Friday roundup: Australia diplomatic cleanup and more!

I want to use Fridays as a day to do a roundup of the important or interesting things happening in Washington that you might have missed in the regular news coverage.

But man, where do I even start after this week? I have a long list of links! This may be a lot, but hopefully you can skim and find some things that interest you.

First of all, it’s been a hard week. Let’s start with some positive news.

I love to see people active in their government. Democracy depends on people holding the powerful accountable for their decisions. So tweets like this one, showing people are paying attention to their government leaders, are very encouraging!

I’m glad to see the increase in civic engagement!

Nordstrom cuts ties with Ivanka: Meanwhile, both Bloomberg and Business Insider reported yesterday that Nordstrom has cut ties with Ivanka Trump’s clothing line due to lagging sales and pressure from consumers. Ethicists from both parties have criticized the first family for not doing a better job of putting up a firewall between the business of the American people and their personal business. Conflicts like this create pathways for corruption so it is good some businesses are taking steps to break ties.

Corruption: Speaking of corruption, it is HIGHLY disturbing that the United States Congress would seek to overturn the anti-corruption regulations requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments to the Securities and Exchange Commission, set to start in 2018. The move received immediate criticism from anti-corruption civil society groups like Global Witness who said this change would pose a grave threat to national security. In addition, here’s Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking about what a repeal of this provision means:

If you’re making your rounds calling or writing your representative, you might make sure you mention this as well.

Howard Stern on Trump: If you would have told me a year ago I would be writing this, I would have never believed you. However, CNN posted an interesting interview with Howard Stern on President Trump.

Bannon on the National Security Council: Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida) has proposed a bill that would remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council.

Cleanup Aisle 1600: A day after President Trump hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a number of American officials were busy doing cleanup work. That included White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus meeting with the Australian Ambassador, while Senators John McCain and Bob Corker called him.

Israeli settlements: The White House tone on Israeli settlements also changed yesterday. (By the way, if you’re not familiar with the issue—as I wasn’t—I found this explainer video from Vox on Facebook helpful.)

Elsewhere in the world:

Romania: There are major protests happening in Romania over a move by the country’s government to decriminalize corruption if the misconduct is less than $47,000. The demonstrations are the largest in that country since the fall of communism in 1989.

The Russian Sanctions: A lot of people went crazy over reports that the U.S. was easing sanctions with Russia. From what I gather, this is just a logistical issue and not altogether unusual. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t pay close attention to what happens with sanctions. However, I think we need to pay more attention to what is happening in Ukraine. Russia seems bolder following a phone call with Trump.

Meanwhile, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had strong words for Russia about Ukraine. NBC has a link to the clip of her speech in this tweet:

Chinese Lunar New Year: The Lunar New Year is a really important holiday in China. Factories shut down. Families travel to celebrate together. And much like New Year’s Eve here, there is a big tv special to celebrate.

Ivanka Trump made a visit with her daughter (who is learning Chinese) to the Chinese Embassy to celebrate the holiday. However, President Trump did not issue a greeting to the Chinese people as previous presidents have done. Symbolism is very important to the Chinese so it isn’t surprising that People’s Daily China posted this on its English Twitter account:

I like to pay attention to foreign state-run media because it basically gives you an idea of what the government thinks. People’s Daily is tightly controlled by the Chinese government, so I regard this as basically a press release from their government.

Meanwhile, China Global Television (previously CCTV) did an interview with Henry Kissinger and asked questions about Trump’s approach to the relationship. It’s a quick clip worth watching here:

Reveal podcast: Finally, for my Kansas City followers, this might be interesting. Reveal podcast announced that they are doing an episode on the explosion that killed six firefighters in the 1980s.

Editor’s Note: A previously posted version of this post said that the White House had reportedly turned off the recorder for the call with Putin. Since then, the basis of that claim has been questioned so I have taken out the link to eliminate confusion. 


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