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White House Bans Venezuela’s Digital Currency and Imposes Further Sanctions

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, New York Times

White House Bans Venezuela’s Digital Currency and Imposes Further Sanctions

The Trump administration announced Monday that it was broadening sanctions against Venezuela, blacklisting four government officials and banning a digital currency President Nicolás Maduro created last month to circumvent financial sanctions on his economically strapped nation. The White House said the measures were intended to send a message to Maduro’s government, which it has accused of corruption and repression, that the United States remains focused on the economic devastation in Venezuela, and holds the president and his associates directly responsible for the conditions. The nation is in the throes of food and medicine shortages and a collapse of government services.

Soldier in Bloody Niger Mission Had Warned of Gaps, Defense Officials Say

The leader of a team of U.S. soldiers in Niger last fall warned before the mission that his troops did not have the equipment or intelligence necessary to carry out a kill-or-capture raid against a local militant, according to preliminary findings of a Defense Department investigation. In a departure from normal lines of authority, the report concludes, the Oct. 4 mission was not approved by senior military officials up the chain of command in West Africa and Germany. Instead, it was ordered by a junior officer, according to two Defense Department officials. Four U.S. soldiers and five Nigeriens were killed.

U.S. and South Korea to Resume Joint Military Exercises

The United States and South Korea will resume their annual joint military exercises April 1, the Pentagon announced Monday, restarting drills that have aroused the ire of North Korea and were suspended during the Olympics and Paralympics. Washington and Seoul had agreed to delay the drills after South and North Korea announced they were beginning a diplomatic rapprochement, with the North sending a delegation to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The exercises will involve some 23,000 U.S. troops and more than 300,000 South Korean troops. The scale this year is similar to previous years, Defense Department officials said.

French Consulate Worker Is Accused of Smuggling Guns From Gaza

A Frenchman working at his country’s consulate in Jerusalem was charged Monday with smuggling guns into the West Bank from Gaza, as Israelis braced for more violence in the Palestinian territories after two deadly attacks and the destruction of two border tunnels over the weekend. Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, said that Romain Franck, 24, a French citizen, had “cynically exploited” lenient scrutiny of diplomatic vehicles to smuggle 70 pistols and two assault rifles on five trips from Gaza through the Erez crossing. Eight others were also arrested in connection with the smuggling operation.

U.K. Reaches Brexit Transition Deal With EU

British and EU negotiators on Monday agreed on the terms of a 21-month transition period to keep Britain inside Europe’s economic structures and to avoid an economically damaging “cliff edge” when the country formally departs the bloc next March. The transition accord was announced Monday at a news conference in Brussels by David Davis, Britain’s main negotiator, and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, who described it as a “decisive step” toward an orderly withdrawal. The deal, however, depends on a broader agreement on Britain’s withdrawal, which is to be finalized this year but is by no means certain.

Kremlin Credits the West for Big Turnout for Putin

The Kremlin gave credit to a surprising source for the outpouring of support for Vladimir Putin in Sunday’s presidential election — the West. Ella A. Pamfilova, chairman of the Central Election Commission, said pressure on Russia from Western leaders helped to generate the 76.7 percent support for Putin. “Our people always unite when the chips are down,” Pamfilova said on live television, in what appeared to be a reference to what Britain has said was a Russian nerve agent attack on one of its former spies, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

Ban on Face Veils at Indonesian University Lasted Just a Week

When the head of a prominent Islamic university in Indonesia banned the face-concealing niqab headdress on campus this month, calling it out of step with the country’s true culture, it seemed a significant pushback against the conservative drift of Islam. Perhaps more significant is that the ban lasted just a week. A string of protests broke out. And at the start of last week, the rector’s office at the university, the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta, confirmed that the niqab ban had been rescinded. No reason was given.

Devastating Australia Bush Fire Destroys Scores of Homes

A devastating weekend fire that continued to rage into Monday consumed at least 69 homes in southern New South Wales, the state’s rural fire service said. The blaze began midday Sunday in Tarraganda, southeast of Bega, and quickly crossed the Bega River before advancing toward the seaside town of Tathra. Hundreds of its 1,600 residents fled to safety in Bega after receiving emergency alerts. No serious injuries or fatalities had been reported, but one woman was being treated for respiratory problems and burns, said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

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