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10 things you need to know today!

1. State Department plans to cut aid to Central America

Migrants from Honduras walk in the river as they try to cross the Rio Bravo towards the United States, as seen from Piedras Negras, Mexico, February 16, 2019

The Trump administration formally announced plans to cut aid to three countries in Central America on Saturday, just one day after President Trump threatened to close America’s southern border next week. The State Department announced it would no longer send aid — which would have totaled somewhere between $500 million and $700 million — to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras as punishment for the large amount of migrants leaving those countries to go north to the United States. Trump has accused the nations of having “set up” migrant caravans. The State Department, however, said it would “engage Congress in the process” of ending the funding, likely signaling that it will need congressional approval to do so.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Trump’s order a “reckless announcement” and urged Democrats and Republicans alike to reject it.

Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Friday that the United States was paying the three countries “tremendous amounts of money,” but received nothing in return.

Mario Garcia, a 45-year-old bricklayer in El Salvador, said he was setting off for the United States regardless of the president’s threat to close the frontier.

“There is no work here and we want to improve (our lives), to get ahead for our families, for our children. I don’t give a damn (what Trump says), I’m determined,” Garcia said.

Garcia was one of a group of at least 90 people who left the capital San Salvador over the weekend on buses heading north, in what locals said was the tenth so-called caravan to depart for the United States since October.

The government of El Salvador has said it has tried to stem the flow of migrants.

[Reuters, BBC]

2. Judge blocks Trump’s executive order on Arctic offshore drilling

Hasil gambar untuk Judge rules Trump executive order allowing offshore drilling in Arctic Ocean unlawful

President Trump’s executive order that overturned a ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans was ruled “unlawful and invalid” by a federal judge in Alaska on Saturday. Just weeks before leaving office, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order which prohibited drilling in certain areas in the two oceans. But Trump signed an executive order of his own to reopen those areas, which prompted ten environmental groups to file a lawsuit in the hopes of blocking Trump’s reversal. According to the judge’s ruling, Trump will need congressional approval to enforce the change. The judge, Sharon Gleason, wrote that a president only has the authority to withdraw lands from consideration for drilling. The office does not, she said, have the power to revoke a prior withdrawal.

Gleason saying Trump’s executive order “is unlawful, as it exceeded the President’s authority.”

“The wording of President Obama’s 2015 and 2016 withdrawals indicates that he intended them to extend indefinitely, and therefore be revocable only by an act of Congress,” Gleason said. Gleason added the withdrawals in 2015 and 2016 “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress.”

An Interior Department spokeswoman declined to comment citing pending litigation.”While we disagree with the decision, our nation still has a significant opportunity before us in the development of the next offshore leasing plan to truly embrace our nation’s energy potential and ensure American consumers and businesses continue to benefit from U.S. energy leadership,” a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute said in a statement to CNN.

League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski touted the environmentalist win in a statement marking the latest court ruling against a Trump administration environmental move.”This victory shows that no one, not even Trump, is above the law,” Karpinski said in a statement. “Offshore drilling and the associated threat of devastating oil spills puts coastal economies and ways of life at risk while worsening the consequences of climate change. President Trump wanted to erase all the environmental progress we’ve made, but we fought back and we won.”

The League of Conservation Voters also said the ruling would force the Trump administration to re-examine its five-year leasing program for the Outer Continental Shelf. An appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is considered likely in the case.

[CNN, The Wall Street Journal]

3. Ukraine heads to the polls in presidential election

Ukrainians began voting on Sunday to elect a new president. The size of the field is unprecedented. Current President Petro Poroshenko is running for re-election, but the frontrunner is 41-year-old comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky stars in a TV show, in which he portrays an ordinary citizen who becomes president to fight against corruption. He reportedly has held no rallies and has done few interviews, but his extensive use of social media has allowed him to captivate younger voters. Both Zelensky and Petroshenko, along with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have expressed pro-European Union views during the campaign. Pro-Russia candidates are not considered serious contenders. If no candidate receives a majority vote, the top two will advance to a second round of elections slated for April 21.

A total of 39 candidates are on the ballot paper, but only the three front-runners are considered to have any chance of victory.

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The Ukrainian president has significant powers over security, defence and foreign policy and the ex-Soviet republic’s system is described as semi-presidential.

The comedian who could be president

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Mr Zelenskiy is aiming to turn his satirical TV show – in which he portrays an ordinary citizen who becomes president after fighting corruption – into reality.

He has torn up the rule book for election campaigning, the BBC’s Jonah Fisher reports from Kiev. He has done no rallies and few interviews, and appears to have no strong political views apart from a wish to be new and different.

His extensive use of social media appeals to younger voters.

His readiness to speak both Russian and Ukrainian, at a time when language rights are a hugely sensitive topic, has gained him support in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east.

Opinion polls suggest he will have a clear lead over Mr Poroshenko and Ms Tymoshenko in the first round, and would retain it in a run-off against either of them.

Petro Poroshenko voted with his wife 

Petro Poroshenko votes in Kiev, 31 March

Mr Poroshenko aims to appeal to conservative Ukrainians through his slogan “Army, Language, Faith”.

He says his backing for the military has helped keep the separatists in eastern Ukraine in check. He also negotiated an Association Agreement with the EU, including visa-free travel for Ukrainians. During his tenure the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has become independent of Russian control.

However his campaign has been dogged by corruption allegations, including a scandal over defence procurement, which erupted last month.

Yulia Tymoshenko stood for president twice before 

Yulia Tymoshenko outside a polling station in Kiev, 31 May

The third main contender is Yulia Tymoshenko who has served as prime minister and ran for president in 2010 and 2014. She played a leading role in the 2004 Orange Revolution, Ukraine’s first big push to ally itself with the EU.

The front-runner among the pro-Russian candidates, Yuriy Boyko, says he would “normalise” relations with Russia.

[BBC, Radio Free Europe]

4. Israeli forces kill 4 at Gaza border protests, militants fire rockets at Israel

Hasil gambar untuk Four Palestinians killed at border protest; rockets from Gaza Strip hit Israel GIF

Thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Israel-Gaza border fence in protest on Saturday, marking the one-year anniversary of the start of weekly demonstrations at the boundary site backing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homeland. Israeli armed forces patrolled the perimeter. The troops and the protesters clashed, ultimately resulting in the soldiers using live rounds, rubber bullets, and tear gas on the crowd. Four Palestinians, including three teenagers, were killed and dozens more wounded by the Israeli forces.killing three 17-year-old boys, and wounding at least 207 people, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Hasil gambar untuk Four Palestinians killed at border protest; rockets from Gaza Strip hit Israel GIF

Tamer Abu el-Khair was shot in the chest east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and died at a hospital, the ministry said. The second teen, Adham Amara, died after being shot in the face east of Gaza City.  The third teen, Belal al-Najjar, was killed by an Israeli gunshot, according to Gaza officials. A fourth Palestinian, identified as 20-year-old Mohamed Jihad Saad, was killed in an overnight demonstration ahead of the main protest.

On Sunday, militants fired five rockets from Gaza into Israel. No casualties were reported as a result of the rockets.

Hamas, meanwhile, faces growing unrest in Gaza as a result of worsening conditions after more than a decade of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade. The two countries imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

The blockade has helped drive unemployment over 50 percent, led to chronic power outages and made it extremely difficult for Gazans to travel out of the territory.

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Earlier this month, Hamas violently suppressed several days of public protests, staged under the slogan “We want to live,” over the dire conditions.

The fence protests, which began exactly a year ago, have been aimed in large part at breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, but haven’t delivered major improvements.

The Israeli military estimated 40,000 Palestinians were gathered at the marches on Saturday. As the protest was winding down, organizers vowed to continue the marches and said they would gather again as usual next Friday.

[Al Jazeera, NBC News]

5. Slovakia elects first female president

Slovakia elected its first female president on Sunday. Environmental lawyer and government critic Zuzana Caputova handily defeated her opponent, Maros Sefcovic, by a count of 58 percent of the vote to 42. Both candidates are considered pro-Europe, though Sefcovic argued that Slovakia retain more decision-making powers. Caputova, who has been called liberal, said she views her election as a signal for change. Her victory runs counter to trends in Europe, which has seen populist, Euro-skeptic parties increasingly make gains throughout the continent. Caputova campaigned to end corruption in Slovakia, where a journalist who investigated high profile fraud cases and his fiancé were murdered last year. Caputova said the crime sparked her candidacy.

Aged 45, a divorcee and mother of two, she is a member of the liberal Progressive Slovakia party, which has no seats in parliament.

In a country where same-sex marriage and adoption is not yet legal, her liberal views have seen her promote LGBTQ+ rights.

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The opponent she defeated, Mr Sefcovic, is vice president of the European Commission.

Challenges ahead

A girl walks past one of Ms Caputova's campaign posters, which reads "Stand up against evil, together we can do it"

Saturday night did feel like a moment. Addressing crowds of supporters in her impromptu election HQ at Bratislava’s Habsburg-era indoor market, Zuzana Caputova quietly extolled values that now seem to come from a bygone political age: compassion, tolerance, truth.

But while liberals rejoice at what they see as proof the tide of populism in Central Europe can be turned, some urge caution.

One analyst said darkly within hours of her election: “Expect Fico to launch a campaign against her right away, before June’s inauguration.”

He added that parliament would seek to stymie her liberal agenda even before she took office, for example by passing legislation to make same-sex marriage difficult if not impossible.

But, he said, her appeal to voters remained strong.

“Viktor Orban [the Hungarian PM] attacked her hard from Budapest,” he said. “But I’m hearing most ethnic Hungarians [10% of Slovakia’s population] voted for her anyway.”

In the first round, Ms Caputova won 40% of the vote, with Mr Sefcovic gaining less than 19%.

Several heads of state – including those of neighbouring Austria and Ukraine – have expressed their support for Ms Caputova on social media.

[BBC, Radio Free Europe]

6. O’Rourke launches campaign in native Texas

Beto O'Rourke kicks off his grassroots campaign in El Paso, TX

2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate Beto O’Rourke officially kicked off his campaign on Saturday in his home state of Texas. O’Rourke spoke to crowds in El Paso, Houston, and Austin where he discussed issues such as immigration, the war on drugs, and for-profit prisons. O’Rourke, who was born in El Paso, spoke on a stage just blocks away from the city’s border with Mexico. “If we truly believe we are a country of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees, the very premise of our strength, success and our security, let us free every single Dreamer from any fear of deportation,” he said. O’Rourke, who announced his decision to run two weeks ago, raised $6 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate.

The campaign’s first weeks have shown both the promise and potential for this unorthodox candidate. His events at coffee shops and breweries have been packed with supportive or curious would-be voters, and his hiring this week of Jen O’Malley Dillion to manage his campaign signaled a desire to professionalize his skeletal operation.

Voters shift support from other Dems to the 'Beto bandwagon'

But O’Rourke faces a wide swath of new challenges in a Democratic presidential primary that he didn’t face in his much-publicized Senate race last year against Republican Ted Cruz. He enters a very crowded field with other Democratic stars from across the country in a year when hunger is high among many Democrats for a ticket including gender and racial diversity.

Fellow Texan and rival Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro launched his campaign from San Antonio in January and has also focused on border issues.

O’Rourke’s focus on his border community resonated with Giselle Rodriguez of El Paso, who attended the rally and thinks O’Rourke “is ready to be president, especially because he has personal experience in El Paso and because very involved in the border,” she said. “It’s a safe place … I cross to Juarez whenever I want. I never have an issue. I never see a problem.”

[Fox News, NBC News]

7. NBA star Kristaps Porzingis accused of rape

Kristaps Porzingis during a Dallas Mavericks game on March 14, 2019.

A woman accused Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis of rape in New York last year, the New York Post reported on Saturday. The woman told police about the alleged attack on Thursday. She said she waited more than a year to come forward to authorities because she had discussed receiving $68,000 from Porzingis to remain quiet. At the time of the alleged incident, Porzingis was playing for the New York Knicks.

The Knicks were reportedly aware of the allegations when they traded Porzingis to Dallas in January. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban said that the team knew about the situation, as well, but federal authorities have instructed them not to comment. Cuban declined further comment when contacted by ESPN.

An NYPD spokesperson would not confirm the Post report, issuing this statement: “The NYPD takes sexual assault and all rape cases extremely seriously, and urges anyone who has been a victim to file a report so we can perform a comprehensive investigation, and offer support and services to survivors.”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Sunday that Porzingis is not currently with the team, as it was pre-planned for him to stay back in Dallas and work out as the Mavericks traveled to face Oklahoma City. Carlisle said this situation won’t affect Porzingis’ availability for practice, but if he wanted to take time away from the team, the Mavericks would be open to that.

“If he wanted to take some personal time away from being on the bench or whatever, we would certainly grant him that, but that would be his call. That would be his call,” Carlisle said.

[New York Post, ESPN]

8. Pope Francis continues to build interfaith ties between Muslims, Christians in Morocco

Pope Francis continued to attempt to strengthen ties between the Muslim and Christian faiths on Saturday. The pope arrived in Morocco, where he was greeted by Morocco’s King Mohamed VI. The visit follows a February trip that Francis took to the United Arab Emirates, where he and the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, signed a landmark joint statement establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as a brotherhood. The pope also showed solidarity with Morocco’s migrant communities. The Moroccan press responded warmly to Francis’ quick 27-hour visit. L’Opinion, a daily Francophone newspaper, viewed the trip as a way of consoling Morocco’s Muslim community in the wake of the Christchurch, New Zealand, shootings.

Francis told the king that he hoped Morocco would continue to be a model of humanity, welcome and protection for migrants.

“The issue of migration will never be resolved by raising barriers, fomenting fear of others or denying assistance to those who legitimately aspire to a better life for themselves and their families,” Francis said.

Francis opened his remarks to the king by praising Morocco’s tradition of interfaith coexistence and its efforts to promote a moderate form of Islam.

Morocco, a Sunni Muslim kingdom of 36 million, reformed its religious policies and education to limit the spread of fundamentalism in 2004, following terrorist bombings in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 43 people.

Key to that effort has been the Mohammed VI Institute, a school of learning for imams that teaches a moderate Islam and exports it via preachers to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Francis praised the school, saying it “seeks to provide effective and sound training to combat all forms of extremism, which so often lead to violence and terrorism, and which in any event, constitute an offense against religion.”

The king said education was the key to fighting radicalism — not military crackdowns.

“What all terrorists have in common is not religion, but rather ignorance of religion,” he said.

The two leaders visited the institute together, where they heard from students and were treated to a stunning and symbolic vocal and orchestral performance that opened with a Muslim call to prayer, and blended Christian and Hebrew musical traditions.

Nigerian microbiologist Hindu Usman told the pope and king that when she graduates and returns home, she hopes to work to deter religious extremism and promote coexistence with Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths. Her education, she said, made her able to “argue and convince others that religion is for peace and goodness … that women are equal with men in their rights.”

The trip follows Francis’ February visit to the United Arab Emirates, where the pope and the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, signed a landmark joint statement establishing Catholics and Muslims as brothers with a common mission to promote peace. The “Human Fraternity” document outlines a shared set of principles, focusing on the dignity of every person and rejecting violence committed in God’s name.

Muslims, Christians and Jews have long lived peacefully in Morocco, with Catholics a tiny minority of about 23,000. Francis will minister to them on Sunday when he celebrates Mass in Rabat’s sports stadium.

[The Associated Press, Vatican News]

9. Beyonce wins entertainer of the year at 50th annual NAACP Image awards

The 50th annual NAACP Image awards ceremony, which highlights works by entertainers and writers of color, took place on Saturday evening at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. Beyonce won the award for entertainer of the year, beating out a medley of famous contenders, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, actress Regina King, actor Chadwick Boseman, and director Ryan Coogler. Marvel’s Black Panther took the show by storm, as well, winning the award for best motion picture, while Boseman — its star — won best actor, and Coogler, who helmed the film, won best director. [The Associated Press]

10. Virginia, Texas Tech advance to Final Four

Hasil gambar untuk Virginia vs. Purdue: Elite 8 NCAA tournament highlights / gif

The first half of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament’s Final Four is set, after no. 3 Texas Tech and no. 1 Virginia defeated no. 1 Gonzaga and no. 3 Purdue, respectively. This will be the first ever Final Four in program history for Texas Tech, while Virginia returns for the first time since 1984. Virginia needed some last second heroics to force overtime against Purdue — the Cavaliers’ Mamadi Diakite hit a shot at the buzzer to tie the game at 70 and Virginia held on at the end of the extra five minutes.

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Virginia’s trip to the Final Four comes just one year after they became the first ever no. 1 seed to lose to a 16-seed in the first round when UMBC beat them in the 2018 tournament. The latter half of the Final Four will be decided on Sunday when SEC rivals Auburn and Kentucky square off at 2 p.m. on CBS, followed by top-seeded Duke taking on Michigan State. [ESPN, NCAA]

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