Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 2, 2019

Bonnie Kristian
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Heikki Saukkomaa/Getty Images


Russia follows U.S. in suspending Reagan-era arms treaty

Russia will follow the United States in exiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Saturday. "We will respond quid pro quo. Our American partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the treaty, and we are suspending it too," Putin said. "All of our proposals in this sphere, as before, remain on the table, the doors for talks are open." Putin said Russia will begin work on new missiles previously prohibited under the Reagan-era arms control agreement but will not increase its military budget for the project, seeking to avoid a "costly arms race." [NBC News, BBC News]


Virginia governor's yearbook page featured blackface, KKK robes

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) apologized Friday after a photo surfaced revealing his 1984 medical school yearbook page contains a photo of two men, one in blackface and one in Ku Klux Klan robes. Northam confirmed he was in the photo and apologized for the "clearly racist and offensive" costume, though he did not clarify which costume he wore. Though state Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D) came to Northam's defense, Friday saw calls for his resignation from allies including Planned Parenthood and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), as well as critics including the Republican Party of Virginia. [The Washington Post, WKTR]


Supreme Court stays Louisiana abortion law

The Supreme Court delayed implementation of a Louisiana abortion law late Friday night, putting the legislation on hold until Thursday. An order from Justice Samuel Alito said the court needs more time to review the case concerning the Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their facilities. Supporters say the law, which was enacted in 2014, is an important safety measure. Critics argue it is an attempt to limit abortion access in the state, claiming only a single physician in Louisiana meets the act's requirements. [CNN, Politico]


Venezuelan opposition plans major protests Saturday

Venezuelan opposition leader and U.S.-backed interim president Juan Guaidó has called for large-scale rallies of his supporters across the country Saturday in continued protest of embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Guaidó is pushing Maduro to call a snap election, and several European nations have indicated they will follow Washington in recognizing Guaidó as president of Venezuela if Maduro does not comply by Sunday. "We'll see you in the streets tomorrow, Venezuela," Guaidó said in a video message Friday. "We're doing well. We're doing very well." [Reuters, BBC News]


January job gains smash expectations

The U.S. economy added 304,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department reported Friday, smashing expectations lowered by the 35-day partial government shutdown. The shutdown had no "discernible" impact on hiring overall, the report said, although it helped nudge the unemployment rate up to 4 percent from 3.9 percent the month before. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits increased by 53,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000 for the last week of January, the biggest jump since September 2017. President Trump celebrated the job report news Friday, saying the gains were "a shocker to a lot of people," but not to him. [CNBC, The White House]


Iran displays new long-range missile

Iranian state television on Saturday showed footage of a test of a new cruise missile with a range of 800 miles. The display is timed for celebrations of 1979's Islamic Revolution. "This cruise missile needs a very short time for its preparedness and can fly at a low altitude," said Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami, though outside experts say Iran sometimes exaggerates the capabilities of its weapons. Tehran says this missile, like other recent projects, is strictly defensive, cannot carry a nuclear warhead, and does not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. [Reuters, Bloomberg]


Antarctic glacier cavity could speed sea level rise

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, responsible for 4 percent of the world's rising sea levels, has a massive underwater cavity that could speed up the glacier's deterioration, a new NASA study reveals. The glacier is roughly the size of Florida, and scientists recently discovered a cavity approximately two-thirds the size of Manhattan, capable of holding more than 14 billion tons of ice. Most of that ice has melted in the last three years, and the cavity allows ocean waters to melt the glacier more quickly. If the entire Thwaites Glacier melted, sea levels could rise by as much as two feet. [The New York Times, The Week]


Top Schumer aide was dismissed over 'inappropriate encounters' with staff

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's former communications director, Matt House, was dismissed from his position this past fall because "he had inappropriate encounters within the office and ... it was making some staff uncomfortable," Schumer's office confirmed in a statement Friday evening following a report on the subject by The Huffington Post. "I deeply regret the mistakes I made on the number of occasions when I had too much to drink, and I apologize to anyone who was affected by my behavior," House said Friday, adding that he has stopped drinking and seeks to be a "better colleague and person." [The Huffington Post, The Hill]


Lindsey Vonn retires from skiing

Champion ski racer Lindsey Vonn is ending her skiing career, she announced on Instagram Friday. After a fourth Olympic Games and more than a decade on the U.S. ski team, Vonn first announced her retirement last year amid ongoing knee injuries, but reversed the decision a month later, saying she'd come back for at least one more race in the 2019 season. Now, with "my body ... screaming at me to STOP," Vonn wrote, it is "time for me to listen." She'll race one last time next week at the Alpine Ski World Championships in Åre, Sweden. [Lindsey Vonn, The Week]


Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring as winter storms rage

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow in Pennsylvania on Saturday, making a 2019 Groundhog Day prediction of an early spring. The prediction was confirmed by a second groundhog in New York, Staten Island Chuck. This year's prediction comes as the Midwest finally warms up following a week of extreme cold and California braces for a major weekend storm that could bring flash floods and landslides as well as up to 10 feet of snow at high altitudes in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Unfortunately, Phil is only correct about 40 percent of the time. [NBC News, USA Today]