Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 26, 2018

Harold Maass
Joe Biden at a rally
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Pipe bomb investigation broadens as more packages intercepted

The investigation into pipe bombs sent to prominent figures, all critics of President Trump, expanded to 10 suspicious packages on Thursday, after the discovery of devices addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden and another mailed to actor Robert De Niro. Like the packages addressed to former President Barack Obama, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and other prominent Democrats, the latest packages were intercepted before reaching their apparent targets, and did not detonate. Nobody has been injured by the devices. The discoveries have prompted a nationwide search for those responsible. The investigation is intense in South Florida, because some of the packages were mailed from there. It was not immediately clear whether the devices were designed to detonate, or simply scare people. [The Washington Post]


Trump reportedly mulling executive order to block Central American migrants

The Trump administration plans to send up to 1,000 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help prevent undocumented immigrants from illegally entering the U.S., officials said Thursday. Trump also reportedly is considering issuing an executive order to block Central American migrants, including those seeking asylum, from entering the U.S. over the southern border as a caravan of thousands of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador travels through Mexico toward the U.S. "I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency," President Trump tweeted. "They will be stopped!" Trump also has intensified his attacks on Democrats in a bid to use the caravan and illegal immigration to rally the Republican base ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections. [Reuters, The New York Times]


Biden says bomb scare should be wake-up call to ease political division

Former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking hours after becoming the latest intended target of pipe bomb packages sent to prominent Democrats, said he hoped the incidents "might wake everybody in my business up a little bit and we will begin to put this nation back together again." The intended recipients of the 10 packages intercepted this week have clashed with President Trump, who at first called for unity then blamed much of the anger in U.S. society on "the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News." Biden responded by saying "words matter," and calling for U.S. leaders to "lower the temperature" in our public dialogue. "The press is not the enemy of the people," he said. "Immigrants are not animals." [NBC News]


Trump unveils proposal to cut Medicare prescription drug costs

President Trump on Thursday announced a plan to lower drug prices, proposing Medicare pay for certain prescription drugs based on prices in other advanced industrial countries. The proposal calls for a demonstration project covering half the country in which Medicare would set an "international pricing index" as a benchmark for how much to pay for drugs covered by Part B of Medicare. "This is a revolutionary change," Trump said in a speech at the Department of Health and Human Services. "Nobody's had the courage to do it, or they just didn't want to do it." Trump has long promised to bring down drug prices. His announcement comes just ahead of Nov. 6 midterm elections at a time when many voters are focused on health care. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]


China calls report of eavesdropping on Trump 'fake news'

China on Thursday denied a New York Times report that its operatives were listening to calls made by President Trump on his personal cellphone, calling it "fake news." Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the Times reporters "are sparing no efforts to win the Academy Award for best screenplay." Beijing suggested Trump trade in his iPhone for a smartphone made by China's Huawei "if they are really concerned about security issues." Trump has called the Times report inaccurate, too, tweeting that he never uses insecure mobile phones. He said he only uses secure phones "and have only one seldom used government cell phone." [The Associated Press]


North, South Korea agree to dismantle 22 border guard posts

North and South Korea agreed on Friday to "completely destroy" 22 guard posts along their heavily fortified border, South Korea's defense ministry said. "The measures will be finished through mutual verification in December," the ministry said in a statement. The closures mark the latest in a series of steps to ease military tensions between the neighboring rivals to bolster efforts to get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapon and long-range missile programs. The agreement came in talks after the two sides agreed to a military pact at a summit last month in the North Korean capital calling for a halt to "all hostile acts." That deal also included a no-fly zone near the border and the gradual removal of guard posts, firearms, and landmines from the Demilitarized Zone. [Reuters]


Stocks rebound, then futures fall as volatility continues

U.S. stocks surged on Thursday, bouncing back with a lift from strong corporate earnings reports after suffering big losses a day earlier. Tech shares jumped after Microsoft, Visa, and Xilinx made solid gains after reporting strong earnings. Twitter and Comcast led internet and media companies higher, and Ford's better-than-expected earnings gave consumer-focused stocks a lift. The S&P 500 gained 1.9 percent, the Dow rose by 1.6 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite surged by 3 percent. "It's certainly reassuring to see stocks bounce back today on stronger earnings, but I would expect that we continue to see a lot of day to day volatility," said Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones. U.S. stock futures dropped early Friday, pointing to a lower open. [The Associated Press, MarketWatch]


Record-low 2017 flu vaccinations lined up with record-high flu deaths

The flu killed more Americans last season than any in recorded history — and it could be because people didn't get vaccinated. Just 37.1 percent of American adults got a flu vaccine in the 2017-2018 flu season, the lowest rate since 2010-2011. That could be why 49 million people got the disease and a record 79,000 people died from it last season. Last year's leading flu strain was particularly resistant to vaccines and especially harsh on young and old people. But a 6.2 percent drop in vaccinations from the previous season could've also driven higher death rates. The CDC started recording flu deaths in the 1970s, and the highest number of deaths before last year was 56,000, in 2012-2013. [CDC, The Washington Post]


Sahle-Work Zewde becomes Ethiopia's 1st female president

Ethiopia's parliament on Thursday approved the appointment of senior diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde as the country's first female president. The president's job is mostly ceremonial, with the prime minister holding executive power and acting as head of state. Still, the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hailed the selection of Sahle-Work, currently a United Nations under-secretary general and special representative of the secretary general to the African Union, as "a historic move." "In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life," Fitsum Arega, Abiy's chief of staff, said on Twitter. [Reuters]


CBS developing animated Star Trek comedy

CBS is working on a new Star Trek half-hour animated comedy series, Entertainment Weekly reported Thursday. The show, Star Trek: Lower Decks, comes from Rick & Morty writer Mike McMahan and will revolve around the support crew of an unimportant Starfleet Academy ship. This is one of several new Star Trek shows in development exclusively for CBS's streaming platform, CBS All Access, where Star Trek: Discovery airs. Discovery co-creator Alex Kurtzman will produce Lower Decks. The series, which is the Star Trek franchise's first full-fledged comedy, does not yet have a premiere date. CBS has ordered two seasons. [Entertainment Weekly]