Shane Savitsky
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Ethics Committee is investigating a Democratic House member

Photo: Cliff Owen / AP

The House Ethics Committee announced today that it has opened an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada. A female staffer claimed earlier this month that Kihuen made inappropriate advances toward her during his 2016 House campaign.

Go deeper: The full story on the allegations against Kihuen.

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New non-invasive test speeds tuberculosis diagnosis

Samples at a South African tuberculosis testing clinic. Photo: Schalk van Zuydam / AP

Researchers at George Mason University have developed a urine test to identify tuberculosis cases, per New Scientist. The method — which worked successfully on 48 people with TB —provides a diagnosis within just 12 hours, compared to days for existing skin and sputum culture tests.

How it works: The test can detect a sugar on the surface of TB bacteria that is present in low concentrations in the urine of those infected.

Why it matters: TB killed about 1.7 million people last year. "In around 40 per cent of cases, the infection isn’t identified until symptoms become obvious," writes Andy Coghlan in the New Scientist. The urine test, which the researchers hope to have publicly available within three years, could allow for the rapid identification of the disease.

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Working dogs: People buy when canines are selling

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

For several years, dogs have been among the biggest stars on Instagram, with hundreds of thousands of followers and enormous advertising deals. The reason? Many Instagram users trust dogs more than human models.

Why it matters: In an age where brands and platforms are radically rethinking how ads are produced and delivered to consumers, "animal influencers," as the ad industry calls them, produce sponsored content that people actually choose to follow and engage with. “People are going to get ads — whether it's banner ads, whether it's influencer ads," Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency, tells Axios. "But they want to see them in a way that's going to make them smile."

The business: In 2015, Edwards, a Harvard Law graduate, left the corporate law world behind when she founded The Dog Agency, which manages pet influencers.

  • The Dog Agency has about 100 clients — dogs, cats, pigs, hedgehogs. The majority have hundreds of thousands of followers.
  • You might have heard of Harlow and Sage (1.6 million Instagram followers), The Dogist (2.9 million), and Tuna (1.9 million).
  • Edwards cites an "incredibly powerful" campaign that she did for Urban Decay, a makeup brand, involving numerous pet influencers. “It was about how Urban Decay doesn't test on animals, and it's about putting that message next to these pets that people already have a strong connection to," she said. Urban Decay did not respond to an email.
  • And there are ways to expand: The Dog Agency has its own pet content site called Pet Insider, and last month sponsored "PetCon," a weekend pet-focused convention in New York based around some of the agency's most famous animal influencers.

Why it connects: While animal influencers first came to prominence promoting pet-friendly products like Barkbox, a monthly dog-focused subscription service, the most prominent influencers today tend to work closely with human models. One approach is to embed an ad from a known human personality within a photo of an animal who consumers have already chosen to follow, and thereby get people not only to view the ad, but like and comment on it as well.

  • Animal influencers get more attention than human bloggers, Edwards said. Clients see the results. "By partnering with [animal influencers]," she said, "they're really resonating with their consumers on a deeper level."

One of the stars: Elle Drouin is owner of Mochi, a 3-year-old maltipoo who just cracked 100,000 Instagram followers. She said it's not uncommon for a single Instagram post to earn $1,000 (around $100 for every 10,000 followers). “Mochi definitely earns more then her keep," she told Axios. "She pays for herself and then some."

  • Mochi's recent deals include campaigns for Ralph Lauren, The Ritz-Carlton, Amex, Google, and Disney. The Ritz-Carlton deal scored Mochi and Drouin a swanky vacation to Aruba.
  • Drouin works, too: Drouin estimates that she works three to five hours a week on Mochi's brand. “I was sitting in my office," she said, "and I realized that I had spent two hours responding to emails for my dog."
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Omarosa out at White House

Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

The White House stated this morning that Omarosa Manigault resigned as the Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison effective January 20, per the AP. Manigault originally rose to public prominence as a contestant on President Trump's former reality show The Apprentice.

Why it matters: While Manigault's departure adds to a string of White House exits at the start of 2018, her behind-the-scenes departure reportedly was not smooth — April Ryan tweeted that Manigault was actually fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly and hurled a string of expletives at him, requiring her to be removed from the White House grounds. That'd be an inauspicious end to an already rocky White House tenure that was mostly notable for its bad press and a lack of clarity surrounding her responsibilities. The Secret Service tweeted Wednesday evening that they were not involved.

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Trump: "I was right" that Roy Moore couldn't win

President Trump tweeted this morning that he'd originally supported Luther Strange in the Alabama Senate special election because he believed Roy Moore to be unelectable — even though he had fully thrown his support behind Moore over the last few weeks:

Don't forget: After Strange's loss in the primary to Moore in September, Trump quietly deleted three of his tweets backing Strange.

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Trump and Gillibrand face off on Twitter

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on President Trump to "immediately resign" yesterday, prompting a disparaging Twitter response from POTUS this morning:

Gillibrand fired back with a tweet of her own, stating that Trump had brought "unfitness and shame" to his office:

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Trump: my female accusers are telling "fabricated stories"

President Trump tweeted this morning that the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him are a Democratic ploy to smear him in conjunction with the Russia investigation:

Go deeper: Trump has grown "increasingly angry" about the reports against him.

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How NAFTA brought junk food to Mexico

An unidentified man stands at a beverage deposit with cases of Coke bottles in Chilpancingo, Mexico. Photo: Alejandrino Gonzalez / AP

A New York Times report posits that NAFTA quickly transformed Mexico’s diet and food economy by offering easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and spurring foreign investment in convenience stores. Diabetes is now the most rampant cause of death for Mexicans, and the country’s obesity rate soared to 20.3% in 2016 from 7% in 1980.

The counterargument: Mexico’s deputy chief negotiator for NAFTA told the NYT that the trade deal simply cheapened access to high-caloric American foods that were already available. And he argued that NAFTA made Mexico more economically stable, allowing its citizens to live longer, which caused an increase in the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease. A stat to back that up: Mexico’s child malnutrition rate dropped to 1.6% in 2012 from 6.2% in 1988.

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Transgender individuals can enlist in military beginning Jan. 1

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The Pentagon announced today that transgender troops will be allowed to enlist in the United States military beginning on January 1, though with a strict set of medical and mental health guidelines, per the AP. That comes despite President Trump's attempt to ban all transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces, which has been struck down twice by federal courts.

The timeline: While the Obama administration declared that transgender individuals already in the military could serve openly in 2016, it set a deadline of July 1, 2017 to determine enlistment guidelines for new transgender recruits. Defense Secretary James Mattis delayed that decision until for six months for further review. The Trump administration had attempted to further extend that deadline via federal court filings, but today's move indicates that it believes it'll lose that fight.

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FERC commissioner cautious on "lifeline" to coal and nuclear

Chuck Kennedy / Axios

A top energy regulator downplayed his goal of throwing a near-term "lifeline" to struggling coal and nuclear power plants during a conversation with Axios' Amy Harder this morning.

Neil Chatterjee, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said he was still looking to do that, but emphasized that his "first priority" was a longer term analysis of grid resilience. He had been acting chairman of FERC until last week when the current chair, Kevin McIntyre, was sworn in.

Why it matters: Chatterjee's cautious comments about his push for quick aid to prevent plants from retiring signal the hurdles he faces getting colleagues on the five-member agency on board with the "lifeline" idea.

The remarks come as FERC, an independent agency, is more broadly weighing a sweeping plan from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to boost compensation for some coal and nuclear plants based on their "resilience and reliability" attributes. Chatterjee has been calling for an interim step while the commission works on Perry's proposal.

Yes, but: In remarks to reporters after the event, Chatterjee said he was not backing off his effort to find agreement on some kind of "lifeline" while FERC weighs Perry's proposal.

But acknowledged that "trying to land that is difficult."

Chatterjee also noted that two of his colleagues—McIntyre and Richard Glick—have only recently arrived at FERC, and that as of Monday morning he had not yet had the chance to meet in person with McIntyre.

What's next: Perry is pressing FERC for action on his proposed cost-recovery rule by mid-January. But FERC has the authority to interpret the deadline broadly and could take steps that effectively lengthen the process further.

More from Axios’ energy event:

  • Chatterjee wants to see a more focused energy policy from Congress, saying, “Congress hasn't passed a major energy bill in more than a decade. Most changes made through tax code, spending bills or regulators. We need a national energy policy from Congress.”
  • Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) addressed Rick Perry’s infamous “cost of freedom” remark: “We can toss that word around but it’s about having policy…Where do you want the government in good format to insert itself?…Do you insert that government so as to develop policy and a sound process, or do you come in at the end to ignore science and provide cleanup?”
  • Tonko said that energy should be addressed in the White House’s forthcoming infrastructure package, stating, “When the president talks about infrastructure, I would hope grid infrastructure would be a part of that whole phenomenon.” Tonko is the top Democrat on the Environment Subcommittee of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Tonko said he backed both nuclear power and natural gas as clean enegy resources, despite some grassroots environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, opposing both.
  • Nick Loris, an energy economist at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, said the group supports reviewing scientific finding that concluded greenhouse gas emissions endanger pubilc health and welfare, and thus must be regulated. The group is influential with the Trump administration and could have influence in this area, though the Environmental Protection Agency, which issued the finding in 2009 during the Obama administration, hasn't indicated it will review it.