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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. More details can be found in our story here.
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.
Self-driving car kills pedestrian – An Uber car in autonomous mode struck and killed a women in Tempe, Arizona, marking the first casualty caused by driverless technology. Self-driving cars have been in accidents before, but later investigation found that the autonomous vehicle was not at fault. By striking a pedestrian, who always has the right of way, this death marks a potential blow to the industry that has struggled to operate in the unpredictable traffic of city roadways. Read more WikiTribune coverage on this incident.
- 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.
- France outlines tougher rules for the unemployed – French President Emmanuel Macron announced stricter monitoring for those who receive unemployment benefits. If the plans are implemented, unemployed residents will need to meet a higher burden of proof that they are seeking employment, and will have a tougher time turning down jobs that the government identifies for them. Members of the international business community have criticized France for having overly generous labor laws (Washington Post).
- 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.
- Russia blocked France’s call for a United Nations meeting to address the human rights situation in Syria. China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan voted with Russia’s veto.
- Trump wants death penalty for drug dealers – In a political rally in New Hampshire, President Donald J. Trump advocated for executing those who sell opioids. New Hampshire is one of many states that has been particularly affected by the national opioid epidemic, partly fueled by prescription pain killers. The statement dovetails with a presidency that has embraced harsher sentencing.
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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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