Comcast to Disney on 21st Century Fox Takeover Bid: ‘You Win!’ - That’s in the news on Thursday July 19, 2018

19Jul

00:0000:00

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused forces in the United States of trying to undermine the success of his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, but said the two leaders had begun to improve U.S.-Russia ties anyway. Putin and Trump sat down for their first summit in Helsinki on Monday, an event that sparked a storm of criticism in the United States after Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, something Putin denies. Trump later said he had misspoken and accused “some people” of hating the fact that he got along with Putin. The White House has been struggling to contain a political outcry and confusion over the summit ever since. Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said on Thursday the Helsinki summit had been successful. However, Putin said “powerful” U.S. forces were trying to sabotage what the summit had achieved. Putin did not name names, but spoke of U.S. politicians who put their “narrow party interests” above the best interests of the United States and were powerful enough to be able to foist their questionable “stories” on millions of Americans.

 

 

 

FBI Director Christopher Wray reaffirmed on Wednesday that Russia was continuing to try to interfere in U.S. elections, in apparent pushback over Trump's recent statements blurring his position on whether Russian meddling is ongoing. "My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day," Wray told NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt at the Aspen Security Forum. Holt also asked Wray whether reports that he had previously threatened to resign were true. He did not confirm the reports, but suggested they were accurate. "I'm a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of," he said. "I'll just leave it at that."

 

 

 

A judge on Wednesday ordered alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina held until trial after prosecutors argued that she might flee the country if allowed out on bond. Prosecutors said Butina, a 29-year-old gun rights activist, has ties to Russian intelligence and appeared to be preparing to leave Washington when she was arrested and accused of working as a Russian agent to arrange back-channel communications between Moscow and associates of President Trump. Federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused Butina of using sex and lies to develop powerful connections in conservative circles, including a gun-rights organization, reportedly the National Rifle Association. Butina pleaded not guilty on Wednesday. Her attorney, Robert Driscoll, said Butina was not a flight risk, calling her a young student who was just "seeking to make her way in America."

 

 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that reaching a denuclearization deal with North Korea "may take some time." "There's a lot of work to do. It may take some time to get where we need to go," Pompeo said at a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Trump. "But all of this will be taking place against the backdrop of continued enforcement of existing sanctions." Russia's envoy to North Korea has proposed easing the sanctions, designed to pressure North Korea into curbing its nuclear and missile programs, pending an agreement on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Pompeo said some progress had been made since Trump's inconclusive summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, including plans to start returning remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War within "the next couple weeks."

 

 

 

News media in Japan report North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is unlikely to attend the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in September as his name is not on the list of speakers. While leaders, such as U.S. President Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea President Moon Jae-in are scheduled to speak at the General Assembly, a ministerial-level figure from North Korea is expected to take to the podium on Sept. 29. Meanwhile, South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa didn't rule out the possibility that leaders of the U.S., South and North Korean leaders will meet for a trilateral summit at the Assembly in September. She said "The Panmunjom Declaration vows to announce the end of the Korean War within this year. We will make diplomatic efforts to make it happen, but it's hard to specify the time." Kang also reiterated that the complete denuclearization is a long-term goal, firmly shared with the U.S. and South Korea and also with the international community. Her comment is in line with Trump's earlier remarks that there is "no time limit" and "no speed limit" to denuclearize North Korea's nuclear weapons.

 

 

 

The Turkish government ended a state of emergency Thursday that had been in effect since a failed coup attempt two years ago. Emergency rule was imposed on July 20, 2016, five days after a coup attempt "to enable the authorities to take swift and effective action against those responsible for the failed coup, which also resulted in the temporary suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights." Under the state of emergency, more than 100,000 people were taken into custody; over 100,000 civil servants were dismissed; and more than 100 media outlets were closed. The government extended the emergency rule seven times, prompting criticism from Western allies and civil rights groups. While the government has decided not to extend the emergency rule, a bill seeking to keep some measures in place for another three years is expected to be taken to parliament next week. If passed, it would maintain the government's power to dismiss civil servants with alleged terrorist ties. It would also extend the time detainees can be held in prison through a court order from two days to 12 days.

 

 

 

Israeli lawmakers passed a Jewish nation-state bill Thursday, that's been steeped in controversy, after a long debate. The bill officially defined Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. It says Jerusalem is the united capital and the official language is Hebrew, with Arabic having "special status." Lawmakers voted in favor of the bill 62 to 55 after a contentious debate between lawmakers who saw it as a victory for the Jewish people and Arab lawmakers who saw it as a defeat. Bill sponsor Avi Dichter said during debates before the vote that the "basic law doesn't hurt the culture of minorities living in Israel." The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a statement "the nation-state law is a colonial law with features of apartheid, which is prohibited by international law because it contradicts the international treaty that bans apartheid crimes. It creates various avenues for segregation in land and housing and incentives based on the principle of 'advancing Jewish settlement' both in civil life and in obtaining citizenship based on the law of return and in language and in cultural rights in the name of self-definition." "

 

 

 

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled a proposal to split up the state from the November ballot. Proposition 9, sponsored by venture capitalist Tim Draper, called for the division of California into three states: California, Northern California, and Southern California. A conservation group sued, arguing the measure would abolish the state constitution, which cannot be done as a ballot initiative. The court said "significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition's validity" and the "potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election." The court agreed to rule on the measure's constitutionality at a later date.

 

 

 

Comcast said Thursday that it is dropping its bid for Twenty-First Century Fox’s entertainment business, instead focusing on its pursuit of the European pay-TV operator Sky. Fox owns 39 percent of Sky and has also been trying to buy the 61 percent it doesn’t own. Comcast had been fiercely dueling with Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox assets, but on Thursday said that it would not raise its $66 billion offer for the company. The withdrawal leaves the path open for Disney to buy the Twenty-First Century Fox assets with its latest offer of $71 billion. The Department of Justice has okayed Disney’s bid as long as it sells 22 regional sports networks. Fox shareholders are set to vote on Disney’s offer July 27. Last week Comcast boosted its offer for European pay TV service Sky to $34 billion. Sky operates in Austria, Germany, Ireland and Italy as well as the U.K. It has 22.5 million customers, attracted by offerings such as English Premier League soccer and “Game of Thrones.” Comcast Corp. and Fox have been battling for Fox and Sky in order to amass more programming as they compete for viewers with both traditional TV networks and technology companies such as Netflix and Amazon.

 

 

 

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company shot a capsule higher into space Wednesday than it’s ever done before. The New Shepard rocket blasted off from West Texas on the company’s latest test flight. Once the booster separated, the capsule’s escape motor fired, lifting the spacecraft to an altitude of 389,846 feet. That’s 74 miles or 119 kilometers. It’s part of a safety system intended to save lives once space tourists and others climb aboard for suborbital hops. The booster and capsule — both repeat fliers — landed successfully. It was the ninth test flight and lasted 11 minutes. Wednesday’s passenger was called Mannequin Skywalker, an instrumented dummy in a blue flight suit that’s flown before, plus science experiments. Bezos aims to send people and payloads into orbit from Cape Canaveral. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development. He named his rockets after NASA’s original Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. Blue Origin has yet to announce when it will start selling tickets or how much flights will cost.

Google Slapped with Record $5 Billion Fine by EU Antitrust Regulators - That’s in the news on Wednesday July 18, 2018

18Jul

00:0000:00

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Russia would help with North Korea and offered an enthusiastic update on the U.S. process of negotiating with the antagonistic Asian nation over nuclear weapons. "Russia has agreed to help with North Korea, where relationships with us are very good and the process is moving along,” said Trump on Twitter. “There is no rush, the sanctions remain! Big benefits and exciting future for North Korea at end of process!” At the same time the tweet was published the RIA news agency reported that a summit between the leaders of Russia and North Korea is “on the agenda”. Trump met North Korea’s Kim Jong Un last month in the first U.S.-North Korean summit and received a letter from the reclusive leader expressing hope for “practical actions” in the future.

 

 

 

After facing bipartisan criticism, President Trump said that he misspoke on Monday when he appeared to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the question of whether Moscow tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. After his summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump said, "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia that hacked Democrats during the campaign. Trump said he should have said he didn't see why it "wouldn't" be Russia, "sort of a double negative." Trump said he accepts the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia tried to meddle in the election. "So you can put that in," he said, "and I think that probably clarifies things." Democrats called Trump's statement a transparent and weak bit of damage control.

 

 

 

European Union regulators on Wednesday hit Google with a record €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine for antitrust violations. The European Commission said Google abused its Android market dominance by inserting its own search engine and Chrome apps into the widely used operating system for smartphones and tablets. The regulators also said Google did other things to block competition, such as paying "certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators" to exclusively bundle its search app on handheld devices. The fine far surpassed Google's previous $2.7 billion record-breaking fine, which the EU imposed last year, saying Google had manipulated search results. Google parent Alphabet has 90 days to change its business practices or face further penalties.

 

 

 

19 people died when a boat carrying around 160 migrants sank off the coast of northern Cyprus and rescuers were searching for at least 30 other people. 101 migrants had been rescued by Turkish and northern Cypriot coast guards, helped by commercial boats in the area. The coast guard was still searching for 30 people and that it was not immediately clear how many people had been on the boat which was detected by radar on Tuesday night but sank early on Wednesday morning. In 2015, Turkey became one of the main launch points for the dangerous sea leg for more than a million migrants seeking to reach the European Union, many fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. A 2016 deal between Turkey and the European Union sharply reduced the flow of refugees into the bloc, after thousands died crossing from Turkey to Greek islands a few miles offshore.

 

 

 

The Philippines is at risk of breaching sanctions imposed by the United States if it proceeds with the purchase of grenade launchers from a blacklisted Russian firm, a deal that could test its longtime security alliance with the U.S. A senior Philippine general familiar with the deal said Manila had agreed in October last year to a nearly $7.5 million purchase of 750 rocket propelled grenade launchers from Russia, but the transfer had yet to be completed. Russia has donated assault rifles and trucks to the Philippines but the grenade launchers would be Manila’s first purchase of Russian weapons. The Philippines has long relied on the United States as its main source of military hardware and support. If it goes ahead, the deal could add strain to a nearly 70-year-old security alliance that Washington has described as “ironclad”, despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s disdain for the relationship with the former colonial power. U.S. sanctions were imposed last year against any country trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. The U.S. law is designed to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its support for Syria’s government and alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

 

 

The head of Iran's atomic agency said on Wednesday Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, upping the stakes in a confrontation with Washington over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work. It has regularly said its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement. Salehi said on state television that Iran has also imported some 400 tons of so-called yellowcake uranium since the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, bringing its stockpile to between 900 and 950 tons — up from 500 tons. The accord allows for that, but limits Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 3.67 percent, enough to use in a nuclear power plant but far lower than the 90 percent needed for an atomic weapon. The announcement came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal from the pact. Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The other signatories have been scrambling to save the accord, arguing it offers the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb. Iran has said it will wait to see what the other powers can do, but has signaled it is ready to get its enrichment activities back on track.

 

 

 

A six-story apartment building collapsed into an adjacent building in a suburb of New Delhi killing at least three people. The collapse occurred Tuesday night in the Greater Noida area and rescue workers were moving slowly through the debris in a search for survivors. A spokesman for India's Disaster Response Force told Reuters,“The buildings collapsed like a match box. The rescue efforts are taking time since we cannot use heavy machinery to clear the rubble for fear of harming the trapped victims." At least 12 workers were inside the apartment block when it fell and were feared trapped. Search dogs deployed at the site have yet to find any survivors. Building collapses in India are common during the June to September monsoon season when heavy rains weaken the foundations of badly constructed buildings. The two collapsed buildings were built a few years ago but residents of the area said only a few families had moved into the buildings, which were still occupied mainly by construction workers. Police arrested the builder of the apartment complex and two of his associates for negligence. The government ordered an investigation.

 

 

 

New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey sued the federal government, seeking to get rid of the $10,000 cap on federal deductions for state and local taxes included in President Trump's 2017 tax overhaul. The Republican-led Congress passed the $1.5 trillion overhaul and Trump signed it seven months ago, slashing the corporate tax rate and mostly reducing taxes for the wealthy. Critics said the cap disproportionately hurts taxpayers in "blue" states that are heavily Democratic, trampling on state sovereignty. "The federal government is hell-bent on using New York as a piggy bank to pay for corporate tax cuts and I will not stand for it," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. A spokeswoman said the Treasury Department was reviewing the complaint.

 

 

 

The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino has filed lawsuits against more than 1,000 survivors of last year's Las Vegas massacre, saying the company has "no liability of any kind" for the attack. A gunman killed 58 people and wounded scores more when he opened fire from the 32nd floor of the hotel, targeting people at a music festival using guns fitted with an accessory enabling them to mimic the rapid fire of fully automatic rifles. After firing for more than 10 minutes, police say the gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, fatally shot himself. The hotel's owner, MGM Resorts International, is not seeking money, but to shield its investors from damage claims.

 

 

 

Under pressure from international Olympics officials, Japan approved its first national legislation Wednesday, banning smoking inside of public facilities, but the watered-down measure excludes many restaurants and bars and is by many seen as toothless. The legislation aims to lower secondhand smoking risks ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amid international calls for smoke-free Games. The upper house approved and enacted the bill into law Wednesday after it was approved earlier by the lower house. But ruling party lawmakers with strong ties to the tobacco and restaurant industries opted for a weakened version. Last month, Tokyo separately enacted a stricter ordinance banning smoking at all eateries that have employees, to protect them from secondhand smoke. The ordinance will cover about 84 percent of Tokyo restaurants and bars. The new national law bans indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and government offices. Smoking will be allowed at existing small eateries, including those with less than 100 square meters of customer space, which includes more than half of Japanese establishments. Larger and new eateries must limit smoking to designated rooms. It will be implemented in phases through April 2020. In Japan, almost a fifth of adults still smoke. The rate for men in their 30s to 50s is nearly twice as high, according to a government survey last year.

23 Injured When “Lava Bomb” Hits Hawaiian Tour Boat - That’s in the news on Tuesday July 17, 2018

17Jul

00:0000:00

Unbowed by the broad condemnation of his extraordinary embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin went “even better” than his meeting with NATO allies last week in Brussels. The tweeted defense came a day after Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to his benefit, and he seemed to accept Putin’s insistence that Moscow’s hands were clean. He said his NATO meeting was “great” but he “had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia." In his tweet, he went on to say, "Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!” Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important U.S. competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader. Trump made clear he feels that any acknowledgement of Russia’s election involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

 

 

 

U.S. prosecutors on Monday unsealed criminal charges against a Russian woman, Mariia Butina, who tried to broker secret meetings between President Trump — then still just the GOP nominee — and Russian President Putin. Butina, a gun rights activist, was accused of conspiracy against America. She allegedly acted as an unregistered Russian agent, building close ties with the GOP through the NRA to advance Russia's interests in American politics. She allegedly was directed by a high-level Russian official, according to the Department of Justice. The charges were not levied by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, but are instead connected to a separate Russian intelligence operation. Butina's lawyer has denied the charges.

 

 

 

An Islamic State suicide bomber killed 20 people in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, including a Taliban commander, while in southern Helmand province, a government commando unit freed 54 people from a Taliban-run jail. In southern Kandahar province, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint in Arghistan district late on Monday night, killing nine policemen and wounding seven. 25 Taliban fighters were killed and 15 were wounded in the ensuing battle close to the Pakistani border. Tuesday’s attack by IS took place as village elders met with Taliban officials. 15 of the 20 killed were local elders and five were Taliban members, including a Taliban commander. The Taliban and the Islamic State group have been waging bitter battles in recent days in northern Afghanistan. As many as 100 insurgents from both the Taliban and IS have died in the fighting. Also Tuesday, in southern Helmand province, a commando unit stormed a jail that Taliban insurgents had been operating. They found and freed 32 civilians, 16 policemen, four soldiers and two military doctors.

 

 

 

At least 23 people were injured on Monday when a "lava bomb" from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano sent molten rock crashing through the roof of a tour boat. A woman in her 20s suffered a broken thigh bone and was in serious condition. Three others were hospitalized in stable condition. The rest of the injured passengers suffered superficial injuries such as burns and scrapes. The boat was taking visitors to watch lava from the volcano flowing off of Hawaii's Big Island into the ocean. Shane Turpin, the owner and captain of the boat, said he never saw the explosion. He said, "All of a sudden everything around us exploded. It was everywhere."

 

 

 

An intense heatwave killed at least 14 people over a three-day long weekend in Japan, and high temperatures hampered the recovery in flood-hit areas where more than 200 people died last week. Temperatures on Monday, a national holiday, surged above 39 degrees Celsius - about 102 Fahrenheit - in some inland areas and combined with high humidity to produce dangerous conditions, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency. Thousands more were treated in hospitals for heat-related conditions. Tokyo recorded a high of 34 Celsius on Monday. Temperatures in parts of western Japan hit by deadly floods reached a high of 34 Celsius by midday on Tuesday, creating dangerous conditions for military personnel and volunteers clearing mud and debris. Last year, 48 people died from heat between May and September, with 31 deaths in July. The current heatwave was due to stalled high pressure airmasses over much of Japan. Meteorologists said the stagnant pattern is expected to continue for the rest of the week, if not longer.

 

 

 

Ford Motor has agreed to pay $299.1 million to settle consumers’ economic-loss claims connected to Takata air-bag recalls. The settlement, filed in federal court in Miami, reimburses consumers for out-of-pocket expenses and provides free loaners for owners or lessees of Ford vehicles who are waiting for their air bags to be fixed. The settlement will also increase outreach efforts to find consumers whose vehicles still have defective air bags. Ford is the latest automaker to settle the economic loss claims, following a $533 million agreement last year by Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, BMW, and a separate pact by Nissan Motor for $98 million. General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz continue to litigate these claims. The massive Takata air-bag recalls, the largest in history, led to the company filing for bankruptcy in 2017 and spurred lawsuits by consumers and accident victims. The air bags can malfunction and send shards of metal at drivers and passengers. This settlement doesn’t cover personal injury or wrongful death claims.

 

 

 

Iran has filed a suit in the International Court of Justice against the United States, alleging that sanctions imposed by Washington in May violate a 1955 bilateral treaty between the two countries. The ICJ, or World Court, is the United Nations’ court for resolving disputes. Iran’s filing asks the ICJ to order the United States to provisionally lift the sanctions ahead of more detailed arguments. The next step will be a hearing in which the United States is likely contest to Iran’s request for a provisional ruling, and argue that the ICJ should not have jurisdiction. The court has not yet set any date for further steps.

 

 

 

Amazon suffered computer glitches on Monday at the start of its Prime Day summer sale, its biggest promotional event of the year. The shopping holiday lasts for 36 hours. Shoppers reported problems on desktop PCs and the online retail giant's mobile app. Amazon acknowledged on Twitter that some customers were reporting problems, and said it was working to fix them. Still, the company tweeted, "Many are shopping successfully — in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year." Amazon's stock hit a record during the session — lifting founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' net worth to a record $150 billion — but fell slightly after the glitches were reported.

 

 

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning over Venezuelan crab meat potentially contaminated with a bacteria likely to cause stomach illness. The FDA warning said the crab meat may be contaminated with Vibrio parahemolyticus, a bacteria that causes diarrhea, vomiting and fever in most people infected. 12 people have been sickened by the crab meat including four who have been hospitalized. The outbreak has impacted eight people in Maryland, two in Louisiana, one in Pennsylvania and one Washington, D.C. The FDA said consumers should avoid eating the affected product even though it may look, smell and taste normal. Symptoms usually develop within 24 hours. The product is usually found in plastic tubs and may be labeled as "pre-cooked," officials said. Consumers are advised to ask where their crab meat is coming from if dining out at a restaurant or in grocery stores. In addition to its warning, the FDA also urged retailers to throw out the affected crab meat and take sanitary precautions to avoid cross contamination.

 

 

 

A Chinese fantasy epic about mythological Buddhist characters has been pulled from theaters after a dismal performance at the Chinese box office, and online reviews that on average rated the film a 3.1 out of 10 may have contributed to the movie's flop. The would-be blockbuster Asura, with a production budget of $112 million, is the most expensive Chinese film ever made. But the online reviews are raising suspicions, and paid trolls may have been manipulating the review sites, according to the films' producers. Producers said the film would be pulled from theaters after it earned only $7.3 million on opening weekend. The film was a massive production, involving an international crew of 2,500 people.

 

 

 

Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones. The latest discovery of a dozen small moons brings the total to 79, the most of any planet in our solar system. Scientists were looking for objects on the fringes of the solar system last year when they pointed their telescopes close to Jupiter’s backyard. According to Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington, they saw a new group of objects moving around the giant gas planet but didn’t know whether they were moons or asteroids passing near Jupiter. They all turned out to be moons of Jupiter. The moons had not been spotted before because they are tiny - about one to two kilometers across. The team is calling one of the new moons an ‘oddball’ because of its unusual orbit. Scientists believe the small moons appeared soon after Jupiter formed as the planet's gravity attracted the material that was around it. Some of that debris was captured as moons. Telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona were used for the latest discovery and confirmation. Galileo detected Jupiter’s four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in 1610. The latest count of 79 known moons includes eight that have not been seen for several years. Saturn is next with 61, followed by Uranus with 27 and Neptune with 14. Mars has two, Earth has one and Mercury and Venus have no natural satellites.

Putin Denies Russia Tampering with US Elections During Summit With Trump -That’s in the news on Monday July 16, 2018

16Jul

00:0000:00

President Donald Trump emerged from a meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin on Monday saying he saw no reason to believe Russia had hacked the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the Russian president “was extremely strong and powerful” in denying it. Trump held his meeting just days after a special prosecutor in the United States indicted 12 Russian agents for allegedly stealing Democratic Party documents during the election. At a news conference after one-on-one talks, Trump said not a single critical word about Russia on any of the issues, from Ukraine to Syria, that have brought relations between Washington and Moscow to a post-Cold War low. Putin The Russian leader called the first meeting "a good conversation," adding "I hope we start to get to know each other better." Noting that "mutual interests abound," he said he gave specific suggestions on dealing with crises under discussion. Putin indicated the talks were wide-ranging and covered nuclear non-proliferation, Middle Eastern affairs in Israel and Syria, Iran and the nuclear deal and Trump's recent negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. This was the first U.S.-Russian summit in eight years.

 

 

The Trump administration has ordered its diplomats to try to enter into direct talks with the Taliban in a stark policy shift aiming to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan, The New York Times reports, citing several American and Afghan officials. The Taliban, which controls or has influence over 59 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, has long said it wants to first discuss peace with the United States, not the Afghan government, but the U.S. has always pushed back. There are about 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the Taliban continues to regularly launch deadly attacks.

 

 

 

Former President Barack Obama urged Kenya’s leaders on Monday to turn their backs on the divisive ethnic politics that have frequently spilled over into violence and to stamp down on corruption. Obama praised a rapprochement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga but said they must do more to heal the rifts between Kenya’s 40-odd ethnic groups. In the worst recent outbreak of ethnic conflict, 1,200 people were killed in fighting that followed disputed elections involving Odinga and Kenyatta in 2007. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, opened a school in his father’s home village of Kogelo in western Kenya. The center is run by his half sister Auma through her charity, the Sauti Kuu Foundation. It was his fourth trip to Kenya. He made his first in 1987, a journey he chronicled in his book “Dreams From My Father”, followed by a 2006 visit as a senator and then in 2015 as president. During his visit, Obama avoided any public mention of his successor and the divisive politics that have taken root in the United States since Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

China announced Monday that it had filed a World Trade Organization challenge to President Trump's proposal to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. The move came less than a week after Trump announced the plan, unusually fast for such a trade challenge. The tariffs have to go through a review process, so they won't take effect until September or later, if Trump goes through with them. China has warned that it will retaliate with similar measures if the Trump administration enacts the new tariffs. The U.S. Trade Representative said last week that the levies were a response to Beijing's retaliation over $34 billion in tariffs the U.S. imposed as part of an effort to get Beijing to revise trade policies that have hurt U.S. firms.

 

 

 

Haiti's prime minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, resigned over the weekend shortly before a no-confidence vote was to be held in the Caribbean nation's Parliament. Lafontant was under pressure following days of rioting triggered by a government plan to hike fuel prices under an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. As many as seven people died in the violent protests. After the outburst, Lafontant announced that the government was suspending the plan to raise prices by 38 percent for gasoline, 47 percent for diesel, and 51 percent for kerosene, and he said his government condemned "the acts of violence and vandalism." Haitian President Jovenel Moïse tweeted that he had accepted the resignations of Lafontant and his Cabinet and was working on picking a new prime minister.

 

 

 

Mexico's president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, announced Sunday that he would slash his own salary in half, after campaigning on a vow to fight corruption and cut down on perks for government officials. López Obrador said that he will earn 108,000 pesos — or about $5,707 — a month, less than half what President Enrique Peña Nieto makes now. He also said no public official will earn more than he does during his six-year term. "What we want is for the budget to reach everybody," López Obrador told reporters. He will take office in December.

 

 

 

Oil prices slumped 4 percent on Monday, with Brent reaching a three-month low, as Libyan ports reopened and traders eyed potential supply increases by Russia and other producers. Brent crude futures to $72.24 a barrel, a 4.1 percent loss, while West Texas crude decreased 3.9 percent, to $68.27 a barrel. Brent’s dive put it at its lowest level since mid-April. Supply outages in Libya, a labor dispute in Norway and unrest in Iraq all helped to push oil prices higher late last week, though prices still fell for a second straight week. Meanwhile, the U.S. said it wants to avoid disrupting global oil markets as it reimposes sanctions against Tehran and in certain cases will consider waivers for countries which need more time to wind down their oil imports from Iran. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but in certain cases if people can’t do that overnight, we’ll consider exceptions." The Trump administration is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November when the U.S. reimposes sanctions against Tehran, after Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major powers, against the advice of allies in Europe and elsewhere.

 

 

 

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on Monday he has “serious concerns” about Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media Co, an announcement that could scuttle the deal. Pai said in a statement that evidence suggested the divestiture of certain television stations “would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.” The transaction has come under harsh criticism from many Democrats and some state attorneys general because it would lead to significant consolidation. Shares of both companies fell sharply after the announcement. Pai called for a hearing before an administrative judge. In prior cases, when the FCC referred matters to an administrative judge, the parties have opted not to pursue the deal. Sinclair, which owns 192 stations, said in May 2017 it planned to acquire Chicago-based Tribune’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets. In April, Sinclair said it would sell 23 TV stations to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals for the Tribune transaction.

 

 

 

Bank of America announced on Monday that deposits made on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are outpacing those made at branches for the first time. Customers logged into Bank of America's mobile app 1.4 billion times last quarter. The rapid adoption of mobile banking has allowed big banks to massively shrink the number of expensive branches they operate. Bank of America's vast network of branches fell to 4,411 at the end of June, compared with 4,542 a year ago. The company has 1,720 fewer branches than it did in June 2008, a drop of 28%. At the same time, Bank of America's active mobile banking users jumped by 11% to 25.3 million over the past year. Shutting branches allows traditional banks to cut costs. Bank of America's non-interest expenses dropped by 5% last quarter, the most in two years. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan told analysts on Monday, "The common theory is that this is all young kids. But there's not enough young kids in anybody's customer base to drive this kind of activity. It has broadened out dramatically." Moynihan even highlighted "high" levels of mobile banking activity by "grandparents."

 

 

 

At least two people died in France amid celebrations that turned violent, after France won the 2018 World Cup on Sunday, beating Croatia 4-2 in a hard-fought match. Croatia scored the first own goal ever in a World Cup final, kicking the ball into its own net to give France the early lead, then evened the score half an hour in. France then surged ahead with three more goals in succession. France's Kylian Mbappe, who is only 19, became the second teenage player to score in a World Cup final game — the first, and still youngest, was the legendary Pele, who scored two goals for Brazil against Sweden at age 17 in 1958. Croatia came back from the dead with another goal at 69 minutes, bringing the score to 4-2, but could not close that gap. Belgium took third place Saturday, and England came in fourth. Qatar hosts the next World Cup in 2022.

12 Russian Officers Indicted by US Justice Dept for Hacking Democrats’ Campaign Emails - That’s in the news on Friday July 13, 2018

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The deadliest attack in Pakistan’s troubled election campaign killed more than 120 people, including a candidate, in southwestern Baluchistan province on Friday. Officials said a suicide bomber blew himself up amid scores of supporters who had gathered at a rally in the southwestern town of Mastung. 124 people including Siraj Raisani a candidate in the provincial Parliament died in the blast. Dozens more were wounded. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack happened ahead of the arrest of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his return to Pakistan. Sharif returned late Friday from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges. Anti-corruption officials said Maryam Sharif faces seven years in jail. The former PM was taken into custody to serve his sentence however he is expected to appeal and seek bail. It wasn’t clear when his appeal would be filed but he has until Monday.

 

 

 

12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted on charges they hacked into Democratic email accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and released stolen information in the months before Americans headed to the poll. The indictment announced Friday by the Justice Department was the clearest allegation yet of Russian efforts to meddle in American politics. The indictment lays out a sweeping and coordinated effort to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The charges come as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the internet “allows foreign adversaries to attack Americans in new and unexpected ways. Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us.” Rosenstein also said vote tallies were not altered by hacking, no Trump campaign associates were involved in the hacking efforts, and no American citizen was knowingly in contact with Russian intelligence officers.

 

 

 

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, whose anti-Trump text messages prompted allegations of institutional bias, clashed with House Republicans in a fiery hearing on Thursday. Republicans said the texts provided clear evidence of bias against President Donald Trump and in favor of Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic rival in the 2016 election. Strzok said the texts only expressed personal opinions, and he angrily denied suggestions by Republicans that he had tried to prevent President Trump from being elected. "At no time, in any of those texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took," he said. Strzok defended his work as a leader of the inquiries into Hillary Clinton's email use and possible collusion by Trump campaign associates in Russia's election meddling.

 

 

 

President Trump pulled off a diplomatic backflip Friday , reversing himself on trade, Brexit and his critical assessment of British Prime Minister Theresa May while insisting the U.S.-U.K. relationship is “the highest level of special.” Just days after lobbing thunderous broadsides at his British hosts, Trump was on his best behavior as he capped his tumultuous two-day visit to the U.K. by dropping by Windsor Castle for tea with Queen Elizabeth. Trump’s pomp-filled visit to the United Kingdom has been overshadowed by massive protests and an explosive interview in The Sun in which he blasted May, blamed London’s mayor for terror attacks against the city and argued that Europe was “losing its culture” because of immigration. The president who prides himself on not saying he’s sorry did his own version of backtracking at a news conference with May by finding a way to blame his favorite foil for any perceived friction with May, whom he lavished with praise on the heels of questioning her leadership. Trump said, “I didn’t criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister." He blamed the newspaper for skipping over his praise of May in a piece that was published Thursday just as the prime minster played host to Trump at an opulent welcome dinner at a country palace.” May, for her part, praised the strength of the U.S.-U.K. bond. But in a gentle rebuke, said: “It is all of our responsibility to ensure that trans-Atlantic unity endures.” As for her relationship with Trump, she said: “We are friends.”

 

 

 

The federal government has reopened the investigation into the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy whose mutilated body was left in Mississippi's Tallahatchie River in 1955 in one of the most notorious racist killings of the Jim Crow-era Deep South. Two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were prosecuted but acquitted by an all-white jury after just an hour of deliberation. A 2017 book revealing lies told by a key figure in the case prompted the government to reopen its inquiry, a federal official said Thursday. The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as saying that her testimony that Till had whistled and made sexual advances toward her at a Mississippi store was false.

 

 

 

At least 19 people died and 12 were injured after an explosion at a chemical plant in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan. Officials said the explosion occurred at a Hengda-owned plant in an industrial park Thursday evening, according to the Xinhua News agency. Local government officials said none of the injured are in critical condition. The fire caused by the explosion raged for several hours until it was eventually contained early Friday morning. The cause of the blast is under investigation.

 

 

 

Air China announced Friday it will fire the pilots of a flight that plunged 25,000 feet this week, after it was found human error caused the plane to plummet. Flight 106 was headed from Hong Kong to Dalian, China, Tuesday night when it lost the altitude over a span of just 10 minutes. The fall was severe enough the automated flight systems deployed oxygen masks. The Civil Aviation Administration of China determined the co-pilot had smoked an electronic cigarette and, without telling the chief pilot, tried to turn off a circulation fan to keep the vapor out of the passenger cabin -- but switched off the air conditioning instead resulting in insufficient oxygen in the cabin and an altitude warning. If a plane loses cabin pressure, it must fly at a lower altitude to give crew and passengers breathable air. Once the pilots saw the air conditioning was off, they turned it back on and regained altitude. Flight 106, with 162 passengers and crew, landed safely in Dalian. Aviation experts criticized the pilot's decision to continue the flight, since the oxygen masks had been activated -- meaning they'd be unavailable in the event of a second emergency. Air China also recommended the government revoke the pilots' licenses.

 

 

 

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it had reunited all eligible children under age 5 who were separated from their parents at the Mexican border, two days after a court-set deadline. Administration officials said they reunited 57 of 103 children fitting the criteria, but could not return the rest to their undocumented migrant parents for various reasons, including cases in which parents had criminal records or the adults who had arrived with them were not really their parents. "Throughout the reunification process, our goal has been the well-being of the children and returning them to a safe environment," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The administration still has to reunite roughly 2,000 older children with their parents by late July.

 

 

 

The Department of Justice said in a court document filed Thursday that it would appeal the approval of a massive merger between Time Warner and AT&T. The $85.4 billion deal was approved by a federal judge in June, despite the DOJ's protest at the time that the merger would make the TV industry "less competitive and less innovative." In approving the deal last month, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon determined that the government had failed to show that the merger would reduce competition in the TV market. The judge said that an appeal would be "fair game." AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said the appeal was surprising. "The Court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned," he said.

 

 

 

More than half of the rare black rhinoceroses relocated last week to a Kenya wildlife park have died under unclear circumstances. Some 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild worldwide, and about 650 are in Kenya, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They are prized by poachers for their horns, and are losing their natural habitats. 14 were moved last week from the wild to a new home in Kenya's Tsavo east rhino sanctuary but eight have died. A preliminary report by Kenya's Wildlife Ministry said the animals contracted salt poisoning when they tried to adapt to water with saline levels higher than the water to which they were accustomed. Officials said the high salt levels could have led to dehydration and led to "excess water intake" that would worsen the rhinos' health. Additional relocation has been halted. Kenya successfully moved 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017, a policy suited to restoring populations in remote places and shielding them from threats.

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