August 31, 2015

The Obama administration is developing economic sanctions to impose on Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from the thefts of U.S. trade secrets, The Washington Post reports. The White House has not yet decided whether to implement the unprecedented response to cyber-espionage, but administration officials say it could come within two weeks, and could even coincide with Chinese President Xi Jinping's first state visit to the U.S. next month.

The White House would not comment on specifics, but, according to former White House cyber official Rob Knake, the sanctions would be an "even stronger move" than indictments previously issued, The Washington Post reports. "It’s really going to put China in the position of having to choose whether they want to be this pariah nation — this kleptocracy," Knake said, "— or whether they want to be one of the leading nations in the world.” Becca Stanek

February 28, 2020

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that former White House counsel Don McGahn can defy a congressional subpoena that sought to compel him to testify and turn over documents related to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump administration's possible obstruction of justice, reports The Washington Post.

President Trump had blocked McGahn from complying with the subpoena. The Justice Department argued courts should not be involved in such "interbranch disputes," and Congress can conduct oversight "without dragging judges into the fray," reports HuffPost's Ryan Reilly. The court agreed.

The argument was the opposite of what attorneys said during Trump's impeachment trial; at that time Trump's legal team said subpoenas for executive branch witnesses should be handled in court. The White House has argued its advisers are "absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony."

Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

February 28, 2020

The end of a very rough week for U.S. markets brought a worrying prediction.

While one expert warned fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak could be "worse than the financial crisis" of 2008, the economist who correctly predicted that very crisis is now saying the idea of a major global recession "doesn't sound too farfetched."

Nouriel Roubini, a New York University business professor and market prognosticator who foretold the housing bubble burst, told Yahoo Finance on Friday to expect "severe" consequences as the coronavirus continues to rattle markets. How severe? He told Der Spiegel it could be worse than investors even believe at this point, predicting "global equities to tank by 30 to 40 percent this year."

He said people "prefer to believe in miracles," (not necessarily referencing President Trump's prediction the coronavirus will "disappear ... like a miracle,") and don't realize the "simple math" tells us that realistically, a squeezed Chinese economy will mean downturns around the globe. "This crisis will spill over and result in a disaster," said Roubini.

Roubini, who is often nicknamed Dr. Doom for his frequent pessimistic predictions, also saw doom and gloom for Trump's future as president as a result of any economic strife. Asked by Der Spiegel, Roubini said Trump would likely try to benefit politically from the outbreak, but "will lose the election, that's for sure." Pointing to past incumbent presidents getting ousted amid geopolitical tensions that damaged the economy, he said "The Democratic field is poor, but Trump is dead. Quote me on that!"

Though the week just saw a 3,500-point drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Roubini warned: "It is far from being over." Read more at Der Spiegel. Summer Meza

February 28, 2020

Ongoing anxiety about the novel coronavirus just resulted in Wall Street's worst week since the financial crisis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 3,583 points this week, sliding 12.4 percent for the biggest percentage drop in a week since 2008, CNN reports. Additionally, the S&P 500 had its worst week since 2008, plunging 11.5 percent. As with the Dow, that's the biggest percentage drop for the S&P 500 in a week since October 2008.

The Dow's 3,500 point drop, CNBC notes, is "far and away its largest weekly point loss ever." On Thursday, the Dow plunged 1,190 points, the biggest one-day point drop in history.

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in a statement said the "fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong" but that "the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity," and the Federal Reserve "will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy." White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told Fox Business on Friday "our economy is holding up very well," during a segment in which a graphic directly next to him showed the Dow continuing its slide. Brendan Morrow

February 28, 2020

Pixar fans expecting an animated short from the studio to play before Onward might be about to have a cow.

Disney's newest Pixar film will open with an animated short, as per usual. But the studio has announced that this time, it will come from a not-so-usual place: The Simpsons.

Yes, The Simpsons is a Disney property ever since the company's Fox purchase last year, and now, Disney will proudly show off what that money got them with a Simpsons short called "Playdate with Destiny" that will play before Onward.

This Simpsons short will evidently be centered around Maggie Simpson, and one has to assume it will be fairly family-friendly given its place before this PG Disney release. But if the conceptual idea of the long-running show that's been known to brutally mock Disney actually being owned by Disney was already weird enough, get ready for the surreal sight of new Simpsons content being immediately followed by ... the Cinderella castle. Ay, caramba, indeed. Brendan Morrow

February 28, 2020

Pollsters at The Associated Press and NORC gave the public a chance to describe presidential candidates in one word or short phrase. The results were... telling.

Democrats described former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as nearly equal parts "smart," "young," and "gay." Independents and Republicans were far more likely to describe him as "gay," as well as "inexperienced," and "centrist." Philanthropist Tom Steyer was more overwhelmingly described as "rich" by Democrats, while independents and Republicans opted for "inexperienced."

While former Vice President Joe Biden scored some mentions of "good person" among Democrats, he mostly got "old." Independents and Republicans also mostly called him "old," followed by "corrupt" and "creepy."

Democrats and independents similarly described Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as "old" at the highest rate, though Republicans went straight for "socialist," followed by "old," and "communist."

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is older than Biden and just months younger than Sanders, is universally regarded as "rich" (a fair assessment), and Republicans said he's "buying the election."

Democrats were split in describing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as "smart" and "strong," though independents and Republicans view her primarily as a "liar," as well as "crazy" and a "woman," which is hardly up for debate.

While the Democratic candidates were generally regarded more positively by members of their own party, surveyed Republicans didn't come up with great words for President Trump. Most Republicans simply said "president," followed by "bumbling" and "jerk."

The AP-NORC poll was conducted Feb. 12-16 via phone interviews with 1,074 adults. The margin of error is ±4.2 percentage points. View the full results at AP-NORC. Summer Meza

February 28, 2020

You'd think President Trump was being haunted by Freddy Krueger based on his sleep habits as described by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney while speaking at Friday's Conservative Political Action Conference declared that the president basically "never sleeps," having apparently barely done so before addressing the nation about the coronavirus crisis earlier this week.

"He flew to India, did a day and a half of work, flew back, did not sleep on the flight home, and I know that because he's emailing and texting and taking phone calls," Mulvaney said.

Trump arrived back in the U.S. on an 18-hour return trip from India, during which Mulvaney claims he got no sleep whatsoever, early on Wednesday morning, proceeding to deliver a press conference about 12 hours later running on what Mulvaney described to be at least "a day and a half" without sleep.

Although Mulvaney chalked up Trump's wacky sleep schedule to his desire to get the most out of his time in office, Trump seemingly didn't get a whole lot of sleep even as a private citizen. In his 2004 book Think Like a Billionaire, he wrote that he sleeps "about four hours per night," urging readers not to "sleep any more than you have to." Brendan Morrow

February 28, 2020

A federal appeals court has blocked President Trump's policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases work their way through the immigration court system.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals came to this decision on Friday, saying that the policy is "invalid in its entirety," The New York Times reports. The Times notes this Migrant Protection Protocols policy, also referred to as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, was a "central pillar" of Trump's immigration agenda.

A federal judge in April 2019 issued an injunction against the Trump administration's policy after it was enacted that January, but a court of appeals later allowed it to go into effect while legal challenges against it continued, NBC News reports. Almost 60,000 people have been sent back to Mexico under the program, Reuters reports.

Additionally, the appeals court on Friday also upheld a ban on a rule preventing those who cross the border between ports of entry from being eligible from asylum, per NBC News.

The Washington Post noted Friday that "the number of people waiting in Mexican border cities for U.S. immigration court dates has dwindled, in part because migrants said they were not making the trek to the United States in the first place given how unlikely it would be that they would gain entry," but it's "unclear what halting the policy might do to that mind-set." Brendan Morrow

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