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Daily Skimm: Russia and Bounty Hunters, Monuments, and a New Beyoncé Album

Afghan Taliban militants and villagers, March 2020.
Getty Images
Jun 29, 2020


The Story

Russia apparently put bounties on US troops.

Excuse me?

On Friday, The New York Times reported that a Russian spy unit offered the Taliban money last year to kill US troops in Afghanistan. The info came in part from interrogations of Taliban militants – and the US intel officials apparently briefed the gov on this earlier this year. Although intelligence seems to show Taliban militants collected the money, it's unclear if they succeeded in killing troops. At least two dozen US troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2019.

Why would Russia do this?

It's unclear. But Russia – and this unit in particular – has been on a campaign to destabilize the West. The country also wants more influence in Afghanistan and has supported the Taliban in the past. It's also possible that Russia wants revenge on the US for what happened in Syria, when US forces killed Russians in a 2018 attack on pro-regime forces.

What's the US government doing about this?

The question of the hour. Apparently the National Security Council discussed this back in March, and came up with a range of responses – including filing a complaint to Russia and sanctions. But none of that has happened yet. President Trump denies being briefed – and has also cast doubt on the intel. But lawmakers across the aisle are saying 'we want answers.' Russia and the Taliban are denying that any of this is true.


This intelligence report could mark the first evidence of conflict between the US and Russia in Afghanistan since the 1980s. Today, it comes as Russia has carried out a range of cyber attacks in recent years, all while POTUS seems intent on bringing Russia into the fold.

And Also...This

What else kept the president busy…

This executive order. Last week, President Trump signed an EO protecting federal monuments, memorials, and statues from vandalism. It calls for federal law enforcement to arrest anyone who causes damage to these statues. They could face a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. It also threatens to withhold federal funding from state and local govs that fail to protect their own monuments and statues. The order comes after multiple Confederate statues have been toppled by protesters in the midst of nationwide calls against racial injustice. And after at least 22 cities have reportedly taken them down or have plans to.

Tweeting. Yesterday, the president hit 'retweet' on a video showing his supporters shouting "white power." Hours later, he deleted it. The White House claimed Trump hadn't heard the "one statement" in the video and was just sharing his supporters' enthusiasm. But the retweet earned widespread criticism, including from Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) – the Senate's only Black Republican – calling it "indefensible" amid nationwide calls for an end to systemic racism.

Where there's a showdown...

Poland. Yesterday, the country saw a record voter turnout in the first presidential election in the EU since the pandemic began. But with no candidate reaching the majority, a runoff election is set to take place next month. Incumbent President Andrzej Duda from the country's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party will face centrist Rafał Trzaskowski. And the two are taking different stances on LGBTQ+ rights. Duda has campaigned on a conservative agenda that's targeted the community, reportedly labeling the LGBTQ+ movement as "destructive." And Trzaskowski – Warsaw's mayor – has called for tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community.

What's seeing updates…

COVID-19. Yesterday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases topped 10 million worldwide and the number of deaths passed 500,000. In the US, Texas, Florida, and California ordered at least some of the states' bars to close. Only two states (Connecticut and Rhode Island) are reportedly seeing a decline in the number of cases compared to last week.

What's waving in a new era…

Mississippi. Yesterday, state lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its 126-year-old state flag. Mississippi's flag is the last in the country to display the emblem. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) says he'll sign the bill. And a commission will design a new flag Mississippians can vote on in November.

Who's welcoming the New(ton) player in town...

The Patriots.

Who won the BET award for 'best humanitarian'...

The creator of "Black Is King."

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