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- Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “drown” a planned 30,000-strong Syrian militia force, the day after the proposal received support from the United States. The U.S.-led coalition that has been supporting Kurdish forces in their fight against Islamic State group said a strong force along the Syrian border was needed to prevent IS fighters from getting into Europe, and from support to IS going the other way. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces in Syria to be effectively the same as the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group it proscribes as a terrorist organization.
- Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, and their Russian allies, are also strongly against the idea of Kurdish forces securing a border in Syria, seeing it part of a U.S. agenda to control territory in the war-torn country.
- This is already the third diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington of 2018. On January 11, Erdogan threatened to stop cooperating with U.S. extradition requests unless Washington hands over exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen. On January 5, he said bilateral accords between the two countries are being undermined after a court found an executive from Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank guilty of conspiring to evade sanctions against Iran. In October 2017, their respective embassies suspended reciprocal visa services after Turkey arrested a U.S. consulate employee over alleged links to Gülen.
- Twin blasts at a busy street market on Monday in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killed 38 and left 105 wounded, Iraqi health and police officials said, according to Al Jazeera and AFP. Iraq’s interior ministry spokesman, Saad Maan, said two suicide bombers detonated their belts in a crowd of workers at the Al Tayaran Square in central Baghdad.
- Iraq declared final victory over Islamic State group last month, three years after the Islamic militant group captured around a third of Iraq’s territory.
- North and South Korea will hold talks on Wednesday about the North sending athletes to February’s Winter Olympics in the South, Seoul’s unification ministry said. Talks on Monday focused on an artistic troupe the North wants to send to Seoul. The two Koreas are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce. The Olympic talks come after tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons program, which it is pursuing despite UN sanctions and threats from the United States.
- U.S. President Donald J. Trump blamed Senator Dick Durbin in a tweet for hurting immigration talks after the Democratic lawmaker shared comments from their meeting. Trump described his language in a private Oval Office immigration meeting as “tough,” but denied he used the word “shithole” to describe African countries.
- Trump says he is open to allowing recipients of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals to stay in the country, only if Democrats agree to fund stricter order security and the wall that he promised in his 2016 campaign. A government shutdown will be the result if the immigration debate is not settled within the next budget.
- President Donald J. Trump declared, “I am not a racist.” He also said, “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” At the White House meeting, the president also reportedly questioned why the United States needed to admit more Haitians to the country or those whose countries are beset by natural disasters, war, or epidemics.
What we’re reading
- In the United States, sexual harassment at the hands of landlords, property managers, and others in the housing industry can drive poor women and their children into homelessness. It’s a misunderstood and virtually unstudied problem, according to the BBC. In this piece for the BBC, Jessica Lussenhop outlines a woman’s stark choice – sexual favors or lose her home. – Charles Anderson
- Self-driving cars could become weapons, an executive at Chinese internet firm Baidu warned. This short Financial Times report picks up on fears about artificial intelligence and its possible role in warfare and crime. (If you’re interested in this topic, see WikiTribune reporter Jack Barton’s piece on drones and AI in weaponry.) – Angela Long
What the WikiTribune community is up to
- Facebook is rethinking what appears on your newsfeed: bumping down publishers and brands in favor of friends. In this piece, developed with the WikiTribune community, Charles Turner outlines what that could mean for publishers and the larger community.