state, may seal the landlocked territory’s only functioning oil export route.
They’re getting it on both ends. Low-income debtors can use Chapter 7 federal bankruptcy, which liquidates any large assets like houses or cars, to obtain quick and lasting protection from creditors. But a new examination of bankruptcies shows that in southeastern states, attorneys often steer Black clients toward “no money down” Chapter 13 filings. While that protects even cars and houses, it’s often temporary, meaning added interest before a new debt spiral. Some have asked Congress to change the law to encourage Chapter 7 filings, which experts say would provide more effective relief.
The Week Ahead: Major League Baseball begins its postseason on Tuesday. And on Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will announce the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, just as yet another laureate, now-de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has disappointed many with her equivocal response to apparent ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya minority.
Know This: Two women were fatally stabbed today in a Marseille train station, but French authorities have not determined the motive of the attacker, who was shot and killed by police. A giant Air France Airbus A380 carrying nearly 500 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing in Labrador, Canada, after one of the plane’s four engines violently failed, shaking the plane. Famously found innocent in the 1994 murder of his wife and a friend, ex-NFL player O.J. Simpson has been released on parole after serving seven years for a Las Vegas robbery. And longtime Let’s Make a Deal host Monty Hall died Saturday at the age of 96.
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It’s on the InfoWars front lines. During the 2016 presidential campaign, denizens of Twin Falls, Idaho, became the antagonists of a fake news narrative: Knife-wielding Syrian refugees gang-raped a young white girl, and local officials shielded the assailants. While a child-on-child assault was prosecuted, the stories — some proliferated by Kremlin-linked Facebook accounts — were largely false, stoked by so-called alt-right “journalists,” including a Breitbart reporter who now works for a Russian broadcaster. They’ve been debunked, but new online eruptions incite chilling threats against town journalists and officials.
Maybe they’re lactose intolerant. Four million Americans give birth every year, there’s a $700 million breast pump market and yet moms are largely stuck with one type of appliance to provide for their babies away from home. That’s traceable to vestigial sexism in the venture capital boys’ club: At least one female innovator reports enduring a potential investor calling her device “disgusting” and another watching porn during her pitch. The market remains fertile with disrupters — if only a few maternal-minded moneymen were willing to prime the pump.
Are they cutting lives along with budgets? Austerity measures began in 2015 under ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and deepened dramatically under interim President Michel Temer. Now it’s feared they’re constricting vital medical supplies, including those intended for Brazilians at risk for HIV and those already HIV-positive. In Brazil, new HIV cases rose 2 percent between 2010 and 2016, compared with a 16 percent drop worldwide. Now the nation of more than 200 million is trying to catch up, pushing condom education and devoting available resources to virus hot spots.
It’s not disruption, it’s delivery. While Netflix has gained a reputation as online cinema’s future, with a plethora of in-house films, Amazon’s road to movie production is more conventional — old-fashioned, even. It favors auteurs and small production partners, while releasing films in actual theaters to gain legitimacy with a moviegoing public that still savors the popcorn-and-Raisinets ritual. It’s a windfall for indie luminaries Gus Van Sant and Woody Allen, and all seemingly in pursuit of customers choosing express package service with a side of streaming.
They don’t mince words. After President Trump’s jeering statements against NFL players protesting social injustice, NBA stars took their own shots. They’re mostly Black, define their teams and won’t be sucked into a “unity” vortex. The NFL’s broken barriers by carefully orchestrating arm-in-arm protests, but Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment shows vocal football stars’ vulnerability. Meanwhile, basketball’s heroes are unambiguously pressing the president’s stance on racism. As King James said, kids seek leadership and encouragement from the president, but “he doesn’t understand that, and that’s what makes me more sick than anything.”