The World’s Most Powerful Women: February 8

February 8, 2017, 8:06 AM UTC

One lingering concern about Donald Trump’s presidency is that he and his family could use the power of the Oval Office to profit personally. Last month, the president said he would place his sprawling business empire in a trust under the control of his two oldest sons in an effort to dodge any suggestion of conflicts of interest. (Some experts say his plan comes up short).

Melania Trump, meanwhile, seems to be taking a decidedly different approach. Instead of dismissing the possibility of self-serving motives, a new lawsuit filed on her behalf claims she has missed out on chances to benefit from her new found fame.

A lawyer for the first lady on Monday sued the parent company of the Daily Mail over the publication of an article that alleged that the first lady once worked for an escort service. The filing says the false accusation hurt her brand’s value and cost her licensing, marketing, and endorsement opportunities worth “multiple millions of dollars.” The lawsuit does not say specifically that Trump would push products during her term as first lady. But it does mention her “unique, once-in-lifetime opportunity” to launch a commercial brand over “a multiyear term during which [Trump] is one of the most photographed women in the world.” The lawsuit mentions apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care, and fragrance as potential product categories.

Representatives for Trump told the Washington Post yesterday that she has no intention of using her position for personal gain.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit is jaw-dropping, mainly because it is fueling conflict-of-interest concerns that have plagued President Trump since his campaign’s conception. But it’s also extraordinary because the image it paints of the first lady contrasts so starkly to the one she’s crafted thus far— a barely visible figure in the administration, who has offered little indication of how she plans to embrace her new role on the world stage.



Sending a messageIraqi MP Vian Dakhil will receive a human rights prize named after late Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, in Washington, D.C., today for her work calling attention to ISIS's slaughter of the Yazidi minority. Her trip almost didn't happen because Iraq is covered by Trump's travel ban. She was granted a waiver by the State Department prior to a judge blocking the ban, but she says the policy sends a message nonetheless: "It means all the Iraqi people are equal with the terrorists."NPR


May gets her way
U.K. PM Theresa May has notched another Brexit win in the House of Commons by limiting MPs' input on the final Brexit deal. Members of Parliament will be able to cast a "take it or leave it" vote, but will not be able to send May back to the negotiating table as some Labor, Scottish National, and Tory MPs had wished.

Dangerous decriminalization
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday signed a new law that eases some penalties for domestic violence. Under the legislation, if the battery of a relative is a first instance and causes no serious harm it will be considered a civil offense instead of a crime. Supporters say the change will protect parents' right to discipline their kids and reduce the state's ability to meddle in family affairs. Women's rights advocates, meanwhile, say it will exonerate "tyrants in the home" and discourage victims from reporting abuse.


A different kind of leave
Silicon Valley's recent obsession with paid leave has mostly revolved around children. Facebook diverged from that theme yesterday by expanding its paid bereavement leave. Company employees will now receive 20 days off to mourn the death of an immediate family member and 10 days off when they lose an extended family member. COO Sheryl Sandberg, who lost her husband in 2015, said in a post about the policy: "People should be able both to work and be there for their families."

Third time's a charm?
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) are introducing a bill for federal paid leave for the third time. It's going before a Congress and executive branch controlled by Republicans, which would typically be a death knell for such a measure, but the support Trump has voiced for paid maternity leave—a rarity for the GOP—puts a new spin on the legislative process.

Mayhem goes mainstream
The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary yesterday as VP Mike Pence cast the deciding vote. DeVos' nomination was controversial enough to merit a Saturday Night Live skit and a concerted campaign by Democrats to block her confirmation. They ultimately failed, but The Atlantic suggests that the whole process could be an unexpected boon for advocates, teachers, and parents pleading for school reform since it's brought education policy further into the mainstream.


Regrets, I've had a few
Forbes China has named Dong Mingzhu, president of air-conditioning maker Gree Electric Appliances, its top businesswoman in China. As an outspoken female exec in the country, the 62-year-old is a rarity, but her work-life balance is not necessarily a source of inspiration. She's repeatedly told the Chinese media that in more than 20 years with Gree, she's not once used a day of vacation, and she's expressed regret for spending too little time with her son.

Direct diplomacy
In the Trump era's new-fangled political order, China appears to be ditching more traditional diplomatic routes for a more personal approach: courting Ivanka Trump. President Trump's relationship with China got off to a rocky start with his phone call to Taiwan and President Xi Jinping's speech against trade wars and protectionism. But Ivanka Trump's visit to the Chinese embassy last week appears to be smoothing things over, at least in China's state-run press.

Flying high
Kyra Poh, a 14-year-old from Singapore, was crowned the "world's fastest flyer" at an indoor skydiving event, the Wind Games, where she was one of the youngest competitors. In winds as fast as 143 mph, she won gold in the solo speed category and the freestyle category, where she was graded on choreography and difficulty. When she first tried the sport at age 9, she says she was nervous, "but now these days when I go in, sometimes I forget I'm flying."


Sweden wants to ban gender segregated school classes
ABC News

Photos: Jessica Lange, reimagined as 8 legendary women
New York Magazine

These women are blazing a trail into ice hockey
New York Times

White wine enthusiast Lady Gaga jumps into winemaking

Why so many Italian women are contracting 'prison syndrome'


"[W]e do not come with an expiration date."
--Model Christie Brinkley, who at 63 will be Sports Illustrated's first three-time swimsuit cover model. '