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World Monthly Headline News February 2020 Page 1

By Isobel Asher Hamilton

The US accused Huawei of spying on people through technological "backdoors" intended for use by law enforcement, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, US officials say Huawei has had this technology for over a decade. The US kept this information highly classified until late 2019 when it started sharing it with selected allies including Germany and the UK in a bid to get them to freeze out Huawei equipment from their 5G networks. The information doesn't seem to have troubled the UK however, as the country announced last month it would allow Huawei to build a limited amount of its "non-core" 5G infrastructure. The US has long accused Huawei of acting as a conduit for Chinese government spying, but this is the first time it's provided precise details of exactly how it thinks Huawei does this. Huawei has repeatedly denied that it spies for China. Specifically officials said Huawei has built equipment that allows it to tap into telecoms using interfaces intended only designed for law enforcement without alerting the carriers. "Huawei does not disclose this covert access to its local customers, or the host nation national-security agencies," the Journal cited a senior US official as saying. Officials were non-specific about whether they've observed Huawei exploiting this access, and didn't give technical details other than to say they'd first spotted it in 2009 on 4G equipment.

By Delia Gallagher and Daniel Burke, CNN

(CNN) Last year, Pope Francis called for "bold proposals" to meet the spiritual needs of Catholics in the Amazon, a vast region with a scarcity of clerics.
But in a papal document released Wednesday, Francis ignored the boldest one: allowing married priests. Instead, Francis' highly anticipated document on the Amazon region, Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) focuses mostly on cultural and environmental issues. Francis spices the 32-page document with plenty of poetry, but offers few, if any, pragmatic changes for the church. The lack of an opening for married priests, or women deacons, is expected to disappoint the Pope's liberal supporters, particularly in the Americas and Europe. "People are starting to adjust their expectations," said Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "The major reforms they were expecting of him may never come." American bishops who met with Pope Francis this week got the impression that he personally opposes the idea of married priests, saying that people who had pushed for the reform would likely be disappointed, Catholic News Service reported. (The Catholic Church already allows some married priests who have converted from other Christian traditions.) Instead of structural reforms, the 32-page document released Wednesday, known as an Apostolic Exhortation, is filled with flowery language, including the Pope's prose poem of his "dreams" for the Amazon. "I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor..." the Pope begins. He then devotes the first three chapters of the four-chapter document to his social, cultural and ecological ideas, which call for respect for the people, land and culture of the Amazon. The final chapter, on the Catholic Church's role in the Amazon, outlines the spiritual needs of the 32 million people in the region. But Francis stops well short of endorsing some of the changes requested by the Amazon's bishops in order to meet those needs.

Addressing the UN Security Council, Mahmoud Abbas says US proposal 'annuls the legitimacy of the Palestinian rights'.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated the Palestinians' rejection of United States President Donald Trump's so-called Middle East plan, telling the United Nations Security Council that the recently unveiled proposal would bring neither peace nor stability and would leave Palestinians with a state resembling "Swiss cheese". "I have come to you today to reaffirm the Palestinian position that rejects the Israeli-American proposal," Abbas said in his address on Tuesday, noting that this stance had also been supported by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union. Abbas called on Trump to return to negotiations based on existing UN resolutions that call for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, and urged the council to hold an international conference to seek a settlement for the long-running conflict. Abbas said the rejection of the plan, which Trump unveiled alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last month, is the result of its "unilateral steps that violate international legitimacy and the Arab peace initiative". "It annuls the legitimacy of the Palestinian rights, our rights to self-determination, freedom, and independence, in our own state," he said. "It legitimised what is illegal - settlements and confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land," he said, referring to Israel's illegal settlement expansion project in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The plan, the product of three years of effort by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel and favours Israel on key contentious issues including borders, the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

By Josh Wingrove

President Donald Trump again downplayed the severity of head injuries suffered by U.S. troops during an Iranian missile attack, as the injury total rose to 109. Trump spoke to Fox Business in an interview Monday, after the Defense Department said that 109 U.S. service members, or 45 more than previously disclosed, had been diagnosed with a “mild traumatic brain injury” after the Jan. 8 Iranian strike on the Al Asad airbase in Iraq. That strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, an act Trump has regularly touted on the campaign trail. “They landed in a way that didn’t hit anybody,” Trump said of Iran’s missile strike. “And so when they came in and told me that nobody was killed, I was impressed by that and, you know, I stopped something that would have been very devastating for them.” He didn’t specify what he stopped. He said he later found out that there were “head trauma” injuries. Trump last month described the injuries as “headaches” and said he didn’t consider them similar to other injuries, such as losing a limb. He echoed that sentiment on Monday.

By Richard Roth, CNN

New York (CNN) North Korea illegally exported millions of tons of commodities like coal last year to enhance its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons programs, according to a confidential UN report. Prepared by a UN-appointed independent panel of experts charged with monitoring sanctions enforcement and efficacy on the Pyongyang regime, the annual report -- which has not yet been publicly released -- reveals North Korea continued its weapons program last year in violation of long-standing UN Security Council sanctions. Investigators also concluded that "despite its extensive indigenous capability it (North Korea) uses illicit external procurement for components and technology" to develop weapons. ‎One section of the document seen by CNN said North Korea's ballistic missile program was "characterized by its intensity, diversity and coherence." The report said North Korea conducted 13 missile tests -- and launched 25 missiles -- in 2019.

NBC News

The 2017 data breach — one of the biggest in history — compromised the names, birthdays and social security information of nearly 150 million Americans.

By Scott Neuman, Julie McCarthy

The government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been highly critical of his country's military alliance with the United States, announced Tuesday that it would scrap a security pact that allows American forces to train there. In a move that could have consequences for a counter-insurgency against Islamist extremists in the country's south, Duterte's foreign secretary, Teodoro Locson Jr., tweeted Tuesday that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S. would be unilaterally terminated.

   @DFAPHL The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. As a diplomatic courtesy there will be no further factual announcements following this self-explanatory development. https://t.co/qQhywEpcea
   — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) February 11, 2020

"It's about time we rely on ourselves, we will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country," Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a regular press briefing, quoting Duterte. He said Manila would be open to similar agreements with other countries. "As long as it is favorable to us and there is a mutual benefit to both countries, we are open," he said.

Al Jazeera English

Israel has put a ban on Palestinian agricultural exports which are transferred through Jordan, cutting off the occupied West Bank's only direct export route. That is expected to cost the West Bank farmers millions of dollars in revenue. Israel's move is in response to Palestinians stopping the buying of Israeli beef in September. Israel says the ban on goods through Jordan will only be lifted when Palestinians decide to resume buying its meat.

Bloomberg Politics

Feb.10 -- Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer plans to step down later this year as leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and will also not seek to run as chancellor candidate for the CDU in the next election. Bloomberg’s Alan Crawford reports on "Bloomberg Surveillance."

By Isabella Steger

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, usually almost omnipresent in the public eye, has been noticeably absent from view in the midst of one of the biggest crises to hit the Chinese Communist Party in recent memory. Today, he finally made an appearance. State media reported (link in Chinese) that Xi went to Beijing’s Chaoyang district, where he visited a residential community to understand more about their work in fighting the coronavirus. Photos showed him wearing a mask and having his temperature taken. It’s the first public appearance for Xi since he met Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen in Beijing on Feb. 5. Prior to that, he met with the World Health Organization’s director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Jan. 28 in Beijing. In a speech (link in Chinese) marking the Lunar New Year on Jan. 23, days after Chinese authorities said that human-to-human transmission of the virus had occurred, Xi did not mention the coronavirus. On Jan. 24‚ Xi attended a banquet celebrating the new year. That triggered some displays of nostalgia from Chinese citizens who compared Xi’s impersonal approach to that of his predecessor Hu Jintao during the SARS outbreak in 2003, who toured hospitals in Guangdong province, where the disease was discovered. But Xi notably has still not made any visits to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. That responsibility has fallen to his deputy, Li Keqiang, who visited the central Chinese city on Jan. 27. Li took a much more hands-on approach than Xi, going to to hospitals and talking directly with front-line doctors and nurses. He also visited a supermarket. Sun Chunlan, the only woman in the party’s 25-member politburo, has also toured Wuhan in recent days.

Analysis by Nic Robertson, International Diplomatic Editor, CNN

London (CNN) Political outsiders Sinn Fein stole the show in Ireland's general election over the weekend. The votes are still being counted but this left-wing, Irish nationalist party has pulled off a major political upset, breaking a century of dominance by establishment heavyweight parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fail) and changing the political landscape of Ireland likely forever. Here's what you need to know. Does it mean Sinn Fein will be in power? Sinn Fein won the most first-preference votes in Ireland's complex single-transferable-vote electoral system, but as they only fielded 42 candidates for 160 seats in the Dail (parliament), they are unlikely to be the largest party and therefore may not get to pick a new government or be invited to join one.

By Jason Lemon

Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, New Mexico have been identified as the two special operations soldiers killed in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province on Saturday. The two officers were part of a group of U.S. personnel from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group and members of the allied Afghan Special Operations Forces that were engaging with influential figures within the local community, in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar province. At least six others were injured during the hostilities. "Upon completing a key-leader engagement at the district center, current reports indicate an individual in an Afghan uniform opened fire on the combined U.S. and Afghan force with a machine gun," U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesperson Colonel Sonny Leggett said in a statement sent to Newsweek on Saturday. "We are still collecting information and the cause or motive behind the attack is unknown at this time. The incident is under investigation."

David Friedman warns about “unilateral action.”

JERUSALEM — The U.S. ambassador to Israel has cautioned Israel against “unilateral action” in annexing West Bank settlements, warning that such a move could endanger the Trump administration’s recently unveiled Mideast plan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had initially sought to move quickly to annex large swathes of the West Bank containing Jewish settlements, following the U.S. plan’s announcement on Jan. 28. Netanyahu called for his Cabinet to vote on such a measure, only to call it off a day later. The move would have risked provoking a harsh backlash from the Palestinians and the international community. U.S. Ambassador David Friedman wrote Sunday on Twitter that “the application of Israeli law to the territory which the Plan provides to be part of Israel is subject to the completion of a mapping process by a joint Israeli-American committee.” “Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the Plan & American recognition,” he said. Last month, senior Trump aide Jared Kushner said days after the plan’s announcement that the administration would not support Israel taking any unilateral steps to annex parts of the West Bank before the country’s March 2 parliamentary elections.

What do the results mean for Ireland? It’s messier than you think.
By Riley Beggin

Exit polls show Ireland’s three major political parties are virtually tied after Saturday’s general election, a result that revealed waning support for center-right ruling party Fine Gael and dramatic gains for the left-wing party, Sinn Féin, which has seen its fortunes rise after successfully tapping into public frustrations over health care and skyrocketing housing prices. The votes will be counted throughout Sunday and official results are expected early this week. Exit polls indicate the leading center-right party Fine Gael has 22.4 percent of the vote, Sinn Féin has 22.3 percent, and Fianna Fáil, the center-left main opposition party has 22.2 percent. However, given those exit polls have a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points, all three parties are essentially tied. Ireland’s Green Party is believed to lead a second tier of parties, receiving 7.9 percent of the vote, with Labour winning 4.6 percent, the Social Democrats taking 3.4 percent, and Solidarity People Before Profit winning 2.8 percent of the vote. “It may be many days before we know fully what Saturday’s vote means in terms of the allocation” of seats in the Irish legislature, wrote Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole. “But this we know and know full well: that old system is finished and it is not coming back any time soon.” We also know that the fact that no party will win an outright majority means the leading parties will be forced to negotiate a coalition government — which is likely to be a lot trickier than it seems.

By Angela Dewan and Peter Taggart, CNN

(CNN) Ireland began its official vote count Sunday as the nation waits for a clearer picture of its future government, following an exit poll that suggested the general election ended in a three-way dead heat. The exit poll, released as voting ended at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) on Saturday, showed Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael party with 22.4% of first preference votes. Sinn Féin won 22.3% while Fianna Fáil gained 22.2%. With a margin of error of 1.3%, the poll meant the election was too close to call Saturday, but indicated a hung parliament was almost inevitable and that long political negotiations were ahead. The once-marginal Sinn Féin -- which was the political wing of the IRA during its drive to force Britain out of Northern Ireland -- appears to have successfully reshaped its image. According to the exit poll by Ipsos MRBI for The Irish Times, RTÉ and others, the party has become a popular option for young Irish voters frustrated with issues such as housing unaffordability. Sinn Féin -- led by Mary Lou McDonald, who took over from longtime leader Gerry Adams two years ago -- was never in the running to command the Irish Dáil, or parliament, outright and form a government. It only fielded 42 candidates, short of the 80-seat threshold. There are 160 seats in the Dáil. The speaker is automatically re-elected and not considered a lawmaker with voting rights. Sinn Féin could technically form a coalition with smaller parties, but its success Saturday is more likely to translate into a seat at the table in coalition negotiations. Fine Gael has said it would not accept Sinn Féin in any coalition. Fianna Fáil, led by Micheál Martin, has said the same, although some analysts have speculated it is not impossible for both nationalist parties to work together. Varadkar's Fine Gael party currently leads a minority government propped up in a confidence-and-supply arrangement with Fianna Fáil.

Al Jazeera English

Turkey has sent reinforcements to its forces in the Idlib province of Syria, the last rebel-held region in the country. The armoured vehicles and tanks were headed for the observation posts that Turkey has already set up in the province, following an advance by Syrian government forces that could pave the way for them to mount an offensive on the provincial capital. But as Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu reports, Turkey is determined to stop that.

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has begun to draw up maps of land in the occupied West Bank that will be annexed in accordance with U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed peace plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday. “We are already at the height of the process of mapping the area that, according to the Trump plan, will become part of the state of Israel. It won’t take too long,” Netanyahu said at an election campaign rally in the Maale Adumim settlement. Netanyahu said the area would include all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley - territory Israel has kept under military occupation since its capture in the 1967 Middle East war but which Palestinians want in a future state. “The only map that can be accepted as the map of Palestine is the map of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Prospects for annexations, which have already been widely condemned, are unclear. Israel will hold a national election on March 2 and Netanyahu, who is facing criminal corruption charges, is hoping to win a fifth term in office. He presently heads a caretaker government, whose legal authority to annex territory is still undecided by judicial authorities.

NBC News

Officials say a “combined U.S. and Afghan force conducting an operation in Nangarhar Province was engaged by direct fire.” Four military officials tell NBC News that multiple U.S. troops have been killed and wounded in eastern Afghanistan.» Subscribe to NBC News:

Li Wenlian has become a hero in China and the subject of more than two million posts on social media.
By Patrick Smith and Dawn Liu

Chinese authorities said they were investigating the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, who died from the coronavirus early Friday and had been warned by police for raising concerns in the early stages of the outbreak. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party's internal discipline body, said in a statement it would send a team to Wuhan, "to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the issues reported by the public involving Dr. Li Wenliang." Li, an eye specialist at Wuhan Central Hospital who according to a police document was 33, died at 2:58 a.m. Friday (1:58 E.T. Thursday), Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirmed in a statement, while offering its condolences and "deep sympathy to his family." The city of Wuhan is the center of the outbreak, which has killed at least 638 people globally and infected more than 31,000 people in mainland China. Li had posted pictures of himself in hospital online as well as a picture of his diagnosis and the the police warning he was given. The "Letter of Reprimand," dated Jan. 3, accused him of posting "untruthful speech about 7 cases of SARS being diagnosed [relating to ] the Hunan Fruit and Seafood Market" on a WeChat group on Dec. 30 last year. The posts were made on a group called "Wuhan University Clinical Class of 04."


BEIJING (AP) — China’s virus death toll rose by 89 on Sunday to 811, passing the number of fatalities in the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, but fewer new cases were reported in a possible sign its spread may be slowing as other nations stepped up efforts to block the disease. Some 2,656 new virus cases were reported in the 24 hours ending at midnight Saturday, most of them in the central province of Hubei, where the first patients fell sick in December. That was down by about 20% from the 3,399 new cases reported in the previous 24-hour period. “That means the joint control mechanism of different regions and the strict prevention and control measures have worked,” a spokesman for the National Health Commission, Mi Feng, said at a news conference. Also Sunday, new cases were reported in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Spain. More than 360 cases have been confirmed outside mainland China. “Dramatic reductions” in the spread should begin this month if containment works, said Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity. He assisted the World Health Organization and Chinese authorities during the outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Warmer weather will reduce the virus’s ability to spread and bring people out of enclosed spaces where it is transmitted more easily, Lipkin said in an online news conference. However, he said, if new cases spike as people return to work after the Lunar New Year holiday, which was extended to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, then “we’ll know we’re in trouble.”

By Ben Westcott and Lily Lee, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) The Wuhan coronavirus has now killed more people than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003 after 89 more deaths in mainland China on Saturday brought the global death toll to 813. It is the deadliest day yet for the coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has continued to spread rapidly across the country and around the world. China's National Health Commission announced the new death toll on Saturday, adding that the country's total number of infections had risen to 37,198. Out of the 813 people who have been killed by the virus, 811 were in mainland China, with one death each recorded in Hong Kong and the Philippines. In comparison, during the SARS outbreak, a total of 774 people died and just over 8,000 were infected. But the death rate for the coronavirus is still far below the 9.6% rate for SARS. The coronavirus death rate stands at around 2.2% globally, less than a quarter of SARS. Several other countries announced new infections over the weekend, including Thailand, France and Singapore, which now has 40 cases of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday it would be sending a team to China, beginning from Monday or Tuesday, to investigate the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking at a news conference, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they were fighting not only the virus but also the growing tide of incorrect information around it. "While the virus spreads, misinformation makes the job of our heroic health workers even harder. It is diverting the attention of decision makers. And it causes confusion and spreads fear to the general public," he said.

By Ben Westcott, Angie Puranasamriddhi and Kocha Olarn, CNN

(CNN) Thailand police revealed Sunday they tried several times to persuade a soldier who had killed 26 people to turn himself in, and even brought the gunman's mother in to talk to him. The shooting at a military base in Thailand's northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province, known as Korat, and a crowded shopping mall also left 57 others injured, before the gunman was killed by police at around 9 a.m. local time on Sunday (9 p.m. ET Saturday), according to officials. Thai authorities said the attacker was believed to be Army Sub. Lt. Jakrapanth Thomma, of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion. Authorities brought the gunman's mother from his hometown in Chaiyaphum Province to an area near the mall but she was unable to get inside, said Maj. Gen. Jirapob Puridet, who led the security team inside the building. The mother, whose name was withheld, told him there was little point in talking to her son anyway, as he had depression and an extremely bad temper. The gunman had a machine gun that he had stolen, with around 800 rounds of ammunition and two short guns, Puridet said. "We had to make the move of confronting him because people who were trapped inside a freezing room sent messages to us that the oxygen level was very low and they are suffocating," Puridet said. "So we had to risk to confront him face to face otherwise people who were trapped inside would die." One officer was killed and three others injured during the ensuing confrontation, Puridet said. "It was almost like a Hollywood action movie shooting scene," he said. "At certain points the gun firing was nonstop." Frantic scenes from the mall overnight showed heavily armed Thai soldiers trying to move terrified shoppers to safety. News footage from the scene showed people leaving the area in pickup trucks and cars as security forces surrounded the mall.

Sinn Fein’s surge, Leo Varadkar’s troubles, and what else to know about the vote.
By Jen Kirby

Irish leader Leo Varadkar came to power in 2017 in a historic victory. Ireland’s youngest-ever prime minister and the openly gay son of Indian immigrants, he presented a new image of the once staunchly Catholic country. Then Brexit supercharged his international profile. But things are not looking great for Varadkar, or his center-right party, Fine Gael, as they head into Saturday’s elections in Ireland. Varadkar called snap elections in January after an arrangement with his party’s traditional rival, Fianna Fáil, began to crumble. Varadkar had little choice but to call a vote. Varadkar achieved remarkable success abroad in the Brexit negotiations, managing to protect Ireland’s interests by preserving its open border with Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom, which just left the European Union) and getting the EU to unify behind the interests of Ireland, one of its smaller members. But at home, Irish voters are increasingly dissatisfied with the government’s handling of major domestic issues, housing and health care top among them. Varadkar’s pitch — which includes “Brexit is still far from over” and “you shouldn’t change teams midway through the game” — isn’t resonating with voters who are eager for change and fed up with the high cost of housing and insufficient public services. Which is why the left-wing, all-Ireland party Sinn Féin is suddenly surging in the polls. That could dramatically change Ireland’s politics — although, at least this time around, it’s impossible for the party to win power outright.

By Li Cohen

Global warming is hitting the world's coldest places. It's the first week of February, and the weather in the Antarctic Peninsula on Thursday was sunny and a preliminary record-breaking 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit — warmer than most of Texas. The temperature recorded in the northwest part of the continent on Thursday is 1.4 degrees hotter than the its hottest recorded temperature. Argentina's National Meteorological Service said the continent's last record was 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit on March 24, 2015. The World Meteorological Organization is in the process of confirming that Thursday's temperature is the highest to date. In Texas on Thursday, Dallas saw a high of 52 degrees Fahrenheit, while many northern areas in the state saw up to three inches of snow, according to The Weather Channel. It's important to note that it's summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

By Steve Hendrix and Sufian Taha

UMM AL-FAHM, ISRAEL — Yousef Jabareen had only heard politicians on Israel's ideological fringe suggest that he and thousands of Arab Israelis could be stripped of their Israeli citizenship and their towns transferred to Palestinian control. Last week, he was surprised to find a version of that proposal buried within President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. A single paragraph in the 181-page document proposes the potential redrawing of Israel’s borders such that a cluster of 10 Arab towns north of Tel Aviv, known as “the Triangle,” would be subsumed by a future Palestinian state. That was news to the Triangle’s 350,000 Arab residents, who say they were not consulted on what many say would amount to a forced deportation from Israel, where their families have lived for generations. “How did this right-wing fantasy end up in an American deal?” asked Jabareen, a political leader and law professor at the University of Haifa. “The clear motivation is to have fewer Arabs in Israel.” News of the provision sparked immediate protests in the Triangle region, including a weekend march of hundreds in the town of Baqa al-Gharbiya. “No one will deprive us of citizenship in the homeland where we were born,” Ayman Odeh, the leader of a block of Arab Israeli political parties, told the crowd.

At least 12 people have been shot dead and many injured by a Thai soldier in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima (also known as Korat), police say. A defence ministry spokesman told BBC Thai that Jakraphanth Thomma, a junior officer, had attacked his commanding officer before stealing a gun and ammunition from a military camp. He then opened fire at a Buddhist temple and at a shopping centre in the city, north-east of Bangkok. The suspect is still at large. Local media footage appears to show the suspect getting out of a Humvee-type vehicle in front of the Terminal 21 shopping centre in the Muang district and firing shots as people flee. Other footage showed a fire outside the building, with some reports saying it was caused by a gas canister that exploded when shot at. One of the suspect's social media posts features an image of himself with the fire in the background. Authorities have sealed off the centre as they try to track down the suspect, who is said to be inside the building. Police have warned people to stay at home.

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Washington (CNN)Six oil executives held in Venezuela for more than two years were suddenly moved from house arrest into prison on Wednesday night, just hours after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido met with US President Donald Trump. The "CITGO 6" -- Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira -- were taken by the Maduro regime's intelligence services from their separate house arrest locations, according to several family members, Vadell's legal team, and the State Department. According to the legal team, they were removed "without warnings or judicial order" and are being held together in the same cell at El Heliocoide prison, even though "the house arrest has not been revoked by the appropriate court." "Lawyers and relatives were not informed, and the only information shared by the SEBIN officials on duty was that [they were taken away] 'for medical checks,'" the lawyers' statement said referring to the Venezuelan intelligence service.

'Cruel and indefensible action'

The US State Department condemned the move and called for their immediate release. "The safety and health of Americans is always a top concern for the Department of State. We've learned that the CITGO 6 have been taken from house arrest by the regime's intelligence agency SEBIN and believe they're now detained at its Heliocoide prison," Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told reporters at the State Department Thursday. "We condemn this cruel and indefensible action and demand that their long unjust detention come to an end and that they be allowed to leave Venezuela."

By Yong Xiong, Hande Atay Alam and Nectar Gan, CNN

Beijing (CNN) The death of a doctor widely regarded as a hero in China for blowing the whistle on the threat posed by the Wuhan coronavirus has led to a massive outpouring of grief and anger online. Li Wenliang died of the virus in the early hours of Friday morning local time, Wuhan Central Hospital, where he worked, said in a statement. The confirmation follows a series of conflicting statements about his condition from the hospital and Chinese state media outlets.
"Our hospital's ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was unfortunately infected with coronavirus during his work in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic," the hospital said. "He died at 2:58 am on Feb 7 after attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful." Li was among a number of supposed "rumormongers" detained in December for spreading news about the virus. He had warned about a potential "SARS-like" virus spreading in Wuhan. Nothing Li said was incorrect, but it came as officials in the city were downplaying the severity of the outbreak and its risk to the public. There were more apparent efforts to control the narrative even after Li's death -- leading to widespread anger. Earlier on Thursday night, several state media outlets had reported Li's death, following which Chinese social media erupted in mourning. Hours of confusion followed, with Wuhan Central Hospital releasing a statement saying Li was still alive and in critical condition, adding that they were "making attempts to resuscitate him." State media subsequently deleted their previous tweets, only for the hospital to then confirm his death.

By Bill Chappell

China is slicing tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. products, China's government news agencies report, in a move that reciprocates for the Trump administration's plan to halve tariffs on Chinese products worth about $112 billion. The U.S. announced its tariff reduction last month. The two sides' tariff cuts are slated to take effect on Feb. 14, in the latest sign that a trade war between the world's largest economies is easing. China will drop tariffs on some U.S. goods from 10% to 5%; other tariffs will fall from 5% to 2.5%, according to China Daily. The shift comes three weeks after President Trump signed what the White House calls "Phase 1" of a trade truce with China, in which he agreed to reduce some of the tariffs the U.S. has imposed on Chinese goods. The partial truce also calls for China to buy more U.S. goods and services – at a rate of $200 billion over the next two years, compared to 2017 trade levels. China had raised the tariffs in September, when President Trump's tariffs on more than $100 billion of Chinese imports took effect. But since then, both sides have canceled or reduced tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of products.

Human Rights Watch says 138 Salvadorans were murdered from 2013 to 2019 and 70 others were abused or sexually assaulted
By Nina Lakhani

At least 200 Salvadoran migrants and asylum seekers have been killed, raped or tortured after being deported back to El Salvador by the United States government which is turning a blind eye to widely known dangers, a new investigation reveals. Human Rights Watch has documented 138 deported Salvadorans murdered by gang members, police, soldiers, death squads and ex-partners between 2013 and 2019. The majority were killed within two years of deportation by the same perpetrators they had tried to escape by seeking safety in the US. The report, Deported to Danger: United States deportation policies expose Salvadorans to death and abuse, also identifies more than 70 others who were subjected to beatings, sexual assault and extortion – usually at the hand of gangs – or who went missing after being returned.

By Merrit Kennedy

The European Union expressed major reservations about President Trump's newly unveiled plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it doesn't meet "internationally agreed parameters" on issues such as where Israel's borders should be drawn. The plan, which has been roundly rejected by Palestinians, sides with Israel on major sticking points such as Jerusalem, settlements in the West Bank and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It provides a pathway to what the Trump administration calls a Palestinian state — envisioned on fragmented areas of land over which Palestinians would not have their own security control. In a statement, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stressed that the EU is committed to a "negotiated two-State solution, based on 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps, as may be agreed between the parties, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition."

By Rob Picheta, CNN

(CNN) Archaeologists have discovered a 7,000-year-old Neolithic well in eastern Europe, which they believe is the oldest wooden structure in the world.
The square well was built with oak by farmers around 5256 B.C., according to researchers who pinpointed its origin after analyzing the tree rings in the wood, which is the scientific method known as dendrochronology. The well's age makes it the oldest dendrochronologically dated archaeological wooden construction worldwide, according to the researchers in the Czech Republic. "The well was only preserved because it had been underwater for centuries. Now we cannot let it dry out, or the well would be destroyed," Karol Bayer of the University of Pardubice's Department of Restoration said in a press release. Researchers are developing a process to dry the wood and preserve it without deformation using sugar to reinforce the wood's cellular structure. "It is interesting that the corner posts were made of previously felled trunks, namely from the trunk which had been cut in the autumn or winter 5259 B.C. or the winter of early 5258 B.C.," said Michal Rybníček of the Department of Wood Science at Mendel University. Measuring 140 cm (56 inches) in height and with an 80 by 80 cm (32 by 32 inches) square base, the well was found last year during construction of the D35 motorway near Ostrov, Czech Republic. Researchers published their findings in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Its design shines a light on technical skills that researchers didn't think Neolithic people possessed.

By Bill Chappell

Iran's Supreme Court has affirmed a death sentence for a man accused of giving secrets about the country's nuclear program to the CIA, a government spokesman announced Tuesday. "Amir Rahimpour who spied for the CIA and received huge amounts of money and attempted to provide the U.S. intelligence service with a part of Iran's nuclear information was tried and had been sentenced to death," judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli said at a news conference in Tehran, according to Iran's semiofficial FARS News Agency. Esmayeeli said the sentence will be carried out "soon" but did not provide an exact date or any other details. "It's the first Iranian death sentence for spying on behalf of America in nearly a decade," NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul. Rahimpour holds a master's degree in electrical engineering and has been incarcerated in Evin Prison since at least last fall, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran. Evin Prison is notorious for holding political detainees, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was held there for 544 days. The public announcement is the latest salvo in Iran's dispute with the United States, which ratcheted up after President Trump abandoned an international nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018. Last month, a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian commander and Iran retaliated with missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing American personnel.

Al Jazeera English

Turkey says its military has hit several Syrian government targets, killing dozens of troops in the rebel-held Idlib province in Syria. The raids were launched in response to a Syrian government attack which killed five Turkish soldiers and three civilians. This has put the Syrian and Turkish governments in direct confrontation for the first time and risks irking Russia, which backs Syrian forces. Turkey has now sent more reinforcements to Idlib and is threatening further action.

The US has become the key cog in the machine of modern kleptocracy worldwide. But it didn’t start with Trump.
By Casey Michel Feb 3, 2020, 7:20am EST

Critics of President Donald Trump frequently use the word “kleptocracy” to describe his leadership, administration, and imprint on American policy writ large. Before 2016 — before Trump’s election and presidency flipped assumptions about America’s liberal democratic project on its head — the word, which literally means “rule of thieves,” was mostly only used by academics and foreign policy wonks. Thanks to Trump’s reign, though, “kleptocracy” is having an unprecedented moment. It’s not hard to see why. As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp argued in 2017, “Trump’s kleptocratic instincts” share significant overlap with post-Soviet dictators and autocratic strongmen elsewhere, from his nepotistic corruption to his insistence on targeting opponents with all the levers of power at his disposal — as seen most obviously in his attempt to strong-arm a foreign government into trying to investigate a political rival. All of that is, of course, true: Trump’s illiberalism, and his predilection for inserting and expanding corruption wherever he can, is hardly a secret. But this administration is merely the culmination of the US’s decades-long slide toward becoming the center of modern kleptocracy. The US has become the world’s greatest offshore haven, allowing the crooked and the criminal to launder and stash their ill-gotten gains across the country — money ransacked from national treasuries and prone populations abroad. For despots and their families, human traffickers and gun runners, there’s no better friend than the US, at least when it comes to hiding their finances from prying eyes, both at home and abroad. All told, the US has become the key cog in the machine of modern kleptocracy worldwide, allowing illiberal regimes everywhere to flourish — and threatening America’s democratic experiment in the process.

How US states became masters of the shell game

The biggest single provider of anonymous shell corporations in the world isn’t Panama or the Cayman Islands. It’s not the financial secrecy stalwart Switzerland, or a traditional offshore haven like the Bahamas. It’s Delaware. And the main reason is federalism. Thanks to the US’s federal structure, company formation remains overseen at the state level, rather than in Washington.

Hacked Twitter messages raise legal questions over Cambridge Analytica, undeclared foreign lobbying, and links between Julian Assange and the Brexit and Trump campaign teams.
By Nico Hines

NEW YORK—The man who bankrolled the campaign for Britain to quit the European Union boasted about a backchannel to WikiLeaks after Brexit leader Nigel Farage’s secret meeting with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, according to private Twitter messages that have been leaked online. The messages hacked from Farage’s biggest financial backer, Arron Banks, also raise legal questions over the involvement of Cambridge Analytica in the Brexit referendum, undeclared lobbying efforts in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign power, and a breach of data-protection law by pro-Brexit campaigners. Banks also joked about being a “full agent” of the Russian state a couple of weeks after Trump was elected president. Brexit campaigners and Trump staffers became close in 2016 as the two upstart campaigns shocked mainstream politicians and won unexpected victories at the ballot box. The House Intelligence Committee heard in 2018 that Farage may have been used as a conduit between the White House and WikiLeaks, which the CIA has described as a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia. Two weeks after meeting Trump in Washington, D.C. in February 2017, Farage was spotted leaving Ecuador’s embassy in central London. The Brexit Party leader, who previously led the anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP), later claimed he was only there to set up an interview with Assange for a British radio network. According to the hacked Twitter messages, which have been posted online by New York-based website Cryptome, Banks claimed his colleague emerged from the meeting in March 2017 confident that a new WikiLeaks data dump was on the horizon. The day after the meeting, Banks sent a private Twitter message to a friend. “I had a drink with nigel,” he wrote. “He had an interesting time with wiki leaks.” On the same day, Banks wrote to a Guardian columnist: “You will have plenty of new material soon ! Wiki leaks specialise.” Farage has previously denied to The Daily Beast the allegation that he provided data to WikiLeaks, which published damaging messages hacked from Hillary Clinton’s private email account during the 2016 presidential election. A spokesperson for Farage did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

How Donald Trump’s best friend in Britain—another big fan of Vladimir Putin—put his party at the service at WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.
By Nico Hines

LONDON—When Julian Assange sought refuge in 2011 at an embassy in the heart of London, only one of Britain’s political parties was willing to offer support to the exile in their midst. Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party, which seemed a fringe movement at the time but became the driving force behind Brexit, swung into action and campaigned against the demand that Assange be returned to Sweden for a police interview on allegations of rape. Farage and his UKIP colleagues have spoken out publicly in support of Assange numerous times since 2011, but leaked emails seen by The Daily Beast reveal the true extent to which the party apparatus tried to assist the founder of WikiLeaks, which the head of the CIA has since described as a “hostile intelligence service” that cooperated with Russian agents. The episode raises further questions about links between Farage, Assange and the Russian government. Farage, who is also a favored friend of U.S. President Donald Trump, was spotted emerging from a meeting with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in March. Internal UKIP memos reveal the relationship went back much further: Assange and his lawyer were given the opportunity to contribute directly to speeches given by UKIP on the floor of the European Parliament while branches of the party in and around London were told to send activists to protest against Assange’s proposed judicial surrender to the authorities. “We need bodies,” read an email request sent to local UKIP associations asking them to send two or three people each as an “astroturf” protest against Assange’s plight when he appeared in court in London in January 2011. Farage and his UKIP colleagues also reportedly met privately with Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens, who was repeatedly offered the chance to help craft the party’s words on the case, according to the leaked emails.

By Tom O'Connor

Iraq and Syria, two Middle Eastern powers where U.S. troops are deployed in active combat zones, have come out against President Donald Trump's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, further raising questions about Washington's foreign policies at a time of heightened tensions across the region. The political side to Trump's "Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future" that was introduced Tuesday envisages giving Israel control over internationally-unrecognized Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem along with the Jordan Valley eastern border region in exchange for some new Palestinian desert territories in the southwest and a tunnel linking the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians would also be given a path to potential statehood with a prospective capital in East Jerusalem, but—particularly controversially—on the outskirts of the holy city, almost all of which would remain under Israeli control. The proposal was immediately rejected by Palestinian leadership, which did not participate in formulating the roadmap, and it received mixed reviews across the region, including among close U.S. partners. On Wednesday, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued its own opposition. "Iraq stands with its Palestinian brothers in their legitimate rights guaranteed by international legitimacy, Security Council resolutions and their right to return to their homes and lands," the ministry said, arguing that Jerusalem and its holy sites were "still under occupation" and calling for a Palestinian capital there, along with "the restoration of all occupied lands to Syria and Lebanon." Across the border, the Syrian Foreign Ministry expressed on Wednesday its "strong condemnation and absolute rejection of the so-called 'deal of the century,' which represents a prescription to surrender to the usurping Israeli occupation." Like Baghdad, Damascus called for international support in "guaranteeing the legitimate rights for the Palestinian people, above all, the right to return and to establish an independent sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."

By Omar Fahmy, Ulf Laessing

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented by U.S. President Donald Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday. Abbas was in Cairo to address the Arab League, which backed the Palestinians in their opposition to Trump’s plan. The blueprint, endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state that excludes Jewish settlements built in occupied territory and is under near-total Israeli security control. “We’ve informed the Israeli side ... that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties,” Abbas told the one-day emergency meeting, called to discuss Trump’s plan. Israeli officials had no immediate comment on his remarks. Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces have long cooperated in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. The PA also has intelligence cooperation agreements with the CIA, which continued even after the Palestinians began boycotting the Trump administration’s peace efforts in 2017.

By Carrie Kahn

Mexico's president is gearing up for a national raffle. The prize? The presidential plane. It's like Mexico's Air Force One, but the president refuses to step foot in it. The plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, has long been a symbol of government excess in the eyes of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He loves to rail on what he calls Mexico's corrupt political class, especially by pointing to the plane and those who bought and used it. Former President Felipe Calderón ordered the jet in 2012. It was delivered four years later and used by his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto. With the plane's reported $218.7 million price tag, full bedroom, private bath and conference room, López Obrador repeatedly says it is far "too luxurious for a country as poor as Mexico." Soon after taking office in December 2018, López Obrador sent the plane to a hangar in Victorville, Calif., and searched for a buyer. But a year later, with maintenance costs mounting to more than $1 million, he brought the Dreamliner home to look for other alternatives. Mexico's president is gearing up for a national raffle. The prize? The presidential plane. It's like Mexico's Air Force One, but the president refuses to step foot in it. The plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, has long been a symbol of government excess in the eyes of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He loves to rail on what he calls Mexico's corrupt political class, especially by pointing to the plane and those who bought and used it. Former President Felipe Calderón ordered the jet in 2012. It was delivered four years later and used by his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto. With the plane's reported $218.7 million price tag, full bedroom, private bath and conference room, López Obrador repeatedly says it is far "too luxurious for a country as poor as Mexico." Soon after taking office in December 2018, López Obrador sent the plane to a hangar in Victorville, Calif., and searched for a buyer. But a year later, with maintenance costs mounting to more than $1 million, he brought the Dreamliner home to look for other alternatives.

European leaders have expressed sadness at the UK leaving the EU, with France's Emmanuel Macron emphasising Britain's "unrivalled ties" with the French. Mr Macron said he was "deeply sad" while the EU's Guy Verhofstadt pledged to try and "ensure the EU is a project you'll want to be a part of again". Celebrations and anti-Brexit protests were held on Friday night to mark the UK's departure. Ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis said everyone would be a winner in the end. The UK officially left the European Union on Friday at 23:00 GMT after 47 years of membership, and more than three years after it voted to do so in a referendum. Brexit parties were held in some pubs and social clubs as well as in London's Parliament Square, as the country counted down to its official departure. In a message released on social media an hour before the UK left, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to bring the country together and "take us forward". "For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come," he said. "And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss."

ABC News
Three major U.S. airlines and dozens of international carriers have suspended flights to China after the State Department issued a travel advisory.

It will effectively ban Nigerian immigration to the US.
By Nicole Narea

No country has more to lose from President Donald Trump’s decision to expand the travel ban than Nigeria. Starting February 22, Nigerians will no longer be able to obtain visas allowing them to immigrate to the US permanently. They can still travel to the US on temporary visas, such as those for foreign workers, tourists, and students. But for the large Nigerian diaspora in the US, the policy could erode their deep family and cultural ties to their home country, Africa’s most populous nation and one of its economic powerhouses. Nigerians make up by far the largest population of African immigrants living in the US, numbering about 327,000. Cities with thriving Nigerian communities will be particularly hard hit, including Dallas, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Phoenix and Houston, the latter of which has the largest Nigerian population outside Brazil and Africa. Even more Nigerians have been choosing to settle here permanently in recent years: In 2018, the US granted Nigerians almost 14,000 green cards. By comparison, citizens from other countries included in the expanded travel ban were granted a combined total of fewer than 6,000 green cards. It’s also one of the top sending countries for foreign students, with almost 13,000 Nigerians students coming to the US last year. But now, the Trump administration is preventing further legal immigration from Nigeria, citing concerns about the country’s security standards, as well as heightened terrorist threats. The administration wants to see Nigeria improve their information-sharing with US authorities and Interpol to help identify criminals and terrorists.

Palestinians seek 'clear declaration' rejecting Trump's proposal at meeting requested by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The Arab League is holding an emergency meeting in Egypt's capital, Cairo, to discuss US President Donald Trump's plan for the Middle East that was unveiled last week. The meeting on Saturday was requested by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), who asked Arab nations to take a clear stance against Trump's so-called "deal of the century". The plan presented on Tuesday was negotiated with Israel and had no input from Palestinians, who had cut off all ties with the Trump administration after its 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It envisions the Israeli annexation of large swathes of the occupied West Bank, including illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley, giving Israel a permanent eastern border along the Jordan River. "They told me Trump wants to send me the deal of the century to read, I said I would not," Abbas told the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday. "Trump asked that I speak to him over the phone, so I said 'no', and that he wants to send me a letter, so I refused to receive it."

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