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Curated top stories of the day
- Trump businesses subpoenaed by Mueller – The New York Times reports that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a subpoena for the Trump Organization, the corporate entity that oversees all of the Trump family’s business activities. This is the first time the “Russian probe” has forced the Trump administration to provide documents relating the investigation. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president was fully cooperating.
- Several NATO powers condemn Russia for chemical attack – Leaders of France, Germany, Britain and the United States jointly condemned Russia for the chemical attack on a Russian former double agent in England in a joint statement on Thursday. President Donald J. Trump said “it certainly looks like the Russians were behind,” according to Reuters. The statement blamed Moscow, although the Kremlin has denied any involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia which left both unconscious. Russia said it will retaliate soon to the UK’s expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats.
- A spokesperson for Moscow’s Foreign Ministry said (Washington Post) that British Prime Minister Theresa May was “aiming to posture as a strong leader” by blaming Russia for the poisoning. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia’s “smug, sarcastic response” shows its “fundamental guilt.” (The Guardian).
- Over 12,000 Syrian civilians flee eastern Ghouta region – As government forces advance into the rebel-held area near the capital of Damascus, more than 12,000 people from the besieged region fled towards government troops seeking shelter. Russian state news showed civilians leaving after three weeks of bombardment, during which 1,500 civilians have died. UN officials have described the situation as “hell on earth” (The Guardian). This week marks seven years since the Syrian civil war began (AP).
- Meanwhile, 25 trucks carrying food aid entered the town of Douma. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the convoys contained enough food aid for 26,100 people, for one month, when roughly 390,000 people are facing severe shortages of supplies. According to The Guardian it is estimated 300,000 civilians are still living in eastern Ghouta.
- U.S. imposes sanctions on five organizations and 19 Russians – The Trump administration has accused them of interfering in the 2016 U.S. election, executing alleged cyber-attacks and attempting to infiltrate the American energy grid. The individuals include 13 people who were charged last month by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller and six others sanctioned on Thursday. Also sanctioned were five organizations, including the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB., the Russian military intelligence service, known as GRU, and the Internet Research Agency, which is accused of producing divisive political posts to affect the 2016 U.S. election. The sanctions will block the individuals and organizations from traveling to the U.S., freeze any assets in the country and bar U.S. businesses and individuals from doing business with them (New York Times).
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional sanctions against Russian-state actors would be forthcoming, but did not specify what these actions would be.
- The Department of Homeland Security and FBI released an alert that the Kremlin has launched several cyber attacks on the U.S. energy grid for at least two years. This is the first time that the Donald J. Trump administration has acknowledged systematic hacking from the Russian government according to Reuters. Much of the national security warning is based off of analysis from Symantec, a U.S. security-contractor, which reports that Russian actors have targeted electric, nuclear and water facilities in the U.S. and Europe with the objective to “compromise organizational networks.” (Help WikiTribune sift through the DHS – FBI joint technical alert).
- Member of Saudi royalty faces charges in France – A French judge issued an international arrest warrant for Princess Hassa bint Salman, sister of the Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for allegations that her bodyguard assaulted a hired worker in a Paris apartment. The initial arrest warrant was issued in December, the judge’s order opens up the possibility of extradition. Prince Mohammad bin Salman is scheduled for an official visit to France in April.
- Brazilian politician killed drive-by shooting – Rio de Janerio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco, a rising left-wing politician in Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty Party, was shot dead in what authorities say looks like a political assassination. Her driver was killed in the shooting as well. Franco was known for being a fierce critic of police killings at a time when Brazil’s army has assumed security operations in order to combat growing crime. Amnesty International has called for a full investigation into the shooting.
- Sri Lanka lifts ban on Facebook after sectarian violence – Residents of Sri Lanka regained access to Facebook after the government temporary banned the platform. Sri Lankan officials believe that Facebook acted as a platform for hate speech, which fueled violent clashes Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims last week. The government lifted the ban after speaking with Facebook employees.
- UK to build chemical weapons ‘defence center’ for protection – Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson will announce the UK is to build a £48 million facility in Porton Down to protect itself from what he said were growing threats from Russia and North Korea. In a speech on Thursday, Williamson referenced the “shocking and reckless” attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter to illustrate the dangers Britain faced from chemical weapon attacks.
- China offers Korean peace encouragement – China’s President Xi Jinping said “ice melts, spring comes and flowers bloom” in a colorful reference to South Korea’s ongoing efforts to create peaceful engagement with North Korea, a South Korean official said on Thursday. Reuters reported that Russia also expressed support for the initiative. South Korea’s National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong told officials in Beijing and Moscow about China’s response following his success in securing an agreement for a future summit between the leaders of North Korea, South Korea and the U.S.
- Blood-testing company settles fraud case – Theranos Inc. was once valued at $9 billion on the promise that it would disrupt the laboratory testing business with new technology. However, after the Wall Street Journal started questioning its claims, the company’s fortunes began to shift. On Wednesday, Theranos and its chief executive Elizabeth Holmes agreed to settle “massive fraud” charges based on “numerous false and misleading statements in investor presentations, product demonstrations, and media articles” about its key product.
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- Russia under Vladimir Putin has become a leading exponent of military and non-military tactics to launch what would otherwise be war – a concept known as “hybrid war” – from the invasion of Crimea, to social media misinformation and apparently the use of chemical weapons in Britain. Here WikiTribune speaks to experts about the tactic and what it means for the future of warfare and diplomacy.
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- It was March 16, 1968. The American soldiers of Charlie Company were sent on what they were told was a mission to confront a crack outfit of their Vietcong enemies. However, they met no resistance. Over the course of several hours the Charlie Company killed 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women, children and elderly men. The massacre occurred in My Lai and Friday is the 50th anniversary. The Associated Press goes back the scene to speak to locals who still remember the incident.
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