Top News Stories for Today – January 10, 2017
Senate begin Trump nominees hearing
Tuesday kicks off a packed three-day stretch of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks. First up on Tuesday, at 9:30 a.m. ET, is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who Trump has nominated to be attorney general. At 3:30 p.m. ET, hearings for retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, Trump’s choice for secretary of homeland security, will commence.
Despite the Office of Government Ethics raising concerns that the confirmation schedule puts “undue pressure” on the office to “rush through” its reviews of nominees, Republicans have vowed to go forward with the hearings. Confirmation hearings for Elaine Chao, James Mattis, Ben Carson, and Wilbur Ross, Jr. are slated for Wednesday and Thursday.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will all testify against Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R). Booker told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Monday he would be “breaking a pretty long Senate tradition” by testifying. “We’ve seen Jeff Sessions…consistently voting against or speaking out against key ideals of the Voting Rights Acts, taking measures to try to block criminal justice reform,” he said. “He has a posture and a positioning that I think represent a real danger to our country.” While a US Attorney in the 1980s, Sessions was accused by former Justice Department colleagues of making racist comments, and he was denied a federal judgeship. “The attorney general is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice, and based on his record, I lack confidence that Sen. Sessions can honor this duty,” Booker said. United States Senate , Politico, NBC News
Trump taps son-in-law senior adviser
President-elect Donald Trump will tap son-in-law Jared Kushner to serve as White House senior adviser on trade and the Middle East, Trump’s transition team confirmed Monday. Kushner was expected to serve the administration in some capacity, though the details are complicated by a federal anti-nepotism law that bars officials from hiring relatives.
Meanwhile, Trump’s son Eric is working to try and stake out a clear divide between Trump’s business and politics. In an interview published Friday, the day the intelligence community released its report on Russian hacking, Eric admitted “right now” was “probably not” the right time for the Trump Organization to pursue deals in Russia, though he didn’t rule out the possibility “20 or 30 years” from now. CNN, Politico
Yahoo to be renamed as Altaba
In a regulatory filing late Monday, Yahoo announced that assuming it completes its $4.8 billion sale to Verizon, it will change its name to Altaba and half its board of directors — including CEO Marissa Mayer, co-founder David Filo, and chairman Maynard Webb — will step down. Eric Brandt, a new Yahoo board member, was named as chairman, effective immediately.
The departures are “not due to any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies, or practices,” Yahoo said in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Verizon executives have recently cast doubt on the Yahoo purchase, announced last July, before two high-profile hacking episodes. But if the sale goes through, Yahoo’s biggest remaining assets will be its 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo Japan and its 15 percent share of Chinese internet juggernaut Alibaba — the apparent seed for the new name. USA Today, The New York Times
US sanctions against Russian officials
Russia on Tuesday criticized a round of US sanctions against Russian officials, saying the move is a further step to degrade relations between the two countries. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia regrets the decline in relations during President Barack Obama’s second term and hopes for positive developments in the future.
The US announced the sanctions Monday against Russia’s top investigator and four other officials for what the State Department called “notorious human rights violations.” The five Russians, along with two other men with alleged ties to Hezbollah, were sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act. US officials did not say exactly what the seven are being sanctioned for. But State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “Each of the most recently added names was considered after extensive research.”
The 44 people now on the list are barred from entering the United States and their US assets are frozen. US citizens are forbidden from carrying out any financial transactions with them. VOA
Smoking to kills 8 million a year
Smoking costs the global economy more than $1 trillion a year, and will kill 8 million a year, according to a study by the World Health Organization and the US National Cancer Institute published on Tuesday. That cost far outweighs global revenues from tobacco taxes, which the WHO estimated at about $269 billion in 2013-2014.
Around 80 percent of smokers live in low and middle income countries, and although smoking prevalence was falling among the global population, the total number of smokers worldwide is rising, it said. Health experts say tobacco use is the single biggest preventable cause of death globally.
Governments spent less than $1 billion on tobacco control in 2013-2014, according to a WHO estimate. Tobacco regulation meanwhile is reaching a crunch point because of a trade dispute brought by Cuba, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic against Australia’s stringent “plain packaging” laws, which enforce standardized designs on tobacco products and ban distinctive logos and colorful branding. The World Trade Organization is expected to rule on the complaint this year. Australia’s policy is being closely watched by other countries that are considering similar policies, including Norway, Slovenia, Canada, Singapore, Belgium and South Africa, the study said. VOA
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