They couldn’t just stand by. Eighteen Democratic members of Congress are planning to sit out Donald Trump’s Friday inauguration, some moved by the mogul’s tweets against Rep. John Lewis after the Georgia civil rights leader said he’d skip the oath-taking because Trump won’t be “legitimate.” Trump called Lewis “all talk … no action” despite his suffering a skull fracture in the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” protest in Selma, Ala. Lewis attended every other inauguration in his 30-year tenure, and the unprecedented snubs may signal a new wave of partisan conflict.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s not even president, and his approval rating’s 37 percent. Donald Trump faced his worst week since his Nov. 8 election, with allegations swirling that Russians filmed him performing lewd acts, causing the president-elect — deriding the reports as “fake news” — to tweetstorm the media, the intelligence community and “guilty as hell” Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Trump’s allies in Congress, like House Speaker Paul Ryan and even the mogul’s cabinet picks, backed away from his positions, and the Senate Intelligence Committee launched a bipartisan probe into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Kremlin electioneering.
This is happening. On Friday, Donald John Trump is scheduled to brave the chill in Washington, D.C., and recite the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States. Initially thought to be a low-key affair, with three official balls down from the usual eight to 10, the $90 million event will be met by an unprecedented number of protesters. The National Park Service expects an estimated 200,000 women’s rights advocates, among more than 350,000 demonstrators (some pro-Trump), to converge on the National Mall.
He was called Machiavellian. When Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died last Sunday at age 82, helped install Ali Khamenei as Iran’s ayatollah in 1989, Rafsanjani saw himself as his pal’s puppet master. Instead, Khamenei consolidated power and led the country toward anti-Western authoritarianism. Rafsanjani, a modernizer who used his power to become fabulously wealthy, was twice elected president but humiliated at the polls in 2005. Late in life, Rafsanjani turned into Khamenei’s political foe. Current president Hassan Rouhani, an acolyte, is now testing whether Iran can shift in the direction Rafsanjani always wanted.
It’s a deadly distinction. The fiery populist president, in his mandate to rid his nation of drug dealers and corrupt officials, brandishes a “watch list” he says contains a million guilty Filipinos — thousands of whom have already been gunned down by police or vigilantes. But how do you get on or off the list? One local politician, who supported Duterte’s drug war, was told he, too, was on the roster. Alvin Mañalac passed a drug test, but with so much unpredictable bloodshed, he keeps a fully loaded pistol handy just in case.
France Holds Mideast Peace Summit Sans Israel, House Puts Nail in Obamacare Coffin and Le Pen Seen in the Tower
Know This: France is hosting an Israeli-Palestinian conflict summit, but Israel isn’t attending and denounced the effort as “rigged.” The U.S. House of Representatives voted along party lines to facilitate the dismantling of Obamacare. And nearly 100 refugees are missing after their boat headed for Europe sank off the Libyan coast.
Translate This: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen visited Donald Trump’s New York headquarters building, but didn’t meet with the president-elect, his spokeswoman said. But Thursday’s convergence of populists appeared not to have been coincidental, and “even if no meeting occurred, the spectacle of Ms. Le Pen in Trump Tower ricocheted across the world on social media.”
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The show won’t go on. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will close up shop in May after 146 years. The traveling spectacle popularized by the legendary P.T. Barnum has suffered from declining interest, high costs and negative publicity after animal rights groups took issue with its use of elephants, lions and other performing animals. PETA took credit, saying its 36 years of protests reduced circus attendance “to the point of no return.” Ringling Bros. will put on 30 more U.S. shows before its final curtain.
Spirits don’t move them. The work hard, play hard tech world seems to be edging away from its drink hard reputation with a new cadre of radically teetotaling entrepreneurs. Bulletproof Coffee’s Dave Asprey tells his 350,000 Twitter followers to make java their new vice, and Meebo’s Elaine Wherry says abstinence gives her strength. Adherents claim a productivity boost, and Silicon Valley party planners report a demand for mocktails. Mind you, the Valley’s still the capital of binge drinking, and research shows booze juices creativity — but many are now seeking clear heads and healthy bodies.
Sleep tight. The multimillionaire who’s helping Americans sleep better got his big idea, appropriately, in a dream. But while selling his first form-fitting pillows, Mike Lindell rode a drug-fueled roller coaster — until even his crack dealer told him to stop. He’s clean and sober now, and his MyPillow startup has sold more than 26 million of what he bills as the world’s best pillows, costing upwards of $45 each. Lindell, who’s self-publishing his autobiography later this year, is finding new audiences to impress as a staunch backer of Donald Trump.
It’s all part of the great circle of life — in a cage. The Copenhagen Zoo caught a lot of flak for killing Marius, a young giraffe that was healthy but not diversifying the captive gene pool. The killing and subsequent dissection for an all-ages audience, common in Danish zoos, sparked outrage around the world. But some defiant Danes are defending their straightforward, educational approach to animal death, rather than a “Disneyfied” American version in which animals with cute names are culled where a squeamish public isn’t permitted to see them die.
She’s exploring new fields. Angelina Jolie is making a bold directorial statement — tackling one of the 20th century’s greatest horrors. The Khmer-language First They Killed My Father is based on the autobiography of Loung Ung, whose family was swept up in the Khmer Rouge’s brutal social engineering that killed some 2 million people in the 1970s. Jolie, who fell in love with the country while filming 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, says artistic control rests with her all-Cambodian cast and crew, and the Netflix-destined film will premiere in Siem Reap on Feb. 18.
He lived and died for the game. Recent payouts to former NFL players have called attention to how widespread brain injury really is — but the diary of high school defensive back Zac Easter shows that football’s destructive impact reaches far beyond the pros. Easter killed himself in 2015 after spending months detailing his suffering. He described a school football culture that encouraged him to conceal his symptoms and get back on the field — and the head tremors and memory loss from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, that shattered his brain and relationships.