01. Trump expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine: White House;
02. Michael Flynn resigns as Trump’s national security adviser;
03. Brother of Kim Jong-Un “assassinated” in Malaysia;
04. Forbidden love: Valentine’s Day banned for some in Asia;
05. Russia deploys missile, violating treaty and challenging Trump;
06. Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report;
07. Czech president, chain smoker, approves smoking ban in bars;
08. Clashes leave over 100 dead in Congo;
09. Dozens killed in fighting among jihadists in Syria.
Trump expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine: White House
(Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump made it clear he expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine and reduce violence in Ukraine, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday.
“President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea”
“President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea,” Spicer said at a daily news briefing. “At the same time, he fully expects to and wants to get along with Russia.”
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
Michael Flynn resigns as Trump’s national security adviser
(NPR) President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned late Monday night amid allegations he inappropriately talked about U.S. sanctions with a Russian official, and later allegedly misled then-Vice President-elect Pence about the conversations. Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador in December, before Trump was inaugurated.
Flynn issued a statement through the White House Monday evening that said he had made numerous phone calls with foreign officials to facilitate the transition, and made a mistake in what he told Pence:
“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”
Trump has named an acting national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg.
In the wake of Flynn’s exit from the new administration, lawmakers in Russia sought to defend him and said his absence from the White House would damage relations with the Kremlin, the Washington Post reported early Tuesday.
With Flynn now gone, it remains to be seen whether and how the Trump administration can bring some order to the NSC — and what the broader implications of the early staff shakeup may be both politically and in terms of national security.
Brother of Kim Jong-Un “assassinated” in Malaysia
(DW) The 46-year-old North Korean man sought medical assistance at a Kuala Lumpur airport and died en route to hospital, Malaysian police said. According to the authorities, he was traveling under the name of Kim Chol.
South Korean media, however, reported that the victim was Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Malaysian officials have confirmed his identitiy. He was apparently killed by two unidentified women who then fled in a hailed cab, according to South Korean TV Chosun. The Reuters news agency reported that the women were believed to be North Korean operatives.
A Malaysian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kim Jong Nam was sprayed with a liquid in the shopping concourse, contrary to earlier reports that the women used poisonous needles.
Kim Jong-Nam was estranged from his younger sibling and lived in exile, mainly in the Chinese territory Macau. At one point considered the heir to his father Kim Jong-Il, the elder Kim lost favor after a 2001 escapade to visit Tokyo Disneyland resulted in his capture at a Japanese airport for traveling on a fake passport.
Kim Jong-Nam advocated reform in North Korea, once telling a Japanese newspaper after his exile had begun that he did not support the succession of his family’s dynastic power.
Current ruler Kim Jong-Un, who assumed power upon his father’s death in 2011, has conducted mass purges within official circles. If confirmed, the assassinated-Kim’s death would be the highest-profile case since the ruling Kim executed his uncle Jang Song-Thaek and much of Jang’s family in December 2013. The assassinated Kim is believed to have been close to his uncle.
Forbidden love: Valentine’s Day banned for some in Asia
(Reuters) Valentine’s Day celebrations on Tuesday were banned by authorities in parts of Indonesia and Pakistan, home to Asia’s largest Muslim populations, saying the romantic tradition encouraged casual sex and ran counter to cultural norms.
In Indonesia, officials from the country’s second largest city, Surabaya, ordered schools to prohibit students from celebrating Valentine’s Day, while in Makassar, police raided minimarts and seized condoms in a bid to prevent teenagers from having sex.
Indonesia’s highest Islamic clerical council declared Valentine’s Day forbidden by Islamic law in 2012, saying it was contradictory to Muslim culture and teachings.
But the vast majority of Indonesia’s more than 220 million Muslims follow a moderate form of Islam in a country with sizeable Christian and Hindu minorities. Indonesia is a secular country whose state ideology enshrines religious diversity.
In Pakistan, an Islamic republic, a court banned public Valentine’s Day celebrations in its capital.
The Islamabad High Court also ordered the media to “ensure that nothing about the celebration of Valentine’s Day and its promotion is spread”.
In other Asian countries, authorities took the opposite position on Valentine’s Day, imposing preemptive measures to protect festivities and even encouraging sex.
Thailand’s government, concerned with its falling birth rate, handed out vitamins to married couples to try to encourage them to have children.
Russia deploys missile, violating treaty and challenging Trump
(NYT) Russia has secretly deployed a new cruise missile that American officials say violates a landmark arms control treaty, posing a major test for President Trump as his administration is facing a crisis over its ties to Moscow.
The new Russian missile deployment also comes as the Trump administration is struggling to fill key policy positions at the State Department and the Pentagon — and to settle on a permanent replacement for Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser who resigned late Monday. Mr. Flynn stepped down after it was revealed that he had misled the vice president and other officials over conversations with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington.
The ground-launched cruise missile at the center of American concerns is one that the Obama administration said in 2014 had been tested in violation of a 1987 treaty that bans American and Russian intermediate-range missiles based on land.
Administration officials said the Russians now have two battalions of the prohibited cruise missile. One is still located at Russia’s missile test site at Kapustin Yar in southern Russia near Volgograd. The other was shifted in December from that test site to an operational base elsewhere in the country, according to a senior official who did not provide further details and requested anonymity to discuss recent intelligence reports about the missile.
Before he left his post last year as the NATO commander and retired from the military, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove warned that deployment of the cruise missile would be a militarily significant development that “can’t go unanswered.”
The Trump administration is in the beginning stages of reviewing nuclear policy and has not said how it plans to respond.
“We do not comment on intelligence matters,” Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, said. “We have made very clear our concerns about Russia’s violation, the risks it poses to European and Asian security, and our strong interest in returning Russia to compliance with the treaty.”
Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report
(The Guardian) A new survey by the Japan family planning association found that nearly half of married couples had not had sex for more than a month and did not expect that to change in the near future – the association’s definition of a “sexless” marriage.
The data on married couples were among the findings of a wider survey of 3,000 people aged between 16 and 49 conducted at the end of last year. The association received responses from more than 1,200 people, including 655 married men and women.
A record high 47.2% of married men and women said they were in sexless marriages, up 2.6 percentage points from the previous poll in 2014, the association said, and significantly higher than the 31.9% recorded when it conducted its first survey of the nation’s bedroom habits in 2004.
“This is the first time over 30% of men answered that they were too tired from work to have sex”
Some experts have cast doubt on the notion that Japan has suffered a collective loss of libido, and point out that its people are not alone among industrialised nations in struggling to find the time for intimacy.
More than 22% of all women surveyed said they found sex “troublesome”.
Among married men, 35.2% said that work left them “too tired” for intercourse – up dramatically from 21.3% in 2014 – while smaller numbers said they had come to see their wives solely as family members rather than as sexual partners, or that their sex lives had fizzled out after the birth of a child.
“This is the first time over 30% of men answered that they were too tired from work to have sex,” Kitamura said. “Apart from improving working hours, there is also a need to review how people work.”
Czech president, chain smoker, approves smoking ban in bars
(AP) President Milos Zeman has put to an end the Czech Republic’s status of one of the last havens for tobacco smokers in Europe.
Zeman, a chain smoker, signed into law on Tuesday a smoking ban in bars, restaurants and cafes after it was approved by both houses of Parliament.
It becomes effective on May 31, which is World No Tobacco Day.
Movie theaters, concert venues, exhibition halls and indoor sports settings would be banned from having separate rooms for smokers.
Unlike most of Europe, Czechs have remained tolerant of smoking. Right now it is up to restaurant owners to decide whether to allow or ban it.
Clashes leave over 100 dead in Congo
(DW) Soldiers fired on members of a militia in central Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past couple of days, killing at least 101 people, including some 39 women, the UN said on Tuesday.
The fighting between the armed forces — the FARDC — and members of the Kamuina Nsapu militia occurred in and around the town of Tshimbulu in Kasai Central Province between 9 and 13 February.
“According to information from several sources, FARDC soldiers opened fire indiscriminately with machine guns when they saw the militia fighters, who were armed mainly with machetes and spears”
“According to information from several sources, FARDC soldiers opened fire indiscriminately with machine guns when they saw the militia fighters, who were armed mainly with machetes and spears,” said the UN spokesperson for human rights, Liz Throssell.
Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands more displaced since August. The UN has documented atrocities being committed by both sides.
Violence has surged in recent weeks across the Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December, raising fears of a renewed civil war.
Dozens killed in fighting among jihadists in Syria
(Reuters) Dozens of fighters have been killed in two days of fighting between rival jihadist factions in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday.
The fighting has pitted a jihadist group seen as ideologically close to Islamic State – Jund al-Aqsa – against a newly formed jihadist alliance spearheaded by a faction that was once al Qaeda’s official affiliate in the war.
The Observatory said the death toll on both sides so far stood at 69.
The jihadist alliance – Tahrir al-Sham – has captured at least six villages from Jund al-Aqsa since Monday, the Observatory reported. Their power struggle is focused in northern areas of Hama province and adjoining areas of Idlib.
Tahrir al-Sham was formed last month from an alliance of factions including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, known as the Nusra Front until it formally severed ties with al Qaeda last year.
The Observatory said the death toll on both sides so far stood at 69.