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Curated top stories of the day
- UK says Russia’s demand for joint nerve agent investigation “perverse” – The British representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Russia’s calls to be involved in the investigation into the use of a nerve agent are “perverse.” At an OPCW meeting, called by Moscow at short notice, the UK representative also condemned the various contradictory statements made by Russian officials regarding the attack on a former Russian double agent as “shameless, preposterous.” Russia said it will not accept any conclusion on the military grade nerve agent administered to Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, without its own tests. The OPCW expects to receive the results of its own independent laboratory tests within a week.
- UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused (Guardian) of making misleading statements regarding the attack after the head of the Porton Down laboratory, which analyzed the weapons samples, told Sky News it was unable to specify the nerve agent came from Russia. The Foreign Office deleted a tweet that, like a statement from Johnson, suggested Porton Down experts had linked the nerve agent to Russia directly.
- Zuckerberg says data mine affect 87 million users – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters that the Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm employed by the Donald J. Trump’s campaign, effectively harvested data of 87 million users. Previously estimates were at 50 million. Zuckerberg says he accepts full responsibility for the incident and has vowed to tighten developer access to user data.
- U.S. to stay in Syria, but Trump says he wants out – Reuters reports that President Donald J. Trump is willing to keep U.S. troops in Syria in order to combat the Islamic State, but is eager to withdraw from the country which has been consumed by a civil war of geopolitical importance. The report cites an unnamed White House official. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the notion that Iranian influence would grow without U.S. troops, at a press conference, assuring that U.S. allies are capable of combatting Iranian-backed forces. There are approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.
- China retaliates on tariffs – China said it would place 25 percent trade tariffs on 106 U.S. goods, including soybeans, cars, and orange juice less than 11 hours after the Trump administration announced plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on 1,300 Chinese products, the Chinese commerce ministry said. Each country’s proposed set of tariffs is worth $50 billion. The China Daily quoted the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denouncing the U.S. action as “unilateralistic and protectionist.” The White House said its proposals were in response to unfair Chinese intellectual property practices. Bloomberg is carrying a live blog on the effect the trade standoff is having on international markets.
- Mexico screens migrants – Mexican officials are screening hundreds of Central American migrants who are fleeing their home countries and have been walking through Mexico on their way toward the United States. The move seeks to break up the “caravan” of asylum-seekers. On April 2 Trump railed on Twitter (Vox) about the caravan and Mexico’s inability to control its border. In response, the Mexican government has started vetting.
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- Gina Miller, who took on the UK government on its procedure to quit the EU, says she’s defending democracy despite vicious attacks. WikiTribune interviewed Miller about the personal costs of going up against the entire apparatus of government.
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- By the Blue Danube, Viktor Orban is rewriting history. The Hungarian prime minister’s resculpting of his society includes promulgation of his world view in school textbooks: it is problematic, they now say, for different cultures to co-exist. This, according to The New York Times, is a gentle statement of Orban’s views. His government is up for re-election on April 8, but there is not much doubt about the outcome. One of Orban’s big fans is Stephen K. Bannon: “He’s a hero … the most significant guy on the scene right now,” he is quoted as saying. – Angela Long
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