Steven Mnuchin has withdrawn from the Future Investment Initiative conference being held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next week, despite plans to speak at it during a six-week Middle East tour focused on combating terrorist financing. The move comes after a bipartisan backlash and a wave of high-profile withdrawals from the same conference in response to the apparent killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Mike Pompeo visited Riyadh earlier this week and said he advised President Donald Trump to give Saudi Arabia “a few more days” to investigate.
The Presidential Daily Brief
A Kandahar police chief, provincial governor and intelligence chief were killed after their own guards turned their guns on them at a security meeting, ahead of Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, two U.S. troops were also injured. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack of which a NATO and U.S. commander, Gen. Scott Miller, was the target. Miller reportedly escaped unharmed. Police chief General Abdul Raziq, killed in today’s attack, narrowly escaped harm last year when another major attack took place in the governor’s office in Kandahar.
President Donald Trump has asked Ankara to share what Turkish officials say is audio evidence that dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Trump, who has defended Saudi Arabia against international condemnation over Khashoggi’s disappearance, reaffirmed his support for the kingdom as a key ally. Yesterday The Washington Post published Khashoggi’s final column, in which he lamented censorship of the press in the Middle East. He wrote, “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.”
Students from the Kerch Polytechnic College in Russian-annexed Crimea are mourning their lost classmates as authorities investigate yesterday’s mass shooting and bombing incident. More than 50 others were injured in the attack, carried out by an 18-year-old student who reportedly detonated an explosive device before opening fire. Authorities say he later killed himself in the school’s library. Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov announced a three-day mourning period for the victims, while authorities search for a possible accomplice who may have helped the shooter plan his attack.
Following a summit with European Union leaders yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May indicated her government is considering a several-month extension of its Brexit transition to allow more time for negotiations. The current transition period — during which Britain would have access to the EU market while continuing to pay into its budget and abide by its rules — would last until the end of 2020. Meanwhile, EU leaders said yesterday’s meeting with May, who pleaded for “courage, trust and friendship” from all parties, yielded few tangible results.
Steve Penny was detained in Tennessee yesterday on felony charges of tampering with evidence related to a Texas case against former Olympic doctor and convicted sex offender Larry Nassar. Penny, who was secretly indicted last month, had allegedly ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch training center after learning officials were investigating Nassar, who was sentenced in February to up to 125 years in prison. If convicted, Penny — who resigned from his post last year — faces up to 10 years in jail.
Know This: Officials say White House counsel Don McGahn officially left his post yesterday in a planned departure. Vietnam has freed a prominent blogger and political activist on the condition that she emigrate to the United States. And Twitter has released data on more than 10 million tweets from nearly 4,700 accounts linked to Russia and Iran that were aimed at interfering in American politics.
Remember This Number: 1.9 million. That’s how many Venezuelans are believed to have fled their politically and economically crippled country since 2015.
Write to Us: Want an expert opinion on U.S. foreign policy, President Trump’s Saudi Arabia strategy or insight into other international matters? Send your questions to former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org — and he’ll post his answers in OZY’s Daily Dose.
Light it up. Officials in the southwestern city of Chengdu announced plans yesterday to send an illumination satellite bright enough to replace street lights above the Sichuan province capital within two years. Covered in reflective coating and featuring angled wings to produce “precise lighting” over a 50-mile radius, the artificial moon — which will be eight times brighter than Earth’s natural satellite — is also expected to boost tourism. Russia attempted a similar project in 1999 aboard its Mir space station but abandoned it after technical errors.
Attempting to broaden their audience and boost their brands — while also injecting a little wonder into drinking — winemakers are increasingly turning to virtual and augmented reality for help. Once considered slow adapters in marketing innovations, wine producers are now making labels that leap out at customers through AR apps and offering drinkers vineyard tours from afar with the help of VR goggles. And it’s working: Insiders say these convention-shattering experiences have led to immediate pay-offs.
Prove it. A new paper published in Nature disputes a dramatic 2016 assertion that pushed back the origin of life on Earth by 200 million years. In the original study, Australian scientists claimed that Greenland’s Isua rock formation contains 3.7 billion-year-old fossils. But skeptical researchers examined those rocks and found that the formations were caused by tectonic compression — rather than microbial organisms, as the original team believed. Meanwhile, researchers from the original study stand by their findings, arguing that the new team was looking at different rocks.
Nicholas DiGaudio, the New York Police Department’s former lead detective in the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault investigation, is accused of advising an alleged victim to delete any “private” data on her phones before handing them to prosecutors. It’s the second time DiGaudio, whose union chief called the allegations “a smear campaign,” has been accused of witness tampering: He was removed from the case for reportedly urging accuser Lucia Evans to withhold information from prosecutors. Weinstein’s attorney said this new development “further undermines the integrity of an already deeply flawed indictment.”
“I promise you I didn’t do anything wrong.” So said Houston fan Troy Caldwell after crew chief Joe West ruled fan interference on a potential game-tying two-run homer by the Astros’ Jose Altuve — who was instead called out. Caldwell came into contact with Mookie Betts’ glove as the Red Sox outfielder jumped to make the catch, though replays couldn’t decisively show whether Betts had reached into the stands, or Caldwell onto the field. Boston won 8-6 and leads the series 3-1.