Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 3, 2017

Trump reluctantly signs new sanctions against Russia, Trump backs proposal to cut legal immigration by half, and more


Trump signs Russia sanctions bill but calls it flawed

President Trump signed a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia on Wednesday, although he reiterated some of his objections to the legislation, saying it was flawed and included "clearly unconstitutional provisions." The new law also steps up sanctions against Iran and North Korea over their weapons programs, but only the measures against Russia stoked controversy. Congress' veto-proof approval of the bill torpedoed Trump's effort to improve relations with Moscow, as lawmakers forced an aggressive response to Russia's annexation of Crimea, intervention in Ukraine, and meddling in last year's U.S. presidential election. Russia accused the U.S. of launching a "trade war." Earlier, Moscow retaliated by seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties in Russia and ordered the U.S. to sharply reduce its diplomatic staff in the country.


Trump backs proposal to cut legal immigration by half

President Trump on Wednesday backed a proposal to cut legal immigration by half within a decade. The bill seeks to curtail citizens' and legal residents' ability to bring family members into the U.S., and institute a merit-based system favoring skilled, educated English speakers over unskilled workers. Trump said it would demonstrate "our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first." The move was the latest in a series of initiatives Trump has taken to curb immigration. Critics were quick to condemn the plan. "Instead of catching criminals, Trump wants to tear apart communities and punish immigrant families that are making valuable contributions to our economy," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.


Dow reaches 22,000 for the first time

The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached the 22,000 mark for the first time in history on Wednesday with a boost from Apple, which gained 6 percent to an all-time high thanks to better-than-expected quarterly results and optimism over the next iPhone. It was the third time this year the blue-chip stock index pushed through a new 1,000-point mark. President Trump tweeted as the Dow neared the latest milestone, noting that the index "was 18,000 only six months ago." The Dow has surged by more than 3,600 points since Election Day, and for months analysts credited Trump's promises to deregulate businesses and cut taxes. The most recent jump, however, was fueled by a series of stellar quarterly earnings reports by major corporations, including Apple, Boeing, McDonald's, and Facebook.


Trump administration bans travel to North Korea

The Trump administration is banning travel to North Korea by U.S. passport holders starting Sept. 1, the State Department announced Wednesday. In a public notice, the State Department also urged Americans currently in the diplomatically isolated communist-run nation to leave. Journalists and humanitarian workers will be able to apply for exceptions to the policy. The U.S. telegraphed the move last month, saying it would bar Americans from going to North Korea because they risked "long-term detention" there. The ban, which makes North Korea the only country where Americans can't go, comes as tensions escalate with North Korea over its nuclear weapon and missile programs, just days after Pyongyang successfully tested a missile capable of reaching the mainland U.S.


Trump vents frustration at generals over Afghanistan

President Trump reportedly criticized the military team tasked with developing a new strategy in Afghanistan in a recent meeting, and repeatedly suggested firing Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing senior administration officials. "We aren't winning," Trump said, according to the officials. "We are losing." Trump, who has never met with Nicholson, also reportedly directed his anger at Defense Secretary James Mattis. During the two-hour meeting in the White House Situation Room, a frustrated Trump also complained about China making money off of Afghanistan's rare minerals, and tasked the advisers with finding a way to get American businesses in there quickly to get rights to the minerals.


Trump's new chief of staff reportedly told Sessions his job is secure

President Trump's new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, has told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that his job is safe, a senior U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday. Trump has harshly criticized Sessions, calling him "weak," and expressed frustration over the attorney general's decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates. The official said there had been "kind of a thaw" in Trump's feelings toward Sessions. Kelly, who has moved quickly to take charge and end the appearance of chaos in the White House, phoned Sessions to reassure him on Saturday, the day after he was named chief of staff.


Brazil's president survives suspension vote over bribery charge

Brazil's embattled president, Michel Temer, survived a key congressional vote that could have resulted in his suspension on a bribery charge on Wednesday. Temer needed just 171 members or one-third of the 513 person lower Chamber of Deputies to avoid disaster, and 263 deputies wound up supporting him, with just 227 voting against him and the rest abstaining or missing the vote altogether. Temer's triumph could be short-lived, however, as Attorney General Rodrigo Janot is expected to move on to charging Temer with obstruction of justice by the end of the month, which would prompt a second vote as the chamber's members get closer to a 2018 election in which all of their seats are on the line.


Pacific Northwest faces record-setting heat wave

A heat wave hitting the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, Portland, and other major cities, is expected to bring record heat to the region through Friday. Excessive heat warnings cover the western third of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington state. Inland temperatures are expected to reach as high as 110 degrees. "We are talking about one of the major sustained heat waves in a long time around here," writes Cliff Mass, professor of meteorology at the University of Washington. The high temperature forecast for Seattle Thursday is 100 degrees. The city has only had three triple-digit days in 123 years of record keeping, including the record high of 103 on July 29, 2009.


Tesla soars after quarterly report beats expectations

Tesla shares jumped by 8 percent in after-hours trading on Wednesday after the electric car maker posted a narrower-than-expected second-quarter net loss of $336 million, up from a $293 million lost a year ago. The company's revenue nearly doubled thanks largely to deliveries of Model S sedans and Model X SUVs. Tesla's shares have gained 52 percent since the start of the year as investors show high hopes for the company's first mass-market car, the $35,000 Model 3 sedan. Before the earnings report, the stock struggled over concerns that Tesla could face trouble with the costly ramping up of production for the Model 3, but the company's CEO, Elon Musk, said people should have "zero concern" that Tesla will reach production of 10,000 vehicles a week by the end of 2018.


Researchers successfully edit human genes in breakthrough

Scientists edited genes in human embryos to eliminate a mutation that causes the heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to a study published Wednesday. The condition affects 1 in 500 people. It is the first time researchers have successfully edited genes without any cell mutation. "It feels a bit like a 'one small step for (hu)mans, one giant leap for (hu)mankind' moment," biochemist Jennifer Doudna wrote in an email to The New York Times. The research is still a long way from clinical trials, however, which would be illegal under current law. "[T]here will be societal issues that have to be considered and discussions that are going to have to happen," said MIT's Richard Hynes. "Now's the time."


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