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29 Jun
2017

Apple roll-out of the iPhone 10 years ago created a retail frenzy

UNITED STATES (WNF) - Apple Inc. launched the iPhone on Jun 29, 2007, on a drum roll started by ace marketer Steve Jobs six months earlier. The first iPhone introduced the world to customers camping outside stores to buy a new technology product.
The retail frenzy has long been a ritual of the company’s marketing, and the 10th anniversary celebrations, in Cupertino, California, starts a 3-month drum roll for the iPhone 8.

Jobs, who founded Apple in 1976 and died in 2011, described the original in his keynote speech at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco as a reinvention of the phone, combining a phone, iPod, and internet mobile communicator in one device. The technology magazine The Verge notes that the iPhone revolutionized smartphones and shaped the industry. The first iPhone mixed a 3.5-inch multi-touch display with touch-optimized software in a simple package that was unlike anything else on the market, according to the magazine.

Time magazine named the first iPhone its invention of the year. Apple went on to release updated models of the iPhone, including the 4S, which debuted in October 2011 and introduced Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant. By October 2015, according to Apple sales figures republished by the AboutTech publication, 773.8 million iPhones had been sold around the world.

Apple has released new models or upgrades every year since the launch, and the iPhone 8 is rumored to be as revolutionary in its way as the original.

It might have a glass body. Apple is reported to be working with Energous to provide the device with wireless charging abilities. The rumor mill provides the new phone with a flexible OLED display, a 3D camera, a 10-nanometer chip and Touch ID Fingerprint Sensor.

Demand for iPhones remains high, but the Apple Store customer line is dying. The Bloomberg news service explains that being first through Apple store doors is no guarantee of securing the top-of-the-line new iPhone. A combination of limited supply and Apple’s push toward online pre-orders meant walk-in customers are sometimes disappointed. #21965 Published: 12/17/2016

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29 Jun
2017

NATO defense ministers tackle crowded agenda

NATO (WNF) - The fatal attacks in May and June in Britain push terrorism higher up the agenda when 29 NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels, but tensions with Russia and continuing fallout from the Alliance’s sour summit in May remain major concerns.
Twenty-ninth member Montenegro joined in June. Russia describes Montenegro’s accession a “hostile course” and threatens retaliation.

NATO announced plans on May 29 to enhance its role in the fight against terrorism with: “more AWACS flight-time, more information-sharing and air-to-air refuelling; NATO’s membership in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL; the establishment of a new terrorism intelligence cell at NATO Headquarters and the appointment of a coordinator to oversee NATO’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.”

NATO's missile defense system in Europe, which Moscow calls a “direct threat,” and Russia’s “destabilising pattern of military activities and aggressive rhetoric, which goes well beyond Ukraine,” have exacerbated tensions. The Alliance points out that “Political and military channels of communication remain open.” There is little evidence of two sides talking about their grievances.

U.S. President Donald Trump confounded Alliance partners at the May NATO summit when he failed in his speech to explicitly reaffirm America’s commitment to mutual defense of the alliance’s members. The failure comes at a time when NATO members on Russia’s borders – the three Baltic states and Poland – worry about the threat from a resurgent Russia. A core precept of the Alliance, the collective defense Article 5 was invoked for the first and only time in response to the terrorist attacks of Sep 11, 2001, on the United States.

At the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis will have to find words that reconcile President Donald Trump’s open disdain for NATO with his own previously-stated support. #22198 Published: 06/09/2017

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30 Jun
2017

State structures due in place ahead of Catalan separation from Spain

SPAIN (WNF) - Regional president Carles Puigdemont vowed in September 2016 that state structures needed for an independent Catalonian state will be in place by the end of June. His promise followed a vote in the Catalonian parliament in favor of a second referendum on leaving Spain.
The country held a non-binding symbolic vote for Catalan independence in Nov 2014. The European Observer reported on Oct 7, 2016, that Catalan lawmakers backed plans for the referendum in Sep 2017 with 72 votes for and 11 abstentions.

The move defies an Aug 2016 decision by Spain’s Constitutional Court that annulled their demands to press ahead with independence. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has also repeatedly refused to back any measure that could lead to a split.

But the prosperous northeastern region remains defiant. It is seen as taking advantage of the political uncertainty in Madrid. #21861 Published: 10/12/2016

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Jul
2017

Trial of Thai former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra due to conclude

THAILAND (WNF) - The negligence and corruption trial of ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which began in 2015, is due to conclude. She denies wrongdoing. If found guilty, she faces 10 years in prison. The charges relate to the Pheu Thai Party’s rice-pledging programme. Under the scheme, Yingluck’s government, which was in power from Aug 2011 to May 2014, bought rice from farmers at above market prices. (July 2017
The scheme helped sweep her into office in a landslide in 2011. Critics maintain that it bled billions of dollars from state coffers and stock-piled tons of rice which the government has been unable to sell. A military-appointed legislature found Yingluck guilty of mismanagement and she was banned from politics for five years in Jan 2015. She remains popular and supporters have followed her to court, claiming the trial is an attempt by the ruling junta to curtail Shinawatra influence.

Yingluck, whose government was overthrown in a 2014 coup, is the sister of ousted populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by the army in 2006.

Yingluck has defended the rice-pledging programme, saying the subsidy aimed to help poor farmers after decades of neglect by Bangkok’s wealthy elite. #21649 Updated: 01/13/2017 UPDATED TO SHOW CONCLUSION MOVED FROM FEBRUARY TO JULY 2017

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Jul
2017

Oregon adds third gender option to driver's licenses

UNITED STATES (GN) - Drivers in the state of Oregon could soon be offered the option to identify as neither male nor female on state driver’s licenses, a decision hailed by transgender advocates as a victory for civil rights. (July 2017
Under a policy unanimously adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission in June, residents can choose to have an “X” - for non-specified - displayed on their driver's license or identification cards rather than “M” for male or “F” for female.

Oregon is the first U.S. state to introduce this change, which was welcomed by supporters as a major step in expanding legal recognition and civil rights for people who identify as neither male or female. This includes individuals with both male and female anatomies, people without a gender identity and those who identify as a different gender than that listed on their birth certificate.

Oregon’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division expects to start offering the option in July. #22214 Published: 06/20/2017

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01 Jul
2017

20th anniversary of Hong Kong handover a day for cultural events and possible demonstrations

CHINA (WNF) - The 20th anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China after 156 years of colonial rule almost promises civil unrest. The scale and intensity will indicate whether the pro-democracy movement is resurgent after its failure to see the city’s Chief Executive freely elected in the March poll, or is succumbing to pragmatism.
Performances from the Peking Opera Theatre and the Berlin Philharmonic with pianist Lang Lang, and even a Yao Ming charity basketball match, are among the handover anniversary events, according to the South China Morning Post.

Ahead of the poll activists fought for the freedom to freely choose candidates for Chief Executive, the top leadership position. The mainly Beijing-friendly members of the Legislative Council in 2014 instead chose a formula that keeps China’s hand in the selection of the candidates.

Pragmatists can argue that the first Chief Executive was appointed by Beijing at the time of the handover and the second was elected, evidence that Beijing is delivering reforms and the autonomy enshrined in the Basic Law. Big demonstrations on Jul 1 will say the activists are not persuaded.

The Basic Law, the outcome of the 1984 Sino-British Declaration on Hong Kong's future, was a de facto constitution that promised the territory would be run under the principle of "one country, two systems" until 2047. The grievance that has prompted civil unrest in the past, most notably the pro-democracy Occupy Central and Yellow Umbrella movements that caused particular chaos in the city in 2014, is that post-handover reforms have created the appearance of the autonomy embedded in the Basic Law without delivering it: the reforms allow elections to the Legislative Council and for Chief Executive, but Beijing controls eligibility to run. #21717 Updated: 06/11/2017 UPDATED JUN 17 TO INCLUDE INFORMATION AND LINK TO CELEBRATIONS

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01 Jul
2017

EU to close the gap to replace Britain as EU president of late 2017

EUROPEAN UNION (WNF) - Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union means that the country will not take over the presidency of the bloc from Malta for the second half of 2017. The Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee has decided to close the gap by shifting the terms forward. Estonia, previously set to follow Britain, will now follow Malta and take the helm six months early.
The committee had considered other options. Hungary and Belgium offered to substitute for Britain, and Malta and Estonia proposed splitting Britain’s term between them. The split would have given each nine months at the helm instead of six.

The presidency mainly involves setting the EU agenda and chairing ministerial meetings during the six-month term.

Slovakia took the helm on Jul 1, 2016. Malta followed on Jan 1, 2017. Bulgaria follows Estonia, serving from Jan 1, 2018. #21742 Published: 07/21/2016

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01 Jul
2017

Uncertain future for International Criminal Court

NETHERLANDS (WNF) - Fifteen years after it came into force, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague is under fire from the African Union (AU), which is angry about the court’s focus on Africa.
The BBC reports that the bloc called for the mass withdrawal of member states from the ICC at its annual meeting in January. The non-binding decision to leave could remove as many as 34 African states from the court of last resort for the prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

South Africa, Burundi and Gambia signalled their intention to leave in 2016. They accuse the ICC of undermining their sovereignty and unfairly targeting Africans. The ICC denies the allegation, insisting it is pursuing justice for victims of war crimes in Africa.

Though it has opened procedures to deal with crimes on other continents, the world’s first permanent international criminal court has only brought charges against Africans. The court’s pursuit of sitting African leaders, including Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, has hardened AU leaders’ opposition to the ICC.

Observers see the dispute leading to a push in the United Nations for reforming the court, or the possible creation of a Pan-African branch.

The court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, came into force on Jul 1, 2002. As of Mar 2016, 124 states were party to it. The loss of all, or most, of the African members would undermine the credibility of a body that had a shaky start after several of the most powerful states refused to join. The United States, China, Israel, Russia and others either refused to sign, failed to ratify the treaty, or initially signed but later removed their signatures from it. #22047 Published: 02/10/2017

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01 Jul
2017

Canada 150th birthday celebrations focus on inclusivity

CANADA (WNF) - The nation’s 150th birthday celebrations begin in Newfoundland’s Cape Spear, where the sun rises first in North America. The official party continues across the country and will embody the ethnic and cultural inclusivity that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has espoused.
Security measures at parades and other crowded events across the country have been tightened in response to the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London in Britain.

The country has released a new $10 bill for the occasion. It will mark the first time a Canadian woman and an indigenous Canadian have been featured on the country’s currency, and only the fourth time that the country has produced a commemorative bank note.

The official creation of Canada came in 1867 after Britain passed the British North American Act, giving the country the right to govern itself.

Celebrations for the sesquicentennial will focus on “diversity and inclusion, reconciliation from nation to nation with Indigenous people, youth and the environment,” according to a government news release. The Globe & Mail newspaper points out in a recent headline that in a world of closing doors, “Canada is embracing inclusion.”

Can. $5.7 million of the budget will pay for free entry to the country’s 47 national parks and national park reserves. The 2017 Discovery also offers no-charge access to 171 national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. Global News reports that as of Jan 5, 2017, Parks Canada had received two million orders for the free, multi-use passes.

The potential surge in visitor numbers at the parks worries conservationists, according to the Global Post. They say it is important for people to connect with nature, but that the big numbers might affect the ecological integrity of some of the more popular parks.

The official Canada 150 website lists “the ultimate Playlist” for the year – some 150 events “that define our country and our diversity, from sledge hockey to lacrosse, snow shovelling and more.” The app, Passport 2017, is available to download. #22064 Updated: 06/12/2017 UPDATED JUN 12 TO ADD BANK NOTE AND SECURITY INFORMATION, REPLACING TORONTO PARADE

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01 Jul
2017

Member-selected WHO chief takes over

SWITZERLAND (WNF) - Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian health minister, takes over as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. For the first time, the members chose the agency's chief. The first African WHO chief, Dr. Tedros will be expected to heal the agency.
He is best known for having drastically cut deaths from malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and neonatal problems when he was Ethiopia’s health minister from 2005 to 2012.
The WHO credits Dr. Tedros with “leading a comprehensive reform effort of the country's health system.” He also initiated financing mechanisms to expand health insurance coverage there, according to the news release.

He campaigned on the promise to pursue health insurance in even the poorest nations, to strengthen emergency responses and make the agency more accountable and transparent. He backs greater access to birth control and preventive care for women and is committed to having more gender and ethnic diversity in the agency.

He was Ethiopia’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2016, and left office when he began his campaign for the WHO job. Six candidates stood for the position.

Dr. Tedros succeeds Dr. Margaret Chan at the head of an organization deemed in need of reforms. According to a Reuters report in Feb 2016, pressure has built after accusations that the WHO overreacted to the 2009-10 H1N1 flu pandemic and was too slow to react to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. There are also questions about its response to the Zika virus. Reuters also notes that WHO’s Lyon-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has become a target of ridicule among some health experts for issuing confusing warnings on everything from the air we breathe to the meat we eat, and to the phones we use. #22184 Published: 05/26/2017

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01 Jul
2017

ANC begins accepting applications for party leader

SOUTH AFRICA (WNF) - The African National Congress begins accepting applications for party leader, who will be the president of the country – if the party wins the parliamentary election in 2019.
The legislature indirectly elects the president for a 5-year term, and the choice of the country’s next president might not be the ANC’s. In Aug 2016 the party – which assumed power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela after the end of apartheid – recorded its worst-ever local election results.

The party leader will be chosen at the ANC elective conference in December, when President Jacob Zuma is expected to step down – if he hasn’t been removed before then. The BBC notes that his political career was written off in the run-up to the 2009 election when he was simultaneously battling allegations of rape and corruption. He was acquitted of rape, though the corruption case has proved harder to shake off. In March Zuma applied for leave to appeal after the North Gauteng high court found that the decision not to charge him for corruption was “irrational”.

The main contenders for party leader are African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. #22220 Published: 06/23/2017

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01 Jul
2017

Tour de France riders face stiffer climbs and more scrutiny

GERMANY, BELGIUM, FRANCE (WNF) - Cyclists in the 104th Tour de France face more mountains, new climbs and more sophisticated policing for mechanical doping. Briton Chris Froome will be racing for his third consecutive win, and fourth overall, while Spaniard Alberto Contador has put off his expected retirement to have one last crack at victory.
The 21 stages cover 3,516 kms that take in France's five major mountain ranges.

Sky Team rider Froome, the winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016, is under suspicion, as in previous years, because of his superior performance in a race known as one of the hardest tests of human endurance. All the top riders have had to cope with harsher scrutiny in the aftermath of the cheating scandal of seven-times Tour winner Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his titles and banned for life for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Contador, whose present team is Trek-Segafredo, had said he would retire at the end of 2016, but changed his mind for the possibility of a third Tour win. He took home the yellow jersey in 2007 and 2009.

Mechanical doping has entered the lexicon of cheating methods since a hidden motor to enhance performance was found in a pit bike belonging to Belgian cyclo-cross racer Femke Van Den Driessche. Special cameras, which are portable and can be used from the roadside or in the Tour de France convoy, add to detection methods already in use. The new cameras can pick up heat signatures emanating from motors hidden inside wheels or frames. #22030 Updated: 06/11/2017 UPDATED JUNE 11 TO INCLUDE CONTADOR COMPETING

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03 Jul
2017

Berlusconi on trial again in case related to alleged "bunga bunga" sex parties

ITALY (WNF) - Italy’s former premier Silvio Berlusconi goes on trial again, with his case merged into the trial of young starlets and allies who are accused of taking bribes from the 80-year-old tycoon. No one is betting on a conviction, and Berlusconi’s age protects him from jail time.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that Berlusconi has beaten numerous criminal charges over the year. A corporate tax fraud charge is the only one that stuck. He didn’t serve jail time, but he was kicked out of parliament.

The ex-premier is accused of paying more than 10 million euros (US $10.7-million) between 2011 and 2015 for witnesses to testify in his favor in the so-called Ruby affair. Berlusconi was previously tried for allegedly paying for sex with young women, including the exotic dancer nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer, who was under 18 at the time. Berlusconi was initially convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail for soliciting minors for prostitution and abusing his power, but he was cleared on appeal in 2015.

Berlusconi remains head of the Forza Italia party. Both he and the party have lost their clout, according to AFP. #22189 Published: 06/02/2017

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03 Jul
2017

Andy Murray looking for third victory at 140th Wimbledon championships

UNITED KINGDOM (WNF) - Defending champion Andy Murray aims to lift the men's trophy for a third time at the All England Club in London. The absence of defending singles champion Serena Williams at this 140th Wimbledon creates a void that the new French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, among others, will be anxious to fill.
Murray ended 77 years of British pain when he won Wimbledon in 2013, then repeated the triumph in 2016. The last player to bring the trophy home for Britain was Fred Perry, who won the championship three times in succession between 1934 and 1936. To defend his 2016 win, Murray might have to vanquish the resurgent Roger Federer.

The seven times Wimbledon women’s singles champion, mother-to-be Serena Williams, is believed unlikely to return to top line competition any time soon. Her absence opens the door for her sister, Venus, to take her sixth Wimbledon singles title. Maria Sharapova, who would have been playing under the stigma of a doping ban that followed the 2016 Australian Open, will also be absent, having announced in June that she will miss the Wimbledon qualifying tournament due to injury.

Federer, meanwhile, clinched the greatest triumph of his career when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open for his 18th grand slam title. The 35-year-old, who hadn’t won any of the big four events in tennis since Wimbledon 2012, defied age and injury for a spectacular win in the Australian tournament. He has to contend with an equally resurgent Nadal, who recently notched up a record 10th victory at the 2017 French Open. #22152 Updated: 06/15/2017 UPDATED JUN 15 TO SHOW SHARAPOVA WILL NOT PLAY AND RESULTS OF FRENCH OPEN

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05 Jul
2017

INTERPOL congress takes on future crime and policing in the age of cybercrime

SINGAPORE (WNF) - INTERPOL World 2017 takes on Future Crime and Future Policing, timely themes in an era of cyber hacking and cyber terror that seems destined to stretch far beyond the present.
Some 10,000 public security professionals and commercial buyers from around the world will descend on the biennial congress-cum-tradeshow to explore ways to combat criminals who are “taking advantage of technology, ease of international travel and the anonymous world of virtual business to disrupt public security and commercial stability.”

The vast WannaCry ransom ware attack in May has created near desperation for better security. The attack, which exposed criminals’ abilities to hack the common Internet-connected devices of households for bigger ends, underlined the urgent need to tackle the anonymity problem. The spectacular hack brought down many of the United States’ top websites, including Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit and PayPal. Government-sponsored criminals are suspected of this and other political and industrial hacks, but proof has eluded the policing world.

Cyberspace 4.0 explores the correlation between technology, connectivity and crime, according to the program. Another timely theme at the event in the age of mass migration is: Identity management and detection in a borderless world. Law enforcement, migration and border management in an age of globalization.

While the congress will tackle the detection issue and look for other answers to looming problems in international policing, the trade show will present the ever-growing range of potential high-tech answers to international crime. The program notes that at least “300 international suppliers and manufacturers will be present to present their latest innovative solutions for public security, cybersecurity, perimeter security and more, as well as to find and forge mutually beneficial alliances leading to faster and more accurate responses to global security threats.” #21885 Published: 10/25/2016

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06 Jul
2017

Biafra civil war tore apart Africa’s most populous nation 50 years ago

NIGERIA (WNF) - The Biafra civil war started on Jul 6, 1967, triggered by a declaration of independence by three eastern states on May 30 of that year. The 50th anniversary represents a new trigger for unrest as the independence dream didn’t die with the defeat of the secessionists in 1970.
President Muhammadu Buhari, already juggling the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in the north and militancy in the oil-rich Niger delta, is taking a hard line against independence activism in the once-Biafran nation. The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, imprisoned with other activists, was released in April on bail after almost two years behind bars.

Britain’s Economist magazine points out that the Buhari government had to be careful that Kanu was not killed or mistreated by Nigerian security agents while behind bars. Boko Haram sets an unhappy precedent, according to the magazine: the Islamist movement became a full-scale insurgency only after its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was shot in police detention in 2009.

Estimates of the death toll from the 30-month civil war range from 1 million to 3 million, with the indigenous people of the region, mainly Igbos, believing that they were starved into submission. Grievances run deep, even while memories of the war for most Nigerians are second hand. In the decades since the civil war ended, the people of the south feel they have been blocked from senior political posts, denied public services, and impoverished by a post-war program.

Encyclopedia Britannica describes economic and political instability and ethnic friction as characterizing Nigerian public life in the 1960s, with the mostly Hausa north resenting the more prosperous Igbo minority of the south. A massacre of Igbo people set the stage for the war, which left the Biafra region landlocked and its people starving.

The Biafra civil war became an international issue, according to Britannica, with the Organization of African Unity, the Vatican and others trying to reconcile the combatants. Most countries continued to recognize General Yakubu Gowon, the leader of the federal government, as the leader of all Nigeria, and refused to recognize Biafra’s secession. The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union supplied Nigeria with arms, while international sympathy for the plight of starving Biafran children brought airlifts of food and medicine from many countries. Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Tanzania, and Zambia recognized Biafra as an independent state, and France sent Biafra weapons. #21929 Updated: 06/12/2017 UPDATED JUN 12 TO SHOW KANU RELEASED

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06 Jul
2017

President Trump to visit Poland ahead of G20 summit

POLAND (GN) - United States President Donald Trump will make a brief visit to Poland ahead of the G20 summit in Germany.
Trump’s visit will emphasize the “priority of strengthening NATO’s collective defence,” and he will also attend the first day of the Jul 6-7 Three Seas Initiative Summit to “demonstrate our strong ties to Central Europe,” the White House statement said.

The Three Seas Initiative summit brings together leaders of 12 nations in central, eastern and southern Europe for talks on strengthening and integrating the region through the development of energy and infrastructure ties. The territory runs from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Adriatic in the south and the Black Sea in the east. The initiative aims to raise the region’s standing in Europe, but also to make it attractive as an economic partner for the United States.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said it offered an opportunity for the region’s leaders to hold talks with Trump on issues including energy, security and the economy.

Together with Poland, the Three Seas Initiative comprises the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.

The summit was originally scheduled to be held in the city of Wroclaw in western Poland, but was moved to Warsaw for “logistical and security reasons” once Trump’s attendance was confirmed. #22213 Published: 06/19/2017

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