Puerto Rico, Tom Price, Catalonia: Your Weekend Briefing


    Puerto Rico, Tom Price, Catalonia: Your Weekend Briefing

    Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

    1. “A giant, beautiful, massive — the biggest ever in our country — tax cut.” That’s how President Trump described his new tax proposal, which would reduce corporate rates and collapse the individual brackets to three from seven. Here are six charts that help explain the plan.

    Democrats say it offers little relief for the middle class and would mainly benefit corporations and the wealthy. Mr. Trump could save $1 billion. Some warn the deficit could explode.

    The Senate Budget Committee unveiled a 2018 budget blueprint that would shield the tax cut — estimated at $1.5 trillion or more over the next decade — from a Democratic filibuster, a critical step for Republican lawmakers as they move ahead. First, the House and the Senate need to agree on a budget resolution for the 2018 fiscal year. The House is expected to vote on one this week.


    2. The White House is under escalating pressure to step up its response to the devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria as food and water supplies dwindle and desperation and frustration grow among the island’s 3.4 million residents.

    The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, has been a powerful voice of grievance. “This is not a good news story,” she said. “This is a ‘people are dying’ story.” President Trump, from his New Jersey golf club, fired back, accusing her of “poor leadership.” He said 10,000 federal workers were on the island “doing a fantastic job.”

    A team of our journalists spent 24 hours with people trying to survive in the region. Here’s what they saw.

    Residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also devastated by last month’s hurricanes, are only beginning to understand the losses. President Trump plans to travel to Puerto Rico, and possibly the Virgin Islands, on Tuesday.


    3. Tom Price, above right, the health and human services secretary, has resigned after drawing ire from President Trump and the public for racking up at least $400,000 in travel bills for chartered flights. Don J. Wright, the deputy assistant secretary for health, will serve as acting secretary.

    The president was dealt another blow when the evangelical favorite Roy Moore defeated Senator Luther Strange, Mr. Trump’s pick, in the Senate G.O.P. runoff in Alabama.

    The outcome reflects the power of the anti-establishment approach of Mr. Trump’s recently departed chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and Mr. Bannon’s new partnership with the billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.


    4. Mitch McConnell, center, had also banked on Luther Strange, but the Senate majority leader’s biggest defeat came when his party’s last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act imploded.

    President Trump, though, is not ready to fold, and predicted that the Senate would vote on another version early next year. He intends to negotiate with Democrats.

    We looked at the long list of Mr. Trump’s promises of rapid action, from health care to the wall with Mexico to an infrastructure bill. Most have not materialized.


    5. Tensions are high in Catalonia, Spain, as security forces try to stop an independence referendum vote unfolding in defiance of Madrid. Here are images from the voting and the days leading up to it.

    “We have been waiting for this moment for 300 years,” said one Catalan who plans to vote to split from Spain.

    Catalonia’s “accidental” leader, Carles Puigdemont, accused the central government of using “truncheons against ballot boxes.” . Here’s what’s at stake.


    6. In the wake of another independence vote — an overwhelming yes from Iraqi Kurds — the government in Baghdad is attempting to isolate the Kurdish region by land and air. But cooperation between Kurds and the Iraqi military is still vital in the fight against the Islamic State, with thousands of Iraqis fleeing to the safety of Kurdish areas over the weekend as the government mounts an offensive.

    The Kurds warned they would declare independence unilaterally if Baghdad did not yield. Does their dream of independence have a chance?

    In another major development for the Middle East, an abrupt Saudi royal decree provided for the eventual end to a driving ban for women, stunning the country and raising the question of what other relaxations the newly appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman might effect.


    7. More than halfa million Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar for Bangladesh in September, topping the worst month of the Syrian refugee outflow, and the recent arrivals are living in abjectly desperate conditions.

    “It’s on a scale that we couldn’t imagine,” said a medical emergency manager.

    Here’s how you can help.


    8. The United States is in direct contact with North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed, offering a possible way forward beyond threats of military confrontation.

    President Trump is expected to travel to five Asian nations over 12 days in November, including three critical to the North Korea crisis: Japan, South Korea and China. Above, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

    Otto Warmbier — the college student who was imprisoned in North Korea and died shortly after he was returned to the U.S. in a coma — suffered brain damage after his blood circulation was cut off, a coroner concluded. Mr. Warmbier’s parents and Mr. Trump claim that he was tortured. The coroner saw no signs of torture but couldn’t rule out the possibility.

    This week, Mr. Trump will meet with Thailand’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, at the White House.


    9. Facebook isn’t the only social media platform under scrutiny for enabling Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Twitter faced the Senate and House intelligence committees and was accused of ignoring fraudulent Russian activity after it reported only 200 fake accounts. Google is also preparing to brief Congress.

    The Congressional Black Caucus raised the heat on Facebook to examine Russian efforts to exploit racial division ahead of the election.


    10. Economists hunting for causes of dampened wages found part of the answer buried in fast-food franchise agreements.

    Some of the industry’s biggest names, including Burger King, Carl’s Jr. and Pizza Hut, prohibit franchisees from hiring workers away from one another.

    The current state of U.S. wages will come out in the monthly employment report due Friday.


    11. Today is game day for the N.F.L., with the possibility of more anthem protests. After havoc last week, the N.F.L. found itself in a tight spot, trying to balance its players’ desire to raise social issues with fans who want to enjoy the sport without a political tinge. Here’s the roster of games.

    One theme that emerged from several meetings across the league: Don’t push back at an unpredictable president.

    At some high schools, students who kneel during the anthem could face punishment. But if the school is public, such directives may run up against students’ First Amendment rights.


    12. “Saturday Night Live” had a lot of news to catch up on in its season premiere, including the anthem protests and President Trump’s response to the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico.

    “Write them a check with our money, you cheap cracker,” the cast member Michael Che, above, said of the perceived lack of government aid in a searing mini-monologue on “Weekend Update.”

    Jay-Z, the musical guest, showed his support for protesting athletes by performing his first song in a Colin Kaepernick jersey.


    13. Finally, it’s October, the perfect time of year to take in a scary movie or two, especially in the comfort of your home. Here are some of our top picks.

    Need something to nibble on while you’re at it? How about these internet-famous chocolate chip cookies. Be ready to “pan-bang,” though, if you want the crisp ripples.

    Have a great week.


    Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6 a.m. Eastern.

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    Published at Sun, 01 Oct 2017 12:31:32 +0000