He’s had enough. Last week Congress approved new sanctions — and curbs on presidential power to ease them — over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and 2016 election meddling. Now Vladimir Putin says that by Sept. 1, only 455 of 1,210 employees of U.S. diplomatic missions may remain in his country, in addition to the seizing of a diplomatic warehouse and vacation property. He’d hoped the two nations’ relationship would “somehow change,” but it appears that won’t happen “anytime soon.” But he noted some improvement, such as cooperation on de-escalating Syria’s civil war.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Will they have an impact? On Friday North Korea launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew about 2,300 miles in 45 minutes — enough to reach major U.S. cities if fired at an attack trajectory, analysts believe. U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted his disappointment over China doing “NOTHING for us … just talk,” while Beijing could “easily solve this problem.” Experts believe that the Hermit Kingdom lacks the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon enough for such a missile, but could do so in five to 10 years.
Can he rally his troops? As his new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci blazes a scorched-earth trail, blasting unprintable insults at Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, replaced Friday by Gen. John Kelly, President Trump continues to alienate supporters. Republicans have openly defied President Trump, with ailing Sen. John McCain helping vote down the last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill Friday, prompting the president to tweet that Republicans “look like fools.” And now some aides want to move Attorney General Jeff Sessions, target of “hurtful” barbs from Trump, to Kelly’s old job running Homeland Security.
There’s little hope in this change. President Nicolás Maduro is urging Venezuelans to vote today to choose 545 members of a “constituent assembly” with power to rewrite the constitution and circumvent the opposition-controlled National Assembly. But anti-government campaigners, whose demonstrations have seen more than 100 deaths since April, have called a boycott of what they consider a sham election organized to give rural, Maduro-friendly areas disproportionate influence. The government also faces U.S. sanctions and condemnation from neighboring Colombia, but the president has declared that “winning or dying” are his side’s only options.
Who will speak for them? Under a dimming international spotlight, China is turning up the heat on its tiny network of human rights attorneys. These “rights protection lawyers” have scored major victories since starting as a core of fewer than 20 in the early 2000s. But in 2015, the so-called “709” crackdown chilled that community after authorities targeted some 300 of these jurists. As details emerge describing their torture, intimidation, and “confessions” publicly denouncing democracy and human rights, their remaining colleagues must make a stark choice: conform — or flee.
Some government waste can’t simply be eliminated. The Trump administration’s Energy Department stance has been skeptical, naming Rick Perry — who argued for shuttering the agency — to run the place. Staffers say an incurious, slash-and-burn approach sees the department as promoting clean power. But it ignores the fact that the the DOE maintains America’s nuclear arsenal and safeguards its electrical grid — and its scientists monitor North Korea’s atomic ambitions. If that’s not enough, it also manages nuclear waste, which if neglected could endanger millions of Americans.
The Week Ahead: Vice President Mike Pence arrives today in Tallinn, Estonia, on a trip that also includes Georgia and Montenegro, to convince NATO and other allies that America has their back. Also today, outfielder Tim Raines Sr. will be among inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. And on Wednesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear closed-door testimony from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis on how the Trump administration views authorization for the use of force.
Know This: Police in Australia have arrested four people who they allege were plotting to blow up an airliner. Pakistan’s parliament will reportedly vote Tuesday to choose a prime minister to replace Nawaz Sharif, who resigned Friday after a Panama Papers corruption scandal prompted his disqualification. Police in southern Germany have ruled out terrorism and suspect a criminal dispute prompted a nightclub shooting early today that killed two people, including the Iraqi gunman. And Tesla has introduced its Model 3, an electric family sedan costing between $30,000 and $60,000.
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Viva la e-volución! Ever resourceful after decades of stifling communist rule, Cubans have devised alternatives to their country’s highly restricted and unbearably slow internet. They trade in hard drives packed with movies and music, as well as rig their own “street net” featuring homespun versions of Facebook and Instagram. The knock-offs have even spawned a crude form of advertising, which somewhat mirrors the early days of online marketing in the developed world. While the West waits for Cuba to open up, its citizens will be busy surfing their own digital wave.
They’re taking it outside. Patagonia’s CEO complains his fellow outfitters are “a bunch of weenies” when it comes to standing up for the environment their customers value. So he pushed his peers to punish Utah for supporting President Trump’s revocation of federal land protections, moving their $45 million trade show to eco-friendly Colorado. It may be a tiny player when compared to the likes of oil and gas – the typical antagonists over public land rights – but an unflinching call to arms is winning Patagonia disproportionate influence in its $887 billion industry.
Y’all reviens now, y’hear? Since the early 2010s, restaurants touting U.S.-style eatin’ have popped up along the cobbled streets of Paris. In the last three years, that obsession americaine has gone south: Sous chefs have given way to grillmasters as menus from a dozen new restaurants feature everything from barbecue ribs to po’ boys, gumbo, and chicken and waffles. Add to that New Orleans-inspired cocktail bars, appropriating judgment-free Southern hospitality, and one can expect haute cuisine to become a little more gauche.
They wanted another world. They got Santa Barbara. When 1990s post-Soviet chaos was too painful to acknowledge, reruns of the American soap opera was the opiate of Russia’s masses. With a ruined economy, rampant crime and no hope for the future, viewers turned to the wealthy Capwell family’s perpetual drama — set in a sun-soaked Mediterranean climate — to escape their everyday misery. Russians still wax nostalgic about that alternate universe, even if they’re supposed to hate America and are now consumed by steamy Washington’s drama-saturated reality.
Glory has a price. The soccer superstar is to appear in a Spanish courtroom on Monday, this time on defense. It’s alleged that on $176 million in income, he’s paid just $7 million in taxes, thanks to a banking shell game exposed by leaked documents that saw his income cycle through Ireland, New Zealand and the Caribbean. A raft of other Real Madrid players using the same agent have already paid up, but it’s another stain for European pro soccer, whose president calls the leaks a “good thing” and pledges to settle accounts.