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Congress votes to reopen government, passes budget deal

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Congress ended an hourslong federal government shutdown early Friday, sending President Donald Trump a $400 billion budget deal that sharply boosts spending and swells the federal deficit. The White House said Trump would sign the measure Friday morning. The 240-186 vote came in the pre-dawn hours, putting to bed a five-and-a-half hour federal freeze that relatively few would notice. Many who did quickly labeled it a pointless, head-scratching episode. The shutdown was the second in three weeks. The breakdown came largely in the Senate, when after a day of inaction, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky went rogue and stalled a vote in protest over his party’s willingness to bust the budget. But Democrats also had their divisions and wrangling, largely with liberal upset the measure was not tied to any plans to assist the “Dreamer” immigrants.

The drama of the exodus from Venezuela forces Colombia to reinforce the border

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The massive exodus of Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia has become in recent months a humanitarian emergency that affects both countries, which share some 2,200 kilometers of border. It is under the regime of Nicolás Maduro, because of the structural shortage that hits the population. And it is on the other side of the Táchira or Arauca rivers, where the impact of migratory flows, which increased by 110% last year, is increasingly difficult to sustain, according to local authorities. Around 550,000 people, with visa and without papers, arrived with the intention of staying in Colombia. That figure, according to official estimates, can reach one million in July. The colombian president Santos explained that military control will be reinforced at border crossingsand on the trails, the most remote roads become the usual routes of contraband, crime and human trafficking. At the same time, the authorities seek to regulate the entry of Venezuelans in a “controlled, orderly and within the law” manner.

EMI successfully launches first Bolivian missile for defense

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The rector of the Military School of Engineering (EMI), Rommel Morón, reported that in November of last year the first missile was successfully launched, in the testing stage, manufactured by Bolivian scientists. There is the first prototype that is in the process of study and design. “We have launched a first rocket, a first Bolivian missile, elaborated, thought, made with scientists from the Military School of Engineering, teachers of the Military School of Engineering, in our Aerospace Development Center located in the city of Cochabamba”, said Morón, after signing a training agreement with the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN). Morón Romero said that military engineers contribute to the security and defense of the State, and that is why the EMI was made available to the Army. “A prototype that is still in the process of study and design; but we have already demonstrated the effectiveness of this device that has been developed, manufactured at the prototype level”, he said.

‘Let’s talk’: Japan hopes low-key strategy averts U.S. trade flare-up

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Economic talks between the United States and Japan, tackling topics from persimmons and potatoes to energy and infrastructure, have helped keep Tokyo clear of protectionist moves such as those that recently hit Chinese solar panels and South Korean washers. Japan hopes that “let’s talk” approach – plus warm personal ties between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump – will keep friction in check. But officials and lawmakers say the outlook could change if the unpredictable U.S. leader turns his attention to Tokyo’s 7 trillion yen ($63.62 billion)trade surplus ahead of U.S. congressional elections in November. Also efforts to showcase the U.S.-Japan security alliance in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats will probably take precedence over trade when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits Japan from Tuesday, officials on both sides said.

Pence leaves for Asia, focused on increasing pressure on North Korea

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Vice President Pence departs Monday for a five-day trip to Japan and South Korea, a visit to Asia intended to focus almost entirely on rallying allies to ratchet up their pressure on Kim Jong Un’s repressive regime, as well as directly pressing North Korea to stop its nuclear ambitions. Even his final stop — leading the U.S. delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Friday night, and attending an Olympic event Saturday morning — has a clear geopolitical undertone: to combat North Korean propaganda amid the Olympic festivities, White House officials said.

US starts Iraq drawdown after declaration of victory over IS

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American troops have started to draw down from Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, according to Western contractors at a U.S.-led coalition base in Iraq. In Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman on Monday confirmed to The Associated Press that the drawdown has begun, though he stressed it was still in its early stages and doesn’t mark the beginning of a complete pullout of U.S. forces. Dozens of American soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights over the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

Peru and the USA expect the Summit of the Americas to agree on concrete measures

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The governments of Peru and the United States today agreed on the need for the next Summit of the Americas, to be held in Lima in April, to yield concrete results and not mere declarations, said Peruvian Foreign Minister Cayetana Aljovín. According to Aljovín, the development of the Summit of the Americas was one of the topics discussed at the meeting held this afternoon with Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State of the United States, who began today an official visit to Peru. Aljovín added that in the meeting they talked with Tillerson about the excellent state of bilateral relations between the United States and Peru, and agreed to cooperate to continue deepening them in other fields, such as investments. Another point of the conversation, she reported, was Peru’s participation in the Security Council of the United Nations. In that regard, she stressed that Tillerson thanked Peru’s willingness to “build consensus” within the Security Council.

Mineral prices, keys to the export boom

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After four consecutive years of decline, the country’s exports in 2017 grew 19 percent, rising from 31,757 million to 37,800 million dollars, according to the Dane. In volume, they grew from 137 million to 153.5 million net tons, an increase of 12.5 percent over 2016. “All the product groups registered positive variations, which shows that we are diversifying our export basket and reaching more and more markets. It is the confirmation of the reactivation of our economy”, said the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, María Lorena Gutiérrez. However, the Analdex association expressed concern that the entry of more dollars will generate revaluation, and in this way the necessary diversification of the country’s external sales will be forgotten.

Trump rejects peace talks with Taliban in departure from Afghan strategy

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U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday rejected the idea of talks with the Taliban after a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan, in an apparent contradiction of his own strategy to end America’s longest foreign war. Trump condemned the militant group for the carnage in Kabul and pledged to “finish what we have to finish”. Trump’s comments suggest he sees a military victory over the Taliban, an outcome that military and diplomatic officials say cannot be achieved with the resources and manpower he has authorized. When he announced an increase in U.S. troops to Afghanistan in August, U.S. officials said the goal was to force the Taliban to negotiate a political settlement.

US military reviewing security practices after fitness app reveals sensitive info

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The US Central Command says it’s in the process of refining its privacy policies after it was reported that a fitness tracking app that maps people’s exercise habits could pose security risks for security forces around the world. Strava, which bills itself as “the social network for athletes” and allows its users to share their running routes, released a newly updated global heatmap last November. But experts and keen observers have recently realized its potential to reveal location patterns of security forces working out at military bases in remote locations.

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