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►  Duterte Aims to Wipe Out Smoking in Philippines

Smokers in the Philippines, look out. President Rodrigo Duterte, notorious for his brutal crackdown on drug users, now wants to wipe out smoking, too. Duterte issued a nationwide executive order Thursday banning smoking in all public places, including sidewalks. CNN reports that smoking was previously banned in schools, clinics, and government buildings, but not workplaces or restaurants. Now anyone with a cigarette, be it electronic or tobacco, must light up exclusively in designated smoking areas. The move is meant to reduce the high smoking rate in the Philippines, where, according to a WHO report, a quarter of the population smokes, including 11% of minors. Among other things, the order prohibits tobacco advertising within 330 feet of schools and playgrounds.

The New York Times reports that offenders face $100 fines, a steep price in a nation where the average monthly salary is $400, and four months in jail. Duterte, who quit smoking after being diagnosed with two rare medical conditions years ago, called on civilians to partake in a “Smoke Free Task Force” and help catch offenders. While Reuters reports that the ban has garnered support among health officials, others fear that a public task force may inspire vigilantes to take the law into their own hands, as was seen in in Duterte’s call to murder addicts and users in his war on drugs.


►  U.S. Doesn’t Know How China Found, Wiped Out Its Spies

At the start of the decade, the Chinese government fatally shot a man in the courtyard of the government building where he worked—a public killing meant to send a message to his colleagues. The man was one of more than a dozen CIA sources killed or imprisoned by the Chinese government between 2010 and 2012, according to a New York Times expose on a massive—and heretofore unreported—defeat of the US intelligence community at the hands of China. The Times cites 10 current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The dismantling of CIA operations in China, which had taken years to build, hurt intelligence gathering in that country for years afterward.

Despite launching an investigation into what happened—code-named Honey Badger—neither the FBI nor the CIA could figure out how China found its spies. Some officials blamed a potential mole in the CIA. At one point, they even had a suspect—though they lacked the evidence to make an arrest. Others thought China had hacked the CIA. Another explanation: CIA handlers in China had gotten sloppy, using the same routes to the same meeting points with their sources. Officials say they were meeting in restaurants where even the waiters worked for Chinese intelligence. The US is still trying to rebuild its intelligence gathering network in China. Read the fully story HERE .


►  Meet ‘Uncle Fat,‘ Thailand’s Morbidly Obese Monkey

A morbidly obese wild monkey in Thailand who gorged himself on junk food and soda left behind by tourists has been rescued and placed on a strict diet of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, the AP reports. Wildlife officials caught the chunky monkey—nicknamed “Uncle Fat” by locals—after photos of the animal started circulating on social media last month. Wild monkeys roam free in many parts of Thailand, attracting tourists who feed and play with the animals. Most of the monkeys are macaques like Uncle Fat, and they typically weigh around 20 pounds. Uncle Fat weighs three times that.

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“After he ate food given by humans for a while, he developed a fat mass, which became a type of benign tumor,“ said Supakarn Kaewchot, a veterinarian in charge of the monkey’s diet. “He is now in critical condition where there is a high risk of heart disease and diabetes.“ Uncle Fat is believed to be between 10 and 15 years old. To help him lose weight, his new diet is limited to 400 grams worth of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables twice a day. Supakarn said she hopes that within a few months they can consider releasing him to the wild. She said Uncle Fat is an example of why people shouldn’t feed wild monkeys unhealthy food.


►  Executions Reported in Deadly Attack on Libyan Airbase

An official in Libya says at least 140 people—including civilians—were killed in a strike on the Brak al-Shati airbase, more than doubling the original count from the attack Thursday, the BBC reports. According to the Guardian, the base was attacked by the Third Force militia, which is loyal to the UN-backed Libyan government. A spokesperson for the Third Force says they “liberated the base and destroyed all the forces inside.“ Brak al-Shati had been under the control of the Libyan National Army, a group that doesn’t recognize the government and is loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar, since December.

An LNA spokesperson says most of the 140 casualties were unarmed soldiers returning from a military parade, adding most of them were “executed.“ The spokesperson says the dead also include civilians working on the base or in the vicinity. The UN-backed Libyan government condemned the attack, which it denied ordering. It says it has suspended the defense minister and the Third Force’s commander pending an investigation. Martin Kobler, UN envoy to Libya, says the “unprovoked attack” could amount to a war crime, Al Jazeera reports. “I am outraged by reports of significant numbers of fatalities, including civilians and by reports that summary executions may have taken place,” Kobler says. The attack may also have breached a truce between Haftar and the government reached on May 02.


►  Swedish Workers Just Got Bad News About Their Sex Lives

Finding the right work-life balance is always a challenge. But in Overtornea, Sweden, residents are going to have to have sex on their own time, just like everywhere else. The New York Times reports a 31-member town council on Monday voted down a local pol’s proposal to grant the municipality’s 550 workers “subsidized sex”—in other words, one hour of paid leave each workweek in which they could scurry home to get it on.

Proponents of Per-Erik Muskos’ plan said it could help boost the town’s birth rate, as well as pull marriages out of ruts. The BBC reports the town is home to roughly 4,500, and the population is aging. Per the proposal, the sex hour would have replaced an already-permitted “fitness” hour, and the council ruled that if sex were to be subsidized, why not gardening or cleaning? “The break should be used for a walk or going to a gym,“ one council member says. Muskos isn’t surprised by the decision, but he’s still “disappointed.“


►  Freed Nigerian schoolgirls meet families after 3 years

The 82 Nigerian schoolgirls recently released after more than three years in Boko Haram captivity reunited with their families Saturday as anxious parents looked for signs of how deeply the extremists had changed their daughters’ lives.

Brightly dressed families rushed through the crowd in the capital, Abuja, and embraced. One small group sank to their knees, with a woman raising her hands as if praising in church. Some danced. Others were in tears.

“I am really happy today, I am Christmas and new year, I am very happy and I thank God,“ said mother Godiya Joshua, whose daughter Esther was among those freed.

This month’s release was the largest liberation of hostages since 276 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in 2014. Five commanders from the extremist group were exchanged for the girls’ freedom, and Nigeria’s government has said it would make further exchanges to bring the 113 remaining schoolgirls home.

“Our joy is never complete until we see the complete 113, because one Chibok girl matters to all Chibok people,“ said a parent of one of the freed schoolgirls, Yahi Bwata.

Many of the girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry extremists and have had children. Some have been radicalized and have refused to return. It is feared that some have been used in suicide bombings.

The mass abduction in April 2014 brought international attention to Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency in northern Nigeria, and it launched a global Bring Back Our Girls campaign that drew the backing of some celebrities, including former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama. Thousands have been kidnapped during the extremists’ eight-year insurgency, and more than 20,000 have been killed.

The release of the 82 schoolgirls this month came after an initial group of 21 girls was released in October. Nigeria’s government has acknowledged negotiating with Boko Haram for their release, with mediation help from the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The two groups of freed schoolgirls reunited earlier Saturday, Nigeria’s Channels TV reported, showing the young women laughing and embracing.

Since the latest release, many families in the remote Chibok community had been waiting for word on whether their daughters were among them. A government list of names circulated, and parents were asked to confirm the freed girls’ identities through photos.

Both groups of freed girls have been in government care in the capital as part of a nine-month reintegration program that President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will oversee personally. But human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping the young women so long in the capital, far from their homes.


►  U.S. first lady ignores Trump criticism and shuns headscarf

Ignoring Donald Trump’s past admonition, U.S. first lady Melania Trump did not cover her head Saturday when they arrived in Saudi Arabia on the opening leg of his first international tour since taking office.

Two years ago, then-citizen Trump criticized then-first lady Michelle Obama’s decision to go bare-headed on a January 2015 visit with her husband.

“Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies,“ Trump tweeted at the time, including a short-hand spelling for “enough.“

Under the kingdom’s strict dress code for women, Saudi women and most female visitors are required to wear a loose, black robe known as an abaya, in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia also cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab.

But head coverings aren’t required for foreigners and most Western women go without.

While Mrs. Trump dressed conservatively Saturday in a long-sleeved, black pantsuit accented with a wide, gold-colored belt, her below-the-shoulder brown hair blew in the breeze at King Khalid International Airport in the capital city of Riyadh.

She followed the example set by other, high-profile Western women, including Mrs. Obama.

On visits earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also shunned head coverings. Then-first lady Laura Bush generally went without covering her head, though she once briefly donned a headscarf that she received as a gift.

Hillary Clinton, on trips to Saudi Arabia as Obama’s secretary of state, also did not cover her head.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, a senior White House adviser who is also accompanying her father, also left her head uncovered.

Saudi Arabia adheres to an ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic Shariah law where unrelated men and women are segregated in most public places. Women are banned from driving, although rights advocates have campaigned to lift that ban.

Guardianship laws also require a male relative’s consent before a woman can obtain a passport, travel or marry. Often that relative is a father or husband, but in the absence of both can be the woman’s own son.


►  Food cart shut down? Turn to Egypt’s president on live TV

Beaming, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi sat before an audience next to a young TV presenter who praised him for his transparency and straight talk. She then selected a number of questions and complaints from thousands submitted by the public to an online page called “Ask the President.“

For the next hour, Egypt’s leader dispensed solutions to people’s problems and concerns on live TV.

When one person wrote in complaining police had shut down an unlicensed food cart run by two women, el-Sissi replied he wants to start a program to license such carts in public squares. Then he turned to his interior minister — the powerful head of police sitting in the front row — and chided him good-naturedly, asking why he doesn’t give out temporary licenses until a permanent system is set up.

Egypt’s general-turned-president has deftly maneuvered his way to being a leader through whom nearly everything is funneled, sidestepping state institutions that are largely weak anyway. The parliament is dutifully loyal, his Cabinet waits on his every word, and the media are almost completely without dissenting voices.

At the same time, he has put himself out before the public in a way no Egyptian leader has before. El-Sissi appears often at televised gatherings and a series of heavily publicized youth conferences where he answers questions from people in the audience or — in one case last month — questions submitted to the “Ask the President” page on a website linked to his office.

Throughout, he projects a carefully cultivated image of a detail-oriented workaholic, in touch with the people, tough-minded but sensitive to their woes.

That image has served him well, helping preserve his popularity among a significant section of the Egyptian public, despite the pain of high prices inflicted by austerity measures he imposed to salvage a sinking economy, a dragged-out fight against Islamic militants and concerns over his increasingly authoritarian ways.

His televised appearances give an impression of freedom and transparency, though his government has rolled back most freedoms won by a 2011 uprising, suppressed civil society groups and jailed thousands of opponents.

“He wants to come across as the one who holds all the strings, solves everything, and the only one with ideas. It’s a combination between authoritarianism and PR,“ said Hisham Kassem, a prominent publisher and media expert.

El-Sissi and his supporters say there is no other way to fix a nation deeply damaged by turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. The outreach, they say, reassures and rallies a public struggling with cripplingly higher prices for food, fuel and services from the economic reforms, which included the floating of the currency and lifting of some subsidies.

El-Sissi has also been boosted by a turnaround on the world stage, where he was initially shunned for ousting an elected president in 2013 and overseeing a massive crackdown on Islamists and secular opponents. Now he has been embraced by many Western leaders, including Donald Trump, as an ally against terrorism and illegal immigration.

El-Sissi does not hide his disdain for politics and does not have a political party, a contrast to Mubarak, whose ruling party was a tool for enforcing loyalty in the government and the streets.

Instead, the military remains el-Sissi’s main arm. He has expanded the military’s role in the economy, bringing it into new fields of manufacturing and infrastructure construction — so much so that some complain private investors are at a disadvantage.

“If the armed forces hadn’t been an integral part of confronting this massive (economic) development, we would have probably not been able to achieve what we have,“ he said in a recent interview.

He has also enrolled hundreds of carefully vetted young graduates in a program to produce a new leadership generation. Many of them are to be assigned to ministries and government agencies, effectively installing el-Sissi loyalists to realize his policies.

“It’s clear that he has no trust in most state institutions,“ said Negad Borai, a prominent rights lawyer who is among a number of activists banned from travel.

“He sidesteps most institutions and deals directly with the people through these televised functions,“ Borai said. “The bottom line is, he and his preferred institutions, primarily the military, are doing everything themselves.“

El-Sissi’s public outreach has been enabled by the grip he holds over the media, where dissenting voices have been squeezed out and celebrity talk show hosts have been empowered as his unofficial spokespersons and cheerleaders.

In his appearances, el-Sissi shows a mix of diligence, patriotism, religious piety and “regular guy” moments — heartily laughing at a joke or choking back tears listening to a mother talk about a son killed fighting militants.

During a recent TV program discussing poverty in rural areas, the host was visibly delighted when el-Sissi phoned into the show, ostensibly unplanned.

“I hope I’m not bothering you,“ el-Sissi said humbly before talking about his government’s efforts to build homes and infrastructure.

He often proclaims his gratitude and admiration for how Egyptians are enduring the hardships, promising they will be rewarded with better times.

He combines that with tough love, telling Egyptians they can no longer depend on subsidized prices. He angrily told Cairenes this week to stop complaining about higher metro fares, saying services in Egypt remain among the world’s cheapest.

And he has maintained the security agencies’ iron fist.

One of the questions read during the “Ask the President” session was from a prominent rights activist, Gamal Eid.

Eid wrote that the main security agency shut down five public libraries he set up using funds from an international award. In the complaint, he referred to the agency by its former, but still widely used name, “State Security,“ rather than “National Security,“ as it has been called since 2011.

“Do we have State Security?“ el-Sissi asked his interior minister with a mocking smile.

El-Sissi said Eid should lodge a court case. “The ruling will be binding on you and the Interior Ministry,“ he said. But then he added that closing the libraries must have been done in the interest of protecting Egyptians.

Eid later told The Associated Press there is no way to appeal in court because police closed the libraries without ever producing an official order.


►  North Korea fires medium-range missile in latest weapon test

In its latest effort to develop its ballistic and nuclear weapons, North Korea fired a medium-range missile Sunday that appeared to be similar to one the country tested earlier this year, U.S. and South Korean officials said.

The rocket was fired from an area near the North Korean county of Pukchang, in South Phyongan Province, and flew eastward about 500 kilometers (310 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The U.S. Pacific Command said it tracked the missile before it fell into the sea.

White House officials traveling in Saudi Arabia with Donald Trump said the system that was tested had a shorter range than the missiles fired in North Korea’s most recent tests.

The missile appeared to be similar in range and maximum altitude to the missile that North Korea test-fired in February, an official from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The missile launched on Sunday reached an altitude of 560 kilometers (347 miles), said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.

The February test involved using a launch truck to fire a solid-fuel missile that North Korea calls the Pukguksong (Polaris)-2, a land-based version of a submarine-launched missile the country revealed earlier. That missile traveled about 500 kilometers before crashing into the sea, according to South Korean and U.S. officials.

The February launch, the North’s first missile test after Trump took office, alarmed neighbors because solid-fuel missiles can be fired faster than liquid-fuel missiles, which need to be fueled before launch and require a larger number of vehicles, including fuel trucks. Those vehicles could be spotted by satellites.

In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was too early to know whether diplomatic and economic pressures being exerted on the North Korean government are having an impact in the wake of the latest missile test.

“We’re early in the stages of applying the economic pressure as well as the diplomatic pressure to the regime in North Korea,” Tillerson said. “Hopefully they will get the message that the path of continuing their nuclear arms program is not a pathway to security or certainly prosperity. The ongoing testing is disappointing. It’s disturbing.”

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, held a National Security Council meeting to discuss Sunday’s launch, which came hours after he named his new foreign minister nominee and top advisers for security and foreign policy. He did not make a public statement after the meeting.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch a “challenge to the world” that tramples international efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile problems peacefully. He vowed to bring up the issue at this week’s G-7 summit in Italy.

At the United Nations, diplomats from the U.S., Japan and South Korea said they requested a Security Council consultation on the missile test. The closed discussion will take place Tuesday. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting had not been officially announced.

The launch came a week after North Korea successfully tested a new midrange missile that it said could carry a heavy nuclear warhead. Experts said that rocket flew higher and for a longer time than any other missile previously tested by North Korea, and that it could one day reach targets as far away as Hawaii and Alaska.

Under the watch of third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been pursuing a decades-long goal of putting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year alone, possibly improving its ability to make nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles. The country has also conducted a slew of rocket launches as it continues to advance its arsenal of ballistic weapons, which include midrange solid-fuel missiles that could be fired from mobile land launchers or submarines.

If North Korea did indeed fire the Pukguksong-2 again, it might be part of attempts to stabilize the system before operationally deploying the missiles, said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

Kim said there’s also a possibility that the North is conducting engine tests and other experiments as it pushes for the development of a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland. If the North ever obtains a solid-fuel ICBM, it would likely be a rocket powered by a cluster of several Pukguksong-2 engines, Kim said.

Missile tests such as Sunday’s present a difficult challenge to Moon, a liberal who took over as South Korea’s president on May 10 and has expressed a desire to reach out to the North. Pyongyang’s aggressive push to improve its weapons program also makes it one of the most urgent foreign policy concerns for the Trump administration.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the North’s latest launch “throws cold water” on the expectations by Moon’s government to “stabilize peace and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

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►  With waiver, U.S. lets Iran keep getting benefits of nuke deal

The Trump administration took a key step Wednesday toward preserving the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, coupling the move with fresh ballistic missile sanctions to show it isn’t going light on the Islamic republic.

The State Department said Iran would continue to enjoy relief from decades-old economic measures punishing Tehran for its nuclear program. Under the 2015 nuclear agreement, the U.S. lifted those sanctions. But Washington must issue periodical waivers to keep the penalties from snapping back into place and the most recent one was set to expire this week.

Donald Trump as a candidate vowed to renegotiate or tear up the nuclear deal. As president, he has altered his position, insisting he is still studying the accord and hasn’t made a final decision. The move to extend the sanctions relief in the meantime was another indication Trump may be laying the groundwork to let the deal stand.

Still, the U.S. paired the announcement with new, unrelated sanctions that go after Iran for a ballistic missiles program that Washington fears could target American interests in the Middle East or key allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday’s sanctions target Iranian military officials along with an Iranian company and China-based network accused of supplying Iran with materials for ballistic missiles, the State Department said.

The dual moves — ensuring old sanctions on Iran don’t return while imposing new ones — appeared aimed at undercutting the impression that Trump’s stance on Iran has softened. Since taking office, Trump’s administration has sanctioned hundreds in Iran and in Syria — an Iranian ally — as part of a campaign to increase pressure on Iran even as it reviews the nuclear deal.

Stuart Jones, the top U.S. diplomat in charge of the Middle East, said the U.S. is still forming a “comprehensive Iran policy” that addresses Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and militant groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

“This ongoing review does not diminish the United States’ resolve to continue countering Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region, whether it be supporting the Assad regime, backing terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, or supporting violent militias that undermine governments in Iraq and Yemen,“ Jones said. “And above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.“

In a similar move last month, Trump’s administration certified to Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the deal — a requirement for Iran to keep receiving the economic benefits of the deal. At the same time, Trump dispatched Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to issue a scathing critique of Iran in which he also cast doubt that the nuclear deal would achieve its objective of keeping Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

The moves come as Iran prepares for a presidential vote on Friday whose outcome has major implications for Iran’s future stance toward the U.S. and its likelihood of sticking with the deal. President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who oversaw the clinching of the nuclear deal, faces challenges from hard-liners who have stridently criticized the deal.

The new sanctions announced Wednesday hit Morteza Farasatpour, a top Iranian defense official who oversaw the sale of explosives and other materials used by Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, the Treasury Department said. The Syrian agency produces non-conventional weapons such as the chemical weapons that Assad’s forces used earlier this year.

The U.S. also punished another Iranian official it said has been involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as Matin Sanat Nik Andishan, a company based in Iran that the U.S. said helped obtain materials for the ballistic missile program. The sanctions also target a series of Chinese companies associated with Ruan Runling, a Chinese citizen. The U.S. said his network helped produce electronics such as missile guidance for Iran’s program.

Mark Dubowitz, an Iran expert and head of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates for a tough U.S. position on Iran, said the latest steps were part of a “much more comprehensive strategy to use all instruments of American power to roll back Iranian regional aggression” and to “rectify what the administration sees as a deeply flawed nuclear deal.“

Also on Wednesday, Iranian state media said four passenger airplanes were being delivered as the first installment of a deal with French-Italian manufacturer ATR that was finalized after the nuclear agreement. Iran is buying 20 of the ATR 72-600 planes. It also has clinched bigger deals with trans-Atlantic rivals Airbus and Boeing.

Under the 2015 deal, the U.S. and other world powers eased sanctions after the U.N.‘s International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had taken a series of steps to pull its nuclear program back from the brink of weapons capability.

The deal doesn’t prohibit the U.S. or other countries from imposing new sanctions on Iran for its missile program, terrorism or other reasons, although Tehran has threatened to pull out of the deal if the U.S. and other countries do so.


►  Trump Arrives in Saudi Arabia

Trump, in the first stop of his maiden trip abroad, received a regal welcome Saturday in Saudi Arabia, feted by the wealthy kingdom as he aims to forge strong alliances to combat terrorism while pushing past the multiple controversies threatening to engulf his administration. Trump arrived in Riyadh after an overnight flight and was welcomed at elaborate airport ceremony punctuated by a military flyover and a handshake from Saudi King Salman, the AP reports. He is the only US president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas. After Air Force One touched down, the 81-year-old King Salman was brought to the steps of the plane in a golf cart.

At a later ceremony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, the king placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, the nation’s highest civilian honor, around Trump’s neck. The medal, given to Trump for his efforts to strengthen ties in the region, has also been bestowed on leaders includig Vladimir Putin, Theresa May, and Barack Obama. After spending much of Saturday meeting with King Salman and other royal family members, Trump was ending the day at a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace. On Sunday, he’ll hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders converging on Riyadh for a regional summit focused largely on combating the ISIS and other extremist groups.


►  In Video, Turkish President Watches Violence at DC Protest

A DC protest that turned violent earlier this week made headlines because armed members of the visiting Turkish president’s security detail were seen pummeling protesters near the home of Turkey’s ambassador. Nine people were hospitalized, and the violence stirred outrage online as critics of Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused him of bringing his oppressive tactics against dissent to the US. A new video won’t help. It shows Erdogan surveying the violent scene with aides upon exiting a car, reports the New York Times. Perhaps worse is a chain of events laid out on Twitter by Washington Post reporter Philip Bump. As Bump puts it, it “looks like Erdogan telling his goons to assault peaceful protesters in America.“

Before Erdogan emerges from the car, an aide ducks his head in, then pops out and speaks to another man, who heads toward the protesters. Within seconds, the violence breaks out. Bump writes that the video of Erdogan could “raise the stakes” in the controversy. The White House has been silent on the protest and violence, though a State Department spokesperson said that “violence is never an appropriate response to free speech,“ and that those concerns would be relayed to Turkey’s government “in the strongest possible way,“ per the Voice of America. Turkey, for its part, denies any role in inciting violence. Two members of Erdogan’s security detail who clashed with American security personnel were detained, then released because of diplomatic protection. They will not be allowed to return to the US, a congressional aide tells the Times.


►  Iran Re-Elects Moderate by Wide Margin

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani won re-election by a wide margin Saturday, giving the moderate cleric a second four-year term to see out his agenda pushing for greater freedoms and outreach to the wider world. The 68-year-old incumbent secured a commanding lead of 57% in a race that drew more than seven out of every 10 voters to the polls. His nearest rival in the four-man race, hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, secured 38% of the vote, the AP reports. As Rouhani appeared close to victory, some female drivers held out the V for victory sign and flashed their car lights on highways in Tehran’s affluent north.

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“We made the victory again. We sent back Raisi to Mashhad,“ his conservative hometown in northeastern Iran, Narges, a 43-year-old beauty salon owner, tells the AP. She says she spent more than three hours outside waiting to vote, “but it was worth it.“ In 2013, Rouhani won the presidential election with nearly 51% of the vote. Turnout for that vote was 73%. Friday’s vote was largely a referendum on Rouhani’s moderate political policies, which paved the way for the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s president is the second-most powerful figure within Iran’s political system. He is subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the ultimate say over all matters of state.


►  Chinese Fighter Jets Intercept U.S. Plane

A pair of Chinese fighter jets conducted an “unprofessional” intercept of an American radiation-sniffing surveillance plane over the East China Sea, the US Air Force said Friday, the latest in a series of such incidents that have raised US concerns in an already tense region. On Wednesday, the two Chinese Su-30 jets approached a WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft—a modified Boeing C-135—conducting a routine mission in international airspace in accordance with international law, Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge says. The WC-135 crew characterized the intercept as unprofessional “due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft,“ Hodge tells the AP.

Hodge, who declined to provide further details, says the issue would be addressed with China through “appropriate diplomatic and military channels.“ “We would rather discuss it privately with China,“ Hodge says. “This will allow us to continue building confidence with our Chinese counterparts on expected maneuvering to avoid mishaps.“ China declared an air defense identification zone over a large section of the East China Sea in 2013, a move the US called illegitimate and has refused to recognize. Hodge declined to say whether Wednesday’s incident was within the self-declared Chinese zone.


►  No Headscarf for Melania, Ivanka Despite Trump Tweet

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Neither Melania nor Ivanka Trump wore a headscarf after arriving in Saudi Arabia for Trump’s first trip abroad, the BBC reports. In fact, none of the women in the president’s entourage wore one. It turns out that while sharia law requires Saudi women to wear a headscarf, western visitors not wearing one isn’t a big deal. So, as USA Today puts it: “None of this would be an issue, except for the fact that Trump himself made it one.“ In 2015 during one of President Obama’s visits to Saudi Arabia, Trump tweeted: “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies.“ It appears he’s changed his opinion on the matter.

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►  Turkey demands U.S. replace envoy in spat over Syrian Kurds

Turkey has told the United States it will not join in any military operations that include Kurdish fighters in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday, while vowing to strike the U.S.-backed Kurds if they threaten Turkey’s security.

Turkey’s foreign minister also demanded that a U.S. envoy be removed for allegedly backing the Kurds, but the State Department said Brett McGurk has the “full support” of the Trump administration.

Speaking in Istanbul two days after meeting Donald Trump in Washington, Erdogan criticized the U.S. decision to ally with “terror organizations” for the long-awaited operation to capture Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group.

“We said we would not be in such an operation with you where you ally with terror organizations and so we said good luck,“ Erdogan said.

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria a terror organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Erdogan said he warned Trump that Turkey would combat YPG if the group posed any security threat. “We are already telling you in advance, our rules of engagement give us this authority, we will take such a step and we won’t discuss it or consult with anyone. Because we have no time to lose,“ he said.

Citing a cross-border offensive Turkey launched against IS and the YPG in Syria last year, Erdogan said “we won’t hesitate to launch similar operations if we see the need.“

Earlier Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Trump administration understood Turkey’s position against the YPG. “They did not say anything negative about this issue and treated it with understanding,“ he said.

In April, the U.S. had criticized Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq.

Cavusoglu said Trump’s administration seems more understanding about Turkey’s security concerns. He went on to plead for the replacement of Brett McGurk, the U.S. presidential envoy for the global coalition against IS.

“This McGurk is definitely supporting the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial for this person to change,“ he said, accusing the diplomat of carrying on Obama-administration policies.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said McGurk has done “tremendous work” in coordinating and leading the international coalition against IS, and has the support of the White House and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The U.S. respects Turkish concerns about its “by, with, and through” approach to the Syrian Democratic Forces led by the YPG, and will continue consulting with Ankara as the focus on combating IS continues, Nauert said.

Cavusoglu said Turkey received U.S. assurances that arms sent to the YPG would be used only against IS, without explaining how this would be monitored.

“The weapons provided will only be used in Raqqa and its south, they will absolutely not be used against Turkey, this will not be allowed,“ Cavusoglu said. “Turkey and the U.S. will together run an active combat against the PKK.“

A cease-fire between Turkey and the PKK collapsed in July 2015 after a two-and-a half year hiatus in fighting, leading to clashes in Turkey’s southeast and round-the-clock curfews as well as airstrikes on alleged PKK camps in northern Iraq.

According to the International Crisis Group, at least 2,798 people, including state security personnel and Kurdish militants, have been killed in Turkey. The death toll includes nearly 400 civilians.

The PKK is considered a terror group by the U.S. and Turkey’s Western allies.


►  Court May Grant ‘Extraordinary’ Student Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

An Oxford University student who admitted to stabbing her boyfriend may avoid jail time after a judge determined that legal consequences could damage her future career as a surgeon. According to the Guardian, last year Lavinia Woodward punched and then stabbed her then-boyfriend in the leg with a bread knife at the Christ Church college during a drunken and drug-fueled spat. She continued to lob objects, including a laptop, at the man, a Cambridge University student she met on Tinder, before stabbing herself, reports the BBC. Judge Ian Pringle QC reviewed the case and admitted that such crimes were “pretty awful” and normally would warrant an immediate jail sentence, but he decided to defer Woodward’s sentencing for four months after deeming the incident a “one-off.“

“To prevent this extraordinary, able young lady from following her long-held desire to enter the profession she wishes to would be a sentence which would be too severe,“ said Pringle. The 24-year-old student is studying to be a heart surgeon, and Christ Church will allow her to return in October because she “is that bright” and has a record publishing in medical journals. Her defense lawyer played up her intelligence, claiming it would be “almost impossible” for her to find work as a surgeon if it’s discovered she has a conviction. The judge cited Woodward’s drug addiction and past abuse from a partner as reasons to give her a second chance. She was given a restraining order, must undergo drug counseling, and cannot reoffend before her new sentencing date on September 25.


►  Gay Couple Sentenced to 85 Lashes

An Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country’s moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy. The court, whose sentencing Wednesday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each receive 85 lashes for having sexual relations, the AP reports. One of the men wept as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. The couple was arrested after neighborhood vigilantes in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, suspected them of being gay and broke into their rented room to catch them having sex.

International human rights groups described the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating and called for their immediate release. “The prosecution is very harsh. The verdict is harsher,“ said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to practice Shariah law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a war with separatists. Homosexuality is legal elsewhere in Indonesia, but a case before the country’s top court is seeking to criminalize gay sex and sex outside marriage.


►  France’s Le Pen to run for parliament with party in disarray

Emerging from her crushing defeat in France’s presidential contest, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Thursday she will run for a parliamentary seat in June elections and that her National Front party has “an essential role” in a new political landscape.

Le Pen will run for a seat in a district in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, a hardscrabble former mining region where she lost a similar bid in 2012. A new failure could jinx her bid to unite the National Front and to make it France’s leading opposition party.

“I cannot imagine not being at the head of my troops in a battle I consider fundamental,“ Le Pen said in an interview on the TF1 television station, her first public appearance since her May 07 loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen announced her candidacy while facing forces of division that could frustrate her new goals. Her popular niece is leaving politics, her disruptive father is back in the ring and her party is in disarray.

At the same time, Macron has upset the political equation, drawing from the left and right to win the presidency and to create his government. The new president now is looking across the political spectrum to obtain a parliamentary majority to support his agenda.

“We are in reality the only opposition movement,“ Le Pen said.

“We will have an essential role to play (and) a role in the recomposing of political life,“ she said, reiterating her contention that the left-right divide has been replaced by “globalists, Europeanists and nationalists” like herself.

Le Pen is counting on the 10.6 million votes she received as a presidential candidate to propel her anti-immigration party into parliament in the June 11 and June 18 elections.

The party also hopes to pick up votes from “electoral orphans” unsatisfied with Macron and feeling betrayed by the mainstream right, National Front Secretary-General Nicolas Bay said this week.

The National Front plans to field candidates for each of France’s 577 electoral districts, hoping to block Macron’s movement from obtaining a majority of seats and to secure a strong bloc of its own to counter his new government.

Le Pen dismissed the notion that there were links between her loss and a series of events widely seen as potentially weakening the National Front.

The party recently lost a rising star who served as a unifier on its conservative southern flank. One of the National Front’s two current lawmakers — Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen — announced last week that she was leaving politics, at least temporarily.

Enter Jean-Marie Le Pen, who likened his granddaughter’s exit from politics to a “desertion.“

The elder Le Pen, who was expelled from the party he co-founded because of his penchant for making anti-Semitic comments, is backing up to 200 parliamentary candidates through an ultra-conservative alliance, the Union of Patriots.

Some of the five parties represented in the alliance are headed by former National Front militants who, like Jean-Marie Le Pen, were expelled by his daughter in her bid to scrub up the party’s image for the presidential contest.

His own Jeanne Committees will present some 35 of the 200 candidates. The decision smacks of revenge, but the elder Le Pen’s aide denied that was the case.

“This is not meant to cause trouble for the National Front. It is to defend the values that the National Front no longer defends,“ the aide, Lorrain de Saint Affrique, said.

The risk that other far-right parties would challenge the National Front “has existed since the National Front decided to exclude Jean-Marie Le Pen,“ De Saint Affrique said. “They should have thought of that then.“

The competition from all but obscure parties is not a substantial threat to Le Pen, but mirrors frustrations roiling the National Front, some of which became public following Le Pen’s defeat.

More menacing, her top lieutenant, Florian Philippot suggested after Le Pen’s loss to Macron that he would leave the party if it decided to do away with the goal of leaving the euro currency — a divisive proposal but at the top of Le Pen’s presidential platform.
“I’m not there to keep a post at any price and defend the reverse of my deep convictions,“ he said last week on RMC radio.

Le Pen conceded Thursday that the subject of the euro “considerably worried the French” and would be discussed after the parliamentary elections. “We will have to take this into account, reflect,“ she said.

She welcomed Philippot’s launching this week of an association, called The Patriots, which could be seen as the budding of a potential rival, like the movement Macron started 13 months ago, En Marche (On the Move).

“The more ideas the better,“ she said.

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►  U.S. Official Warns of ISIS ‘Chemical Weapons Cell’

A US official warns ISIS could be getting all its chemical weapons experts together in a “chemical weapons cell” in a last-ditch effort to defend its remaining territory in Syria. CNN reports the unnamed official says the experts are from Iraq and Syria and haven’t previously worked together. “We know ISIS is willing to use chemical weapons. This is not something we want to see them get good at,“ says Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the US-led military coalition in Syria.

The unnamed official says the chemical weapons cell is convening in an area of ISIS-controlled Syria that the US military is getting more interested in. The official says the area in the Euphrates River Valley could now be the “de facto” ISIS capital as military pressure increases on Raqqa. Syrian forces are said to be tightening “their noose” on that ISIS stronghold, according to Reuters.


►  U.S. Strike Hits Pro-Syrian Forces Seen as ‘Threat’: Officials

US officials say an American airstrike has hit pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria as they were setting up fighting positions in a protected area. The officials say the strike Thursday near Tanf hit a tank and a bulldozer and forces there, but it wasn’t clear if they were Syrian army troops or other pro-government allies, the AP reports. One official says the pro-regime forces had entered a so-called “de-confliction” zone without authorization and were perceived as a threat to US-allied troops there. The officials say the strike was a defensive move to protect the US allies; it wasn’t clear if US forces were present. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

The area has been a source of tension as both government forces and US-backed rebels advance there. Both the government forces and the rebels are trying to rout Islamic State militants from the area. Meanwhile, a Syria state news agency says President Bashar Assad has met with Iraq National Security Adviser Faleh al-Fayad to discuss “practical” steps to improve coordination between their countries’ militaries in the anti-terrorism campaign along their shared border. Syrian state media and a monitoring group say at least 15 civilians were killed this week and dozens wounded in an ISIS offensive on the government-held village of Aqarab al-Safiyeh in central Syria. State news agency SANA says women and children were among the dead, and that some were beheaded.


►  Potentially Record-Setting Cat Has a Taste for Kangaroo

What’s it take for a cat to grow so long it’s in contention for a Guinness World Record? Good genes, a good home, and lots of raw kangaroo meat, apparently. “It’s the only meat we could find that he actually wants to eat,“ Stephy Hirst tells the BBC. The Australian woman is the owner of a 3-foot-11-inch-long Maine Coon named Omar. The Melbourne resident created an Instagram account for Omar a few weeks ago, and one of his photos was shared 270,000 times on Cats of Instagram. Then Guinness came calling. Now, Hirst is waiting to hear if she’s officially the owner of the world’s longest cat, beating the record from another Maine Coon that measures 3 feet 10.5 inches. (According to the Independent, the myth about Maine Coons and their size is they are the result of semi-wild cats breeding with raccoons.)

Hirst tells Perth Now the 31-pound Omar likes to “laze around.“ “You don’t make it to 14 kilograms climbing trees and jumping fences,“ she says. The laid-back cat is having a hard time dealing with his newfound fame—TV and newspaper interviews and even an offer to be a water company’s spokescat, the Herald Sun reports. Hirst tells the BBC Omar “had a little bit of a meltdown.“ That’s why she’s not worried about whether he actually sets the Guinness record. But owning a massive cat isn’t all world records and internet fame. “He does take up a bit too much room on the bed,“ Hirst says. The famously large kitty sleeps on the couch.


►  Dutch King Secretly Kept Pilot Job for 21 Years

Dutch passengers on KLM flights might have recognized the co-pilot’s voice when he introduced himself on the airline’s Cityhopper services. It was not just their co-pilot telling them weather conditions and estimated time of arrival. It was their king. King Willem-Alexander told national daily De Telegraaf in an interview published Wednesday that he has ended his role as a regular “guest pilot” after 21 years on KLM’s fleet of Fokker 70 planes and before that on Dutch carrier Martinair. He will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokkers are being phased out of service.

While it was no secret that Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot who had flown KLM passenger flights, it wasn’t widely known that he did it as often as twice a month and continued flying incognito after becoming king in 2013, the BBC reports. The 50-year-old calls flying a “hobby” that lets him leave his royal duties on the ground. “You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them,“ the king told De Telegraaf. “You can’t take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else.“ He said he is rarely recognized by passengers as he walks through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in his KLM uniform.

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►  London Overrun With Mystery Bug Swarm

Social media users in London are buzzing about an apparent swarm of flying insects that has descended on one part of the city. Videos posted to Twitter Tuesday show people ducking as the insects descend on Greenwich in southeast London, reports the AP. It’s not clear what the bugs were or why they appeared in unusual numbers. Some say they’re bees, but others describe them as wasps.

Transport for London, which oversees public transport in the capital, posted a picture from a traffic camera showing large numbers of the insects collecting on a traffic light, and it warned drivers that a pedestrian crossing was “partially obstructed by bees.“ It noted: “Please approach with caution.“ London police didn’t immediately return a request for comment on whether they’ve received reports on the insects.


►  Facebook’s Latest Headache: Video of King in a Crop Top

Facebook has had a lot on its plate—fake news, its “heartbreaking” Facebook Live problem—but now it’s seeing pressure from Thailand on another front: The ruling military junta is upset about content circulating online of the country’s new king strolling around a shopping mall wearing a crop top, the New York Times reports. The video, which the Telegraph notes was originally shot in Munich in July 2016, seems to show now-64-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn walking with a woman, wearing a yellow crop top and flaunting his ample body tats. Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a Thai historian and critic now living in France, posted the video to his own Facebook page in April, and in early May he says he received a letter from “Tim” at Facebook, letting him know the company had received a Thai criminal court order telling him the video violated the nation’s Computer Crimes Act.

Part of the problem: Jeamteerasakul’s post (which he posted alongside pics of Justin Bieber in a crop top) and others like it could be violations of Thailand’s lese-majeste laws, which make it illegal to insult or threaten the royal family. Another issue: the military junta, which took over in 2014, seems determined to dump Facebook altogether. TechCrunch notes that even though Facebook still appears operational in Thailand—the government had threatened to shut it down Tuesday if Facebook didn’t disable 131 “illicit” posts so Thai users couldn’t see them—it temporarily blocked the network once before in 2014, and there’ve been whispers of plans to institute a “single national internet gateway.“ A Facebook rep tells the Times it tries to comply with government requests to restrict access when content may flout local laws.


►  U.S. trumpets Mosul gains, but Iraq says more aid needed

During a visit south of Mosul, a senior U.S. official praised territorial gains against the Islamic State group in Iraq, but local officials cautioned more aid is needed to rebuild on the heels of victories against the extremists.

The Mosul fight is approaching its “final stages,“ Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition against the IS, told The Associated Press during a meeting with Iraqi military and civilian officials at a water treatment plant near the town of Hamam al-Alil.

“The world is now seeing that (Iraqi) soldiers are completely destroying Daesh,“ McGurk said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group that is also referred to as IS, ISIS and ISIL. He described the fight to retake Mosul, which was launched nearly seven months ago, as one of the most difficult urban battles since World War II.

But the men who had gathered to receive McGurk and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman were dressed in suits, not fatigues and they had come asking for aid, not weapons and training.

With the fight against IS in Iraq about to enter its fourth year, more than half of the territory the extremists once held is now under government control, but with those advances has come greater demand for reconstruction money.

The U.S. military footprint in Iraq has steadily grown in the build-up to and throughout the Mosul operation, but U.S. funds for humanitarian relief and stabilization remain a fraction of defense spending in the IS fight.

“We are looking for more support as the west side of the city will be liberated soon,“ Maj. General Muhammed al-Shimary with Nineveh Operations Command told McGurk after thanking him for U.S. assistance in the fight so far.

McGurk said the water treatment plant that now provides water to more than 100,000 people in Nineveh is “symbolic of this entire effort that we’ve embarked upon to defeat Daesh.“

“Here in Nineveh we have hundreds of projects like this funded by our coalition,“ he said, adding that a similar list of reconstruction projects was being drawn up for the IS-held Syrian city of Raqqa as U.S.-led coalition forces surround it ahead of a long-anticipated operation to retake it.

But overall, U.S. fiscal contributions to Iraqi reconstruction are unlikely to meet the country’s needs. Iraq continues to struggle with an economic crisis and the central government has called on the international community to provide the bulk of the funds.

Last year under the Obama administration, McGurk emphasized the need for a balance between “speed and sustainability” in the fight against IS.

“Before you launch a major operation you have to have in place who is going to hold the city, who is going to govern the city,“ he told the Senate foreign relations committee during testimony in June 2016.

However, Donald Trump has pledged to accelerate the military fight against IS. While the White House is yet to release an official overhaul of the IS fight, since taking office Trump has handed greater decision making power regarding troop levels in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to the Pentagon.

Additionally, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has emphasized the limited role the U.S. will play in reconstruction in Iraq and Syria.

“As a coalition we are not in the business of nation-building or reconstruction,“ Tillerson said during a meeting of foreign ministers in Washington in March. Instead, he said the U.S. would equip “war torn communities to take the lead in rebuilding their institutions and returning to stability.“

As of March 31, the Pentagon has spent $12.5 billion on the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria with daily costs averaging $13 million since the operation was launched in 2014. Over the course of the same time period, U.S. contributions to humanitarian assistance in Iraq have been a fraction of that: $1.3 billion with just $350 million going to stabilization projects like the water treatment plant south of Mosul.

For Mosul alone, Nuraddin Qablan, the deputy president of the Nineveh provincial council said an estimated $100 billion would be needed to “put the city of Mosul back on its feet again.“

The operation to retake Mosul from IS was formally launched in October and while the initial weeks of the fight were marked with a string of swift territorial gains, combat in the city’s west has devastated infrastructure and inflicted high civilian casualties.

In March, more than 100 people were killed in a single strike in western Mosul, according to witnesses interviewed by the AP. The U.S. acknowledged its forces launched the strike, but did not confirm that it resulted in civilian casualties. The Pentagon is conducting an investigation into the incident.

More than 410,000 civilians remain displaced by the fighting and clashes have injured more than 12,000, according to the United Nations. The number of civilian casualties only counts those who were referred to hospitals in the Mosul area. Hundreds more civilians receive treatment at frontline clinics inside the city.

Iraqi troops are working to surround Mosul’s old city, where the last battles of the operation are expected to play out. In a statement on Sunday, Lt. General Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah said government forces began clearing IS from four neighborhoods on the Old City’s edges.

In the Old City alone, IS fighters are believed to be holding more than 200,000 civilians hostage as shields, a factor likely to further slow the pace of operations.

McGurk declined to say when he expected the operation to conclude, but said victory was “really just a matter of time, anyone left in there will have to surrender or they’ll die.“

Al-Shimary, the Nineveh operations command official who met with McGurk, said while the humanitarian situation in Mosul’s east — which was declared liberated in January — appears to be improving daily, he expects the city’s west to pose a greater challenge.


►  Internet Picks Name for Albino Orangutan

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A rare albino orangutan rescued from captivity in a Borneo village has been given a new name with the help of online suggestions—and remarkably, it isn’t “Orangutan McOrangutanface.“ The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, which received thousands of suggestions, says the 5-year-old female will be called “Alba,“ which means “white” in Latin, the AP reports. Alba was stressed, injured, and malnourished when she was rescued April 29, but the foundation says her condition is rapidly improving, reports the Jakarta Globe. The foundation says it has never encountered an albino orangutan before, and it wants to learn more about the condition in great apes before it tries to return Alba to the wild.


►  In ‘Outrageous Crime,‘ Mexico Journalist Killed

Javier Valdez was driving in broad daylight down a street he must have known well, just a block from his office, when he became the latest victim of a wave of journalist killings that has hit Mexico. Masked gunmen forced Valdez from his car, shot him dead, and left his body in the middle of the street Monday, reports Riodoce, a publication he helped start. Valdez, an award-winning reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was slain in the northern state of Sinaloa, long a hotbed of drug cartel activity. He is at least the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico since early March, an unusually high number even for one of the world’s deadliest countries for media professionals, the AP reports.

President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned what he called an “outrageous crime.“ Valdez, also a correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada, was an internationally recognized journalist who authored several books on the drug trade. He was considered a rare source of independent, investigative journalism in Sinaloa, says Jan-Albert Hootson, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “And for that same reason, he and his magazine and his co-workers were always under threat of violence,“ Hootson says. Hootson describes Valdez as a warm, friendly man, well-liked by other journalists who frequently sought his help to navigate and understand the complex, dangerous state. “His door was always open. ... Everybody always deferred to his knowledge,“ Hootson said. “And in that sense, it’s a huge loss for everybody.“


►  ‘Golden Visa’ Program Is Booming—and Controversial

When the sister of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, promoted investment in her family’s new skyscraper from a Beijing hotel ballroom stage earlier this month, she was pitching a controversial American visa program that’s proven irresistible to tens of thousands of Chinese. More than 100,000 Chinese have poured at least $24 billion in the last decade into “golden visa” programs across the world that offer residence in exchange for investment, an AP analysis has found. Nowhere is Chinese demand greater than in the United States, which has taken in at least $7.7 billion and issued more than 40,000 visas to Chinese investors and their families in the past decade, the AP found.

The flood of investors reflects how China’s rise has catapulted tens of millions of families into the middle class. But at the same time, it shows how these families are increasingly becoming restless as cities remain choked by smog, home prices multiply, and schools impose ever-greater pressure on children. They also feel insecure about being able to protect their property and savings. The “golden visa” industry is murky, loosely regulated, and sometimes fraud-ridden: In the US, federal regulators have linked the EB-5 visa program to fraud cases involving more than $1 billion in investment in the last four years. Despite criticism from Congress, Trump signed a spending bill that included a renewal of the program through September.


►  For a 10-Year-Old Pregnant by Rape, a 2nd Trauma

India has dealt with a series of high-profile rape cases, and the latest is a particularly thorny one: It involves a 10-year-old who is now pregnant. The New York Times reports the child is more than 20 weeks along after being “repeatedly raped by her stepfather over a period of time,“ per police. Last Wednesday, the girl’s mother phoned a tip line for help. But after experiencing trauma so severe one of the doctors who examined her found the girl “not able to speak properly,“ she faced a second hurdle: obtaining permission to abort. The Hindustan Times reports that under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is only permitted after the 20-week mark in cases where the mother’s life is endangered. The act was established to tamp down on the aborting of female fetuses in the country.

The medical board that examined the girl determined “both the situations—abortion at present and delivery—could be equally dangerous” for the child, who lives in the Rohtak district in Haryana state, so they pushed the decision-making onto a court. The local court on Tuesday OK’d the abortion, reports the BBC, and the procedure will take place “anytime now.“ As far as child sexual abuse goes, India is a hotbed of it: About 13 children under the age of 10 are raped there each week, with the BBC citing a government study that found slightly more than 50% of children surveyed had experienced some type of sex abuse. The girl’s stepfather, who is said to be in his 20s, has been arrested. Two other grisly rapes were reported in the country in the last week.


►  Princess Mako of Japan to Wed ... and Become a Commoner

Princess Mako, the granddaughter of Japan’s emperor, is getting married to an ocean lover who can ski, play the violin, and cook. The news comes via public broadcaster NHK TV and has been confirmed by the Imperial Household Agency, reports the Japan Times. Kei Komuro, the man who won the princess’s heart, was a fellow student at International Christian University in Tokyo, where Mako, 25, also graduated. They reportedly met at a restaurant in Tokyo’s Shibuya about five years ago at a party to talk about studying abroad. Komuro is currently a graduate student. Women can’t succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne in Japan, the AP reports, and once she marries, Mako will no longer be a princess and will become a commoner.

Mako’s father and her younger brother are in line to succeed Emperor Akihito, but after her uncle Crown Prince Naruhito, who is first in line. The Times notes Mako is the first of Akihito’s four grandchildren to become engaged. The process building up to the wedding, said to likely take place next year, is expected to be full of ritual, as Japanese nuptials, especially royal ones, tend to be. First there will be an announcement, the equivalent of an engagement, and then a date for the wedding will be picked and the couple will make a formal report to the emperor and empress. NHK says Mako has already introduced Komuro to her parents, and they approve.

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►  Serial Killer Takes Final Secret With Him to the Grave

One of Britain’s most notorious killers passed away Monday, taking a secret that’s haunted the family of one of his victims with him to the grave. The Telegraph reports that Ian Brady, 79, died in a hospital of causes not yet released to the public. Along with Myra Hindley, who passed away in prison in 2002, Brady sexually tortured and murdered five children ages 10 through 17 in the mid-1960s. After burying the bodies in the Saddleworth Moor, the pair became known as the Moors Murderers. Brady never revealed where 12-year-old victim Keith Bennett’s body was buried, and the boy’s elderly mother passed away without ever knowing his final resting place.

As his health began failing, Brady continued to deny requests to reveal the whereabouts of the body. “I would beg him to do the right thing on his deathbed and tell us where Keith is,“ Terry Kilbride, whose brother John was also murdered by Brady, told the Sun hours before Brady’s death. Prior to his death, Brady was in poor health, with chest and lung problems. He recently made headlines for demanding his right to die. His multiple appeals to be removed from a hospital and placed in prison in his native Scotland, where he wouldn’t be force-fed through a feeding tube, were refused.


►  Rebuilding Europe After WWII Cost Nothing Compared to This

China’s president calls it the “project of the century:“ a sweeping new version of the ancient Silk Road designed, according to China, to promote global development. Leaders from 30 nations issued a joint endorsement Monday as part of a 2-day meeting that counted Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan among attendees but saw no major Western leaders present, the AP reports. (The US delegation was led by the National Security Council’s Asia director.) Reuters reports Xi Jinping on Sunday pledged another $124 billion for the “Belt and Road” initiative, which was first announced in 2013. China’s line is that it’s a purely commercial effort. Some foreign diplomats and political analysts aren’t so sure. What you need to know:

  • What it is: As Sky News puts it, the initiative’s goal is to “recreate the trading routes of old overland and sea through central Asia, to Europe and beyond.“ The recreating part means investing massive sums in everything from high-speed railways and ports to airports and telecom projects in more than 60 countries, in what would be China’s most ambitious foreign project ever.
  • The numbers: “The scope is always changing,“ reports the Washington Post, so the estimates run the gamut from $900 billion and up—way up. NBC News puts the estimated price tag at $1.4 trillion, and notes that’s 11 times the cost (converted into today’s dollars) spent rebuilding post-WWII under the Marshall Plan.
  • Specific plans: One vision is to lay so much high-speed rail track that you could go from Beijing to London in two days, notes NBC. It also flags a port effort in Pakistan that would facilitate new trade routes to China’s western Xinjiang region, and a China-Myanmar pipeline that will give Beijing a new way to access Middle East crude.
  • From Xi’s mouth: He hopes the plan “will unleash new forces for global economic growth” free of a political agenda. That claim has raised eyebrows among Western diplomats who wonder if China is making a move to boost its exports at the expense of US influence in Asia.
  • The skepticism: Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown’s take: It’ll cost a “phenomenal sum of money, so many people are asking where is this money going to come from and [saying] that China is acting out of self-interest [as it] needs to get its own economy moving again and helping the economy of countries that depend on China.“
  • Africa-specific skepticism: A post at Quartz likens the new Silk Road to colonial Britain’s trade routes, and says a major goal is to open up new markets for China. Except “African countries are already flooded with Chinese products.“ There’s already an imbalance, with not even 20% of sub-Saharan African countries having a trade surplus with China based on 2015 data.
  • Another concern: What Reuters terms the “lending program of unprecedented breadth” that’s facilitating all this construction. It reports that two Chinese policy banks have already doled out hundreds of billions in loans to, in some cases, “heavily indebted, poor countries” at generous terms. The banks say they’ve made moves to limit risk, but Reuters warns of the potential for a “hangover.“
  • The foils: As far as the world stage goes, there’s a bit of a clash between Trump’s “America First” stance and China’s desire to come off as a global player. The Post observes that “at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year, Xi, the authoritarian leader of a one-party state, positioned himself as a champion of free trade.“
  • Semantics: Sky notes the initiative is “slightly awkwardly titled,“ and the Post notes that, rather inscrutably, “road” refers to a sea route and “belt” references land.


►  Baby Abandoned in Theater Finds Answers 60 Years Later

Robert Weston first made headlines at just three weeks of age, when he was found abandoned in a movie theater bathroom in England in March 1956—left in expensive clothes, nestled in blankets, and with his head propped on a cushion. He’s now in the news again, this time with a piece of the mystery of his abandonment solved that has him “euphoric.“ Thanks to his grown daughter’s success in finding an expert on Facebook who used his DNA to map out a family tree and track down living relatives, he’s been reunited with his siblings on his father’s side in Scotland. “It was absolutely breathtaking,“ he tells the Times of London. “I had to touch them to make sure they were real.“

Their father passed away in 1997, and Weston has yet to track down his mother, so the mystery isn’t completely solved. A letter found among his father’s papers says his mother “couldn’t afford to look after her two children,“ so Weston is also left wondering if he has still another sibling. Weston’s father apparently left his family in Scotland, and went to England. “We think that he met my mother there, had two children, and then went back to his former wife and had three more,“ says Weston. He says he doesn’t blame his mother for leaving him, even though it resulted in seven years in a children’s home that he says carry dark memories. “I’ve forgiven her,“ he tells the Sun. “She must have had a very good reason for what she did. Those first three weeks of my life were long enough to create that bond between mother and child.“


►  Macron Jolts France, Names Conservative as His PM

French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed Edouard Philippe, a relatively unknown 46-year-old lawmaker, as prime minister, making good on campaign promises to repopulate French politics with new faces. Alexis Kohler, Macron’s new general secretary at the presidential Elysee Palace, made the announcement Monday. Philippe is the mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, a trained lawyer, and an author of political thrillers, reports the AP. He’s also a member of the mainstream-right Republicans party that was badly battered by Macron’s victory in the presidential campaign. Philippe’s appointment ticks several boxes for the 39-year-old Macron, France’s youngest president, who took power on Sunday. Philippe’s age reinforces the generational shift in France’s corridors of power and the image of youthful vigor that Macron is cultivating.

Philippe could also attract other Republicans to Macron’s cause as the centrist president works to piece together a majority in parliament to pass his promised economic reforms. Philippe is close to Alain Juppe, a former prime minister who campaigned for the French presidency but was beaten in a primary. Reacting to Philippe’s appointment Monday by President Emmanuel Macron, Juppe called the new prime minister “a man of great talent” with “all the qualities to handle the difficult job.“ Macron is off to a fast start: He’ll meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later Monday on his first foreign trip. Merkel said ahead of the meeting: “Germany will in the long term only do well if Europe does well, and the election of the new French president offers us the opportunity to bring dynamism to European development.“


►  FBI Investigator: ‘We’re Not Done With the bin Ladens Yet’

“I think we’re not done with the bin Ladens yet.“ That’s the conclusion of Ali Soufan in a 60 Minutes interview focusing on the trove of documents taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound upon his death. Soufan—the FBI’s chief al-Qaeda investigator in the wake of 9/11—shares what he’s learned in two years spent poring over the documents. A lot of it boils down to one man: Hamza bin Laden, the son of the al-Qaeda leader. He’s thought to be 28, and what we’ve known of him is minimal—no photos of him as an adult, for instance. But what Soufan uncovered in the documents is snippets about a charismatic man who “exhibited leadership skills early on,“ in January was added to the State Department’s Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, and just recently released another al-Qaeda propaganda video, per Newsweek.

Soufan calls out one letter, written from son to father around the time of Osama’s death. Hamza hadn’t seen his father for the eight years prior, and the letter expresses how much he both misses his dad (“He tells him ... I remember every, every look you looked at me, every smile you gave me, every word you told me,“ says Soufan) and plans to be like him. Soufan quotes the letter as saying, “I consider myself to be forged in steel, the path of jihad for the sake of God is what we live.“ Soufan believes Hamza was groomed to lead and is willing to do so, and the al-Qaeda he’d head is very different from that of his father: At the time of 9/11, the group had just 400 Afghanistan-based members. Now it’s “thousands and thousands of members, all over the Middle East.“


►  If N. Korea Missile Test Details True, U.S. Territory Is Within Reach

North Korea has been bragging about its latest missile launch—and experts say the boasts are more than just empty bluster. The Hwasong-12 missile fired Sunday traveled nearly 500 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan near Russia, according to Pyongyang’s KCNA state news agency. Analysts say it was fired at an unusually high trajectory and would have been capable of traveling more than 2,500 miles along a normal trajectory. North Korea says the new rocket is capable of carrying a “large-scale, heavy nuclear warhead,“ the Guardian reports. KCNA claims Kim Jong Un oversaw the test and “hugged officials in the field of rocket research” after it was a success.

The Washington-based monitoring project 38 North says Sunday’s launch “represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,“ reports Reuters. The group says Pyongyang now not only appears to have a missile that can hit the US base at Guam, it also seems to have made faster progress than expected toward creating an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland. The BBC reports that Japan and the US, which declared North Korea a “flagrant menace” after the test, have called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting Tuesday to discuss the country.


►  Venezuelans again shut down capital to protest government

Thousands of protesters hauled folding chairs, beach umbrellas and coolers onto main roads across Venezuela Monday for a national sit-in.

The “sit-in against the dictatorship” is the latest in a month and a half of street demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro that have left dozens dead. Many Caracas businesses were closed and taxi drivers suspended work in anticipation of a city-wide traffic shutdown.

Opposition leaders are demanding immediate presidential elections. Polls show the great majority of Venezuelans want Maduro gone as violent crime soars and the country falls into economic ruin.

The European Union is also calling for Venezuela elections. EU foreign ministers said Monday that “violence and the use of force will not resolve the crisis in the country.“

And the U.S. has expressed grave concern about the erosion of democratic norms in the South American country.

The protests were triggered by a government move to nullify the opposition-controlled Supreme Court, but have morphed into a general airing of grievances against the unpopular socialist administration.

As demonstrations take over Caracas almost daily, normal life has continued, but suffused with tension and uncertainty. At fancy cafes, patrons show each other the latest videos of student protesters getting hurt or statues of the late President Hugo Chavez on their phones. Working class people who have to traverse the capital city for their jobs have adjusted their schedules to account for the daily traffic shutdowns, and are taking siestas to wait out the clashes between protesters and police.

On Monday, protesters stayed in main roads for six hours, then began to disperse under a heavy rain. The pledged to take to the streets again the next day.

More than three dozen people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that erupted after the Supreme Court issued a ruling March 29 nullifying the opposition-controlled National Assembly, a decision it later reversed amid a storm of international criticism and outrage among Venezuelans. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to castigate Maduro’s administration, which they claim has become a dictatorship responsible for triple-digit inflation, skyrocketing crime and crippling food shortages.

Drawing rail-thin teenagers, elderly grandmothers and all ages in between, Venezuela’s protests have taken on an almost ritual-like progression: Demonstrators begin marching toward their chosen destination and are blocked by police or national guardsmen in armored trucks launching plumes of tear gas.

The government’s response to the demonstrations has drawn international condemnation, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressing concern in April that Maduro is “not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard.“

Maduro blames the opposition for the violence, claiming its leaders are instigating the unrest and working with gangs to remove him from power. At least two law enforcement officers have been killed in the demonstrations.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  In Spate of Recent Finds, Egypt Unearths an Unusual One

An Egyptian archaeological mission has found a necropolis holding at least 17 mummies near the Nile Valley city of Minya, in the first such find in the area, the antiquities ministry said on Saturday. The discovery was made in the village of Tuna al-Gabal, reports the AP, a vast archaeological site on the edge of the western desert. The area hosts a large necropolis for thousands of mummified birds and animals. It also includes tombs and a funerary building. “It’s the first human necropolis to be found here in Tuna al-Gabal,“ Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told reporters at the site, some 135 miles south of Cairo. The mummies were elaborately preserved, therefore likely belong to officials and priests, he said.

The new discovery also includes six sarcophagi, two clay coffins, two papyri written in demotic script as well as a number of vessels, he said. The necropolis, which is eight yards below ground level, dates back to the Late Period of Ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman period, the minister noted. Pointing to the edges of the necropolis where legs and feet of other mummies could be seen, the minister said that the find “will be much bigger,“ as work is currently in only a preliminary stage. Egypt is taking a recent spate of discoveries as something of a blessing for its lagging tourism industry, notes the Washington Post, which has been hit hard by recent political unrest.


►  Pope Not Convinced by Virgin Mary Apparitions

Bad news for the pilgrimage business in Bosnia: Pope Francis has made it clear that he has serious doubts about the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, which bring up to a million visitors to the village every year. Six children in the town said in 1981 that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them, and some of them say she continues to appear, giving notice in advance of when and where. “These presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value,“ Francis said Saturday, per Reuters. “This I say as a personal opinion,“ he said, wondering “who thinks the Virgin would say: ‘come to this place tomorrow at this time and I’ll give a message to a seer.‘“ He made similar skeptical comments in 2015.

Francis said he doesn’t believe in “a Madonna who is the head of a telegraph office, who every day sends a message at such-and-such an hour. This is not the mother of Jesus.“ He was speaking on his way home from Fatima, Portugal, where he declared sainthood for two children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them there in 1917. Francis said the church has investigated the Medjugorje apparitions, most recently in early 2014, and has found plenty of reasons for doubt, the AFP reports. Reuters notes Francis has seen the report of that commission, assembled by former Pope Benedict, but their findings haven’t been made public. Francis allowed that some pilgrims who visit the village do “encounter God, change their lives.“


►  France Swears in Its Youngest Leader Since Napoleon

France has inaugurated new president, Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old independent centrist who was elected on May 07, reports the AP. Arriving Sunday at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, Macron slowly marched alone, under a light rain, in the Elysee courtyard. He shook hands with his predecessor, Francois Hollande, at the front porch and the two men briefly posed for photographers. Macron is the youngest president in the country’s history and the 8th president of France’s Fifth Republic, created in 1958. His Republic on the Move movement hopes to reinvigorate French politics and win a majority of lawmakers in the June parliamentary election. The centrist, speaking Sunday in his inauguration speech, says “we will take all our responsibilities to provide, every time it’s needed, a relevant response to big contemporary crises.“

He listed “the excesses of capitalism in the world” and climate change among his future challenges. Macron says all countries in the world are “interdependent ... we are all neighbors.“ He announced his determination to push ahead with reforms to free up France’s economy and pledged to press for a “more efficient, more democratic” European Union. He is the first French president who doesn’t originate from one of the country’s two mainstream parties. His Republic on the Move movement hopes to reinvigorate French politics and win a majority of lawmakers in the June parliamentary election. Macron takes charge of a nation that, when Britain leaves the European Union in 2019, will become the EU’s only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.


►  N. Korea’s Latest Launch Could Indicate a New Type of Missile

North Korea on Sunday test-launched a ballistic missile that flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese, and US militaries said. The launch, which Tokyo said could be of a new type of missile, is a direct challenge to the new South Korean president and comes as US, Japanese, and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific. It wasn’t immediately clear what type of ballistic missile was launched, the seventh such firing this year, although the US Pacific Command said that “the flight is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile.“ Japanese officials, however, said the missile flew for about 30 minutes, traveling about 500 miles and reaching an altitude of 1,240 miles—a flight pattern that could indicate a new type of missile, reports the AP.

One expert said that the missile could have a range of 2,800 miles if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory—considerably longer than Pyongyang’s current missiles. He said Sunday’s launch may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fueled missile North Korea displayed in an April 15 military parade. Past North Korean missiles have flown farther than Sunday’s test, landing closer to Japan, but this launch follows a series of high-profile failures. The White House said North Korea has been “a flagrant menace for far too long,“ and that Washington maintains its “ironclad commitment” to its allies. “The United States should never expect us to give up our nuclear capability,“ said the North in commentary carried by KCNA. It said Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy is only aimed at “stifling us.“ On Saturday, a top North Korean diplomat said Pyongyang would be willing to meet with the Trump administration “if the conditions are set.“ She did not elaborate.


►  Pope Discusses Game Plan for Trump Meeting

Pope Francis says he won’t try to convince Trump to soften his policies on immigration and the environment when they meet this month, but wants instead to find common ground and work for peace, the AP reports. Francis said proselytizing isn’t his style—in politics or religion. Speaking to reporters while traveling home Saturday from a trip to Portugal, Francis said he would say what he thinks sincerely to Trump and listen respectfully to what Trump has to say. “I never make a judgment about a person without hearing him out,“ the pope said.

Speculation has swirled about what Trump and Francis will discuss during their May 24 audience, given Francis has already said anyone who wants to build walls to keep out migrants is “not Christian.“ Trump responded by saying it was “disgraceful” that the pope would question his faith. Francis said that in talks, he always tries to find “doors that are at least a little bit open” where common ground can be found, particularly in peace-building. Asked specifically if he would try to soften Trump’s policies, Francis said: “That is a political calculation that I don’t allow myself to make. Also in the religious sphere: I don’t proselytize.“


►  Body of Fashion Designer’s Nephew Found in Truck in Venezuela

A nephew of fashion designer Carolina Herrera has been found dead inside a truck on a road near Venezuela’s capital. The public prosecutor’s office said in a statement Friday that the body of 34-year-old businessman Reinaldo Jose Herrera was found the night before near Caracas. Another businessman was found dead in the same place. The cause of the two men’s death was unclear. Opposition leader Roland Carreno told the AP Herrera was the nephew of the Venezuelan-American designer. Carolina Herrera’s company did not immediately comment. Venezuela has among the highest murder rates in the world.


►  Korean President’s Bodyguard Giving Internet Some Serious Feelings

New South Korean president Moon Jae-in was sworn in this week, but it was his bodyguard who—in the words of BuzzFeed—had the internet “feeling the thirrrrrst.“ Twitter users were quick to notice a handsome face hanging around in photos of the new president. “If I charge towards the South Korean president, will this bodyguard tackle me?“ one Twitter user asks “for a friend.“ Others are composing fan fiction about Moon’s bodyguard, describing him as a “square-jawed serious romantic lead,“ according to the New York Post.

The Post identifies the good-looking bodyguard as 36-year-old Choi Young-jae, a member of Korea’s Special Warfare Command and married father of two daughters. But fans in South Korea are calling him “Face Hegemony” because he’ll “lead the way for the new president” through handsomeness, Quartz reports. But it’s not just him, South Koreans are describing Moon’s entire cabinet the “handsome brigade” while looking forward to life under the new “reign of beauty,“ according to Next Shark.


►  Norway Reopens Grisly Mystery of the Isdal Woman

A gruesome scene, false identities, coded messages, and a suitcase of disguises—but no answers. Now, 47 years after her badly burned corpse was discovered in a remote part of the Isdalen valley, journalists with Norway’s public broadcaster are reopening the unsolved case of the Isdal Woman. The BBC, laying out the clues in the case, reports the mysteries surrounding the Isdal Woman are numerous. Her body was badly burned on the front, but not the back; she was alive when she was burned; and she had 50 to 70 sleeping pills in her stomach. Officials reported her death as a likely suicide but few police believed that. One investigator recalls the scene of the unidentified woman’s death looking like “some kind of ceremony” had taken place.

An investigation led to an abandoned suitcase in a railway station containing wigs, clothes, and more—with all the labels and identifying marks removed. Investigators tracked the woman’s movements to a string of hotels where she checked in under at least eight fake names. Those who encountered her remember her “elegance” and ability to speak multiple languages. There were rumors she was a spy. With the prodding of journalists at NRK, new technology is now being used to test tissue samples and teeth from the Isdal Woman. Results from those tests were released Friday, along with a drawing of the mysterious woman by a forensic artist; those who remember meeting her say it’s accurate. NRK wants to hear from anyone who recognizes her.

In The World….

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►  Mom Who Put Her Girl’s Killers in Jail Is Murdered in Mexico

In a tragic ending to a story of courage and fortitude, the Mexican activist who succeeded in solving her daughter’s 2012 kidnapping and murder was found dead Wednesday—Mexico’s Mother’s Day. Miriam Rodríguez Martínez, known for standing up to the Zetas drug cartel by bringing her girl’s killers to justice, was shot in her San Fernando home. The BBC reports a Zetas member who had been convicted of killing her daughter, Karen Alejandra, escaped from jail in March; the New York Timesreport states more than one escaped. Whatever the number, Rodríguez began receiving death threats. Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios tells Reuters police began thrice-daily patrols around her house, but those close to her say she didn’t get the protection she needed.

The Times provides some location-based context: The state of Tamaulipas, which borders the southern tip of Texas, is plagued with the highest missing persons rate in the country. Her two-year search for her daughter ended with Rodríguez finding the unmarked grave Karen was buried in; the information and names she passed to police resulted in the arrests and trials of what Barrios says were nine people. Rodríguez went on to become director of Colectivo de Desaparecidos de San Fernando, an organization supporting 600 families searching for disappeared relatives. Tamaulipas’ governor addressed the tragedy, tweeting (translated): “The government ... will not allow the death of Miriam Rodríguez to turn into yet another statistic.“


►  This Is the ‘Miracle’ Behind Sainthood of Fatima Kids

The parents of a Brazilian boy whose recovery from a severe brain injury is being cited by the Vatican as the “miracle” needed to canonize two Portuguese children broke their silence Thursday to share the story. Joao Baptista and his wife, Lucila Yurie, appeared before reporters at the Catholic shrine in Fatima, Portugal, on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival. Francis will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the so-called Fatima visions of the Virgin Mary by canonizing two of the three Portuguese children who experienced them. The “miracle” required for the canonization concerns the case of little Lucas Baptista, whose story has to date been shrouded in secrecy, reports the AP. His father said that in 2013, when Lucas was 5, the boy fell 21 feet from a window at the family’s home in Brazil.

The ambulance to the hospital took an hour, and when Lucas arrived he was in a coma and had suffered two heart attacks, Baptista said. Doctors said Lucas had little chance of survival, and if he did live, would be severely mentally disabled or even in a vegetative state, the father recalled. Baptista said he and his wife, as well as Brazilian Carmelite nuns, prayed to the late shepherd children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them in “visions” in 1917. Two of those children, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto, will become the Catholic Church’s youngest-ever non-martyred saints on Saturday. The third child, Lucia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta’s cousin, became a Carmelite nun. Efforts are underway to beatify her, too, but couldn’t begin until after she died in 2005. As for Lucas, he was fine when he woke up and left the hospital six days later; he suffered “no after-effects,“ said his father.


►  Report paints harrowing picture of Central America migration

Migrants from Central America’s violence-plagued Northern Triangle region endure harrowing abuses while trying to make their way through Mexico toward the United States, a report from an international medical group said Thursday.

Doctors Without Borders, or MSF for its initials in French, called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” that demands the U.S. and Mexican governments do more to process applications for asylum and humanitarian visas.

It said the study was based on surveys and medical data from the last two years and documents “a pattern of violent displacement, persecution, sexual violence and forced repatriation akin to the conditions found in the deadliest armed conflicts in the world today.“

Among its findings:

— Almost 40 percent of those interviewed said they left home due to attacks, threats, extortion or attempts at forced recruitment by gangs in Central America. About 44 percent of the migrants had a relative who had died in the last two years due to violence, and that rose to 56 percent for those from El Salvador.

— Nearly 70 percent of those entering Mexico reported suffering violence during transit toward the United States, and nearly a third of women reported being sexually abused. They said the perpetrators “included members of gangs and other criminal organizations, as well as members of the Mexican security forces responsible for their protection.“

— Of the 166 female migrants treated by MSF for sexual violence, 60 percent had been raped and the rest were subjected to other kinds of assault such as forced nudity. Among 1,817 people treated for mental health issues, about 47 percent had experienced physical violence during transit.

El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Violent gangs reign over many parts of the countries and are often able to kill, extort and carry out other crimes with impunity.

“For millions of people from the (Northern Triangle) region, trauma, fear and horrific violence are dominant facets of daily life. Yet it is a reality that does not end with their forced flight to Mexico,“ MSF said.

“Along the migration route ... migrants and refugees are preyed upon by criminal organizations, sometimes with the tacit approval or complicity of national authorities, and subjected to violence and other abuses — abduction, theft, extortion, torture, and rape — that can leave them injured and traumatized,“ it continued.

A Honduran migrant said Thursday at a news conference in the Mexican capital that he had crossed into Mexico twice and was caught and sent back both times.

“The first time I left (Honduras) because of the gangs. I was 12, about to turn 13, and I was deported from Coatzacoalcos, where I was in jail for two months, and afterward I was deported to San Pedro Sula,“ said the man, whose full name was withheld for his safety. “They take you back to same place you left from because of problems with the gangs.“

The man has since been granted asylum by Mexico, the medical group said.

MSF said heightened immigration enforcement by the United States and Mexico threatens to make more refugees and migrants vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers, gangs and corrupt authorities.

It urged the countries to “expand access to medical, mental health and sexual violence care services for migrants and refugees.“

Marc Bosch, the group’s head of Latin American operations said, “The attempts of stopping migration through the reinforcement of borders, and the increase of detentions and deportations, as we have seen in Mexico and the United States have not ended human trafficking.“


►  Dutch group says it will soon start cleaning up ocean trash

A Dutch foundation aiming to rid the world’s oceans of plastic waste says it will start cleaning up the huge area of floating junk known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months, two years earlier than planned.

The Ocean Cleanup aims to use long-distance floating booms that act like coastlines to gather plastic as it drifts on or near the surface of the water while allowing sea life to pass underneath. The plan originally was to anchor the barriers to the sea bed with a system used by oil rigs, but the organization said Thursday it now will use anchors that float beneath the water’s surface, making it much more efficient.

The Ocean Cleanup, founded by Dutch university dropout Boyan Slat, announced that testing of the first system will start off the U.S. West coast by the end of the year and barriers will be shipped to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii in the first half of 2018, two years ahead of the organization’s earlier schedule. The patch is a huge area of the ocean where swirling currents concentrate the trash.

“At the ocean cleanup we always work with nature. So instead of going after the plastic, we let the plastic come to us, saving time, energy and cost,“ Slat, a shaggy-haired 22-year-old, told The Associated Press.

Floating barriers concentrate the plastic garbage at a central point where it can be fished out of the water and shipped back to dry land for recycling.

The organization discovered that the barriers are more efficient if they are allowed to slowly drift instead of anchoring them to the sea bed.

Free-floating barriers begin to act like the plastic they aim to snare, so “the cleanup systems will automatically gravitate to those places where most plastic is,“ Slat said. “And that now causes the efficiency to be a lot higher because there is just more plastic in front of these systems and therefore we can now clean up 50 percent of the patch in just five years’ time.“

The innovative system is the brainchild of Slat, who decided to dedicate himself to cleaning up the world’s oceans after he went scuba diving in Greece at the age of 16 and saw more plastic bags than fish.

The young entrepreneur’s system is making waves among America’s super-rich philanthropists. Last month, his foundation announced it had raised $21.7 million in donations since November, clearing the way for large-scale trials at sea. Among donors were Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

Nancy Wallace, director of the Marine Debris Program at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said much of the garbage in the world’s oceans is found throughout the water column — at different depths. That would likely put some of it out of reach of Slat’s barriers.

However she applauded The Ocean Cleanup for bringing the issue to a broad public.

“The more people are aware of it, the more they will be concerned about it,“ Wallace said. “My hope is that the next step is to say ‘what can I do to stop it?‘ and that’s where prevention comes in.“

The organization’s barriers don’t catch tiny plastic particles floating in the ocean, but Slat says that by scooping up larger garbage like fishing nets, crates and other rubbish, they prevent those items breaking down into smaller particles that can be eaten by fish and other wildlife.

“Of course we will never get every last piece of plastic out of the ocean,“ Slat said. “There will always be a size that’s too small to clean up but it’s really about cleaning up the bulk — as much as possible for as little costs as possible.“


►  Poland unveils memorial to WWII hero slain by communists

Warsaw’s mayor unveiled a monument Saturday to a World War II hero who volunteered to go to the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp and informed firsthand on atrocities there but was later executed by Poland’s communist regime.

The stone-and-metal memorial for Capt. Witold Pilecki is located near the place where in September 1940 the clandestine army fighter let himself be caught by the occupying Nazi Germans. It was a step toward becoming an inmate of Auschwitz, which the Germans operated in southern Poland.

Pilecki’s son, Andrzej Pilecki, and daughter, Zofia Pilecka-Optulowicz, and other descendants joined hundreds of Warsaw residents and authorities at Saturday’s ceremony.

Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Pilecki was twice victorious, first when he was ready to sacrifice his life for the defense of Poland and second when the memory of him and other resistance fighters survived the communist regime.

Pilecki wrote and smuggled out secret reports from Auschwitz to his superiors before fleeing under the cover of the night in April 1943. As a freedom fighter, he was caught by the Moscow-backed communist government imposed on Poland after the war, and after a year of brutal questioning and torture, was executed in May 1948.

His body was dumped in a mass grave and his name was taboo, as the regime wanted to erase every trace of the freedom fighters from public awareness while trying to subdue the nation.

Historians are still looking for Pilecki’s remains.

Poland, now a democracy, is making efforts to fill in such blank pages from the nation’s past with ceremonies honoring wartime and anti-communist heroes.

At first, Polish resistance fighters were held and executed at Auschwitz. In 1942, the Birkenau part was added as a death camp for Europe’s Jews, who were the majority among some 1.1 million people killed there. The Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz in January 1945.


►  Pope makes 2 Fatima children saints on centenary of visions

Pope Francis added two Portuguese shepherd children to the roster of Catholic saints Saturday, honoring young siblings whose reported visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago turned the Portuguese farm town of Fatima into one of the world’s most important Catholic shrines.

Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto saints at the start of Mass marking the centenary of their visions. A half-million people watched in the vast square in front of the shrine’s basilica, the Vatican said, citing Portuguese authorities. Many had spent days at Fatima in prayer, reciting rosaries before a statue of the Madonna. They clapped as soon as Francis read the proclamation aloud.

“It is amazing. It’s like an answer to prayer, because I felt that always they would be canonized,“ said Agnes Walsh from Killarney, Ireland. She said she prayed to Francisco Marto for 20 years, hoping her four daughters would meet “nice boys like Francisco.“

“The four of them have met boys that are just beautiful. I couldn’t ask for better, so he has answered all my prayers,“ she said.

The pontiff left Fatima on Saturday afternoon after a stay of less than 24 hours. From his popemobile he saluted thousands of people lining the streets who cheered, waved flags and shouted “Viva o Papa!“

Francisco and Jacinta, aged 9 and 7, and their 10-year-old cousin, Lucia, reported that on March 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary made the first of a half-dozen appearances to them while they grazed their sheep. They said she confided in them three secrets — foretelling apocalyptic visions of hell, war, communism and the death of a pope — and urged them to pray for peace and a conversion from sin.

At the time, Europe was in the throes of World War I, and the Portuguese church was suffering under anti-clerical laws from the republican government that had forced many bishops and priests into exile.

“Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures,“ Francis said in his homily. “Such a life, frequently proposed and imposed, risks leading to hell.“

He urged Catholics today to use the example of the Marto siblings and draw strength from God, even when adversity strikes. The children had been threatened by local civil authorities with death by boiling oil if they didn’t recant their story. But they held fast and eventually the church recognized the apparitions as authentic in 1930.

“We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him,“ he said. “That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.“
The Martos are now the youngest-ever saints who didn’t die as martyrs.

Before the Mass, Francis prayed at the tombs of each of the Fatima visionaries. The Marto siblings died two years after the visions during Europe’s Spanish flu pandemic. Lucia is on track for possible beatification, but her process couldn’t start until after her 2005 death.

At the end of the Mass, Francis offered a special greeting to the many faithful who flock to Fatima in hopes of healing.
Participating in the offertory procession Saturday were Joao Baptista and his wife, Lucila Yurie, of Brazil. They were with their son, Lucas, whose medically inexplicable healing was the “miracle” needed for the Marto siblings to be declared saints. Lucas and the pope embraced.
The boy, aged 5 at the time, had fallen 21 feet from a window in 2013 and suffered severe head trauma. His doctors said he would be severely mentally disabled or in a vegetative state if he even survived. The boy not only survived but has no signs of any after-effects.

“We thank God for Lucas’ cure. We know in all faith from our heart that this miracle was obtained with the help of the little shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta,“ Baptista told reporters earlier.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified the Marto siblings during a Mass at Fatima and used the occasion of the new millennium to reveal the third “secret” that the children reported they had received from the Madonna. The text, written by Lucia, had been kept in a sealed envelope inside the Vatican for decades, with no pope daring to reveal it because of its terrifying contents: a “bishop dressed in white” — the pope — on his knees at the foot of a cross, killed in a hail of bullets and arrows, along with other bishops, priests and various lay Catholics.

The message featured an angel crying out “Penance, penance, penance!“

John Paul II, now St. John Paul, credited the Virgin Mary with saving his life in an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 — the same date of the first Fatima vision. One of the bullets fired at him rests in the crown of the statue of the Virgin at the Fatima shrine.

The impending canonization of the children had led to speculation that a fourth “secret” remained, but the Vatican says there are no more secrets related to the Fatima revelations.

Mother’s Day Around the World

The Gilmer Free Press

The United States commercial market for Mother’s Day has skyrocketed in recent years.

According to the Society of American Florists, 25% of all purchases of fresh flowers and plants are for Mother’s Day; and Hallmark says Mother’s Day is the third largest card selling holiday and second most popular gift-giving holiday after Christmas. 

So it may surprise you to find that the first efforts to establish Mother’s Day in the U.S. weren’t exactly successful.

After the Civil War and during the start of the Franco-Prussian War, social activist Julia Ward Howe wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation calling for peace.  She was inspired by a woman named Ann Jarvis who attempted to unite women and improve sanitation conditions through the Mothers’ Work Days.  Howe’s Mother’s Day for Peace did not gain much of a following and her proposal to convert the July 4th festivities into a celebration of peace and mothers fell flat. 

In 1908, after Jarvis’ death, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for a Mother’s Day holiday.  Her Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia held the first official Mother’s Day celebration and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson eventually declared the second Sunday of May the official national date for the holiday.

By the end of Anna Jarvis’ life, Mother’s Day was celebrated in more than 40 countries.  The carnation was Ann Jarvis’ favorite flower and was present at her funeral.  The tradition has arisen of wearing a carnation, colored if the mother is living, and white if not, to honor one’s mother on the holiday.  It is also common to honor Grandmothers, wives, and other important mother figures in your life. 


Here’s a look at Mother’s Day traditions around the world:


In Mexico, Mother’s Day has been celebrated on May 10 since the early 1900s.  It is one of the biggest gift-giving holidays in Latin American countries.  The celebration is also tied to the Virgin of Guadalupe who is considered a symbol of motherhood.  There is a special mass for Dia de las Madres along with traditional breakfast or brunch for mothers and some sort of serenade in the morning as well in Mexico.


El Salvador and Guatemala also observe Mother’s Day on May 10. 


In the United Kingdom Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.  In the 1600s, children that were working away from home as servants visited their Mother Church on Mothering Day.  They also saw their families and their mothers during this time.  Eventually the holiday began to take on a secular celebration as well.  A tradition of giving your mother a glazed cake was started.  The cake comes from a folk tale about a married couple named Simon and Nell.  When they couldn’t decide whether to boil or bake a cake, they did both and invented the Simnel cake. 


In Spain and Portugal, where the holiday is more religious, people respect and remember the Virgin Mary on December 08. Children also honor their own mothers on this day.


In the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Mother’s Day was tied to a three day series of holidays.  The Mother’s Day cycle in Yugoslavia began with Children’s Day or “Dechiyi Dan” three days before Christmas. The following Sunday was Mother’s Day or “Materitse”, and the Sunday after that was Father’s Day or “Ochichi.“  It was a three day event where in the parents and the children alternated in tying each other up.  The children had to promise to be good in order to be released and the mother offered the children treats so that she could be freed. 


Many countries celebrate Mother’s Day on March 08:

Afghanistan, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, to name just a few.  However, that date has other importance as well.  International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, recognizes the economic, political, and social achievements of women.


The Socialist Party of American began celebrating a National Women’s Day in 1909.  The following year the Socialist International met in Copenhagen and established a Women’s Day of an international nature in order to support the women’s rights movement.  Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Russia are just a few of the countries that celebrate International Women’s Day rather than Mother’s Day. 


France celebrates Mother’s Day the last Sunday in May. After WWI the holiday took shape around the desire to repopulate the country.  Medals were awarded depending on the number of children a woman had.  This springtime Sunday is referred to as La Fete des Meres, and it provides children and adults throughout France with the opportunity to make their mother the center of attention, and give her gifts and treats. Today a common gift is a cake shaped to resemble a bouquet of flowers, along with candies, flowers, cards and perfumes.  In Sweden, the Swedish Red Cross sells little plastic flowers before Mother’s Day. They then use the money that they make from these flowers to help needy children and their mothers. 


In Finland Mother’s Day is called aidipayiva.  The family picks flower and presents a bouquet to the mother.  A small white pungent flower called the valkovuokko is usually preferred. 


Some Asian countries, such as Singapore and China, follow suit with the American Mother’s day tradition.  In China most names begin with a character signifying mother which honors the maternal heritage.  Other Asian countries have their own unique traditions.  In Thailand, the celebration of the beloved queen Sirikit Kitayakara’s birthday on August 12 has become a Mother’s Day celebration.


Hong Kong’s holiday, called mu quin jie, usually honors the parents of the mother if she is deceased.


In Japan, the name for Mother’s Day is haha no hi. In the early 1900s the Japanese celebrated Mother’s day according to Western custom, but this was banned during World War II. After the war, the tradition became widespread again and there were drawing contests offered for children to illustrate their mothers.  The exhibits celebrating mothers and peace toured throughout the country. 


In Iran and Bahrain, Ruz-e Madar or Mothers’ day is observed on the first Day of Spring, March 21.  This also happens in Lebanon and United Arab Emirates


In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Yaum ul-umm, is modeled after Western Mothers’ Day and is marked by celebrations and feasts. 


In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day occurs in mid-fall when the rainy season ends.  There is a three day feast called “Antrosht,“ which is part of the celebration.


South Africa celebrates Mother’s Day on the first Sunday in May.


The Egyptian goddess Isis was considered the mother of the gods.  She was revered as a loving wife and mother and symbol of fertility and magic.  She was revered and a cult even formed to worship her.


In ancient Greece, Rhea, “mother of the gods,“ was honored in the spring with honey-cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn.  Her Roman counterpart, Cybele, was celebrated with games and a procession through the streets. 


The Celtic goddess Brigid, was celebrated during spring in connection to the first milk of the ewes and calves that flowed, symbolizing purity and nourishment. 


For thousands of years, In India, the Hindu people celebrate for nine days in October during a festival called Durga Puja.  This puja (or worship) celebrates Hindu goddess Durga, a warrior-like protector and mother.  It is currently the largest Hindu festival in Bengal.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Blogger Played Pokemon Go in Church, Is Convicted for It

A Russian blogger was convicted Thursday of inciting religious hatred for playing Pokemon Go in a church and given a 3.5-year suspended sentence. Ruslan Sokolovsky’s offense is the same one that sent two women from ##### Riot to prison in 2012. Sokolovsky posted a video on his blog last year showing him playing the smartphone game in a church built on the supposed spot where the last Russian czar and his family were killed. He has been in detention since October. Sokolovsky’s behavior and his anti-religious videos manifested his “disrespect for society,“ said Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak, who added that Sokolovsky “intended to offend religious sentiments,“ the AP reports. Once an officially atheist state, Russia has made a stunning turnaround since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the majority of Russians now identifying as Orthodox Christians.

Shoponyak said the 22-year-old video blogger was also on trial for posting videos that offended believers, listing “mockery of the Immaculate Conception,“ ‘'denial of the existence of Jesus and Prophet Muhammad,“ and “giving an offensive description of Patriarch Kirill,“ the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although most Russians aren’t observant, the Kremlin has been eager to harness faith to promote its own agenda. Many prominent figures expressed outrage. “I was born and grew up in the Soviet Union, where 98% of citizens were atheists,“ opposition leader Alexey Navalny tweeted. “And now I’m listening to a verdict where a man has been convicted for atheism.“ After the verdict, Sokolovsky thanked the media for raising the alarm on the trial: “I would probably have been sent to prison if it wasn’t for the journalists’ support.“


►  Wall Collapse Kills Dozens of Wedding Guests

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he is “pained beyond words” by a disaster that killed dozens of people at a wedding in Rajasthan state Wednesday. Authorities say at least 25 people were killed and nearly 30 others injured after a dust storm hit as hundreds of people were dining outside, the Telegraph reports. As guests sought shelter inside, an 80-foot-long wall in the wedding hall collapsed onto them, trapping many people in debris. Police say the building owner is being questioned on suspicion of culpable homicide, the AP reports. Modi has promised payments of around $3,000 to the next of kin of deceased victims and $775 to those badly injured.


►  France leads Guam military exercises amid China Sea fears

The U.S., the U.K. and Japan are joining a French-led amphibious exercise at remote U.S. islands in the Pacific over the next week. Participants say they are showing support for the free passage of vessels in international waters, an issue that has come to the fore amid fears China could restrict movement in the South China Sea.

The drills around Guam and Tinian may also get the attention of nearby North Korea. Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea spiked last month after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile and the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.

The drills will practice amphibious landings, delivering forces by helicopter and urban patrols.

Two ships from France are participating, both of which are in the middle of a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans. Joining are U.K. helicopters and 70 U.K. troops deployed with the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral. Parts of the exercise will feature British helicopters taking U.S. Marines ashore from a French ship.

“The message we want to send is that we’re always ready to train and we’re always ready for the next crisis and humanitarian disaster wherever that may be,“ said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Kemper Jones, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. About 100 Marines from Jones’ unit will be part of the drills slated for this weekend and next week.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming seven mostly submerged reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems. This has prompted criticism from other nations, who also claim the atolls, and from the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters.

Critics fear China’s actions could restrict movement in a key waterway for world trade and rich fishing grounds.

China says its island construction is mainly for civilian purposes, particularly to increase safety for ships. It has said it won’t interfere with freedom of navigation or overflight, although questions remain on whether that includes military ships and aircraft.

Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank, said the exercises will send a strong message in support of a “rules-based order in Asia” at a time when China’s actions have raised questions about this.

“A reminder in this exercise is that lots of other countries besides the United States have an interest in that international order,“ said Rapp-Hooper, who is a senior fellow with the center’s Asia-Pacific Security Program.

Meanwhile, this week the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote Donald Trump to express concern that the U.S. hasn’t conducted freedom of navigation operations since October.

The letter from Republican Senator Bob Corker, Democrat Senator Ben Cardin and five other senators supported a recent assessment by the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific that China is militarizing the South China Sea and is continuing a “methodical strategy” to control it.

The letter, dated Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, urged the administration to “routinely exercise” freedom of navigation and overflight. The senators described the South China Sea as critical to U.S. national security interests and to peace in the Asia-Pacific.

The Guam exercises come amid modestly growing European interest in the South China Sea, said David Santoro, a senior fellow for nuclear policy at Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu think tank.

“What I’m hearing from the French and to some degree the British, is an increased interest in what’s going on in Asia and how they can help,“ Santoro said. As for North Korea, Santoro said Pyongyang would likely be watching but he didn’t think the exercises were intended to send any signal to the country.

Japan, which is sending 50 soldiers and 160 sailors and landing craft, has been investing in amphibious training so it can defend its own islands. Tokyo is particularly concerned China might attempt to take over rocky, uninhabited outcrops in the East China Sea that it controls but Beijing claims. Japan calls the islands Senkaku while China calls them Diaoyu. Japan has also expressed an interest in vessels being able to freely transit the South China Sea.

Guam and Tinian are about 1,500 miles south of Tokyo. They’re about the same distance to the east from Manila, Philippines.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Mugabe Aide Insists His Boss Isn’t Sleeping in Meetings

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has become well-known for appearing to sleep through conferences and meetings, but his spokesperson insists the 93-year-old is not actually asleep when he’s pictured in repose. “At 93, there is something that happens to the eyes and the president cannot suffer bright lights,“ the rep explained to a local radio station, per Quartz. “If you look at his poise, he looks down, avoids direct lighting.“

The aide noted that Nelson Mandela suffered from a similar problem and that photographers were not allowed to use camera flashes around him. Quartz has a series of photographs showing Mugabe “not sleeping” that date back more than a decade. Per the BBC, Mugabe is reportedly getting medical treatment for his eyes in Singapore.


►  Inspiring Wisdom From Last Surviving Nuremberg Prosecutor

He was front and center at what some call the biggest murder trial in history. That would be the Nuremberg hearings, which brought German SS soldiers forward to face the consequences for their role in the massacre of more than a million people outside of the concentration camps. Lesley Stahl interviews 97-year-old Ben Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, for 60 Minutes, and she’s astounded that this man who’s witnessed “the ugliest side of humanity” is the “sunniest man I’ve ever met.“ Ferencz, a Romanian immigrant who settled in New York as a child, never let his short stature (he’s just 5 feet tall) hold him back, receiving a law scholarship to Harvard and enlisting in the US Army. He eventually became part of a war crimes unit and was sent into concentration camps as they were liberated to scoop up evidence. Now, Ferencz wants to impart what he learned.

He talks about finding top-secret reports documenting how special units of Nazis called Einsatzgruppen, or “action groups,“ were “directed to kill without pity or remorse, every single Jewish man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on.“ He explains how, while he was “churning” inside, defendants at the trials usually just wore blank stares (“like [they were] waiting for a bus”), though he makes a stunning observation about the men most deemed monsters. “War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people,“ he says, noting that, in such a man’s mind, he’s not a “savage beast” while carrying out atrocious acts—he’s “a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country.“ Ferencz also offers advice for those facing modern-day atrocities across the globe: “It takes courage not to be discouraged.“ More fascinating insights HERE .


►  Mexican Soldier Appears to Execute Man in Video

A video released online appears to show a Mexican soldier executing a suspected oil thief at point-blank range as he lays defenseless on the ground. The heavily edited video, taken from a surveillance camera, shows a car coming under fire during what the military describes as a series of ambushes that left four soldiers and six suspects dead in Palmarito on May 3. As soldiers surround the vehicle, its occupants exit and are forced to lie down in front of the car. Soldiers are then seen dragging a suspect to the same spot. He appears injured but rolls from his back onto his front. Six minutes later, a soldier appears at the side of the frame and appears to shoot the man in the back of the head, per the AP. A dark stain spreads around him, reports Reuters.

“There was already concern about the use of excessive force by the military. Now this video seems to give us the proof,“ says the chairwoman of Mexico’s Senate Commission on Human Rights, per the Washington Post, which identifies the man shot as Raul Jimenez Martinez, 46. Mexico’s defense ministry, however, says it will cooperate fully with an investigation launched by the attorney general’s office on May 04. “Under no circumstances can conduct contrary to the law and human rights be justified,“ the ministry says. Residents of Palmarito have already taken to the streets to protest the deaths of the suspects, placing the blame on the army, though the defense ministry previously claimed the suspects used residents as human shields.


►  Aussie Travelers Urged to Check Shoes for Dead Toad

Australian quarantine authorities have urged travelers from Asia to avoid bringing in hitchhiking amphibians after a passenger arrived at an airport with a dead Indonesian toad in his shoe. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources issued the warning on Thursday for travelers to check their luggage and other belongings for biohazards after toads from Thailand and Indonesia were found recently at three Australian airports, the AP reports. Lyn O’Connell, the department’s head of biosecurity, says a sniffer dog reacted to a shoe that an Australian was wearing as he arrived at Cairns Airport in northeast Australia.

O’Connell says the black-spined toad found by a biosecurity officer inside the shoe had only recently died and was probably alive when the passenger put the shoe on in Indonesia. O’Connell says toads are sometimes found in the luggage of people arriving from Southeast Asian nations, though generally not in shoes or other items that people are actually wearing, the Courier Mail reports. She says the black-spined toad has no natural predators in Australia and it would have been extremely damaging to native frogs and toads if the stowaway species had managed to establish itself in the country.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Kidnapped Chibok Girl Refused Release: Spokesperson

One of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 and who had the opportunity to be released on Saturday chose to stay with her husband, the spokesperson for Nigeria’s president said Tuesday. Garba Shehu said officials originally had been negotiating for the release of 83 girls, but one said she wanted to remain. “She said, ‘I am happy where I am. I have a husband,‘“ Shehu told the AP. The other young women, held for more than three years, are in Abuja with government officials who are supervising their re-entry into society. The government has published a list of the girls’ names, and parents in Chibok, some 560 miles northeast of the capital, are slowly learning if their daughters were among those freed.

The girls were released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders, a government official said Sunday. Neither the government nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details about the exchange. Girls who escaped Boko Haram shortly after the 2014 mass kidnapping said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they’d been radicalized by their captors, they said. Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings as part of the group’s insurgency. Of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in April 2014, more than 110 remain missing.


►  Girl, 11, Dies on Theme Park Water Ride

Police in Britain are investigating the tragic death of an 11-year-old girl on a water ride at the Drayton Manor theme park. Officials at the park say the girl, who was on a school trip, was fatally injured when she fell from the Splash Canyon ride on Tuesday afternoon, CNN reports. The ride, which is billed as featuring “fast-flowing rapids,“ has 21 boats with a capacity of six riders each, reports the BBC.

Witnesses say Evha Jannath, who was on her last ride of the day, stood up to change seats and fell in after the boat hit a rock. A classmate tells the Telegraph that Evha almost missed the trip after turning up in the wrong clothes, but she was allowed to borrow an acceptable outfit from the school.


►  Breastfeeding Aussie Senator Makes History

Australian Senator Larissa Waters made history with her 2-month-old daughter Alia Joy on Tuesday. The Australian Greens party member became the first mother to breastfeed a baby in the Parliament chamber, winning praise for setting an example for mothers in the workplace, the Telegraph reports. Other lawmakers in countries including Argentina and Spain have breastfed their babies in parliament chambers, and Icelandic MP Unnur Bra Konradsdottir fed her baby while delivering a speech last year, though breastfeeding remains banned in parliaments in countries such as the UK.

Last year, Waters introduced rule changes that made it easier for lawmakers to bring children to work, saying it is “important we make all workplaces more family friendly, not just Parliament,“ the Courier-Mail reports. “I’ll be having a few more weeks off but will soon be back in Parliament with this little one in tow,“ Waters wrote in a Facebook post announcing Alia Joy’s birth in March. “She is even more inspiration for continuing our work to address gender inequality and stem dangerous climate change. (And yes, if she’s hungry, she will be breastfed in the Senate chamber.)“


►  New South Korean Prez: ‘I Will Go to Pyongyang’

New South Korean President Moon Jae-in says he is open to visiting rival North Korea under the right conditions to talk about Pyongyang’s aggressive pursuit of an expanded nuclear weapons and missiles program. The newly elected Moon, speaking during his oath of office as the country’s first liberal leader in a decade, also said he’ll “sincerely negotiate” with the United States, Seoul’s top ally, and China, South Korea’s top trading partner, over the contentious deployment of an advanced US missile-defense system in southern South Korea, the AP reports. The system has angered Beijing, which says its powerful radars allow Washington to spy on its own military operations.

In a speech hours after being declared the winner of Tuesday’s election, Moon—whose softer stance on North Korea could create friction with Washington—pledged to work for peace. “I am willing to go anywhere for the peace of the Korean Peninsula—if needed, I will fly immediately to Washington. I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo. If the conditions shape up, I will go to Pyongyang,“ Moon said. Moon, whose victory capped one of the most turbulent political stretches in the nation’s recent history, assumed presidential duties early in the morning after the National Election Commission finished counting and declared him winner of the special election necessitated by the ousting of conservative Park Geun-hye.


►  U.S. Will Supply Heavier Arms to Syrian Kurds to Fight ISIS

Trump will provide heavier arms to Syrian Kurds in a move certain to anger Turkey, the New York Times reports. The US will supply YPG with things like anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns so the Kurdish militia can help take Raqqa, a Syrian city serving as the capital of the Islamic State. According to the Washington Post, Defense Department spokesperson Dana White says YPG is “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.“ Here’s the problem: Turkey says YPG is tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and both Turkey and the US consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party to be a terrorist group.

The Obama administration had been considering arming YPG but wanted to figure out how to do it while preserving the US’ relationship with Turkey, the AP reports. “We’re going to sort it out,“ Defense Secretary James Mattis says. The Pentagon states the US will arm YPG “as necessary.“ It won’t supply the militia with surface-to-air missiles or artillery and may require it to return the weapons after specific missions to keep them from being used in Turkey. US officials say they’ve assured Turkey that YPG won’t be part of establishing a new government in Raqqa following the fighting. Meanwhile, Turkey is complaining about the US arming terrorists to fight terrorists.


►  Authorities Ignored Pleas for Help for Hours, 268 Drowned

Audio tapes leaked Monday reveal authorities had a chance to save the 268 Syrian refugees—including 60 children—who drowned when their boat capsized in October 2013 but instead wasted time with, as the Times of Malta puts it, “bureaucratic wrangling and indifference.“ Mohammed Jammo, a Syrian doctor on the doomed boat, made multiple calls to Italian and Maltese authorities up to five hours before the disaster, pleading for help, the Washington Post reports. “We are dying, please. Don’t abandon us,“ Jammo says during one of the calls. He told authorities the boat was taking on water and there were injured children aboard.

Italy had a military vessel 20 nautical miles from the sinking ship but didn’t send it, instead telling Jammo to call Malta. Malta told Jammo to call Italy. The sticking point: The refugee boat was technically in waters overseen by Malta but was nearly twice as close to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Independent reports. And Malta didn’t have a vessel anywhere near as close as the Italian vessel. Italian authorities also appeared hesitant to bring the refugees to Italy. Italy eventually did send its vessel—hours after the first call from Jammo—but only after a Maltese plane confirmed the boat had capsized and there were people in the water. Amnesty International says it’s “reasonable to question” whether authorities from both countries did everything they could to prevent 268 people from dying.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Prosecutors Wanted Probation. Christian Governor Gets Prison

An Indonesian court sentenced the minority Christian governor of Jakarta to two years in prison on Tuesday for blaspheming the Koran, a jarring ruling that undermines the reputation of the world’s largest Muslim nation for practicing a moderate form of Islam. In announcing its decision, the five-judge panel said Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy” and ordered his arrest, the AP reports. He was taken to Cipinang Prison in East Jakarta. Photos quickly appeared online of Ahok, who still commands immense popularity in Jakarta, the capital, being warmly greeted by prison staff. Ahok says he’ll appeal, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be released during the process.

The accusation of blasphemy engulfed Ahok in September after a video surfaced of him telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Koran prohibited Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim leader. Hard-line Islamic groups opposed to having a non-Muslim leader for the city capitalized on the trial to draw hundreds of thousands to anti-Ahok protests in Jakarta. The two-year prison sentence was a surprise outcome after prosecutors had recommended two years of probation.


►  Cuba’s Capital Now Has a Luxury Mall

The saleswomen in L’Occitane en Provence’s new Havana store make $12.50 a month. The acacia eau de toilette they sell costs $95.20 a bottle. A few doors down, a Canon EOS camera goes for $7,542.01. A Bulgari watch, $10,200. In the heart of the capital of a nation founded on ideals of social equality, the business arm of the Cuban military has transformed a century-old shopping arcade into a temple to conspicuous capitalism, the AP reports. With the first Cuban branches of L’Occitane, Mont Blanc, and Lacoste, the Manzana de Gomez mall has become a sociocultural phenomenon since its opening a few weeks ago, with Cubans wandering wide-eyed through its polished-stone passages. Teenagers pose for Facebook photos in front of stores, throwing victory signs in echoes of the images sent by relatives in Miami, who pose grinning alongside 50-inch TV sets and luxury convertibles.

The five-story Manzana sits off the Prado, the broad, tree-lined boulevard that divides the colonial heart of the city. The upper floors are a five-star hotel opening in early June that is owned by the military’s tourism arm, Gaviota, and run by Swiss luxury chain Kempinski. The hotel is earning positive early reviews but many tourists say they find the luxury mall alongside it to be repulsive. “I was very disappointed,“ says Chicago resident Jeannie Goldstein, whose first trip to Cuba ended Saturday. “I came here to get away from this,“ she says. “This screams wealth and America to us.“ Some Cubans, however, say they’re glad to see a sign the country is opening itself up to foreign wealth. But for many working-class Cubans, it’s painful. “This hurts because I can’t buy anything,“ says a 71-year-old retired electrical mechanic who lives on $12.50 a month. “There are people who can come here to buy things, but it’s maybe one in 10. Most of the country doesn’t have the money.“


►  Island That Bans Women on Verge of World Heritage Status

For centuries, a remote island in southwestern Japan has been deemed too sacred for women to visit, and even the men who do must strip naked for a ritual cleansing, as well as never discuss the details of their trip. Okinoshima, an ancient religious site that is home to the Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya shrine—which somewhat ironically honors a sea goddess—is being recommended by a UNESCO advisory board to be added to the exclusive World Heritage list, reports the Japan Times. If it goes through, it would be Japan’s 17th cultural asset granted World Heritage status.

The recommendation is expected to be endorsed at a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in July, and the ban on women isn’t looking like it’s going to be lifted anytime soon. “We’ll continue to strictly regulate visits to the island,“ one officials tells the Mainichi Daily. How tourism will be handled remains to be seen, but the BBC notes that there is a strict ban on souvenirs; you currently can’t get so much as a blade of grass off the island.


►  China seeks dominance of industries of the future

China is bent on world domination – not with its missiles and aircraft carriers, but by controlling solar energy, cloud computing and other industries of the future.

That is an only slightly exaggerated version of a warning coming from the American chamber of commerce in China. It sent a delegation to Washington last week to warn that “China’s aggressive mercantilist policies are one of the most serious threats facing the future of U.S. advanced technology sectors,“ as their policy paper says – and that the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to counter the threat.

The warning is especially startling coming from AmCham China, as it calls itself, which for years flexed its advocacy muscle persuading the United States to let China into the world trading system and rebutting Americans who it felt were too hard on China.

“Now we’re saying that things are really lopsided, and the government needs to wake up and take action,“ James McGregor, chairman of APCO Worldwide in China and part of last week’s delegation, told me during a visit to The Washington Post. “This is aimed at domination of the industries of the future. We’re talking about artificial intelligence and all the things that are important to the American economy.“

Given Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric during the campaign, you might expect U.S. executives in Beijing and Shanghai to feel optimistic about the prospects for a U.S. response. They are hopeful - but they are also nervous, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute, that the administration may miss this opportunity to course-correct.

First, though: Why has AmCham changed its tune so dramatically since the upbeat days of China’s entry into the World Trade Organization?

The chamber’s answer: China has changed, not us. Its policy has shifted, McGregor said, from “reform and opening” to “reform and closing.“ The Communist regime still wants economic growth and market mechanisms, in other words, but without subjecting its economy to open competition from outside. In fact, a recent survey showed that more than 80 percent of the chamber’s members “feel less welcome than before,“ another delegation member, Lester Ross of the WilmerHale law firm, told me.

China has a well-developed, long-term industrial strategy, the chamber says. It limits U.S. firms’ access to its market; demands that American companies share their advanced technology to get even that limited access; buys foreign companies that possess technology it needs while preventing U.S. firms from investing in China; shovels resources to Chinese companies as they ramp up; and then, once those Chinese firms have fattened on the vast and protected Chinese market, sends them out to compete in the world.

“The economic relationship is critical to both the United States and China,“ said William M. Zarit, a former U.S. diplomat and now senior counselor at the Cohen Group and chairman of AmCham China. “But as strong as it might be, we have an investment and trade relationship that is out of whack . . . We need to address this.“

During the campaign, Trump maintained that China was “ripping us left and right.“

“There are people who wish I wouldn’t refer to China as our enemy,“ he wrote in 2015. “But that’s exactly what they are.“

But will his earlier skepticism translate into smart policy?

Since meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump has seemed very taken with the Communist leader and the budding U.S.-China relationship, which he described as “something very special, something very different than we’ve ever had.“

This could be a prelude, U.S. executives worry, to economic concessions designed to win cooperation on North Korea. They also worry that, to the extent the administration remains focused on the economy, it is on iron, steel and other heavy manufacturing sectors rather than technologies that will be crucial in the future.

Most of all they worry, though, because it wouldn’t be easy for anyone to come up with an intelligent response to the uneven relationship.

“Our systems are fundamentally different,“ explained Timothy Stratford, a delegation member who worked in the U.S. trade representative’s office from 2005 to 2010. “We follow process . . . China is focused on outcomes.“

If U.S. law allows a Chinese company to buy an American one, in other words, the U.S. government isn’t going to interfere - even if U.S. firms are being blocked in China and the overall situation seems unfair.

The delegation did not come with detailed policy proposals, though several members called for new levels of review for proposed Chinese investments. Mostly they want a recognition that the Chinese economy is not operating as Americans hoped it would during the push to open the global trading system – and that waiting for it to “evolve” is no longer a viable option.

“The solution has to be some combination of offense and defense,“ said Randal Phillips, Asia managing partner for the Mintz Group. “China has to face some consequence.“


►  Liberal claims victory in South Korea presidential election

Hours after celebrating his election win with thousands of supporters in wet Seoul streets, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday will be thrown into the job of navigating a nation deeply split over its future and faced with growing threats from North Korea and an uneasy alliance with the United States.

Moon, whose victory capped one of the most turbulent political stretches in the nation’s recent history and set up its first liberal rule in a decade, will begin his presidential duties after the National Election Commission officially declares him as winner in a meeting scheduled on Wednesday morning. The election body had finished voting as of 6 a.m., with Moon gathering 41 percent of the votes, comfortably edging conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, who gathered 24 percent and 21 percent of the votes, respectively.

Moon’s first schedule as president was expected to be a morning visit to the National Cemetery in the central city of Daejeon, where the country’s independence fighters and war heroes are buried. He will then return to capital Seoul for an inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly.

South Korea might see a sharp departure from recent policy under Moon, who favors closer ties with North Korea, saying hard-line conservative governments did nothing to prevent the North’s development of nuclear-armed missiles and only reduced South Korea’s voice in international efforts to counter North Korea.

This softer approach might put him at odds with South Korea’s biggest ally, the United States. The Trump administration has swung between threats and praise for North Korea’s leader.

Moon, the child of refugees who fled North Korea during the Korean War, will lead a nation shaken by a scandal that felled his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who sits in a jail cell awaiting a corruption trial later this month.

Moon’s presidency foregoes the usual two-month transition because Tuesday’s vote was a by-election to choose a successor to Park, whose term was to end in February 2018. While this means Moon would have to initially depend on Park’s Cabinet ministers and aides, there were expectations that he would announce his nominee for prime minister, the country’s No. 2 job that needs approval from lawmakers, and also name his presidential chief of staff as early as Wednesday.

Moon will still serve out the typical single five-year term.

After exit polls indicated to his victory Tuesday night, Moon smiled and waved his hands above his head as supporters chanted his name at Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul, where millions of Koreans had gathered for months starting late last year in peaceful protests that eventually toppled Park.

“It’s a great victory by a great people,“ Moon told the crowd. “I’ll gather all of my energy to build a new nation.“

Over the last six months, millions gathered in protest after corruption allegations surfaced against Park, who was then impeached by parliament, formally removed from office by a court and arrested and indicted by prosecutors.

Moon was chief of staff for the last liberal president, the late Roh Moo-hyun, who sought closer ties with North Korea by setting up large-scale aid shipments to the North and by working on now-stalled joint economic projects.

Hong, the conservative, is an outspoken former provincial governor who pitched himself as a “strongman,“ described the election as a war between ideologies and questioned Moon’s patriotism.

Park’s trial later this month on bribery, extortion and other corruption charges could send her to jail for life if she is convicted. Dozens of high-profile figures, including Park’s longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and Samsung’s de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, have been indicted along with Park.

Moon frequently appeared at anti-Park rallies and the corruption scandal boosted his push to re-establish liberal rule. He called for reforms to reduce social inequalities, excessive presidential power and corrupt ties between politicians and business leaders. Many of those legacies dated to the dictatorship of Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule was marked by both rapid economic rise and severe civil rights abuse.

As a former pro-democracy student activist, Moon was jailed for months in the 1970s while protesting against the senior Park.

Many analysts say Moon likely won’t pursue drastic rapprochement policies because North Korea’s nuclear program has progressed significantly since he was in the Roh government a decade ago.

A big challenge will be U.S. Donald Trump, who has proven himself unconventional in his approach to North Korea, swinging between intense pressure and threats and offers to talk.

“South Koreans are more concerned that Trump, rather than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will make a rash military move, because of his outrageous tweets, threats of force and unpredictability,“ Duyeon Kim, a visiting fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs magazine.

“It is crucial that Trump and the next South Korean president strike up instant, positive chemistry in their first meeting to help work through any bilateral differences and together deal with the North Korean challenge,“ she said.


►  Syrian troops shift focus to IS-held east

Syria’s military launched a new assault Tuesday aimed at reasserting its authority in the east of the country, battling U.S.-backed opposition fighters in the remote desert near the borders with Iraq and Jordan. The government forces’ ultimate goal is to insert itself in the fight against the Islamic State group in the oil-rich region.

The government offensive came as the Trump administration announced it would arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation, but is strongly opposed by key NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Syrian Kurdish group, known as the YPG, as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast.

The decision is likely to complicate the way going forward, as the U.S. has deployed additional troops to act as a buffer between Syria’s Kurds and Turkey along the country’s northern border.

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that Donald Trump’s authorization of arms to the Syrian Kurds gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa. The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which also includes Arab fighters, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria.

The statement did not specify the kinds of arms to be provided, but other officials have indicated that 120mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

Tuesday’s offensive in the east opens another front against IS, this time pitting the U.S.- and Western-backed rebels against Syrian government forces and allied fighters. The clashes are part of a race for control of an area that stretches from the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour in northeastern Syria to the border with Iraq, where an estimated 10,000 IS fighters uprooted from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, have been massing.

“Now the direction and main goal is to reach Deir el-Zour,“ Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday, adding that the Syrian government’s next target will likely be to reach the border with Iraq. “The priority now is what is happening in the desert, whether south, along the border with Jordan, or in the central desert or toward the borders with Iraq.“

The declaration was coupled with an aggressive Syrian state media campaign against the U.S. presence in neighboring Jordan, where an annual U.S.-Jordanian military drill known as “Eager Lion” was taking place. About 7,400 troops from more than 20 nations were taking part in the drill, Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency said.

Syrian government forces have kept a presence in Deir el-Zour— most of which was taken over by IS in 2014— holding onto an airport there at a high cost. It will not allow Western-backed rebels to turn it into some “rival power base or source of reserve leverage,“ said Sam Heller, a Syria expert with the Century Foundation.

“I don’t think a U.S.- and Jordanian-backed rebel offensive on Deir el-Zour is imminent, or even really viable. But Damascus and its allies nonetheless seem to view it as threatening and unwelcome, and they’re probably happy to preemptively undercut it,“ Heller said.

Syrian media were rife with reports about an imminent Russian-backed Syrian military operation in the east. The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the Syrian army and its allies have completed the first phase of an operation aimed at securing the Syrian-Iraqi border, advancing some 45 kilometers (30 miles) and seizing an area that puts government forces between IS and the rebels.

Western-backed Syrian rebel groups have made quiet advances against IS in the large swath of desert south of Palmyra and west of Deir el-Zour, along the border with Jordan. A rebel faction known as the Eastern Lions responded to the government advance by moving west and attacking a government-held military base.

“It is a race to Deir el-Zour,“ said Tlas al-Salameh, the commander of the Eastern Lions, which is backed by Jordan and the U.S. “The Iranian and Hezbollah militias are in the operation because it concerns them to secure a land route from Beirut to Iran that goes through Damascus and Baghdad, and they want to block our way to Deir el-Zour,“ he said.

Omar Abu Leila, an exiled activist from Deir el-Zour, said retaking the provincial capital will not be easy. Even if the government forces manage to push the rebels aside, once they reach the city they will face an estimated 10,000 IS fighters defending their “last fortress.“

But opening a new front against IS might speed the extremists’ defeat. “The fight can’t be only in Mosul and Raqqa. It must be on the Deir el-Zour front as well,“ he said. “The three fronts distract IS.“


►  Israel: Videos Show Lead Hunger Striker Eating in His Cell

Israel’s Prison Service released footage on Sunday that it says shows the leader of a mass Palestinian hunger strike breaking his fast, a claim dismissed by the Palestinians as an attempt to undermine the open-ended strike, now in its 21st day. Assaf Librati, a spokesman for the prison service, said strike organizer and Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti ate a candy bar on May 5 and cookies on April 27. He said surveillance was increased and Barghouti was caught on film eating. Footage aired by Israeli media shows a prisoner sitting down fully clothed on a toilet unwrapping something and putting it in his mouth. Other footage shows a prisoner eating something near a sink. Qadoura Fares, who heads an advocacy group for Palestinian prisoners, cast doubt on the footage, saying Barghouti is being held in solitary confinement and has no access to food, the AP reports.

Israeli officials say Barghouti retrieved the food from a hiding place and then hid the wrappers when he was done, Haaretz reports. Barghouti, a leader of the second Palestinian uprising, is serving five life terms after being convicted by an Israeli court of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing that killed five people. Barghouti, who disputed the court’s jurisdiction and did not mount a defense, has been in prison since 2002. Polls suggest that the 58-year-old is the most popular choice among Palestinians to succeed 82-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel holds about 6,500 Palestinians on charges related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and says 890 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike. Palestinians say the strike is an attempt to improve conditions inside the jails and gain more family visits. Israeli officials have dismissed the strike as a bid by Barghouti to burnish his credentials in an internal Palestinian power struggle. A Palestinian activist leader says the strike will continue, per the New York Times.


►  268 Drowned While Authorities Debated: Leaked Tapes

Audio tapes leaked Monday reveal authorities had a chance to save the 268 Syrian refugees—including 60 children—who drowned when their boat capsized in October 2013 but instead wasted time with, as the Times of Malta puts it, “bureaucratic wrangling and indifference.“ Mohammed Jammo, a Syrian doctor on the doomed boat, made multiple calls to Italian and Maltese authorities up to five hours before the disaster, pleading for help, the Washington Post reports. “We are dying, please. Don’t abandon us,“ Jammo says during one of the calls. He told authorities the boat was taking on water and there were injured children aboard.

Italy had a military vessel 20 nautical miles from the sinking ship but didn’t send it, instead telling Jammo to call Malta. Malta told Jammo to call Italy. The sticking point: The refugee boat was technically in waters overseen by Malta but was nearly twice as close to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Independent reports. And Malta didn’t have a vessel anywhere near as close as the Italian vessel. Italian authorities also appeared hesitant to bring the refugees to Italy. Italy eventually did send its vessel—hours after the first call from Jammo—but only after a Maltese plane confirmed the boat had capsized and there were people in the water. Amnesty International says it’s “reasonable to question” whether authorities from both countries did everything they could to prevent 268 people from dying.


►  Man Found Hiding in Cave on Everest

A South African man was scooped up by authorities on Mount Everest after attempting to climb the mountain alone and without a permit. As a result, Ryan Sean Davy, 43, now faces a fine of $22,000, reports the BBC. In a Facebook post, Davy explains that he reached the mountain only to learn that he couldn’t afford the $11,000 solo permit because of “hidden costs.“ He also figured his lack of “previous mountaineering experience on record” would prevent him from getting permission. Rather than disappoint his supporters back home in Johannesburg, he says he opted for “a stealth entry.“ How far he got is unclear: He claims on Facebook to have climbed 24,000 of the mountain’s 29,029 feet; the AFP cites Nepalese officials who say Davy told them he made it to camp two, around 21,000 feet.

He certainly made it to base camp: One official says Davy was spotted alone near it—Davy says he retreated there when a storm was rolling in—but fled into a cave and was apprehended. “He had set up camp in an isolated place” to avoid detection, says the official. Davy sounded generally apologetic on Facebook, but he also complained about his treatment, saying that he was “treated like a murderer” once caught. He also wrote that “expedition companies have no time for wanna be Everesters with no money.“ He now has to head back to Kathmandu to pick up his passport. It’s not clear how Davy will manage to pay a $22,000 fine if he couldn’t afford half that much for a permit, but he told his supporters on Facebook not to pitch in. “This was my doing and I took the risks,“ he writes. “I am accountable.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  U.S. Students Killed Just Before Planned Return From Denmark

Two American college students have died in a tragic boating accident while studying abroad in Denmark. Linsey Malia, 21, of Easton, Mass., and Leah Bell of Covington, La., were killed Saturday when a jet ski crashed into a boat carrying them in Copenhagen Harbor, reports Mass Live. Six others, including at least five boaters, were treated for injuries at a hospital and released, reports the Copenhagen Post, which adds it’s illegal to ride jet skis in the harbor. Several people were seen trying to flee the scene on jet skis after the crash, but police say nine people are now in custody, including a 24-year-old man arrested on suspicion of aggravated manslaughter, per the AP. The students were celebrating the end of the spring semester and were to return home over the next week.

A relative describes Malia, an honors student at Stonehill College, as a “shining star” who “made everyone who knew her smile,“ per the Boston Globe. A professor adds she’d co-authored a research paper that she was to present at an August meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Christ Episcopal Church identified Bell, a student at California’s Pomona College, as a crash victim on Facebook. The post noted her parents have traveled to Denmark, where a lawmaker is calling for a total ban on jet skis off the coast. Bell was studying to be a neonatal nurse, and her psychology professor describes how Bell “loved the experience of holding babies, premature babies, of helping families learn to bond with them ... It’s such a beautiful aspiration that it just makes it more painful to lose her.“


►  Up to 5K U.S. Troops May Head to Afghanistan: Officials

The Trump administration has slowly changed course on initiatives set by former President Obama, and the 15-year war Afghanistan has just been added to the list. The Washington Post reports high-level US military and foreign policy advisers have created a new blueprint for dealing with the Taliban, which would let the Pentagon, not the White House, take the lead on how it wants to use airstrikes, as well as the number of US troops. Anonymous senior officials tell the New York Times between 3,000 and 5,000 more US soldiers could be sent to Afghanistan, with US advisers closer to the front lines. The plan, which would reverse Obama’s goal of reducing US military presence there, emerged after a review by the Pentagon, the State Department, US intel, and other agencies on how to break the war’s “stalemate,“ as General John W. Nicholson, Afghanistan’s top US commander, has called it.

Even though one US official says this strategy has been tailor-made for Trump’s push to “start winning” again, it’s anyone’s guess how Trump himself may come down, as he seems caught between isolationist tendencies and what the Post calls a “delight” in using military power to fight terrorism. Those in the White House who are wary call the plan “McMaster’s War”—a snarky reference to HR McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser who’s said to be the impetus behind the strategy. Critics say increased efforts will cost the US billions of dollars, with no guarantee of Taliban concessions, and even plan advocates say the goal is to make small inroads that don’t destroy the Taliban, but simply convince them to negotiate. Trump’s final decision is expected to come before he heads to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.


►  ‘Irreplaceable’ Rare Flowers Burned Due to Paperwork

A priceless and “irreplaceable” collection of pressed flowers from France encountered biosecurity officials in Australia recently—and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris is not happy about what happened next. The box of rare daisies collected in the 1850s—which was being shipped to the Queensland Herbarium for research purposes, per the Australian Broadcasting Corporation—was incinerated by quarantine officials who said the paperwork had been filled out incorrectly, the BBC reports. Michelle Waycott, chair of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, says the French museum is upset about the destruction of the collection, which may have come from a habitat that no longer exists.

Waycott tells the ABC that the daisy destruction comes just weeks after lichen specimens from New Zealand bound for the Australian National Herbarium in Canberra were destroyed by overzealous biosecurity officers at another port of entry. Herbaria experts “rely on sharing specimens from all over the world to be able to do our science,“ says Waycott. She adds the New Zealand facility has now banned sending specimens to Australia and she expects Paris to do the same. Australian biosecurity officials admit the specimens shouldn’t have been destroyed and say they’re looking into the incidents.


►  Saudis Tell Dad He Can’t Call Daughter ‘Ivanka’

“Ivanka” is not an acceptable baby name in Saudi Arabia, a father was told after trying to give his newborn daughter the same name as Trump’s first daughter. “The civil status department informed me that the name could not be approved because it was foreign,“ father Salem al-Anzi says, per Gulf News. “I pleaded with them to accept the name, but they said that the law did not permit it.“ He says he chose the name because he liked it, though he told reporters last week that he was naming his daughter after Trump’s daughter and he wanted to challenge government regulations forbidding foreign names, the Washington Post reports.

“I admire the leadership of her father,“ the dad said in a WhatsApp message after the girl was born last week, praising Trump for bombing a Syrian airbase in revenge for “innocent children” and for his decision to visit Saudi Arabia later this month. He says his daughter will still be known as “Ivanka” within the family, though her legal name will now be “Luma,“ an Arabic name meaning “female with beautiful lips.“


►  North Korea claims plot reveals U.S. state-sponsored terrorism

After arresting two American university instructors and laying out what it says was an elaborate, CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea is claiming to be the victim of state-sponsored terrorism — from the White House.

The assertion comes as the U.S. is considering putting the North back on its list of terror sponsors. But the vitriolic outrage over the alleged plan to assassinate Kim last month is also being doled out with an unusually big dollop of retaliation threats, raising a familiar question: What on Earth is going on in Pyongyang?

North Korea’s state-run media announced Sunday that an ethnic Korean man with U.S. citizenship was “intercepted” two days ago by authorities for unspecified hostile acts against the country. He was identified as Kim Hak Song, an employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

That came just days after the North announced the detention of an accounting instructor at the same university, Kim Sang Dok, also a U.S. citizen, for “acts of hostility aimed to overturn” the country. PUST is North Korea’s only privately funded university and has a large number of foreign teachers, including Americans.

What, if anything, the arrests have to the alleged plot is unknown. But they bring to four the number of U.S. citizens now known to be in custody in the North.

“Obviously this is concerning,“ White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday. “We are well-aware of it, and we are going to work through the embassy of Sweden ... through our State Department to seek the release of the individuals there.“

Sweden handles U.S. consular affairs in North Korea, including those of American detainees.

The others are Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts — he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner at his tourist hotel — and Kim Dong Chul, serving a 10-year term with hard labor for alleged espionage.

The reported arrest of another “Mr. Kim” — the North Korean man allegedly at the center of the assassination plot — is more ominous.

According to state media reports that began Friday, he is a Pyongyang resident who was “ideologically corrupted and bribed” by the CIA and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service while working in the timber industry in Siberia in 2014. The Russian far east is one of the main places where North Korean laborers are allowed to work abroad.

The reports say Kim — his full name has not been provided — was converted into a “terrorist full of repugnance and revenge against the supreme leadership” of North Korea and collaborated in an elaborate plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un at a series of events, including a major military parade, that were held last month.

They allege Kim was in frequent contact through satellite communications with the “murderous demons” of the NIS and CIA, who instructed him to use a biochemical substance that is the “know-how of the CIA” and that the hardware, supplies and funds would be borne by the South Korean side.

Kim Jong Un attended the military parade on April 15 and made several other appearances around that time to mark the anniversary of his late grandfather’s birthday.

The initial reports of the plot concluded with a vow by the Ministry of State Security to “ferret out to the last one” the organizers, conspirators and followers of the plot, which it called “state-sponsored terrorism.“

The North Korean reports also said a “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack” would begin immediately. Follow-up stories on the plot have focused on outraged North Koreans demanding revenge.

It’s anyone’s guess what a “Korean-style” attack might entail.

North Korea is known for its loud and belligerent rhetoric in the face of what it deems to be threats to its leadership, and the reference to ferreting out anyone involved in the plot could suggest not only action abroad but possible purges or crackdowns at home.

“I wonder if Kim Jong Un has become paranoid about the influence Americans are having on North Koreans, and about the possibility of U.S. action against him,“ said Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst and North Korea expert at the RAND Corporation. “Will Kim increase his internal purges of North Korean elites? Will he focus on North Korean defectors, people who the regime would like to silence? Or will he do both?“

Tensions between North Korea and its chief adversaries — the U.S. and South Korea — have been rising over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that include training for a possible “decapitation strike” to kill the North’s senior leaders.

Bennett noted that such training has been included and expanded upon in annual wargames hosted by South Korea, which were bigger than ever this year.

The wargames, called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, just finished, without any signs of North Korean retaliation.

But the current rhetoric from Pyongyang has a somewhat familiar ring to it. Case in point: the movie “The Interview” in 2014.

In June that year, the North denounced the Seth Rogen comedy, which portrays the assassination of Kim Jong Un for the CIA by two American journalists, as “a most wanton act of terror and act of war.“ A few months later, hackers broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment computers and released thousands of emails, documents, Social Security numbers and other personal information in an attempt to derail the movie’s release.

The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the attack. Pyongyang denies involvement, but has praised the hackers.

The North’s claims of a plot to kill Kim Jong Un with a biochemical agent also have an eerie similarity to the assassination of his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Nam, at an airport lobby in Malaysia in February.

In that attack, seen by many as orchestrated by the North, two young women who were allegedly tricked into thinking they were taking part in a television game show, rubbed the deadly VX nerve agent onto the face of the unsuspecting victim, who died soon after.


►  New Hamas chief tours native Gaza, highlights power shift

The newly elected leader of Hamas paid tribute in Gaza on Monday to Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel, his first appearance in the new role and a sign of the group’s internal power shift from the diaspora to the Hamas-ruled territory.

Since the Palestinian group’s founding 30 years ago, its top leaders had moved between Arab capitals such as Beirut, Damascus, and Doha, Qatar. On Saturday, Hamas confirmed it had elected Ismail Haniyeh, a former Gaza prime minister, to replace Qatar-based Khaled Mashaal as head of the group’s political bureau, the top job.

Haniyeh, born in the Shati refugee camp near Gaza City, is well known in the tiny, crowded coastal strip of 2 million people.

He briefly visited a Gaza City “solidarity tent” for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, arriving in his familiar white SUV and accompanied by bodyguards. Photos of the prisoners were displayed in the tent.

“It’s my honor to shoulder the responsibility of leading the political bureau of this large movement of holy resistance,“ he said after greeting local security chiefs.

Hamas’ shift to Gaza comes at a time of growing financial pressure on the territory, ruled by the Islamic militant group since it drove out forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Abbas, who oversees autonomous enclaves in the West Bank, has reduced salary payments and electricity subsidies to Gaza in recent weeks and said more steps would follow. It’s part of an attempt to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza after years of failed reconciliation attempts.

Haniyeh, 54, also faces other challenges, such as restrictions on movement. Israel and Egypt imposed a border blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover, keeping the territory’s borders sealed most of the time. Hamas leaders have been able to travel abroad from time to time, but only with Egyptian coordination.

Haniyeh, who served as Mashaal’s deputy for the past four years, most recently traveled abroad in September. He first visited Saudi Arabia on a Muslim pilgrimage, then traditional backers Qatar and Turkey, before returning to Gaza in January.

Hamas expert Khaled Hroub said the shift to Gaza could weaken the group’s regional ties, particularly if travel is limited. A Gaza-based leadership might have fewer contacts with regional allies, he said.

“I think Hamas will be more in (Gaza) and less out,“ said Hroub, a political scientist at Northwestern University’s Doha campus.

Hamas was founded in December 1987 in Gaza as a branch of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood. In its founding charter, Hamas calls for setting up an Islamic state in historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.

Haniyeh’s election came days after Hamas published a new political manifesto, rebranding itself as a Palestinian national movement and distancing itself from the Brotherhood, which has been outlawed by Egypt.

The new program omits the old charter’s specific language about seeking Israel’s destruction and raises the possibility of a Palestinian state in lands Israel occupied in 1967, but only as a step toward “liberating” all of historic Palestine.

Over the years, Hamas had a leadership-in-exile that raised funds or courted political support from countries like Iran and Syria, while the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, attacked Israeli targets from Gaza and the West Bank.

The power shift from the diaspora to Gaza began in 2012 when Hamas leaders-in-exile had to quit their longtime base in Syria as a result of the civil war that began a year earlier. Since then, Mashaal has mostly lived in lavish hotel suites in oil-rich Qatar, but without the political and military freedom Hamas enjoyed in Damascus.

Meanwhile, the military wing became increasingly influential in Gaza. After chasing out Abbas’ forces in 2007, it fought three cross-border wars with Israel, starting in 2008. Al-Qassam fighters also captured an Israeli soldier in 2006 and swapped him in 2011 for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

One of those freed was Yehiyeh Sinwar, a former hard-line al-Qassam commander. In February, he was elected Hamas leader for Gaza, a post that makes him Haniyeh’s deputy.

It’s not clear which direction Haniyeh will choose for Hamas.

An occasional mosque preacher, Haniyeh still lives in Shati, though now with a heavy guard. He has been portrayed by some as a pragmatist, although during his time as Gaza prime minister from 2006 to 2014, he was involved in Hamas decisions that led to violent confrontations with Israel and large-scale destruction in Gaza.

He takes the reins at a time of growing hardship in Gaza, including a crippling blockade-linked electricity shortage that has led to rolling power cuts of six hours on, 12 hours off. Last week, the Abbas government said it would stop paying for much of the electricity, raising the prospect of even further power cuts.

It appears that Qatar and Turkey are not rushing to Hamas’ aid this time. In the past, the two helped pay for fuel for Gaza’s power plant, but haven’t taken action since fuel ran out last month.

Egypt seems to be tightening movement in and out of Gaza. Through the fall and winter, Egypt had opened its Rafah crossing with Gaza more than once a month and allowed goods into Gaza. In the last two months, it opened Rafah once, but only in the direction of Gaza.

Haniyeh, a former aide to the late Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual head of Hamas, became Palestinian prime minister in 2006, after Hamas defeated Fatah in parliament elections.

Abbas dismissed Haniyeh in 2007, after the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Hamas ignored the dismissal and a Haniyeh-led Hamas government remained in place in Gaza, while Abbas appointed a rival administration in the West Bank.

The Haniyeh administration resigned in 2014, as part of a deal with Fatah to set up a transitional government for both the West Bank and Gaza that was to pave the way for national elections. The deal collapsed, with both political camps refusing to give up control in their respective territories.


►  France’s Macron looks to past post-win, gears up for future

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron laid the groundwork Monday for his transition to power, announcing a visit to Germany and a name change for his political movement and appearing with his predecessor at a solemn World War II commemoration.

Macron handily defeated far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential runoff, and now must pull together a majority of lawmakers in the mid-June legislative election.

The task, though, may prove tricky for a president who had never run for a political office before and for his fledgling political movement La Republique En Marche (Republic On the Move). Macron is the first president of modern France elected as an independent.

Macron’s party, previously known as a movement called simply En Marche, is preparing a list of candidates for next month’s parliamentary election. Macron has promised that half of those candidates will be new to elected politics, as he was before his victory on Sunday.

Many voters who had supported other candidates in the election’s first round reluctantly cast runoff ballots for Macron only to prevent Le Pen from entering the Elysee Palace. His rivals now will be motivated to keep Macron from making further gains during the two-round parliamentary election. All 577 seats in the National Assembly are up for grabs.

Macron has said he was aiming to secure an absolute majority in the lower chamber through the June 11 and 18 elections. If he does, he would be able to pick the candidate of his choice to lead the government as prime minister.

But if another party wins a majority, the new president could be pressured to choose a prime minister from that party, a situation the French call “cohabitation.“ The last time France had “cohabitation” was during in 1997-2002 under President Jacques Chirac, who described the setup as a state of “paralysis.“

If Macron’s party performs poorly, he also could be forced to form a coalition government, a regular occurrence in many European countries but far less common in France. In a poll, 59 percent of Macron voters said they supported him primarily to keep Le Pen from becoming president.

Le Pen says she will lead the opposition to Macron.

Macron won the presidency with 66 percent of the votes cast for a candidate, but the election also had a high number of blank or spoiled votes and an unusually low turnout.

Monday was a French national holiday marking decades of peace in Western Europe, something Macron made a cornerstone of his campaign against Le Pen’s brand of nationalist populism. Macron joined President Francois Hollande in a commemoration of the formal German defeat in World War II.

It was the first time the men had appeared in public together since Macron resigned in August 2016 as Hollande’s economy minister to run for president — a decision that was received coldly by the French leader at the time.

On Monday, though, Hollande gripped Macron’s arm before the two men walked side by side and then announced the transfer of power would take place on Sunday.

Le Pen had called for France to leave the 28-nation European Union and drop the shared euro currency in favor of reinstating the French franc.

After her decisive loss, the National Front also geared up for a name change — if not a makeover of its ideas. In interviews Monday, National Front officials said the party founded by her father would get a new name to try and draw in a broader spectrum of supporters.

“The National Front is a tool that will evolve to be more efficient, bring even more people together after the number of voters we reached last night. And so we have an immense responsibility vis-a-vis the French people, who trust us,“ said Nicolas Bay, the party’s secretary-general.

Sylvie Goulard, a French deputy to the European Parliament, said Macron would make Berlin his first official visit, with perhaps a stop to see French troops stationed abroad as well.

Leaders in Germany and Britain praised Macron’s victory, but viewed it through their own electoral challenges.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed his win, but appeared cautious about proposals to support his economic plans either by relaxing European spending rules or with a dedicated stimulus fund.

“German support can’t replace French policies,“ she said.

In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May said Macron’s election makes it even more important for British voters to back her Conservatives and strengthen Britain’s hand in EU exit talks.

May has called an early election for June 08, arguing that her Conservatives need a bigger majority in order to stand firm against — and strike deals with — the EU.

On the financial front, European stock markets edged down in early trading as investors had been widely expecting Macron’s victory.

Though Macron’s victory is considered positive for the region’s economy and the euro currency, stocks had risen strongly in the previous two weeks on expectations of his win.

France’s CAC 40 index, which last week touched the highest level since early 2008, slipped 1 percent on Monday. The euro, which had risen Sunday night to a six-month high against the dollar, edged back down 0.5 percent to $1.0946.

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