It’s Wednesday July 26, 2017

26Jul

00:0000:00

President Donald Trump says he will bar transgender individuals from serving "in any capacity" in the U.S. armed forces. Trump said on Twitter Wednesday that after consulting with "Generals and military experts," that the government "will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." Trump added that "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban. Military chiefs recently announced a delay on allowing transgender people from enlisting. But transgender troops are already serving openly in the military. LGBTQ support groups like GLAAD expressed outrage, saying Trump's announcement is a "direct attack on transgender Americans" bravely serving in the armed forces. Trump's decision comes on the anniversary of the day in 1948 when President Harry Truman issued an executive order desegregating the U.S. military.

 

 

U.S. intelligence agencies have sharply reduced their estimate of the time it would take North Korea to develop a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.. The New York Times reported Tuesday, that he official estimate was that Pyongyang was still four years away from reaching that milestone, give or take a year. Now, after recent progress seen in a series of missile tests, U.S. experts believe North Korea could finish its effort to develop a weapon that could reach the mainland U.S. in one year.

 

 

Romania's defense minister has confirmed that the country intends to buy Patriot missiles worth $3.9 billion dollars from the United States. Defense Minister Adrian Tutuianu said Wednesday that Romania's Parliament first needs to pass a law that would allow the acquisition. Tutuianu estimated Romania could begin paying for the missiles by November. His comments were the first time a Romanian official has publicly provided details of the proposed deal. The U.S. State Department approved the sale this month, saying it would help to "improve the security of a NATO ally." The State Department said the missile system would strengthen Romania's "homeland defense and deter regional threats," ''increase the defensive capabilities of the Romanian military," and "shield the NATO allies" that often train in Romania.

 

 

Ohio put a condemned child killer to death in the state's first execution in more than three years. 43 year-old Ronald Phillips was executed Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. He was convicted for the 1993 rape and killing of Sheila Marie Evans, his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. Phillips and other death row inmates challenged the state's new three-drug execution method, which includes a sedative used in some problematic executions in Ohio and elsewhere. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied his request for a stay to continue legal appeals. Phillips' attorneys call the case tragic, but say he wasn't one of the worst offenders. The prosecutor says it's was time for justice to be served. Ohio last executed an inmate in 2014.

 

 

Rep. Steve Scalise has been discharged from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, six weeks after he was shot at a congressional baseball practice. The hospital said in a statement Wednesday that he has made "excellent progress in his recovery" and is in "good spirits." He will now begin a period of intensive inpatient rehabilitation. Scalise, the Republican House majority whip who represents Louisiana, was critically injured when a gunman opened fire on the GOP baseball team as they were practicing for a charity game on June 14. Scalise was previously released from the hospital at the end of June but was re-admitted in early July over concerns of a new infection. A spokesman for Scalise said "The whip has an intensive period of inpatient rehabilitation ahead of him, but he's very glad to be in this new stage of the process and is very focused on his continued healing and recovery."

 

 

The Senate soundly rejected a comprehensive Republican plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare on Tuesday, with 57 senators voting against it, after narrowly approving starting debate on the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed the proposal to the floor with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie, after two of the Senate's 52 Republicans - Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - voted no. Protesters yelled "Kill the bill!" in the Senate chamber. Arizona Sen. John McCain made a dramatic return after his brain cancer diagnosis to support starting debate, calling for compromise across the aisle, and saying, "I will not vote for this bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now." The Senate now moves forward with debate and amendments, then a final vote in the days ahead.

 

 

A US judge has ordered Apple to pay more than half a billion dollars to a university after the tech firm failed to abide by an earlier court ruling. Apple was sued in 2014 for allegedly using a technology developed by a professor and his students in its iPhone chips without the University of Wisconsin-Madison's permission. Apple was ordered to pay about $234 million when it lost the patent case. That sum has now been more than doubled because Apple continued to use the technology. The judge said that additional damages and interest brought the sum owed to $506 million. However, Apple still hopes to overthrow the fine by appealing against the original jury verdict. The original case covered Apple's use of the invention in its A7, A8 and A8X processors, which are found in devices including the iPhone 5S and the iPad Air 2. Apple did not re-engineer the chips after losing the dispute in 2015 nor pull the relevant products from sale, and thus became liable for the additional payout. The university is also seeking further compensation for Apple's continued infringement of the patent in its A9 and A9X chips, which power its iPhone 6S and iPad Pro models. However, the follow-up legal action has been put on hold until Apple's appeal has been considered.

 

 

Cardinal George Pell has made his first court appearance in Australia on charges of sexual abuse and vowed through his lawyer to fight the allegations that have threatened the pope's image as a crusader against abusive clergy. Pell is the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis. He did not enter a plea to the charges alleging he sexually abused multiple people years ago in his home state of Victoria. But his lawyer told the court Wednesday that the cardinal plans to formally plead not guilty at a future court date. As Pell left the courthouse, a dozen Victoria state police officers formed a protective circle around him, pushing their way through a media scrum as protesters and supporters shouted at the cardinal.

 

 

President Trump's former campaign chairman will not be testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as originally scheduled, after the committee rescinded its subpoena. The committee withdrew its subpoena for Paul Manafort late Tuesday after Manafort agreed to turn over documents and to continue negotiating about setting up an interview with the panel. That's according to Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman.

 

 

President Trump said that "time will tell" whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps his job. Trump has harshly criticized Sessions in recent days for recusing himself in the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates. On Tuesday, the president turned up the heat, tweeting that Sessions had taken "a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes." With speculation rising that Sessions would be fired or forced to resign, some of the attorney general's former Senate colleagues came to his defense. Texas Sen. John Cornyn called Sessions "a good and honorable man" who did "the right thing" by bowing out of the Russia investigation.

 

 

New York state is set to study the use of a device known as the "textalyzer" that would allow police to determine whether a motorist involved in a crash was texting while driving. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he's directing the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to examine the technology, as well as the privacy and constitutional questions it could raise. In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Cuomo says that despite the state's ban on using hand-held cellphones while driving, some motorists insist on putting themselves and others at risk. The device is called the "textalyzer" because of its similarity to the Breathalyzer, which is used to identify drunk drivers. Privacy advocates have questioned whether the technology's use would violate personal privacy.

 

 

Barbara Sinatra, a philanthropist and the widow of singer Frank Sinatra, died of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, on Tuesday. She was 90. Barbara Sinatra, a former model and Las Vegas showgirl, was still married to Zeppo Marx, the youngest member of the Marx Brothers comedy team, when she started the relationship that turned into her 22-year marriage to Frank Sinatra, longer than any of the legendary singer's three other marriages. Barbara and Frank Sinatra founded a center for abused children that bears her name in 1986, and raised millions for the nonprofit through the years. Barbara Sinatra is survived by Robert Oliver Marx, her son from her first marriage to singer Bob Oliver; his wife Hillary; and a granddaughter, Carina Blakeley Marx.

 

 

Scientists are working to create custom-made DNA to be inserted into living cells that would change how they function or provide treatments for diseases. The effort could also someday help give scientists the profound and unsettling ability to create entirely new organisms. Scientists have long been able to make specific changes in the DNA code. Now, they're taking the more radical step of starting over, and building redesigned life forms from scratch. The cutting edge of this effort is in yeast. New York University researcher Jeff Boeke is directing an international team working to "rewrite" the yeast genome, following a detailed plan they published in March. Some have found the idea of remaking DNA disconcerting, and scientists plan to get guidance from ethicists and the public before they try it.

It’s Tuesday July 25, 2017

25Jul

00:0000:00

An American defense official says a U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots near an Iranian naval ship during a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. The incident happened Tuesday and involved the USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone-class patrol ship involved in an exercise with American and other vessels in the Gulf. The official says the Iranian naval vessel came within 150 yards (137 meters) of the Thunderbolt. The official says the Iranian vessel did not respond to radio calls, flares and warning sirens, forcing U.S. sailors to fire the warning shots. Iranian authorities did not immediately report the incident. Iran and the U.S. frequently have tense naval encounters in the Persian Gulf.

 

 

The United States is making progress in talks with North Korean ally China on imposing new U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang over its latest missile test, but the "true test" will be what measures Russia agrees to. That is the word from U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday. Haley told reporters she was pleased with the initial response from China on a U.S. proposal for new U.N. sanctions and said China had showed 'seriousness.' Haley said "We know that China has been sharing and negotiating with Russia," adding that the "true test will be what they worked out with Russia."

 

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet voted early Tuesday to remove metal detectors from a holy site in Jerusalem after the security measures stoked tensions and provoked protests. Security officers will instead rely on "security inspection based on advanced technologies and other means," Netanyahu's office said in a statement. Tensions have been high since two Israeli policemen were killed 10 days ago at the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. Last Friday, three Palestinians were killed in clashes with security forces during protests in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, and on the same day three Israeli civilians were stabbed to death in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

 

 

So many workers are failing drug tests that it is beginning to hurt the economy. The problem is hitting manufacturers especially hard, The New York Times reported Monday. Due to the abuse of prescription opioids and growing use of marijuana, employers in the upper-Midwest rust belt find that sometimes a quarter, even half of the people applying for factory jobs fail their drug tests, sometimes depriving manufacturers of workers and forcing them to lose orders to foreign rivals with what one CEO called "a better labor pool." The Federal Reserve's Beige Book surveys of economic activity noted the problem in April, May, and July, and Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen told Congress this month that increased opioid abuse was hampering labor-force participation by prime-age workers.

 

 

House Republicans are asking the chief executives of tech and telecom rivals to appear before the U.S. Congress in September and help settle the debate over net neutrality once and for all. At the moment, the Trump administration is preparing to scrap current government rules, which prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing down web traffic, or from charging companies like YouTube or Netflix for faster delivery of their content. The reason: The Federal Communications Commission under its GOP leader, Chairman Ajit Pai, believes they're too heavy handed. But Pai's plans for repeal - a guaranteed outcome at the Republican-controlled FCC - mark only the latest round of fighting in a debate that's more than 15 years in the making. The constant legal wrangling has left all sides in agreement that Congress should get involved and craft a law that says what internet providers can or can't do. Invitees include Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, and the leaders of Amazon, Netflix, Charter and Verizon, according to the committee. It's scheduled for September 7.

 

 

Paul Manafort, a top campaign aide to President Donald Trump, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee early Tuesday morning to answer questions about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Before his testimony, sources said he submitted to the committee notes that he took at a meeting with a Russian lawyer he and other campaign aides attended during the presidential campaign. The notes could provide a key contemporaneous account of a meeting that has emerged as a focus of investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign by both Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort’s testimony had been widely anticipated but he slipped in and out of the Capitol without prior announcement early Tuesday, hours before senior White House adviser Jared Kushner appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.

 

 

President Trump's new communications director says it's "probably right" that Trump wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump adviser, said in an interview Tuesday with radio host Hugh Hewitt that Trump is "obviously frustrated" and that the two men "need to work this thing out." Scaramucci replies "you're probably right" when Hewitt says it's clear that Trump wants Sessions gone. Trump is angry that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the relationship between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. Officials say Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Sessions. The president has also been pressuring Sessions on Twitter in recent days. Trump recently told The New York Times he wouldn't have picked Sessions for the job had he known beforehand that Sessions would step aside from the investigation.

 

 

President Trump says "we will soon see whether or not Republicans are willing to step up to the plate!" on health care. Trump has been pressuring Senate Republicans to vote on a health care bill "after 7 years of talking." A procedural vote is planned for Tuesday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer last week, will return to Washington on Tuesday for the vote on repealing ObamaCare. McCain's absence would have made it difficult for Senate GOP leaders to muster the 50 votes they would need to start debate on their proposal, since there are only 52 Republicans in the Senate and two appear likely to vote against taking up the bill — a conservative, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), because the plan retains too much of ObamaCare, and a moderate, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), because it cuts Medicaid.

 

 

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says a meeting between Donald Trump's son-in-law and the chairman of a Russian bank did not occur on Kremlin orders. The meeting in December between Jared Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the U.S. president, and V-nesh-ekonom-bank head Sergei Gorkov, was included in a Monday statement by Kushner to Congress as part of the probe into Trump's possible connections with Russia. Kushner said he had been asked to meet with Gorkov by Sergei Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador. V-nesh-ekonom-bank is a state-owned development bank. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday."These contacts do not require any authorization from the Kremlin and they were not carried out on behalf of the Kremlin."

 

 

President Trump's commission investigating alleged voter fraud can ask states for voter roll data. That is the ruling of U..S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly who said that the Election Privacy Information Center, a watchdog that sued seeking to block the request, did not have grounds to challenge the commission. Kollar-Kotelly also noted that the commission, as an advisory, has no legal authority to force states to do anything. Most state election officials say voter fraud is rare, and have declined to hand over all but the most basic information, if any at all. Trump won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton, and has asserted without citing any evidence that he only lost because millions of illegal votes by people who are not U.S. citizens were cast for Clinton.

 

 

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Michigan blocked the deportation of 1,444 Iraqi nationals, expanding a ruling that only affected 114 detainees rounded up in Detroit. The immigrants faced outstanding deportation orders, and many had been convicted of serious crimes. About 199 of them were rounded up in a nationwide crackdown in June. American Civil Liberties Union lawyers requested a preliminary injunction, arguing that they would face persecution in Iraq, where they are considered ethnic and religious minorities. Goldsmith said delaying the deportations would assure that people who might face "grave harm" are not "cast out of this country before having their day in court." Federal prosecutors said the stay was unnecessary because many of the detainees were already appealing through immigration court.

 

 

Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease. That is according to a new study published Tuesday. In all, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System examined 202 brains that belonged to deceasewd men who played football at all levels and were later donated for research. They found CTE in 177 of them — 87 percent. While they found evidence of the disease across all levels of play, the highest percentage was found among those who competed at the highest level The National Football League; all but one of the 111 brains belonging to ex-NFL players were diagnosed post-mortem with CTE. Neuropathologist Ann McKee, the researcher credited with some of the most high-profile CTE diagnoses said, “Obviously, this doesn’t represent the prevalence in the general population, but the fact that we’ve been able to gather this high a number of cases in such a short period of time says that this disease is not uncommon. In fact, I think it’s much more common than we currently realize. And more importantly, this is a problem in football that we need to address, and we need to address now, in order to bring some hope and optimism to football players.” McKee cautions that the study has some limitations and doesn’t attempt to pinpoint a CTE rate. The brains studied were mostly donated by concerned families, which means they weren’t random and not necessarily representative of all men who have played football.

 

 

An Oklahoma elementary school teacher has taken to panhandling for money to buy school supplies for her third-grade classroom. Teresa Danks said that she sought donations after slumping state revenue led to reduced funding for education in recent years. Danks says she has spent $2,000 to $3,000 of her $35,000 salary on supplies for her students. With a sign asking for donations and saying "Anything Helps," Danks raised $55 in six minutes standing at an intersection near Interstate 44 in Tulsa. She later created a gofundme page , raising more than $14,000 as of Tuesday morning. Danks says she also wants people to realize how budget cuts affect education. Although education received an increase in the current state budget, some of the funding plans are being challenged as unconstitutional.

It’s Monday July 24, 2017

24Jul

00:0000:00

Federal authorities in Texas have charged the driver of a tractor-trailer with transporting immigrants in the U.S. illegally, an incident resulting in the death of 10 people. Nearly 20 others were hospitalized in dire condition after they were found in the truck outside a San Antonio Walmart early Sunday. A federal complaint filed Monday accuses James Matthew Bradley of driving a trailer packed with immigrants for "commercial advantage or private financial gain." The charge carries the possibility of the death penalty for the 60 year old if convicted. Authorities fear the death toll could rise because many of those rescued from the sweltering truck in San Antonio have been hospitalized with extreme dehydration and heatstroke. Foreign officials from Mexico and Guatemala confirmed people from those respective countries were the ones found in the abandoned tractor-trailer.

 

 

At least 24 people were killed and dozens more injured after a car bomb exploded in Kabul on Monday morning in the latest in a series of attacks in Afghanistan's capital city. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming it was aimed at the Afghan intelligence service and its employees. A bomb-laden Toyota Corolla rammed into a minibus carrying government employees at the mines and petroleum ministry, destroying the bus, three other cars, and nearby shops, a Kabul police spokesman said. Stores had just opened, and streets were jammed with cars taking people to work and school. "The bomber attacked at one of the busiest times of the day," the police spokesman said.

 

 

U.S. military officials said two Chinese fighter jets intercepted and one nearly collided with a U.S. military surveillance aircraft in the East China Sea this weekend. A spokesperson for the defense department said one of the Chinese J-10 fighter jets went below the U.S. Navy EP-3 on Sunday, about 80 miles from Qingdao, and then flew in front of the aircraft, forcing the U.S. reconnaissance jet to take "evasive action" to avoid a collision. U.S. officials called the event “unsafe,” but have not yet said it was “unprofessional,” as they have with similar past incidents. The Navy said its reconnaissance aircraft was conducting routine operations in international waters. There has yet to be a diplomatic response. The incident follows similar events over the East China Sea earlier this year when Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. sniffer plane and, in a separate incident, intercepted another U.S. surveillance aircraft.

 

 

Democratic leaders said they believe they lost to President Donald Trump in 2016 partly because voters don't know what the party stands for. So they're trying to rebrand themselves with a new slogan and a populist new agenda as they look ahead to the 2018 midterms. It's called "A Better Deal" and House and Senate Democratic leaders will be rolling it out Monday afternoon in Berryville, Virginia. They're intentionally traveling outside the Beltway, and into the district of one of the GOP House members they hope to defeat next year, Representative Barbara Comstock. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, along with other top House and Senate Democrats, are making the presentation after months of internal debate. Schumer said that Democrats "were too cautious, we were too namby-pamby" in the 2016 election campaign. "The number one thing that we did wrong is we didn't tell people what we stood for." Schumer made the comments on ABC's This Week, and said the new Democratic agenda would be "sharp, bold, and will appeal to both the old Obama coalition ... and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue-collar worker." Among the policies he said Democrats would put on the table were Medicare for people above age 55 or even single-payer health care.

 

 

The Senate will move forward with a key vote this week on a Republican health bill but it's a mystery what exactly they will be voting on. It's not yet known whether the legislation will seek to replace President Barack Obama's health care law or simply repeal it. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will make a decision soon on which bill to bring up for a vote, depending on ongoing discussions with GOP senators. Thune sought to cast this week's initial vote as important but mostly procedural, allowing senators to begin debate and propose amendments. But he acknowledged senators should be able to know beforehand what bill they will be considering.

 

 

The son-in-law of President Donald Trump is blaming his assistant for filing a version of his security clearance questionnaire that left off any contacts with foreign governments. Jared Kushner says the assistant accidentally filed the questionnaire while it was still being prepared. He says the initial form left off all foreign contacts, not just ones with Russians. Kushner says he eventually disclosed more than 100 contacts with people from more than 20 countries. Kushner says that list includes the King of Jordan, the prime minister of Israel and a high-ranking Mexican government official. Kushner is disclosing the information about his foreign contacts just hours before he speaks behind closed doors with a Senate committee investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump associates.

 

 

The White House said President Trump is open to signing a bill ramping up sanctions against Russia. Democrats said over the weekend that they had reached a deal with Republicans on new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Trump had previously expressed support for easing some penalties against Russia, to help improve relations between Washington and Moscow, but the legislation would limit his ability to make such a gesture. Trump's new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, said the president had not decided whether he would sign the bill, but he is expected to make a decision soon.

 

 

Taking a swipe at the United States in his state of the nation address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked America to return three church bells seized as spoils of war from the eastern Philippine village of Balangiga more than a century ago. "Give us back those Balangiga bells," Duterte said in his speech at the House of Representatives, attended by the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats. "They are part of our national heritage ... return it to us, this is painful for us." Duterte, who calls himself a socialist, has had an antagonistic attitude toward the U.S. while bolstering ties with China and Russia. Filipinos revere the Balangiga bells as symbols of their long struggle for independence. The bells gave the signal for insurgents to attack American soldiers who were occupying Balangiga after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. Two of the three bells are displayed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They are part of a memorial to 46 U.S. troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901. A third bell is with a U.S. Army regiment in South Korea. Talk about returning the bells has been a perennial issue in U.S.-Philippine relations.

 

 

Japanese authorities say they're wrapping up their investigation into last month's collision of a freighter and a U.S. naval destroyer without any verdict into what caused the accident, which left seven Navy sailors dead. The container ship and most of its crew were allowed to leave Japan and coast guard officials said they don't expect charges to be filed. A spokesman for the company that owns the freighter said Monday that the captain and some crew members had voluntarily stayed behind. The U.S. military holds the right to investigate its naval vessel and has not cooperated with Japan's investigation. Both U.S. and Japanese officials haven't said whether crew members from the USS Fitzgerald were thought to be responsible for the crash.

 

 

A lawyer for the parents of critically ill Charlie Gard says the window during which the baby could have been helped by experimental treatment has closed. Grant Armstrong says it is "worthy of a Greek tragedy" that Charlie's parents must withdraw their appeal, just as they were about to present new evidence to a court. He says delays in treating Charlie mean his condition is now so poor that treatment will not help. He says tests show that the baby has irreversible muscular damage. Armstrong says the 11-month-old's devastated parents now "wish to spend the maximum amount of time they have left with Charlie." He says discussions will be held in private about when Charlie's life-support will be switched off. He says the parents "wish to treasure their remaining time with Charlie, however short that may be."

 

 

Russia's energy minister has called on major oil producers to show greater discipline in sticking to output cuts aimed at raising the price of crude. Following a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC countries in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Alexander Novak says "despite the high level of compliance with the agreement, we insist on all countries fulfilling their obligations 100 percent." The comments were reported by Russia's RIA Novosti agency. Oil prices have stayed below $50 per barrel in recent weeks amid claims that compliance with the lower production levels was slipping. The International Energy Agency said compliance fell to 78 percent in June, against 95 percent the previous month. High U.S. output has put pressure on oil prices, as have production increases in OPEC members Libya and Nigeria.

 

 

A South African girl born with the AIDS virus has kept her infection suppressed for more than eight years after stopping anti-HIV medicines. Doctors say this is more evidence that early treatment can occasionally cause a long remission that, if it lasts, would be a form of cure. Drugs can keep HIV under control but must be taken lifelong. Doctors know that early treatment improves survival for babies born to HIV-infected moms. The girl is now the third case where a child achieved a long-lasting remission and was able to keep the virus suppressed for more than two years without HIV medicines. Her case was discussed Monday at an AIDS conference in Paris where doctors also reported progress toward monthly shots rather than daily pills to treat HIV.

 

 

A medical marijuana businessman in Maine is offering weed for weeds in a program to encourage Gardiner residents to clean up their city. Dennis Meehan, owner of Summit Medical Marijuana, offered residents who collected trash Saturday free marijuana. The businessman says anyone who was over 21 was offered free marijuana if they presented a bag of trash that was collected in town. Meehan's company advertised the cleanup effort on Facebook, and he says he hopes to expand what he calls "the day of service" program to the entire state. Mehan says the program is about bringing awareness to the "life-changing" nature of cannabis as well. Gifting marijuana is legal in Maine. Meehan says he got the idea for the swap from a Colorado town's similar program.

 

 

Politically ambitious pups and kittens: Put your resumes aside. The job of first pet - an enviable White House gig with luxurious live-in privileges, after-hours access to the president and guaranteed positive press coverage - is not currently available. That's because the First Family is not looking for a four-legged sidekick at the moment. Asked about plans for such an addition to the White House, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, said in a statement: "The first family is still getting settled so there are no plans at this time." If Trump stays pet-free, he will be the first president in 130 years to do so, breaking with a long held tradition of presidential pet ownership. The last president without any White House pet was Andrew Jackson. The last commander in chief without a "first dog" was William McKinley. 

It’s Friday July 21, 2017

21Jul

00:0000:00

U.S. officials say the Trump administration will ban American citizens from traveling to North Korea following the death of university student Otto Warmbier, who passed away after falling into a coma into a North Korean prison. The officials said Friday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had determined to implement a "geographical travel restriction" for North Korea, which would make the use of U.S. passports to enter the country illegal. They said the restriction would go into effect 30 days after a notice is published in the Federal Register, but it was not immediately clear when that would be. There was no announcement in Friday's editions of the government publication.

 

 

South Korea has urged North Korea to accept its offers for talks as Pyongyang continues to ignore Seoul's proposal for a military meeting to ease animosities along their tense border. South Korea's Defense Ministry said it has become difficult to hold the meeting Seoul had originally proposed for Friday and called for the North to "quickly accept" the overture for talks. North Korea has yet to officially respond to South Korea's proposal to hold the military meeting and a separate meeting next month to resume the temporary reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. Some experts believe the North is taking its time mulling its options and could potentially make a counter-proposal seeking more concessions from the South in exchange for opening dialogue.

 

 

A powerful overnight earthquake shook holiday resorts in Greece and Turkey, injuring nearly 500 people and leaving two tourists dead on the Greek island of Kos, where revelers at a bar were crushed in a building collapse. Some of the injuries were caused as tourists and local residents scrambled out of buildings and even leapt from balconies after the 6.5-magnitude quake struck at about 1:30 a.m. local time. Several hundred thousand vacationers and locals in the two countries were kept awake by dozens of aftershocks that followed the main quake, with many sleeping outdoors on sunbeds or slumped on cafe tables. Authorities on Kos said the two dead tourists were from Sweden and Turkey. Thirteen others injured were airlifter to other Greek hospitals, include a foreign national who had to have a leg amputated and another with life-threatening head injuries.

 

 

The ban on laptops in the cabins of planes flying from the Middle East to the U.S. is over, as federal officials say that large airports in the region have taken other steps in increase security. Those measures include checking electronic devices to make sure they don't contain a bomb, and pulling more people out of airport lines for additional screening. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that all airlines and airports with flights departing for the U.S. had met the agency's first phase of new security measures, which were announced in late June but not described in any detail.

 

 

Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington was found dead in a Southern California home on Thursday. He was 41. "Shocked and heartbroken, but it's true," tweeted Mike Shinoda, another member of the rap-metal band. Bennington is believed to have committed suicide by hanging himself. He had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Bennington was friends with Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, whose May death was ruled a suicide. Cornell would have turned 53 on Thursday.

 

 

Barring any last-minute snafus, O.J. Simpson will walk out of prison a free man in about three months. A four-member parole panel granted the fallen football hero parole Thursday after he said he made a huge mistake when he and others confronted two memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2007. The group made off with property Simpson still maintains was his. The earliest he can be released following Thursday's ruling is Oct. 1.

 

 

CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Russia is interested in staying in Syria, partly because they "love to stick it to America." Asked if Russia is America's friend or adversary, Pompeo replied: "It's complicated." He said Thursday that he's happy to work with Moscow on counterterrorism issues, but that it's clear that Russians "find anyplace they can to make our lives more difficult." Pompeo spoke at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of intelligence and national security officials and experts in Aspen, Colorado. Pompeo also says that Iran's work to gain a foothold in Syria is only one example of its aim to become the "kingpin" of the Middle East.

 

 

A senior Palestinian official says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the United States to "intervene urgently" and compel Israel to remove metal detectors from a contested Jerusalem shrine. Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Friday that Abbas discussed the growing tensions in Jerusalem in a phone call with Trump's top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Abu Rdeneh says Abbas told Kushner that the situation is "extremely dangerous and may go out of control" unless Israel removes the metal detectors. Israeli police installed the metal detectors at gates to the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, after Palestinians carried out a deadly attack from there. Muslim leaders have called for protest, alleging that the security measures are part of a purported Israeli campaign to expand its control over the site.

 

 

A federal judge has refused to reinstate President Donald Trump's executive order to cut funding from cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick in San Francisco made the ruling Thursday. The U.S. Department of Justice had asked Orrick to reverse his own injunction in April against Trump's executive order. The injunction was issued in response to lawsuits by San Francisco and Santa Clara County. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a memo in May saying the executive order should be applied narrowly to a small number of grants and to very specific violations of immigration law. The Justice Department said the memo negated the need for Orrick's injunction. Orrick said he found this unconvincing because Sessions could reverse himself at any moment.

 

 

Germany's president has signed legislation legalizing gay marriage, paving the way for it to take effect this fall. Lawmakers approved the bill on June 30 in its last session before Germany's September election. The move became possible after Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservative party had long been reluctant to budge on the issue, said she would allow its lawmakers to vote according to their conscience. The presidential office said Friday that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier signed the legislation on Thursday. It will come into force Oct. 1 at the earliest. Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but until now has not granted them full marital rights including the possibility of jointly adopting children. The change brings it into line with many other western European countries.

 

 

 

German automaker Audi says it will fit up to 850,000 diesel cars with new software to improve their emissions performance, following a similar move by rival Daimler. Audi, a unit of Volkswagen, announced the voluntary retrofitting program on Friday. The company said in a statement that it "aims to maintain the future viability of diesel engines" and believes the program "will counteract possible bans on vehicles with diesel engines." The free program, which will apply to Europe and other markets outside the U.S. and Canada, applies to cars with six-cylinder and eight-cylinder diesel engines. On Tuesday, Daimler said it will voluntarily recall 3 million Mercedes-Benz cars with diesel engines in Europe to improve their emissions performance. Diesels have been under a cloud since Volkswagen admitted equipping vehicles with emissions-cheating software.

 

 

The Federal Trade Commission, as part of its review of Amazon's plan to buy Whole Foods, is investigating allegations that the world's largest online retailer misleads customers about pricing discounts, Reuters reported Thursday, citing a source close to the inquiry. The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said it overstated list prices on many discounted items reviewed in June, falsely inflating the discounts it was offering on the products. Amazon said it verifies its reference prices with manufacturers and sellers, and Consumer Watchdog's study was "deeply flawed."

 

 

A British man and his young daughter have gained international attention after being fined for selling lemonade outside. Andre Spicer said his 5-year-old daughter was left in tears after local council officers fined her 150 pounds - about $195 - for selling lemonade without a license near their home in London. The girl was selling home-made lemonade to fans attending the Lovebox festival when she was fined. Spicer wrote an article about the experience for the Daily Telegraph that gathered hundreds of comments and shares online. Local officials said Friday the fine will be cancelled immediately. A council statement said: "We are very sorry that this has happened. We expect our enforcement officers to show common sense, and to use their powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen."

 

 

Police say a woman stole a taxi in Philadelphia and then .... picked up a fare. They say the 65-year-old woman hailed the cab around midnight Thursday and asked to be taken to the SugarHouse Casino. On the way, she asked the driver to make a stop at a gas station. It was at the gas station where police say the woman jumped into the driver's seat and drove off. Police stopped the taxi 30 minutes later and found a 23-year-old woman and her infant daughter in the backseat. The mother told officers she had hailed the cab earlier, not realizing it was stolen.

It’s Thursday July 20, 2017

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he plans to stay on the job at the Department of Justice, on the heels of President Donald Trump sharply criticizing him for recusing himself from the Russia probe. In a press conference on Thursday scheduled to discuss cybercrime, Sessions' appearance took a quick turn to the issue of whether the top law enforcement official plans to offer his resignation to Trump. Sessions said, "We in this Department of Justice will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest, and we whole-heartedly join in priorities of President Trump." Sessions, one of Trump's early Republican supporters, recused himself from overseeing the FBI's Russia probe on March 2, after media reports he had conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. that he did not disclose. Trump slammed Sessions and told the New York Times his recusal was "very unfair to the president" and said he would never have appointed him attorney general if he had known he would do so. "How do you take a job and then recuse yourself?" Trump asked. "If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, 'Thanks, Jeff, but I'm not going to take you."

 

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Christopher Wray's nomination to become the next FBI director. On June 7, President Trump nominated Wray to replace James Comey, after Trump fired him. Wray is a former Assistant Attorney General who was in charge of the Justice Department's Criminal Division under the George W. Bush administration. Wray worked in that job from 2003 to 2005, under then Deputy Attorney General James Comey. While heading the Criminal Division, Wray oversaw a number of prominent fraud investigations, including the Enron scandal. Wray is now awaiting a confirmation vote by the full senate.

 

 

Detroit Deputy Chief Ulysha Renee Hall has been chosen as the new police chief of the Dallas Police Department, the first woman to serve as the top cop in the history of the city. In a statement Hall said, "I am honored to be chosen to lead the Dallas Police Department at this critical time in its history. I look forward to building on the successes of the past, preserving community trust and ensuring the safety of our officers and the entire Dallas community." Former Police Chief David O. Brown took to Twitter to congratulate Hall. Hall is replacing Brown, who retired in October, and she was one of two women under consideration for the job, along with Seattle Deputy Chief Carmen Best. Under Hall's leadership the city of Detroit experienced a 40-year low in homicides and double-digit reductions in violent crime for three consecutive years. Hall is expected to begin her job as the new Dallas police chief on September 5.

 

 

 

Arizona Sen. John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Doctors discovered the aggressive cancer, known as a glioblastoma, after McCain, who is 80, had a blood clot removed from behind his left eye last week. McCain said in a statement Wednesday that "subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot." Doctors said the "tissue of concern" was removed. McCain is recovering "amazingly well" at home as he and his family consider further treatment options, including chemotherapy and radiation. Dr. Eugene S. Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, said glioblastoma is the "most malignant of brain tumors," with recurrences common and median survival rates at around 16 months.

 

 

President Trump is ending a covert CIA program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's government. The effort was key to former President Barack Obama's Syria policy, and Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, has long sought to get the U.S. to scrap it. Trump clashed with Russia after the U.S. accused Syria of using chemical weapons and launched a retaliatory strike against a Syrian air base. Officials said that phasing out the secret program is a reflection of the president's desire to find ways to collaborate with Russia in Syria.

 

 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling exempting grandparents and other close relatives of people in the U.S. from President Trump's temporary travel ban affecting people from six majority-Muslim nations. The order leaves in place the action of a U.S. District Court judge in Hawaii, Derrick Watson, broadening the definition of close family members exempted from the ban. The justices, however, blocked another part of Watson's ruling that would have helped more refugees to enter the country despite Trump's temporary freeze of the U.S. refugee program.

 

 

The Treasury Department says it is slapping Exxon Mobil Corp. with a $2 million fine for violating Russia sanctions while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the oil company's CEO. The U.S. says Exxon violated the sanctions in May 2014 when two subsidiaries signed deals with Igor Sechin. Sechin is the chairman of Russian oil giant Rosneft and is on a U.S. blacklist over Russia's actions in Ukraine. The Treasury Department says Exxon showed "reckless disregard" for sanctions by dealing with a person on that blacklist and that top Exxon executives knew Sechin was blacklisted when they did business with him. The U.S. says Exxon caused "significant harm" to the sanctions program. When Tillerson was CEO, he said Exxon didn't support sanctions generally because it found them usually ineffective.

 

 

Authorities said they have identified a St. Paul, Minnesota, teen who went missing in 1976, as a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Investigators matched the missing teen, James Haakenson, to DNA samples from human remains found in Gacy's home after he was caught in 1978. Gacy tortured and murdered 33 men and boys, impersonating a police officer or offering construction work to lure them to his home. In an era before DNA testing, seven of the bodies found in Gacy's home remained unidentified for decades. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart reopened the investigation in 2011 and asked for DNA related to missing young men. Haakenson's nephew found Dart's website in March and got an uncle and an aunt to provide some DNA for testing.

 

 

Authorities say a stubborn wildfire burning in foothills west of Yosemite National Park has now destroyed 45 structures while forcing thousands of people from their homes. It's not clear what type of buildings burned. The fire grew overnight and as of Thursday it's scorched 109 square miles. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said more than 3,000 firefighters are battling the 5-day-old blaze that was threatening about 1,500 homes and other buildings. The flames are near Highway 49, a historical route in the western Sierra Nevada dotted with towns that sprouted when gold miners were drawn to California in the 1800s. The fire is only 10 percent contained.

 

 

Capitol Police arrested 155 protesters staging sit-ins outside Senate offices and shouting opposition to Republican efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Protests have been ongoing on Capitol Hill since Republicans launched their effort to pass health proposals that the Congressional Budget Office predicted would cost millions of Americans their health coverage over a decade. Wednesday was a busy day for the demonstrators, with as many as 300 people trying to spread the protest to the offices of all 52 Republican senators.

 

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that Donald Trump Jr. and President Trump's one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, are scheduled to testify before the committee next Wednesday during a public hearing. Both men, as well as Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, attended a meeting in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked attorney who offered to provide harmful information on Hillary Clinton. A lawyer for Kushner confirmed to NBC News his client will speak with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in a closed session on Monday.

 

 

The body of surrealist painter Salvador Dali is scheduled to be exhumed Thursday to resolve a paternity case. Dali, who died in 1989, is buried beneath a 1.5 ton slab under the dome of the Dali Theater Museum in Figueres, Spain. Thursday's exhumation is intended to determine if Dali's DNA matches that of Maria Pila Abel -- a woman born in 1956, she claims, to Dali and her mother following an affair. The woman's mother had worked for a family whose residence in Cadaques, Spain, was near Dali's home. Abel said she had been told for years by her mother and grandmother that Dali, who is not believed to have any children, was her father. Last month, a Madrid judge ordered the exhumation to settle the issue after Abel filed a legal claim to the estate. That claim is contested by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, which manages the estate and the museum where the artist is buried.

 

 

Apple released a new version of its mobile operating system Wednesday. IOS 10.3.3 fixes a couple of security issues, and according to Mashable, one of the bugs squashed with this update is quite serious. The issue let attackers execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip of an iPhone, iPad or an iPod touch. The bug, dubbed Broadpwn, is different from most security vulnerabilities as it requires zero user interaction, so if you're in Wi-Fi range of a hacker and have your Wi-Fi access on, the hacker can essentially take over your phone. The bug affects a number of WiFi chips and is present in an enormous range of devices, including many Android phones. Google issued a patch for Android devices earlier this month. Experts say vulnerabilities as severe as this one are rare, as the Wi-Fi chip is separate from the device's main processor and it's hard to escalate a vulnerability from one to the other. So if you have an iPhone 5 device or a later version, as well as an iPad 4 and later, or a sixth generation iPod touch, you are affected, and need the patch. As a user, Apple says there's nothing you need to do except accept the 10.3.3 update. Choosing not to do so will leave your device wide open to malicious hackers.

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