Sam's Top 5 Things to Know for 02/09/17

1. Trump slammed the courts, and his court nominee hit back

President Donald Trump's extended criticism of the judiciary prompted a rebuke yesterday from his nominee for the Supreme Court, who told a senator that the president's comments were "demoralizing and disheartening."

Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump to the nation's high court last week, made the comments after Trump accused an appellate court considering his immigration and refugee executive order of being "so political." During the weekend, the president labeled a judge who ruled on his executive order a "so-called judge" and referred to the ruling as "ridiculous."

 Gorsuch's comments came at the end of his first full week of meetings in the Senate, which is considering his nomination. His response may have been aimed at drawing a line of separation from the new president, who has been politically polarizing figure among Democrats in a highly charged partisan fight over the court.

2. The Senate has confirmed Jeff Sessions for attorney general

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general in the Trump administration despite fierce Democratic opposition to the Alabama Republican over his record on civil rights and immigration.

The 52-47 nearly party-line vote capped weeks of divisive battles over Sessions, an early supporter of President Donald Trump and one of the Senate's most conservative lawmakers. After the vote was announced, Sessions' Republican colleagues applauded the outcome while barely a handful of Democrats did the same.

In a post-vote valedictory speech, Sessions alluded to the bitter partisanship and wished for more collegiality. He said, “denigrating people who disagree with us, I think, is not a healthy trend for our body.”

3. Trump’s criticism of Nordstrom is raising conflict concerns.

Where the White House saw a father standing up for his daughter, an ethics expert saw an implicit threat.

President Donald Trump lashed out yesterday at Nordstrom, the latest company to draw his Twitter attention, saying the department store chain that decided to stop selling his daughter's clothing and accessory line has treated her "so unfairly."

Though Trump has tweeted in the past about companies such as the U.S. automakers, Boeing and Carrier, his action drew a rebuke from ethics experts saying the fact that this one was about a business run by his daughter raised conflict-of-interest concerns. Trump's tweet follows revelations that First Lady Melania Trump expected to develop "multi-million dollar business relationships" tied to her presence in the White House, according to a suit she filed.

 In the tweet, Trump said, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!" Posted first on his personal account, it was re-tweeted more than 6,000 times in less than an hour. It was also retweeted by the official @POTUS account.

4. Your Smart TV might be spying on you.

Reports revealed in November 2015 that Vizio Smart TVs were collecting data about its customers without their knowledge, virtually spying on everything users watched on their TVs. The US Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Vizio on Monday that further explains the type and amount of data Vizio collected. The TV maker acknowledged the practice, agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges and to stop collecting data without consent.

Starting in February 2014, the software on Vizio TVs collected a treasure trove of data, transmitting it to its servers, Ars Technica reports. Vizio then sold it to unnamed third-parties, for audience measurement, analysis, and tracking purposes.

Vizio said that the software would not collect personally identifiable information.

The company said, “The ACR program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or contend otherwise.”

The software captured up to 100 billion data points each day from more than 10 million Vizio TVs. The software also collected other information that could be used to generate additional details about users, “including age, sex, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and home values.”

5. A Minnesota lawmaker’s bid to legalize recreational marijuana might be a long shot.

A Minnesota Democrat says it’s time for the state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Minnesota passed a tightly controlled medical marijuana law in 2014. It bans using the plant form, and marijuana in vapor, capsule and other forms are available only to residents with a handful of severe conditions.

Rep. Jon Applebaum said yesterday that he’s planning a bill that would add Minnesota to the list of eight states that allow recreational sales and use of the drug. According to the Pioneer Press, it stands little chance in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

But the Minnetonka lawmaker says Minnesotans’ attitudes toward marijuana are shifting, and the success with legalization in other states shows it’s time to start a conversation. The bill would restrict sales, possession and use to adults 21 and older.


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