Top News Stories for Today – April 3, 2017
US criticizes Russia over Ukraine
The Trump administration escalated its criticism of Moscow Friday, with two of its most senior officials denouncing Russia’s treatment of Ukraine and reiterating a vow to maintain US sanctions. In his first visit to a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Russia of “aggression” in Ukraine and told his counterparts that their alliance is “fundamental to countering both nonviolent, but at times violent, Russian agitation” in the region. He also said US sanctions against Moscow will remain in effect until it “reverses the actions” that triggered them.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, whose role is subordinate to Tillerson, similarly criticized Russian “aggression” and vowed to keep US sanctions in place in remarks to the UN Security Council February 2. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis also fired a verbal attack at Russia Friday. Echoing language he used in February, Mattis told reporters in London that Russian “violations” of international law are now a “matter of record. VOA
Jared Kushner makes unannounced visit to Iraq
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is in Iraq with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, a senior US official said Sunday. The official reportedly said that Kushner wanted to go to Iraq to see firsthand what is happening in the country and to show his support for the government.
Kushner’s father-in-law has given him several major responsibilities, including working on peace in the Middle East. Trump met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi last month, and al-Abadi said he was told the United States would provide additional support in the fight against the Islamic State. The New York Times, Politico, The Week
Russian’s Fancy Bears hack athletics body
The IAAF says its has been hacked by the ‘Fancy Bears’ group and fears that athletes’ therapeutic use exemption (TUE) data has been compromised. Athletics’ world governing body was notified last month but it is unaware whether information was stolen. The IAAF revealed that “the presence of unauthorised remote access to the IAAF network by the attackers was noted on 21 February”.
Russian group ‘Fancy Bears’ first hacked the World Anti-Doping agency (Wada) database on 13 September last year and began revealing athletes’ confidential details and information regarding TUEs – which let athletes take prohibited substances if there is a medical need. US Olympic stars were targeted in the first hack. BBC
US ready to act alone on N Korea
In an interview with London’s Financial Times on Sunday, Trump said that if China is not going to solve the problem of North Korea, “we will.” He also noted China’s “great influence over North Korea” and warned that if Beijing did not help resolve the issue of Pyongyang’s rapidly advancing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, that “it won’t be good for anyone.” Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit the United States on Thursday, and Trump is expected to pressure him to do more about North Korea, which experts fear could soon develop a long-range nuclear missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
“China has great influence over North Korea,” Trump said. “And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.” He told the Financial Times he could “totally” succeed if forced to take Pyongyang on solo, but did not elaborate on any possible actions. VOA, BBC News
Leftist Moreno poised for win in Ecuador election
With 96 percent of the vote counted in Ecuador’s presidential election on Sunday, Lenín Moreno of leftist President Rafael Correa’s ruling party is beating conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso, 51 percent to 49 percent. Lasso, who led comfortably in well-regarded exit polls, charged election fraud and urged his supporters to protest peacefully. Clashes were reported in Quito and several other cities.
Lasso, 61, and Moreno have both declared victory, but with 214,000 votes left to count, according to the National Electoral Council, there are twice as many outstanding votes as Moreno’s winning margin. Moreno, 64, was shot in a 1998 carjacking, and if his win is confirmed, he will be the first Latin American leader to use a wheelchair. Moreno’s victory would also be a win for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; Lasso had pledged to kick him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, while Moreno said he will allow him to stay. The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Week
Mudslides kill at least 254 in Colombia
Families and rescuers searched Sunday for victims of flooding and landslides in southern Colombia that have killed at least 254 people. President Juan Manuel Santos blamed climate change for the disaster, saying Mocoa had received one-third of its usual monthly rain in just one night. Several rivers burst their banks near Mocoa in the early hours of Saturday, sending water, mud and debris crashing down streets and into houses as people slept.
Santos thanked China and the Inter-American Development Bank for donating $1 million and $200,000 respectively toward relief efforts, as well as Germany and Belgium. VOA
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