Democrats seek funds to counter Russia; Syrian Ghouta locals 'wait to die'

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  • Democrats want more FBI funding to stop Russian meddling in upcoming elections – Democratic congressional leadership proposed a $300 million increase in funding for the FBI in order to protect the integrity of the electoral process. The proposal also includes an undetermined amount of funding for states to update their voting systems. Republican leadership said they would consider the amendments in budget negotiations.
  • Eastern Ghouta residents waiting for ‘turn to die’ – Syrian residents in Eastern Ghouta were waiting for their “turn to die” on Wednesday as bombs fell near the capital, Damascus, in an intense assault by pro-government forces. The United Nations Syrian coordinator said the situation in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta is “beyond imagination.” Panos Moumtzis said that days of bombing, including targeting six hospitals, could amount to war crimes (UN). The Syrian military says the offensive is an attempt to liberate the area from terrorists. At least 296 people have been killed there in the past three days.
An injured man is seen at a medical point in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
An injured man is seen at a medical point in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syria February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh
  • Students march to demand gun control About 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students will arrive at the Florida state capitol on Wednesday, calling for a ban on the semi-automatic rifle that was used to kill 17 people at their school last week. The group told 500 students and parents awaiting them in Tallahassee that they were fighting to protect all students.
    • Florida considering reform on guns– The state legislature of Florida is considering a bill that would increase spending on mental health for high school students. It would also give police departments the capability to deputize a non-law enforcement officer to carry a gun on campus, and raise the age limit to purchase rifles from 18 to 21. This age requirement already exists for handguns.
    • Trump backs improved background checks – After listening to survivors of school shootings, President Trump vowed to be “very strong on background checks” for firearm purchases. He already signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to draw up regulations banning devices that turn firearms into machine guns.
    • A young student places a candle in memory of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School outside the North Carolina State Capitol building during a demonstration calling for safer gun laws, in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
  • Netanyahu confidant will testify against himIsrael media reported that Shlomo Filber, a trusted aide of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has agreed to provide testimony on behalf of the state in a case of corruption allegations. Filber, the Ministry of Communications director, was arrested this week along with top executives at Bezeq Telecom. Police suspect that Bezeq gave the PM positive coverage on a news website in return for benefits, allegations that Bezeq denied.

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  • Gibraltar, the region of the United Kingdom on Spain’s southern tip, is proud to be British. But Gibraltarians voted to stay in the European Union in Britain’s landmark referendum, while the rest voted out. Where do they stand now that there is a deadline for exiting the bloc, and what fate awaits “The Rock”, a monolithic limestone point that is being used as a pawn between Spain and Britain? WikiTribune‘s Harry Ridgewell went to find out.
  • Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro hopes that the country’s new cryptocurrency – the petro – will aid its troubled economy, which is facing international sanctions and struggling with hyperinflation. The petro, which went on sale February 20, is issued by the state and backed by Venezuela’s crude oil reserves. Read Linh Nguyen’s piece on the petro’s launch and help report this story.

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  • Quantum computers could be the next great technological leap, revolutionizing the way we solve vastly complex computations and affecting every aspect of life. Yet while scientists long to create large-scale quantum computers, security experts fear they could pose a grave threat to security and cryptography. What is the current state of this technology, and where is it heading? Click here to contribute to this WikiProject.

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  • Pia Guerra, a 46-year-old Vancouver-based artist, felt helpless as she watched the events of last week’s mass shooting in Florida. She couldn’t sleep, so she began to draw. This piece in the Washington Post outlines Guerra’s thinking in articulating a cartoon that has drawn a response from people and news outlets around the world. “It’s not often that an image pops in your brain and you feel a lump in your throat,” Guerra told The Post. – Charles Anderson

Pia Guerra on Twitter

Hero’s Welcome. #guncontrol #Parkland

  • The Washington Post has a smart analysis of the latest developments in Syria for anyone puzzled by the conflict there. It explains how and why the situation has become even more complex, as the Syrian regime moves to support the main Syrian Kurdish armed group, known as the YPG, in the northern city of Afrin, against an offensive from Turkey. – Lydia Morrish
  • Wondering about your prospects at work? Check out the geography of your desk. And if your job is in AI, it could be in close proximity to the boss. This New York Times piece charts the moves of the furniture at Google: last year, the Google Brain team of mathematicians, coders and hardware engineers were far from the centre of the action. Now, they sit right beside CEO Sunny Pichai and other leaders. “It’s a very significant statement,” says Alphabet board member Diane Greene. – Angela Long

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