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DC Roundup: No Apology From EPA Chief, Effect on Africa, International Students in US

  • VOA News

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, June 2, 2017.

Developments in Washington, D.C., on Friday include continuing discussion of President Donald Trump’s announcement to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, EPA Director Scott Pruitt says Americans should not apologize for Trump’s decision, Russian President Vladimir Putin urges U.S. businesses help normalize relations between the two countries, and U.S. educators say despite contrary signs, including a Trump administration proposed travel ban on majority-Muslim countries, America remains the top destination for international students:

Pruitt: Americans Should Not Apologize for Paris Accord Withdrawal — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Friday President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement was "courageous" and urged Americans not to apologize for the decision. "We have nothing to be apologetic about as a country," Pruitt told reporters at a White House media briefing. He did not respond directly to a question about whether Trump believes human-caused global warming is a hoax, as Trump did during his presidential campaign, instead emphasizing the agreement "did put us at an economic disadvantage."

G7 leaders, from left, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Donald Trump, and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, pose for a photo in Italy.
G7 leaders, from left, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Donald Trump, and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, pose for a photo in Italy.

World Leaders Express Dismay at US Withdrawal From Paris Accord — World leaders and environmental groups have expressed their disappointment with Trump's decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord, the global effort to deal with the effects of climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron said in both French and English that he believed Trump has made a historic mistake. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Paris Accord a "historic quantum leap."

EU, China Renew Commitment to Fight Climate Change — The European Union and China recommitted Friday to the 2015 Paris climate deal, one day after the United States announced it would withdraw from it. In a joint statement, the EU and China said climate change and clean energy "will become a main pillar" of their bilateral partnership. European Council President Donald Tusk said the fight against climate change would continue, with or without the United States.

Trump Climate Action Would Hurt Africa, Activists Say — Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord could have a negative impact in Africa, say environmental activists on the continent. Saliem Fakir, head of the policy and futures unit of the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa, worries about the withdrawal of some $2 billion the U.S. was to contribute to the "Green Fund," to help the developing world adopt climate-saving techniques and technologies.

Scientists Say Evidence Clearly Shows Climate is Changing — Reacting to Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, leading scientific organizations say evidence clearly shows the world’s climate is changing and urgent measures must be taken to slow the warming of the planet. The organizations say the scientific evidence is clear that human activity is behind the changing climate.

Watch: Trump Climate Accord

AP Fact Check: Holes in Trump's Reasoning on Climate Pullout — Announcing that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Trump misplaced the blame for what ails the coal industry and laid a shaky factual foundation for his decision. A look at some of the claims in a Rose Garden speech and an accompanying fact sheet about the deal to curtail emissions responsible for global warming.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said he will need Republicans' help to renew California's cap-and-trade program, while speaking at the California Chamber of Commerce 92nd Annual Sacramento Host Breakfast, June 1, 2017, in Sacramento, California.
California Gov. Jerry Brown said he will need Republicans' help to renew California's cap-and-trade program, while speaking at the California Chamber of Commerce 92nd Annual Sacramento Host Breakfast, June 1, 2017, in Sacramento, California.

California, Other States Vow to Lead as Trump Exits Climate Pact — State governors and city mayors were quick to claim the mantle of U.S. leadership in fighting climate change after Trump said on Thursday the country will pull out of the Paris climate agreement. The officials said they collectively could show the international community that the United States remained committed to cutting the emissions that scientists blame for global warming.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 2, 2017.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 2, 2017.

Putin Urges US Business to Help Normalize Russia-US Ties — Russian President Vladimir Putin urged U.S. business executives Friday to help improve U.S.-Russia relations that have reached "their lowest point since the Cold War", a nearly 50-year period of East-West geopolitical tension that ended in 1991. "I want to pass the buck back to you. Help us to restore a normal political dialogue," Putin said in a speech to senior U.S. business representatives during an economic forum in St. Petersburg.

White House May Return Diplomatic Compounds Seized From Russia — The Trump administration is considering handing back two Russian diplomatic compounds along the U.S. East Coast after they were seized last year as punishment against the country, according to a report.

Trump Signs Law-Enforcement Bills Into Law — The president has signed into law two bills enhancing benefits for law-enforcement officers and providing funds to encourage veterans of military service to join police forces. Trump signed the bills Friday in the Diplomatic Reception room of the White House.

Watch: US Still Top Destination for International Students

US Still Top Destination for International College Students — As California caps the number of international students at its public universities next year, educators worry that action and a Trump administration proposed travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries send the wrong signal to students overseas. Educators meeting in Los Angeles say the United States remains the destination of choice for the world’s students, despite unwelcoming signals.

UN: Iran is Complying with Nuclear Deal — Iran has kept advances in its nuclear program within the parameters set under the 2015 accord it signed with world powers, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency said Friday. A new International Atomic Energy Agency report says Iran has greatly reduced its nuclear activities and kept its stock of enriched uranium below the agreed upon limit.

Investors Bet Trump Climate Withdrawal to Boost US Drilling — The price of oil has fallen sharply as investors bet that Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement will increase the country's oil and gas production.

FILE - Shipping containers wait to be unloaded from a ship at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore.
FILE - Shipping containers wait to be unloaded from a ship at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore.

US Trade Deficit Rises to Highest Level Since January — The U.S. trade deficit rose in April to the highest level since January. The politically sensitive trade gap with China registered a sharp increase. The Commerce Department said Friday that the U.S. trade gap in goods and services climbed 5.2 percent to $47.6 billion in April from March. Exports dropped 0.3 percent to $191 billion, pulled down by a drop in automotive exports. Imports rose 0.8 percent to $238.6 billion as Americans bought more foreign-made cellphones and other consumer goods.

Trump Faces Tough Task Unwinding Obama Cuba Policy — President Barack Obama's 2014 opening with Cuba helped funnel American travel dollars into military-linked tourism conglomerates even as state security agents waged a fierce crackdown on dissent. The rapprochement also poured hundreds of millions in U.S. spending into privately owned businesses on the island and opened a new market for American corporations. This is the complex scenario facing Trump as Cuban-American legislators and lobbyists pressure him to fulfill his campaign promise to undo Obama's deal with Cuba.

US Intelligence Chiefs to Testify on Foreign Surveillance Law — Top U.S. intelligence officials will testify before a Senate panel next week on the law governing the collection of foreign intelligence, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year, the committee said on Friday. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in both open public and closed-door hearings on Wednesday to discuss the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, the committee said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Mattis Seeks Continuity in Policy Toward Asia — The Trump administration is aiming for continuity in Asia policy, sticking broadly with the approach its predecessors have taken by emphasizing diplomacy and cooperation with allies, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.

Watch: Griffin: 'I Wish The President Would Govern'

Kathy Griffin Responds in Trump Decapitation Photo Controversy — American Comedian Kathy Griffin responded to mounting criticism against her after she published a photo of herself holding what resembled the severed head of Trump, accusing “a bunch of old white guys” of trying to silence her. During a news conference Friday, a teary-eyed Griffin accused the president and his allies, whom she referred to as “nut jobs,” of launching a campaign to get her fired from her jobs, simply because she is a woman.

More Griffin Shows Canceled as Backlash Over Trump Video Grows — Backlash against Griffin continued to grow with at least four theaters announcing Thursday that they had canceled her performances after the comedian posed with a likeness of Trump's severed head. Venues in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania canceled November shows. The Community Arts Theater in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, posted on its website that the show had been dropped "due to the recent controversy surrounding Kathy Griffin and the concern for the safety and security of our patrons and staff.''

Next EU Presidency: Nations Moving Toward NATO Spending Goal — The leader of the next European Union presidency says that several EU nations which were publicly scolded by Trump about their defense expenditure will be reaching a key NATO target next year. Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that NATO nations spending 2 percent of gross domestic product could almost double from the current five to possibly nine by the end of 2018, including two other Baltic nations, Latvia and Lithuania.

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