February 13, 2018

Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo took House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to task Tuesday for voting for a budget that would increase the deficit by $7 trillion by 2027. In theory, such robust spending should infuriate Ryan, who railed against deficits and sounded the alarm about an impending "debt crisis" during President Obama's time in office. But in the age of President Trump, Ryan is whipping up support for the debt-inducing budget — and being forced to defend his reversal.

"We're talking about out-of-control spending … leading to trillion-dollar deficits for 10 years," Bartiromo told Ryan on her show Mornings With Maria, then asked: "Tell me how you're looking at that." Ryan defended the budget by noting its mandatory spending cuts and increased funding for the military. "The domestic spending we put in here is pretty much one-time spending," he said, adding that concessions like disaster aid and infrastructure spending were necessary "to get the military budget we wanted." Ryan also complained that the deficit wouldn't have been so big if the Senate had saved money (in theory) by repealing the Affordable Care Act last summer.

Bartiromo shot back, "[People] are surprised at you because you've been this entitlement reform person and a deficit hawk for years," which prompted Ryan to interrupt and insist, "And I still am." The host continued: "But you don't look like you are based on this budget." Watch the exchange below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:31 p.m. ET

For those of you currently shopping for an engagement ring, here's some good news: There are a lot more diamonds hiding in the ground than we thought.

By measuring seismic waves rippling through Earth, scientists have discovered a quadrillion tons of diamonds about a hundred miles below the planet's surface. That's as much as a thousand times more than previous estimates, National Geographic reported.

A quadrillion — which is about the number of ants that are alive worldwide, to give you some perspective — tons is still only a small percentage, as it turns out. The newly discovered diamonds amount to only about 2 percent of the layer of Earth where they were found. "It was unexpected," said Joshua Garber, the author of the study, "but not unprecedented."

The study, published in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, isn't perfectly conclusive; there's a possibility that the seismic waves measured could be caused by other compounds. But it presents "an exciting and elegant result," said Maureen Long, a seismologist at Yale University.

The rarity of diamonds has always been a little exaggerated by jewelry markets — and now, it's even more so. But it might be too much to hope that this new discovery will make getting that bling any cheaper. Read more about this study at National Geographic. Shivani Ishwar

1:31 p.m. ET

President Trump on Tuesday was forced to walk back his controversial statements about Russia's election interference, clarifying that he accepts the "intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place." But on Wednesday, he suggested that the issue was a thing of the past.

When ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked Trump whether Russia is still targeting the U.S., Trump reportedly shook his head and simply said "no."

After Trump held a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, critics condemned his failure to side with the U.S. intelligence community on its findings that Russia meddled in the election. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, directly disputed Trump's defense of Putin, issuing a statement that reaffirmed his confidence in Russia's "ongoing" attempt to "undermine our democracy."

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden expressed shock over Trump's claim that Russia is no longer attempting to interfere in U.S. election systems, writing "OMG. OMG. OMG." on Twitter. Whether Trump will walk back his walkback on the walkback remains to be seen. Summer Meza

12:52 p.m. ET

Most school districts in the U.S. are not testing their drinking water for lead, a Government Accountability Office report published Tuesday found.

The finding, reported Wednesday by Stat, paints an alarming picture for water safety. Just 4 in 10 school districts conducted tests in 2016 and 2017, but 37 percent of the schools that ran tests found elevated levels of lead in drinking water.

While 43 percent of schools conducted lead tests, 41 percent of schools did not, and 16 percent didn't know whether the water had been tested. Congressional Democrats, who requested the report, called the findings "disturbing and unacceptable" and called for "immediate action" from the Trump administration.

"The administration should finalize a stronger Lead and Copper Rule and issue protective guidance requiring lead testing for all public schools," said the lawmakers in a press release. The GAO also recommended that the EPA implement new guiding rules on how schools test lead levels.

Elevated lead exposure is linked with numerous health concerns, reports Stat, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says lead can have severe consequences on brain development and children's nervous systems. Summer Meza

11:36 a.m. ET

Acting EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, just signed his first major regulatory amendment — making it easier for corporations to discard coal ash however they see fit.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized a rule that rolls back standards for disposing of the toxic ash produced by burning coal, The Hill reports. The amendment was in the works for several months, but when Wheeler took over for Scott Pruitt earlier this month, he took the reigns. Pruitt resigned as EPA administrator following a string of ethics scandals.

The amendment backpedals on regulations put in place by the Obama administration, which mandated strict federal standards for coal ash disposal in 2015. In a statement, the EPA said relaxing the standards would save $31.4 million a year in regulatory costs, as states are given authority to loosen or waive requirements for companies.

"These amendments provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash, while ensuring human health and the environment are protected," said Wheeler in the statement. Environmental groups disagree, reports The Hill, and immediately condemned the measure as dangerous to groundwater and air pollution.

Companies with lax standards may not be required to monitor whether coal ash leaches into surrounding groundwater and will have extended deadlines to reduce coal ash disposal. The EPA has also loosened pollution standards on acceptable levels of lead, lithium, cobalt, and molybdenum in groundwater. Read more at The Hill. Summer Meza

11:29 a.m. ET

Is Canada ready to move on from America?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday added a single word to the position of "minister of international trade," renaming it the "minister of international trade diversification." Adding "diversification" might seem like a small change — but it could signal a massive blow to the U.S.-Canada relationship, The Toronto Star suggests.

America is easily Canada's biggest trading partner, accounting for $207 billion of the country's $389 billion in imports each year. That relationship has become complicated, however, after President Trump began announcing a series of tariffs on America's northern neighbor in March. Canada, along with the EU, China, and other tariff targets, has retaliated with its own tariffs on the U.S. Trudeau went so far as to blast Trump's "totally unacceptable" charges in a particularly harsh press conference on May 31.

And Wednesday's change wasn't just a hint. Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts tweeted exactly what "diversification" really meant: "We need to get Canadian resources to markets other than the United States."

Talk about stating the obvious. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:02 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

America's original makeup catalog isn't just for moms anymore.

Avon's falling revenue has forced it to shift from its iconic door-to-door sales to a brand based on e-commerce, Bloomberg reports. And it's pushing outside the U.S. to get there.

Suffering from sales losses to Amazon and Walmart, the 132-year-old makeup brand sold its U.S. operations two years ago and moved its headquarters to London, Bloomberg says. Avon's marketing focus followed, and the company has since expanded into Brazil, Mexico, and other countries where door-to-door selling still reigns.

But in the U.K., social media dominates. Avon still relies on independent representatives, but how they sell their products has changed. Many create YouTube channels and Instagram accounts full of beauty tips, pushing customers to order online instead of through a catalog, Bloomberg notes. Brazil's marketing features drag queens and transgender models done up in Avon products, and a Korean beauty line is in the works.

Avon's new CEO and new approach haven't turned around sales quite yet, with the company reporting revenue growth but net losses. But Avon is training representatives to be more social-media savvy, hoping a makeover will make customers answer the door once again.

Read more about Avon's new look at Bloomberg. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:38 a.m. ET
Mario Tama/Getty Images

There's a new national health crisis, and it has nothing to do with a disease or disorder. It's family separation.

President Trump's policy of splitting migrant children from their parents at the border has drained $40 million from the Health and Human Services Department — even after the policy's June 20 reversal, Politico reports. Now, the department is preparing to spend $200 million more.

Housing the influx of separated children in temporary shelters costs nearly $800 per child per night. It cost the government roughly $1.5 million each day, at the height of the crisis, to house the more than 2,500 children in government custody, totaling at least $30 million over the past two months, two sources tell Politico. Then tack on another $10 million for case workers who will handle family reunification for the next few months, plus an undetermined amount to send emergency response teams and health workers to refugee facilities. And don't forget the cost of transporting children back to their families.

These ever-expanding charges have HHS prepared to draw another $200 million originally allocated to other refugees and fighting HIV, Politico says. Sources suggest the unexpected spending could leave other initiatives, such as unemployment services, underfunded.

"We have a public health emergency like Ebola, Zika, hurricanes — except this one is man-made," Emily Holubowich, the executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Health Funding, tells Politico. And with many children still split from their families, the emergency isn't over yet. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

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