She’s in – barely. Billionaire Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as education secretary after Vice President Mike Pence used his vote to break a tie in the Senate. DeVos faced a lengthy, painful confirmation process, coming under scrutiny for her lack of experience with the public school system. Several Republicans opposed her — though many high-profile Trump critics, like Senator John McCain, were not among them. Pence’s use of a tie-breaker vote was a first for cabinet confirmations.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Today’s the day. In a case that’s widely expected to reach the Supreme Court, Justice Department lawyers have asked a federal appeals court to reinstate President Donald Trump’s travel ban, calling it a matter of national security. Ranged against them are civil rights advocates, former diplomatic officials, tech giants like Apple and Google, and 15 states that have filed briefs opposing the ban. Trump, meanwhile, accused the media of underreporting terror attacks, saying, “They have their reasons.” Both sides are preparing for oral arguments by telephone this afternoon.
The new report is titled “Human Slaughterhouse.” In it, Amnesty International claims that up to 13,000 people were executed in secret mass hangings at Syria’s infamous Saydnaya prison between 2011 and 2015, while 17,000 more are thought to have died from torture and starvation. Amnesty spoke to former guards and detainees to gather the information, and the group says it’s likely that the executions are ongoing. Though Syrian President Bashar Assad has denied similar reports in past years, Amnesty is now calling for a U.N. investigation into possible war crimes.
That’s the trouble with campaign promises. Many lawmakers have been deluged with noisy support for the Affordable Care Act from constituents: 84 percent say it shouldn’t be repealed until a replacement is ready to go. Now some Republicans are backing off promises to repeal Obamacare in the next few weeks, extending the timeline instead to a year or more. But other conservatives worry about losing momentum, and are still pushing for quick repeal, knowing that a split in the party could cost them the majority vote they need to accomplish anything.
How harsh is too harsh? That’s the question for the International Monetary Fund, whose board is split on debt relief for Greece. The IMF’s long said it won’t participate if Europe doesn’t ease its austerity requirements for Greece’s bailout program, but Germany warns walking out could mean the $92 billion rescue is dead in the water. A new IMF report says if things continue as they are, Greece’s debt will balloon to nearly triple its GDP by 2060 — but European leaders, many of whom face 2017 elections, may find it politically costly to agree.
Know This: Louisiana twister leaves thousands without power. Israel’s passed a controversial law legalizing West Bank settlements, though even the country’s attorney general admits it’s unconstitutional. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will stand trial over allegedly fraudulent 2012 campaign financing, another blow for the conservative party as its scandal-mired presidential candidate, François Fillon, refuses to drop out of the race. And the former prime minister of Norway was interrogated at a U.S. airport last week over a 2014 visit to Iran to speak at an anti-extremism conference.
Watch This: While the U.K. hasn’t canceled President Trump’s upcoming state visit, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow made a fiery declaration of his intention to block Trump from speaking to Parliament, citing Commons’ opposition to racism and sexism and “support for an independent judiciary.”
Talk to Us: OZY is working on a feature series about the evolution of the side hustle, and we want your ideas. If you have stories about interesting, crazy or novel ways that you or a friend makes money on the side, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wear your stats on your sleeve. Google is joining forces with Ivyrevel, H&M’s digital fashion wing, to create clothes based on personal data: Where you go, where you live, what kind of weather you face every day. The companies are making an Android app that will track a user’s personal information, then create a custom $99 “data dress” that reflects the user’s habits and environment. It’s not clear exactly how this will manifest, or how the companies will protect user data, but the app launches in beta this year.
They all want to weed out the competition. With the U.S. easing restrictions on recreational and medical marijuana in recent years, innovators are flocking to the weed tech game. So far 266 marijuana-related patents have been approved and another 255 are pending — quadruple the activity of a decade ago. The patent-filings include not just proprietary strains of cannabis, but innovative methods for growing pot and even new ways of analyzing the industry itself. As laws liberalize around the country, joint ventures will likely become even more popular.
Keep an eye out for your doctor. A recent study suggests that cases of untreatable vision impairment in people over 40 could double to almost 9 million by 2050. Today the U.S. launches See America, a public awareness campaign hoping to get people to visit the eye doctor and tackle preventable problems. While advocates admit that expanding basic health care coverage to include vision is a long shot, they warn that 90 million over-40s are already visually impaired at some level and that access to care is key.
It’s the Hamilton effect. The legendary producer has announced The Scenario, a musical tracing the history of hip-hop. While it’s due to open on Broadway next season — with a follow-up tour of 30 cities — Simmons says the soundtrack hasn’t been finalized. It’s likely to feature hits from Universal artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Kurtis Blow and the Sugarhill Gang. The Def Jam co-founder promised The Scenario will also use technology to “connect the audience and the stage in a way that Broadway hasn’t done.”
They’re coming in last. Yesterday the International Association of Athletics Federations voted against reinstating Russia, meaning its national team won’t be welcome at the world championships this August. The decision followed an IAAF task force’s report showing that Russia still isn’t sufficiently testing athletes or remedying the doping-friendly atmosphere that led to the program’s suspension in November 2015. While investigators found “troubling incidents” involving testing and worrying signs of continued doping, 35 Russians have applied to compete as neutral athletes, disassociating themselves from the tainted Russian Athletics Federation.