Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 31, 2017

Putin slashes U.S. diplomatic staff in retaliation for sanctions, Maduro declares victory in Venezuela, and more


Putin slashes U.S. diplomatic staff in retaliation for sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. must reduce its diplomatic staff in his country by 755 people, down from about 1,210 U.S. and Russian employees to 455. The cuts, due to take effect Sept. 1, came in retaliation for Congress' overwhelming approval of new sanctions against Russia, and President Trump's indication he will sign the bill into law, although he had lobbied against them. The moves mark an escalation of tensions over Moscow's meddling in last year's presidential election. Moscow announced Friday that expulsions were coming, but the aggressive nature of Putin's announcement suggested that President Trump's push to improve relations with Russia has hit a wall, as federal investigations intensify over Moscow's efforts to influence the election, and possible collusion by Trump associates.


Maduro declares election victory as opposition calls for more protests

Venezuela's National Electoral Council said that 8,089,320 people, or 41.53 percent of registered voters, participated in Sunday's election for a new constitutional assembly with the power to rewrite the South American nation's constitution. Embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who called the vote, declared victory, saying the balloting was "a vote for the revolution." Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said the election was a sham, and participation was actually less than 15 percent. Violent protests on election day left at least 10 people dead. The opposition, which says the election is pushing Venezuela closer to a dictatorship, called for more anti-Maduro protests on Monday. The Trump administration is threatening sanctions if the assembly is created.


Trump and Abe discuss North Korea's 'grave and growing threat'

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke Monday about the "grave and growing threat" both countries agreed that North Korea poses to the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and other nations, the White House said in a statement. The call came after North Korea on Friday tested a long-range missile for the second time in July. A spokesman for Japan's Chief Cabinet said Trump and Abe did not speak about military action against North Korea, or what "red line" North Korea would have to cross to escalate the situation. On Sunday, the U.S. tested a missile defense system and flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula accompanied by South Korean and Japanese fighters.


House lawmakers set to unveil ObamaCare fixes as Trump renews call for repeal

A coalition of 40 House Republicans and Democrats on Monday plan to unveil a list of ObamaCare fixes, hoping that lawmakers will embrace a bipartisan effort to improve the existing health-care law following the failure last week of Senate Republicans' effort to repeal and replace it. President Trump on Sunday called on Republicans to keep pushing for repeal, tweeting: "Don't give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace." Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said during Sunday TV interviews that the administration could take matters into its own hands and tweak ObamaCare regulations it believes are driving up health-care costs. "We're going to look at every single one of those rules and regulations, all 1,442 of them," Price said on ABC's This Week.


Suicide bomber attacks Iraqi embassy in Kabul

A suicide bomber destroyed the gate to Iraq's embassy in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on Monday. Security forces battled three gunmen who entered the compound after the blast, said Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the third coordinated attack in Kabul in recent weeks. No information on casualties was immediately released. Last week, a Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 24 people in Kabul, including 18 employees of the Ministry of Mines.


Saudi Arabia calls Qatar comments on holy sites 'declaration of war'

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, on Sunday accused Qatar of calling for Saudi rulers to "internationalize" the holy sites of the Muslim hajj pilgrimage, and said the demand amounted to "a declaration of war against the kingdom." Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain already have issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, including ending its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Al Jazeera TV news channel, and cooling its relations with Iran. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said his country had made no official demands regarding the hajj, although Qatar did accuse Saudi leaders of politicizing the hajj and complained to a United Nations religious freedom watchdog about obstacles faced by Qatari pilgrims this year.


Tesla stock rises after first Model 3 deliveries

Tesla's stock rose by 1.6 percent in pre-market trading on Monday in the first trading day since the electric-car company delivered its first Model 3 mass-market sedans. Tesla is scheduled to report quarterly earnings after the market close on Aug. 2, and analysts expect another loss. Investors are paying closer attention, however, to the performance of the Model 3, which with a base price of $35,000 is far cheaper than Tesla's previous offerings and is the key to helping the company become a bigger automaker. The Model 3 has been getting some stellar reviews, boosting expectations and buoying the stock.


Mayor of Philippines town killed in raid

Reynaldo Parojinog, the mayor of Ozamiz in the southern Philippines, was killed in a firefight at his home during coordinated police raids of suspected drug traffickers. Parajinog's wife and 10 other people died in the raids. The country's controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, had accused Parojinog, his daughter, and more than 150 Philippine officials of being involved in the drug trade in a televised speech last August. Parojinog's daughter, Ozamiz Deputy Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez, was one of the "scores" of people arrested in the raids, said Ernesto Abella, a Duterte spokesman.


Finnish icebreaker completes earliest Northwest Passage trip

The Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica set a record Sunday for the earliest transit through the Northwest Passage, the icy route linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The passage has long been mostly blocked with sea ice, but the frozen obstacles have been melting earlier each year in one of the most visible signs of global warming. The previous earliest navigation through the Northwest Passage occurred in 2008, when a Canadian Coast Guard ship, Louis L. St-Laurent, left St. John's in Newfoundland on July 5 and reached the Beaufort Sea off Point Barrow on July 30. The Nordica made a longer trip, leaving Vancouver on July 5 and reaching Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, on July 29.


Selig one of five newest inductees to baseball Hall of Fame

Major League Baseball's commissioner emeritus, Bud Selig, was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, becoming the first living commissioner to win the honor since Ford Frick in 1970. Over 22 years, Selig helped the league increase its television revenue even as viewership declined, and he backed the toughest drug-testing policies in professional sports after being accused of responding too slowly to baseball's steroid crisis. Four others were inducted with Selig in the Class of 2017 — longtime club executive and friend John Schuerholz, and former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.


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Inside Biden's call with Putin

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Putin and Biden.
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