Top News Stories for Today – July 31, 2017
Putin expels 755 US diplomats
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday announced 755 members of the US diplomatic mission to Russia will be expelled from his country. This reduces the number of American diplomats in Russia from about 1,210 to 455, putting the American delegation on par with the Russian diplomatic contingent in the United States. Putin’s announcement comes in response to new sanctions against Russia overwhelmingly passed by both houses of Congress this past week.
While President Trump initially lobbied against the sanctions package, he later supported it after some changes were made and it became clear his veto would be easily overridden. Moscow announced Friday that expulsions were coming, but the extent of the change was not apparent before Putin’s Sunday statement. “We waited for quite some time that maybe something will change for the better,” Putin said of the delay in disclosing this detail. The New York Times, ABC News, The Week
Trump, Abe discuss N Korea’s threat
President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke Monday about North Korea’s weapons, and “agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries near and far,” the White House said in a statement. The 50-minute phone call came after North Korea on Friday tested, for the second time this month, a long-range missile.
“International society, including Russia and China, need to take this seriously and increase pressure,” Abe told reporters after the conversation. A spokesman for Japan’s Chief Cabinet said Trump and Abe did not speak about military action against North Korea, or what “red line” North Korea would have to cross to escalate the situation. Reuters, The Week
US conducts missile defense test
The United States military conducted a test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system early Sunday morning, successfully intercepting a ballistic missile launched over the Pacific Ocean using the THAAD system in Alaska.
The test will help the US “stay ahead of the evolving threat,” said Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. It comes two days after North Korea tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), demonstrating a weapon US analysts say could reach parts of the American mainland. Also on Sunday, the US flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula accompanied by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets. NBC News, Reuters, The Week
Britain strips more than 100 IS fighters of citizenship
British officials say they have stripped more than 100 British fighters and brides of their citizenship, preventing them re-entering the country legally, according to British news reports. All those who have lost British citizenship are dual nationals. Under international law, governments can’t revoke someone’s citizenship if it would render them stateless.
According to Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, 152 IS recruits have been stripped of British citizenship since 2016, 30 since March. Of the estimated 850 Britons who joined IS or al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria, 15 percent are thought to have been killed. A handful of returnees have been jailed, but officials say many cannot be prosecuted for lack of evidence. Some are thought to have become disillusioned with jihadism, but many are thought to pose a significant terror risk. VOA
Ivanka seeks to lower expectations of her influence
First daughter Ivanka Trump reportedly wants to lower expectations of what she can achieve in President Trump’s administration. Politico reported Sunday that people close to both Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner, say Ivanka is aware of the criticism she faces for failing to persuade her father on certain policy issues.
Ivanka is reportedly focused on getting a child care tax credit included as part of Trump and House Republicans’ push for tax reform, and is also fighting for the 2018 budget to include paid family leave. While many thought Ivanka might be a moderating force in the White House, critics say she has failed to live up to those expectations. She was reportedly a leading figure lobbying Trump to keep the United States in the Paris climate change agreement, alongside Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Hill
Security heightened in Australia
Airports in Australia are taking extra precaution checking baggage, following law enforcement’s discovery of a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday said the plan had been disrupted, but would not comment on newspaper reports that Islamic extremists had been wanting to make a homemade bomb disguised as a kitchen tool, which would emit poison gas to either kill or impair the plane’s passengers and crew.
Four men have been arrested in raids, two Lebanese-Australian fathers and their sons, but they have yet to be charged. Travelers flying out of Australia are being told to bring a minimum amount of luggage, and to arrive several hours ahead of their flights in order to go through extra screenings. The Associated Press
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