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international politics

A Spy Talks About His Time In Al-Qaida

Jun 16, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Senate Republicans worried about a possible trade war with U.S. allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union are pushing a plan to give Congress the final say over some trade actions.

A group led by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker plans to unveil legislation this week to limit when President Trump, or any future president, could invoke national security as a reason for taxing foreign imports. It is a rare effort among congressional Republicans to use legislation to limit controversial policies embraced by Trump.

Updated at 8 a.m. ET Friday

The Netherlands and Australia are formally blaming Russia's government for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, one day after international investigators said the missile that struck the jet originated from the Russian military.

The passenger jet crashed in July 2014 in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

Economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

'If you can't explain the economy in a language young people can understand, you are clueless yourself.'

So says former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose book "Talking to My Daugher About the Economy" is a testament to his own mastery of the subject. 

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are protesting the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and Israeli army forces have killed 55 protesters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry also says some 2,770 people have been hurt in demonstrations and clashes.

Editor's note: This post contains language some may find offensive.

NPR's Southwest correspondent John Burnett speaks with White House chief of staff John Kelly. Here's a partial transcript of their conversation, which has been edited for clarity.

Burnett started by talking with Kelly about how much time he spends with President Trump:

Search and rescue workers in Syria say civilian lives are at risk after being hit by a freeze in US funding for their organization.

The US is currently reviewing its support for the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, and other Syrian assistance programs worth around $200 million.

A State Department official told PRI that the review came at the request of President Donald Trump. They added that the US has provided more than $33 million in financial support to the group since 2013.

Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo.
Courtesy Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello

Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo’s career as a musician began at six years old, singing into the dark. 

But with her new cover of the Talking Heads’ classic album, she’s asking us all to "Remain in Light." She spoke to Bill Radke from Los Angeles to explain why she doesn’t believe in cultural appropriation – and why stupidity just might be the thing that connects us all.

Shielded by an identity-protecting tarp, a Seattle locksmith drills the locks on a Russian-owned consular building.
RT Twitter feed

Yesterday afternoon in Madison Park, you may have seen an unusual breaking and entering. U.S. State Department officials drilled through the locks on the gate of a Russian-owned home, while former consular employees filmed across the street.

Russian officials condemned the U.S.-led airstrikes on three sites in Syria early Saturday, calling the attacks "treacherous and insane" and a "clear and present danger to world peace."

The U.S., U.K. and France carried out the strikes in the early morning hours on targets that U.S. officials said were linked to a Syrian government chemical weapons program. The strikes were a response to an alleged chemical weapons attack carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime on April 7.

Mary Ann Peters, "impossible monument (flotsam)" detail
Courtesy Mary Ann Peters

Last Saturday’s biological weapons attack in Syria set off yet another wave of involuntary migration. Lebanese-American artist Mary Ann Peters says that this water-based lingo isn’t an accident. 


Dan Shefet is an unlikely tech revolutionary. He's not a young math geek who builds driverless cars, nor does he promise to make a tech product for the masses. His crusade is different. The 63-year-old year old Shefet has staged an astonishingly effective campaign in Europe to thwart the torrent of fake news and damaging personal attacks that course through the Internet by taking on the tech giants.

When it comes to inter-Korean relations, pop music — and politics — work in concert. North Korea sent a musical delegation to South Korea for the Winter Olympics last month.

Now it's the other side's turn. South Korean solo singers and group acts will head north this weekend for the first time in more than a decade.

The building at 55 Savushkina St. on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Russia, is unremarkable. It's four stories high, made of concrete and shares a small parking lot with the apartment building next door.

But if you look a little closer, a few details stick out. For instance, the building is covered in windows, but each one is blocked by heavy drapes. And there are security cameras all over the building.

We were hundreds of women, marching on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan.

We shouted slogans. '"Aurat aiee, aurat aiee, tharki teri shaamath aiee!" (Women are here, harassers must fear!)

We raised our fists in the air, smiling, laughing.

We wore what we wanted to wear: burqas, jeans and designer shades, brightly embroidered skirts, the traditional tunic and baggy trousers called shalwar kameez.

Men gaped, shook their heads, filmed us from passing cars as we walked by, disrupting traffic.

We did not care what the men thought of us.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

North Korea says it is willing to discuss denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula with the United States, a key requirement laid out by the Trump administration as a precondition for talks with Pyongyang.

South Korean officials who returned from a two-day visit to the North Korean capital reportedly brought back the communication. The North also said it was willing to send a delegation for dialogue with the South next month at the border village of Panmunjom.

The head of Russia's foreign spy service reportedly traveled to the U.S. earlier this month and met with top Trump administration intelligence officials, despite being on a U.S. sanctions blacklist.

In a tweet, Russia's embassy in Washington acknowledged the visit, citing the official ITAR-Tass news agency: "Sergey Naryshkin has visited the United States for consultations with #US counterparts on the struggle against terrorism ..."

A strange twist of national security politics in Washington, D.C., has meant the United States isn't responding seriously to the ongoing threat of foreign interference, Senate Democrats charged in a new report.

The study, about Russian leader Vladimir Putin's international crusade against democracy, is expansive, at more than 200 pages. It documents Russian offensive efforts in 19 different countries. But what it doesn't include is any optimism that President Trump might act to push back against the Kremlin's aggression.

Many immigrants from El Salvador are in a state of shock. On Monday, the Trump Administration announced that it will soon be ending a humanitarian program that has allowed nearly 200,000 of them to live and work in the U.S. since 2001, after two earthquakes devastated their country. Now they worry for their future.

But the potential pain is likely to prove just as acute in El Salvador. That's because nearly all these Salvadoran immigrants work — and a huge share of them regularly send a portion of their earnings to family in El Salvador.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined human rights groups and multiple governments Wednesday in calling for the release of two detained Reuters journalists in Myanmar.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been detained since Dec. 12 for allegedly violating a 1923 law called the Official Secrets Act and could face up to 14 years in prison.

Australians have given same-sex marriage a resounding "yes," in a historic nationwide poll, with nearly 62 percent of registered voters approving the measure.

Although the mail-in poll is non-binding, it nonetheless ensures that Parliament will consider ensconcing the popular sentiment as law — a bill to do just that was introduced in the Senate late Wednesday after the results of the poll became known.

In July 2003, Elmas Ozmico died of blood poisoning in the U.K., where she had been seeking asylum after fleeing Turkey in the back of a semi-trailer truck. Fatim Jawara, a 19-year-old who played on the Gambian national soccer team and dreamed of playing in Europe, drowned off the coast of Libya before she could make it to Italy.

In the gritty industrial town of Yiwu, workers prepare jeans to be dyed in a vivid range of colors.

Two months ago, this factory — and this entire city, located in China's eastern province of Zhejiang — was a much quieter place. Inspection crews from the environmental bureau had shut businesses down, cutting electricity and gas so that they could determine who was following China's environmental laws and who wasn't.

The boss of this factory, who asked that his name not be used for fear of punishment by local officials, says he's never seen anything like it.

Updated at 2:35 p.m. ET

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have been freed after five years in captivity by an extremist group in Afghanistan, the White House said Thursday.

Caitlan Coleman, now 32, was several months pregnant when she and her husband, Joshua Boyle, were abducted in 2012 while on a trip to Afghanistan.

For more than nine months, Twitter and Facebook have tried to dodge the intense public scrutiny involved with the investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

Now they're in the spotlight.

Congressional investigators are digging in on Russia's use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to try to influence the 2016 campaign.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

President Trump delivered a stern warning to North Korea's leader at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed his military's plans to rain "an enveloping fire" around the U.S. territory of Guam — but opted not to fire missiles at this time, according to state media. Despite the stand-down, some Guamanians were alarmed after two radio stations aired an erroneous emergency alert Tuesday.

KUOW PHOTO/BOND HUBERMAN

Seattle is reportedly within range of a North Korean nuclear missile, and there's a war of words between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Should we be afraid?

Puget Sound is still tucked in beneath a smoky haze from British Columbia wildfires. But has it really "ruined summer?"

This week saw a dramatic escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. As North Korea promised to engulf the U.S. territory of Guam in "enveloping fire", President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" should North Korea "act unwisely".

The North's missile and nuclear programs have been shrouded in secrecy for years, but recent tests have shed more light on their capabilities. Here is what's currently known.

North Korean missiles can reach the continental United States.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

As the leaders of two nuclear-armed countries trade threats, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Trump "is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language."

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