Live Blog

Today's News: Feb. 17, 2017

Senate OKs Pruitt for EPA, first Cubans deported after “wet foot, dry foot” ending, and more from the United States and around the world.

Scott Pruitt Carlos Barria / Reuters

—Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a climate-change skeptic sued the agency while Oklahoma’s attorney general. More here

—Two Cuban women seeking asylum in the U.S. were sent back to Havana by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, marking the first deportations since the U.S. reversed its “wet foot, dry foot” policy. More here

—Spain’s Princess Cristina has been cleared of all charges in a trial involving tax fraud. Her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, was handed a 75-month sentence. More here

—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).

Updates

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U.S. Deports First Cubans Since 'Wet Foot, Dry Foot' Repeal

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent walks past immigrants who are being deported. (LM Otero / AP)

Two Cuban women seeking asylum in the U.S. were sent back to Havana by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials Friday, marking the first deportations since the U.S. reversed its “wet foot, dry foot” policy. The policy, which granted residency to Cubans who made it to U.S. soil, was terminated by President Obama through an executive order in January as part of the administration’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba after the restoration of diplomatic ties in 2015. As the Miami Herald reports, the two Cuban nationals were traveling with European passports and requested asylum upon their arrival at Miami International Airport, though it is unclear when exactly they arrived. Wilfredo Allen, an attorney for one of the women, said the two women requested that their asylum application be suspended following their detention so that they could return to Cuba voluntarily—a request Allen said was denied.

Senate Confirms Pruitt as EPA Chief

The U.S. Senate voted to approve Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency despite strong opposition from Democrats. Pruitt, who previously served as attorney general of Oklahoma, is a skeptical of climate change. The 52-46 vote was largely along party lines. Two Democratic senators—Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—joined their Republican colleagues in conforming Pruitt to the job. One GOP senator, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against him. More here

Texas Wants People to Know the Chilean Flag Emoji Is Not an Acceptable Replacement for the Lone Star Flag

AP

A member of the Texas House of Representatives wants citizens to know the Chilean flag emoji is not a suitable substitute for the Lone Star Flag. Representative Tom Oliverson, of Cypress, introduced the bill Thursday, and while it doesn’t outlaw the Chilean flag emoji, it’s meant as a strong reminder that there is a difference. The two flags are indeed similar, except that the blue stripe on the Texas state flag runs all the way down the left side, whereas on the Chilean flag it’s contained to a square in the top left corner. But because there are no state-flag emojis, the Chilean flag has been widely used as a passable substitute. To help raise awareness of the difference, however, Oliverson is trying to start a viral hashtag: #TheBlueGoesAllTheWayDown. In the bill, Oliverson wrote that “the colors of the Chilean flag depict sky, snow, and blood spilled while fighting for freedom, but the blue, white, and red of the Lone Star Flag stand for the Texan values of loyalty, purity, and bravery.” As the Dallas Morning News pointed out, the Chilean likeness has caused confusion even among state agencies, as in 2011 when Atascosa County officials used the wrong flag emoji accompanying a tweet.  

Spanish Princess Cleared in Tax-Fraud Case, but Her Husband Is Sentenced

(Reuters)

Spain's Princess Cristina, sister of King Felipe VI, was cleared Friday of tax-fraud charges in a case that stemmed from what prosecutors said were her links to her husband’s business affairs between 2007 and 2008. Her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, a former Olympic handball player, was handed a 75-month sentence for the charges by the court in Majorca. The couple had been investigated since 2010. As NPR reported at the time: “At issue is around $8 million in public funds that went missing from the sports nonprofit Noos Institute, which Urdangarin chaired. Prosecutors allege Urdangarin embezzled the money through shell companies, at least one of which, Aizoon, was partially owned by Cristina. The charges against the princess stem from $2.6 million of the funds.” The couple had denied wrongdoing. Cristina was the first Spanish royal in modern times to face prosecution. The verdict can be appealed.

Trump to Visit Boeing Plant in South Carolina

President Trump visits North Charleston, South Carolina, today to meet with executives and workers from Boeing at an event during which the aircraft-maker is expected to unveil the 787-10 Dreamliner. His visit comes two days after workers at the plant rejected a union. It also comes a day after a news conference in Washington that Trump used to berate the media and rail against intelligence leaks about his administration. The president heads to Florida for the weekend where he will hold a rally in Melbourne that my colleague David Graham likened to Trump kicking off his 2020 re-election campaign.