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July 1, 2014

Are you excited for Tuesday's U.S. vs. Belgium World Cup match? Well, you're probably alone then — so very, very alone.

It's no secret that Americans aren't nearly as jazzed about the World Cup as residents of other nations. But a new Pew survey puts a little perspective on our collective indifference to the beautiful game. In the survey, only 17 percent of adults say they are following the World Cup "very closely." For comparison's sake, 21 percent are following the story about the IRS losing internal emails; 25 percent are tracking the news out of Iraq. --Jon Terbush

11:03 a.m. ET

Fox News president Bill Shine may be the next big network figure to get the ax, New York's Gabriel Sherman reports. While the network deals with the fallout from dismissing its top host, Bill O'Reilly, and a raft of lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and racial intolerance, Shine is reportedly feeling the squeeze. Citing three sources familiar with the conversation, Sherman reported Thursday that Shine "recently asked Rupert [Murdoch]'s sons James and Lachlan — the CEO and co-chairman, respectively of network parent company 21st Century Fox — to release a statement in support of him, but they refused to do so."

Shine wanted the backing of the Murdochs to solidify his position at the helm of the company at a time of "withering press coverage," Sherman writes. He adds: "By refusing to back Shine at this tumultuous moment for the network, the Murdochs may finally be signaling that they're prepared to make the sweeping management changes they've so far resisted after forcing out CEO Roger Ailes last summer." Ailes left the network amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment, all of which he has vehemently denied. (O'Reilly has also denied all accusations against him, calling them "completely unfounded.")

The trouble with dismissing a top network executive, however, is two-fold: Shine has been a beacon of stability for a network mired in controversy over the last year, and he also "may simply know too much about Fox News' inner workings," Sherman says. Read his full report at New York. Kimberly Alters

10:55 a.m. ET

President Trump's former campaign adviser, Carter Page, is one of several characters to have fallen under intense scrutiny as authorities investigate Russia's influence on the 2016 presidential election. Page had been on the FBI's radar since a Russian spy tried to recruit him in 2013, and when he convinced the Trump campaign to allow him to travel to Moscow to give a Russia-friendly speech in July, the FBI took notice and began to dig into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

But Page claims the FBI's investigation made him "the victim of one of the most horrendous civil rights violations in recent U.S. election history." Speaking with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday, Page said that his rights were violated by the legal FISA court warrant that was obtained, he alleges, based on information in a "dodgy dossier" — a reference to the widely-circulated but unverified espionage document that claims Russian President Vladimir Putin ran a secret campaign to get President Trump elected.

Mediaite adds that "for some reason, the ex-Trump adviser also brought up the recently released book about Clinton campaign dirt, Shattered, to further make his case that he was unfairly targeted, something that left Cuomo a bit confused." Watch Page's oddball defense below. Jeva Lange

10:44 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Two American soldiers were killed overnight in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nangarhar in an operation against an Islamic State affiliate, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Thursday.

The operation targeted the Afghanistan wing of the terrorist group, known as ISIS-K. An additional Special Operations Forces soldier was wounded in combat, but is expected to live, CNN reports.

The Nangarhar region is a hotbed for ISIS, and has been the site of many U.S.-Afghan joint counterterrorism operations. It is also near where the U.S. dropped the so-called "mother of all bombs" earlier this month. Jeva Lange

10:37 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The next generation of American spies may be difficult to find, said James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, on Wednesday. The trouble is twofold.

First, young Americans aren't exactly keen on mass surveillance. "We need to attract new people, new young people, to the intelligence community," Clapper said, but "they're going to say, 'You know, there's too much Big Brother. There's too much invasiveness and intrusiveness in my life, so I don't think I'm going to work here.' I worry about that."

Second, as FBI Director James Comey has complained, young Americans do like marijuana, for which intelligence agencies have little tolerance. "I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview," Comey said in 2014. Any recent marijuana use, even in states where recreational or medicinal consumption is legal, runs afoul of hiring practices at the FBI as well as the CIA, a policy that shrinks the recruiting pool considerably in an age when 4 in 10 Americans will cop to trying pot. Bonnie Kristian

10:23 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump's much-vaunted plan to implement "one of the greatest military buildups in American history" to make the military "bigger and better and stronger than ever before" looks increasingly unlikely, Politico reports. Trump has called for a $30 billion defense spending increase for 2017 and a $54 billion bump for 2018, but as congressional budget negotiations continue and a government shutdown looms, he may not get what he wants.

Defense contractors, eager for fresh largesse, are "certainly frustrated that the initial hopefulness has not borne out, or at least not borne out yet," Doug Berenson of Avascent, a defense consulting firm, told Politico. "A lot of people in the industry, myself included, sort of allowed ourselves to get ahead of ourselves in the first weeks following the election without fully realizing the budget politics that have been with us for the last five or six years are not completely gone."

The U.S. military budget is already the largest in the world, surpassing the military spending of the next seven nations combined. Despite consistent evidence of large-scale waste and fraud, the Pentagon's books have never undergone a comprehensive audit. Bonnie Kristian

10:03 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The State Department has about 200 high-ranking positions left unfilled during President Trump's transition into power because those roles may soon be eliminated, said department representative R. C. Hammond in a New York Times report published Thursday.

The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut to the State budget, and even a smaller restructuring would make it nonsensical to temporarily fill positions that require Senate confirmation, Hammond argued, employing a shipwreck exploration analogy. "The first step was to find out where the Titanic was, and then it was to map out where everything else is," he said. "I think we're still in the process of mapping out the entire ocean floor so that we understand the full picture."

The mapping process here is a listening tour by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in coming days will personally explore the State Department's current structure to determine what he would like to change. Critics from left and right alike have suggested this delay — which means the roles that are retained won't be filled until 2018 — is a dangerous decision that leaves diplomatic neophytes at the helm of one of the most important Cabinet agencies. Bonnie Kristian

8:49 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers are privately miffed at having been shut out of the White House's tax reform efforts, and many are none too pleased with what they heard yesterday. "It's not tax reform," one Republican aide told CNN. "Not even close."

Tax leaders on the Hill did not get a notice before the Trump administration announced it would be proposing its reform, multiple aides said, and the White House's proposal pointedly excludes a border adjustment tax on imports that was desired by Republicans. "We get that [the White House wants to] make a big show of leading the way on this, but that's not how this is supposed to work," an aide told CNN. The same aide added that House and Senate tax writers' work is ongoing, and that they are still attempting to reach an agreement about how to proceed.

"It's really easy to talk about big cuts," complained another aide. "We're about solutions. They aren't to that point yet, either on the policy or on the personnel level, and it's both obvious and disruptive to the process."

Publicly, at least, Republicans aren't expressing their annoyance aloud. A measured House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday: "Progress is being made and we're moving and getting on the same page."

Read an analysis of Trump's tax plan that wasn't at The Week. Jeva Lange

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