Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Here are some of the stories we're following today:
1. First victims from jet crash flown out of Ukraine
The Netherlands is receiving the bodies of 40 victims of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 for identification — just as the country Wednesday observed a day of mourning. Of the 298 people aboard the Boeing 777, 193 were Dutch citizens. It’s still not known how many bodies have been recovered from the crash scene in rebel-held Donetsk, although Malaysian officials have reached a deal with pro-Russian separatists to turn over the bodies. Why the plane was hit by a ground-to-air missile remains a mystery, but U.S. intelligence officials believe that separatists shot it down “by mistake.” Read more in NEWS.
2. Mourners remember American fighting in Israel
Max Steinberg of California was the second American to die in the conflict in Gaza since fighting began about two weeks ago. The 24-year-old, buried Wednesday, was known as one of the “lone soldiers” — young idealists who leave behind their comfortable lives in other countries to fight for the Israel Defense Forces. “I never thought I’d have to bury my child, it’s not supposed to be that way,” his mother, Evie Steinberg, told NBC News at a candle-lit vigil for her son in Los Angeles. “But he wasn’t afraid, he wasn’t afraid for himself.” Secretary of State John Kerry also arrived in Israel on Wednesday to try and broker a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine amid air strikes that have claimed hundreds of Palestinian lives. Read more in NEWS.
3. Federal courts make conflicting rulings about Obamacare
It’s been a bad week for Obamacare. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled Tuesday that the federal premium subsidies are illegal within the Affordable Care Act, although a different appeals court in Virginia said they were fine in a separate case. Republicans say they would redouble efforts to get rid of the law, although many experts say they would be hard-pressed to do so this late in the process. A government sting, meanwhile, also uncovered how easy it is to fake applications to get Obamacare premiums. Read more in HEALTH.
4. Man reveals horror of finding bodies of beaten homeless men
An Albuquerque, New Mexico, man who says he was friends with the two men viciously beaten to death told NBC News how he found the bodies. The men were lying down in a mattress-strewn lot where they liked to sleep, said Noe “Pancho Villa” Fierro. “I thought they were passed out,” he said. But when he got a closer look, he added, he saw their faces were “destroyed.” Three teens allegedly confessed to the brutal attack and are being held on $5 million bond each. Read more in NEWS.
5. Officials warn ICE will run out of money unless Congress acts
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson continued his plea for more federal funding, saying at a news conference Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is on track to run out of money by mid-August. The money has been used to investigate the thousands of undocumented immigrants, mostly children, streaming over the U.S. border from Mexico. Border towns have seen clashes between groups on both sides of the issue. In League City, Texas, city officials passed a resolution refusing to house immigrants who enter the United States illegally — but one civil rights group is trying to challenge the law. Read more in LATINO.
6. Capsized Costa Concordia towed to its final resting place
It’s been two-and-a-half years since the cruise ship sunk off of Italy, killing 32 people. Now, the slow process to salvage the boat is moving ahead as two tugboats began towing the luxury liner Wednesday from Giglio’s port. The ship is on a four- to five-day journey to northwestern Italy, where it will be scrapped. Meanwhile, the ship’s captain is on trial on charges of manslaughter as well as causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. Read more in NEWS.
… What’s trending today?
White flags flapping in the wind atop the Brooklyn Bridge raised several questions on Tuesday — and still has the NYPD trying to figure out who’s behind it. Police say two American flags were bleached white and were discovered on the bridge by construction workers early in the morning.
Initially, a parody Twitter account claimed responsibility for the brazen switch. But police are now looking for a group of four or five people who may have pulled off the stunt.