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Rick Perry duped by Russian comedians in prank call

Energy Secretary Rick Perry believed he was speaking to the Ukrainian prime minister in a phone call last week, but was actually speaking to two men who call themselves “Jerky Boys.”

>> Listen to the interview here

A spokesman for the Energy Department confirmed that Perry was prank-called, speaking to “two Russian pranksters,” according to the Washington Post and Pravda Report.

The pair refer to themselves as the “Jerky Boys of Russia.”

Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov have made a sort of career from prank-calling celebrities and national leaders, including Elton John and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.

>> Sean Spicer could be joining ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ report says

A statement to the Washington Post from Energy Department spokesperson Shalylyn Nynes reads:

"These individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine."

As secretary of energy, Rick Perry is responsible for the security of much of the United States’ nuclear materials, as well as the cybersecurity of the American energy grid, among other objectively serious tasks.

>> Read more trending news

Perry and the “Ukranian Prime Minister” spoke about a wide variety of topicsThe Washington Post reports that the three touched on a pipeline in the Baltic Sea, cyberattacks on the American power grid, the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and a new fuel source derived from moonshine and pig manure.

Chinese censors block Winnie the Pooh

The Chinese government is blocking social media posts including the image of A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie the Pooh, apparently due to constant comparisons between the cartoon bear and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The Guardian reported that references to “Little Bear Winnie,” Winnie the Pooh’s Chinese name, were bringing up errors on Monday for some social media users in China.

Authorities didn’t explain the decision to block to bear, according to The Guardian. However, BBC News reported that bloggers’ comparison of Pooh’s image to that of the country’s president prompted the clampdown.

“It is not only that China's censors will not tolerate ridicule of the country's leader, they do not want this beloved children's character becoming a kind of online euphemism for the Communist Party's general secretary,” according to the news site’s China blog. “In other countries such comparisons might be thought of as harmless enough and some might even think that having Winnie as your mascot could even be quite endearing: not in China.”

The New York Times reported that government censors have been battling with Pooh bear since at least 2013, when an image of Xi and then-President Barack Obama drew comparisons to Winne the Pooh and Tigger. Since then, multiple social media users have compared Pooh to Xi.

Photos: Jimmy Carter through the years

WATCH: Trump stops to pick up Marine's hat after wind blows it away – twice

A lighthearted moment between President Donald Trump and a Marine is going viral.

>> Watch the news report here

While preparing to board Marine One on Saturday, a Marine standing guard at the entrance of the helicopter had his hat blown off by the wind. Trump retrieved the hat, placed it back on the Marine’s head and patted him on the arm.

Only it happened again.

>> Read more trending news

The Marine, obviously bound to his stationary position, could do nothing about his renegade hat. But don’t worry – the president again retrieved the young Marine’s headgear. This time, Trump handed the hat to the military officer who was escorting him to Marine One, who then handed the hat back to the Marine.

>> Click here to watch

“This was kind of a light moment, we just wanted to play it for you, provide a little, a little relief as we’ve covered all the serious news,” a CNN anchor said.

“He’s trying to right the ship here, help out the Marine who’s standing alongside, apparently cannot move from his current position.”

Trump was returning to Washington, D.C., from the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, where he met with Russia president Vladimir Putin, who denied that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Ivanka Trump sits in for father at G-20 meeting, sparking criticism

President Donald Trump spent the later half of the week rubbing elbows at the G-20 summit, which brought together all the most powerful people in the world.

>> PHOTOS: Ivanka Trump through the years

At the event, held in Germany, leaders from the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China were all in attendance. The event even included a highly-anticipated meeting between Vladimir Putin and Trump. The two men held a closed meeting, making headlines worldwide.

>> Read more trending news

At one meeting in the summit, Trump had to step out, and his daughter, Ivanka, took his place. The first daughter was on the trip with her husband, Jared Kushner, who also works in the Trump White House. Both Ivanka Trump and Kushner are unpaid senior advisers.

A senior White House official dismissed the idea that the move was inappropriate, telling CNN, “Ivanka was sitting in the back and then briefly joined the main table when the president had to step out, and the president of the World Bank started talking as the topic involved areas such as African development.”

Unsurprisingly, a number of left-leaning pundits found the incident disturbing. CNN contributor Brian Fallon tweeted sarcastically, “I’m sure Republicans would have taken it in stride if Chelsea Clinton was deputized to perform head of state duties.”

New York Times columnist Charles Blow was even franker:

Jonah Green of Reuters declared, “Today is the day that Ivanka Trump finally became president.”

CNN’s Ana Navarro, a Republican critic of Trump, joked on Twitter, “Given choice b/w Pres. Donald or Pres. Ivanka, I’d take her. After all, she’s smart and eloquent and knows how to make champagne popsicles.”

Ex-martial arts star wins election as Mongolia's president

Former martial arts star Khaltmaa Battulga won Mongolia’s presidential run-off election on Saturday, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

Battulga, 54, a member of the Democratic Party, won with 50.6 percent of the vote as 60.9 of Mongolia’s voters went to the poll, according to data from the General Election Commission. Battulga was running against parliament speaker Miyeegombo Enkhbold of the ruling Mongolian People’s Party, who drew 41.2 percent of the vote.

Election officials are waiting on a final count of votes from abroad, Reuters reported.

The run-off was scheduled after a June 26 vote failed to produce an outright winner, Reuters reported.

Battulga was a member of the Mongolian national wrestling team from 1979 to 1990. He won the World Cup championship in his weight class in 1989. He served as chairman of the Mongolian Judo Federation in 2006.

Battulga’s businesses include a hotel, a Genghis Khan-themed amusement park, and food companies, Reuters reported.

WATCH: Irish reporter posts video of 'bizarre moment' with Trump in Oval Office

Irish reporter Caitriona Perry shared video Tuesday of what she called “the bizarre moment” when President Donald Trump waved her over to his desk in the Oval Office during a call with Ireland’s new prime minister, Leo Varadkar.

>> Read more trending news

 As Trump chatted with Varadkar, he made Perry a topic of small talk by asking her a few questions about her Irish roots and and finished the encounter by complimenting her smile as she walked away.

>> Watch the video here

Trump may have spotted Perry as he waited for Varadkar to pick up the phone; a CBS reporter in attendance said it took at least 90 seconds for him to answer. 

U.S. suspends Brazilian beef imports over safety concerns

All imports of fresh beef from Brazil have been halted because of recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said Thursday.

The suspension of shipments will remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action which the USDA finds satisfactory.

The action comes three months after a major scandal erupted in Brazil over allegedly corrupt inspectors at slaughter and processing facilities. Brazilian officials said then that meat companies paid inspectors to overlook violations and certify tainted or rotten meat or not make inspections at all.

>> Read more trending news

However, before the crackdown, rotten meat was distributed in Brazil and exported to Europe.

Since March, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been inspecting 100 percent of all meat products arriving in the United States from Brazil. FSIS has refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products.

That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of one percent of shipments from the rest of the world. Since the implementation of the increased inspection, FSIS has refused entry to 106 lots (approximately 1.9 million pounds) of Brazilian beef products due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues. It is important to note that none of the rejected lots made it into the U.S. market.

The Brazilian government had pledged to address those concerns, including by self-suspending five facilities from shipping beef to the United States. Today’s action to suspend all fresh beef shipments from Brazil supersedes the self-suspension.

Secretary Perdue issued the following statement:

“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply is one of our critical missions, and it’s one we undertake with great seriousness. Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers. That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef. I commend the work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for painstakingly safeguarding the food we serve our families.”

>> Read the full news release here

The U.S. is not a major importer of beef from Brazil because the U.S. produces more beef and veal than Brazil does. This year, U.S. beef and veal production are expected to grow 5 percent to more than 12 million tons, reaching a nine-year high, according to USDA reports.

In 2016, the U.S. exported $6.3 billion in beef and beef products globally. The major importers of beef to the U.S. are Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico, with Brazil ranking fifth.

In May, Brazil re-opened its doors to U.S. fresh beef exports after a 13-year hiatus, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service reported.

In 2003, Brazil closed its market fresh beef imports from the U.S. over concerns about bone spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Farmers Union applauded the decision to suspend the importation of Brazilian beef and said it has long had concerns about the importation of fresh beef from Brazil.

“Since the 2015 repeal of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), food safety scandals can undermine consumer confidence in the entire beef industry, harming American producers’ bottom line. This incident underscores the importance of COOL to protect American beef producers and consumers alike,” NFU officials said in a statement.

Monday, several cattle-ranching groups sued the USDA in Spokane, asking that it overturn its decision to not require country-of-origin labeling on meat imports. Without the labeling, imported meat can be sold as a U.S. product.

Tour company used by Otto Warmbier no longer taking Americans to North Korea

The company that organized the trip that took U.S. student Otto Warmbier to North Korea announced Monday that they would no longer take Americans to the Hermit Kingdom after the 22-year-old died, days after he was released back to his home country.

>> Read more trending news

“The devastating loss of Otto Warmbier's life has led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists,” the China-based Young Pioneer Tours company wrote on its Facebook page. “There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality and we have been struggling to process the result.”

Warmbier died Monday in Ohio, where he had been hospitalized since his June 13 release.

He had been detained in North Korea since January 2016, when he was arrested in Pyongyang for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor, according to NPR News.

He was medically evacuated last week and returned to the U.S. in a coma. North Korean officials said he became comatose after he was given a sleeping pill following a botulism diagnosis. Doctors with the University of Cincinnati Health system said last week that they found no evidence that Warmbier had suffered from botulism, but that his condition appeared to stem from a cardiopulmonary arrest.

>> Related: Doctors say Otto Warmbier has 'extensive loss of brain tissue' on return from N. Korea

“The way his detention was handled was appalling, and a tragedy like this must never be repeated,” officials with Young Pioneer Tours said Monday. “The assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high.”

Other high-profile tour operators who take travelers to North Korea also said this week that they are “reviewing” their policies regarding traveling Americans in the wake of Warmbier’s death, The Associated Press reported. Tour operators told the wire service that Americans account for about a fifth of all non-Chinese tourism to North Korea.

Australian PM downplays mocking Trump in off-the-record speech

Malcolm Turnbull downplayed a leaked video that showed the Australian prime minister mocking President Donald Trump during an off-the-record speech at a charity ball, Fox News reported.

>> Read more trending news

Turnbull, speaking at Parliament House, made fun of Trump and the Australian government’s poor showing in opinion polls. He later characterized the impersonation as “lighthearted and affectionate channeling,” Fox News reported.

In an animated performance, Turnbull told the audience that “Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before.”

“We are winning in the polls,” Trumbull continued. “We are, we are -- not the fake polls, not the fake polls -- they’re the ones we’re not winning in. We’re winning in the real polls, you know, the online polls. They are so easy to win.

“I have this Russian guy, believe me, it’s true, it’s true.”

Politics editor Laurie Oakes of 9News reportedly decided to reveal the contents of the video. “The idea of the Press Gallery Committee ... declaring it off the record is just ludicrous,” he told 9News.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said “We understand that last night’s event is equivalent to our White House Correspondents’ Dinner. We take this with the good humor that was intended.”

On Friday, Turnbull said the speech had to be seen in an Australian cultural context.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he told Fox News. “I don’t think it demonstrates that I’m up for ‘Saturday Night Live’ yet.”

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