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  • JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK ) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad met with his Russian President Vladimir Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Monday evening as a part of a "working visit," the Kremlin said in a statement. Assad reportedly thanked Putin for "the efforts that Russia made to save our country," according to an English translation of the statement. "Two years ago, when I met with President Putin in Moscow, the fighting was just beginning. During these two years, the successes that have been achieved thanks to the assistance of the Air and Space Forces of the Russian Federation and the Syrian army are evident," Assad said, according to a readout of the meeting. "Now no one can deny these successes in the fight against terrorism. And thanks to your actions, as well as the actions of the Syrian army, our allies, many Syrians were able to return to their homes." "We count on Russia's support to ensure that external actors do not interfere in the political process and that from the outside they only support the process that the Syrians themselves will lead," he added. Putin also introduced Assad to senior officials of the country's Defense Ministry and the general staff, people who he said "played a decisive role in saving Syria," according to the Kremlin's statement. "Much has been done to stabilize the situation in Syria. I hope that in the very near future we will put the final point in the fight against terrorism in Syria, although it is clear that the centers will still exist, they will still emerge," Putin said. "So there are still problems with terrorism in the world, and in the Middle East, and in Syria in particular." "But the main task is already close to completion, and it will be possible to say in the very near future that we have solved it," he added. Putin said he planned to follow up the meeting with telephone calls to President Donald Trump, and to Middle Eastern leaders including the Emir of Qatar. The two leaders last met on Oct. 20, 2015 in Moscow after Russia launched a military operation against Syrian insurgents and ISIS. The conflict in Syria began in 2011 after the government cracked down violently on mostly peaceful protests against Assad's rule. The protests developed into an armed uprising and a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock( NEW YORK ) -- Secretary of state Rex Tillerson stated that he is “deeply concerned” about the continuing atrocities involving the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. His comments came during a press conference with Burmese De-Facto civilian head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Wednesday in Myanmar. The ethnic group has faced oppression in the predominantly Buddhist area for years. Since the August 25 attacks by Arakan Rohingyan Salvation Army on security forces and Muslim minorities, over 600,000 Rohingyan have fled to Bangladesh. An unknown number from multiple ethic groups remain internally displaced with limited access to food, water and shelter. As a result, Tillerson announced an additional $47 Million in humanitarian assistance for refugees, bringing the American response to the Rakhine State crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh to more than $87 million since August of 2016. Last week, the United Nations Security Council slammed called upon the government of Myanmar to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine State, to restore civil administration and apply rule of law, and to take immediate steps in accordance with their obligations and commitments to respect human rights. In a report on its Facebook page, the Myanmar Military cleared itself of any role in the abuse of the Rohingya, reporting that the atrocities are at the hands of ARSA Bengali terrorists. Human rights organization Amnesty International has slammed the military’s report, labeling it an attempted “whitewash” of the injustices against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Tillerson calls upon Myanmar’s civilian government and military to conduct a “full, effective, and independent investigation” into the atrocities -- an investigation that Tillerson assures “The United States strongly supports.” When asked if Tillerson and the State Department would follow the United States Congress recommendation to use the term "ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, Tillerson said "we're evaluating the criteria and the information available to us, and we'll make a determination on that probably after I return." Secretary Tillerson said he believes that the Rohingya crisis is a test for Myanmar’s new government. “Myanmar's response to this crisis critical to determining the success of its transition to a more democratic society. The key test of any new democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations.” Last Week, Suu Kyi neglected to answer questions regarding the conflict while attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) summit in Manila, Philippines. During the press conference, the de facto civilian leader of Myanmar said that she watches her statements in an effort to avoid further instability in the region, "We mustn't forget that there are many different communities in the Rakhine, and if they are to live together in peace and harmony in the long term, we can't set them against each other. We cannot make the kind of statement that drive them further apart."Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Ahn Young-joon - Pool/Getty Images(SEOUL) -- First lady Melania Trump spent the day trending on social media in South Korea after an awkward, but happy, moment at a meeting with Korean schoolgirls when they started screaming in joy at the sight of Korean pop star Minho, a member of the boy band SHINee. The first lady was at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Seoul to deliver a speech encouraging more girls to participate in sports. It was a government-sponsored event to promote the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Trump was watching the girls play a makeshift game of hockey that had been set up for photo opportunities. Then, one of the girls standing in front of the first lady noticed the K-pop star standing next to Trump. The group of girls immediately burst into screams. When Trump noticed the reaction, she watched with a large smile on her face and gestured at Minho. The two of them burst into laughter together. Nicknamed by local media as "robotic Melania" for her calm and stoic character, headlines on Wednesday included "Never saw Melania smile like that," "Melania’s smile diplomacy," and "Melania’s captivating attractiveness," with plenty of photos and videos shared on the internet. Her fashion was also the talk of the town upon arrival. The first lady arrived in Seoul sporting a burgundy plum sculptural coat dress with electric blue stilettos. Social media speculation centered around which designer was responsible for the clothing. It turned out to be the work of Spanish fashion brand Delpozo, at an estimated price of $4,000. The avant-garde outfit with volumized arms featured a gold front zipper and thin belt.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Rostislav Netisov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK ) -- Russia’s Communists, dwindling in numbers and sidelined by the authorities, on Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, the uprising led by Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik party in 1917, that led to the creation of the Soviet Union and commenced the spread of Communism around the world. A few thousand people marched through the center of Moscow, carrying large portraits of Lenin and waving red flags, moving toward the Kremlin and Red Square, off which they held a small rally. It was one of the few major public events commemorating the centenary, which the Kremlin indicated it wants to be low-key. The Bolshevik’s seizure of power was arguably the 20th century’s defining event, fundamentally altering societies around the world and setting up the century’s central clash, the Cold War. But 100 years on, Russia's current authorities made clear they consider it now peripheral for the country. "The revolution is modern Russia’s birth certificate, but Russia does not like what it says,” Maksim Trudolyubov, a political commentator wrote in the newspaper, The Moscow Times.Over the nights 6 and 7 (Oct. 25 and 26 in Russia’s pre-revolutionary calendar) in 1917, soldiers and sailors loyal to the Bolsheviks seized strategic points in Saint Petersburg. Around 2 a.m., they stormed the Winter Palace, the huge ice-green, colonnaded building that stretches along the city’s river. Tsar Nicholas II, whose palace it had been, had already been toppled by an uprising in February. He had been replaced by the so-called Provisional Government, a group of liberal ministers, who had spent the last few months desperately trying to restore order in the country exhausted by World War I. The Bolsheviks entered the palace from the square. Unlike in later Soviet depictions, they faced almost no resistance -- most of the defenders had fled -- after it was shelled from the fortress across the river. Coming through the palace’s tunnel-line corridors, they found the Provisional Government holed up in a dining room off the tsar’s former living quarters and arrested them. The same day, Lenin declared the Bolsheviks now held power. Within months, they would establish a dictatorship and unleash a savage civil war. Rapid progress in education and industrialization would follow, but it was accompanied by bloody repression climaxing under Stalin. For 70 years, the Soviet Union celebrated Lenin’s seizure of power as an almost religious holiday, with massive parades. His body remains embalmed in state on Red Square. But it has become an inconvenient event for the Kremlin. Engaged in quashing challenges to its own increasingly authoritarian rule, celebrations of revolution are not appealing. At the same time, current President Vladimir Putin has turned to the Soviet Union as the model for his Russia, making it difficult to ignore its founding event. “It’s puts Putin in a bind,” said Shield Fitzpatrick, a well-known historian of the revolution and professor emerita at the University of Chicago. The solution has been to say nothing. In December, Putin declared discussion of the revolution should be left to professional historians. Last week he told the Valdai conference, he hoped the centenary can “draw a line under” the divisions provoked by the revolution. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters last month the Kremlin saw no reason to mark the occasion. Proposals that Lenin should be removed from Red Square have been dismissed. Tuesday's march underlined the Kremlin's disinterest. The Communists chanted "revolution" as they marched toward the Kremlin, but were channeled tightly between police and wire barriers. Where even a few years ago the march had been allotted Moscow's main street, now they were squeezed by police onto its pavements. Some of the older Communist marchers rattled
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  • Shizuo Kambayashi / Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Department of Homeland Security has ended Temporary Protected Status for Nicaragua, meaning that the 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the U.S. under that special status have 14 months to leave the country. Today was the deadline for the administration to decide the fate of those Nicaraguans and some 57,000 Hondurans -- but that second group will have to wait to see their future decided. The department said that acting Secretary Elaine Duke had not yet made a decision about Honduras, requiring additional information on the conditions on the ground and saying Honduras had formally requested an extension. Given the current information, it is possible that the program will be terminated, a DHS official added. No decision has yet been made about El Salvador or Haiti. A DHS official said that nothing should be read into today's decision about the future of other temporary protective status programs, but the administration has already let ones for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone all expire. Temporary Protected Status is a special immigration status for people from a foreign country where the U.S. determines that conditions in that home country prevent those people from returning safely or where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Nicaragua and Honduras were originally designated Jan. 5, 1999, because of destruction wrought by Hurricane Mitch. While infrastructure may have been rebuilt after the destruction, the status has been reauthorized every 18 months ever since because of the violent conditions in both countries. Because of those continuous extensions, many of the people now facing deportation have been in the U.S. for nearly two decades, including some who have raised families here. The decision on Nicaragua will be implemented 12 months after its deadline expires, meaning Jan. 5, 2019. DHS said that the U.S. has been in touch with Nicaragua, and they have assured the administration they will be able to receive these individuals back. That Jan. 5 deadline means that after then, those Nicaraguans must be out of the country or they will be here illegally. The Trump administration will not consider them a priority for deportation, but they will be eligible for it, a DHS official told reporters Monday night. The deadline for a decision on Honduras was extended six months, until July 5, 2018. The Trump administration is now calling on Congress to legislate a "permanent solution" and "provide a certain future" for these individuals. "We do hope and encourage Congress to look at this and find a solution," rather than have the executive sign extensions every 18 months, as has been the case for over 20 years, a DHS official said. "Recognizing the difficulty facing citizens of Nicaragua -- and potentially citizens of other countries -- who have received TPS designation for close to two decades, Acting Secretary Duke calls on Congress to enact a permanent solution for this inherently temporary program," the Department said in a statement Monday night. There is some movement among members of Congress to do that, just as there is to seek a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- those young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, also known as DREAMers -- which Trump has also vowed to end. "As Congress works to find a permanent solution for the Dreamers, it is apparent that we must also prioritize a legislative fix for the Temporary Protected Status program," Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday, before the decision on Nicaragua and Honduras was announced. The decision was made by Duke, in consultation with the State Department and other agencies, based on her review of the conditions and the requirements of the law, according to a DHS official, denying there was any pressure from the White House. But Duke will soon be out of her role, pendin
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