Monday News: The Somewhat Chilly War


PUTIN TO EXPEL HUNDREDS OF US DIPLOMATS FROM RUSSIAN SOIL: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. diplomatic missions in Moscow and elsewhere in the country will have to reduce their staffs by 755 people, signaling a dramatic escalation in the Russian response to American sanctions over the Kremlin's intervention in the 2016 presidential elections. The United States and Russia have expelled dozens of each other's diplomats before - but Sunday's statement, made by Putin in an interview with the Rossiya-1 television channel, indicated the single largest forced reduction in embassy staff, comparable only to the closing of the American diplomatic presence in the months following the Communist revolution in 1917.

VP PENCE TOURS FORMER SOVIET SATELLITES TO REAFFIRM NATO COMMITMENT: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday strongly pledged America's commitment to protecting NATO allies against attacks, including the Baltic states, which have anxiously watched a growing Russian military presence in the region. "Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defense — an attack on one of us is an attack on us all," Pence told reporters after meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Pence is also scheduled to meet NATO troops from Britain, France and the United States that are stationed in Estonia. The alliance has deployed some 4,000 troops and military hardware in the three Baltic states and Poland to counter Russia's presence in the Baltic Sea region.

TRUMP THREATENS TO CUT OFF PAYMENTS TO INSURANCE COMPANIES IN EFFORT TO KILL OBAMACARE: President Donald Trump on Saturday threatened once more to end required payments to insurance companies unless lawmakers repeal and replace the Obama-era health care law. In apparent frustration over Friday's failure by the Senate Republican majority to pass a bill repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, Trump tweeted: "If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!" Trump also tweeted: "Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead! Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!" The subsidies, totaling about $7 billion a year, help reduce deductibles and copayments for consumers with modest incomes.

CHEMOURS HAS STOPPED ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM REPORTERS ABOUT GENX: For a brief few days in June, before the company found out just how fired up our community would be about this, officials spoke of coming to the StarNews for an in-person meeting and allowing a reporter and photographer to tour the plant south of Fayetteville. Neither has happened. And the most recent response to inquiries about the tour: “I’m unable to provide any further information right now.” Nearly all of Chemours’ other replies have fallen in one of three categories, regardless of the questions asked: 1) No response. 2) “Chemours does not have a comment at this time.” 3) “Thank you for your inquiry. We continue to work closely with local, state, and federal officials to determine the appropriate next steps.” We will stay on it until we know Chemours is doing the right thing -- that they’ve actually stopped dumping into the river GenX as well as other harmful chemicals that our local utility companies cannot filter before pushing to our taps.

DUAL EFFORT UNDER WAY TO RESTORE POWER TO OUTER BANKS ISLANDS: Crews are taking two approaches to restore power to two North Carolina Outer Banks islands. Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative spokeswoman Laura Ertle said in a statement that crews are digging up damaged cables to splice together. The utility also is looking at an overhead transmission line from the Bonner Bridge to existing lines on Hatteras Island. Ertle said crews are working on both plans until it's clear which is fastest and safest. She says depending on the approach, repairs could take one to two weeks. Gov. Roy Cooper is visiting the bridge Monday where three transmission cables were damaged by a construction crew. Cooper also will visit businesses in Rodanthe, south of the bridge on Hatteras Island.