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July 17, 2017
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Republicans decided last fall that they would use their unexpected control of the White House and Congress to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act and move on, but as their replacement legislation faces yet another delay and continued uncertainty in the Senate, it is clearer than ever that President Trump and "many in Congress dramatically underestimated the challenge of rolling back former President Barack Obama's signature achievement," Politico reports.

Congressional GOP aides now point to the lack of experience, vision, and expertise in the slow-starting Trump White House, while White House aides note that congressional Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace ObamaCare since 2010, long before Trump ran for office. But the fissures in the Republican caucus were clear as early as late January, at a closed-door GOP policy retreat in Philadelphia, Politico says:

House Speaker Paul Ryan laid out a three-pronged approach to scrapping ObamaCare. He wanted to repeal as much of the legislation as possible, eliminate more through deregulation, and then work with Democrats on a replacement, said one former Republican aide. Many Republican lawmakers doubted Democrats would work with them on redoing the health-care law.

The president and one of his former campaign rivals also unexpectedly helped undermine the GOP's repeal plans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on television the GOP needed a replacement plan if it was going to repeal the law. Then Trump endorsed that requirement. Their comments caused GOP leaders to start from scratch. Now that the Senate's attempt to revamp the health-care law has run into roadblocks — with moderates insisting on protecting coverage for their constituents, while conservatives focus on undoing as much of ObamaCare as possible — both Paul and Trump have suggested going back to a repeal-only bill. [Politico]

One White House aide told Politico that if Trump signs a health-care law by August, all this drama will be forgotten. You can read more about the Republican health-care missteps and inflated expectations at Politico. Peter Weber

4:45 p.m. ET
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Former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in his prison cell while serving a life sentence, has been posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease CTE. Hernandez's lawyer, Jose Baez, announced in a news conference Thursday that Hernandez's was "the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age." Hernandez was 27 when he died in April.

Baez has filed a lawsuit against the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of Hernandez's daughter. CTE is linked to repeated head trauma, and numerous football players have recently been diagnosed with the disease.

Hernandez's family released his brain to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center for a CTE study. Becca Stanek

4:04 p.m. ET
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Facebook will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the 2016 election, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch announced Thursday in a blog post. "We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we've concluded that sharing the ads we've discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help," Stretch wrote.

Though Facebook gave the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the social networking site took back select ads shown to congressional investigators before they could be thoroughly examined, citing privacy concerns. The move sparked complaints from government officials and the public.

In a Facebook Live event after the announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to "make sure that Facebook is a force for good ahead in democracy." Becca Stanek

3:16 p.m. ET

If Tom Hanks had gotten his way last fall, the world would've been a very different place. Former Saturday Night Live castmember Bobby Moynihan has revealed that Hanks didn't really want to play the now iconic role of David S. Pumpkins, and tried to talk his way out of wearing the pumpkin suit. "He thought it was very bizarre and was like, 'Hey, I think Chris Hemsworth [the following week's host] would make a great David Pumpkins,'" Moynihan recalled.

Hanks, who obviously ended up playing the haunted house character flanked by dancing sidekick skeletons, has since come to his senses about how bizarrely good the sketch is. The official SNL YouTube video of the sketch has racked up more than 8.3 million views, and rumor has it Hanks might reprise his character again this fall.

Breathe a sigh of relief that Hanks didn't get his way as you watch the brilliant Halloween sketch below. Becca Stanek

2:42 p.m. ET
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Republicans have just days left to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with only 50 votes and no Democrats. With two no votes already — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — "undecided" Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) could cast the decisive vote against it. As a result, one Republican Senate aide told Independent Journal Review on Thursday that the bill's sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), are potentially considering "buying" Murkowski's vote by letting her state more or less keep ObamaCare.

The draft is by no means final, nor is it certain that Murkowski would accept the revision. For her part, Murkowski has told reporters that when it comes to the Republican legislation, "what I'm trying to figure out is the impact on my state."

Independent Journal Review lists three provisions that could benefit Murkowski's state. "Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive ObamaCare's premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states" and the draft "delays implementation of the Medicaid per capita caps for Alaska and Hawaii," IJR reports. Politico also reports of a potential "Medicaid delay" that would "apply to Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana, based on their low-density populations."

For the rest of America, Graham-Cassidy would convert ObamaCare's subsidies and Medicaid payments to block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply and change its structure. Read the full details at IJR. Jeva Lange

1:30 p.m. ET
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A new study in the wake of the Flint, Michigan, water contamination crisis uncovered unsettling trends in fertility rates and fetal deaths during the time period the city was grappling with high levels of lead in its water supply. The working paper by West Virginia University's Daniel Grossman and University of Kansas' David Slusky concluded that "between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water."

Fetal deaths, when pregnancies last longer than 20 weeks but don't result in a live birth, rose 58 percent from April 2014 to 2016. Fertility rates dropped by 12 percent during that time period. "Either Flint residents were unable to conceive children, or women were having more miscarriages during this time," Slusky said.

The timing of these shifts is notable, as it was in 2014 when Flint's water was contaminated with dangerous levels of lead after the local government, under a state-appointed emergency manager, changed the city's water sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that lead "can damage a developing baby's nervous system, causing miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as infertility in both men and women," USA Today reported.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, however, concluded in July 2015 that there was no "evidence that indicates the water switch" affected fetal death rates. Becca Stanek

1:17 p.m. ET

President Trump announced a new executive order on Thursday that will allow the Treasury Department to target companies and individuals that trade with North Korea, CNN reports. "It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime," Trump said during a press conference with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.

The order will allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "discretion to target any foreign bank knowingly facilitating specific transactions tied to trade with North Korea," Trump said.

Trump also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping's decision to limit financial relations with North Korea through Chinese banks as being "very bold" and "unexpected," The Washington Post reports. "I must tell you this is a complete denuclearization of North Korea that we seek," Trump added.

Earlier in the week, Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that he might "totally destroy" North Korea if Pyongyang continues to menace the United States and its allies. Trump has also warned that "talking is not the answer" for dealing with the regime earlier this month. However, when asked at Thursday's press conference if a dialogue with North Korea is still possible, CNN reports that Trump answered: "Why not?"

Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange

12:09 p.m. ET

Director Wes Anderson returns in 2018 with Isle of Dogs, his first film since 2014's Grand Budapest Hotel, and the highly anticipated trailer has just landed. Isle of Dogs marks Anderson's return to stop-motion animation — his first since 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox — and the voice roles are stacked: Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, and Edward Norton are just some of the names on the bill.

Set in a dystopian future where Japan has banished canines, Isle of Dogs follows a boy, Rex (played by Norton), as he searches for his lost dog on a radioactive garbage island. Anderson has cited the influential Japanese director Akira Kurosawa as one of the inspirations for the film, although Isle of Dogs has sparked backlash for "whitewashing" its Japanese characters with white voice actors. Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, both a part of Anderson's cast, have faced such allegations before, for rolls in Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange, respectively.

Isle of Dogs will be in theaters in the U.S. on March 23, 2018. Watch the trailer below. Jeva Lange

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