It’s Friday November 17, 2017



North Korea on Friday ruled out negotiations with Washington as long as joint U.S-South Korea military exercises continue and said that Pyongyang’s atomic weapons program would remain as a deterrent against a U.S. nuclear threat. In an interview with Reuters, Han Tae Song, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, brushed off the new sanctions which the Trump administration has said it is preparing, as well as the possibility of North Korea being added to a U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism. South Korea and the United States agreed on Friday to keep working for a peaceful end to the North Korean nuclear crisis, but a U.S. envoy said it was difficult to gauge the reclusive North’s intentions as there has been “no signal”.




Meanwhile, satellite images taken this month of a North Korean naval shipyard indicate Pyongyang is pursuing an “aggressive schedule” to build its first operational ballistic missile submarine. Washington-based 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project, cited images taken on Nov. 5 showing activity at North Korea’s Sinpo South Shipyard. It said the Nov. 5 images showed two large circular objects that could be sections of a submarine’s pressure hull. It said these appeared larger than those for North Korea’s ROMEO-class attack submarine. Images of a test stand indicated continued testing of a mechanism for ejection launch of missiles from a submarine. However, the report said no activity could be seen suggesting preparations for a new test of a submarine-launched missile. North Korea is also thought to be working on a solid-fuel missile for submarine launches. North Korea has conducted dozens of missile tests this year and its largest and biggest nuclear test on Sept. 3. The past two months have seen a relative lull and it has not tested a missile since firing one over Japan on Sept. 15.




An Argentine military submarine with 44 crew members on board was missing at sea on Friday, prompting a massive search to locate the vessel which may have suffered a communication error, according to a navy spokesman. The vessel was in the southern Argentine Sea when it gave its last location two days ago. Argentine naval spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters, “We are investigating the reasons for the lack of communication. If there was a communication problem, the boat would have to come to the surface.” Balbi said the submarine has a food supply for several days and is likely continuing its journey despite communication problems.




Leaders from both parties called for an ethics investigation of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) after a model and sportscaster, Leeann Tweeden, accused him of groping and kissing her without her consent during a USO tour in 2006. Franken apologized and promised to cooperate with an investigation. Tweeden, now a radio anchor at KABC in Los Angeles, said she accepted his apology but that he should have made it sooner. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for an investigation, and numerous Democrats agreed. "These types of actions are simply unacceptable," Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said. "Women across America should be able to feel safe in their workplace, and they deserve our support when coming forward with allegations of misconduct."




President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received and forwarded emails about WikiLeaks and an invitation for "Russian backdoor" communications that he failed to disclose to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators, the panel's leaders said in a letter they sent Thursday to Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell. In the letter, committee chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democratic member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tell Kushner's lawyers to hand over documents investigators know exist, including September 2016 emails to Kushner from WikiLeaks that other witnesses have told investigators about. Days earlier, Donald Trump Jr. revealed that he had communicated with WikiLeaks directly during the campaign using Twitter direct messages.




A federal judge in New Jersey declared a mistrial Thursday in Sen. Robert Menendez's (D-N.J.) corruption trial. The jury had told him for a second time that it was deadlocked on the bribery, conspiracy, and other charges against Menendez and his co-defendant, donor, and friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. "Further deliberations would be futile," Judge William Walls said. During an 11-week trial that was the first prosecution of a sitting senator in decades, prosecutors said that Menendez took luxury gifts, trips, and campaign donations from Melgen in exchange for government favors. Menendez's lawyer said the men are simply good friends.




Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance since the military detained him this week, attending a Friday graduation ceremony. The military said it was making "significant progress" in its effort to arrest "criminals" close to Mugabe, who has ruled for 37 years and is the world's oldest head of state at 93. The military said it was weeding out people linked to Mugabe and his wife for "committing crimes that were causing social and economic suffering in Zimbabwe." The military has shown Mugabe respect, continuing to refer to him as the African nation's commander-in-chief, while saying it was in talks with him "on the way forward," which is expected to include his resignation and preventing his wife, Grace, from succeeding him.




The National Archives on Friday released 10,744 FBI records -- some that have never been previously disclosed -- related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. It's the fifth release of Kennedy assassination records so far this year. Most of the collection comprising about 5 million pages of records has been released to the public, but some documents have been withheld over the years to protect individuals, intelligence sources and methods and national security. Last month, on the 25-year deadline, President Donald Trump wrote in a memorandum that he had "no choice" but to agree to requests from some US government agencies to continue withholding certain information. Trump, however, directed agencies to again review each of their redactions. He said agency heads needed to be extremely circumspect in recommending that information still needed to be withheld from the public. Government agencies have until March to tell the National Archives why any part of their records should still be redacted.




Mafia ‘boss of bosses’ Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, who was serving 26 life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate both rivals and Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down Cosa Nostra, died early Friday. Riina died the day after his 87th birthday and hours after the Justice Ministry had agreed to allow family members at his bedside. He had been in a medically induced coma following two surgeries in recent weeks in the prison wing of a hospital in Parma, northern Italy. The ministry, without elaboration, confirmed his death. Riina, one of Sicily’s most notorious Mafia bosses who ruthlessly directed the mob’s criminal empire during 23 years in hiding, was serving the life sentences for multiple murder convictions, some dating back to the 1950s. He was captured in 1993 in Palermo. Top anti-Mafia prosecutor Franco Roberti said that Riina had never repented for his crimes.




The House approved its version of the GOP tax overhaul on Thursday in a 227-205 vote, with 13 Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing it. The Senate Finance Committee late Thursday advanced the Senate version and sent it to the full Senate. At least two key GOP senators have expressed objections, leaving supporters with no votes to spare if they hope to approve it with their party's 52-48 majority. President Trump and Republican lawmakers are vowing to pass the overhaul, with $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, by the end of the year, saying it will boost economic growth, but opponents complain that 80 percent of the breaks go to big corporations and the super-rich at the expense of smaller businesses and families with lower incomes.





About 5,000 barrels of oil, or 210,000 gallons, spilled from the original Keystone pipeline in South Dakota on Thursday. The accident came days before a Monday decision by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska on whether to grant a permit for a long-delayed sister pipeline, known as Keystone XL. Both pipelines are owned by Calgary-based TransCanada, which said the leak was "completely isolated" within minutes, and that it had the landowner's permission to assess the spill and prepare the cleanup. Critics said the incident proved that TransCanada can't be trusted to protect the environment. Jane Kleeb, a Keystone XL opponent and head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said she was confident the Public Service Commission would "side with Nebraskans, not a foreign oil company."




Coal-reliant Poland said it is aiming to ratify an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions this year, making it possible for the European Union to back the pact unanimously. The 2012 Doha Amendment forms a legal framework for CO2 reduction efforts until 2020 when the Paris climate agreement that more than 200 nations signed in late 2015 kicks in. As of the end of October, 84 countries had ratified it, according to the UN. The Doha Amendment must be endorsed by at least 140 countries for it to come into force. The EU needs unanimous backing by member states to ratify the amendment as a whole and Poland is the only EU state yet to sign. Last year Poland, which generates most of its electricity in outdated coal-fired power stations, said it was willing to back the ratification if the European Commission guaranteed financing for new, cleaner coal-fired plants. The oldest and least efficient plants will have to be closed in coming years under EU regulations targeting emission cuts. Governments and diplomats from around the world are meeting in Bonn from Nov. 6-17 to work on the details of implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which succeeds the Kyoto Protocol and aims to end the fossil fuel era by 2100.

It’s Thursday November 16, 2017



Convicted mass murderer Charles Manson has been hospitalized and is reported to be in a serious condition. The 83-year-old former cult leader was taken to a Bakersfield, California hospital from the nearby California State Prison located in Corcoran. He is serving seven life sentences for killing and instructing others to kill seven people in 1969. Authorities with the Kern County Sheriff's Department confirmed that Manson was in the hospital but said his condition was "unclear". A source familiar with his condition told that "it's not going to get any better for him" and "it's just a matter of time". TMZ reported he is being guarded by five police officers at all times. In January Manson was taken to hospital for severe intestinal bleeding and needed surgery, but doctors said he was too weak and sent him back to prison. Manson led a cult known as the Manson Family in the late 1960s in which his followers committed nine murders at four locations. In 1971 the killer was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people, including Sharon Tate, who was the wife of Hollywood director Roman Polanski. Manson has been in jail for more than 45 years. His death sentence was changed to seven life terms after California banned the capital punishment. He has been denied parole 12 times, most recently in 2012.




With President Donald Trump standing on the sidelines, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and his allies on the ground in Alabama are bracing for an extended conflict — not with Democrats, but with their own party in Washington. The divide between the state and national GOP reached new depths as more allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against Moore, an outspoken Christian conservative. Already, the Republican National Committee, the Senate GOP campaign committee and the party’s leading voices in Congress have called on the 70-year-old former judge to quit the race. Ever defiant, Moore offered fighting words in a tweet addressed to the top Senate Republican: “Dear Mitch McConnell, Bring. It. On.” Chris Hansen, executive director of the national GOP’s Senate campaign committee, fired back, “‘Bring It On’ is a movie about cheerleaders.” At least three new allegations of misconduct were reported on Wednesday, including one by Tina Johnson, who told that Moore groped her during a 1991 meeting in his law office. Two others told The Washington Post they were young women when Moore courted them as a district attorney in his 30s. Ivanka Trump told the AP, “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children,” and said, “I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts.” Her father, however, dodged questions about the turmoil in the Alabama Senate race on Wednesday. Trump, who withstood allegations of sexual assault weeks before his own election, was uncharacteristically silent when faced with questions about the scandal. The Alabama Republican Party is expected to maintain support for their embattled candidate.




A half-dozen Democrats on Wednesday introduced articles of impeachment against President Trump, accusing him of obstruction of justice and other offenses, in a long-shot effort that stands little chance in the Republican-led House. Indeed, the large majority of Democrats seem intent on having nothing to do with the effort either as lawmakers await the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democratic leaders have argued that the impeachment campaign riles up Trump’s GOP base, a critical bloc in next year’s midterm elections. The five articles accused the president of obstruction of justice related to the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, undermining the independence of the federal judiciary and other offenses. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said at a news conference, “We have taken this action because of great concerns for the country and our Constitution and our national security and our democracy.” Cohen said the group will hold occasional briefings to explain each of the five articles of impeachment and where they believe Trump ran afoul of the law or committed misdeeds that warrant impeachment. The obstruction of justice allegation stems from Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which the lawmakers say was designed to delay and impede an investigation.




Egypt faces high expectations from Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf Arab benefactors that it will have their back as tensions rise with their rival Iran, including throwing the weight of its military — the largest standing Arab army — into the crisis if needed. But Egypt clearly has no desire to be dragged into a military conflict or to see the tensions spiral into another Saudi-Iran proxy battle like the many that are already tearing up the Middle East. Its reluctance could lead to frictions between Cairo and Riyadh. Egypt’s leadership has been striking a balancing act, giving nods of support to its Gulf allies while trying to defuse their escalations against Iran. In the past month, Saudi Arabia has twice accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of acts of war against it. A direct war between the two regional powerhouses still seems unlikely, but the heightened rhetoric raised fears that it wasn’t out of the question or that a new proxy fight could erupt in Lebanon. Egyptian commentators have bluntly warned against getting mired into a military conflict initiated by the Saudis. Another prominent commentator, veteran opposition figure Mohammed Aboul-Ghar, counseled the government to stay out of any potential Saudi-Iran conflict, arguing that Egypt’s army was needed to fight an insurgency by Islamic militants and protect the porous borders.




People across Zimbabwe are starting another day of uncertainty amid quiet talks to resolve the country’s political turmoil and the likely end of President Robert Mugabe’s decades-long rule. Mugabe has been in military custody and there is no sign of the recently fired deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fled the country last week. The military remains in the streets of the capital, Harare, as the mood is tense. Regional officials are meeting on the crisis as civil society groups and churches in Zimbabwe issue appeals for calm. A joint statement by more than 100 civil society groups urges Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, to peacefully step aside and asks the military to quickly restore order and respect the constitution. Trade unions have urged workers to go about their business. A Catholic priest is mediating a potential political exit for Mugabe, although the 93-year-old is insisting he can only be removed via a party leadership vote, according to political and intelligence sources on Thursday. Separately, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been receiving cancer treatment outside Zimbabwe, returned to Harare late on Wednesday, according to a party spokesman said, fuelling speculation about a post-Mugabe political settlement.




Legal action following the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert is picking up with lawsuits filed Wednesday on behalf of 14 concertgoers, including some who were shot or injured trying to escape and one woman who is so traumatized that she has since mistaken the sound of rain for gunshots. The hotel-casino from where Stephen Paddock fired, concert organizers and the makers and sellers of a bump stock gun accessory that enabled him to fire rapidly are named as defendants. The court filings argue that they all share blame for the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. The 14 civil complaints, filed together in state court in Las Vegas, follow at least three others filed since Paddock opened fire Oct. 1 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds of others. The lawsuit seeks unspecific compensation for both “physical and mental injuries.” The challenge for mass-shooting lawsuits is clearing a high legal bar to prove someone other than the shooter bears any responsibility. Such litigation typically drags for years and can end with victims and their families receiving little to nothing. The 64-year-old Paddock, who killed himself just before his room was stormed, is also named in a bid to seize assets from his estate.




President Trump pushed back against observations that his nearly two-week trip to Asia had produced no breakthroughs on trade or on North Korea, delivering a 24-minute statement at the White House in defense of his nationalist agenda. Speaking from a teleprompter, Trump twice paused awkwardly to drink from a water bottle as he recounted both the trip to five Asian countries -- in a nearly day-by-day, travelogue style -- and previous trips to the Mideast and Europe. He declared that the U.S. has never been more respected across the globe and that Americans are again “optimistic about the future, confident in our values and proud of our history and role in the world.” He said, "My message has resonated." He took no questions. During his Asia trip, Trump demanded that foreign leaders help narrow U.S. trade deficits and pushed them to buy more U.S. military equipment. He publicly advocated his “America first” policies, warning U.S. trade partners that he was ready to take more protectionist steps to help American businesses and workers. In China, the administration announced more than $200 billion in tentative deals between U.S. and Chinese companies. But the agreements aren’t contracts and might not be fulfilled. And while the president railed against what he regards as systemic flaws in U.S. trade relationships, he neither publicly requested or received specific assurances by foreign leaders to reduce imbalances or address issues such as market access by U.S. companies and intellectual property theft.




A Senate Republican tax plan that would repeal the Obamacare mandate and give permanent tax cuts only to U.S. corporations drew fire from two Republican lawmakers on Wednesday in what could be a sign of trouble for the sweeping measure. Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he would not support the current Senator proposal, or a separate tax bill being debated in the House of Representatives, because he believes they unfairly benefit corporations over other kinds of enterprises, including small businesses. Senator Susan Collins, one of three Republicans who opposed a Republican Obamacare repeal effort earlier this year, warned that some middle-income taxpayers could see tax cuts wiped out by higher health insurance premiums if the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate goes through. Their views could signal problems for Senate Republicans, who want to pass tax legislation by December but can afford to lose no more than two votes from their ranks because they have only a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Democrats have called the Republican tax plans a giveaway to the rich and corporations.




Mattel Inc has rebuffed Hasbro Inc’s latest takeover approach, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, casting uncertainty over the potential combination of the world’s two largest toy companies. Mattel’s rebuttal indicates that Margaret Georgiadis, who took over as the company’s chief executive in February, is seeking to drive a hard bargain in negotiations with Hasbro, even though Mattel’s stock has significantly underperformed that of Hasbro in the last year. Sources said Mattel has informed Hasbro its proposal undervalues the company and does not take sufficiently into account the potential for regulators to reject the deal based on antitrust concerns. The terms Hasbro has proposed could not be learned, and it is not clear whether negotiations between the two companies will continue. The companies have engaged in multiple rounds of deal talks over the years, including in 1996 and again sometime in late 2015.




A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million - or about 380 million euros - at auction on Wednesday, smashing previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately. The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie’s auction house, which didn’t immediately identify the buyer. “‘Salvator Mundi’ is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. “The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honor that comes around once in a lifetime.” The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been $179 million - or 152 million euros - for Pablo Picasso’s painting “Women of Algiers (Version O)” in May 2015, also at Christie’s in New York. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million - about 253 million euros - for Willem de Kooning’s painting “Interchange,” sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin. The 26-inch-tall Leonardo painting dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left-hand holds a crystal sphere.

It’s Wednesday November 15, 2017



Zimbabwe's military said Wednesday that it had taken President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, into custody in an apparent military takeover of the southern African nation. Two uniformed officers appeared on TV after apparently seizing the state broadcaster, ZBC, and said Mugabe, who reportedly is stepping down, and his family were "safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed." The officers denied the military had staged a coup. "We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice," said the main speaker, identified as army chief of staff Maj. Gen. S. B. Moyo.




In Northern California, a gunman killed at least four people at a home and several other locations, including an elementary school, before he was shot dead by police. At least two children were wounded, including one student who was shot at an elementary School. Police said the gunman tried to enter the school but staffers had locked down the school at the sound of gunfire. Tehema County authorities said the attacker appeared to have gone from one shooting scene to another "randomly picking targets." Authorities did not immediately release the name of the suspect who was carrying a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns, and apparently started the rampage after a dispute with neighbors.




Russian Twitter accounts posted more than 45,000 messages aimed at dividing voters ahead of last year's Brexit referendum, the British newspaper The Times reported Wednesday. The Times report cited research from an upcoming paper by data scientists at Swansea University and the University of California, Berkeley, that found a barrage of tweets by Russian-controlled bots that came in the 48 hours around the vote, mostly encouraging people to vote for Brexit. Tho Pham, one of the paper's authors, said the researchers concluded that "bots were used on purpose and had influence."




House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday became the latest Republican leader to call for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to "step aside" from the Alabama race after five women accused the former judge of initiating inappropriate relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday urged Moore to withdraw after Beverly Young Nelson alleged Moore assaulted her in his car after offering her a ride home from work. She produced her high school yearbook, signed by Moore. Fox News host Sean Hannity walked back his defense of Moore, calling for him to drop out immediately if he can't "fully come up with a satisfactory explanation" for inconsistencies in his denials.




Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he hadn't lied under oath about his contacts with Russians during last year's presidential campaign. Sessions said that, until news reports came out, he had "no recollection" of a meeting he attended in which Trump's former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had proposed a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I do now recall that the March 2016 meeting at the Trump hotel that [George] Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting," Sessions said. He rejected any suggestion that he lied about any Trump campaign contacts with Russians.




Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that the Senate tax bill would include a proposal to repeal ObamaCare's mandate for Americans to acquire health insurance. Conservatives led by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) demanded the provision, which would raise up to $400 billion over the next year that Republicans want to use to help pay for corporate and individual tax cuts. Republican leaders said the measure to repeal the mandate would help them muster the votes needed to pass the overhaul despite Democrats' opposition and the reluctance of some Republicans. "We're optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful," McConnell said.




Canada said it will redouble its lobbying efforts in Congress to block any Trump administration move to pull the United States out of NAFTA, as talks to modernize the treaty run into trouble. Canadian officials, preparing for the fifth round of negotiations to update the 1994 North American Free Trade Treaty, are increasingly concerned that President Trump may make good on a promise to pull out of NAFTA - which he believes should either be improved to narrow U.S. trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, or scrapped. In the last round, in October, Washington made several proposals that Canada and Mexico rejected outright. Canadian officials say there is some considerable doubt as to whether Trump could pull out of NAFTA without approval from Congress, which makes lobbying its members so important.




Monsanto Co and U.S. farm groups are suing California to stop the state from requiring cancer warnings on products containing the widely used weed killer glyphosate, which Monsanto sells to farmers to apply to its genetically engineered crops. California added glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, to its list of cancer-causing chemicals in July and will require that products containing glyphosate carry warnings by July 2018, after the World Health Organization concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic”. In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, Monsanto and groups representing corn, soy and wheat farmers reject that glyphosate causes cancer. They say the state’s requirement for warnings would force sellers of products containing the chemical to spread false information. Monsanto issued a statement that said, “Such warnings would equate to compelled false speech, directly violate the First Amendment, and generate unwarranted public concern and confusion.” California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which is named in the lawsuit, said it generally does not comment on pending litigation.




Australians overwhelming supported gay marriage in a historic non-binding vote on Tuesday, clearing the way for Parliament to make same-sex marriage legal in the country. In the survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced early Wednesday. Turnout was 79.5 percent. "The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly 'yes' for marriage equality," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Supporters burst into cheers in public squares as the result was announced. "Finally I can be proud of my country," said Chris Lewis, 60, an artist from Sydney. "No" advocate Lyle Shelton, a Christian lobbyist, said he would "accept the democratic decision."

It’s Tuesday November 14, 2017







It’s Monday November 13, 2017



A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake near the Iraq-Iran border killed more than 350 people across both countries, sent residents fleeing their homes into the night and was felt as far away as the Mediterranean coast. Authorities said Monday that Iran’s western Kermanshah province bore the brunt of the temblor Sunday night, with authorities saying the quake killed 348 people in Iran and injured 6,603. Kermanshah is a rural, mountainous region where residents rely mainly on farming. Iraq's Interior Ministry said the earthquake killed at least seven people and injured 535, all in the country’s northern Kurdish region. The quake, which was centered more than 200 miles north of Baghdad, was felt across Iraq and Iran and as far away as Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Turkey. Electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather. Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud bricks and are known to crumble easily in quake-prone Iran. The Iranian armed forces have been deployed to help emergency services. Iran sits on several major fault lines and experiences frequent earthquakes. A magnitude 6.6 temblor killed 26,000 people in the historic city of Bam in 2003. 



Two former top U.S. intelligence officials said on Sunday they fear President Donald Trump is being manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin after Trump said he believed Putin was sincere in denying Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Former CIA Director John Brennan and ex-National Intelligence Director James Clapper both said Trump was mishandling Moscow ties even as a special counsel investigates possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Russia. Their comments came after Trump told reporters over the weekend that he had spoken with Putin again over allegations of Russian meddling in the presidential election and that the Russian president again denied any involvement. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that the criticism leveled against Trump’s management of relations with Russia and China was “ridiculous.” Mnuchin said, “President Trump is not getting played by anybody.”



Turkey has dismissed as “utterly false, ludicrous and groundless” a report that Turkish officials may have discussed paying millions of dollars to have a U.S.-based Muslim cleric kidnapped. The Wall Street Journal reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating an alleged plot involving former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his son to hand Fethullah Gulen over to Ankara for as much as $15 million. Turkey blames the cleric and his supporters for a July 2016 military coup attempt that killed 250 people. Flynn’s lawyers also have disputed the Journal report that Mueller was looking into a meeting where Flynn allegedly discussed a plan that would pay him and his son “to forcibly remove” Gulen. Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, did lobbying work for Turkey last year. Gulen has been living in the U.S. for nearly two decades. He is a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until their 2013 public falling-out led the government to declare Gulen’s network a terror group.




Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore continued to mostly deny allegations from four women that he initiated inappropriate physical relationships when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers as young as 14, telling a Christian Citizen Task Force forum on Sunday that The Washington Post, which reported the accusations after speaking with 30 people who knew Moore in the late 1970s and early '80s, had printed false allegations "for which they will be sued." Meanwhile, four polls since Thursday show a dead heat between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, and Senate Republicans and the White House are increasingly distancing themselves from Moore. Two GOP senators — Tim Scott of South Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — said Sunday they find the accusations more credible than Moore's denials.




Armed with signs, catchy phrases and a motivation to take #MeToo beyond the internet and into real life, a few hundred women, men, and children gathered Sunday among the sex shops and tourist traps of Hollywood Boulevard to protest sexual harassment. The Take Back the Workplace March and the #MeToo Survivors March joined forces in the heart of Hollywood, near the entrance to the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards take place. They walked side by side past the tourists, costume shops, strip clubs to gather for a rally of rousing speeches from the likes of Harvey Weinstein accuser Lauren Sivan and Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman. Event organizers estimated there were about 200 to 300 people in the march. One woman, who did not want to give her name for fear of retaliation or lawsuit carried a homemade sign accusing a sitcom producer of grabbing her from behind and making a lewd remark and suggestive comment. “Thank you to my agent at William Morris for telling me ‘Keep your mouth shut or you’ll never work again." And the other side of the sign read, “BTW, you also represented my abuser.”




President Donald Trump said Monday he had a "great relationship" with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte after their first formal one-on-one meeting. Trump declined to answer questions about whether he had pressed human rights issues with Duterte, an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the issue of human rights "briefly came up in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs." Duterte's spokesman said Duterte talked about the "drug menace" but Trump never mentioned human rights. Trump offered Duterte mediation assistance in his country's dispute with China over the South China Sea, calling himself "a very good mediator and arbitrator." Duterte declined the offer, saying the issue "is better left untouched" because "nobody can afford to go to war." This is the last stop in Trump's inaugural tour of Asia as president; he will have more formal meetings with Duterte on Monday.




Before leaving Vietnam early Sunday morning, President Trump posted a series of bombastic tweets. Reflecting on his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin the day before, Trump asked when "all the haters and fools" will "realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing." He suggested favorable Russia relations would be better received if proposed by a Democrat and then turned to North Korea, writing, "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!" White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly said of the posts, "They are what they are."




North Korean troops shot and injured a fellow soldier on Monday as he dashed across the heavily armed border into South Korea as the two countries remain on high alert due to tensions over the North's missile and nuclear weapons programs. South Korean soldiers found the defector about 55 yards south of the borderline and took him to a hospital, where he was being treated for gunshot wounds to an elbow and shoulder. The incident occurred as the U.S. and South Korea conduct joint naval exercises involving three American aircraft carriers off South Korea's east coast. This is the first time in a decade the U.S. has used three carrier groups in the drills, in a show of the kind of force President Trump has said Americans "hope to God we never have to use" against Pyongyang.




The small Mideast country of Lebanon has become central to regional Sunni-Shiite conflict spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly resigned last week while visiting Saudi Arabia, reportedly at the insistence of the Saudi monarchy, which sources told Reuters believed the Sunni prime minister was too unwilling to confront the Shiite, Iran-backed Hezbollah in his country. On Saturday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri "is detained in Saudi Arabia and forbidden until this moment from returning to Lebanon," accusing the Saudis of "declaring war" on Lebanon.




Disneyland has shut down and decontaminated two cooling towers following an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that sickened 12 people, nine of them guests or employees at the theme park in Anaheim. Orange County health officials said one of the three cases of the respiratory illness not linked to Disneyland was fatal in an individual who had additional health issues. The chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Pamela Hymel, said in a written statement that after learning of the Legionnaires cases, park officials ordered the cooling towers treated with chemicals to destroy the bacteria and shut them down. Cooling towers provide cold water for various uses at Disneyland and give off a vapor or mist that could have carried the Legionella bacteria. Hymel said that local health officials had assured them that there was no longer any risk to guests or employees of the park. Ten of the victims, who ranged in age from 52 to 94, were hospitalized. Symptoms develop 2 to 10 days after exposure and include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, and headaches. It is treated with antibiotics, which can improve symptoms and shorten the length of illness. The disease is not contagious.




Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson will write and direct a new Star Wars trilogy set in "a corner of the galaxy" that the franchise has "never before explored," according to a Disney announcement. CEO Bob Iger made the announcement. "Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it," Rian Johnson said in a joint statement with producer Ram Bergman. "We can't wait to continue with this new series of films." Johnson's first Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, is the second in the sequel trilogy and will be released Dec. 15.

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