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March 5, 2018

In your periodic reminder that the U.S. has a for-profit health-care system, health insurers and other health-care companies will save tens of billions from the Republican tax overhaul but "patients should not expect the health industry's windfall to lead to lower premiums, reduced prices, or major industry changes," Bob Herman and Caitlin Owens report at Axios. They discovered this by listening to the health-care companies, perusing their fourth-quarter financial reports and conference calls with investors.

The 21 publicly traded companies Axios looked at "collectively expect to gain $10 billion in tax savings in 2018 alone," Herman and Owens write. "Most of the money is going toward share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions, and paying down debt — with just a sliver for one-time employee bonuses, research, and internal investments." Few pharmaceutical companies were included in the Axios data, but drugmakers are already spending at least $50 billion on new stock buybacks, and they and medical device companies are also repatriating tens of billions from offshore accounts, bolstering their bottom lines.

It isn't just health care — U.S. companies have announced more than $218 billion in share buybacks since the GOP passed the law in December, investment research firm TrimTabs said last week. The $153.7 billion in buybacks in February alone broke the previous record of $133 billion in April 2015, and "if the pace keeps up, this year's volume will smash totals from all other previous years going back more than a decade," TrimTabs analyst Winston Chua said in the report.

"Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies' stock," Matt Phillips explains at The New York Times. "A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price. But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development, and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy." Peter Weber

1:14 p.m.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, gave a lengthy interview for ABC's This Week which aired on Sunday. While Buttigieg is usually known for his measured opinions, the 37-year-old mayor was a little more fiery during his conversation with Martha Raddatz. Here are three standout moments.

On the military — Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan, was highly critical of President Trump's ideas about the military. First, he doubled down on his comments that Trump faked his bone spurs to avoid serving in Vietnam, calling it "an assault on the honor of this country." He later added that Trump's potential pardoning of soldiers accused of war crimes "undermines the foundations of this country."

North Korea negotiations aren't working — While Buttigieg is a fan of diplomacy, he doesn't fully agree with Trump's tactics regarding North Korea. In fact, he thinks the main thing Trump accomplished was legitimizing a rogue state.

His experiences comes from his office, not his age — Buttigieg often gets questioned about his youth and lack of experience in Washington. But he argues that his job as mayor might prepare him even more for the presidency than serving in Congress would. "You can be a very senior member of Congress and have never in your life managed more than 100 people," he said. Tim O'Donnell

12:34 p.m.

Bart Starr, a Hall of Fame quarterback known for guiding the Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls ever in 1967 and 1968, died on Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama. Starr had battled numerous health issues in recent years, including two strokes, a heart attack, and several seizures. He was 85.

Starr and the Packers won three other NFL championships before the Super Bowl began, giving him five titles in a decade — a feat not even Tom Brady can claim. Starr also won the league's Most Valuable Player award in 1966.

In a team press release, the Packers described Starr as "maybe the most popular player" in franchise history. He is also known for his game-winning quarterback sneak to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1967 NFL championship, a memorable game dubbed the "Ice Bowl" due to the frigid winter temperatures in Green Bay.

"While he may always be best known for his success as the Packers quarterback for 16 years, his true legacy will always be the respectful manner in which he treated every person he met, his humble demeanor, and his generous spirit," his family said in a statement. Tim O'Donnell

11:57 a.m.

Sumo wrestling and trade negotiations make for an unlikely combination. But Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping the two mesh well.

During his visit to Japan on Sunday, President Trump presented a special "President's Cup" trophy to the winner of a sumo wrestling tournament, one of Japan's most significant cultural institutions. The winner, Asanoyama, became the first recipient of a winner's trophy awarded by a United States president.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump sat in ringside armchairs during the bouts, The Guardian reports, as opposed to the traditional form of viewership — sitting cross-legged on thin cushions.

The gesture, orchestrated by Abe, is widely viewed as a diplomatic attempt to flatter Trump as the two countries gear up for trade negotiations, which Trump tweeted would likely develop more fully after Japan's elections in July.

In the short term, at least, it appears Abe made the right call — Trump seems to have enjoyed the moment. Tim O'Donnell

11:31 a.m.

Felix Klein, Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner, on Saturday warned the country's Jewish population about the potential dangers of donning the kippa, a traditional Jewish skullcap.

Klein said his position on the matter has changed over time, citing a rise in anti-Semitic activity in Germany, mostly on the far right of the political spectrum, including from leaders of the Alternative for Germany Party who have openly questioned Germany's policy of atonement for the Holocaust and other World War II atrocities, France 24 reports. "The internet and social media have largely contributed to this," he said in an interview published by the Funke regional press group. "But so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance."

Official figures show there were 1,646 hate crimes committed against Jews in Germany in 2018, a sharp increase from the year prior. Klein also suggested police, teachers, and lawyers should receive better training to recognize anti-Semitic behavior.

Recently, Berlin's top legal expert on anti-Semitism, Claudia Vanoni, told Agence France-Presse that while the issue has always been "deeply rooted" in German society, "it has become louder, more aggressive, and flagrant." Tim O'Donnell

11:05 a.m.

President Trump's appeal against an order from a federal judge which allowed for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over financial records to Democratic lawmakers was successful in delaying the process, a Southern District of New York court filing revealed on Saturday.

Until a final decision is reached on the appeal, the two banks will not have to immediately comply with the subpoenas, which call for financial records of Trump, three of his children, and the Trump Organization. The delay is the result of what Reuters calls a "rare accord" between Trump's attorneys, the banks, and the House Intelligence and Financial Services Committees.

Trump's legal team has argued the subpoenas exceed the authority of Congress, but U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos found they do, in fact, fall under Congress' authority to conduct investigations to further legislation, Reuters reports. Tim O'Donnell

10:49 a.m.

Norway's foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday that delegates from both Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's government and the country's opposition led by Juan Guaidó will meet in Oslo next week to negotiate an end to Venezuela's political crisis.

Both sides met separately with Norwegian mediators last week for preliminary talks. Guaidó has been hesitant about sending representatives to meet with the government, arguing Maduro has used negotiations as nothing more than a stalling tactic in the past. But as the opposition continues to lose momentum, he confirmed he would support the Oslo talks during a rally on Saturday, though he insisted his side would maintain that a transfer of power is necessary. The U.S. State Department shares that sentiment. "As we have stated repeatedly, we believe the only thing to negotiate with Nicolás Maduro is the conditions of his departure," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Maduro has also publicly endorsed the Norway talks, but has shown no indication he would step down.

Norway has a history of successfully mediating foreign internal conflicts, including situations in Colombia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Tim O'Donnell

7:52 a.m.

A likely tornado struck in El Reno, Oklahoma, a city of 16,700 residents west of Oklahoma City, on Saturday night, causing significant damage to the area.

While no details were immediately made available, the police department in nearby Union City announced in a Facebook post that "serious injuries and fatalities" occurred and El Reno's mayor and the county's emergency manager confirmed that there were two deaths. An unknown number of people are reportedly missing. The tornado hit a motel, a mobile home park, and other buildings.

"You could hear the roar and everything when it came through," Richard Griffin, a resident of the mobile home park, said. The tornado followed a series of severe weather events in the Southern Plains in the last week; 104 tornadoes were reported across eight states between Monday and Thursday.

El Reno also suffered damage and fatalities during a tornado outbreak in 2013. Tim O'Donnell

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