He’s laid the foundations. Donald Trump has signed another radical set of executive orders, including one to build his “great wall” along the Mexican border without Congressional approval and a directive that strips funding from “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. He’s also hinted at an order to ban refugees from Syria and other “terror-prone” Muslim-majority nations. In the coming days, Trump reportedly plans to order that the Guantanamo Bay prison remain open, while reviving globally repudiated “black sites” for secret detention and interrogation of terror suspects.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s rewriting history. Yesterday the new president signed an executive order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — seen as a win for China — while freezing non-military federal hires and blocking funding to overseas groups that counsel women about abortions. Trump also hosted congressional leaders and reportedly insisted, without evidence, that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote. Meanwhile, his new CIA director was confirmed, and Marco Rubio reversed course, helping move Rex Tillerson’s secretary of state nomination to the floor, where confirmation’s expected next week.
There are no easy exits. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government believed it had sufficient authority to initiate the split from the European Union, but Britain’s Supreme Court disagreed this morning. Both houses of Parliament must concur with the decision, the justices ruled 8-3, though approval’s not required from legislatures in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Attorney General Jeremy Wright said he was disappointed with the decision, but it’s expected that both houses will give their consent in time to begin the two-year process before the government’s March 31 deadline.
It wasn’t easy. After a 100-day slog that displaced 160,000 people, Iraqi government forces say they’ve cleared ISIS fighters from the east bank of the Tigris River, where the apocalyptic militant group first proclaimed its “caliphate” in 2014. One sign of Mosul’s partial liberation is the sight of flocks of pet pigeons — banned by the extremists — circling rooftops. Now Iraqi TV reports the military is building temporary bridges south of the city to allow troops to cross the river and prepare an assault on the western bank.
Welcome to the internet’s fast lanes. The concept that all content providers should have equal bandwidth may be doomed, experts say, with Donald Trump’s nomination of Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission. Pai, a Republican who has served as a member of the commission since 2012, has indicated he’d like to unravel the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality rules, as well as its efforts to rein in consolidation of telecommunications and media giants. The former Verizon lawyer said it was time to use a “regulatory weed whacker.”
Know This: The U.S. Senate confirmed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations. Russia, Turkey and Iran appear to be close to a settlement to bolster a Syrian cease-fire and possibly anchor peace negotiations. The Obama administration, in its waning hours, reportedly released $221 million to the Palestinian National Authority. And Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton plans to deliver his budget proposal today, despite collapsing during an address yesterday.
Count This: “It’s a really empowering thing to be noticed and to be tallied.” How weather balloons, spreadsheets and social media inform the job of counting crowds at the largest protest in American history.
Name This: You don’t have to be a Pat or a Falcon to play. Send us your best idea for what OZY should name its forthcoming dedicated sports section. We’ve already got Rising Stars, Flashbacks and Fast Forward sections — so tackle this one with similar creativity and you could win a pair of tickets to OZY Fest if you suggest the winner. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions by Sunday, Jan. 29. Game on!
It’s a formidable lineup. This year’s Oscar nominations have broken records – and made some promising strides towards diversity. La La Land received a whopping 14 nominations for categories including Best Picture and Best Director, tieing with Titanic and All About Eve for the most nominations ever. And this year looks to be less #OscarsSoWhite with a record-breaking six black actors nominated, including Denzel Washington and Viola Davis for Fences. With left-fielders like Arrival sneaking in for recognition, 2017’s Academy Awards ceremony on February 26th looks likely to include some surprises.
The numbers are scary. Mortality rates for cervical cancer are significantly higher than previously shown, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University, because prior studies included women who’d had their cervices removed via hysterectomies. By excluding women without cervices, mortality rates jumped 77 percent for Black women and 47 percent for white women. Researchers say the racial disparity suggests that women of color have reduced access to screenings, which are recommended for all women over 21 and which are often provided by politically endangered Planned Parenthood.
They’re exploring the void between reality and sci-fi. The commercial space industry is promoting asteroid mining — but it’s not clear if launching spaceships to harvest extraterrestrial rocks will even pay off. Private companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are currently working out logistics for identifying lucrative asteroids and getting robot prospectors onto them. But there’s been little research by agencies like NASA into specific asteroids, which means companies must launch their own investigations. And once they get there, what if there’s nothing worth bringing back?
It’s all in your head. Neuroimaging scientists today are like ancient mapmakers, getting a rough lay of the land between your ears. But someday they hope to roam neural pathways like Google Street View. When they do, they believe projects like the Human Connectome Project will be able to chart your cerebral health. One study’s already pinpointed 100 previously unidentified areas of the cerebral cortex, and another has shown what the progression of Alzheimer’s looks like, but experts warn that major breakthroughs may be a long way off.
They’re rethinking taboos. While executive orders cut abortion funding and reproductive health returns to the forefront of national debate, TV shows are joining the conversation by tackling the subject in new ways. Mainstream series like BoJack Horseman, Jane the Virgin, and Shameless have changed the tone by writing abortion plots for sympathetic protagonists, rather than peripheral characters. And though some story lines have delved into the politics beyond the procedure, like Scandal’s Senate filibuster plot, the real shift has been focusing on the emotional weight of individual decisions.
He’s been lapped. Bernie Ecclestone, the visionary but controversial billionaire who’s run the racing league since 1978, was “forced out” and named chairman emeritus in the newly completed $8 billion takeover by U.S.-based Liberty Media. The new Formula One Group has tapped former Fox executive Chase Carey to take the wheel as F1’s new CEO. It’s already one of the biggest television sports in the world, but Liberty sees growth opportunities with Super Bowl-inspired promotional efforts in America — where NASCAR is still in pole position.