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Curated top stories of the day
- White House communications director quits – Hope Hicks, who is considered one of President Donald J. Trump’s most trusted advisors, announced her resignation saying she wanted to pursue other opportunities. She became involved in the scandal of presidential aide Robert Porter who was accused of domestic abuse by two ex-wives. Hicks dated Porter and defended his character until he ultimately stepped down. Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly expressed regret that Hicks was leaving.
- Trump says he’ll ban “bump stocks” – President Donald J. Trump said that the White House is drafting an executive order banning what are known as “bump stocks,” an accessory that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire as a fully automatic weapon. He said that he was not concerned about the National Rifle Association, and that they support some gun regulations.
- Russia says Olympic membership restored – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed to WikiTribune that it has restored the membership of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). The ROC announced the news earlier. The IOC has yet to officially announce the news. Russia was barred from competing in the 2018 Pyongyang Olympics because of state-sponsored doping. Speaking on state television, ROC president Alexander Zhukov said the decision was important.
- Afghan government offers to recognize Taliban – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate political organization, a move that could lead to the end of the Western-backed government’s 16-year war with the hardline Islamist group. At the start of an international conference on renewing dialogue, Ghani proposed a ceasefire, a prisoner release, and Taliban participation in elections. On February 26, the Taliban called on the United States to get more involved in peace talks. The insurgency has continued since The Taliban was driven from power in Afghanistan by a U.S.-backed coalition in 2001.
- Trump lambasts Justice Department for not investigating claims of FISA abuse – President Donald J. Trump said it was “disgraceful” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not leading the probe into potential abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Sessions instead deferred to an inspector general Michael Horowitz, who Trump referred to as an “Obama guy” in a tweet, implying that he has a pro-Democratic agenda. Trump has claimed on multiple occasions that the FBI has used FISA to target his campaign.
- Sessions responded that his office is taking appropriate measures in line with the U.S. Constitution.
- EU releases Brexit negotiating position – The European Commission released its draft agreement on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. The 119-page document sets out the EU’s position ahead of talks with the UK government next month. The draft confirms the EU’s position (first reported by the FT) that the only way to avoid a “hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland is to maintain full regulatory alignment between them. Otherwise, there is a risk of undermining the Good Friday peace agreement. The British government had stated that this would be unacceptable. (For more, see WikiTribune’s crib sheet on the Brexit negotiating positions).
- U.S. to arm Ukrainian military against pro-Russian separatists – The Pentagon is sending anti-tank weapons to Ukraine sometime in the next few weeks, according to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The U.S. agreed to the arms deal in December to counteract Russian separatist forces in the western part of country.
- Kushner’s security clearance downgraded – Jared Kushner, President Donald J. Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, has been stripped of his access to Washington’s top secrets, according to various media outlets, including Politico and Reuters. Kushner had been operating with an interim, top-level security clearance for more than a year. Now he is only authorized to see information at the lower “secret” level. The Washington Post reports that Kushner’s close contact with certain foreign officials has long raised concerns with the administration.
North Korea sending chemical weapons equipment to Syria – United Nations experts have found that Pyongyang is sending materials to Syria that could be used in the building of chemical weapons, according to the New York Times. An as-yet-unreleased UN report says missile specialists from North Korea have also been seen at Syrian weapon-making facilities. The allegations come after new reports of chlorine gas being used by Syrian forces. North Korea is under international sanctions due to its nuclear program and missile testing.
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What we’re reading
- Chaos in the White House and media attention focused on the turbulence around President Trump has allowed right-wing activists the Koch brothers to pursue their agenda of deregulation at a fast pace, according to this analysis by investigative reporting group, The Intercept. – Peter Bale
- More than three years after Michael Brown’s death, America’s most infamous suburb is looking for redemption – led by its very own teens. MTV delves into Ferguson, Missouri, where violent protests after Brown’s killing became headline news across the country and the world. Here is the story of what happened when the protests died down and the media left. – Charles Anderson
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