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Paul Manafort is sentenced, Europe’s central bank signals concern, and Russian bills take aim at online expression. Here’s the latest:
Paul Manafort is sentenced to 47 months in prison
Paul Manafort, a political consultant who became chairman of the Trump campaign and then a main target of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, for his murky dealings with Ukrainian and pro-Russian interests, was sentenced to 47 months in prison for financial fraud.
“To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” Mr. Manafort, in a wheelchair, said during his sentencing hearing, asking the judge for leniency. Set to turn 70 next month, Mr. Manafort has watched the curtains fall on a grand lifestyle funded by illegal lobbying for Ukrainian political figures.
Prosecutors had told the judge Mr. Manafort was a hardened criminal who had lied to them even after pleading guilty and offering full cooperation. But the judge declined to follow advisory sentencing guidelines that would have effectively put Mr. Manafort in prison for the rest of his life.
Looking ahead: Mr. Manafort will be sentenced next week in another case, in Washington. He faces a possible sentence of 10 years.
Amid slowdown, Europe’s central bank makes surprise move
Signaling a rising threat of recession, the European Central Bank brought back a stimulus measure intended to encourage lending that it had switched off just months earlier, having devised it during the financial crisis. The bank also said there would be no change to benchmark interest rates until 2020.
The volte-face is a response to global weakness. A slowdown in China, exacerbated by rising trade tensions with the U.S., has reverberated around the world, diminishing growth in Europe and elsewhere.
European weakness: The industrial powerhouse Germany barely escaped recession in the latest quarter, hurt by American tariffs on its steel and falling Chinese appetite for its machine tools and Volkswagens. The uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the E.U. has strained the British economy, while Italy and Spain have been shaken by political fissures.
Forecasts: The bank’s economists now expect eurozone growth to be 1.1 percent this year, and there are fears that the global slowdown could ultimately affect the U.S. and become entrenched.
The bills would create Soviet-style censorship, imposing jail terms or fines for online expression deemed to be insulting to the government, or for spreading so-called fake news.
Details: One set of bills would hit private individuals with fines of up to $3,000 or 15 days of administrative arrest for insulting the government online. Another bill would demand that news media outlets and other websites remove any information that shows “clear disrespect” to Russian society or the government. Internet service providers and website owners would have one day to remove the insults, or face a complete block.
Prospects: The measures await final passage in the upper chamber of Parliament and Mr. Putin’s signature. He has expressed support for such restrictions.
Battle against Ebola epidemic in Congo is in trouble
The war-torn northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is suffering through the second-longest Ebola outbreak on record. Over seven months, there have been 907 recorded cases and 569 deaths. And despite the use of promising antiviral drugs and a recent vaccine, there is no end in sight.
What’s worse, heavy-handed measures by outside aid organizations, the local police and the military have alienated communities, leading some people to spurn treatment and even attack treatment centers. On Thursday, Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, said that her own organization was among those that had fallen short. She called on medical teams to treat patients “as humans and not as a biothreat.”
On the ground: More than 80,000 people have been vaccinated, but the region where the outbreak occurred is a longtime conflict zone, with up to 100 armed groups as well as security forces posing a constant threat of violence. “In the last month alone, there were more than 30 different incidents and attacks against elements of the response” to Ebola, Dr. Liu said.
Quote: Referring to affected communities, Dr. Liu said, “They hear constant advice to wash their hands, but nothing about the lack of soap and water. They see their relatives sprayed with chlorine and wrapped in plastic bags, buried without ceremony. Then they see their possessions burned.”
Afghanistan: Peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban — which began in Qatar 11 days ago with high hopes — are getting caught up in a disagreement over fundamental questions of terrorism: What is it, and who is a terrorist?
Denmark: Two teenagers and an elderly person are among 14 people charged with unlawfully sharing a graphic video online of the beheading of a young woman in Morocco late last year by men who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Belgium: A French citizen suspected of working for the Islamic State in Syria was convicted of murdering four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014. He faces up to 30 years in prison at a sentencing hearing set for Monday.
Justin Trudeau: Canada’s prime minister said that a dispute with his former justice minister, which grew into a political crisis that is blemishing Mr. Trudeau’s reputation, was the result of an “erosion of trust.” He denied any wrongdoing.
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Today is International Women’s Day, a day of celebration and solidarity.
Many scholars trace its origins to 1909, when the Socialist Party of America declared a Woman’s Day. The idea spread internationally.
In 1915, Clara Zetkin, a German Marxist who had promulgated the day, used it to protest World War I. In Russia in 1917, revolutionary women used the day to demand bread and peace.
In many countries, the celebration these days is less political and more commercial, a holiday marked by candy and flowers.
In your Back Story writer’s youth in a Bosnian household in St. Louis, it was a day when the women celebrated one another and all that they had overcome. Gifts from husbands and children played a part, but the focus was on women’s bonds to one another.
It raises the question: Who gets to shape a holiday? As Temma Kaplan, a history professor at Rutgers University, put it, “Commemorations and holidays are like clay — you can define what they will mean.”
Melina Delkic wrote today’s Back Story.
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