Top news stories for today – August 12, 2016
Thailand blasts target tourists
A series of blasts across Thailand has targeted tourist towns, killing four people and injuring dozens. Four bombs exploded in the resort town of Hua Hin, while several blasts hit the island of Phuket, a top tourist destination, all within a 24-hour period on Thursday and Friday.
No group has said it carried out the attacks, but suspicion is likely to fall on separatist insurgents. The timing is sensitive, as Friday is a holiday marking the queen’s birthday. BBC
US Knew Russian plans to hack DNC last year
US House of Representative Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says Russia is clearly behind cyberattacks on her party. She made the comment Thursday, and said the widespread damage to the Democratic Party is being investigated.
Last year, officials within the US intelligence community informed several high-ranking members of Congress that Russian hackers were attempting to breach the Democratic National Committee’s computers. According to a report from Reuters, those members of Congress who were informed of the hacking couldn’t reveal the plans to the DNC because the information was too sensitive. Instead, US intelligence agencies continued to monitor the hackers to gain insight into their tactics.
The Obama administration has not publicly announced that Russia was behind the attack, but investigators say Russian spy agencies are responsible. Russia has denied any involvement. VOA
Putin gets new right hand man
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday appointed a low-profile former diplomat his new Kremlin chief of staff, one of the most powerful jobs in Russia, saying his long-time ally, Sergei Ivanov, had asked to step down.
The switch, made at a time when Russia is grinding its way through a prolonged economic crisis, comes just over a month before nationwide parliamentary elections and follows a reshuffle of regional leaders last month.
Putin named Anton Vaino, 44, to the important post which involves drafting laws for the president to submit to parliament, monitoring their enforcement, and conducting analysis of domestic and foreign affairs for the president.
Vaino used to work in the Russian Embassy in Japan and had worked as deputy head of the Kremlin administration since 2012. He is not a household name in Russia unlike Ivanov, who was once spoken of as a possible presidential contender. VOA
Latest from Rio Olympic
Michael Phelps took home the gold in the 200m individual medley Thursday in Rio, bringing his total number of Olympic gold medals to 22. Phelps has won the event at four consecutive Olympics, and this is his fourth gold medal from the Rio Games and his 26th total Olympic medals. CNN, BBC
A US swimmer, Simone Manuel, shared the Olympic gold medal in the women’s 100m freestyle with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak on Thursday night; with a time of 52.70 seconds, Manuel not only set a new Olympic record, she also became the first African American to ever win an Olympic medal in swimming, and the first American to win gold in the event since 1984. CNN, BBC
One week into the Olympic Games and Chinese patriots have a lot of complaints. A brief shortlist might start with judges biased against Chinese athletes. In all Rio venues, the points of the gold stars on the Chinese national flag were misaligned. On one occasion where a Chinese and US athlete drew for bronze, the Chinese flag was positioned below the American flag. An Australian and a French swimmer made doping allegations against a Chinese swimmer and failed to apologise. And back to the beginning, China’s gymnasts were robbed, China’s weightlifters were robbed, China’s swimmers were robbed. The volleyball team only avoided being robbed by standing up to Swiss bullying (Yes that’s a nation of 8 million bullying one of 1.4 billion, 175 times bigger). BBC
Japan doesn’t always have an easy ride on Chinese social media. A history of conflict, ongoing diplomatic spats and a rise in nationalist sentiment have led to several vitriolic attacks on Japanese users. But one Japanese Olympian has become a media darling in China, as the BBC’s Yashan Zhao explains. She may have lost her match to a Chinese player, but she has won China’s heart. “Don’t Cry, Ai-chan” has been trending on China’s micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo since Japan’s Ai Fukuhara lost the table tennis semi-final 4-0 to China’s Li Xiaoxia on Wednesday. Thousands of Chinese fans have been comforting the girl they call “Japanese doll” on social media, or by the affectionate Japanese term “Ai-chan”. As a teenager Fukuhara joined the Chinese national table tennis team for training in northern Liaoning province, and speaks with a fluent Chinese Northern dialect. She still has a Chinese coach. BBC
US Presidential election
Trump says he was being sarcastic when he called Obama the ‘founder of ISIS’: On Wednesday, Donald Trump told supporters in Florida that President Obama was “the founder” of the Islamic State, and Hillary Clinton the “co-founder.” On Thursday, when Hugh Hewitt asked Trump if he had meant that Obama “created the vacuum, he lost the peace,” Trump reaffirmed that he meant what he’d said: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player,” he said. Then early Friday morning, Trump finally denied he had meant any of the comments, tweeting: “Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) ‘the founder’ of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?” Twitter, CNN
Clinton offers optimism, big promises in economic address: Hillary Clinton followed up Donald Trump’s big economic speech earlier this week with an outline of her own agenda at a rally in Warren, Michigan, on Thursday. Clinton opened with an optimistic portrait of Michigan starkly different from Trump’s Monday remarks about Detroit’s “failure, poverty, and crime,” and she maintained that hopefulness throughout. Clinton vowed to create 10 million jobs, connect every household to broadband by 2020, and offer free college tuition as well as alternatives to the traditional four-year college degree. Time
Trump, RNC reportedly having emergency ‘come to Jesus’ meeting: On Friday, Donald Trump’s campaign and several top Republican Party officials will meet in Florida for an “emergency meeting” to discuss how Trump is doing in the presidential race, sources tell Politico. One source is describing the get-together as a “come to Jesus” meeting, while a Trump staffer says it’s a “typical” gathering. Trump will not be at the meeting, but senior adviser Karen Giorno, who will attend, tells Politico “there’s no consternation” and that reports of Trump and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus being at odds “are just false.” Politico
Dozens More Prominent Republicans Dump Trump: For the second time this week, a group of prominent Republicans says it will not support Donald Trump for president. More than 70 party members, including former congressmen and senior members of the Reagan administration and both President Bushes, have drafted a letter to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. They want the RNC to stop using Republican money, time, staff and advertising to support Trump, and instead use those resources for House and Senate candidates. They say Trump’s chances of winning in November are “evaporating by the day.” Among other reasons, they cite his verbal duel with the parents of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq, hints that gun-rights backers should shoot Hillary Clinton, and “lying about scores of issues, large and small.” VOA
Clinton suddenly sounds a lot like Trump on trade: Hillary Clinton is suddenly sounding a lot like Donald Trump, at least on trade. For months, Trump has slammed US trade deals with Mexico and South Korea as “horrible” and “disastrous.” He wants to fix them by placing hefty fines — known as tariffs — on goods coming into the US from foreign countries that don’t play fair. Now, Clinton says she’s ready to impose tariffs too. “When countries break the rules, we won’t hesitate to impose targeted tariffs,” she told the crowd at a manufacturing plant in Warren, Michigan. She said China and other countries have “gamed the system for too long.” In addition to tariffs, she promised to ramp up the US team that monitors trade. “I’m going to ramp up enforcement by appointing a new chief trade prosecutor, tripling the number of enforcement officers,” she said. CNN