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Curated top stories
- Trump willing to be interviewed by Special Counsel – U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters that he is willing to be interviewed under oath by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. “I‘m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump said. “I would do it under oath.”
- Venezuela presidential battle begins – Venezuela’s presidential election race got underway Wednesday. Incumbent Nicolas Maduro is favored to win with an “anti-Trump” message. Opposition parties, who “scrambled for a candidate” according to Reuters, lambasted Maduro for turning Venezuela into a dictatorship, ruining the economy, and skewing the election toward Maduro’s Socialist Party. Venezuela’s pro-government Constituent Assembly said the vote must be held before May.
- Egyptian presidential candidate Khaled Ali withdraws from race – The prominent lawyer, and major political opponent for President Fattah El Sisi, said he will no longer run in the presidential election. He cited the unwarranted arrest of Lieutenant General Sami Anan, another presidential hopeful, as a reason for his withdrawal. Without Anan and Ali in the race, President Sisi’s reelection bid faces no serious contenders.
- Democrats take border wall funding off the table – Democrats withdrew an offer to fund U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s wall along the Mexican border in exchange for legal protections for some undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. The move comes after Trump signed a short-term spending measure late Monday, and after Senate Democrats agreed on legislation to fund the government for three weeks (The Guardian). However, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he pulled the wall offer because of what he said was Trump’s failure to follow through on the outlines of an agreement the two men discussed last Friday. “So we’re going to have to start on a new basis and the wall offer is off the table,” Schumer told reporters.
- U.S. Gymnastics doctor sentenced for up to 175 years for molesting female athletes – After grueling testimony from 160 of his victims, Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree sexual assault. The prison sentence could range from 40 years to 175. As the national team’s physician, Nassar would sexually abuse female gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment. The head of Michigan State University (MSU), Lou Anna Simon, resigned hours after Nassar was sentenced. She said in a statement: “To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment.”
- Congo court convicts 134 people for massacres – A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo sentenced 134 people for their role in the killing 800 people during clashes between rebels and the Congo military. The Congolese government has long blamed Ugandan-Muslim rebels for violence in the country after President Joseph Kabila overstayed his term limits.
- Trump cracks down on ‘sanctuary cities’ – Living up to his campaign promise, President Donald J. Trump is threatening U.S. cities that fail to share the immigration status of suspects, or those they arrest. The U.S. Justice Department demanded 23 major cities, all with Democratic leadership, to hand over immigration records. Subpoenas will be issued for those that do not comply.
- Defenders of so-called “sanctuary cities” argue that the policy preserves trust between immigrant communities and local police. They argue that if local police share immigration statuses with federal authorities, undocumented immigrants will be less likely to report criminal activity.
- Mnuchin and Ross in Davos for Trump curtain-raiser – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defended Trump’s “America first” approach to global affairs, telling an audience at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, that “the economy that’s good for the U.S. is good for the rest of the world.” Acting as a warm-up to Trump’s Davos address on Friday, Mnuchin said the U.S. president will talk about the impact of his economic plans on the world. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross meanwhile defended the imposition of U.S. tariffs on certain imports from China and South Korea, saying: “There have always been trade wars: the difference now is U.S. troops are now coming to the ramparts.” (Read more on Destination Davos, WikiTribune’s rolling and regularly updated WEF story.)
- Benghazi car bombs kill 27 – Two car bombs exploded in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday night, killing 27 and wounding 30. The first bomb was timed as people left a mosque in a residential area. The second went off half an hour later as residents and medics gathered to evacuate the wounded. Libya fell into chaos following the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since 2014 it has been split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
- Mueller edges closer to Trump interview – U.S. prosecutors appear to be moving closer to a possible interview with President Trump about whether he took steps to obstruct an FBI probe into contacts between Russia and his 2016 campaign. The Associated Press reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week. Sessions is the highest-ranking Trump administration official known to have been questioned. Mueller is looking into whether Trump’s actions in office obstructed the FBI’s investigation efforts.
What we’re reading
- Financial Times journalist Madison Marriage went undercover at the Presidents Club Charity Dinner in London’s Dorchester Hotel, an annual secretive men-only event where women are the centerpieces. The report reveals that hostesses, many of whom are young female students earning extra cash, were groped, sexually harassed, and propositioned. The extraordinary expose shows the dark side of some elite charity circles, and another narrative in the sexual misconduct conversation since allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein first surfaced in October 2017. – Lydia Morrish
- A new report by Human Rights Watch reveals widespread abuse of migrant workers in the Thai fishing industry. A number of media investigations into similar claims in 2014 and 2015 were met with severe warnings from the European Union (EU) and United States, and the Thai government promised reform. But this investigation shows the extent to which abuse can be hidden, as well as the scale of the problem that persists. WikiTribune reported on widespread crime in tuna fishing in the South Pacific late last year. – Jack Barton
- A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night on Tuesday. A cellphone alert warned them that a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern coast and parts of British Columbia. The tsunami never materialized but the entire coastal region is still under threat. In this 2015 piece for the New Yorker, Karen Schulz outlines the very present danger and its devastating consequences. As she reports, the question is not whether an earthquake will hit, the question is when.
What the WikiTribune community is up to
- Facebook announced it will be rolling out a new global “privacy center” in response to a change in EU law, which will clamp down on how companies collect data. The aim of putting all core privacy settings in one place is to make it easier for users to manage their data. WikiTribune member Bethany Mosettig started this report but needs you to help complete it.