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Curated top stories
- Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S presidential elections, subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon. It means that Bannon will have to testify before a grand jury, the New York Times reports. It is the first time Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Trump’s close political associates. However Reuters reports that Bannon was also subpoenaed by a U.S House intelligence panel but refused to comply in answering questions about his time in the administration. Bannon was among the Trump’s closest aides during the 2016 election campaign, the presidential transition and his first months in office. Trump has recently distanced himself from Bannon after the former executive chairman of Breitbart News became a key source in a critical book of Trump’s administration. Read more of WikiTribune’s coverage of Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff and our interview with the author.
- A group of 21 U.S. state attorneys general are taking legal action to reverse a Federal Communications Commission decision that ended net neutrality. The state attorneys filed a petition to challenge the action, calling the reversal “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion” and that it violated federal laws and regulations. Republicans last year reversed a 2015 Obama Administration policy that classified broadband internet as a Title II “telecommunication service,” deeming it a public utility. Democrats also said they had the backing of 50 members of the 100-person chamber for repealing that decision, leaving them just one vote short of a majority. Read more of WikiTribune’s coverage of how ending net neutrality could affect consumers and the Net.
- Nigeria’s authorities said it released 244 militants from West African Islamist group Boko Haram after undergoing rehabilitation programs in detention, the BBC reports. The Nigerian military said the insurgents have been de-radicalized and prepared for reintegration with society, but critics are skeptical of their fitness for release. This comes just a day after Boko Haram released a video (Al Jazeera) of its leader claiming to show some of the Chibok girls still in captivity. These are from the group of over 200 girls kidnapped from a town in north-eastern Nigeria nearly four years ago.
- Around 20,000 people have been killed during Boko Haram’s eight-year revolt as the group attempts to create an Islamic state in the region. But Nigeria started mass trials and profiling of more than 6,000 Boko Haram suspects in October, detaining many for years without charge.
- Iran is the latest country to denounce the U.S. military’s plan to support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force in securing a border in Syria. The U.S. says the initiative is designed to keep Islamic State fighters from migrating westward. Russia, Turkey, Syria and now Iran strongly oppose the move. Turkish and Syrian governments have been the most vocal against the U.S decision, threatening to destroy the Kurdish force which they say is linked to terrorist activity.
- A Gallup poll found that 12.2 percent of Americans do not have health insurance, a jump of of 3.2 million people from last year, making it the biggest spike in uninsured rates since the polling agency began tracking the statistic in 2008.
- The Trump Administration has failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was partly designed to insure more Americans. However, the Gallup study said that the White House’s efforts to dismantle the healthcare law may have led people to not sign up for coverage. (Read More on the state of the Affordable Care Act).
- Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed a two-year repatriation timeline to return thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled across the border between the countries since violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The current agreement allows 156,000 Rohingya to be repatriated, much lower than the 650,000 who have taken refuge in Bangladesh. (Read more of our coverage of Myanmar here.)
- At least 20 people are dead after clashes broke out in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The violence shut the airport and damaged planes during what the government said was a failed attempt to free militants from a nearby prison. The attack was a catalyst for the heaviest fighting in Tripoli for months. The internationally-recognized Government of National Accord claimed to have largely stabilized the city. Tripoli has been under the control of myriad armed groups since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi and led to a civil war. Since 2014, there have been rival governments in Tripoli and the east of Libya.
- A spokesman for Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte said he had “nothing to do” with revoking the license of Rappler, a prominent news site which is highly critical of him. The decision was announced by the country’s Securities Exchange Commission, citing violations of foreign ownership and investment. This meant funds coming from Omidyar Network, created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar. Critics, including Amnesty International, said it was a move to silence the press. AFP reported that last year, during an address to congress, Duterte vowed to expose Rappler’s “American ownership”.
- The Danish government wants to dramatically increase its defense spending to counter Russia’s intensified military activity in eastern and northern Europe. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said: “Russia’s behavior has created an unpredictable and unstable security environment in the Baltic Sea region.” Denmark last week deployed 200 troops to a UK-led NATO mission in Estonia. The mission aims to deter Russia from attacking Baltic NATO members. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and backs separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
What we’re reading
- In a movement that parodies Catalan separatism, the fictional region of Tabarnia, that is fighting for independence from Catalonia, appointed its first president Albert Boadella, as reported in this Guardian piece. In a display mocking Catalan pro-independence parties supporting re-election for their suspended president Carles Puigdemont, who is exiled in Brussels, theater director and Tabarnia leader, Boadella was sworn in via video link as he was said to be in “exile’ in Madrid. – Harry Ridgewell
- Canadian aquatic physiology researcher Laura McDonnell stopped eating fish. However, it wasn’t for environmental reasons or the taste. McDonnell’s research has made her all too familiar with the dangers of seafood fraud – passing off food as fish when in fact it’s something else – and plastic pollution. At The Walrus, McDonnell explains how mislabeled fish makes it onto our dinner plates. But even if it isn’t mislabeled she outlines how plastic is likely to be part of their make up. – Charles Anderson
- “Even from the distance of a half-century, the moment feels familiar,” wrote The New York Times in its unnerving review of “How America Fractured in 1968” as told through the modern lens of the newspaper news alert. It’s all here: from the protests to the war to the Summer of Love. The interactive recounts history in a series of headlines and photographs that congers up a bitter political divide that, in the United States, at least, feels all too fresh 50 years later. – Jodie DeJonge
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