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Today's News: Feb. 10, 2017

Assad rejects Amnesty report, Federal Reserve official resigns, and more from the United States and around the world.

Reuters

—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed as “fake news” allegations his government executed thousands of people opposed to his regime. More here

—Daniel Tarullo announced he will resign from his role as member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors “on or around April 5, 2017.” More here

—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).

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Four Suspects in Facebook Live Torture Case Plead Not Guilty

Reuters

The four people accused of kidnapping and attacking an 18-year-old man with mental health problems during a Facebook Live broadcast plead not guilty Friday in Chicago. The suspects are each charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and—because of both the racial epithets used during the attack and that all the suspects are black and the victim white—a hate crime. As my colleague J. Weston Phippen reported, the four were arrested by Chicago police last month after they live-streamed a 30-minute video that showed them kicking and hitting a man bound with tape over his mouth while shouting “fuck Donald Trump” and “fuck white people.” The victim, who was later discovered by police disoriented and walking around Chicago’s West Side, was said to know one of the suspects from school. The attack garnered widespread public attention, including from former President Barack Obama, who called the attack “terrible.” The next court date is scheduled for March 1.

Federal Reserve Official Who Led Regulation Efforts to Resign

Daniel Tarullo (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Daniel Tarullo announced Friday he will resign from his role as member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors “on or around April 5, 2017.” Tarullo served as a member of the board for more than eight years after being appointed by former President Obama in 2009. He played a key role in shaping the country’s response to the 2008 financial crisis. “Dan led the Fed's work to craft a new framework for ensuring the safety and soundness of our financial system following the financial crisis and made invaluable contributions across the entire range of the Fed's responsibilities,” Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chair, said in a statement. Tarullo’s resignation comes a week after President Trump pledged to do a “big number” on banking regulations established under the Dodd-Frank Act after the 2008 financial crisis. Both Tarullo and Yellen have voiced opposition to weakening Dodd-Frank regulations. Tarullo’s departure marks the third vacancy on the Federal Reserve board that Trump will get to fill.

Syria's Assad Calls Mass-Execution Allegations 'Fake News'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus on February 10, 2017. (Agencja Gazeta / Reuters)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed as “fake news” allegations his government executed thousands of people opposed to his regime. “You can forge anything these days,” Assad told Yahoo News in an interview released Friday. “We are living in a fake-news era, as you know.” As my colleague J. Weston Phippen reported, an investigation released this week by Amnesty International detailed allegations that Syrian officials oversaw the clandestine hangings of between 5,000 and 13,000 people—executions the report says were authorized by the highest levels of the government. When shown photographs depicting the bodies of tortured detainees in a Syrian prison being used as evidence in a Spanish lawsuit accusing Syrian officials of torture and human-rights abuses, Assad dismissed them as “photoshopped”; an FBI report notes the photos were not manipulated. The Amnesty report is hardly the first time the Syrian government has been accused of human-rights violations. A 2016 UN report found evidence the Assad government used chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s nearly six-year civil war in violation of its international treaty obligations. When asked about President Trump’s executive order barring Syrian refugees displaced by the civil war from entering the United States on the grounds they could pose a security risk, Assad said there were “definitely” terrorists among them, adding, “you can find it on the net.”

Former Peruvian President Faces Arrest on Bribery Charges

Mariana Bazo / Reuters

A Peruvian judge on Thursday night ordered the arrest of former President Alejandro Toledo for allegedly accepting $20 million in bribes from a Brazilian construction company. Odebrecht, the construction giant, was hoping to build a transoceanic highway that connected Brazil to the southern coast of Peru; it has been under investigation for paying out $730 million in bribes in 12 Latin American countries to win contracts. The judge ordered Toledo be detained for 18 months while prosecutors prepare charges of money laundering and bribery against him. Toledo has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer said Toledo would not evade the order, but also refused to say in what country his client was located. Toledo was last seen in France about a week ago. The charges came after police raided Toledo’s home earlier this week and confiscated $30,000 in cash, documents, videos, and phones. Prosecutors say the bribes Toledo accepted were made through his friend, a Peruvian-Israeli businessman, with the intention of influencing Toledo to pass off on contracts for the transoceanic highway construction. Toledo served from 2001 to 2006, and the allegations have shocked some in the country. He rose in politics as a pro-democracy activist who marched in the streets against former President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving 25-year sentence in prison for human-rights crimes. Now Toledo may join his former foe.

French Authorities Arrest 4 in Anti-Terrorism Raid

French police take part in a raid near Paris, France on September 8, 2016. (Christian Hartmann / Reuters)

French authorities arrested four people for allegedly plotting “violent actions” on French soil, the country’s interior ministry announced Friday in a statement. The country’s anti-terrorism police (SDAT) arrested the group, which included a 16-year-old female and three adult males, after they were found in possession of home-made TATP—the same explosive used in both the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 attack in Brussels. It is unclear if the four people are related. The arrests come amid heightened security throughout the country, where a state of emergency has been in place since November 2015. The emergency designation grants French authorities increased powers to search and seize suspects, and has been extended to last until at least July 2017, after the country’s presidential election. Since the beginning of 2016, French authorities have arrested more than 260 people for alleged links to terrorist networks.

The Headlines from the Trump Administration

Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, discussed sanctions with Russia before the president took office, The Washington Post and others reported last night. That account is at odds with what the administration’s previous version of events. Flynn himself denied the subject of sanctions relief came up in his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. But his spokesman told the Post Thursday “he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” Vice President Mike Pence previously denied the issue came up, as well. Unnamed Trump administration official told the Post Pence either misspoke or was misled by Flynn. Further, The New York Times adds transcripts exist of the reported conversation between Flynn and Kislyak. While the alleged content of the conversations is considered a breach of protocol during a presidential transition—and could be a breach of the law—it’s unlikely to lead to any charges against Flynn.

—The Senate confirmed Thursday Tom Price, the Republican representative from Georgia, as head of the Department of Health and Human Services. His job there, among other things, will be to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement that is also dubbed Obamacare. The *52-47 vote was along party lines. The approval was expected despite revelations Price traded health-care stocks while shaping healthy policy in the House.

—The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco unanimously refused Thursday to reinstate Trump’s travel ban for seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. Trump vowed to appeal. The case is likely to head to the U.S. Supreme Court.

*This post originally misstated the margin of confirmation for Tom Price. We regret the error.