The new administration is on the march. Hours after President Donald Trump took the oath of office, he signed an order to “ease the burden” of Obamacare — which could gut the mandate for individuals to buy insurance — ahead of a repeal and replace operation in Congress. 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. Mattis, 66, who led Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, is seen as a potential moderating force in the novice administration.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It was a peaceful transfer of power — barely. President Yahya Jammeh, who has ruled the Gambia since 1994, said on state television that he is stepping aside after losing the election last month to Adama Barrow because ”it is not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed.” He did so under duress, as regional troops were closing in after Barrow took the oath of office in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal. West African leaders joined last-minute mediation talks, reportedly leading to Jammeh agreeing to go into exile.
There’s a new chief in town. At noon, Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and officially became the 45th president. He delivered a bleak picture of the country, but vowed a revival by always putting “America first.” More than 200 people have been arrested in anti-Trump protests where police have used pepper spray and tear gas and six officers reported minor injuries, and hundreds of thousands are expected for tomorrow’s Women’s March on Washington. To smooth the transition, Trump asked 50 Obama administration staffers to stay, including Brett McGurk, who oversees the war against ISIS.
He’s heading north. Drug lord Joaquín Guzmán made two high-profile escapes from Mexican prisons, but could now face life behind bars in the United States. He was recaptured a year ago and fought extradition, but lost his final appeal yesterday. Mexican authorities had insisted that Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, should serve his sentence at home first, but they’ve relented. He was put on a plane to New York, one of the jurisdictions where he faces charges, and he’ll go before a federal court in Brooklyn today.
It’s all about the stimulus. China’s economy grew 6.7 percent last year — right on target with predictions, though it was the slowest year in nearly three decades — but many worry that to achieve that growth, the People’s Republic had to lend aggressively. Meanwhile, Xi Jinping has been pushing free trade and globalization abroad, a marked contrast to Donald Trump’s predicted policies. But the potential for a looming trade war could batter the world’s second-largest economy and threaten the 25 percent of China’s GDP derived from exports.
Know This: On his final day in office, Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 prisoners, the highest single-day total of any president. Eight people have been found alive buried under snow after an avalanche struck an Italian hotel two days ago. And officials say ISIS has destroyed part of a second-century Roman amphitheater in the city of Palmyra.
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Captain Kirk might not approve. NASA’s always used commercial contractors, but under the Obama administration it took a new approach to private-sector collaboration: It no longer owns partners’ spacegoing tech and it’s less involved with the design process. The space agency saw several significant achievements over the past eight years, including the Curiosity rover landing on Mars and the first-ever exploration of Pluto. But with companies racing for a Mars mission and Trump advocating for more public-private space collaborations, NASA could become a very different organization.
In this case, three’s a miracle. A baby girl in Kiev was the result of the second successful pronuclear transfer, a procedure where an embryo nucleus is implanted in a donor egg. It was designed to prevent passing a mother’s rare mitochondrial disease to the child, who gets the vast majority of its DNA from the two primary parents. While the procedure’s debut in Mexico last year — it’s illegal in the U.S. — treated the disease, in Ukraine it was used as in vitro fertilization, sparking controversy in medical circles.
This is worse than grizzly bears. Segregation is rearing its head again, as several recent studies show that the expansion of charter and voucher programs is pushing low-income students into racially segregated education. In the Twin Cities, 70 percent of charter school students of color were in segregated environments, while in traditional schools that number was less than 20 percent. Some experts say terms like “school choice” are deceptive, and placement must be actively engineered to ensure diverse environments for students — but deregulation may derail such efforts.
Beware the Big Bird lobby. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting — the parent of PBS — would be privatized, and the National Endowment for the Arts would be eliminated under Donald Trump’s administration, according to a report yesterday from The Hill. The proposed plan to slash $10.5 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade includes items conservatives have sought for years without success. Cultural advocates countered that the institutions were popular with the public, comprise a minuscule portion of the budget and have survived previous Republican attempts at downsizing.
They’re ready to roll the dice. The Raiders would become Vegas’ second major professional franchise, as the NHL’s Golden Knights debut on the ice this fall. The move would require 24 NFL owners’ approval in a March vote, but Bay Area leaders say the filing is a formality and they haven’t given up on keeping the team. Vegas appears to be offering a sweeter stadium deal, though — a $1.9 billion palace backed by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, compared to the proposed $1.3 billion replacement for Oakland Coliseum.