President Donald Trump’s pick for Navy secretary announced Sunday that he’s withdrawing from consideration for the post over privacy concerns and his business interests. Businessman Philip Bilden has thus become the second Trump nominee to step aside as a result of conflict of interest rules. In a statement released Sunday announcing his decision, Bilden said that “after an extensive review process, I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family's private financial interests.” The move leaves Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with empty posts at the head of both the Army and Navy. Vincent Viola, tapped by Trump to serve as secretary of the Army, withdrew earlier this month. Mattis said he would recommend a new nominee “in the coming days,” for a “leader who can guide our Navy and Marine Corps team as we execute the president's vision to rebuild our military.”
A Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was vandalized less than a week after a similar incident in Missouri. More than 100 headstones were damaged at the Mount Carmel cemetery, police said Sunday. The destruction was reported by a man who arrived at the cemetery and found his relatives’ tombstones damaged. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement saying authorities would do everything possible to find the perpetrators. “My heart breaks for the families who found their loved ones' headstones toppled,” he said, adding that “hate is not permissible in Philadelphia.” The incident also caught the attention of Israeli Foreign Minister Emmanuel Nahshon, who said it was “shocking and a source of worry” to hear about the vandalism, the Associated Press reported. Last week, more than 150 tombstones were damaged at a St. Louis cemetery in an attack that raised fears about a rise in anti-Semitism. In light of the latest incident, the Anti-Defamation League, with support from the Mizel Family Foundation, is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals.
A front company in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia run by North Korean spy agents sells battlefield radio equipment, violating United Nations sanctions, according to a new report submitted to the Security Council. The company, called Glocom, allegedly has an office behind an unmarked door in Little India, Reuters reports. Two companies allegedly controlled by shareholders from North Korea registered Glocom's website in 2009. The site, before it was taken down in 2016, allegedly advertised more than 30 radio systems for "military and paramilitary" organizations. The report claims that the 2009 UN sanctions are not sufficiently implemented and that North Korea is using "evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication.”
Jordan Peele's hotly-anticipated horror and social commentary Get Out reigned supreme at the box office this weekend, translating its stunning critical reception into a $30.5 million debut weekend. The movie, which stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, it opened in 2,781 theaters, taking in a $10,976 per-screen average. Two other new films—Rock Dog and Collide—didn't even crack the top 10 earnings. Get Out, meanwhile, knocked The LEGO Batman Movie out of first place in its third weekend. The LEGO movie spin-off brought in another $19 million this week, forming a domestic total of $130 million.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reportedly ordered that staffers’ personal and work phones be checked in an effort to crack down on leaks. Politico, citing sources in the room, reported that Spicer told a group of communications aides that he was unhappy that information from his past meetings with them was getting out to the press. Staffers were reportedly told to place their phones on a table “to prove they had nothing to hide,” Politico reported. The move was done in consultation with White House counsel Don McGahn, and Spicer reportedly warned staffers that using encrypted messaging apps such as Confide and Signal would be a violation of the Federal Records Act. Spicer declined to comment to Politico.
China’s most senior diplomat is due to visit the U.S. on Monday and Tuesday, the first high-level visit since President Donald Trump took office, China’s state media reported Sunday. State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who holds a higher post than the Chinese foreign minister, is reportedly coming after having a telephone conversation last week with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The two agreed in that phone call that a constructive relationship between the U.S. and China was of primary importance, China’s Xinhua news agency reported. The visit comes after Trump got off to a rocky start with China, angering Beijing in December by taking part in a phone chat with Taiwan’s leader. Beijing scolded Trump after the incident and stressed the importance of Washington abiding by the “one China” policy, under which Taiwan is a part of China and not its own sovereign territory. Xinhua’s report on Jiechi’s visit also cited a researcher as saying a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would be at the top of the agenda.
A documentary about Syria’s rescue workers won the short documentary Academy Award at the Oscars on Sunday night, even as one of the film’s cinematographers was blocked from attending the ceremony. “The White Helmets” win brought Syria’s six-year war to the forefront of the awards ceremony, prompting a standing ovation as director Orlando von Einsiedel called on those in attendance to take a stand to help end the war. The Netflix film centers on the Syrian Civil Defense, a group of Syrian rescue workers who pull civilians from the rubble of shelled buildings day in and day out, risking their lives in the process. Several members of the group have been killed trying to save the victims of bombings by Syrian regime forces. Khaled Khatib, a 21-year-old cinematographer and member of the group, was prevented from attending the awards ceremony in unclear circumstances. The Associated Press cited documents from the Department of Homeland Security showing that Khatib had been denied entry into the U.S., though separate reports said the Syrian government canceled his passport.
At least 28 people were injured when a man drove a truck into the crowd at a Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans on Saturday night. The driver of the truck, who is in custody, hit two cars before ramming into the crowd and is believed to have been highly intoxicated, Police Chief Michael Harrison said. None of the injuries are life-threatening, but five people were seriously hurt. Harrison added that there is no evidence yet that the incident amounted to terrorism.
Civilian casualties are on the rise as Iraqi troops are storming the ISIS stronghold of Mosul. According to the Associated Press, medical stations are overflowing as Iraqi soldiers and civilians are being killed or injured. “At one clinic Sunday, the dead had to be moved to the ground to free up beds as more injured arrived,” the AP reported. Citing medical officials, more than 30 troops and 200 civilians have been either killed or injured in the past three days alone. Iraqi forces launched a major offensive in western Mosul earlier this month aimed at liberating the entire city, which is divided in half by the Tigris River. Last week they reportedly captured a strategically valuable village near the airport. As many as 350,000 children were believed to have been trapped in the western part of the city.
The executive editor of the New York Times said on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s attacks on the newspaper have helped to increase subscriptions. “Trump is the best thing to happen to the Times’ subscription strategy, yes,” Dean Baquet said on CNN’s Reliable Sources. “Every time he tweets it drives subscriptions wildly.” On Twitter, Trump often employs the phrase “failing New York Times” when attacking the paper for its coverage of his administration. Despite Trump’s characterization of the Times as failing, Baquet said the company is “profitable” and adding both print and digital subscriptions after a years-long decline in newspaper revenue across the industry.