It’s Monday February 19, 2018

19Feb

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Students who survived the Parkland, Florida, shooting rampage that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School announced plans for a march in Washington and other cities to call for tighter gun control. "People are saying that it's not time to talk about gun control. And we can respect that," 11th-grader Cameron Kasky told ABC's This Week on Sunday. "Here's a time: March 24 in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives." Other groups also plan protests, including a 17-minute March 14 teacher walkout called for by Women's March organizers. President Trump, who ran on a platform opposing gun control and has faced direct criticism from student survivors, plans a "listening session" with students Wednesday.

 

 

 

A gunman shouting "Allahu akbar" (Arabic for "God is great") opened fire on worshipers at an Orthodox church in Russia's Dagestan region on Sunday, killing at least five people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, calling the killer a "soldier of the caliphate." ISIS identified the attacker by the nom de guerre Khalil al-Dagestani. Several survivors were wounded, and witnesses said the toll might have been higher if the churchgoers hadn't managed to close the door of the church before the attacker, armed with a knife and a hunting rifle, got inside. Security forces shot and killed the attacker, identifying him only as a 22-year-old man.

 

 

 

An Iranian airplane brought back into service only months ago after being grounded for seven years crashed Sunday in a foggy, mountainous region of southern Iran, and officials feared all 65 people on board were killed. The ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flying, went down near its destination of the southern city of Yasuj, some 780 kilometers (485 miles) south of the capital, Tehran, where it took off. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the crash, although the weather was severe. Dense fog, high winds and heavy snow in the Zagros Mountains made it impossible for rescue crews in helicopters to reach the site, state television reported. An Aseman Airlines spokesman told state TV that the flight had 59 passengers and six crew members on board.

 

 

 

A military helicopter surveying the damage from Friday's earthquake in Mexico crashed over the weekend, claiming the lives of 14 people on the ground and injuring 16 more. Original reports put the death toll at two, but by Sunday the number rose to 14 people killed, including one baby. The craft skidded into several vehicles when the pilot lost control during landing. Mexican Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat were both aboard the helicopter at the time of the crash, but like the other passengers on board, they were not seriously injured. The earthquake was measured at a 7.2-magnitude and struck the Pacific coast of Mexico Friday, leaving about one million homes and businesses without power. No one was killed by the initial quake, which was unusually long, and it was followed by 225 aftershocks. This comes less than half a year after a September quake killed more than 300 people in Mexico City and surrounding areas.

 

 

 

Barry Bennell, the serial pedophile whose abuse of young boys rocked the world of soccer, was described as "the devil incarnate" after being sentenced to 31 years in jail on Monday in Liverpool. During his summation, the judge told the court that Bennell's actions were "sheer evil." He added that Bennell had appeared to his victims as a god, adding: "In reality, you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion." The 64-year-old former football coach, now known as Richard Jones, was sentenced for 50 counts of child sexual abuse against 12 boys between the ages of eight and 15 from 1979 to 1991.

 

 

 

Rumbling Mount Sinabung on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has shot billowing columns of ash more than 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) into the atmosphere and hot clouds down its slopes. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency says there were no fatalities or injuries from Monday morning’s eruption. The volcano, one of three currently erupting in Indonesia, was dormant for four centuries before exploding in 2010, killing two people. Another eruption in 2014 killed 16 people, while seven died in a 2016 eruption. A disaster agency spokesman said hot ash clouds traveled as far as 4,900 meters southward. The regional volcanic ash advisory center in Darwin, Australia, issued a “red notice” to airlines. Some 30,000 people have been forced to leave homes around the mountain in the past few years.

 

 

 

Authorities say two skiers were killed by an avalanche in the French Alps, and two more people were injured by an avalanche in Switzerland near the border with France. The prefecture in France’s Savoie region said the fatal avalanche occurred Sunday at the Val-d’Isere ski resort, close to the Italian border. A local newspaper said on its website that the two victims were a 44-year-old man and his 11-year-old daughter from the Paris region. The paper, Le Dauphine, reported the two were skiing on a run that was closed due to the avalanche risk. Swiss media initially reported that 10 people were buried by the other avalanche, in the southern canton (state) of Valais. But a police spokesman says only two people pulled from the snow Sunday were hospitalized.

 

 

 

Israeli police said Sunday they arrested senior officials from the country’s national telephone company as part of an investigation into alleged corruption offenses. Israeli media said among those arrested were close associates of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is fighting for his political life after being accused of taking bribes from billionaire supporters. Police revealed few details about the case and quickly slapped a gag order on its details. The new probe comes days after police announced there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two separate cases. Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu had operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman. In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering to give preferential treatment to a newspaper publisher in exchange for favorable coverage. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in those cases.

 

 

 

President Trump's security team got into a scuffle with Chinese security officials over the "nuclear football" during Trump's November visit to Beijing's Great Hall of the People on his recent trip to China, Axios reported Sunday. The nuclear football, a briefcase U.S. presidents can use to authorize a nuclear attack while traveling, is supposed to be kept close to the president at all times. Axios reported that Chinese security officials blocked the official carrying the nuclear football from entering the Great Hall. Members of the security team called in Chief of Staff John Kelly. A Chinese security official reportedly grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved his hands away before a U.S. Secret Service agent tackled the Chinese official. The skirmish quickly ended and the head of the Chinese security detail reportedly apologized.

 

 

 

Russian curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii failed a preliminary doping test after winning a bronze medal in mixed doubles curling at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Russian media reported that Krushelnitckii's "A" urine sample had tested positive for meldonium, which increases circulation in the brain and aids with heart disease, and has been banned as a performance-enhancing drug since 2015. Krushelnitckii's "B" sample reportedly is to be tested Monday to confirm or refute the first result. International Olympic Committee Communications Director Mark Adams said Monday that he could not comment because "the testing and sanctioning is independent of the IOC." The findings of the tests could jeopardize the curling medal Krushelnitckii won with his wife and teammate, Anastasia Bryzgalova.

 

 

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this weekend he wants to "create an environment" conducive to talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, but that a "consensus is starting to build that there's also a need for talks between the United States and North Korea." In the absence of those negotiations, Moon seemed cautious about moving forward with unilateral conversations that could anger Washington. He declined to formally accept the invitation to talks extended earlier this month by Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

 

 

 

Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential presidential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. Several people came away from the meeting with the impression that if no strong Democratic candidate emerges in the next year or so, Biden would feel strongly compelled to run. A presidential candidate twice before, Biden would be 78 on Inauguration Day if elected in 2020, a concerning prospect for some Democrats even though he’s only a few years older than Trump. One possibility that Biden’s longtime advisers have discussed privately is that he could announce his intention to serve only one term, clearing the path for his running mate to take over in 2024 and potentially setting up Democrats for a 12-year White House stretch. The political world has long tried to game out Biden’s plans for 2020. After all, he came close to running last time only to see President Trump pull off a victory that many Democrats openly suggest wouldn’t have happened had he, not Hillary Clinton, been their nominee.

It’s Friday February 16, 2018

16Feb

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Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies were charged Friday with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media propaganda aimed at helping Republican Donald Trump and harming the prospects of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Prosecutors announced Friday that the indictment represents the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling during the election. It says Russians created bogus Internet postings, posed online as American political activists and fraudulently purchased advertisements — all with the goal of swaying political opinion during the bitterly contested race. The intent of the meddling, the indictment says, was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.” The defendants are charged with conspiring “to obstruct the lawful functions of the United States government through fraud and deceit,” including by making expenditures in connection with the 2016 election, failing to register as foreign agents carrying out political activities and obtaining visas through false and fraudulent statements. Some of the Russians traveled to the United States “under false pretenses” to collect intelligence, and they also used computer infrastructure based partly in the United States to hide the Russian origins of their work.

 

 

 

The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a “desire to kill” and access to guns and could be plotting an attack. On Friday the FBI revealed that its agents failed to investigate the tip. And now Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he has ordered an immediate review of the Department of Justice and FBI processes in wake of the shooting. A person who was close to Nikolas Cruz called the FBI’s tip line on Jan. 5 and provided information about Cruz’s weapons and his erratic behavior, including his disturbing social media posts. The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school. In a statement, the agency acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI’s Miami office and investigated, but it was not. The startling admission came as the agency was already facing criticism for its treatment of a tip about a YouTube comment posted last year. The comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” said, “I'm going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI investigated the remark but did not determine who made it. Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency was still reviewing its missteps on the January tip. He said he was “committed to getting to the bottom of what happened,” as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.

 

 

 

Federal authorities on Thursday arrested a former New York City charter high school teacher and his twin brother and charged them with stockpiling 32 pounds of explosive material in a bomb-making scheme. The former teacher, 27-year-old Christian Toro, allegedly paid students $50 an hour to break open fireworks and take out the explosive powder. Investigators said they had found a diary with references to "Operation Flash," and an index card reading, "Under the full moon the small ones will know terror." Christian Toro and his brother, Tyler Toro, were arrested at their Bronx apartment. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the arrests "likely saved many, many lives."

 

 

 

Ethiopia announced a state of emergency on Friday after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Thursday announced his intention to step down amid a political crisis in the Horn of Africa country. The ruling EPRDF coalition’s council met on Friday and decided to impose emergency rule, according to the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. The announcement did not say how long the rule would be in place. An opposition leader said earlier on Friday the ruling coalition had lost its authority and all parties must help map the country’s future. Mulatu Gemechu, deputy secretary of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, said Ethiopia needed a completely new political system after years of unrest. Rights advocates have frequently criticized Ethiopia’s government for mass arrests and long jail terms handed to political opponents and journalists. But more than 6,000 political prisoners have been freed since January as the government has struggled to placate discontent. The prime minister’s resignation followed a wave of strikes and demonstrations successfully demanding the release of more opposition leaders.

 

 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court could say on Friday whether it will consider President Donald Trump’s appeal of a lower court decision blocking his order to end a program that shields hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation. The problem of what to do about the Dreamers, as the immigrants are known, landed back in the court system this week after the U.S. Senate debated the matter for several days and failed to approve any legislation. With the fate of the 700,000 Dreamers, who were brought illegally into the United States years ago as children, still in limbo, the high court’s nine justices were set to meet privately on Friday morning to discuss what cases they will hear. If the court does not act on Friday, it could do so on Tuesday, after Monday’s Presidents Day holiday. If they accept the Trump appeal, they would likely not rule on it until late June. If they refuse to hear it, the lower court ruling would stay in effect while litigation continues.

 

 

Intel Corp said on Friday shareholders and customers had filed 32 class action lawsuits against the company in connection with recently-disclosed security flaws in its microchips. Most of the lawsuits - 30 - are customer class action cases that claim that users were harmed by Intel’s “actions and/or omissions” related to the flaws, which could allow hackers to steal data from computers. Intel said in a regulatory filing it was not able to estimate the potential losses that may arise out of the lawsuits. Security researchers at the start of January publicized two flaws, dubbed Spectre and Meltdown, that affected nearly every modern computing device containing chips from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc, and ARM Holdings. The companies have issued fixes but some patches slowed down computers, leading sector analysts to say producers could potentially face suits from clients and consumers claiming damages because their devices did not work as they should. The company said the remaining two suits were securities class actions, where the plaintiffs allege that Intel and some of its officers violated securities laws by making statements about products or its internal controls that were later revealed to have been false or misleading. The company’s filing also listed three individual Intel shareholders who had filed actions against members of Intel’s board and other managers, alleging that they failed their duties to Intel by failing to take action in relation to alleged insider trading. It did not specify what allegations of wrongdoing the suit dealt with.

 

 

 

A Belgian court threatened Facebook on Friday with a fine of up to 100 million euros ($125 million) if it continued to break privacy laws by tracking people on third-party websites. In a case brought by Belgium’s privacy watchdog, the court also ruled that Facebook had to delete all data it had gathered illegally on Belgian citizens, including people who were not Facebook users themselves. Facebook, which will be fined 250,000 euros a day or up to 100 million euros if it does not comply with the court’s judgment, said in a statement it would appeal the ruling. The court said, “Facebook informs us insufficiently about gathering information about us, the kind of data it collects, what it does with that data and how long it stores it," and also said in a statement, "It also does not gain our consent to collect and store all this information."
The court said Facebook uses different methods to track the online behavior of people if they are not on the company’s website by placing cookies and invisible pixels on third-party websites. Facebook said the technologies it uses were in line with industry standards and it gives users the right to opt out of data collection on websites and applications off its platform being used for advertisements.

 

 

 

Former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is running for a Utah Senate seat, officially launching his political comeback attempt Friday by praising his adopted home state as a model for an acrimonious national government in Washington. Having been one of the Republican Party’s fiercest internal critics of President Trump, Romney didn’t mention the administration or Trump himself in a campaign announcement posted online. The closest allusion to Trump was Romney noting that Utah “welcomes legal immigrants from around the world,” while “Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.” The 70-year-old Romney will be the heavy favorite for the Senate seat being opened by Sen. Orrin Hatch’s retirement. Hatch was among the first Republicans to pitch Romney as his potential successor. Leading up to Romney’s widely anticipated announcement, confidantes said he intends to focus his campaign on Utah, where he moved with his wife, Ann, after losing the 2012 presidential election to incumbent Democrat Barack Obama.

 

 

The Emmy-winning dramedy Transparent is losing its main star, Amazon confirmed Thursday. Actor Jeffrey Tambor, who portrayed the transgender main character Maura Pfefferman, will not return to the show after being investigated for sexual harassment as Amazon declined to renew his contract. Tambor's personal assistant, Van Barnes, first made the allegations against him, followed by Tambor's Transparent co-star Trace Lysette in November. Tambor released two statements in response, expressing regret that his actions were "misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive" but denying any wrongdoing on his part. He also condemned the "politicized atmosphere" on the set of Transparent. It remains unclear how the show's plot will be affected by Tambor's dismissal, or whether this will be Transparent's last season.

It’s Thursday February 15, 2018

15Feb

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An orphaned 19-year-old with a troubled past and his own AR-15 rifle was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder Thursday morning following the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in five years. Law enforcement officials said that Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the assault weapon used in the attack. The dead included a football coach from the school who was hailed as a hero by many of the students. Fourteen wounded survivors were hospitalized as bodies were recovered from inside and around Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz, still wearing a hospital gown after being treated for labored breathing, and weighing in at 5-foot-7 and 131 pounds, was ordered held without bond and booked into jail. It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago. Authorities offered no immediate details about a possible motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him.

 

 

 

Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday was elected as South Africa’s new president by ruling party legislators after the resignation of Jacob Zuma, whose scandals brought the storied African National Congress to its weakest point since taking power at the end of apartheid. Ramaphosa was the only candidate nominated for election after two opposition parties said they would not participate. The two parties instead unsuccessfully called for the dissolution of the National Assembly and early elections. Zuma resigned after years of scandals that damaged the reputation of the ruling ANC, which had instructed him this week to step down or face a parliamentary motion of no confidence that he would almost certainly lose. Zuma denies any wrongdoing. Ramaphosa is South Africa’s fifth president since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule in 1994. On Friday evening, he is expected to deliver the state of the nation address that had been postponed during the ruling party’s days of closed-door negotiations to persuade Zuma to resign.

 

 

 

A group of senators reached a bipartisan agreement aimed at balancing Democrats’ fight to offer citizenship to young “Dreamer” immigrants with President Trump’s demands for billions to build his coveted border wall with Mexico. Overnight, the Trump administration denounced the deal. The compromise was announced Wednesday by 16 senators with centrist views on the issue and was winning support from many Democrats, but it faced an uncertain fate. Leaders were trying to schedule votes on that plan and three other immigration proposals for Thursday, which they hoped would bring the chamber’s showdown over the hot-button issue to a close. Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, in a statement, issued just before 1 a.m. Thursday, condemned the deal, saying it will “create a mass amnesty for over 10 million illegal aliens, including criminals.” There were also qualms among Democrats. The party’s No. 2 Senate leader, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said some Democrats had “serious issues” with parts of the plan. Those concerns focused on its spending for Trump’s wall and its bar against Dreamers sponsoring their parents for legal residency.

 

 

 

Congressional Democrats introduced legislation on Wednesday that would provide more than $1 billion to boost cybersecurity of U.S. voting systems, and Vice President Mike Pence defended the administration’s efforts to protect polls from hackers. The measure followed warnings on Tuesday from U.S. intelligence officials that midterm races in November are likely to see renewed meddling from Russia and possibly other foreign adversaries. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, told a news conference, “We cannot let the Russians laugh about and take joy in the success they had in the last election. Their goal is to undermine democracy.” Lawmakers have introduced several bills, some with bipartisan support, to bolster election security since the 2016 polls in which Republican Donald Trump was elected president. None have become law. The new bill is the most comprehensive to date and is aimed at bolstering protection for the midterms and subsequent elections. It has no Republican co-sponsors in the House, which the party controls, and is therefore unlikely to succeed.

 

 

 

Moscow has tangible evidence of “the destructive interference of some Western countries” in Russia’s domestic affairs ahead of a presidential election next month, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told a briefing on Thursday. Maria Zakharova said Moscow had warned European countries that “such activity should stop”. “If it does not stop we will have to take tough counter-measures”, she said.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump’s first chief of staff says all those reports about chaos in the early days of the Trump White House were true — and then some. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Reince Priebus said, according to an updated book to be published next month about White House chiefs of staff. In an adaptation from the next edition of the book, “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency,” Chris Whipple writes in Vanity Fair about a dramatic showdown that nearly led to the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions last May after the president berated him for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump campaign contacts with Russia. The episode is one of many chaotic scenes recounted in the latest book to chronicle the inner workings of the Trump White House. Priebus also is quoted about his unsuccessful campaign to rein in Trump’s tweets, including an early effort by staff to write tweets for him. Priebus was ousted by Trump last July and replaced by retired Gen. John Kelly, whose own job security is now in doubt as Trump complains about Kelly’s handling of allegations of domestic abuse by top aide Rob Porter. Porter resigned last week. For all of the drama and tumult of his days with Trump, Priebus told Whipple, “I still love the guy.”

 

 

 

Actor Luke Wilson played a real-life hero in the aftermath of a Los Angeles car crash that also involved golfer Bill Haas. According to witnesses on Wednesday, Wilson, whose own car was clipped in the three-vehicle accident, pulled a 50-year-old woman from the smoking wreckage of her BMW. “He was the hero, he led the charge,” said 46-year-old tattoo artist Sean Heirigs, who was right behind the accident. Heirigs said he and his 14-year-old daughter saw the driver of Ferrari accelerate and appear to lose control, with the back end swinging into oncoming traffic. It hit the BMW and clipped Wilson’s car before running into a pole. Police are investigating whether speed was a factor in the crash. Wilson, the 46-year-old Dallas-native and star of films including “Legally Blonde,” ″Idiocracy” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” wasn't hurt. The woman from the BMW is hospitalized with serious injuries. Haas, who had been in the passenger seat of a Ferrari, had pain and swelling in his legs, but no broken bones and is returning home to South Carolina to recuperate. Officials said the Ferrari’s driver, who died at the scene, was Mark William Gibello of Pacific Palisades. Haas was staying with Gibello’s family as he prepared to play this week in the Genesis Open at nearby Riviera Country Club.

 

 

 

The first blood test to help doctors diagnose traumatic brain injuries has won U.S. government approval. The move means Banyan Biomarkers can commercialize its test, giving the company an early lead in the biotech industry’s race to find a way to diagnose concussions. The test doesn’t detect concussions and the approval won’t immediately change how patients with suspected concussions or other brain trauma are treated. But Wednesday’s green light by the Food and Drug Administration “is a big deal because then it opens the door and accelerates technology,” according to Michael McCrea, a brain injury expert at Medical College of Wisconsin. The test detects two proteins present in brain cells that can leak into the bloodstream following a blow to the head. Banyan’s research shows the test can detect them within 12 hours of injury. It’s designed to help doctors quickly determine which patients with suspected concussions may have brain bleeding or another brain injury. Patients with a positive test would need a CT scan to confirm the results and determine if surgery or other treatment is needed. The test will first be used in emergency rooms, possibly as soon as later this year, but Banyan’s hope is that it will eventually be used on battlefields and football fields. Traumatic brain injuries affect an estimated 10 million people globally each year; at least 2 million of them are treated in U.S. emergency rooms. With Department of Defense funding, Banyan’s research shows its Brain Trauma Indicator can accurately pick up brain trauma later found on CT scans. That means patients with negative blood tests can avoid CT scans and unnecessary radiation exposure.

It’s Wednesday February 14, 2018

14Feb

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Several people were hospitalized after a shooting Wednesday morning outside the National Security Agency campus at Fort Meade, but none of the injuries were caused by gunfire. The NSA said in a statement that it began when a vehicle tried to enter the agency’s secure campus without authorization shortly after 7 a.m. The FBI is investigating. One federal official said the incident did not appear to have any links to terrorism. Images from local news outlets showed authorities surrounding two handcuffed people after a black SUV ran into a barrier outside the Maryland base. An NSA spokesperson said one person was wounded in the shooting and taken to a hospital. The NSA said, "the situation is under control and there’s no ongoing security or safety threat.”

 

 

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to carry on Wednesday after police recommended indicting him on corruption charges, angrily dismissing the allegations and the critics calling on him to step down. The police announcement that Netanyahu’s acceptance of nearly $300,000 in gifts from two billionaires amounted to bribery - sent shockwaves through the Israeli political system and delivered a humiliating blow to Netanyahu after years of allegations and investigations. But it did not appear to immediately threaten his lengthy rule as reaction largely fell along partisan lines. Nearly all of Netanyahu’s Cabinet ministers issued statements of support and his coalition partners all signaled they would stick by him, for now. Speaking to a gathering of local government officials in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said, “After I read the recommendations report, I can say it is biased, extreme, full of holes like Swiss cheese and doesn’t hold water.” Though he is not legally compelled to resign, several opposition figures called on Netanyahu to do so to avoid corrupting the office further. Under similar circumstances a decade ago Netanyahu, then the opposition leader, urged then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign after police recommended he be indicted, saying a leader “sunk up to his neck in interrogations” could not govern properly.

 

 

 

The top Democrat on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee - Representative Adam Schiff - said on Wednesday the White House and FBI wanted too much information kept from the public in a still-secret Democratic memo related to probes of Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. election. Schiff told reporters that panel members were in “good discussions” with the FBI on declassifying the document, and hoped to resolve the issue “very soon.” Infuriating Democrats, President Trump blocked release of the Democrats’ memo on Friday, although he had disregarded objections by the FBI and allowed the publication of a Republican memo just a week earlier. The Democrats’ document is intended to rebut the Republican memo, which alleges bias against Republicans by FBI and Justice Department officials as they obtained a warrant allowing surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser. Schiff said it appeared the FBI had labeled as classified everything in the memo that had not already been released to the public. If the document is changed significantly, the committee might need to vote again on whether to release it, sending it for another review by Trump.

 

 

 

A British judge upheld an arrest warrant for Julian Assange on Tuesday, saying the WikiLeaks founder cannot escape responsibility for jumping bail in 2012 and hiding in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on rape allegations. Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into the cases last year, and Assange's lawyers said it was no longer in the public interest to arrest him. Judge Emma Arbuthnot firmly disagreed, saying Assange had made "a determined attempt to avoid the order of the court." "He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favor," the judge said. Assange can appeal, but his lawyers gave no indication whether he would.

 

 

 

The U.S. Navy commander in charge of overseeing military operations in the Pacific said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s long-term goal is to reunify the divided Korean Peninsula under his totalitarian government. Adm. Harry Harris Jr. made those comments during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and stated there’s a prevailing view that Kim needs a nuclear arsenal to safeguard his regime. But Harris says Kim is after much more saying; “I do think that he is after reunification under a single communist system. So he’s after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do and he’s on a path to achieve what he feels is his natural place.” Kim’s father and grandfather were the late North Korean rulers Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. The testimony from Harris, an officer who’s been in uniform for nearly 40 years and speaks bluntly, came as athletes from North Korea are participating in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The games led to a remarkable moment of reconciliation between the rivals but their decades-long animosities could easily erupt again after the Olympics. Top U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday delivered their latest threat assessment, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that the risk of conflict with North Korea is higher today than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

 

 

 

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will announce Thursday that he’s running for the Utah Senate seat held by retiring Orrin Hatch. That was confirmed by three people with direct knowledge of the plan. Romney will be a heavy favorite to keep the seat in Republican hands. The 70-year-old Romney, once a harsh critic of President Donald Trump, will release an online video Thursday announcing his Senate bid. His first public appearance as a Senate candidate will come Friday night at a county Republican dinner in Provo. Despite a drama-filled history with Trump, Romney is not expected to address the combative president directly in the announcement video. Those close to him say he plans a hyper-local focus on Utah issues throughout the Senate campaign. His announcement video will suggest that Washington has much to learn from Utah. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and one of the most famous Mormons, is widely liked and respected in Utah, which is heavily Mormon. He moved to Utah after losing the 2012 presidential election. That was a decade after he helped turn around the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics.

 

 

 

The United Nations said the Iraqi city of Mosul will remain strewn with unexploded bombs for a decade, endangering a million or more civilians who want to return home following the end of three years of Islamic State occupation. A U.N. demining expert said on Wednesday the destruction of Mosul had left an estimated 11 million tonnes of debris and two-thirds of the explosive hazards were thought to be buried under the rubble. Last year, UN personnel removed 45,000 explosive hazards and 750 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) across Iraq, including over 25,000 in western Mosul alone. Other areas such as Falluja and Sinjar also need more de-mining help. Last week de-miners discovered an IS factory for manufacturing improvised explosive devices littered with mortar rounds, artillery ammunition, hand grenades, rockets and 250,000 electronic components. Clearing buildings such as the main western Mosul hospital, formerly an IS headquarters site, was vital for restoring services for citizens.

 

 

 

Kuwait has announced that international donors have pledged $30 billion to help rebuild Iraq after the war against the Islamic State group, overcoming Western doubts and donor fatigue over Mideast crises to help the battle-ravaged nation. While falling short of an estimated $88.2 billion needed to rebuild Iraq, it easily surpassed the $20 billion Iraqi officials initially said they needed to begin their difficult work. While much of the larger donations came in the form of loans, Iraq remains an oil-rich nation and such debts can be forgiven by the countries and institutions offering them. The pledges, if followed through with funding, could give Iraq a chance to dig itself out of the rubble left by the Islamic State group and the chaos that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. The biggest single pledge came from Turkey, which announced $5 billion in credit to Iraq, while Kuwait’s ruling emir said his oil-rich nation will give $1 billion in loans and $1 billion in direct investments. Iraq also still owes Kuwait reparations from Saddam’s 1990 invasion that sparked the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War.

 

 

 

A second federal judge has blocked President Trump's order to end former President Barack Obama's program preventing the deportation of young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Trump last year gave Congress until March to pass a law restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before it would be phased out, and the Senate this week started debating a fix. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled Tuesday that the government had not provided adequate justification for ending DACA, echoing a January ruling by another judge. "The decision to end the DACA program appears to rest exclusively on a legal conclusion that the program was unconstitutional," Garaufis said. "Because that conclusion was erroneous, the decision to end the DACA program cannot stand."

 

 

 

Pope Francis, leading Catholics into the season of Lent, urged people on Wednesday to slow down amid the noise, haste, and desire for instant gratification in a high-tech world to rediscover the power of silence. On Ash Wednesday devout Christians in churches around the world have ashes rubbed onto their heads in a ritual reminding them of their mortality as a priest recites the biblically inspired phrase, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” During Lent, which ends on Easter, Christians are urged to occasionally fast from food, give up something they enjoy as a sign of humility, carry out extra acts of charity and reflect on how they can improve themselves. Francis, who led a procession along the streets of Aventine Hill before saying the Mass, urged his listeners to beware “the emptiness of everything that is instantaneous, momentary and fleeting” and not forget tenderness and compassion. Francis has invited Roman Catholics and members of all other religions on Sunday to observe a day of prayer, fasting, and initiatives for peace on Feb. 23, urging everyone to “say no” to violence and conflict.

 

 

 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, fresh off the successful launch this month of the most powerful rocket in the 21st century, won an endorsement on Wednesday from the top U.S. communications regulator to build a broadband network using satellites. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the approval of an application by SpaceX to provide broadband services using satellites in the United States and worldwide. In a statement, Pai said, “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach.” SpaceX told the FCC in a Feb. 1 letter that it plans to launch a pair of experimental satellites on one of its Falcon 9 rockets. That launch, which has been approved by the FCC, is set for Saturday in California. The rocket will carry the PAZ satellite for Hisdesat of Madrid, Spain as well as multiple smaller secondary payloads.

It’s Tuesday February 13, 2018

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New satellite research shows melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise. According to researchers, at the current rate, the world’s oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 centimeters) higher by the end of the century compared to today. Sea level rise is caused by warming of the ocean and melting from glaciers and ice sheets. The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets. It confirms scientists’ computer simulations and is in line with predictions from the United Nations, which releases regular climate change reports. Of the 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) of sea level rise in the past quarter-century, about 55 percent is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice.
The research was published in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

 

 

 

Tonga’s neighbors scrambled to deliver emergency relief on Tuesday after Cyclone Gita tore across the Pacific island nation in the middle of the night, flattening the parliament, tearing roofs off homes and causing widespread flooding. There were no confirmed reports of deaths from the Category 4 storm that brought winds of around 200 km (125 miles) per hour, but there were a lot of injured people, some seriously, according to Graham Kenna, an Australian government adviser at Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office. Photos posted on social media showed a wrecked Parliament House building in the capital, as well as extensive flooding and downed power lines. Access to areas outside the capital was hindered by the storm damage and debris. New Zealand is donating $545,000 in aid, and a NZ Air Force Hercules aircraft was due to fly emergency relief supplies into Tonga on Tuesday. Australia is donating $275,000 worth of emergency shelter, kitchen, and hygiene kits, while the country’s foreign minister said the Australian Defence Force personnel would assist with clean-up efforts. The cyclone was heading towards Fiji’s southern islands on Tuesday, with some forecasts reporting it intensifying towards a Category 5 storm.

 

 

 

Human error may be to blame for the crash of a Russian plane that killed 71 people. On Tuesday, Russian investigators noted that the pilots of the doomed airliner failed to turn on the heating unit for its measuring equipment, resulting in flawed airspeed data. The pilots put the An-148 on autopilot after taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport but took manual controls back when they saw conflicting speed data, with one indicator showing the plane’s speed at zero. The pilots performed a series of maneuvers and eventually took the plane into a dive at 30-35 degrees. It plummeted into a snowy field six minutes after takeoff, killing all 65 passengers and six crew onboard. Investigators said the government is continuing to study the data, but noted that “erroneous data on the pilots’ speed indicators may have been a factor that triggered the special flight situation.” Earlier reports indicated that the plane’s captain had chosen not to have the plane undergo a de-icing treatment before takeoff. The crew decides whether to have the plane sprayed by de-icing liquid, depending on weather conditions and the state of the plane. The carrier, Saratov Airlines, has grounded several other An-148s in its fleet pending the crash investigation.

 

 

 

North Korea has lowered the volume of its border propaganda broadcasts at the inter-Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) since Friday’s Winter Olympics opening ceremony, according to comments made to Reuters by a senior military official stationed at the border. North and South Korea have been using large speakers to send a sonic barrage of music, news and propaganda at each other since early 2016 when the South restarted its broadcasts in retaliation to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test that January. It was not immediately clear if South Korea had also turned down the volume of its broadcasts. According to North Korean state media, leader Kim Jong Un wants to boost the “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” with South Korea after his younger sister Kim Yo Jong led a three-day visit to the Games. The Games are being held at the ski resort of Pyeongchang, about 80 km (50 miles) south of the border.

 

 

 

The Senate’s two top leaders put on a show of camaraderie Monday as their chamber launched its immigration debate, but also laid down markers underscoring how hard it will be to reach a deal that can move through Congress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking at a previously scheduled appearance alongside his counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the University of Louisville said, “We really do get along, despite what you read in the press." McConnell expressed his support for a wide-ranging proposal by President Donald Trump that the Senate is expected to vote on this week. It would pave a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young “Dreamer” immigrants in the U.S. illegally, a lure for Democrats that many Republicans oppose. Trump also wants $25 billion for Trump’s border wall with Mexico and other security measures, as well as curbs on legal immigration — a must for many Republicans. Many Democrats consider some of the proposals, including limiting the relatives that legal immigrants can bring to the U.S., to be non-starters.

 

 

 

President Trump’s daughter-in-law Vanessa Trump was taken to a New York hospital on Monday after officials said she opened a piece of mail containing an unidentified white powder that was later determined to be non-hazardous. Vanessa Trump, the wife of the president’s eldest son Donald Jr., was hospitalized after she complained of nausea following her exposure. New York police officials said two other people who were present were also taken to the hospital. A police department spokesperson said, “The substance had arrived by mail and it was addressed to Donald Trump Jr." U.S. authorities have been on alert for mail containing white powder since 2001, when envelopes laced with anthrax were sent to media outlets and U.S. lawmakers, killing five people. Three patients from the household were transported to the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for further evaluation, including Vanessa Trump’s mother, although she had not complained of symptoms. The package had a Boston postmark, according to ABC News and the New York Post. The U.S. Secret Service confirmed it was involved in the investigation.

 

 

 

A former Politburo member once seen as a rising star in Chinese politics has been charged with bribery, becoming the highest-ranking serving official to be ensnared by President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign, now in its sixth year. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate announced the indictment of Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party leader of the western megacity of Chongqing, on its website Tuesday. The announcement said Sun “illegally accepted huge amounts of money and goods” from others in return for providing them with benefits. The indictment focused on bribery but leaders have made it clear Sun’s alleged offenses were largely political in nature. Sun was expelled from the party and dismissed from public office because he was suspected of “serious discipline violations,” a phrase that usually refers to bribery and other graft. The 53-year-old Sun sat on the Politburo and had been seen as a candidate for promotion to the body’s Standing Committee, the select group of leaders who constitute the apex of political power in China. Sun had been identified most closely with the China Youth League faction associated with Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, which Xi has effectively sidelined in the succession process. His expulsion will help ensure that Xi’s supporters hold strong majorities on both the Politburo and the smaller Standing Committee.

 

 

 

South Africa's ruling African National Congress party decided Tuesday to oust Jacob Zuma as head of state, Reuters reported, citing two sources. The agreement to "recall" Zuma, or remove him from office, came after 13 hours of intense debate and a brief meeting between Zuma and his presumed successor, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, in which Zuma refused a request that he resign within 48 hours. If Zuma continues to defy the party's wishes it might have to suffer the further indignity of removing him through a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Zuma's leadership has been plagued by scandals although he denies any wrongdoing.

 

 

 

General Motors Co said it will close one of its four plants in South Korea and incur an $850 million impairment charge as part of a restructuring of its money-losing business in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy. GM said it would decide the future of its remaining South Korean operations within weeks, amid ongoing talks with the government and labor unions on how to cut costs and make the business profitable. The move is the latest in a series of steps the U.S. automaker has taken to put profitability and innovation ahead of sales and volume. Since 2015 GM has exited unprofitable markets including Europe, South Africa, and Russia. In recent years, GM ceased manufacturing in Australia and Indonesia, and significantly restructured its Thai operations. It is also winding down efforts to sell cars in India and is turning its manufacturing facilities there into an export hub.

 

 

 

A suspected poacher near South Africa's famed Kruger National Park was killed by a pack of lions who mauled him and ate nearly his entire body. According to media reports Monday, the man's remains were found near Hoedspruit, a town in South Africa’s northeastern province of Limpopo. Local media reported that ammunition and a loaded rifle were discovered next to the remains. A police spokesman said, “It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions. They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains." Poaching has become increasingly prevalent in Limpopo. The BBC reported that three poisoned lion carcasses were found with their paws and heads cut off in the province in January 2017. Authorities are now working to identify the man's remains.

 

 

 

Marty Allen, the baby-faced, bug-eyed comedian with wild black hair who was a staple of TV variety shows, game shows and talk shows for decades, died Monday night. He was 95. Allen died in Las Vegas of complications from pneumonia with his wife and performing partner of the last three decades Karon Kate Blackwell by his side. Allen, known for his greeting and catchphrase “Hello dere,” was a living link late in life to a generation of long-dead superstars with whom he shared a stage, including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Elvis Presley. He first found fame as half of the duo Allen & Rossi with partner Steve Rossi, who died in 2014. Allen & Rossi appeared 44 times on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” including the episodes where the Beatles performed and most of America watched. Allen was born in Pittsburgh and served in Italy in the Army Air Corps in World War II, earning a Soldier’s medal for valor. He kept making crowds laugh into his mid-90s. “It’s unbelievable to be 94 years old,” Marty Allen told a New York audience in 2016. “My wife says, ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ I told her, ‘An antique.’ So she framed my birth certificate.”

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