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Curated top stories
- U.S. stocks plunge – The Dow Industrials index recorded its biggest one day decline in history which helped Wall Street wipe out its gains for the year. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 dropped by four percent. Analysts say that the drop is due to worries that inflation could cause interest rates could rise (Financial Times) and rising wages (Washington Post). The prospect of tax cuts and deregulation helped the stock market reach to record highs since President Donald Trump’s election. The market is up 23.8 percent since his victory. Despite the market drop, the White House said the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were still strong. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.
- Committee votes to release Democrat memo – A U.S. House of Representatives committee voted to approve releasing a memo that Democrats say counters a controversial Republican memo which alleged a FBI bias against President Donald Trump. The vote will send the memo to the White House as soon as Monday night, giving Trump until Friday to decide whether to allow its release. Read WikiTribune’s report on the memo from Republican Devin Nunes, outlining his concerns about the FBI’s investigations into alleged Russian ties with the Trump campaign.
- Pope didn’t act after receiving abuse victim’s letter – The Associated Press has reported that in 2015, Pope Francis received a letter from Juan Carlos Cruz that graphically described how a Chilean priest sexually abused him but the Chilean clergy ignored it. The revelation challenges the pope’s insistence that he has “zero tolerance” for sex abuse and cover-ups, and adds to the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.
- Criticism intensified last month when the pope’s trip to South America was marred by protests over his defense of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of covering up abuse by Reverend Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of pedophilia by the Vatican. Last month, while travelling back to the Vatican after the trip, the pope told an AP reporter, “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”
- Lauri Love wins extradition appeal – An alleged hacker has won a UK High Court appeal against being extradited to the United States. Lauri Love, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and has also been diagnosed with a depressive illness, was first arrested in October 2013 under suspicion of hacking into several U.S. government bodies and allegedly stealing data. Love argued that his condition, coupled with the “poor” way in which the U.S. prison system deals with inmates with mental health issues, meant “suicide is a real risk” if he were extradited. U.S. officials wanted Love to stand trial there on cyber-hacking charges, which could have seen him face up to 99 years behind bars.
- Costa Rica elections enter second round -– Conservative presidential candidate Fabricio Alvarado won the first round of elections with roughly 25 percent of the vote, but failed to secure the 40 percent required for an outright victory. Alvarado was considered an outsider until he promised to oppose the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’s January ruling that same sex-marriage should be recognized. He will face Carlos Alvarado – a left wing and pro same-sex marriage candidate – who secured roughly 22 percent of the vote, in a second round on April 21.
- Zuma refuses to step down – South Africa’s highest political authority, the National Executive Committee (NEC), will decide the future of Jacob Zuma’s fraught presidency on Wednesday, according to News24. South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, was unsuccessful in unseating the controversial president on their own, leaving the umbrella NEC organization to figure out a solution.
- Zuma faces corruption allegations over his close ties to the powerful Gupta family, which is accused of wielding undue political influence in South Africa. The BBC reports that ANC leaders are expected to begin removing Zuma through a formal recall, or by parliamentary process.
- Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president and newly elected leader of the party, will take control of the government if Zuma is ousted.
- U.S. draws down troops from Iraq – U.S. troops have started to withdraw from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the so-called Islamic State (IS) in December 2017, according to Western contractors. Some U.S. personnel and equipment are being transferred to Afghanistan, where the United States has been embroiled in war for the past 16 years. Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that a deal had been struck to pull troops out for the first time since the war against IS started three years ago. According to a senior Iraqi official, 4,000 of almost 9,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to help train the armed forces.
- Expensive watch scandal grows in Thailand – More than 60,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for the resignation of Thailand’s deputy prime minister. This is because he was photographed wearing an undeclared $90,000 luxury watch (NPR) and an expensive diamond ring in December 2017. Under Thai law, politicians must fully disclose their assets to the country’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). Netizens have since identified another 25 luxury watches Prawit Wongsuwan, Thailand’s junta’s second-in-command, has worn but not declared to the NACC, for a total estimated value of over $1 million (NPR). Wongsuwan is under investigation by the anti-graft body, which will finish its probe later this month, and has said he will resign if the public wants him to. (Add to our coverage here.)
- Microplastics threaten marine life – Ocean filter feeding giants like whales, sharks and rays are at “significant risk” from microplastics, which they ingest through tiny food such as plankton, say scientists who are calling for more research into the area. The study, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, brought together researchers from the United States, Australia, and Italy to look at data on threats to large filter feeders from plastics less than five millimeters long. The study says that estimates suggest some whales may be ingesting hundreds of pieces of plastic a day. A number of filter-feeding sharks, rays, and whales are on the edge of extinction. (See and contribute to WikiTribune’s Project on plastics in the ocean.)
What we’re reading
- When Sri Lanka’s government wanted to build a port on its southern coast it asked India for investment. The country’s immediate neighbor balked at the idea. So the the offer went to China, which invested $US 1.5 billion in the project. The port was officially licensed to a Chinese state company in December. According to this CNN piece, the deal gives China yet another point of access over a key shipping route — from Sudan to Hong Kong. “It also raises the prospect of providing it with a sizeable presence in India’s immediate backyard and traditional sphere of influence, bringing China closer to India’s shores than New Delhi might like.” – Charles Anderson
What the WikiTribune community is up to
- There’s been some keen and relevant community talk on WikiTribune journalist Harry Ridgewell’s story about laboratory-grown meat. With roughly 25 percent of the world’s land already used for raising livestock, and cows contributing to global warming, Mark Post and his team at Maastricht University made the world’s first lab-grown burger in 2013. Read what they have been doing since then, and please contribute, or leave your comment.
- Community member Hubert Lindsay examines trends towards investment in clean and renewable energy, and asks if renewable energy has hit a threshold of acceptance.