The state of the union is…strong. At least, unsurprisingly, said President Trump in his first State of the Union address. He touted the passing of a sweeping tax bill, rollbacks of regulations and a booming stock market as proof of a ”New American Moment.” He recognized parents with children murdered by MS-13 to bring attention to illegal immigration and a North Korean defector to speak about that government’s abuses. Also, he called for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill and announced signing an order to keep open the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re playing political football. House Intelligence Committee Republicans stepped up their battle against America’s intelligence community yesterday, voting to release a classified GOP-penned memo alleging surveillance abuse by FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the Russia investigation. The Justice Department warned that releasing classified information to the public is ”extraordinarily reckless” and is expected to lobby President Donald Trump, who has five days to decide whether to keep the memo secret. Meanwhile, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has stepped down after months of attacks from the president.
They’re trying to make amendments. Ireland’s government has formally committed to holding a public vote on whether to change the country’s constitution, which currently bans abortion. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the ban would be replaced with regulations allowing abortion only in the first trimester or in “exceptional circumstances” — and spoke of thousands of women seeking dangerous, unregulated abortions every year under the current laws. Now the referendum must be approved by both houses of Parliament, where it’s expected to pass, in preparation for a vote before the end of May.
“I have every expectation that they will continue to try.” So said CIA chief Mike Pompeo, whose agency concluded that not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, but it was also likely to take a stab at influencing this year’s House and Senate races. He cited China as a similar threat. Meanwhile, the White House declined to pursue new sanctions on Russia, despite congressional demands, but did release a list of wealthy businesspeople and officials with ties to the Kremlin, as mandated by laws passed last year.
There’s no safety in these numbers. The British government’s own analysis of the economic changes that will be wrought by Brexit shows the country will be worse off outside the EU — regardless of whether it forges a free-trade agreement, drops out with no deal, or retains access to the single market. The latter will have the smallest negative impact, numbers show, lowering growth by only an estimated 2 percent. One government source, asked why the information hadn’t been released to the public, responded, “Because it’s embarrassing.”
Know This: President Trump will give his State of the Union address tonight — attended by his wife, Melania, in her first public appearance since reports surfaced of the president’s lawyers paying hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels over her alleged affair with Trump while Melania was pregnant. Amazon has opened an indoor rain forest, 400 plant species contained inside three glass domes, at its Seattle headquarters. And Chile’s created five national parks in an unprecedented conservation move.
Read This: Franklin Chang Díaz, who immigrated to the U.S. from Costa Rica at 18, became an astronaut — and now his company, Ad Astra, is creating a plasma engine that some hope could propel humans to Mars.
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Watch the skies. Early risers Wednesday morning will witness a combination of lunar events not seen since 1866: a second full moon in a calendar month (a “blue” moon), orbiting at its closest to Earth (a “supermoon”) while being eclipsed by the planet’s shadow (a “blood” moon). It’ll take on a reddish cast due to the eclipse and appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its farthest orbit. The Western U.S. and East Asia will have the best views — and NASA will broadcast a live video feed.
Burn it all down. Billionaire Musk joked that if his Boring Company sold 50,000 branded hats, it would start selling flamethrowers next. Now it has, and the torch guns have garnered more than 10,000 orders since Saturday’s launch. While Musk tweeted jokes about the zombie apocalypse, at least one California lawmaker, arguing that it’s insensitive to market flamethrowers after his state’s devastating wildfire season, has already announced legislation that would block sales statewide. Barring that, the $500 weapons, which blast flames less than 10 feet, should start shipping this spring.
They get high with a little help from their friends. Last year Colombia established a legal framework for the medical marijuana industry, and several companies have made it through the licensing process. Now investors in Canada, the world’s only advanced capital market for financing cannabis ventures, have pumped tens of millions of dollars into Colombia’s pot sector, betting on the country’s tropical climate and indigenous marijuana strains. As the newly legit companies prepare for their first exports this year, more have applied to join the budding global market.
“This is not a tell all. This is a tell it like it is.” That’s how McGowan describes Brave, which debuts today and details her childhood in a cult, career in Hollywood and alleged assault by Harvey Weinstein — though she only refers to him as “the Monster.” Coinciding with the book’s release is the premiere of Citizen Rose, an E! series about McGowan’s quest to expose sexual harassment in Hollywood. It also never mentions the mogul’s name, but features conversations between McGowan and other Weinstein accusers.
He’s out. The MLB franchise announced Monday that it’ll discontinue its longtime logo, a grinning, red-faced Native American, after the 2018 season. Chief Wahoo has been part of the team’s look since 1947, but the caricature prompted decades of protests and lawsuits from Native American tribes who say it’s racist and offensive. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred also criticized the logo, and many speculated it would be nixed before Cleveland hosts the 2019 All-Star Game. The team, whose name won’t be changed, will retain the trademark and retail rights to Chief Wahoo.