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April 21, 2017
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Calm and quiet negotiations aren't everyone's cup of tea. Congress has until April 28 to pass a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, and Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees have been working with Republican leaders to negotiate a spending package. Any spending bill will need the support of at least eight Democrats in the Senate to pass. On Thursday, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the spending bill has to include some initial funding for President Trump's border wall with Mexico, and Democrats have to play ball.

"We have our list of priorities," Mulvaney said Thursday. "We want more money for defense. We want to build a border wall." He said the White House would be open to throwing some money at Democratic priorities, too — mentioning paying risk-sharing subsidies to insurance companies to cover low-income health care, important to keeping ObamaCare exchanges functioning — but Democrats have to support Trump's wall and other priorities, too. He stopped short of saying Trump wouldn't sign a bill without such funding, The Washington Post reports.

Democrats expressed disappointment that the White House was elbowing its way in. "Everything had been moving smoothly until the administration moved in with a heavy hand," said Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "Not only are Democrats opposed to the wall, there is significant Republican opposition as well." Mulvaney wasn't swayed, insisting Democrats agree to fund the wall. "If they tell us to pound sand, I think that's probably a disappointing indicator of where the next four years is going to go," he said

The cost of completing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border ranges from $12 billion to $70 billion. During the campaign, Trump had insisted that he would somehow force Mexico to foot the costs. Peter Weber

1:39 p.m. ET

Every president has a different approach to the extremely important annual tradition of the White House turkey pardon. President Barack Obama embraced the absurdity of the ritual with dozens of extremely corny dad jokes over the years. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon, honored their turkey by shaking its hand (claw? talon?). The pardoning thing hadn't quite come around yet when President Harry Truman was in office, though, so he apparently just ate his birds.

Trump's turkey pardoning technique had yet to reveal itself as he approached Drumstick, the unfortunately-named 36-pound turkey, on Tuesday. Trump's style, though, was quickly proven to be "appropriate awe" in the face of what he repeatedly noted was "a big bird."

Watch Trump pardon Drumstick below. Jeva Lange

1:14 p.m. ET

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) issued a statement Tuesday denying allegations that he fired a female employee after she refused to "succumb" to his "sexual advances." The woman ultimately signed a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of $27,111.75, which came from Conyers' office budget. Conyers admitted no fault as part of the settlement, and in the statement Tuesday he said: "In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so." Conyers added he would cooperate with an investigation if the House determined to look into the situation further.

Read his full statement below. Jeva Lange

12:40 p.m. ET
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Fifty-five people have died in Puerto Rico from causes related to Hurricane Maria — at least, that's the official number. An alarming survey of funeral homes by CNN puts the death toll much higher, at 499.

The 499 deaths reported by funeral homes include "indirect deaths," which are included in official death tolls and involve circumstances "in which a person likely would be alive if not for the storm and its aftermath," CNN explains. In one example, a man who died in a house fire started by an oil lamp he was only using because of the storm-caused power outage "should be part of the official death toll, according to Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety." But to date, only a funeral home has recorded that death, CNN notes; it hasn't been counted toward the official number collected by the government.

CNN's survey only reached 112 of Puerto Rico's funeral homes, or about half, the head of the Puerto Rico Association of Funeral Home Directors confirmed. Additionally, "there's always a significant number of bodies that don't get processed through funeral homes," said Eric Klinenberg, the director of New York University's Institute for Public Knowledge. "What that tells me [is that] there are a lot more cases to be reported — and that number is probably going to spike again."

Mónica Menéndez, the deputy director of the local Bureau of Forensic Sciences, dismissed CNN's report, calling funeral home reports "rumors" and claiming "there's no reason for us to be hiding numbers." Read the full details and methodology of CNN's report here. Jeva Lange

12:03 p.m. ET
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On Tuesday, Reuters published a report on the modernization of the United States' nuclear weapons arsenals and frankly, it's pretty terrifying. In 2011, Russia and the U.S. signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to mutually reduce their nuclear weapons stockpile to 1,550 warheads by 2018 — but soon after, both countries got to work improving their remaining arms.

Cherry Murray, the former top official at the U.S. Energy Department, summed up America's strategic thinking to Reuters: "When you get down to that number we better make sure they work. And we better make sure our adversaries believe they work."

In 2010, President Obama came to a compromise with congressional Republicans to spend $85 billion on a 10-year nuclear modernization program to ensure Republican support for ratifying the New START treaty. Reuters reports that over the next 30 years, the U.S. will in fact spend at least an additional $1.25 trillion on nuclear modernization.

So what type of weapons does that chunk of change get you? The new and improved B61 bomb — which costs nearly $21 million a pop — can "level cities with a 340-kiloton blast with 23 times the force of Hiroshima's," Reuters wrote, in one example of the amplified technology Washington is working on. The Air Force is planning to develop 480 of these souped-up B61 bombs, for a total price of almost $10 billion.

Read the full special report on the U.S.'s nuclear weapons modernization at Reuters. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:31 a.m. ET

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, preempted impeachment proceedings by announcing his resignation Tuesday, The New York Times reports. Mugabe, 93, has ruled the nation since its independence in 1980.

On Sunday, the ruling Zanu-PF party ousted Mugabe as party leader. Mugabe stunned Zimbabweans by refusing to resign in a rambling televised speech. He said Tuesday that his decision to finally step down was out of concern for "the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power," and residents reportedly took to the street of Harare, the capital, to celebrate:

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who served as Zimbabwe's vice president until Mugabe fired him this month, was chosen as the new party head, but he had fled to South Africa for safety. Mnangagwa is expected to be Mugabe's successor. Jeva Lange

10:46 a.m. ET
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In early October, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG), an internal watchdog, completed an extensive report on the implementation of President Trump's original travel ban, Executive Order 13769, which in late January caught customs agents by surprise and led to people getting trapped at airports. But in a letter to lawmakers Monday, the OIG accused DHS leadership of intentionally delaying release of the report for more than six weeks, perhaps because the Trump administration insisted the travel ban rollout was "a massive success story ... on every single level."

As the OIG letter explains, DHS officials have indicated they may invoke "deliberative process privilege," an unusual response to this sort of report that would permit the agency to keep the document private. This is a troubling prospect, the letter says, because it "can mask discovery of decisions made based on illegitimate considerations, or evidence of outright misconduct." If DHS does invoke this privilege, it would "significantly hamper" the DHS watchdog's ability to keep Congress well-informed about the department's aims and activities.

Download the full letter here to read a partial summary of the report's findings, including the allegation that customs agents "violated two court orders" in the implementation process. Bonnie Kristian

10:39 a.m. ET
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Even if you've had location services turned off on your Android phone, Google knows where you've been. Quartz reported Tuesday that for nearly a year, Android phones have been sending the location of nearby cell towers to Google even when location services are disabled and there is no SIM card in the phone.

By collecting relevant cell phone tower data, Google can identify an Android user's location within a certain range. And while it might seem comforting that Google doesn't know your exact location, Quartz notes that every time you pass a cell phone tower and are using cellular data or WiFi, your Android phone sends identifying data to Google. This may not happen as frequently in big sky country, but people living in cities are far more likely to pass by cell phone towers multiple times per day.

Google confirmed to Quartz that it had collected Android user data by analyzing the location of nearby cell towers, but stressed that it did so to send Android users push notifications and messages. In an email, a Google spokesperson added, "We never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID." Reassuring! Kelly O'Meara Morales

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