Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 4, 2018

China's Xi Jinping poised to extend his rule indefinitely, Trump threatens to escalate trade war with Europe, and more


China's Xi Jinping poised to extend his rule indefinitely

The Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee introduced a proposal last week to remove the presidential term limit constraining the rule of President Xi Jinping. The constitutional amendment is expected to be overwhelmingly passed Monday, permitting Xi to extend his rule indefinitely. The change has been subject to criticism on Chinese social media, and it marks a major undoing of reforms implemented since the era of Mao Zedong. President Trump commented on the plan at a fundraiser in Florida Saturday, saying it is "great" Xi will be "president for life," and musing, "Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday." The White House did not respond to a request to clarify whether Trump was joking.


Trump threatens to escalate trade war with Europe

President Trump responded on Saturday to reports that foreign governments are weighing their options following his declaration of a trade war last week. "The United States has an $800 Billion Dollar Yearly Trade Deficit because of our 'very stupid' trade deals and policies," Trump wrote in an initial tweet, claiming the United States is mocked and impoverished by our trade partners. "If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S.," he continued in a second post.


Mueller probing possible UAE influence

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling has expanded to include possible efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to influence U.S. politics, The New York Times reported Saturday. Mueller's team is investigating a Lebanese-American businessman, George Nader, who has served as an adviser to the UAE's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Nader had multiple meetings at the White House in 2017, speaking with President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner as well as former chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Neither Nader nor the White House commented on the report.


Trump jokes about media, Korea, himself at Gridiron Dinner

President Trump delivered a joke-filled address at the Gridiron Dinner in Washington Saturday night, where he was joined by "members of the opposition party" — the press — and "some Democrats," too. The annual dinner is similar to the White House Corespondents' Dinner, which Trump skipped in 2017. "My staff was concerned that I couldn't do self-deprecating humor. And I told them not to worry, nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do," he quipped Saturday. "I won't rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un," he said of North Korea policy. "As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that's his problem, not mine."


South Korean envoy to visit Pyongyang this week

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has selected two high-ranking officials to lead a delegation of 10 envoys to visit North Korea this week. Chung Eui-yong, head of Seoul's National Security Council, and Suh Hoon, South Korea's top intelligence official, will stay in Pyongyang for two days and are expected to speak with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They will be the first South Korean officials to meet Kim since he took power following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. After the trip, the envoys will head to Washington to debrief U.S. allies.


West Virginia teachers prep for a 3rd week of strikes

West Virginia's teachers and school service personnel have been on strike since Feb. 22, and they said Saturday the strike will continue — and public schools will stay closed — at least through Monday. Unions representing the teachers and other school workers negotiated a 5 percent raise with Gov. Jim Justice (R), but the state Senate voted to approve only a 4 percent raise. The state House already endorsed the 5 percent plan, and the teachers have pledged to stay on strike until the bills are reconciled at 5 percent. Both houses are controlled by Republicans.


Northeast flooding, power outages continue

About 1.5 million people remain without electricity thanks to the powerful storm that swept through the Northeast on Friday, and dangerous flooding persists in Massachusetts and surrounding states. "It looks like a war zone," said Becky Smith of her town of Scituate, Massachusetts, where waves rose high enough to crash over two-story houses. "It's a lot of debris, big rocks and pieces of wood littering the streets." Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia have all declared states of emergency, and the National Weather Service warns flood risk continues in coastal areas.


Coalition deal secures Germany's Merkel a 4th term

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday secured her fourth term in office when the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to continue forming a coalition government with her Christian Democrats and their Bavarian counterpart. Merkel has been serving as acting chancellor since the fall, when an inconclusive election left Germany without a majority government. "I congratulate the SPD on this clear result and look forward to continuing to work together for the good of our country," Merkel said in a statement on Twitter. France's President Emmanuel Macron also cheered the agreement.


Man commits suicide outside the White House

An unidentified man committed suicide with a gun outside the White House Saturday afternoon, the Secret Service reported. "The subject approached the vicinity of the North White House fence line and removed a concealed handgun and fired several rounds, none of which appear at this time to have been directed towards the White House," the agency said. He died of a single, self-inflicted shot to the head. The president and first lady were not home at the time of the incident. The Secret Service is concealing the man's name until his family has been notified.


Oscars 2018 hosted amid #MeToo controversy

The 90th Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel Sunday evening. Expectations for the film industry's premier annual awards ceremony are uncertain, coming as it does amid months of scandal and activism in connection to the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, which have highlighted sexism and sexual misconduct in Hollywood. Favorites for the "Best Picture" title this year include Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out. The Oscars will air at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC and livestream at ABC.com.


The ongoing controversy in Israel over judicial reforms
Protest in Isreal.

The ongoing controversy in Israel over judicial reforms

Putin's plan to move nukes to Belarus irritated the West, 'humiliated' China
Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko, Xi Jinping
Nuclear fallout

Putin's plan to move nukes to Belarus irritated the West, 'humiliated' China

Protests in Israel after Netanyahu ousts defense minister against judicial plan
Protesters in Tel Aviv on Sunday night.
crisis in israel

Protests in Israel after Netanyahu ousts defense minister against judicial plan

Hong Kong sees 1st protest in years under strict guidelines
Hong Kong protesters march for the first time in years.
Protests Return

Hong Kong sees 1st protest in years under strict guidelines

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Pope Francis updates sex abuse laws for Catholic Church
Pope Francis.
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