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July 5, 2014
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Perhaps hoping to snag a last-minute invite to D.C's fireworks extravaganza, Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama on Friday to wish him a happy Fourth of July. Putin told Obama he hoped the two nations could "continue successful development on a pragmatic and equal basis despite the current differences and difficulties," according to a Kremlin statement.

"The president also stressed that Russia and the United States are both countries bearing particular responsibility for ensuring international stability and security," the statement went on, "and should therefore cooperate not just for the benefit of their own peoples but also in the entire world's interest." Jon Terbush

11:02 a.m. ET
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The Trump administration in April debuted a new Department of Homeland Security office and database, DHS VINE, dedicated to providing information on the custody status (as well as personal details) of immigrants accused of crime. The database had a bumpy launch, as immigration attorneys soon noticed it listed sensitive information for immigrant babies and toddlers.

That problem was corrected, but The Guardian reports immigration lawyers have identified another major issue: The database lists immigrants who are victims of crimes and have "sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault." Federal law says these victims' private information is supposed to be kept secret because their abusers could use it to track them down and inflict further harm. The searchable, online database now makes that information available to the public.

"It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers," said Archi Pyati of the Tahirih Justice Center, which offers pro-bono services to immigrants escaping gender-based violence. The Tahirih Justice Center has called on DHS to edit the VINE database to remove victims' information or to shutter the project entirely. Bonnie Kristian

10:45 a.m. ET

When a handful of NATO leaders' wives took a photograph together at the Royal Castle of Laeken, in Brussels, on Thursday, there was a conspicuous suited figure in their ranks. Gauthier Destenay, the husband of Luxembourg's gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel, had been invited to join the first ladies:

Destenay, who married Bettel in 2015, was flanked by "First Lady of France Brigitte Macron, First Lady of Turkey Emine Gulbaran Erdogan, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, [the Norwegian Secretary General's partner] Ingrid Schulerud, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev's partner Desislava Radeva, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel's partner Amelie Derbaudrenghien, Slovenia's Prime Minister Cerar's wife Mojca Stropnik, First Lady of Iceland Thora Margret Baldvinsdottir," and Melania Trump, The Daily Mail reports. Jeva Lange

10:40 a.m. ET
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More than 100 United Nations peacekeepers recruited from the Sri Lankan military were identified as the operators of a child sex ring in Haiti, The Associated Press reported Friday, but none were ever prosecuted or jailed after repatriation.

The U.N. does not have legal jurisdiction over the peacekeepers to bring its own charges, and it has now implemented a stricter screening process for would-be peacekeepers from Sri Lanka intended to better weed out recruits connected to military units that have been accused of war crimes. Still, the U.N. continues to deploy Sri Lankan peacekeepers despite these grave — and still unresolved — allegations.

"This is a pattern repeated around the world," the AP report notes. "Strapped for troops, the U.N. draws recruits from many countries with poor human rights records for its peacekeeping program." "Sometimes the U.N. needs troops," former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the AP. "And they are so desperate that they accept troops that they will normally not accept if they had the choice."

Last month, a broader AP investigation into peacekeeper misconduct counted some 2,000 allegations of sexual assault by U.N. peacekeepers around the world since 2005. About 300 of those cases involved children, but jail time was rare across the board. In Haiti, the nine children who alleged abuse said the peacekeepers baited them with offers of food. One boy estimated he was forced to have sex with about 100 peacekeepers, averaging four daily for several years. Bonnie Kristian

10:38 a.m. ET

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough on Friday criticized President Trump for spending his NATO speech Thursday scolding leaders for not paying enough for their collective defense. Trump, speaking at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, chastised members for "not paying what they should be paying" and issued a reminder that some still owe "massive amounts." NATO leaders could be seen smirking and exchanging looks during Trump's lecture.

While Scarborough agreed that member nations "should carry their load," he wasn't a fan of how Trump delivered that message. "Do not call them out," Scarborough said. "When you have, the entire world is watching and most importantly [Russian President] Vladimir Putin is watching. It seemed like yesterday was his love note to Vladimir Putin. It really did. By, first of all, attacking the allies and then by not moving forward and saying that they were going to do what we've always done and defend any country that was attacked."

Watch Scarborough critique Trump's speech below. Becca Stanek

9:38 a.m. ET
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The number of nonimmigrant visas issued to people in Muslim-majority countries declined steeply in April, Politico reported after analyzing data posted this week by the State Department. In nearly 50 Muslim-majority countries, 20 percent fewer nonimmigrant visas were issued in April compared to the monthly average issued in 2016. These drop-offs were noted in spite of the fact that President Trump's immigration executive order, which temporarily bans travel from multiple Muslim-majority countries, is held up in court.

In the six countries — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen — affected by Trump's second immigration executive order, the number of nonimmigrant visas plummeted 55 percent in April compared to last year's averages. In just Arab countries, nonimmigrant visas dropped almost 30 percent in April.

William Cocks, a spokesperson for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, argued that visa demand "is cyclical" and "not uniform throughout the year," but three immigration experts told Politico the declines likely weren't purely coincidental. "Some people may have canceled trips," said immigration lawyer Stephen Pattison. "Some people may have traveled last year but not this year. But I think it would be naive to assume that’s what's going on in Washington isn't having an effect on consular adjudications."

The State Department did not publish the number of visa applications submitted or rejected, so Politico was unable to extrapolate whether the drops were because the U.S. government is denying more visa applicants, or because fewer people want to visit Trump's America.

Read more about the effects of Trump's travel ban in Muslim-majority countries — and worldwide — at Politico. Becca Stanek

9:22 a.m. ET

Award-winning author and poet Denis Johnson died Thursday at the age of 67, The Washington Post reports. "Denis was one of the great writers of his generation," Farrar, Straus & Giroux president and publisher Jonathan Galassi said in a statement. "He wrote prose with the imaginative concentration and empathy of the poet he was."

Johnson is best known for his hazy, freewheeling collection of linked stories, Jesus' Son, and he won the 2007 National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his Vietnam War novel, Tree of Smoke. His most recent novel, The Laughing Monsters, was published in 2014.

"No American novelist since William Burroughs has so flagrantly risked 'insensitivity' in an effort to depict the pathology of addiction," The New York Times wrote of Johnson in 1992.

"My ear for the diction and rhythms of poetry was trained by — in chronological order — Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, the guitar solos of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and T.S. Eliot," Johnson once said. "Other influences come and go, but those I admire the most and those I admired the earliest (I still admire them) have something to say in every line I write." Jeva Lange

9:03 a.m. ET
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Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel is looking to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown for his Senate seat in November 2018. Only some conservatives in Ohio, including allies of Gov. John Kasich, are failing to work up much enthusiasm for the Trump loyalist, BuzzFeed News reports. They have another conservative in mind: J.D. Vance, the bestselling author of Hillbilly Elegy.

Vance's book has been credited as "key to understanding distressed pockets of Appalachia and the white working-class voters who carried Trump to the White House," BuzzFeed News writes. And Vance, 32, has long been suspected of trying to nudge his way into politics; his current project is a nonprofit, Our Ohio Renewal, that addresses local problems such as the opioid crisis.

What's more, "the donors are kind of wishy-washy on Josh [Mandel]," one Republican activist told BuzzFeed News. But Vance "resonates with everyday mom-and-pop voters. He taps into an undercurrent of Americana. He could beat Sherrod Brown in a heartbeat."

Former Kasich adviser Jai Chabria, who is working with Vance, agreed that "since J.D. has moved back to Ohio and begun traveling the state, he has clearly generated a tremendous amount of interest."

But Chabria refused to sate anyone's curiosity about if Vance will run for the Senate. "There is plenty of time to have that conversation at the right time," he said. Jeva Lange

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