White House to publish FBI memo; mass graves in Myanmar

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Curated top stories

  • White House to release controversial FBI memo – An unnamed Trump administration official said that the White House will release a controversial memo on Friday that Republicans allege shows FBI bias against U.S. President Donald Trump.  Earlier, the FBI released a statement saying it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the Republican-authored memo about the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA). President Donald J. Trump is reportedly in favor of releasing the memo, which is suspected (WSJ) to contain information about the FBI’s handling of requests to surveil members of Trump’s presidential campaign team. A House intelligence committee voted on January 29 to release the memo, but that requires Trump’s sign-off. However, the ranking Democrat on that committee said the vote was null because it was “secretly altered” by Republicans who wrote it. The memo’s release would further strain the president’s relationship with the FBI.
    • Trump fired director James Comey in May 2017 and deputy director Andrew McCabe resigned on January 29 following criticism from Trump.
  • Polish lawmakers pass Holocaust complicity bill – Poland’s upper house approved a bill that would criminalize suggestions that the country was complicit in the Holocaust. The bill, which allows for prison sentences of up to three years, prompted swift outrage in Israel, with one minister saying the bill was a “de facto Holocaust denial” and a government spokesperson saying Tel Aviv opposed “any attempt to challenge historical truth.” It was also criticized by the United States for potentially threatening free speech and academic research. The bill has been sent to Polish President Andrzej Duda for signature.
    • Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish population – 3.2 million people – when it was invaded by Nazi Germany and the USSR at the start of WWII in September 1939. The Nazis exterminated over 3 million Jewish Poles over the course of the war, many of them in the now infamous concentration camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor. The Nazis also killed about 1.9 million non-Jewish Poles, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Rohingya mass graves uncovered – Myanmar’s government has long denied that massacres against Rohingya Muslim civilians ever happened. While it acknowledges that one mass grave belonging to 10 “terrorists” did exist, the Associated Press has uncovered five more. The revelation adds to evidence suggesting that the regime has engaged in what some agencies have called genocide. The AP reports that the men in some graves, located in western Rakhine state, were half buried after attacks on villages. Read WikiTribune’s explainer as to why the Rohingya are said to be the “most persecuted minority” on earth.
  • White House to extend temporary protection for U.S.-based SyriansThousands of Syrians living and working in the U.S. will be able to remain in the country for another 18 months after U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration granted them an extension under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. Almost 7,000 Syrians who entered the U.S. before August 2016 will be spared, however, Syrians who arrived after August 2016 will not be included in the extension. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department for Homeland Security announced it would end the protected status for for over hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans (CNN), Haitians and Nicaraguans.
  • Russia says no proof Iran is supplying Houthis – The United States has not made a strong case for proving that Iran provided missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, according to Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations. The statement released on Wednesday means that Russia will not support any UN action against Iran for allegedly violating a 2015 arms embargo (UN). Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said it was not clear whether missile parts that Security Council members were shown in Washington earlier this week were Iranian. A civil war has raged in Yemen since 2015; however, many see it as a proxy war between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to the United Nations, the conflict has led to the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians (Guardian) and created what aid agencies call a humanitarian crisis.
  • Castro freezes private sector in threat to reforms – In 2008, after succeeding his brother Fidel as Cuba’s president, Raul Castro allowed more small scale capitalist ventures to flow into the communist nation. Hotels sprang up, along with nightclubs and restaurants. However, as Castro looks to leave office, he has started to rein in the trend. In August the government announced it was putting a halt on some new businesses. That ban has still not been lifted, leaving some worrying about the country’s future and stagnating GDP – the vast majority of which comes from the state (Heritage Foundation).

What we are reading

  • When Xerox launched its copying machine in 1959 it was seen as a feat of huge technological advancement. But fast forward almost 50 years and cloud computing has made its initial dizzying heights look outdated. So this week, after 115 years as an independent business, Xerox said that it would combine operations with Fujifilm Holdings of Japan. This piece in the New York Times outlines the saga of Xerox, from its lofty heights to its slow decline. “The deal signaled the end of a company that was once an American corporate powerhouse.” – Charles Anderson

What the WikiTribune community is up to

  • The 2014 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used the term “tipping point” to describe “thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change” as it relates to the planet’s ability to adapt to rising temperatures. In this piece, WikiTribune member Hubert Lindsay asks whether this same terminology be used to describe the shifts in global energy investment away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

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