France, EU, UN Condemns Syria’s Chemical Attack In Rebel-Held Town

At least 85 people were killed in the chlorine gas attack in a Syrian rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital, Damascus, on Saturday.

Among those killed were many women and children who had sought refuge in the basements of buildings to escape heavy bombardment by pro-government forces, according to a statement by rescue workers and medical staff.

Commenting on the incidents, the European Union called for an international response to the attack.

“The evidence points towards yet another chemical attack by the regime,” the bloc said in a statement.

“It is a matter of grave concern that chemical weapons continue to be used, especially on civilians. The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and calls for an immediate response by the international community.”

The EU also called on the UN Security Council to re-establish its checks to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks and on Russia and Iran – the Syrian government’s closest allies – to use their influence with al-Assad to prevent further attacks.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France strongly condemned attacks and bombings by Syrian government forces in the last 24 hours in Douma, adding they were a “gross violation of international humanitarian law.

He called for the United Nations Security Council to meet quickly to examine the situation saying that France would work with allies to verify reports that chemical weapons were used.

Referring to President Emmanuel Macron’s warning that France could strike unilaterally if there was a deadly chemical attack, Le Drian said that Paris would assume all its responsibilities in the fight against the proliferation of chemical weapons.

In recent years, the Syrian government has been accused of using chemical weapons as a tool against the armed opposition.

Aljazeera

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Trump Picks Personal Doctor Ronny Jackson To Replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin

United States President Donald Trump has announced the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and picked the presidential doctor to replace him.

Thanking Mr Shulkin in a tweet, he said he intended to nominate Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, who gave him his first medical as president in January.

Unnamed officials told Reuters Mr Shulkin had become a distraction due to speculation about his future.

A Pentagon official, Robert Wilkie, will be the acting secretary.

It is the latest in a series of departures from Mr Trump’s cabinet.

This month alone, he has replaced his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and National Security Advisor, HR McMaster, while his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, also left following discord over Mr Trump’s plans to impose trade tariffs on steel and aluminium.

BBC

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Malala Returns To Pakistan For First Time Since Shooting

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has returned to Pakistan for the first time since being shot by Taliban militants.

Ms Yousafzai, now aged 20 and a vocal human rights activist, was shot in the head by a gunman for campaigning for female education in 2012.

She is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Details of the trip have been kept secret “in view of the sensitivity”, an official told AFP news agency.

Pakistani television broadcast video that appeared to show her with her parents at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport under tight security.

The trip is expected to last four days and she arrived with officials from her Malala Fund group, local media report.

It has not been confirmed if she will visit her family’s hometown of Swat in the country’s rural north-west during her visit.

BCC

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Vladimir Putin Elected Russia’s President For Fourth Time

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin is set to serve his country for another six (6) years after ‘winning’ an election with no real opposition’.

Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two (2) decades, stood against seven (7) other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt, AFP reports.

The exit poll by state-owned pollster VTsIOM at 1,200 voting stations around Russia projected that Putin had won 73.9 percent of the vote, up from 64 percent six years ago.

The central election commission said turnout was 60 percent after the authorities used both the carrot and the stick to boost participation.

A report by AFP says selfie competitions, giveaways, food festivals and children’s entertainers were laid on at polling booths in a bid to create a festive atmosphere around the election.

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Russia Fires Back At UK, Announces Plan To Expel 23 British Diplomats

The Russian foreign ministry announced Saturday it will expel 23 British diplomats within a week in a tit-for-tat response to London’s measures over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter.

“Twenty three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week,” the foreign ministry said in a statement after summoning the British ambassador Laurie Bristow.

Details soon…

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Air Hostess Falls Out Of Plane While Preparing For Boarding

An air hostess is seriously injured after falling from an Emirates aircraft’s emergency exit in Uganda.

The woman was rushed to hospital from Entebbe International Airport, near the capital Kampala, after falling from the doorway on Wednesday.

The Boeing 777 had landed shortly before, and was preparing to welcome passengers on board before departing for Dubai.

The circumstances surrounding the fall are being investigated, with conflicting reports emerging about the incident.

However, the Dubai-based airline has confirmed the fall.

“We can confirm that a member of our cabin crew unfortunately fell off from an open door while preparing the aircraft for boarding on flight EK729 from Entebbe on 14 March. The injured crew member was brought to the nearest hospital.

We are providing all possible support and care for the affected crew, and will extend our full co-operation to the authorities in their investigation.”

BBC

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Mali Militia Offers To Return US Vehicle After Attack

A Malian militia has offered to return an American vehicle abandoned in a deadly attack which left four US special forces and four Nigerien soldiers dead.

The four wheel drive vehicle, which is understood to have been abandoned during the ambush in Niger in October, has come into the hands of The Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), a Tuareg militia group.

MSA say they seized the vehicle, along with guns belonging to the US, during a clash with “armed bandits” on the border at the start of this week.

It is unclear if the bandits had any relation to the Islamic State militant group, an affiliate of which claimed to be behind last year’s attack.

MSA, which shared photos of its haul, has now offered to return it to the US “through legal channels”.

Colonel Mark Cheadle said the US military’s Africa Command was investigating the claim.

The October attack, which saw a joint force come under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, marked the first time the US has lost soldiers in Niger.

BBC

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UK To Expel 23 Russian Diplomats Over Spy Poisoning

The United Kingdom will expel 23 Russian diplomats from the country after concluding that the Russian state is responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.

This will be the single biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats in over 30 years, Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday. They will have only one week to leave.
“For those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple. You are not welcome here,” she said in a statement to the House of Commons following a meeting of Britain’s National Security Council.
The Skripals are critically ill in hospital after being exposed to the nerve agent, known as Novichok and developed in Russia, on March 4. Thirty-eight other people in Salisbury were seen by medics after the exposure. One, a police officer, remains hospitalized.
May said Monday it was highly likely that Moscow was behind the poisoning. The Russian ambassador to the UK was summoned to the UK Foreign Office to explain whether the attack was directed by Russian authorities, or whether
Moscow had lost control of the nerve agent.
Russia denies any involvement in the attack.
CNN
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel Takes oath Of Office For Fourth Term

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday took the oath of office in parliament, launching her fourth-term government in Europe’s biggest economy.

Lawmakers in Berlin’s glass-domed Reichstag had elected her with a margin of 364-315 with nine abstentions. Merkel was then formally appointed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before taking the oath of office in the lower house.

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British Scientist Stephen Hawking Dies At Age 76

Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, whose mental genius and physical disability made him a household name and inspiration across the globe, has died at age 76, his family said Wednesday.

Hawking, whose 1988 book “A Brief History of Time” became an unlikely worldwide bestseller and cemented his superstar status, dedicated his life to unlocking the secrets of the Universe.

His genius and wit won over fans from far beyond the rarified world of astrophysics, earning comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

Hawking died peacefully at his home in the British university city of Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” Professor Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement carried by Britain’s Press Association news agency.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

Hawking defied predictions he would only live for a few years after developing a form of motor neurone disease in 1964 at the age of 22.

The illness gradually robbed him of mobility, leaving him confined to a wheelchair, almost completely paralysed and unable

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President Trump Fires Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson

President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.

The change of Trump’s top diplomat comes as the US is engaging in delicate, high-stakes negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program and the prospect of Trump meeting Kim Jong Un this spring.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he respected Tillerson’s “intellect” and said he “got along well with Rex.”
“I think Rex will be much happier now,” Trump said.
Tillerson did not speak to Trump and is unaware of the reason behind his firing, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein said.
Sources close to the President say it was clear Tillerson didn’t support Trump. They say Tillerson wanted to handle foreign policy his own way, without the President. Trump didn’t feel that Tillerson backed him, a source told CNN.
CNN
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Burkina Faso Coup Plotters On Trial

The trial of the alleged masterminds behind 2015’s attempted coup in Burkina Faso is opening in the capital Ouagadougou.

More than 80 people are due to appear in court in a trial described as a test for the country’s judiciary.

Hundreds of members of the security forces have deployed around the court for the opening of the trial.

No less than 84 defendants will appear in court, including two prominent generals, Gilbert Diendere and Djibril Bassole, close allies of former president Blaise Compaore.

Under the former regime, Gen Diendere was the head of the presidential guard.

Along with soldiers of this elite unit, he is accused of attempting to overthrow the transitional government of Burkina Faso, just one year after the departure of long time ruler Blaise Compaore.

General Diendere and his co-defendants are charged with treason, undermining State security and murder.

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