In response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil earlier this month, the White House today ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats based in Washington and New York — as well as the closure of Russia’s consulate in Seattle. The move, which follows Britain’s own ejection of 23 Russians after what it said was a Kremlin-sanctioned attempt on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, is the most sweeping expulsion in three decades, and will likely boost tensions between Moscow and Washington. “They’ll certainly retaliate,” said a former CIA official.
The Presidential Daily Brief
At least 64 people — including many children — are dead and dozens more are injured after a fire tore through a mall in Siberia Sunday. Videos posted on social media showed people jumping from windows of the Winter Cherry building in Kemerovo, about 2,200 miles east of Moscow, to escape the blaze. The fire reportedly started in the cinema hall of an entertainment complex that also contained a bowling alley and a petting zoo, which may explain why many children are among the dead and missing. A criminal investigation has been opened.
The adult film star told 60 Minutes yesterday she was approached seven years ago in a parking garage with her daughter and threatened over a $15,000 deal to sell In Touch magazine the story of her affair with Donald Trump. “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom,” she claims the man told her. Daniels is now fighting an agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election — which came with a $130,000 payout — to not disclose the alleged affair.
Spain’s Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant last week for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who was the face of last year’s campaign for Catalonia’s independence — which ended with Spain rescinding the region’s autonomy and Puigdemont going into exile. Now he’s been arrested while traveling through Germany and may be extradited to Spain, where he could face 30 years in prison over charges of rebellion and sedition. Thousands of his supporters demonstrated in Barcelona and Girona, clashing with riot police and leading to nine arrests and scores of injuries.
There’s more than one trick to international trade. The U.S. saw stock markets plunge after President Trump announced high new tariffs on Chinese goods — and questions of retaliation loomed over export-dependent U.S. industries. But American and Chinese officials are reportedly quietly negotiating terms to bring the looming trade war to a truce, which could see liberalization of China’s foreign ownership rules. However, a proposal that China buy more semiconductors from the U.S. rather than Taiwan and South Korea could drive a wedge between the U.S. and its regional allies.
“Mad” Mike Hughes successfully launched himself 1,875 feet into the air Saturday on a mission to prove the Earth is not round. His homemade steam-powered rocket with “RESEARCH FLAT EARTH” emblazoned on the side lifted off in the Mojave Desert after two aborted attempts. “I’m tired of people saying I chickened out,” he said after parachuting safely to the ground in his capsule. Next he plans to build a “rockoon,” a rocket that’s carried into the sky by a balloon. He also hopes to run for governor of California.
They’re dressed to impress. Since reclaiming democracy in 2014, youngsters in the West African nation have looked to locally designed ethnic apparel to express their national identity. The government’s on board too: Last November, it made Faso dan fani, traditional woven textiles, a requirement for official state ceremonies. A key goal of the movement is to establish a homegrown manufacturing industry, though economic realities won’t make that easy. Still, growing demand for traditional garb means lower prices — and national pride is expected to get the younger generation buying in.
They’ve canceled the ride. After an aggressive campaign to capture the Southeast Asia market, the ride-sharing app is selling its regional operations to rival Grab, ending a five-year battle that reportedly cost Uber $200 million annually. The California-based company will take a 27.5 percent stake in Grab. Ride-sharing and related services, including food delivery, are forecast to be worth $20.1 billion by 2025 in Southeast Asia. Uber’s made similar moves before, selling its businesses in China and Russia and cutting losses ahead of a planned 2019 IPO.
Led by student activists, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied across the country Saturday to decry gun violence and call for changes to existing laws. Scores of famous faces also lent their voices to the protests, from Lady Gaga to Paul McCartney — who reminded observers that his friend and bandmate John Lennon was gunned down. Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson performed at the Washington, D.C., rally, while celebrities like Selena Gomez and George and Amal Clooney took to the streets and broadcast solidarity on social media.
And then there was nun. The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers became only the fourth No. 11 seed to reach the semifinals yesterday, with moral support by team chaplain — and good-luck charm — 98-year-old nun Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt. The other teams in the final four were more expected: Villanova, Kansas and Michigan. In one of the tournament’s most entertaining games, No. 1 Kansas beat No. 2 Duke 85-81 in overtime for the Midwest Region final. Now Villanova will play Kansas as Loyola faces Michigan next weekend in San Antonio.