Turkish snap election; UN inspectors 'delayed by gunfire' in Douma

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  • Erdogan calls snap election – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called an early election (Guardian), hastening the country’s move to an “executive presidency” with greater centralized power. Erdogan, who has been president for four years, served as prime minister for a decade before that. In April 2017, a constitutional referendum abolished the position of prime minister and gave the president power to appoint senior court officials. The changes take effect on the election of a new government, which is now set for June 24, a year ahead of schedule.
  • Gunfire delays chemical weapons inspectors in Douma – Chemical-weapons inspectors due to arrive at Douma, Syria have been delayed by gunfire heard by a UN security team trying to get there, according to Reuters sources. Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are trying to verify if a chlorine attack took place on April 7. The alleged attack led to the UK, U.S. and France launching joint missile strikes against suspected chemical-weapons stores on April 14. Syria and Russia have denied the attack took place, and separately accused the rebels of either carrying out or staging the attack.
  • Cohen wants “special masters” to review his documents – Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer and fixer of President Donald J. Trump, offered a list of people they believe to be suitable to review documents seized by federal agents on April 9. All of the names given are former prosecutors. These “special masters” would decide which documents connect to the court case, and which are protected under attorney-client privilege, something that Trump has long argued is being violated by the FBI.
  • Hundreds of Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon – Lebanese authorities arranged a convoy to transport roughly 500 refugees to the Beit Jinn district of Syria, a region recaptured by the Syrian government. Lebanon has long demanded to return over 1 million Syrian refugees to more secure parts of Syria.(Human Rights Watch). It is not clear that all 500 are returning voluntarily or with full knowledge of the situation in Syria.  Reuters quoted one Syrian refugee who was happy to go back. The United Nations is not involved with this convoy, and is against any efforts to return Syrians until the civil war ends. The International Organization for Migration reported that over 600,000 Syrians returned home in 2017.
  • UK media regulator investigates RT – the UK media watchdog Ofcom has opened seven new investigations into RT television. RT claims to be independent and autonomous but admits it is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. (RT.com) The international broadcaster  questioned UK coverage of the attack on a former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England. Russia-backed news outlets have been accused of a disinformation campaign ordered by the Kremlin, which denies UK allegations of its involvement in the attack. Ofcom has previously found RT breached impartiality standards when reporting on the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.


  • Koreas considering official end to war  South Korea is considering a peace treaty with the North, according to officials in Seoul, ahead of their summit on April 27. “As one of the plans, we are looking at a possibility of shifting the Korean peninsula’s armistice to a peace regime,” said one high-ranking South Korean official as reported by Reuters. However, the officials added that the peace treaty depends on North Korea abandoning its nuclear ambitions.
  • Pompeo meets with Kim – CIA director Mike Pompeo secretly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un earlier this month, according to U.S. media. The meeting in Pyongyang, first reported by the Washington Post, was to lay the groundwork for direct talks between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Kim. Unnamed officials said the meeting took place over Easter weekend. Trump alluded to the talks with Pyongyang, the highest level contact the U.S has had with North Korea in 17 years. “We have had direct talks at … extremely high levels,” Trump said.

  • Cuba set to nominate new president – Cuban officials are expected to nominate the country’s First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, to succeed 86-year-old Raul Castro as president. Lawmakers were set to start a two-day session on Wednesday to name Diaz-Canel, who would become the first non-Castro president in more than 40 years.

  • Facebook to start using facial recognition in EU and Canada – Facebook has announced it is expanding its facial recognition services to users in the European Union and Canada. Facial recognition services have sparked a class action lawsuit in the United States after studies showed that the services can detect users’ sexuality, and whether they have been political protesters. The services will include an opt-out feature in the platform’s setting after users agree to the new privacy update.

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  • Last October, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered by a car bomb. As part of a cross-border investigation involving dozens of journalists, known as The Daphne Project, Reuters looks at the inside story that “tarnishes Europe.”

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