January 3, 2019

Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has narrowly secured the 218-vote majority she needed to become House speaker again.

The 116th Congress convened for the first time on Thursday, and 220 members of its Democratic majority in the House voted for Pelosi as speaker. Another 192 lawmakers voted for outgoing House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), while 12 Democrats and six Republicans defected from the two main choices.

Pelosi faced challenges from Democrats who said it was time for new leadership, something that was apparent in her tiny margin of victory. Still, she was widely expected to win the speakership, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) proudly declared "Democrats are down with N.D.P. — Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi" when nominating Pelosi for speaker on Thursday. Several Democrats added flair to their speaker votes for Pelosi, and her grandchildren were very, very excited when they did. Pelosi also kept her victory remarks optimistic, saying "the American people ... demanded a new dawn" when electing a Democratic majority two months ago.

Pelosi was the first woman ever to serve as speaker and one of the few lawmakers who will wield the gavel more than once. The last repeat House speaker was Sam Rayburn (D-Texas), whose second turn as speaker began in 1955. With Republicans controlling the Senate and White House, this will be the first day of divided government of President Trump's tenure. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:13 p.m.

Taylor Swift believes her masters belong with her, and she's not willing to shake Scooter Braun's ownership of them off.

Swift in an interview with CBS This Morning set to air over the weekend revealed she plans to go back and re-record her earlier songs after Braun, the manager she called out in June, purchased her old label and obtained the rights to the masters.

"Yeah, absolutely," Swift responded when asked if re-recording her songs is her plan, although she did not provide more information about when this might happen.

Swift earlier this summer spoke out after Braun purchased Big Machine Label Group in a $300 million deal, getting the masters of her first six albums in the process. In a Tumblr post, the pop star alleged that she was subjected to "incessant, manipulative bullying" by Braun for years and that he has now "stripped me of my life's work, that I wasn't given an opportunity to buy," adding that this was her "worst case scenario." Braun is Kanye West's former manager, and her in post, Swift references West by writing that he "organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked," referencing the music video Famous, which depicts a nude Swift.

At the time, some suggested that Swift could re-record her early work in an attempt to gain ownership over the songs, with Kelly Clarkson tweeting as much while writing, "I'd buy all of the new versions just to prove a point." Swift's ability to actually re-record the songs legally is a bit unclear, though, with one industry expert telling The New York Post on Wednesday that "she's not contractually allowed to do so." Swift's seventh album, Lover, will be released on Aug. 23. Brendan Morrow

3:42 p.m.

Large swaths of the Amazon rainforest have been ablaze for more three weeks, with the smoke visible from space and blotting out the sun for an hour on Monday in São Paulo, Brazil.

On Wednesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lobbed the blame at environmental organizations, saying the fires "may have been initiated" by the groups, in an effort "to bring problems to Brazil," reports The Guardian. He made this statement while speaking to a steel industry congress in the capital of Brasilia. When pressed, Bolsonaro admitted that he had no evidence of his claim and was going off personal feeling.

Fires in the Amazon aren't unheard of, with July and August brings the onset of the dry season, but so far more than 73,000 fires have been reported this year, a record number. It's also an 84 percent increase from 2018 during this time period, according to satellite data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Illegal deforestation and diminishing regulations are a major problem in the Amazon, writes The Guardian, not aided by Bolsonaro's infamously pro-industry and anti-conservationist approach. Bolsonaro fired the head of the INPE only weeks ago, after disputing data on deforestation from the agency.

At this time, the primary source of the current fire remains unclear. Cyrena Touros

3:29 p.m.

Sudan's 39-month transition to elections has begun.

On Tuesday evening, Sudan's ruling military council formally disbanded, and the country's generals and opposition leaders formed a new 11-member joint ruling body, which is made up of six civilians and five soldiers. Among the civilians are a woman, a journalist, and a Coptic Christian judge, who was appointed as the council's 11th member after an agreement by both sides. The members were sworn in on Wednesday, Al Jazeera reports.

The old military council's leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will helm the new council for the first 21 months of the transitional period before the protest leaders appoint a civilian to succeed him for the final 18 months prior to the promised elections.

In addition, economist Abdalla Hamdok is set to be sworn in as Sudan's new prime minister after he was nominated by the main opposition alliance last week. Hamdok is reportedly widely respected and previously served as the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Al Jazeera reports he is expected to focus on fixing Sudan's chronic financial crisis that played a major role in the anti-government protests that culminated in the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir in April.

The power-sharing agreement inspired widespread celebration in Sudan in recent weeks, but the country's citizens do not plan on sitting idly. "If this council does not meet our aspirations and cannot serve our interests, we will never hesitate to have another revolution," Ramzi al-Taqi, a fruit seller in Khartoum, told Agence France-Presse. "We would topple the council just like we did the former regime." Tim O'Donnell

2:13 p.m.

President Trump hasn't given up on his plan to end birthright citizenship.

Trump said in an interview last October that he planned to sign an executive order ending the right of citizenship to every child born in the United States, and although he never ended up doing so, 10 months later, he once again said he's considering it.

"We're looking at that very seriously," Trump said Wednesday in response to a question about ending birthright citizenship with an executive order, reports Vox's Aaron Rupar. He went on to call the concept "frankly ridiculous" and described it as, "you walk over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen."

When Trump raised the idea of ending birthright citizenship by way of an executive order last year, he drew plenty of criticism from his fellow Republicans, including then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said the president "obviously" can't do that, considering it's a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment and the "14th Amendment is pretty clear." Trump quickly shot back at Ryan, claiming the speaker was commenting on an issue he "knows nothing about." Trump also insisted that the 14th Amendment doesn't actually cover birthright citizenship and that it "will be ended one way or the other." Brendan Morrow

1:46 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) might not quite understand what a selfie is, but it doesn't seem to be affecting her supporters' enthusiasm.

GQ's Julia Ioffe, who followed the Democratic presidential candidate throughout the summer on some of her campaign stops, reports that Warren has taken somewhere around 42,000 pictures with people who attend her campaign events. When the events are over, the senator waits for every single person who wants a picture before she heads home. Sometimes it can take hours of her time, like when 3,000 people waited in line after an event in Chicago in June. When Warren senses it'll be a long one, she laces up her sneakers for maximum comfort; ultimately she describes the process as "energizing."

Warren's campaign has dubbed the phenomenon a selfie line, but that's technically inaccurate, since in reality one of her staffers takes the pictures of Warren and the potential voter. An actual selfie would require either Warren or the other person in the frame to actually snap the shot, but life goes on.

Dictionary debates aside, the number of people who line up to pose with Warren could be viewed as an unscientific measure of the growing number of fans she has accrued since launching her campaign. The GQ article specifically takes a look at some of her efforts in the Midwest, including states like Wisconsin and Michigan where Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign failed to resonate. Ioffe highlights two Teamsters in Milwaukee, whom she describes as members of the "elusive and coveted white working class," one of whom described Warren as more electable than the other Democratic frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Read the full profile at GQ. Tim O'Donnell

1:00 p.m.

President Trump on Wednesday said that he suddenly called off a planned trip to Denmark after finding the prime minister's comment dismissing his interest in purchasing Greenland "nasty" and "very not nice."

Trump on Tuesday night tweeted that he would be postponing a trip to Denmark in response to its prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, laughing off the idea of him wanting to buy Greenland, a notion she called "absurd." The president directly attributed his cancelation of the trip to this rejection, saying the prime minister was "able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct."

But Trump went further on Wednesday by saying he called the trip off specifically because her comment was "nasty."

"All she had to do is say, 'no, we wouldn't be interested,'" Trump said. "I thought it was a very not nice way of saying something." He added, "You don't talk to the United States that way, at least under me."

Trump referring to comments he doesn't like at "nasty" is a favorite response of his, having earlier this year called Meghan Markle "nasty" for statements she made critical of him, only to deny having done so.

Trump's decision to suddenly cancel his trip his idea to buy Greenland, which he argued on Wednesday is still a "good idea," has not gone over well in Denmark, where politicians have been putting the president on blast and calling him a "spoiled child." Brendan Morrow

12:34 p.m.

So that just happened.

Yes, President Trump, when asked about his ongoing trade war with China, deemed himself "the chosen one" when talking with reporters outside the White House on Wednesday. As Trump put it, when it comes to dealing with China's trade practices, "somebody had to do it." He then added "I am the chosen one" as he looked up to the sky.

The odd comment comes just after Trump compared himself to some kind of deity in a Wednesday morning tweet. He seemed to be watching Wayne Allyn Root's show on the conservative network Newsmax, and tweeted a quote from Root saying that "the Jewish people in Israel love [Trump] like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God." And the day before, Trump accused "any Jewish people that votes for a Democrat" of having "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Kathryn Krawczyk

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