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December 10, 2018

President Trump was so confident that Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, would be his next chief of staff that the White House has already drafted the announcement, The New York Times reports. Instead, on Sunday evening, Ayers confirmed that he is leaving the White House at the end of the year, around the same time as outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Ayers, 36 and the father of young triplets, reportedly agreed to be Trump's chief of staff on a short-term basis, but Trump wanted a chief of staff that would stay through the rest of his first term. Ayers will apparently head a pro-Trump super PAC from Georgia.

"For decades, the job of White House chief of staff was once among Washington's most desirable jobs — a pinnacle of access and power," Politico notes. "It's a different story under Trump. A job that was once a ticket to Washington royalty has recently become a laughing stock."

Still, advisers to Trump were "stunned by the turn of events," and "one former senior administration official called it a humiliation for Mr. Trump and his adult children, an emotion that the president tries to avoid at all costs," reports Maggie Haberman at Times. "With a head of blond hair, Mr. Ayers somewhat resembles Mr. Trump in his younger days, a fact that the president often looks for as a positive signal. The president had an unusual affinity for Mr. Ayers, telling aides who expressed concern about Mr. Ayers that he liked him."

Trump downplayed the news, tweeting Sunday night: "Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda. I will be making a decision soon!" Peter Weber

4:41 p.m.

Floodwaters in Mozambique are now visible from outer space in what has the potential to become one of the region's deadliest weather disasters.

Extreme flooding has formed an inland ocean in central Mozambique, reports CNN, and entire villages and towns have been overwhelmed by the rising waters.

As many as 400 bodies line the banks of the coastal city of Beira, per CNN, where nearby villages were completely submerged by the flooding.

There have been at least 200 confirmed deaths in Mozambique since Cyclone Idai tore through the country last weekend. Actual death counts are estimated to top 1,000, with more than 400,000 people having lost their homes.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the humanitarian needs in the region will "only deepen" in the future, reports CNN. Marianne Dodson

3:54 p.m.

NASA's astronauts are doing a bit of spring cleaning and upgrading.

Two astronauts, Anne McClain and Nick Hague spent their Friday swapping out dead batteries on the International Space Station in the first of two scheduled spacewalks this month, NASA announced. The battery-wielding duo upgraded three of six nickel-hydrogen batteries that had lost their juice after a long run in space, according to NASA.

"Just like your rechargeable batteries at home, eventually over time, they're not going to recharge as well," Kenny Todd, the missions operations manager for the ISS, said during a press conference, per The Verge. "They're not going to hold as much charge when it comes to putting loads on them." The batteries were replaced with newer, more powerful lithium-ion versions during the 6-hour-long spacewalk.

There will be a second round of battery replacements next week during NASA's first-ever all-female spacewalk with Christina Koch and McClain.

The expedition was the first spacewalk for McClain and Hague, but the 214th overall, says NASA. Watch footage of the swap below, via USA Today. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

3:47 p.m.

GoFundMe is taking a stand against anti-vaxxers by removing any campaigns that promote misinformation about vaccines, reports The Daily Beast.

The decision comes amid heightened concern over parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, as well as an increase in measles outbreaks across the U.S.

The Daily Beast found that anti-vaxxers have been able to bring in over $170,000 over the past four years through GoFundMe. Spokesman for the company Bobby Whithorne told The Daily Beast the promotion of vaccine misinformation would "violate GoFundMe's terms of service" and therefore will be removed.

Melissa Sullivan, the executive vice president for Health Choice Connecticut which advocates for families making their own health decisions, told The Daily Beast that the decision was a "violation of the First Amendment."

GoFundMe's decision follows in the footsteps of Facebook and YouTube, both of which have recently announced plans to reduce anti-vaccine-related content on their sites. Marianne Dodson

3:40 p.m.

President Trump says he will nominate Stephen Moore to serve on the Federal Reserve Board — and it may be because of a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Moore, a former member of the The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, on March 13 co-authored a column titled "The Fed is a Threat to Growth." In it, he and Louis Woodhill criticize the Federal Reserve, asking "what problem were they trying to solve" with its "inexplicable" rate hikes. The column also argues that subsequent "market turbulence ... was all the Fed's doing."

Trump has voiced similar complaints about the Federal Reserve, and the op-ed backs him up by saying that "when President Trump fumed that the Fed's rate increases were smothering his growth policies, he wasn't entirely wrong."

Last week, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow showed Trump this op-ed, reports Bloomberg, and Trump commented that Moore should have been appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve. He reportedly then told Kudlow to get in touch with Moore about putting him on the board, with Trump then calling Moore himself earlier this week.

Moore, who also served as an economic adviser during Trump's campaign, has long been critical of Fed Chair Jerome Powell, writing last year that he should resign and "admit that his policies have had disastrous economic and financial consequences." Trump made Moore's nomination official on Friday, tweeting, "I have known Steve for a long time — and have no doubt he will be an outstanding choice!" Brendan Morrow

2:44 p.m.

Papa John's has a new papa.

The pizza chain has announced that Shaquille O'Neal is joining its board of directors, also becoming a brand ambassador for the company and investing in nine Atlanta locations, per CNN.

Papa John's is no doubt hoping to revive its brand after a series of scandals involving its founder, John Schnatter, who resigned as chairman after admitting he used the N-word during a conference call. He had previously resigned as CEO in 2017 after criticizing the National Football League's handling of players kneeling during the national anthem and suggesting this resulted in lower sales for the company.

Since then, Papa John's has found a new chairman in Jeff Smith, and it stopped using images of Schnatter in its advertising. It appears Shaq will now serve as the public face of the company, as under the deal, Papa John's gets to use his "name, nickname, autograph, voice, video or film portrayals" in its advertisements, reports Yahoo's Daniel Roberts.

O'Neal told CNBC on Friday that he was the one to approach Papa John's about this idea, calling Schnatter's use of the N-word "not acceptable" and saying that now, "We want to get this thing back on track."

Brendan Morrow

2:18 p.m.

United Airlines is piloting the use of non-binary gender descriptors for customers flying with the company.

The airline company made the announcement on Twitter Friday morning, making it the first U.S. airline to offer non-binary gender options.

Customers will be able to choose the prefix "Mx." during bookings, and they'll have the option of identifying as male, female, undisclosed or unspecified.

"United is excited to share with our customers, whether they identify along the binary of male or female or not, that we are taking the steps to exhibit our care for them while also providing additional employee training to make us even more welcoming for all customers and employees," United's Chief Customer Officer Toby Enqvist said in a press release.

The airline has been working with the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project in training employees on the new changes, per the release.

Two trade groups approved a new best-practices standard last month that suggested allowing airplane passengers to use non-binary identifiers, reports USA Today. The standard is not a mandate and allows individual airlines to decide whether to implement the option, but most large U.S. airlines have told USA Today they plan to adopt the changes in the future. Marianne Dodson

2:10 p.m.

President Trump just confused everyone by suddenly announcing the withdrawal of new North Korea sanctions.

The Treasury Department on Thursday said sanctions would be imposed on two Chinese shipping companies that it said were helping North Korea evade international sanctions, as reported by The New York Times and CNN. National Security Adviser John Bolton said that "everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea's sanctions evasion."

But Trump on Friday suddenly and unexpectedly announced that "additional large scale sanctions" previously announced by the Treasury Department would be withdrawn.

He provided no further explanation as to why he was taking this step, nor was it even immediately clear whether he was definitely referring to the sanctions imposed on the two Chinese shipping companies; his tweet references the sanctions as being announced on Friday, even though they were announced on Thursday. The White House did not clarify this in a subsequent statement per CNN's Kaitlan Collins but instead said that "President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn't think these sanctions will be necessary." Brendan Morrow

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