Hurricane Arthur knocked out power to thousands of homes on the North Carolina coast on Thursday as it hit the state's Outer Banks. The storm — the first of the 2014 Atlantic season — gained strength to become a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour as it began pelting eastern North Carolina with high winds and heavy rain. Arthur delivered the area just a glancing blow, however, before weakening and continuing north over the Atlantic. For more, check out CNN's exhaustive coverage. Harold Maass
The White House has dismissed concerns raised by the United States Office of Government Ethics last month over counselor Kellyanne Conway using her official position to promote Ivanka Trump's products. "We concluded that Ms. Conway acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again," wrote Stefan C. Passantino, a deputy counsel to the president, in a letter Tuesday.
In early February, Conway said on Fox & Friends: "Go buy Ivanka's stuff. … I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody, you can find it online." The comment alarmed the OGE director, Walter Shaub, who wrote in his note to Passantino: "I recommend the White House investigate Ms. Conway's actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her."
"It is noted that Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, off-hand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated and did so without nefarious motive or intent to benefit personally," Passantino said in his response. "Ms. Conway has acknowledged her understanding of the Standards and has reiterated her commitment to abiding by them in the future."
"We look forward to continuing to work with you and the Office of Government Ethics to ensure compliance with the highest ethical standards throughout Government," concluded Passantino's letter.
Facebook is rolling out software Wednesday that scans users' posts to identify language indicating suicidal or harmful thoughts, BuzzFeed News reports. In cases where indicative language is found, the software alerts Facebook's community team for review and can send a message with suicide-prevention resources to the flagged user, including options such as contacting a helpline or a friend.
The decision to implement the software follows a number of suicides that have been broadcast on Facebook Live over the past several months. Facebook says its program is actually even better at recognizing the warning signs of suicide and self-harm than real people are. "The AI is actually more accurate than the reports that we get from people that are flagged as suicide and self-injury," product manager Vanessa Callison-Burchold told BuzzFeed News. "The people who have posted that content [that AI reports] are more likely to be sent resources of support versus people reporting to us."
Facebook is only alerted by its AI in situations that are "very likely to be urgent," Callison-Burchold added. Facebook has also made "suicide or self-injury" a more prominent option for users when reporting a post or video. "In suicide prevention, sometimes timing is everything," explained Dr. John Draper, a project director for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has partnered with Facebook.
"There is this opportunity here for people to reach out and provide support for that person they're seeing, and for that person who is using [Facebook Live] to receive this support from their family and friends who may be watching," Facebook researcher Jennifer Guadagno told BuzzFeed News. "In this way, Live becomes a lifeline." Jeva Lange
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Trump's pick to lead the Department of the Interior, Rep. Ryan Zinke, by a vote of 68-31.
Zinke, a Montana Republican and former Navy SEAL, will be charged with overseeing federal land and national parks and determining where and how fossil fuel drilling can occur. During his confirmation hearing, Zinke acknowledged that climate change was occurring but demurred on how much of that change is due to human activity.
The Interior Department also oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which handles some relations with Native Americans regarding tribal lands. Kimberly Alters
President Trump gave a well-received address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, in his first major speech to lawmakers as president. The first month of Trump's presidency has been riddled with turmoil, from a rash of hasty executive orders to personnel disarray and criticism from lawmakers in his own party. But in a sharp break from his usual ominous rhetoric, Trump on Tuesday struck a more optimistic tone — and Republican leaders have seized on the moment to praise their president and rally around the man behind the presidential lectern.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who differs from Trump in his views on infrastructure spending and paid family leave, both policies Trump touted in his Tuesday remarks — called Trump's address a "home run":
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 1, 2017
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised Trump's "vision for America," which he said "does not distinguish between race, religion, or economic status." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted the president's "new spirit of optimism" and his desire to reposition America "for success both at home and in a dangerous world." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a major adversary of Trump's during the presidential campaign, called Trump's Tuesday performance "truly presidential":
— Fox News (@FoxNews) March 1, 2017
Trump, known for tweeting his feelings regarding early morning news reports, seems pleased with the responses so far. Kimberly Alters
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2017
President Trump apparently wants to pass off more decision-making power onto Defense Secretary James Mattis
President Trump wants to give Defense Secretary James Mattis greater control over launching anti-terrorist operations, multiple U.S. officials told The Daily Beast. Trump's decision to pass off some of his power as commander-in-chief would give Mattis more freedom to make quicker decisions over missions, a reversal from the lengthy and cautious approval process employed by former President Barack Obama. Though U.S. commanders already have the authority to make decisions about launching operations in declared war zones, making calls outside of those pre-determined spaces or "in ungoverned or unstable places" like Libya or Yemen can require approval from as far up the chain of command as the Oval Office:
Trump officials believe loosening the permissions process can help turn up the heat against ISIS — and counterterrorist-focused agencies like the military's Joint Special Operations Command are lining up new targets in anticipation of more numerous and more rapid approvals.
One model being considered is pre-delegating authority to Mattis on extremely sensitive operations like hostage rescues; for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets, that authority could be pushed much further down the chain of command — all the way down to the three-star general who runs JSOC. If his teams spot a target that's already on the White House approved high value target list, the elite force will be able to move into action, informing the national security apparatus of the operation but not having to wait for permission. [The Daily Beast]
The Daily Beast's report reflects the Trump administration's pledge to intensify the fight against the Islamic State, as well as the president's expressed interest in operating "more like the CEO he was in the private sector in such matters." However, The Daily Beast pointed out the change might give Mattis and others "pause," after Trump's first authorized raid in January, which targeted al Qaeda militants in Yemen, resulted in the death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens in addition to possibly dozens of others.
Though Trump has repeatedly defended the Yemen mission as a success, he was quick to pass responsibility for its occurrence on military leaders. Rather than own the operation as the nation's commander-in-chief, Trump in an interview Tuesday said the mission "was started before I got here" and put the burden on military officials. "My generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades," Trump said, "and they lost Ryan." For more on Trump's potential changes to military protocol, head to The Daily Beast. Becca Stanek
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed above 21,000 for the first time ever Wednesday, following President Trump's well-received address Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. Goldman Sachs contributed most of Wednesday's gains, which saw the Dow jump 200 points en route to breaking the record.
Wednesday's high follows the Dow hitting 20,000 for the first time Jan. 25, five days after Trump's inauguration, and is just the latest development for the fourth-longest bull market in the Dow's 120-year history. "While it's understandable that these things take time to plan and implement properly, markets have been way ahead of the game since Trump's victory and there comes a time when we need to know exactly what they're rallying on," Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst at trading information company Oanda, told CNBC.
The Dow bottomed out at 6547.05 in March 2009, following the housing crisis. Jeva Lange
A United Nations panel has determined that the forced evacuation of eastern Aleppo in December was a war crime, The Associated Press reports. The panel wrote that because the "warring parties agreed to the evacuation of eastern Aleppo for strategic reasons — and not for the security of civilians or imperative military necessity, which permit the displacement of thousands — the Aleppo evacuation agreement amounts to the war crime of forced displacement."
Over 1,000 people were bused out of the region. "Reporters described seeing people sleeping in the streets in freezing conditions with little or no food," the BBC wrote, as delays plagued evacuation plans. The buses entered Aleppo under the supervision of the international Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent; Turkey and Russia brokered the ceasefire between the Syrian regime and rebels to allow for the evacuations to take place.
UN's Commission of Inquiry on Syria calls the forced evacuation of civilians from east Aleppo a war crime. pic.twitter.com/GwiIxo1CGe
— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) March 1, 2017