May Expels Russian Diplomats. But Now Comes the Hard Part.
Escalating a confrontation with Russia over the use of a nerve agent to poison one of its former spies on British soil, British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russians she said were spies, promised a crackdown on corrupt Russians and the money they funnel into Britain, and called off high-level contacts between the two governments. Using language reminiscent of the Cold War, May is the most forceful Western leader in denouncing the government of President Vladimir Putin, and makes a sharp contrast with President Donald Trump, who has been reluctant to criticize Putin.
U.S. Kept Silent About Its Role in Another Firefight in Niger
Green Berets working with government forces in Niger killed 11 Islamic State militants in a firefight in December, the U.S. military acknowledged for the first time Wednesday. The battle occurred two months after four U.S. soldiers died in an ambush in another part of Niger — and after senior commanders had imposed stricter limits on military missions in the West African country, where the United States is building a major drone base. No U.S. or Nigerien forces were harmed in the December gunbattle, but the combat — along with other previously unreported attacks — indicates that the deadly Oct. 4 ambush was not an isolated episode.
Now Two Former Presidents of South Korea Are Under Investigation
A former president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, was questioned by prosecutors Wednesday on charges of bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion, a year after another ex-leader was arrested on corruption charges. Lee, who was president of South Korea from 2008 to 2013, faced a bank of television cameras as he entered the prosecutors’ office in Seoul, where he had been summoned for questioning as a criminal suspect. Prosecutors have questioned or arrested several of Lee’s former aides, as well as relatives and businessmen, as part of the investigation.
Rohingya Refugee Camp Braces for Rain
The world’s largest refugee camp, a temporary home to more than half a million people that sprawls across barren hills in southeastern Bangladesh, faces a looming disaster as early as April when the first storms of the monsoon season hit, aid workers warn. “It’s going to be landslides, flash floods, inundation,” said Tommy Thompson, chief of emergency support and response for the World Food Program. Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees live in the camp near the southern tip of Bangladesh, which has become an example of another calamity of the global refugee crisis: desperate people in an ecologically fragile area now face a disaster made more precarious by climate change.
Myanmar Rejects U.N. Findings: ‘No Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide in Our Country’
Myanmar officials denied Wednesday that the country’s military had committed any crimes against Rohingya Muslims, one day after a United Nations expert suggested the government was implicated in “the crime of genocide” against the persecuted Muslim minority. “There is no ethnic cleansing or genocide in our country,” said Aung Tun Thet, chief coordinator of the Myanmar government body dedicated to the Rohingya crisis, which has sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing. The military’s scorched-earth tactics resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings and rapes of Rohingya, according to the U.N. and international rights groups.
Australian Court Hears Public Testimony in Cardinal Pell Abuse Case
A judge allowed reporters into an Australian courtroom Wednesday to hear witness testimony during a pretrial hearing for Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s third-highest-ranking priest, in a high-profile sexual abuse case that has largely unfolded behind closed doors. In a heated exchange, the defense cross-examined witnesses in open court, including Bernard Barrett, a researcher for Broken Rites, an advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse, who said he received an email from a victim in 2014. After a defense lawyer accused him of “making up” representations accusing the church of covering up sexual abuse, Barrett replied, “We don’t rile or make up accusations, we just state the facts.”
Philippines Plans to Withdraw From International Criminal Court
Denouncing efforts to paint him as a “heartless violator of human rights,” President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday the Philippines was withdrawing from the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. The Hague, Netherlands-based court last month opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations Duterte and other Philippine officials committed mass murder and crimes against humanity. Thousands of people have died at the hands of police officers or unknown gunmen since Duterte took office in 2016 promising to kill drug dealers and addicts. Duterte accused the court of violating “due process and the presumption of innocence.”
In Guinea, Wave of Protests Leaves at Least 11 Dead
A wave of unrest in the West African nation of Guinea left at least 11 people dead as protesters have poured into the streets nearly every day for weeks to demand raises for teachers and the results of long-awaited municipal elections. Thousands have turned out for demonstrations in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, and other major cities, and security forces have responded with tear gas and tanks. Violence has broken out at rallies, and journalists have been attacked. Some people died from gunshot wounds, according to local news media reports, and a police officer was killed after being hit in the head with a rock.
Tehran’s Mayor Watched a Dance Recital. Now He’s the Ex-Mayor.
A troupe of young dancing girls may have ended the career of Tehran’s mayor, who suddenly resigned Wednesday. The mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, attended a celebration last week amounting to an Islamic version of Mother’s Day, where he encountered six girls dancing in traditional costumes. A 66-year-old graduate of MIT, Najafi did not leave when the girls took the stage and a video shows him immersed in paperwork. Though the audience can be heard cheering, hard-liners were outraged. There is a ban on dancing in public for women — and girls older than 9 are regarded as women by clerics.
Want to Be Happy? Try Moving to Finland
Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report 2018, which was released Wednesday, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. Though in a different order, this is the same top 10 as last year, when Norway was No. 1. The United States is 18th out of 156 countries surveyed — down four spots — as life expectancy has declined, suicide rates have risen, the opioid crisis has worsened, inequality has grown and confidence in government has fallen. The report, produced by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is based on Gallup International surveys.
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