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Curated top stories of the day
- U.S. issues sanctions on Russia oligarchs – Seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies, 17 senior Russian officials, a Russian state weapons trading company and its bank have had their assets frozen. U.S. citizens are also prohibited from dealing with them. All this by way of new sanctions from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The list includes Oleg Deripaska, who reportedly had past business dealings with Paul Manafort, Donald J. Trump’s former campaign chairman. Manafort has been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign. See WikiTribune’s coverage for more.
- Sergei Skripal’s health “improving rapidly” – Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal’s health is no longer in a critical condition and he is “improving rapidly,” according to Salisbury District Hospital staff. Skripal had been poisoned by the nerve agent novichok on March 4. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital since being found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury. Yulia Skripal woke up over a week ago. The UK government claims Russia is behind the attack but Moscow denies all involvement. See WikiTribune’s main story here.
- Two Palestinians killed in second week of Gaza protest – Israeli forces shot Palestinian protesters on Friday, killing two and wounding at least 150, according to Palestinian medics. Thousands of protesters had gathered on Gaza’s border during the second week of a six-week demonstration against Israel. The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands they fled or were forced to leave in 1948, lands that are now part of Israel. Refugees make up most of the 2 million population of Gaza, which is governed by the Islamist militant movement Hamas. Israel says Hamas is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks against it. Israel has maintained orders for soldiers to open fire, despite international condemnation. Twenty-two Palestinians have died since the protest began on March 30.
- Park found guilty – A South Korean court has ruled that former President Park Geun-hye colluded with her friend to receive billions from major conglomerates. Park, 66, was found guilty of abuse of power and coercion by helping Choi Soon-sil’s family by funding their non-profit foundations. The former leader denied wrongdoing and was not in court for the verdict. She was sentenced to 24 years in jail and was fined the equivalent of US$17 million.
- China to fight tariffs – China says it will fight back, at any cost, with measures to protect its interests if the United States continues on a path of protectionism. The comments come after U.S. President Donald J. Trump threatened to add an extra $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese products in a worsening standoff between the world’s two biggest economies. National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay said the situation looks like a trade war and will put American families on the “losing end.” Chinese press agency Xinhua reported that academics believe the move to bypass the World Trade Organization is a “big mistake.”
- UN rejects joint Russia investigation – Britain’s key allies at the United Nations Security Council rejected Moscow’s bid (The Guardian) to join the investigation into the nerve agent attack against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Britain and key allies accuse Russia of being responsible for the attack on the Skripals. Britain’s security services believe the novichock agent used was produced in a Russian lab, yet Britain’s defence research center could not confirm Russia as the source. Moscow denies any involvement. Read WikiTribune‘s previous coverage of the attack.
- Zuma charged – South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma was charged with corruption on Friday for his link to a $2.5 billion arms deal from the 1990s. Zuma was forced out of office in February for allegations of fraud, racketeering and economic mismanagement. He denies any wrongdoing and told crowds outside the court that he was innocent until proven guilty. The Durban High Court adjourned the case until June 8 to give Zuma’s legal team and state lawyers time to prepare submissions to the court. Read WikiTribune‘s previous coverage of Jacob Zuma’s defeat.
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- Since Russia has been blamed for an attack on a former double agent and his daughter in Britain, dozens of alternative theories have been proposed by figures linked to the Kremlin. Experts told WikiTribune the allegations fit an established pattern of Russian disinformation campaigns that should be countered with the transparent use of facts.
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- Help WikiTribune report on fertility trackers and contraceptive apps using data. Concern arises from privacy concerns sparked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal about technology companies harvesting personal information.
What we’re reading
- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to win a third term in office on Sunday. The authoritarian leader advocates what he has described as an “illiberal state” and his critics view him as a racist and an autocrat. In “The man who thinks Europe has been invaded,” the BBC’s Nick Thorpe profiles the PM himself, Hungarian history, and what it will it mean for Europe if Orban wins another four years in power. – Ed Upright
- Thousands of internal documents help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power for so long. This report by the New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi outlines the the way Isis built their state on the back of the one that existed before, absorbing the administrative know-how of its hundreds of government cadres. An examination of how the group governed reveals a pattern of collaboration between the militants and the civilians under their yoke. – Charles Anderson
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