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Curated top stories
- FBI deputy director quits following Trump criticism – FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe will step down from the role following President Trump’s repeated criticism of the FBI. Multiple media outlets cited anonymous sources in reporting the development. NBCNews first reported the story. Axios reported on January 23 that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pressuring FBI director Christopher Wray to fire his deputy. McCabe, who became acting FBI director after Trump fired James Comey in May 2017, was due to retire in March, and has gone on leave until then. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters: “I can tell you the president wasn’t part of this decision-making process.” Sanders also said Trump continues to have “full confidence” in FBI director Wray. Former director Comey also responded to the news on Twitter saying McCabe “stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on.”
- UN envoy to attend Sochi summit on Syria despite opposition boycott – the UN special envoy to Syria has confirmed he will attend a peace conference boycotted by the official Syrian opposition and hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, this week, according to The Guardian. Over 1,000 delegates are expected to endorse a statement urging the west to lift sanctions against Syria. Before envoy Staffan de Mistura made his decision, 120 civil society organizations inside the Working Group for Syria said (The Guardian) that if he were to attend it would represent a “dangerous departure from the [UN-led] Geneva process” and will keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power.
- A spokesperson for the Kremlin told reporters that it does not matter that the Syrian opposition is boycotting, and that the summit will contribute to the peace process. A Syrian opposition figure told Reuters that the summit is an attempt to undermine the UN process and serve Russian policy. Russia is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey, which began an assault on Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria on January 20.
- Trump says the U.S. not interested in talking with the Taliban – A string of attacks from the Islamic militant group may harden U.S. policy in Afghanistan, says President Donald J. Trump. He told reporters: “We don’t want to talk to the Taliban. We’re going to finish what we have to finish.” Today’s hard line stance is a break from the administration’s stated plan in January to push the insurgent group towards a peace process (Washington Post).
- Recent attacks, from Islamic State and Taliban: Militants attacked an army base near a military academy in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday. At least 11 Afghan soldiers were killed and 16 injured, a defence ministry spokesman told the BBC. Five militants were involved, four of whom were killed and one arrested. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State, according to the militant group’s Amaq news agency. It comes days after the deadliest bombing for months hit Kabul when suicide attackers from the Taliban used an ambulance packed with explosives to kill at least 100 people in a district full of government buildings and embassies.
- Sole opposition candidate in Egypt’s election is a supporter of Sisi –Mousa Mostafa Mousa will be the only candidate to run against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the upcoming election. Though as the leader of the Ghad party, Mousa is a strong supporter of the Sisi and his military rule. Other serious presidential contenders have been arrested or withdrew from the race in fear before Monday’s registration deadline.
- Facebook to publish privacy rules – Facebook will publish its privacy principles for the first time as it prepares for the introduction of new EU data protection law aimed at empowering users to have control over their own data. The social media company will also roll out videos to show users how to manage the data Facebook uses for adverts. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enacted on May 25 and marks the most sweeping overhaul of personal data privacy rules since the birth of the internet. Under the new law, companies are required to report data breaches within 72 hours, as well allowing customers to export their data and delete it.
- Incumbent Czech President wins second term – Current Czech President Milos Zeman will serve a second term in office after winning the second round of voting. Zeman narrowly beat his rival Jiri Drahos, 52 to 48 percent, on a 66 percent voter turnout.
- Seen as a populist leader, Zeman is anti immigration, objects to EU sanctions against Russia and is an opponent of NATO. The role of the Czech president is influential – Zeman can name the prime minister and sign bills passed by parliament into law. He has promised to give Prime Minister Andrej Babis, a billionaire businessman, a second chance to form a government after his minority cabinet lost a confidence vote in parliament last week.
What we’re reading
- New York’s chief prosecutor says the state is opening an investigation into a company that allegedly sold millions of fake followers to social media users. The move comes after the New York Times published this report that outlined how the company, Devumi, stole people’s identities to create a “follower factory” that it sold to dozens of celebrity Twitter accounts. “Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law,” said New York prosecutor Eric Schneiderman. Actors, entrepreneurs and political commentators, paid for Devumi’s fake followers in an attempt to seem more influential online. — Charles Anderson
What the WikiTribune community is up to
- Hong Kong’s electoral affairs commission has banned a 21-year-old pro-democracy activist from running in the upcoming by-election saying her running platform was contrary to the island’s “basic law.” In this report, WikiTribune member Tzu-Hao Kuo outlines the case against Agnes Chow, who has a history of dissent in China’s special administrative region.