A deal (Reuters) brokered on Wednesday ended a partisan deadlock in the Senate on Department of Homeland Security funding, in a bid to avert a partial government shutdown. Senate Democrats agreed to back Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) proposal to vote on a 'clean' bill (Hill) that only considers funding for the department. The billís future remains uncertain in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.†The stalemate over Homeland Security funding emerged as a proxy fight over President Barack Obama's immigration reform plans; House Republicans have put forth legislation aimed at preventing DHS funding from financing Obama's executive action on immigration. Meanwhile, the White House seeks to appeal (WaPo) last week's decision by a Texas federal judge to temporarily block its executive action on immigration.
"If a budget for the department isnít approved by the end of the week, thereís only one agency in the gargantuan bureaucracy where business would largely continue to operate as usual. It happens to be the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes visa, work permit and green card applications and is the very agency responsible for accepting petitions for deferred action from deportation that the Obama administration has offered to certain unauthorized immigrants," writes the New York Times.
"The best way to solve the problem of the president's continued reckless overreach is not by throwing the men and women of DHS into limbo, but for Congress to do its job and pass real reforms to fix our broken immigration system. We need a smart, simple and nimble visa, green card and citizenship system that gives workers of all skill levels a legal and safe means to come here and contribute to our economy." argues Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ) at USA Today.
"Increasingly, Republicans who use illegal immigration as a wedge issue are at odds not just with the Obama administration, Democrats and Hispanics; they are also at odds with majorities of Americans in every region of the nation. Thatís a recipe for political marginalization," warns the Washington Post.
North Korean Ships Skirting Sanctions
A UN report said that a North Korean shipping company has renamed and transferred ownership of its ships to evade (VOA) sanctions and an arms embargo. The report also said that DPRK diplomats, officials, and trade representatives play a central role in the trade of prohibited goods.
SOUTH KOREA: South Korea's top court decriminalized (WSJ) adultery, revoking a sixty-year old law under which cheating partners could be jailed. More than thirty-five thousand people have been jailed for infidelity since 1985.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
India Boosts Railway Budget
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu unveiled (Times of India) a $137 billion railway budget to modernize existing tracks, introduce faster trains, and improve stations and ticketing facilities over the next five years.
AFGHANISTAN: A suicide car bomb targeting (Radio Free Europe) a Turkish diplomatic vehicle in Kabul killed one Turkish soldier and injured another Thursday. The targeted vehicle was part of a team protecting NATO's top civilian representative in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
This CFR InfoGuide chronicles the reemergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Cairo Blasts Kill One
One person is dead and at least seven others are wounded following multiple explosions (AP) in Egypt's capital on Thursday. Authorities said the explosives appeared to be homemade and blamed the attacks on Islamist militants. Separately, security sources said that dozens of militants were killed (Reuters) in operations in Sinai on Wednesday.
SYRIA: The number of abducted (AFP) Assyrian Christians has risen to 220 over the past three days, according to a Syrian monitoring group. Meanwhile, reports named (BBC) the ISIS militant from hostage videos known as "Jihadi John" as Kuwaiti-born UK national, Mohammed Emwazi.
Obama Nominates U.S. Envoy to Somalia
President Obama nominated (Al Jazeera) career diplomat Katherine Dhanani to serve as the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991, when rival armed groups took control of the country. The United States recognized the new Somali government in January 2013.
SOUTH AFRICA: An investigation is underway in South Africa into the leak (SAPA) of classified documents detailing intelligence operations to Al Jazeera and the Guardian, according to State Security Minister David Mahlobo.
Ukrainian Army Starts Pullback
Ukrainian government forces began withdrawing (BBC) heavy weapons from front lines in eastern Ukraine on Thursday as part of the February 15 cease-fire, according to the defense minister.
CYPRUS: Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades signed (Deutsche Welle) an agreement with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, granting Russian naval ships access to Cyprus's Mediterranean ports. The deal comes amid souring ties between Russia and European states.
The lower house of Argentina's congress passed (Buenos Aires Herald) a new intelligence law Thursday that dissolves the Intelligence Secretariat and establishes a new intelligence body, the Federal Intelligence Agency, which will be accountable to lawmakers. The reform was launched after the death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
Nisman's death exposed flaws in Argentina's justice and intelligence systems says Sergio Berensztein in this CFR Interview.