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India Launches Airstrikes in Pakistan Amid Mounting Tension

Feb 26, 2019

In a major escalation of tensions in South Asia, India has carried out airstrikes inside Pakistan for the first time in years. India said the raid targeted a camp of the militant separatist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, as tensions flare in the Indian-administered region of Kashmir. India has also conducted four ground raids on Kashmiri separatist leaders. India has said they killed “a very large number” of militants, but Pakistan has said there are no casualties from the attack. The New York Times reports the air raids mark the first time Indian aircraft had crossed the Kashmir Line of Control to strike in decades. The air raid follows a recent spate of violence in Kashmir. Earlier this month, a car bombing killed scores of Indian soldiers, and a gun fight killed both Indian and Jaish-e-Mohammed forces last week.

U.S. Announces New Sanctions on Venezuela as Lima Group Opposes Military Intervention

Feb 26, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence met with Venezuela’s self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó Monday during a meeting of the Lima Group in Bogotá, Colombia. Pence announced new sanctions against Venezuelan officials for their role in blocking the so-called humanitarian aid from entering the country over the weekend, as the U.S. continues to ratchet up pressure on the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

Vice President Mike Pence: “Effective today, the United States will impose additional sanctions on regime officials, including three border state governors implicated in last weekend’s violence and a member of Maduro’s inner circle. These men worked to block aid for people in need and suppressed peaceful protests.”

Pence also said the U.S. is preparing for a new set of sanctions designed to isolate the government of President Maduro. Pence reiterated the U.S. threat that all options remain on the table, but the Lima Group said at the end of their Monday meeting that they support a democratic transition of power.
At least four people were killed during the weekend after violence broke out on the Venezuelan borders with Colombia and Brazil over the attempted delivery of aid into the country. The U.N. and other international aid agencies have refused to work with the U.S. and other countries on delivering supplies because they say their motivations are political.

Meanwhile, two unnamed defense officials say the U.S. military has been collecting classified intelligence on President Nicolás Maduro in recent days by flying an increased number of reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace off the coast of Venezuela.

Univision Reporter Jorge Ramos Briefly Detained in Venezuela

Feb 26, 2019

In more news from Venezuela, Univision says reporter Jorge Ramos and his crew were detained briefly, then released, in Caracas Monday, after President Maduro reportedly became unhappy with the line of questioning in an interview. The journalists are reportedly being deported from Venezuela.

Trump and Kim to Meet in Vietnam for 2nd North Korean Summit

Feb 26, 2019

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam, today for their second round of talks on a possible denuclearization agreement. The two heads of state are expected to meet over dinner Wednesday as they kick of the 2-day summit. Trump has repeatedly said Kim Jong-un will agree to completely denuclearize, despite U.S. intelligence officials saying he is not likely to do away with North Korea’s entire nuclear arsenal and that they may still be developing weapons. North Korean officials have said they want the U.S. to remove sanctions on the country before agreeing to any deal.

Reports: Michael Cohen to Accuse Trump of Criminal Conduct in Congressional Hearing

Feb 26, 2019

Trump’s trip comes as his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee today in a closed hearing. Reports say that Cohen may directly accuse Trump of criminal conduct. Senators are expected to ask about plans to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow and whether Trump told him to lie to Congress. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to the panel in 2017. He is scheduled to start a 3-year prison term in May for lying to Congress and tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. On Wednesday, Cohen will appear before the House Oversight Committee in his only open congressional testimony this week. On Thursday, he will testify behind closed doors before members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Climate Change May Cause Cloud Die-Off, Increase Rate of Warming

Feb 26, 2019

A startling new study in the publication Nature Geoscience finds that warming temperatures could lead to a major loss in cloud cover, pushing the Earth even more quickly toward a catastrophic climate “tipping point.” A new simulation revealed that stratocumulus clouds are at threat of disappearing within a century, which would add 14°F, or 8°C, of extra warming to the planet. Scientists believe we are currently heading toward a 4°C rise in temperature by the end of the century if humans don’t quickly change course, which could have devastating consequences for human life and trigger global crises at a rapid pace.

U.K.: Corbyn Could Back 2nd Referendum as Brexit Deadline Looms

Feb 26, 2019

In Britain, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said Monday his party will back a second Brexit referendum if lawmakers fail to pass his party’s proposed amendments to the contested deal. The announcement came as Prime Minister Theresa May is reportedly considering delaying Brexit, as well as a vote that would take a no-deal Brexit off the table. May postponed this week’s crucial parliamentary vote on Brexit, pushing it to March 12, some two weeks before Britain is currently scheduled to depart the EU. Last week, nine Labour and three Conservative lawmakers defected from their respective parties over concerns about Brexit, forming an independent bloc.

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U.N. Court: U.K. Should Give Up Control of Chagos

Feb 26, 2019

The U.N.'s top court ruled Monday that Britain should hand over control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. The court said Britain's takeover of Chagos in 1965 was illegal and that Chagos should have been returned to Mauritius after it gained independence from the U.K. in 1968. The archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean, is home to a contested U.S. military base on the island of Diego Garcia. Britain expelled many of the island’s inhabitants 50 years ago to make way for the air base. Original residents of the islands say they hope the ruling means they will be allowed to return home; however, the U.N. court’s ruling is not binding, and Britain’s official response remains to be seen.

U.N.: Sec.-General Warns Against Collapse of Arms Control Treaties

Feb 26, 2019

Speaking at a U.N. conference on disarmament Monday, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that international arms control mechanisms are collapsing, and called on the United States and Russia to recommit to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty—known as the INF—and to extend the New START Treaty before it expires in 2021.

Secretary-General António Guterres: “States are seeking security, not in the proven collective value of diplomacy and dialogue, but in developing and accumulating new weapons. And the situation is particularly dangerous as regards nuclear weapons. … We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War.”

Guterres also called on negotiating parties at the North Korean summit in Hanoi this week to take concrete steps toward a denuclearization deal.

Meanwhile, Russian state television aired a map of U.S. military facilities that would become targets in the event of a nuclear strike. The report said that a hypersonic missile being developed by Russia would be able to hit the targets in less than five minutes. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready for a “Cuban missile-style” crisis if the U.S. provoked the nuclear power.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Resigns

Feb 26, 2019

U.N. Secretary-General Guterres’s warning against abandoning nuclear accords came as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif quit his post in a surprise move announced via Instagram Monday. Zarif played a central role in the negotiations leading to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Last year, President Trump withdrew from the landmark deal despite international condemnation of the move and U.N. inspectors saying Iran was adhering to the deal. Zarif did not offer any reason for his resignation, writing simply, “I sincerely apologize for the inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my service.”

In a statement released by activists Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright, who met with Zarif hours before his resignation, wrote, “[Zarif] said that when the Iran nuclear agreement was signed in 2015 over 80 percent of the Iranian people supported it, as they hoped it would bring Iran back into the international community and improve their economy. Instead, President Trump quit the agreement and implemented even more sanctions on Iran … Now just 51 percent of Iranians think the nuclear agreement is a good idea because it has brought no economic relief to the Iranian people.”

Somalia: U.S. Military Says Airstrike Kills 35 al-Shabab Fighters

Feb 26, 2019

A U.S. airstrike in Somalia killed 35 al-Shabab fighters Sunday, according to military officials. The U.S. says it has killed at least 180 al-Shabab fighters in 22 airstrikes since the start of 2019. U.S. air raids in Somalia have steadily increased since Trump came to office and authorized the use of targeted strikes against suspected al-Shabab militants.

Cubans Ratify New Constitution Reaffirming Socialism as “Irrevocable”

Feb 26, 2019

In Cuba, voters ratified a new constitution Sunday, reaffirming socialism as the nation’s “irrevocable” system of governance. The new constitution, approved by over 86 percent of voters, also reflects the island’s partial loosening of some of its trade and ownership laws, and includes recognition of private property and the strengthening of foreign investments. It also ensures the right to legal representation upon arrest and sets presidential term limits.

LGBT activists condemned the removal last December of language in the draft constitution that would have recognized equal rights in marriage. Evangelical churches worried about the legalization of same-sex marriages are believed to be the driving force behind the majority of the “no” votes.

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Japan: Okinawans Reject Relocation of U.S. Base in Referendum

Feb 26, 2019

In Japan, residents of Okinawa opposed plans to relocate a U.S. air base elsewhere on the island in a referendum Sunday. Over 70 percent of voters voted against the plan. This is a local resident explaining her vote.

Okinawan resident: “Accidents have taken place here. However, the U.S. forces, even if they break laws or regulations, go unpunished in accordance with the relevant agreements between Japan and the U.S. So I don’t think it’s fair. Plus, the military base is something related with war. I don’t think military bases should exist in the world.”

The Japanese government said on Monday it would nonetheless move ahead with the relocation. For decades, Okinawans have called for the expulsion of U.S. troops from the island, which houses about two-thirds of the 50,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Japan. Last year, residents elected a new governor, Denny Tamaki, who vowed to fight against the U.S. military presence.

Guatemala Bill Could Free Perpetrators of Genocide, Torture

Feb 26, 2019

In Guatemala, lawmakers are considering an amnesty bill that could free over 30 people convicted of crimes against humanity, including genocide, torture and enforced disappearances, during the country’s 36-year U.S.-backed slaughter, which ended in 1996. In 2008, Guatemala began prosecuting such cases after years of impunity. In a historic 2013 ruling, Guatemala’s former U.S.-backed dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt, was convicted of genocide. His case was being retried when he died last year. Amnesty International warned of the danger of passing the proposed bill, saying that the law “represents a serious threat to the rights of thousands of victims of the country’s internal armed conflict to learn the truth and to obtain justice for the atrocities that they and their families suffered.”

Australian Cardinal Pell Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Boys

Feb 26, 2019

Over two months after Australian Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of sexually assaulting and molesting underage boys, Australian and other media are now reporting on his conviction after a court lifted a press gag order. Among other charges, Pell was found guilty of sexually molesting two boys and forcing them to perform oral sex on him in the 1990s. He is the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to be convicted of a sexual crime. He served as the Vatican’s chief financial officer.

Ex-Trump Staffer Accuses Him of Forcibly Kissing Her

Feb 26, 2019

Back in the United States, a former staffer on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign is accusing then-candidate Trump of kissing her without her consent before an August 2016 rally in Florida. Alva Johnson filed a lawsuit Monday claiming Trump grabbed her hand before moving to kiss her on the mouth. She also claims that the Trump campaign engaged in pay discrimination and that she received less money than her male, white colleagues. Johnson’s lawyer says she was prohibited from speaking out about the incident earlier due to a nondisclosure agreement.

Climate Activists Stage Protest at Sen. McConnell’s Office

Feb 26, 2019

And in environmental news, over 250 youth climate activists from the group Sunrise Movement took over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s D.C. office Monday, calling out the Kentucky Republican and his fellow lawmakers for their inaction in the face of climate change and for accepting huge sums of money from the fossil fuel industry and other polluters. This is the executive director of Sunrise Movement, Varshini Prakash.

Varshini Prakash: “We have known about this crisis for 40 years. And it was an emergency then. It’s a full-blown planetary crisis now. For 40 years we’ve seen the way that fossil fuel executives have misinformed the public on the science. We’ve seen the way that they have poured billions of dollars into the campaign coffers of politicians on both sides of the aisle. And we have seen the way that politicians like Mitch McConnell and the GOP elite have taken 80 percent of those oil and gas donations.”

The takeover follows a viral interaction with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein over the weekend, in which she dismissed the young activists’ request to back the Green New Deal.

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