How far will it go? The Trump administration announced today it’s rolling back a controversial healthcare provision instituted under former President Barack Obama that mandates employers cover birth control for their employees. Now, they can opt out by citing religious or moral reasons. Taking effect immediately, the policy — a nod to Trump’s conservative base — has already angered advocates, including the president of Planned Parenthood. But observers believe most American workplaces, the vast majority of which are secular, are unlikely to make use of it.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s the latest victim. Families, homes and infrastructure were ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — and now, their damage to the U.S. economy has become clear. Released today, the Labor Department’s monthly report has found that 33,000 jobs have disappeared in the aftermath, the first such slump in seven years. While the figures are reportedly worse than expected, there’s a silver lining: The overall employment rate dropped to 4.2 percent, while wages rose by 0.5 percent. That’s why economists are split over just how damaging the storms were to the economy’s long-term health.
Maybe next year, Pope Francis. The Nobel Committee announced today that 2017’s Peace Prize laureate is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The grassroots disarmament coalition advocated for the first U.N. treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, adopted by 122 nations in July, but boycotted by the U.S. and other nuclear-armed states. The prize, which will be officially awarded Dec. 10, is a bid to put disarmament back in the public eye at a time when, the committee warns, the risk of nuclear weapons being used is escalating.
“I think we are on the verge of a breakthrough.” So said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who’s drafting bipartisan legislation to ban bump stocks, kits that modify rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. Even the NRA endorsed restrictions on the devices. But some Republicans expressed concerns that any curbs would lead to wider gun control in the wake of the deadliest shooting in recent memory. Meanwhile, police said Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock had booked hotel rooms near other music festivals, though it’s not clear if he’d intended to commit other massacres.
Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Heavy rains and mudslides killed 22 people in Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, with 20 more missing. Costa Rica’s suspended all train service and parks have been closed as infrastructure has taken a heavy hit across the region. Now the storm is heading north, where residents of the Yucatan Peninsula and southern U.S. states are preparing for what could be the third major storm this year. Nate is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it hits the Gulf Coast on Sunday.
Deal or no deal? President Donald Trump is expected to refuse to certify the landmark 2015 nuclear deal as part of a more confrontational strategy toward Tehran. The move would avoid immediately withdrawing from the agreement, which restricts Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions, but it would pass responsibility to Congress, allowing lawmakers to choose whether to resume sanctions. The five other countries that are party to the deal are likely to stay on board while they await Trump’s aggressive new Iran strategy, expected next week.
Know This: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is reportedly facing an insurgency within her own party that could threaten her leadership role. Utah police are not facing charges in the fatal shooting of a 50-year-old Black man who was shot three times in the back after being pulled over for cycling without a light. And investigators of a new NSA data breach believe hackers may have gotten the information using Kaspersky Lab antivirus software, a Russian brand that’s been excised from all U.S. government computers.
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Tune In: OZY and WGBH have teamed up to create a fabulous new show for PBS, Third Rail With OZY. The show tapes every Friday in NYC in front of a live studio audience. Want to get in on the action? Sign up here.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. A new study reveals that the European Medicines Agency approved 39 new cancer drugs during a recent five-year period without any evidence that they worked. The drug regulator green-lighted 68 cancer drugs between 2009 and 2013 — only about half of which actually boosted patients’ quality of life or survival rate. The EMA “welcomes further debate” on the issue, but it’ll take more than just talk to fix what researchers say is a “broken” approval process in Europe’s regulatory system.
And you don’t even have to put a fish in your ear. Google announced that its new earphone product, Pixel Buds, will not only connect wirelessly to smartphones, but also access Google Assistant, which can translate 40 spoken languages in close to real time using Deepmind artificial intelligence technology. While an onstage demonstration translating Swedish to English went off without a hitch, it remains to be seen how well it’ll work in the real world, and whether Google Translate is up to the task of deciphering conversational language from background noise.
As if things weren’t bad enough. Hurricanes have ravaged landscapes and ruined infrastructure in the southern U.S. and the Caribbean this year — and activists and officials say the hopelessness wrought by such events allows traffickers to prey on those who’ve lost everything and need a place to stay. Widespread internet usage makes it even easier for traffickers to find targets, and online ads offering shelter to “pretty girls” who “send pics” tend to proliferate after disasters. Officials hope that their early warnings before the hurricanes hit might make a difference this time.
The Hollywood hills have eyes. The New York Times has published an exposé claiming that producer and studio executive Harvey Weinstein has a nearly three-decade history of sexual harassment accusations, including eight legal settlements. Among his alleged targets were Ashley Judd, who’s gone on the record about her experience, and Rose McGowan, who got a $100,000 settlement from Weinstein in 1997. He’s denied many of the allegations, apologized, taken a leave of absence and sworn to sue The Times — while Republicans called for Democrats to return Weinstein’s generous campaign contributions.
It’s a learning experience. On Wednesday, Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asked the Panthers quarterback a question about routes and he laughed, responding, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.” A day later, after Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Newton had “made a mistake” and Dannon yogurt pulled his commercials, Newton apologized via video, saying he “tries to be a positive role model” to his fans and his daughters, and that he understands such stereotyping isn’t acceptable. The Panthers, meanwhile, are focusing on facing the Detroit Lions on Sunday.