What to Know
- Pence has hired outside legal counsel to oversee his response to investigations into possible collusion between Russia and Trump's campaign
- Teen smoking rates hit new lows in the U.S. and, for the first time, fewer high school students are trying e-cigarettes, NBC News reports
- Jay Z was absent from the 2017 Songwriters Hall of Fame, where he was inducted by a charismatic longtime fan: former U.S. President Obama
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Pence Hires Outside Counsel to Handle Russia Probe Questions
Vice President Pence has hired outside legal counsel to oversee his response to investigations into possible collusion between Russia and President Trump's 2016 campaign. Pence's office confirmed he retained Richard Cullen, chairman of McGuireWoods LLP, to assist him in responding to inquiries by special counsel Robert Mueller. "The vice president is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the president's agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter," Pence spokesman Jarrod Agen said in a statement. Cullen previously served as Virginia attorney general and U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He also served as special counsel to Virginia Sen. Paul Trible during the Iran-Contra investigation and was a member of former President George W. Bush's legal team during the 2000 Florida recount, according to his official biography.
A Ballgame of Unity, Spirit, Friendly Rivalry, Won by Dems
Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences to root for "Team Scalise" during the Congressional Baseball Game this year. Many lawmakers wore purple and gold hats and shirts emblazoned with the LSU logo in a show of support for Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot one day earlier during the Republican team's practice for the annual event. Scalise graduated from LSU in 1989. He is regularly decked out “from head to toe” in team gear, a representative for Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, said. Scalise’s alma mater reportedly helped make the tribute at the game possible. Scalise remains in critical condition, but has improved, MedStar Washington Hospital said in an update Thursday night. He had a second surgery related to his internal injuries and a broken bone in his leg, the hospital said.
Bomb Behind Kindergarten Blast; Suspect Dead, China Police Say
A 22-year-old man made the bomb that exploded at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China, killing eight people, including himself, investigators said. Police said the suspect was identified primarily using security camera footage and DNA collected at the scene of the blast, which struck as relatives were waiting to pick up students at the end of the school day. Only the suspect's surname, Xu, was released and no motive was provided. Investigators say they found materials for making a homemade bomb at Xu's nearby residence. Emblazoned on its walls were the Chinese characters for death, disaster and other related dark themes. Xu had left school because of a nervous system disorder, whose symptoms can include depression, anxiety, dizziness, vision problems and problems with basic bodily functions, the police said at a news conference in the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province. Two people died at the scene and six died after being taken to a hospital. Sixty-five people were injured, including eight listed in critical condition.
Study Finds Traces of Lead in Some Baby Foods
A startling new report finds detectable levels of lead in baby food, a finding that may concern parents. But experts say it's important to stay vigilant about bigger sources of lead poisoning in kids. Crumbling, peeling paint in older homes is one of the nation's biggest sources of lead exposure. Now there's evidence of another, more minor source of lead exposure in some food produced. "That included fruit juices; baby fruit juices; root vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, and some categories of cookies, like arrowroot biscuits and teething cookies,” said Sarah Vogel from the Environmental Defense Fund. The Environmental Defense Fund explored data from the Food and Drug Administration, finding what it calls "detectable" levels of lead in some baby food — though there's no information about how much or which brands are involved, and some samples had no lead at all. The FDA says the administration set a maximum daily lead intake of six micrograms, which is being reviewed, saying on its website, "lead is in food because it is in the environment and lead cannot simply be removed from food."
Fewer Teens Are Vaping and Smoking, CDC Survey Finds
Teen smoking rates have hit new lows in the U.S. and, for the first time, fewer high school students are trying e-cigarettes, NBC News reported. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows cigarette smoking and vaping rates went down in 2016. “The decline in use of tobacco products was primarily driven by a drop in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students from 3 million in 2015 to just under 2.2 million in 2016,” the CDC report says. CDC and anti-smoking groups both said a combination of tobacco restrictions, advertising and taxes has helped reduce smoking rates.
Jay Z, Inducted by Obama, Becomes First Rapper in Songwriters Hall
Jay Z, whose wife Beyonce is expecting twins soon, was absent from the 2017 Songwriters Hall of Fame, where he was inducted by a charismatic longtime fan: former U.S. President Obama. Obama, appearing in a taped video, told the audience that he's been listening to Jay Z since he was a "young and hungry state senator" and compared himself to the New York rapper. "Jay and I are also fools for our daughters, although he's going to have me beat once those two twins show up. And let's face it, we both have wives who are significantly more popular than we are," he said. Jay Z became the first rapper inducted into the prestigious organization and was the first hip-hop act nominated for the honor. The icon, who rarely tweets, posted multiple messages on Twitter around the time the ceremony took place, naming rappers who he admires, from veterans like Rakim and Nas to contemporaries such as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.