Seven months after being accused of spying by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), SeaWorld admitted Thursday that employees did pose as animal rights activists in order to gather intelligence on critics.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced that the company's board of directors has directed management to end the practice, and that the activity "was undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers, and animals in the face of credible threats." PETA said it became suspicious of an activist after he was arrested with other protesters at the 2014 Rose Parade, but was released without charges, unlike the other demonstrators, The Orlando Sentinel reports. The employee worked at SeaWorld San Diego, and was placed on administrative leave, but has since returned to work.
SeaWorld has been under fire since the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which suggests that a killer whale was so stressed from being in captivity that it caused the orca to drown a trainer in 2010. In a statement, the company said it recognizes "the need to ensure that all of our security and other activities align with our core values and ethical standards. As always the security and well-being of our employees, customers, and animals remains at the forefront of our business practices." Catherine Garcia
A State Department memo leaked to The Washington Post warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of the dangers of leaks to the media, the Post reported Friday. The four-page document prepared by legal counsel concerned information labeled SBU (Sensitive But Unclassified), a category in which the memo itself was placed.
"When such information is leaked ... It chills the willingness of senior government officials to seek robust and candid advice, which ultimately is to the detriment of informed policymaking and the reputation of the institution from which the leak emanated," the memo says. "If the Department is going to be able to influence policy deliberations, we need to have a reputation for engaging responsibly in those deliberations."
Instead of leaking information, the memo suggests State employees should use the internal Dissent Channel to express their concerns in a manner that can confidentially "facilitate open, creative, and uncensored dialogue." Shortly after President Trump took office, hundreds of State workers signed on to a Dissent Channel memo objecting to Trump's immigration executive order. The document was leaked to the Post before it was officially filed. Bonnie Kristian
On Thursday, President Trump threw his conditional support behind a border adjustment tax, giving a boost to the centerpiece of a tax overhaul championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. "It could lead to a lot more jobs in the United States," Trump told Reuters. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also spoke approvingly of the proposal, which would get rid of corporate taxes on exports and tax imports at a 20 percent rate, pitching it as a way to create jobs. The proposal has split Big Business, and several Republican senators are opposed, meaning it faces an uphill battle. "If Trump supports it, that makes it considerably more likely," Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai told Reuters.
Like all big tax changes, this one creates winners and losers. But it's not clear exactly how much the losers would lose and the winners would win. As Andrew McGill explains at The Atlantic, a lot depends on how quickly the U.S. dollar strengthens in response, theoretically lessening the blow to consumers. "Economists differ on the particulars of the border adjustment tax," he writes. "Some people like it, and some don't. Every expert I spoke with agreed on one point, however: If Trump is looking to make new jobs, this isn't the way to do it."
The sharpest hit for U.S. consumers is expected to be on clothes and shoes, at least in the short term, but gas prices are widely expected to rise, too. The American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, oil industry business groups whose members are divided over the tax, have concluded internally that a border adjustment tax would raise U.S. gas prices by at least 20 cents a gallon, The Wall Street Journal reports. Barclays PLC estimated in January that a border adjustment tax could add $400 a year to a family's gasoline bill. The tax "really is going to increase domestic crude prices at the benefit of domestic producers, to the detriment of the consumer," Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger told investors earlier this month. Without the tax, though, Ryan's tax overhaul plan falls apart. Peter Weber
President Trump is boosting business for at least one U.S. industry: mental health care. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that therapists across the nation have been inundated with patients wanting to talk about the president, to the point that therapists claim no one topic has been so frequently discussed in their offices since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Patients as young as 10 years old have talked about Trump, and patients seeing therapists for "issues as seemingly unrelated as relationship troubles or eating disorders" have brought up the man in the Oval Office, the Los Angeles Times reported. Patients reportedly complain about insomnia, severe anxiety, and even panic attacks — and it's not just Trump dissenters coming in to talk:
Some patients who support Trump say they feel isolated because they can't share who they voted for in their workplace or home for fear of being harassed or called xenophobic or misogynistic. With few people to talk to freely, they turn to online forums and their therapists.
Opening up about voting for Trump has already stoked conflict with family and friends. One therapist mediated a case in which an adult son threatened to cut off his relationship with his parents because they voted for Trump. [Los Angeles Times]
The Trump trend presents a unique challenge to therapists, many of whom have been trained to not disclose their own beliefs to patients. Some are trying to maintain that neutrality, and other therapists have decided to sympathize with patients who don't support the president. "If this were just another session, if this weren't such a big thing, if this weren't so evil, I wouldn't," said Arlene Drake, a therapist in West Los Angeles. "But I have to stand for what I stand for and that does cross over into politics."
Legendary director Hayao Miyazaki is reportedly working on a new feature-length animated film after having announced his retirement in 2013, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki has announced.
Miyazaki has a cult following thanks to beloved films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, and he has recently been at work on a 3D CG short titled Boro the Caterpillar. The new feature will reportedly be a full-length version of the Boro short.
The Verge writes that there is "little known about [Boro's] story other than Miyazaki's description," which reveals that it is the story of "a tiny, hairy caterpillar, so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers."
The Boro the Caterpillar short is expected later this year, with the feature out in 2019. Watch clips of the new project below. Jeva Lange
Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, apparently intervened to cut language critical of the Paris climate deal from a forthcoming executive order from President Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports:
Mr. Trump is expected to sign within days at least two executive orders that will begin the process of trying to dismantle former President Barack Obama's climate and environmental regulations. Mr. Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, and Ms. Trump, the president's eldest daughter, intervened to strike language about the climate deal from an earlier draft of the executive order, according to [multiple people familiar with the move]. The executive order, which targets Mr. Obama's broad climate agenda, now includes no mention of the climate deal, which nearly 200 nations struck in Paris in 2015, in large part due to a strong push by Mr. Obama’s administration. [The Wall Street Journal]
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sidestepped a question about if President Trump plans to withdraw from the monumental climate agreement that was signed in April of last year and lays out a cooperative approach to combating climate change and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Spicer referred reporters to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the topic; Tillerson has previously backed the Paris agreement, The Hill reports.
Ivanka Trump and Kushner, for their part, are increasingly seen as a moderating force against President Trump. Earlier this month it was reported that the pair worked to sink an executive order that would have limited protections of LGBTQ people. Jeva Lange
Trump senior counselor Kellyanne Conway has been a member of the D.C. Bar since 1995, though she is currently suspended for not paying her dues. With the White House and House Oversight Committee both apparently declining to discipline Conway for what the Office of Government Ethics calls her "clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position," a group of 15 law professors specializing in legal ethics is asking the D.C. Bar to sanction her for both violating ethical norms and "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation."
"We do not file this complaint lightly," the professors wrote to the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel. "We believe that, at one time, Ms. Conway, understood her ethical responsibilities as a lawyer and abided by them. But she is currently acting in a way that brings shame upon the legal profession." The D.C. disciplinary counsel, Wallace "Gene" Shipp Jr., tells The Washington Post that his office investigates 400-500 of the 1,500 complaints it gets each year, and cases that aren't dismissed are prosecuted, with punishments including disbarment. Peter Weber
The New Yorker's dandy monocled mascot, "Eustace Tilley," got a makeover worthy of the Trump era for the cover of next week's issue.
World, meet "Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley" — and you might need to brush up on your Russian while you're at it. Jeva Lange
— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) February 24, 2017