Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Kerry and Hagel defend U.S. global policy

Germany

Kerry and Hagel defend U.S. policy

In an unusual joint appearance overseas, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told European allies Saturday that Washington would depend more heavily on them to tackle a litany of political and security crises, even as the two pushed back against concerns that the Obama administration was abdicating leadership on the same issues.

They told a gathering of world leaders and business executives at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany that a "trans-Atlantic renaissance" was necessary to confront an array of challenges, from climate change to violent extremism in the Middle East and collapsing states in Africa.

In contrast with past lectures from U.S. officials, Kerry and Hagel did not hector European countries to simply boost military spending. Instead, the U.S. leaders gently urged their European allies to work together to project their influence over Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

Thailand

Elections begin after a day of gunbattles

Thailand's tense national election got under way today amid signs of disruptions at several polling stations and fears of violence, a day after gunbattles between protesters and would-be voters broke out at a busy Bangkok intersection.

At least seven people were wounded in Saturday's clashes, including an American photojournalist, when gunbattles broke out at a busy Bangkok intersection between government supporters and protesters intent on derailing the polls.

The protesters are behind a monthslong campaign to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government, which they accuse of corruption.

Germany

Russia faults West's stance on Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed Western support of Ukraine's opposition, suggesting Saturday that it is helping fuel the escalation of violence.

At a gathering of the world's top diplomats and defense officials in Munich, Germany, Lavrov took issue with what he said were "prominent European politicians actually encouraging such actions."

Ukraine has faced two months of major protests over policies of President Viktor Yanukovych.

New York

Molestation claim against Allen revived

Dylan Farrow renewed molestation allegations against Woody Allen, claiming the movie director sexually assaulted her when she was 7 after he and actress Mia Farrow adopted her.

In an open letter to the New York Times posted online Saturday, Dylan Farrow made her first public comments about the 1992 incident. In a letter to op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, she said she was moved to speak out because of Hollywood's continued embrace of Allen. Allen has long maintained his innocence.

Dylan Farrow said she now lives happily married in Florida under another name.

New York

Christie's office slams former ally in memo

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration struck back hard Saturday against a former ally who accused the governor of lying about how much he knew about the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, a scandal that has become the biggest crisis in Christie's political career.

In a two-page memo obtained by Politico, and which it said was sent "from the governor's office," David Wildstein, a former high-ranking official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was portrayed as a loose cannon who was attacking Christie only in an effort to save himself and noted that he had been described in newspaper accounts in the past as "tumultuous" and someone "who made moves that were not productive."

The port authority operates the bridge. In September, Wildstein and a top Christie appointees at the authority ordered the lane closures, causing four days of gridlock in Fort Lee, apparently as retribution against the mayor for not endorsing Christie for re-election. Wildstein's lawyer did not respond to requests to comment.

Elsewhere

Syria: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon pressed the United States and Russia to help ensure that peace talks aimed at stemming Syria's civil war can soon resume, while Russia's foreign minister said Saturday that it was difficult to push Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to make concessions.

Chicago: Former Mayor Richard M. Daley, 71, was hospitalized in an intensive care unit Saturday after feeling ill the night before while returning to Illinois from a business trip in Arizona. He was being monitored and evaluated, a family statement said.

Indonesia: An active volcano on Sumatra Island unexpectedly erupted again Saturday, killing at least 14 people and spreading toxic clouds of hot ash that hampered search and rescue teams, officials said.

Times wires

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