And it could be a referendum on the Nuke Deal. “Iran’s reformists are hoping to win their strongest presence in parliament since 2004 as hard-liners try to stave off a blow to their power in nationwide elections Friday, the first since Iran’s landmark nuclear deal with the West. Although Iran’s authorities exercise great control over who can run, the elections will be seen as a gauge of how much reformists, riding in large part on the nuclear deal, can pursue a comeback into Iran’s political structures after years in the cold under hard-liners’ domination.”  (WaPo http://wapo.st/1Rr8lXC)

A “Crucial Day” For Syria…The UN’s Syria envoy said the war-battered country is facing a “crucial day” ahead of a deadline of midnight Friday for a partial truce brokered by Moscow and Washington. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Syria’s top opposition grouping have said they will abide by the ceasefire plan, but it has been plagued by doubts after the failure of previous peace efforts. The deal — which excludes the Islamic State jihadist group and other extremists — marks the biggest diplomatic push yet to help end Syria’s violence.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Rr8ZEu)

Longread of the Day...Bearing Witness to the Rise of ISIS: The Story of Anna Therese Day (Jezebel http://bit.ly/1Rr9RsH)

Quote of the Day…Former Mexican President Vincente Fox, talking about you-know-who: “I am not going to pay for that f****** wall! He should pay for it. He’s got the money.” (ABC http://abcn.ws/1Rr807g)


Africa

A soldier in the Chadian contingent of the UN’s peacekeeping force in northern Mali killed his own commander and an army doctor on Thursday following weeks of tensions over living conditions, UN sources told AFP. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Rr8biX)

As part of the last day of his visit to South Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with President Salva Kiir, stressing the urgency of forming a Transitional Government, as well as spoke by phone with former Vice-President Riek Machar and visited a protection of civilians site.” (UN News Center http://bit.ly/1Rr9zC8)

Nigerian refugees who fled the Boko Haram insurgency into northern Cameroon are turning down calls by Cameroon and Nigerian authorities for them to return, saying they do not expect to find peace back home. (VOA http://bit.ly/1RrbaYI)

Ebola survivors are continuing to suffer from neurological problems more than six months after infection, according to the early results of a new study. The findings from research undertaken by US neurologists in Liberia appear to confirm suspicions that there are serious long-term effects of Ebola virus disease. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1RrbmHk)

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou on Thursday had a commanding lead in his quest for a second term in the uranium-rich African nation after elections the opposition has denounced as rigged. (AFP http://bit.ly/1RrbuXw )

MENA

Saudi Arabia has lashed out at Lebanon, cutting off billions of dollars of aid and telling its citizens to leave the country, after Beirut sided with Iran in the fallout over the execution of a Saudi Shiite cleric, in a diplomatic dispute that threatens Lebanon’s struggling economy. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1Rr8yKj)

Killings and torture are being committed with impunity by all sides in Libya, according to a UN report. (BBC http://bbc.in/1RrbDKn)

Asia

The United States presented a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on Thursday that would dramatically tighten existing restrictions on North Korea after its Jan. 6 nuclear test and create the toughest U.N. sanctions regime in over two decades. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1Rr8udw)

As the full picture of the worst cyclone ever to hit Fiji becomes more apparent, UNICEF Pacific estimates that up to 120,000 children across the county may be worst affected. (Matangi http://bit.ly/1Rr9GOb)

The 163-year-old Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest train network and transports as many as 23 million people everyday. Its annual budget, presented today in the Indian parliament, is a closely-watched affair. (Mashable http://on.mash.to/1Rr9oXo)

The Americas

As drought hammers countryside, many in Haiti go hungry. (ABC http://abcn.ws/1Rrc0o)

And the Rest

A “large number” of Syrian refugees are waiting to cross into Albania, the Balkan nation’s integration minister said Thursday, as migrants begin to seek out new routes into northern Europe following a series of border clampdowns. (AFP http://bit.ly/1RraEtM)

Opinion

The UN special rapporteur for the freedom of expression explains the global human rights implications of AppleVsFBI (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1p8h3B0 )

What Africa’s fight against HIV can teach Latin America about Zika. (Quartz http://bit.ly/1Rr97ni)

Wither Latin America’s left? Bolivia hands Morales rare defeat. (Miami Herald http://hrld.us/1Rr9dLS)

U.S. Beats India In WTO Solar Case: Indian Consumers Win. (Forbes http://onforb.es/1Rr9jmP)

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