Dec 27, 2017

9 things you may have missed while spending time with family

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump speak yesterday to children calling in to NORAD's Santa Tracker. (AP's Carolyn Kaster)

While you enjoyed your family, eggnog and gifts from Santa, the news cycle kept on rolling with more tweets from Trump, deadly natural disasters and company wars for attention.

Here's your post-holiday briefing:

  1. Wishful thinking: Yesterday, the president doubled down on his claim from last week that tax cuts "essentially" end the Affordable Care Act, which isn't exactly true. Still, the administration has used regulations to expand access to inexpensive, short-term plans that cover less while eliminating the individual mandate.
  2. Silicon Valley feeling the heat: Some on Capitol Hill are digging into the idea that companies like Facebook and Google have designed products with the intention of getting and keeping consumers addicted. Policymakers no longer assume that Silicon Valley is acting in the best interests of their users, or society at large. But the real reckoning would come if that skepticism spreads to their hundreds of millions of users.
  3. Deadly fires: Authorities confirmed that 37 people died in a mall fire that broke out over the weekend in Davao City in The Philippines. The victims were all call center employees of Research Now Survey Sampling International. Some context: Davao City is the hometown of controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. He was the city's mayor prior to becoming president and still maintains a home there.
  4. No competition: The Russian opposition leader — and the only person who could credibly challenge Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election — has been barred from running after being convicted of embezzlement earlier this year, despite a similar 2013 verdict being overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.
  5. Penny pinching: The U.S. negotiated a $285 million reduction in its funding to the United Nations as part of the international body's 2018–2019 budget. Remember, Nikki Haley threatened to pull U.S. funding from the UN after the General Assembly voted against President Trump's decision to recognize Israel as Jerusalem's capital Thursday.
  6. Let them drill: The Trump administration is proposing revisions that would roll back some safety measures that were installed after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, which would save an estimated $900 million in the next decade. One change: eliminating the word "safe" from one section of the rule.
  7. Schumer vs. Trump: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called President Trump "Scrooge to the poor" on Sunday in response to Trump reportedly telling friends at Mar-a-Lago they "just got a lot richer" with the passage of the GOP tax plan.
  8. Competing for sports fans: Building to a five-game lineup, the NBA has steadily tried to compete with the NFL's Thanksgiving Day viewership with Christmas Day games. In 2016, the NFL saw nearly 30 million viewers per game on Thanksgiving, while the NBA only attracted about 5 million people on Christmas. But we've also seen NFL viewership dwindle ever since the national anthem controversy.
  9. Goodbye, tree: The White House plans to cut down the oldest tree on the White House grounds — a 200-year-old magnolia. Specialists have said that the tree is too old and damaged to be helped and that "without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago."

Go deeper

Pelosi warns U.S. allies against working with China's Huawei

Nancy Pelosi on Feb. 16. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday cautioned U.S. allies against allowing Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to develop their 5G networks, arguing at the Munich Security Conference that doing so is akin to “choosing autocracy over democracy," CNBC reports.

Why it matters: Pelosi's hawkish stance marks a rare area of agreement with the Trump administration, which believes Huawei is a national security threat because the Chinese government may be capable of accessing its equipment for espionage.

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Judge sets "scheduling" conference call ahead of Roger Stone sentencing

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has requested a Feb. 18 "scheduling" conference call in the Roger Stone case, two days before the former Trump associate is set to be sentenced.

Why it matters: Stone's defense team on Friday filed a sealed motion for a new trial — the second time they've done so — amid allegations of juror bias and a growing controversy over Attorney General Bill Barr's intervention in the case.

Biden says Bloomberg's money can't "erase" his record

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Michael Bloomberg's vast fortune cannot "erase" his record, and that scrutiny of Bloomberg's positions on things like race and policing will ramp up now that he's in the national spotlight.

Why it matters: Biden's polling free fall in the wake of poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire has coincided with a surge for Bloomberg, who appeals to a similar moderate bloc of the Democratic Party. The billionaire's limitless spending capacity poses an especially stark threat to Biden, who has struggled with fundraising.