John Kelly officially sworn in as chief of staff - Axios
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John Kelly officially sworn in as chief of staff

Evan Vucci / AP

The John Kelly era has officially begun in the Trump West Wing as the former four-star Marine Corps general was sworn in as chief of staff minutes ago.

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300 people have been killed in U.S. disasters this year

Home destroyed from fires in the Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: Jeff Chiu / AP

Damage from California wildfires is now estimated to exceed $1 billion, giving the U.S. 16 separate billion-dollar disasters so far this year, tying 2011 for the most in one year, per the Weather Channel.

Why it matters: The disasters, combined, have killed over 300 people, the Weather Channel reports. There have been 218 climate disasters since 1980, which has cost the U.S. over $1.2 trillion, not including the hurricanes last month or the wildfires in California.

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A new North Korea problem

Kim Jong-un speaks to the central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang on Oct. 7. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

"[A]nalysts ... see signs that Mount Mantap, the 7,200-foot-high peak under which North Korea detonates its nuclear bombs, is suffering from 'tired mountain syndrome,'" the WashPost reports on A1:

Why it matters: "Chinese scientists ... have warned that further nuclear tests [by North Korea] could cause the mountain to collapse and release the radiation from the blast."

P.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday a Foundation for Defense of Democracies forum that North Korea is months away from perfecting its nuclear weapons capabilities, AP reports:

  • Pompeo: "They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving" their objective of being able to strike the United States.
  • John Brennan, Pompeo's predecessor as CIA director, said at Fordham University in New York on Wednesday that the prospects of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula "are greater than they have been in several decades": "I don't think it's likely or probable, but if it's a 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 chance, that's too high."
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Trump: Rep. Wilson is "killing" the Democratic Party

Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump sent a series of Tweets Saturday morning regarding Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, the new budget passed in Congress on Thursday, and more.

Go deeper: Chief of Staff John Kelly misrepresented a story about Rep. Wilson earlier this week, which further intensified a feud between Trump and the Florida Congresswoman, evidenced by his tweet this morning. Yesterday Wilson raised the issue of race, suggesting that the animosity from Kelly is racially charged and called him a liar. "The White House itself is full of white supremacists," she said.

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Big Tech's new Wall Street problem

Photo courtesy of Barron's

Just as Big Tech has begun to seriously worry about Washington, now Wall Street is waking up to possible government threats to the market dominance of the Silicon Valley giants.

While the "biggest companies don't face an immediate threat of being broken up ... just the possibility creates a risk factor in the stocks," Barron'sreports in its new cover story:

  • "More than antitrust issues are in play. The huge amounts of personal data that Google, Facebook, and Amazon are amassing is just as troubling to some."
  • Why it matters: "Taken together, these challenges threaten the stock valuations of the group. To get an idea of the worst-case scenario, take a look at two of tech's dominant players from previous eras: IBM [1969] and Microsoft [1998]."
  • "If these giants get sideswiped, it could be because of the fatal flaw in large tech companies that's often drawn social ire and regulation — the will to exploit their dominance."

Possible hits to the platforms' business models are blossoming in Europe, and the contagion could spread across the Atlantic. An AP takeoutfrom London points out that the giants "are increasingly facing an uncomfortable truth":

  • "[I]t is Europe's culture of tougher oversight of companies, not America's laissez-faire attitude, which could soon rule their industry as governments seek to combat fake news and prevent extremists from using the internet to fan the flames of hatred."

Be smart: My conversations with tech execs show they're skeptical that Congress will figure out the mechanics of inhibiting the platforms in a way that would do serious damage to the bottom line.

  • It's true that potential D.C. action is in the early stage. And there are huge impediments to doing anything radical. But the companies are now such tempting targets, this is a rising passion in both parties.
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Those "puppy eyes" are all for you

Photo: Alan Diaz / AP

"Puppy dog eyes" — the pleading look a dog gives by lifting its inner brow and widening its eyes — has become synonymous with a sad pup hoping for a scrap of food off its owner's plate. However a new study published Thursday in Scientific Reports suggests "puppy dog eyes" may not be meant to be manipulative, but are simply a reaction to human expression.

Key findings: The study, conducted by researchers in Britain who closely monitored dogs' facial expressions, found that dogs were much more expressive when a person was paying attention to them as opposed to when they were turned away. The presence of food didn't make a difference in the dogs' reactions.

Why it matters: "This study is the first to show evidence that dogs adjust their facial expressions when humans are looking at them," Angie Johnston, a graduate student at Yale university working in the Psychology Department's Canine Cognition Center, told Axios. "This suggests that the methods dogs use to communicate with us may be more nuanced than we previously thought."

Details of the study and other findings:

  • Juliane Kaminski, a psychologist at the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, U.K. and her colleagues studied 24 pet dogs of various breeds from ages 1-12 years.
  • The researchers filmed the dogs' facial expressions while a woman was a) facing the dog and displaying food in her hands; b) facing it and not displaying food; c) facing away and displaying food; and d) facing away and not displaying food.
  • The dogs were found to be much more expressive when the woman was facing them, and stuck out their tongues and barked more when they got attention.
  • Meanwhile, the presence of food didn't seem to make a difference. "This kind of 'dinner table effect' that dogs try and look super cute when they want something is something we did in fact not find," wrote Kaminski, "meaning, there was no effect of food being visible or not."
  • Take note: Kaminiski underscored that the team doesn't know dogs' intentions for making certain faces. "We cannot in any way speculate what dogs might 'mean' with whatever facial movement they produce," she wrote.

What they're saying:

  • "That the dogs raised their eyebrows and flicked their tongues more when people are looking at them... suggests that dogs might be using the actions communicatively, just as people do with facial expressions," Alexandra Horowitz from Barnard University's Dog Cognition Lab told Axios.
  • Looking forward: "This study represents a promising new frontier in canine science... I was surprised that dogs made 'puppy dog eyes' at the person regardless of whether she had food in her hands or not. This makes me wonder exactly what it is that dogs are trying to communicate," says Johnston. "More work is going to be needed to pin down exactly what dogs are trying to tell us, if anything, when they make these facial expressions."

Go deeper:

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Spain PM to remove Catalonia's leader

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants to stop Catalonia from seceding. Photo: John Thys, Pool Photo via AP

Catalonia has been fighting for independence from Spain for years, but last month held an Independence Referendum in which the majority of Catalans voted in favor of secession. Now, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced today that he plans to remove Catalonia's president and separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, from office to stop their secession, per NYT.

What's next: The Spanish government will move to invoke Article 155 of their constitution, which has never been used before, and would allow them to stop any regional government from ruling in any of Spain's 17 autonomous regions (like Catalonia). The Article specifically allows for the Spanish government to "adopt the measures necessary to oblige that [region] to forcibly comply with said duties or to protect the aforementioned general interest" of Spain.

What they're saying: "We've done this the right way: we've worked peacefully, we've organized, we've demonstrated in the millions in a peaceful manner, and we've sat down and tried to negotiate," said a representative of the Catalonia government. He added that "none of us expected the extraordinary lengths" that the Spanish government would go to stop the region from seceding. But Rajoy maintains the referendum was unconstitutional and will now move to take control of Catalonia.

The day before the Independence Referendum, the Catalonia government rep told me of the "flimsy justifications" Spanish authorities were using to stop the vote from even taking place — they demanded a shutdown of any Catalan website with mentions of the Independence Referendum, threatened members of the press who reported on it, removed millions of paper ballots, arrested at least 14 Catalan government officials, and sent in hundreds of civil guards in riot gear to Catalans' protests.

Why this matters: With so much political chaos happening in the U.S., it can be easy to overlook what's happening in a relatively small region like Catalonia. But "it's a model for peaceful change that we should pay attention to rather than ignore," the representative said. And Catalonia is a case study in what a years-long effort for progressivism and independence looks like when democracy is stifled. "There has been a long road of attempted negotiation and Catalonia has been forced to do this [referendum] a result of Madrid's unwillingness to even discuss Catalonia's grievances," said the rep.

Battle lines:

  • The Spanish government is ending "a unilateral process, contrary to the law and searching for confrontation," Rajoy said, per NYT, because "no government of any democratic country can accept that the law be violated, ignored and changed."
  • Spain's Constitutional Court has always said that Catalonia's Independence Referendum is illegal, but Puigdemont was determined to go through with it anyway.
  • The vote wasn't just symbolic. The Catalonia Government representative said it would show the Spanish government that Catalans "have legitimately made every effort to negotiate within the constitution, and now international law and law regarding self-determination gives us that ability to hold this vote and make it binding."
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My 6 big things: Fox's Maria Bartiromo on Twitter as a life hack, hiking and her iPhone

I chat with industry leaders about their quirks and life hacks for Axios' My 6 Big Things series. This week features Maria Bartiromo, host of Mornings with Maria on Fox Business Network, who shares everything from the importance of her iPhone to using Twitter as a life hack.

Earlier this month, Fox Business Network celebrated its 10th anniversary and Bartiromo's exclusive interview with President Trump airs tomorrow.

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IRS will decline tax returns without proof of health insurance

The IRS will reject tax returns filed without information about health insurance. Photo: Brennan Linsley / AP

The IRS said it will decline any tax returns submitted online if the filer does not fill out the forms about whether you have health insurance, per NYT. You could be denied your refund without this information.

Why it matters: The tax penalty for lack of health insurance has been controversial and this is the first time the IRS will enforce this rule. Also, it's a small sign that Trump's administration is keeping some parts of the Affordable Care Act alive, despite Trump's repeated claims that it's dead.

Think back: Trump's very first Executive Order suggested his admin could halt the tax penalty for insurance. And he has flip-flopped on health care numerous times this month alone. He rolled out another Executive Order earlier this month advocating for the sale of skinnier health plans to small businesses and individuals — on the same day that he announced he'd end subsidies for low-income people. And he changed his mind on the bipartisan proposal to provide "short-term stability to insurance marketplaces under the law," NYT notes.

Why now: The IRS wanted to assess the effects of Trump's EOs before rejecting returns without insurance information. Families can face up to $2,085 penalty and individuals could pay as much as $695 each year for the tax penalty without providing insurance information.

More tax news, from NYT: tax news, from NYT: Republicans are considering decreasing the amount individuals can contribute to 401(k) before taxes to help their tax reform plan.

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Trump out-of-bounds

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Donald Trump is now well-recognized as the president who hasn't been bound by the same niceties as his predecessors — whether on Twitter or in public remarks. He sparked controversy again this week, when he impugned past presidents for not calling families of service members killed in combat — the latest incident where his inclination to speak off the cuff went beyond the normal remarks of prior presidents.

Bottom line: It was assumed that after taking office Trump's rhetoric would become more mild, but he's proven that he will continue to say what he wants. As Axios wrote in March, Trump is Trump, "the one guy who's NOT CHANGING is a 70-year-old billionaire with his name on the building."

  • Trump accused Obama of "wiretapping" him without providing any evidence, and suggested Obama had broken the law in a crime of Watergate proportions— March 4
  • He attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the hours after a terror attack struck the city, calling him "pathetic" for telling residents there is "no reason to be alarmed." Note: Trump's claim was highly misleading. Khan actually said Londoners shouldn't be alarmed by the increased security. — June 4 and 5
  • After learning of negative media reports from "Morning Joe's" Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Trump tweeted: [H]ow come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came... to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve... She was bleeding badly from a face-lift" — June 29
  • He suggested that "many sides" were responsible for the racist carnage at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., drawing intense backlash, including from members of his own administration — Aug 12
  • He retweeted a a meme of a train crashing into a human embodiment of CNN, with the words "FAKE NEWS CAN'T STOP THE TRUMP TRAIN" above it — Aug 16
  • Trump blamed the damned dishonest reporters for racial tension in America by accusing them of fanning the flames of racist protest, being anti-American, and trying to erase the country's heritage — Aug 23
  • In private, Trump physically mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's posture (slumped shoulders; lethargic body language) and Sen. John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with malignant brain cancer, by imitating the thumbs-down of his historic health-care vote — Sept 27
  • In the days after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and left its residents without food, power, water, Trump attacked the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who had begged for more help. "Such poor leadership ability... They [Puerto Ricans] want everything to be done for them" — Sept. 30
  • He suggested to associates that health problems would cause Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor to retire (or die) soon. Trump on Ginsburg: "What does she weigh? 60 pounds?" and on Sotomayor: "Her health. No good. Diabetes." — Oct. 15
  • Trump falsely claimed that Barack Obama and other presidents didn't make calls to the families of fallen soldiers. They did. — Oct. 16
Go deeper with Axios' Mike Allen on Trump's actions:


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Democrats' progressive push is starting in California

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Young Democrats in California are calling for new, more progressive party leaders, and state Senate president Kevin de León is leading the charge by running against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. "The D.C. playbook is obsolete," De León said at his first official campaign event Thursday night. "Now is the time for a senator who is willing to stand up and be heard, not from the sidelines, but loud and proud from the front lines."

Why it matters: De León's progressive push is perhaps not surprising in a state like California, where Democrats control every statewide office and the state legislature. But it represents a coming wave against Democrats that could appear in other states and at every level.

Another example: A conservative Democrat, Rep. Dan Lipinski, has held Illinois' 3rd District seat since 2005, and he has only been challenged in a primary once — until the upcoming 2018 race, in which a self-described progressive Democrat will run against him.

Context: Before De León's first senate campaign event, Rep. Linda Sanchez, a prominent California Democrat, called for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to step down to make way for "a new generation of leaders." Now, De León is quickly gaining notable endorsements from progressive Democrats (and even some California state senators who praise Feinstein) who want to replace "establishment" lawmakers like Feinstein and Pelosi.

Some of De León's endorsements:

  • Democracy for America, a grassroots progressive group with more than 1 million members.
  • Dean Florez, former Senate Majority Leader and a member of the California Air Resources Board.
  • Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Assemblywoman who advocates for labor force and women's issues.
  • Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Assembly member who advocates for free community college and gun regulation.
  • State Sen. Toni Atkins, who said Feinstein's work "can't be questioned," but that "we are in a new day and a new time" ripe for a candidate like De León.
  • Freshman House Dem Ro Khanna called for Feinstein to retire after she announced she'd run for re-election, and De León was one of the people he said should challenge her.
What to watch: This Dem-on-Dem fight is happening in other states, similar to California, that are already represented by Democrats but want more progressive representation after Trump's election. Both De León and Marie Newman (Illinois' 3rd District primary challenger) advocate for progressive issues, like immigration and liberal reproductive rights, that resonate with their respective states and that they want reflected in the Democrats' "D.C. playbook."