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NEWS   SUNDAY, FEBRUARY  26, 2017   NEWS

Obama, Democratic 'Super Group' Unite To End Gerrymandering, Win State Races, Reclaim Majorities
Former President Obama and other top Democrats are focusing efforts on state-level races and ending the reconfiguring of voting districts through the politically-laden process known as gerrymandering -- a combined effort to end “Trump-ism” and help their party regain control of Congress and legislatures across the country. Obama indicated before leaving the White House last fall that his short-term, post-presidency focus will be on General Assembly races and redistricting after the 2020 Census. Fox News
VOA VIEW: The losers will lose more.

Trump Rejects DHS Intelligence Report On Travel Ban
Officials in President Trump’s administration Friday downplayed an intelligence report by the Homeland Security Department that contradicts the White House’s main arguement for implementing a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries. The report, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal and Associated Press, determined that the "country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity." The Trump administration has taken the position that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries should be blocked from the U.S. due to their terror risk. Trump used terrorism a primary justification when he announced the now court-blocked travel ban in late January. Fox News

Trump Still Has To Fill Nearly 2,000 Vacancies
Nearly 2,000 appointed positions in the administration of President Donald Trump remain vacant, leaving many agencies with large staffing gaps waiting to be filled, according to data reviewed by CNN. Meanwhile, Trump is noticeably behind the last three presidents when it comes to securing the confirmation of his Cabinet and other top appointments that require Senate approval. Trump complained about the pace of confirmations Friday in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. He told the crowd the administration was "setting records" for Senate delays and that he didn't like seeing "all those empty seats" at his Cabinet meetings. CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN enjoys and goes out of its way to report anything negative.

Under GOP Draft Of Obamacare Repeal Plan, A Lot Of People Could Lose Coverage
A draft of the House Republicans' bill to repeal Obamacare would replace its subsidies with less generous tax credits, increase the amount insurers could charge older Americans and effectively eliminate Medicaid for low-income adults. These provisions could leave a significant share of the 20 million people who gained coverage under Obamacare without insurance. The proposal would go fully into effect in 2020. "A substantial number of people could lose coverage because it's no longer affordable," said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. CNN

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Trump Vows Military Build-Up, Hammers Nationalist Themes
President Donald Trump said he would make a massive budget request for one of the "greatest military buildups in American history" on Friday in a feisty, campaign-style speech extolling robust nationalism to eager conservative activists. Trump used remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an organization that gave him one of his first platforms in his improbable journey to the U.S. presidency, to defend his unabashed "America first" policies. Ahead of a nationally televised speech to Congress on Tuesday, Trump outlined plans for strengthening the U.S. military, already the world's most powerful fighting force, and other initiatives such as tax reform and regulatory rollback. He offered few specifics on any initiatives, including the budget request that is likely to face a harsh reality on Capitol Hill: At a time when he wants to slash taxes for Americans, funding a major military buildup without spending cuts elsewhere would add substantially to the U.S. budget deficit. Reuters

Warren Buffett Rails Against Fee-Hungry Wall Street Managers
Billionaire Warren Buffett, whose stock picks over several decades have enriched generations of Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) shareholders, delivered a black eye to the investment industry on Saturday, urging ordinary investors to buy plain-vanilla index funds. "When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients," Buffett said in his annual letter to shareholders. "Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds," he added. Reuters

Trans Students Face ‘Detrimental’ Health Effects Without Fed Protectiona
Transgender students who have been fighting for access to public facilities — including restrooms — that align with their gender identity are just going to have to hold it. That's the message LGBTQ advocates say President Donald Trump sent after his administration rescinded past guidance on transgender protections in public schools, which they fear opens trans students to physical and psychological harm. "It makes me feel unimportant. It makes me feel angry. It makes me feel invisible," 16-year-old transgender student Grace Dolan-Sandrino told NBC Out. MSNBC

Swedish ‘National Security Advisor’ Interviewed By Fox News Is A Mystery To Sweden
In a segment on Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor" that aired Thursday, host Bill O'Reilly spoke with two Swedish nationals about allegations that Sweden had become a more dangerous place in recent years because of immigration. One guest, Swedish journalist Anne-Sofie Naslund of the Expressen newspaper, pushed back against O'Reilly's comments, suggesting that her country was far safer than it was being presented. However, the next guest disagreed. Philadelphia Inquirer
VOA VIEW: Sweden is in trouble.

How Midnight Chats Turn ‘Empathetic Teachers’ Into ‘Sexual Predators’
It was just past midnight last May when Marisa Cazanave poured her heart out in an e-mail and hit “send.” “You make me unbelievably happy,” began the rambling love letter. But the Brooklyn Technical HS teacher’s confession was wracked with mixed emotions because the object of her affection was her student. “I can’t say I’ll ever get past the fear of being discovered,” the married teacher, 33, told the boy. “But I can promise I will do my best to work on that.” Cazanave’s alleged taboo affair is just the latest in a local and national educational epidemic. In New York City, the Special Commissioner of Investigation, Richard Condon, has fielded 995 complaints about “inappropriate relationships” between Department of Education employees and students since April 2009. SCI substantiated 145 of them, the agency revealed Friday. NY Post

Trump Says He’s Skipping White House Correspondents’ Dinner
President Trump said Saturday he won’t attend the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. “I will not be attending the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!” Trump tweeted at 4:53 p.m. on Saturday. The dinner, scheduled for April 29, draws reporters and celebrities and usually features performances by comedians. The president attends each year. The White House Correspondents’ Association has complained about how President Trump and his administration has handled press conferences and briefings. On Friday the association complained when The New York Times, CNN and other news organizations were excluded from a briefing by presidential press secretary Sean Spicer. NY Post

Trump Demands Credit For Drop In National Debt
President Trump chastised the press Saturday for not covering the national debt, which has ticked down slightly since he took office — saying by contrast that the debt leaped $200 billion in President Obama’s first month. But the debt had actually been holding fairly steady since just before Thanksgiving, or about two months before Mr. Trump took office. It stood at $19.9 trillion as of the middle of November, came within a whisker of $20 trillion around the new year, and now stands back at $19.9 trillion again. Washington Times

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Israel To Amazon: Stop Selling Holocaust-Denying Literature
Israel's official Holocaust memorial has asked Amazon to stop selling literature on its site that denies the genocide of 6 million Jews during World War II and otherwise promotes anti-Semitism. Yad Vashem's director of libraries Robert Rozett says he has dispatched a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos offering his assistance to "curb the spread of hatred." Rozett says Sunday that Yad Vashem has approached Amazon before on the subject but the internet retailing giant insisted it would not halt sales of offensive and inciting material, citing freedom of information. Rozett says he hoped that given the recent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, particularly a vandalism attack on a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Amazon would reconsider its position. He says he has yet to hear back. Tampa Tribune

Congress Returns, With Health Care, Supreme Court On Agenda
Congress returns to Washington this week to confront dramatic decisions on health care and the Supreme Court that may help determine the course of Donald Trump's presidency. First, the president will have his say, in his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery. Tampa Tribune

CNN’s Tapper Lashes Out At ‘Un-American’ White House After Press Gaggle Row
CNN’s Jake Tapper lashed out at White House on Friday as “un-American” after the network and other news organizations were denied entry into a press gaggle with White House spokesman Sean Spicer. The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Politico joined CNN on a list of media outlets that were excluded from a 13-member “pool” that traditionally includes the five major networks. The White House has expanded the number of organizations that have access to the group, which critics say gives it the ability to punish unfavorable coverage. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: CNN whines when it doesn't get its way.

"The White Helmets" Cinematographer Barred From Entering U.S. For Oscar
U.S. immigration authorities are barring entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on a harrowing film about his nation’s civil war, “The White Helmets,” that has been nominated for an Academy Award. According to internal Trump administration correspondence seen by The Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security has decided at the last minute to block Khaled Khateeb from traveling to Los Angeles for the Oscars. CBS

Syria Security Buildings Attacked By Suicide Bombers In Homs
Twin attacks on two Syrian security offices in the central city of Homs Saturday killed at least 32 people, including a senior security official who heads the area’s branch of the feared Military Intelligence services, state media and officials reported. An al Qaeda-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also left another high-ranking officer seriously wounded. In a statement on their Telegram channel, the group said five attackers stormed the two different security offices. The group said bombs were also detonated at checkpoints outside the buildings just as rescuers were arriving, leading to more casualties. CBS

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GOP Congressman Says Special Prosecutor Needed To Investigate Russia Election Meddling
California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa said a special prosecutor is needed to investigate into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Bill Maher asked Issa during an interview on his show "Real Time" about reports that members of President Trump's campaign had contact with Russian officials. Maher presented the Republican representative with a hypothetical scenario -- if Russians had hacked the campaign of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 and if there had also been contacts between the Obama administration and the Russians. ABC

Comey In Middle Of Political Fray Over Trump And Russians
FBI Director James Comey is again in a familiar spot these days — the middle of political tumult. As a high-ranking Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, he clashed with the White House over a secret surveillance program. Years later as head of the FBI, he incurred the ire of Hillary Clinton supporters for public statements on an investigation into her emails. Now, Comey is facing new political pressure as White House officials are encouraging him to follow their lead by publicly recounting private FBI conversations in an attempt to dispute reports about connections between the Trump administration and Russia. ABC

BlackBerry Hits Comeback Trail With KeyOne
TCL launched the smartphone that it is counting on to revitalize the diminished BlackBerry brand. It’s called the BlackBerry KeyOne, and is being marketed as the most secure Android phone in the world. KeyOne goes on sale in the U.S. in April for $549. Speaking at a Mobile World Congress press event  here, TCL Communication CEO Nicolas Zibell said the phone represents the “beginning of a new story” for BlackBerry. The old story is well known of course. How the once-powerhouse Canadian based-smartphone maker fell on hard times after the iPhone came along.  BlackBerry’s market share dwindled down to practically nothing. USA Today

Obama Bongratulates Perez As New DNC Leader
Former President Barack Obama has congratulated Tom Perez on his election to lead the Democratic Party and commended his decision to ask runner-up Keith Ellison to be his deputy. Obama said in a statement that he knows “Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much.” Perez, who was labor secretary under Obama, won the top party job on the second ballot Saturday at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta. Boston Globe
VOA VIEW: Republicans are the most happy - Democrats will lose more.

Two-Thirds Of Americans Aren't Putting Money In Their 401(k)
Americans aren't saving enough for retirement. True, this has been a refrain for longer than many can remember. But now some disturbing numbers show exactly how bad it's gotten. Two-thirds of all Americans don't contribute anything to a 401(k) or other retirement account available through their employer. Millions aren't saving on the job because they either don't have access to a workplace retirement plan or they do but aren't putting money in it. Many just can't spare the cash, but a new analysis shows there are other reasons, too. Atlanta Journal

Malaysia Warns North Korea To Cooperate With Investigation
Malaysian police said Saturday that they would issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat if he refuses to cooperate with the investigation into the deadly attack on North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's exiled half brother. The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport. Friday's revelation by Malaysian police that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim raised the stakes significantly in a case that has broad geopolitical implications. Bloomberg

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Pope Quietly Trims Sanctions For Sex Abusers Seeking Mercy
Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the pope's own advisers question. One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope's clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned. The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be defrocked, two canon lawyers and a church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry. Las Vegas Sun

Democrats Inviting Immigrants To Trump’s Speech To Congress
Democrats have invited immigrants and foreigners to President Donald Trump's first address to Congress in an effort to put a face on those who could be hurt by the Republican's policies. Lawmakers typically get one guest ticket apiece for presidential addresses, as they will for Tuesday's prime-time speech, and the invites often go to family, friends or someone from back home. To send a message to Trump, Democrats have invited the Iraqi-American doctor who discovered elevated levels of lead in the blood of many children living in Flint, Michigan; a Pakistani-born doctor who delivers critical care to patients in Rhode Island; and an American-born daughter of Palestinian refugees who aids people like her family in their quest to come to the United States. Las Vegas Sun

Doubts Grow Over Stock Market's Trump-Inspired Surge
How much more can the "Trump Bump" lift the stock market? U.S. stocks have screamed to records since Election Day because investors are expecting Donald Trump's White House to cut taxes for business, make regulations easier for them and goose more growth out of the economy. But investors around the world are questioning whether the rally is exhausting itself. The big jump for stocks has come at a time when some investors had already seen markets as overpriced. Plus, skeptics see cause for caution with a president who prides himself on unpredictability. That has some favoring bonds or stocks from other countries over the U.S. stock market. "When we had the election, there was initially shock," said Darrell Riley, a vice president at T. Rowe Price who helps set the strategy for how $240 billion in target-date retirement and other mutual funds are invested. "Investors were really shocked, and then we went into this period of euphoria, and now we're in a state of confusion." Houston Chronicle
VOA VIEW: The Houston Chronicle  is liberal.

Letter-Writing Former Iran President Pens Dispatch To Trump
Iran's former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter Sunday to President Donald Trump, striking a somewhat conciliatory tone while applauding immigration to America and saying it shows "the contemporary U.S. belongs to all nations." It isn't the first dispatch sent by Ahmadinejad, who has counted U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama among his pen pals. But this letter, weighing in at over 3,500 words, comes as criticism of Trump over his travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran mounts in Tehran. It also may serve to burnish Ahmadinejad's image domestically after the nation's Supreme Leader warned him not to run in Iran's upcoming May presidential election. Houston Chronicle

Deadly Insurgent Attack In Homs Weighs On UN-Led Syria Talks
A deadly terrorist attack in central Syria on Saturday threatened to thwart efforts to wrest a political solution at peace talks in Geneva, with the U.N. mediator decrying "spoilers" who try to derail the efforts to end the country's disastrous six-year war. The government's envoy demanded a firm condemnation from all opposition groups of the synchronized attacks by insurgents on security offices in Homs that left dozens dead, while the opposition retorted that it has long denounced terrorism — even suggesting it may have been an inside job. Charlotte Observer

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Strenuous Exercise May Lower Sex Drive In Men
Higher testosterone levels can boost the male sex drive, and exercise has been shown to raise testosterone levels. But new research suggests too much working out can have a negative effect on the male libido. When scientists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill surveyed men about their workout routines and sex lives, they found men who engaged in frequent and strenuous exercise were more likely to have low libidos. UPI

DWI Suspected In Crash That Hurt 28 At New Orleans Parade
A man who allegedly plowed into a crowd enjoying the Krewe of Endymion parade on Saturday in the Mid-City section of New Orleans is being investigated for driving while intoxicated, police said. The accident came during one of the busiest nights of Mardi Gras when thousands of people throng the streets of Mid-City to watch the elaborate floats and clamor to catch beads and trinkets tossed from riders. "We suspect that that subject was highly intoxicated," Police Chief Michael Harrison said on Saturday evening. Harrison was asked twice by the media if terrorism was suspected. While he didn't say "No" he did say it looks like a case of DWI. SF Gate

U.S. Seeks To Extradite Former Guatemalan Vice President On Drug Charges
The United States announced Friday it will request the former Guatemalan vice president and the former minister of the interior be extradited to face drug trafficking charges. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala said Roxana Baldetti and Mauricio Lopez Bonilla were indicted on drug trafficking charge on Wednesday in a Washington, D.C. district court each on a criminal charge of intent to distribute 11 pounds or more of cocaine and knowing the cocaine will be distributed in the United States. The embassy said the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet forwarded the extradition request. UPI

Israelis Believe Gaza Policies Hurting Security
A new poll shows that 67 percent of Israelis believe the government's policies in the Gaza Strip have worsened security. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, leading to the takeover of the territory by Hamas militants two years later. Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade over Gaza since then, restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Israel says the measures are needed for security. The sides have fought three wars since 2008. Sunday's poll also said 69 percent believe improving conditions in Gaza helps Israel's interests. Charlotte Observer

Copy This: Vatican Stakes Out Rights To Pope Francis' Image
God's love may be free, but the Vatican says it has a copyright on the pope. Unnerved by the proliferation of papal-themed T-shirts, snow globes and tea towels around the world, the Vatican has warned it intends to "protect" the image of Pope Francis and "stop situations of illegality that may be discovered." It also wants to protect the crossed keys emblem of the Holy See. "The secretary of state will undertake systematic surveillance aimed at monitoring the way in which the image of the Holy Father and the emblems of the Holy See are used, intervening with opportune measures when necessary," the Vatican said in a statement. Kansas City Star

Florida Is Resettling More Syrian Refugees, But Their New Lives Remain Difficult
For decades, South Florida has welcomed wave after wave of people fleeing political and economic unrest in their home countries. Cubans. Haitians. Nicaraguans. Colombians. In a region awash with exiles, you would think it would be easy to accommodate the latest swell of refugees. Tell that to a Syrian. The number of Syrian refugees coming to Florida has spiked in recent years, as the U.S. has started to accept more people escaping the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. But resettling these newest immigrants has proven challenging for aid agencies, charities and volunteers who help the new arrivals. Syrians don’t have a large community of their countrymen awaiting them — or many Arabic speakers with whom they can communicate. Miami Herald

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FORMER SENIOR PA OFFICIAL: 'HAMAS IS WILLING TO GO BACK TO '67 BORDERS'
Ashraf al-Ajami, the former Palestinian Authority's minister for Prisoners Affairs, said on Saturday that the terror organization currently ruling in the Gaza Strip was "willing to go back to the 1967 borders." Al-Ajami made this statement as a guest and a speaker at a cultural event held in the city of Acre and hosted by the Keshet NGO, an Arab-Jewish nonprofit organization he helped found. Jerusalem Post

DERSHOWITZ: I'LL LEAVE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IF ELLISON BECOMES CHAIRMAN
Today the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will have to choose the direction of the Democratic Party, as well as its likely composition. It will be among the most important choices the DNC has ever had to make. There has been powerful push from the hard-left of the Democratic Party, led by senator Bernie Sanders, to elect Keith Ellison chairman. If he is elected, I will quit the party after 60 years of loyal association and voting. I will become an independent, continuing to vote for the best candidates, most of whom, I assume, will still be Democrats. But I will not contribute to the DNC or support it as an institution. Jerusalem Post

Witches Cast 'Mass Spell' Against Donald Trump
Most of Donald Trump's opponents believe they will have to wait four more years to see him leave the White House. But America's witches are more optimistic. At the stroke of midnight on Friday, followers of witchcraft across the US performed a mass spell designed to remove the president from office. A Facebook group devoted to the ritual has attracted over 10,500 likes, and coined the hashtag #magicresistance. The development has sparked fury among Christian conservatives, who have accused the witches of "declaring spiritual war". BBC

Straight Women Have Fewest Orgasms
Heterosexual women have fewer orgasms than men or lesbian or bisexual women, a study suggests. The findings came from a study of 52,600 people in the US, exploring the "orgasm gap" between the genders and different sexual orientations. The report in Archives of Sexual Behaviour revealed a "variety of behaviours couples can try to increase orgasm frequency". These include oral sex and manual stimulation. The study, by Indiana University, Chapman University and Claremont Graduate University, showed the proportion of people who usually orgasmed was: BBC

Trump National Security Adviser Wants To Avoid Term 'Radical Islamic Terrorism'
Donald Trump’s new national security adviser has told staff at the White House he does not wish to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe the terrorist threat the US faces, according to multiple sources. HR McMaster, a respected army lieutenant general, struck notes more consistent with traditional counterterrorism analysts and espoused consensus foreign-policy views during a meeting he held with his new National Security Council staff on Thursday. Guardian

Google Lawsuit Could Be A Fatal Setback For Uber's Self-Driving Dreams
With deep pockets and a $70bn valuation, Uber has racked up a series of victories against regulators, taxi companies, and upstart competitors. But Uber will now go up against tech’s undisputed heavyweight champion – Google – while it is still on the ropes after a consumer boycott campaign and allegations of a toxic work environment. A report by the New York Times that Uber misled the public by blaming a human driver for running a red light during the company’s short-lived self-driving trial in San Francisco further damaged both Uber’s and Levandowski’s credibility. The car was in fact driving itself when it ran the red light, according to two sources and internal documents obtained by the Times. Guardian

Merkel Ally Calls For Europe To Retaliate If Trump Imposes Trade Tariffs
Europe should impose punitive tariffs on imports from the United States if President Donald Trump acts to shield U.S. industries from foreign competitors, a senior ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a newspaper interview. Trump has already formally withdrawn the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, distancing America from its Asian allies, and vowed to renegotiate the U.S. free-trade deal with Canada and Mexico. Telegraph

Hundreds Cheer As A Relaxed Barack Obama Surfaces In Manhattan
He has been out of office little over a month, but Barack Obama was given film star treatment by hundreds of people after he surfaced in Manhattan. The former president was seen in the Flatiron District of New York, Mail Online reported. Wearing a dark suit, open-necked shirt and clutching a beverage in a paper cup, Mr Obama appeared relaxed as he entered an office building. Telegraph
VOA VIEW: A few hudred people - nothing.

UN Security Council Calls For Immediate Investigation Into Recent Violence In DR Congo's Kasai Region
The United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned the recent spate of violence in the south-central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling on the Government to “immediately dispatch a credible and impartial investigation.” In a press statement issued in New York yesterday evening, the Council expressed grave concern at the recent reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by local militia in that region, including unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, and of killings of civilians by members of Congolese security forces, known as FARDC, “all of which might constitute war crimes under international law.” UN News

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