Donald Trump's choice of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general has mystified many onlookers, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat. On Monday, she let loose on recent comments Sessions, a Republican, made about the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasted about groping women. Sessions seemed perplexed about how the behavior Trump described constituted sexual assault. "I think that’s a stretch," he said. (Later, he clarified that he believes "assault is unacceptable.")
Gillibrand—who's advocated against sexual assault, especially in the military—called Sessions' comments "dangerous" and "offensive." She said, "[I]f he doesn’t understand the basics of what sexual assault is, I don’t know how he can be attorney general. Because, honestly, that’s one of the attorney general’s jobs." Gillibrand said she'll give Sessions a chance to explain himself during his confirmation hearing but expressed skepticism that he's qualified for the job.
Despite those qualms, Democrats' efforts to block the confirmation of Sessions and other cabinet appointees will be hamstrung by the party makeup of the chamber and the rule Democrats passed in 2013 that allows presidental appointments to the executive branch to gain approval by a simple Senate majority.
That means stopping the appointment of Sessions, who's also faced racism accusations in the past, will fall to Republicans. If it's any indication of the party's stance on Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week called his current colleague "hardworking," "principled," and "forthright."
Diane James, the member of the European Parliament who served as the U.K. Independence Party's leader for a mere 18 days, says she is leaving the party altogether because her relationship with it has become "increasingly difficult." She'll now serve as an independent. UKIP interim leader Nigel Farage called the move "yet another act of irrational selfishness."
A rare win
In a rare concession to popular opposition, Turkey's government has shelved legislation that would have granted amnesty to some men convicted of child sex assault if they married their victims. Women's groups—including one whose deputy chief is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar—vehemently opposed the bill as did groups like the UNICEF, which said it would increase the risk for further victimization of children if they marry the perpetrator of their abuse.
Trump is expected to name South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the UN. The move continues the steep political climb of Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants who was elected as South Carolina’s first female and minority governor. She'll be the first woman officially tapped for one of the Trump administration's top positions.
Not locking her up
Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway implied yesterday that the president-elect will not pursue further investigations of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server or the Clinton Foundation. It's a dramatic change in tone from the campaign trail, where Trump supporters repeatedly rallied around the "Lock her up" chant. Conway said Trump is now concerned with helping Clinton "heal."
A pick-up for Pepsi
PepsiCo has agreed to buy sparkling probiotic drink maker KeVita for about $200 million. It's rare for the company to fully acquire a startup like it's doing in this deal because PepsiCo management is prudent about not overpaying. CEO Indra Nooyi has said in the past that finding the right buying opportunity is a challenge.
Looking high and low
In India, nonprofit Room to Read has an unorthodox approach to measuring girls' life skills, which are essential for those who want to continue their education. It's developed a scavenger hunt for things like basmati rice, a peacock feather, and an alarm clock that assesses self-confidence, persistence, and other indicators of future professional and personal success. It's part of the organization's efforts to help girls find their voice, be agents of change, and exercise their options, says Julie Maurin Elis, the nonprofit’s interim director for girls’ education.
A footnote no more
A new project by Google is uncovering the female pioneers—activists, poets, scientists—that India's history books have long overlooked. Its new art and culture platform, in partnership with feminist publisher Zubaan Books, has a new series of virtual exhibitions that feature over 1,800 works of art, photographs, and videos sourced from 26 cultural institutions across the country.
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--U.S. President Barack Obama, awarding Ellen DeGeneres the Presidential Medal of Freedom