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Admin Delays Executive Actions on Immigration as it Appeals Judge’s Order

Feb 18, 2015

The White House is delaying President Obama’s executive actions on immigration after a federal judge blocked them earlier this week. Obama’s move to shield millions from deportation was supposed to begin taking its first applications today. But U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas, issued an injunction after a motion filed by Texas and 25 other states. The administration says it will comply with the ruling and delay accepting applications for work permits and deportation reprieves. Speaking at the White House, President Obama said he is confident the decision will be struck down on appeal.

President Obama: “This is not the first time where a lower court judge has blocked something, or attempted to block something, that ultimately was shown to be lawful. And I’m confident that it is well within my authority and the tradition of the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion to execute this policy, which will help us make our borders safer, will help us go after criminals and those that we don’t want in this country, will help people get on the right side of the law and get out of the shadows.”

Hanen is an open opponent of Obama’s reprieve for undocumented immigrants, previously calling it “an open invitation to the most dangerous criminals in society.”

Immigrant Rights Protesters Denounce Court Ruling Blocking Reprieves

Feb 18, 2015

Protests for immigrant rights were held across the United States on Tuesday. In Los Angeles, a recipient of Obama’s deferred immigration action for undocumented youths denounced the court decision.

Stephanie Ramirez: “I stand here today very disappointed learning about the injunction of the implementation of DACA and DAPA [Deferred Action for Parental Accountability]. But also I am here determined and confident that through our fight we will allow the implementation of these programs and continue the benefits for more potential DACA and DAPA recipients.”

U.N.: Assad Regime Agrees to Halt Bombing of Aleppo

Feb 18, 2015

The top U.N. envoy on Syria says the regime of Bashar al-Assad is willing to halt the bombing of the flashpoint city of Aleppo for up to six weeks. In a briefing to the Security Council, Staffan de Mistura announced the breakthrough, while saying he has no illusions about its chance of success.

Staffan de Mistura: “The government of Syria has indicated to me its willingness to halt all aerial bombing — all aerial bombing, all sorts, all types of aerial bombing — and artillery shelling for a period of six weeks all over the city of Aleppo, from a date which we will be announcing from Damascus. Let’s be frank. I have no illusions because, based on past experiences, this will be a difficult issue to be achieved. But we will engage also very much the opposition hopefully to see them to respond to a similar request from the U.N. to halt mortar and rockets on all over the city of Aleppo for six weeks.”

Aleppo has seen intense violence in the government’s clashes with rebel groups. The Syrian civil war enters its fifth year next month.

Report: U.S. Coordinates Strikes with Syrian Rebels

Feb 18, 2015

The United States has expanded military coordination with rebels inside Syria. The Wall Street Journal says rebels deemed to be “moderate” now have the ability to call in U.S. airstrikes on enemy fighters. The United States is set to begin training a group of Syrian rebels on March 1 in Jordan.

Ukrainian Forces Pull Back from Besieged Town After Heavy Casualties

Feb 18, 2015

Ukrainian forces are withdrawing from the besieged town of Debaltseve after an offensive by pro-Russian rebels. Clashes have continued despite the ceasefire agreement that went into effect over the weekend. The rebels say the truce does not apply to the town, which connects their strongholds, Donetsk and Luhansk. The European Union says the rebels are in clear violation. The Ukrainian military has reportedly sustained heavy casualties over the past few days.

U.S. Accuses Russia of Violating Ceasefire; U.N. Security Council Calls for End to Violence

Feb 18, 2015

The Ukrainian withdrawal comes one day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a Russian-drafted resolution urging all sides to halt the fighting. Despite voting for Russia’s measure, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power denounced Moscow for supporting the rebels.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power: “If Russia is committed to peace, it doesn’t need a U.N. Security Council resolution to prove it. There are actually easier ways to prove it. You could stop arming the separatists; stop sending hundreds of heavy weapons across the border, in addition to your troops; stop pretending you’re not doing what you are doing; and start calling on and insisting upon the separatists observing the ceasefire around Debaltseve.”

In response to Power, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his government is not responsible for starting the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin: “She accused Russia of starting the crisis. But did we topple the legally elected president? Throughout all these events that took place in Ukraine a year ago, Russia kept calling for a bloodless political solution. We supported the 21st February agreement. We insisted on its implementation even after the lawfully elected president was being toppled. We support the communiqué on April 17th calling for constitutional dialogue. We supported the initiative of the OSCE chair. What was the impetus for the armed conflict? The impetus was the support by certain Western countries, the decision of the Kiev leadership to militarily suppress the dissatisfaction of the people in the east.”

U.N. Security Council to Meet on Libya as Egypt Calls for Global Intervention

Feb 18, 2015

The U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency session on Libya today amidst Egyptian airstrikes targeting the Islamic State. Egyptian warplanes bombed northeastern Libyan areas after Cairo vowed to avenge the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, shown in an ISIS video. On Tuesday, Egypt called for a global military campaign in Libya to remove the Islamic State. ISIS is one of several militant groups that have emerged inside Libya since the U.S.-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Also Tuesday, the Islamist-backed rival government in Tripoli, one of two claiming power in Libya, sent fighters to confront the Islamic State in the city of Sirte.

Greece to Seek Six-Month Loan Extension as Austerity Standoff Grows

Feb 18, 2015

Greece will reportedly submit a new request that the eurozone extend a “loan agreement” for up to six months following the breakdown of talks on revising the terms of an international bailout. Talks between Greece and its European creditors collapsed this week amid disagreement over the future of German-backed austerity. Germany says no new deal is being offered and that Athens must stick to the terms of its existing bailout. On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his government wants a deal but will not compromise on its rejection of crippling austerity.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: “We are not in a hurry, and we will not compromise. We are, however, working hard for an honorable and mutually beneficial solution—in other words, a solution without austerity, without the bailout which destroyed Greece in the last years, for an agreement without the toxic presence of the troika.”

U.S. Will Let Foreign Allies Purchase Armed Drones

Feb 18, 2015

The Obama administration will allow foreign allies to purchase U.S.-made armed drones for the first time. Under a new policy, American firms can sell their drones abroad, but will be subjected to a case-by-case review. Buyers will also have to justify their need for the drones and commit to “proper use” principles. But those standards are classified, so it is unknown if other countries will be able to use drones for extrajudicial killings like the United States does in conflict zones abroad. The Washington Post reports the policy partially comes out of U.S. military corporations intent to tap into the $6 billion global arms market. Speaking to the website Common Dreams, William Hartung of the Center for International Policy called the drone exports “one of [the Obama administration’s] worst policy decisions,” adding: “Regardless of what guidelines are established for their use, history tells us that once the United States transfers a weapon to another nation it is extremely difficult to control how it is used. The U.S. should be reining in its own drone strikes, not making it easier for other nations to use them.”

Ashton Carter Sworn In as Pentagon Chief Following Senate Confirmation

Feb 18, 2015

Ashton Carter has been sworn in as the new defense secretary following his overwhelming Senate confirmation vote last week.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter: “I have a commitment to the future, to building a force for our future. That involves not only securing the resources we need, but making sure that we make the best use of the taxpayers’ dollar, make sure that we embrace change, so that years from now and decades from now we continue to be a place where America’s finest want to serve.”

President Obama tapped Carter after forcing the ouster of Chuck Hagel late last year. Carter has a long history at the Pentagon, where he once served as the chief arms buyer. In 2006, he backed a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if the country continued with a planned missile test. Carter has recently voiced support for arming Ukraine and opposing the transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay.

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