Crews Gain Ground on Deadliest U.S. Wildfire in a Century - That’s in the news Thursday November 15, 2018



Cool weather helped fire crews gain ground Thursday against the deadliest wildfire in the United States in a century, as the search went on for more bodies in the ashes of Paradise, California and surrounding communities. At least 56 people were killed, with 130 others missing a week after the flames swept through. The nearly 220-square-mile (570-square-kilometer) blaze was 40 percent contained. Cal Fire officials said firefighters succeeded in slowing the flames’ advance toward populated areas. More than 450 searchers were assigned to look for remains in Paradise, which was all but destroyed, and outlying areas such as Magalia, a forested Northern California town of about 11 thousand. Officials put the number of homes lost there at nearly 8,800. At the other end of the state, crews continued to battle wildfires in Southern California, including a blaze of more than 153 square miles (396 square kilometers) that destroyed more than 500 structures in Malibu and nearby communities. At least three deaths were reported in that fire.




British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling Thursday to save both her Brexit deal and her job, as ministers quit her government and a growing list of lawmakers demanded her ouster over the divorce agreement struck between Britain and the European Union. Less than a day after May won her Cabinet’s grudging backing for the deal, two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker from May’s Conservative Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister. The hard-won agreement has infuriated pro-Brexit members of her divided party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making. A defiant May insisted that Brexit meant making “the right choices, not the easy ones” and urged lawmakers to support the deal “in the national interest.” The approval, however, marked a significant step toward finalizing the terms for Britain's exit from the EU in March. The plan still must be approved by European leaders this month, and then by the British Parliament in December.




The U.S. Treasury sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals Thursday for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, just hours after prosecutors in Riyadh indicted nearly a dozen suspects. Saudi authorities have said Khashoggi, a regular critic of the Saudi government and contributor for The Washington Post, was killed when he visited the consulate for a document he needed for his planned wedding. His remains have not been recovered. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement,"These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions." The sanctions will affect any property or interests of those named on the list. U.S. individuals are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them, including entities 50 percent or more owned by those on the list. Earlier Thursday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported 21 suspects have been identified and 11 indicted in the case. Five will face the death penalty.




Washington and Beijing have resumed talks over their spiraling trade dispute ahead of a meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday that the two sides are “maintaining close contact” following a Nov. 1 phone call between Xi and Trump. The two governments have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods in a dispute over Beijing’s technology policy. Xi and Trump are due to meet this month at a gathering of the Group of 20 major economies in Argentina. The Trump administration hiked tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology as the price of market access. Some American officials also worry Chinese development plans could erode U.S. industrial leadership. Beijing responded with penalty duties on $110 billion of American goods, but their lopsided trade balance means China is running out of imports for retaliation. Regulators have expanded their pressure by slowing down customs clearance for U.S. companies and postponing issuing licenses in finance and other industries. Chinese exports to the United States have held up despite the tariffs, rising more than 13 percent over a year earlier each month since the first increases in July. Economists say that is partly due to exporters rushing to fill orders before a new increase takes effect in January, but U.S. demand should decline next year.




One of the first big storms of the season moved across the eastern half of the United States Thursday, causing deadly traffic crashes and closing schools as it dropped snow as far south as central Alabama. As much as 8 inches of snow blanketed the St. Louis area, and forecasters predicted up to 6 inches in parts of southern New England as the storm made its way east. Roads were already clogged by midday Thursday in Ohio, where officials reported at least one traffic death that was likely weather-related. In Mississippi, a tour bus bound for a casino overturned, leaving two people dead and 44 others injured. And in the Little Rock, Arkansas, area, three people were killed in separate crashes on icy roads Wednesday night. In Virginia, the planned launch early Thursday of an unmanned cargo rocket to the International Space Station had to be rescheduled by one day because of the weather. NASA said the unmanned Cygnus cargo craft is now scheduled to lift off early Friday from Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore carrying supplies and research materials for the astronauts at the space station.




A top U.S. health official on Thursday pledged to try to ban menthol from regular cigarettes, outlaw flavors in all cigars, and tighten rules regarding the sale of most flavored versions of electronic cigarettes. The move represents a major step to further push down U.S. smoking rates, which have been falling for decades. The restrictions are mainly aimed at reducing smoking in kids: About half of teens who smoke cigarettes choose menthols and flavored e-cigarettes have been blamed for a recent increase in teen vaping rates. Health advocates say a menthol ban would have greater impact on the health of Americans, but it would likely take years to put in place. The changes for e-cigarettes could kick in within a few months. Battery-powered e-cigarettes are more popular among teens than regular smokes and are considered safer. But many versions contain potentially addictive nicotine, and health officials believe they set kids who try them on a path toward regular cigarettes.
Smoking is the nation’s leading cause of preventable illness, causing more than 480 thousand deaths each year in the United States. The FDA currently bans sales of e-cigarettes and tobacco products to those under 18.




Scientists have spotted a frozen planet three times the size of Earth that orbits Barnard's star, just six light years away. Barnard's star, the solitary star that is closest to our sun, has long been of interest to astronomers, who thought the star was a top contender for finding nearby Earth-like planets. The newly-discovered super-Earth is the second-closest known exoplanet; a closer one was found in 2016 orbiting the Proxima Centauri stars. Because Barnard's star radiates far less warmth than our sun, the planet, known as Barnard's star b, is a hostile frozen environment that likely has no liquid water.




The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to allow Elon Musk’s Space X, Telesat Canada and two other companies to roll out new satellite-based broadband services. The FCC voted to grant “market access” requests to Telesat, Kepler Communications Inc and LeoSat MA, Inc to offer high-speed internet service and connectivity for sensors and other intelligence devices. The FCC, which had approved some of SpaceX’s plans in March, on Thursday approved the company’s request for access to additional frequency and to operate some satellites at low-Earth altitudes. SpaceX wants to deploy more than 7,000 satellites, far more than all operating spacecraft currently aloft. Space companies riding innovations that include smaller and cheaper satellites -- with some just 4 inches long and weighing only 3 pounds -- are planning fleets that will fly fast and low, offering communications now commonly handled by larger, more expensive satellites.




Country star Roy Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show “Hee Haw” for nearly a quarter century and was known for such hits as “Yesterday When I was Young” and “Honeymoon Feeling,” died Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla. He was 85-years-old. Clark was “Hee Haw” host or co-host for its entire 24-year run, with Buck Owens his best known co-host. The country music and comedy show’s last episode aired in 1993, though reruns continued for a few years thereafter. Clark played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and other instruments. His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops. In 1976 he headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and emotionally told the crowd how moving it was “just to be associated yourself with the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and imagine that your name will be said right along with all the list.”

$1.5 Billion MegaMillions Winner Hasn’t Claimed Jackpot Yet - That’s in the news Wednesday November 14, 2018



The death toll has risen to 51 as rescuers comb through the charred remnants of the Woolsey, Camp and Hill fires in California. Altogether, more than 220 thousand acres have burned, destroying 8,000 structures since last week. Search crews found the remains of six more victims in homes in or near Paradise, a town destroyed by the fire, which erupted on Thursday and rapidly became the most destructive ever recorded in California. The death toll in that fire stands now at 48. Firefighters got a brief respite as they gained the upper hand on the wind-blown fires Wednesday allowing them to get 35 percent of that fire contained. Butte County Sheriff-Coroner Kory L. Honea said he had requested 100 National Guard troops to work with crews searching for more victims of the fire. A city council member told reporters, "The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now." In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire - which killed three people - flared up in the Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas of Ventura County. Cal Fire said it's burned more than 97 thousand acres and destroyed 435 buildings and is nearly 50 percent contained.




South Korea's spy agency said North Korea has continued to miniaturize nuclear warheads, even after the Singapore summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump. According to a South Korean press report, Seoul's national intelligence service has confirmation North Korea's miniaturization of nuclear weapons has been ongoing, despite agreements to denuclearize. Seoul's spy agency said the Sakkanmol missile base is operating at a "normal level of activity," and "other missile bases are being tracked down." South Korea's presidential office staff, in Singapore this week for the ASEAN summit, said Seoul is "in negotiations" to bring an end to North Korea nuclear activities. Some analysts, including U.S. nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, said the report is misleading. Hecker said, "Some bases may be newly identified, so the report does provide some new information. However, the report is terribly misleading in that it implies these bases go counter to the Singapore summit or other agreements that Kim and Trump may have reached." Hecker also said he does not think North Korea has missiles and warheads that can survive a journey to the United States.




Israel's hawkish defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, announced Wednesday that he was resigning over a cease-fire that Hamas announced Tuesday night. The news came a day after the worst outbreak of violence with the Islamist militant group, which runs the Gaza Strip, since a 50-day war in 2014. Israel did not immediately confirm that it had accepted the cease-fire, but the violence appeared to be on hold. Residents in southern Israel communities targeted with 400 rockets fired from Gaza protested the truce, calling it capitulation to Hamas. Lieberman said the deal "amounts to surrendering to terror," and said he has disagreed for weeks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to handle tensions in Gaza. Political analysts say Netanyahu might call early elections to boost his support.



British Prime Minister Theresa May's government reached a draft Brexit deal with the European Union on Tuesday after more than a year of tense negotiations. The British government did not immediately release details on the deal's hundreds of pages of text, including how it would get past the sticking point of keeping people and trade flowing freely over the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland. May now could face a challenge tougher than negotiating the deal — getting it approved by her own Cabinet, and Parliament. Brexit supporters in May's party have accused her of surrendering too much control to the EU. The Cabinet is scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider the draft deal.




The FBI reported that hate crimes rose 17 percent last year, the third consecutive year of increases. Anti-Semitic attacks went up 37 percent. There were 7,175 hate crimes reported in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016. The bureau notes that there were more police departments reporting hate crime data last year, which could be partially responsible for the uptick. Three of every five hate crimes targeted a person's race or ethnicity, reports The Washington Post, while one out of five targeted a person's religion. Another 16 percent were motivated by sexual orientation. About 2,000 of the reported crimes targeted black Americans, and another 938 affected Jewish Americans. Anti-Islamic hate crimes declined 11 percent.




A congressional advisory panel says the purchase of internet-linked devices manufactured in China leaves the United States vulnerable to security breaches that could put critical infrastructure at risk. In its annual report on Wednesday, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warns of dangers to the U.S. government and private sector from a reliance on global supply chains linked to China, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of information technology equipment. China’s push to dominate in the high-tech industry by 2025 already is a sore point with Washington and a contributing factor in trade tensions that have seen the world’s two largest economies slap billions of dollars in punitive tariffs on each other’s products this year. The commission, which does not set policy but can make recommendations to Congress and the U.S. administration, is warning that the potential impact of malicious cyberattacks through IoT systems will intensify with the adoption of ultra-fast 5G networks that could quicken data speeds by up to 100 times.




U.S. health officials say a record number of tick-borne diseases were reported last year. The 2017 tally of more than 59 thousand cases is a 22 percent increase from the previous year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers Wednesday. Lyme disease accounted for nearly three-quarters of the illnesses. That’s about 43 thousand cases. Traditionally about 30 thousand cases of Lyme disease were reported to the government each year, but experts believed there was underreporting and thought the actual number was more like 300 thousand. Experts say better reporting may be a reason for recent increases, but scientists have also discovered more diseases transmitted by ticks. Researchers also note that disease-spreading ticks have been seen over a wide range of states.




South Carolina lottery officials say the person who has the winning ticket for the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot still has not come forward. The winning ticket for the Oct. 23 drawing was bought in South Carolina. The state is one of seven in which the winner can remain anonymous, but no one has claimed the prize so far. Beating odds of more than 300 million-to-1, the winner bought the ticket in Simpsonville, S.C. Although lottery officials urge winners to put the ticket in a safe place and consult legal and financial experts, it's been three weeks since the numbers were drawn. The winner can choose a lump-sum payment of $878 million, or $1.537 billion in taxed annual payments over 30 years. South Carolina affords a winner 180 days to claim a prize, meaning the winner has until April 21 to do so. If the jackpot is unclaimed, the money will return to the participating states. The owner of the store that sold the winning ticket, will receive $30 thousand from the South Carolina Lottery.




Jewels once belonging to ill-fated French Queen Marie Antoinette are being auctioned in what is being called one of the most important royal jewelery auctions in history. They have not been seen in public for 200 years and include a pearl and diamond pendant, earrings and necklace. The jewels are part of a major collection of jewelery being sold by Italy's royal Bourbon-Parma house. The auction will take place in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday. Sotheby's, which is auctioning the jewels, called it "one of the most important royal jewelery collections ever to appear on the market." One of the most prized items is Marie Antoinette's Pearl, a natural pearl and diamond pendant, valued at up to $2 million. A natural pearl and diamond necklace and a pair of pearl and diamond earrings are both expected to fetch as much as $300 thousand, while a monogram ring with a lock of her hair is valued at up to $10 thousand. Marie Antoinette was an Austrian princess before her marriage to France's King Louis XVI. Her extravagant lifestyle turned her into a hate figure in the years leading up to the French Revolution, when many French people could barely afford to feed their families. She smuggled out her jewelery to her family in Austria before her failed attempt to flee France with Louis XVI and their children. She was executed by guillotine in 1793 at the age of 37.

Search for Victims Continues in California Wildfires as Death Toll grows to 44 - That’s in the news on Tuesday November 13, 2018



The death toll from the 'Camp Fire' in Northern California's Butte County now stands at 42, making it the deadliest fire in the state's history. Authorities moved to set up a rapid DNA-analysis system and bring in cadaver dogs, mobile morgues and more search teams in an intensified effort to find and identify victims. More than a dozen coroner search-and-recovery teams looked for bodies across the apocalyptic landscape that was once the town of Paradise, which was all but obliterated. The town's population was 27 thousand. Officials were unsure of the exact number of missing, but they're certain the death toll will rise. Cal Fire said the blaze was still just 30 percent contained after burning 117 thousand acres and destroying nearly 7,200 homes and businesses in Paradise. At the other end of the state, in Southern California, firefighters continued making progress against a blaze that killed two people in star-studded Malibu and destroyed over 400 structures. The Woolsey Fire grew to nearly 94 thousand acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.




Airline safety experts and pilots' groups say Boeing did not disclose information about a new flight-control feature on its 737 MAX 8 that may have played a role in the crash of a Lion Air commercial airliner last month. Boeing issued a global safety bulletin last week after a 737 MAX 8 jet crashed into the Java Sea after departing Jakarta, killing 189 passengers and crew. The cause has not been determined, but investigators are looking at the possibility of faulty sensors. Boeing warned in its bulletin the plane's automated stall-prevention system, which is supposed to help pilots avoid raising the nose too high, could actually push it down unexpectedly. That news stunned pilot unions and other experts who said they had no idea an automatic stall-prevention system was even added to the new 737 model, and never knew about the potentially fatal problem. The Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents 15 thousand professional pilots who fly for American Airlines, issued a bulletin saying the presence of the system was never included in the documentation that came with the plane. Boeing declined to directly address the issue, but did address the aircraft's overall safety in a statement that said, "We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX."




A member of the team of Saudi operatives who killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month told a superior by phone to "tell your boss" that the assassination had taken place. That's according to The New York Times, citing three people familiar with a recording obtained by Turkish intelligence. The "boss" the operative is referring to is believed to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who has denied advance knowledge of any plan to kill Khashoggi. The man who was speaking, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, is a security officer who frequently traveled with the crown prince. Turkish intelligence officers believe he was speaking with one of the crown prince's aides. The recording was shared last month with CIA Director Gina Haspel.




Hamas and other Gaza militant groups said Tuesday they have accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire after launching hundreds of rockets into Israel over the past 24 hours and weathering a wave of punishing Israeli airstrikes. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh earlier signaled a readiness to halt the latest round of fighting if Israel halts its airstrikes. There was no immediate word from Israel on whether it had accepted a deal to halt the heaviest exchange of fire with Gaza’s Hamas rulers since a 2014 war. Just an hour before the militants made their declaration, the Israeli Security Cabinet said it had ordered the military to “continue operations as needed,” following a six-hour meeting. The terms of the deal appeared to be modest. A spokesman for the Islamic Jihad militant group, said each side would promise quiet in exchange for quiet. The fighting was triggered by a botched Israeli undercover raid into Hamas-ruled Gaza late Sunday, in which seven Palestinian militants and a high-ranking Israeli officer were killed. International mediators have appealed for restraint, hoping to avert another war.




Vice President Mike Pence vowed to work toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea and fully enforce sanctions during a joint press conference with Japan's prime minister on Tuesday. Pence, who is expected to attend the APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea on Saturday in place of President Donald Trump, said the U.S. stands firmly against countries that threatened freedom and openness in the region, including North Korea. Pence and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also pledged to work toward a free and open Indo-Pacific, a reference to a Trump administration policy of U.S. inclusiveness and cooperation with partner countries in Asia. Pence told reporters economic sanctions against North Korea will be fully enforced until complete denuclearization, and that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before embargoes are lifted. Analysts have said the policy is also a check against growing Chinese ambitions. The vice president reiterated Trump's earlier comments on negotiations with North Korea -- and said the president had made it clear time is not a major factor in the implementation of the agreement reached at the June summit in Singapore. Trump said last week a second summit with Kim Jong Un could take place in early 2019, but he also said there was "no rush" in negotiations with North Korea.




U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, meeeting in Baltimore, were planning to vote on measures to hold themselves accountable for the church's child sexual abuse scandal, but in a last-minute surprise the Vatican told them to hold off until next year. Pope Francis plans to hold a summit in Rome in 2019 to discuss the abuse crisis with bishops from around the world. The U.S. bishops learned of the delay minutes before their meeting, and many were stunned. "We are not ourselves happy about this," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "We are working very well to move to action, and we'll do it. We just have a bump in the road." Abuse survivors denounced the delay.




Thick smog hit northern China, including Beijing, as cities across the world's second-largest economy are turning up heating for residents, and industrial emissions persist as a cause of pollution. China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment said Tuesday the heavy smog will last through Thursday owing to "poor weather conditions." Atmospheric conditions will also improve when smog fades beginning Thursday at noon. Pollutants in China are a combination of emissions from heating systems, industries and diesel vehicles. The South China Morning Post reported the thick smog will push north China into "heavy polluted" range. The smog forecast is the first for China's winter season. China's fight against pollution has been postponed because of the government's focus on responding to an escalating tariff conflict with the United States, according to the Hong Kong-based newspaper.




Amazon, which has grown too big for its Seattle hometown, said it will split its much-anticipated second headquarters between New York and northern Virginia. Each will get 25 thiousand jobs. In addition, the online retailer said it will open an operations hub in Nashville, creating 5,000 jobs. Its New York location will be in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, while its Virginia offices will be in a part of Arlington that Amazon is calling National Landing, a made-up moniker for an area around Reagan National Airport that encompasses Crystal City and Potomac Yard. The decision ends intense competition between North American cities to win Amazon and its promise of 50 thousand new jobs. With Long Island City and National Landing, the company is choosing two waterfront communities away from overcrowded business districts, giving Amazon space to grow. New York, already a financial and media powerhouse, has been trying to attract more tech workers. And northern Virginia has been looking to fill its 1980s-era buildings after thousands of federal employees moved elsewhere.




Stan Lee, the legendary Marvel Comics writer and editor who helped revolutionize the comic book industry and created dozens of iconic superheroes, died Monday after being rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 95-years-old. His cause of death was not immediately known. Lee was forced to cancel numerous appearances earlier this year after he fell ill with pneumonia. Lee created heroes like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, and Black Panther. He also had cameos in nearly every Marvel Comics film adaptation. Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said Lee was "a superhero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world. Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect."

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Tens of Thousands Flee Fast Moving California Wildfires - That’s in the news on Friday November 9, 2018



A fire that likely blocked a crucial exit at a low-cost dormitory-style housing facility in central Seoul killed at least seven people and injured 11 others on Friday, according to fire authorities who were investigating possible safety lapses in the building. The blaze has been put out, but officials at the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters said it’s possible that the death toll could rise. Investigators said the fire probably started near an exit door on the building’s third floor. The facility’s residents were mostly manual laborers who made their living on day-to-day jobs. Another official said the facility, which was built in 1983, did not have sprinklers because current safety regulations can’t be retroactively applied to older structures. It was unclear whether the building’s smoke detector worked. The facility, called “goshiwon” in Korean, is where poor workers relying on construction jobs or student preparing for bar exams or civil service exams stay in individual rooms with tiny sleep and study spaces. Budget travelers also often stay in such facilities. South Korean media reported that most of the victims were manual laborers in their 40s to 60s. South Korea, one of Asia’s richest economies, has struggled for decades to improve safety standards and change widespread attitudes that treat safety as subservient to economic progress and convenience.




Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed a couple thousand structures. Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean said late Thursday, “Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it’s that kind of devastation. The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out.” McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27 thousand residents about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, where residents scrambled to flee. The extent of the injuries and specific damage count was not immediately known as officials could not access the dangerous area. Fire Chief Darren Read said at a news conference that two firefighters and multiple residents were injured. The fire, which started Thursday morning, was zero percent contained. Cal Fire said strong winds were fanning the flames, allowing the fast moving fire to spread quickly. Meanwhile, in Southern California's Ventura County, the Hill Fire erupted around 2 p.m. and grew to near 10 thousand acres by Thursday evening. The blaze threatens between 3,500 and 5,000 structures. Emergency officials ordered thousands to evacuate homes and businesses in that region.




Illegal migrants entering through the southern US border will no longer be eligible for asylum under a new rule from the Trump administration. Announced by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, the ruling would stop asylum for those who breach any presidential restriction on entry. Immigration was a major focus in President Trump's 2018 mid-term election campaign. As a caravan of thousands of Central Americans made their way north through Mexico toward the U.S., Trump ordered troops to the border and declared the migrants to be an "invasion." Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen announced what is known as the Interim Final Rule on Thursday. The joint statement said presidents have the power to "suspend the entry of all aliens" and to impose "any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate on them" if they are judged to be "detrimental" to US interests under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Accordingly, if the president issues a suspension or ban on entry through the US/Mexican border, those who illegally manage to enter the US will not be allowed to apply for asylum once there. The American Civil Liberties Union declared the move "illegal", saying "US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry." Human rights group Amnesty International also came out against the rule.




The Philippines’ anti-corruption court on Friday ordered the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos after finding her guilty on seven counts of graft during the two-decade rule of her husband and former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos, now 89-years-old and famous for a huge collection of shoes, jewelry and artwork, is facing dozens of protracted graft cases that have hounded her since her family was toppled in an army-backed popular uprising in 1986. The court ordered Marcos, a congresswoman, to serve six to 11 years in jail for each of the seven counts of graft. She was charged for making seven bank transfers totaling $200 million to Swiss foundations during her term as Manila governor. Marcos and her representatives did not attend the legal hearing on Friday. The arrest warrant may not be executed immediately because Marcos can appeal the ruling by the court. Marcos, who has served three terms as a member of congress, has registered to contest an election to succeed her daughter, Imee Marcos, 62, as governor of Ilocos Norte, the stronghold of the still powerful Marcos family. Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for two decades, placing the country under martial law in 1972, during which time thousands of opponents were jailed, killed or disappeared. He was accused of amassing more than $10 billion while in office and died in exile in 1989.




Congressional Democrats on Thursday demanded emergency hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate President Donald Trump’s ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling the move an effort to undermine a federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump forced the resignation of Sessions on Wednesday, a day after elections in which his fellow Republicans lost control of the House but increased their majority in the Senate. House Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded action from the panel's Republican chairman, Bob Goodlatte, and called for bipartisan legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any effort to stymie the probe. Mueller is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and any collusion by Trump’s campaign. Trump, who denies any collusion, has long complained about the probe, calling it a witch hunt. He had frequently publicly castigated Sessions for recusing himself last year from the case. During the Thursday conference call, House Democrats said they would attempt to include legislation protecting Mueller’s investigation in an appropriations bill that Congress is due to consider later this year.




A federal judge in Montana on Thursday temporarily blocked construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, putting a hold on the Trump administration's permit for the project pending further environmental review. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered the Trump administration to provide more comprehensive information on the pipeline's potential to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, oil spills, and impact on Native American communities in its path. The 1,200-mile pipeline would transport oil south from Alberta, Canada. The decision was praised by environmentalists. It represented a major setback for the oil industry and President Trump, who reversed a decision by former President Barack Obama and approved the project in January 2017, promising it would provide jobs and boost the economy.




Cigarette smoking has reached an all-time low among U.S. adults -- 14 percent -- according to new data released by the U.S. government. An estimated 34 million adults in the United States smoked cigarettes either every day or some days in 2017, which is down from 15.5 percent of adults in 2016 and 67 percent fewer since 1965, according to data released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute. The most dramatic cigarette usage decline was among adults aged 18 to 24 years -- 10.4 percent in 2017 compared with 13 percent in 2016. In all, tobacco usage for this age group was 18.3 percent, including e-cigarettes at 2.8 percent. Total tobacco usage reached 19.3 percent -- or 47 million people. Cigarettes were the most commonly used product followed by cigars at 14 percent folowed by cigarillos or filtered little cigars at 3.8 percent, e-cigarettes at 2.8 percent, smokeless tobacco at 1 percent, and pipes, water pipes or hookahs at 1 percent. Experts and researchers say the new data is proof that efforts to decrease the rates of smoking in the United States have been successful, but they say there is still much more work to be done.




The U.S. Food and Drug Administration next week will issue a ban on the sale of fruit and candy flavored electronic cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations, an agency official said, in a move to counter a surge in teenage use of e-cigarettes. The ban means only tobacco, mint and menthol flavors can be sold at these outlets, potentially dealing a major blow to Juul Labs, the San Francisco-based market leader in vape devices. The FDA also will introduce stricter age-verification requirements for online sales of e-cigarettes. The FDA’s planned restrictions do not apply to vape shops or other specialty retail stores. There has been mounting pressure for action after preliminary federal data showed teenage use had surged by more than 75 percent since last year, and the FDA has described it as an “epidemic”. That growth has coincided with the rise of Juul, whose sales of vaping devices grew from 2.2 million in 2016 to 16.2 million devices last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency threatened in September to ban Juul and four other leading e-cigarette products unless their makers took steps to prevent use by minors. The FDA gave Juul and four big tobacco companies 60 days to submit plans to curb underage use, a compliance period that is now ending.




Personal effects of Stephen Hawking, including a signed copy of his 1965 PhD thesis, have raised more than £1.8 million at auction. A total of 22 items owned by the Cambridge physicist, who died in March, were auctioned by Christie's. The copy of his thesis titled 'Properties of Expanding Universes' - one of only five - was sold for £584,750. An early wheelchair raised £296,750 for charity and a script for his appearance on The Simpsons sold for £6,250. Christie's said before the nine-day online auction that the items represented the "ultimate triumph of scientific brilliance over adversity". The history-making PhD thesis is signed twice by Prof Hawking and was inscribed by the scientist in the year he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. It was expected to fetch £150,000 but interest from across the world saw it reach almost four times that amount. Prof Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time, which he signed with a thumbprint in 1988, sold for £68,750, way above the £3,000 guide price. The auction raised a total of £1,824,375.

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