Syrian rebels begin evacuation deal; Trump targets China

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  • Syrian rebels begin leaving eastern Ghouta in evacuation deal – The BBC reported Syrian state media said 88 rebels and 459 civilians left the city of Harasta on Thursday morning, as part of an evacuation deal with the government, arranged by its ally Russia. The rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham, which had controlled Harasta, agreed to stop fighting in return for safe passage to the northern rebel stronghold of Idlib. Similar deals are on the table with other rebel factions in eastern Ghouta, but have yet to be accepted.
  • Trump’s lead lawyer for Russian investigation resigns – U.S. President Donald Trump’s lead lawyer for the  investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election resigned. There are reports John Dowd resigned because Trump was increasingly ignoring his advice as well as reports that Trump had lost confidence in Dowd’s ability to deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the BBC. John Dowd called for the investigation to end last week – initially saying that he was speaking for the president but later clarified he was only speaking for himself. Trump’s lawyers are negotiating with investigator Robert Muller’s special counsel’s team over a potential interview with the President.

Earlier

  • British PM to call for unity at EU summit, despite Brexit – Following the nerve agent attack of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on UK soil, Theresa May will warn the European Council on March 22 of the threat from Russia, and ask EU leaders to stay united. The EU is expected to condemn the attack, for which the UK said Russia is responsible. Moscow denied any wrongdoing. (Read more of our coverage of the Skripal attack.)
  • Colleagues of Kogan had concerns over how he used data – The Financial Times (may be behind paywall) reported that members of the Cambridge Psychometrics Center had raised concerns over how Aleksandr Kogan was using data in his work with Cambridge Analytica. “He shouldn’t have done it and when he did the department should have done something about it,” an anonymous academic told the FT. Kogan has denied that he did anything wrong and says the media has made him a “scapegoat.”
  • Trump looks to impose tariffs on China – U.S. President Donald Trump is set to announce tariffs of between $30-$60bn on Chinese imports. The measure aims to protect U.S. technology and intellectual property (IP) but U.S media reports it will likely set off a trade war. America’s top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, told members of Congress on March 21 the United States is looking to put “maximum pressure on China and minimum pressure on U.S. consumers.”
  • UN countries urge Cambodia for free and fair elections – Forty-five countries have called on Cambodia to reinstate the main opposition party, release its jailed leader, and ensure its general election in July is free and fair. The statement, on behalf of 44 countries, raises concerns about the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha and the forced dissolution of his Cambodia National Rescue Party as well as about “a significant clampdown on the press and civil society across the country.” (Phnom Penh Post)
  • Africa agrees Continental Free Trade Area – At a summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, 44 African country leaders have signed a deal to create a free trade area, which they hope will come into effect within six months. The deal needs to be ratified by each of the 44 countries’ national parliaments to take effect. Ten countries, including Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, refused to sign the deal, reportedly because some businesses and trade unions were not consulted. The editor of the BBC’s Africa Business Report says the Continental Free Trade Area’s ambition is to create a customs union, common market, and single currency, similar to the European Union.

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  • Europe is about to stake a claim to protect the privacy of individual data on the internet that far outstrips the norm in the United States. What’s more, against a background of fresh uproar over misuse of data centered on Facebook, it sets the stage for a confrontation with Washington and the giant American corporations that dominate the internet. Here WikiTribune reports on the far-reaching set of rules focused on the shielding of individual privacy and exchange of data across borders

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  • Christopher Wylie, now regretful over his role in turning data on an estimated tens of millions of U.S. voters into a high-tech political persuasion machine, has delivered revelations that have triggered government investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, sent Facebook’s stock price plunging and pushed long-simmering privacy concerns to a boil. Here, he tells the Washington Post about how he became a whistle-blower on Cambridge Analytica.

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