After a holiday shopping season that saw sales fall 4.7 percent in November and December, Macy's is cutting 4,800 jobs and closing 40 stores, the company announced Wednesday.
Chief Executive Terry J. Lundgren blamed slumping sales on a strong U.S. dollar that kept international tourists from spending a lot and warm weather in the northeastern part of the United States, The Wall Street Journal reports. "About 80 percent of our company's year-over-year declines in comparable sales can be attributed to shortfalls in cold weather goods, such as coats, sweaters, boots, hats, gloves, and scarves," he said. The company said it expects to see sales continue to decline this month.
There are about 770 Macy's stores across the United States, and the 40 slated to be closed include locations in California, Virginia, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii. Roughly 2,700 of the eliminated positions will come from those stores. Catherine Garcia
White House official, in official White House briefing, suggests Trump is very wrong about South Korea
President Trump is hosting South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, at the White House on Thursday and Friday, and their first meeting will focus on the threat from North Korea — the two leaders have different views on how to interact Pyongyang. But Trump and Moon are also expected to discuss economic issues, like trade. Trump, as a candidate and president, has made several critical comments about South Korea, calling the five-year-old free-trade pact "a horrible deal," saying Seoul should pay the U.S. for its THAAD missile-defense system, and arguing in a debate that "South Korea is a money machine but they pay us peanuts ... South Korea should pay us very substantially for protecting them."
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster quickly walked back the THAAD payment threat, and on Wednesday night, a senior White House official told reporters in a background briefing that Trump and Moon probably "will have a friendly and frank discussion about the trade relationship." But the official White House briefer also directly contradicted Trump's frequent assessment of South Korea as a freeloader.
"South Korea in many respects is the model ally because they are spending somewhere in the order of 2.7 percent of their GDP on their defense," the official said, according to Axios. "Burden-sharing is always going to be part of the conversation with our allies. President Trump has made that clear, but we shouldn't view South Korea as somehow laggard on that front." In fact, South Korea has spent an "enormous amount of money to help host U.S. troops in their country including through things like ... the new base, south of Seoul, which 92 percent of that cost was shouldered by South Korea."
Given the political and geopolitical differences between Trump and Moon, some observers are nervous about Thursday's cocktails and dinner and Friday's meeting. But Choi Jong-kun, a professor at Seoul's Yonsei University and a foreign policy adviser to Moon, shrugged. "It's a meeting between two people who haven't met each other, so anything can happen," he told The Wall Street Journal. "But the alliance is not just about the personal relationship, but about institutional consistency." Peter Weber
A private fundraiser at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday brought in an estimated $10 million, organizers estimate, with the money being split between President Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Trump spoke for 30 minutes in front of 300 supporters, party leaders, and major Republican donors, some who paid more than $30,000 for entrance, 40 months ahead of the 2020 election. Not having any legislative victories to tout, Trump instead praised his own deregulation efforts and said health-care reform has to be done, two people present at the event told Politico. He also went after the media, primarily CNN, suggesting that he is a victim of their reporting, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Before the fundraiser began, dozens of protesters gathered outside, chanting against the GOP health-care bills. Catherine Garcia
She may not run Goop or have an Academy Award, but Brynneth Pawltrow is doing very well for herself.
Following in the esteemed footsteps of Goofy Borneman, Lucy Lou, and Junior, Brynneth — who also goes by Brynn — is the newest mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, population 300. It wasn't even close — the rescue pit bull defeated a donkey, chicken, and cat for the honor, receiving 1,000 more votes than the second place finisher. "I'm so proud of her," owner Jordie Bamfort told Inside Edition.
The hamlet doesn't actually need a mayor, so in the 1990s, someone thought up the idea of electing an animal as a fundraiser — it costs $1 for every vote, and residents are encouraged to stuff the ballot box. The money goes to pay for improvements around Rabbit Hash. As mayor, Brynn's duties include attending fundraisers and going to town events, and when she is unavailable, ambassadors Lady Stone and Bourbon go in her place. While the people of Rabbit Hash do have to worry about their mayor possibly falling asleep on the job and barking at them, at least there won't ever be any corruption scandals or investigations into possible collusion between pit bulls and Siberian huskies. Catherine Garcia
President Trump began Tuesday by retweeting a series of posts and videos from Fox & Friends, including a monologue from Sean Hannity, whose sycophancy toward Trump earned him a rebuke Wednesday from Trump super-fan Ann Coulter. "The Fox & Friends shower Trump with so much praise, they're starting to sound like the helicopter parents of a [censored] private-school kid," Seth Meyers said on Wednesday's Late Night, breaking out his best private-school-helicopter-parent voice: "Our Donny would never collude with Russia! How dare you?! Do you know how much money we give to this school?"
The praise is mutual, even though — as in the case of Hannity — it sometimes does more harm than good. "Trump is apparently so obsessed with praise from the media that, according to The Washington Post, he keeps this framed Time magazine cover hanging at several of is golf clubs," Meyers said, showing the magazine. "Cool cover, flattering photo, just one problem: the Time cover is a fake. That's right, Trump hung a fake Time magazine cover, with his face on it, in his private golf clubs. That is the literal definition of fake news. This would be the saddest thing I've ever heard if it wasn't the funniest thing I've ever heard."
"Now, apparently, Trump didn't like this report from The Washington Post, because today he tore a page out of the strongman playbook and attacked Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post," Meyer explained, showing the tweet. "So Trump is threatening Amazon by implying that he might make them start paying internet taxes. There's just one problem with that — there is no such thing as an internet tax." The closest thing we have to an internet tax, he joked, is that if you go on the internet, you have to read Trump's tweets.
Meyers spent the rest of his "Closer Look" on the GOP's ongoing, very-much-alive plans to push through their health-care bill, including a proposal to get the House to pass whatever the Senate approves, and the GOP's apparent efforts to sideline Trump from the process. Watch below. Peter Weber
The mood inside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus' office was dark on Friday, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unloaded on Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, over a range of issues, four people familiar with the clash told Politico.
Tillerson lost it after months of having his proposed nominees for State Department posts passed over by DeStefano's office, a person with knowledge of the situation told Politico, and "expressed frustration that anybody would know better" than he would over who should be hired. He also accused the White House of leaking unflattering information on him to the media. Tillerson's outburst was witnessed by Priebus, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Tillerson's chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin. Later, Kushner approached Peterlin and said her boss had been unprofessional and they needed to patch things up.
Many of Tillerson's proposed nominees have been rejected by DeStefano's office because they have the audacity of being Democrats or Republicans who didn't support Trump during his campaign, Politico reports. That's not the only thing that has Tillerson in a tizzy, people close to him said; the 65-year-old former CEO of ExxonMobil isn't thrilled about being ordered around by political aides with barely any experience who are decades younger than him, and he's also not a fan of Trump's incessant tweeting. A spokesman for the State Department, R.C. Hammond, told Politico that "colleagues are capable of frank exchanges," and "evaluating nominees did get off to a slow start, but it is now moving along at a pretty good clip." Catherine Garcia
Harvard University scientists who studied more than 60 million American senior citizens found that long-term exposure to ozone and fine particulate matter, two main air pollutants, is linked to premature death.
Even when the pollutants measured below the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, there was still an increased risk of dying early, the scientists said. Fine particulate matter is tiny specks of pollution that can stick to the lungs and is linked to cardiovascular disease, while ozone, found in warm-weather smog, can cause respiratory illness; build-ups of both are caused by emissions from vehicles and power plants.
The researchers developed a new computer model that used air-monitoring data from the ground and satellite measurements to estimate pollution levels in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reports. They paired that information with health data from Medicare beneficiaries living in the continental United States from 2000 to 2012, and found that it only took being exposed to as little as five micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter, the lowest amount measured, to have an increased risk of premature death. If fine particulate pollution was decreased by one microgram per cubic meter across the United States, it would save about 12,000 lives annually, and if ozone pollution was lowered by one part per billion, an additional 1,900 lives would be saved every year, the researchers determined.
This study will be published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, accompanied by an editorial urging the government to tighten regulation on fine particulate matter and ozone. Read more about the new study — and how EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is delaying implementing the federal ozone standard because of "increased costs to businesses" — at the Los Angeles Times. Catherine Garcia
Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Vatican, responsible for the Holy See's finances, is facing at least three sexual assault charges related to historic abuse allegations, Australian police said Thursday.
Pell's legal representatives in Melbourne were served the charges, and he will appear in court July 18. Police say there are "multiple complainants," but would not reveal the allegations; The Sydney Morning Herald reports he is being charged with at least one count of rape. Pell, 75, was made a cardinal in 2003, and has served as the archbishop of both Sydney and Melbourne. He is expected to return to Australia to face the charges, and when rumors of the allegations first surfaced, Pell told reporters he is innocent. Catherine Garcia