UKRAINE’S PM TO PUSH FOR MORE REGIONAL POWER
Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk pledged to grant regions with more powers, adding that the Parliament should adopt a law allowing local referendums, AP reports. This came as he travelled to the eastern city of Donetsk as an ultimatum for pro-Russian protesters to leave occupied government buildings in three cities expired. Meanwhile, NATO stood by previous allegations based on satellite imagery that 40,000 Russian troops are amassing in a previously unoccupied area near the Ukraine border. A senior Russian Army official had dismissed the NATO claims, saying that although the pictures were accurate, they were taken eight months ago.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned “Russia’s efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote to 18 European leaders to warn them that Ukraine’s $2.2 billion gas debt to Moscow had created a “critical situation.” Read more from The Independent.
LANDMARK TALKS IN VENEZUELA
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with opposition party representatives, including his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski, yesterday in a bid to end two months of deadly protests, state-backed newspaper Correo Del Orinoco reports. But Maduro said the government was not looking for negotiations or pacts because he did not want to become a “traitor to Chavismo.” “All we’re looking for is a model of peaceful coexistence, of mutual tolerance,” he said.
His opponent insisted he did not want a coup against the government, but argued the country had changed during last year’s presidential campaign, following the death of Hugo Chávez. According to France 24’s correspondent, the presence of Vatican and South American envoys to monitor the talks is pressuring the parties to find a peaceful solution.
As Die Welt’s Torsten Krauel reports, North Korean leader Kim Jung-un flaunts UN trade embargos, managing to amass luxury items whose imports into North Korea are forbidden. “Pyongyang’s streets are full of Audis, BMWs and Hummers,” the journalist writes. “The gym at the new luxury development on the Taedong River boasts exercise machines made by an American company. Kim Jong-un's wife Ri Sol-ju wears Western designer clothing, while the North Korean leader uses the webcam on his Apple computer to liaise with his military commanders. How do all these goods get past the trade embargo? The same way as the 8-axle transporters used for the KN-08 intercontinental missile: through false documents and underhanded deals.”
Read the full article: How Kim Jong-un Gets His Hands On Western Luxury Goods.
ISRAEL SANCTIONS PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Israel has decided “to freeze the transfer to the Palestinian Authority of the taxes collected by Israel on its behalf,” AFP quotes an unnamed official as saying. The decision comes as a retaliation for the Palestinian leadership’s move to join 15 international organizations, itself triggered by Israel’s refusal to free Palestinian prisoners. The official added that Israel will also impose a limit on Palestinian bank deposits in the country and suspend its participation in developing a gas field in the sea off the coast of Gaza. This comes amid reports that Israel’s Economy Minister and leader of ultranationalist party Jewish Home Naftali Bennett threatened to leave the coalition government over the negotiations to salvage the peace talks with the Palestinians.
French President François Hollande’s approval rating has hit a new low of just 13%.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
DOZENS IN CHINA DEAD FROM FROM BIRD FLU
Officials figures from the Chinese government show that 96 people have died from the H7N9 bird flu since the beginning of 2014, AFP reports. Both the number of victims and of new infections declined in March, with a total of 250 cases reported. China and the World Trade Organization have said there is no evidence that the virus mutated to become transmissible between people. Earlier this week, North Korea announced it was also facing an outbreak of the disease.
“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America,” conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh said Thursday, lashing out at the network’s decision to replace retiring David Letterman with Stephen Colbert as host of The Late Show.
STOCKS FALL WORLDWIDE AFTER NASDAQ DROP
Asian and European markets suffered a setback after a sell-off in technology shares onWall Street spread yesterday, Bloomberg reports. According to the BBC, a 2.4% slump took Japan’s Nikkei 225 index to its lowest close in six months. Yesterday, the Nasdaq suffered its worst day since 2011, losing 3%. This comes as some experts see the high technology valuations as among the signs of a coming stock market crash.
English novelist Writer Sue Townsend, best known for her Adrian Mole series, has died at age 68.
As a woman was being interviewed in Rio de Janeiro about the Brazilian city’s crime problem, a young man — yes — tried to steal her necklace. Watch the video here.