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ISIS In Libya, Japanese Mother's Plea, Apple Breaks Bank

ISRAEL-LEBANON-SYRIA SKIRMISHES INTENSIFY
An anti-tank missile was fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Lebanon border Wednesday, wounding four soldiers, Reuters quoted a military source as saying. The incident came several hours after Israel launched an air strike in Syria amid tensions that have escalated in the frontier area over the past 10 days. According to France 24 network, the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack. Israel retaliated shortly after, by bombing several localities in the southeast of Lebanon as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to respond “with force.”

VERBATIM
"Please save Kenji's life. I call on you to work with all your strength in negotiations with the Jordanian government," said Junko Ishido, the mother of the Japanese journalist held hostage by ISIS, Kenji Goto said in a news conference Wednesday, making her appeal directly to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Reuters reports that Tokyo confirmed the authenticity of a new video yesterday that showed the Japanese journalist saying he had 24 hours to live unless Jordan released Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman involved in a suicide bombing that killed 60 people in Amman in 2005. The captive also said the terrorist group would also kill Muath al-Kasaesbeh, a Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS several weeks ago. A Jordan government spokesperson said later on Wednesday his country was willing to hand over Sajida al-Rishawi in exchange for the pilot.

ISIS CLAIMS TRIPOLI HOTEL ATTACK
The Libyan branch of the terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack on a hotel in Tripoli that killed 9 people, including four Libyans, one American, one French, one Filipino and one South Korean, and left many wounded. According to a source from the Minister of the Interior quoted by Le Monde, one of the attackers has been arrested. Three men allegedly entered the hotel and fired shots Tuesday after killing a security guard at the entrance. The attack allegedly ended after some of the jihadists detonated their explosive belts while they were surrounded.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
In an interview withLe Monde, Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption activist under house arrest in Moscow, says that Putin is pursuing war in Ukraine to consolidate his power and fulfill his ambition to be Russia's “president for life.” “The situation in Russia now is very different from what it was a year ago. There’s huge pressure on society. A year ago, Putin was only a thief — now he’s a murderer. He’s started a war; people are scared.”
Read the full article, Putin's Nemesis Speaks: The Alexei Navalny Interview.

NEW GREEK PM PROMISES NOT TO CLASH WITH EU
The newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his ministers in their first cabinet meeting Wednesday that he will avoid antagonism with the European Union, but also that voters gave their new government a mandate for radical change, Kathimerini reports. "We won't get into a mutually destructive clash, but we will not continue a policy of subjection,” Tsipras said. He is set to meet the head of the euro zone finance ministers' group Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday to discuss the future of the Greek debt.

PUTIN ORDERED LITVINENKO MURDER, LAWYER SAYS
The former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in 2006, was killed for trying to expose links between the Kremlin and Europe’s largest organized crime group, the lawyer of the victim’s family, Ben Emmerson, said on the first day of a public inquiry on the case in London on Tuesday. He added the former spy was the victim of a “horrifying” political assassination, according to The Guardian, describing the Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “common criminal dressed up as a head of state.”
Read more about it in our Extra! feature.

ON THIS DAY
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Today marks 202 years since we were first introduced to Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice! Ready for your 57-second shot of history?

KIM JONG-UN TO VISIT RUSSIA
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could attend a war anniversary event in Moscow in May, in what would be his first overseas visit since taking power in late 2011, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. The Kremlin said the “North Korean leader” accepted the invitation, which could turn out to be ambiguous as the Chairman of the Presidium Kim Yong-nam also carries the title of head of state. But other reports earlier this month suggested Russia could be Kim Jong-un’s first destination for an official overseas visit.

HOPE FADES TO FIND ALL MISSING AIRASIA BODIES
Indonesia’s search for the 92 remaining bodies of the AirAsia plane crash could soon end unless more remains are found soon, government officials said Wednesday. So far, only 70 bodies of the 162 people on board have been recovered. Others may have been swept away or lost on the seabed, a search and rescue agency official told the AFP.

74.5 MILLION
In the three months up to Dec. 27, Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones, helping to lift the company’s net quarterly profit to $18 billion, the largest ever recorded for a public company for one fiscal quarter, according to Forbes.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
[rebelmouse-image 27088596 alt="""" original_size="610x600" expand=1]


A MAP OF COUNTRIES SCALED BY POPULATION
A Reddit user created a map of the world where countries are scaled according to their populations. Some countries with vast areas, including Russia, Canada or Australia, appear dramatically shrunken, while other big ones like India and China hold a large chunk of the map.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Fight Over Tourist Visa Ban For Russians Is Taking Everyone For A Ride

High on the agenda of the Prague summit of Europe’s foreign ministers this week was a proposal to ban tourist visas for Russians, as punishment for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But it is ultimately a way to change the subject, and recalls Zelensky’s iconic remark after the war began.

Passengers arrive at Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia

TASS
Anna Akage

It’s not a new question. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called for a ban on tourist visa for Russian soon after the war began, and this week it became the center of the Prague summit of European Union foreign ministers.

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Some European Union nations voiced their support soon after it was mentioned by Zelensky, including former Soviet republics and current Russia neighbors, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They were followed by Finland and the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Poland. Hungary, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. Germany and France are looking for a compromise that would allow for visas for students, workers of culture and science, as well as people who need entry for humanitarian reason. Perhaps most importantly, however, the U.S. took an unambiguous position against the restrictions.

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Writing contest - My pandemic story
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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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