Happy Friday! Sheetz announced Thursday it was scrapping its longtime “smile policy,” which prohibited the Pennsylvania-based convenience store and gas station chain from hiring applicants with “missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth.”
Good luck to any of our dentist readers—that rule was the last thing standing between your industry and total oblivion.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Defense Department said Thursday evening they were tracking a “high-altitude surveillance balloon”—reportedly belonging to China—over the continental United States. The balloon has been traveling over the northern U.S.—it was spotted in Montana, where one of the United States’ three nuclear missile silo fields is located—but Pentagon officials said it poses no military or physical threat, and its intelligence gathering capabilities were “limited.” Two Air Force F-22 fighter jets were reportedly scrambled upon discovery of the balloon, but the Biden administration decided against shooting it down over concerns falling debris could injure people on the ground. Canada’s Department of National Defense also reported a surveillance balloon sighting on Thursday; it’s unclear if it’s the same one.
- Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters in Manila Thursday the United States had struck a deal with the Philippines to gain access to four additional military installations in the country, putting American troops in a strategic position to respond to a theoretical conflict between China and Taiwan. The agreement stipulates the troops stationed on these bases will not remain there permanently, but Austin touted the move as a “really big deal” while China’s foreign ministry slammed the U.S. for “exacerbating tension in the region.”
- Chief Ukrainian Prosecutor Andriy Kostin announced Wednesday that—in an effort to crack down embezzlement and bribery—his office had opened investigations into six former defense ministry officials and raided the homes of both the former interior minister and a billionaire backer of President Volodymyr Zelensky. The investigations are part of a larger push by Zelensky to crack down on corruption as billions of Western aid dollars flow into the country. “Corruption in war is looting!” Kostin wrote. “My signal to all officials at all levels, wherever they are: There will be no return to the past.”
- Swedish Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer introduced a new terrorism law Thursday that would ban any activity promoting terrorist organizations, even if it’s not associated with a specific act of terrorism. The law has been in the works for years but could strengthen Sweden’s NATO bid, which has been held up by Turkey over concerns Stockholm isn’t doing enough to counter the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
- The House of Representatives on Thursday voted along party lines, 218-211, to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. One Republican, Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, voted present on the resolution, which Republicans said was driven by Omar’s strident criticism of the Israeli government—criticism that leaders of both parties have condemned as antisemitic. Omar will remain on the Budget Committee and Education and Workforce Committee.
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that Sarah Huckabee Sanders—the nation’s youngest governor and the first woman to be elected to the office in Arkansas—will deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. Freshman Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona will also deliver a Spanish-language response to Biden’s speech.
- The FBI is coordinating with former Vice President Mike Pence’s staff to conduct a search of his Indiana home for additional classified documents, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Pence’s lawyers searched the property last month and discovered classified materials from his time as vice president, which they turned over to the FBI January 19. The search by the Bureau would follow sweeps of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago property and of Biden’s two Delaware homes and think tank office in Washington, D.C.
- Biden announced Thursday Brian Deese—the director of the National Economic Council—will step down in mid-February after serving for more than two years in the role. Biden is reportedly planning to appoint Lael Brainard—currently Federal Reserve vice chair—to succeed Deese at the NEC, and longtime economic aide Jared Bernstein to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.
- The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 3,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 183,000 last week, the lowest level since April 2022 and an indication the labor market remains tight despite layoffs at a number of high-profile companies.
The College Board Backs Down
In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush fought his way to the presidency on a platform of personal responsibility, compassionate conservatism, and tax cuts. In 2024, another southern governor, Ron DeSantis is hoping fights with Disney World, pharmaceutical companies, and the College Board will propel him to the White House.
Depending on where you get your news when you’re not reading TMD, you may have heard some rumblings in recent days about DeSantis’ efforts to “block” public schools from teaching African American history, all but “erasing” black Americans’ experiences. That’d be horrible if it were true—but it’s not.