America's 2018 elections are still vulnerable to Russia's meddling, after 4 years of false starts, stalemates
In early 2014, U.S. officials intercepted a classified document drafted by Russia's GRU military intelligence branch that laid out how Moscow used fake online personas and social media to spread disinformation to further its military and strategic goals, giving "the Americans their first glimpse of the power of Russia's post-Cold War playbook," The Washington Post reports. When the Russian threat came into focus in 2016, Obama officials "scrambled to draw up options to fight back," the Post says, but "in the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse, or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions."
Late last year, President Barack Obama signed a sweeping presidential cyberthreat order, prompting U.S. spy agencies to draw up some specific operations to fight Russian disinformation, The Washington Post reports. Some key Trump security advisers took the warnings from their Obama counterparts seriously, the Post says, but a year later, "the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act," with President Trump among those who "play down the effects of Russian interference and complain that the U.S. intelligence report on the 2016 election has been weaponized by Democrats seeking to undermine Trump."
This continued indecision leaves the 2018 and 2020 elections vulnerable to Russian disinformation prowess, but the problem dates back at least 25 years, the Post reports:
The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election trace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War, when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a "third-rate regional power" that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery. [The Washington Post]
Crazy Rich Asians beat shark movie The Meg to take top spot in its opening weekend, bringing in $25 million in the U.S. box office versus $21.2 million for The Meg and $13.6 million for the No. 3 film, Mile 22. Crazy Rich Asians is the first romantic comedy in three years to win at the box office and the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. The film made $34 million in five days, easily recouping the $30 million it cost to create. "This movie is so culturally significant and so unique in that there hasn't been a cast that's predominately Asian [in years]," said Jeff Goldstein, head of U.S. distribution for Warner Bros. "This is one of those few projects that a whole studio comes together with lots of passion."
At about 5:30 a.m. in Ankara, Turkey's capital, a gunman in a white car fired six shots at the U.S. Embassy, the Ankara governor said in a statement, The embassy was closed for the Muslim Did al-Adha holiday, and nobody was injured in the attack. "We can confirm a security incident took place at the U.S. Embassy early this morning," said embassy spokesman David Gainer. "We thank the Turkish National Police for their rapid response."
Tensions are high between Turkey and the U.S. over Turkey's imprisonment of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, which prompted President Trump to double tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports just as the Turkish lira was weakening. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused America of waging economic warfare and steered blame for rising prices and other economic problems toward the U.S. There are fears that Turkey's troubles could spread, causing widespread global economic damage. Peter Weber
On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Rudy Giuliani finessed his and his client President Trump's "collusion is not a crime" talking point to attempted collusion is not a crime. In the same interview where Giuliani declared that "truth isn't truth," host Chuck Todd asked him about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner. "The meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about [Hillary] Clinton," Giuliani said, and when Todd interjected that Giuliani had just admitted to "attempted collusion," Giuliani laughed and disagreed.
"That was the original intention of the meeting," Giuliani said. "It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regards to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate's staff would take. If someone said, 'I have information about your opponent,' you would take that meeting." "From the Russian government?" Todd asked, incredulously. "She didn't represent the Russian government," Giuliani claimed. "All they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them, they didn't know she was a representative of the Russian government."
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 19, 2018
According to emails tweeted out by Donald Trump Jr., he was informed the meeting would be with a "Russian government attorney" offering dirt on Hillary Clinton from "the crown prosecutor of Russia," as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Also, it seems increasingly likely that whether attempting and (purportedly) failing to collude is a criminal act will be decided in court. And accepting help from foreign governments in U.S. elections is, generally speaking, illegal and not common practice. Other than that, spot-on. Peter Weber
Trump's cluelessness on trade is really hurting America, John Oliver says. Oliver's tutorial probably won't fix that.
"Trade is a subject on which our current president considers himself particularly expert," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. The problem is, President Trump "seems genuinely confused" by the basics of trade economics, including tariffs and trade deficits, he said, succinctly explaining both concepts for the edification of viewers and in case a certain president of the United States was hate-watching.
To be fair, trade is "one of the most complicated issues there is, technically, politically, and emotionally," Oliver said, but Trump gets almost everything backwards. "The overwhelming consensus among economists is that trade between countries, generally speaking, can create jobs, lower costs, and be a net benefit to both nations," he said. "Essentially, think of trade like sex: If you're doing it right, it can be good for both partners — though the odds of that happening plummet as soon as Donald Trump gets involved." For example, Trump's tariffs may create 26,280 steel and aluminum jobs, according to one estimate, and eliminate 432,747 U.S. jobs elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Trump is listening to the one economist who agrees with him, Peter Navarro, Oliver said. "We're engaged in an escalating trade war that almost no legitimate economist supports, led by a man who honestly doesn't seem to fully understand the mechanics of what he's doing, getting advice from the human equivalent of an all-caps email from your uncle. And the crazy thing is, the effect of all this is the exact opposite of what Trump says he wants. Because if you want to create jobs, you don't do that by cutting off American companies' markets and suppliers, and if you want to curb the abuses of countries like China, you don't do that by pissing off the leaders of every other nation on Earth." He made a short, over-the-top, Navarro-style film to explain trade to Trump, who probably won't see it. You, however, can watch and learn below. Peter Weber
A number of national polls have given Democrats the edge going into the 2018 midterm elections and a new CBS News poll of 57 competitive districts found a big reason Republicans appear to be struggling: women. In those 57 battleground districts, most currently held by Republicans, women say they plan to vote for a Democrat by a 12-point margin, 46 percent to 34 percent. Men, meanwhile, say they plan to vote for the Republican by an 8-point margin, 47 percent to 39 percent.
There's a huge partisan split — Republicans say they'll vote for Republicans, Democrats for Democrats. But white women have flipped to the Democrats, 42 percent versus 40 percent for Republicans; that's a reversal from 2016, when nationally, white women backed Republican candidates over Democrats, 55 percent to 43 percent. Independent women favor the Democrats this year, 38 percent to 32 percent, the poll found, and there's an education gap between college-educated white women — 53 percent who plan to vote for a Democrat versus 35 percent for the GOP candidate — and those without college degrees, who say they'll vote for the Republican 44 percent to 35 percent.
On CBS News, Cook Political Report national editor Amy Walter and CBS News polling director Anthony Salvanto explained why the defection of college-educated white women in suburban and exurban areas is so worrisome for the GOP, but said the real threat for Republicans is the enthusiasm gap between fired-up Democrats and on-the-fence Republicans. Walter also said the partisan gap appears historically large this year.
The poll was conducted by YouGov Aug. 10-16 among 4,989 registered voters in 57 swing districts. The topline results have a margin of error of ±1.8 percentage points; the results for women have a margin of error of ±2.4 points. Peter Weber
Taliban militants stopped three buses driving through Kunduz province on Monday and abducted more than 100 passengers, including women and children, Afghan authorities said.
Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of a provincial council in Kunduz, told The Associated Press he believes the fighters were trying to find government employees or members of the security forces on the buses. The area where they were abducted is controlled by the Taliban.
Abdul Rahman Aqtash, a police chief in Takhar province, said the passengers were from Takhar and Badakhshan, and headed to Kabul. On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he would be open to a ceasefire with the Taliban through the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Catherine Garcia
Hope Faith Wiggins set a goal for herself: to read 300 books before the summer was over.
The 8-year-old from Aldine, Texas, was successful, even surpassing that number; in mid-August, she had 302 books finished. She spent her entire summer with a book in her hand, and told ABC 13 she likes reading because "it's fun. It's like being inside of a whole other world. You can imagine that you're the character, and for me, one thing that happens when I read a book or watch a video is I dream about it."
Her mother told ABC 13 the "library opened up so many worlds. It was like a vacation, but inside our house." Wiggins read so many books that sometimes when her mother would suggest a title, she had to tell her she already read that book earlier. Wiggins, who said one of her favorite books is Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama's First Words to America, received a medal from her library for completing the summer reading challenge. Catherine Garcia