Call Me, Maybe? Trump Reaches Out to China’s President in a Letter
Simon Denyer, THE WASHINGTON POST
The White House has issued a statement saying President Trump “provided a letter” to Xi Jinping on Wednesday, thanking the Chinese leader for a congratulatory note he had sent on the US president’s inauguration. The letter wishing China a “prosperous year of the rooster” came 11 days after China celebrated its Lunar New Year festival. President Trump has yet to speak to Xi Jinping since his inauguration, even though he has spoken directly or met at least 18 other world leaders.
Last Cuban Doctor Defectors Arrive in US after Policy Change
Adriana Gomez Licon, THE SEATTLE TIMES
Yoandri Pavot and other Cuban doctors arriving this week in Miami are the last to benefit from the now canceled policy called the Cuban Medical Professionals Parole. The program—begun in 2006 by then President George W. Bush—allowed Cuban doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to defect to the US while on their government’s mandatory assignments abroad. Pavot said he had applied after the Cuban government dispatched him to a crime-ridden area of Venezuela, where many co-workers were attacked. The waning administration of President Barack Obama canceled the doctors’ policy Jan. 12.
New Book Reveals the Truth about Car Culture in Cuba
Jaclyn Trop, FORBES
As the US begins to ease restrictions on travel for educational purposes and Cuba relaxes its ban on imports, a new book debunks the myth that the roads teem with the romance of a bygone era. Cuba’s Car Culture: Celebrating The Island’s Automotive Love Affair, by Bill Warner, dispels the notion that Cuba’s car culture is an automotive paradise of yesteryear. “The Cuban people are so tired of these old pieces-of-**** cars,” the authors quote their translator during a research trip to Cuba. Cuba, which was once the largest auto market in Latin America and the world’s leading importer of American cars, hasn’t welcomed new cars to the island for almost 60 years.
Hong Kong Communist Party Newspaper Editor Seeks Asylum in US
RADIO FREE ASIA
An editor of a Hong Kong newspaper has fled the city and is seeking asylum in the United States, citing political persecution by the ruling Chinese Communist Party after he showed support for the former British colony’s 2014 pro-democracy movement. Long Zhenyang, 47, handed in his resignation as assistant editor-in-chief of the Commercial Daily, one of a trio of Beijing-backed newspapers in the Chinese-controlled territory. “I had already been placed under political measures at the paper for over a year, which basically meant that they didn’t trust my politics,” Long said, adding that he is seeking political asylum.
North Korea Food Rations Fall Short of UN Recommendations
Elizabeth Shim, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
North Korea is still falling short of maintaining minimum daily rations for its population, according to the most recent data from the World Food Program. The state distributed 400 grams daily per person in January, significantly below the UN-recommended amount of 600 grams daily per person. The reduced ration is 67 percent of the UN-recommended amount. That amount is also lower than North Korea’s goal of 573 grams daily per person.
UN: North Korea Exploiting Children
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Although the North Korean government claims to have abolished child labor 70 years ago, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and other government agencies still require students and other children to take part in forced labor on behalf of the state. Other human rights violations include government discrimination regarding access to education, abuses against children with mothers in third countries, corporal punishment at schools, and children compelled to work extended hours without pay in paramilitary forced labor brigades
Russian Hacking Group’s “Last Member At Liberty” Comes Out of the Shadows
Shaun Walker, THE GUARDIAN
After several years of hiding in the shadows, Alexander is, or at least claims to be, the last member still at large of Russia’s most notorious band of hackers and leakers. Shaltai-Boltai, or Humpty Dumpty, terrorized Russian officials for nearly three years, combining hacking, leaking, and extortion, while retaining an impenetrable cloak of anonymity.
Date Set for Crimean Journalist’s Trial
RADIO FREE EUROPE
A date has been set for the high-profile trial of journalist Mykola Semena in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian region of Crimea. Semena’s lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, told RFE/RL on February 8 that preliminary hearings into the case will be held by the Zaliznychnyy district court in Simferopol on February 17. Semena has been charged with separatism and may be sentenced to five years in prison if convicted for an article he wrote on his blog that was critical of Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The Gulag Aperture: Hollywood Becomes Handmaiden to China’s Communist Party
Alex Grass, FORBES
On New Year’s Day, China Central Television (CCTV) unveiled its newest “soft power” entertainment media venture, whose purpose is to extend China’s global media influence. Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping said that the overriding directive of this new collection of television stations and news agencies will be to “follow the party line and promote ‘positive propaganda as the main theme.’” The CCTV announcement compounds the growing risk that increased Chinese investment will entice Hollywood into volunteering itself as a propaganda division of the Communist Party of China (CPC). And if these trends continue, the Western world’s outlet for Chinese dissenters will be closed.
Ryan: “Gaping Difference” between US, Russia
Mallory Shelbourne, THE HILL
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday there is no “moral equivalency” between the United States and Russia, pushing back on President Trump’s recent defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I don’t think there’s a moral equivalency here at all. So I just disagree with any kind of notion of a moral equivalency,” Ryan said during an interview with PBS NewsHour set to air Wednesday evening. “There’s a gaping difference between the United States of America and Putin’s Russia,” Ryan added.
Congressional Group Urges Visa Ban for Venezuelan Officials
Suzanne Gamboa, NBC NEWS
If President Donald Trump wants to impose visa bans, members of Congress say he should do so against members of Venezuela’s regime who are profiting from the country’s dire circumstances. A bipartisan group of 32 congressional members asked Trump in a letter to take action against Venezuelan authorities, by freezing assets of and banning visas for “any Venezuelan official who is involved in human rights violations or corrupt practices.” The letter dated Wednesday was written by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Venezuela May Have Given Passports to People with Ties to Terrorism
Scott Zamost and Drew Griffin, CNN
CNN and CNN en Español teamed up in a year-long joint investigation that uncovered serious irregularities in the issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas, including allegations that passports were given to people with ties to terrorism. One confidential intelligence document obtained by CNN links Venezuela’s new Vice President Tareck El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and IDs that were issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.