US Presidential election news
After months of rallies, speeches and debates, the U.S. primary election campaign is set to formally get under way Monday, when Iowa residents cast their presidential preference at caucus sites across the Midwestern state. Candidates in both parties made a final sprint through Iowa Sunday, holding events in every corner of the state, stepping up attacks on rivals and making last-minute appeals to key voter groups. VOA
The two leading Democratic presidential candidates are crushing the fractured GOP field in the money race, according to fourth-quarter filings with the Federal Election Commission released Sunday. Leading all candidates in the last quarter was Hillary Clinton, who brought in $37.4 million, plus another $56.3 million raised in 2015 by her super PAC, Priorities USA Action. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wasn’t far behind, raising $33.6 million in the last quarter, plus, his campaign said Sunday, another $20 million in January, mostly from small donations.
On the Republican side, Dr. Ben Carson had the best quarter, hauling in $22.6 million, though 85 percent of that was raised before Nov. 13. Sen. Ted Cruz came in second in the GOP fourth-quarter money race, raising $20.5 million. The Wall Street Journal
Myanmar began a new chapter in its history Monday as its democratically elected parliament convened its first session, formally ending over a half-century of iron-fisted military rule.
Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi led newly elected lawmakers from her National League for Democracy party into the parliamentary chambers in the capital, Naypyitaw, still basking in the glow of victory from last November’s election. The NLD trounced the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party by winning 80 percent of the elected seats in both houses of parliament.
The new parliament is scheduled to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker during Monday’s opening session. The lawmakers will also elect a new president to succeed Thein Sein, a former general who imposed a number of democratic reforms as leader of the quasi-civilian government that took power from the long-ruling military junta in 2011. VOA
At least 86 people were killed Saturday night in northeastern Nigeria during an attack by Boko Haram extremists. Witnesses said the militants firebombed huts in the village of Dalori and started shooting at people as they tried to escape.
Children were burned alive, and survivors said they heard screaming as huts and houses were razed. Officials say 62 people are being treated for burns in a nearby hospital, and troops were able to keep the extremists from entering a camp close to Dalori that houses 25,000 refugees. Al Jazeera
Israel approves liberal Jewish prayer at Western Wall
On Sunday, Israel’s Cabinet voted to allow non-Orthodox Jewish prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is administered by ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities, and there are separate prayer sections for men and women.
Prayers led by women and mixed-gender services are forbidden, and in 2013, after complaints from more liberal Jews in the Reform and Conservative movements, a temporary prayer platform for mixed-gender prayer was put up. Now, the government plans to build a $9 million permanent platform for mixed-gender prayer adjacent to the Orthodox prayer area. This new section will not be managed by the ultra-Orthodox rabbi, but rather representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements. AP
Cuban President Raul Castro, in Paris since Saturday, began his official state visit Monday. French Energy Minister Segolene Royal welcomed the Cuban leader at the Arch de Triomphe.
French President Francois Hollande will later host the 84-year-old Castro at a state dinner at the Elysee Palace. Hollande was the first European leader to visit Cuba after the island restored diplomatic relations with longtime foe, the United States.
Castro’s visit comes just months after the Paris Club of international creditors wrote off $8.5 billion of Cuba’s debt. France was the mastermind behind that agreement. France’s minister of state for foreign trade, Matthia Fekl, told L’Humanite newspaper that trade between Cuba and France is around $195 million. He said he would like that figure to be much higher.
The US is not a member of the Paris Club of creditor nations and has not lifted its economic embargo against the island. VOA
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