Top News Stories for Today – March 21, 2017
Tillerson to skip NATO meeting, visit Russia in April
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China’s president and will go to Russia later in April, US officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them.
Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting US dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security, two former US officials said. VOA
FBI confirm Russia probe, debunks Trump’s wiretap
FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday that his agency is investigating whether Russia tried to influence last year’s election, and “whether there was any coordination” between Russia and President Trump’s campaign. Comey declined to provide specifics on whether anyone in particular is suspected of a crime, saying he didn’t want to “wind up smearing people.”
The extraordinary acknowledgement of the investigation, which started last July, contradicted Trump’s assertion that “Russia is fake news” his political enemies were using to undermine him. Comey also said there was no evidence to support Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had him wiretapped during the campaign. NBC News, Reuters, The Week
US bans electronics on some flights
On Tuesday morning, the Trump administration announced that passengers on direct flights from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa will not be allowed to bring electronic devices larger than a cellphone into the airplane cabin with them.
The new rule is effective immediately, and any of the foreign airlines that fail to comply in 96 hours may be barred from flying to the US Trump administration officials said the ban was not linked to any specific or credible terrorist threat and was meant to fill gaps in airport security in the eight countries — Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Morocco. The ban caused confusion in the targeted nations. Officials at Cairo’s international airport said they have received no instructions from the US, and Royal Jordanian airlines says it has not yet started to ban laptops, tablets, and other electronics from the cabin. The Associated Press, The New York Times
Google affiliate offers tools to safeguard elections
Jigsaw, a research arm of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., is offering tools that news organizations and election-related sites can use to protect themselves from hacking. Jigsaw’s suite of tools, called Protect Your Election, is mostly a repackaging of existing tools.
While the tools can be useful to a variety of groups and individuals, Jigsaw says it is focusing on elections because cyberattacks often increase against news organizations and election information sites around election time. In particular, Jigsaw wants to help sites deploy the tools ahead of the French presidential elections, which begin April 23. The tools are free, though Project Shield is limited to news organizations, individual journalists, human-rights groups and election-monitoring organizations. VOA
Bill Gates talks foreign aid in meeting with Trump
Bill Gates met with President Trump on Monday to discuss global health programs and domestic education. Monday’s meeting at the White House comes just days after the Trump administration submitted a budget proposal that cuts foreign aid. “It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share,” Trump said.
While Gates didn’t endorse a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, he did call Trump “very sophisticated” in an interview last year after the election, likening him to President John Kennedy. But in a blog post Friday, Gates argued against Trump’s proposed cuts to US humanitarian aid overseas, contending that these projects “keep Americans safe.” CNET