He has a green light to direct American foreign policy. President Trump’s pick, the former ExxonMobil CEO, was approved today by the Senate, 56-43, to take the helm of the State Department. Tillerson faced tough questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, but the new appointee said he believes Moscow was playing games — with leaks and hacks — during the presidential campaign. Despite tough rhetoric about ISIS and immigrants, exactly which direction Trump will have Tillerson take on the world stage remains to be seen.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He got the rose. In a reality show-style primetime reveal, President Donald Trump announced Neil Gorsuch, 49 — one of two finalists summoned to Washington — as his Supreme Court pick. An impeccably credentialed conservative and former clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Coloradan is known for being skeptical of regulators’ power to interpret laws governing companies. After Senate Republicans held the seat open for nearly a year, Democrats could mount a blockade of their own, amid the public and civil service uproar over Trump’s controversial immigration ban.
They’re pushing their advantage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized building 3,000 more houses in occupied West Bank territory, bringing the total approved since President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 to more than 5,500. Trump’s support of Netanyahu — and silence on last week’s wave of settlements — may have emboldened pro-settlement forces, despite ongoing international condemnation from those who say such construction endangers a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli police moved to evict 330 settlers that the nation’s Supreme Court ruled were living illegally on private Palestinian land.
That’s oil, folks. Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a lengthy environmental study to find other routes for the controversial pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested its planned path through their drinking water sources and sacred burial sites. But now two Republican lawmakers from North Dakota say the Army’s acting secretary has ordered the study ceased and the permit granted, after President Trump signaled his support for the pipeline a week ago. The Sioux, meanwhile, say they’ll pursue further legal action.
Is his cash a credit to the country? New Zealand’s government is under fire after a report revealed it secretly granted citizenship to billionaire Peter Thiel, who didn’t meet residency requirements but donated $728,000 to Christchurch earthquake relief. Thiel, an adviser and donor to President Trump, was given citizenship in 2011 despite not living there for the required 1,350 days. Many Kiwis are worried about an influx of the superwealthy, as some reports indicate billionaires are looking to New Zealand as a potential safe spot in case of global upheaval.
British Parliament Green Lights Brexit, Marine Le Pen’s Petit Problème, Apple’s Decision and a Mystery in Hong Kong
Know This: British parliament overwhelmingly votes in favor of starting Brexit process. French ultranationalist Marine Le Pen is refusing to repay $323,000 in “misspent” EU funds. Apple is weighing the possibility of legal action against President Trump’s immigration ban. And former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon says he won’t run for president of South Korea, saying he’s found that trying to work with politicians is “meaningless.”
Read This: A Chinese billionaire who’s also a Canadian citizen has allegedly been seized under mysterious circumstances in Hong Kong and may have been taken to mainland China.
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You can run, but you can’t hide. Women are taking to the woods to chase and capture men who will submit for the weekend, in invitation-only “hunts” from Australia to England. At one Florida-based “slave retreat,” the men pay to be pelted with paintballs while wearing only a collar and shoes. The price tag: a mere $2,200. Begun in 1996 in a remote part of the Czech Republic, the events now include a virtual component on Second Life, but they’re still a small niche in the larger BDSM world.
This apology was decades in the making. Homosexuality was criminalized in the U.K. until 1967, meaning that many men who’d been caught having consensual sex with other men had criminal records until their deaths. Now the British government has finally issued mass posthumous pardons, after decades of campaigning from LGBT activists and the family of World War II Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, who received a royal pardon in 2013. Convicted men who are still living can also be pardoned, but will have to formally apply to have the charges removed.
There’s more than meets the eye. Theoretical physicists studying the “white noise” of cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang say they’ve found evidence that everything we perceive might be an illusion. The theory is that our universe is actually flat 2-D storage for information that we perceive as 3-D — like a hologram, only for all of space and time as we know it. Calling it a “huge leap forward,” the University of Southampton team plans to continue investigating quantum gravity and its role in the universe.
Clear eyes, full hearts … can’t lose? NBC ordered a pilot yesterday that brings Jason Katims, creator of TV gem Friday Night Lights, together with Jeffrey Seller, producer of Broadway smash Hamilton. Based on the 2013 book Drama High — which was inspired by the revolutionary arts program at Truman High in Levittown, Pennsylvania — the show will depict a high school drama department in a working-class town. It’s expected to be an intergenerational tale grappling with diversity and arts funding in the Rust Belt. Casting is underway.
The statistics are numbing. The Atlanta Falcons reportedly spent $81,000 on prescription medications for players in 2009 — three times the league average. According to internal emails from 2010, entered into the public record as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit by 1,800 former NFL players, Atlanta officials worried about “excessive” painkiller use that could cause medical or PR problems. An outside review said the team risked a “culture of dependency.” The Falcons’ general manager declined to comment ahead of their Super Bowl matchup against New England on Sunday.