Now it’s official. In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington today, President Donald Trump presented a new security strategy echoing his campaign promises to prioritize American security and reassert U.S. influence abroad. Casting China and Russia as key global rivals, the plan amounts to the most explicit description yet of Trump’s “America First” policy, pledging to defend American sovereignty above all else. “Whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition,” he said, characterizing previous policies as “failures of the past.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
Authorities in Washington state say at least three people are dead after an Amtrak train derailed about 40 miles south of Seattle, veering off a bridge at more than 80 miles per hour onto the highway below. “We could hear crumpling and crashing and screaming from people,” one passenger said. Gov. Jay Inslee called a state of emergency in response to the crash, which also injured 77 others during its inaugural trip along a new route, but its cause remains unclear. Four of the injured are reported to be in critical condition.
But his emails! While President Donald Trump assured reporters he wasn’t planning to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion in Russian election meddling, the administration has recently stepped up attacks on Mueller’s integrity. Trump’s lawyers claim investigators improperly obtained transition team emails in August, though legal experts say there’s no indication of misconduct. The White House may instead target Republican Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who Trump has reportedly claimed is both a “Democrat” and a threat to his power.
Look who’s back. Sebastian Piñera will be Chile’s next president after winning more than 54 percent of yesterday’s runoff vote. It’s seen as a sign that the country, like much of Latin America, is moving to the right. Piñera held the office from 2010 to 2014, before current President Michelle Bachelet, the last remaining female leader in the Americas. Piñera, who emphasized unity in his victory speech, takes over in March, though he may face difficulty passing legislation, with fewer than half the seats in Congress controlled by his Chile Vamos party.
Thousands are still stranded. More than 30 people were killed over the weekend when Tropical Storm Kai-Tak blew over the province of Biliran, causing landslides and floods. Authorities are still trying to confirm the numbers of the dead and missing, but power outages and washed out bridges have slowed information gathering by isolating whole villages. Though the storm weakened on Sunday, holiday travelers were still trapped in the region and nearly 90,000 people have sought emergency shelter. President Rodrigo Duterte has said he’ll visit the affected areas today.
“We’re on the verge of getting this done.” So said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin yesterday, predicting that the Senate and House will both pass reconciled versions of the GOP’s tax overhaul this week, cementing into law both a tax cut for America’s highest earners and a permanent slash to the corporate tax rate. Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain, suffering from brain cancer, has opted to head home for the holidays — though President Trump assured reporters that “John will come back if we need his vote.”
Know This: After a partial recount, incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández has been declared the victor in Honduras’ presidential election. A mayor in Germany is refusing to back down on his support for refugees, despite an assassination attempt and ongoing death threats. And Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, has been chosen to lead a new commission on sexual misconduct organized by Hollywood heavyweights hoping to change the entertainment industry’s toxic work culture.
Remember This Number: 11 hours. That’s how long a massive power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — the world’s busiest — lasted yesterday, delaying over 1,000 flights. More cancellations are expected today.
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So was the truth out there? American military interest in possible extraterrestrial vehicles flitting through our skies is now on the record: Documents obtained by The New York Times reveal a $22 million program investigating “flying saucers,” oddly hovering objects and other sightings aviation authorities couldn’t explain. A successor to the mid-century Project Blue Book, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program launched in 2007 at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The program was cut in 2012, but other Pentagon offices reportedly still probe such phenomena when they materialize.
It’s a job killer. JD.com, China’s second biggest online retailer, is currently winning the race for completely automated grocery shopping, with a planned chain of hundreds of unstaffed convenience stores. The online giant will use facial recognition to track customers instead of a checkout system — technology it says it’ll eventually sell to third parties. Amazon’s attempt at a similar shopping experience in Seattle hit technical snags, but JD.com’s stores have reportedly performed well in Beijing tests, making it likely to be the first retailer to ring up a large-scale success.
They’re singin’ in the rain. An atmospheric science professor has presented evidence that a period of intense hurricanes in the U.S. during the ’50s and ’60s was reflected in music of that time. Like gleaning climate data from ice cores, “it seems there’s also a kind of climate record in music,” claims meteorologist Paul Williams. Drawing on a karaoke database, he discovered songwriters used words like “rain,” “wind” and “hurricane” more when storms were inundating the real world — which suggests climate change might influence pop charts of the future.
These films will reel you into discussion. While propaganda isn’t new to Hollywood, politically minded filmmakers are taking advantage of new innovations like streaming services to deliver their messages to wider audiences, and much more quickly. With an eye to the effect shows like Will and Grace and Ellen had on shifting cultural conversations about LGBT issues, political movies these days are also aiming to seize on current hot button issues — economic inequality, immigration and gender, among others — that can use human stories to generate debate and change minds.
He’s getting out of the game. Jerry Richardson, billionaire owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, says he’ll sell the team at the end of the season after reports surfaced that he’d made at least four confidential settlements for inappropriate workplace behavior, including sexual harassment and using a racial slur. “You felt preyed upon,” said one former employee of her time working under the 81-year-old Charlotte legend — long one of the league’s most powerful owners. The NFL has taken over the Panthers’ internal investigation into Richardson’s behavior.