Former President Bush is in the hospital… again - That’s in the news on this Wednesday April 24, 2018

24Apr

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The driver suspected of killing 10 people and injuring 15 others when he plowed a rental van into pedestrians in Toronto made his first court appearance on Tuesday, where details of a motive for the attack were expected to emerge. A judge ordered 25-year-old Alex Minassian detained on 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 of attempted murder. Police said there were many witnesses and surveillance cameras to help investigators determine what happened. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the driver's actions "definitely look deliberate." Investigators have not ruled out terrorism, although they found no immediate ties to any organized group. Witnesses said the victims included a man who was crossing the street and several who were on the sidewalk. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says authorities see no national security element in the seeming attack on pedestrians in Canada’s largest city. Trudeau says the incident “hasn’t changed the overall threat level in Canada,” though it occurred as Cabinet ministers from the G7 nations are meeting in Toronto.

 

 

 

Nashville police on Monday arrested Travis Reinking, the 29-year-old man suspected of opening fire in a local Waffle House over the weekend. Police say he is refusing to answer questions. Reinking, of Illinois, fled after allegedly killing four people and injuring four others early Sunday in the restaurant. He fled the scene nude after being disarmed by Waffle House patron James Shaw Jr. and had been the subject of an intense manhunt. Reinking was arrested last July by the Secret Service on charges that he was in a restricted area outside the White House, and had four of his guns seized, including the AR-15 rifle police said he used in Sunday's shooting.

 

 

 

President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron started the first official state visit of Trump's presidency on Monday night with a private dinner at Mount Vernon, George Washington's house. On Tuesday, the two leaders are scheduled to meet to discuss security, trade, and the Iran nuclear deal. "This is a great honor and I think a very important state visit given the moment of our current environment," Macron said as he arrived in the U.S. for the three-day visit. Trump has threatened to ditch the Iran nuclear deal, and Macron is expected to use his strong bond with Trump to press him to stick with it as European leaders work on tightening restrictions on Tehran. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will reinforce the message when she visits the U.S. on Friday.

 

 

 

Former President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized for treatment of an infection that spread to his blood. The senior Bush, who is 93 and father of former President George W. Bush, was admitted shortly after the Saturday funeral of his wife, Barbara, who died last week at the age of 92. She was laid to rest Saturday in a ceremony attended by her husband and former presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and their wives, along with current first lady Melania Trump. Mrs. Bush and her husband had been married 73 years — the longest presidential marriage in U.S. history. A spokesman for Bush said the former president is "responding to treatments and appears to be recovering," and said, "the 41st president was eager to get well so he can get to his summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.." Bush has used a wheelchair or electric scooter to get around since being diagnosed with a form of Parkinson's disease. He has been hospitalized several times in recent years for respiratory problems.

 

 

 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly backed CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state on Monday. Pompeo had been in danger of becoming the first nominee for the top U.S. diplomatic position to get a negative vote from the committee, although the full Senate is expected to confirm him mostly along party lines. President Trump personally intervened to win over committee member Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had said he would vote against recommending Pompeo's confirmation, but changed his mind at the last minute, saying he had received assurances that Pompeo, like Trump, believes "the Iraq War was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan." At least three Democrats have said they would back Pompeo in the full Senate's vote, virtually assuring his confirmation.

 

 

 

Relatives of music legend Prince filed a lawsuit against the hospital that treated him for an opioid overdose a week before he died, saying the facility gave him improper medical care. The family members filed the suit days after Carver County, Minnesota, prosecutors said they could not determine where Prince got the drugs that killed him, and that they would not file criminal charges in connection with the singer's death. Prince, 57, took a fatal dose of what he apparently believed was a prescription opioid-like Vicodin before he was admitted to the hospital. Six days later, he is believed to have taken a counterfeit drug again, and that dose killed him.

 

 

 

Facebook on Tuesday published its 27-page guidelines for its content moderators to clarify what posts it decides to take down. The move came after Facebook critics called for more transparency from the social network after the revelation that data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which did work for the Trump campaign, improperly accessed information on tens of millions of Facebook users. Facebook's community standards guidelines tell its thousands of human censors how to handle topics such as hate speech, violent imagery, misrepresentation, terrorist propaganda, and disinformation. "We want people to know our standards and we want to give people clarity," said Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management.

 

 

 

The government of Ethiopia is demanding that Britain permanently return all artifacts from Ethiopia held by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Addis Ababa will not accept them on loan. The call comes after the museum, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, put Ethiopian treasures plundered by British forces in 1868 on display. Among the items on display are sacred manuscripts and gold taken from the Battle of Maqdala 150 years ago, when British troops ransacked the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II. The offer of a loan did not go far enough for Ethiopia. Government minister Hirut Woldemariam said, “What we have asked (for) was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago. We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it." Ephrem Amare, Ethiopian National Museum director, added: “It is clearly known where these treasures came from and whom they belong to. Our main demand has never been to borrow them. Ethiopia’s demand has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them.”

South Korea halts propaganda broadcasts ahead of summit with North - Tha’s the news for Monday April 23, 2018

23Apr

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South Korea on Monday turned off loudspeakers that it had used to blast K-Pop music and other propaganda into North Korea. The decision came ahead of the historic Friday summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The South's Defense Ministry said the move was intended to "ease military tensions and create a peaceful mood" for the summit. "We hope that our move today will result in South and North Korea ending mutual slandering and propaganda against each other and creating a peaceful new beginning," the ministry said. Over the weekend, Kim announced that his country would halt tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and shut down his country's nuclear test site.

 

 

 

Authorities said Travis Reinking, the fugitive suspected in the shooting that left four dead at a Nashville Waffle House restaurant over the weekend, was arrested last July outside the White House complex. According to the Secret Service, the 29-year-old crossed a security barrier and refused to leave, saying he "wanted to set up a meeting with the president." Reinking was released, but police in his home state of Illinois seized four guns from him. His father got them back, promising to keep them secure. One of the weapons was the AR-15 used in the Waffle House shooting. Police searched for Reinking overnight after he fled on foot. Waffle House customer James Shaw Jr., who disarmed the attacker, said, "I saw an opportunity and I took it."

 

 

 

Air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition killed at least 20 people attending a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen late on Sunday. Medical sources in Hajjah told Reuters by telephone that the hospital had received 40 bodies, and that 46 people had been injured, including 30 children, in air strikes that hit a wedding gathering. The Western-backed alliance has been fighting a war for three years against the armed Houthi movement which controls the area and much of northern Yemen. It has launched thousands of air strikes in a campaign to restore the internationally recognized government. Errant strikes have killed hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools, and markets. The coalition says it does not target civilians and has set up an investigation committee into alleged mass casualty air strikes which have mostly cleared the coalition of any blame. According to the U.N., the Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of famine.

 

 

 

A Belgian court on Monday convicted Salah Abdeslam, the surviving suspect in the 2015 Paris terror attacks, over the shootout with Brussels police that led to his 2016 arrest. The judge sentenced Abdeslam, 28, to 20 years in prison, as well as Abdeslam's co-defendant, Sofien Ayari. Both were found guilty of terror-related attempted murder charges. The duo shot at officers during a raid on an apartment that ended four months on the run for Abdeslam. He is being held in France, where he soon goes to trial for the Paris attacks, which were linked to the Islamic State and left 130 people dead.

 

 

 

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said Sunday that his government has canceled the proposed changes to social security that provoked days of deadly protests. Ortega said in a televised address that the Central American country's social security system board had voted to revoke the planned changes. The news came after violent protests resulted in the looting of dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital city of Managua. At least seven people were killed, with human rights groups putting the death toll over the last several days at 26 or more. Hundreds of other people have been injured. The dead included a journalist who was shot while doing a Facebook Live broadcast.

 

 

 

Thirty-two Chinese tourists and four North Koreans were killed in a traffic accident in North Korea, Chinese officials said Monday. Two other Chinese tourists were injured and hospitalized in "acutely serious condition," China's Foreign Ministry said. Beijing sent a medical team over the border to help. Video footage broadcast in China showed a mangled bus flanked by rescue vehicles. In the footage, it was dark and rain was falling heavily. China shares a long border with North Korea and is the isolated communist-run nation's largest trading partner.

 

 

 

Southwest Airlines canceled about 40 flights Sunday as the company ramped up engine inspections on its Boeing 737s following a mid-air engine explosion that killed one passenger on a flight last week. The airline voluntarily announced inspections of the CFM56-type engines, which power most of its fleet, after the accident. Investigators believe the accident last week started when one of the engine's fan blades broke off. Southwest said it has "minimized flight disruptions" by routing aircraft, including spare planes, to cover open trips. A spokesperson said the roughly 40 flights canceled Sunday were out of a schedule of 4,000 flights.

 

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron heads to Washington on Monday for a meeting with President Trump. Macron will be making the first visit to the U.S. of his young presidency as he faces strikes by public employees over his ambitious domestic reform package. Macron has alienated himself from some of his fellow leaders by courting a close relationship with Trump, who has responded by inviting Macron to make the first formal state visit of the Trump presidency. A key topic for the two leaders will be the nuclear agreement with Iran, which Trump has criticized as a bad deal but Macron and other European leaders insist must be upheld. Macron also is expected to argue the U.S. should not pull out of Syria.

 

 

 

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has punished U.S. companies that refused to sign exclusive contracts by taking steps to cut traffic to their online storefronts, The Associated Press reported Monday, citing executives from five major consumer brands. One major clothing company said it had been expecting a 20 percent jump in online sales on Alibaba's Tmall. After it declined an exclusive contract and participated in a sale promotion with Alibaba rival JD.com Inc., the company's advertising banners disappeared from prime Tmall spots and sales plunged by up to 20 percent. "That's a clear manipulation of traffic," the brand's e-commerce director said. "That's a clear punishment." Alibaba denied punishing companies, but said some choose exclusive contracts to take advantage of "attractive services and value."

 

 

 

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and wife of Britain’s Prince William gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Monday. The baby, now fifth in line to the throne, was born at 1001 London time and weighed 8 lbs 7oz - or 3.8 kg. William was present for the birth at St Mary’s Hospital in west London where their other two children, George and Charlotte, were also born. Kensington Palace said, “Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well,” and said Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, the baby’s grandfather, and other members of the royal family and Kate’s family have been informed and “are delighted with the news." The palace also said the name of the new royal will be announced in due course. Bookmakers have made Albert, Arthur, Jack and Fred the favorite names for a boy. A 2013 change to the law means that for the first time in British history, a new prince will not supplant his older sister in the order of succession. Previously younger males would take precedence over older female siblings. William’s younger brother Harry, who marries U.S. actress Meghan Markle next month, falls to sixth on the list.

North & South Korea now have a hotline connecting their leaders - That’s in the news for Friday April 20, 2018

20Apr

00:0000:00

North and South Korea set up and successfully tested the first telephone hotline between their leaders on Friday in preparation for a rare summit next week. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un plan to have their first telephone conversation over the hotline before they meet next Friday to discuss the diplomatic standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The summit will be just the third between the leaders of North and South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim also plans to meet with President Trump this summer. Moon said Pyongyang has dropped its call for U.S. troops to leave South Korea before it will discuss denuclearization.

 

 

 

The United States said it has credible information that Russia and Syria are trying to “sanitize” the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria while denying access to the area by international inspectors. A State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said the team of inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had not been given access to the site of the alleged attack in the town of Douma on April 7. She said, “Russian officials have worked with the Syrian regime, we believe, to sanitize the locations of the suspected attacks and remove incriminating evidence of chemical weapons use." While repeating that Syria was responsible for the attacks, Nauert also said the United States had credible information that “people on the ground have been pressured by both Russia and Syria to try to change their stories.” Western countries say scores of people were gassed to death in the attack. Russia and its ally deny that. The United States, Britain, and France fired missiles at Syrian targets on Saturday in retaliation for the suspected chemical use.

 

 

 

Two sheriff's deputies were killed at a restaurant in Florida by a shooter who fired through a window and was found dead outside the business. The Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office said the deputies were eating at the Ace China restaurant in the small town of Trenton when they were shot around 3 p.m. Sheriff Bobby Schultz said Sgt. Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey were killed by a "coward." Ramirez, who was 30, had been a law enforcement officer for about seven years and Lindsey was 25 years old. Police have identified the shooter as a 59-year-old man from Bell, Florida, but haven't released additional information about him. The department said they have no apparent motive or indications as to why this tragedy occurred. Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked Floridians to honor the fallen deputies and other law enforcement officers. Trenton, where the shooting took place, is a town with 2,300 residents located about 30 miles west of Gainesville.

 

 

 

Federal regulators plan to fine Wells Fargo as much as $1 billion as early as Friday for abuses tied to its auto-lending and mortgage businesses. The New York Times and other news outlets report the potential $1 billion fine would be largest ever imposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the bank’s main national regulator, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog bureau set up after the Great Recession. The fine against Wells Fargo had been expected. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo said last week that it was negotiating with federal regulators to pay as much as $1 billion in fines to settle various charges. This would be the first fine against a bank by the Trump administration since Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the CFPB, took over the bureau in late-November. While banks have benefited from looser regulations and lower taxes under President Trump, Wells Fargo has been called out specifically by Trump as a bank that needs to be punished for its bad behavior.

 

 

 

The Justice Department sent Congress redacted, unclassified memos written last year by then-FBI Director James Comey describing conversations he had with President Trump. The memos, which Comey has said he wrote right after the meetings, indicate that Trump asked Comey to end an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The memos also suggest Trump was preoccupied with unproven allegations that he consorted with prostitutes during a 2013 Moscow trip. The documents were requested by the Republican chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight committees. The chairs released a joint statement saying the memos show Trump "wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated."

 

 

 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Trump last week that he is not a target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to a source familiar with the probe. After the April 12 conversation with Rosenstein, Trump told advisers that he was not inclined to seek the ouster of either man since he is not the target of Mueller’s probe. Mueller is investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Russia has denied meddling in the election. Trump has said there was no collusion and has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt,” raising concerns he might try to fire the special counsel or Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation.

 

 

President Trump brought former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and two other former federal prosecutors onto the legal team representing him in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling. Giuliani, a longtime Trump ally, was on the president's short list to be his first secretary of state. He is expected to take on a lead role in guiding Trump's response to Mueller's investigation. Giuliani said he was stepping up to "negotiate an end" to Mueller's inquiry. The news came at a tense time following last week's FBI raid of the home and office of Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow told AP that Giuliani will be focusing on the Mueller investigation — not the legal matters raised by the ongoing investigation into Cohen. That probe is being led by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, an office that Giuliani headed in the mid- to late 1980s.

 

 

 

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz referred his findings on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to determine whether to charge McCabe with a crime. The inspector general found that McCabe repeatedly misled investigators looking into a decision to break with FBI policy in 2016 and tell a journalist about an inquiry into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe denies he lied about his role in approving the disclosure to the reporter. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe last month, 26 hours before he could have retired with a full pension. Earlier, President Trump had bashed McCabe as part of what he said were partisan attacks against him by some officials within the FBI. McCabe has said his firing was politically motivated.

 

 

 

In the next two weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration will order the inspection of at least 220 Boeing 737 engines following a deadly engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight Tuesday. The FAA will determine precisely which engines, and their fan blades, need to be inspected before the long-debated action will become an official order. There are more than 13,000 of these engines in service made by CFM International, jointly run by General Electric and a French company. This directive first came about after a 2016 incident, also on Southwest, which a source tells ABC News was similar to the latest deadly incident. In both cases, the NTSB said metal fatigue appears to have led to a blade breaking and being ejected forward out of the engine. Southwest already announced it is starting an “accelerated inspection” of its fleet after the deadly failure, and other airlines have announced their own inspection plans. American Airlines said it started additional inspections of its 737s before Tuesday's accident, while the directive was being debated.

 

 

No criminal charges will be brought in the accidental drug overdose death of Prince, according to federal prosecutors. The same prosecutors also announced that Michael T. Schulenberg, the Minnesota doctor who prescribed an opioid painkiller for Prince a week before the musician’s 2016 death, has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle civil charges that he wrote an illegal prescription. Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in his Paisley Park estate April 21, 2016. Carver County Attorney Mark Metz told reporters that Prince thought he was taking Vicodin to manage pain but unknowingly took counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. Metz said, "Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him." Prosecutors said Dr. Schulenberg, who denies any liability, violated the Controlled Substances Act when he had illegally written a prescription for Prince in someone else’s name. Schulenberg agreed to settle the civil charges by paying $30,000 and submitting to monitoring by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

 

 

 

Former cycling superstar Lance Armstrong agreed Thursday to pay $5 million to settle claims that he defrauded the federal government by using performance-enhancing drugs while being sponsored as a member of the United States Postal Service team, his lead lawyer said. Armstrong could have faced up to $100 million in penalties. The deal ended years of fighting over whether Armstrong's doping harmed the Postal Service. Armstrong vehemently denied using banned substances for years until 2013, when he admitted to doping during the period when he won a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. He was sponsored by the Postal Service in six of those years. Armstrong's lawyers had argued the Postal Service reaped a public relations bonanza during his winning streak.

 

 

A large-scale evacuation is to take place in Berlin on Friday morning to allow experts to defuse a World War II bomb. Buildings will be cleared in an 800-meter radius from the construction site where the bomb was discovered. The zone includes government ministries, a hospital, and the city's central railway station. Thousands of unexploded bombs from World War II are found every year. Police say there is no immediate danger from the 1,100 lb British bomb, which was found on Heidestrasse last Wednesday. The area to be cleared includes Berlin Hauptbahnhof - the central railway station - an army hospital, the economy and transport ministries and the embassies of Indonesia and Uzbekistan. It is understood the operation to defuse the device will take place around midday. Rail company Deutsche Bahn and other transport operators have warned of large-scale disruption for trains, trams, and buses in the area. Last September, patients at hospitals in Frankfurt were evacuated to allow the controlled explosion of another huge wartime bomb.

North Korea says we want “complete denuclearization”. That’s in the news on Thursday April 19, 2018

19Apr

00:0000:00

North Korea has expressed its commitment to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday, as the United States vowed to maintain “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang. Moon said big-picture agreements about denuclearization, establishing a peace regime and normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through summits between the North and South, and between the North and the United States. During a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies Moon said, “They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.” North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

 

 

 

During a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday evening in Florida, President Trump said he could meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as early as June, and will do "everything possible" to ensure the summit is a "worldwide success." Trump said the United States will exert maximum pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program, and he wants to see the two Koreas live together in "safety, prosperity, and peace." He said, however, that he will bow out if the talks are not "fruitful." Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

 

 

 

Cuba's newly seated parliament named First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel as the lone candidate to succeed Raúl Castro, setting him up to be sworn in Thursday morning after a confirmation vote. He will be the communist-run nation's first leader outside the Castro family since the 1959 revolution. Raúl Castro took over as president when his ailing brother, Fidel, now deceased, stepped down in 2006. Díaz-Canel signaled on election day last month that his government would continue a push to update Cuban socialism and make it more responsive to the people. Raúl Castro, 86, is expected to remain influential as head of Cuba's Communist Party.

 

 

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday unexpectedly called early presidential and legislative elections for June, a year ahead of schedule. He said the vote was necessary "for Turkey to overcome uncertainties," which analysts interpreted as a reference to Turkey's military operations against Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq. Critics said Erdogan wanted to hold the vote at a time when his chances of victory are high, due to the possibility that a worsening economy could sour voters on his government later. The announcement lifted Turkish stocks and the country's currency. "The rule of thumb for Turkey is that political stability is more important than anything else," said Jan Dehn, head of research at the Ashmore Group in London.

 

 

 

China is looking to accelerate plans to develop its domestic semiconductor market amid a fierce trade stand-off with the United States and a U.S. ban on sales to Chinese phone maker ZTE that has underscored the country’s reliance on imported chips. Senior Chinese officials held meetings this week with industry bodies, regulators and the country’s powerful chip fund about speeding up already aggressive plans for the sector, according to sources who spoke with Reuters. The talks underscore China’s concern about its reliance on imported chips from global names such as Qualcomm and Intel, aggravated by a worsening dispute with the United States centered on cutting-edge tech. China has already made the semiconductor market a key priority under its “Made in China 2025” strategy to cut reliance on foreign technologies and create its own domestic champions. That goal has been given fresh urgency after a U.S. ban on sales of products – including chips – to Chinese phone maker ZTE, angered the firm which uses mainly U.S. chips in its smartphones.

 

 

 

A federal jury in Kansas on Wednesday found three right-wing extremists guilty of plotting to bomb Somali refugees. Patrick Stein, 49, Curtis Allen, 50, and Gavin Wright, 50, were convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, as well as conspiring to violate people's civil housing rights. They allegedly plotted for months to bomb an apartment building housing Somali refugees and a mosque in Garden City, Kansas. They will be sentenced in June, and face up to life in prison. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the men clearly planned to kill people because of their religion and place of origin. "That's not just illegal — it's immoral and unacceptable," Sessions said, "and we're not going to stand for it."

 

 

 

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, will try on Thursday to convince a judge to throw out charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, arguing Mueller has overstepped his authority. Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing is expected to tell U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson during a hearing in Washington that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s order in May 2017 appointing Mueller was overly broad, and that Mueller’s case falls outside the boundaries of what he was permitted to investigate. The hearing gives Manafort a chance to seek dismissal of charges in an indictment against him in Washington before the case can go to trial in September. That indictment charged him with offenses including conspiring to launder money and failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his lobbying for the Ukrainian government under pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych. The other indictment, in Alexandria, Virginia, charges Manafort with bank fraud and filing false tax returns, among other offenses. Manafort’s lawyer is set to ask for a dismissal of those charges in May. Both indictments arose from Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Manafort is expected to have two separate criminal trials, with the Virginia one starting in July.

 

 

 

Texas-based Slide Fire, the largest maker of bump stock devices, has posted a notice on its website saying it is shutting down. The company said it would stop taking orders at midnight on May 20. Bump stocks can be fitted onto semi-automatic rifles to make them fire continuously, like fully-automatic machine guns. Stephen Paddock had several weapons equipped with the devices when he fired into a crowd at a concert from a 32nd-floor hotel room in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing 58 people. Gun-control activists and President Trump have called for a nationwide ban on bump stocks.

 

 

 

A power outage struck Puerto Rico on Wednesday, leaving nearly all of the island's 1.4 million utility customers without electricity. Officials blamed an excavator that got too close to a transmission line and said it could take up to 36 hours to restore power. The island's power grid was nearly fully restored after being devastated by Hurricane Maria in September. About 40,000 customers have not yet had their electricity service restored since the hurricane. The most recent outage affected nearly every home, business, and school in the U.S. Caribbean territory. Puerto Rico has faced numerous setbacks in the effort to rebuild the power grid, including one less than a week ago that cut power to 840,000 people, but this is the first island-wide blackout since the hurricane.

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia launched its first commercial movie theater on Wednesday, ending a nearly 40-year ban on cinemas under a push by the crown prince to modernize the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom. A red carpet invitation-only gala event attracted senior government officials, foreign dignitaries and select industry figures to watch Marvel’s superhero movie “Black Panther” on a 45-foot screen at a converted symphony concert hall in Riyadh. Tickets will go on sale on Thursday for the first public viewings on Friday in the 450-seat hall. The opening marks another milestone for reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to open the country culturally and diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter. The prince, who is 32, has already eased restrictions in the last two years, including on public concerts, women driving and gender mixing. The kingdom held its first-ever fashion show last week with a women-only audience.

Saudi Arabia wants oil prices at $100 a barrel -That’s in the news for Wednesday April 18, 2018

18Apr

00:0000:00

Investigators are looking at metal fatigue as the likely cause of a deadly engine failure on a Southwest Airlines 737 that resulted in the death of a passenger. The NTSB examined the broken engine in Philadelphia just hours after it made an emergency landing and immediately saw that one of the left engine’s 24 fan blades was missing. Investigators suspect it broke off and started an “uncontained” engine failure that sent debris flying like shrapnel into the plane, breaking a window. A woman sitting near the window was sucked partially out of the plane before other passengers managed to pull her back in. The pilots of the twin-engine Boeing 737 bound from New York to Dallas with 149 people aboard made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Medical professionals among the passengers on board tried to save the gravely injured woman. But Jennifer Riordan, a Wells Fargo bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, died later. Seven other victims suffered minor injuries. From investigators’ initial findings, the accident appears remarkably similar to a failure on another Southwest plane two years ago — an event that led the engine manufacturer and regulators to push for ultrasonic inspections of fan blades on engines. This incident broke a string of eight years without a fatal accident involving a U.S. airliner.

 

 

 

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia would be happy to see crude rise to $80 or even $100 a barrel, according to industry sources who spoke to Reuters, a sign Riyadh will seek no changes to an OPEC supply-cutting deal even though the agreement’s original target is within sight. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia, and several other producers began to reduce supply in January 2017 in an attempt to erase a glut. They have extended the pact until December 2018 and will meet in June to review policy. OPEC is closing in on the original target of the pact - reducing industrialized nations’ oil inventories to their five-year average. There is no indication yet, however, that Saudi Arabia or its allies want to wind down the supply cut. The supply cut has helped boost oil prices this year to $73 a barrel, the highest since November 2014. Oil began a slide from above $100 - a price that Saudi Arabia endorsed in 2012 - in mid-2014 when growing supply from rival sources such as U.S. shale began to swamp the market.

 

 

 

CIA Director Mike Pompeo secretly went to North Korea to meet with the authoritarian state's leader, Kim Jong Un, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing two people with direct knowledge of the trip. President Trump confirmed the report Wednesday, tweeting that the "meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed." Pompeo made the unannounced visit as an envoy for Trump to lay the groundwork for a summit between the leaders to discuss North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The clandestine meeting took place shortly after Trump nominated Pompeo to be secretary of state, replacing Rex Tillerson. Days later, the U.S. confirmed South Korean reports that Kim was willing to discuss denuclearization.

 

 

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un plans to publicly declare his willingness to denuclearize during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week, Moon's chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said Tuesday. Negotiators from the rival, neighboring nations have worked out a rough outline for a joint declaration the two leaders will make when they meet on April 27, and it includes confirmation of the plan to dismantle North Korea's controversial nuclear weapons program. "Although the special envoys have already confirmed a willingness to denuclearize, it will make a difference if the two heads of state will meet and more clearly confirm it and make it a formal statement," Im told reporters.

 

 

 

An internal battle over proposed new Russia sanctions erupted into public view on Tuesday. President Trump's new top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley mistakenly signaled the sanctions would be announced Monday due to "momentary confusion." Haley responded, "With all due respect, I don't get confused." Kudlow reportedly called her to apologize. The sanctions were proposed as punishment for Moscow's support of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which the U.S. blames for a suspected chemical weapons attack. Trump reportedly was not comfortable with the sanctions yet. Moscow is reportedly discussing a bailout of the business empire of Oleg Deripaska, already targeted by American authorities, as banks and suppliers flee, endangering the jobs of more than 60,000 Russians.

 

 

 

Several hundred Syrians - who have lived for years as refugees in Lebanon - left for their home country on Wednesday in a rare case of a mass return of those who left the country since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Nearly 500 people, including children and the elderly, left the Shebaa area in southeast Lebanon in 15 buses for the Beit Jinn district in Syria, southwest of Damascus, which was recaptured from rebels by pro-government forces in December. The buses reached the Lebanese border on Wednesday afternoon before crossing into Syria. The convoy was organized by the Lebanese authorities. More than half of Syria’s pre-war population have fled their homes since the outbreak of war in 2011, including more than a million who sought refuge in tiny Lebanon, where they now make up more than a quarter of the population. Some leading Lebanese politicians have called for Syrian refugees to return to calmer parts of Syria, but the United Nations says they should not be forced to go back.

 

 

 

A divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a federal law used to deport immigrants who commit felonies is unconstitutionally vague, dealing a blow to President Trump's hardline immigration policies. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Trump last year, sided with his liberal colleagues in the 5-4 decision. The case, Sessions v. Dimaya, concerned a Filipino immigrant with permanent U.S. residency status who was convicted of burglary in California. Congress had ordered the deportation of immigrants that committed felony crimes with "a substantial risk that physical force ... may be used," which the defendant argued was unspecific. The majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, said the vagueness left people "in the dark." Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion, "Vague laws invite arbitrary power."

 

 

 

Fox News Channel executives said Tuesday that host Sean Hannity had their "full support" even though he failed to tell them, and viewers, that he was a client of President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Hannity kept quiet about the relationship even as he slammed the FBI, the Justice Department, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller over last week's raid on Cohen's office, home, and hotel room. Cohen's lawyer was forced to disclose that Hannity was Cohen's secret client during a Monday court hearing. Mark Feldstein, the chair of broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland, said Hannity should have disclosed his "glaring conflict-of-interest when he defended Cohen on the air," and that "the onus should be on both Fox and Hannity to clear their names."

 

 

 

Starbucks said Tuesday it would close more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores for a day next month to give employees "racial-bias education." The move could cost nearly $20 million in sales. The coffee chain's CEO, Kevin Johnson, called for the sensitivity training for nearly 175,000 workers after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week when a manager called the police. The men were waiting for another friend and had been denied access to the restroom because they had not made a purchase. "Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities," Johnson said in the statement.

 

 

 

Former first lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday at her home in Houston, Texas. She was 92. Bush was in failing health due to congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had decided just days earlier to focus on comfort care instead of seeking further treatment. Bush was only the second woman in American history, after Abigail Adams, to be the wife of one president and the mother of another. She and her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, were married for 73 years, and he was at her side, holding her hand when she died. Mrs. Bush was widely known and respected as a dedicated advocate for charitable causes, such as literacy, and a shrewd supporter of the political careers of her husband and sons. "Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end," former President George W. Bush said.

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