Top News Stories for Today – March 10, 2017
South Korean court removes president
On Friday morning, South Korea’s Constitutional Court voted to remove President Park Geun-hye from office, upholding her impeachment by the legislature in December. Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi read the unanimous ruling from the eight-member panel on national TV, saying Park committed “acts that violated the Constitution and laws” and that “betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution.”
The judicial and legislative ouster, a first for South Korea, caps a scandal involving Park, her childhood friend Choi Soon-sil, and some of the country’s biggest business executives. Park, 65, not only lost the presidency but also her legal immunity, opening her to prosecution for bribery, extortion, and abuse of power. South Korea will hold new elections within 60 days, and the opposition Democratic Party is expected to take power for the first time in a decade. Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn will stay in office in the interim. BBC News, The New York Times, The Week
DOJ declines to say whether Trump is being investigated
The Justice Department on Thursday declined to confirm a White House claim made a day earlier that President Trump was not the subject of any investigation. Trump indirectly raised the possibility by claiming, with no evidence, that former President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of then-candidate Trump, something that, if true, could have been the result of an investigation targeting him.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that “there is no reason to believe there is any type of investigation with respect to the Department of Justice,” or “that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever.” A Justice Department official, asked whether Trump was the focus of an investigation, said, “no comment.” The New York Times, The Week
Netanyahu goes to Moscow with Syria on his mind
Israel’s prime minister was in Moscow Thursday to talk with Russia’s president about the Syrian crisis, the latest sign of Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East as well as Israel’s concerns over Moscow’s regional allies. The two leaders made no joint statement following the talks, but Netanyahu later issued a statement indicating he had “made it clear” to Putin that Israel wants to prevent any Syrian settlement from leaving “Iran and its proxies with a military presence” in Syria.
Russia has come to assume a larger role in Israel’s foreign policy calculations since the Kremlin’s intervention in the Syrian conflict in September 2015. While Putin at the time justified Russia’s actions as taking the fight to global terrorists and the Islamic State, Western critics argue the intervention was also aimed at salvaging Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
With the help of Russia, Syria recaptured Aleppo in December 2016, signaled a key turning point in the war. Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, to avoid potential clashes with Israel’s military operations along the Syrian border. Natenyahu told Putin that Russia has made a very important contribution fighting Islamic State, but he does not what this terrorism to be replaced by the radical Shiite Islamic terrorism led by Iran. VOA
Tillerson recuses himself on Keystone XL pipeline
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of the oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, has recused himself from discussions of the permitting application for the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department said Thursday in a letter to the environmental group Greenpeace.
A State Department deputy legal adviser said in the letter that Tillerson made the decision in early February that he would not work “on issues related to TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit” for the proposed pipeline, which the Obama administration halted but President Trump has revived. The letter was sent in response to one Greenpeace sent on Wednesday saying that Tillerson should recuse himself because his former company stood to benefit from the pipeline. ABC News
McConnell said Mexico won’t pay for border wall
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday dismissed Trump’s claim that Mexico will pay for his proposed border wall. When asked at a Politico Playbook event whether he actually thought Mexico would foot the bill, McConnell responded, “Uh, no.” He then laughed.
McConnell also dodged a question about whether construction on the wall would begin this year as Trump has pledged, instead noting he is “in favor of border security.” “There are some places along the border where that’s probably not the best way to secure the border,” McConnell said of the wall. Trump’s proposal is estimated to cost at least $14 billion. Politico
Doctors tie Zika virus to Heart problems
For the first time, doctors have tied infection with the Zika virus to possible new heart problems in adults. The evidence so far is only in eight people in Venezuela, and is not enough to prove a link. It’s also too soon to know how often this might be happening.
“I think as awareness increases, the cases will start to show up more,” said Dr. Karina Gonzalez Carta, a Mayo Clinic research fellow working in Venezuela who investigated the heart cases. A report last June in the International Journal of Cardiology describes heart problems that have been seen from other viruses spread by mosquitoes, such as West Nile and ones that cause yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya. Doctors have been watching for the same from Zika, and “we were surprised at the severity of the findings” in the Venezuela cases, Carta said. VOA
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