All in International

Missile Strike in Syria

Missile strikes in Syria killed at least 16 people late Sunday. The strike hit Iranian military bases causing what felt like an earthquake. The state news in Syria confirmed the strikes Sunday, but a monitoring group announced the death toll Monday. Most of the dead were Iranians according to the regional alliance of Iran, Syria and the group Hezbollah. No one has claimed responsibility for the strikes yet.  Reports suggest the strikes are attributed to Israel. If so, this would be an escalation in the shadow war between Israel and Iran. The Israeli military has not confirmed or denied its involvement in the strikes on Sunday. 

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Update: Progress with North Korea, But Caution Ahead

This weekend marked the first time a North Korean leader stepped foot in the South. At a peace summit, North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un and South Korean President Moon announced a public closure of North Korea’s main nuclear test site, as well as a joint-declaration to formally end the Korean War. The easing of tensions between the two countries, as a result of North Korea’s nuclear program, has shown measurable progress, though skeptics urge caution over how symbolic these actions could be. North Korea has previously deceived the international community over its nuclear weapons program and experts argue there is little chance the North plans to give up its weapons entirely, despite what Kim has proposed. In a statement at the summit, Kim Jung-Un said that if the United States guarantees not to attack North Korea, it would have no reason to acquire them. Concerns are also mounting over a possible break down in the peace process as the United States and North Korea face tough negotiations surrounding denuclearization and economic relief. President Trump will travel to North Korea next month to discuss these issues with Kim Jung-Un.

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Southlake Couple Charged For Forced Labor

Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, both 57 and of Southlake, Texas, were charged with forced labor on Thursday after a young woman they had allegedly enslaved for over 16 years escaped from their home with some help from neighbors.  The couple has deep political connections to the country of Guinea, as Mohamed Toure is the son of the first president of the African country.  The couple allegedly brought the victim from Guinea to Texas 18 years ago when she was just 5 years old, and has since subjected her to emotional and physical abuse.  The couple faces up to 20 years each in prison.

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New Royal Baby Boy

There is a new royal baby. The Duchess of Cambridge Catherine and Prince William have a new son, born Monday. The couple’s child was born at 11 a.m. local time at St. Mary’s Hospital. According to the Palace, the son and Catherine are doing well. The family is overjoyed at the announcement. Prince William left the hospital to get their other children, George and Charlotte, to bring them back to the hospital. A golden easel bearing a framed notice was on display in front of Buckingham Palace. The bulletin is on display for 24 hours. This bulletin notice dates back to 1837.

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Collision in Toronto Leaves 9 Dead, Many Injured

The driver of a van collided into a group of pedestrians on a busy street in the North York area of downtown Toronto Monday. The suspect drove through the crowd on the sidewalk for about a mile; nine people are dead and 16 are injured. The driver has been taken into custody, but Toronto police have not released the driver’s name. While the motive behind the attack is unknown, sources believe that the actions seemed to be intentional. Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed his condolences saying, “My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the front-line responders who are working to help those injured.”

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Cuba's President is No Longer a Castro

Miguel Díaz-Canel is officially Cuba’s president. This transition marks the first time in over 40 years that the country has not been led by a Castro. Fidel Castro served as president from 1976 to 2008 and his brother Raúl from 2008 until Thursday, when he stepped down. Raúl will remain the head of Cuba’s Communist Party, leaving many to wonder how much power the new president will truly have. Díaz-Canel served as the minister of education and then as the first vice president before being unanimously elected as Castro’s successor by Cuba’s National Assembly.

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Airstrikes on Syria: What You Need to Know

A collation of American, British, and French forces carried out a series of airstrikes on the Syrian capital of Damascus early Saturday morning. The strikes, which targeted chemical weapon facilities, were in response to the Assad regime’s widely-condemned decision to use chemical weapons on civilian populations in rebel held territory. Syria, as well as Russia and Iran, were quick to denounce the coalition airstrikes and moved to have the United Nations Security Council label the move as an illegal act of aggression on Syria. The Security Council rejected the resolution condemning the airstrikes, as it was unable to garner necessary support within the chamber. The strikes, which targeted three facilities, were intentionally intense but brief, as to not drag the West into war with Russia and Iran, both of whom have troops deployed in Syria. The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Hayley, indicated that new sanctions on Russia for their armed support of the Assad regime were likely coming this week.

To read more about the airstrikes, click here. To read The Hop’s initial coverage of the chemical attacks, click here

Confirmed: Nerve Agent Used on Former Spy

On Thursday, experts confirmed that the poison used on Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 was a nerve agent called novichok. The Skripals were in Salisbury, England when they were poisoned, and while his daughter was released this month, Sergei is still in the hospital. Sergei is a former Russian double agent who worked for England, pointing towards Russia as the perpetrator of the attack. Russia has denied claims that it was involved. The nerve agent was identified by experts as having been developed in the Soviet Union, and this attack marks the first time since World War II that a nerve agent has been deployed in Europe. The event has deeply worsened ties between England and Russia, with both countries expelling diplomats in retribution.

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Plot Twist: Trump and the TPP?

President Trump proposed rejoining the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership on Thursday, a pact he dubbed a “horrible deal” on the campaign trail. The TPP aimed to encourage trade between twelve countries that border the Pacific Ocean by reducing tariffs and forming deep economic ties among the nations in hopes of one day creating a common market. One of the president’s core campaign promises was to get the US out of the TPP, which he did days after entering office. Now Trump is reconsidering his stance as a result of complaints from Republican lawmakers. Although the future of U.S. involvement in TPP is uncertain, the presidential Twitter account should bring clarity to the situation in the days to come.

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Night owls have an increased mortality rate

A new study in the United Kingdom has found night owls have an increased mortality rate. The study, published Thursday, states those who classify as “definite evening types” have a 10% increased mortality rate and increase in having diabetes, neurological disorders, gastrointestinal issues and psychological problems. The associate professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Kristen Knutson, says there is a mismatch between a night owl’s body clock and the external world. If their schedules are irregular, this can cause major health issues. The risk of death was not increased for morning people or those with a slight preference to the evening.

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Suspects Arrested for Planned Berlin Half Marathon Attack

Six people were arrested Sunday on suspicion of planning a “crime” during the Berlin Half Marathon. According to the prosecutors’ and police’s joint statement, the suspects, between 18 and 21 years old, were in the process of planning a crime in coordination with the race. The lead suspect planned a knife attack said the German newspaper, Die Welt. He also could have known the Tunisian who drove through the Berlin Christmas market in 2016. Everything went smoothly at the half marathon as extra security was present since the van attack in Münster Saturday.

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Denuclearization on the Table for North Korea

For the first time, North Korea delegates have told the United States that they are prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un meets with President Donald Trump in the coming months.  The two sides are planning on meeting together during a summit planned for May, though an exact date and venue have yet to be chosen.  A meeting between the two would be the first ever between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader.  South Korea officials have been encouraged by these talks, with one official saying the development was “positive”.

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48 Dead in Syrian Chemical Attack, US Vows Strong Response

At least 48 civilians are confirmed dead from a suspected chemical strike in Douma, Syria. The perpetrator of such an attack is widely perceived to be Syria’s armed forces as the civil war enters into its seventh year. President Trump condemned the use of chemical weapons and signaled out Russia, Iran, and Syria in a tweet, stating there “will be a big price to pay” for their support of this operation. Republicans and Democrats are now urging the President to back up his condemnation by authorizing new air strikes on the Syrian government, similar to last year’s strikes after the Assad government bombed a civil population with sarin gas. Russia and Syria are currently denying the existence of an attack, calling it a “fabrication” but photos and videos of the attack are circulating through social media. The United States is currently leading a loose international coalition of forces opposed to the Assad government, but the President has recently announced he plans to withdraw the United States from the conflict.                                                                                           

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Driver Plows into Crowd in Germany

A driver of a small truck crashed into a crowd of people in Munster, Germany on Saturday, killing two and injuring 20 more.  Immediately after the crash, the driver killed himself.  Authorities say they are also investigating a “suspicious item” found inside the truck, but a motive is still unknown.  Police have urged people to stop speculating about the crash on social media, and Chancellor Angela Merkel tweeted that they will do “everything possible to investigate the act and to support the families of the victims.” 

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U.S. and China Exchange Tariffs, Fears of Trade War Increase

This week, the United States and China announced a new round of tariffs in what some economists fear could result in a trade war. On Tuesday, the US Trade Representative announced tariffs on roughly 1,300 Chinese goods, taking strong aim at China’s growing high-tech exports. In retaliation, China announced tariffs on more than 100 American imports ranging from soybeans to planes and automobiles. The Chinese ambassador to the United States stressed negotiations were preferable, but China would be forced to fight back against any new tariffs. The President then tweeted that the United States cannot lose from a trade war with China as it was already lost “many years ago”. The new Chinese tariffs target regional economies with high Trump support such as farming states and manufacturing plants in the South.

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The War to Build a 5G Network

Recently, the Council on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) blocked a hostile takeover of technology giant Qualcomm by its Singapore based rival Broadcom. CFIUS cited national security concerns as Qualcomm competes heavily in building the latest 5G network against Chinese based Huawei. They fear a takeover by Broadcom could result in reduced research and development for the American company as it competes abroad. In response, the Chinese government stalled Qualcomm’s bid to takeover NXP Semiconductors as tensions between the two nations heighten over tariffs on Chinese goods, including high-tech sectors. Chinese Huawei and American Qualcomm are the only two fierce competitors building a global 5G network.

 

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North Korea and China Secretly Meet in Beijing

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un secretly met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an unannounced visit to Beijing, confirming last week’s rumors of them meeting after a mysterious armored train arrived in the city. This trip marks the first time Kim Jong-Un travels outside North Korea and meets with another head of state since he came to power in 2011. While it is not known what the two discussed, some saw the visit as a quest for approval or advice from China. Yang Xiyu, one of China’s leading experts on North Korea, deems that North Korea is trying to repair their “deeply strained” relations with China. The meeting is a significant development in North Korea’s global relations, as many are watching to see if the North will concede on President Trump's demands of denuclearization, and as Mr. Kim has suggested openness to new ties with South Korea.

 

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US Expels Russian Diplomats

The United States and European Union announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats Monday. This announcement is in response to the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in England organized by the Kremlin. The ex-Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned and remain in the hospital. The U.S. plans to dismiss 60 diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle. The Russians who are expelled have seven days to leave the country. The White House said in a statement these “actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security.” The Seattle consulate is closing specifically because of its location near a U.S. submarine base.

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Missiles Intercepted over Saudi Arabia

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired seven missiles at four targets in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.  All seven missiles were intercepted and destroyed by the Saudi Air Defense Forces before they were able to strike their intended targets.  One man was killed from the falling missile debris.  The attack was a product of the civil war in Yemen, in which the Houthi rebels are seeking to overthrow the Saudi and US-backed government.  After past missile attacks from the Houthis, Saudi Arabia has responded with airstrikes on the Yemeni city of Sanaa, which is under the control of the Houthis.  They are expected to respond similarly this time as well. 

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Siberian Shopping Mall Fire Leaves 37 Dead

A fire that began on the top floor of the four story Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo killed 37 people and has left 69 missing. 40 of those missing are children. According to Tass, a State news agency, 100 people were evacuated and 20 people were saved from the burning building. The fire has been contained now, but a criminal case has been opened to investigate.

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