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Curated top stories
- No survivors after Russian airplane crashes – Seventy one people died after a Russian passenger plane crashed on Sunday near Moscow, shortly after takeoff. The Saratov Airlines aircraft disappeared from radar screens a few minutes after departing from Domodedovo Airport, the Associated Press reports. Investigators said they had opened a criminal case into the incident. They suggested there were several possible causes of the crash – weather conditions, human error and the plane’s technical condition. No distress signals had been received from the crew.
- Invite to South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un extended an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to attend talks in Pyongyang. It would be the first meeting of the two leaders in more than a decade. Moon said the Koreas should “make it happen” and encouraged the north to return to negotiations with the United States.
- A senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested that North and South Korea’s joint women’s ice hockey team should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. South Korea had suggested forming a combined team to further the countries’ diplomatic engagement during the games.
- Israeli warplane shot down – Anti-aircraft guns shot down an Israeli warplane on Saturday after it was returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria. Iran, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, denied responsibility for the attack, saying its presence in Syria is only advisory. The attack by Israel was in response to a drone incursion in in its airspace earlier in the day. Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty.” The F-16 was hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed in northern Israel, according to Reuters. Both pilots ejected and were injured, one critically. It was the first time in 36 years that Israel had lost a warplane to enemy fire. Israel then launched a another air raid, hitting what it said were 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.
- The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Israel’s strikes on Saturday had killed at least six people from Syrian government and allied forces.
- The escalation comes on the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, with hundreds of thousands of Iranians rallying on Sunday denounce the United States and Israel as oppressors.
- Trump blocks release of Democrat memo – President Donald Trump blocked the release of a classified memo written by Democrats to counter one authored by Republican Devin Nunes last week. That memo, which Trump allowed to be released, claimed FBI and Justice Department bias against him in the investigation of ties between Russia and the 2016 U.S. election. The White House said that parts of the memo that “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” of the country.
- Historic handshake between Koreas at Winter Olympics – South Korean President Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, in a display of peace and unity to commence the 2018 Winter Olympics. Athletes from North and South Korea entered the Olympic stadium together waving flags showing a unified Korea. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also attended, although according to AP he did not meet or interact with the North Koreans.
- The Olympics comes during tensions between the U.S, North and South Korea over the North’s nuclear regime. (Read our regularly updated story on the 2018 Winter Olympics here.)
- Brief U.S. government shutdown is over – President Donald J. Trump signed a federal spending bill into law, ending the United States’ second government shutdown in three weeks. The U.S. Congress voted to move forward the spending plan before dawn on Friday morning. Fiscal conservative Rand Paul caused the brief government shutdown on Thursday night after he blocked a vote on the spending measure before a midnight deadline.
The bill includes around a $300 billion increase in domestic and defense spending. Although some Republicans are pleased at the increase in defense spending, Paul and other fiscal conservatives are concerned about raising the nation’s debt. In his Thursday night speech, Paul said: “I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits.” This would be “the very definition of hypocrisy.” (See WikiTribune journalist Charles Turner’s explainer on the previous U.S. government shutdown.)
- Scientists grow human eggs – For the first time scientists have grown human eggs in a laboratory from the earliest stages all the way to full maturity. Scientists published their results in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, saying it could aid in creating regenerative medicine therapies and new infertility treatments. “Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments,” Evelyn Telfer, who co-led the work, said.
- More details on Rohingya “massacre” – According to this Reuters exclusive, Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops killed 10 Rohingya men in Rakhine state in September. The news agency says that this investigation is behind the arrests of its journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who co-wrote the piece. They are now awaiting trial and have been charged with violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. (Read further WikiTribune coverage of the situation in Myanmar and Rohingya crisis here.)
What we’re reading
- Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy filed legal action against Facebook, asking the social media company to disclose information related to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page. The petition accuses Hun Sen of using state money to buy Facebook ads and using the platform to push death threats against Rainsy. – Charles Anderson
What the WikiTribune community is up to
- Read and contribute to journalist Michael Field’s fascinating long read on the developing relationship between Beijing and the islands of the South Pacific: “China fills a vacuum in the South Pacific from Fiji to Australia.
- Help us report on whether “Elon Musk just made space cool again.”
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are each in their own kind of limbo – one holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and the other an unintended guest in Moscow. There seems to be no viable solution to either man’s exile and each has been treated very differently from some other famous whistleblowers. In this piece community member Jean-Jacques Subrenat outlines their relative scenarios and their prospects.