Stef W. Kight

Today's Trump Top 5: Conservatives turn on Trumpcare

Welcome to today's Trump Top 5, brought to you by Axios for Apple News. For more, check out our news STREAM here.

1. Another GOP "No" for the health care bill

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Moderate Sen. Dean Heller is a "no" on the Senate health care bill released yesterday, he announced today alongside Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Why this matters: Heller was the most obvious moderate to defect, as he's up for re-election next year in a state Hillary Clinton won. But now the bill has both moderate and conservative defectors, making compromise extremely challenging. Heller's move also could embolden other moderates to publicly oppose the bill.

What Heller and Sandoval want, here.

2. Trump's thumbs up?

Alex Brandon / AP

Sean Spicer told reporters at an off-camera White House briefing today that Trump is "very supportive" of the Senate health bill, and has been in contact with Mitch McConnell about where the bill will go next. Spicer also addressed questions regarding Trump's position on Medicaid cuts, and stated the president is "committed" to ensuring that those currently on Medicaid don't lose coverage.

Other highlights.

3. Obama knew

In August, then-President Barack Obama received CIA evidence of Putin's direct involvement in the cyber attacks meant to interfere with the U.S. presidential election by hurting Hilary Clinton and helping Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported.

Why it matters: The Obama administration's debate over what to do highlighted the challenge in dealing with such a politically charged issue.

How the Obama administration debated what to do about Russia hacking, here.

4. A softening Brexit

Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May offered European Union leaders a proposal during a summit in Brussels last night to allow E.U. citizens the right to stay in the U.K. after Brexit — a key point of contention in Brexit negotiations.

Why it matters: The U.K.'s membership in the EU has been key to its economic vibrancy, making it Europe's financial center. May's offer could help retain its stature by reassuring the 3 million EU citizens there that they can remain in the country.

5. Torture in Yemen

Maad El Zikry / AP

Lawmakers have asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to investigate the alleged torture of prisoners in Yemen after the AP reported yesterday that the U.S. was interrogating detainees who have already been tortured by the United Arab Emirates. That would put the U.S. in violation of the International Convention Against Torture.

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Teen pregnancies are down as contraception use is up

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Most of the 55% of U.S. teens who have had sex by age 18 use contraceptives, and more than 80% of them used a contraceptive during their first sexual encounter, according to a new study of 4,000 teenagers by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Because of this, only 2.2% of teenage girls gave birth in 2015, down from 6.2% in 1991. In fact, the number of teenage pregnancies have steadily fallen since the peak in 1990.

Other facts:

  • Teenage sexual activity has gradually declined since a sharp drop in 2002. 44% percent of males and 42% of females aged 15-19 have had sex, down from 60% and 51% in 1988.
  • 2% of females and 7% of males said they had sex for the first time with someone they just met.
  • 74% of females and 51% of males had sex for the first time with someone they were "going steady" with.

Podesta testifying to House intel about email hacks

Andrew Harnik / AP

Next week, John Podesta — Hillary Clinton's campaign manager whose emails were leaked on Wikileaks last year — will talk to the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session, as the committee continues its investigation into Russian election interference, according to NBC News.

Remember: 10 years worth of Podesta's emails were released on Wikileaks late last year. The hack was allegedly traced back to Russia.


Obama knew Putin was interfering in the election

Susan Walsh, Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Patrick Semansky / AP

In August last year, then-President Barack Obama received a highly classified CIA report with evidence of Russian President Vladimir Putin's direct involvement in the cyber attacks that were meant to interfere with the U.S. presidential election — to hurt Hilary Clinton and help Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported.

Why it matters: The Obama administration's debate over what to do highlighted the challenge in dealing with such a politically charged issue, which was central to the election and has remained central to the Trump presidency.


  1. Obama instructed aides to evaluate how the election system could be most vulnerable and to get agencies to back up the CIA's discovery.
  2. CIA Director John Brennan called the head of Russia's security agency and warned him about interfering in the election.
  3. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson attempted to secure the voting system, although some state officials refused.

When the intelligence agency leaders approached Congress with their conclusions, Democrats wanted the information to go public, while Republicans felt that revealing the information would help the Russians' attempt to destroy confidence in the electoral process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even questioned the White House's conclusions based on the intelligence, the Post reports.

The official statement about Russia's interference was released on October 7th. President Obama did not add his signature, and FBI Director James Comey also decided at the last minute to remove his name from the statement as he felt it was too close to the election for the FBI to get involved.

Retaliation: For 5 months, Obama deliberated various plans of action against Russia. It wasn't until December, a month after the unexpected election results, that he approved sanctions against Russia. He also approved a secret plan to plant cyber weapons in Russia's infrastructure, the Post reported for the first time, but it was up to President Trump to oversee that the plan was carried out.

Too little, too late: The Post points out that despite the clear evidence of Russia's crime, "because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences." Although those close to both Obama and Trump defend their leader's actions.

"It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked." — a former senior Obama administration official involved in the deliberations on Russia told the Post.

Irony: The Post published the story only a few hours after Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday, "By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn't they stop them?"

Go deeper with a full timeline and more details with the Washington Post story.


Today's Trump Top 5: No tapes, no jobs

Welcome to today's Trump Top 5, brought to you by Axios for Apple News. For more, check out our news STREAM here.

1. No tapes

Forty-one days after teasing the possibility of tapes of conversations with his former FBI director, Trump said it was all a bluff.

  • Even his friends can't understand why Trump would antagonize Comey, or add Nixonian atmospherics to an already problematic situation.
  • The month of mystery was classic Trump, who relishes the theatrics of a big reveal, at least as much as he did during his reality-show days.

Axios' Jonathan Swan points out that once his impulsive tweet was out there, Trump could revel in one of his favorite pastimes: trolling the media. Sources have described being with Trump while he tweets and watches the cable channels react in real-time to his trolling. He loves it, and he sure had some fun with this one.

So today's pièce de résistance was injecting the idea today that perhaps someone else had made tapes.

2. And no jobs

Susan Walsh / AP

Carrier, the heating and air-conditioning manufacturer, is laying off more than 600 employees from its Indianapolis plant next month — the same plant Trump vowed to keep on American soil. Those manufacturing jobs will go to Mexico, where labor is significantly cheaper.

Why it matters: Trump heralded the November deal as proof he'd live up to his pledge to protect U.S. jobs. And this comes just one day after Ford reversed its promise and shifted jobs to China instead of Mexico.

3. Conservatives aren't thrilled with the new health care bill

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Four Senate Republicans — Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ron Johnson — released a statement today saying they're "not ready to vote for" the Senate health care bill. That's enough to kill the bill if they actually vote against it.

The bottom line: If a rebellion happens, it's largely because conservatives want to get rid of more of the Affordable Care Act's insurance regulations, but the most expensive regulations are the ones that protect people with pre-existing conditions, which is exactly what Senate Republicans don't want to get rid of.

Get a speed read of the new bill here, and read the whole thing here.

4. More Trump/Russia leaks

Olivier Matthys / AP

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers reportedly told Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Senate investigators last week that President Trump "suggested" they publicly state there was no collusion between his campaign team and Russia.

More details, here.

5. One important fact

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Per NYT's Nick Kristoff: "About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.... Last year, there were more than 236 million prescriptions written for opioids in the United States — that's about one bottle of opioids for every American adult."

More stats, here.

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Today's Trump Top 5: What we know...

Welcome to today's Trump Top 5, brought to you by Axios for Apple News. For more, check out our news STREAM here.

1.... about the health care bill

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Tomorrow morning, the secret will be out and the GOP's Senate health bill will go live, with a CBO score as soon as Friday. We're hearing the state of play is extremely fluid — what we reported yesterday is changing today, and different people have different understandings of what's in the bill.

But one big thing that's in play: Republicans may take a different route to give states flexibility on the Affordable Care Act's insurance regulations.

What we know so far about market reforms, tax credits and Medicaid, here. .

2. ... about the Russian hacks

Alexei Nikolsky / AP

DHS officials told Congress today that Russian hackers went after elections-related systems in 21 states, although no tallies were altered. .

Video and other highlights from the hearing, here.

3. ... and about the Saudi shakeup

Nicolas Asfouri / AP

King Salman changed his heir today, making his 31-year-old son, Muhammad Bin Salman, the new crown prince instead of his 57-year-old nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef.

Why it matter: The move may spark revolutionary changes as Muhammad Bin Salman is considered a "radical reformer" by Saudi standards.

The new heir has:

  • Led Saudi Vision 2030, which places greater emphasis on foreign engagement and development.
  • Overseen the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebels.
  • Taken a hard-line on Iran, and accused them of trying to take over Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

Meet Muhammad Bin Salman, here.

4. Tweet of the day

While the Democrats took a huge morale hit with Jon Ossoff losing in the Georgia special election to Republican Karen Handel, Trump and Republicans won themselves some bragging rights.

5. Wishing Scalise well

Amy Harris / AP

Steve Scalise's condition has been upgraded to "fair" and the FBI says the shooting at a practice for the Congressional baseball game was not an act of terrorism. (More details, here.)

Last night at FedEx Field, Bono from U2 raised his hands to "lift up" Scalise and praised House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Kay Granger for "insisting and resisting and persisting" on women's issues.

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The generous sex life of the cabbage white butterfly

David Cook / Flickr Creative Commons

Scientist Nathan Morehouse has discovered that one of the most common butterflies — the white cabbage — has an unusual sex life, including large, protein-rich ejaculates that nourish the females as they produce offspring, according to the Atlantic.

How it works: Male butterflies ejaculate a solid package (unlike humans) of sperm called a spermatophore, which is often 13% of its body weight. The package is left in a pouch in the female's reproductive tract where the sperm moves on to a second pouch where it will later fertilize eggs. The rest of the protein-packed spermatophore is broken down for the female's nourishment. One spermatophore provides females with the nutrients needed for almost half of the eggs they'll lay.

While the white cabbage butterflies look common and plain to humans, their wings reflect the sun's UV rays, which give the females a lavender color and males a glowing purple color. The brighter the purple of a male, the more attractive it is to a female as it is a reflection of the butterfly's fitness and the nourishment the female might receive.

Clock's ticking: Scientists think male butterflies have sex 2-3 times in their life. Females, who have leftover spermatophore shells that can be counted, typically mate 2-3 times, but as many as 6 times in a lifespan.


Jack Ma: "The next 30 years is going to be painful"

AP Photo/Daniel Chan

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is traveling the world to get people thinking and talking about the opportunities and risks that will come with the age of artificial intelligence and globalization. He told CNBC that he thinks the era of Apple, Google and Amazon ruling the market will end, AI will ultimately lead to shorter working hours and more travel, but that this third technology revolution could also lead to a third world war.

"If they do not move fast, there's going to be trouble. So when we see something is coming, we have to prepare now. My belief is that you have to repair the roof while it is still functioning."
  • When it comes to companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, Ma said, "Large scale was the model. Personalized, custom-made is the future."
  • "The way to figure out the job creation, one of the best ways, is to help small business to sell their local products across the board. And we have to prepare now. Because the next 30 years is going to be painful."
  • He thinks the Chinese middle class is a great market for made-in-America goods, pointing to Alibaba's sale of 2 million American-made tubes of lipstick in 15 minutes.
  • "I think in the next 30 years, people only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week. My grandfather worked 16 hours a day in the farmland and [thought he was] very busy. We work eight hours, five days a week and think we are very busy."
  • He also thinks people will be able to travel more.
  • "The first technology revolution caused World War I. The second technology revolution caused World War II. This is the third technology revolution."
  • "I don't think we should make machines like humans. We should make sure the machine can do things that human beings cannot do."
  • When it comes to robots taking over, "Humans will win."

Today's Trump Top 5: Interpreting the China tweet

Welcome to today's Trump Top 5, brought to you by Axios for Apple News. For more, check out our news STREAM here.

1. Understanding the tweet

President Trump's tweet from this afternoon is making the rounds. Axios' Jonathan Swan interprets what's going on:

  1. Readers shouldn't view this as Trump making a definitive China break, or an immediate end to his strategy of using China to exert pressure on North Korea. It MAY mean that the US hits some Chinese companies with sanctions for helping North Korea.
  2. The more useful way to interpret this tweet is Trump publicly shaming Chinese Premier Xi Jinping for failing to change Kim Jong-Un's deranged behavior and giving him one last chance to fix it.
  3. This can also be seen as a classic Trump negotiating tactic: as he wrote in The Art of the Deal, the worst thing you can do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. "I protect myself by being flexible. I never get too attached to one approach."
  4. Administration officials are horrified by what happened to Otto Warmbier. It's being taken seriously at the highest level, and reinforced to Trump and his top aides that they're dealing with a very crazy person who will do whatever it takes to survive.
  5. The White House believes Xi has made unprecedented efforts to help, but they don't believe it's enough, and they're running out of time.

2. Health care bill countdown

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate health care bill will be released on Thursday with a vote next week. He said it will contain optional state waivers of some Affordable Care Act insurance regulations. But those waivers may not end up in the final bill — because they could get stripped out for violating Senate budget rules.

3. Spicer's back!

Alex Brandon / AP

Sean Spicer, who was back at the podium for his first on-camera briefing in 8 days, told reporters Tuesday that he didn't know whether President Trump, or anyone in the White House, has seen a draft of the Senate health care bill yet.

  • On reports that he may be shifting to a new role within the administration: "I'm right here," joked Spicer, before adding, "we're always looking for ways of doing a better job of articulating the president's agenda." He later noted the communications director role is still open.
  • On lack of on-camera briefings: "The briefing is one aspect of what we do," said Spicer, contending that Trump and his staff are available to the press a "significant" amount compared to past administrations.

4. Trump's worst nightmare


Andrew Weissmann, a veteran federal prosecutor now on the special Russia probe, is feared and loathed by Trumpworld. He is known for his skill at "flipping" witnesses — persuading them through high-stakes pressure to turn on friends, colleagues and superiors.

Meet him.

5. Build The (Virtual?) Wall

Eric Gay / AP

While President Trump is sorting out details for his proposed border wall, Border Patrol agents are creating a "virtual wall." They're using surveillance technology from the Defense Department that helps agents catch people crossing illegally, identify bulk cash, drugs, and even "agricultural pests that post a threat to the nation's food supply."

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By the numbers: The world's refugee problem

When including refugees, asylum seekers and people displaced within their own country, the number of "people of concern" worldwide reached 65.6 million last year, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which is a record. The chart below shows which countries currently have the most people of concern.

Of those, 22.5 million were refugees, with 5.5 million coming from Syria, 2.5 million from Afghanistan and 1.4 million from South Sudan

Data: UNHCR; Map: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Playing host:

  • The 10 countries who combined host 56% of the world's refugees — including Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon — only account for 2.5% of the world's GDP, according to Amnesty International.
  • Meanwhile, the 6 richest countries — including the U.S., China, Germany and the UK — host less than 9% of the world's refugees.