Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

The State Department's most senior levels of leadership will be reduced in half by Dec. 1, and the level below them is being cut 18%, the New York Times reports, citing data from the American Foreign Service Association. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the dept is a bloated bureaucracy and wants to eliminate 2,000 positions by Oct. of next year.

Why it matters: Former State Department officials have begun to publicly say the cuts are going too far, House Democrats say the department is undergoing an "intentional hollowing-out" and Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to Tillerson that said "America's diplomatic power is being weakened internally as complex global crises are growing externally."

More from the Times:

"One result is that there is no one in place with responsibilities for some key trouble spots.
Although the North Korean nuclear crisis is the Trump administration's top priority, the administration has yet to nominate an assistant secretary for East Asia or an ambassador to South Korea, crucial positions to deal with the issue.
In the midst of the war in Syria and growing worries over a possible conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there is no confirmed assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs or ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt or Qatar. And as Zimbabwe confronts the future after the departure of Robert Mugabe, the department is lacking a confirmed assistant secretary for African affairs or an ambassador to neighboring South Africa."

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Trump signs 4 executive orders on coronavirus aid

President Trump speaking during a press conference on Aug. 8. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Saturday signed four executive orders to provide relief from economic damage sustained during the coronavirus pandemic after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon.

Why it matters: Because the Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate federal spending, Trump has limited authority to act unilaterally — and risks a legal challenge if congressional Democrats believe he has overstepped.

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Beirut residents are still clearing rubble from streets that appear war-torn, days after a blast that shocked the country and horrified the world.

Why it matters: The explosion is likely to accelerate a painful cycle Lebanon was already living through — discontent, economic distress, and emigration.