The World Today for January 30, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

An Order Heard Round the World

As protesters swarmed airports in the United States and foreign permanent residents and visa holders found themselves rebuffed as they attempted to board US-bound airplanes, world leaders were also for the most part dismayed over the weekend by President Donald Trump’s executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim countries from entering the US.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel – who has sparred with Trump over her decision to let roughly one million asylum seekers from Syria and elsewhere enter her country – signaled that she disapproved of the president’s move.

“The chancellor regrets the US government’s entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement quoted in the Guardian. “She is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.”

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said he didn’t think the ban or other White House policies would help curb terrorism. “You can build a wall but it’s not a solution,” he told Reuters, adding that Turkey had spent some $26 billion on sheltering refugees from Syria and elsewhere. “That wall will come down like the Berlin wall.”

More than 800,000 Britons signed a petition to stop Trump from meeting with Queen Elizabeth, the Telegraph reported. The British parliament must debate the demands of petitions that garner more than 100,000 signatures. At one point, more than 1,000 people were signing it per minute.

Iraqis were especially upset, according to USA Today. Many Iraqis fought alongside American troops or acted as interpreters and support staff for the American military. Now they feel abandoned. “Even I have been banned,” said Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily on Sunday from Baghdad. “I just got confirmation from the embassy.”

In an example of the vagaries of the free market, Canadian tech companies immediately petitioned Ottawa to grant visas to engineers and other highly skilled workers who might not be able to realize their dreams of founding a new tech giant like Apple, Facebook or Google in Silicon Valley, the Globe and Mail reported.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would take them.

Meanwhile, Iran moved to ban Americans from receiving visas. “Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault-lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

A federal court temporarily stayed the ban. So the story isn’t over. Americans will be watching and debating the merits of Trump’s move over the next week and longer. And the world will, too.

WANT TO KNOW

A First Casualty                       

A US commando was killed in Yemen on Sunday in the first counterterrorism operation authorized by President Donald Trump.

One member of Seal Team Six was killed and three others were wounded in a fierce firefight against al Qaeda in central Yemen, the New York Times reported. The commando was the first US soldier to die in the fight against al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate, the paper said.

The Times quoted the US military as saying about 14 al Qaeda fighters were killed, including a brother-in-law of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who was the top al Qaeda leader in Yemen until he was killed by a drone strike in 2011.

After initially denying that there were any civilian casualties, American officials said they were assessing reports that women and children had died in the attack.

The military’s Joint Special Operations Command had been planning the mission for months. The administration of former President Barack Obama had delayed authorizing it as officials weighed the risks to US soldiers versus potential intelligence the operation might yield.

Safety Dance

The king of Saudi Arabia agreed to support “safe zones” in Syria and Yemen for refugees – an alternative to offering them refuge in Europe or the United States.

“The president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” Reuters quoted a White House statement as saying, following a telephone call between Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Sunday.

The agency quoted a senior Saudi source as saying the leaders had agreed to step up counter-terrorism efforts, as well as military and economic cooperation. But it was not known whether they discussed Trump’s move to temporarily stop the inflow of refugees to the US and ban travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, the agency said.

The leaders also discussed their shared distrust of Iran and the possibility of the US joining Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

A Call to Prayer

Six people were killed and eight were injured after gunmen opened fire in a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers on Sunday.

As many as three gunmen opened fired on about 40 people inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center, Reuters reported.

Two suspects have been arrested, CBC news said. There’s no information yet about the motive or the identities of the shooters, but last June, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the mosque, the TV channel said.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said via Twitter that “Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence” and offered solidarity with the families of victims and wounded, CBC said.

The BBC quoted a report by local newspaper Le Soleil as saying one of the suspects was a 27-year-old with “a Quebec name,” and one had an AK-47 automatic weapon in his possession.

DISCOVERIES

Australians: Please Try This at Home

The Australian Reptile Park in Sydney issued an unusually risky request to Aussies this week: get outside and catch some deadly funnel-web spiders.

The idea isn’t entirely new. The park has relied on the Australian public for decades to collect and donate these spiders, which are milked for their venom to produce an antidote.

But after a wave of spider bites during a recent heat wave depleted existing antidote stocks, park rangers became concerned that the anti-venom program was at risk.

Thanks to the spider’s large fangs and acidic venom, major bites are more than just painful – they can cause death within the hour, reported Reuters.

Still, park rangers say that it’s safe for Australians to catch these lethal critters if they listen to precautions and common sense.

“With an appropriate jar and a wooden spoon, you can flick the spider into the jar so easily,” Tim Faulkner, the park’s general manager, told Reuters. “We’ve been doing this for 35 years and no one’s been hurt.”

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