37 Million People Threatened by Effects from Super Typhoon Mangkhut - That’s in the news on Friday September 14, 2018

14Sep

00:0000:00

Hurricane Florence lumbered ashore in North Carolina with 90 mph winds and a large storm surge early Friday, splintering buildings and trapping hundreds of people in high water. At least three people were killed. More than 60 people had to be pulled from a collapsing cinderblock motel at the height of the storm. Hundreds more had to be rescued elsewhere from rising waters. Forecasters said Florence dumped heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses. Airlines canceled more than 2,100 flights through Sunday. By early afternoon, Florence’s winds had weakened to 75 mph, just barely hurricane strength, and well below the storm’s terrifying Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week. Storm surge and the prospect of 2 to 4 feet of rainfall were considered a bigger threat than its winds. But the storm has slowed to a crawl, drenching coastal communities for hours on end. Computer models show North Carolina alone is forecast to receive more than 9.5 trillion gallons of total rainfall, enough to cover the state to a depth of about 10 inches. Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7:15 a.m. Friday at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington, not far from the South Carolina line. The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually make a right hook to the northeast over the southern Appalachians, moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England as a tropical depression by the middle of next week.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the Philippines’ northeastern coast early Saturday, with witnesses saying the storm’s ferocious wind and blinding rain ripped off tin roof sheets and knocked out power. The typhoon made landfall before dawn Saturday in the coastal town of Baggao in Cagayan province on the northern tip of Luzon island, an agricultural region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces often hit by landslides. More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane. PAGASA, the Philippines' government weather service, said storm warnings are in effect in almost all the provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, including the capital, Manila. In addition to people in the Philippines, the Global Disaster alert and Coordination System said residents of Vietnam and the Chinese regions of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau would be affected by the storm as it moves westward. The storm is expected to pass through Taiwan before it arrives on the south China coast, putting a possible 37 million people in jeopardy. Greg Browning, climatologist for Bureau of Meteorology Australia, called this typhoon the most powerful storm system on Earth this year.

 

 

 

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two federal crimes after cutting a deal with prosecutors and agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel Robert Mueller. The move allows him to avoid a second criminal trial and ends Manafort’s more than yearlong fight against investigators. Manafort was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces 7 to 10 years in prison in that case. Prosecutor Andrew Weissman said in court that Manafort had struck a “cooperation agreement” and would plead guilty to charges related to his Ukrainian political consulting work. The charges do not relate to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which is the central issue in the special counsel’s investigation into possible contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Manafort case has nothing to do with Trump. Pleading guilty allows Manafort to avoid a trial that was expected to last at least three weeks and posed the potential of adding years onto the seven to 10 years he is already facing under federal sentencing guidelines from his conviction in Virginia. A jury found Manafort guilty of eight counts of tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

 

 

 

North and South Korea have opened a "liaison office" that will allow the two nations to communicate on a regular basis for the first time since the Korean War. The office, on the North's side of the militarized border, will be staffed by up to 20 people from each side. Seoul's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the Koreas will be able to "directly discuss issues 24 hours, 365 days." The opening comes ahead of a meeting between North and South leaders. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet in Pyongyang next week, in their third summit. Since President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met at a historic meeting in June, little progress has been made on North Korean denuclearization. But Kim recently requested another meeting with Trump, who hailed his "very warm" letter. Moon, who has positioned himself as a mediator between Trump and Kim, will seek to inject new energy into stalled US-North Korea nuclear talks when he meets Kim on Tuesday. At a ceremony marking the opening of the office, North Korean representative Ri Son-gwon said, "The two sides are now able to take a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula by quickly and frankly discussing issues arising from inter-Korean relations." The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty, and both sides remain technically at war.

 

 

 

The Kremlin showed off video of Russian warships holding drills in the Bering Sea which separates Russia from Alaska, part of Moscow’s biggest military maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Ministry of Defence showed video on Friday of the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) drills, which run until Sept. 17, taking place in Siberia and in waters off Russia’s eastern coast, involving 300 thousand troops, more than 1,000 military aircraft and two naval fleets. NATO has said it will monitor the exercise closely, as will the United States which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. President Vladimir Putin inspected the war games on Thursday, vowing in a speech to soldiers to strengthen the Russian army and supply it with new generation weapons and equipment. Putin said Russia was a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, but that it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.

 

 

 

Gas explosions killed at least one person and injured a dozen others on Thursday in three communities north of Boston. "It looked like Armageddon, it really did," according to Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield. 18 year old Leonel Rondon died after an explosion sent a chimney tumbling onto his car. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes. The blasts destroyed dozens of homes and other buildings in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence. Massachusetts State Police said there were about 70 reported fires, explosions, or investigations of gas odor. Investigators said they suspected the explosions were caused by "over-pressurization of a gas main" belonging to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a unit of the utility NiSource Inc.

 

 

 

The Trump administration has agreed to reconsider asylum claims by about 1,000 immigrant families separated at the southern border under a deal to settle lawsuits over President Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. If U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego approves the agreement, immigrant parents and their children, even those whose applications were rejected, will get a second chance to show they have a "credible fear of persecution or torture" in their home countries. Lawyers for immigrants had argued that the parents were too distraught to make their cases for asylum after their children were taken from them. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the agreement was "an implicit recognition that they did wrong by these families" by hampering their access to the asylum system.

 

 

 

China's foreign ministry confirms that the Trump administration has invited Chinese officials to participate in a new round of talks on resolving an escalating trade war between the two countries, which have the world's two largest economies. A ministry spokesman said, "We have indeed received an invitation from the U.S. side. We welcome it. Now the two sides are in communication on relevant details." President Trump is due to make a decision any time about whether to go through with a proposal to raise duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. The news followed reports by U.S. and European business groups that the rising tariffs had hurt foreign companies.

 

 

 

Two web browsers now want to help you fight back in what’s becoming an escalating battle for privacy between the public, and companies like Facebook and Google. Those companies routinely track your online surfing habits to better target ads at you. Programmers said new protections in Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers aim to prevent companies from turning “cookie” data files used to store sign-in details and preferences into broader trackers that take note of what you read, watch and research on other sites. Lance Cottrell, creator of the privacy service Anonymizer, said Apple’s effort was particularly significant, as it takes aim as a technique developed by tracking companies to override users’ attempts to delete their cookies. Computer experts said in order to get the protections, you’ll have to break your habit of using Google’s Chrome browser, which by some estimates has more than half of the worldwide browser usage. Safari and Firefox have less than 20 percent combined. The new Safari and Firefox tools don’t block ads. But without cookies, Jed Williams, chief innovation officer at the Local Media Association, an industry group for news publishers said websites might get paid a lot less for the ads. Apple and Mozilla are able to push the boundaries on privacy because neither depends on advertising. Google makes most of its money from selling ads. Facebook and Google declined comment on the Safari and Firefox tools.

 

 

 

After seven decades, the longest-running car in automotive history is about to disappear. Volkswagen said it will end production of its iconic Beetle by the end of the 2019 model-year. Conceived in Germany during the run-up to World War II, the Beetle became an icon of the American counterculture during the Vietnam War. But it lost momentum following the twin oil shocks of the 1970s and, despite two attempts to rebuild its appeal with complete makeovers, it has been little more than a largely forgotten niche vehicle in recent years. So, VW has launched what it calls the “Final Edition,” special versions of the Beetle coupe and convertible models that will mark the end of the run sometime next year. The original Beetle will go down in history as having the largest production run off a single platform, a total of nearly 22 million. Production was halted in 2003, down to 30,000 a year from a one-time peak of 1.3 million. When the final Beetle does run down the line it will have the distinction of being the longest-running nameplate in automotive history.

Millions in Philippines Bracing for Super Typhoon Mangkhut - That’s in the news on Thursday September 13, 2018

13Sep

00:0000:00

Philippine authorities began evacuating thousands of people Thursday from the path of Typhoon Mangkhut, the most powerful typhoon this year, closing schools, readying bulldozers for landslides and placing rescuers and troops on full alert in the country’s north. More than 4 million people live in areas at most risk from the storm, which the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii categorized as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts. Philippine forecasters said Typhoon Mangkhut could hit northeastern Cagayan province on Saturday. It was tracked on Thursday about 725 kilometers (450 miles) away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph). Storm warnings have been raised in 25 provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, restricting sea and air travel. Nearly 48,000 houses in high-risk areas are made of light materials and vulnerable to Mangkhut’s ferocious winds. The storm is expected to bring "ruinous rain to central Luzon," an agricultural area considered the country's breadbasket, according to the Philippine Red Cross. The typhoon is approaching at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season. The massive storm is expected to start hitting the Philippines with wind and rain on Friday, with its eye crossing northern Luzon on Saturday.

 

 

 

Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly, as the storm's outer rain bands approached the coast of the Carolinas early Thursday. Florence is now labeled a category 2, and forecasters said top sustained winds have decreased to 110 miles per hour from a high of 140 miles per hour. Authorities warned that high winds, storm surge, and heavy rains could still cause catastrophic flooding as the storm's forward speed slows and it drenches inland areas for days. The storm is expected to make landfall in the Carolinas early Friday. Authorities there have urged more than 1 million people to evacuate coastal areas. Meanwhile in the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to cross the Lesser Antilles on Thursday. It will pass south of Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria last year, but is still expected to dump as much as three inches of rain on parts of the U.S. territory island.

 

 

 

Indian health authorities are rushing medical supplies to north Indian towns and villages where at least 50 people have died from fever over the past two weeks, topping the number of fever-related deaths over a three-month period last year. Patients suffering from fever and bouts of shivering crowded hospitals in the Rohilkhand region on Thursday, according to an Uttar Pradesh state health official in Bareilly, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Lucknow, the state capital. Bareilly’s district hospital has received more than 1,500 patients since Aug. 30. Officials said patients were testing positive for malaria and viral infection, a usually non-fatal sickness that causes coughing and colds. The state said makeshift clinics equipped with malaria kits were being set up in villages where people had been reported sick. Mosquito control vehicles were also deployed to spray insecticide. More than 200 million people live in impoverished Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Thousands of people suffer from encephalitis, malaria, typhoid and other mosquito-borne diseases each year during the summer monsoon. Viral infections are also common. Officials said heavier than average rains had likely contributed to this year’s outbreak.

 

 

 

Two Russians who resembling men Britain accuses of jetting to England to murder a former spy, said on Thursday that they were innocent tourists who had flown to London for fun, and visited the city of Salisbury to see its world famous cathedral. Britain said it was clear the two men, who appeared on Russia’s state-funded RT television, were agents of Russia’s GRU military intelligence who carried out the attack, and their interview an example of Russia’s “obfuscation and lies”. The two men, who appeared deeply uncomfortable, identified themselves as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the names British prosecutors said were used by the poisoners. Britain has charged the two men with attempting to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia by spraying a chemical weapon on Skripal’s door in March. The Skripals and a police officer fell seriously ill. A woman in a nearby town later died after her partner brought home a discarded perfume bottle containing the poison. The two men said they were just civilians in the sports nutrition business, and had fallen victim to a “fantastical coincidence." Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out scores of Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat in the biggest East-West wave of expulsions since the Cold War. The affair has worsened Russian relations with the West, already under strain over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

 

 

 

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a West Virginia bishop, Michael Bransfield, and at the same time authorized a fellow bishop to investigate allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults. The development, announced just as a highly anticipated meeting between Francis and U.S. cardinals and bishops was getting under way, lent a dramatic twist to the emergency gathering, called to address another scandal involving an ex-U.S. cardinal. Bransfield had been implicated in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case, but he denied ever abusing anyone and claimed vindication years ago. Francis appointed Baltimore Bishop William Lori to take over Bransfield’s Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily. Lori said in a statement that Francis had also instructed him to “conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.” Lori set up a hotline for potential victims to call, and vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into what he said were “troubling” claims against Bransfield.

 

 

 

CBS News fired longtime 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager on Wednesday for sending a text message threatening the career of a CBS reporter, Jericka Duncan, who had contacted him for comment on sexual harassment allegations against him that were reported by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. "Be careful," he wrote. "There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem." Fager called the sexual harassment allegations "false" but acknowledged sending the text to Duncan. The president of CBS News, David Rhodes, said Fager's firing was "not directly related" to the allegations, but that he had violated company policy.

 

 

 

President Trump has authorized new sanctions against any country or individual that tries to meddle in upcoming U.S. elections. "This is intended to be a very broad effort to prevent foreign manipulation of the political process," National Security Adviser John Bolton said. It would let Trump impose sanctions on anyone who tries to interfere in the November midterms either overtly, by meddling with such things as vote counts, or indirectly, by spreading misinformation, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a joint statement calling for tougher legislation against election interference. "Today's announcement by the administration recognizes the threat," they wrote, "but does not go far enough to address it."

 

 

 

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a China-based tech firm, its North Korean CEO and a Russian subsidiary, accusing them of moving illicit funding to North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions. The new sanctions target China-based Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co, its North Korean chief executive Jong Song Hwa, and a Russian-based sister company, Volasys Silver Star. In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned companies across the globe “to take precautions to ensure that they are not unwittingly employing North Korean workers for technology projects.” The Trump administration has maintained pressure on Pyongyang through sanctions in an effort to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, which are a threat to the United States. Washington has also accused Russia of violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea by granting work permits to North Korean laborers despite Russia’s denial of any such actions.

 

 

 

General Motors is recalling more than 1 million pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States due to issues with a temporary loss of power steering. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the problem may cause difficulty steering the vehicle, especially at low speeds, increasing the risk of a crash. The recall covers certain 2015 Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac pickup trucks and SUVs. The document did not highlight any reports of accidents and injuries, because of the power steering issue. GM dealers will update the power steering module software, free of charge for owners of the affected vehicles. In 2014 GM - the No.1 U.S. automaker - recalled nearly 800 thousand pickup trucks worldwide because of the same problem.

 

 

 

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced a $2 billion fund Thursday to help homeless families and create preschools. Bezos is the world's richest person, with an estimated worth of $164 billion. How he would use that fortune for philanthropy has long been a point of discussion, especially after June 2017 when he solicited ideas on Twitter for ways he could make a difference. The fund will be split between Day 1 Families Fund and Day 1 Academies Fund. The "Day 1" name comes from Bezos' insistence that it is always Day 1 at Amazon. In his annual letter to shareholders in 2016, he wrote, "Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1." In a tweet Bezos said, "The Day 1 Families Fund will issue annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families." The Day 1 Academies Fund will launch and operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities.

Report on German Catholic Church Sexual Abuse: “depressing and shameful” - That’s in the news on Wednesday September 12, 2018

12Sep

00:0000:00

The Catholic Church in Germany acknowledged a “depressing and shameful” legacy of sexual abuse on Wednesday, after a leaked study said clerics had abused thousands of children over a 70-year period. According to Der Spiegel, the document which was commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, revealed that 1,670 clerics and priests had sexually abused 3,677 minors, mostly males, in Germany between 1946 and 2014. The magazine said the study, which examined more than 38,000 files from 27 dioceses, showed more than half of the victims were aged 13 years or under when they were abused. The news magazine quoted a leaked copy of the study, which was compiled by three German universities. The Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, said the Church was aware of the extent of abuse demonstrated by the study’s results. In a statement on Wednesday he said, “It is depressing and shameful for us.” The leaked study was published on the day that Pope Francis, who has made several attempts to tackle a spreading sexual abuse crisis that has badly tarnished the Church’s image, summoned senior bishops from around the world to the Vatican to discuss the protection of minors. The Vatican had no immediate comment on the Spiegel report.

 

 

 

Hurricane Florence maintained Category 4 strength as it continued to barrel toward the the eastern coast of the United States. Forecasters warned the storm, with top sustained winds of 130 miles per hour and heavy rains, could cause severe wind damage and catastrophic flooding in North and South Carolina. Communities along the southeastern coast buttoned up against the onslaught of Florence as forecasters Wednesday warned that the monster storm could hesitate just offshore for days — punishing a longer stretch of coastline harder than previously feared — before pushing inland over the weekend. President Donald Trump said the government is fully prepared for Florence but urged people to “get out of its way.” Trump said, "Don’t play games with it. It’s a big one." Authorities called for about 1.7 million people in threatened coastal areas in the Carolinas and Virginia to head inland. Highways that head to the coast were turned into one way evacuation routes away from the coast and were filled with motorists escaping. Florence which is expected to make landfall early Friday, will slow down and dump as much as two and a half feet of rain on some areas, potentially causing dangerous flooding even far inland. Much of the North Carolina coast is under a hurricane warning. The state's governor, Roy Cooper, warned of potentially historic and life-threatening devastation saying, "This storm is a monster. It's big and it's vicious." Airlines are already rescheduling flights in the region, and power utilities in Florence's path say they have pre-positioned workers and extra equipment throughout North and South Carolina. Utility workers from 15 other states are also headed to the East Coast to help.

 

 

 

The United States and Japan successfully tested Japan’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system off the coast of Hawaii on Tuesday. In a statement released on Wednesday, Lieutenant General Sam Greaves, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said the test of the Aegis system, “provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region.” Japan last year decided to expand its ballistic missile defense capabilities with the U.S.-made Aegis system in response to what it said was a growing threat from North Korean rockets. Tokyo is wary of North Korean promises to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and considers Pyongyang its most serious threat even as President Trump vowed progress on denuclearization. Trump has also pushed Japan to buy more U.S. military gear and other goods. Japan has also said its missile defense systems are for self-defense only and do not pose a threat to Russia, which has expressed concern over efforts to establish a U.S. missile defense system in the region. On Wednesday, Russia made a dramatic offer to formally end World War Two hostilities between their countries, an overture clouded by a decades-old dispute over an island chain in the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

Chinese police said an SUV crashed into a crowd at a public square in central China on Wednesday evening, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 40 others. Police arrested the suspected driver, a 54-year-old Chinese man who had served several prison sentences for convictions including arson and assault. The SUV he was driving plowed into a large group of people at the square in the seat of Hengdong county of Hunan Province. 46 people were injured. There was no mention of terrorism or any other motive. China has experienced violent attacks in public places in recent years, including bombings and arson of buses and buildings, sometimes by people trying to settle personal scores or grievances against society. Occasionally, the attacks are attributed to militant separatists, though such attacks have become less common in recent years. In 2013, an SUV plowed through a crowd in front of Beijing’s Forbidden City before crashing and catching fire, killed 5, including the vehicle’s 3 occupants. Police blamed the attack on Muslim separatists from the Uighur ethnic minority group.

 

 

 

At least 53 people are dead after a bus veered off road in India, and plunged into a gorge . Authorities in the state of Telangana said the bus's brakes failed and the driver, who died in the crash, lost control of the vehicle before it fell into the gorge. Police told the BBC that the bus was speeding and was at overcapacity; there were 86 passenger on a bus designed to carry only 60. Bus accidents are common in India. In 2017, an average of 29 people each day died in accidents involving buses. Of the more than 10 thousand victims, 86 percent were bus passengers.

 

 

 

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russian authorities know the identities of the two men accused by Britain of carrying out a nerve agent attack on a former spy, but he added that they are civilians and there is “nothing criminal” about them. The statement by Putin marked an abrupt shift from Russia’s earlier position on the poisoning case that has damaged relations between Moscow and the West. Initially, Russian officials said they had no idea who the men were and questioned the authenticity of some of security-camera photos and video released by Scotland Yard, showing them in London and Salisbury, where the poisoning took place. Britain last week charged two men in absentia, identifying them as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Authorities alleged they were agents of Russia’s military intelligence agency known as the GRU, and accused them of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury on March 4. Britain blamed the Russian government for the attack, an allegation that Moscow has vehemently denied. Putin on Wednesday did not try to dispute the British evidence, but he insisted the men were innocent.

 

 

 

Controversial new copyright laws have been approved by members of the European Parliament. The legislation had been changed since July when the first version of the copyright directive was voted down. Critics say it remains problematic. Many musicians and creators claim the reforms are necessary to fairly compensate artists. But opponents fear that the plans could destroy user-generated content, memes and parodies. Leaders of the EU's member states still need to sign off on the rule changes before the individual countries have to draft local laws to put them into effect. The vote in Strasbourg was 438 in favor of the measures, 226 against and 39 abstentions. MEPs voted on a series of changes to the original directive, the most controversial parts are known as Article 13 and Article 11. Article 13 puts the onus on web giants to take measures to ensure that agreements with rights holders for the use of their work are working. Critics say that would require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users, which many believe would be an excessive restriction on free speech. Article 11 is also controversial because it forces online platforms to pay news organizations for the use of their content.

 

 

 

Brexit-supporting lawmakers in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s party publicly pledged support for her on Wednesday after media reports of a plot to oust her by rebels unhappy with her proposals for exiting the European Union. Since her botched bet on a snap election in June 2017 lost her party its majority in parliament, May has faced persistent talk of a leadership challenge which has weakened her as she tries to clinch a Brexit deal with the European Union. About 50 lawmakers from the European Research Group (ERG), a grouping in May’s Conservative Party which wants a sharper break with the EU, met on Tuesday night and openly discussed May’s future. The BBC quoted comments from those at the meeting, such as “everyone I know says she has to go”, “she’s a disaster” and “this can’t go on.” But whatever was said in private, leaders of the group said on Tuesday they still want May to stay on. A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said the prime minister would fight any attempt to oust her, adding that the government was focused on taking forward her so-called Chequers proposals which he described as the only credible plan for Brexit. May’s proposals, named for a country house where they were hashed out in July, call for free trade of goods with the EU, with Britain accepting a “common rulebook” that would apply to those goods. Eurosceptics in her party say that would leave Britain subject to decisions in Brussels without any input.

 

 

 

U.S. health officials are sounding the alarm about rising teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an “epidemic” and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their flavored vaping products pulled from the market. The warning from the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday cited recent data that points to a sharp increase in underage use of the handheld nicotine products. Since last year, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other federal officials have discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, although that benefit hasn’t been proven. But Gottlieb said that he failed to predict the current “epidemic of addiction” among youth, mainly driven by flavored products. E-cigarettes are vapor-emitting devices that arre considered a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes. But health officials have warned nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains. They typically contain nicotine, and sometimes flavorings like fruit, mint or chocolate. Health advocates have worried about the popularity of vaping products among kids and the potential impact on smoking rates in the future.

 

 

 

The World Health Organization estimates there will be about 18 million new cases of cancer globally this year and more than 9 million cancer deaths. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the WHO’s cancer research arm, said in a report published Wednesday that lung cancer kills the most people, followed by breast cancer in women and colorectal cancer. Since lung cancer often develops over decades, any decrease in the disease’s frequency from declining smoking rates likely won’t be seen for years. The international agency estimates based on data from 185 countries that one in five men and one in six women will develop cancer during their lifetimes. It says more than half of all cancer deaths will occur in Asia, home to 60 percent of the world’s population.

White House: Plans for 2nd Summit with Kim and Trump Underway - That’s in the news on Tuesday September 11, 2018

11Sep

00:0000:00

Russia is apparently the main suspect in U.S. agencies’ investigation of mysterious illnesses in American personnel in Cuba and China. NBC News reported on Tuesday that evidence from communications intercepts has pointed to Moscow’s involvement during the investigation involving the FBI, CIA and other agencies. NBC cited three unidentified U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the probe. However the evidence is not conclusive enough for the United States to publicly assign blame to Moscow, according to the NBC sources. U.S. officials said in July that they are still investigating health problems at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, and do not know who or what was behind the mysterious illnesses, which began in 2016 and have affected 26 Americans. The U.S. believes sophisticated electromagnetic weapons may have been used on government workers, possibly in conjunction with other technologies. State Department officials said symptoms have included hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, headaches and fatigue, a pattern consistent with “mild traumatic brain injury.” The FBI said it did not have a comment on the NBC report. Cuba, which is conducting its own investigation, has denied involvement.

 

 

The White House is working on plans for a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Kim requested the meeting in a "very warm, very positive" letter, delivered to Trump through the State Department. Sanders added that the White House "won't release the full letter unless the North Korean leader agrees that we should," although she said the Trump administration is "open to and are already in the process of coordinating" a second summit. Trump and Kim met in Singapore in their first summit, which was held in June. Kim committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, although since then experts have said Pyongyang has failed to take concrete steps toward unwinding the country's nuclear weapons program.

 

 

 

An aid agency said that more than 100 migrants drowned off the Libyan coastline earlier this month, after their rubber boat sank. The agency, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) sais two rubber boats set sail on September 1, but one of the vessels deflated and sank. It is the latest episode in Europe's ongoing and much debated migrant crisis, and appears to be the largest migrant death toll in the Mediterranean in several months. 276 survivors were eventually taken to the Libyan port city of Khoms, around 100 km south-east of the capital Tripoli. MSF says the group is now being held in "arbitrary detention". The survivors, including pregnant women, children and infants, have been treated by MSF for pneumonia or burns from leaked fuel. In early June, 112 people reportedly drowned after a boat sank off the Tunisian coast. Later the same month, the United Nations said that 220 people had died in three separate incidents over the course of two days. More than 1,500 migrants have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

 

 

 

Hurricane Florence is getting stronger as it approaches the mid-Atlantic East Coast of the United States -- and forecasters said it will gain even more steam later Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center said Florence is a Category 4 storm that will produce extremely dangerous conditions for any land in its path. Forecasters said Florence could reach Category 5 strength, which requires sustained winds of 157 mph or greater, and could turn out to be the worst storm to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Forecasters said Florence will most likely make landfall in North Carolina or South Carolina early Friday morning. Right now, the eye of the storm is about 390 miles south-southeast of Bermuda and 905 miles east- southeast of Cape Fear, N.C. It's moving west-northwest at 16 mph, but appears to be slowing down. Hurricane and storm surge watches are in effect from South Carolina, to the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Florence is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 15 to 20 inches and possibly 30 inches in some spots along its track over portions of North Carolina, Virginia and northern South Carolina through the weekend. That amount of rainfall will likely produce life-threatening flash floods. Florence is the first of three storms brewing in the Atlantic -- ahead of Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, which are not - at this time - expected to threaten the United States mainland.

 

 

 

The United States is working with France and the U.K. on plans for a coordinated attack against Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government if it uses chemical weapons in an expected offensive in Idlib province. The U.S. conducted airstrikes against the regime in April 2017 and April 2018 after Assad was accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday that ,"We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger." Russia has already launched 70 airstrikes in the province and the Syrian government has dropped dozens of barrel bombs. An estimated three million civilians and 70 thousand opposition fighters are in Idlib, the last rebel-held part of Syria.

 

 

 

The Trump administration announced that it will close the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, citing a lack of progress toward peace talks with Israel. National Security Adviser John Bolton said, "The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel." The move marked the latest effort by the U.S. to increase pressure on Palestinian leaders to commit to negotiations. President Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is spearheading the Trump administration's efforts. Kushner and other administration officials are expected to unveil their peace plan soon.

 

 

 

President Trump on Tuesday remembered the “band of brave patriots” aboard a Sept. 11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, praising passengers and crew members who resisted hijackers and sent a message that the nation would “never, ever submit to tyranny.” Trump honored those who died 17 years ago at a rural field where the fourth airliner of the day crashed. It happened after those aboard realized what was happening to the country and several passengers tried to storm the cockpit. The president praised those who “took control of their destiny and changed the course of history." Trump said, “This field is now a monument to American defiance. This memorial is now a message to the world: America will never, ever submit to tyranny.” Trump listened as the names of the 40 victims of Flight 93 were read aloud, followed by the tolling of bells. He was joined in remembrances by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and former Gov. Mark Schweiker, who was the state’s lieutenant governor on 9/11. Nearly 3,000 people died that day when other airplanes were flown into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in an attack planned by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed in May 2011 during a U.S. military operation ordered by President Barack Obama.

 

 

 

Investors, including the California Public Employees' Retirement System, squared off with Volkswagen in German court Monday, seeking $10.7 billion in compensation for the damage done by the German automaker's diesel emissions scandal. The backlash from VW's attempts to cheat on diesel-emissions tests has cost the company more than $30 billion in penalties so far. On the first day of the trial, the court indicated that some of the 1,670 claims might be too old to be considered, and that several key issues had to be resolved before witnesses testify. Andreas Tilp, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, said some of the claims have a good chance.

U.S. East Coast Nervously Prepares for Category 4 Hurricane - That’s in the news Monday September 10, 2018

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Florence rapidly strengthened into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Monday as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week. The storm, which intensified to hurricane strength on Sunday, is expected to make landfall late Thursday. Its path remains uncertain, but authorities in Virginia and North and South Carolina declared emergencies and urged people to start preparing for what could be a powerful hurricane. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, "Make your plans now. Presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina." National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to slow down significantly and linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore, and could carry torrential rains up into the Appalachian mountains, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous weather across a wide area. As of noon EDT Monday, Florence had top sustained winds of 130 mph and is moving west at 13 mph. Its center will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas Tuesday and Wednesday, and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday. It's forecast to strengthen to top winds of 150 mph by Wednesday morning.

 

 

 

The World Meteorological Organization said there's a 70 percent chance of a recurrence of the El Niño weather event before the end of this year. The last El Niño occurred in 2015-16 and impacted weather patterns around the world. Researchers say they are not expecting this new one to be as intense as 2015-16. For the first time, the WMO has coupled the El Niño update with a global seasonal climate outlook for the September-November period. The forecast for that period shows that above normal surface temperatures are forecast in nearly all of the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, North America, Africa and much of coastal South America. The 2015-16 El Niño was one of the strongest ever recorded, and had an impact on global temperatures, which saw 2016 enter the record books as the warmest year. As well as heat, the event also led to drought in Africa that saw food production plummet in many countries across the continent. South America saw floods across Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. This year started with the opposite to El Niño, the so-called La Niña phase. This saw cooler than average sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific.The El Niño/Southern Oscillation, to give its proper title, is a natural event that involves fluctuating ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific, which influence the weather all over the world. While El Niño events normally occur every five to seven years, the recurrence of the event so close to the previous one, suggests that climate change may be having an impact.

 

 

 

California has set a goal of phasing out fossil fuels from the state’s electricity sector by 2045 under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown approved the measure as he prepares to host a summit in San Francisco of climate change leaders from around the world later this week. The renewable energy measure would require California’s utilities to generate 60 percent of their energy from wind, solar and other specific renewable sources by 2030. That’s 10 percent higher than the current mandate. The goal would then be to use only carbon-free sources to generate electricity by 2045. It’s merely a goal, with no mandate or penalty for falling short. Phasing out fossil fuels would be a massive change in the energy grid. Utilities rely on natural gas plants to meet demand when renewables fall short, particularly in the early evening when the sun sets and people turn on their air conditioners as they get home from work. Renewable energy experts have looked to batteries that can store solar energy generated in the afternoon as one possible solution, but the technology is not ready for wide-scale deployment. Utilities are already dealing with an abundance of solar energy during peak times, which must be offloaded to other states when there’s not enough demand locally for the power.

 

 

The Kim Jong Un regime celebrated the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding with a military parade Sunday, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were noticeably absent from the display. The decision to refrain from brandishing missiles the regime developed to be able to carry nuclear warheads to the United States is a hopeful sign amid halting diplomatic engagement with Washington to move North Korea toward denuclearization. The parade featured military vehicles and troops by the thousand in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square. A special envoy from Beijing attended the event to bestow China's seal of approval.

 

 

 

Sweden's government appeared headed for a gridlock as early returns from a Sunday election showed the ruling party faltering and an anti-immigrant party with white supremacist roots surging to win the third largest bloc in Parliament. The governing Social Democrats had just 28.1 percent of the vote with more than 80 percent of the ballots counted, the national election commission reported late Sunday. The Moderate party was second with 19.2 percent and the far-right Sweden Democrats received 17.9 percent, up from 13 percent in the last election four years ago. With no party winning a majority of the 175 seats, Sweden could face months of negotiations to form a coalition government. Both the left-leaning Social Democrats and the center-right Moderates have said they would enter no coalition that included the Sweden Democrats.

 

 

 

Longtime CBS chief Leslie Moonves stepped down Sunday night, hours after The New Yorker magazine reported new sexual misconduct allegations made against him by six women. One of the women said Moonves forced her to perform oral sex, and others said he retaliated when they rejected his advances. Moonves acknowledged that he had relations with three of the women but denied using his position to hurt their careers. Six other women accused Moonves of sexual harassment or assault in a previous New Yorker article. CBS let Moonves remain on the job after the previous allegations but the CBS board of directors announced Sunday that he would leave effective immediately. Wall Street sent shares of CBS down sharply Monday, the first day of trading since the departure of Moonves. Shares are down more than 8 percent this year, and suffered their biggest downturn in nearly 7 years in July when details of the accusations surfaced. The network also will donate $20 million to organizations that support equality for women in the workplace, with the money coming out of Moonves' severance pay.

 

 

 

Relatives of the 40 people killed in the airliner that hijackers crashed into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, helped to dedicate a tower at the Flight 93 National Memorial site on Sunday. The concrete and steel tower will have 40 aluminum wind chimes honoring each of the victims. Tom Ridge, Pennsylvania's former governor, said the monument, the Tower of Voices, would be "an everlasting concert by our heroes." Passengers on the hijacked flight, which was headed to California from New Jersey, fought back and kept the terrorists from steering the plane to their intended target, which was believed to be in Washington, D.C. Their "lives were lost so that other lives were saved. And heroes were made over the skies of Shanksville," said Ridge, who was the first secretary of the Homeland Security Department when it was created after 9/11.

 

 

 

China's trade surplus with the United States hit a record monthly high in August despite the Trump administration's imposition of two rounds of new tariffs on Chinese goods and plans to levy additional taxes soon. The surplus increased from $28.09 billion in July to $31.05 billion last month. "In the short term, it is difficult for the trade gap to narrow because American buyers cannot easily find alternatives to Chinese products," said economist Liu Xuezhi of China's Bank of Communications. President Trump on Twitter Saturday indicated he will not call a trade truce regardless of costs to U.S. consumers.

 

 

 

Miners in Western Australia say they have discovered two huge gold-encrusted rocks that are each estimated to be worth millions of dollars. The largest specimen, weighing 210 pounds was found to contain more than 2,400 ounces of gold, according to a Canadian mining company that discovered the precious metal. The company, RNC Minerals, said it had extracted gold worth about $15 million dollars (CDN) from a mine near Kalgoorlie last week. The Beta Hunt mine had primarily been running as a nickel operation until last week's discovery. The company had targeted the gold vein, located 1,600 feet underground, after finding traces of gold closer to the surface in June. Miners in Australia often extract as little as 2 grams of gold per ton of rock, according to Professor Sam Spearing, director of the Western Australia School of Mines at Curtin University. RNC Minerals said it had extracted 2,200 grams per ton. The company said the rocks were otherwise made of quartz. Professor Spearing told the BBC, "People do still record finding nuggets in the goldfields, but typically they are less than several ounces." The mining company valued the largest rock at about $4 million (CDN) It said the second-largest - a 63 kilogram specimen with an estimated 1,600 ounces of gold - was worth $2.6 million (CDN). RNC Minerals chief executive Mark Selby said the largest rocks would go to auction as collector items.

 

 

 

Singer-songwriter John Legend, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyricist Tim Rice on Sunday joined the select group of entertainers who have won all four of the biggest awards in show business — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — when NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar, Live in Concert, won an Emmy for best live variety special. Legend played Jesus in the concert version but won his Emmy for co-producing the TV version of the musical. He is the youngest of the 15 EGOT winners, and the first African American to achieve the feat. He is up for an acting Emmy later this month. Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide in June at age 61, received six posthumous Emmy awards Sunday for his CNN show Parts Unknown and its digital spinoff.

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