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World News

    Malaysia's alliance government under 94-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is threatening to unravel less than two years after a historic election victory ousting the coalition that had ruled the country since independence. Startling political maneuvers have sparked expectation that Mahathir will pull his Bersatu party out of the four-member ruling alliance and team with his former foes to form a new government in a major political upheaval that could further polarize the multiracial nation. The maneuvers would keep Mahathir in power and thwart his named successor Anwar Ibrahim from taking power, replaying their decades-old feud. They were Malaysia's top two leaders in Mahathir's first stint as premier but fell out politically before reuniting in the political pact that ousted a corruption-tainted government in the May 2018 election. Their relationship has been testy, with Mahathir refusing to set a date to relinquish power despite a preelection agreement to hand over power to Anwar. Anwar confirmed late Sunday there were attempts by some Bersatu members and 'traitors' from his party to form a new government. But he noted that the situation was still fluid. His party deputy president and Economics Minister Azmin Ali, along with a number of lawmakers including Bersatu President and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, huddled with opposition leaders Sunday at a hotel in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. Ironically, the maneuvers would restore to power the Malay party of disgraced former leader Najib Razak, who with several of his party leaders are standing trial for corruption. It would also propel to national power a fundamentalist Islamic party that rules two states and champions Islamic laws. The two Malay parties still have strong support from ethnic Malays, who account for 60 percent of Malysia's 32 million people. Azmin, Muhyiddin, along with leaders from Najib's party, the Islamist party and two other parties from Borneo island, reportedly met Sunday with Malaysia's king to seek his backing. Rumors of an announcement on the new government didn't pan out Sunday night but Anwar said it could materialize Monday. At a prayer meeting at his house, Anwar told supporters he was “shocked” with the developments that he said was a “betrayal' of the agreement in place on the power transition. But he was calm and called it a “small trial,” saying he has overcome harder times. He even joked that while he may not be Malaysia's eighth prime minister, he could be the ninth. Anwar and his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is currently the country's deputy prime minister, are due to meet the king later Monday. Wan Azizah tweeted that “men can plan but Allah decides,' urging supporters to believe God will side with those who are patient. Mahathir has remained silent as many Malaysians reacted with dismay and shock on social media, saying moves to form a “backdoor' government would be unethical and that a new election should be called if the ruling alliance collapses. Analysts said King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah could decide which faction has the majority support in Parliament or call a snap election. They warned that such a new government could give rise to Malay Islamic supremacy that will derail Malaysia's multiethnic society. “Mahathir’s top political priority is to stave off Anwar’s increasingly vigorous claim on the premiership. So he had to work with otherwise unsavory opposition parties to form a working parliamentary majority to counter and warn off Anwar,' said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. “If the new government goes through, Malaysia is heading toward a a very regressive stage whereby racial supremacy and religious extremism would become the rule of the day.
  • South Korea reported another large jump in new virus cases Monday a day after the the president called for “unprecedented, powerful” steps to combat the outbreak that is increasingly confounding attempts to stop the spread. The 161 new cases bring South Korea's total to 763 cases, and two more deaths raise its toll to seven. China also Monday reported 409 new cases, raising the mainland's total to 77,150 after a zigzag pattern of increases in recent days. The 150 new deaths from the COVID-19 illness raised China's total to 2,592 and showed a spike after hovering around 100 for four days. All but one death were in Hubei province, where the outbreak emerged in December. Significant jumps in cases outside China have raised concern of the outbreak getting out of control. South Korea has the third-highest national total behind China and Japan, and cases have rapidly increased in Italy and Iran in just a few days. Most of Japan's cases were from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where nearly one-fifth of its 3,711 passengers and crew became infected. More than 140 of South Korea's new cases were in and near Daegu, the city of 2.5 million people where most of the country’s infections have occurred. Six of the seven deaths were linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, near Daegu, where a slew of infections were confirmed among patients in a mental ward. While officials have expressed hope they could contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, some experts noted signs of the virus circulating nationwide, pointing to a number of cases in the capital, Seoul, and elsewhere that weren't immediately traceable. “In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility (that the illness) spreads nationwide,” South Korean Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a briefing, saying that the government aims to stabilize Daegu’s situation in four weeks. He said that health officials plan to test all of the city’s residents exhibiting cold-like symptoms, which he said would be about 28,000 people. Health workers are also screening some 9,000 followers of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, where a woman in her 60s attended two services before testing positive for the virus. Of the country’s 161 new cases, 129 were related to the church. Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and the spike in infections at a hospital in nearby Cheongdo. The national government has shuttered schools, cancelled events, and asked companies to scatter working hours and keep employees at home if they experience coughs or other respiratory symptoms. It advised people to avoid crowded indoor spaces and pleaded that those who recently visited Daegu or nearby areas stay at home if possible for two weeks, asking reporters to exercise the same caution. Seoul's Mayor Park Won-soon scattered the working hours of some 40,000 city employees to ease transit congestion and warned of sterner action against protesters who defied a ban on rallies in major downtown areas that was meant to stop the spread of the virus. Far from where the illness first emerged, authorities in Italy battled to contain Europe's first major outbreak and Iran reported eight deaths — the highest toll outside of China. Some of the clusters in recent days have no link to China, a worrying sign of the virus spread. The Iranian health ministry said there were now 43 confirmed cases in Iran, which did not report its first case of the virus until Wednesday. In Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which includes the nation’s financial capital, Milan, the governor announced Sunday that the number of confirmed cases stood at 110. Italy now has 152 cases, the largest number outside of Asia, including three deaths. Venice, which is full of tourists for Carnival events, reported its first two cases, said Veneto Gov. Luca Zaia, whose region includes the lagoon city. It wasn't immediately known if the two infected had participated in Carnival festivities. As Italy scrambled to check the spread of the virus, authorities announced that all Carnival events had been called off as well as major league soccer matches in the stricken region. Cinemas and theaters were also ordered shuttered, including Milan's legendary La Scala. Warning that China’s virus epidemic is “still grim and complex,” President Xi Jinping called for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops. Xi defended the ruling Communist Party’s response as “timely and effective” in a video conference with officials in charge of anti-disease work, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Meanwhile, a diplomatic row erupted after Israel turned back a South Korean airliner, underscoring fear and tensions over the outbreak. A Korean Air flight with 188 passengers that landed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport Saturday evening was taxied away from the terminal while authorities allowed only 11 Israelis to enter the country. The plane returned to South Korea with the rest of the passengers on Sunday. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said it was closely monitoring the incident and will evacuate South Korean tourists from Israel if necessary. Yonhap news agency cited South Korea's Foreign Ministry as registering a strong protest with the Israeli government. Israel's Foreign Ministry issued travel warnings to South Korea and Japan due to the coronavirus, and the Health Ministry ordered Israelis returning from those countries to remain in home quarantine, as previously ordered for those returning from Hong Kong, China, Macau, Thailand and Singapore. ___ Associated Press journalist Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.
  • The Israel military said early Monday that it struck Palestinian militants targets in Gaza and Syria in response to rockets fired toward southern Israel on Sunday evening, hours after Israel said it killed a Palestinian militant who tried to place a bomb along the Israel-Gaza barrier fence. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for the rocket barrages. Palestinians were furious over the image of the man's lifeless body dangling off the front of an Israeli bulldozer that crossed into Gaza to retrieve it. There was also criticism in Gaza of the territory's Hamas rulers for not responding. The Israeli military reported air raid sirens throughout southern Israel and said at least 20 rockets had been fired. There were no reports of damage or injuries on the Israeli side, but it was the heaviest barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip in several months. Air raid sirens continued into the evening, and Israel's Home Front Command ordered the suspension of classes in Israeli schools in southern Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip on Monday and prohibited large gatherings. In response to the rocket fire, the Israeli military said aircraft struck “dozens of Islamic Jihad terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip' and a facility belonging to the militant group outside Damascus. The Gaza health ministry reported that four Palestinians were treated at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City for wounds caused by the Israeli strikes. Islamic Jihad said in a statement that the airstrikes on Damascus killed two of its members, identifying them as Salim Salim, 24, and Ziad Mansour, 23. It did not disclose their nationalities or elaborate on their roles. It vowed to respond to the deaths of its members. Israel and the Islamic Jihad group engaged in a heavy round of fighting last November after the Israeli military killed a top Islamic Jihad commander. Since then, Israel and Gaza's more powerful Hamas group have been working through Egyptian mediators to cement an informal cease-fire. But Islamic Jihad has continued to try to carry out attacks. Islamic Jihad said the man killed along the border was a militant. Israel said the man was planting explosives along the border fence. Amateur video on Palestinian social media showed an Israeli bulldozer crossing into Gaza and then lifting up his body. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, accused the Israeli military of abusing the dead body, saying that it “bears the consequences of the ugly crime.” The military said it was removing the body in a way that prevented further danger to those around. But the images generated widespread anger in Gaza, where it was seen as a provocation and violation of Islamic principles that call for respect for the dead. It also sparked criticism of Hamas on social media, with people accusing the group of appearing weak and allowing Israel to operate with impunity inside Gaza's territory. One image on social media showed a picture of Jesus draped with a Palestinian flag hanging off the front of a bulldozer. Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the criticism, noting that Hamas has been holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since they were killed in the 2014 Gaza war. “I back the military, which killed the terrorists and collected the body,” he said. “That's what should be done and that is what was done.” The incident comes amid a relative lull along the security fence separating Israel from Gaza. Last week, Israel announced it would provide hundreds of additional work permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in a new step aimed at solidifying an informal cease-fire with the Hamas. Tens of thousands of Gazans used to work in Israel. But Israel virtually sealed the border when it joined Egypt in imposing a crippling blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in the strip from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. The blockade, along with three wars between Hamas and Israel, has devastated the economy in Gaza, where unemployment is over 50%.
  • Haitian police officers exchanged gunfire for hours Sunday with soldiers of the newly reconstituted army outside the national palace, in a dangerous escalation of protests over police pay and working conditions. At least three police officers were wounded, fellow officers told The Associated Press. The army's high command said in an online statement that a soldier had been wounded by a bullet in the back. Haiti's raucous three-day Carnival celebration was to have started Sunday afternoon in Port-au-Prince and other major cities but the government announced Sunday night that Carnival was cancelled in the capital “to avoid a bloodbath.” Police protesters and their backers had burned dozens of Carnival floats and stands at recent protests, saying they did not believe the country should be celebrating during a crisis. Shortly after noon Sunday, AP journalists saw dozens of men who said they were off-duty officers march with hundreds of supporters toward the palace in the latest in days of demonstrations demanding better pay for Haitian law-enforcement officers. The protest stopped outside the army headquarters, which faces the palace. AP journalists then saw soldiers at the headquarters building fire into the air. Shortly afterward, an exchange of fire erupted between the soldiers and police. It was not clear which side began firing at the other first. As the afternoon wore on, uniformed officers joined their colleagues in the street outside the palace, firing at the military base with semi-automatic pistols and rifles. Many wore masks along with their uniforms to hide their identities. Other armed men spotted a drone that appeared to be taking images of the violence and followed it to the offices of Radio Caraibes, then began shooting at the broadcaster's building. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attack. Police protests began this month after a half-dozen officers were fired over their attempt to unionize. The demonstrations are not directly linked to anti-corruption protests that roiled Haiti for most of last year, but they draw on the same widespread dissatisfaction with Haiti's shrinking economy and President Jovenel Moise's inability to improve the quality of life. A uniformed police officer in a black-and-white clown mask told reporters outside the palace that officers were demanding the reinstatement of their fired colleagues as well as a pay raise for all officers. “Until this is done we will not sit and talk,” said the officer, who declined to provide his name. “The president has proven that he does not care about our demands.” Moise said at a news conference Saturday that he recognized the legitimacy of many police complaints and would increase some collateral benefits for officers, but police said Sunday that the concessions were not enough. The Haitian army had been disbanded in 1995 after the fall of a dictatorship that used soldiers to repress domestic opponents. Moise reformed the army in 2017, promising that the military would patrol Haiti's borders, assist in natural disasters and avoid domestic affairs. At least three men were taken to a hospital near the shooting with wounds to the legs and feet that did not appear to be life-threatening. Uniformed police officers told an AP journalist that the wounded men were fellow officers. The uniformed officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. Intense shooting continued until after 6 p.m., when it devolved into sporadic exchanges of fire. ___ Associated Press journalist Evens Sanon reported this story in Port-au-Prince and AP writer Michael Weissenstein reported from Havana.
  • Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party on Sunday supported a call from the country’s president for an anti-government protest and also asked for a new election. Earlier this week, President Ilir Meta called for a rally on March 2 against the left-wing government, which he accused of violating the country’s constitution and of links to organized crime. Democratic leader Lulzim Basha on Sunday wrote on his Facebook page that the party supports Meta’s anti-government protest, adding that Albania is in a constitutional and economic crisis and “democracy is in danger.” “There is one democratic solution: ending on time the electoral reform and immediately hold free and fair elections,” Basha said. For months last year, the opposition held protests that often turned into violent clashes with police. It also boycotted parliament and a vote for local authorities, accusing the government of vote-rigging and of links to organized crime. Both Meta and the opposition claim that a justice system reform approved three years ago to root out bribery and ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics — part of the effort to embrace European Union standards — has failed. The political turmoil comes as the Balkan nation of nearly 3 million people has been enacting reforms in hopes of getting a green light to launch EU membership talks. Meta, former leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration Party, a small left-wing grouping now in the opposition, has always been a vocal opponent of the governing Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama. The Socialists, which dominate parliament, have launched impeachment proceedings against Meta, the first in post-communist Albania, stemming from his attempt to cancel last year’s municipal elections. The parliament is expected to produce a report in March that will likely ask for Meta's ouster.
  • Around 10,000 protesters marched through the central German town of Hanau on Sunday to mourn the nine people who were killed by an immigrant-hating gunman four days ago. “These days and hours are the blackest and darkest our town has ever experienced during peace times,” Hanau mayor Claus Kaminsky told the somber crowds, according to the German news agency dpa. But, he said, those who want to pull apart society won't succeed, “because we are more and we will prevent that.” A 43-year-old German man shot to death nine people in the Frankfurt suburb on Wednesday before apparently killing his mother and himself. Five of the victims were reported to be Turkish citizens. The attacker left rambling texts and videos in which he espoused racist views, called for genocide and claimed to have been under surveillance since birth. Turkey's ambassador to Germany, Ali Kemal Aydin, warned that Turkish immigrants in Germany are experiencing more and more hate crimes in the country. “This cannot and this must not continue,” Aydin said at the protest. The racist killings were Germany's third deadly far-right attack in a matter of months. The rampage followed October’s anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Halle and the slaying in June of a regional politician who supported Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming policy toward migrants. The killings come at a time when the far right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany has become the country's first political party in decades to establish itself as a significant force on the extreme right. All of the victims had immigrant roots and many are accusing the party of producing a climate where right-wing extremism and racism can flourish. There have been daily candle vigils for the victims since the shooting and another big protest against racism on Saturday that also drew thousands. A memorial for the victims is planned for later this week.
  • Spanish authorities said Sunday that they have closed airports on the Canary Islands because of a wind storm that is blinding the archipelago with sand and dust. Spain’s airport authorities said that incoming planes have been rerouted to other destinations and no flights are being allowed to leave airports on the islands’ airports. The regional government for the Canary Islands says that wind gusts could reach 120 kph (around 75 mph). Authorities have closed schools for Monday. Television images show palm trees whipping in the wind amid a thick yellow haze enveloping the islands. The storm phenomenon, locally known as “calima,” is capable of lifting up clouds of sand and dust from the Sahara desert and transporting them across the 95 kilometers (59 miles) separating the islands from the African coast.
  • Four people, including three children, were killed and six other members of the same family were seriously injured when a gas tank for cooking exploded in their home Sunday in northern Macedonia, authorities said. Police said that the three children, an 8-year-old boy and girls ages 9 and 11, died instantly when the gas tank exploded in the living room of a family house in the village of Romanovce. Firefighters later extinguished the blaze. A 58-year-old man died late Sunday at a Skopje clinic, the clinic's head of the intensive care unit told local media. Local media later reported that the gas tank exploded while the Albanian-minority family was preparing breakfast. The six surviving injured include four women, one of whom is pregnant, and a 10-year-old boy. Two women, aged 30 and 50, a man and the 10-year-old boy, are still in critical condition, the intensive care unit head, Ilir Hasani, told local media. ___ A previous version of this story was corrected to show that the gas tank was used for cooking, not heating.
  • The Aalst Carnival parade included stereotypical depictions of Jews for the second year in a row and the Belgian government said that the anti-Semitism in the three-day festival embarrassed the nation and endangers society. The Carnival was kicked off the United Nations' UNESCO heritage list last year after a float rife with anti-Semitic symbols raised worldwide condemnation. Yet despite all the warnings, some again targeted Jews. “Even though Aalst Carnival is much more than that, these facts detract from our values and reputation of our country,' Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said in a statement. Festival committee chair Dirk Verleysen said floats or individuals “that exceed all limits” of decency would be taken out of the parade, but offensive elements did appear. Earlier this week, Israel called on Belgium to scrap the annual Aalst parade. Yet one group on Sunday walked around the parade dressed up like insects with fur hats worn by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. Wilmes suggested that authorities would see if they could take action. “Belgium is a state of law. It is for the Justice Department and concerned authorities to see if the events during Carnival are in contravention of the law.' She said that stereotypes that stigmatize “lead to division. It endangers society. Specifically when it comes to repeated and conscious actions.' Aalst mayor Christoph D'Haese, who has been criticized for taking insufficient action after last year's offensive float, called Wilmes “otherwordly,' and added that “I did not see an anti-Semitic or racist parade. To the contrary, I saw a high mass of free speech and creativity.' He took time to pose with a Carnival reveler wearing a stereotypical hooked nose. Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, countered D'Haese's view and said that “the satirical procession with anti-Semitic tropes in Aalst, Belgium, are extremely offensive and abuse the power of free speech which is such an essential ingredient in any liberal democracy.' The EU office of the American Jewish Committee immediately called on the European Union to investigate the parade. 'Belgian authorities did nothing to prevent the outright anti-Semitic costumes, which clearly violate the EU's founding values, built on the lessons of the Holocaust and World War II,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute. The overwhelming majority of the 75-plus official entries in the parade’s 92nd edition may have touched on anything from town hall politics to Brexit and global climate change, but several again highlighted the theme which caused such an uproar. Carnival groups claims their three-day festival has a right to mock everything, even those hurtful to others. But even the president of the northern Belgian Flanders, where the festival is held, warned against insulting or excessively mocking people. One float was about the “Aalst Tribunal” of what is acceptable as humor and carried three puppets on their float each carrying some stereotypical depictions of a Jew, Muslim and a Roman Catholic priest. Some smaller groups also relied on Jewish stereotypes for their presentations. The Carnival in the industrial city of Aalst has its roots in the Middle Ages and often features satirical floats that take shots at local politicians and the powerful. Last year's festivities featured one float depicting Jews with exaggerated features and side locks standing over bags of money. The caricatures recalled anti-Semitic tropes of the Middle Ages and Nazi Germany. Aalst is one of Europe’s most famous carnivals and usually is a celebration of unbridled, no-holds-barred humor and satire. Politicians, religious leaders and the rich and famous are relentlessly ridiculed during the three-day festival ahead of Roman Catholic Lent. UNESCO, Jewish groups and the EU condemned last year's float as anti-Semitic, with the EU saying it conjured up visions of the 1930s.
  • It was the Trumpiest of offers. A rally at one of the world's largest stadiums. A crowd of millions cheering him on. A love fest during an election year. President Donald Trump's packed two-day visit to India promises the kind of welcome that has eluded him on many foreign trips, some of which have featured massive protests and icy handshakes from world leaders. He is expected to receive a warm embrace from the ideologically aligned and hug-loving Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complete with a massive rally soon after his arrival Monday and then a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal. After hosting Modi at a “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston last year that drew 50,000 people, Modi will return the favor with a “Namaste Trump” rally (it translates to, 'Greetings, Trump”) at the world's largest cricket stadium in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Tens of thousands are expected to line the streets. Modi 'told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,' Trump said to reporters Tuesday, then raised the anticipated number to 10 million when he mentioned the trip during a Thursday night rally. Indian authorities expect closer to 100,000. “I'll never be satisfied with a crowd if we have 10 million people in India,' Trump said. And as he left the White House on Sunday for the flight to India, the upcoming spectacle was on the president's mind again: “I hear it's going to be a big event. Some people say the biggest event they've ever had in India. That's what the prime minister told me — this will be the biggest event they've ever had.” Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from carefully picked and screened Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party. They will stand for hours alongside the neatly manicured 22-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of road to accord Trump a grand welcome. Trump generally dislikes foreign travel and prefers being home in his White House bed; in fact, he noted to reporters upon his departure from the White House that it was a long trip to India and that he was only going to be there one night. But he has a particular affinity for India. He owned a hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, named the Trump Taj Mahal, and he owns multiple properties in India. “There's a lot of color. This is a loud and boisterous country, and that exactly in some ways really fits with the Trump style,' said Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow and director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution. She said Trump is likely to get a king's welcome from a country well-rehearsed in the art of adulation. A half-million people gathered to hear President Dwight D. Eisenhower speak in 1959; former President Jimmy Carter had a village named after him — Carterpuri. “In some ways, American presidents go to India to feel loved,” said Madan. She predicted Trump would receive an even grander welcome because the Indians recognize it's something Trump expects and that could keep them in his good graces. “It's not about him, per se, for them. It is the U.S. relationship for India is crucial,' she said. India has spent weeks making preparations for the visit. At a cost of almost $14 million, the government is blanketing the city with ads of Trump and Modi and hastily erected a half-kilometer (1,640-foot) brick wall beside the road Trump will take to the stadium, which officials are rushing to finish in time for Trump's arrival.. Critics say the wall was built to block the view of a slum inhabited by more than 2,000 people. Stray dogs have been caught and exotic trees planted. Trump's foreign visits have typically been light on sightseeing, but this time, the president and first lady Melania Trump are to visit the Taj Mahal. Stories in local media warn of the monkeys that inhabit the landmark pestering tourists for food and, on occasion, menacing both visitors and slingshot-carrying security guards. Presidents have often used trips overseas to bolster their electoral prospects. Images of American presidents being feted on the world stage stand in contrast to those of their rivals in the opposing party slogging through diners in early-voting states and clashing in debate. This trip, in particular, reflects a Trump campaign strategy to showcase him looking presidential during short, carefully managed trips that provide counterprogramming to the Democrats' primary contest and produce the kinds of visuals his campaign can use in future ads. His aides also believe the visit could help the president woo tens of thousands of Indian-American voters before the November election. Some of Trump's past trips have been overshadowed by diplomatic snafus and political gaffes. When Barack Obama was running for president, his reception in Germany in front of a massive crowd was featured prominently in an attack ad casting him as a mere “celebrity.” Beyond the optics, there are serious issues to address as India faces a slumping economy and ongoing protests over a citizenship law that excludes Muslims. Trade tensions between the two countries have escalated since the Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium from India. India responded with higher penalties on agricultural goods and restrictions on U.S. medical devices. The U.S. retaliated by removing India from a decades-old preferential trade program. Though trade will be on the agenda, Trump and administration officials are playing down expectations. “Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on,” the president said. India has been embroiled in protests over its Citizenship Amendment Act. It provides a fast track to naturalization for some migrants who entered the country illegally while fleeing religious persecution, but excludes Muslims, raising fears that the country is moving toward a religious citizenship test. Passage has prompted large-scale protests and a violent crackdown. Typically, Trump has not publicly rebuked world leaders for human rights abuses during his overseas trips. But one senior administration official said the U.S. is concerned about the situation and that Trump will tell Modi the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions and respect religious minorities. Trump is also expected to weigh in on the fate of the disputed territory of Kashmir. The Muslim-majority territory claimed by both Hindu-nationalist led India and Pakistan. Trump has offered to mediate and has encouraged India and Pakistan to work together to resolve their differences. But there is likely to be little public divide between Trump and Modi, two leaders with a similar love of bravado and adoration. At the “Howdy Modi” event last fall, which incongruously linked the Indian prime minister with Texas' cowboy culture, the two world leaders took the stage hand in hand at a rock concert-like setting that will be dwarfed by the scene in Ahmedabad “Get ready to say #NamasteTrump,” tweeted the city, the largest in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, as it geared up to welcome the American president on his maiden India visit as president. It also invited people to join “#theBiggestRoadShowEver.” ___ Follow Colvin on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@colvinj and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

News

  • Seven people were shot at a Houston flea market Sunday. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call around 7:41 p.m., KPRC reported. Investigators said no one was critically injured. Some injuries are believed to have been caused by ricochet of gunfire. A man is in custody, KPRC reported. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
  • NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others will be remembered Monday at a memorial service at the Los Angeles Staples Center. Twenty thousand people are expected at the venue Monday afternoon to remember those killed last month when the helicopter they were riding in crashed into a hillside in Southern California. The service was scheduled Monday, 2-24-20, because the date is significant for Bryant’s family. For a time in his career, Bryant wore a No. 24 jersey. Gianna, who played basketball as well, wore a No. 2 jersey on her basketball team. Bryant’s wife and Gianna’s mother, Vanessa Bryant, said in an Instagram post that she and Kobe Bryant were together for 20 years. Tickets for seats in the Staples Center, which also incorporated the numbers 2 and 24, went for $224 for some tickets, $224 for two ticket packages in certain sections and $24.02 for other tickets. The proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. According to the organization’s website, the foundation 'exists to further Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s legacy through charitable endeavors in sports.” Here’s what you need to know if you want to watch the service:  What time: The service begins at 10 a.m. PT. That’s 1 p.m. ET. What channel: Several networks will be airing the service, among them CNN, E! News and BET. Will it be livestreamed: The memorial will be livestreamed on several sites. You can stream it through ETLive.com and CBS All Access, as well as the ET Live app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. ESPN will be streaming it here. ABC News, NBCNews.com, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, Yahoo Sports and Facebook Watch will also livestream the event.
  • A family has to bury another loved one after a man was shot during a viewing at a funeral home in Arkansas. Forrest City police said the shooting happened outside a funeral home off South Washington Street on Friday afternoon. Officers said the shooter, Christopher Reed, and victim, Curtis Allen, were cousins and were arguing about a dispute from back in 2014. Allen’s sister said she was outside when the shooting happened. “Your own family would do something so horrific on one of the most horrific days of someone’s life,” said Rozette Allen. Rozette Allen said her family traveled from Illinois to pay respects to their father Friday afternoon. She said Reed and her brother had unresolved issues from the past. She said Reed went up to her brother to shake his hand outside the funeral home but Curtis Allen wanted to be left alone. “He started pulling out a gun from his bookbag, and I’m like, ‘He has a gun, he has a gun,’ and he started shooting,” said Rozette Allen. Benjamin Wynne works at Miles J. Kimble Mortuary and Cremation. He said he was inside when he heard gunshots. “When he went through, ran through the funeral home, I immediately called police,” said Wynne. Police said Reed shot Curtis Allen multiple times. Allen was taken to the hospital and died Sunday. Officers arrested Reed and charged him with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and other charges. Rozette Allen said she will miss her brother, whom she described as a loving father of four kids. “I love him keep watching over us, watch over all of us,” said Allen.
  • A man was arrested after he attempted to rob a dog walker, shot him in the leg and then stole the dog walker’s dog, Daytona Beach police said. Officers said they responded around 2:30 p.m. Sunday after receiving a call for help. Investigators said a man was walking his dog when Dwayne Foster approached him with a handgun and told the man to empty his pockets. The man refused and Foster fired several shots, with one striking the man in the leg, police said. The man was treated on the scene by paramedics and is in stable condition. Officers said they were able to track Foster down, along with the victim’s dog, as well as the gun. Charges are pending against Foster.
  • A 21-year-old woman from Pittsburgh fell around 80 feet from a cliff near Breakneck Bridge at McConnells Mill State Park on Sunday afternoon, fire officials confirmed. Dispatchers said the call came in around 3:23 p.m. Fire officials said the woman was flown to a hospital and has head and back injuries. The woman was with a group of Slippery Rock University students. No other information was immediately available.
  • A rider fell off a float Sunday during a Mardi Gras parade. The rider fell from the lower level of float 16B during the Thoth parade, WDSU reported. The rider was taken to a hospital in stable condition. Two people have died during parades this week. A man was struck and killed Saturday night when he was caught between two sections of a tandem float. Earlier in the week, Geraldine Carmouche, 58, died in a similar accident involving a tandem float. In response to the deaths, city officials have banned all tandem floats for the remainder of the Carnival season.