The Democratic National Committee elected Tom Perez, a former secretary of labor under President Barack Obama, to serve as its new chair after a tumultuent day of voting that capped a four-month race to replace interim chair Donna Brazile. "When we have these conversations, sometimes spirited, sometimes difficult, that's not a sign of weakness, that's a sign of strength as a party and that's what were going to keep doing,” Perez said upon his election, before moving to name rival Rep. Keith Ellison, who fell 18 votes short of the 218 needed to secure the chairmanship. "If we waste even a moment going at it over who supported who, we are not going to be standing up for those people," Ellison said. "We don’t have the luxury, folks, to walk out of this room divided." Perez now replaces Brazile, who had taken up the interim chairmanship after leaked emails forced the ousture of former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Indonesian embassy officials in Malaysia on Saturday met with the 25-year-old Indonesian woman in custody in connection with the Feb. 13 murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. The woman, Siti Aisyah, has reportedly stood by her earlier claim that she was tricked into carrying out the attack, believing it was part of a television prank. She said she was given the equivalent of $90 to smear Kim Jong Nam’s face with a substance similar to baby oil, Indonesian officials said Saturday. Tests showed that Kim was killed by the highly toxic nerve agent VX, considered a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations. Indonesian Deputy Ambassador Andreano Erwin said Aisyah did not exhibit any signs of exposure to the toxic substance during a meeting on Saturday, the BBC reported. He also said she was unable to identify who exactly it was that supposedly put her up to the killing. “She only said in general that somebody asked her to do this activity. She only said in general she met with some people who looked Japanese or Korean,” Erwin said. North Korea is widely believed to have carried out the attack, and Malaysian police have identified a North Korean diplomat among the suspects. So far, Aisya and two others are in custody, including a Vietnamese woman and a North Korean man. Vietnamese officials met with the woman, Doan Thi Huong, on Saturday but have not yet released any comments. Seven other suspects are still wanted in connection with the killing.
At least 32 people were killed Saturday when attackers stormed two security offices in Syria’s Homs, leaving a top security official who heads the country’s military intelligence among the victims, authorities said. Talal Barzani, the governor of Homs, told the Associated Press there were three explosions, with the attackers wearing suicide belts that they set off in the buildings. A group called the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida linked group, claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the biggest attacks on security forces in the six-year war. The group said it set off bombs near checkpoints outside the building as rescuers arrived, causing more carnage. Syria’s state-controlled media said Maj. Gen Hassan Daeboul, head of the local military intelligence, was killed in the attack, and Brigadier Ibrahim Darwish, head of the State Security Branch, was seriously wounded. It was not immediately clear if any civilians were among the victims.
The right-wing website Breitbart on Friday revealed its owners as part of its bid to get official Capitol Hill credentials. CEO Larry Solov appeared before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery and said that he wanted “to disclose as little as possible about financial and ownership structure,” according to BuzzFeed's Steve Perlberg, who live-tweeted the meeting. But after revealing that the site’s owners include himself, founder Andrew Breitbart's widow Susie Breitbart, and the Mercer family, the committee had some questions about Steve Bannon. Bannon gave up his role as the site’s chairman to become Donald Trump’s chief strategist last summer, and he followed him into the White House. Amid concerns over a possible conflict of interest, with several Breitbart alums in Trump’s administration, the committee demanded proof of Bannon’s resignation. Solov was told that a resignation “via phone” was insufficient and an official letter would be required detailing Bannon’s departure from the site. News organizations applying for a permanent pass to Capitol Hill are required to abide by a clause that prohibits any involvement in “lobbying or paid advocacy, advertising, publicity or promotion work for any individual, political party, corporation, organization, or agency of the U.S. government.”
Immigration officials at a Florida airport reportedly detained the son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and questioned whether he was Muslim earlier this month. Chris Mancini, a lawyer for Muhammad Ali Jr. and friend of the family, told Louisville’s Courier-Journal that the incident occurred on Feb. 7 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The 44-year-old had reportedly just returned with his mother, Muhammad Ali’s second wife, Khalilah Camacho-Ali from a trip to Jamaica. According to Mancini, immigration officials questioned the younger Ali for hours, asking him things like, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?” Mancini, who condemned the incident as profiling, said the family is considering filing a federal lawsuit over the matter. “To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini said in comments to the Courier-Journal. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not yet confirmed the incident, saying it “cannot discuss individual travelers.”
French President Francois Hollande scolded U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday for claiming that “Paris is no longer Paris” in a recent speech about terrorism. Instead of criticizing its ally, the U.S. should be showing unity with France in the fight against terrorism, he said. “I think that it is never good to show the smallest defiance toward an allied country. I wouldn't do it with the United States and I'm urging the U.S. president not to do it with France,” Hollande was cited as saying by Reuters. “I won't make comparisons but here, people don't have access to guns. Here, you don't have people with guns opening fire on the crowd simply for the satisfaction of causing drama and tragedy,” Hollande said. He was responding to comments Trump made at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, when he implied France’s handling of a spate of recent terrorist attacks was insufficient.
President Trump’s new national security adviser has warned that the term “radical Islamist terrorism” is counterproductive in the fight against terrorism, CNN reported Saturday. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster made the comments at a meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, according to an official who attended the session. Striking a drastically different tone than both his predecessor and Trump, McMaster noted that jihadists shouldn’t be seen as true representatives of their religion, and describing them as such hinders U.S. efforts to defeat terrorist groups together with the country’s allies. The comments, made shortly after Michael Flynn’s scandalous ouster earlier this month, reportedly boosted morale among staff. McMaster also broke with Trump on the subject of Russia, which he said should not be described as a friend of the U.S., the unnamed official told CNN.
A 17-year-old transgender boy at the center of a heated debate on transgender rights in Texas has moved one match closer to winning a state wrestling title. Mack Beggs, a junior at Euless Trinity in Dallas-Fort Worth, beat his female opponent on Saturday, leaving just one more match to win for him to claim the state girls wrestling title. Beggs, who is currently taking testosterone to transition from female to male, has pushed to be able to wrestle boys rather than girls, a move which some advocates support. State policy views the matter differently, however, and requires that students compete against the gender listed on their birth certificates.
A brief segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Thursday has erupted into controversy after it was reported that the program’s “Swedish national security advisor” was actually an ex-convict who’d been living in Virginia. The man, identified in the program as Nils Bildt, was on the program to back up President Trump’s claims that Sweden’s immigration policies were causing major problems in the country. But Swedish reporters and experts soon came forward to report that Bildt was unknown in security circles, and neither the Swedish military nor the Foreign Ministry had any idea who he was. Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter then identified Bildt as one Nils Tolling, who had emigrated from Sweden in 1994 before being hit with a one-year prison sentence for a violent offense in Virginia in 2014. When the newspaper contacted Bildt, he put the blame on Fox News for the misleading title, saying he’d made clear he was only an “independent analyst.” He also denied that he’d spent a year in prison. The executive producer of “The O’Reilly Factor,” David Tabacoff, released a statement defending the show’s decision to book Bildt, saying he’d been recommended and “numerous inquiries” had been made into him.
An upcoming United Nations report seen by Reuters warns that North Korea is evading sanctions with a network of overseas companies that allow for continued access to the international banking system. The 100-page draft report was prompted by reports that North Korea was violating sanctions imposed over its nuclear program. “Designated entities and banks have continued to operate in the sanctioned environment by using agents who are highly experienced and well trained in moving money, people and goods, including arms and related materiel, across borders,” the report warns. Two trading companies are identified in the report and reported to be tied to North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, the country’s intelligence agency. UN members are urged to “exercise heightened vigilance” regarding North Korean diplomats involved in commercial activities, because they may be involved in the illegal network. The country's "evasion techniques" are also said to be "increasing in scale, scope and sophistication.” The news comes as North Korea is accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un, in a brazen attack on Malaysian soil. The first planned official meeting between North Korean and U.S. authorities representing President Trump’s White House has been canceled amid the scandal, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.