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Yemen Mosques Attacked, Solar Eclipse, Flame-Grilled Fragrance

YEMEN MOSQUES ATTACKED
Two suicide bombers attacked two separate mosques in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa during Friday prayers, killing at least 35 worshipers and wounding dozens more, according to early reports from Al-Arabiya. This story is developing.

ON THIS DAY
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On March 20, 1956, Tunisia became independent. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

U.S. “RETHINKS” ISRAELI APPROACH
U.S. President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday to congratulate him on Tuesday’s reelection, but the president also told him of plans for the United States to “reassess” aspects of its relationship with Israel, CNN reports. The move confirms a widening gap between the two leaders, which was exacerbated by Netanyahu’s recent speech to the U.S. Congress and his official rejection of a two-state solution the day before the elections. But in an interview with MSNBC yesterday, Netanyahu appeared to change direction yet again, saying he was for “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.”

  • Obama, meanwhile, is using the Persian New Year celebrations to urge young Iranians to pressure their leaders to accept a nuclear deal offered by six world powers, The New York Times reports. The deadline for the negotiations is March 31.

VERBATIM
“They are no better than animals. They’re human scum,” North Korean ambassador to the UK Hyun Hak-bong told Sky News, referring to defectors. The UN has launched an investigation into the country’s human rights record and reports that North Korean workers were sent to Qatar under inhumane conditions to build facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Hyun, who apparently was in a cheery mood, also claimed that his country had nuclear weapons and was prepared for a nuclear war “anytime.”

TUNISIA GUNMEN TRAINED IN LIBYA
The two gunmen who killed 21 people in Wednesday’s Tunis attack were trained at a camp in neighboring Libya, according to Tunisia’s secretary of state for security. The two “salafits takfiri” left illegaly for Libya in December, though it’s unclear whether they were trained in a camp in Benghazi or elsewhere, Jeune Afrique reports. ISIS, among other terror organizations, claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Radio France Internationale, several hundred young Tunisians have already joined the ranks of the recently established Libyan branch of ISIS, which has threatened more attacks.

SNAPSHOT
Photo above: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/ZUMA
Millions of people in northern Europe — like here in St. Austell, England — have witnessed the first major partial eclipse since 1999. Those who missed it because of cloudy skies will have to wait until August 2026 for an eclipse of the same scale.

RUSSIAN MISSILE FRAGMENT AT MH17 CRASH SITE
Ammunition fragments collected by a Dutch journalist at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine and analyzed by “an independent institute” are from a Russian-made BUK missile, RTL Nieuws reports. While this suggests the plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels, the Dutch Safety Board, which has been investigating the cause of the crash since last July, warned that its investigation “focuses on many more sources than the fragments alone.” It warned that it’s “important to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a connection between the material and the crashed plane.” Pro-Russian fighters and the Kremlin have denied responsibility for the crash and blamed a Ukrainian fighter jet for shooting the aircraft.

40%
The world will be plunged into a water crisis with a 40% “global water deficit” by 2030 if current urbanization and population growth trends are not reversed, the United Nations warned in a report published ahead of Sunday’s World Water Day.

EU PROLONGS RUSSIAN SANCTIONS
Despite signs of dissent inside the European Union regarding sanctions against Russia, the 28-nation bloc has agreed that they will remain in place until the Ukrainian peace deal is fully implemented, Reuters reports. This means in technical terms that the sanctions, which were due to expire in July, could be extended until the end of the year. Commenting on the news, the Kremlin’s spokesman said Russia would consider whether to extend its own counter sanctions.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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FORMER AUSTRALIAN PM DIES
Malcolm Fraser, who served as Australia’s prime minister from 1975 to 1983, has died after a brief illness at age 84. The former liberal leader supported the end of South African apartheid, and fought for multiculturalism and Aboriginal land rights.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
After the assassination of Russian democratic reformer Boris Nemtsov, Kommersant’s Aleksandr Zotin looks back over the past two decades of the country’s flirtation with economic and political reforms. “In all of Russian history, the country has never truly completed a single liberal reform,” he writes. “The tragic death of Boris Nemtsov is yet another step backwards, even though Nemtsov was more a symbol of liberalism than a liberal in practice. You could say the same, for example, about the recently deceased Russo-Georgian businessman and politician Kakha Bendukidze. The ranks are thinning.”
Read the full article, Liberal Democracy In Russia, Destined To Die On The Vine.

STOP AND SMELL THE BURGERS
Burger King is planning to sell a flame-grilled fragrance in Japan. Or maybe it’s just an early April Fool’s gag?


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Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

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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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