Top News Stories for Today – February 3, 2017
Trump wants Israel stop building in West Bank
On Thursday, the White House issued a statement gently urging Israel to stop expanding its settlements in Palestinian territories, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to build the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in more than two decades.
All through the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump seemed to be OK with Israel’s move to expand its settlements in the West Bank. In just the first couple weeks of the Trump administration, Israel OK’d plans for 5,500 new housing units there in addition to building a brand new settlement. Then the White House seemed to do a 180 and said that expanding settlements beyond current borders “may not be helpful” in bringing about peace with the Palestinians.
Trump “has not taken an official position on settlement activity,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, and he looks forward to discussing the issue with Netanyahu on his Feb. 15 visit. On Thursday morning, Trump also met face to face with King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key US ally with an enormous stake in the peace process in neighboring Israel. WGNtv, White House
US warns N Korea against nuclear attack
The US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response. Mr Mattis spoke in South Korea, where he had been reaffirming US support, before flying to Tokyo. He also reconfirmed plans to deploy a US missile defense system in South Korea later this year.
North Korea’s repeated missile and nuclear tests and aggressive statements continue to alarm and anger the region. The US has a considerable military presence in South Korea and Japan, as part of a post-war defense deal. There are just fewer than 28,500 US troops in the country, for which Seoul pays about $900m annually. President Donald Trump has previously said he wants both South Korea and Japan to pay more towards maintaining that presence. BBC
US condemns Russia in UN Security Council
The US ambassador to the United Nations took a firm stance Thursday against Russian military action in eastern Ukraine, condemning Moscow’s “aggressive actions” and saying US Crimea-related sanctions would remain in place. “I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia,” Nikki Haley told the U.N. Security Council at her first public meeting since being confirmed last week as President Donald Trump’s U.N. envoy. Haley said. “Crimea is a part of Ukraine.”
“We do want better relations with Russia,” Haley said. “However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Haley said that US-imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula would remain in place until control of that territory was returned to Kiev. VOA
Trump expected to roll back Dodd-Frank
“Americans are going to have better choices and Americans are going to have better products because we’re not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year,” White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said. “The banks are going to be able to price products more efficiently and more effectively to consumers.” Consumer groups and Democrats are expected to rally to challenge any proposed changes. The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Week
French soldier shoots attacker at Louvre
Friday morning, a man armed with at least one machete and carrying two bags tried to enter the gift shop under the Paris Louvre museum, attacked one of the soldiers who told him he couldn’t enter, and yelled “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) before a soldier opened fire and shot him five times, including once in the abdomen, French officials say.
“It was an attack by a person… who represented a direct threat and whose actions suggested a terrorist context,” said Paris police chief Michel Cadot. The attacker is alive but in serious condition, and one soldier was grazed on the scalp. Both of the assailant’s bags were searched and no explosives were found. Hundreds of visitors were inside the Louvre at the time, and they are slowly being evacuated. Reuters, The Associated Press, The Week
EU leaders decry likely Trump envoy
European Parliament leaders have condemned US President Donald Trump’s potential choice as envoy to the EU. Businessman Ted Malloch is believed to be the favourite for the role. In a letter, the leaders of the main parliamentary groups say he supports the dissolution of the EU and that his views reveal “outrageous malevolence”.
One of the leaders separately said that Mr Malloch, who has previously compared the bloc to the former Soviet Union, should be declared “persona non grata”. In an interview with the BBC last month, Mr Malloch said: “I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.” However, in another interview on Friday with the BBC’s World at One he said that his comments at the time had been “tongue-in-cheek”.
Mr Malloch has worked at the United Nations in Geneva and been on the executive board of the World Economic Forum, a group of global political and business leaders. He is currently a professor at Henley Business School at the UK’s University of Reading. The European Parliament is the only directly elected EU body. It represents the people of the EU in contrast to the Council of Ministers, which represents the governments of member countries. BBC
US House votes to loosen gun law
The US House of Representatives has voted to scrap regulations that require background checks for people purchasing guns with mental health issues. The bill now needs to the approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump.
The background-check rules were introduced to provide information on the gun-buying history of people receiving benefits for mental disability. But Republican lawmakers argued that the regulation reinforced negative stereotypes that people with mental disorders are dangerous. BBC
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