It was a tough crowd. After vilifying Muslims in his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump faced Middle Eastern leaders in Riyadh today, speaking warmly of their faith and urging them to join America’s battle against terrorism. He exhorted them to drive “Islamic extremism” from places of worship and communities and spoke of restoring a Middle East with “Arabs and Christians and Jews living side by side.” But he pulled no punches for Iran — reflecting his hosts’ enmity — urging Arab leaders to isolate Tehran, fight ISIS and help bring peace to Syria.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He lives by the sword. President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia has invited new comparisons with his predecessors — and then-citizen Trump’s potshots. Yesterday, he accepted the Kingdom’s highest civilian medal, but needed to bend down so the much shorter King Salman could place it around his neck. When Barack Obama assumed a similar position in 2012, Trump questioned “a president who bows to the Saudis.” Even a Trump ally, campaign adviser Roger Stone, complained about the optics, tweeting that Saturday’s medal ceremony “makes me want to puke.”
It was a deadly breach. A New York Times investigation found that between 2010 and 2012, China killed 18 to 20 CIA sources and imprisoned others, destroying a painstakingly developed clandestine network in the People’s Republic. One spy was reportedly killed in front of co-workers in a government courtyard to discourage other potential operatives. The lasting damage has been compared to that of notorious spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, who fingered U.S. agents in Moscow for years, but intelligence experts disagree on whether China identified the spies via hacking or an American mole.
He has the right to remain silent. But that’s not Donald Trump’s nature, and this week the president couldn’t restrain himself from issuing contradictory responses when faced with increasingly grave allegations. Each day, there’s a new revelation of an incriminating-sounding utterance, as on Friday, when reports detailed the president telling visiting Russian officials that he’d just fired his “nut job” FBI director, thus relieving “great pressure” Trump faced. Add to that a string of other plot twists, and newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller will have much to examine in what’s now being called a criminal probe.
Its condition is serious. The Republican replacement for Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, may be on life support. This month’s slim House vote approving it happened before a Congressional Budget Office estimate — expected early next week — and its difficult-to-predict cost savings are what would enable its Senate passage. As House leadership frets over a new vote in the case of an unfavorable estimate, insurers are questioning the president’s assertion that existing Obamacare deficiencies will bring about its demise, saying Trump’s subsidy-denying policies will do the most damage.
“We showed them that we still exist.” So said one reformist voter in casting his ballot for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whom state television congratulated on his victory Saturday. He won 22.8 million votes of 38.9 million cast in Friday’s election. The incumbent now has another four years to fulfill pledges to reform the Islamic Republic’s repressive government — whose unelected leaders vet all candidates — while stopping hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi. High turnout was seen to favor Rouhani, whose supporters, while disillusioned with reform efforts, nonetheless feared Raisi turning back the clock.
Is discrimination the meat of the matter? The new Hindu nationalist government of Uttar Pradesh, India, has shut down slaughterhouses across the state, citing licensing violations. Muslim butchers are calling it economic discrimination, especially considering most of India’s economy is informal. The state outlawed the slaughter of cows, revered by Hindus, in 1955, but buffalo meat remains legal — something the state’s highest court recently affirmed while providing butchers some relief. Still, the Muslim fifth of Uttar Pradesh’s citizens worry about what chief minister, Hindu cleric and rabble-rouser Yogi Adityanath might target next.
In the name of whose law? There’s a deadly threat among thousands of U.S. “sovereign citizens,” extremists who believe they’re part of a “patriot” movement fighting a totalitarian government. Subverting state and federal authority has included murdering police, making local jurisdictions feel the brunt of this threat. A 2014 survey of 175 law enforcement agencies listed these domestic extremists as their top terrorist concern — well above jihadist attackers. Experts say the current administration, whose reprieve from far-right militants may be temporary, focuses exclusively on Islamists at the nation’s peril.
The Week Ahead: On Monday, Israel welcomes President Trump after he reportedly gave some of the Jewish state’s sensitive anti-terrorism intel to Russian officials. On Thursday in Brussels, Trump will address NATO leaders, who are hoping for reassurance of continued U.S. support. That day, Star Wars fans observe the 40th anniversary of the sci-fi phenomenon’s opening.
Know This: North Korea launched another missile, which U.S. officials say was shorter-range than previous potentially nuclear-tipped rockets tested by the Hermit Kingdom. The Golden State Warriors beat the Spurs in San Antonio, 120-108, to lead the NBA Western Conference Finals, 3-0. And Pippa Middleton, sister to Kate, wife of British royal heir Prince William, married hedge fund manager James Matthews on Saturday.
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Not every prison has bars. After immigrating to America, Alex Tizon’s parents told neighbors that Lola, who cooked, cleaned and hid from guests, was a shy aunt. It wasn’t until his father left and his mother died of cancer that Tizon faced reality: The diminutive woman who raised him was a slave — a “gift” from his grandfather in the Philippines. Tizon died in March, but not before the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist wrote Lola’s story, sparking praise for his atonement and outrage over his complicity in a criminal institution that won’t fade into history.
They know where they stand. When Georgia officials banned undocumented students (there were only 29) from its top five public universities in 2010, they inadvertently fomented a movement. Volunteer-operated Freedom University, with its defiant “F.U. Georgia” nickname, is teaching students to question authority while applying to other colleges and protesting discriminatory admissions and tuition rules. The school’s had to meet in secret because of white supremacist threats, and with arrests of immigrants on the rise under the new administration in Washington, students increasingly face deportation, making their activism riskier than ever.
It’s crowdfunding by actual huddled masses. Within earshot of starving locals appealing for food, a growing number of western backpackers are being spotted begging for money to fund their travels around Asia, cardboard signs propped up with expensive cameras and mobile phones. While begging in Southeast Asia is not unusual — poverty levels in some regions can hit 25 percent — its appropriation by relatively affluent young tourists is raising more than a few eyebrows. While some say “begpackers” are doing no harm, many others say the fad’s devaluing the very countries they’re experiencing.
They may not understand, but they get it. Spanning a Nairobi workshop, an online library and a website with several published anthologies, the Jalada literary collective is elevating African voices. Holding meetings, hosting mutual critiquing sessions and finding mentors, the collective has united and empowered authors via digital media. While it showcases unique and diverse works in colonial languages such as English and Arabic, Jalada’s also nurturing indigenous-language publishing, both with authors writing in their native tongue and translations, with one work in Kenya’s tribal Kikuyu available in 62 other languages — so far.
His basketball sovereignty is unquestioned. As LeBron James steamrolls through another conference final, it’s time to remember when some doubted his pre-eminence. In 2007, James was royally second-guessed for giving the ball to an open teammate — who missed — rather than take the last-second shot while double-teamed. He was blamed for losing Eastern Conference Finals Game One to Detroit, but four games later, LeBron would score 48 points and monopolize the scoreboard for most of the last quarter of the Cavs’ 109-107 victory — winning him the crown he wears today.