After a bizarre visit to Fox News headquarters in Manhattan, Kiss frontman Gene Simmons has been permanently banned from appearing on any of the network's shows, The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove reports.
Simmons was a frequent guest on various Fox News shows, espousing his conservative views. On Wednesday, he promoted his new book, On Power, on Fox & Friends and Fox Business Network's Mornings with Maria, but things took a weird turn as he got ready to do an interview with FoxNews.com. A Fox News employee told Grove that unannounced and uninvited, Simmons burst into a staff meeting, yelling, "Hey chicks, sue me!" He then yanked open his red velvet shirt, showing off his chest and stomach, and began telling jokes about Michael Jackson and pedophilia.
Finally, Simmons thumped two employees on the head with copies of his new book, which luckily for them is only 160 pages. "It was pretty severe," the Fox News employee told Grove. The strange encounter was enough for an HR executive to ban Simmons forevermore from every program on every single one of the company's cable channels, Grove reports, so enjoy this clip of Simmons doing the weather on Fox & Friends — it'll (maybe?) never happen ever again. Catherine Garcia
African nations join together to create the biggest free trade area since the World Trade Organization
Forty-four African nations have signed an agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a deal that could eventually unite all 55 countries in the African Union in the biggest free trade accords since the World Trade Organization was formed in 1995, CNBC reports. The deal would link some 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.
"The promise of free trade and free movement is prosperity for all Africans, because we are prioritizing the production of value-added goods and services that are Made in Africa," said Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as reported by Bloomberg Politics. "The advantages we gain by creating one African market will also benefit our trading partners around the world."
Africa has low intra-continental trade compared to other regions in the world, at about 16 percent. For example, in Latin America intra-continental trade makes up 19 percent of the continent's total, and that number is 51 percent in Asia. "Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world," emphasized Kagame.
There were some notable absences from the agreement, including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose cabinet has approved the deal but who wants to "allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders." Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo blasted Buhari's hesitation, saying: "I am surprised that any African leader at this time would be doubting or debating the benefits of what is going to be signed here and fail to show up." Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza also did not attend the summit, Bloomberg Politics reports.
The agreement only requires ratification by 22 countries to go into effect. Jeva Lange
On Monday, Britain's Channel 4 broadcast undercover video of Cambridge Analytica executives bragging about using shady techniques to influence dozens of elections around the world, inflame conflicts, and sow chaos. On Tuesday, the network aired a second round of clips showing Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix and other senior executives talking about using those techniques to help President Trump win. Nix said he'd met Trump "many times" and Cambridge Analytica essentially formed the backbone of Trump's campaign.
"We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy," Nix said. Trump "won by 40,000 votes in three states," managing director Mark Turnbull noted after the company's chief data scientist, Dr. Alex Tayler, said their data had steered Trump's movements and message in key swing states. "That's how he won the election," Tayler said. Turnbull later took credit for creating the "defeat Crooked Hillary" line of attack used in super PAC-funded ads viewed more than 30 million times.
EXCLUSIVE: Cambridge Analytica bosses say they "ran all the digital campaign" for Donald Trump - including potentially illegal activities. pic.twitter.com/kS0n88n5ud
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 20, 2018
Cambridge Analytica suspended Nix, 42, on Tuesday, saying his comments "do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation," adding in a statement that the firm itself "has never claimed it won the election for President Trump. This is patently absurd."
Nix founded Cambridge Analytica in 2013 with Stephen Bannon; donors Rebekah Mercer and her father, Robert Mercer; and researcher Christopher Wylie, Wylie tells The Washington Post, and Bannon was the one who approved the project that discovered the niche appeal of future Trump campaign themes like "drain the swamp" and "deep state." "We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point," in 2014, Wylie said. "Bannon was Alexander Nix's boss." Peter Weber
A law passed in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting is being used in an attempt to temporarily seize firearms from the attacker's brother, Zachary Cruz, CNN reports. Cruz, 18, was arrested Monday for trespassing on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School grounds, where his older brother, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people last month.
The Broward County Sheriff's Office filed a risk protection order against Zachary Cruz after his arrest, which, if granted, "will prohibit Cruz from possessing and acquiring firearms for a period of time to be determined by the court." The new law is part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which has only been in effect for a few weeks and allows for police to temporarily seize guns from a person in custody for an involuntary mental health assessment. For trespassing, Cruz was ordered a psychological evaluation by a Florida judge and had his bond set at $500,000, although the amount for misdemeanor trespassing is usually $25.
Cruz had apparently trespassed at the school at least three times, having "surpassed all locked doors and gates." He has additionally been ordered by the court to wear an ankle monitor and stay at least a mile away from the school. Cruz's attorney has argued that Zachary is being unfairly punished by the court for his brother's attack. Jeva Lange
The fourth nor'easter in a month is set to pummel New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, with up to 18 inches of snow expected in some areas.
— NY NJ PA Weather (@nynjpaweather) March 21, 2018
Nicknamed Winter Storm Toby, the forecast includes the potential for coastal flooding as well as "thundersnow" and power outages due to high winds. New York City preemptively announced school closures on Tuesday, affecting some 1.1 million children, and more than 4,000 flights have already been canceled, CBS News and USA Today report.
Only a small circle of people in the White House knew that President Trump ignored all-caps advice from his national security advisers for his phone call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin — "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" him on his re-election — and one of them leaked it to The Washington Post, leaving Trump and his senior staff "furious and rattled," Axios reports. Each of the possible leakers "is trusted with sensitive national secrets," and "the speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration."
Whatever the motive for the leak — concern over Trump's handling of Putin, anger that he ignored his aides, power games — one White House official told Jonathan Swan that Trump's congratulatory comment was just "the way Trump is. If he's doing business with you or working with you in some way, he's going to congratulate you." Plus, "the idea he's being soft on Russia is crap," the "furious" official added. Trump simply "doesn't want his personal relationship [with Putin] to be acrimonious," seeing that "leader-to-leader" congeniality as the key to rebuilding the U.S.-Russian relationship. Peter Weber
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is allergic to economy class seats on airplanes, spent some $105,000 on first class flights during his first year in office, the EPA has told the House Oversight Committee, as reported by Politico.
Perhaps the most baffling trip of all was a four-day excursion to Morocco in December, where Pruitt somehow missed his connecting flight to Rabat and was forced to stay overnight in Paris, and then missed two additional flights. Total cost of the trip: $17,631, not including what was spent on his 10-person staff. The EPA said the trip was affected by the weather, although that doesn't explain the $500 splurge on a hotel while in Paris.
Additional pricey flights include a trip from Tulsa to New York ($3,330, plus $669 to stay in Manhattan); a trip to Corpus Christi, Texas ($3,900); a trip to Jackson, Mississippi ($3,200); and a trip to Nebraska ($3,610), The Washington Post reports.
The EPA has defended Pruitt's practices by claiming the "EPA's Protective Service Detail identified specific ongoing threats associated with Administrator Pruitt's travel and shifted his class based on certain security protocols that require him to be near the front of the plane." It was later revealed those threats were primarily people yelling at him in airports. Jeva Lange
At least 29 people were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday morning and 52 injured when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device on the road to a Shiite shrine. Wednesday is the Persian new year, Nowruz, which Afghanistan's minority Shiites celebrate by visiting shrines. The Islamic State, a Sunni group, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Aamaq news agency. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh said the bomber, traveling on foot, was trying to get to the shrine, which has been attacked before. "We had our security in place in and around the shrine," he said. "All the casualties were young men who were either passing by on the road or gathering to enjoy Nowruz." Peter Weber