Top News Stories for Today – February 2, 2017
Trump threatens UC Berkeley funding
On Wednesday evening, the University of California at Berkeley canceled a speech by Breitbart News editor and alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos after a small group of black-clad protesters crashed a 1,500-strong peaceful rally, smashing windows and throwing fireworks at police, who decided they couldn’t guarantee Yiannopoulos’ safety.
On Thursday morning, right after a Fox & Friends segment on the topic, President Trump tweeted: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Hours earlier, UC Berkeley said in a statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display and deeply regret that those tactics will now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives.” Berkeley received about $370 million in federal research grants in 2015-16. Business Insider, The Associated Press, The Week
Superbugs threatening global malaria control
Drug-resistant malaria “superbugs” are emerging in Southeast Asia, threatening worldwide control efforts, according to the authors of a new study. Researchers reporting in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that this superbugs are now becoming resistant to the most effective malaria drug, and the resistance is spreading.
The authors warned that resistance to the drug, and its widely used partner drug, piperaquine, was rapidly spreading throughout western Cambodia, southern Laos and northeastern Thailand. Drug-resistant strains of malaria have spread before from Asia into Africa, killing millions, according to the authors. They called for public health officials to work with policy, research and funding partners to respond to the current threat in Asia “to avoid history repeating itself.” According to the World Health Organization, there were 212 million cases of malaria globally in 2015, resulting in 429,000 deaths. Most of the victims were children in sub-Saharan Africa. VOA
Trump scolds Australia and Mexico leaders
President Trump’s phone calls with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last Saturday and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last Friday were more hostile than the official statements indicated, senior US officials have told several news outlets.
Trump reportedly complained to Turnbull that an Obama-era deal to accept 1,250 refugees housed by Australia on two islands would amount to sending the US “the next Boston bombers.” Trump abruptly ended what was supposed to be an hour-long call after 25 minutes. In his call with Peña Nieto, Trump said Mexico was not doing enough to contain “bad hombres.” In an official internal readout of the call, written by a White House aide, Trump said: “I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.” The Washington Post, CNN, The Week
Mattis reassures South Korea
US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday the Trump administration is committed to strengthening relations with South Korea in the face of what he called the “provocations” that country faces from North Korea. “Right now we have to address the reality of the threat that your country and my country faces, and we intend to be shoulder-to-shoulder with you as we face this together,” he said.
Rex Tillerson sworn in as secretary of state
Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was sworn in as US secretary of state Wednesday evening, after being confirmed by the Senate, 56 to 43. “Rex Tillerson will have the most demanding and complex agenda to face a secretary of state in a very long time,” career foreign service officer R. Nicholas Burns told The New York Times.
Tillerson is the most divisive secretary of state nominee in recent history, with the most recent contentious nominees being Condoleezza Rice, confirmed 85 to 13 in 2005, and Henry Kissinger, confirmed 78 to 7 in 1973. Also Wednesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee advanced President Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and his nominee for health secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), with zero Democrats present, after committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended committee rules to eliminate the need for quorum. The New York Times, The Week
Trump puts Iran on notice
President Trump confirmed in a tweet Thursday that Iran has been “formally put on notice” after reports the country had tested ballistic missiles. Though Trump did not offer specifics on what being “on notice” entails, he did say Iran should “have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them,” referring to the deal former President Barack Obama reached with Iran in 2015 limiting its nuclear program.
Trump claimed Iran was “on its last legs” until the US came along with “a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal.” National Security Adviser Michael Flynn announced Wednesday that Trump would be putting Iran “on notice.” A spokesman for the US Central Command later clarified that it has “not been asked to change anything operationally” in the Middle East, and that the changes were “still at the policy level.” Donald J. Trump, The Guardian, The Week
Europeans fear Breitbart
Breitbart News, the iconoclastic far-right website run until recently by White House strategist Steve Bannon, is planning to push deeper into Europe and to open bureaus soon in Germany and France to add to one already in London. And already European officials are dubbing Breitbart the “Voice of Trump.” They warn that if Breitbart is used as a propaganda vehicle by the new administration, it will aggravate already raw relations with European Union governments.
White House press spokesman Sean Spicer dismissed concerns about the appointment of Bannon as “much ado about nothing,” pointing out on Monday that Bannon has served in the US military and has an “extensive background on geopolitical affairs.” But US critics, including Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have called Bannon’s inclusion “a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.” VOA
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