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March 15, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departs Wednesday for a three-nation, four-day visit to Asia, starting in Japan, moving to South Korea, and finishing in China. The focus of all three stops is expected to be North Korea, which has ratcheted up tensions in the region by test-firing several medium-range ballistic missiles toward Japan.

In Tokyo, Tillerson will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, and will seek to reassure Japan that the Trump administration will stay engaged. He will carry similar assurances about North Korea to Seoul, which is in political upheaval after the impeachment and removal of President Park Geun-hye last week. Her successor after May 9 elections is expected to be a liberal candidate seeking a more conciliatory posture toward Pyongyang. In Beijing, Tillerson will lay the groundwork for President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Washington, and he's expected to urge China to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear belligerence.

Breaking with 50 years of tradition, Tillerson isn't bringing the diplomatic press corps with him on his airplane, or even a few "pool" reporters, as he did on his first two official trips abroad. Originally, the State Department said that Tillerson, who has kept an unusually low profile, would travel with no reporters, citing his small plane and calling it a cost-saving measure — though reporters pay market price for their seats, costing taxpayers nothing. But now he is flying with one journalist, Erin McPike of the conservative Independent Journal Review. The State Department Correspondents' Association said Wednesday that it is "disappointed" Tillerson isn't bringing even a single pool reporter on his plane.

U.S. reporters will still cover Tillerson's three stops, flying commercially and meeting up with him in each capital. You can watch three of them, from CNN, offer a preview of Tillerson's Asia trip in the video below. Peter Weber

7:43 a.m. ET

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler was arrested in Germany on Monday, Reuters reports, in the latest fallout from the diesel-emissions cheating scandal at the automaker's parent company, Volkswagen. "We confirm that Mr. Stadler was arrested this morning," a VW spokesman said Monday, noting that Stadler was presumed innocent like any suspect. Audi made no immediate comment. The arrest came as Munich prosecutors expand their investigation into the scandal to look at possible fraud and false advertising at Audi, VW's luxury brand. VW shares were down about 1.6 percent from Friday's closing price. Harold Maass

7:28 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

The Trump administration is facing a growing wave of criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike in response to its new "zero tolerance" policy, which involves the separation of migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The administration is "using the grief, the tears, the pain of these kids as mortar to build their wall," argued Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). In an op-ed, former first lady Laura Bush called the policy "cruel" and "immoral" and separately, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) called it "contrary to our values in this country." Even Melania Trump has instructed "both sides" to govern "with heart."

President Trump has repeatedly and falsely tried to pin the "zero tolerance" policy, which was announced by his attorney general in May, on Democrats. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families in April and May alone.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insisted last week "we don't want kids to be separated from their parents." Trump will meet with House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss immigration reform. Jeva Lange

4:02 a.m. ET

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver used an annoying song performed by children to warn viewers about Chinese President Xi Jinping's consolidation of power and the cult of personality that surrounds him.

In a segment focusing solely on Xi — referred to by Chinese state media as Xi Dada, or "Big Uncle Xi" — Oliver discussed how he's riding high on the economic wave that preceded him, and two major projects: the Belt and Road initiative, which involves spending $1 trillion on infrastructure in more than 60 countries to reshape global trade with China in the middle of it all, and a crackdown on political corruption.

Those are the things that Xi wants you to know, Oliver said, not that his anti-corruption purge has targeted his rivals, with some being tortured, and that Xi "has clamped down noticeably on any form of dissent whatsoever." That includes having online censors ban phrases like "personality cult" and references to Winnie the Pooh, since some people like to mock Xi by saying he resembles everyone's favorite pantsless bear.

There's more, Oliver warns — the Chinese government is giving every citizen a social credit score, and if you're docked enough points, maybe for fraud or smoking in a non-smoking section, you won't be able to have high-speed internet or purchase plane or train tickets. As Xi is trying to expand his global influence, he's becoming more authoritarian, but don't just listen to Oliver — take it from the children he hired to sing a song all about Xi's dark side, cribbed from China's own propaganda film touting the Belt and Road initiative. Watch the video (with cursing) below, and get ready to spend all Monday humming that irritating ditty. Catherine Garcia

2:52 a.m. ET
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A troubling new study released this month by an Indian government think tank finds that 21 cities, including New Delhi, will run out of groundwater by 2020, and by 2030, about 40 percent of the population will have no access to clean drinking water.

Roughly 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme stress over water, the report said, and at least 200,000 people die every year because they do not have access to uncontaminated water. Experts say that rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are part of the problem, and so are poor choices — crops that need a lot of water are being planted in unsuitable areas, waste is being dumped in canals, and buildings are going up over bodies of water.

The report warns that without enough water, conflicts will erupt and there will be a "significant food security risk." Already, India is fighting with China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh over sharing water from rivers that cross their borders, and people in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have died in protests over Cauvery River water. The focus needs to be on sustainability, water conservationist Rajendra Singh told Al Jazeera, not charging more for water, as some are suggesting. Catherine Garcia

2:20 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Stormy Daniels' attorney has room for more clients, he announced Sunday on Twitter, specifically families separated at the border.

"If anyone knows of a parent that has had their child taken from them at the border and not returned, please have them contact me as I am entering this fight," he said. "This outrageous conduct must be brought to an immediate end." The Trump administration is arresting adults caught crossing the border illegally and charging them with federal crimes, leading to their children being taken from them and placed in government custody.

Avenatti posted his offer in response to a photo of Saturday's New York Daily News cover showing a crying 2-year-old girl from Honduras at the border, and also shared a message for President Trump's senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. "Congrats, the separation policy that you sold to your boss Mr. Trump will result in images that will crater you both," he tweeted. "We will ensure you will never escape them. In your fascist zeal, you forgot that mothers are mothers first, regardless of their politics." Catherine Garcia

1:47 a.m. ET
David Caltabiano/KABB/WOAI via AP

On Sunday, five people were killed in southern Texas when the SUV they were in crashed during a pursuit with Border Patrol agents and a sheriff's deputy, authorities said.

Dimmit County Sheriff Marion Boyd said there were 14 people in the SUV, which skidded off the road and flipped over several times. Most of the passengers were ejected from the vehicle, with four dying at the scene and one at the hospital. Several others were injured. The SUV was going at least 100 mph when it crashed.

The Border Patrol said an agent suspected a "smuggling event" was underway when the SUV was spotted driving down the road, flanked by two other vehicles. Agents stopped the two cars and arrested multiple people from both vehicles, but the SUV would not pull over for agents and later a sheriff's deputy who took over the chase right before the crash, The Associated Press reports. Boyd said the driver and one passenger, who both survived, are believed to be U.S. citizens, and the rest undocumented. "This, I think, is a perfect example of why our borders need to be secured," he said. Catherine Garcia

1:15 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former first lady Laura Bush is criticizing the Trump administration's policy of separating parents accused of illegally crossing the border from their children, and believes the United States government "should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores" and "tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso."

In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Sunday night, Bush noted that as someone living in Texas, a border state, she can "appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart." From April 19 to May 31, the Department of Homeland Security sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care, and Bush said photos that have emerged showing kids at these detention centers are "eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history."

People of all political stripes "agree that our immigration system isn't working," she continued, "but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer." Bush believes Americans have "an obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place," and is certain that the country can "find a kinder, more compassionate, and even moral answer" to the crisis. Read the entire op-ed at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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