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Inside Daily Brief (Dec 2nd, 2017)

Senate Republicans passed sweeping tax reform legislation early on Saturday morning by a vote of 51-49. No Democrats supported the measure; Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the lone Republican holdout. On Twitter, President Trump thanked Republicans in the House and Senate "for your hard work and commitment," while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "a great day for the country." Many Democrats were outspoken against both the bill - which they argue will raise the deficit and eliminate a number of deductions relied upon by the middle-class - and the "11th hour" process by which it passed. The bill also cuts the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, offers new advantages to small business owners and opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. A controversial last-minute provision defines an "unborn child" as an legal individual, which could be an opening to challenging abortion rights down the road. The next step for Republicans will be to reconcile the tax bills passed in the House and Senate in committee conference. They hope to deliver a version for the President to sign before the holiday break. – NYT

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According to a report on Syrian state television, Israel attacked a military position outside Damascus with surface-to-surface missiles, causing the Syrian air defense system to respond. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the missiles were likely fired by the Israeli military, which has not responded to the allegations. The missiles apparently struck a Syrian army weapons cache. Israel has cautioned that it would respond to any threats from the government of Iran, which has been a major backer of the Syrian regime. During a trip to Syria in October, the head of the Iranian military warned Israel against breaching Syria's borders or airspace. – REUTERS

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On Saturday, President Trump responded to reports that his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, would be participating in the Russia investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. When asked what he thought Flynn might say to Mueller, Trump responded that he was not worried, because "there has been absolutely no collusion" between his campaign or administration and Russian officials. On Friday, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and disclosed that he would not cooperate with the special counsel investigation. Trump, who was speaking to reporters before boarding a flight to a New York fundraiser, refocused the conversation on the passage of the Senate Republicans' tax bill, calling it "one of the big nights." Later on Saturday, Trump tweeted that he fired Flynn "because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," arguing that "he has pled guilty to those lies" and that, regarding his conversations with Russians themselves, "there was nothing to hide!" – CNN

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A suspicious package containing a powdery substance and nails, which was destroyed by police in Potsdam, Germany on Friday, was probably not a bomb intended for the nearby Christmas market. The package was delivered to a pharmacy close to a busy Christmas market on Friday, and was destroyed by authorities in a controlled explosion after the market was evacuated. Officers continue to search for the person who sent the package, but do not believe it was a viable explosive device intended as a threat to holiday shoppers. The market - which also features food stands and entertainment - re-opened Saturday with a heightened police presence. – WAPO

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has called for Nevada Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen to resign following a report in BuzzFeed News claiming that he sexually harassed a staffer. An unnamed 25-year-old former campaign aide told BuzzFeed that, during Kihuen's campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Crescent Hardy last year, he repeatedly propositioned her for dates and sex. He was 35 at the time. She also claims that Kihuen twice touched her thighs without her consent, which led her to report the behavior to a mid-level colleague and leave her job. In a statement, Kihuen responded that he considered the staffer "a valued member of my team" and apologized for "anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable." Rep. Pelosi called the young woman's allegation "convincing," commended her for her courage and then called on Kihuen to step down. – FOXNEWS

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On Friday, NASA successfully fired up four of the backup thrusters on the Voyager 1 space probe for the first time in 37 years. The Voyager 1 is the only man-made object to have traveled beyond our solar system. It continues to communicate with NASA back on Earth via the Deep Space Network. For the past several decades, the Voyager has relied on attitude control thrusters, which only fire for milliseconds at a time, to re-aim its antenna toward Earth. Over time, these thrusters have become less effective. NASA engineers are now using the rear trajectory correction maneuver thrusters, last active as the probe navigated by Saturn in November of 1980, to steer. These thrusters should remain effective for an estimated two to three years. Unfortunately, as they require heaters to operate, they are an unfortunate draw on the probe's overall power. – VERGE

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A Waffle House customer who took it upon himself to prepare his meal after finding the staff asleep has become a social media sensation. Alex Bowen claims he was "slightly drunken" when he arrived at a West Columbia, South Carolina, Waffle House early on Thursday morning. After spotting an employee napping in one of the booths, Bowen entered the kitchen and prepared himself a double Texas bacon cheesesteak melt with extra pickles. He did not initially pay for the food, but returned on Thursday afternoon and gave an employee $5. Bowen initially shared his story (and behind-the-scenes photos) on Facebook, and it has since migrated to mainstream media. In a statement, Waffle House claims that its local Division Manager has apologized to Bowen, and offered him a job due to his "cooking skills." – WIST10

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Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have apparently arrested Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik. Shafik, a former Egyptian prime minister, fled his native country for the UAE in 2012 after losing the country's first free presidential election. He had intended to return to Egypt and run for the presidency before being detained. The government of the UAE favors current Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and many pro-government pundits and lawyers have denounced Shafik as a traitor. Shafik had campaigned in 2012 with the support of Egypt's business and military establishment, but was defeated by Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. Sisi later became president following a military coup, in an election that was criticized by international observers. – NYT

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