Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A U.S. military spokesman said Russia has not decreased the tempo of its air campaign in Syria, despite a cease-fire agreement due to take effect this week.

U.S. Official: Russian Air Strikes In Syria Increasing Despite Truce 

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A U.S. military spokesman said Russia has not decreased the tempo of its air campaign in Syria, despite a cease-fire agreement due to take effect this week.

Today's Headlines and Commentary 

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Months after the attack in San Bernardino, a U.S. District Court judge ordered Apple to provide the FBI with “reasonable technical assistance” to help investigators who have been struggling to unlock the iPhone of one of the assailants, Syed Rizwan Farook. The Washington Post writes that the judge’s order “does not ask Apple to break the phone’s encryption but rather to disable the feature that wipes the data on the phone after 10 incorrect tries at entering a password.” This would enable investigators to try to unlock the phone using “brute force” without compromising the data on the phone. The New York Times adds that “the ruling handed the F.B.I. a potentially important victory in its long-running battle with Apple and other Silicon Valley companies over the government’s ability to get access to encrypted data in investigations.”
Apple has vowed to oppose the request. In a letter to Apple customers, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested that “[t]he United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.” Writing that “the implications of the government’s demands are chilling,” Cook highlighted the dangerous precedent that could result from, what he referred to as, the government’s request of Apple to build a backdoor in iPhones and “to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals.” The letter added that Apple “oppose[s] this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”
In other surveillance news, a newly released report from the NSA reveals that the agency collects less data from Americans than had been suspected. According to the New York Times, a 2010 Inspector General report suggests that NSA internet surveillance conducted under the FISA Amendments Act collects information from Internet providers “about the N.S.A.’s foreign targets — not all the data crossing their switches, as the critics had presumed.” The Times tells us that “the distinction is important for evaluating crucial constitutional issues raised by how to apply Fourth Amendment privacy rights to new communications and surveillance technologies.”
A day after U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura met with regime officials regarding humanitarian aid deliveries, the Associated Press reports that aid convoys carrying food and medical supplies have reached besieged suburbs of Damascus. The Guardian tells us that aid convoys are expected to arrive in seven besieged areas, including “Madaya and Zabadani, whose citizens have been starving to death under a siege imposed by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad; as well as Fua and Kefraya, which are besieged by rebels.” De Mistura is expected to discuss possible airdrops to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousand of civilians in Deir ez-Zor who are under siege by ISIS militants. The Associated Press takes a look at siege warfare as a tactic in the Syrian conflict.
Turkish calls for the creation of a “safe zone” inside Syria have received a tepid response from U.S. officials who maintain that such zones would necessitate a “no-fly zone,” something that both Russia and the United States have opposed. According to the Guardian, Turkey has suggested that “as many as 600,000 refugees could flood over the border if the aerial bombardment continues.”
U.S. and Russian officials are expected to meet on Friday to discuss the implementation of a ceasefire in order to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. Foreign Policy tells us that the ceasefire agreement brokered between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, “billed as an opening to the cessation of hostilities in Syria, turned out to be the starting shot for more intensive Russian bombing of cities and towns, hospitals, and schools” across northern Syria. And to the extent that Russian forces are growing increasingly close to Kurdish YPG militants, Foreign Policynotes that the heightened aggression in northern Syria has “widened the likelihood the Turkish military will soon join the fighting.” According to Reuters, the recent Kurdish gains in the region have added tension between Ankara and Washington. In addition to viewing YPG forces as linked to the PKK, Turkey views the Kurdish militants as closely aligned with Moscow, despite the U.S. belief that the YPG forces are not coordinating directly with Russia.
Meanwhile, Kurdish forces continue to advance in northern Syria as they prepare to confront the Islamic State. The Wall Street Journal tells us that “the advances put the Kurdish fighters on the precipice of Islamic State territory, including the town of Dabiq, which some extremists believe is prophesied to be the site of an apocalyptic showdown.” Turkey continues to target the U.S.-supported Kurdish militants by firing artillery across the border.
As both regime forces and the Kurds gain ground in the north, the Journal writes that “the convoluted fight for northern Syria has cast doubt on prospects for a meaningful ceasefire taking hold in the coming days.” An official in the regime’s alliance suggested that a ceasefire “would simply be a pause for the Iran-led ground forces to consolidate recent territorial gains.”
Here's a seemingly evergreen headline: the United States is urging NATO to play a bigger role in the fight against the Islamic State. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter addressed allies in Brussels last week and Reuters reports that Carter’s efforts to enhance European participation in the fight against ISIS have raised concern among some allies that “deeper NATO involvement in Syria could be taken by Moscow as a provocation that the alliance is seeking to extend its influence.”
As Turkey struggles to deal with the ongoing situation in Syria, an explosion in Ankara left five people dead and ten injured, the AP tells us. The car bomb reportedly targeted a military bus and has caused Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to cancel his visit to Brussels to participate in a European Council summit.
Over in Iraq, the three American contractors who were kidnapped in Baghdad last month have beenreleased. The Americans went missing from the Baghdad neighborhood Dora, where they werereportedly visiting the home of their translator.
With Saudi oil money facing increasing challengesDefense One suggests that the kingdom is on the verge of collapse. More here.
The French National Assembly voted to extend France’s State of Emergency for three months. TheTimes highlights the human cost of France’s emergency measures by taking a look at examples of “government overreach as over the last year France has become a laboratory for balancing security concerns against civil liberties.” Despite the damage in property and the violation of basic liberties, the French Interior Ministry has acknowledged that “less than 1 percent of raids have resulted in new terrorism investigations,” raising questions as to whether “the human cost of such warrantless searches, about 3,300 of which have been conducted since the Paris attacks, has been disproportionate to their efficacy.”
German security personnel also raided a series of locations in Bremen yesterday in order to enforce a ban on an ISIS-linked Salafist group. The Times tells us that the banned group had sent some 15 people to join ISIS in Syria.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Austria will tighten its border controls and set daily intake quotas in order to limit the number of migrants and asylum seekers entering the country. Officials fear that Austria’s move could have a domino effect along the migrant trail.
The New York Times writes that the United States had “an elaborate plan for a cyberattack on Iran in case the diplomatic effort to limit its nuclear program failed and led to a military conflict.” Codenamed "Nitro Zeus" and intended as an alternative to a large military conflict, the plan “was devised to disable Iran’s air defenses, communications systems and crucial parts of its power grid, and was shelved, at least for the foreseeable future, after the nuclear deal struck between Iran and six other nations last summer was fulfilled.” The Times report is chocked full of revelations about the evolving nature of U.S. cyberwar doctrine and capabilities. 
As President Obama addressed the need to ease tensions in the South China Sea at the ASEAN summit, China reportedly deployed surface-to-air missiles on one of its disputed islands.  U.S. and Taiwanese officials both confirmed the deployment which had been revealed by satellite imagery.China did not confirm the reports, but Beijing’s Foreign Minister maintained that any such deployments were “completely in accordance with the rights of self-defense accorded to any sovereign nation under international law.”  Foreign Minister Wang Yi went on to suggest that the report was invented by the Western media “to create news stories.” Foreign Policy has more.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a letter to Congress that they will not work with the Obama Administration to transfer remaining Guantánamo prisoners to the United States unless the law prohibiting such transfers is changed. In the letter, Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville wrote that “Current law prohibits the use of funds to 'transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release' of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to or within the United States and prohibits the construction, modification, or acquisition of any facility in the United States to house any Guantanamo detainee.” The Hill notesthat “without the Pentagon's help, it would be impossible for detainees to leave the detention facility at Guantanamo, which is controlled and run by the U.S. military.”
And in the latest from Guantánamo, authorities have suggested that detainee Ayyub Murshid Ali Salih was “a low ranking militant” despite his being accused of being connected to al Qaeda.
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Adam Klein reflected on Justice Scalia’s legacy and his rulings on national security cases.
Laura Dean looked at the social media documentation of the refugees fleeing Syria and noted the anonymity which still shrouds many refugees.
Susan shared Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins’s statement from the 9/11 hearings at Guantánamo.
Samir Saran and Bedavyasa Mohanty took a look at cybersecurity in India.
Cody shared the letter filed by the ACLU in the ongoing case ACLU v. CIA regarding the release of former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden's autobiography.
Elina Saxena highlighted the national security related issues discussed in last week’s presidential debates.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
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Ankara Bombing the Latest in Turkey’s Deadly Cycle of Violence 

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At least 28 people were killed by a powerful explosion in a heavily guarded district of Ankara on Wednesday, just the latest deadly attack in a country whose entanglement in Syria’s civil war and domestic conflict with armed Kurdish groups has seen it become a frequent target for militants.
According to Turkish officials, the blast came from a car loaded with explosives, targeting a convoy of military vehicles as it passed through the heart of the capital near the parliament, Interior Ministry, and military headquarters.
Security camera footage published by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet shows fire and smoke engulfing the street and sidewalk at the moment of the blast. A Turkish news agency video taken in the aftermath showed a fire raging as emergency vehicles raced to the scene. At least 61 people were injured in the bombing.
“This attack openly targets out entire nation. We condemn those who carried this attack, those who use them as tools, and those who give logistical, intelligence and even political support to such attacks,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, according to Hurriyet.
Army service buses burn after an explosion in Ankara, Turkey, Feb. 17, 2016.Smokes rises above buildings following an explosion after an attack targeted a convoy of military service vehicles in Ankara, Turkey, Feb. 17, 2016.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which comes only a month after a bombing killed 11 German tourists in Istanbul. The capital itself was targeted before as recently as October, when a double bombing of a peace rally killed at least 100 in the deadliest attack of recent times. Both were blamed on the militants of the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls much of Iraq and Syria.
These attacks form part of a widening spiral of violence that has unfurled in Turkey since the summer of 2015, when a suicide bombing blamed on ISIS killed at least 33 people in the town of Suruc, primarily volunteers working to aid the Kurdish town of Kobane, in Syria, which withstood an a siege by ISIS in 2014.
The attack in July demonstrated ISIS’ willingness to strike inside Turkey. It also helped trigger renewed fighting between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish state, who have fought an intermittent war for some 30 years. Many Kurds blamed the state for failing to restrain the jihadists, a charge the government denies.
As well as ISIS, Kurdish militants have also carried out attacks, primarily targeting police and military forces. In December, a Kurdish faction claimed responsibility for a blast that killed one person at one of Istanbul’s airports.
Wednesday’s bombing in Ankara also comes at a moment of intensifying conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish armed groups in Syria. This week Turkish artillery fired on Kurdish fighters who are advancing on towns held by predominantly Arab Syrian rebel groups. Those advance come in the wake of a major Russian-backed offensive by Syrian regime forces, which have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in northern Syria.
Inside Turkey, the security forces are currently pursuing a clampdown on the the armed Kurdistan Workers Party and local Kurdish demonstrators across the southeast of the country in an ongoing confrontation that is beginning to resemble a slow-burning civil war.
In reaction to the bombing in Ankara, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelled a scheduled visit to Azerbaijan, while prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also cancelled a planned trip to Belgium.
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Erdogan Continues Effort to Hold on to Power in Turkey

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's aspiration to change Turkey's parliamentary system of government to an executive presidency is being blamed for the collapse of talks to create a new constitution.  Erdogan is already touring the country promoting an executive presidency; but, lack of parliamentary support could make a general election more likely. The collapse of the cross-party parliamentary constitutional commission after only its third meeting, amid mutual recriminations, means Erdogan’s ruling AK Party remains short of the three-fifths parliamentary majority needed to introduce a new constitution, which would then be ratified by a referendum. Political columnist Kadri Gursel of the al-Monitor Website says the president could already be looking toward an early election. "If he can't succeed to find some minimum 20 opposition members in the parliament to support his draft constitution for presidential system - he will take the country into snap elections, by accusing the opposition to block Turkey’s way, to prevent Turkey addressing its urgent needs," he said. Erdogan has already launched a nationwide campaign, backed by non-governmental organizations, calling for a strong presidency to replace the current parliamentary system under the 1982 constitution written by Turkey’s then-military rulers. Erdogan argues that for Turkey to achieve rapid economic development, the new presidency should not be hindered by many checks and balances.  Critics say such a system would be a dictatorship; but, with Turkey facing renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels, along with a raging Syrian civil war on its border, Gursel says the president and his supporters are in a strong position.   "We see, for example, [a] staunchly pro-Erdogan newspaper putting a headline, 'presidency or chaos,'" he said. "Now with all of his media power, his power of cult of personality, leadership qualities etc., he will try to create a perception, without his own custom made presidential system, Turkey will go to hell." With Erdogan insisting that the country is in urgent need of constitutional reform, speculation is growing that a general election could be held as early as this year; but, political consultant Atilla Yesilada, of Global Source Partners, says while the president remains a political giant, he will be taking a big gamble if he goes to the polls for the third time in two years. "Times of trouble, the people want a strong leadership, but there comes a point when the trouble lasts too long and people start doubting that strong leadership," he said. "So if Erdogan chooses an early election this time he may be punished, for the poor economy, as well as this never-ending strife and tensions in the country. And from polls I consider independent, a majority remains unconvinced about the wisdom of a presidential system." There is reportedly even dissent within Erdogan’s party over a powerful executive presidency; but, with Erdogan having an iron grip over the party and control over most of the mainstream media, observers say he remains well placed to achieve his goal.

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Aid Deliveries Begin to 5 Besieged Syrian Towns

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Rebel fighters on Wednesday escorted a Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy heading toward the villages of Fouaa and Kfarya in Idlib Province.

Laser Beam Pointed at Pope’s Plane at Start of Mexico Visit, Airline Says 

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A laser beam was pointed at Pope Francis’ plane as he landed in Mexico City last week but there was no harm to those aboard, Italian airline Alitalia said in a statement Wednesday. The airline said the plane's crew noticed the laser coming from the ground Friday as the pope was coming in from Cuba and that other arriving planes were involved. "The captain immediately informed the control tower of what he had seen, as per normal procedure," Alitalia said. "It is up to...

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Nuclear materials in Iraq 'stolen' 

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The material, stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer, went missing in November from a storage facility near the southern city of Basra

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Son of Turkish president accused of money laundering in Italy

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Bilal Erdogan, moved to Bologna in the autumn to study for a doctorate, denies allegations

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Florida Teen Accused of Posing as Doctor

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A Florida teenager has been arrested and accused of pretending to be a doctor. Malachi A. Love-Robinson, 18, went so far as to open medical offices, called New Birth New Life Medical Center & Urgent Care, and set up a website to attract potential customers, according to authorities. “New Birth New Life Medical Center & Urgent Care's mission is to provide personalized, high-quality Holistic and Alternative Medical care on an as-needed or preventative basis,” read the...

Ukraine's Government Faces Fresh Problems, at Home, Abroad

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Ukraine's government faced fresh challenges at home and abroad Wednesday, when a major political party withdrew from the governing coalition and Russia filed suit against the country over a $3 billion Eurobond debt. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced her Fatherland party was leaving Ukraine's governing coalition, which she criticized as an obstacle to reforms. Tymoshenko, who leads the smallest of the coalition's four factions, accused its participants of...

Ankara governor raises death toll in explosion to 18, says at least 45 others wounded 

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Ankara governor raises death toll in explosion to 18, says at least 45 others wounded.

Hundreds of millions of Islamic State funds destroyed in air strikes: U.S.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-led air strikes on Islamic State cash storage sites have cost the militant group hundreds of millions of dollars, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday.
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White House: Obama Will Not Attend Justice Scalia's Funeral -

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White House: Obama Will Not Attend Justice Scalia's Funeral
President Barack Obama will not attend Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral Saturday, the White House confirmed. Instead, the president will pay his respects on Friday, when Scalia's body lies in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court building. 
President Obama Will Not Attend Justice Antonin Scalia's FuneralMediaite

Obama skipping Scalia's funeral, paying his respects on FridayLas Vegas Review-Journal 
President Obama Will Not Attend Justice Scalia's FuneralTown Hall
Washington Free Beacon-PJ
all 121 news articles »

Kurdistan Agrees to Baghdad's Tentative Plan on Budget Relief

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Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government said it agrees with a proposal to funnel all of its oil production through the central government in exchange for Baghdad paying the salaries of the Kurds’ municipal employees.

'Russia And Me' -- Lessons From Those Who Know Russia Best

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WASHINGTON - As the world wrestles with a warring Russia, twelve former presidents of post-Soviet states say that Moscow’s resurgence is no surprise. An interview project titled Russia and Me, published today by RFE/RL, presents exclusive interviews with presidents who in 1991 helped establish or restore the independence of Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Ukraine. Their recollections are personal and individual, but they all reference the common historical moment when the constituent republics of the Soviet Union asserted their independence from Moscow. Explaining the idea behind the project, Anna Sous, a journalist with RFE/RL’s Belarus Service who conceived the project and conducted the interviews, said that "every one of these countries has its own Crimea," and each of these leaders had the unique experience of negotiating -- some successfully and some not -- with Russia. Many of the leaders spoke warmly of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who they said preferred negotiation over conflict and, according to Lithuania’s first post-Soviet president, Vytautas Landsbergis, had "honor and pride." Said former Belarusian President Stanislau Shushkevich, “[Yeltsin] strictly abided by the principle of a right to national statehood. Genuinely, not hypocritically.” Regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, former Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, looking back, said, "I couldn't believe the West didn't see it coming." For his part, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, forecasting the future, said, "It's Russia's plan to create a wound that will bleed for years." In addition to those already mentioned, the former leaders included in the interview series are former Armenian President Robert Kocharian; former Estonian President Arnold Ruutel; former acting president of Georgia Nino Burjanadze; former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev; former Moldovan presidents Petru Lucinschi and Vladimir Voronin; former Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas; and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk.

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Scores of dismembered bodies found in Colombian jails

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Remains of at least 100 dismembered prisoners and visitors have been found in drain pipes at a jail in Colombia's capital that houses drug traffickers, Marxist rebels and paramilitaries, investigators said on Wednesday.

Nobel Peace Prize winner accused of being informant for Poland's secret police 

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Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity leader, faces fresh allegations that he worked as an informant under the Communist regime

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Iraqi officials: IS downs military helicopter, 2 killed

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Iraqi officials say Islamic State militants shot down a military helicopter west of Baghdad, killing both crew members.

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Teen accused of impersonating doctor, stealing from patient

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Malachi Love-Robinson had all the trappings of a medical practice - an office, a lab coat and stethoscope....

Iran Voices Support On Raising Oil Prices, But Won't Cut Own Output

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Iran has voiced support for a plan by four oil producers to cap production if others do the same, but gave no indication it had any plans to follow suit itself.

2 Los Angeles Officers Charged With Raping Women on Duty - ABC News

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New York Daily News

2 Los Angeles Officers Charged With Raping Women on Duty
ABC News
Two Los Angeles police officers have been arrested and charged with repeatedly raping four women while on duty over a three-year period. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced the charges against James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela ...
2 LAPD Officers Charged With Rape, Sexually Assaulting Women While on Duty: DAKTLA
LAPD officers charged with sexually assaulting women while on dutyLos Angeles Times
Two LAPD Officers Charged With Sexually Assaulting Women While on DutyNBC Southern California
Gawker -L.A. Weekly -KABC-TV
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Defender of Putin, Detained in Russia: American Activist Deemed U.S. 'Agent' 

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U.S. activist Sharon Tennison has promoted closer ties between Moscow and the West for decades and become a vocal supporter of Vladimir Putin. But after Russian authorities fined her for violating the terms of her visa, Kremlin-loyal media portrayed her as a nefarious American agent.

Europe wants Britain to stay in the E.U., but not at any cost

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As negotiations near a climax, Europeans take a hard line — even with the threat of Brexit looming.

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The Latest: Governor Raises Death Toll in Ankara Blast to 18

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ANKARA, Turkey — The Latest on the large explosion in the Turkish capital Ankara (all times local):
8:35 p.m.
The governor of Ankara has raised the death toll in the attack in the Turkish capital to 18.
Mehmet Kiliclar says at least 45 others were wounded in the attack Wednesday apparently targeting vehicles that were carrying military personnel.
Earlier the governor said the explosion is believed to have been caused by a car bomb.