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3:07 PM Sun, Dec. 09th

World in brief: U.S. to hit Russia with new sanctions for aiding Syria’s Assad

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his use of the phrase “Mission Accomplished” to describe a U.S.-led missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons program, even as his aides stressed continuing U.S. troop involvement and plans for new economic sanctions against Russia for enabling the government of Bashar Assad.

Stepping up the pressure on Syria’s president, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley indicated the sanctions to be announced Monday would be aimed at sending a message to Russia, which she said has blocked six attempts by the U.N. Security Council to make it easier to investigate the use of chemical weapons.

“Everyone is going to feel it at this point,” Haley said, warning of consequences for Assad’s foreign allies.

“The international community will not allow chemical weapons to come back into our everyday life,” she said. “The fact he was making this more normal and that Russia was covering this up, all that has got to stop.”

Trump tweeted Sunday that the strike was “perfectly carried out” and that “the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term, “‘Mission Accomplished.’”

Syria’s allies say airstrikes undercut political resolution

DAMASCUS, Syria — The leaders of Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah group in Lebanon said Sunday that Western airstrikes on their ally, Syria, have complicated prospects for a political settlement to the country’s seven-year conflict.

A day after the U.S., Britain and France bombarded sites they said were linked to a chemical weapons program, Syrian President Bashar Assad appeared briefly on state TV, seemingly unfazed by the military action — and even reportedly in high spirits.

Assad told a group of visiting Russian lawmakers that the strikes were accompanied by a campaign of “lies and misinformation” against Syria and Russia in the U.N. Security Council.

Moscow and Damascus are waging the same “battles” against terrorism and “to protect international law based on respect of the sovereignty of countries and the wills of people,” Assad said in comments carried by state media, an apparent jab at the three Western allies.

Russian lawmaker Dmitry Sablin, who met with Assad, said he appeared upbeat and believed the airstrikes would unify the country.

GOP attorneys general support citizenship question on census

A Trump administration plan to ask people if they are U.S. citizens during the 2020 census has prompted a legal uproar from Democratic state attorneys general, who argue it could drive down participation and lead to an inaccurate count.

Yet not a single Republican attorney general has sued — not even from states with large immigrant populations that stand to lose if a census undercount of immigrants affects the allotment of U.S. House seats and federal funding for states.

In fact, many GOP attorneys general had urged Trump’s census team to add a citizenship question.

“We always are better off having a more accurate count of citizens versus non-citizens. I see no downside in this,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, vice chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The diverging views of top Republican and Democratic state attorneys highlight how even the most basic data collection decisions can quickly split along partisan lines amid the intense debate about immigration policies.

In age of #MeToo, can there be forgiveness, second chances?

If a man abuses his co-workers and apologizes, should he be forgiven? What about a man who sexually assaults a stranger asleep in bed? Is redemption possible?

Last week, Tom Ashbrook, who was fired as host of the popular National Public Radio program “On Point,” asked in a column in The Boston Globe if there was a way back after being fired in February for creating an “abusive work environment.” Investigators for his employer, Boston radio station WBUR, cleared him of sexual misconduct allegations.

“My behavior was offensive and overbearing to some,” Ashbrook wrote, going on to ask: “Is there room for redemption and rebirth, in our time of Google trails and hashtag headlines?”

There should be, say many experts who study issues surrounding sexual abuse. Forgiveness must be possible if society wants to reduce instances of sexual misconduct, but experts say, it will take work and willingness to change from both the perpetrators and society at large.

Many of the apologies men have made after being accused of misconduct during the #MeToo movement have fallen short of what’s needed for redemption: Think of Harvey Weinstein, whose apology after a New York Times report in October alleging decades of sexual misconduct included a promise to fight the National Rifle Association and an excuse blaming the culture in the 1960s and 1970s.

Boston marks 5 years since marathon attack with tributes

BOSTON — The bells of Old South Church in Boston rang at 2:49 p.m. to commemorate a citywide moment of silence in honor of Boston Marathon bombing survivors and victims

It was an emotional moment in a day filled with service projects and ceremonies to remember those impacted by the deadly bombings five years ago.

Boston began the anniversary of the attacks Sunday with Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker laying wreaths early in the morning at the spots along downtown Boylston Street where two bombs killed three spectators and maimed more than 260 others April 15, 2013.

Both addressed families and survivors at a private ceremony inside the Boston Public Library.

“On April 15, 2013, our city changed forever but over the last five years, we have reclaimed hope. We have reclaimed the finish line and Boston has emerged with a new strength, a resilience rooted in love,” Walsh said.

Early results show Djukanovic sweeping Montenegro vote

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro’s ruling party declared leader Milo Djukanovic the winner of Sunday’s presidential election after preliminary projections showed he swept the vote and avoided a runoff.

“Milo Djukanovic is the new president of Montenegro,” said Milos Nikolic, from the Democratic Party of Socialists. “This is a great victory, a historic victory.”

The Center for Monitoring and Research said after a near-complete vote count that Djukanovic won nearly 34 percent while his main opponent, Mladen Bojanic, won 33 percent.

If confirmed in the official vote count, the result will present a major boost for Djukanovic, who defied Russia to take his country into NATO last year.

The vote, the first since Montenegro joined the Western military alliance in December, was seen as a test for Djukanovic, who favors European integration over closer ties to traditional ally Moscow.

U.S. pastor faces terror charges in fraught trial in Turkey

IZMIR, Turkey — An American pastor imprisoned in Turkey is going on trial for alleged terror ties and spying in a case that has increased tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Andrew Craig Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina, is facing up to 35 years in prison on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and “espionage.” The trial begins Monday in western Izmir province.

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric who Turkey blames for a masterminding a failed military coup that year. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the claim.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, has denied all allegations, saying that he solely worked as a pastor.

The Turkish government has clearly linked Brunson’s case with its determination to force the U.S. to extradite Gulen — and some see the pastor as a diplomatic pawn.