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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 16, 2019

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Tim O'Donnell
Hong Kong protests.
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1.

Hong Kong protests continue with calls for chief executive to step down

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators returned to the streets in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest a proposed bill that would allow extradition to mainland China. The protesters were also calling for Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down. Lam on Saturday, reportedly with the backing of Beijing, announced she was suspending the extradition legislation after the protests turned violent during the week, but those opposed to the bill want it scrapped entirely. They fear the law would subject criminal suspects to possible torture and unfair trials if they are sent to China. Generally speaking, the protesters believe the bill is in conflict with Hong Kong's judicial independence. [The Associated Press, BBC]

2.

Report: U.S. increases online attacks on Moscow

The U.S. has enacted a more aggressive approach when it comes to cyber attacks on Russia's electric power grid, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The Times conducted interviews over a three month period in which current and former officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia's grid and other targets. The actions are reportedly seen as a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two administration officials told the Times that they do not believe President Trump has been briefed about the new digital incursion strategy, while Pentagon and intelligence officials told the newspaper that they were concerned about how the president would react to the news. They also reportedly feared he would reverse the operations or discuss the classified information with foreign officials. Trump has denied the story. [The New York Times, Donald Trump]

3.

Argentina, Uruguay without power after unexplained electrical failure

A massive blackout swept through all of Argentina and Uruguay on Sunday morning after an unexplained electrical failure in the Argentina network knocked out the interconnected system. Parts of Brazil and Paraguay have also reportedly been affected. Argentine media reports that the country's trains have been halted. "Never has anything like this happened before," Alejandra Martinez, a spokesperson for electricity company Edesur Argentina said. Argentina's energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, said power was being restored in some parts of the country but that the process could take several hours. The combined population of Argentina and Uruguay is about 48 million people. [BBC, Al Jazeera]

4.

Boeing reportedly attempting to substitute physical safety tests with computer modeling

Boeing is reportedly attempting to cut hours off airborne testing by using computer models to simulate flight conditions before presenting the results to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for certification, two people with direct knowledge of the strategy told Reuters. The move would reportedly slash development costs, but it remains to be seen whether the FAA would allow the company to eliminate the physical tests allowed under current regulations, especially as investigations into two deadly Boeing plane crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia continue, possibly resulting in even more rigorous safety requirements. People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Boeing believes new technology and decades of testing experience have rendered some physical tests redundant for demonstrating safety. [Reuters]

5.

Mohammed bin Salman blames Iran for recent oil tanker attacks

In an interview published on Sunday, Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman — two last week, as well several others in May. He added that, while he does not seek a war with his country's archrival, he would not hesitate to face threats against Saudi Arabia's sovereignty. The U.S. has also accused Iran of being behind last week's incidents, saying the country used limpet mines to target the ships, but Iran has strongly denied the allegations, arguing they were made without any factual or circumstantial evidence. [NBC News, Al Jazeera]

6.

India slaps retaliatory tariffs on 28 U.S. products

India announced on Sunday that, going forward, it will impose tariffs, some as high as 70 percent, on 28 U.S. products in a response to Washington's trade policies just weeks before President Trump is expected to meet with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, later in June. The Trump administration has refused to exempt India from higher steel and aluminum tariffs, so Delhi countered with their own protectionist policies, despite the two nations having engaged in trade talks. The tariffs will reportedly likely hit the U.S. hardest in the agricultural sector — India is the largest buyer of U.S. almonds, for example, as well as the second largest buyer of U.S. apples. [BBC, Deutsche Welle]

7.

First mass held in Notre Dame since April fire

The first mass since a devastating fire in April was held in Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral on Saturday for the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral's altar. Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit celebrated the mass while donning a hardhat in a chapel behind the choir, a section of the cathedral confirmed to be safe by construction experts. Notre Dame reportedly remains in a "fragile state," but about 30 people — mainly priests, other church employees, and workers rebuilding the cathedral — were admitted into the building for the service. The mass was broadcast live on a Catholic TV station. It remains unclear when the cathedral will reopen to the public. [The Associated Press, France 24]

8.

Benjamin Netanyahu's wife admits to misuse of state funds, avoids prison time

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted in court on Sunday to criminal wrongdoing over the misuse of state funds to order catered meals. Netanyahu struck a plea deal that will allow her to avoid jail time. She will instead reimburse the state in addition to paying a fine for bypassing regulations prohibiting the use of state funds to pay for outside catering if a cook is employed at home. The plea deal reportedly will have no direct bearing on the legal troubles surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces separate allegations of corruption. [Reuters, BBC]

9.

Los Angeles Lakers acquire Anthony Davis in blockbuster deal

The Los Angeles Lakers acquired All-Star big man Anthony Davis on Saturday evening in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers sent Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first round picks — including the no. 4 pick in Thursday's draft — to New Orleans in exchange for Davis. The two sides have been in talks for months, but were unable to reach a deal until now, possibly aided by the fact that New Orleans was awarded the no. 1 overall pick in the draft, and are expected to take phenom Zion Williamson, which will likely lessen the blow of losing Davis. The Lakers will have to round out their roster now, but should become instant contenders with Davis joining LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma in Los Angeles. [ESPN]

10.

U.S. faces Chile in Women's World Cup

After demolishing Thailand 13-0 in their World Cup opener on Tuesday, the U.S. Women's national soccer team returns to the pitch on Sunday to face Chile, who lost to Sweden in their first game. If the U.S. wins, they'll likely maintain their place atop the group standings over Sweden, who is playing Thailand on Sunday. Chile is ranked 38th in the world according to FIFA's rankings, four spots behind Thailand. They only had one shot on goal against Sweden in the opener. The U.S., meanwhile, looked like an offensive juggernaut against Thailand en route to the largest defeat in a World Cup game ever — men's or women's. Alex Morgan led the way with five goals. [ESPN, The Washington Post]