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Inside Daily Brief (Dec 1st, 2017)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans have enough votes to pass a tax-reform bill later on Friday. Three holdout senators have now expressed their support - Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Maine Republican Susan Collins and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin - in exchange for various demands. Republicans need 50 votes to pass the bill through the chamber. An updated version of the bill would lower the pass-through rate for businesses to 23 percent instead of 25 percent, among other changes. The legislation is expected to add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade. - NYT

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson brushed off reports about his possible removal, calling them "laughable." The New York Times reported on Thursday that the White House plans to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in coming weeks. During a meeting with Libya's prime minister on Friday, Tillerson told reporters, “It’s laughable." When a reporter asked him about the possible replacement, he waved his hands "as if to brush it aside," The Hill reported. The State Department said Tillerson will remain in the position. On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders also said that President Trump remains supportive of Tillerson. "When the president loses confidence in somebody, they will not longer be here," she said. - USAT

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Pope Francis, in a meeting with Myanmar refugees on Friday, used the term "Rohingya" for the first time during his trip. In a visit to Myanmar this week, Francis had declined to say Rohingya, drawing criticism from human-rights groups. The Catholic Church had said Francis would avoid using the term to prevent escalating tensions in the country. On Friday, Francis held hands and listened to the stories of 16 Rohingya Muslim in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital. “We won’t close our hearts or look away," Francis said. "The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.” He asked for their forgiveness toward those that have persecuted them in the Buddhist-majority country. More than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since fighting broke out in late August. - NPR

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German police evacuated a Christmas market in Potsdam after someone opened a suspicious package believed to contain explosives. German authorities are on high alert for terrorist attacks after an incident a year ago. An Islamist attacker hijacked a truck, killing the driver, and drove it through a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 11 more people. On Friday, reports were conflicting about what materials exactly were in the package in Potsdam. Reuters reported that police described it as an improvised explosive device and defused it. The Associated Press reported that the package contained nails and a powder, and may have been a dummy. It will take time to analyze the powder, a state interior minister said. The package was originally delivered to a nearby pharmacy, where an employee opened it and noticed electronics and wires inside. - REUTERS

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An independent review has determined that state and city police failed to protect people and free speech during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The report, released on Friday, said that police failed in their plans to intervene in the violence and separate white nationalists and counter-protesters during the Aug. 12 event. It claims that the Charlottesville Police Department and the Virginia State Police did not communicate effectively during the protest, which resulted in the death of 32-year-old counter-protestor Heather Heyer. "These shortcomings contributed to a chaotic series of events that led to violence and death," the 220-page review said. Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney, and his law firm conducted the review for the Charlottesville city council. - USNEWS

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A former U.S. Marine was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a Japanese woman in Okinawa. A Japanese court convicted Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, 33, on Friday after he confessed to raping 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro last year. Prosecutors accused him of clubbing Shimabukuro on the head and stabbing her to death. Shinzato then abandoned her body in a forest of an Okinawa village, reports said. At the time, he was a civilian contractor working for an American air base on the Japanese island. He served in the U.S. Marines from 2007 to 2014. Shinzato had denied his intent to murder. - NYT

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has hinted that the Justice Department could increase federal enforcement of marijuana. Without providing details, Sessions said at a press conference this week that he believes cannabis is "detrimental." "We're looking very hard on that right now," he said about the department's stance on the drug. "In fact, we had meetings yesterday and talked about it at some length." Sessions said that the department doesn't consider marijuana as harmless, adding that "people should avoid it." He noted that consuming marijuana is a violation of federal law. At a state level, marijuana is legal for medical use in 29 states, while recreational use is legal in eight states. Both uses are legal in Washington, D.C. California will open up the sale of recreational marijuana to consumers on January 1. - NEWSWEEK

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Taliban militants stormed a college in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing nine people and injuring at least 36 others. The attack on Friday morning coincided with the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. The gunmen opened fire at the Agriculture Training Institute in the northwestern city. Police killed three of the militants as they searched for others. A police chief said the gunmen were wearing suicide vests but were killed before they could detonate them. Those killed in the attack were six students, two civilians and a security guard. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. - BBC

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A magnitude 4.1 earthquake in Delaware could be felt by people as far away as New York City and Boston. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the quake occurred at 4:47 p.m. eastern time on Thursday. A geophysicist with the USGS's earthquake information center described the quake as "exceptionally rare." Its center was about 6 miles east-northeast of Dover, where people rushed out of buildings to see what had happened, reports said. No injuries or major damages were reported. - CBS

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Specimens purportedly taken from the mythical creature "Yeti" are actually from bears, scientists have found. The Yeti, described in stories and media as the "Abominable Snowman," are portrayed as large furry cryptids that roam the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet. According to research published this week in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B," scientists analyzed DNA from nine preserved "Yeti" specimens. They found that five came from Tibetan brown bears, two from Himalayan brown bears, and one from an Asian black bear. A ninth sample came from a dog. - LATIMES

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CORRECTION: This morning we reported that the Alabama special election is December 5, when it is December 12. We apologize for the mistake!

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