Syria 'backs' Kurds; Maldives extends state of emergency

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  • Syrian troops ‘will back Kurds’ against Turkey – Syrian militia forces backed by dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government will join Kurdish fighters in the city of Afrin to help confront a Turkish offensive, according to Syrian media as reported by Reuters. “If they are entering [Afrin] to protect YPG/PKK, nobody can stop the Turkish army,” Turkey’s foreign minister said. The deal underscores the highly complex nature of the battlefield in northern Syria, which involves the Syrian government, Kurdish forces, rebel factions, Turkey, the United States, and Russia.
  • Maldives seeks to extend state of emergency – Maldives President Abdulla Yameen on Monday asked for parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency in the country for another 15 days as “the situation has not changed,” according to deputy secretary general Fathmath Niusha. The Maldives has been in political turmoil since Yameen refused to obey a court order to release nine political prisoners. The main opposition said this amounted to a coup, prompting Yameen to impose the state of emergency on February 6. This had been due to end on Tuesday.
  • U.S. uses a milder tone on Iran nuclear deal when speaking with allies – Reuters obtained a State Department cable sent to European Union allies which does not threaten to apply sanctions on Iran, or pull out of the multilateral deal. Instead, the cable says that the U.S. is interested in drafting a “supplemental” or “follow-up” deal that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile program and the sunset-clauses that the Trump administration have criticized as giving Iran a chance to develop nuclear weapons at a later date. 
  • Far-right party gains in Germany – Germany’s far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) surpassed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) for the first time in a national poll to become the country’s second-favored party. The poll by Insa, commissioned by Bild newspaper, showed the AfD at 16 percent support compared to the SPD at 15.5 percent. It is the lowest result for what has been one of Germany’s largest parties. The results come after comes after the party’s former leader, Martin Schulz, resigned last week.
  • Oxfam says Haiti director admitted using prostitutes – An internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct released by Oxfam on Monday said the charity’s country director in Haiti admitted to using prostitutes at Oxfam-rented accommodation before resigning. The 2011 report also documents accusations against others of bullying, intimidation, and physical threats by three of the men accused of sexual misconduct. Former director Roland Van Hauwermeiren denied paying for sex with prostitutes or abusing minors last week, after The Times reported that some Oxfam staff paid for sex while delivering aid in the Caribbean country. (Read WikiTribune‘s full coverage of the story.)
  • Russian curling medalist suspected of doping – An anti-doping case was opened against Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky, who won bronze along with his wife in the mixed doubles at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said. Krushelnitsky is suspected of testing positive for meldonium, a drug that helps blood flow to parts of the body. A selection of 168 “clean” Russian athletes were allowed to compete in the Winter Olympics as “neutrals” after the country was banned from the event for state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
  • Sony joins ride-hailing app business – Japan’s growing taxi-hailing market will now include Sony Corporation which announced it will develop its own software to rival that of SoftBank and Toyota, according to Nikkei Asian Review. 
  • Kenyan opposition leaders blocked from leaving the country – Staff of opposition leader Raila Odinga had their passports confiscated when attempting to travel to Zimbabwe. A high-court ordered the passports to be returned, the ruling has not been followed as of yet. Odinga himself left the country after boycotting the presidential election that he said was rigged. 

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  • Cambodia was once a focus of global efforts to promote democracy and repair the legacy of the Vietnam War. However, in the wake of genocidal misrule by the Khmer Rouge, and decades of civil war, it now appears to be moving rapidly toward a one-party state – modeled more on China than on the United States. If you’re familiar with the story of this strategic Southeast Asian nation, we’d value your contribution to help analyze Cambodia. Follow this WikiProject.

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  • Vincent van Gogh only sold a few paintings in his lifetime, but Chinese copy artist Zhao Xiaoyong has sold over 90,000 reproductions of the Dutch painter’s masterpieces over the past 20 years. He’s part of a vast industry that works like a production line in creating oil paintings. In this documentary for Al Jazeera, Zhao is invited to Amsterdam by his top client to see Van Gogh’s original work. What he discovers inspires him to pursue his own creativity – as long as he can afford to. – Charles Anderson
  • More than 16 years after the September 11 attacks in the United States spurred a broad fight against terrorism, some Americans say it’s time to look at how the country is deploying its forces. Reporting from the desert of Niger to a small town in Georgia, The New York Times reconstructed how four American soldiers lost their lives – and why they were in Africa to begin with. – Charles Anderson

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