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Inside Daily Brief (Feb 13th, 2018)

The Democratic governor of Pennsylvania has rejected a congressional map redrawn by Republicans. Gov. Tom Wolf called the new map "a partisan gerrymander" in favor of Republican candidates. Last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that the former map was an unconstitutional gerrymander that unfairly supported more GOP seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. "Their map clearly seeks to benefit one political party, which is the essence of why the court found the current map to be unconstitutional," Wolf said in a statement. His decision means the court will likely take on the task of drawing new boundaries, according to Reuters. Thirteen of the 18 congressional seats in Pennsylvania, a swing state, are held by Republicans. - WAPO

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A British judge upheld an arrest warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who continues to face arrest if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange's legal team argued in court that it was no longer in the public interest to arrest Assange for skipping bail in 2012. The Australian-Ecuadoran computer programmer sought shelter at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of sexual assault and rape by two women - charges he denies. The investigation has since been dropped, and Sweden no longer wants Assange extradited. He has faced arrest for breaching bail in the United Kingdom. In London's Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled against five challenges to the arrest warrant. “Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. [Assange] should have the courage to do the same," she said. - GUARDIAN

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A man convicted of setting off bombs in New York City was sentenced to multiple life terms in prison on Tuesday. Ahmad Rahimi was found guilty last year on eight charges in connection to a 2016 bombing that injured 31 people in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. Three bombs exploded, and several unexploded bombs were discovered, in the New York City area during that time. Rahimi also set off a small pipe bomb that exploded during a race in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. No one was injured in that bombing, which occurred hours before the New York explosion. According to prosecutors, Rahimi has attempted to radicalize fellow jail inmates since his arrest. He is a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan. - AP

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Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand quit her job at the Justice Department over fears that would be asked to oversee the special counsel's Russia investigation, among other reasons, reports said on Tuesday. Citing sources close to Brand, NBC News reported that Brand, the department's third-ranking attorney, was unhappy in the position for months. According to reports, she was frustrated by vacancies in the department and alleged bureaucratic inaction. She feared that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would ask her to oversee Robert Mueller's highly politicized probe into into Russian election meddling. If Rosenstein is fired, the associate attorney general is next in line to oversee the investigation. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Flores called the allegations by NBC "false and frankly ridiculous." "It is clear these anonymous sources have never met Rachel Brand let alone know her thinking," she said. Brand will take a new position as Walmart's executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, reporting directly to CEO Doug McMillon. - CNBC

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The failure of pilots to turn on a heating unit for pressure measurement equipment likely caused a Russian passenger plane to crash on Sunday, killing all 71 people on board. Investigators said the faulty equipment may have sent the wrong speed data to pilots, who switched off the plane's autopilot and took it into a dive at 30 to 35 degrees. The Saratov Airlines flight crashed into a field shortly after takeoff from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport. Sixty-five passengers and six crew members were killed. More than 700 people are involved in the search for wreckage and body parts, covering an area of about 75 acres. - AP

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Israeli police have recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Following Tuesday's recommendation, Netanyahu, a longtime Israeli leader, declared that the police effort "will end in nothing." The charges stem from two corruption cases, which deal with Netanyahu's involvement in alleged backroom dealings and gifts-for-favors, according to NBC News. In one case, Netanyahu and his family received jewelry and other gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and others in exchange for a political favor. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will ultimately decide whether to file formal charges, which could take months. - NYT

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has come under fire from human rights organizations for ordering troops to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina. On Feb. 7, Duterte spoke in Malacañang before a group that included former communist soldiers, telling them that they should listen to new orders from "the mayor." Duterte recalled an order he says he gave while he was mayor of Davao City in the Philippines. “Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,” he said during a speech last week. He continued, "if there is no vagina, it would be useless.” An official transcript left out the word vagina. On Tuesday, a Duterte spokesman said the president should be taken seriously but not literally. Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the Philippine rights group Karapatan, said Duterte "incites the worst violations of international humanitarian law." - NYT

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A Moscow commission will consider a request to name an alley near the United States Embassy "1 North American Dead End." The proposal appears to be in retaliation to the U.S. government's renaming of an avenue in front of the Russian Embassy to "Nemtsov Plaza," after Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov, who was assassinated in 2015, was a strong opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Shortly after Washington approved the Nemtsov Plaza name, Russian lawmaker Mikhail Degtyaryov suggested the name change for the street in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. A Moscow city government commission will discuss the request later this month. The change would still require approval from city hall. The U.S. and Russia have been engaged in a diplomatic standoff involving their embassies that started in 2016. - NYT

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The city of Baltimore has gone 11 days without a homicide, the longest streak since 2013, CNN reported. The Maryland city has one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the U.S. In an effort to curb violence on city streets, a community group organized a ceasefire starting on February 2. Although there have been at least five shootings since then, none of the shootings have been fatal. Community activist Erricka Bridgeford said the group, Baltimore Ceasefire, plans to organize a ceasefire effort every quarter. The last time Baltimore had 10 homicide-free days or more was in in October 2013, police spokesman Donny Moses said. - BBC

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Artist Robert Indiana's iconic "LOVE" sculpture was reinstalled at a Philadelphia park in time for Valentine's Day on Wednesday. The art piece was paraded around the city's Benjamin Franklin Parkway before it was reinstalled on Tuesday at its original home at LOVE Park, which underwent a renovation. During that time, the statue was installed at City Hall and later repaired. It has been repainted to its original colors of red, green and purple, which had previously been blue. "The city seemed empty without it," said resident Susan Murphy, who attended the reinstallation. - AP

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