Top News Stories for Today – Aug 2, 2017
ASEAN Summit to focus on North Korea nuclear threat
ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), where all the major countries involved will participate, will be held in Manila this week. The United States, North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan are all sending high level delegations to the summit. “It’s more likely to see a showdown between China, Russia versus the US on who bears the greatest responsibility for dealing with this issue,” said Southeast Asia security analyst Carlyle Thayer with Australia’s Defense Force Academy in Canberra.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to the Philippines for the ARF then visit Thailand and Malaysia, where he will discuss “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maritime security, and counterterrorism,” the State Department said. The US delegation is also expected to urge ASEAN members to take stronger measures to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear program, by cutting down the number of North Korean embassy personnel and workers allowed in their countries. But the consensus driven organization is reluctant to take punitive action, and is expected to call for all sides to reduce tensions through dialogue, more in accordance with China’s position. VOA
Fox News created Seth Rich story to distract from Russia
A retracted Fox News story about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was conjured by the network and a supporter of President Trump to distract from stories about the administration’s possible collusion with Russia, a lawsuit obtained by NPR claims.
Private investigator Rod Wheeler, who was Fox News’ source for the Seth Rich story, claims in his lawsuit that Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman made up quotes and attributed them to him in order to spin the story that Rich was killed “mysteriously” after allegedly contacting WikiLeaks. Wheeler claims he was paid to investigate Rich’s death by Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter. Jay Wallace, Fox News’ president of news, said in a statement that the accusation that Fox News manufactured the story to distract from Russia is “completely erroneous.” NPR, The Week
Christopher Wray confirmed as FBI director
Christopher Wray was confirmed Tuesday by the Senate with a vote of 92-5 to become the new leader of the FBI. He is replacing James Comey, who was fired by President Trump in May while he was in the middle of overseeing the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
Republicans split on path forward on health care
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) urged his colleagues to come up with a “small, bipartisan, and balanced” bill to stabilize America’s insurance markets. “We need to put out the fire in these collapsing markets,” said Alexander, the chairman of the Senate’s health committee.
He called for the bipartisan proposal to be crafted by mid-September, but some of his party brethren are still pushing for a one-sided repeal of ObamaCare: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said repeal proposals from Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Ted Cruz (Texas), and more would still be explored. Meanwhile, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the third-ranking Senate Republican, urged President Trump not to end ObamaCare’s cost-sharing subsidies, as he has threatened to do. Los Angeles Times, The Hill, The Week
Trump preparing trade measures against China
The Trump administration is preparing to launch a wide-ranging investigation into Chinese trade practices, especially involving intellectual property theft and market-access requirements, in what could be a first step toward unilateral sanctions on Chinese exporters, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times report.
The inquiry into the alleged unfair trade practices, conducted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, could last as little as a few months, and after its conclusion, the Trump administration is considering taking unilateral punitive measures using Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. The actions could include tariffs on Chinese imports, pulling the licenses of Chinese firms that do business in the U.S., or otherwise tamping down the transfer of advanced technologies to Chinese companies or joint U.S.-China ventures. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Week
Gang suspects killed in Moscow court shooting
Three defendants have been killed in a court in the Russian capital, Moscow, after they tried to take the arms from officers in an attempt to escape, officials say. Five suspected gang members attacked two agents who were escorting them in a lift, the Investigative Committee said. The group was handcuffed and it was not immediately clear how they managed to free themselves to attack the guards.
The two other suspects and three security officers were wounded. The group of Central Asian nationals was suspected of killing 17 motorists in the Moscow area between 2012 and 2014. Cars were forced to stop on a main road and their drivers were killed for reasons as yet unknown; none of their possessions were stolen. In the court, one of the suspects attacked and tried to strangle an agent, as others attempted to seize the officers’ weapons, Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement. When the lift they were in opened on the third floor, Russian National Guard officers opened fire, killing three of them as they tried to escape, the statement added. BBC
8 Churches close in Baghdad amid shrinking Christian population
Eight Christian churches in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad have closed their doors due to the fact that so many Christians have fled the region out of fear of being persecuted by radical Muslims, a Christian human rights organization has reported. As the rise of the Islamic State terrorist organization has devastated Christian communities in northern regions in Iraq such as Mosul and Nineveh Plains, Christianity has also suffered in many other regions of Iraq in the past 15 years.
According to International Christian Concern, a decline in the Christian population has also been greatly experienced in Baghdad. The Christian persecution advocacy group reported on Monday that as many as eight churches in Baghdad were forced to close by the Vatican this May “after nearly seven years of low to no attendance.” Christian Post
Trent Franks calls on Mueller to resign
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks is calling on former FBI Director Robert Mueller to resign as the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. In a news release, Franks cited Mueller’s longstanding friendship with James Comey, who was fired as FBI director by President Donald Trump in May, as a conflict of interest.
“Bob Mueller is in clear violation of federal code and must resign to maintain the integrity of the investigation into alleged Russian ties,” Franks said, citing a Fox News story on Comey and Mueller’s friendship. Franks also repeated a growing right-wing criticism that Mueller is acting in a partisan manner because some of the special counsel’s team contributed to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. “These obviously deliberate partisan hirings do not help convey impartiality,” he said.
Franks’ criticism mirrors that of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called Mueller’s investigation a “one-sided political witch hunt,” as well as Trump, who complained in a Fox News interview that Franks cited in his statement. Roll Call
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