Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 15, 2019

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Tim O'Donnell
Hong Kong protests.
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1.

Hong Kong extradition bill on hold following protests

Mass protests in Hong Kong, which began Sunday and continued through the week, have convinced the territory's Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday to suspend a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China. The protests had turned violent with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds, prompting Lam to put a hold on the legislation, reportedly with the backing of Beijing. She did say, however, that she would not withdraw the bill. The demonstrators took to the streets initially out of concern that the proposed bill threatens Hong Kong's rule of law. A new protest was expected on Sunday and organizers have reportedly maintained that it will indeed go on as planned as they continue to call for a complete withdrawal of the bill. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

2.

Trump campaign denies internal polling data showing defeat by Biden

President Trump's internal campaign polling showed him losing in a hypothetical race against former Vice President Joe Biden in a number of battleground states, ABC News reported Friday. The polling data reportedly showed Biden with double-digit leads in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida, but GOP strategist Tony Fabrizio called reports of those numbers "incomplete and misleading." Fabrizio, who is the pollster for Trump's re-election campaign, said the data was representing a "worst-case scenario," not the predicted result. Trump has told several reporters that his internal polling shows him winning every single state he won in 2016. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told ABC News the "ancient" polls were conducted in March before recent "huge swings in the President’s favor across the 17 states we have polled." [The New York Times, ABC News]

3.

Tehran reaffirms nuclear deal ultimatum

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday affirmed Tehran will continue to cease complying with certain aspects of the 2015 nuclear deal if other signatories did not soon start showing "positive signals." Tehran announced in May it would start enriching uranium again unless other world powers ignored U.S. sanctions within 60 days. The European signatories have said they want to save the nuclear pact, but several European companies have complied with Washington's sanctions, after facing financial pressure from the U.S. "Obviously Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally," Rouhani said at a meeting with Russian, Chinese, and other Asian leaders in Tajikistan. Rouhani did not mention the recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this week. [Al Jazeera, Reuters]

4.

Court: Trump administration can't block undocumented minors from getting abortions

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that undocumented immigrant minors in federal custody cannot be blocked from getting abortions. The Trump administration tried to block an undocumented 17-year-old in federal custody from receiving an abortion in October, but the court decided she should be allowed to visit a clinic "promptly and without delay." Now, judges have ruled more broadly, deciding they were "rejecting the government's position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent." Trump administration officials implemented a policy in 2017 that banned the Office of Refugee Resettlement from allowing undocumented, unaccompanied minors to receive abortions. The judges concluded the policy violated Supreme Court precedent and placed "undue burden" on a person's right to an abortion. [Buzzfeed News]

5.

One dead, three injured after Southern California Costco shooting

A shooting occurred inside a Costco store in Corona, California, on Friday evening, police said. One person was killed and three others injured, including the alleged gunman. A man is in custody after firing his weapon inside the store, a Corona police officer confirmed, but the alleged shooter's name has yet to be released. The shooting reportedly stemmed from an argument inside the store, though the relationships between the victims and the alleged shooter remain unclear. It is not believed to be a domestic dispute. Likewise, police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the crime. The alleged gunman and the injured victims were taken to hospitals; the extent of their injuries is unknown. [CNN, The Los Angeles Times]

6.

Trump condemns Iran, lashes out at Biden, backpedals foreign dirt comments

President Trump called in to Fox & Friends on Friday morning and spoke for nearly an hour, addressing everything from Iran to the Democratic presidential candidates. Trump called Iran a "nation of terror" after blaming Iran for an attack on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. He also addressed his previous comment in which he said he'd accept information on a political candidate from a foreign government, saying "of course" he'd look at it to "know if it's bad," and if he thought anything was wrong "I'd give it to the FBI." He additionally criticized former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who are all running for president, and said the other candidates don't have a chance. [The Washington Post, The Week]

7.

Major wildlife preserve in Mozambique reports no elephants poached within last year

Niassa, one of the largest wildlife preserves on the African continent, situated in a remote region in northern Mozambique, has marked a year without a single elephant found killed by poachers. Thousands of animals have reportedly been slaughtered in the region in recent years, but the introduction of a rapid intervention police force and more assertive patrolling and response by air has apparently quelled the damage, the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which co-manages the reserve with Mozambique's government and other partners, said. Experts have called the lack of elephant poaching an extraordinary development, but despite the progress it reportedly could still take years to rebuild the elephant population in Niassa up to its former levels after aggressive poaching had cut initial numbers from around 12,000 to 3,600 in 2016. [The Associated Press]

8.

Heavy rains in forecast put south-central Plains at flood risk, threaten crops

Much of the U.S. is set to be hammered with days-long thunderstorms this weekend and into next week, reports AccuWeather. Heavy rain will put parts of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas at risk of flash floods and major river flooding. Parts of the region could receive 4 to 8 inches of rain, threatening crops. Rains and floods have already affected growing season in agricultural areas in the Plains and Midwest, and the forthcoming storms could set farmers even further back. The Northeast and southern New England will also see ongoing severe weather that ranges from dangerously strong winds to mere showers that could disrupt Father's Day plans. [AccuWeather]

9.

Machine learning reveals digitally altered photos

Adobe shared a new research project in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley on Friday, revealing a tool that can detect digital manipulation in photographs and videos. Designed to spot Photoshop's edits, the research focused on the Liquify tool — used to adjust the shape of faces and alter facial expressions. Using machine learning, researchers created a tool that correctly identified altered images 99 percent of the time, compared to the human eye's 53 percent success rate. "We ... recognize the ethical implications of our technology. Fake content is a serious and increasingly pressing issue," the company said. Although the research aims to stop the potentially harmful effects of manipulated media, Adobe has no immediate plans to turn the work into a commercial product. [The Verge, The Week]

10.

Women's World Cup forges ahead, with Canada to face New Zealand

Japan defeated Scotland in the Women's World Cup on Friday, 2-1. Italy trounced Jamaica 5-0 in the second game of the day, taking the top spot in the group over highly-ranked Australia. In the day's final contest, England blanked Argentina, 1-0. The tournament continues on Saturday with showdowns between Canada and New Zealand, and the Netherlands and Cameroon — Canada and the Netherlands will enter the matches in strong standing after each won their first game. The U.S., who remains the tournament favorite after defeating Thailand 13-0, will next take the pitch on Sunday to battle Chile, who lost their opener to Sweden. France, Germany and England are also top contenders to take the crown from the U.S., the defending champions. [The Guardian, ESPN]