He’s welcome. Russian President Vladimir Putin called his American counterpart to thank him for sharing CIA intelligence that he says prevented the planned Saturday bombing of a St. Petersburg cathedral, the Kremlin announced, adding that Moscow would similarly share its spy agency’s findings to stop a U.S. plot. On Thursday, President Donald Trump said he’d called to thank Putin for “very nice things” he said about U.S. economic success, along with discussing other issues such as North Korea. But Putin earlier lamented that bilateral relations can’t improve while the “invented” Russiagate scandal looms.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re alleging collusion. Attorneys for President Trump’s transition team have complained to Congress that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate investigation unlawfully obtained “tens of thousands” of emails from the General Services Administration, which provided office space for the team. The complaint says some of the emails were privileged, but some legal experts don’t believe it will bolster efforts to discredit Mueller, which include spotlighting investigators fired for apparent anti-Trump bias. Nonetheless, the White House has denied a Capitol Hill rumor that the president plans to fire Mueller before Christmas.
Arguably yes, for Black voters and women. Despite President Trump’s endorsement, the state’s deep red electorate was not enough to save Republican Roy Moore Tuesday from allegations of sexual assault and molestation and a snowballing #metoo movement. And Democratic Senator-elect Doug Jones, known for having prosecuted KKK members, rallied a Black electorate of some 30 percent, spurred by Black leaders and Barack Obama’s robocalls. To Democrats, it’s a repudiation of the president’s divisiveness, while Republicans, with a one-seat Senate advantage, may need to compromise or own the resulting partisan gridlock.
They’ll be home for Christmas. Having enacted nothing major in 2017, Republicans are anxious to get their tax bill passed by both chambers and sent to the White House this week, especially when they’ll soon lose one Senate seat. A reluctant Sen. Marco Rubio was won over by an increased child credit in Friday’s final draft, but not before he tweeted, “The #workingclass is always forgotten in D.C.,” highlighting widespread criticism of the overhaul’s emphasis on cutting rates for corporations and the wealthy. Even so, all 52 Republican senators are expected to vote “yea.”
She’s not going anywhere. Caring and compassionate, Nicaraguan immigrant Nora Sándigo has another attribute that’s allowed her to help countless peers: She’s an American citizen, enabling her to shoulder the legal burdens of hundreds of children whose parents face deportation by immigration authorities. Despite the kids’ derisive “anchor baby” label, tens of thousands of their parents get deported annually, often leaving their children behind. Knowing she can help, parents sign over their rights to Sándigo, guarding for that day when the agents in uniform show up at their door.
They’re weapons of mass production. ISIS armed its self-proclaimed caliphate largely with conventional weapons. But as the loot from Syrian and Iraqi governments dwindled, they did something unique: They designed and mass-produced their own. The militant extremist movement’s engineers built rockets, launchers and drone-ready bomblets. And evidence from this terror-industrial complex appears to indicate something more — U.S. arms covertly provided to anti-Syrian regime forces also ended up on ISIS production lines. In piecing together how the group armed itself, investigators hope to learn ways to thwart future homegrown munitions programs.
The Week Ahead: On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit both Egypt and Israel to focus on the plight of Christian minorities, but that theme may be overshadowed by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Friday is the next deadline for Congress to reach a budget agreement and avert a partial government shutdown. And sometime in the next few days, NASA technicians will upload Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so the crew of the International Space Station can watch it in orbit.
Know This: Suicide bombers have killed at least eight people in a Methodist church in Quetta, Pakistan. Australian authorities have arrested a Sydney man they accuse of brokering North Korea’s sale of missile components. And senior U.S. Centers for Disease Control officials have reportedly been given a list of banned words, including ”diversity,” “science-based” and “fetus.”
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So was the truth out there? American military interest in possible extraterrestrial vehicles flitting through our skies is now on the record: Documents obtained by The New York Times reveal a $22 million program investigating “flying saucers,” oddly hovering objects and other sightings aviation authorities couldn’t explain. A successor to the mid-century Project Blue Book, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program launched in 2007 at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The program was cut in 2012, but other Pentagon offices reportedly still probe such phenomena when they materialize.
It’s a different place. Garden City, Kansas, has long been a crossroads for hardworking immigrants attracted by industry. Then along came candidate Donald Trump, with anti-Muslim rhetoric that stoked Islamophobia. Emboldened, the “Crusaders” militia reportedly began planning to bomb an apartment building inhabited by recently arrived Somali refugees — “cockroaches” and ISIS recruiters, in the words of one conspirator. But one member’s fearful partner notified authorities, and the alleged plot was thwarted. Now the three defendants, whose trial’s scheduled for March 19, are requesting a jury of their peers: Trump voters.
Six legs good, two legs bad. Scientists estimate that 70 percent of animal species are insects — and they, while not as cute and cuddly as pandas or penguins, are also in danger. Insects are disappearing by the thousands because of climate change and habitat destruction, even as scientists scramble to catalog and discover more types before they vanish. This potential mass extinction is not only a loss for science, but also a danger for our existence: Bugs form the backbone of Earth’s ecosystems, and without them some estimate humans would survive mere months.
To ping or not to ping, that is the question. A morbid take on the mindfulness app craze, WeCroak aims to magnify life’s wonder by reminding users that death could strike at any moment. Five times a day — a number supposedly derived from Bhutanese tradition — WeCroak sends quotes and notifications that you, yes you, will die. That’s all it does. Though some find its pings to be a useful nudge toward a fuller life, with only 84 downloads, it seems not a consummation devoutly to be wished.
It’s an unforgettable image. In 1985, National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry’s cover photo of a displaced orphan with haunting green eyes became an icon for her fellow Afghans’ plight. Like millions of fellow refugees, Sharbat Gula grew up feeling anchored in Pakistan, which has recently stepped up deporting Afghans. Now she’s a symbol again — for returning expatriates. Her renown has won her government subsidies and a home in Kabul, but also a nascent awareness movement, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s declaring, “Our country is incomplete until we absorb all of our refugees.”
They’re taking a chance. Gambling in Iowa isn’t what it used to be, with sagging revenues and a moratorium on new casinos. But gaming entrepreneurs believe sports gambling — which would draw a younger, more enthusiastic crowd — could be the solution. If the Supreme Court decides against federal law prohibiting sports wagering, the casino industry is poised to legalize and regulate the local market, potentially worth more than $1 billion. While critics say institutionalized gambling could lead to greater crime or addiction, supporters believe it would inject crucial cash into the local economy.