Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 8, 2017

Trump and Putin hold first in-person meeting, U.S. isolated in G-20 climate negotiations, and more


Trump and Putin hold first in-person meeting

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for more than two hours Friday at the G-20 summit in Germany, their first face-to-face meeting. Trump reportedly pressed the question of the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 election, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump accepted Putin's assurances of Russian innocence. U.S. officials have already disputed that characterization. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Putin's denial was a "substantial hindrance" to U.S.-Russian relations going forward, but overall Trump and Putin had "positive chemistry," sharing a joke at the media's expense. Trump on Saturday called the meeting "tremendous."


U.S. isolated in G-20 climate negotiations

World leaders gathered at the G-20 summit in Hamburg are due to issue a joint statement Saturday, but negotiators are stalled over the question of how to address the Trump administration's isolated take on climate change. The assembled nations were able to agree on language about trade despite President Trump's vocal skepticism of many existing trade agreements, but environmental issues have been more difficult given his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. Comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday suggested the final statement may have to acknowledge opposing perspectives.


Coalition forces declare 'imminent' victory over ISIS in Mosul

The end of Islamic State occupation of Mosul, the terrorist group's last major stronghold in Iraq, is "imminent" after a months-long battle, U.S.-supported Iraqi coalition forces said Saturday. The victory is a major strategic blow against ISIS, which is steadily losing territory in Iraq and Syria. While many Iraqi soldiers celebrated the win, for residents of Mosul joy is dulled by the destruction and civilian casualties long-term fighting has produced. ISIS used civilians as human shields, and the Pentagon confirmed Friday U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed more than 600 innocents. Independent estimates put that number much higher.


U.S. and Russia agree to southwest Syria cease-fire

The U.S. and Russia agreed to a cease-fire in southwest Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced Friday shortly after the meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Jordan and Israel have also agreed to the cease-fire, which is slated to take effect Sunday at noon Damascus time. Though both Washington and Moscow are fighting against the Islamic State in Syria, they have opposing alliances in the Syrian civil war, with Russia backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. supporting rebel groups pushing for Assad's ouster.


GOP leadership faces reinvigorated opposition to health bill

After failing to garner enough support for a vote on Senate Republicans' health-care bill before the July 4 recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will resume negotiations next week on his plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. During Congress' week-long break, opposition within the upper chamber has only strengthened, while conservative advocacy groups ratchet up calls for the GOP to follow through on its health-care policy promises. McConnell warned Thursday that if Republicans fail to pass the bill, they will have to work with Democrats to take "some kind of action."


U.S. flies bombers over Korea, plans missile defense test

The United States Air Force flew bombers over the Korean Peninsula Thursday and Friday in a show of force responding to North Korea's recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) theoretically capable of striking Alaska. B-1 Lancer bombers and US F-16 fighters based in Guam were joined by planes from the South Korean and Japanese militaries to communicate the U.S. and her allies "are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces." The Pentagon is also planning to test its THAAD missile defense system in Alaska in coming days.


Intelligence agencies say hackers are targeting U.S. nuclear facilities

A joint report issued by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and obtained by The New York Times reveals hackers have been targeting employees of nuclear power plants and other energy facilities, apparently attempting to map their computer networks for future attacks. Two unnamed U.S. officials told NBC the feds suspect Russian hackers — or perhaps hackers from another country imitating Russian technique — in at least one attempted attack. The report does not say how many facilities have been breached or whether the hackers are trying to steal company secrets or simply cause chaos.


Only Arkansas has complied with Trump's voter data request

Arkansas is the sole exception to the overwhelming majority of state governments that have refused to fully comply with President Trump's request for an exhaustive set of voter data via the new Election Integrity Commission to investigate Trump's allegations of massive voter fraud in 2016. While most states continue to raise concerns about legality, privacy, and data security, Arkansas submitted its voter data Thursday, the Justice Department said Friday. It is unclear whether the state supplied the full data set requested, including the last four digits of voters' Social Security numbers and a 10-year voting history.


Pence touches equipment marked 'do not touch' at NASA

During a visit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence was photographed touching a piece of equipment directly below a sign reading, "Critical Space Flight Hardware. 'DO NOT TOUCH.'" The image went viral online, and Pence joined the conversation with some self-deprecation Friday, apologizing with a joke that he touched it on a dare from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was also present. "It was OK to touch the surface," NASA tweeted in reply. "Those are just day-to-day reminder signs. We were going to clean it anyway. It was an honor to host you!"


Spider-Man: Homecoming expected to score $100 million opening weekend

Spider-Man: Homecoming is on track for a blockbuster opening weekend, with experts projecting the film will rake in at least $100 million in the U.S. and as much as $200 million worldwide. The latest installment in the Marvel series previewed Thursday night to strong reviews, with 48 percent calling it "excellent" and 38 percent rating it "very good." The Spider-Man flick, which stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker, also marks the weekend's sole major release, giving it a strong lead over likely second-place contender Despicable Me 3, which is projected to bring in $39 million in its second weekend.


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