Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 21, 2017

Ten sailors missing after Navy destroyer collides with oil tanker, Americans gather to watch solar eclipse, and more 


Navy ship collides with oil tanker, 10 sailors missing

A Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a 600-foot oil tanker near Singapore early Monday, suffering "significant damage" to its port side, the Navy said. Rescuers from several nations searched for 10 missing sailors, and four sailors were transferred by helicopter to a Singapore hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. The ship was able to continue to port under its own power. The ship was making a routine stop after completing a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation by sailing past China's man-made islands in disputed South China Sea waters. The incident occurred days after the Navy relieved the top commanders of the USS Fitzgerald, which collided with a merchant ship off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.


Americans coast-to-coast head outdoors to glimpse solar eclipse

Millions of Americans flocked to spots in a narrow corridor from Oregon to South Carolina to watch a total eclipse of the sun Monday — the first one visible in the U.S. from coast to coast in 99 years. With 200 million people within a day's drive of the path of totality, the event was expected to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history. Communities and schools organized eclipse-watching parties from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. "It's one of those 'check the box' kind of things in life," said Hilary O'Hollaren, who drove 30 miles from Portland with her two teenagers to camp out and watch the moon completely blot out the midday sun. The eclipse moved off the East Coast just before 3 p.m. ET Monday.


Spanish police say driver in Barcelona attack might have fled to France

Spanish police said Sunday that they believed that Younes Abouyaaqoub, the 22-year-old Moroccan-born man media identified as the suspected driver of the van that mowed down pedestrians in Barcelona last week, could have crossed the border into France since the attack. "We don't have any specific information on this but it cannot be ruled out," Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero said, although he said he could not confirm who was behind the wheel during the attack, which left 13 dead and scores more wounded. Spanish police set up 800 checkpoints across the Catalonia region and along the French border on Sunday as they searched for Abouyaaqoub and other suspects, who reportedly had planned to attack the iconic Sagrada Familia cathedral. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.


Trump to announce plan for 'path forward' in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed Sunday that President Trump had made a decision about the "path forward" in Afghanistan. The White House said Trump would announce his strategy Monday night. Trump is expected to say he will boost troop levels, adding a few thousand to the 8,400 troops already in the country to support and train Afghan forces fighting a resurgent Taliban and facing rising attacks by Islamic State militants. Trump discussed Afghanistan on Friday at Camp David with Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Vice President Pence. Among the options considered were sending 3,800 more U.S. troops, and replacing American military forces with private contractors.


U.S. and South Korea start annual military drills over North Korea's objections

The U.S. and South Korea began annual joint military drills on Monday, despite condemnation from North Korea, which said the exercises would amount to pouring "gasoline on fire." Washington says the drills are meant to enhance the defense of South Korea, but a Sunday editorial in North Korea's official government newspaper said the drills would push tensions closer to an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war." U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday that a reduction of the number of U.S. troops participating, from 25,000 last year to 17,000 this year, was not related to increased recent tensions with North Korea over its recent missile and nuclear weapons tests.


GOP groups have paid Trump businesses nearly $1.3 million this year

Republican groups have paid nearly $1.3 million to companies owned by President Trump this year, new Federal Election Commission records show. The Washington Post analyzed the records, and found that at least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties, and the Republican Governors Association have spent more than $473,000 combined at hotels or golf resorts owned by Trump, and his companies have received $793,000 from the Republican National Committee and Trump's campaign committee. These payments have helped properties like Trump's private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, which in recent days has lost business over Trump's reaction to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.


U.S., Mexico, and Canada finish first round of NAFTA renegotiations

The Trump administration wrapped up the first round of NAFTA renegotiations with Canada and Mexico on Sunday. Although the initial trade deal took years to negotiation, the three countries' trade representatives said in a joint statement that they would press forward with talks at a rapid pace, with the next round running from Sept. 1 to Sept. 5. The three countries are aiming to reach a deal on a full modernization of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement by early 2018. President Trump has criticized the trade pact as unfair to the U.S., threatening to scrap it without major changes to reduce U.S. trade deficits and reverse what he said had been losses of thousands of U.S. jobs to Mexico, where companies pay lower wages.


Trump reportedly disbanding climate change panel

The Trump administration is disbanding the federal advisory panel on climate change, The Washington Post reports. The charter for the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment expired on Sunday, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's acting administrator, Ben Friedman, on Friday informed the committee's chair it would not be renewed. The group worked on the National Climate Assessment, a mandated quadrennial report. A draft of the report was leaked last month to The New York Times, which reported that scientists working on it feared the Trump administration would try to bury its conclusions. The draft says Americans are already feeling effects from climate change that is "extremely likely" to have been caused largely by human activity.


More charities cancel Mar-a-Lago galas over Trump comments

Charities over the weekend continued to cancel fundraising events at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, citing objections to Trump's statements blaming "both sides" for the deadly violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally. The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society canceled galas at Mar-a-Lago, following similar announcements by the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Susan G. Komen on Friday. At least nine of the 16 galas and dinners scheduled in the next winter social season have now been canceled. The founder of the Susan G. Komen organization, Nancy G. Brinker, wrote on Facebook that there was no excuse for hedging criticism of racism, saying: "There are no 'sides.' They are always wrong. Period."


Legendary comedian Jerry Lewis dies at 91

Iconic comedian Jerry Lewis, one of the most influential figures in 20th century entertainment, died Sunday morning at his home in Las Vegas, his agent confirmed. He was 91. Lewis was perhaps best known for his comedy partnership with Dean Martin, but after their breakup in 1956 he continued a slapstick career that spanned half a century. Lewis starred in movies like 1960's The Bellboy and 1963's The Nutty Professor, and also worked as a singer, screenwriter, director, and producer. Offscreen, he was a prominent supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, headlining its annual fundraising telethon for decades and raising some $2.6 billion for the cause. Lewis is survived by his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, and six children.


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