“I’m not ranting and raving. I love this.” So said President Donald Trump, who yesterday convened reporters to introduce lawyer Alexander Acosta as his new labor secretary nominee, but blasted journalists for “fake news” linking him to Russia and a “bad court” for derailing his travel ban. He also dismissed a question about bomb threats against Jewish centers as “insulting” and told a Black reporter to “set up a meeting” for him with the Congressional Black Caucus. Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced a new executive order on immigration to be signed next week.
The Presidential Daily Brief
A new labor of love. An administration official has said that Trump will nominate Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary today, following yesterday’s late-stage withdrawl of Andrew Puzder from the race. Acosta is currently Dean of the Florida International University College of Law, once serving under George W. Bush as assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, as well as being a member of the National Labor Relations Board. If Trump does nominate him, and he’s confirmed, he will be the first Latinx member of Trump’s team.
Nothing is sacred. At least 30 people have been reported dead, and more than 100 more injured after a suicide bomber attacked the shrine of Sufi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town in Pakistan’s Sindh province. The explosion in the crowded shrine is the fifth attack in Pakistan this week, and it took place during Dhamal, a Sufi ritual which drew hundreds to the shrine. The attack has been claimed by Daesh.
Bombs continue to rock Baghdad. Today a car bomb exploded in Iraq’s capital, with 47 reported dead so far, and many more injured. The car was parked in an area with a high density of car dealerships and workshops, and came after a recent increase of violence in the city, which saw a truck explode on Wednesday, killing 15, and a car bomb kill four on Tuesday. There has, as yet, been no claim of responsibility for the bombing.
He knew he was beaten. Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder announced yesterday he won’t be battling out the nomination for Labor Secretary, but said he was “honored” to be considered. Though conservatives had pushed through several cabinet confirmations despite huge protests from Democrats, support for Puzder has waned even among the GOP as allegations of spousal abuse and employing an undocumented housekeeper resurfaced. Now the Senate will turn to Scott Pruitt’s nomination for EPA chief — and expected confirmation, even if he’s lost the support of at least one GOP senator.
Whodunnit — and why? Two women and a man have been arrested in the apparent poisoning of Kim Jong Il’s oldest son Monday. South Korean intelligence officials suspect North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of ordering his half-brother’s murder, which CCTV shows involved two women, one with “LOL” on her shirt. One detained woman was carrying Indonesian travel documents, the other a Vietnamese passport, but it’s unclear if they’re genuine — and police, who haven’t released results of Kim Jong Nam’s autopsy, say they’re looking for more suspects.
It’s contained but not under control. New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has declared a state of emergency after two wildfires began simultaneously near Christchurch, then merged and spread across more than 4,400 acres — forcing about 1,000 people to evacuate and threatening the country’s third-largest city. The fire, which English described as “suspicious,” has destroyed 11 properties and killed a pilot whose helicopter crashed as he fought the blaze. As investigators probe the fire’s origin, hundreds of firefighters, along with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, continue to battle the inferno.
Instagram Stories be damned. The social media app whose messages swiftly disappear from phones is nearing its IPO, and has set share prices at $14 to $16 — lower than hoped, but still the biggest tech offering since 2014 and potentially worth $22.2 billion. Snap skeptics point out that the app’s user base is flat and financial losses are growing, while investors are wary of the company’s choice of issuing nonvoting shares — an IPO first — which leaves all decisionmaking to Snap’s founders. Trading could begin as early as March 2.
Know This: Boeing workers in South Carolina voted overwhelmingly not to unionize, in what’s seen as a blow to the U.S. labor movement’s remaining clout. A 64-year-old woman in Spain has given birth to healthy twins. And President Trump has officially announced he’s not committed to finding a two-state solution in Israel.
Expert Opinion: “Failing some inquiry that brings to light all the facts and deals with all the allegations, this will be a millstone dragging the administration down for all its tenure.” So says former deputy CIA director and OZY columnist John McLaughlin on Russia’s suspected role in the U.S. election. He suggests a 9/11 Commission-style inquiry could offer non-partisan closure.
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Will they keep marching? Organizers of the Jan. 21 women’s marches that mobilized millions of American women are now calling for an unprecedented general strike on March 8, a.k.a. International Women’s Day. Called “A Day Without a Woman,” it urges women to abstain from jobs and domestic duties, block roads and call out “misogynistic politicians and companies.” Other organizations have called for a general strike tomorrow, while other anti-Trump forces have planned strikes for Presidents’ Day (Monday) and May Day, promising to multiply — or perhaps dilute — the movement’s impact.
They need some serious lulls. A government study on death from overwork, also called “karoshi,” says that close to half the country’s workers aren’t getting enough sleep. While some nations mandate time off between shifts, Japan doesn’t — and a study of five countries from RAND Europe found that Japan’s sleepy workers are dragging down productivity and costing the country 2.9 percent of GDP, or an annual $138 billion. Some companies are instituting minimum time-off requirements for workers, and Japan’s government is setting aside $3.5 million to incentivize others to give it a rest.
Whatever you do, young man, don’t go West. Following the double whammy of Brexit and President Trump over the past year, a growing number of Eastern European millennials have become disillusioned — not necessarily with Western ideals, but with their confidence that a strained EU and isolationist America can counterbalance growing Russian influence on former Soviet nations. Some youth are turning to nationalism, seeking out far-right groups, while many who might argue in the EU’s defense are too burned out — and scared — to fight back.
Resistance is the new black. A number of designers at New York Fashion Week are walking their creations straight into the political arena. The Public School showcased Trumpian red caps with slogans like “Make America New York,” while Prabal Gurung’s t-shirts sported explicitly political slogans, including “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” a tribute to a muzzled Sen. Elizabeth Warren. While many applauded the designers’ tackling of current events — which also included models in hijabs — some worry that the sloganeering might turn off a fashion-buying public already oversaturated with politics.
“Get the heck out of politics.” So said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in response to the NFL’s warning against Texas’ attempts to pass a controversial “bathroom bill.” Following in the footsteps of the NCAA, which last year pulled championship events out of North Carolina due to an anti-transgender bathroom law, the NFL has now hit the Lone Star State with a similar warning, saying both Houston and Dallas would be overlooked for future Super Bowls were Texas to pass its bill denying bathroom choice for transgender Texans.