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World News January 2019: Get the latest World Headline News with news links and news feeds from major news organizations.
BANGKOK — A jailed Belarusian model and her Russian lover, who claimed to have audio of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort discussing U.S. electoral strategy with high-placed Russian figures, were found guilty Tuesday of sex crimes and will be deported. After the couple’s arrest in February 2018 near Bangkok, Anastasia Vashukevich — who calls herself Nastya Rybka — attracted international attention when she claimed she and partner Alexander Kirillov had secretly recorded the scandalous audio when she was Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s “mistress” in 2016 and 2017. Thai authorities detained the couple for conducting a weeklong seminar that officials said offered sleazy seduction techniques to foreign men and women who paid $700 each. After her arrest in Pattaya, Thailand’s infamously hedonistic beach resort, Ms. Vashukevich posted a video online while inside a prison vehicle, pleading with “friends, American press” for help. She claimed the couple secretly recorded “Manafort and Trump and all that buzz around the U.S. elections.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a crushing defeat Tuesday as Parliament overwhelmingly rejected her Brexit deal with the European Union -- a defeat that places the future of Brexit in doubt and intensified calls for May’s ouster via a general election. May’s withdrawal agreement was voted down 432-202, the largest defeat for a prime minister in the history of the House of Commons. May was expected to lose, but the extent by which she lost was significant and marked a devastating blow for her leadership and her ability to go back to Brussels and negotiate further concessions. May acknowledged that her deal was rejected by Parliament, but added: "Tonight's vote tells us nothing about what it does support." Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, immediately tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government, which is likely to be debated on Wednesday. Should that pass, it could eventually lead to a snap general election if another government is not formed within two weeks.

Seeds taken to the moon by China have sprouted, according the country’s  National Space Administration, marking the first time any biological  matter has been grown on the moon’s surface. The experiment is being  seen as a significant step toward long-term space exploration. China’s  Chang’e 4 probe became the first to land on and explore the moon’s far  side when it touched down on Jan. 3. It was carrying soil containing  cotton and potato seeds, yeast, and fruit-fly eggs. The cotton seeds  have now grown buds, Chinese media report. State newspaper the People’s Daily  tweeted an image of the seed, saying it marked “the completion of  humankind’s first biological experiment on the moon.” Prof. Xie Gengxin,  the experiment’s chief designer, said: “Learning about these plants’  growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation  for our future establishment of space base.”

Pent-up anger found its vent on Monday in Zimbabwe as thousands crowded the streets of cities and towns nationwide to protest the mismanagement of an economy that has undeniably rotted to its core. Just five months have passed since Emmerson Mnangagwa took over as president from Robert Mugabe, who ruled for nearly 40 years and presided over Zimbabwe’s initial catastrophic economic meltdown. But Mnangagwa, who won a contested election on promises of putting the country back in business, has made decisions that strike many Zimbabweans as a continuation of Mugabe’s misguided policies. Mnangagwa deposed an increasingly erratic Mugabe with the help of the military in November 2017, but a subsequent election was marred by accusations of vote rigging. On Sunday, just before taking a private jet on an official trip to Russia (all of the state-owned airline’s planes are grounded), Mnangagwa announced a 140 percent increase in fuel prices, raising the cost to $12.53 a gallon and making Zimbabwe by far the most expensive place to gas up in the world. For many Zimbabweans, it was the last straw. They took to the streets, but in another echo of the Mugabe era, so did security forces, looters and unidentifiable armed men.

On January 7, Judge Dabney Friedrich, who is presiding over the trial against the Russian firm Concord Management and Consulting LLC for its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, had a highly contentious courtroom exchange with defense lawyer Eric Dubelier, calling his conduct “unprofessional, inappropriate, and ineffective.” In a January 4 brief filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Dubelier compared Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutorial argument to a line from the 1978 film “Animal House”: "You f---ed up. You trusted us. Hey, make the best of it.”

Syrian state media reported on Sunday one missile fired towards Damascus struck a warehouse at the city's airport. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel carried out an air raid on Iranian weapons in Syria over the weekend, a rare public confirmation of such attacks. "Just in the last 36 hours the air force attacked Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons in the Damascus international airport," Netanyahu said on Sunday at the start of a cabinet meeting, according to his office. "The accumulation of recent attacks shows that we're more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria, just as we promised," the prime minister's office said.

New  evidence shows that three Russian journalists killed in the Central  African Republic last year were victims of a well-planned ambush  involving a senior police officer with shadowy Russian connections --  and they were tracked from the moment they arrived in the country. The  three journalists -- Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan  Dzhemal -- went to CAR in July 2018 to investigate the activities of  Russian private military contractors. Their intention was to find out  how the contractors were involved in exploiting the CAR's mineral  wealth. The trio were  shot dead after the vehicle in which they were traveling was attacked on  a remote road in the volatile country. Their fate has cast a spotlight  on a growing Russian presence in Africa, involving the Kremlin, private  companies with ties to to President Vladimir Putin and large shipments  of weapons. The official  explanation of their death is that they were in the wrong place at the  wrong time, victims of bandits or rebels. But that story never quite  added up. Nothing of value was taken from their vehicle, their driver  survived unscathed, and investigations remain incomplete.

British legislators ramp up pressure on embattled Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of crucial Brexit vote next week. British legislators have slashed the time Prime Minister Theresa May's government will have to formulate a plan B if her widely criticised Brexit deal is rejected in a crucial parliamentary vote next week. Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK's lower chamber House of Commons voted 308 to 297 on Wednesday to back a motion demanding the government puts forward a revised plan within three days should May lose the vote on January 15. MPs will have the right to amend any second plan brought forward by May, potentially opening the way for several different outcomes, ranging from a so-called "managed no-deal" exit to another referendum. May, who is struggling to win approval for her Brexit plan, previously had 21 days to report back to the Commons in the event of a defeat next Tuesday.

US  officials are working to contain the fallout from President Donald  Trump's shock announcement of a Syria troop withdrawal, flatly  contradicting the President as they do so and raising questions about  whether a coherent strategy exists at all. Trump  continues to qualify his statements on the US military presence in  Syria, swinging from his ringing, conditions-free declaration in  December that troops would be leaving "now" since ISIS had been defeated  to Monday's more cautious tweet that troops would leave "at a proper  pace." The two most  senior members of Trump's national security teams, meanwhile, are  reassuring allies in ways that baldly contradict the President's earlier  declarations.

BEIJING — China’s president, Xi Jinping,  warned Taiwan that unification must be the ultimate goal of any talks  over its future and that efforts to assert full independence could be  met by armed force, laying out an unyielding position on Wednesday in  his first major speech about the contested island democracy. Mr. Xi outlined his stance one day after Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, urged China to peacefully settle  disputes over the island, whose 23 million people, she said, want to  preserve their self-rule. But Beijing treats Taiwan as an illegitimate  breakaway from Chinese rule, and Mr. Xi said unification was unstoppable  as China rose. “The country is  growing strong, the nation is rejuvenating and unification between the  two sides of the strait is the great trend of history,” Mr. Xi told  officials, military officers and guests in the Great Hall of the People  in central Beijing.

Nearly two years into his presidency and  more than six months after his historic summit meeting with Kim Jong-un  of North Korea, President Trump finds himself essentially back where he  was at the beginning in achieving the ambitious goal of getting Mr. Kim  to relinquish his nuclear arsenal.
That was the essential message of Mr. Kim’s annual New Year’s televised speech,  where he reiterated that international sanctions must be lifted before  North Korea will give up a single weapon, dismantle a single missile  site or stop producing nuclear material.

Enmeshed in three graft cases, the Israeli PM denies any wrongdoing and will seek a new mandate in April polls. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has  said he would not resign if indicted on corruption charges, as police  continue to investigate several cases involving him ahead of April  polls.
Netanyahu, who is enmeshed in three corruption cases and denies any wrongdoing, announced last week that a snap parliamentary elections would be held in April, seeking a fresh political mandate after his right-wing ruling coalition collapsed. On Monday, Netanyahu said at a press  conference during his Brazil visit that he would not step down "in the  event of being summoned for a hearing by the prosecutor general before  the elections".

A French president struggling to  reassert his grip after weeks of violent demonstrations across the  country assured citizens on Monday night that he understood their anger —  but said that henceforth order would be “applied without compromise.” In  a potentially pivotal moment of his presidency, Emmanuel Macron sought  to calm a country shaken by over six weeks of unrest, in which wealthy  neighborhoods of Paris have been repeatedly hit by looting and burning. Mr.  Macron, in the traditional New Year’s Eve speech given by French  presidents, alternated between admonition and conciliation. But his  overall message for the “Yellow Vest” protesters behind the  demonstrations was unmistakable: Curb the disorder. “I’ve seen and heard unthinkable, unacceptable things,” Mr. Macron said. He vowed to “ensure everyone of their rights” but also to “expect from them their duties.”

Britain's prime minister is using her new year's message to seek more political support for the proposed Brexit deal with the European Union.
Theresa May said Monday night that Britain can "turn a corner" and end a  divisive period if Parliament backs the agreement she reached with the  EU.

The  State Department, Department of Defense and national security adviser  John Bolton all issued public statements Friday that collectively  outlined a road map for implementing President Donald Trump's decision  to pull US troops out of Syria, a move the President has adamantly  defended after more than a week of criticism and signs of conflict  within the administration's highest levels. Over  the course of just a few hours, both agencies and the White House  national security adviser all released individual statements suggesting  the administration is taking steps to initiate the complete withdrawal  of 2,000 US troops from Syria despite a whirlwind of controversy.  Trump's announcement more than a week ago blindsided allies in the  region and sparked a controversy that culminated in the resignation of  Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Kim Jong Un used his New Year’s address to issue a  pointed warning to President Donald Trump, saying North Korea would take  a “new path” in nuclear talks if the U.S. didn’t relax economic  sanctions. While  Kim affirmed his willingness to meet Trump again, his nationally  televised speech offered no new initiatives to advance talks that have  sputtered since their first summit in June. Instead, Kim said his  patience with the U.S.-led sanctions regime designed as punishment for  his nuclear weapons program was running out. “I am willing to sit with the U.S. president any time in the  future and will strive to produce outcomes that would be welcomed by the  international community,” Kim said, wearing a suit and tie and seated  in a plush leather chair overlooked by paintings of his father and  grandfather at work.

    
Allies have quit UNESCO after announcement in 2017, arguing it fosters anti-Israel bias. The United States and Israel have officially quit the United Nations  Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the  stroke of midnight on New Year's Day, the culmination of a process  triggered more than a year ago. The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the US after World War II to foster peace.
The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit, accusing the UN agency of anti-Israel bias.

History shows that cooperation is the best choice for both China and the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. President Donald Trump in a congratulatory message on Tuesday to mark 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The two countries agreed last month to a 90-day temporary ceasefire  in their bitter trade war to give them time to hold fresh talks to try  and end a dispute that has seen them level increasingly severe tariffs  on each others’ goods.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has a near  impossible feat to accomplish in the new year—convince Vladimir Putin to  give up Russian territory.
The land in question is a chain of tiny islands known as the Southern Kurils to Russia and the Northern Territories  to Japan, and the dispute over them has dogged relations between the  Pacific neighbors since the end of World War II. In recent weeks, the  two countries have signaled renewed efforts to bring the disagreement to  an end.

Pope Francis, in his first message of the new year on Tuesday,  bemoaned a lack of unity across the world, and warned against a soulless  hunt for profit that benefits only a few. “How much dispersion  and solitude there is all around us. The world is completely connected,  yet seems increasingly disjointed,” the pope said in his traditional New  Year’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily he paid  homage to motherhood, saying a world that looked to the future while  forgetting “a mother’s gaze” was shortsighted.

Paul  Whelan, a 48-year-old retired U.S. Marine, was detained last week by  Russia’s domestic security services while he was in Moscow for what they  described as a “spy mission.” “We are deeply  concerned for his safety and well-being,” his family said in a  statement. “His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will  be respected.” Whelan’s twin brother, David,  said Paul was in Moscow for a fellow former Marine’s wedding, which took  place at an upscale hotel in central Moscow on Dec. 28, the day he was  detained. “It is inconceivable to me that he would have done anything to break the law in Russia,” his brother told The Post.

Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is a  threat to Brazilian democracy — and a model for authoritarianism that  leaders around the world will follow. RIO DE JANEIRO — The tanks began to roll into Rio de Janeiro on the morning of April 1, 1964, some of them from the neighboring state of Minas Gerais, others from São Paulo. The Brazilian capital had moved to Brasília, the new planned city in the country’s interior, a few years prior, but Rio remained the effective center of power, and somewhere in the city, President João Goulart was clinging to power.

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