Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday reassured U.S. allies in Europe that the White House would “hold Russia accountable” for its aggression in eastern Ukraine. Pence’s comments at the Munich Security Conference in Germany come amid concerns over President Donald Trump’s seemingly soft stance on Russia, and just days after the national security adviser stepped down over his questionable ties to the Kremlin. Pence also sought to assuage concerns over Trump’s stance on NATO, saying the U.S. would “be unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance” and that Trump “will stand with Europe.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis offered similar reassurances to European allies earlier this week, prompting a telling reply from Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, who singled out the “secretary of defense’s strong commitment to NATO” rather than the president’s. Trump lambasted the alliance as “obsolete” shortly before taking office, and repeatedly suggested the U.S. could withdraw support of fellow members didn’t spend more.
Eight asylum-seekers fled U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border with Canada on Friday, running straight to Canadian authorities on the other side who helped them scramble across. At least one of the asylum-seekers was carrying a Sudanese passport, according to Reuters. The incident reportedly occurred after U.S. customs agents began to question a man in the front seat of a taxi on the border in Champlain, New York. The U.S. authorities had already seized the passports of the taxi’s passengers when seven of the refugees made a run for it, climbing over mounds of snow as Canadian authorities helped them across. One man who stayed behind with the U.S. border control agents then told journalists at the scene that he and the others were from Sudan and had been working in the U.S. for two years, adding that “nobody cares about us.” He threw several large pieces of luggage into the snow along the border before running away from U.S. authorities and making his way onto Canadian territory, leaving one U.S. officer shouting at him from behind. The officer reportedly told the Canadian side that the man would have been detained for being in the U.S. illegally. The dramatic spectacle played out as President Donald Trump pushes authorities to crack down on illegal immigrants, with raids reported in various cities across the country in recent days. Reuters had earlier reported that nine asylum-seekers ran over the border.
U2 frontman and human-rights activist Bono met with Vice President Mike Pence in Munich on Saturday to thank him for his past work in securing funding for HIV/AIDS assistance efforts in developing nations, telling the vice president that "we really appreciate" past efforts in support of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. "You're the second-busiest man on earth," Bono said of Pence, before noting that "twice on the House floor you defended [PEPFAR] - that's how we know you." Pence, for his part, remembered Bono's appearance in support of the initiative, which has provided anti-retroviral treatment for tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa since it was created under President George W. Bush. "You played a leading role in carrying it forward," Pence recalled. Despite the apparent friendliness of the chat, Bono has been critical in the past of Pence's boss, calling President Donald Trump "potentially the worst idea that has ever happened to America."
A North Korean man has been arrested in Malaysia in connection with the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un. The brazen assassination took place on Monday at Kuala Lumpur’s airport, where two women attacked Kim in what they later said they believed was a television show prank, spraying him with harmful chemicals they thought was water. The two women reportedly led Malaysian police to 47-year-old Ri Jong Chol, identified as a North Korean citizen in his foreign worker’s identification card, Malaysian police said in a statement Saturday. Ri was reportedly arrested late Friday night at an apartment in Kuala Lumpur. His arrest will likely further fuel speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un himself was behind the murder, a claim first made by South Korean authorities. Ri’s arrest came as Malaysian authorities said they would perform a second autopsy on Kim Jong Nam, a move that seems sure to anger North Korea, which objected to the first autopsy over claims Malaysia was working with South Korea.
At least three separate investigations into Russia’s alleged election hacking are under way by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Reuters reported Saturday, citing current and former government officials. One of the probes involves Americans linked to President Donald Trump who had contact with Russian intelligence prior to the election, the report said. The FBI’s field office in Pittsburgh is reportedly probing Russia’s involvement in the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, while the San Francisco field office is investigating leaked emails from John Podesta’s account. Sources cited by Reuters said the Pittsburgh case had made the most progress, though there still isn’t enough for an indictment. A separate counterintelligence investigation is being carried out in Washington, with foreign communication intercepts and informants at the heart of the probe. That investigation concerns people and companies thought to have ties to Trump’s team, though no details have been released on the individuals involved.
Two people were killed Friday in a storm that wreaked havoc on Southern and Central California, leaving one man electrocuted and another killed in heavy floods. More than 300 flights at Los Angeles International Airport were delayed or canceled as a result of the storm, which also prompted evacuations in some areas where mudslides were expected. Among the victims was a 55-year-old man who was electrocuted when a downed power line fell on his car in Sherman Oaks. Another person was found dead in a submerged vehicle after flooding hit San Bernardino County, authorities said. The storm, with winds of 70 mph, affected mostly Southern California, but the effects were felt as far up as San Francisco. The National Weather Service said it may have been the strongest storm to strike the area since 1995.
The U.S.-led military coalition fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq said Saturday it had destroyed what it believed was a command center belonging to the terrorist group in western Mosul. “The coalition was able to determine through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts that ISIS did not use the building for any medical purposes and that civilians were no longer accessing the site,” the coalition said in a statement. While the eastern part of the city has been liberated from the group, the militants are reportedly trying to blend in among civilians in western Mosul, where they are thought to be keeping weapons in schools, hospitals and mosques. There are an estimated 650,000 civilians in the western part of the city. The militant group, perhaps taking advantage of the media blackout in the city, countered the U.S. coalition’s assertion, claiming Friday’s strike did not wipe out a command center but killed more than a dozen civilians.
Russia planted a recent fake news report about a rape committed by German soldiers in order to discredit NATO’s new eastern force, a top NATO general said Saturday. Czech army general Petr Pavel said in an interview with Reuters that the “fake news” about a rape of a 15-year-old girl in Lithuania was emailed to the speaker of Lithuania’s parliament earlier this week. The report “was not based on real events,” Pavel said, describing it as “fake news” created by the Kremlin. “Russia is not pleased by the deployment of NATO troops closer to its border so it will likely use legal means, such as propaganda and they will try to influence public opinion against the deployments,” he said, warning that more dubious reports are likely to come out in the near future. On the same day Pavel issued his warning, Russian Minister Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lambasted NATO as a “Cold War institution” and blamed the alliance for tensions throughout Europe.
The mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing has died in prison at the age of 78, his son told Reuters on Saturday. Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian terrorist dubbed the “blind sheik,” was serving life in prison for his role in the 1993 bombing and plans to attack other sites, including FBI headquarters in New York and the United Nations. His son, Ammar, told Reuters his family had received word of the death from a U.S. representative. No further details were disclosed. The 1993 attack left six people dead and more than 1,000 others wounded. At his sentencing over the attack, Rahman urged his followers to carry out more attacks against the “infidel” America, vowing that “nothing will remain” of the country.
Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the landmark Roe vs. Wade case that legalized abortion, has died at the age of 69. She died of a heart problem at an assisted-living facility in Texas, the Washington Post reported Saturday. McCorvey’s case gave her fame as an icon for abortion rights, though she later sought to have her case overturned and expressed regret that she’d played a role in legalizing abortion. The 1973 case saw the Supreme Court rule 7-to-2 that individual states cannot ban abortion.