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HeadlinesFebruary 19, 2018

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Trump Lashes Out in Angry Tweetstorm After DOJ Indicts Russians for Election Meddling

Feb 19, 2018

President Trump launched into a remarkable angry and error-ridden tweetstorm over the weekend, following the Justice Department’s decision to indict 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 presidential election. In a string of 10 Twitter messages, Trump lashed out at Democrats, the Mueller investigation, the Obama administration, his own national security adviser and the FBI, which he falsely accused of spending so many resources on the Russia investigation that it missed warning signs about school shooter Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week.

In one of the messages sent from his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump tweeted, “If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

In another message, Trump tweeted, “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign–there is no collusion.” Trump also attacked National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster for his comments to world leaders at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

H.R. McMaster: “And as you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible.”

In response, Trump tweeted, “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems…” “Crooked H” is a reference to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. The Washington Post reports many European leaders at the Munich Security Conference were confused and alarmed by President Trump’s tweetstorm this weekend and Trump’s attack on his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. The Post reports that one anonymous European diplomat suggested H.R. McMaster and other U.S. officials may be following in the footsteps of German government officials who continued to serve during Hitler’s rise, ostensibly in the name of protecting the country.

President Trump’s tweetstorm came after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians and three companies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Friday’s sprawling indictment charges the Russians orchestrated a propaganda effort that began in 2014 to undermine the U.S. election system and then developed into an effort to help Donald Trump win.

The indictment says the effort, coordinated by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, included Russians posing as political activists, stealing the identities of U.S. citizens, and further politicized issues of immigration, race and religion, in efforts to push American voters to choose Trump over his rival, Hillary Clinton. This indictment also alleges some Russians were in contact with people associated with Trump’s campaign, although it does not allege Trump’s campaign was aware of the propaganda effort or that there was any collusion. This is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, announcing the indictments Friday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: “The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States’ political system, including the 2016 presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called 'information warfare' against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

Meanwhile, in news on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager Richard Gates will plead guilty to wire fraud and will testify against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

After Parkland, Students Launch Historic Youth-Led Movement to End Mass Shootings

Feb 19, 2018

In Florida, as funerals continue for the 17 people killed in at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, on Wednesday, survivors of the school shooting have launched an unprecedented youth-led movement to demand gun control. On Friday, students at the South Broward High School in Florida walked out of class to protest the massacre, which was carried out by a 19-year-old white former student named Nikolas Cruz, who had a history of violent and abusive behavior against women.

On Friday, the FBI admitted it had failed to investigate Cruz, even after someone close to him called the agency’s tip line in January to warn them “about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” At a rally on Saturday, survivors of the school shooting demanded politicians stop accepting money from the National Rifle Association. Nikolas Cruz reportedly trained in a youth shooting club that was funded by the NRA.

This is Emma González, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaking at Saturday’s rally.

Emma González: “If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened, and maintains telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. It doesn’t matter, because I already know: $30 million! And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one-and-one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? … To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.”

We’ll hear more of Emma González’s speech after headlines.

66 Feared Dead After Iranian Plane Crash in Zagros Mountains

Feb 19, 2018

An Iranian plane crashed in the Zagros Mountains Sunday, and all 66 people aboard are feared to be dead. The crash is the latest in a series of aviation accidents in Iran in recent years, which are attributed to the difficulty of maintaining and repairing old aircraft in the face of international sanctions.


Israeli & Iranian Leaders Clash over Syria Conflict at Munich Security Conference

Feb 19, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif exchanged sharp words on Sunday at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, a week after the two countries engaged in a direct military confrontation in Syria. Netanyahu held up a piece of metal that he claimed came from an Iranian drone which Israel shot down after it allegedly penetrated Israeli airspace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.”

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif called Netanyahu’s display “cartoonish” and accused Israel of escalating the threat of direct military confrontation.

Mohammad Zarif: “Israel uses aggression as a policy against its neighbors, mass reprisals against its neighbor, daily incursions into Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries, daily bombardments, almost routine bombardments of Syria. And once somebody as the Syrians have the guts to down one of its planes, it’s as if a disaster has happened.”


Syrian Gov’t to Enter Afrin to Help U.S.-Backed Syrian Kurds Repel Turkish Offensive

Feb 19, 2018

In Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and the Syrian government have reached a deal for pro-government forces to enter Afrin to combat a month-long Turkish military offensive against the northwest Syrian city. Meanwhile, across the border, the Turkish government has arrested nearly 800 people for criticizing its military offensive in Afrin. And on Friday, a Turkish court sentenced six journalists to life in prison on charges of participating in the 2016 failed military coup. All six journalists deny any participation in the attempted coup.

Gaza: Two Palestinian Teenagers Killed by Israeli Tank Fire

Feb 19, 2018

In Gaza, family members gathered for the funerals of two Palestinian teenagers who were killed after Israeli tanks opened fire during an air and ground assault this weekend. The Israelis say the airstrikes and tank fire were in retaliation for a bomb blast on the Israel-Gaza border, which injured four Israeli soldiers.

Ethiopia Imposes Six-Month State of Emergency

Feb 19, 2018

The Ethiopian government has imposed a six-month state of emergency, one day after the Ethiopian prime minister’s abrupt resignation Thursday amid widespread anti-government protests. It was the first time in modern Ethiopian history that a sitting prime minister had quit. Despite the ban on all protests and strikes, there are reports the regional capital city of Gondar in northern Ethiopia is on strike today, in protest of the state of emergency.


Mexico Military Helicopter Crashes in Oaxaca, Killing 14 Earthquake Survivors

Feb 19, 2018

In Mexico, a military helicopter crashed in the southern state of Oaxaca Friday, killing 14 residents who had been displaced by an earthquake. The helicopter was carrying government officials surveying the earthquake damage at the time of the crash. Among the dead were at least three children.


“Black Panther” Film Smashes Opening Weekend Box Office Records

Feb 19, 2018

And back in the United States, the film “Black Panther” smashed box office records on its opening weekend, grossing more money than any other February debut. It was also the highest-grossing film ever by a black director, 31-year-old Ryan Coogler. It was also the fifth-highest-earning opening weekend of any film in U.S. history. The superhero flick, based on the Marvel comic, features a majority-black cast and has been called a “defining moment for Black America.” It’s also renewed calls for the release of more than a dozen imprisoned members of the real Black Panther Party. Thousands of people have signed on to a petition calling on Disney to invest 25 percent of the film’s worldwide profits in education programs in black communities.

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