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10 things you need to know today: March 2, 2018

Trump announces tariffs that spark fears of a trade war, the Northeast braces for another "bomb cyclone," and more


Trump announces steel and aluminum tariffs, raising trade war fears

President Trump announced Thursday that next week he will formally impose a tariff of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The news raised fears of a trade war, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average into a nosedive. It closed down by 420 points, or 1.7 percent. U.S. stock futures slid further early Friday. Treasury Department officials had been concerned about the market reaction during debates Wednesday night over announcing the tariffs. Thursday morning it appeared critics of the plan had temporarily stalled the declaration. Trump then made the announcement during a listening session. On Thursday, Trump tweeted the U.S. can't let itself be "taken advantage of any longer." On Friday he tweeted that "trade wars are good, and easy to win."


Northeast braces for powerful 'bomb cyclone'

The Northeast braced for a powerful storm that began hitting the region early Friday with rain, snow, and strong winds. Meteorologists said a storm system moving east from the Midwest will slam into a coastal low-pressure system in the Atlantic, most likely leading to a cyclone effect known as "bombogenesis" that will give the "bomb cyclone" dangerous strength. Winds are expected to exceed 50 mph in some areas, going as high as 75 mph in Cape Cod, and cause coastal flooding. "This is a LIFE & DEATH situation for those living along the coast," the National Weather Service's Boston office tweeted Thursday. The West Coast is expecting some severe weather, too. Up to five feet of snow was expected to hit the Sierra Nevada, and southern California faces possible flooding and mudslides.


Kroger, L.L. Bean raise age for gun purchases

Grocery giant Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer stores, and outdoor retailer L.L. Bean announced Thursday that they were raising the minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21. The changes came after Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods also raised their age minimums in response to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. The 19-year-old suspect is charged with killing 17 people with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle he purchased legally. Dick's also is ending sales of assault-style rifles, as Walmart did in 2015. Kroger stopped selling assault-style weapons at its Fred Meyer superstores in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho several years ago. Outdoor retailer REI announced it would stop ordering products such as CamelBak water bottles and Bell bicycle helmets made by Vista Outdoors, which sells guns and has strong NRA ties.


U.S. ambassador to Mexico announces resignation

The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, has decided to step down this spring to "move on to new challenges and adventures," marking the latest in a series of departures by high-ranking diplomats. Jacobson is one of the State Department's most experienced Latin America experts. Mexico analysts say her departure could lead to further problems for an already strained U.S.-Mexico relationship. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a trip to Washington after a testy phone conversation with President Trump over his proposed wall on the Mexican border. The Trump administration has selected a nominee to replace Jacobson but hasn't released a name. According to some reports, Trump plans to nominate Edward Whitacre Jr., a former chief executive of General Motors and AT&T who has worked with Mexico's richest man, Carlos Slim.


Massachusetts man charged with sending hoax threat to Donald Trump Jr.

A Massachusetts man, Daniel Frisiello, was charged Thursday with sending a threatening letter filled with white powder to Donald Trump Jr. The powder turned out to be harmless, but Trump Jr.'s wife, Vanessa Trump, and two others who were in the family's New York City apartment when the letter was opened, were sent to a hospital as a precaution. Investigators tracked down Frisiello, 24, through a "glitter bomb" he sent another recipient of a strange letter, using his own name. Frisiello was charged with sending the threatening letters to Trump, a California prosecutor, a law professor, a senator, and actor Antonio Sabato Jr. The letter to Trump Jr. said: "You are an awful, awful person... so you are getting what you deserve."


U.N. official: Ceasefire not working in Syria

A high-ranking United Nations aid official said Thursday that the five-hour daily pauses to fighting in Syria's Eastern Ghouta area outside the capital, Damascus, have not been enough to get aid in and get civilians out. In addition to Russia's unilateral plan for the brief daily ceasefires, which started Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council last weekend passed a resolution calling for a 30-day truce. "Since it was adopted, it did not get better — it got worse," said Jan Egeland, humanitarian aid chief in the office of the U.N. Syria envoy. Syrian government forces have continued strikes against the rebel-held area, and Russia has accused rebels of shelling a humanitarian corridor Moscow and the Syrian government established.


HUD Secretary Ben Carson moves to cancel $31,000 dining set order

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has ordered his staff to try to cancel a controversial $31,000 order for a custom hardwood dining set, although an adviser said "it might not be possible." Carson made the decision a day after House Oversight Committee leaders announced an investigation into the refurbishment of Carson's office. On Tuesday, department spokeswoman Raffi Williams said Carson had no plans to return the furniture despite a backlash over such an expense at a time when the White House is requesting $6.8 billion in budget cuts for the agency. In a statement, Carson appeared to indicate he was not aware of the spending, saying, "Nobody was more surprised than me" about the order.


Pentagon says Putin's new nuclear weapons change nothing

The Pentagon on Thursday shrugged off Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia had tested "invincible" new nuclear missiles that cannot be intercepted by missile-defense systems, saying America's defense policy toward Russia is based on deterrence, not shooting Russian missiles out of the sky. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said NATO missile defense systems are designed to prevent threats from Iran and North Korea, not Russia, and Moscow knows this "very well." "This is not about defense, it's about deterrence," White said. "We need to ensure we have a credible nuclear deterrent, and we are confident that we are prepared to defend this nation no matter what."


Georgia Republicans yank Delta tax break over its NRA snub

Republican lawmakers in Georgia passed a tax bill with an amendment stripping out a sales tax exemption on jet fuel that would have saved Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines millions. The Senate's presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and pro-gun lawmakers had vowed to kill the tax break to punish Delta for cutting its ties to the National Rifle Association — whose members got discounted Delta fares — in response to the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) called the controversy an "unbecoming squabble," but vowed to sign whatever version of the sweeping tax bill the legislature passed. He said he would push separately for the jet fuel exemption.


Investors reach deal to buy Weinstein Company

Former Small Business Administration chief Maria Contreras-Sweet said Thursday she had reached a $500 million deal to buy assets of The Weinstein Company, which was facing possible bankruptcy after sexual assault and harassment allegations brought down its co-founder, Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein Company's board confirmed it had come to terms with investors led by Contreras-Sweet and supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle. Contreras-Sweet said the new company would have a majority-female board tasked with rebuilding the film studio. She said relaunching the company would save 150 jobs and protect small businesses that are owed money. She also said the new company would create a fund to compensate victims.


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