August 23, 2019

South Korea informed Japan on Friday that it has canceled their 2016 agreement to share military intelligence, citing Japan's decision to downgrade South Korea's preferential trade status. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized Seoul's decision on Friday, accused South Korea of reneging on past promises, and said Tokyo "will continue to closely coordinate with the U.S. to ensure regional peace and prosperity, as well as Japan's security."

South Korea, which said it will downgrade Japan's trade status in return, has accused Tokyo of using commerce as a cudgel to punish South Korea over a separate dispute stemming from Japan's exploitation of Koreans and brutal colonial rule from 1910 though the end of World War II, The Associated Press explains. Last year, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled that the 1965 treaty normalizing relations did not cover individuals seeking reparations from Japan; Tokyo considers all such compensation issues settled.

Senior South Korean presidential official Kim Hyun-chong said Seoul will continue to bolster its alliance with the U.S. and rely on the trilateral Japan-U.S.-South Korea intelligence-sharing network in place before the 2016 bilateral accord. The U.S. views both countries as vital allies to counter threats from North Korea and China, and the Pentagon voiced its "strong concern and disappointment" in the collapse of the agreement. Peter Weber

11:43 a.m.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes have won at least a temporary victory in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The more-than-1,000-mile oil pipeline must be shut down and drained of oil within 30 days, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg of the Washington, D.C. circuit ruled Monday. The pipeline was built and "oil commenced flowing" without an environmental impact statement, Boasberg wrote in his opinion, meaning the pipeline will need to be shut down at least until that happens.

The pipeline runs from North Dakota's shale fields to Illinois, traveling under the Missouri River along the way. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe contended a leak in the pipe could contaminate their drinking water and otherwise runs through their sacred lands, prompting massive protests. Still, the pipeline's construction was fast-tracked under the Trump administration, and was allowed to commence even without an environmental impact statement mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In response, and the Standing Rock Sioux launched a lawsuit against Dakota Access and the Army Corps of Engineers. Dakota Access argued shutting down the pipeline would cut their profits and force them to lay off workers, but Boasberg still ruled in the tribes' favors on Monday. The Corps failed to "substantiate" their reasoning for not including the impact statement, Boasberg said. His decision still leaves the door open for Dakota Access to resume running the pipeline following further review. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:05 a.m.

As new COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in the United States, White House officials are reportedly crossing their fingers that Americans will simply get used to it.

President Trump's advisers are looking to "reframe" his coronavirus pandemic response, and they want to "convince Americans that they can live with the virus," with White House officials hoping "Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day," The Washington Post reports. One senior administration official said Americans will have to "live with the virus being a threat," while a former official told the Post, "They're of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said the U.S. could soon reach this shockingly high number of 100,000 new cases a day while also warning that the final death toll will be "very disturbing." The U.S. has reported almost 130,000 deaths from COVID-19 and has been setting records for the number of new cases per day.

NBC News similarly reports the White House is preparing a new message on COVID-19 that the country must "learn to live with it." Trump has faced a declining approval rating during the pandemic, with Bloomberg reporting on Monday that support for Trump "is slipping fastest in the 500 counties where the number of cases have been more than 28 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people." Meanwhile, the Post reports that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign plans to keep attacking Trump for his COVID-19 response, arguing that, as one adviser put it to the Post, "the country would be in a much different place today ... if Joe Biden had been the president in January." Brendan Morrow

11:02 a.m.

The Supreme Court settled a long-running Electoral College controversy Monday when it unanimously ruled that electors must vote as state laws direct in presidential elections.

Most states, save for Nebraska and Maine, which rely in part on congressional district voting, require electors to pledge to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the state's popular vote, but there's long been a debate about whether the pledges can actually be enforced when it's time to vote. In the past, including in 2016, a few "faithless electors" have gone rogue and voted their conscience, although this has never actually altered the final outcome of a presidential race.

Lower courts have ruled differently on the issue in recent years, but the Supreme Court has settled the matter for now. That doesn't mean the Electoral College is immune from change going forward, however. States will have the ability to enforce their requirements, but they can always alter those directives. As NBC News notes, more than a dozen states have ratified an interstate agreement that, should it ever go into effect, would assign all of their electors to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. Read more at The New York Times and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

10:42 a.m.

Michaela Coel is proud of Chewing Gum, the comedy TV series she wrote and starred in that shot her to fame. But her time making the show was filled with "professional challenges" from the first day, E. Alex Jung writes in a profile of Coel for Vulture. So when it came to selling I May Destroy You, her 12-episode HBO/BBC series, Coel had a few priorities.

Both before Chewing Gum began filming and again before its second season, executives at Fremantle Media refused to make Coel an executive producer, she tells Vulture. And the problems only continued from there: Black cast members were confined to one trailer, some weren't called by their names, the list goes on. Coel ultimately opted against making a third season of the show.

By spring 2017, Coel was pitching her next series, I May Destroy You, which is based on a time she was drugged and sexually assaulted while on a break from writing Chewing Gum. Right off the bat, Netflix offered Coel $1 million for the show — but with a huge catch. Coel wanted to retain a percentage of the copyright to the show, but Netflix wouldn't even give her an outright answer on if they'd let her retain half a percent of those rights, Coel recalled.

Coel went on to pitch I May Destroy You to BBC, and the next day, she got an email ensuring she'd have full rights to the show, as well as full creative control. Still, Coel had "been so untrustworthy of the industry" that she took a day to think about the deal, she tells Vulture, before adding "It's an amazing email." Read the whole profile at Vulture. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:02 a.m.

President Trump is lashing out at NASCAR and Bubba Wallace, the series' only Black driver.

Trump in a tweet on Monday morning complained about NASCAR's "flag decision," referring to its announcement last month that it would ban display of the Confederate flag from all events, and claimed this contributed to NASCAR's "lowest ratings EVER." In fact, The Daily Beast's Lachlan Markay notes this was not the case with ratings for NASCAR's recent Xfinity race over the weekend.

Trump also demanded an apology from Bubba Wallace for an incident in June, when NASCAR said a noose was found in his garage stall. The FBI later said Wallace wasn't the target of a hate crime and that a "garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose" had been in that position since October.

But while Trump called for Wallace to apologize for what he called "just another HOAX," USA Today notes Wallace himself "wasn’t even the person who found the noose." Instead, it was a crew member who did so. Wallace in a statement after the FBI's conclusion said he was "relieved" that "this wasn't what we feared it was."

Trump's tweet comes after he said he "won't even consider" renaming bases that are named after Confederate officers. With tweets like the one he sent off Monday morning, NBC News' Benjy Sarlin writes, "'I was going to vote for Joe Biden, but then I realized he's not for the Confederate flag' is a demographic that the president seems really convinced is real and in urgent need of political attention." Brendan Morrow

9:56 a.m.

Has President Trump "drained the swamp" or simply created a new one? The group of lobbyists supporting Trump's re-election is reportedly one of the smallest to support a president in decades, but they may still be among the most powerful, The New York Times reports.

While Trump rode the "drain the swamp" slogan to victory in the 2016 election, the Times reports lobbyists and donors are still heavily involved in Washington politics and are earning big-time money in the process. For example, the Times reviewed congressional and Justice Department filings that showed eight lobbyists and operatives with ties to lobbying firms who are now working to help Trump get re-elected — either in paid or unpaid capacities — have been paid nearly a combined $120 million through their firms for their work advocating before the United States government since the beginning of 2017, when Trump took office, through March 2020.

Lobbying isn't a new practice, of course, but several of those operatives, including two of the top three earners, had never advocated at the federal level before Trump was in the White House. Then there's David Urban, a former West Point classmate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper who helped broker a key deal for arms maker Raytheon. Urban first registered as a lobbyist at the federal level in 2002, but his revenues have jumped from $9 million in the 40 months before Trump was elected to more than $25 million in the 40 months since he was sworn in, the Times reports. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:21 a.m.

Chinese police have detained one of the country's most prominent remaining critics of President Xi Jinping.

Xu Zhangrun, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, was "one of the last voices within China's besieged intellectual circles who dared to openly and persistently criticize" Xi, The Washington Post reports.

Xu, the Post notes, published an essay in February in which he blasted "the worst political team to have run China since 1978" and called for Beijing to "respect the basic universal rights of our citizens," additionally calling for an independent investigation into "the origins of the coronavirus epidemic, to trace the resulting cover-up, identify the responsible parties, and analyze the systemic origins of the crisis." He acknowledged in the essay that it may "be the last thing I write." Xu was previously banned from teaching and research at the university, The New York Times reports.

Police, according to the Times, raided Xu's home in Beijing on Monday morning and took away his computer and papers. "The neighbors described about 10 police vehicles and two dozen officers who blocked and entered his house, and took him away," businesswoman Geng Xiaonan told the Times. "Xu Zhangrun said he was mentally prepared to be taken away. He kept a bag with clothes and a toothbrush hanging on his front door so he would be ready for this. But it's still a shock when it really happens." Brendan Morrow

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