Top News Stories for Today – March 17, 2017
Islam to become world’s fastest growing religion
Muslims are the world’s fastest growing religious group – and not just in Muslim majority nations: 10% of all Europeans are projected to be members of the Muslim faith by 2050, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. The study estimates that from 2010 to 2050, Muslims will have increased across the world by 73%, followed by Christians who are projected to grow by 35% during the same time period, and Hindus at 34%.
That means that Islam — currently the world’s second-largest religion — will surpass Christianity as the world’s biggest religion by the end of the century, the study projects. Why? Muslim women have more children, on average — 3.1 children compared to 2.3 for all other religious groups combined, Pew says. Also, those of the Muslim faith tend to be, on average, seven years younger than non-Muslims. Pew Research
Trump stands behind wiretapping claim
On Thursday, the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a joint statement saying there is “no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” as President Trump claimed in a series of tweets two weeks ago. House Speaker Paul Ryan also said that “no such tap existed,” at least with respect to the US intelligence committee, and British intelligence agency GCHQ dismissed as “utterly ridiculous” nonsense a claim from Fox News, repeated by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday, that it had eavesdropped on Trump.
Spicer said Trump “stands by” his wiretapping claim, taking nine minutes to read press reports about possible surveillance of Trump’s campaign, then asserting, “The bottom line is that the investigation by the House and Senate has not been provided all the information.” On Monday, the Justice Department said it needed more time to provide congressional investigators any information it might have on surveillance of Trump. CNN, BBC News, The Week
20 millions at risk of starvation in Africa
More than 20 million people are at risk of starvation across four countries in east Africa: Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria. According to the UN, this marks the world’s largest crisis since 1945.
The situation in Somalia is particularly bad, where terrorists block or steal food and supplies. More than 6 million people — more than half the country’s population — are in need. In South Sudan, a famine affecting more than 7.5 million people has been declared. CNN
Trump to host Angela Merkel
When President Trump has his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Friday, it will be a clash of policy, temperament, and governing style. The main topics of discussion are expected to be trade and the economy. Trump will urge Germany to spend more on its defense and ask about Merkel’s long experience dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, White House officials say.
Merkel will gauge Trump’s openness on multilateral issues like climate change and financial regulation, according to German officials, and gently press Trump to reconsider his proposal to tax US imports — a blow to Germany, which had a $50 billion trade surplus with the US last year. Trump has slammed Merkel on issues like immigration and refugees, but both leaders are expected to keep their tête-à-tête cordial. “I believe that direct conversation is always much better than talking about each other,” Merkel said Monday. The Wall Street Journal, Politico, The Week
GOPs vow wholesale changes to Trump’s budget plan
On Thursday, President Trump sent his first budget plan to Congress, and it was not warmly received. Democrats criticized its sharp cuts to the EPA and programs for the vulnerable, and Republicans signaled that Congress would write its own budget.
Republican defense hawks said Trump’s increase in military spending was not big enough, while many GOP lawmakers criticized the proposed 28 percent cut to the State Department, slashing of the National Institutes of Health budget, and steep reduction in funds for programs and services in poor and rural areas. If the House voted on Trump’s budget as is, one top House Republican said, “I don’t think we’d get 50 votes for it.” “We will certainly review this budget proposal,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “but Congress ultimately has the power of the purse.” The Washington Post, Politico
Israel’s anti missile system shot down Syrian missile
Israel has shot down a Syrian missile using its most advanced anti-missile system for the first time, Israeli media say. A surface-to-air missile (SAM) was intercepted using the Arrow system, designed to stop long-range ballistic missiles. And in a rare admission, Israel said it had targeted several sites in Syria.The intercepted SAM is reported to have come down in Jordan. Two others are said to have landed in Israel. Israel’s anti-missile system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world.
The incident – not least because the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement has made it “official” – represents a serious escalation in tensions between Israel and Syria. It’s a signal perhaps to all concerned that if weapons supplies to Hezbollah continue, then Israel is ready to escalate its air campaign.BBC
Flynn was paid $68,000 by Russian in 2005
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s ousted national security adviser, earned almost $68,000 from Russia-related entities in 2015, according to documents from the House Government oversight committee reviewed by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The bulk of the money, more than $45,000 (though his speaker’s bureau took a cut), came from the Russian government-backed television network RT, tied to a trip Flynn took to Moscow in December 2015, months before formally joining Trump’s campaign as a senior adviser.
Flynn was also paid $11,250 each by Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab and Russian cargo air company Volga-Dnepr Airlines, suspended as a U.N. vendor following a corruption scandal. Flynn was fired as national security adviser in February after caught lying about conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal
Tillerson: strategic patience with N Korea is over
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has again emphasized the need for a new approach to deal with the growing North Korean nuclear threat that would include more aggressive actions than those taken under former President Barack Obama’s Policy of Strategic Patience.
In South Korea Friday, he said, “Let me be very clear the Policy of Strategic Patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table.” He said efforts of the past 20 years have failed, and that the $1.35 billion the US provided North Korea in past assistance “as encouragement” did not work to persuade the leadership in Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Starting in the 1990s, the US provided food aid and fuel oil shipments as part of a nuclear freeze deal that fell apart after it was learned Pyongyang was violating the agreement by secretly operating a uranium enrichment program. VOA
Trump budget tough choices for disease research
Health groups say President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash funds for the nation’s engine of biomedical research would be devastating for patients with all kinds of diseases — and for jobs. “It is possible that the next cure for some cancer is sitting there waiting to be discovered, and it won’t get to the table,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
In his budget blueprint Thursday, Trump called for a cut of $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health. That’s a staggering 18 percent drop for the $32 billion agency that funds much of the nation’s research into what causes different diseases and what it will take to treat them. VOA
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