His administration is on the march. Hours after President Donald Trump took the oath of office yesterday, he signed an order to “ease the burden” of Obamacare — allowing officials to ignore the mandate for individuals to buy insurance — ahead of Congressional repeal efforts. The Senate confirmed retired Gen. James Mattis to lead the Pentagon and retired Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and both were sworn in. Meanwhile, police arrested 217 protesters in D.C. as a limo went up in flames and more marchers prepared for today’s women’s demonstration.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’d like to make the Continent great again. Germany’s burgeoning Alternative für Deutschland is to host fellow populist party leaders from France, the Netherlands and Italy today — in Donald Trump’s inaugural afterglow — to showcase shared opposition to immigration, Islam and the “EU’s straightjacket,” as an aide to French National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen called it. The Koblenz meeting is Le Pen’s first with AfD head Frauke Petry, whose colleague Björn Höcke this week condemned national hand-wringing for Nazi atrocities — sure to fuel the fury of anti-summit demonstrators.
He’s hope and change, with une petite difference. Formerly the economy minister in the ruling Socialist government, Macron, 39, is now running for president of a deeply polarized republic without major party backing. But he’s gaining steam as France springs into national elections — attracting those who distrust politics as usual, but are repelled by ultranationalist Marine Le Pen. What he’ll do with it, critics say, still isn’t clear, but vitality and a pro-European stance in the face of increasing isolationism may rocket him to success with younger voters.
Call me, maybe. Thousands of Americanized deportees are staffing call centers in El Salvador, where their English skills are useful — an unlikely economic quirk of the Obama administration’s record number of deportations. Convicted criminals were most heavily targeted, and rival Los Angeles gang members sport the same colors at a company nicknamed “homieland.” Fresh deportados are desperate and loyal, recruited as soon as the immigration jet drops them off. Then they’re handling hotel reservations or tech queries while forced to navigate the mortal danger of local gangs that make L.A. look civilized.
Know This: A Hungarian school bus carrying teenage boys has crashed in Northern Italy, killing 16. Facing local and regional opposition, longtime Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh is reportedly negotiating terms of his exile after losing Dec. 1 elections. Apple has joined the Federal Trade Commission in $1 billion lawsuit against wireless chip licenser Qualcomm for alleged monopolistic practices.
Suss This: A bust of Winston Churchill has returned to the Oval Office, having been given to George W. Bush and removed by Barack Obama, purportedly to make room for Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abe Lincoln.
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She was ready to fight for the Battle Born State. A lot of the credit for Democrats locking down Nevada in November goes to Yvanna Cancela, the state’s first Latina state senator. Cancela, 29, organized 57,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas, favoring personal interaction over advertising to foment groundbreaking political action. With a career that’s revolved around fighting Donald Trump, including a much-heralded taco truck protest at the Trump International Hotel, Cancela’s experience is seen as a salve for the future of a wounded Democratic Party.
The numbers no longer add up. In the post-fact era, statistics have lost their value — and that has potentially dire consequences for democracy. It might seem simple that charts and tables guide debate and decision-making. But when 68 percent of Trump supporters distrust government financial data, and Brits scoff at the economic benefits of immigration, political discourse becomes less about facts and more about impressions. On the other hand, political organizations and corporations take the public’s data very seriously, and increasingly use those stats to mold and exploit our opinions.
It’s a shot in the arm. Bill Gates is injecting $100 million into a new $500 million global alliance to fight what he told world leaders Wednesday is “the most likely” cause of “10 million excess deaths.” The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations aims to stimulate pharma companies to tackle major killers anticipated by the WHO: MERS, Lassa fever and Nipah. Pre-catastrophe animal and human trials will speed vaccine development — and hopefully improve on the two-year lag that followed the Ebola outbreak — while devising scientific weapons against unknown threats.
The problem had nothing to do with the solution. Oscar contender Hidden Figures uses numbers as a great social equalizer, asking viewers to do the math on historical discrimination. It tells the story of Black women “calculators” who helped NASA determine flight trajectories for getting humans into space and back. In a field where the ability to do great work is all that matters — even in a racist era — numbers become the instrument that quietly advances the civil rights movement while expanding mankind’s knowledge of the cosmos.
Is the process tainted? A trove of pilfered documents from the U.S. and world anti-doping agencies may suggest as much. In December, the information was provided to Der Spiegel by the Fancy Bears, hackers American intelligence agencies have linked to the Kremlin. They mention multiple instances of Olympic athletes escaping scrutiny — including Rio medalists such as Bahamian runner Shaunae Miller — while no U.S. stars were disqualified. But the motive for the release could well be to cast doubt on all doping accusations, such those fingering Russia’s highest sporting authorities.