1. Don’t freak out, but Trump pretty much threatened nuclear war with North Korea via Twitter
- President Donald Trump on Tuesday made it clear he wasn’t impressed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s big talk of a functional nuclear arsenal, tweeting (actually subtweeting, maybe) a message saying his nuclear button “is much bigger” than Kim’s.
- The tweet was in response to Kim’s statement in a New Year’s Day speech claiming, “It’s not a mere threat but a reality that I have a nuclear button on the desk in my office,” he said. “All of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike.”
- Look, I roll my eyes when people hyperventilate over President Trump‘s reality show antics, particularly on Twitter. Still, this seems significant.
- The war of words comes as North and South Korea are making the first real overtures for peaceful talks in decades. State Department spokesman Heather Nauert suggested the North’s overtures were an attempt to divide South Korea and the United States and that such an effort “would not happen.”
- Perhaps Trump’s saber-rattling is the stick to South Korea’s carrot to get North Korea to act right. Michael McGlaughlin argued back in October that the Trump Administration’s belligerence toward North Korea was part of a subtle strategy to get Kim to violate the peace treaty with China, giving the Chinese the excuse they need to cut off North Korea for good. Perhaps.
- Either way, this is an awfully high-stakes poker game being played.
2. Doug Jones becomes a United States Senator today
- Today at noon, two new U.S. Senators will take the oath of office and be seated: Doug Jones of Alabama and Tina Smith of Minnesota.
- Smith is the current Lt. Governor who is being appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Senator Al Franken. As you know, Franken stepped down after he was caught being a sexually-aggressive creep.
- AP’s Kim Chandler spoke with Senator-elect Jones as he prepares to assume office. Read her story right now to find out how Howell Helfin’s cufflinks and a cigar box fit into all this.
- Jones has tapped Birmingham-native and longtime democratic politico Dana Gresham as his chief of staff. AL.com’s Jonece Starr-Dunigan has the full rundown of Jones staff hires so far.
- Interestingly, even though Jones and Smith will assume office at the same time, the Senator from Minnesota will have seniority because state population is the final tiebreaker for the pecking order. That’s according to NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald, with a tip of the cap to Brian Lyman‘s always keen twitter eye.
3. Thanks, Congress. Regions raises minimum wage to $15 an hour
- Regions Bank is increasing its minimum wage to $15 per hour,AL.com’s William Thornton reports.
- The bank announced the wage increase for hourly workers is “in anticipation of the savings it will recognize as a result of federal tax reform intended to support economic growth.”
- Regions becomes the latest in a trend of major American companies offering higher pay and bonuses to employees in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Congress passed and the President signed into law late last year.
- Regions is Alabama’s largest state-based bank with more than 200 branches statewide. Regions has more than 1,500 branches nationally and employs more than 22,000 full time workers, according to its year-end 2016 SEC financial report.
4. Doctor’s orders: Brandt Ayers admits to spanking another employee, won’t step down
- Longtime Anniston Star publisher Brandt Ayers has confirmed another instance of spanking a female employee back in the 70s. This time, he says, it was at the advice of a doctor to help “calm her down.”
- The news here is that Ayers says he won’t step down as chairman of Consolidated Publishing, which owns The Star.
- This story is getting weirder and creepier, and I really don’t want to write the word spanking again. So, just go read Tim Lockette’s story in The Star today, and while you’re at it, Eddie Burkhalter’s original report in the Alabama Political Reporter.
5. The first reviews are in!
- Starting this news venture is proving an interesting experience and the amount of interest has exceeded what I thought were high expectations.
- Still, there’s always a few haters out there. Some from Twitter can’t figure out whether I’m a liberal loon or a Trump/Moore toady…
- Then there’s Bill Britt of the Alabama Political Reporter who is convinced my past employment is part of a conspiracy to go after Alabama’s senior Senator Richard Shelby and the Alabama Power Company. Granted, I’m new to this, but that sounds like a strange business model for a start-up media company.
- Not that he need to, but I appreciate Bill for demonstrating case-in-point exactly why there is an appetite for a new media outlet like the one I’m building. And, I am confident that as we go along the product will speak for itself.
- Seriously, I really appreciate all the feedback, including constructive criticism! Most of all, thanks for reading.