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10 things you need to know today: July 11, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

Trump jabs allies at start of NATO summit

President Trump continued to criticize European allies at the start of a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday, telling the alliance's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that U.S. allies were "delinquent" for paying too little on their own defense. He also called Germany "captive to Russia because it's getting so much of its energy from Russia." Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, pushed back against Trump's ongoing criticism of Western allies, tweeting that the U.S. "doesn't have and won't have a better ally" than the European Union. Tusk noted that EU members combined spend more on defense than Russia. Over his week in Europe, Trump also will visit the U.K. and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. [The New York Times]

2.

Trump administration announces tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would impose 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports unless Beijing changes its trade practices, dramatically escalating President Trump's trade war with China. The levies, which won't take effect until a two-month review period is complete, will cover products from food items to tobacco, coal, and electronics. "For over a year, the Trump administration has patiently urged China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, adding that Beijing had responded with unwarranted hostility to America's "legitimate concerns." China called the new tariffs "totally unacceptable," and vowed to retaliate, as it did when the U.S. recently hit China with 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in annual Chinese imports. [Reuters, The New York Times]

3.

Democrats rally opposition in longshot bid to block SCOTUS nominee

Senate Democrats have launched a campaign to defeat President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Democrats portrayed Kavanaugh as a staunch conservative who would pull the court to the right, leading to the rolling back of abortion rights and health-care protections. The White House is pushing for a confirmation vote by Oct. 1 ahead of the court's next term, and has lined up more than 1,000 interest groups to help build support for Kavanaugh's confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican seen as a key swing vote in the confirmation process, said Kavanaugh's credentials clearly are impeccable, indicating Democrats face long odds in their effort to keep him off the court. [The New York Times]

4.

Trump pardons 2 Oregon ranchers convicted of arson

President Trump on Tuesday pardoned ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, a father and son convicted of intentionally starting fires on public land in Oregon. Witnesses testified that a 2001 arson fire was set shortly after Steven Hammond's hunting party illegally killed deer on Bureau of Land Management property. The blaze destroyed any evidence of game violations. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the five-year sentences were "unjust." The conflict sparked the takeover of a wildlife refuge. Critics questioned the justification for the pardon, noting that arson is a serious crime. Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the group Defenders of Wildlife, said he hoped Trump's action "is not seen as an encouragement to those who might use violence to seize federal property and threaten federal employees in the West." [The Associated Press]

5.

Judge tells Trump administration to reunite migrant families faster

The Trump administration must move faster to quickly reunite dozens of migrant children under age 5 with their undocumented parents, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Tuesday after the government missed a court-ordered Tuesday deadline to reunite more than a third of the 102 such children separated from their parents at the southern border. "These are firm deadlines. They are not aspirational goals," Sabraw said. Sabraw gave the government until July 26 to reunite about 2,000 older children with their parents. Health and Human Services Department requested more time to run background checks and verify parental fitness. "Our process may not be as quick as some would like, but there is no question that it is protecting children," said HHS official Chris Meekins. [Reuters]

6.

Trump administration cuts grants that help people get ACA coverage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Tuesday that it is ending most grants for grassroots organizations that assist Americans signing up for Affordable Care Act insurance. Last summer, aid was reduced by 41 percent to $36.8 million, and this new reduction lowers the amount of money going to these groups, called navigators, to $10 million for the enrollment period starting in November. The Trump administration is now urging navigators to also steer people toward health plans that work around ACA's consumer protections. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the grants are ineffective because the federal insurance exchange "has grown in visibility" and "become more familiar to Americans seeking health insurance." [The Washington Post]

7.

U.K. agency hits Facebook with fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

The British Information Commissioner's Office has imposed its maximum fine against Facebook for letting political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked on President Trump's campaign, mine data on millions of people without their consent. The fine of 500,000 pounds (roughly $660,000) is a pittance to a giant company like Facebook, which hauls in billions of dollars in revenue every year, but it marks the first financial penalty against the social media company since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. The British agency, which enforces the country's data-protection laws, is investigating all misuse of personal data by political campaigns since May 2017. The revelations surrounding the improper collection of data on up to 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica focused greater attention on the investigation. [The New York Times]

8.

Another woman accuses music mogul Russell Simmons of rape

Another woman has accused hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of rape, adding to at least a dozen allegations against him since last year. The latest accuser, Alexia Norton Jones, said in a largely first-person account published by Variety on Tuesday that Simmons attacked her when they went to see his new Manhattan apartment on a ā€¸first date in 1990. "He pulled my dress up. I must have said no seven to 10 times, and then I acquiesced," said Jones, a granddaughter of the founders of the publishing house W.W. Norton and a daughter of lawyer and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. confidant Clarence B. Jones. "I was a gem," she said. "And he turned me into dirt." Simmons said he and Jones dated and attended several events together later. [The New York Times, Variety]

9.

Serena Williams advances to Wimbledon semifinals

Serena Williams defeated Italian Camila Giorgi 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals at Wimbledon. Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, missed the storied tennis tournament last year because of her pregnancy. "I feel good, like I did better today because I had to," Williams said. "This is only my fourth tournament back. I don't feel pressure, or like I have to win this or lose it. I'm just here to prove that I'm back. I feel like I am, but I still have a ways to go to be back where I want to be." Williams, who is seeded 25th, plays 13th-seeded German Julia Goerges on Thursday, seeking her 24th Grand Slam title. [Reuters]

10.

France beats Belgium to qualify for World Cup final

France defeated Belgium 1-0 in their World Cup semifinal match on Tuesday, advancing to the championship game. France scored in the 51st minute with Samuel Umtiti knocking in the goal. The French team has appeared in 14 World Cups since the tournament began in 1930, including five trips to the semifinals and two to the final; the team won its only title in 1998. France will play the winner of Wednesday's match between Croatia and England for the championship on Sunday, July 15, in Moscow. [SB Nation]

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