The game of tit-for-tat between Russia and a coalition of Western countries has escalated once again with an announcement that the Kremlin will expel scores of diplomats, including 60 Americans, after 27 countries agreed to kick out more than 150 Russian diplomatic personnel. That move was retaliation for the Kremlin’s suspected nerve gas attack on a former double agent living in Britain. Russia will also close its U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, the double agent is still in critical condition, though his daughter, also poisoned, is reportedly improving.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, the last Obama-era holdover in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, was fired yesterday amid allegations that he misused taxpayer funds. Set to replace him at the second-largest federal department is Dr. Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral and Trump’s personal physician — known for giving a glowing review of the president’s physical and mental health in January, but lacking experience running a large bureaucracy. Shulkin’s dismissal continues a year-long string of shake-ups that’s claimed both Cabinet members and top advisers.
Yesterday 68 people were killed when a police station riot sparked a sweeping blaze in Valencia, about 100 miles west of Caracas. Angry families seeking information about relatives gathered outside, but were reportedly fired upon with tear gas. “I don’t know if my son is dead or alive,” one mother said. Wednesday’s disaster was one of the worst in a country where jails are notoriously crowded and riots are routine. A nonprofit that monitors Venezuelan prisons said preliminary information suggests the riot began when an armed detainee shot a guard.
The human rights activist — shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for advocating for women’s education — is visiting her homeland for the first time since the 2012 attack. After receiving treatment in Birmingham, England, Yousafzai continued her activism abroad, and at 17 years old became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. During her four-day visit, the University of Oxford student will meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, though other details of Yousafzai’s itinerary have been kept secret due to safety concerns.
They’re going down. After their biggest-ever single-day drop on Tuesday, tech stocks slumped again yesterday over continuing fears of increased regulatory scrutiny. Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Tesla all slid at least 1 percent — and as much as 7.7 percent — while Facebook managed to post a 0.5 percent increase after tumbling Tuesday. The social network’s stock has lost 13 percent of its value this year amid the ongoing scandal over user data. Analysts suggest investors are growing wary of the outsize influence tech giants wield over global markets.
Know This: The leaders of North and South Korea have agreed to meet on April 27 — the first time in 11 years. British investigators believe a nerve agent left at Sergei Skripal’s front door was responsible for poisoning the former Russian spy and his daughter. And Playboy has announced it’s quitting Facebook over the ongoing data scandal that’s embroiled the social network.
Read This: As Democrats set their sights on the 2018 election cycle, they’re relying on a new crop of politically active military veterans to attract voters.
Grab the Mic! OZY is partnering with DoSomething.org to offer you an opportunity to see more, be more and do more. This month, DoSomething.org is giving you the chance to stamp out hate speech aimed at immigrants across America. Click here to get involved.
They’ve got boundary issues. For the second time in a year, the nation’s highest court on Wednesday began hearing a case against the redrawing of electoral districts to tip the scales for a particular party. While an earlier case on Republican redistricting in Wisconsin appeared to settle the court’s stance against political gerrymandering, its latest look at Maryland redistricting suggests the issue isn’t so clear-cut. Justices will have yet another opportunity to decide next month, as the Supreme Court is slated to a review a Texas district challenged by Hispanic voters.
It’s a Mass movement. Protests erupted after Joseph Kabila, the embattled president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, refused to step down as promised, despite a deal with the opposition that was brokered by the Catholic Church. Now church leaders aren’t staying in the pews: They’re organizing and leading demonstrations against Kabila. In response, parishes have been vandalized and priests kidnapped. Despite the crackdown, the church doesn’t seem to be giving ground — while Kabila has made it clear he doesn’t need its backing to stay in power.
Developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the Parker Solar Probe will use the gravitational pull of Venus to shoot itself at up to 450,000 mph through the sun’s corona. There it will gather data on solar flares and other forms of space weather that interfere with earthly communications. The $1.5 billion probe, set to launch July 31, is expected to come closer than any other spacecraft to the surface of the sun — cruising 4 million miles above its surface — and remain in space for seven years.
You can teach an old dog new tricks. The legendary rapper’s 32-track double album, “Snoop Dogg Presents: Bible of Love,” featuring gospel icons like Erica Campbell, Fred Hammond, Patti LaBelle and Marvin Sapp, has snagged the No. 1 spot on the gospel album chart. Snoop’s no stranger to mixing genres, with six No. 1s on the R&B/hip-hop chart and one on the reggae list for 2013’s “Reincarnated,” released as Snoop Lion. He explained the shift from gangsta rap to gospel, saying, “It was time to do something positive to bring people together.”
Soccer’s governing body is looking into reports of racist chants directed toward French players during an international friendly in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. Fans and photographers reported hearing “monkey chants” aimed at Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele during their team’s victory against Russia, slurs the French sports minister called “intolerable behavior.” FIFA is awaiting a report by anti-discrimination watchdog Football Against Racism in Europe. Meanwhile, the Zenit St. Petersburg club is also facing disciplinary proceedings for similar behavior as Russia prepares to host the World Cup in June.