“I have never seen anything of this scale.” So said London’s fire commissioner of the inferno that engulfed the 24-story Grenfell Tower in Kensington overnight. More than 200 firefighters battled the flames, attempting to rescue potentially hundreds of residents, many of whom were asleep when the blaze broke out after midnight. Twelve fatalities have been reported so far, but authorities expect that number to increase. Dozens were taken to hospitals after witnesses reported hearing cries for help and seeing people leaping from the 1970s structure, which had reportedly been slated for fire safety renovations.
The Presidential Daily Brief
“An appalling and detestable lie.” That’s how Attorney General Jeff Sessions described suggestions that he colluded with Russian officials to meddle in the 2016 election. During his highly anticipated testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Sessions said he had no recollection of meeting Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak for a third, unreported time, as media reports have alleged. Yet after last week’s explosive testimony from ousted FBI chief James Comey, Sessions also refused to discuss his private conversations with President Donald Trump, leading senators to suggest the country’s top lawyer was wasn’t being truthful in his testimony.
It’s been bumpy. The ridesharing giant’s chief, Travis Kalanick is taking an indefinite leave of absence. He said the break would be to grieve for his mother, killed in a recent boating accident, while in a staff email, he said he needed to “work on himself,” and acknowledged responsibility for the company’s myriad difficulties. They include a corporate culture that prompted harassment complaints grave enough that the company hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate. Uber’s board adopted his findings, released today, including hiring a new CEO, promoting diversity and barring staff-supervisor romances.
He’s finally free. After more than 17 months in a North Korean prison, American college student Otto Warmbier headed home on Tuesday after being released by the regime, although he is believed to be in a coma. Following his January 2016 arrest, Pyongyang slapped Warmbier — a University of Virginia student on a tour of the Hermit Kingdom at the time — with a 15-year sentence for allegedly stealing a political banner. Warmbier’s release curiously coincided with a visit to North Korea by former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who claimed he’s planning to “open a door” between the two countries but denied his trip was connected to Warmbier’s release.
The White House denies it. But Newsmax CEO and presidential confidant Chris Ruddy told PBS that President Donald Trump is “considering perhaps terminating” Robert Mueller. The recently appointed special counsel is assembling a team to investigate Russian election meddling and possible links to Trump’s campaign — which Attorney General Jeff Sessions will address before the Senate Intelligence Committee today. The administration insists Ruddy “never spoke to the president” about it, while White House ally Newt Gingrich says Republicans should “rethink” Mueller’s appointment because some of his staffers have donated to Democrats.
They got him, not the movement. Alexei Navalny, who leads opposition against President Vladimir Putin, was arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail as protests rocked Russia yesterday during celebrations for the anniversary of the 1990 end of Soviet rule. Tens of thousands demonstrated against corruption in Moscow and over 100 other cities, while police detained as many as 1,300. Navalny never joined the protests: He was arrested at home before they began, on charges of staging rallies illegally. He still plans to run for president next year.
They have a common enemy. In a rare show of bipartisanship, Democratic and Republican senators from the foreign relations and banking committees have announced a plan to level fresh sanctions against “corrupt Russian actors” in response to 2016 election interference. The agreement, reached late Monday, cements existing sanctions and imposes new ones targeting Russians engaged in “malicious cyberactivity,” as well as suppliers of weapons to the Syrian government. The measure would also require congressional review should the president decide to unilaterally ease Moscow’s punishment in the future.
Full speed ahead. That’s the spirit of the Treasury Department’s plan for unraveling post-2008 industry regulations enacted to prevent future financial crises. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the proposals attempt to balance “undue, burdensome regulations” while protecting taxpayers, but one financial reform advocate said the changes would take already watered-down protections and “dilute them away to nothing.” A bright spot for home-buyers is the report’s recommendation to relax requirements for federal mortgage guarantees — despite the fact that loose lending fueled the housing bubble.
Know This: Administration lawyers will turn to the Supreme Court to reinstate President Trump’s travel ban after losing a second federal appeals ruling. Eccentric basketball legend Dennis Rodman is returning to North Korea, where some speculate he might provide back-channel communications between Pyongyang and Washington. And a magnitude-6.2 earthquake on the Greek island of Lesbos has killed one woman and injured 10 other residents.
Offensive Stance: “It has blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk.” — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, blaming Congress for the Pentagon’s readiness deficit.
Answer This: Tell us how you really feel. OZY’s next TV show, Third Rail With OZY, is launching on PBS this fall! To kick things off, we’re shelving the PC and launching debates. Each Wednesday, we’ll post a provocative question, with a focus on topics that might make it onto the show. Our Third Rail With OZY question this week delves into identity: Is it more acceptable to be transgender than transracial? Why or why not? Go deep. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or a personal story, and we might feature your answer next week.
They came at the king and didn’t miss. Golden State conquered Cleveland 129-120 in Game 5 last night, clinching the title on their home court. Series MVP Kevin Durant scored 39 points, while Stephen Curry redeemed last year’s disappointing finals performance with 34. But basketball’s monarch fought bravely: LeBron James dropped 41 points with little chance of reprising 2016’s historic 3-1 deficit comeback. Durant, who’s still fending off critics of his move from Oklahoma, said he couldn’t wait to celebrate, “maybe for the rest of the summer.”
Look under the hood. Budget carriers like Portugal’s TAP are joining the long-haul game, ferrying fewer than 200 passengers per trip between Europe and North America, thanks to new generations of Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s. High fuel prices a decade ago spurred development of super-efficient engines, allowing these smaller jets to save fuel, pollute less — and cross the Atlantic. While cheap airlines’ nickel-and-diming for extras annoys passengers, one analyst maintains that for a $65 hop to Porto, “people will fly inside a barrel of toxic waste.”
It’s a matter of public record. Starting Friday, Trevor Noah’s Daily Show will host a weekend-long exhibit of President Trump’s Twitter highlights, playing on the presidential library tradition followed by every commander in chief since FDR. The pop-up promises an exhibit on contradictory tweets, a video retrospective of everything and everyone Trump has labeled “SAD!” and a chance to tweet from a golden toilet seat. Admission is free, but lines may be long at the West 57th Street exhibition, said to be visible from “a certain tower.”
Think of them as hired help. Russia is increasingly subcontracting its dirty work abroad to organized crime syndicates. Whether it’s stirring up insurgencies, hacking elections, or knocking off enemies, it turns out gangsters and other rank-and-file criminals have the skills the Kremlin needs to project its power. It’s a major risk, though. While these unsavory types provide the services traditional intelligence services can’t — or won’t — perform, the downside is that, well, they’re criminals: Unprofessional in the most basic sense, they might turn on their paymasters at any moment.
They want proof. Baby boxes — temporary cardboard bassinets — are booming among new parents. Following Finland’s example, some states are giving the supplies-laden cartons to expectant mothers to promote safer sleep. Proponents say the boxes’ firm mattresses and compact size help prevent sleep-related deaths, but the American Academy of Pediatrics warns of unanswered questions about potential bacterial growth and the safety of box adhesives. While consumer safety groups test the boxes, low Finnish infant mortality rates and increased awareness of newborns’ needs may help parents sleep more soundly.