Syrian rebels begin evacuation; Trump taps Bolton for adviser


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  • Trump replaces national security adviser – U.S. President Donald Trump tapped John Bolton to be his new national security adviser. Bolton, a former ambassador to the UN, has advocated using military force against Iran and North Korea and has taken a hard line against Russia. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a Fox News Channel commentator. Bolton replaces H.R. McMaster, a military officer, who clashed publicly with Trump over national security issues (Vox).
  • Syrian rebels begin leaving eastern Ghouta in evacuation agreement – The BBC reported Syrian state media as saying 88 rebels and 459 civilians left the city of Harasta on Thursday morning as part of an evacuation deal with the government arranged by its ally, Russia. The rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham, which had controlled Harasta, agreed to stop fighting in return for safe passage to the northern rebel stronghold of Idlib. Similar deals are on the table with other rebel factions in eastern Ghouta, but have yet to be accepted.
  • Trump signs off on tariff plan against China – Stopping short of leveeing tariffs immediately, President Donald J. Trump signed a memorandum that could lead to tariffs that would affect $60 billion worth of Chinese imports. The decree gives Congress, industry groups and China’s government the opportunity to weigh in on the proposal and the potential to amend it. “We have spoken to China and we are in the middle of negotiations,” Trump said in a press conference. The decision reflects a lighter approach to the “trade war” that the president previously appeared to support.
  • Mexican journalist killed, fifteenth media worker killed in past two years – Reporter Leobardo Vazquez, with the newspaper Enlace, was shot and killed Wednesday night in Veracruz, one of Mexico’s most violent states. The rising number of murdered journalists correlates with drug cartel infighting resulting from Mexico’s crackdown on organized crime. It is unclear if Vazquez’s murder was related to his reporting work.
  • Trump’s lead lawyer for Russian investigation resigns – U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s lead lawyer for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election resigned. Various sources say John Dowd resigned because Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice, and because Trump had lost confidence in Dowd’s ability to deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the BBC. Dowd called for Mueller’s investigation to end last week, initially saying he was speaking for the president, but later clarifying he was speaking only for himself. Trump’s lawyers are negotiating with Mueller’s team over a potential interview with the president (CNN).

  • Mattis wants to end Saudi campaign in Yemen – While meeting Saudi leadership, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis advocated for a political solution to end Saudi Arabia’s military offensive in neighboring Yemen. Mattis was sure to offer support for Saudi’s fight against Iranian backed Houthi rebels, but also said that he was hopeful that a United Nations envoy could bring an end to the five year conflict. He also commended Saudi Arabia’s “significant humanitarian aid” in the meeting. Roughly one million Yemenis have contracted cholera during the war. Thursday’s meeting comes two days after a Senate resolution was voted down that would have ended U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia (Al Jazeera). 

Earlier

  • British PM to call for unity at EU summit, despite Brexit – Following the nerve agent attack of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on UK soil, Theresa May will warn the European Council on March 22 of the threat from Russia, and ask EU leaders to stay united. The EU is expected to condemn the attack, for which the UK said Russia is responsible. Moscow denied any wrongdoing. (Read more of our coverage of the Skripal attack.)
  • Colleagues of Kogan had concerns over how he used data – The Financial Times (may be behind paywall) reported that members of the Cambridge Psychometrics Center had raised concerns over how Aleksandr Kogan was using data in his work with Cambridge Analytica. “He shouldn’t have done it and when he did the department should have done something about it,” an anonymous academic told the FT. Kogan has denied that he did anything wrong and says the media has made him a “scapegoat.”
  • Trump looks to impose tariffs on China – U.S. President Donald Trump is set to announce tariffs of between $30-$60bn on Chinese imports. The measure aims to protect U.S. technology and intellectual property (IP) but U.S media reports it will likely set off a trade war. America’s top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, told members of Congress on March 21 the United States is looking to put “maximum pressure on China and minimum pressure on U.S. consumers.”
  • UN countries urge Cambodia for free and fair elections – Forty-five countries have called on Cambodia to reinstate the main opposition party, release its jailed leader, and ensure its general election in July is free and fair. The statement, on behalf of 44 countries, raises concerns about the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha and the forced dissolution of his Cambodia National Rescue Party as well as about “a significant clampdown on the press and civil society across the country.” (Phnom Penh Post)
  • Africa agrees Continental Free Trade Area – At a summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, 44 African country leaders have signed a deal to create a free trade area, which they hope will come into effect within six months. The deal needs to be ratified by each of the 44 countries’ national parliaments to take effect. Ten countries, including Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, refused to sign the deal, reportedly because some businesses and trade unions were not consulted. The editor of the BBC’s Africa Business Report says the Continental Free Trade Area’s ambition is to create a customs union, common market, and single currency, similar to the European Union.

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  • Europe is about to stake a claim to protect the privacy of individual data on the internet that far outstrips the norm in the United States. What’s more, against a background of fresh uproar over misuse of data centered on Facebook, it sets the stage for a confrontation with Washington and the giant American corporations that dominate the internet. Here WikiTribune reports on the far-reaching set of rules focused on the shielding of individual privacy and exchange of data across borders

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  • Christopher Wylie, now regretful over his role in turning data on an estimated tens of millions of U.S. voters into a high-tech political persuasion machine, has delivered revelations that have triggered government investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, sent Facebook’s stock price plunging and pushed long-simmering privacy concerns to a boil. Here, he tells the Washington Post about how he became a whistle-blower on Cambridge Analytica.

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