July 31, 2019

The Federal Reserve is expected to announce its first interest rate cut in a decade when it wraps up a two-day meeting on Wednesday, CNBC reports. Fed leaders have telegraphed the move, saying such policies would help continue the economy's record-long expansion. Most analysts are anticipating a quarter-point cut, although some believe the Fed will cut rates by 50 basis points. Either way, it's unusual for the Fed to cut rates as data show "above trend growth" and such a strong labor market, rather than waiting to offer stimulus when the economy is heading into trouble, said Ethan Harris, head of global economic research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "There's no historical precedent," he said.

U.S. stock index futures rose early Wednesday as investors braced for the announcement, CNBC reports. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3 percent, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were up by 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. The three main U.S. indexes retreated from last week's record highs for the second straight day on Tuesday after a mixed flurry of corporate earnings reports. The Dow dropped by 0.1 percent on Tuesday. The S&P 500 dropped 0.3 percent, and the Nasdaq fell by 0.2 percent. Harold Maass

May 15, 2019

Only three women had a voice on Alabama's abortion ban that passed its Senate on Tuesday, and they all voted against it.

Meanwhile, the state Senate's Republican coalition is made up entirely of white men, and 25 of its members voted in favor of the bill while two abstained. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) now seems likely to sign the bill, which was put on her desk by a legislature that's 84.3 percent men, Al.com reports.

The Alabama state Senate voted Tuesday night to make it a felony to perform or receive an abortion, with exceptions only allowed for the health of the mother and not for cases of rape or incest. The bill primarily affects women, yet it passed despite the protests of the only three women present for the vote. The Senate's fourth woman member did not vote due to illness.

The bill was sponsored in the state's lower House of Representatives by a woman lawmaker, Rep. Terri Collins (R). She introduced the bill with the intention of "revisit[ing] the constitutionally-flawed Roe v. Wade decision," she said in a release last month. All of the House's GOP members voted to send it to the Senate, save for three who abstained. Ivey has said she wants to read the whole bill before deciding whether to sign it, but Al.com reports she's generally supported abortion bans without rape or incest exceptions. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 3, 2019

The Mueller report is on everybody's minds — especially those of the two world leaders most mentioned in it.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spent more than an hour on the phone Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. Their conversation, she said, touched on Venezuela, North Korea, and, perhaps most interestingly, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference.

Trump and Putin discussed the report "very, very briefly" and "in the context that it's over," Sanders said. They mentioned that "there was no collusion, which I’m pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of long before this call took place," Sanders continued.

Sanders didn't say if Trump brought up the report's clear conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election "in sweeping and systematic fashion." Despite this, Putin's allies have still been publicly lauding the report's findings — or at least putting a "no collusion" spin on them. Trump also didn't seem to mention how Republicans in the Senate were very focused on the report's Russian meddling aspects during a Wednesday testimony with Attorney General William Barr. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 9, 2018

The Kim Jong Un regime celebrated the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding with a military parade Sunday, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were noticeably absent from the display. The decision to refrain from brandishing missiles the regime developed to be able to carry nuclear warheads to the United States is a hopeful sign amid halting diplomatic engagement with Washington to move North Korea toward denuclearization.

The parade featured military vehicles and troops by the thousands in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square. A special envoy from Beijing attended the event to bestow China's seal of approval. Bonnie Kristian

June 3, 2018

President Trump on Wednesday will host his administration's first iftar dinner, the evening meal marking the end of each day's fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The White House confirmed the plan to Politico for a Saturday evening report but would not share a guest list.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all hosted iftar dinners, but Trump declined to do so in 2017. The decision was a further point of tension in his administration's relationship to the Muslim community.

On the campaign trail, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." He said the U.S. should "strongly consider" shutting down mosques and did not reject the suggestion of a national Muslim database. Bonnie Kristian

May 16, 2018

The person who leaked some financial records about Michael Cohen last week told The New Yorker they did so because two other important documents related to Cohen's banking activities were missing from a government database and they were concerned information was being suppressed.

The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow says the leaker is a law enforcement official. Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer, opened an account at First Republic Bank for his shell company Essential Consultants LLC. The leaker released a suspicious-activity report filed by the bank, showing that Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Novartis, AT&T, and other companies after Trump's election. The leaked report mentions two earlier suspicious-activity reports the bank had filed, detailing more than $3 million in other questionable transactions from unknown business and other entities.

The person who leaked the report told Farrow that these two suspicious-activity reports are not in the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) database. Banks are legally required to file suspicious-activity reports with the government, creating records of possible fraud and money laundering. While not proof of criminal activity, those reports do go into the permanent FinCEN database, and law enforcement officials and other federal government personnel have access to the database.

The leaker told Farrow they had "never seen something pulled off the system" like this, which was concerning. "The system is a safeguard for the bank," they said. "It's a stockpile of information. When something's not there that should be, I immediately became concerned." Farrow spoke with a government official who speculated that access was restricted due to the sensitive nature of the documents, but it would be a nearly unprecedented move. For more on the missing documents and why it's worrisome, visit The New Yorker. Catherine Garcia

January 11, 2018

On the same day Walmart announced it is raising its minimum wage and giving one-time bonuses to certain employees, the company quietly closed 63 members-only Sam's Club stores across the United States.

In announcing the new $11 minimum wage and bonuses, Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said on Thursday that "tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.," with Walmart shelling out $300 million for wage increases and $400 million for bonuses. After this was reported with much fanfare, Sam's Club announced that following "a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we've decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy."

At many Sam's Club locations, employees showed up to work to find out their store was shutting down. "The store closures with no notice is a bit out of character for Walmart and not the best way to treat your employees," Ken Perkins, founder of research firm Retail Metrics, told NBC News. He estimated that under the new tax plan, Walmart could save $2 billion in taxes. Walmart spokesman Greg Hitt estimated that about 9,450 people are employed in the 63 stores, but did not say how many will lose their jobs. Catherine Garcia

January 10, 2018

The No. 1 word Americans used to describe President Trump's first year in office was "disaster," a new Quinnipiac University poll found using an open-ended question that garnered the same unhappy answer from 69 different people. The second most popular word was "chaotic," with 62 people using it, followed by "successful," "horrible," "great," "good," "terrible," "embarrassing," and a diplomatic few who said "interesting." Twenty-one people enthused that Trump's first year was "awesome," while five others went ahead and called it a "catastrophe."

Asked to give the president a grade, 39 percent of voters gave Trump an "F" and 16 percent gave him an "A."

In May, Quinnipiac ran a similar poll asking voters to answer with the first word that came to mind when they thought of President Trump. The first three most popular words were "idiot," "incompetent," and "liar."

The Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday surveyed 1,106 voters between Jan. 5-9 and has a margin of error of 3.6 percent. Read the full results here. Jeva Lange

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