Top News Stories for Today – February 15, 2017
Trump campaign had frequent contact with Russian intelligence
During the 2016 presidential race, members of Trump’s campaign team and other associates were repeatedly in contact with senior Russian intelligence officials, four current and former US officials told The New York Times. Their phone calls were intercepted at around the same time US law enforcement and intelligence agencies found evidence that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee.
The officials told the Times they have so far not seen any evidence of collusion, but the discovery was worrying because Trump often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and even called on Russia to steal Hillary Clinton’s emails. CNN, which has a similar report, names Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chairman, and adviser Michael Flynn, who just stepped down as national security adviser, as among the close Trump aides in constant contact with Russian officials; Manafort told the Times the reports are “absurd.”
In Moscow, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the report “is not based on any facts,” while Russian media quoted the country’s foreign intelligence service saying reports about the contacts were unfounded. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing that Russian diplomats acted within normal practice for diplomats of all countries. The New York Times, CNN, VOA
Trump to host Netanyahu on Wednesday
Expectations are high for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he holds his first post-inauguration meeting with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. Netanyahu, who had a famously rocky relationship with former President Barack Obama, is expected to seek a hardline stance on Iran and try to avoid any confrontation on Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands.
Trump has been talking about reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and Mideast peace envoy, will take part in Wednesday’s meetings along with strategist Stephen Bannon. A White House official said Tuesday night that Trump won’t insist on a two-state solution, and will try to involve other Arab states more closely in the negotiations. It is unclear what effect the departure of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a strident Iran hawk, will have on the meeting. Trump and Netanyahu will hold a joint press conference after their talk. The Washington Post, The New York Times
China lodges protest with India
China has lodged a diplomatic protest with India over a visit by a parliamentary delegation from self-ruled Taiwan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Three Taiwanese parliamentarians, led by ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Kuan Bi-ling, began their visit to New Delhi on Monday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing in Beijing that China had lodged “solemn representations” with the Indian government over the issue.
“We have always been resolutely opposed to any country with diplomatic relations with China having any form of official exchanges, or establishment of any official institutions, with Taiwan. This position is consistent and clear cut.” India’s ministry of external affairs said the visit was informal. VOA
Kim Jong Nam death likely a N Korean assassination
Police in Malaysia say they have arrested a woman in connection with the apparent assassination of a half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The woman, detained on Wednesday morning at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in the Malaysian capital, was identified on travel documents as Doan Thi Huong, police said in a statement. The statement said the suspect was “positively identified from CCTV footage at the airport and was alone at the time of her arrest.
On Tuesday unnamed US government sources said the United States strongly believes that Kim Jong Nam was murdered by North Korean agents. The South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) on Wednesday confirmed that Kim Jong Nam was poisoned by two suspected North Korean female agents. Malaysian police investigating the attack said the cause of Kim’s death was not yet known and a post-mortem would soon be carried out.
Kim Jong Nam was reportedly considered a threat to his brother’s rule because of his outspoken criticism of the continued repressive and authoritarian practices within the country, because he was a proponent of reform polices that would loosen state controls, and because there was speculation that Chinese President Xi Jinping would prefer to see him replace his younger brother as the leader of North Korea. VOA
Eating less slows aging in mice
Researchers say they may have found a way to stave off aging. They say you might need to eat less. Writing in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, researchers from Brigham Young University say eating less can slow the aging of cells in the body. Fewer calories slow down a mechanism in the cells called ribosomes, at least in mice. They are responsible for making vital proteins in the cells, but with fewer calories they slow down, giving them more time to repair themselves, researchers said.
Ribosomes, researchers say, use from 10 to 20 percent of the cell’s energy to make those proteins. While previous studies have suggested a link between lower calories and slowed aging, this is first to show how the ribosomes can influence aging. VOA
Russia deploys missile in apparent treaty violation
Moscow has deployed a cruise missile in an apparent treaty violation, a senior military official told CNN Tuesday. The move is just the latest in a string of Russian provocations in the early days of the Trump administration, which has called for warmer relations with the Kremlin.
The traditional US adversary has also positioned a spy ship off the coast of Delaware and carried out flights near a US Navy warship, concerning American officials. The administration has not officially drawn any links between the three events. The ground-launched cruise missile seems to run counter to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the senior military official said. The New York Times first reported is deployment. CNN
Chicago gun violence
A toddler and a 26-year-old man riding in a car were shot and killed in Chicago on Tuesday. It was the second deadly incident involving a child in the city in the past few days. Over the weekend, two young girls were shot on the South Side in separate incidents. One of the girls died Tuesday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday’s shooting should be a “turning point” in the city’s long battle with gun violence.
The shooting was captured in a social media video that shows the three in a vehicle, listening to music, when 16 gunshots are heard. The woman runs from the vehicle screaming and yells that she has been shot in the stomach. The 26-year-old man who died was a known gang member. Police believe the man and woman were dating. CNN
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