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Lebanon police fire tear gas at protesters amid Beirut riots

Lebanon police fire tear gas at protesters amid Beirut riots Riot police fired tear gas and sprayed water cannon near parliament in Lebanon's capital Saturday to disperse thousands of protesters after riots broke out during a march against the ruling elite amid a severe economic crisis. The riots began when some protesters started throwing stones at police deployed near the parliament building while others removed street signs and metal barriers and hurled them at security forces.


Putin Says He Doesn’t Want Return to Soviet-Era Lifetime Leaders

Putin Says He Doesn’t Want Return to Soviet-Era Lifetime Leaders (Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Russian President Vladimir Putin said he favors keeping term limits in place, arguing against a return to the Soviet-era practice of lifetime leaders.Asked by a World War II veteran if he backed ending a ban on more than two presidential terms -- which would allow Putin to continue ruling after 2024, when he will be 71 -- the president said this would make it impossible to ensure an orderly transition of power.“It would be very worrying to return to the situation in the mid-1980s, when heads of state stayed in power until the end of their days, one after another,” Putin said on a visit to St. Petersburg to mark the 77th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad, according to the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.Putin proposed sweeping changes to the Russian constitution on Wednesday that would limit the powers of his successor as president by giving more authority to Parliament and the State Council, an advisory body, potentially allowing him to keep control of the country in another role. He also put forward a plan to tighten term limits by barring more than two mandates in total rather than two consecutive terms as now. Putin used that loophole to return to the Kremlin in 2012 after serving four years as prime minister.Under the Russian leader’s shake-up, he replaced his long-serving prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who stood in for him as president from 2008-2012, with the little-known head of the tax service, Mikhail Mishustin.To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Brian Wingfield, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Libya oil exports blocked, raising stakes for Berlin peace summit

Libya oil exports blocked, raising stakes for Berlin peace summit Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar blocked oil exports from the war-ravaged country's main ports Saturday, raising the stakes on the eve of an international summit aimed at bringing peace to the North African nation. The move to cripple the country's main income source was a protest against Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Haftar's rival, the head of Tripoli's UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj. It comes ahead of a conference in Berlin on Sunday that will see the United Nations try to extract a pledge from world leaders to stop meddling in the Libyan conflict -- be it through supplying troops, weapons or financing.


LGBT activists say new bills target transgender youth

LGBT activists say new bills target transgender youth At the urging of conservative advocacy groups, Republican legislators in more than a dozen states are promoting bills that focus on transgender young people. One batch of bills would bar doctors from providing them certain gender-related medical treatment; another batch would bar trans students from participating on school sports teams of the gender they identify with. The proposed laws, if enacted, “would bring devastating harms to the transgender community,” said Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.


Iran to send flight recorders from downed jet to Ukraine

Iran to send flight recorders from downed jet to Ukraine Iran will send the black box flight recorders from the Ukrainian jetliner that it accidentally shot down last week to Ukraine for further analysis, an Iranian official said Saturday. Hassan Rezaeifer, the head of accident investigations for the civil aviation department, said it was not possible to read the black boxes in Iran, without elaborating.


Trump Says Soleimani Strike Followed General Saying ‘Bad Things’

Trump Says Soleimani Strike Followed General Saying ‘Bad Things’ (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump gave a new justification for killing Qassem Soleimani, telling a gathering of Republican donors that the top Iranian general was “saying bad things about our country.”“How much are we going to listen to?” Trump said Friday, according to remarks from a fundraiser obtained by CNN. He also used a vulgar expression to describe the nature of Soleimani’s comments.Trump spoke amid a brewing controversy in Washington, where some lawmakers, especially Democrats, have said the White House has repeatedly shifted its justification for the Jan. 3 strike, which pushed Washington and Tehran to the brink of war.The drone strike in Baghdad that killed Soleimani came days after a violent protest by Iranian-backed protesters at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and a rocket attack that killed an American contractor at a facility in Iraq.‘Imminent Attack’Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has said Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on Americans and working “to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans.” But he’s also acknowledged that the administration didn’t necessarily know when and where future attacks were being planned.Trump told Fox News on Jan. 10 that he believed Soleimani was planning attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and three other U.S. embassies in the region. Two days later, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS News that he “didn’t see” intelligence suggesting the specific threat Trump described.“What the President said was, he believed it probably could have been,” Esper said in a separate interview with CNN. “He didn’t cite intelligence.”How U.S.-Iran Enmity Grew for Decades, Burst in Days: QuickTakeTrump on Monday said his administration has been “totally consistent” in its explanation of the intelligence that justified the strike.“Here’s what’s been consistent: We killed Soleimani, the number-one terrorist in the world by every account,” Trump said. “Bad person.”At Friday’s fundraiser, held at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump described the attack on Soleimani in vivid detail, according to the recording obtained by CNN. He said military officials counted down the last minutes of the Iranian general’s life as they watched the strike from “cameras that are miles in the sky.”The president also erroneously claimed -- as he has before -- that Soleimani was meeting “the head of Hezbollah” while in Baghdad.Soleimani was met at the airport by Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah. That’s a paramilitary group separate from the more prominent Lebanese militant organization, which also receives backing from Iran.About 100 people attended Friday’s fund-raiser, according to the president’s re-election campaign. The event was expected to raise $10 million.In addition to his fundraising remarks, Trump tweeted publicly about Iran on Friday evening, saying that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “should be very careful with his words!” and that the people of Iran “deserve a government that’s more interested in helping them achieve their dreams than killing them for demanding respect.”Earlier in the day, Khamenei said Iran had delivered a “slap to the U.S.’s image as a superpower” in a rare appearance leading Friday prayer in Tehran, the capital.To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Palm Beach, Florida at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Steve GeimannFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Impeachment lands Sen. Collins in familiar spot: crosshairs

Impeachment lands Sen. Collins in familiar spot: crosshairs Facing perhaps her toughest reelection fight, veteran Sen. Susan Collins has parachuted into familiar terrain — the heart of a hot-button issue, this time President Donald Trump's impeachment. With Senate trial proceedings starting Tuesday, the moderate Maine Republican says she'll probably support a motion to call witnesses, aligning herself with Democrats. Collins, 67, has embraced that approach for nearly 24 years in the Senate, even as compromise has grown increasingly scarce and politically perilous in the age of the retaliation-prone Trump.


10 things you need to know today: January 17, 2020

10 things you need to know today: January 17, 2020 1.Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who worked as his envoy in Ukraine, communicated with a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about an effort to find damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden, documents released Friday night by House Democrats revealed. The evidence shows Derek Harvey, a former White House official and top aide to Nunes, communicated extensively with Parnas and sought to speak with Ukrainian prosecutors who were giving Giuliani information about Biden. Parnas has said President Trump and his associates were working to push Ukraine into announcing an investigation into Biden. The allegations are central to Trump's impeachment. Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, did not comment on the documents. [The Washington Post, NBC News] 2.President Trump has reportedly tapped former Special Counsel Ken Starr, his successor Robert Ray, and famous defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz to join his impeachment defense team. Starr and Ray worked on former President Bill Clinton's impeachment, while Dershowitz was on the defense team for O.J. Simpson. They will reportedly join White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow, who will lead the defense as House impeachment managers present the case against Trump. Dershowitz will present oral arguments at the Senate trial, but said he is not a "full-fledged" member of the defense. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump's personal counsel Jane Raskin will reportedly also be on the team. [The Wall Street Journal, CNN] 3.Former GOP Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced on Friday to two years in federal prison on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI. Collins, who was a New York representative since 2013 and was the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump's candidacy, pleaded guilty in October to tipping off his son to confidential information regarding an Australian biotechnology company, which allowed them to make illegal stock trades avoiding more than $700,000 in losses. At his sentencing, Collins tearfully apologized. "I stand here today a disgraced former congressman," he said. "I cannot face my constituents. What I have done has marked me for life." The 26-month sentence will begin on March 17, and will likely be served at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida. [NBC News, The Washington Post] 4.Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, led Friday prayers at the Mosella mosque in Tehran on Friday for the first time since 2012, trying to rally support among intertwined crises facing his government. He called President Trump a "clown" who is only pretending to support Iran's people, said the U.S. killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was "cowardly" and demonstrative of America's "terrorist nature," and called Iran's retaliatory missile strikes a "slap on the face" to the U.S. that "shows the hand of God" and Iran's "power." Trump responded via tweet, writing the supreme leader had "not been so Supreme lately," and criticizing his "nasty" comments about the U.S. Trump said Khamenei "should be very careful with his words!" [Reuters, Donald Trump] 5.Eleven Americans were injured in Iran's recent missile strike on the Al Asad Air base in Iraq, which President Trump and the Pentagon previously said resulted in no injuries. The military confirmed Thursday that 11 Americans were treated for concussions after Iran last week struck two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops; the concussion symptoms emerged several days later. "While no U.S. servicemembers were killed ... several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed," said a United States Central Command spokesperson. The attack on the bases came in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. CNN's Jim Sciutto said the update indicated "the Iranian missile strike was a nearer miss than advertised." [The New York Times, CNN] 6.Jury selection in the trial of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein ended Friday with seven men and five women set to serve. Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi accused the defense of trying to "systematically exclude" young white women. The defense, in turn, accused the prosecution of trying to exclude men from the jury, but Judge James Burke didn't accept either argument. The defense reportedly said it didn't seek to exclude young women but they "didn't want jurors who were too young to understand the way men and women interacted in the early 1990s." Weinstein is facing rape and sexual assault charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin on Jan. 22. [Variety, The Hollywood Reporter] 7.The Democratic National Committee announced requirements for making February's primary debate Friday, leaving the donor threshold steady at a minimum 225,000 unique donors. Candidates will also, as before, need to hit at least five percent in four qualifying national polls or seven percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina voters. But there's now a third path that candidates can take to replace the poll requirement: If they win just one delegate in Iowa, they're in. This could open a path for candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who hit the donor requirement but didn't have enough qualifying polls to make January's debate. The Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and the next debate is Feb. 7 in New Hampshire. [The New York Times] 8.The fourth annual Women's March is scheduled to take place on Saturday, and activists are expecting thousands of demonstrators to turn out for the events, which will be held in cities around the country. The first Women's March took place the day after President Trump's inauguration, and drew hundreds of thousands of participants. This year, the march is expected to be smaller and without the celebrity appearances of years past, in part due to criticism the march's organizers have faced in recent years regarding inclusion and diversity. The demonstration in Washington, D.C., is expected to attract up to 10,000 demonstrators. [NPR] 9.A winter storm is expected to spread across much of the Midwest, Northeast and Plains regions of the U.S. through Saturday, bringing snow, ice, and frigid rain. Some areas, like parts of Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, will likely face blizzard conditions, and high winds will contribute to low visibility as snow piles up. Other areas will see freezing rain and sleet — the slick conditions caused one plane at Kansas City International Airport to slide off the taxiway on Friday, leading to a closure of the airport. Most snow and most extreme conditions are expected to taper off by Sunday. [The Weather Channel] 10.Microsoft announced plans to become "carbon negative" by 2030, seeking to erase its entire carbon footprint since the company's founding in 1975 and begin removing more carbon from the environment than it emits. The company first wants to reduce emissions to zero across its entire supply chain by 2030, and then focus on eliminating all of the carbon dioxide it has ever released by 2050. Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012, achieving this through purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets. Going negative will require more technology and investment than going neutral. "Technology does exist that does this, but getting the price and the scalability to where we need it to be is a significant challenge," said Lucas Joppa, the company's chief sustainability officer. [The Verge, CBS News]More stories from theweek.com Microsoft plans to become 'carbon negative' Mindhunter just got Netflixed Lara Trump is making fun of Joe Biden's stutter


Libya's eastern-based forces move to halt oil exports

Libya's eastern-based forces move to halt oil exports A move by Libya's east-based forces to choke off oil exports from its territory threatens to throttle much of the country’s oil production, the national corporation said Saturday, escalating tensions ahead of an international peace summit to end the civil war. Powerful tribal groups loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces control eastern Libya and much of the south, seized several large export terminals Friday along the eastern coast as well as southern oil fields in a challenge to the rival U.N.-backed government based in Tripoli, which collects revenues from oil production. The critical oil industry is dominated by the National Oil Corporation, which declared that the suspension of exports would prevent the company from fulfilling contracts with international oil companies.


Venezuelan theater becomes Plan B in lawmakers' turf battle

Venezuelan theater becomes Plan B in lawmakers' turf battle Venezuelan opposition lawmakers are expected in the coming days to make their third attempt to get inside the legislative chamber in downtown Caracas, after twice this month being blocked by forces loyal to President Nicolás Maduro. The losing turf battle recently drove the lawmakers to a covered amphitheater in El Hatillo, a normally quiet community in the hilly outskirts of the capital that's popular for its souvenir shops, restaurants and visitors strolling around the colonial square. It’s unclear whether the National Assembly led by U.S.-backed Juan Guaidó will be forced on Tuesday to retreat again to El Hatillo, or perhaps the office of The Nation newspaper — where they also met in early January — or scramble for yet another safe meeting place.


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