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VICE News Guide to the World — Week of January 29

"Narendra Modi’s “troll army,” Assad’s chemical weapons use, and a controversial Holocaust bill in Poland
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik via REUTERS 

Donald Trump may be a world of chaos all by himself, but the world beyond Trump is changing in dramatic ways, often with little notice. We’d like to tell you about it and we’re keeping track of these global changes, from the incremental to the monumental, so that you don’t have to.

This week: Modi might be the only world leader whose Twitter use is more problematic than Trump’s; Assad is "still killing his own people with chemical attacks"; Poland wants to ban people from saying it participated in the Holocaust; The memo hype may have already hurt U.S. intel sharing efforts with allies.


India: Narendra Modi’s “troll army” is winning India’s culture war and ruining the internet for everyone else

              India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during the Opening Plenary during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be the most popular politician in India, but he’s also the most controversial. And his hordes of abusive Twitter followers — some of whom are followed back by Modi’s official Twitter account— have played a big role in helping the prime minister cement both titles.

But this far-right and nationalist “troll army” has created “a culture of excessive online trolling and abuse,” said Amnesty International India’s program director Asmita Basu, unleashing a wave of hatred that is eroding the country’s political discourse and traditions of tolerance.

“It’s being used to create a divide in the social fabric of this country, and that’s extremely dangerous,” said Pratik Sinha, founder of the Indian website Alt News. Modi might be the only world leader whose Twitter use is more problematic than Trump’s /Tim Hume

Intelligence sharing: Did you get the memo

     Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, a California Republican, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 29, 2017. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Trump’s decision to release the ridiculously-hyped Nunes memo claiming political bias at the FBI and Department of Justice may have already hurt U.S. coordination with allies to thwart Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections, former CIA and FBI officials told VICE News.

“Before the Nunes memo, this was a problem. I guarantee that allies are now passing us less than they normally would,” said John Sipher, a former CIA officer who spent 27 years in the agency, including a posting in Moscow. Former spies warn the Nunes memo would be a “train wreck” for intelligence sharing worldwide / Greg Walters


Some Numbers



That’s how many people are feared to have died after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya Friday. They were headed toward Italy, where nearly 120,000 refugees and migrants landed in 2017. Over 3,000 migrants either died or went missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2017, according to IOM. 90 migrants feared dead after boat capsizes off Libya /David Gilbert



That’s how many condoms will be provided to athletes at this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Olympic organizers said the condoms will be made available pretty much everywhere throughout the village. Record-breaking number of condoms to attend Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics / Alexa Liautaud

Ukraine: Meet the man who’s trying to start another revolution in Ukraine

Saakashvili is an unlikely politician to lead an anti-corruption movement: he faces his own set of corruption charges in his home country of Georgia. But in Ukraine, he's remade himself as an anti-oligarch populist, and an opponent to Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Meet the man who’s trying to start another revolution in Ukraine /Sean Stephens

Syria: Assad "still killing his own people with chemical attacks"

Workers collect the rubble of damaged buildings to be recycled and reused for reconstruction, under the supervision of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the government-controlled district of Wadi al-Sayeh in Homs, Syria July 19, 2016. Picture taken July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Bashar Al-Assad’s regime is very likely still producing and using chemical weapons, the Trump administration acknowledged Thursday.

The White House's revelation follows months of mounting accusations that Assad’s forces continue to employ chemical weapons, ignoring international law and a 2013 disarmament deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia.


The Syrian regime is believed to have used chemical weapons last month on the besieged rebel-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta.

President Donald Trump launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base the last time the U.S. determined Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people. But it remains to be seen if Trump is willing to intervene again, officials told the Washington Post.

Instead, the U.S. is expected to apply diplomatic pressure on Assad and his allies. It’s ramped up criticism of Russia, Assad’s key ally, at the United Nations in recent weeks.

"Russia is complicit in the Assad regime's atrocities,” said US Ambassador Nikki Haley in late January. “Will the Russian Federation say anything at all today about the suffering caused by Assad's barbaric tactics? Will they hold Assad to account? Of course not. They never do."

Assad "still killing his own people with chemical attacks"/ Tim Hume

Norway: Norway has a plan to decriminalize all drugs

While the U.S. government reverts to its punitive war on drugs, an alternative approach is taking hold in Europe. Norway, under the control of a right wing government, is decriminalizing all drug use following the Portuguese model.

VICE News visited Norway to see how the country plans to realize its goal of total decriminalization. Norway has a plan to decriminalize all drugs /Ben Ferguson

Some quotes

“It was a mixed-up jumble of corpses piled on top of each other.”

— Noor Kadir, a Rohingya refugee, described the massacre he witnessed at the hands of Myanmar’s military in the village of Gu Dar Pyin on August 27. Some 200 Burmese soldiers allegedly laid siege on the town, burning homes and gunning people down. The Associated Press interviewed over two dozen survivors who provided evidence of five mass graves in the village of Gu Dar Pyin, where the massacre took place. AP finds evidence for graves, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar /Associated Press

“I see my task as creating consensus between German Islam and conservative Germans.”

— Arthur Wagner, a German politician for a far-right, anti-Islam party, shocked Germany this week when he announced he had recently converted to Islam. A Muslim convert in an anti-Islam German political party has everyone confused / Tim Hume

“Spitting in the face of Israel twice, both as the nation of the Jewish people and also against the prime minister who announced he had reached agreements with the Poles.”

— Israeli lawmaker and former minister Tzipi Livni criticized Poland’s decision to move forward with a controversial bill that would make it illegal to blame the Polish people or state for crimes committed during the Holocaust. The bill has been harshly criticized by U.S. and Israeli officials. Poland ignores Israel, proceeds with ban on saying it participated in Holocaust / Tim Hume

Cover image: Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik via REUTERS

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