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Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on February 19, 2018. © Hamza Al-Ajweh / AFP

World

At least 250 civilians have been killed since the escalation began on Sunday, among them dozens of children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian and Russian air strikes on Tuesday slammed into the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave, leaving more than 100 civilians dead for the second straight day and putting another hospital out of service.

IS group claims deadly church attack in Russia's Dagestan

World

An unidentified gunman fired at worshippers at the church in the town of Kizlyar in the mainly Muslim region, local press reports said.

Five women were shot dead in an apparent radical Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the assault.

Police inspect the site of a deadly explosion in Oruro, Bolivia, Feb. 14, 2018.

World

An ally of Morales publicly implied that opposition forces were behind the attack, while opposition members urged government supporters to refrain from blaming anyone without evidence. Bolivia has seen very little political violence over the last 12 years and a politically motivated bombing would be highly unusual.

A bomb caused an explosion that killed four people and wounded 10 during Carnival celebrations, Bolivian authorities said Wednesday.

Israeli police recommend Netanyahu face charges for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust

World

Police issued a statement saying they had "sufficient evidence" to issue the recommendations, which now go to the attorney general for a decision on whether to pursue an indictment against the prime minister. The deliberations on whether and how to move forward are expected to take weeks or even months.

Israeli police said Tuesday they had recommended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu face charges for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust following long-standing investigations into two cases of alleged corruption.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong attend the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea February 9, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

World

The prospect of talks comes after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threats of destruction amid tightening sanctions from the United Nations.

Comments by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence suggest the United States may be looking more favorably at diplomatic engagement with North Korea as South Korea considers a rare summit with its neighbor and long-time foe.

The crash site of Russian passenger plane outside Moscow, February 11, 2018. STRINGER / Reuters

World

The Russian Ministry for Civil Defense said the plane crashed in the Ramenskoye area, which is around 25 miles southeast of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Russian emergency services were on the scene, with over 150 people deployed to deal with the incident, the ministry said.

A Russian passenger plane crashed shortly after leaving a Moscow airport Sunday, killing all 71 people on board, Russia's Transport Ministry said.

http://www.france24.com/en/20180210-ireland-sinn-fein-mary-lou-mcdonald-new-face-takes-reins-gerry-adams

World

“We together over the coming years will walk a journey that is full of opportunities, full of challenges, but I believe which marks a defining chapter in our achievement of a united Ireland and the ending of partition,” she said.

Mary Lou McDonald, who on Saturday becomes president of Ireland’s Sinn Fein republican movement, represents a break with the party’s past as the political voice of the IRA.

230 civilians killed in Syrian, Russian airstrikes in past week: U.N.

World

Syria and Russian airstrikes in rebel-held areas have killed 230 civilians in the past week in some of the conflict’s worst violence that may also constitute war crimes, the top United Nations human rights official said on Saturday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

World

The personal invitation from Kim was delivered verbally by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon, who had said “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

Trump says Democratic memo on Russia is 'very political,' needs redactions

World

“We hope this matter can be quickly resolved so the committee can return to its charge - fully investigating the Russian interference in our election and the role of the Trump campaign, and what steps need to be taken to protect against foreign interference in the next election, now only months away,” Trump said.

A classified memo by congressional Democrats related to investigations of Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is “very political and long” and must be “heavily redacted” before it could be released, President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Saturday.

Israeli security forces examine the remains of an F-16 Israeli war plane near the Israeli village of Harduf, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

World

Iran’s involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in a nearly seven-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat.

Anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria on Saturday in the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces based across the border.

A Russian Sukhoi jet flies out of Hmeimim air base in Syria in October 2015. AP photo

World

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, has claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane.

A Russian pilot was killed in Syria on Saturday after parachuting into rebel-held territory when his plane was shot down, the Defence Ministry said.

Trump approves release of secret memo in fight over Russia probe

World

Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly complained about his treatment by federal investigators who are probing possible collusion between his campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election, and any actions to impede the investigation.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday approved the release of a classified Republican memo that alleges bias against him at the FBI and Justice Department, in an extraordinary showdown with his own senior law enforcement officials over the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A man reacts after hearing his son was killed during a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan January 27, 2018. Reuters photo/Omar Sobhani

World

“Today’s attack is nothing short of an atrocity, and those who have organized and enabled it must be brought to justice and held to account,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

A bomb hidden in an ambulance killed at least 95 people and wounded about 158 in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday when it blew up at a police checkpoint in a busy part of the city that was crowded with pedestrians at the time of the attack.

Evacuees gather at Kodiak High School after an earthquake and tsunami alert in Kodiak, Alaska. VOA photo

World

A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state's southern coast and parts of British Columbia.

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily on May 26, 2017. AFP photo

World

More recently, Macron said that he, too, was outraged by reports that Trump had described Haiti and parts of Africa as "shithole countries", calling such language inappropriate and counterproductive.

US President Donald Trump will host the first state visit of his presidency when French President Emmanuel Macron visits the White House in late April, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.
The official visit will include the first state dinner to be hosted by the US president and First Lady Melania Trump.

KABUL: Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul killing at least six people, including a foreigner, sparking a twelve hour fight with security forces.

World

More than 150 guests were able to flee as parts of the building caught fire, with some shimmying down sheets tied together and dropped from upper-floor windows and others rescued by Afghan forces.

Gunmen in army uniforms who stormed Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday and battled Afghan Special Forces through the night killed at least 18 people and wounded 12 more, although the final toll of dead and wounded may still be higher.

Senate huddle moments before the government shutdown on Jan. 20, 2018. NBC photo

World

But Republicans failed to assemble a simple majority for the measure as some within their own ranks, frustrated with the spate of month-long spending bills, also opposed the short-term solution.

The federal government entered a partial shutdown Saturday as a key vote fell far short of the support needed to pass the Senate and the midnight deadline came and went without a deal.

File image - Russian president Vladimir Putin (L) and US president Donald Trump.

World

"I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests," he said.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday Russia is helping North Korea evade international sanctions and that Pyongyang is getting "closer every day" to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States.

Freedom House: Democracy Scores for Most Countries Decline for 12th Consecutive Year

World

A new report released by the independent watchdog organization Freedom House says that democratic principles such as election integrity and freedom of the press are weakening globally for the 12th consecutive year.

EU chief urges Britain to change its mind over Brexit

World

Tusk, who chairs summits of EU leaders and speaks on their behalf, quoted U.K. Brexit envoy David Davis as saying that "if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy."

European Union Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday urged Britain to change its mind about leaving the bloc next year, as time to conclude a Brexit agreement runs short and EU leaders await more details on how the country sees their future ties.

In Norway, Trump's comments on immigration rejected as backhanded praise. Photo credit - NBC

World

Norwegians do have it pretty good. The oil-rich country ranks No. 1 in the United Nations Human Development Index, with a high life-expectancy at 81 years and high incomes. The United States is 10th on the same list.

On a quiet winter morning, Ingvild Rosseland walked her two dogs through a snowy forest in Huk, a public park in the capital of Norway — a country recently designated by President Donald Trump as not being a "shithole."

The president used the vulgarity while referring to immigration from African nations, and told a group of lawmakers that the United States should have more people coming from places like the Scandinavian nation, according to a Democratic aide.

“It’s nice that people want us,” Rosseland, 40, said as she walked along the frozen banks of the inner Oslo Fjord, “but I didn’t react to it as a compliment."

Many in Norway have been saying "thanks but no thanks" to what they perceive as backhanded praise from the U.S. president, which came the same day he had met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Gina Barstad, 31, a representative to parliament for the opposition Socialist Left Party said Trump’s comments say a lot about his “lack of understanding about the conditions in other countries, both in Haiti and in Norway.”

Reactions quickly spread across social media in Norway, with some bristling at the concept that Norwegians would want to move to the United States given the president’s comments.

Norwegian satirist Eirik Bergesen posted:


Speaking to NBC News, Bergesen added: “Why are we supposed to be better, because we’re predominantly white? Some of the richest people in the world?”

Bergeson, a former diplomat who worked in Washington, D.C., during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, thinks even for someone known to be unconventional, Trump’s remarks fall flat for most Norwegians.

“He’s not flattering us, he’s not creating a wave of immigration, he’s just confusing us even more,” he said.

Related: African nations slam Trump's vulgar remarks as 'reprehensible and racist'

Norwegians do have it pretty good. The oil-rich country ranks No. 1 in the United Nations Human Development Index, with a high life-expectancy at 81 years and high incomes. The United States is 10th on the same list.

Even in the dead of winter, when the sun rises for only a few hours a day and heavy blankets of snow can be expected to sit on the eaves of homes until spring, Norwegians make the most of it — sledding in neighborhood parks or taking their skis onto the subway for a day trip to nearby resorts.

At a cozy café in the working class Tøyen neighborhood, Mette Brathen, a teacher, and her partner, Henning Velo, an engineer, sit down for a late breakfast, doing the crossword puzzle in a local paper.

The pair, both 45, say a lot of what makes Norway great comes from a socialist system that includes universal health care and prioritizes social welfare and the common good.

“We pay more tax, and that makes society able to care for people,” Velo said. “It’s not every person for himself, we work together.”

“But we have struck oil,” Brathen added. “We are lucky and sometimes I think we forget that. It’s luck we have this."

Norway, which first discovered oil off its shores in 1969, plows its revenue into a massive sovereign wealth fund that pays for state pensions and other expenses. The fund recently topped $1 trillion for the first time — about the same size as the economy of Indonesia.

“Before we struck oil,” Velo said, “we were a country that Trump would describe as a shithole. We were a poor country.”

Despite having a predominantly native-born, white population, Norway also has a growing number of immigrants — including from some of those countries the president seemingly disparaged.

Nda Naa Kuorhor, 28, came to Norway from Ghana in 2015 to study the works of playwright Henrik Ibsen at the University of Oslo on a full scholarship.

Working part-time as a server at a downtown hotel café, she said: “It’s cool living here.”

Kuorhor said she has experienced some uncomfortable moments in Norway that she perceived as being racist — like people getting up from their train seat when she sits down — but she said she would not want to move to the United States.

“I prefer Norway because it’s peaceful,” she said. “I hear things about the United States, like it’s not safe.”

A NATO ally, Norway has long enjoyed good relations with the United States. Last year, the U.S. deployed Marines to the country for Operation Joint Viking. They worked alongside British and Norwegian soldiers in training exercises a few hundred miles from the border with Russia.

But the perception of the United States as a friendly place is starting to change for young Norwegians. And remarks from Trump aren’t helping.

At Gurken, a small but colorful Oslo bar, young urbanites gathered to escape the cold on a freezing Friday night, throwing back beer, wine and the house specialty, “Pina Colada Slush.”

Among the customers was Erlend Hovgaard, a 30-year-old consultant who works for a Norwegian design company in Oslo.

“I don’t feel privileged at all by being that group of people that Trump assess are special,” he said. “I don’t feel honored.”

Sebastian Reed, an amiable 33-year old graphic designer, agreed with the sentiment.

“I definitely don’t want to go to the U.S.," he said while holding a can of locally brewed beer.

“I would never live in a country with him as a president, pretty much.”

 

Source: NBC

Iraqi security forces cordon off the area where a double suicide bombing killed more than 20 people in central Baghdad on January 15, 2018, the second such attack in the Iraqi capital in three days. AFP photo

World

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which has claimed many such attacks in the past.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a busy street market in central Baghdad on Monday, in back-to-back explosions that killed at least 16 people, the Interior Ministry said. The Health Ministry said 26 died.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump confer at the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. Reuters file image.

World

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering joining French President Emmanuel Macron at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week in what could turn into an epic clash of competing world views with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Hawaii ‘ballistic missile threat’ alert to phones was false alarm, officials say

World

Hawaii residents were thrown into a panic Saturday morning after an emergency alert was mistakenly sent, warning them to "seek immediate shelter" from a ballistic missile threat, and it took emergency officials 38 minutes to send a new alert to mobile phones that the threat was a false alarm.

A South Korean soldier (R) stands before North Korean soldiers walking towards the military demarcation line at the truce village of Panmunjom on October 12, 2017.

World

Nuclear-armed North Korea on Friday accepted the South's offer of talks next week, hours after Seoul and Washington agreed to defer joint military exercises which always infuriate Pyongyang until after the Winter Olympics.

Demonstrators shout anti-U.S. slogans at a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, a day after President Trump tweeted that Pakistan has "given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools." Getty image

World

After a harshly worded New Year's Day tweet by President Trump accusing Pakistan of "deceit" and of harboring terrorists, State Department spokeswomon Heather Nauert confirmed Thursday that the U.S. will suspend most security assistance to Islamabad.

Israel arrests Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi over viral video of soldier slapping.

World

Israeli authorities have charged a Palestinian teenager with assault after a video of her hitting and pushing Israeli soldiers went viral.

North Korea's Kim says 'open to dialogue' with South Korea, will only use nukes if threatened

World

Kim Jong Un on Monday warned the United States that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk ready for use if North Korea is threatened, but offered an olive branch to South Korea, saying he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul.

Anti-government demonstrations in western Iran turn deadly

World

Two protesters taking part in demonstrations roiling Iran were killed at a rally overnight, a semi-official news agency reported Sunday, the first deaths attributed to the ongoing protests.

Trump Administration Touts A Smaller U.N. Budget (And Takes Credit For It)

World

The Trump administration said Sunday that the United Nations budget has been reduced for the coming year, and it framed any cuts as the product of U.S. negotiation.

"Among a host of other successes, the United States negotiated a reduction of over $285 million off the 2016-2017 final budget," the United States Mission to the U.N. said in a press release. "In addition to these significant cost savings, we reduced the UN's bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key U.S. priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the UN system."

A United Nations spokesman confirmed to NPR the reduction in the budget, and said the total U.N. budget for 2018-2019 is $5.396 billion.

But cuts to the U.N. budget are typical: The 2016-2017 budget was roughly $400 million lower than the final appropriations for 2014-2015, which was 2.9 percent lower than the previous biennium's budget.

The U.N. budget is negotiated every two years and is decided by consensus rather than a vote. Wealthier countries that pay the lion's share of the budget — the U.S., Japan, Canada and EU members — routinely push for the budget to be lowered.

The wording of the U.S. mission's announcement, which called it a "historic reduction in spending," led some to misread it as meaning the U.S. was reducing its own contribution by $285 million next year. The extent to which the U.S. contribution would be reduced isn't clear.

"This is all so misleading," tweeted Bathsheba Crocker, who formerly led the State Department bureau that develops U.S. policy in the United Nations. "The US fights hard, together with other countries, every year to cut UN budget & regularly does. This is neither new nor a US 'decision.'"

The Trump administration has consistently criticized the U.N. and its spending.

"The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!" Donald Trump tweeted a month before taking office.

"Just 5 months into our time here, we've cut over half a billion $$$ from the UN peacekeeping budget & we're only getting started," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted in June.

"The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known," Haley said in a statement Sunday. "We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked. ... You can be sure we'll continue to look at ways to increase the UN's efficiency‎ while protecting our interests."

The U.S. plays an important role in funding the U.N., as The New York Times reports:

"Under a formula tied to economic size and other measurements established under an article of the United Nations Charter, the United States is responsible for 22 percent of the United Nations operating budget, the largest contribution. It paid about $1.2 billion of the 2016-2017 budget of $5.4 billion.

"The United States also is the largest single financial contributor, at 28.5 percent, to a separate budget for United Nations peacekeeping operations, which totals $6.8 billion in the 2017-2018 budget finalized in June."

Haley's budget announcement came after a week that showcased the United States' increasing isolation from other member nations.

On Dec. 18, Haley vetoed a Security Council resolution — approved by the council's 14 other members — that called on all states to refrain from building diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

Before the General Assembly voted on a similar resolution later in the week, Haley warned that the U.S. would be "taking names" of those who voted for it. On Thursday, the organization's members overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding resolution rejecting the United States' decision to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"Let them vote against us," Trump said at a Cabinet meeting before the vote, The Guardian reports. "We'll save a lot. We don't care. But this isn't like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars ... We're not going to be taken advantage of any longer."

The Trump administration said its decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem recognizes the reality that it is the seat of Israel's government. But Palestinians living there seek part of the city as a capital for a future independent state, and Jerusalem's final status has been a central point of contention in peace talks for decades.

Guatemala has since followed the U.S. lead, announcing Sunday that it will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Neither country has set a timetable for making the move.

 

Source: npr.org

Putin officially submits candidacy for fourth term in office

World

Russia's central election commission on Wednesday accepted documents from Vladimir Putin needed to register him as a candidate in next March's presidential ballot.

Rescuers search for Philippine storm victims as toll rises to 200. AP photo

World

Rescuers in the Philippines searched on Sunday for survivors of a storm that triggered floods and landslides and killed about 200 people, left scores missing and thousands homeless, most of whom apparently ignored warnings to move to safety.

President Rodrigo Duterte comforts a family member of a fire victim in Davao city in Philippines, December 24, 2017. REUTERS/Presidential Palace

World

The vice mayor of the southern city of Davao, Paolo Duterte, said the chance of survival for any of the 37 people missing at the NCC Mall was “zero”.

A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014.

World

The latest U.N. sanctions against North Korea are an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade against it, North Korea’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, threatening to punish those who supported the measure.

Exclusive: State Department tells refugee agencies to downsize U.S. operations

World

The U.S. State Department has told refugee agencies it will sharply pare back the number of offices across the country authorized to resettle people in 2018 as President Donald Trump cuts the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

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