Welcome to America’s Newsletter from Tag The Flag, the best morning newsletter on the internet, bringing you nonpartisan news and every view of the Red, White, and Blue. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.
📌 BULLETIN BOARD
Chew on this: today is National Bubble Gum Day. Did you know that this fast-food chain attempted to make their menu more nutritious by designing broccoli that tasted like bubble gum? Let’s just say it didn’t go very well. On to your daily dose of nonpartisan news.
The sensitive nose of a drug-sniffing dog has led to what federal officials say is the largest seizure in U.S. history of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid blamed for the majority of overdose deaths. Customs and Border Protection officers said Thursday they discovered 254 pounds of the drug hidden in a floor compartment of a truck loaded with cucumbers – enough to kill 57 million people. They also found 395 pounds of methamphetamine. CBP valued the fentanyl at $3.5 million and the methamphetamine at $1.1 million. – Fox News / NBC / The Week
US expected to announce treaty withdrawal as soon as today
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce today that the US will suspend participation in an arms control treaty with Russia that has been a centerpiece of European security since the Cold War, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Why it matters: The suspension raises concerns about a renewed arms race with Moscow and is putting European allies on edge. – CNN
Trump Administration Changes H1-B Visa Program to Favor Advanced Degree Holders
The Trump administration plans to make it easier for foreign workers with advanced degrees from American universities to qualify for the H-1B visa. New rules would allow 5,340 more immigrants with a master’s degree or higher to be selected but this is likely to see legal challenges when it take effect in April. Background: The demand among employers for H1-B visas almost always exceeds availability. The system uses a pair of lotteries for the visas. In the past, the first drawing for 20,000 visas was open only to those with advanced degrees. The second lottery for the remaining 65,000 visas was then held for anyone who had at least a bachelor’s degree. – Fortune / Geek Wire
Venezuela Opposition Leader Outlines Plan to Revive Nation
Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by Washington as Venezuela’s rightful leader, laid out a plan to reverse President Nicolás Maduro’s economic policies and address a massive humanitarian crisis. Here’s a video of what he said. Guaidó also accused police of raiding his home Thursday. Opinion pieces are all over the place on this one. Some think this crisis may mark the start of the “Second Cold War“, some think the U.S. needs to stay out of Venezuela, and others say the Trump administration is doing the right thing. – CBS / The Hill / NPR / Miami Herald
Trump Gives Upbeat Assessment of Trade Talks With China
The U.S. and China moved closer to settling their trade dispute, with President Trump saying he expects to meet again with Chinese President Xi Jinping to resolve the conflict that has rattled the global economy. Right now there is a March 1 deadline to try to come to an agreement, and China is pushing Trump to meet with Mr. Xi in the Chinese resort island of Hainan after his planned summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in late February. – WSJ (subscription)
EU launches mechanism to bypass US sanctions on Iran
The European Union has announced the setting up of a payment mechanism to secure trade with Iran and skirt US sanctions after Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal last May. Big picture: The proposal of a financial instrument has been a key element in the EU’s strategy to keep Iran from quitting the 2015 nuclear agreement. Use Case: The exchange will initially be used for non-sanctionable trade, including humanitarian goods such as medicine, food, and medical devices. Some have questioned whether it will prove effective. – Al Jazeera
S&P 500 rises on strong earnings, closing out the best January since 1987
The S&P 500 jumped 7.87 percent this month, its best January performance since 1987, and its biggest monthly gain since October 2015. The Dow rose 7.17 percent in January, its largest one-month rise since 2015 and biggest January gain in 30 years. Company-specific news: shares of Facebook surged 10.8 percent after the company’s quarterly results easily topped expectations. GE shares jumped 11.65 percent on stronger-than-forecast revenue. By the way: Juul Labs Inc posted more than $1 billion in revenue in 2018, up from about $200 million a year earlier. – CNBC / Reuters
Federal judge rejects possible ‘do-over’ of Rams-Saints playoff game
A quest by two New Orleans Saints ticket holders to force a full or partial do-over of this year’s NFC Championship Game because of a blown “no-call” by game officials was rejected Thursday by a federal judge. Elsewhere, The Knicks made headlines on Thursday by dealing their injured star to the Mavericks in a multi-player trade. According to Shams Charania, Porzingis has plans to inform Dallas of his intent to sign the qualifying offer. Pittsburgh Penguins wives and girlfriends created a cookbook for charity. And lastly, sadly Julius Campbell Jr., a former Virginia high school football star depicted in the movie “Remember the Titans,” has died at age 65. ESPN / AP
Apple Flexes Its Muscles with Other Heavy Weights
Over the past two days, Apple has been throwing it’s weight around with the other major tech players. What happened: On Wednesday Apple cut off iPhone-using Facebook employees’ access to their employer’s internal apps as fallout spread from the report of a cash-for-data “research” program by Facebook. Apple said Facebook broke the rules. Then yesterday, Tim Cook & Co. hit Google with a similar punishment for misusing a program designed to let companies internally test new iOS apps. One reason it matters: The move severely limits Facebook & Google’s ability to test new and updated apps. Why it really matters: Apple is in the driver’s seat, and what it giveth, it can taketh away. – Axios / The Verge
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1790: First session of the U.S. Supreme Court
In the Royal Exchange Building on New York City’s Broad Street, the Supreme Court of the United States meets for the first time, with Chief Justice John Jay of New York presiding.