It’s Monday September 25, 2017

25Sep

00:0000:00

Most people living near a crumbling dam in storm-battered Puerto Rico have been moved to safety, according to Governor Ricardo Rossello Monday, as he urged the U.S. Congress to fund an aid package to avert a humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Maria. Much of the Caribbean island, a U.S. territory with a population of 3.4 million, is still without electricity, and most cellphone service five days after Maria struck with ferocious winds and torrential rains, the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico for nearly a century. There have been growing concerns for some 70,000 people who live in the river valley below the Guajataca Dam in the island’s northwest, where cracks were seen on Friday in the 88-year-old earthen structure. Rossello said he was working on the assumption that the 120-foot dam would collapse. The fear of a potentially catastrophic dam break added to the immense task facing disaster relief authorities after Maria, which was the second major hurricane to strike the Caribbean this month. The storm killed at least 29 people in the region. At least 10 of those who died were in Puerto Rico, including several who drowned or were hit by flying debris, and three elderly sisters killed in a mudslide.

 

 

The Trump administration said Monday it’s not seeking to overthrow North Korea’s government after the president tweeted that Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” and called Pyongyang’s assertion absurd that Donald Trump’s comment amounted to a declaration of war. At the U.N. on Monday, the North’s top diplomat, Ri Yong Ho, argued that Trump’s Twitter blast gives it the right to shoot down U.S. warplanes, like the strategic bombers Washington flew close to the border between the two Koreas over the weekend. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, “We have not declared war on North Korea. Frankly the suggestion of that is absurd.” She also said, “Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Cabinet officials, particularly Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have insisted the U.S.-led campaign diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea is focused on eliminating the pariah state’s nuclear weapons program, not its totalitarian government.

 

 

Anthony Weiner’s sexting compulsion cost him his seat in Congress, his shot at becoming New York mayor and his marriage. On Monday, it cost him his freedom. The 53 year old dropped his head into his hands and wept as a federal judge sentenced him to 21 months behind bars for illicit online contact with a 15-year-old girl, his tears flowing long after the gavel came down on a case he called his “rock bottom.” The New York Democrat was given until Nov. 6 to report to prison for misconduct that included getting the North Carolina high school student to strip and touch herself on Skype and Snapchat. In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote cited a need in such a highly publicized case to “make a statement that can protect other minors.” Calling himself “a very sick man for a very long time,” Weiner tearfully apologized to the teen and sought to assure the judge he had finally learned his lesson. He has been undergoing therapy. Weiner’s habit led him to resign his House seat in 2011, doomed his 2013 run for mayor, and rocked Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign during the closing days of the race, when FBI agents, investigating his contact with the teen, came across emails on his laptop between his soon to be ex-wife Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton. At the time Abadin was Clinton's closest aide. That discovery prompted then-FBI Director James Comey to announce in late October 2016 that he was reopening the probe of Clinton’s use of a private computer server, which Clinton claims may have tipped the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court canceled oral arguments scheduled in October to decide the legality of President Trump’s previous travel ban, signaling the court might dismiss the case. The Court acted after the White House announced on Sunday it was replacing the temporary executive order with a more tailored ban on eight countries that legal experts said could be harder to fight in court than the prior ban. The justices ordered further briefing on whether the new presidential proclamation, which indefinitely restricts travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, would render the prior case moot. Sunday’s order also bars certain government officials from Venezuela. The new ban is Trump’s third. Trump’s March 6 temporary travel ban, which replaced another ban from January and expired on Sunday, targeted six Muslim-majority countries. It sparked international outrage and was quickly blocked by federal courts as unconstitutional discrimination or a violation of immigration law. The Sunday proclamation could be less vulnerable to legal attack, according to scholars and other experts, because it is the result of a months-long analysis of foreign vetting procedures by U.S. officials. It also might be less easily tied to Trump’s campaign-trail statements some courts viewed as biased against Muslims.

 

 

Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq’s central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response. To Baghdad, the vote threatens a redrawing Iraq’s borders, taking a sizeable part of the country’s oil wealth with it. For Turkey and Iran, leaders feared the move would embolden their own Kurdish populations. The vote — likely to be a resounding “yes” when official results are revealed later this week — is not binding and will not immediately bring independence to the autonomous region. The Iraqi Kurdish push for independence has been made even more combustible because Kurdish forces captured extensive territory in fighting against the Islamic State group in the past year. Those areas run from northwestern Iraq to the Iranian border on the east — including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Baghdad claims those territories, but the Kurds say they are part of their zone and some residents there are participating in the referendum. The Kurdish region’s president, Masoud Barzani, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi both threatened to use force ahead of Monday’s vote.

 

 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday called early elections for next month and said he would dissolve the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. The move to consolidate his power came as the opposition is largely in disarray and Abe has rebounded in recent polls. His ratings had dropped below 30 percent due to a series of scandals and unpopular policies, but Abe's approval rating has surged to about 50 percent this month, partly due to tensions with North Korea. Analysts say Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party is likely to lose some seats but retain a majority, which could help Abe retain power when his three-year term as party leader ends next September. "For Mr. Abe, now is the time," said Yu Uchiyama, a University of Tokyo politics professor.

 

 

Germans voted Sunday to give Chancellor Angela Merkel her fourth term. Her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party the Christian Social Union (CSU) won 32.5 percent of Bundestag seats, down from 41.5 percent in the last election in 2013 but still forming the largest bloc. Merkel's bloc now heads into what could be months of talks to form a ruling coalition with rival parties. Exit polling suggests the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party — which campaigned on a populist, anti-immigration message — will claim about 13.5 percent of the vote, entering Parliament for the first time and making it the third-largest of the six parties represented in the Bundestag. Merkel said she had hoped for a "better result" and expects "extraordinary challenges" ahead.

 

 

Chelsea Manning said she was turned back at the Canadian-U.S. border because she was convicted of espionage for passing information to Wikileaks. The former U.S. intelligence analyst said via Twitter on Monday that she drove up to the Canadian border in Lacolle, Quebec, on Thursday evening, planning to vacation in Montreal and Vancouver. She said she was stopped at the border and detained overnight before being handed a report stating she was inadmissible “on grounds of serious criminality,” according to a picture of the report she posted online. The offenses Manning was convicted of, under the U.S. Espionage Act, “would equate to an indictable offence, namely Treason” if committed in Canada, the report reads. Manning said she was getting a Canadian lawyer and planned to challenge the finding of inadmissibility before a Canadian tribunal. A spokesman for Canadian immigration said the agency would not comment on the case, citing privacy concerns. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also declined to comment on Monday saying, “I look forward to seeing more details about this."

 

 

Republican senators struggled to gather more support for a last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare on Monday despite revising funding provisions of their bill to make it more attractive to a handful of undecided lawmakers. In hopes of finding more backing, Republican senators leading the effort released a changed version of their bill that included a table showing some states where senators have been undecided, such as Alaska and Maine, would get more money. For seven years, Republicans have hammered former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, which extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, as an unwarranted and costly government intrusion into healthcare, while also opposing taxes it imposed on the wealthy. President Trump made repealing Obamacare one of his top campaign promises in 2016. Democrats have fiercely defended it. A total of three Republican defections would kill off the latest anti-Obamacare effort. Republican Senators John McCain, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have said in recent days they would vote no. Other senators such as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have also voiced reservations.

 

 

Shares of Apple dipped on Monday and flirted with correction territory following a report that the company had told suppliers to scale back shipments of parts for its upcoming iPhone X. Digitimes, citing unnamed sources, reported that Apple suppliers were shipping just 40 percent of the components originally ordered for the premium phone, which goes on sale in early November. That added to concerns on Wall Street about demand for Apple’s new devices after the launch on Friday of the iPhone 8, a less expensive model than the iPhone X, drew smaller crowds than previous launches. Some investors saw the tepid iPhone 8 debut as a sign that customers were holding out for the iPhone X, which boasts an edge-to-edge display and will sell in the United States for $999. Amid a broad selloff in technology shares on Monday, Apple’s stock was last down 0.7 percent, bringing its loss since a record high on Sept. 1 to nine percent. Many investors define a correction as a 10 percent decline. A stock in correction may be viewed as either a buying opportunity or as likely to fall further.

It’s Thursday September 21, 2017

21Sep

00:0000:00

Rescuers labored against the odds on Thursday to extract survivors including school children and five Taiwanese factory workers trapped beneath collapsed buildings in central Mexico following the country’s deadliest earthquake in 32 years. More than 50 survivors have been plucked from disaster sites in Mexico City since Tuesday afternoon’s 7.1-magnitude quake, and first responders, volunteers and spectators joined in chants of “Yes we can!” The death toll now stands at 233. In Mexico City alone, 1,900 were injured. As the chance of survival diminished with each passing hour, officials vowed to press on, heartened by a few success stories. Late on Wednesday night, an 8-year-old girl was rescued from a collapsed building in the Tlalpan neighborhood, nearly 36 hours after the quake, but the fight to save a 12-year-old girl at a collapsed school in the south of the capital faced difficulty. Navy-led rescuers have communicated with her but were still unable to dig her free. Eleven other children were rescued from the same Enrique Rebsamen School, where students are aged roughly 6 to 15. Twenty-one children and four adults there were killed in that school collapse.

 

 

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday increasing economic sanctions on North Korea, aiming to tighten an economic noose around the reculsive regime, just days after Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the country if forced to defend the United States or its allies. The new order enables the U.S. to sanction individual companies and institutions that finance trade with North Korea. It adds to U.S.-led international pressure against Kim Jong Un’s expanded missile and nuclear testing program that has stoked fears of nuclear war and dominated the president’s debut at this week’s U.N. General Assembly. The announcement came as Trump met in New York with leaders from close U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, the nations most imperiled by North Korea’s threats. Trump said the order would also disrupt other trade avenues for North Korea in an effort to halt its nuclear weapons program. He also saluted China’s central bank for what he said was a move to stop its banks from trading with North Korea. China is North Korea’s main trading partner and conduit for international transactions. Washington has been pushing China to scale back economic and financial ties to further isolate Pyongyang.

 

 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security detected five “critical” cyber security weaknesses on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s computers as of January 23, 2017, according to a confidential weekly report reviewed by Reuters. The report’s findings raise fresh questions about a 2016 cyber breach into the U.S. market regulator’s corporate filing system known as “EDGAR.” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton disclosed late Wednesday that the agency learned in August 2017 that hackers may have exploited the 2016 incident for illegal insider-trading. The January DHS report, which shows its weekly findings after scanning computers for cyber weaknesses across most of the federal civilian government agencies, revealed that the SEC at the time had the fourth most “critical” vulnerabilities. It was not clear if the vulnerabilities detected by DHS are directly related to the cyber breach disclosed by the SEC. But it shows that even after the SEC says it patched “promptly” the software vulnerability after the 2016 hack, critical vulnerabilities still plagued the regulator’s systems.

 

 

Senior American and Russian military leaders met for an unprecedented, face-to-face session somewhere in the Middle East this week to discuss the increasing tensions around one of the remaining Islamic State strongholds in Syria. Syrian government forces, Russian special forces and U.S.-backed militants are all battling IS around the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province. The talks are aimed at ensuring safety for all the different fighting elements. Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Pentagon reporters on Thursday that U.S. and Russian general officers shared maps, graphics and information about where their forces are battling around Deir el-Zour. He would not provide details on when or where the meeting occurred, beyond saying it took place in recent days somewhere in the region. Dillon said he was withholding the location of the meeting because there may be follow-up talks. He didn’t say who was present or how long it lasted. Dillon also said that U.S. and Russian ground forces in Syria have been using telephone lines in the past month or so to ensure the forces don’t fire on each other. Tensions are high. The Russian deployment raises the specter of a direct confrontation on the ground between Russian forces and the pro-Syrian troops they back on one side, and the U.S.-supported Kurdish-led forces on the other. U.S. special forces are also operating with the SDF, providing artillery and other support.

 

 

U.N. investigators will help Iraq collect evidence to build potential war crimes cases against Islamic State extremists, under a resolution the Security Council approved Thursday. Iraq, council members and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney portrayed the measure as a key step toward bringing the Islamic State group to justice for atrocities committed since its bloody rise a few years ago. But the advocacy group Human Rights Watch faulted the Security Council for not extending the investigation to abuses by Iraqi and other forces fighting the IS militants. The council voted unanimously to ask the U.N. to establish an investigative team to help Iraq preserve evidence “that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide” committed by IS, variously known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. IS militants seized parts of Iraq in 2014 and proclaimed it a caliphate under Islamic rule. It soon became a realm of horrors, including mass killings, beheadings and rapes. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces retook the country’s second-largest city of Mosul from the extremists in July. The forces have now driven IS from most of the land it had seized in Iraq, retaking all the major urban areas, although the group still controls some pockets in Iraq as well as territory in Syria. Iraq and Britain have spearheaded the investigative measure.

 

 

Rescuers fanned out to reach stunned victims Thursday after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, knocking out electricity to the entire island and triggering landslides and floods. The extent of the damage is unknown given that dozens of municipalities remained isolated and without communication after Maria hit the island Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years. Uprooted trees and widespread flooding blocked many highways and streets across the island of 3.4 million residents, creating a maze that forced drivers to go against traffic and past police cars that used loudspeakers to warn people they must respect a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed by the governor to ensure everyone’s safety. People resorted to rafts and kayaks to get around because flooding made many roads impassable. President Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for Puerto Rico. Maria hit Puerto Rico as the third-strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S., based on its central pressure. It was even stronger than Hurricane Irma when that storm roared into the Florida Keys earlier this month. Maria has caused at least 19 deaths across the Caribbean, including more than 15 in the hard-hit island of Dominica and two in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe.

 

 

Facebook said it plans to share some 3,000 political ads with U.S. congressional investigators - ads that it says Russia-based operatives ran on Facebook in the months before and after last year’s U.S. presidential election. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who has been under pressure to do more to prevent the use of Facebook for election manipulation, said in a live broadcast on Facebook that he supported the investigation by the U.S. Congress. Zuckerberg laid out nine steps that he said Facebook was taking to deter governments from using the world’s largest social network to interfere with elections. In one major change, he said Facebook will make political ads on the social network more transparent, so that people can see which ads are being run in connection with an election. Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said in a separate blog post that the social network does not disclose content lightly under any circumstances, but that the company wants to help protect the integrity of U.S. elections. He said, “We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election."

 

 

Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information. It is part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies. Government employees who hold security clearances undergo background checks and extensive training in safeguarding classified information. Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep “Controlled Unclassified Information” from unauthorized disclosure.

 

 

A bat infestation prompted a Salt Lake City high school to cancel its after-school programs so school workers could root out the flying mammals. Janitors at the city’s West High School rounded up more than 300 bats from Monday through Wednesday, prompting the school to close its doors Wednesday afternoon. Some flying bats were caught in midflight by janitors using butterfly nets. Others were found sleeping in classroom corners. Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen says the high school lies in a migratory bat path. But the number of bats this year was above average. Students who may have come into contact with the bats were encouraged to speak with Salt Lake County Health Department personnel who were at the school on Wednesday. The captured bats were relocated.

 

 

An intact German World War I submarine containing the bodies of 23 people has been found off the coast of Belgium. Authorities said that the find on the floor of the North Sea “is very unique.” Western Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwe said, “The impact damage was at the front, but the submarine remains closed and there are 23 people still onboard.” The UB II-type dive boat that was found is 88 feet long and almost 20 feet wide, and is lying at about a 45 degree angle, about 90 feet below the surface of the sea. The damage to the front of the vessel shows that the sub may have struck a mine with its upper deck. Two torpedo tubes were destroyed but the lower tube was intact and closed. Officials said the U-boat was found by researchers, and the location was being kept secret until the site has been protected. Allied warships and cargo ships were easy pickings for the German subs that were launched from Bruges, just across the English Channel. 18 U-boats were stationed with the Flanders Flotilla in Bruges between 1915 and 1918. Thirteen of them were destroyed. It’s the 11th such wreck to be found in Belgian waters.

 

It’s Wednesday September 20, 2017

20Sep

00:0000:00

Rescuers said Wednesday they have found a surviving child in the ruins of a school that collapsed in Mexico’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake, one of many efforts across the city to save people trapped in under schools, homes and businesses toppled by a quake that killed more than 225 people. Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours before it hit, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date. The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets. 40 percent of Mexico City and 60 percent of nearby Morelos state were without power. Tuesday's earthquake -- which hit at about 2:14 p.m. ET near the town of Raboso in Puebla state, according to the United States Geological Survey -- comes 12 days after a magnitude-8.1 quake struck off Mexico's southern Pacific coast, killing dozens of people. That Sept. 7 earthquake devastated Juchitan, Oaxaca, where at least 36 people died and one-third of that city's homes collapsed or were rendered uninhabitable.

 

 

One of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit Puerto Rico pummeled the island Wednesday, tearing off roofs and doors, toppling cell towers and unleashing heavy flooding in an onslaught that could deepen the U.S. territory’s financial crisis. Maria, which left at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, blew ashore in the morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 155 mph. At least 20 inches of rain brought widespread flooding across the island, with dozens of cars half-submerged in some neighborhoods and many streets turned into rivers. Maria was the first hurricane of Category 4 strength or higher in 85 years to hit the US territory. Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged the territory's 3.3 million people to have faith saying, “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.” He later asked President Donald Trump to declare the island a disaster zone, a step that would open the way to federal aid. According to officials, the entire island territory is without power, and both of the National Weather Service radars were damaged and inoperative. The storm threatened to ravage the island’s already crumbling power grid and worsen its economic woes. Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure a portion of its $73 billion public debt, and the government has warned it is running out of money as it deals with furloughs and other austerity measures imposed by a federal board overseeing the island’s finances.

 

 

The United States and Iran will have their highest-level interaction of Donald Trump’s presidency on Wednesday, a day after the American leader delivered a blistering attack on the Islamic Republic and the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that he appears poised to walk away from. A year ago, such a get-together would have been considered routine as nations strove to implement an agreement that curtailed Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for ending various oil, trade and financial restrictions on the country. In the current environment, however, the meeting is anything but ordinary. Trump said Wednesday he had made a decision on whether to withdraw from the agreement but would not say what it was, setting the stage for a particularly contentious meeting of the parties to the deal. “I’ve decided,” he told reporter. Asked for details, he replied coyly: I’ll let you know.” Trump used his U.N. General Assembly speech on Tuesday to launch a withering critique of Iran, saying its government “masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy” and ruthlessly represses its own people. Iran rejects that it has broken the agreement, and a U.N. report this month pointed to no Iranian violations. In comments broadcast shortly before Trump’s speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Trump that exiting the nuclear deal would “carry a high cost.”

 

 

South Korea said that President Trump’s Tuesday speech to the United Nations reinforced the need for Pyongyang to realize it must give up its nuclear weapons. In a hard-edged speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man” for his repeated ballistic missile tests, and warned the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if threatened. The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a statement on Wednesday, “It clearly showed how seriously the United States government views North Korea’s nuclear program as the president spent an unusual amount of time discussing the issue," and “reaffirmed that North Korea should be made to realize denuclearization is the only way to the future through utmost sanctions and pressure.” Moon came to power in May on a platform of more engagement with North Korea. Since Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear test earlier on Sept. 3, however, Moon has said the time is not right for dialogue. Moon and Trump were scheduled to meet in New York on Wednesday.

 

 

Nations on Wednesday began signing the first treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact backed by over 100 countries but spurned by those with nuclear arms. The U.N. treaty office said 51 countries are expected to attach their names on the opening day for signatures. Brazilian President Michel Temer was first to sign. The treaty requires all countries that eventually ratify it not to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons “under any circumstances. The treaty requires all countries that eventually ratify it not to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons “under any circumstances. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the signing ceremony saying,“This treaty is an important milestone towards the universally held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons” at a time of increasing concern about their risk. More than 120 countries approved the nuclear ban in early July over strong opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their allies, who boycotted the negotiations. Supporters of the pact say it’s time to push harder toward eliminating atomic weapons than nations have done through the nearly 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 

 

The United States will contribute nearly $32 million in humanitarian aid to help Rohingya Muslim refugees, according to the State Department on Wednesday. It is the Trump administration’s first major response to the mass exodus from Myanmar. The new money for food, medical care, water, sanitation and shelter comes as the U.S. joins a growing chorus of international condemnation over the minority group’s plight. In less than a month, some 421,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, as the United Nations and others raise allegations of ethnic cleansing. Last month, Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces, leading to a military crackdown in which Rohingya villages have been burned and hundreds killed. The Rohingya live mainly in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, near the Bangladesh border, and have had a long and difficult history in the predominantly Buddhist nation. The $32 million brings the total the U.S. has given in humanitarian aid for Myanmar refugees and related issues this budget year to roughly $95 million. Although the crisis has worsened sharply in recent weeks, hundreds of thousands more Rohingya were already in Bangladesh from waves of violence years earlier, while others were displaced within Myanmar.

 

 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on Wednesday to implement “daring policies” targeting taxes, the budget and regulations to promote domestic investment as well as promising to push for further corporate governance reforms. Abe, in a speech to investors at the New York Stock Exchange, offered no firm details of the promised reforms, but said he was “absolutely” confident his government could deliver changes that would offset a dwindling population and other challenges facing the world’s third-largest economy. Abe made a plea to investors in the audience to put money into Japan’s equity markets. Abe has faced investor skepticism that “Abenomics” - a mixture of fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and reforms he announced almost five years ago - can alter the outlook for Japan’s economy and new business ventures. Abe made no comment on an expected snap election in Japan - a decision he had said he would make after returning home from the United States on Friday. A solid victory would boost Abe’s chances of a third term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader in a party election next September, putting him on track to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.

 

 

London Metropolitan police arrested two more men early Wednesday in connection with last week's bombing of a subway car in Parsons Green. Police said they arrested two men, ages 48 and 30, in Wales. A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening, also in Wales. The total number of people held in the attack is now five. Thirty people were injured in the attack on Sept. 15 at the Parsons Green subway stop in London. Police said an apparent bucket bomb exploded during the Friday morning commute, injuring 30 people. All of the injuries were considered minor. Authorities said the bomb did not fully explode, likely limiting the number of casualties. The terror threat was lowered to severe from critical over the weekend, but police warned on Wednesday that the public should remain vigilant and report any unusual activity.

 

 

Federal prosecutors say former congressman Anthony Weiner should go to prison for about two years for engaging in sexting with a 15-year-old girl. Prosecutors filed papers in Manhattan federal court Wednesday urging a judge to send a message at sentencing Monday. The 53-year-old New York Democrat said in a submission last week that he’s undergoing treatment and is profoundly sorry for subjecting the North Carolina high school student to what his lawyers called his “deep sickness.” Prosecutors say he’s promised in the past that he’s reformed. Defense lawyers had portrayed the girl as an aggressor, saying she wanted to generate material for a book and possibly influence the presidential election. As part of a plea bargain, Weiner has agreed not to appeal any sentence between 21 and 27 months.

 

 

Airbus on Wednesday opened its Chinese completion plant for A330 jets, with hopes that an increased presence in the world’s fastest growing aviation market would help boost demand for the firm’s profitable but ageing wide-body jets. The European aerospace giant marked the opening of center in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin with the delivery of the first A330 jet from the plant to Tianjin Airlines. Airbus already has a final assembly line for single-aisle A320 jets in Tianjin, which began operations in 2008. At the center just opened, Airbus will perform tasks such as aircraft painting, cabin installations as well as flight tests on aircraft received from Airbus’ final assembly line in Toulouse, France. Airbus’ main U.S. rival, Boeing, is also ramping up its footprint in the country as it vies for orders. It has said it will build a 737 completion plant in eastern China with planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China.

 

 

Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion whose life in and out of the ring was depicted in the film “Raging Bull,” for which Robert De Niro won an Academy Award, has died. He was 95. LaMotta died Tuesday at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia. DeNiro issued a statement saying, “Rest in Peace, Champ.” The Bronx Bull, as he was known in his fighting days, compiled an 83-19-4 record with 30 knockouts, in a career that began in 1941 and ended in 1954. LaMotta fought the great Sugar Ray Robinson six times, handing Robinson the first defeat of his career and losing the middleweight title to him in a storied match. The 1980 film “Raging Bull,” based on LaMotta’s memoir written 10 years earlier, was nominated for eight Academy Awards. De Niro, who gained 50 pounds to portray the older, heavier LaMotta, won the best actor award. A funeral in Miami and a memorial service in New York City are being planned.

 

 

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is creating an entertainment investment company as the deeply conservative kingdom loosens the reins on fun. The kingdom's Public Investment Fund announced Wednesday it will develop the new company with an initial capitalization worth $2.7 billion. Its aim will be to provide investment capital to Saudi Arabia's nascent entertainment industry, which aims to create around 22,000 jobs in the country by 2030. The kingdom is already in talks to open a Six Flags theme park. In an effort to grow the economy and diversify revenue streams away from oil, where prices remain at half of what they were in 2014, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has outlined plans to double what Saudi families spend locally on entertainment.

It’s Tuesday September 19, 2017

19Sep

00:0000:00

A powerful earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, cracking building facades and scattering rubble on streets in the capital on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City. Thousands of people fled office buildings and hugged to calm each other along Mexico City’s central Reforma Avenue as alarms blared, and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument. In the Roma neighborhood, which was struck hard by the 1985 quake, piles of stucco and brick fallen from building facades littered the streets. Pictures fell from office building walls, objects were shaken off of flat surfaces and computer monitors toppled over. Some people dove for cover under desks. Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city’s normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down. Earlier in the day workplaces across the city held preparation drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.1 shake, which killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of Mexico City. Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

 

 

Dominica’s leader sent out an emotional call for help as Category 5 Hurricane Maria smashed into the Caribbean island, causing “mind-boggling” devastation, but an ominous silence followed as the island lost all communications on Tuesday and the hurricane took aim at Puerto Rico. The governor of the U.S. territory warned that Maria could hit “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations.” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page as the storm blew over the tiny country late Monday — but then stopped suddenly as phone and internet connections with the country were cut. A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofing tearing off houses on the small rugged island. He said that even his own roof had blown away. In the last message before falling silent, he appealed for international aid: “We will need help, my friends, we will need help of all kinds.” Officials say one person has died on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe after being hit by a falling tree. It’s the first death attributed to the Category 5 storm. The National Hurricane Center said Maria weakened briefly before recovering sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph). Forecasters warned Maria would remain a Category 4 or 5 storm until it moves over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

 

 

President Donald Trump, in a combative debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the nation’s “Rocket man” leader does not abandon his drive toward nuclear weapons. Trump, who has ramped up his rhetoric throughout the escalating crisis with North Korea, told the murmuring crowd of world leaders on Tuesday that “it is far past time for the nations of the world to confront” Kim Jong Un and said that Kim’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons” poses a threat to “the entire world with an unthinkable loss of human life.” Trump said, “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime," using a belittling nickname for the North Korean leader. He said of the U.S.: “If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” In dark language reminiscent of his “American carnage” inaugural address, Trump touched upon hot spots around the globe, declaring, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.” He urged nations to join to stop Iran’s nuclear program — he declared the deal to restrain it an “embarrassment” for the United States — and defeat “loser terrorists” who have struck violence across the globe. He denounced “radical Islamic terrorism,” the inflammatory label he has recently shied away from. He denounced the Syrian government and warned that some violence-plagued portions of the world “are going to hell.” He made little mention of Russia. Elected on the nationalist slogan “America First,” Trump argued that individual nations should act in their own self-interest, yet rally together when faced with a common threat.

 

 

U.S. investigators wiretapped President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after last year's election, CNN reported, citing several people with knowledge of the situation. Three people said the intelligence collected suggested that Manafort may have encouraged Russians to help with the Trump campaign, although the evidence was not conclusive. The order was authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and started after Manafort became the subject of a 2014 FBI investigation focused on work he did consulting Ukraine's Part of Regions. The surveillance ended in 2016, then started up again and extended into early 2017, one of CNN's sources said. The information has been passed along to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.

 

 

Arizona’s governor has endorsed a last-minute effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, potentially giving a key skeptic of past repeal efforts, Sen. John McCain, more reason to vote yes this time. The governor, Doug Ducey, announced on Twitter Monday afternoon that he supported legislation from GOP senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham. McCain, who cast a decisive third Republican vote against repeal in July, has not yet declared how he would vote. The bill calls for replacing the Affordable Care Act with direct grants to the states. The money to states would decline over time, relative to what states stand to get current law, and in 2027 it would disappear altogether unless Congress appropriated it anew. It would also let states waive rules protecting people with pre-existing conditions, while eliminating the individual mandate, which is the requirement that people either carry insurance or pay a fine.

 

 

President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has given up his Secret Service protection, seeking more privacy. Trump Jr is an executive at the Trump Organization and lives in New York City. Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, is also is losing her Secret Service protection. The moves are unrelated, but could provide relief to an agency whose resources have been strained by the demands of protecting the president's large family and inner circle during frequent business and leisure trips.

 

 

Spain expelled North Korea's ambassador on Monday, giving the diplomat until the end of the month to leave Madrid. It is the fourth country to kick out Pyongyang's representative since the isolated communist regime conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, following similar moves by Mexico, Peru, and Kuwait. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis hinted on Monday that the U.S. had military options to contain North Korea's defiance in the face of international calls to rein in its missile and nuclear weapons programs, adding that the U.S. actions could spare South Korea from a devastating counterattack.

 

 

Work is underway in Paris to boost security at the Eiffel Tower as an anti-terrorism measure. City hall officials said they are installing bulletproof glass walls around the world's most visited monument. The changes come after a string of jihadist attacks in the French capital over the past two years in which more than 200 people have died. The bulletproof glass wall will be installed around the monument's gardens under the 30-million-euro ($36-million), nine-month project. Visited by six to seven million people each year, the Eiffel Tower already has a permanent police patrol. Officials said the renovations will not disrupt visitors' arrival and that tourists would still be able to walk up to the tower for free, after passing through security checks. City officials are trying to upgrade the site without denting visitor numbers as Paris prepares to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

 

 

Toys 'R' Us Inc., the nation's largest toy store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection late Monday. The retailer has been struggling under a heavy debt load since a buyout more than a decade ago. Its troubles mark the latest in a series of setbacks for brick-and-mortar retailers due to tough competition from Amazon and other online retailers, along with falling mall traffic. Under bankruptcy protection, Toys 'R' Us will try to restructure $400 million in debt due next year. "This filing is really a buildup of financial problems over the past 15 years," said Jim Silver, an industry analyst and the editor of toy-review site TTPM.com. "Finally, the straw broke the camel's back."

It’s Monday September 18, 2017

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President Donald Trump made his debut at the United Nations on Monday, using his first appearance to urge the 193-nation organization to reduce bureaucracy and costs while more clearly defining its mission around the world. But while Trump chastised the U.N. — an organization he sharply criticized as a candidate for president — he said the United States would “pledge to be partners in your work” in order to make the body a more effective force for peace across the globe. The president pushed the U.N. to focus “more on people and less on bureaucracy” and to change “business as usual and not be beholden to ways of the past which were not working.” He also suggested that the U.S. was paying more than its fair share to keep the New York-based world body operational. Trump’s big moment comes Tuesday, when he delivers his first address to a session of the U.N. General Assembly. The annual gathering of world leaders will open amid serious concerns about Trump’s priorities, including his policy of “America First,” his support for the U.N. and a series of global crises. It will be the first time world leaders will be in the same room and able to take the measure of Trump.

 

 

A U.N. panel on Monday said two Iranian-Americans serving 10-year prison sentences on spying charges in Iran should be immediately freed and paid restitution, calling their "arbitrary" detention part of an "emerging pattern" by Tehran of targeting dual nationals. The decision by a group of U.N. experts on the case of Siamak and Baquer Namazi comes as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends the world body's annual meeting in New York. Siamak Namazi, a 46-year-old businessman who promoted closer ties between Iran and the West, was arrested in October 2015. His 81-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah, was arrested in February 2016, apparently drawn to Iran over fears about his incarcerated son. Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance. The two Namazis, like other dual nationals, faced secret charges in closed-door hearings in Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

 

 

The U.S. Navy has fired two senior commanders in the Pacific region in connection with recent deadly collisions of Navy ships, as part of a sweeping purge of leadership in the Japan-based fleet. The announcement comes a day before the top U.S. Navy officer and the Navy secretary are scheduled to go to Capitol Hill for a hearing on the ship crashes. Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of the Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet, fired Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, citing a loss of confidence in their ability to command. Williams was the commander of Task Force 70, which includes the aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers in the 7th Fleet, and Bennett was commander of the destroyer squadron. Last month, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who previously led 7th Fleet, was relieved of duty. The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided in Southeast Asia last month, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead and five injured. And seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan. The latest dismissals bring the number of fired senior commanders to six, including the top three officers of the Fitzgerald.The Pacific Fleet is in the process of carrying out a ship-by-ship review of its vessels, looking at navigation, mechanical systems, bridge resource management and training.

 

 

The top official in charge of security for the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, is among at least 21 Americans affected by mysterious attacks that have triggered a range of injuries. Regional Security Officers are key members of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security overseeing the safety and security of each U.S. embassy and their personnel. Cuba's President Raúl Castro suggested in February that the attacks could have been caused by a "rogue element," and some analysts and sources close to the U.S. investigation have pointed to the possibility that a third country is behind the attacks, perhaps a U.S. adversary like Iran, North Korea or Russia. Although the U.S. has not publicly blamed Cuba for the attacks, on May 23, the State Department asked two Cuban embassy officials in Washington to leave the country. They departed the U.S. a week later, on May 30. Cuba has denied any involvement.

 

 

Four American college students attacked with acid at a train station in France have offered compassion and prayers for their assailant, who authorities say suffers from a mental illness. French authorities have said they don’t believe extremist views motivated the 41-year-old woman arrested in the attack on the four Boston College students, who are studying abroad. One of the students, Courtney Siverling, said in a post on Facebook that she was not injured and that all the women are “safe.” The four were attacked Sunday morning at the Saint Charles train station in the southern French city of Marseille. Police in France described the suspect as “disturbed” and said the attack was not thought to be terror-related. The women were released from the hospital and expected to return to Paris on Monday. A spokesperson for Boston College said the four women intend to remain in Europe to continue their studies.

 

 

Hurricane Maria grew into a Category 3 storm on Monday as it barreled toward a potentially devastating collision with islands in the eastern Caribbean. Forecasters warned it was likely to grow even stronger. The storm was on a path that would take it near many of the islands already wrecked by Hurricane Irma and then on toward Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The National Weather Service in San Juan said Maria could hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane. On Monday the U.S. territory imposed rationing of basic supplies including water, milk, baby formula, canned foods, batteries, flashlights and other items. The National Hurricane Center said Maria had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph Monday afternoon. Hurricane warnings were posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique and St. Lucia. A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Anguilla.

 

 

A Los Angeles area engineer who worked for a defense contractor was sentenced Monday to 60 months in prison for selling sensitive satellite data to a person he believed to be an agent of a Russian intelligence service. 50 year old Gregory Allen Justice, who worked as an engineer on military and commercial satellite programs, was sentenced by United States District Judge George Wu. Justice pleaded guilty in May to two counts of attempting to commit economic espionage, and attempting to send restricted information out of the United States in violation the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. As part of the plea, Justice admitted that he stole proprietary trade secrets from his employer and provided them to a person he believed to be a Russian agent – but who in fact was an undercover FBI employee. The Department of Justice said the engineer received thousands of dollars in cash payments during a series of meetings between February and July of 2016 in exchange for providing documents containing classified technical data.

 

 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday his government could stop doing business with Boeing if the U.S. aereospace company doesn’t drop a trade complaint against Canadian plane maker Bombardier. Trudeau said that Canada “won’t do business with a company that’s busy trying to sue us and put our aerospace workers out of business.” Canada had been in talks to purchase 18 Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing, but those have been on hold because of the Bombardier dispute. Trudeau’s comments are Canada’s strongest yet. Boeing’s complaint claims that Bombardier’s new C-Series passenger aircraft receives Canadian government subsidies that give it an advantage internationally. The complaint prompted a U.S. Commerce Department anti-dumping investigation that could result in penalties for Bombardier. A preliminary decision is expected next week and a final decision could include financial penalties. Brazil has also launched a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization over Canadian subsidies to Bombardier. Sao Paolo-based Embraer is a fierce rival of Bombardier’s.

 

 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says pharmaceutical companies have agreed to work on nonaddictive pain medications and additional treatments to deal with opioid addiction. The Republican governor made the announcement in Trenton on Monday, shortly after he convened a meeting of the White House opioid commission that he chairs. Christie says the agreements with the pharmaceutical companies were a key recommendation that the opioid commission made in an interim report it sent to President Trump in July. In a statement issued after the meeting, Christie stressed that the public and private sectors must join together to quickly address this “public health crisis.”

 

 

The Dallas Cowboys are not only are the NFL’s most valuable franchise for the 11th straight year, they are the top-valued team in the world. According to Forbes magazine, their worth increased 14 percent in the last year, reaching $4.8 billion. That’s more than $1 billion ahead of the New England Patriots worth $3.7 billion. Rounding out the NFL’s top five are the New York Giants at $3.3 billion, the Washington Redskins at $3.1 billion, and San Francisco 49ers at $3.05 billion. The average NFL franchise is worth $2.52 billion, an increase of 8 percent since 2016. Much of that can be attributed to rights fees and new stadiums or stadium renovations. Every team is worth at least a billion, with the Buffalo Bills last on the list at $1.6 billion. The Falcons had the highest increase in value, up 16 percent to more than $2.47 billion. The NFC Champions just moved into a $1.5 billion stadium in Atlanta. Forbes reported earlier this year that the average major league baseball franchise is worth $1.54 billion. Globally, according to Forbes’ rankings of July, the Dallas Cowboys are followed by baseball’s New York Yankees at $3.7 billion, a figure the New England Patriots have now tied. Next in the global ranking, three European soccer teams; Manchester United at $3.69 billion, FC Barcelona at $3.64 billion and Real Madrid at $3.58 billion.

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