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Ultimatum For Greece, Crumbling DSK Case, NSA Exposed

UKRAINE PARTIES REFUSE PULLBACK
Photo: Donetsk airport — Source: Sokolov Mikhail/TASS/ZUMA
Government forces and pro-Russian rebels have failed to withdraw heavy weapons from the front line despite today’s agreed deadline, The Guardian reports. Fighting has stopped in most areas since a ceasefire began three days ago, but not in the city of Debaltseve where a Ukrainian military spokesman said troops were still under fire from rebels. A German government spokesman, meanwhile, announced that the leaders of Germany, Russia and Ukraine had agreed on “concrete measures” to allow observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe "to monitor the situation on the ground” in Debaltseve. Read more from AFP.

VERBATIM
“We have owned the Internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it in ways that they can’t compete,” President Barack Obama said, slamming Europe over technology protectionism and its antitrust case against Google. “And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests.” The comment left many in the EU unhappy. Read more from the Financial Times.

EGYPT URGES UN AID IN LIBYA
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on the United Nations to follow up on the Egyptian army’s airstrikes over Libya yesterday and to adopt a resolution allowing a military intervention against terrorist groups there, including ISIS. “There is no other choice,” he told French radio station Europe 1. Sisi has repeatedly called for military intervention in Egypt’s neighboring country, and such calls have been echoed since the emergence of an ISIS-affiliated group there. Writing for The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald likened the situation in Libya to that following the several U.S. interventions in Iraq, saying, It’s “painfully obvious” that the U.S. “would end up intervening in Libya again as a result of the first intervention.”

ON THIS DAY
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On Feb. 17, 1863, the International Red Cross was founded. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

GREECE HANDED ULTIMATUM
The EU is tightening pressure on Greece to extend the country’s current bailout program, as it vows to roll back severe austerity measures. Eurozone ministers handed Greece an ultimatum after talks broke down yesterday, AFP reports. If both sides don’t reach a deal by Friday, Greece could run out of money by the end of the month, which in turn might lead to it leaving the single-currency Eurozone. In a New York Times column, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis outlined his strategy to salvage his country’s finances and end austerity policies. “We shall desist, whatever the consequences, from deals that are wrong for Greece and wrong for Europe,” he writes.

EXTRA!
Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro are always spectacular, but this year's parades are special because they coincide with the city's 450th anniversary. Read more from our 4 corners blog.

NSA SPYING PROGRAM EXPOSED
Russian security software maker Kaspersky Lab discovered that the NSA has been hiding spying software inside hard drives from top manufacturers, enabling it to eavesdrop on the majority of the world's computers, Reuters reports. The main targets appeared to be governments, military institutions and an array of companies in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Mali and other countries.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
A Le Monde editorial opines that the targets of the terror attacks in both Paris and Copenhagen were the same: free speech and Jews. Now Europe has an obligation to both its future and past to stand up to this evil. “The choice of targets reveals the same pathology — that of an Islamist-brewed hatred that intends to terrorize a democratic society and satisfy its violent anti-Semitism,” the newspaper writes. “That same jihadist hatred, meanwhile, justifies the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya on Sunday. Acting out is a specific criminal violence that has nothing to do whatsoever with any sort of economic or social context. This is particularly true in Denmark, where the welfare state is without a doubt one of the most comprehensive and protective on the continent.”
Read the full article, Paris To Copenhagen, We Must Not Yield.

$10 MILLION
An arbitration panel ruled that Lance Armstrong must pay $10 million to a promotions company, saying that he lied under oath in 2005 over his use of performance-enhancing drugs “to secure millions of dollars of benefits.” According to USA Today, this is believed to be the largest sanction of this kind against an individual in U.S. judicial history.

CASE AGAINST DSK CRUMBLES
The state prosecutor in an aggravated pimping trial against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and others has begun his summary and is expected to end with a request for him to be released and the charges against him dropped, Les Échos reports. This comes after five of the six plaintiffs dropped their accusations against him yesterday. But the judge is free to ignore the prosecutor’s recommendations. If found guilty, Strauss-Kahn could face up to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of 1.5 million euros.

‘O LUNA MIA
Check out this week's horoscope, straight from the Eternal City.

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Geopolitics

Has Lebanese Politics Finally Freed Itself Of Iran's Influence?

Lebanon's recent elections have shrunk the legislative block led by national power-brokers Hezbollah. But will a precarious new majority be able to rid the government of the long shadow of Tehran?

Supporters of pro-Iranian Hezbollah sit in a street decorated with picture of the party chief Hassan Nasrallah

Ahmad Ra'fat

-Analysis-

The results of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, have put an end to the majority block led by Hezbollah, the paramilitary group concocted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hezbollah and its Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun, lost their 71 seats and will now have 62 (of a total 128 seats).

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