1. UNEQUIVOCAL

Pence Condemns Anti-Semitic Vandalism ‘In the Strongest Terms’

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking Wednesday in St. Louis, issued a stern condemnation of vandalism at a local Jewish cemetery. At least 100 tombstones were found toppled over at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society in a St. Louis suburban neighborhood. That same day, multiple Jewish community centers around the country received bomb threats. “On Monday morning America awoke to discover nearly 200 tombstones were toppled at a nearby Jewish graveyard,” he told a crowd at a local Caterpillar plant. “We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrated it in the strongest possible terms. And let me say it's been inspiring to people all across this country to see the way the people of Missouri have rallied around the Jewish community with compassion and support. You have inspired this nation with your kindness and your care.” President Trump had previously been criticized for offering tepid or dismissive responses when asked about the rise of anti-Semitic vandalism around the country. On Tuesday, however, he issued a statement calling the recent wave “horrible” and “painful.” Later, while visiting the actual cemetery, Pence said: “There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism.”

2. INTERESTING

Collins: I'm Open To Trump Tax Subpoena

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on Wednesday that she's open to using a subpoena to investigate the tax returns of President Donald Trump in order to ascertain potential connections to Russia. Collins is on the Senate Intelligence Committee which is looking into Russian interference in the election last year. Collins said on Maine public radio that she would hope for "voluntary cooperation" but would be open to the subpoena if necessary. She also said that she would be calling for former national security adviser Michael Flynn to testify. Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns throughout the election. 

3. CLANDESTINE

McCain Secretly Visited Syria Last Weekend

Michael Dalder/Reuters

Sen. John McCain secretly traveled to northern Syria last weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. The senator’s visit was reportedly organized with help from the U.S. military and was predominantly an effort to allow McCain to speak with American officials and Kurdish fighters leading the charge to push ISIS militants out of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s stronghold. “Mr. McCain is believed to be the first U.S. lawmaker to travel to the Kurdish-controlled area of northeastern Syria since it became a hub for American special-operations forces who are aiding local forces in the fight against Islamic State,” the Journal noted. It is believed that McCain last visited Syria in 2013 when he met with the Free Syrian Army, another rebel group supported by the United States.

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4. SPAT

Mexico Slams Trump’s Deportation Policy

Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Mexico lashed out at President Donald Trump’s White House on Wednesday over recently announced immigration guidelines, just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was due to arrive to meet with Mexican officials. Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly promised to “walk through” Mexican officials on Trump’s latest immigration directives, which have already been met with anger in Mexico. Under the guidelines, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. authorities would deport undocumented immigrants to Mexico if they entered from there—regardless of whether they are Mexican citizens. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said his country would not accept the policy. “I want to say clearly and emphatically that the government of Mexico and the Mexican people do not have to accept provisions that one government unilaterally wants to impose on the other,” he said Wednesday at Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, according to Reuters. Other Mexican officials shared Videgaray’s views on the controversial new guidelines, with senators urging Mexican President Pena Nieto to refuse to meet with Tillerson and Kelly.

5. OF COURSE

North Korea Blames Malaysia for High-Profile Murder

Lim Se-young/News1/Reuters

The international fallout over the murder of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother deepened Thursday, as North Korea criticized Malaysia for its “unfriendly attitude” in the murder investigation and accused the country of being part of a South Korean conspiracy. In North Korean state media’s first report of the high-profile killing, no mention was made of the fact that the victim, Kim Jong Nam, was the North Korean leader’s half-brother. The victim was identified only as “a citizen” of North Korea. The report by Pyongyang's state-run KCNA news agency questioned why Malaysia had first reported that Kim died of a heart attack only to later say he was poisoned, hinting that Malaysian authorities were lying about the real version of events. “What merits more serious attention is the fact that the unjust acts of the Malaysian side are timed to coincide with the anti-DPRK conspiratorial racket launched by the South Korean authorities,” the report said, using the North’s full name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. “The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” the report said. South Korea has accused Kim Jong Un of ordering the assassination at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13. Malaysian police have identified eight North Korean suspects in the killing, including a North Korean diplomat.

6. PUT ON HOLD

Topless Women Ban Blocked in Colorado

U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson of Colorado blocked an ordinance in Fort Collins on Tuesday that was intended to keep women from going topless. The indecency code in Fort Collins made it a crime for women to show their nipples but not men. The law "perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire, whereas male breasts are not," Jackson wrote. The city council initially voted on the measure in 2015, for which Jackson accused the council of discriminatory thinking. "The naked female breast is seen as disorderly or dangerous because society, from Renaissance paintings to Victoria's Secret commercials, has conflated female breasts with genitalia and stereotyped them as such," Jackson wrote.

7. EXOPLANETS

NASA: 7 Earth-Sized Planets Found Orbiting Nearby Star

NASA via Twitter

NASA announced on Wednesday that seven Earth-sized planets have been spotted around a small star in the Aquarius constellation. Michaël Gillon, an astrophysicist at the University of Liège in Belgium, said the star is "so small and cold that the seven planets are temperate, which means that they could have some liquid water and maybe life, by extension, on the surface." The discovery marks the first time that so many planets close to Earth's size have been found in orbit around the same star, called Trappist-1. Scientists have said the news brings new hope that the Milky Way may resemble our own home and even could spur on the hunt for alien life.

8. THIS CLOSE

Video: Harrison Ford’s Near-Crash Landing

Paul Hackett/Reuters

Airport surveillance footage reveals just how close Harrison Ford came last week to colliding with an airliner while he landed at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. The newly released footage shows Ford’s single-engine plane descending low over the runaway, close enough to cast a shadow over an airliner taxying with 116 people aboard. According to the Associated Press, the incident stemmed from Harrison mistakenly landing on a taxiway after being told to land on Runway 20L.

9. RADIO SILENCE

Report: Kellyanne Conway Was Sidelined from TV

© Carlos Barria / Reuters

White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway was sidelined from appearing on television in the wake of her on-air remarks contradicting official comments on the Michael Flynn controversy, CNN reported on Wednesday. Conway has not appeared on television since remarking last week that Flynn offered to resign in the wake of his scandal surrounding his discussion of sanctions with a Russian ambassador. That same day, however, the White House officially said President Trump asked Flynn to resign. Conway was “off message,” a White House source told CNN. “Clearly they're having much more of a drama-free week,” another source close to the White House said. “Having Kellyanne off television is helping them.” Conway had also come under fire the week prior for openly promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line during an interview with Fox News—an ethical violation, as suggested by the House Oversight Committee’s bipartisan leadership.

10. YOU’RE FIRED

WH Chief Digital Officer, 5 Others Fired Over Background Check

Wikimedia Commons

Six White House staffers were escorted off the premises last week after reportedly failing to pass a FBI background check, Politico reported on Wednesday. Among the reportedly removed staffers was White House Chief Digital Officer Gerrit Lansing, who previously led the Republican National Convention’s digital efforts. Additionally, Politico reported, Trump’s director of scheduling Caroline Wiles did not pass the background check and resigned on Friday. The background check on White House employees who cover national security issues, according to Politico, dives into the applicant’s credit score, past substance use, and other matters.