Yoko Ono Working On Biopic About Her Relationship And Activism With John Lennon

John Lennon with Yoko Ono and son Julian at a 1968 press conference at Internel Studios in Stonebridge Park, Wembley. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Yoko Ono is reportedly working with producer Michael De Luca on a biopic about the life, relationship and activism she shared with John Lennon before his death on Dec. 9, 1980, writes The Hollywood Reporter. (That the artist retweeted a story on the project seems to validate the Reporter‘s… reportage.)

Before his death, Lennon and Ono produced and directed a number of experimental films together, including Erection, Up Your Legs Forever, Rape and Freedom, among others. After Lennon’s assassination, Ono produced three documentaries on the life and work of her late husband, as well as a short film in 2009 titled Half Kenneth.

Michael De Luca is credited as a producer on 70 films, including Moneyball, Fifty Shades of Grey and The Social Network. Anthony McCarten, the film’s writer, is also writing the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, about the leadup to the band’s seminal Live Aid appearance in 1985.

“The story will focus on ripe and relevant themes of love, courage and activism in the U.S. — with the intention of inspiring today’s youth to stand up for and have a clear vision for the world they want,” De Luca told the Reporter.

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White House Warns Iran But Plans No Immediate New Action

White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (right) put “Iran on notice” on Wednesday for a recent missile test and support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

The White House issued a sharp warning to Iran on Wednesday over what it called recent provocations, but officials said the United States is not taking any immediate military or other action to follow up.

National Security Adviser Mike Flynn appeared at the daily press briefing to deliver a prepared statement that listed Washington’s latest grievances with Tehran, including its test of a ballistic missile and attacks by proxy forces in Yemen on American and Middle Eastern ships.

Flynn said President Obama had gone too easy on Iran, but that all would stop with President Trump.

“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” Flynn said.

A senior administration official told reporters later in the day that the White House is prepared to respond to Iran with “appropriation actions,” but did not detail them or explain what being “on notice” means in practical terms.

“The statement speaks for itself,” the official said of Flynn’s comments.

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The White House’s warning followed a day after U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters in New York that she had raised the issue of the missile launch with the U.N. Security Council. She rejected explanations by Iranian officials that it had “no intention of attacking any country,” as she described them.

“The U.S. is not naïve,” Haley said. “We’re not going to stand by. You will see us call them out as we said we would and you’re also going to see us act accordingly.”

Although the Trump administration leaders had no actions or changes in policy to announce, they at least made clear they intend to make a break from the tone of their predecessors.

Obama, then-Secretary of State John Kerry and other leaders were eager to conclude the deal that they said would take Iran off the path to building a nuclear weapon. Last year, when Iranians humiliated the U.S. Navy by capturing a group of American sailors, then-deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes sought to play up the closeness between the governments that he said had enabled the sailors’ release.

Flynn, however, is a hawk. He is convinced the nuclear deal has not changed Tehran’s intention to build a weapon and threaten Israel or its other neighbors. He told NPR last year that Iran is a “criminal enterprise” and a dictatorship.

In 2015, Flynn told members of Congress that any hope for rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran was “wishful thinking” and called for a “NATO-like structure” among Arab nations to check the threat.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab allies in the Mideast were nervous about the effect of relieving Western sanctions on Iran in exchange for its agreement not to build a nuclear weapon. Obama tried to ease their worries by offering more American-built military hardware, including fighter aircraft and missile defense systems.

One option for Flynn is to urge Trump to do even more along those lines as Haley pursues an international diplomatic response at the U.N. The White House also could order a big military show of force, possibly with American warships in Middle Eastern waters or warplanes stationed around the region.

But the new rhetoric also creates risk for the White House. Flynn made a bold statement for the TV cameras about putting Iran “on notice” but then had no subsequent action to announce. Critics excoriated Obama for saying in 2012 that if Syria used chemical weapons in its civil war, it would constitute the crossing of a “red line” – then ultimately decided not to take major military action.

The danger for Trump and Flynn is that putting Iran “on notice” could provoke a crisis if Iranian hardliners respond somehow to test them — forcing the White House to choose between getting into a cycle of escalation or to trying to back down.

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Trump's Company Loses Lawsuit Filed By Golf Club Members

President Trump’s company has lost a lawsuit filed by members of a golf club and must refund them nearly $6 million. They said the business cancelled memberships but kept the fees. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen/NPR

Since taking office, President Trump has stepped away from running his business empire. But in Florida, a federal judge has handed a legal defeat to the organization that bears his name. He ruled that Trump National Jupiter Golf Club must refund members nearly $6 million.

It’s a case that began in 2012 when Trump bought the struggling golf club from Marriott Vacations Worldwide. He paid just $5 million, a bargain price. But as part of the deal, he had to assume some $50 million in debt, money owed to members who put down refundable deposits and now wanted out of the club.

In a letter and a meeting with club members, the company told those who wanted out, they would have to continue to pay annual dues but couldn’t use the club. Plus, they wouldn’t receive their refunds until new members were found to replace them, a process that might take years.

Disgruntled members said Trump was unfairly changing the rules of their membership contracts and they filed a class action lawsuit. Their lawyer, Brad Edwards, says Trump essentially revoked their memberships while keeping their dues and deposits. Edwards says, “The most important characteristic of a membership is access to the club. Well, there’s no doubt that he took away access to the club and, ergo, he took away membership.”

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In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra agreed with the plaintiffs. He ordered the Jupiter Club to refund 65 members their deposits plus interest, for a total of nearly $6 million. Although Trump wasn’t personally named in the suit, his videotaped deposition was played in court. His son Eric testified at the trial.

During the nearly four years of the case, at Trump’s urging, more than half of those who wanted out of the club changed their minds and took their names off the resignation list. That meant Trump could hang on to tens of millions of dollars in deposits, helping turn around the club’s finances. Although Trump lost in court, his hardball business tactics were effective. Edwards says, “Clearly his interpretation of the contract and what he could do legally were wrong and flawed as we’ve just proven. But from a business perspective and purely as a business-minded move, it worked out well for him.”

In his decision, the judge doesn’t refer to Trump as president. In a footnote, the judge says, “At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Donald J. Trump was a private citizen. As a result, the Court will refer to him as such in this decision. In doing so, the Court means no disrespect to him or to the esteemed position he now holds.”

In a statement the Trump organization said it disagreed with the judge’s decision and that, “At the time Trump purchased the Club, it was suffering financially, making it unlikely that these members would ever get back their deposits.” And, the president’s company says, it will appeal.

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Saudi Women Stunt Hard (And Dis Men) In A Music Video Gone Viral

The music video “Hwages” has become a viral sensation in the Middle East. YouTube hide caption

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YouTube

There’s a music video that’s been racking up millions of views for the last few weeks — and it comes from Saudi Arabia. NPR Music’s Anastasia Tsioulcas describes the scene:

“There’s this amazing setup. You see women wearing full niqab — so they’ve got their faces covered, their hair covered, clad in black, it seems. And then they burst out in super-colorful outfits and doing all kinds of silly things, playing basketball and riding bumper cars,” she says.

In a conversation on All Things Considered, Tsioulcas tells Ari Shapiro how the visual, inspired by a lesser-known, low-budget clip from 2014, has become a viral sensation. Hear their conversation at the audio link, and read an edited version below.

Ari Shapiro: I don’t speak Arabic, but I know a good tune when I hear one. What do the lyrics say?

YouTube

Anastasia Tsioulcas: So, that’s where the real interest in this video is. The name of the song is “Hwages,” which means something like “concerns” or “obsessions.” And the lyrics are pretty subversive. They start out, “May men disappear, they give us psychological illnesses / None of them are sane, each one has an illness.

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Basically saying, by definition, “Men are mentally ill.” A bunch of Saudi women singing this.

Absolutely.

And what’s amazing is how much this as really taken off across the Middle East: It’s become hugely, hugely, popular. Who are the people behind this?

We don’t know who the women are, but the video director is named Majed Alesa. He has become this viral video machine in Saudi. He now has this platform and he can amplify his message to his millions and millions of followers.

So, at one point in the video, there’s a cut-out of Donald Trump that rises on a proscenium behind a stand that says half in Arabic and half in English, “The House of Men.”

Has there been much pushback to it?

You know, it’s funny — I haven’t seen a lot of official pushback. You see YouTube comments in both English and Arabic saying, “This is not a women’s movement, don’t judge on this, our values are still really important to us.” But you also see a lot of very positive feedback.

Throughout Saudi Arabia, throughout the Gulf, throughout the entire Middle-East, this is getting a lot of play and a lot of conversation. And you can dance to it.

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U.K. Lawmakers Pave The Way For May To Commence Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing St. on Wednesday. British MPs approved the first stage of a bill empowering her to start pulling the U.K. out of the European Union. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Last month, the British Supreme Court dealt Prime Minister Theresa May a small setback in the U.K.’s relentless march toward Brexit, ruling that she would need to seek Parliament’s approval before triggering a formal divorce from the European Union.

On Wednesday, Parliament set that march back on course.

By an overwhelming majority, lawmakers in the House of Commons voted to give May the power to trigger Article 50, the exit clause in the EU’s set of laws. It paves the way for May to enact the departure from the U.K. the British voted for in last June’s national referendum.

It is not the last vote that the bill will be subjected to, but it is arguably the most important. The unelected upper chamber of British Parliament, the House of Lords, still has to weigh in on the decision. But it is expected that the Lords will decline to overrule their elected colleagues, especially in the face of such a clear majority.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had campaigned to stay in the EU before the referendum, nevertheless backed the bill, saying he would respect the voters’ decision. Though not everyone in his party followed his lead, “Labour MPs voted more than three to one in favour of triggering article 50,” Corbyn said in his statement.

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But he pivoted his focus forward, hoping to soften the Brexit to come with several amendments:

“Labour’s amendments are the real agenda. The challenge is for MPs of all parties to ensure the best deal for Britain, and that doesn’t mean giving Theresa May a free hand to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven.”

The lopsided final tally — 498 MPs in favor, to 114 MPs voting no — belies a heated, and sometimes even acrimonious, two days of debate on the floor. The Scottish National Party, which had campaigned vigorously against the bill, took the results especially hard.

One MP from the SNP even hinted at pursuing Scottish independence following the vote. “The fools don’t realise that’s two unions they’ve broken tonight,” Joanna Cherry tweeted Wednesday.

Tories wandering around slapping each other on the back. The fools don’t realise that’s two unions they’ve broken tonight #brexitshambles

— Joanna Cherry QC MP (@joannaccherry) February 1, 2017

The BBC reports one MP was even heard to shout “suicide” when the results were read.

On the other hand, conservatives like Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister and an ardent Brexiter, applauded Wednesday’s vote as “historic.” “History has been made,” Johnson tweeted.

Historic vote in Parliament tonight. A huge majority to get our Brexit negotiations going forward. History has been made

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 1, 2017

May has set a deadline of March 31 to open exit talks with the European Union.

But don’t expect it to be a clean, quick divorce: The negotiations are expected to last two years, with the U.K.’s break not expected until 2019.

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Machine beats humans for the first time in poker

By Angela Moon
| NEW YORK

Artificial intelligence has made history by beating humans in poker for the first time, the last remaining game in which humans had managed to maintain the upper hand.

Libratus, an AI built by Carnegie Mellon University racked up over $1.7 million worth of chips against four of the top professional poker players in the world in a 20-day marathon poker tournament that ended on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

While machines have beaten humans over the last two decade in chess, checkers, and most recently in the ancient game of Go, Libratus’ victory is significant because poker is an imperfect information game — similar to the real world where not all problems are laid out and the difficulty in figuring out human behavior is one of the main reasons why it was considered immune to machines.

“The best AI’s ability to do strategic reasoning with imperfect information has now surpassed that of the best humans,” said Tuomas Sandholm, professor of computer science at CMU who created Libratus with a Ph.D student Noam Brown said on Wednesday.

The victory prompted inquiries from companies all over the world seeking to use Libratus’ algorithm for problem solving.

“It can be used in any situation where information is incomplete including business negotiation, military strategy, cyber security and medical treatment,” Sandholm said.

BLUFFING

One of the main reasons for Libratus’ victory was the machine’s ability outbluff humans.

“The computer can’t win at poker if it can’t bluff,” said Frank Pfenning, head of the Computer Science Department at CMU.

“Developing an AI that can do that successfully is a tremendous step forward scientifically and has numerous applications. Imagine that your smartphone will someday be able to negotiate the best price on a new car for you. That’s just the beginning.”

Dong Kim, one of the four top poker players who participated in the tournament echoed the statement. The 28-year old, originally from Seattle, had also participated in a similar poker tournament with another AI machine built by CMU in 2015 named Claudico.

“It was about half way through the challenge (with Libratus when) I knew we wouldn’t come back,” said Kim.

“It had less bugs in the algorithm. We just ran over Claudico, bluffed it everywhere, but this time I felt like it was the other way around.”

In the battle against Claudico, the human players racked up more than $700,000 over 80,000 hands, winning almost every day of the tournament.

In the same 2017 heads-up, no limit Texas Hold’em battle, the four human players only won five days out of 20 and split a $200,000 prize based on their performance.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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3 Ways Trump's Travel Ban Could Affect Humanitarian Aid Workers

Passport holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are suspended from entering the U.S. in the next 90 days. Photo Researchers/Getty Images/Science Source hide caption

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Photo Researchers/Getty Images/Science Source

International humanitarian aid organizations say the travel restrictions issued by President Donald Trump on Saturday could have a dramatic impact on how they operate.

The Trump executive order temporarily bars all refugees and suspends — for the next 90 days — entry to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The White House says the order was intended to protect the nation from “foreign terrorist entry.”

But the order raises many questions about the ability of aid workers to move around quickly and freely if they have ties to any of the banned countries. “To function, humanitarians need visas and access,” says Sam Worthington, CEO of InterAction, a coalition of global aid groups.

We spoke with several aid groups that work in the listed countries about the possible effects on their workers.

1. Aid groups are restricting employee travel.

The executive order is clear about restrictions for anyone holding a passport from one of the seven restricted countries — and about exceptions. Some visa categories, like diplomats and U.N. workers, are excluded.

But there’s a lot of ambiguity in the executive order on how individuals — U.S. citizens or otherwise — can travel to and from the seven banned countries, says Nick Osborne, vice president of international programs for CARE, a global aid group.

At the least, Americans traveling to and from those seven countries could face scrutiny when returning to the U.S. In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus said: “If you’re an American citizen traveling back and forth to Libya, you’re likely to be subjected to further questioning when you come into an airport.”

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CARE has asked its U.S. government contacts to clarify the executive order, wrote Holly Frew, CARE’s emergency communications manager, in an email to NPR.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the order, CARE has placed immediate travel restrictions on their staffers. For example, U.S.-based employees from the seven nations aren’t being authorized to leave the country at this time. As an added precaution, U.S. citizens employed by CARE, either at home or abroad, are not to travel to any of the seven countries, wrote Frew.

Oxfam, an international charity organization, says they’ve had to rearrange travel plans for American employees and nationals of the listed countries. The group is concerned about long-term impact on the movement of staff, says Emily Bhatti, press officer of Oxfam America,

The lack of clarity could make it hard for groups to quickly deliver aid if a crisis were to arise. For CARE, the brewing food crisis in Somalia is top of mind. “We need to be able to deploy staff within 72 hours,” says Osborne, citing the need for on-the-ground employees like water and sanitation experts or logisticians who can map out food transport. “If we can’t do that, people are going to suffer.”

2. For the next 90 days, aid workers who are citizens of the seven banned countries will not be able to travel to the U.S.

In many countries, local staffers make up much of the crew that operates aid projects on the ground — especially in countries where ongoing conflicts put foreign nationals at risk. Many times, these employees have crucial, on-the-ground knowledge that shapes aid strategy.

These staffers come to the U.S. for many reasons. Save the Children, for example, brings experts from various countries to meet with members of Congress and U.N. officials, share knowledge with American colleagues and tell their stories to journalists — including NPR reporters. Last March, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war, Save the Children brought in an expert from a partner organization in Syria that specializes in education, health and nutrition. “Jiddah,” as she was called — she used this alias for safety reasons — shared the conditions children and families were facing in the besieged areas.

This March, the group was planning to bring to the U.S. two Syrian experts on mental health to speak at the launch of a report on the effects of civil war on children. The travel ban would make this virtually impossible.

Since the executive order was signed, Oxfam has had to cancel upcoming visits from citizens of the listed nations, says press officer Bhatti.

Skype and phone calls are no substitute for real face-to-face engagement, says Michael Klosson, vice president of policy and humanitarian response at Save the Children. These encounters, he says, are “much more meaningful than strangers meeting over a conference call.”

3. Trump’s ban could cause other countries to place travel bans on U.S. workers.

There’s a chance the seven countries may restrict Americans from entering their countries. If that were to happen, aid workers would likely be affected. Unlike diplomats or U.N. employees, aid workers don’t have special visas that ensure safe passage when traveling.

“In today’s environment, where the U.S. is issuing executive orders that put up barriers, we could expect that Sudan or Iraq or others will begin to make it more difficult for individuals who are providing aid to come to their countries, too,” says Worthington of InterAction.

In response to the executive order, Iran and Iraq have both called for reciprocal measures. In a statement earlier this week, the foreign affairs ministry of Iran called the restrictions “insulting” and said they would take “proportionate legal, consular and political action and … will take reciprocal measures in order to safeguard the rights of its citizens.”

The Iraqi government is considering suspending visas for American citizens. Currently, the group has one American employee working in logistics in Mosul, where he manages aid sites and procures aid goods to distribute. “What would we do if that staff member [leaves the country and] can’t get back to Iraq?” says Klosson of Save the Children. “Where can we find that expertise that the staff member has?”

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U.S. Increases Firefighting Aid To Chile As More Than 70 Blazes Rage

A drone image of a forest near La Florida, Chile, on Sunday, after a wildfire. Christian Miranda/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Christian Miranda/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Embassy in Chile says it is sending an additional $740,000 for protective equipment and firefighting tools, as the country continues to battle more than 70 active wildfires that have killed at least 11 people in the past two weeks.

The latest contribution, announced Tuesday, brings the total wildfire aid to Chile from the U.S. government to $840,000, including $100,000 promised last week after Chilean President Michele Bachelet declared a state of emergency.

Some of the U.S. funds were used to purchase personal hygiene kits for residents of the town of Santa Olga, on the central coast, which was completely destroyed by a fire last week.

As The Two-Way reported:

“At least one body was recovered from the ashes in Santa Olga, according to Deutsche Welle, and about 6,000 residents fled the city as the flames moved in.

” ‘This is an extremely serious situation — of horror, a nightmare without an end,’ the mayor of the coastal city of Constitucion told the German broadcaster. ‘Everything burned.’ “

“We have never seen anything on this scale, never in the history of Chile,” Bachelet said last week. “The truth is that the forces are doing everything humanly possible and will continue until they can contain and control the fires.”

A firefighter working near Concepcion, Chile, where an aircraft assisted teams on the ground working to put out a wildfire. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Drone footage published by the BBC over the weekend showed the skeletons of homes caught in the paths of blazes in the central region of Maule. The forest floor appeared white with ash, with only the charred remains of trees.

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About 20,000 people are currently deployed to fight the blazes, including backcountry and local firefighters, military personnel and volunteers, according to Chile’s public safety department.

A group of young volunteers from the nearby city of Lirquen, fight a fire in Concepcion, Chile. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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AFP/AFP/Getty Images

According to Chile’s foreign ministry, at least 13 countries have sent people to help fight the wildfires, which are concentrated in the central and southern part of the country. The U.S. has sent four people, as has Japan. Panama, Russia, Colombia, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Spain, France, Venezuela and Argentina have all sent 20 or more firefighters. Argentina contributed the most manpower, with 130 people on the ground in Chile as of Wednesday.

The Brazilian military has contributed a C-130 aircraft to help fight the fires from above. The Russian government also sent an aircraft, according to Chile’s public safety department.

As The Two-Way reported, a privately owned Boeing 747 “supertanker” plane arrived last week in Santiago from Colorado, paid for by Fundación Viento Sur, which is part of the Walton Family Foundation and run by Ben Walton and his Chilean-native wife, Lucy Ana Walton de Avilés.

A Boeing 747 firefighting plane helps put out a forest fire in Concepcion, Chile, on Saturday. Guillermo Salgado/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Guillermo Salgado/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, NASA released images of the smoke from the fires, which is visible from space. The agency noted that the number of fires has increased in the past two years, going from “roughly 5,200 forest fires per season in the decade between 1990 and 2000, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,” to “more than 6,700 fires during the 2015–16 fire season.”

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Trump Gets His Man At The State Department

Former Exxon Mobil executive Rex Tillerson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 11 during his confirmation hearing for secretary of state. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has gotten his man at the State Department.

Rex Tillerson was approved by a 56-43 vote Wednesday in the Senate. Four senators who caucus with the Democrats crossed the aisle and joined all of the Republicans in voting for Tillerson. They were Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as well as independent Angus King of Maine.

Tillerson, the former head of Exxon Mobil — the world’s largest and most powerful oil company — will now guide American foreign policy and be tasked with enacting Trump’s world view.

That worldview, however, isn’t entirely clear. Trump has expressed nationalistic and protectionist views and even isolationist tendencies, but he has also said the U.S. needs to do more about ISIS. He has promised to “bomb the s*** out of them” and suggested it could potentially take 30,000 troops to defeat them.

In addition to his controversial travel ban instituted in the first days of his presidency, Trump has ordered the U.S. out of trade deals, threatened import tariffs with America’s adversaries (China) and allies (Mexico), questioned the importance of NATO, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he thinks torture works and, during the campaign, floated the idea (that he later seemed to walk back) that perhaps more countries should have nuclear weapons to defend themselves without the U.S.’s help.

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Tillerson will be tasked with defending the United States under Trump around the globe, while walking the line when he disagrees. Tillerson faced tough questioning from Republicans and was almost derailed because of his relationship with Putin. But Tillerson talked tough in those hearings about Russia and, unlike Trump, said he fully believes Russia was responsible for the hacks and leaks of the Democratic emails during the presidential campaign.

Tillerson, who has no diplomatic experience aside from his myriad of international business ties as Exxon Mobil’s chief, will be tasked with overseeing the State Department bureaucracy. He is not well-known in the State Department, but those who have briefed him are sounding fairly upbeat about his management style. As CEO of Exxon Mobil, he oversaw a vast company with employees working in dozens of countries.

The difference is that Exxon Mobil has one goal: drilling for oil and making money for shareholders.

His job at the State Department may be especially complicated by apparent unrest in the ranks. NPR has reported that some 900 State Department officials signed a letter that went viral within the agency decrying Trump’s visa and refugee ban as not making America safer.

And the White House isn’t making the task of internal diplomacy any easier for Tillerson. White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Tuesday urged American diplomats to “get with the program” or go.

But dissent is ingrained in State Department culture. In fact, the American Foreign Service Association, the professional association, gives awards every year for it.

The State Department’s manual says there can be no retribution for employees who use the dissent channel, and some in Congress concerned about Spicer’s comments are now looking into ways to codify those protections.

Trump, though, doesn’t exactly welcome dissent. While the new president is known for surrounding himself with differing factions — and even appeared to encourage his Cabinet nominees to have different points of view in their confirmation hearings — he also fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover at the Justice Department, for speaking out against and refusing to defend the travel ban, and he said he has a “running war with the media.”

“So much of the media seems to be the opposition party,” Trump said Wednesday, echoing his chief strategist Steve Bannon. He added, “They’re very dishonest people.”

At the State Department, Tillerson will be hearing from diplomats who are worried about where the Trump administration is heading and whether he and Trump will overlook human rights abuses in countries where Americans want to do business.

So, the mood in the State Department is uneasy. The Trump administration nudged out several professional diplomats even before naming anyone to replace them.

One example is Tom Countryman, a career foreign service officer who was acting undersecretary for arms control. He was on NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday, where he echoed a very powerful retirement speech he gave Tuesday to the State Department. He noted that State employees proudly serve in both Republican and Democratic administrations and implied they are feeling sidelined now.

“We still have a duty,” he told the State employees. “You have a duty — to stay and give your best professional guidance, with loyalty, to the new administration, because a foreign policy without professionals is — by definition — an amateur foreign policy. You will help to frame and make the choices. Because that is what we do. Our work is little understood by our fellow Americans, a fact that is sometimes exploited for political purpose. When I have the opportunity to speak to audiences across this amazing land, I explain ‘We do not have a Department of State, we do not have a foreign policy — because we love foreigners. We do it because we love Americans.”

He also said something that directly relates to Trump (and perhaps even Tillerson). Countryman drew a distinction between business and diplomacy, and he seemed to dispute Trump’s foundational view of America.

“Business made America great, as it always has been,” Countryman said, “and business leaders are among our most important partners. But let’s be clear: Despite the similarities — a dog is not a cat; baseball is not football; and diplomacy is not a business. Human rights are not a business. And democracy is, most assuredly, not a business.”

He added, “We want Americans to prosper, to sell the world’s best food and the world’s best products everywhere in the world. We want Americans to be protected and safe when they are abroad, whether they are missionaries, tourists, students, businessmen or (for those you have done consular work) the occasional false Messiah.”

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