In our news wrap Wednesday, President Trump asked every member of his cabinet to cut five percent from his or her budget for next year after a report shows the U.S. deficit at $779 billion. Also, a senior official at the U.S. Treasury Department was charged with leaking confidential information about the Mueller probe to a reporter.
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In the day's other news, President Trump asked every member of his Cabinet today to cut 5 percent from their department budgets for next year. He told them to — quote — "get rid of the fat and waste" during a meeting focused on the administration's deregulatory efforts.
This comes after the U.S. Treasury Department reported a $779 billion federal deficit, its highest level in six years.
A senior official at the U.S. Treasury Department has been charged with leaking confidential documents about suspects charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards worked in the department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. She allegedly leaked banking information about Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and others to an unnamed reporter for the online news site BuzzFeed.
In Israel, a detained American graduate student has asked the Israeli Supreme Court to reverse an expulsion order and let her stay in the country. Prosecutors argue that Lara Alqasem supported a boycott against Israel and is still a threat. The Florida native appeared in a Jerusalem court today. The lawyer said the 22-year-old's activist days are behind her.
If she was an activist in the past, that past was 18 months ago. Everything in the record indicates that she's not that same person, that she has come to Israel in violation actually of the academic boycott and of the economic boycott, because she's going to be living and breathing and living her day-to-day life in Israel.
Alqasem has been detained in Israel for two weeks after arriving on a valid student visa.
At least 19 people died in a shooting rampage at a vocational school in Crimea today. The alleged perpetrator was an 18-year-old student who later killed himself. Most of the victims were students at the college in the Black Seas city of Kerch. More than 50 people were wounded.
One witness described the terrifying scene:
There were many bodies, children's bodies. It was a real act of terrorism. They burst inside five or 10 minutes after I left. Someone burst inside and blew everything up.
Investigators are still trying to determine the shooter's motives.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are being sold into forced labor in order to raise money for families in overcrowded camps. The United Nations Migration Agency reported that nearly 100 cases have been confirmed. Almost two-thirds of those victims were girls and women. The U.N. estimates that nearly a million members of the Muslim minority are living in Bangladesh's refugee camps.
Back in this country, some voters in Georgia are waiting in line for nearly three hours to cast their ballots early in that state's midterm elections, including in the hotly contested governor's race. Long lines have plagued the polls around the Atlanta area in Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties. Election officials said turnout on Monday, the first day of in-person early voting, was triple the turnout on the first day of early voting in the 2014 midterm election.
Canada today became the second and largest country to legalize marijuana. Uruguay was the first. Over 100 Canadian pot shops were slated to open today. Some opened their doors at the stroke of midnight, as hundreds of customers lined the streets outside. Canadian officials insisted that legalizing pot will improve public health and safety.
You cannot regulate a prohibited substance. So we are lifting the prohibition — that's what legalization is — to enable us to implement a comprehensive and far more effective system of strict regulatory control that will bring regulatory control and order to every aspect of the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis.
The Canadian government will also pardon people who have been convicted of possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana.
President Trump has stepped up his criticism of the Federal Reserve, calling it — quote — "the biggest threat to his presidency." He faulted its chairman, Jerome Powell, one of his own appointees, for raising interest rates while inflation remains low.
The president spoke on the FOX Business Network last night.
President Donald Trump:
My biggest threat is the Fed, because the Fed is raising rates too fast. And it's independent. So I don't speak to him, but I'm not happy with what he's doing, because it's going too fast, because you looked at the last inflation numbers, they're very low.
The Fed has raised rates three times this year and is expected to do so again before January.
Worries about the Fed's future rate hikes helped cause stocks to tumble on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 91 points to close at 25706. The Nasdaq fell nearly three points and the S&P 500 slipped a fraction of a point.
And the puppeteer who originated the role of Big Bird on Sesame Street announced he's retiring after nearly 50 years on the show. Caroll Spinney also gave us live to another beloved character, Oscar the Grouch. Spinney has performed on the show since its very first episode in 1969. The 84-year-old actor will record his final episode on Thursday.
But rest assured those characters will continue to live on "Sesame Street."
And what a gift Mr. Spinney has been.