Sessions adjourned. The attorney general says he’ll remove himself from any campaign-related investigations, including Russia’s possible election interference, after it came to light that he’d lied under oath about meeting Russia’s ambassador during the campaign. Sessions now says he was acting only as a U.S. senator when he met with Sergey Kislyak, but records indicate that Sessions’ trip was financed by campaign funds. Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente will oversee any related investigations. While the White House expressed “total confidence” in Sessions, some lawmakers are demanding his resignation.
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It’s an energetic confirmation. The Senate voted 62-37 to confirm ex-Texas Governor Rick Perry as energy secretary. In 2011, Perry pledged to eliminate the department, but has since backtracked and instead promised to advocate for the agency and protect the U.S. nuclear reserve. He’s also said he’s dedicated to developing all types of energy, including from renewable sources. Democrats have accepted Perry’s reneged vow to dismantle the Energy Department, but remain skeptical about him going head to head with the Trump administration should budget cuts be proposed.
Back and forth. The Syrian Army has announced that it has retaken control of Palmyra from the Islamic State group. This is the second time the Army has reclaimed the territory in a year, seizing it in March 2016 and losing it again ten months later. The new mission received assistance from Russian air cover and “allied and friendly troops,” otherwise known to be Lebanese Hezbollah fighters. Palmyra, before it became a hotly contested war zone, was a popular tourist attraction.
Pressure is intensifying. Today Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have called for the Attorney General’s resignation. While Republicans and Democrats have been calling for Sessions to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, after it came to light that he had communicated with Russia’s ambassador to the United States twice in the course of the presidential campaign, some believe recusal isn’t enough. Schumer said Sessions “may very well become the subject” of an investigation himself, and Warren Tweeted he should have ”never been confirmed in the first place.”
They’re still on red alert. Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied being in communication with Russian officials while part of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign — but now it appears he met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year. Some Democrats are calling for Sessions’ resignation, or at least that he recuse himself from the FBI investigation into Trump’s Russian connections. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee is launching its own inquiry amid reports that the Obama administration disseminated intelligence on Russia’s election interference, perhaps fearing a post-transition cover-up.
Is this obstructing justice? Malaysia’s ongoing inquest into the Kuala Lumpur death of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother is seeking two North Korean suspects, but they’ve taken refuge at their country’s embassy, with one claiming diplomatic immunity. As a consequence, Malaysia has revoked its rare visa-free travel deal for North Koreans as of March 6, a blow to already strained diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, the inquiry will release and deport a North Korean suspect Friday, and two women — one Vietnamese, one Indonesian — have been charged with Kim’s murder.
They’re setting new boundaries. President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration will reportedly exempt visa holders and legal permanent residents and remove Iraq from the list of banned countries. It’s unclear if this will put the administration on solid legal footing after the first order was successfully challenged in circuit court. Meanwhile, troubling incidents continue at U.S. borders, including an Afghan-Canadian doctor who was detained for hours and a Tibetan women’s soccer team, largely made up of refugees, which was denied visas for a Texas tournament.
What a spectacle. Snapchat’s parent company initially priced shares at $14 to $16 last month, but yesterday’s demand exceeded those levels, with shares going for $17 apiece — bringing Snap’s expected value up to $24 billion, despite uncertainty about its profitability and lasting power. Snap’s founders will maintain full control of the company’s direction, as shares have no voting rights attached. The company will debut on the NYSE today as SNAP — and could lure other tech unicorns to the open market if it makes a Facebook-style smash hit.
Know This: The White House Counsel’s Office says it won’t discipline Kellyanne Conway for touting Ivanka Trump’s fashion line while appearing on television. Britain’s government has vowed to fight its Brexit bill’s defeat in the upper house of Parliament after it was amended to guarantee rights for EU citizens living in Britain. And the two accountants being blamed for the best picture mix-up won’t be invited back to the Oscars next year.
Remember This: “Being a presidential candidate doesn’t authorize you to cast suspicion on the work of police and judges,” President François Hollande told reporters — a clear reference to embattled conservative candidate François Fillon, who claimed a judicial investigation into his “fake jobs” scandal was a politically motivated character assassination.
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That’s a lot of bread. A 90-year-old petri dish of Penicillium chrysogenum must have really grown on the anonymous buyer willing to spend a staggering $14,617 on a crusty chunk of medical history. This remarkable mold belonged to Alexander Fleming, and a label on the back identifies it as the 1928 culture that helped him discover penicillin and earned him a 1945 Nobel Prize. While Fleming apparently gifted many dignitaries with similar mold medallions, this dish was a bargain compared to the $51,000 medallion auctioned in 1996.
Not everyone’s lovin’ it. McDonald’s estimates it’s lost 500 million U.S. transactions to competitors since 2012, but it’s hoping it can deliver better results by bringing burgers straight to your door. The fast food giant already operates a delivery service in some Asian markets, which brought in $1 billion last year. It’s now testing several U.S. delivery models and plans to launch a mobile ordering app later this year, along with self-service kiosks and table service in some stores. McDonald’s shares rose 1.5 percent on the news.
The damage is done. Non-natural earthquakes are primarily caused by wastewater injection, a byproduct of fracking, and they’ve become hundreds of times more frequent in the last decade. A new forecast from the United States Geological Survey says 3.5 million people, mostly in Kansas and Oklahoma, are at risk of being affected this year — a slight decline attributed to decreased oil and gas production. Scientists say reducing injections could make quakes less frequent, but wastewater already in the earth will continue shaking the ground for some time.
The era of the celebrity president may not end with Trump. In an interview yesterday, Oprah Winfrey said she’d never considered running for president before: “I thought, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t have the experience. I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh.’” One study found that Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama in 2008 had a statistically significant effect on his popularity with voters. While it’s unclear if she’s serious about the idea of running, commentators like Michael Moore have suggested that Democrats might do well with a “beloved” candidate.
He’s gonna be a smash. Over the past two Olympic Games, 28-year-old Aruna Quadri of Nigeria has made it all the way to the table tennis quarterfinals, making history by becoming the first African to ever get so far. All but four Olympic gold medals in ping-pong have gone to Chinese athletes, but Quadri is striving to break that dominance. His self-funded efforts are not only making him a household name, but they’re inspiring a whole new generation of players throughout Africa.