They were all together but not quite united. In an uncharacteristically scripted speech co-authored by adviser Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress departed from his recent pessimistic rhetoric, promising a “new chapter in American greatness.” Reactions on the floor stuck to party lines as Trump revisited well-known policies: extreme vetting, building the wall, repealing Obamacare. He remained focused on hardline immigration enforcement, leaving opponents braced for the expected release of his revised travel ban as he decried “uncontrolled entry” at the podium.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Allegiances have been made. Russia and China both voted against the UN’s proposed sanctions against Syria for the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. This is the seventh time Russia has used its power to veto a UN Security Council in defense of Bashar al-Assad’s government, and the sixth time China has done so since the war broke out in 2011. With the Trump administration supporting sanctions against the Syrian military for dropping chlorine-filled barrel bombs on at least three occasions, this seems like at least one thing POTUS and Putin disagree on.
A lot of things are going on the chopping block. President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress seeks a “historic” increase in the Pentagon’s funding, up about two percent from last year — though some lawmakers are outraged by what they see as a paltry increase. To balance the budget, the White House says it’ll cut foreign aid and spending on domestic government agencies. But a fight may be brewing over slashing Social Security and Medicare, a priority for House Speaker Paul Ryan, but unpopular with older voters.
If they’re found guilty, the death sentence is mandatory. Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam will be formally charged today, and prosecutors are still deciding whether a North Korean man, Ri Jong Chol, will be charged as well. Aisyah and Huong allegedly smeared the banned nerve agent VX on the face of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother at the Kuala Lumpur airport, but the women claim they thought they were taking part in a televised prank. Police are still seeking several other suspects.
Vague assurances won’t cut it. As Californians become more concerned that federal immigration officials are targeting all undocumented immigrants for deportation, rather than just those who have committed crimes, state legislators are demanding that the White House provide details of all current or planned enforcement actions since Inauguration Day. California is home to an estimated 3 million undocumented people. While the Trump administration insists current operations are routine, many communities were alarmed by perceived crackdowns and ICE raids, fearing that citizens will be separated from their undocumented spouses or parents.
He’ll see them in court. It’s been a rough few months for Samsung: Last year’s exploding phone debacle was followed by scion Lee Jae-yong’s apparent involvement in the growing corruption scandal surrounding South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Now, as the company struggles to bounce back with the introduction of a new flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone planned for March 29, special prosecutors say they’ll indict five Samsung execs, including Lee, 48. The charges of bribery, perjury and embezzlement mean Lee will have to stand trial.
Know This: The Justice Department says it will drop its objection to a Texas voter ID law, a pivot from the Obama-era focus on civil rights. At least 20 Jewish community centers and schools in 12 U.S. states reported bomb threats yesterday. And journalists in Burundi say the country’s president is waging a war against the free press.
Read This: Adam Gopnik argues that the Oscars’ bizarre last-minute mix-up may prove that our universe is a computer simulation.
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Fly them to the moon … for a fee. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced plans for a weeklong private space vacation for two paying customers. The 400,000-mile voyage around the far side of the moon has been commended by NASA, which is planning a potential manned lunar mission of its own. The civilian spacegoers haven’t been named, but are presumably wealthy — Musk said costs were “comparable” to a manned mission to the ISS, about $80 million per person. They’re also reportedly “very serious” about the risks of the 2018 trip.
Hasta siempre, Gustavito. The hippo had charmed crowds at El Salvador’s national zoo for 12 years and was popular with the public, but last Wednesday night he was brutally attacked by unknown assailants armed with rocks, metal bars, knives and an ice pick. Zoo workers discovered Gustavito’s distress the next day when he was behaving strangely, but they were unable to save him despite round-the-clock care. Now many Salvadorans are in mourning — and demanding justice for Gustavito, whose death some blame on El Salvador’s unusually high rate of violence.
Don’t get your hops up yet. Some long-promised deregulation of the craft beer industry, which would halve excise taxes and boost TTB funding, would be welcomed by both microbrewers and larger companies — if it actually happens. With the brewing industry exploding and the potential for local breweries to bring jobs to small towns, the new bill has bipartisan support. The last time it was introduced, Congress never got around to voting on it, but 2017’s trend toward deregulation may open the taps for the beer industry.
It’s a diplomatic quandary. Shortly after Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Academy Award Sunday night, the U.S. State Department’s Farsi account tweeted congratulations to him and his fellow Iranians. Farhadi didn’t attend the ceremony, boycotting in protest of the recent travel ban on Iranian citizens. Instead, Iranian-American astronaut Anousheh Ansari delivered his message lambasting the executive order as “inhumane.” Maybe that’s why the State Department’s tweet was quietly deleted — reportedly a department decision to avoid any perception of solidarity with Farhadi’s political stance.
Master play or master ploy? The former NFL star impressed at his first official BP since signing with New York last year. Despite one stretch when Tebow slammed four homers in five pitches, many see his presence on the diamond as a sideshow. After all, he’s previously shown skills in the batting cages but struggled in real games. The Heisman winner is expected to start for Class-A St. Lucie, while the Mets are anticipating a boost to ticket sales and are already pushing merchandise to eager Tebow fans.