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Germany has commemorated the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp by focusing on people who were incarcerated and killed during the Nazi era because of their sexual orientations and gender identifies. Thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were arrested and thrown into camps during Adolf Hitler’s 1933-1945 dictatorship under anti-homosexuality laws that preceded and outlasted the Nazi era. The Nazis broadened the German penal code to criminalize kisses and even glances between people of the same sex, leading to accusations against tens of thousands of men. About half were convicted and sent to camps. Women persecuted for “asocial behavior” had a similar fate. Friday was the 78th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation.

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The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge eased further in December, and consumer spending fell — the latest evidence that the Fed’s series of interest rate hikes are slowing the economy. Prices rose 5% last month from a year earlier, down from the 5.5% year-over-year increase in November. It was the third straight drop. Consumer spending fell 0.2% from November to December and was revised lower to show a drop of 0.1% from October to November. Last year’s holiday sales were sluggish for many retailers, and the overall spending figures for the final two months of 2022 were the weakest in two years.

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The U.S. plans to make it easier for gay and bisexual men to give blood by easing restrictions on groups that typically face higher risks of HIV. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed dropping the three-month abstinence requirement for donations from men who have sex with men. Donors would instead be screened using a questionnaire that evaluates individual risks for HIV, including sexual behavior. As a result, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships could soon be able to donate blood for the first time in decades. The U.S. and other countries began restricting blood donations from gay and bisexual men during the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s.

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Myanmar’s military-controlled government has enacted a new law on registration of political parties that will make it difficult for opposition parties to mount a serious challenge to army-backed candidates in a general election set to take place later this year. The new law published Friday sets minimum funding and membership levels for parties participating in the polls. It also bans participation by parties or candidates deemed unlawful or linked to what the military calls terrorism. The army seized power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, which had won a landslide victory in the 2020 election. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party appears to be the only party certain to be able to meet the new requirements.

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Czechs have started voting for a new president, choosing between a retired army general and a populist billionaire in a two-day runoff election to succeed controversy-courting Milos Zeman in the largely ceremonial post. Gen. Petr Pavel and Andrej Babis have advanced to a second round of voting because none of the eight initial candidates received an absolute majority in the first round two weeks ago. The polls favor Pavel, an independent candidate who came a narrow first in the opening round with 35.40%. Babis followed at 34.99%. Babis is a former prime minister while Pavel is a political newcomer. Polls close at 1300GMT on Saturday, and the results will be known later that day.

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North Korea has condemned the United States over its decision to supply Ukraine with advanced battle tanks to help fight off Russia's invasion, saying that Washington is escalating a sinister “proxy war” aimed at destroying Moscow. The comments by the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday underscored the country’s deepening alignment with Russia over the war in Ukraine as it confronts the United States and its Asian allies over its own growing nuclear weapons and missiles program. North Korea has blamed the United States for the crisis in Ukraine, insisting that the West’s policies forced Russia to take military action to protect its security interests.

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A Montana lawmaker is proposing a bill to effectively deny gender-affirming care to young transgender people by threatening health care providers with the loss of their license for a year if they use puberty blockers, hormones or surgery to treat a transgender minor. The bill by Republican Sen. John Fuller is being heard on Friday. A similar bill in the 2021 Legislature received strong opposition from medical experts, human rights advocates and the transgender community. It ultimately failed. Fuller's bill would also ban Montana Medicare payments for medication or surgical treatments for transgender youth. Montana's Medicare program has paid for $1.4 million in medication treatment for transgender minors since 2015.

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President Joe Biden has announced Jeff Zients as his next White House chief of staff, tapping an experienced technocrat who headed his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move came Friday as the Democratic president prepares for a reelection bid while facing investigations from a newly empowered House Republican majority. Zients succeeds Ron Klain, who led the White House through highs like passage of a massive infrastructure bill and the Democrats’ climate, health care and tax law and lows including the botched withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Biden says Zients, like Klain, “understands what it means to lead a team” and “is as focused on getting things done.”

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New Russian shelling has killed at least 10 Ukrainian civilians and wounded 20 others in a day, according to the office of Ukraine’s president. Regional officials said Friday that towns and villages in the east and in the south that are within reach of the Russian artillery suffered most. Six people died in the Donetsk region, two in Kherson, and two in the Kharkiv region. A day earlier, missiles and self-propelled drones that Russian forces fired had hit deeper into Ukrainian territory, killing at least 11 people. The bombardments followed announcements by the United States and Germany of plans to ship powerful tanks to help Ukraine defend itself.

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Nepal’s Supreme Court has removed the country’s deputy prime minister from office and from his parliamentary seat for violating citizenship laws. Rabi Lamichhane had become deputy prime minister and the powerful home minster after his newly formed party joined the coalition government last month. He was once a United States citizen but gave it up after returning to Nepal. The court ruled that after he took up U.S. citizenship he was no longer a Nepali national, and that after abandoning  his American citizenship, he did not reapply for Nepali nationality. Therefore, it said, he improperly contested the election because of his invalid citizenship. Nepal does not allow dual citizenship.

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Greece’s government has survived, as expected, a no-confidence vote following a motion by the country’s opposition leader over a wiretapping scandal that has stung the center-right governing party in the run-up to elections. Of parliament’s 300 members, 143 voted Friday in favor of the no-confidence motion while 156 voted against. One was absent. The vote followed a heated three-day parliamentary debate. Main opposition Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras said Wednesday when he filed the motion that it would force Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to answer publicly about the scandal, in which a series of high-ranking politicians, government ministers and military officers were reportedly under surveillance.

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The leader of Poland's opposition has criticized a new electoral reform package introduced by the governing coalition and said his party was planning to strongly monitor the voting process during general elections set for the fall. Donald Tusk said Friday that with the changes the right-wing government is seeking to extend its hold on power, as opinion polls suggest it could lose control of parliament in the vote expected October or November. Tusk said any changes to the rules just months before balloting are in violation of democratic principles. The new provisions include facilitating access to voting in small towns and rural areas, where the ruling coalition enjoys greatest support.

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Britain’s Treasury chief says taming inflation is more important than cutting taxes. Jeremy Hunt is resisting calls from some in the governing Conservative Party for immediate tax breaks for businesses and voters. At a speech Friday in London, Hunt said “the best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation.” The U.K.’s annual inflation rate hit a four-decade high of 11.1% in October, fueling a cost-of-living crisis and a wave of strikes. It has since eased but still reached a painful 10.5% in December and is the highest since the 1980s. Hunt said he wanted Britain to be a low-tax economy but “with volatile markets and high inflation, sound money must come first."

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Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren’s name is on the U.S. Navy’s newest fuel ship. Justice Elena Kagan smashed a champagne bottle against its hull in a shipyard ceremony in San Diego last weekend. Two other justices soon will join Warren, who in 1954 wrote the Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in public schools. Their ships are in a group being named for civil rights leaders. The Navy has awarded contracts for the construction of the Thurgood Marshall and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Warren is not the first justice with a naval vessel bearing his name, though the earlier ones are lesser-known. Warren died in 1974.

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The federal government will allow Medicaid dollars to treat some people in prisons, jails or juvenile detention centers for the first time ever. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday that it will allow California inmates to access limited services, including substance use treatment and mental health diagnoses, 90 days before being released. Since Medicaid was established, federal law has prohibited Medicaid money from being used for people who are in custody, with inmates having access to their health care coverage suspended.

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In a story published January 26, 2023, about French citizens detained in Iran, The Associated Press erroneously reported that prisoner Olivier Vandecasteele worked for aid group Doctors Without Borders and that the group organized a demonstration in his honor. Vandecasteele worked for aid group Doctors of the World, and Doctors of the World organized the demonstration.

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Two investigative journalists for a major daily newspaper in Finland have been convicted of revealing national defense secrets in an April 2017 article that prosecutors said included information from classified documents. Finnish media said the prosecution had asked for the Helsingin Sanomat reporters to receive prison sentences of six months to one year. Instead, a judge fined them. The Helsinki District Court judge on Friday also acquitted the newspaper's acting manager at the time. All three had denied wrongdoing. The reporters argued the information they published was public. Finnish broadcaster YLE says the judge found the article contained several pieces of information that should have been kept secret to protect Finland’s security.

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The Philippine justice secretary says any investigation violating the country’s sovereignty by the International Criminal Court into the widespread killings of suspects during an anti-drug crackdown under former President Rodrigo Duterte would be “totally unacceptable.” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla spoke in reaction to a decision on Thursday by judges in The Hague-based court allowing a prosecutor to resume an investigation that was suspended in late 2021 after the Duterte government said it was already looking into the killings and argued that the ICC, a court of last resort, did not have jurisdiction. The ICC decision was welcomed by human rights groups and by relatives of mostly poor suspects killed in Duterte’s police-enforced crackdown.

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The Tanzanian government is ramping up its seizure of livestock from Indigenous Maasai herders in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to clear way for safari tourism and trophy hunting, a report released Thursday said. The update from the Oakland Institute, a U.S.-based environmental think tank, found that the government forcefully confiscated some 5,880 cattle and 767 goats and sheep from the Maasai in November and December last year and is forcing the owners to pay heavy fines. Those failing to pay have their livestock auctioned and moved away. The Tanzanian government has previously said the number of Maasai and cattle on the land is putting it at risk.

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Hong Kong has protested President Joe Biden's two-year extension of a program that protects residents of the semi-autonomous Chinese city living in the U.S. from deportation, accusing Washington of “demonstrating sinister intentions and hegemonic bullying." An unidentified government spokesperson was quoted Friday as saying the U.S. had “wantonly" smeared Hong Kong's National Security Law, which was imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020 as part of a sweeping crackdown on the democratic movement that has seen leading opposition figures jailed or voluntarily exiled. Biden first authorized the program, the Deferred Enforced Departure for Certain Hong Kong Citizens, in August 2021 for 18 months. It was set to expire on Feb. 5 but has been extended until January 2025.

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Hungary's prime minister says Western countries that are providing weapons and money to assist Ukraine in its war with Russia have already “drifted” into becoming active participants in the conflict. In an interview with Hungarian state radio, Viktor Orban said on Friday that Germany’s decision to send advanced battle tanks to Ukraine was emblematic of the increasing role Western countries are playing in the 11-month-old war. He called for a cease-fire and peace talks, and argued against further military assistance to Kyiv. Orban has refused to send weapons to neighboring Ukraine and has held up European Union efforts to provide aid packages to the embattled country.

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South Korea’s government says it will promote civilian efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea. South Korea hopes to soften a diplomatic freeze deepened by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s growing nuclear ambitions. South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Youngse  didn’t specify the type of aid he sees as conceivable or whether it was realistic to expect those exchanges to induce meaningful diplomacy. North Korea has suspended virtually all cooperation with rival South Korea amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations with the U.S. Kim further ramped up tensions in 2022 by test-firing more than 70 missiles and issuing threats of nuclear conflict with Seoul and Washington.

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South Korea says it will continue to restrict the entry of short-term travelers from China through the end of February over concerns that the spread of COVID-19 in that country may worsen following the Lunar New Year’s holidays. South Korea had stopped issuing most short-term visas at its consulates in China in early January. It did so after the virus surged in China late last year and the government there abruptly lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions. South Korea and other countries are worried the surge could create new variants of the coronavirus. In retaliation to Seoul's move, China also suspended South Korean short-term visa applications.

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A senior EU official says that Russia has taken its war against Ukraine to “a different stage” by making indiscriminate attacks on civilians and non-military targets, while criticizing Moscow for triggering recent moves by Germany and the United States to send advanced tanks to Ukraine. Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European Union’s European External Action Service, on Friday defended German and U.S. provisions of the military equipment to Ukraine, and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging a war on NATO and the West.

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Hong Kong will ban CBD starting Wednesday, labeling it a “dangerous drug.” Cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, was previously legal in Hong Kong, where bars and shops sold products containing it. But last year, Hong Kong authorities decided to prohibit its use. Customs authorities announced Friday that the ban would go into effect starting Feb. 1. CBD is one of many chemicals found in cannabis, a plant known more commonly as marijuana. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD doesn’t get users high. Supporters say CBD can treat a range of ailments. Others, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, say there’s not enough evidence to confirm its safety as a supplement.

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Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is fighting for reelection in a bitter leadership feud that’s testing former President Donald Trump’s grip on his own “Make American Great Again” movement. The high-profile contest to lead the GOP through the 2024 presidential election will be decided Friday in a secret vote at the committee’s winter meeting in southern California. Trump is backing McDaniel, at least privately. But much of his so-called MAGA movement is supporting her insurgent challenger, Harmeet Dhillon. Above all, the case against McDaniel has centered on conservative frustration with repeated election losses.

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