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World Monthly Headline News January 2020 Page 1

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Charlie Savage and Helene Cooper

Armed with rifles and explosives, about a dozen al-Shabab fighters destroyed an American surveillance plane as it was taking off and ignited an hourslong gunfight this month on a sprawling military base in Kenya that houses U.S. troops. By the time al-Shabab was done, portions of the airfield were burning and three Americans were dead.

Surprised by the attack, U.S. commandos took around an hour to respond. Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass, while other U.S. troops and support staff were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle. It would require hours to evacuate one of the wounded to a military hospital in Djibouti, roughly 1,500 miles away.

The brazen assault at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, on Jan. 5, was largely overshadowed by the crisis with Iran after the killing of that country’s most important general two days earlier and is only now drawing closer scrutiny from Congress and Pentagon officials.

But the storming of an airfield used by the U.S. military so alarmed the Pentagon that it immediately sent about 100 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to establish security at the base. Army Green Berets from Germany were shuttled to Djibouti, the Pentagon’s major hub in Africa, in case the entire base was in danger of being taken by al-Shabab, an East African terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida.

The CDC anticipates more cases in the U.S., but officials believe the risk to the American public at large is low.

President Donald Trump said today the U.S. has a deadly Chinese coronavirus “totally under control” and there are no worries of a pandemic. The virus, which sickened more than 400 people and killed at least 17 since December, has spread to four countries including the U.S., where the first case was reported in Washington state on Tuesday. Much is unknown about the contagion, but U.S. officials confirmed Tuesday it can be spread from human-to-human contact. “We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China,” Trump said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." “It’s going to be just fine.”

ABC News

As the World Health Organization holds an emergency meeting on the coronavirus, a Washington state man has tested positive on his return from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started.

By Bill Chappell

President Trump says he'll widen a controversial travel ban that prohibits nearly all people from seven countries from traveling or immigrating to the U.S., calling it "a very powerful ban" that's necessary to ensure national security. "We're adding a couple of countries" to the ban, Trump said when asked about his policy shift at a news conference at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland. He added, "We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what's going on in the world. Our country has to be safe."

According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the White House plan to expand the ban, the Trump administration wants to double the scope of the ban by blacklisting seven more countries: Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Trump did not share any more details about the ban's expansion, saying, "it's going to be announced very shortly." When a reporter asked Trump about the plan to expand one of the signature pieces of his immigration policy, Trump criticized how the legal battles over the ban have been portrayed, emphasizing that after some losses in lower courts, the Supreme Court sided with him in 2018.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump said he does not consider potential brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, downplaying the severity of US service members being treated for concussion symptoms from an Iranian attack as "headaches." During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump was asked to explain the discrepancy between his previous comments that no US service member was harmed in the January 8 Iranian missile attack on Al-Asad airbase in Iraq, and the latest reports of US troops being treated for injuries sustained in that attack.

"No, I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious," Trump replied during the news conference. The reporter pressed, "So you don't consider potential traumatic brain injury serious?" "They told me about it numerous days later, you'd have to ask Department of Defense," Trump replied. The commander in chief continued, "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen."

"I've seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops. I've seen people with no legs and with no arms. I've seen people that were horribly, horribly injured in that area, that war," Trump said. "No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries, no," he added. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a majority of TBI injuries are considered mild, and are also known as concussions, but they can leave long-term effects on cognitive functions.

Exclusive: investigation suggests Washington Post owner was targeted five months before murder of Jamal Khashoggi
By  Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington

The Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, sources have told the Guardian. The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis. This analysis found it “highly probable” that the intrusion into the phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post. The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May of that year, the unsolicited file was sent, according to sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity.

U.S. president is attending World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
By Andrew Restuccia

DAVOS, Switzerland—President Trump said Tuesday that he is serious about imposing tariffs on European automobiles if he can’t strike a trade agreement with the European Union. “They know that I’m going to put tariffs on them if they don’t make a deal that’s a fair deal,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

Mr. Trump declined to say what deadline he is imposing on the negotiations before he would move ahead with the auto tariffs. “They know what the deadline is,” the president said, adding that he would reveal it publicly soon. The remarks came on Mr. Trump’s first day at the annual summit of world leaders and business executives. He spoke to the Journal shortly before participating in a bilateral meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. He didn’t mention auto tariffs in brief remarks to reporters during the meeting.

Shahab Dehghani was ordered to fly to his native country despite order temporarily staying his removal, lawyers say
By Associated Press in Boston

An Iranian student attending college in Boston was denied entry to the US and ordered to immediately fly back to his native country despite a court order temporarily staying his removal, immigration lawyers and civil rights groups said on Tuesday. Shahab Dehghani, a student at Northeastern University, arrived on a flight into Boston on Monday with a valid student visa but was detained by US Customs and Border Protection at Logan international airport, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which is among the groups representing him.

The organization said customs officials insisted Dehghani, whose full name is listed as Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein on federal court filings, leave on the next available flight. Dehghani’s attorneys filed an emergency lawsuit on Monday night seeking to hold off his removal, which a federal judge approved, pending a court hearing on Tuesday. But Judge Richard Stearns on Tuesday said the case was moot and out of his jurisdiction since Dehghani had taken a flight out of the country.

Lawmaker offers cash to 'anyone who kills' the US president after drone-strike assassination of top Iranian general.

An Iranian legislator on Tuesday offered a US$3m reward to "anyone who kills" US President Donald Trump to avenge the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani. American disarmament ambassador Robert Wood dismissed the reward as "ridiculous", telling reporters in Geneva it showed the "terrorist underpinnings" of Iran's establishment.

Ahmad Hamzeh, a little-known member of parliament, offered the bounty on behalf of the people of Kerman, the hometown and final resting place of the revered Soleimani, who was killed in an American drone strike in neighbouring Iraq on January 3. "We will give three million dollars to anyone who kills Trump," Hamzeh, who represents Kahnouj county near the southeastern city of Kerman, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

He did not say if the idea of a reward had any official backing from Iran's clerical rulers. Hamzeh offered the money for the US president's assassination while speaking to the 290-seat parliament, or Majlis.

By Colin Dwyer

The former president of Interpol has been sentenced to more than a decade in prison. Meng Hongwei, the first Chinese national to assume the presidency of the France-based international law enforcement organization, received his 13 1/2-year sentence for corruption Tuesday in a Chinese courtroom. Meng pleaded guilty last year to using his position in China to finagle more than $2 million in bribes between 2005 and 2017. Prior to his 2016 election as Interpol president, he served more than a decade as China's vice minister of public security.

Meng's prison sentence caps a time in the international public eye that was about as dramatic and tortuous as it was brief. Elected partly on the strength of his record of combating graft in China, Meng nevertheless elicited plenty of skepticism from critics who feared that his position would enable China to more readily use Interpol as a means of pursuing dissidents abroad. An Amnesty International official, for instance, found the results of the election "extraordinarily worrying." At the time of his election, Meng declared, "I am a veteran policeman. And I stand ready to do everything I can toward the cause of policing in the world."

By David Reid

Swiss police reportedly believe they uncovered two Russian spies who had posed as plumbers in order to bug world leaders at Davos this week. According to the Financial Times, Swiss police picked up two men at the high-end resort in August after the pair had aroused suspicion by staying for an unusually long time. Zürich’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported that Swiss officials and police concluded that the pair were Russian spies employed by the Kremlin to record and tap into the conversations of important figures at the World Economic Forum.

Police told the Financial Times that the men claimed they had diplomatic protection, although they had not registered this with official Swiss authorities. The newspaper added that Swiss police found no indications of criminal acts. A representative for the Russian embassy in Switzerland, Stanislav Smirnov, told CNBC via phone Tuesday that there had been no contact from Swiss authorities on the matter and that the story was “one more attempt to undermine Swiss-Russian relations.”

Al Jazeera English

Leaked documents suggest that Isabel dos Santos, Africa's richest woman and daughter of Angola's former president, siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars of Angolan government money. However, dos Santos has dismissed the so-called Luanda Leaks, obtained by journalists' organisation ICIJ and released on Sunday, as "witch-hunt" meant to discredit her and her father.

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday it could quit the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if European countries refer it to the U.N. Security Council over a nuclear agreement, a move that would overturn diplomacy in its confrontation with the West. The 1968 NPT has been the foundation of global nuclear arms control since the Cold War, including a 2015 deal Iran signed with world powers that offered it access to global trade in return for accepting curbs to its atomic program.

The fate of the 2015 pact has been in doubt since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of it and reimposed sanctions. Iran has responded by scaling back its commitments, although it says it wants the pact to survive. Britain, France and Germany declared Iran in violation of the 2015 pact last week and have launched a dispute mechanism that could eventually see the matter referred back to the Security Council and the reimposition of U.N. sanctions.

The Iranian official leading the investigation into the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian jetliner appeared to backtrack on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis
By The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran -- The Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to backtrack Sunday on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kyiv. Hassan Rezaeifar was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out.”

He said Iran is working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders — commonly known as black boxes — to Ukraine or France. “But as of yet, we have made no decision.” The same official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and Canadian experts would help analyze them. Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but usable.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Iran may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from the crash — including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane — will come to light.

An estimated 1 million common murres died in 2015 and 2016. Scientists fear it was a harbinger of a warming world.
By Hilary Hanson

An estimated 1 million seabirds died along North America’s west coast during a marine heat wave, and scientists have now analyzed how their deaths were likely linked to a large mass of warm water known as “the Blob.” From summer 2015 to spring 2016, about 62,000 dead or dying common murres were found washed up on shores from California to Alaska, scientists wrote in a study published in PLOS One this week. The common murre, also known as the guillemot, is a medium-sized seabird that looks similar to a penguin.

Most of the birds were emaciated and had died of starvation. Extrapolating from the percentage of dead seabirds that typically wash ashore, researchers estimated a total death toll for the common murre during that time period of about 1 million. Reproduction also plummeted across the region. While murre die-offs have happened in the past ― often coinciding with warmer-than-normal water temperatures ― the scope of the 2015-2016 mortality was shocking. It was the largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history, according to a statement from the University of Washington, which partially funded the study.

Lev Parnas pointed his finger at Dmytro Firtash.
By Franklin Foer

Somewhere near the heart of the Ukraine scandal is the oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Evidence has long suggested this fact. But over the past week, in a televised interview and in documents he supplied to Congress, Rudy Giuliani’s former business partner Lev Parnas pointed his finger at the Ukrainian oligarch. According to Parnas, Giuliani’s team had a deal with Firtash. Giuliani would get the Justice Department to drop its attempt to extradite the oligarch on bribery charges. In return, according to Parnas, the oligarch promised to pass along evidence that would supposedly discredit both Joe Biden and Robert Mueller.

Parnas’s account, of course, is hardly definitive. Throughout his career, he has attempted to inflate his importance to make money. (Firtash apparently paid him $1 million for his services, though it’s still not totally clear what those services were.) And his description of Firtash’s involvement raises as many questions as it settles. Still, the apparent centrality of Firtash should inform any assessment of Giuliani’s escapades and the entire Ukraine story.

The couple will also forgo state funding in an unusual arrangement designed to end a crisis that erupted when they abruptly announced plans to step back from their royal duties.
By Mark Landler

WINDSOR, England — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, will stop using their royal titles, forgo state funding, and repay millions of dollars in taxpayer money used to refurbish their official residence in Windsor, under an agreement announced by Buckingham Palace on Saturday. The unusual deal, negotiated by representatives of the queen, Harry, and other senior members of the family, is designed to end a crisis that erupted 10 days ago when the couple abruptly announced plans to step back from their royal duties and spend part of the year in North America.

Officials at the palace said that the couple would spend a majority of their time in North America. They will be allowed to earn money in the private sector, though officials said they had agreed that whatever work they pursued would “uphold the values of Her Majesty.” The agreement takes effect later in the spring, and will be reviewed by the palace after a year, according to a palace official.

By Michael Collins, Kim Hjelmgaard, David Jackson - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump fired back Friday evening at Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who earlier had mocked him as a "clown" – then in a subsequent tweet Trump said Iran's leaders "should abandon terror and Make Iran Great Again!" “The so-called ‘Supreme Leader' of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!” Trump tweeted hours after Khamenei called him a "clown" who will "push a poisonous dagger" into Iran's back. In a rare public address as he led Friday prayers in Tehran, Khamenei also defended Iran's military after it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane.

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