Bad news for Melissa McCarthy

It’s official: Spicey out. POLITICO’s Tara Palmeri reports that press secretary Sean Spicer is searching for his own replacement as part of a larger plan to shake up the White House communications operation. Contenders are said to include radio host Laura Ingraham and Daily Mail editor David Martosko. Says Ned Resnikoff, “I can't decide whether this is an appropriately undignified end or still a little too dignified.” Gabrielle Levy of US News and World Report notes that he will continue to lead the communications office (32,000+ shares), a role that has been empty since the resignation of Mike Dubke in May. “Be real, you always knew it would end this way, deep down, Spicey, right?” says Alicia Lutes. “Worst news of 2017,” says Siraj Hashmi.

Anyway, as Rosie Gray writes for The Atlantic, The White House Press Briefing Is Slowly Dying, and the reason for that is, well...“Asked why the briefings are now routinely held off-camera, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said in a text message ‘Sean got fatter,’ and did not respond to a follow-up.”

The secret government finds its groove

But maybe it has to do with more than Sean’s waistline. In a new piece for the Washington Post, Ed O'Keefe notes, In Trump’s Washington, public business increasingly handled behind closed doors (39,000+ shares). Tweets Alex Howard, “The last 6 months have been the worst for government transparency in DC in my memory.” John Tuohy says it’s “The secret government finding its groove. If you haven't heard it's cuz you're not supposed to.”

And speaking of not hearing about things, “They're really doing this,” says Gideon Resnick, linking to Senate GOP Plans Health-Care Vote Next Week, the report by Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson of The Wall Street Journal, while at CBS News, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto report that Few feel they have good understanding of GOP health care plan. According to a new CBS News Poll, 73% of Americans want a public discussion to take place in the Senate on health care plans. The same poll found that Trump’s handling of Russia investigations weighs on approval ratings. His approval rating has dipped to 36%, its lowest in CBS News Polls since he became president, and 57% now disapprove.

The heat is on

Let’s see, what else is going on. Oh, It's so hot in Phoenix, they can't fly planes (10,000+ shares), Zachary Hansen reports for the Arizona Republic.

“STOP EVERYTHING AND READ: Tillerson is trying to lay out a new Russia policy and @John_Hudson got all the details,” tweets Miriam Elder. Of his piece, This Is The Trump Administration's Plan For Dealing With Russia, BuzzFeed’s John Hudson tweets, “Scoop: Tillerson has crafted a classified 3-point plan for dealing with Russia.” Says Daniel Drezner, “Excellent reporting from @John_Hudson--though if true there ain't much daylight between Obama and Trump on Russia.”

Matt Katz of WNYC-FM reports that Trump's FBI Pick Billed Taxpayers $2.1 Million, Including for Airfare, As Christie's Bridgegate Lawyer. Tweets Katz, “New: FBI pick Chris Wray billed NJ taxpayers for 10 airplane trips he took while representing Christie in Bridgegate.” And CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski has more on Christopher Wray. In FBI Director nominee removed reference to case involving Russian government from law firm bio, he writes that Wray “represented an American energy executive in 2006 who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government. The detail, which was included on Wray's biography on the website of the law firm King and Spalding dating back to 2009, was removed in 2017, according to a KFile review of the Web Archive.”

The unusual case of suicide by multiple stab wounds

“His research helped link the murder of Alexander Litvinenko to Vladimir Putin. Then he was found stabbed to death,” tweets BuzzFeedNews. In Scientist Who Helped Connect Alexander Litvinenko's Murder To The Kremlin “Assassinated” In Britain, BuzzFeed’s Jane Bradley, Jason Leopold, Richard Holmes, Tom Warren, Heidi Blake and Alex Campbell investigate “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Tweets Guy Chazan, “Why wasn't this death properly investigated? Buzzfeed on ‘suicide’ of scientist who uncovered Litvinenko poisoning.” Selena Larson says, “This series is incredible. Here's the latest on a string of deaths US intelligence officials believe link to Russia.”

Disturbing to say the LEAST

“The Mexican government has spent millions on spyware to fight crime. Why is it targeting the phones of journalists?” tweets @nytimesworld, linking to Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Activists and Their Families (23,500+ shares), the piece in The New York Times by Azam Ahmed and Nicole Perlroth. Tweets Perlroth, “For months @azamsahmed and I have been digging into Mexico's use of NSO spyware on journalists, activists even a kid.” Corby Kummer notes, “More journalists were killed in Mexico last year than any other this century, and 2017 is off to an even worse start.” “Disturbing to say the LEAST,” tweets Greg Neumann. León Krauze says, “And this is just the tip of the iceberg: we all know how widespread illegal wiretapping is in Mexico.”

What actually happened?

Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detainment, reports Susan Svrluga for the Washington Post. The American college student had spent 17 months in captivity and was in a coma for more than a year. Foster Klug of The Associated Press writes that Warmbier’s death baffles experts, noting, “It jars so strikingly with the fates of most past detained Americans that outside observers are left struggling not only with the mystery of what killed Warmbier but also with what his death means for attempts by Washington and its allies to stop North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can target the U.S. mainland.”

A snapshot of the nation

“So sad, and so extraordinary,” says Nahal Toosi, who links to Dave Philipps’ piece in The New York Times, 7 Sailors Emerged From Diverse Backgrounds to Pursue a Common Cause. Tweets Philipps, “Accident reveals a mashup of cultures on a destroyer who found a common family.” Says Caitlin Dickerson, “The seven sailors who died on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald were a snapshot of the nation - including immigrants.”

The DNA of data

“Breathtaking amount of voters’ ‘political DNA’ left exposed on web by @GOP firm that helped elect @realdonaldtrump,” tweets Jean Marbella, linking to Dan O'Sullivan’s piece for cyber security firm Upguard, The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak. “Seriously, this is INSANE,” says Christopher Hayes.

And here’s “A great dive into how data brokers and other companies target you,” says Selena Larson, linking to How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Sends You Letters about Your Medical Condition, the new piece by Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu in Gizmodo.

Media reinventions

“How is McClatchy reinventing its newsrooms? Layoffs, fewer ‘dutiful’ stories and slimming down its leadership ranks,” tweets Poynter, referring to Inside McClatchy’s plan to reinvent its newsrooms, the new piece from Rick Edmonds. Tweets Edmonds, “What top McClatchy execs are doing to pick up the pace of digital reinvention. High impact local stories are key.” Meanwhile, CNN will Invest $40 Million in Its Video Startup Great Big Story, transforming the in-house social video startup into a 24-hour streaming channel, reports Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith. Tweets Smith, “Great Big Story is valued at between $200 to $250 million and expects to break even by end of this year.”

Meet the new Ken

So, if the news is getting you down today, Oliver Franklin suggests you take in “The sheer joy of a @caityweaver intro.” Read Caity Weaver’s new piece for GQ, The Ken Doll Reboot: Beefy, Cornrowed, and Pan-Racial, of which Weaver tweets, “To everyone who said I'd never amount to anything...LOOK AT ME NOW, A GODDAMN DOLL REPORTER!!!!” Max Read calls it an “amazing investigation into the ontological status of ken by the rock's favorite writer @caityweaver,” and Kim Renfro tweets, “good morning world. fyi @caityweaver has now blessed us with this @GQ gem. #YESWEKEN.” As for the dolls? “broad ken! slim ken! original ken! ‘A thickset myopic Asian Ken’!” tweets Diana Budds. Mike Murphy says, “The new Ken dolls look like the kinds of guys that ruin the neighborhood when they move in.”

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