Russian opposition leader announces election boycott rallies; U.S. places new sanctions on N. Korea

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  • Brazil expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat Gerardo Delgado. The expulsion came after Venezuela expelled Brazil’s ambassador Ruy Pereira on Christmas Eve. Relations between Venezuela and Brazil have deteriorated since Brazil’s current right-wing President Michel Temer took office last year.  His left-wing predecessor Dilma Rousseff was impeached by Congress for breaking budgetary laws.

What we’re reading

  • Vietnam has created a new military cyber warfare unit that will counter critical views expressed on the internet. The communist government will employ 10,000 people for the effort dubbed Force 47. They’ll track social media to remove problematic content. A Financial Times piece (may be behind paywall) quotes Nguyen Trong Nghia on this. He is a senior lieutenant-general in the Vietnam People’s Army. According to Bloomberg, Vietnam has asked both Facebook and YouTube to help its efforts, which are comparable to those used in China. – Jodie DeJonge
  • Most people were taken by surprise when Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in November during a sudden visit to Saudi Arabia. But Hariri rescinded his resignation back in Lebanon less than a month later. The New York Times has an insider explanation of one of the more puzzling narratives of 2017, looking at the role of a key player, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. – Angela Long

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