Iran accuses US of ‘grotesque’ meddling through social media

The United States is tapping social media to incite protesters “to change their government,” thus tampering in Iranian affairs, the Islamic republic alleged in a Thursday letter to the United Nations. Tehran accused US President Donald Trump and Vice P…

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Trump takes credit for talks between North, South Korea

President Donald Trump took credit Thursday for recently renewed communications between North Korea and South Korea.

“With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.

He added, “Fools, but talks are a good thing!”

On Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered contact on a hotline between the two Koreas that had been dormant for almost two years — a major diplomatic breakthrough following a year of escalating hostility and a move that could pave the way for future talks.

North Korea called South Korea on Thursday to ensure the hotline is stable, the South Korean Unification Ministry said.

Trump’s claim of credit for diplomacy between the two countries came two days after he tried to taunt the North Korean leader on Twitter, criticizing the size of Kim’s “nuclear button” in comparison the US president’s and causing an international outcry.

Trump has taken a hard stance against North Korea, and in October, he said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” a reference to the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

“Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump tweeted at the time.

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US says 2 terrorists killed in Somalia airstrike

U.S. forces conducted an airstrike on Tuesday targeting Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, U.S. Africa Command said, the latest military action against the terror group in the country.

The strike killed two terrorists and destroyed “one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu,” the statement said.

The early morning strike occurred approximately 50 kilometers west of Mogadishu, the Somalian capital. U.S. Africa Command assesses that no civilians were killed in the strike.

“US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect the United States, its partners and interests, and deny safe haven to terrorist groups,” the statement continued.

There have been over 30 strikes in Somalia since President Donald Trump took office. A Christmas Eve airstrike against Al-Shabaab killed 13 terrorists, U.S. Africa Command said.

In December, a State Department official said the U.S. is cutting some military aid to Somalia due to allegations of misuse, a move that comes even though the U.S. has become more involved in Somalia, fighting Al-Shabaab and ISIS with airstrikes and having some 500 U.S. troops in the country to advise local forces.

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Twitter blocks far-right leader amid German hate speech law

Germany’s tough new social media law appears to be working: A far-right member of parliament had her Twitter account suspended shortly after posting an anti-Muslim message.

Under a law that took full effect in Germany on Monday, Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies can be fined as much as €50 million ($60 million) if they fail to remove hate speech and fake news posts quickly.

Companies now have 24 hours to remove posts that breach German law after they are flagged by users. The law came into force in October, but the government gave companies three months to adjust to the new rules.

In a tweet posted on New Year’s Eve, Beatrix von Storch accused police of appeasing “barbaric, gang-raping Muslim hordes of men” after they tweeted a New Year message in Arabic, as well as German, English and French.

Twitter temporarily suspended von Storch’s account following the post, saying it breached its rules on hate speech. Other members of her Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who tweeted similar messages in support also had their tweets deleted.

The AfD placed third in the country’s parliamentary election in September. The anti-immigration, anti-Muslim group is the first far-right party to enter the German parliament since 1961.

Von Storch said on Monday that Facebook had also “censored” her. She posted on Twitter a screen grab of a message she received from Facebook informing her that a post similar to her disputed tweet had been withheld in Germany because it was unlawful.

Police in Cologne have accused von Storch of inciting hatred. A spokeswoman for the police said Tuesday that a report on her posts has been passed to prosecutors, who are investigating. No charges have yet been filed.

Von Storch, who is deputy chairwoman of the AfD’s parliamentary group, claimed the “censorship” meant the end of the rule of law in Germany because Facebook had judged her before the legal process had run its course.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

— Nadine Schmidt and Judith Vonberg contributed to this report.

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10 US citizens among victims of Costa Rica plane crash

[Breaking news alert, posted at 6:39 p.m. ET Sunday]

Ten US citizens were among the victims of a small plane crash in northwest Costa Rica Sunday afternoon, Costa Rica’s President said. “The government of Costa Rica deeply regrets the death of 10 American passengers and two Costa Rican pilots,” President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera said in a statement posted on social media. An investigation into the cause of the crash will begin first thing Monday, Solis said. Everyone on board the aircraft was killed.

[Previous story, posted at 5:44 p.m. ET Sunday]

A plane crash in northwest Costa Rica on Sunday killed all 12 people aboard, officials said.

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Security posted several images of the wreckage on its official Facebook page, showing the plane engulfed in flames in a wooded area, with smoke billowing from charred rubble.

The private aircraft was carrying 10 foreign passengers and two Costa Rican crew members, the ministry said.

The crash occurred near Punta Islita, in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province, officials said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash. Authorities said they were traveling to the area to recover the victims’ bodies.

One of the victims was the cousin of Costa Rican ex-President Laura Chinchilla, the former leader said on her Twitter account.

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Follow the New Year around the world

Get out of your East Coast mentality, America. Not everyone starts their New Year when you do.

When it’s 5 a.m. ET on December 31, people in Samoa have already shot off their fireworks.

Samoa is always the first country to ring in the New Year. American Samoa, its neighbor just 101 miles away, has to watch in envy and wait a full day.

You can thank time zones for that.

There are 39 different local times in use, which means it takes 26 hours for the entire world to enter the New Year.

So, if you really, really, really love to hum “Auld Lang Syne,” the list below will get you in the spirit — over and over and over again.

Or if you’re really adventurous (and really rich), you can just hop on a private jet for a flight from Sydney to Honolulu and enjoy it in person twice.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

5 a.m. Samoa and Christmas Island/Kiribati

5:15 a.m. Chatham Islands/New Zealand

6 a.m. New Zealand with exceptions and five more locations/islands

7 a.m. Small region of Russia and six more locations

8 a.m. Much of Australia and eight more

8:30 a.m. Small region of Australia

9 a.m. Queensland/Australia and six more

9:30 a.m. Northern Territory/Australia

10 a.m. Japan, South Korea and four more

10:15 a.m. Western Australia/Australia

10:30 a.m. North Korea

11 a.m. China, Philippines and 10 more

Noon Much of Indonesia, Thailand and seven more

12:30 p.m. Myanmar and Cocos Islands

1 p.m. Bangladesh and six more

1:15 p.m. Nepal

1:30 p.m. India and Sri Lanka

2 p.m. Pakistan and eight more

2:30 p.m. Afghanistan

3 p.m. Azerbaijan and eight more

3:30 p.m. Iran

4 p.m. Moscow/Russia and 22 more

5 p.m. Greece and 31 more

6 p.m. Germany and 43 more

7 p.m. United Kingdom and 26 more

8 p.m. Cabo Verde and two more

9 p.m. Regions of Brazil and South Georgia/Sandwich Is.

10 p.m. Argentina, regions of Brazil and nine more

10:30 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador/Canada

11 p.m. Some regions of Canada and 29 more

Monday, January 1, 2018

Midnight US (East Coast), regions of Canada, Colombia and 11 more

1 a.m. US (Central), Mexico and eight more

2 a.m. US (Mountain) and two more

3 a.m. US (Pacific) and four more

4 a.m. US (Alaska) and regions of French Polynesia

4:30 a.m. Marquesas Islands/French Polynesia

5 a.m. US (Hawaii) and two more

6 a.m. American Samoa and two more

7 a.m. Much of US Minor Outlying Islands

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