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Curated top stories of the day
- Police say fourth bombing in Austin indicates work of “serial bomber” – A device exploded in Austin, Texas for the fourth time in a month on Sunday, injuring two men. “We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. Unlike the other three devices which were left on residents’ doorsteps, this one was left on the side of a residential road. Police say it may have been triggered by “tripwire”, according to CNN. Austin’s law enforcement is trying to determine whether the explosion is linked to the earlier bombings.
- EU and UK agree Brexit transition deal terms – The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom reached an agreement on the terms of a transition period after Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc, which they hope can be signed off at the EU summit later this week. The transition period is planned to begin on March 29, 2019, when the UK formally exits the EU, and will end on December 31, 2020. The most notable terms agreed included an emergency “backstop” option for Northern Ireland so that if no other deal is reached it will effectively remain in parts of the single market and the customs union, EU citizens arriving in the UK during the transition period being guaranteed the same rights as those who arrive before Brexit, and the UK being able to sign new trade deals during the transition period, to come into effect afterwards. These agreements were made despite Prime Minister Theresa May previously ruling out a “backstop option”, insisting that rights offered to EU citizens after Brexit should be “different” (The Guardian) and her DUP coalition partners scuppering the next phase of Brexit talks in December 2017, when its leader said Northern Ireland couldn’t be part of EU laws which made it separate to the rest of the UK (The Guardian). The transition period is meant to be used to iron out a path for a future permanent relationship between the UK and the EU.
Trump warned against interfering in Russia probe – Republicans have warned U.S. President Donald J. Trump against interfering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation after Trump attacked it on Twitter. Trump said the “witch hunt” was dominated by “hardened Democrats.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Mueller should be allowed to proceed without interference, while Senator John McCain said the special counsel had served his country with “honesty and integrity” and needed to do his job unimpeded.
- Nerve agent examined by chemical weapon team – International experts are expected to visit the UK to determine the type of nerve agent used in the attempted assassination of a former Russian double agent and his daughter on March 4. British researchers say the chemical weapon used belongs to the novichok family. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the poisoning, while Moscow denies any involvement. Experts say it fits a pattern of Russian interference. In an ensuing international standoff both countries have expelled diplomats, among other sanctions. The team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will visit the Porton Down military research base in south England, and results are expected to take at least two weeks to produce. Read more WikiTribune‘s extensive coverage of the Skripals’ poisoning.
- Assad visits forces in Ghouta – Syrian forces look close to taking complete control of a major opposition enclave near Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday visited soldiers in Ghouta and also met some of the many civilians displaced by the government’s offensive. The battle in Ghouta has been one of the most protracted of the seven-year civil war, with rebels facing their worst defeat since the battle of Aleppo in 2016.
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- Cambridge Analytica, already a controversial name in politics because of its connections with former allies of President Trump, Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, has been “suspended” from Facebook over an Anglo-American journalistic investigation reported evidence of misuse of Facebook users’ data. Read and contribute to WikiTribune’s report on this developing story.
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- As the list of endangered animals worldwide grows longer, society may soon be faced with an impossible decision: which ones to take off life support. This piece in the New York Times Magazine weighs those arguments. “How do we decide whether the wolf or the snow leopard is more valuable?”
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