Top News Stories for Today – March 2, 2017
China steps into Myanmar peace talk
Myanmar’s government is meeting with an alliance of ethnic rebel groups this week to try to revive a peace process that has stalled after months of increased fighting in the country’s north. The violence has evaporated early optimism about Aung San Suu Kyi’s ability to control the army and promote peace. The instability near China’s southern border has prompted it to become directly involved in the peace process.
The government and rebels are cautiously welcoming China’s support, but some analysts question whether Beijing is trying to influence the process through its links with powerful rebel groups. China has since offered $3 million for peace talks, and its diplomats are urging the government and all rebels to sign an inclusive nationwide ceasefire. VOA
Jeff Sessions hit by Russian claims
During Trump’s presidential campaign, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke twice with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to US, Justice Department officials told The Washington Post Wednesday. When asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during his confirmation hearing January 10 what he would do if he discovered evidence anyone tied to Trump’s campaign communicated with the Russian government before the 2016 presidential election, Sessions said, “I’m not aware of any of those activities.
I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” A spokeswoman for Sessions told the Post there was “absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” because he was “asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.” Several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are calling on Sessions to resign. In a statement of his own released late Wednesday, Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.” The Washington Post
UN Security Council delegation heads to Lake Chad Basin
Envoys from the 15 nations of the UN Security Council diplomats are traveling to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria on a four-day mission. It is the first time the council has made such a visit to the Lake Chad Basin. “We know there are threats to international peace and security in the four countries,” council president and trip co-leader British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said, in reference to the terror group Boko Haram.
Since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its insurgency to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, it has caused severe humanitarian suffering that has spread to its neighbors in the Lake Chad Basin. According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than two million people have been forcibly displaced from northeastern Nigeria since 2014, and nearly 190,000 have become refugees in neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad. VOA
Obama staffers worked to protect Russian hacking
During the Obama administration’s 11th hour, several White House officials, wanting to prevent future meddling in elections by Russia and leave a trail for intelligence agencies and government investigators, spread information about possible contacts between Russia and associates of Donald Trump, The New York Times reports.
Three former American officials told the Times several American allies, including Britain, shared information with the US about meetings in Europe between Russian officials and associates of Trump, and intelligence agencies also intercepted communications from inside the Kremlin discussing contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. Obama aides, worried by disparaging statements then-president-elect Trump made about the intelligence community, moved quickly to preserve the intel and share it with as many people inside government as possible; the officials say they were never instructed to do so by Obama. Trump maintains that his campaign was never in any contact with Russian officials. The New York Times
DHS has $20 million for Trump’s border wall
President Trump’s plan to build a southern border wall has hit a snag, with the Department of Homeland Security only able to come up with enough money to cover two miles of fencing, Reuters reports. Looking at a document prepared by the DHS and given to congressional budget staff last week, Reuters found that the agency has identified just $20 million that can be re-directed to the project.
The White House has said the wall would be financed using “existing funds and resources” from DHS, but so far, there’s just enough to cover a few contracts for wall prototypes; as Reuters previously reported, it’s estimated the entire project would cost $21.6 billion, at $9.3 million per mile of fence and $17.8 million per mile of wall. In order to move forward, Trump will need to convince Congress to appropriate funds. He pledged during his campaign that he would make Mexico pay for a wall along the southern border, then announced the US would foot the bill, with Mexico reimbursing taxpayers later. Reuters
Yemen SEAL raid didn’t yield vital info
The Pentagon says Navy SEALs scooped up laptops, hard drives and cell phones in last month’s Yemen raid, but multiple US officials told NBC News that none of the intelligence gleaned from the operation so far has proven actionable or vital — contrary to what President Trump said in his speech to Congress Tuesday. In his speech to Congress Tuesday, Trump introduced Owens’ widow, Carryn, and said Defense Secretary James Mattis “reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.'”
The raid had first been proposed to the Obama administration, where officials viewed it as a significant — and risky — escalation. They decided to leave the decision about whether to launch to the Trump administration. Owens’ father, Bill, has questioned what was gained by putting US boots on the ground in Yemen, and called for an investigation. NBC News
GOPs in Indiana warn Obamacare Repeal fallout
Republican legislative leaders in Indiana are warning that repealing the Obamacare could unravel a program for poor residents that Vice President Mike Pence implemented as governor, a conservative blueprint for expanding Medicaid under the federal law. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and GOP Senate leader David Long said this week that tens of thousands of poor people could lose their insurance if Republicans in Washington enact some of the ideas they’re discussing for repealing former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Dismantling Obamacare will significantly reduce federal funding for Medicaid and subsidize private insurance, creating funding gaps for states and threatening a loss of coverage for many participants, according to a report by the consulting firms Avalere Health and McKinsey & Company. States like Indiana that expanded Medicaid would face the deepest cuts. Some Republican governors have voiced concern that a repeal of the ACA would have a disastrous effect on poor people, some of which are Trump supporters. VOA
Antarctica hits record high temperature
An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 17.5 degrees Celsius (63.5° Fahrenheit), the UN weather agency said Wednesday. Antarctica locks up 90 percent of the world’s fresh water as ice and would raise sea levels by about 60 meters (200 feet) if it were all to melt, meaning scientists are concerned to know even about extremes around the fringes.
The heat record for the broader Antarctic region, defined as anywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, was 19.8°C (67.6°F) on Jan. 30, 1982, on Signy Island in the South Atlantic, it said. And the warmest temperature recorded on the Antarctic plateau, above 2,500 meters (8,202 feet), was -7.0°C (19.4°F) on Dec. 28, 1980, it said. The lowest temperature set anywhere on the planet was a numbing -89.2°C (-128.6°F) at the Soviet Union’s Vostok station in central Antarctica on July 21, 1983. VOA
You may also like
- A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal
- David Jeremiah met Donald Trump because Trump cares Christian Values
- FBI suspects Russia hacked DNC to help Donald Trump