Gun bill — Republicans rammed a bill through the House on Wednesday that would make it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines, the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people. The House approved the bill, 231-198, largely along party lines. Six Democrats voted yes, while 14 Republicans voted no. The measure would allow gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons. It now goes to the Senate.
Travel ban — Three federal appeals court judges who blocked President Donald Trump’s second travel ban earlier this year had some skeptical questions about his third and latest set of restrictions on travelers from six mostly Muslim nations during oral arguments Wednesday. Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Ronald Gould, Richard Paez and Michael Hawkins heard arguments in Seattle on Hawaii’s challenge to the ban. The hearing came just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it was allowing the restrictions to go into effect at least until the 9th Circuit panel and their colleagues on the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit had a chance to rule on separate lawsuits against the ban.
Contraceptives and breast cancer — Women who rely on birth control pills or contraceptive devices that release hormones face a small but significant increase in the risk for breast cancer, according to a large study published Wednesday. The study upends widely held assumptions by women, who have believed that newer hormonal contraceptives are much safer than those taken by their mothers or grandmothers, which had higher doses of estrogen. The researchers, who followed 1.8 million Danish women for more than a decade, estimated that for every 100,000 women, hormone contraceptive use causes an additional 13 breast cancer cases a year.
Flynn and Russia — Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as one of the administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistleblower made public Wednesday. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistleblower. The account not only is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately but also suggests that Flynn had a possible economic incentive for forging a closer relationship with Russia.
Gay marriage in Australia — Gay rights advocates celebrated outside Australia’s Parliament House on Thursday in anticipation of same-sex marriage being legalized within hours. Scores of men and women joined in singing ahead of what was scheduled to be Parliament’s final sitting day of the year. “It’s an historic day for Australia today and I think the celebrations around the country when we finally … achieve marriage equality are going to be immense,” Janet Rice said. Rice is a minor Greens party senator who was only able to remain married to her transgender wife of 31 years, Penny, because Penny remained listed as male on her birth certificate.
Atlanta mayor — For the second time in eight years, the leadership of Atlanta is likely to be settled after a recount. Fewer than 800 votes separated Atlanta’s two candidates for mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood, after officials tallied more than 92,000 ballots that were cast in a runoff election Tuesday. The margin was narrow enough that Norwood, seeking to become Atlanta’s first white mayor in more than 40 years, said she would ask for a recount once provisional and absentee ballots were counted this week. Even so, Bottoms and her allies declared victory Wednesday.
Puerto Rico recovery — The USNS Comfort’s mission to Puerto Rico leaves behind questions about whether the 894-foot military ship was adequately used during a time of desperate medical need in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The ship was prepared to support 250 hospital beds, but over its 53-day deployment it admitted an average of only six patients a day, or 290 in total. Staffed with 800 people and costing $180,000 a day, the ship received an average of 36 people a day as outpatients or inpatients — and that number swelled only after a public furor erupted over the ship’s empty beds.
Saudi prince bought da Vinci — Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show. The revelation that Bader is the purchaser links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region.