Government workers, residents and environmentalists try to help to a pod of sperm whales stranded in shallow water in Aceh Besar, Aceh, Indonesia on Monday.

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Government workers, residents and environmentalists try to help to a pod of sperm whales stranded in shallow water in Aceh Besar, Aceh, Indonesia on Monday.

Antara Foto/Ampelsa via Reuters

Ten sperm whales that had beached themselves in the Aceh Province of Indonesia were spotted early Monday. Professional rescue teams and local volunteers worked into the night and were able to release six of them. The remaining four died.

Officials still don’t know what caused the whales to strand themselves.

Conservation groups sent a team of at least 50 into the water to try and save the whales with the help of people nearby who were willing to lend a hand.

“Some people got injured on the coral and the high tide was also an obstacle but we tried our best,” Sapto Aji Prabowo, head of the Aceh conservation agency, told Reuters.

The teams released seven of the whales in the morning but one washed back to shore after dying, The Jakarta Post reports. They used boats, ropes and tarps to free the whales from the shallows and tow them back to the open ocean.

Officials say injury and exhaustion led to the four whale deaths. Scientists will continue to monitor the survivors using drones to ensure they don’t wash back to shore, risking death or further injury.

World Wildlife Fund Indonesia official Aryo Tjiptohandono told the Post that keeping crowds under control is essential during rescues. The stress of seeing masses of people, Tjiptohandono said, can negatively affect whale health.

The challenge now is to bury the corpses of the dead whales before they bloat. Gases inside the whales can cause their bodies to explode, which could spread disease. The World Wildlife Fund of Indonesia tweeted that they will perform autopsies to try and find out what caused the beaching.

Beachings are uncommon in Indonesia. But in the archipelagian nation of more than 17,000 islands, it’s not unheard of. A group of 29 pilot whales were stranded in 2016 on the eastern shore of Java — the island where the capital city, Jakarta, is located.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists sperm whales as endangered species. Before worldwide whaling practices decreased the population, it stood at about 1.1 million. Now it’s an estimated 360,000, according to the American Cetacean Society. Sperm whales live in every ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Adult males can reach almost 60 feet in length and weigh up to 45 tons. They’re the largest of the toothed whales, and are most famously portrayed in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/14/564054958/volunteers-save-beached-whales-on-indonesian-shore?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

An armored personnel carrier seals off a main road to the presidential office in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday.

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An armored personnel carrier seals off a main road to the presidential office in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday.

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Updated at 4:10 a.m. ET on Wednesday

Zimbabwe’s Army Commander, Constantino Chiwenga threatened at a Monday news conference in Harare to “step in” to calm political tensions over the president’s firing of his deputy.

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Zimbabwe’s Army Commander, Constantino Chiwenga threatened at a Monday news conference in Harare to “step in” to calm political tensions over the president’s firing of his deputy.

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Zimbabwe’s army said Wednesday that it has seized control in what is being described as “a bloodless transition” that has apparently pushed aside President Robert Mugabe. The military said he and his family are “safe and sound.”

Armored vehicles and soldiers patrolled streets in the capital, Harare, amid loud explosions overnight. Soldiers reportedly took control of the headquarters of the national broadcaster, ZBC, and an army spokesman said on air “this is not a military takeover.”

“We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe], who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice,” according to the statement.

However, just a week after Mugabe, 93, fired longtime vice president and liberation war veteran Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of disloyalty and disrespect, an account purporting to belong to the ruling ZANU PF party tweeted that Mnangagwa had been installed as the party’s interim president.

The apparent putsch, which the military is refusing to call a coup, marks the first time in Mugabe’s 37-year rule that a public rift was visible between the military and Mugabe — the world’s oldest head-of-state, who has been in office since the end of white minority rule in 1980.

Initially, the governing party accused Army Chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonous conduct,” but the party’s account later tweeted that: “There was no coup,” but instead “a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested.” Apparently referring to Mugabe, the tweet said “an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife [was] detained.”

The ZANU PF Twitter account retweeted a message from the party’s youth league that said: “The army is simply effecting a National Democratic Project and it’s doing so with peaceful aplomb.”

In the army’s overnight broadcast, the spokesman, Gen. Sibusiso Moyo, said the military expected “normalcy” to return as soon as the army had completed its “mission.”

Chiwenga made an unprecedented announcement Monday that the army was prepared to intervene to halt party infighting and the purging of veterans, such as Vice President Mnangagwa, who fought Zimbabwe’s independence war.

Mnangagwa had been tipped as a likely successor to Mugabe, but fell foul of the president’s powerful wife, Grace Mugabe. His removal was widely perceived as a prelude to Mugabe promoting the politically ambitious but controversial first lady to one of two vice presidential posts.

In a statement attributed to Mnangagwa at the time he reportedly left for self-imposed exile, he promised to return to Zimbabwe to “lead” the country, warning Mugabe that the ZANU PF party was not his personal property.

The U.S. embassy closed to the public and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British embassy issued a similar warning, and noted “reports of unusual military activity.”

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/14/564237707/tensions-increase-in-zimbabwe-as-troops-reportedly-patrol-the-capital?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world



ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When it comes to shop-till-you-drop capitalism, there’s no match for China.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “DOUBLE ELEVEN DAY”)

PHARRELL WILLIAMS: (Singing) If your friends are asking where you’ve been today…

SIEGEL: Pharrell Williams performing Friday in China to promote online shopping.

ELISE HU, HOST:

Move over, Black Friday. Step aside, Cyber Monday. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has you beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “DOUBLE ELEVEN DAY”)

WILLIAMS: (Singing) Double 11 day…

HU: Every year on November 11, the company throws a sales event called Singles Day. They go all-out promoting it, from Pharrell to an appearance by actress Nicole Kidman with Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

SIEGEL: And it works. On this year’s Singles Day, the Chinese spent a lot of singles, a lot of singles.

SETH ARCHER: Alibaba sold $25 billion worth of products in a single day, a 24-hour period.

SIEGEL: Twenty-five billion dollars – Business Insider market reporter Seth Archer puts it this way.

ARCHER: Absolutely insane for its sheer scale. We think about Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday. If you add the most recent totals from all of those holidays, you get about 30 percent of the total Singles Day for Alibaba.

HU: Singles Day wasn’t always a bankable holiday. It was created by Chinese university students as a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day.

ARCHER: November 11 or 11, 11, one, one, one, one – lots of singles.

HU: But it didn’t take long for Alibaba to co-opt the holiday for its own purposes.

SIEGEL: Singles Day may be a celebration of singlehood, but China’s middle-class families are helping Alibaba go to the bank. The country has more than 500 million middle-class consumers, and that number is only expected to grow.

HU: While sales on Singles Day surpass big U.S. sales, Seth Archer says Alibaba might have learned something from Amazon.

ARCHER: If you think of Amazon during its Prime Day, you had to have an Amazon Prime account before you could take part in any of the deals. It’s the same sort of thing for Alibaba.

HU: He says $25 billion is impressive. The other goal turns Singles Day buyers into committed year-round customers.

(SOUNDBITE OF AVIONICS’ “SHORES”)

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/13/563894827/alibaba-chinas-e-commerce-giant-made-more-than-25-billion-on-singles-day?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world



ELISE HU, HOST:

After 13 years and controversy, U.N. peacekeepers have left Haiti. The force was credited with bringing stability to the Caribbean island, but the troops also brought a cholera epidemic and were embroiled in sex scandals. Now that they’re gone, Haiti must provide the main security for the country for the first time in more than a decade. In the last part of her series about Haiti and U.N. peacekeepers, NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports on the country’s future without the multinational troops.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Dozens of men run through the streets high in the hills above Port-au-Prince drumming and protesting. They chant, we are in trouble, and we want the current president, Jovenel Moise, to leave office.

CLAUDE: (Speaking Creole).

KAHN: “Moise is destroying our country,” says this protester, who only gave his name is Claude. Protesters are angry about the most recent budget that raised taxes dramatically. Police quickly contained demonstrators and reopened streets without bringing out water cannons or tear gas used in previous demonstrations. Now that U.N. peacekeepers have left the country, such crowd control is up to Haiti’s national police force. Esmail Luna watched the protest from his motorcycle taxi stand.

ESMAIL LUNA: (Speaking Creole).

KAHN: “I don’t support President Moise or his tax hike,” says Luna. But he says he doesn’t think he should be removed from office either. He doesn’t want any more chaos. Haitians have had a rocky run with democracy. There have been more than 20 military coups since Haiti gained independence from the French in 1804. The most recent was in 2004, when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced out of the country. U.N. troops were brought in to keep the peace. They stayed more than a decade until last month, when the U.N. finally pulled the troops. Taxi driver Luna says it’s not a problem for him that the peacekeepers left.

LUNA: (Speaking Creole).

KAHN: “Though,” he says, “they should have done more for the country during their time here.” President Jovenel Moise agrees. In an interview with NPR, he says along with the introduction of cholera to the country, he believes the biggest failure of the U.N.’s mission was not giving more training to the country’s police force.

PRESIDENT JOVENEL MOISE: (Speaking Creole).

KAHN: “The U.N. has police here with a lot of experience and investigative expertise. Our police force,” he says, “has none. It would have been a good thing for them to give us that during the 13 years they were here.” The U.N.’s newly arrived deputy special representative in Haiti, Mamadou Diallo, says the world body is not abandoning Haiti.

MAMADOU DIALLO: We humbly recognize and Haitians along us and the government of Haiti that there is still work to be done. A lot has been done, but we can still continue to work.

KAHN: While U.N. troops have left, a small 1,200 strong U.N. police force will remain to help strengthen the national police and judicial institutions. The new mission is expected to stay at least two years. Haiti’s leaders aren’t waiting for their police to get more training. They’ve decided to relaunch their national army.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

KAHN: At a military camp in Leogane, about an hour outside the capital, dozens of soldiers practice drills.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: (Shouting in foreign language).

KAHN: A captain yells, you sound like a bunch of pregnant women. Shout like men. This group, a little more than a hundred, are technically not part of the army. The army was disbanded in 1994 following years of complaints of horrific human rights abuses. Human rights advocates worry the president is building back the army now to protect his needs over the country’s. Pierre Esperance, a leading human rights advocate, says Haitians don’t object to reinstating the army.

PIERRE ESPERANCE: (Speaking Creole).

KAHN: “But,” he says, “he must make sure that this army has a clear objective and follows the law.” Critics also wonder how the country, the poorest in the hemisphere, will pay the soldiers. That didn’t deter hundreds of Haitians that recently lined up at a recruitment fair. President Moise has announced he will officially reinstate the army this Friday. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/13/563894834/haitian-president-says-infamous-national-army-should-be-reinstated-as-u-n-leaves?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Church of England guidance for schools encourages a “loving and hospitable community [where] pupils can explore their identity without fear of harm, judgement or being ostracized.”

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Church of England guidance for schools encourages a “loving and hospitable community [where] pupils can explore their identity without fear of harm, judgement or being ostracized.”

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The Church of England is advising teachers to allow and encourage children to explore their gender identity.

In guidance issued Sunday the Church’s education office told its almost 5,000 schools to allow students “to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity.”

“Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God. We must avoid at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem,” said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in a forward to the guidance.

The 52-page document Valuing All God’s Children outlines 10 recommendations for schools such as training for faculty and staff so they are ready to offer pastoral support for students who experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying as well as writing curricula that “offer opportunities for pupils to learn to value themselves and their bodies.”

Teachers are also advised to learn how to properly identify and document bullying behavior.

In addition to the concrete guidance, the document goes out of its way to highlight “primary and secondary schools as places where students can explore their identity in any form it takes.”

“Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision. For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining,” one passage reads.

LGBT leaders applauded the decision. The Guardian reports:

“The guidance met with outrage in some quarters, drawing [skeptical] newspaper headlines and furious commentary from some conservatives. But the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the guidance was ‘big progress for a church that traditionally and historically has been hostile to LGBT rights.’

” ‘The new guidance is positive,’ Tatchell said. ‘It affirms diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, supporting pupils who are different. It acknowledges their right to explore, experiment and express without denigration.’ “

The newspaper does go on to report that detractors include conservative Christian groups and television personality and journalist Piers Morgan.

“I’ve got a six-year-old girl, she doesn’t know what gender identity is, yet teachers are now asking a five-year-old child: ‘How are you feeling today? Do you feel male or female?’” Morgan said, according to The Guardian.

The guidance references findings from an LGBT rights group Stonewall and its School Report which surveyed more than 3,700 LGBT students across Britain about their interactions at school with peers and teachers.

The report found that while reports of overall bullying against LGBT students have gone down since 2007, it was still present in the experience of some students. Seven in 10 surveyed students reported that their schools have openly stated the homophobic and biphobic bullying is wrong. Four in 10 said their schools come out against transphobic behavior.

“All bullying has a profoundly negative impact on children, and it is never acceptable,” a Stonewall spokesperson told The Guardian.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/13/563724346/in-guidance-to-teachers-church-of-england-targets-anti-lgbt-bullying?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world



MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So let’s go back overseas now to hear more about what else President Trump is doing. As we mentioned earlier, he is in the Philippines attending the first of two Southeast Asian summits. This is the final stop on what was already a lengthy trip, which the White House extended by one day so Trump could join other leaders at an East Asia strategic session in Manila. NPR’s Scott Horsley has this report.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Trump began his day by presiding over the signing of commercial contracts in Vietnam. He and his Vietnamese counterpart watched as CEOs signed deals for aircraft engines, commercial trucks and a liquid natural gas terminal. Trump sees opportunities for additional sales to Vietnam of U.S. farm products and financial services.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We look to your growing middle class as a key market for American goods and services.

HORSLEY: Vietnam is one of the countries that was disappointed early this year when Trump dropped out of a big regional trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Trump argues such deals have been economic losers in the past for the United States. He insists the U.S. can drive a harder bargain if it negotiates with countries one-on-one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We look forward to achieving a bilateral trade agreement with partners who abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade. Two very important words – fair and reciprocal. It hasn’t been that way for the United States almost at all, and we’re changing that. And we’re changing it rapidly.

HORSLEY: But no bilateral trade deals were announced on this trip. And the other countries that signed on to the TPP are not waiting around. At a summit meeting in Vietnam this weekend, trade ministers from 11 other countries said they’d agreed on core principles of their own trade deal – one that leaves the United States on the outside looking in. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping is lobbying for what he calls a free-trade zone of the Pacific. Mireya Solis of the Brookings Institution says the combination paints a powerful picture of America’s shrinking influence in the region.

MIREYA SOLIS: I think that the decision of President Trump to abandon TPP was a godsend to China. He basically allowed China to portray itself as the champion of multilateralism. But what is interesting is that this has actually motivated other countries in the region to step up. And this is what is driving the TPP relaunch.

HORSLEY: Back-to-back summit meetings in Manila give the White House another chance to show the U.S. wants to remain a player in the Asia-Pacific. Trump originally planned to skip the second meeting known as the East Asia Summit. But after facing criticism, he changed his mind and decided to stay. Trump will also be the first U.S. leader to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Barack Obama famously canceled a meeting with Duterte after the Philippine leader crudely warned the former president not to criticize his human rights record. Amy Searight at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says that’s not likely to be an issue for President Trump.

AMY SEARIGHT: The administration described President Trump’s relationship with Duterte as very warm, which angered human rights groups that have been very concerned about the thousands of extra-judicial killings in the very brutal war on drugs that President Duterte launched when he came into office.

HORSLEY: National security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters if Trump does raise human rights concerns with Duterte, he’ll do so quietly. McMaster added, how much does it help to yell about these problems? Scott Horsley, NPR News, traveling with the president.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/12/563660731/on-final-stop-of-asia-trip-trump-to-meet-with-controversial-philippine-president?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world



MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One more bit of international news for you. Last week, Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, suddenly resigned from his post in a televised address from Saudi Arabia. The resignation left Lebanon in shock and fueled speculation that he had been forced to resign by the Saudi royal family. Lebanon’s president even suggested that Hariri was being detained in Saudi Arabia against his will. But in his first live interview, Hariri denied these allegations, and he even suggested that he might not quit as prime minister after all. NPR’s Ruth Sherlock joins us now from Beirut. Ruth, thank you so much for speaking with us.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: So this is the first time that Hariri has broken his silence since he resigned. Tell us what he said, please.

SHERLOCK: Yes, it was a very strange interview on Future TV. That’s the television associated with his political party. And he just tantalized his audience. He looked pale and exhausted. And at the beginning, he seemed to stick with the same script of his resignation speech last week. He denied that he’d been held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Let’s take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER SAAD AL-HARIRI: (Speaking in foreign language).

SHERLOCK: Here he’s saying that he will return to Lebanon very soon – within a matter of days, in fact, and formally tender his resignation. But then part of the way through the interview, he shifts gears and suddenly says, actually, he might not resign after all. He says he might be tempted to stay if Hezbollah – that’s the Lebanese militia and political group that’s sponsored by Iran – meets certain demands. Hezbollah’s been fighting in Syria, but they’re based in Lebanon and also in Iraq. And Hariri said that he’d remain prime minister essentially if they stop doing this, if they keep Lebanon out of regional conflicts.

MARTIN: Do you have any sense of what caused all this?

SHERLOCK: Well, it seems clear from the reporting on this story now that Hariri was in some way coerced to make that first resignation speech. So the theory is that the Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, actually made this as a sort of power play to attack Hezbollah and Iran. But it’s caused this huge international backlash. And the U.S. and the U.K. and other European countries are all denouncing what’s happening and calling for stability in Lebanon. Maha Yahya, who’s the director of the Middle East Center at the Carnegie international think tank, she told me that she thinks this new strategy of saying that he doesn’t have to resign is kind of a way of everybody saving face.

MARTIN: Could you go back to a point that you made earlier where you mentioned that the Saudis may have intervened in Lebanon as a regional power play against Iran? Could you talk a little bit more about that?

SHERLOCK: Yes. So in Lebanon, Iran is backed by Hezbollah, and they’re a militia. They’re more powerful than the army here. They’re also a powerful political group. And they’ve got representation in the cabinet now. And the Saudis have never respected Hariri very much. And they saw him as being toothless against Hezbollah. So they thought that if you remove Hariri, you clear the way for saying that the Lebanese government and Hezbollah are one in the same, and you encourage countries who oppose Iran – that’s the U.S. and Israel – to crack down on Hezbollah there.

MARTIN: So can you give us a sense of how we should be looking at the next couple of days? I mean, what do you think the next steps will be?

SHERLOCK: Well, look. These demands by Hariri seem unrealistic. Hezbollah is hugely invested in the war in Syria. They’ve lost a large number of fighters there and in Iraq. And they’re so powerful at the moment here that they’re not just going to capitulate. But Hariri said this whole ordeal was intended as a positive shock. So the door has now been left open for some heavy backstage negotiations. So it – well, all remains to be seen really.

MARTIN: That’s NPR’s Ruth Sherlock in Beirut. Ruth, thank you.

SHERLOCK: Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/12/563660738/after-sudden-resignation-lebanons-prime-minister-says-he-will-return-very-soon?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Iraqis search for the trapped citizens in collapsed buildings after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Derbendihan district of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on Sunday.

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A magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck northern Iraq and parts of Iran has killed more than 140 people and injured at least 850 in Iran alone, according to state media there. It is the strongest quake to hit the region in years.

NPR’s Jane Arraf, reporting from the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, says that four people were confirmed dead in Darbandikhan in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. However, the quake struck after dark and authorities warned that the death toll was likely to rise.

Jane says “In Erbil, hospital authorities said dozens of people had been admitted for treatment. Buildings were shaking here. A lot of people rushed out of their houses into the street.”

Iraqis search for the trapped citizens over the collapsed buildings after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Derbendihan district of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on Sunday.

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Iraqis search for the trapped citizens over the collapsed buildings after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Derbendihan district of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on Sunday.

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Jane reports that engineers were checking for damage to the Darbandikhan dam and have informed people living near the river to leave. Officials at the larger Mosul dam said there were no immediate signs of damage.

Tremors were reportedly felt as far away as Baghdad and Tehran, she said.

Behnam Saeedi, a spokesman for Iran’s National Disaster Management Organization, said on state television that at least 141 people were killed in Iran and that more than 850 were injured.

“The night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas and some roads are also cut off… we are worried about remote villages,” Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in an interview on state television, according to Reuters.

The Associated Press quoting Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said rescue work was continuing overnight and would intensify come daybreak. AP quoted the semi-official ILNA news agency as saying at least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected by the earthquake.

Social media from Iran showed signs of damage — broken glass and collapsed structures.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was located about 150 miles northeast of Baghdad and 450 miles west of Tehran. Tremor could be felt in both capitals, reports said.

Reuters, quoting state media, says Kermanshah is the hardest-hit province in Iran and that nearly 100 victims come from a single town there — Sarpol-e Zahab, located about 10 miles from the Iraq border. The main hospital in the town was reported to have been heavily damaged.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/13/563679751/strong-quake-hits-near-iran-iraq-border-killing-scores?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Saturday.

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President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Saturday.

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Updated at 9:42 p.m. ET

President Trump told the White House press corps Saturday that he had had several brief conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific summit the two men were attending in Vietnam. During those conversations, Putin once again denied any interference in last year’s election, Trump said. And, the president said, he believed those denials.

“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said aboard Air Force One when asked whether he had discussed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election with Putin. “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”

“He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump added.

Putin has repeatedly denied that the Russian government had any role in interfering in the 2016 presidential race. But the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia did interfere, with an eye toward boosting Trump’s political chances and damaging Hillary Clinton’s. And CIA Director Mike Pompeo stands by the community’s assessment, CNN reported. “The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed,” the CIA said in a statement, according to CNN.

The latest conversation about the issue between Trump and Putin comes at a delicate time for the White House. Nearly two weeks ago, Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed a plea deal with George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign. Those court documents revealed contacts between Papadopoulos and Russians, including efforts by Papadopoulos to arrange meetings between officials of the campaign and representatives of the Russian government.

And Carter Page, another former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, recently testified before the House Intelligence Committee about his contacts with Russians during his tenure with the campaign.

J.D. Gordon, another foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, recently characterized both Papadopolous and Page as “peripheral members of a relatively peripheral advisory committee” to the campaign.

But the recent revelations about Russian contacts with the campaign’s foreign policy team have already caused some fallout for the administration. A onetime Trump campaign official withdrew his nomination for a post at the Department of Agriculture, in part because he was likely to face questions about the campaign’s contacts with Russia during his confirmation hearing. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to once again face questions about Russia and the Trump campaign at a congressional oversight hearing next week.

Asked Saturday whether he believes Putin’s denials, President Trump initially suggested the question of election interference needed to be set aside to focus on other concerns. “Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him,” Trump said. “I would rather have him get out of Syria; I would rather get to work … on the Ukraine.” And, “he could really help us on North Korea,” Trump pointed out.

But Trump also told reporters that he believes Putin’s repeated assertions that the Russian government did not interfere in last year’s election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump also said. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country,” Trump added.

With multiple ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the election, and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the White House is sensitive about any formal sit-down with Putin. Trump told reporters on his way to Asia that he thought a meeting with the Russian president was expected. But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said scheduling conflicts made such a meeting impossible.

Trump complained Saturday that attention to Russia’s interference had created what he called an “artificial barrier” to doing business with Putin.

“Having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing, especially as it relates to North Korea,” Trump told reporters. “It would take a lot of danger out of this world. It’s a dangerous time — this isn’t small stuff.”

Trump said he and Putin did not have time to discuss North Korea during their brief conversations over the weekend.

Trump’s remarks set off a round of criticism.

“There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community,” frequent Trump foil Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart,” McCain added, “To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.”

“You know who else is insulted by it, Mr. President? The American people,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said on Twitter, “You believe a foreign adversary over your own intelligence agencies.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., was equally blunt. “We must all call this what it is: absolute betrayal. Betrayal of those who serve us and betrayal of the oath to defend our democracy,” Swalwell posted on Twitter. The lawmaker is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and ranking member of its Subcommittee on the CIA and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

And legendary broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw asked on Twitter “Where is GOP outrage?”

As he frequently does, the president used Twitter to respond to the criticism as he began his day Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam. “Progress being made,” Trump said of his discussions with Putin. Then, Trump turned to his critics, calling them “haters and fools.”

Trump also mentioned “Crooked Hillary Clinton” and her effort to improve relations with Russia while secretary of state. And, Trump said, “Obama tried also, but he had zero chemistry with Putin.”

The president also told reporters Saturday that his conversations with Putin mainly concerned Syria. He and Putin later issued a joint statement reiterating their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria, as well as their commitment to a political solution to that country’s long-running civil war.

The statement says in part:

“The Presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They confirmed that the ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254. They also took note of President [Assad's] recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254.”

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/11/563481331/trump-putin-issue-joint-statement-on-defeating-syria?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

“Putin and his entourage are absolutely not interested in bad relations with America. They’re scared of that. But the circumstances are such that they can’t help but use anti-Americanism to strengthen their grip on power,” says Gennady Gudkov, an opposition politician formerly with the KGB, shown here in February.

Kommersant Photo/Kommersant via Getty Images


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Kommersant Photo/Kommersant via Getty Images

“Putin and his entourage are absolutely not interested in bad relations with America. They’re scared of that. But the circumstances are such that they can’t help but use anti-Americanism to strengthen their grip on power,” says Gennady Gudkov, an opposition politician formerly with the KGB, shown here in February.

Kommersant Photo/Kommersant via Getty Images

Gennady Gudkov, a retired KGB colonel, peered at me across his dark, vaulted office in an old Moscow manor house.

“I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone before,” he said. “About 10 years ago, Russia had the opportunity to seriously influence election results in France.”

Gudkov, then a Russian lawmaker for a pro-government party, says he was given damaging material on a French presidential candidate that could have tipped the election. Gudkov says he passed the information to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which told him that if the material leaked out, it would pose an “enormous, insane risk” for future relations with Paris.

There was no leak.

Today Gudkov is an opposition politician, who broke with the Kremlin during a wave of anti-government protests six years ago. But like President Vladimir Putin, Gudkov, 61, spent the dying days of the Soviet Union serving in the powerful Committee for State Security, better known by its Russian abbreviation KGB.

Even as the Kremlin categorically denies trying to influence the U.S. presidential election last year, Gudkov says he believes there were attempts to do so.

“Of course, the people who organized them did everything to hide the traces of such interference – and exclude the chance that the government’s role would be discovered,” Gudkov said.

He calls the influence campaign unprecedented and, citing his own experience, a dramatic change in Russian policy from just a decade ago.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union did try to influence politics in less developed countries, Gudkov says, but not in rival powers such as the United States, France or Great Britain.

So what changed?

“It was the fear that Hillary Clinton would come and take an even tougher stance toward Russia,” said Gudkov.

In particular, the personalized sanctions implemented after Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea were starting to squeeze the Russian elite.

“What we’re talking about is the new concept of so-called hybrid war, which a government wages but won’t admit to,” he said. “It’s extremely hard to prove.”

Alexander Lebedev, another KGB veteran, takes a different view.

From the 11th floor of his corporate headquarters in Moscow, Lebedev, 57, runs a business empire that includes Russia’s independent Novaya Gazeta and two London newspapers.

He smirked when I asked him if Russia is fighting a “hybrid war.”

“This is a John le Carré-type of invention: hybrid war. What kind of hybrid war is that? I mean, everybody is carrying on and exercising influence the way they can,” he said.

The technology may be new, Lebedev says, but Russia is only doing what all great powers have always done.

“It’s only fair to treat it as a phenomenon where all the major countries are using all the resources they can to influence others to follow their goals,” he said. “So why should it be one-sided – that the Americans are always right, and the Russians are always wrong?”

Russia’s involvement in the U.S. elections had three parts, according to Moscow political analyst Vladimir Frolov.

The first part was “legitimate hacking” — the electronic monitoring of foreign political actors that any intelligence agency engages in.

The second part had to do with leaking that information.

“When intelligence-gathering went to an influence operation, that was crossing the red line,” said Frolov. “Whether the release of data influenced the election is open. But it contributed to negative news.”

The third part was the use of Internet trolls on social media to sow confusion.

“It was about discrediting Hillary and creating chaos. Nobody expected Trump to win,” Frolov said. “It’s funny for Russians that 500-ruble ads on Facebook are being examined by Congress and that the U.S. is attaching so much value to amateurish trolling.”

A so-called “troll factory” in St. Petersburg wasn’t an intelligence operation or even a Kremlin project, said Frolov. Russian journalists believe the agency is funded by a local businessman with connections to Putin.

“It probably had no effect on the outcome of the U.S. elections, but made the people doing it seem important,” he said. “It was an initiative to curry favor [with the Kremlin]. The last thing they thought about was the impact it would have in the United States.”

Even if the influence on the election results was negligible, the collateral damage has been huge, with multiple U.S. investigations into Russian interference dragging relations to a new low.

Gudkov says the Kremlin is actually not seeking conflict with the West.

“In fact, Putin and his entourage are absolutely not interested in bad relations with America. They’re scared of that,” Gudkov said. “But the circumstances are such that they can’t help but use anti-Americanism to strengthen their grip on power.”

The blowback for Russia’s influence campaign may make even greater antagonism a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/11/11/563287218/what-was-russias-role-in-2016-u-s-election-2-former-kgb-officials-weigh-in?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world