Diplomacy, it ain’t rocket science. Yet a war of words has broken out between the U.S. and Iran after the Islamic Republic test-fired a ballistic missile Sunday. The U.S. president put Iran “on notice,” telling its leaders to be “thankful” for the terrible nuclear deal already in place. But Iran fired back today, dismissing Trump’s threats as “baseless ranting” and vowing to “vigorously” continue its missile activity. The White House is expected to respond by imposing additional sanctions.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Relations are heading south. Details emerged yesterday of a Saturday call between President Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which devolved into a confrontation over an Obama-era agreement to accept refugees from Australia’s much-criticized offshore detention islands. Trump tweeted that he was reconsidering the “dumb deal.” Meanwhile, on a call with Mexico’s president, Trump reportedly threatened to send U.S. troops across the border.
There’s unrest in Bucharest. As many as 300,000 Romanians have taken to the streets, clashing with police across the nation in the biggest protests since the fall of communism. Demonstrators chanting “Thieves!” and “Rats!” opposed yesterday’s decree from the country’s new left-wing government, which decriminalized several corruption offenses so that an abuse of power can only be punished with jail time if it involves a sum of more than $48,000. While Romania’s government says the new rules are constitutional, the European Commission has expressed “deep concern” about the move.
It’s elementary math. Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s would-be secretary of education, needs a simple Senate majority for confirmation. But Republicans have a razor-thin edge in the Senate, and two GOP lawmakers have defected, signaling they can’t support DeVos and tying the upcoming vote 50-50. Ties are decided by the vice president. Republicans, who confirmed former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state yesterday, hope to push the vote on DeVos, fearing that once Sen. Jeff Sessions is confirmed as attorney general, his missing Senate vote could derail her confirmation altogether.
You win some, you lose some. Though a court ordered the social network to pay $500 million over misappropriated technology — a jury found Facebook-owned Oculus had unlawfully used another firm’s code for its virtual reality headset — it saw revenue jump 51 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s mostly due to mobile advertising, though the company’s expected to stop increasing the number of ads users see on their phones, worried about turning people off. It’ll look to Instagram and video for more ad dollars instead.
Know This: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick dropped out of President Trump’s business advisory council amid the ongoing row over his immigration policies. The U.S. says civilians were “likely” killed in a Yemen raid that also left an American soldier dead, but questions remain about the possible death of the 8-year-old American daughter of late al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi. Britain’s Parliament has greenlighted Brexit and will now debate the process in detail. And a speech at UC Berkeley by conservative Breitbart writer and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has been canceled after violent protests.
Read This: The Trump administration is reportedly gearing up to revamp the government program devoted to stopping violent extremism to only focus on Islamic extremism and cease targeting other groups, such as white supremacists.
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“Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner.” Perhaps having studied Deuteronomy, a growing number of Christian Republicans — including conservative pastors — are vocally protesting on behalf of refugees affected by the Trump administration’s immigration ban. While the Christian right’s old guard lined up behind Donald Trump during the campaign, many younger evangelicals were put off by rhetoric and policies they saw as un-Christian. Now they’re calling representatives and posting on social media to push the pro-life movement beyond just the issue of abortion.
You won’t see another poker face like this. A new artificial intelligence system has established an extraordinary first — soundly beating some of the world’s best poker players. Libratus, a supercomputer built by Carnegie Mellon scientists, isn’t just a mathematical genius. It also mimicked human intuition in games against four of the highest-ranked poker players in the world — and beat all of them. With more machines learning to out-bluff humans, Libratus’ success has complex implications for online gambling, and ups the ante for other decision-making computer systems.
It’s a super-sized problem. Fast food packaging has to resist the grease of fried chicken, burgers and french fries, but according to a new study, there’s a price: Synthetic chemicals can leach into the food you’re eating, as well as into groundwater, heightening the risks of cancer and other diseases. One third of paper packages tested positive for fluorinated chemicals, including PFOA, which manufacturers had agreed to phase out in 2011. Countries like Denmark have found non-toxic alternatives and scientists are urging the FDA to do the same.
She’s baby-bumpalicious. In what’s now the most-liked Instagram post of all time, the singer and her husband, Jay Z, announced they’re expecting twins. Already the mother of 5-year-old Blue Ivy, Beyoncé posed beneath a green veil, cradling her pregnant belly for the stunning reveal. Her most recent performance — and paparazzi sightings — came in November, leaving Queen B devotees completely in the dark about the bundles of joy. She’s scheduled to headline Coachella in April, but it’s unclear if she will be up for her usual high-energy show.
Safety first. Health concerns about amateur and professional football have led youth leagues to reconsider safety in ways that could radically reshape the game. USA Football, the regulating body for youth and high school football, is considering drastic rule changes for developing players, including making the field smaller, reducing teams to seven on the field, requiring players to rotate positions, and taking measures to decrease contact. The proposals, which are still in development and are not mandatory, will launch as a pilot program in select youth leagues this fall.