Nearly 100 and Still Driving, Prince Philip Unhurt After Crashing & Rolling his SUV That’s in the news on Friday January 18, 2019

18Jan

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Britain’s last-minute scramble to shape an EU exit, its biggest policy upheaval in half a century, stalled on Thursday as Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dug in their heels for competing visions. There was little sign on Thursday that either of the two major parties — which hold 88 percent of the 650 seats in parliament — were prepared to compromise on key demands. Corbyn said May had sent Britain hurtling toward the cliff edge of a disorderly exit on March 29 with no transition period, and urged her to ditch “red lines”. But he repeated his own prerequisite for talks: a pledge to block a no-deal Brexit. May told Corbyn that was “an impossible condition” and urged him to join cross-party discussions. May’s spokeswoman said she held “constructive” talks on Thursday with lawmakers, including some from Labour. If she fails to forge consensus, the world’s fifth-largest economy will drop out of the European Union on March 29 without a deal or will be forced to delay Brexit, possibly holding a national election or another referendum. Corbyn said that he might look at options including another referendum — a remark that increased market expectations the chaos could ultimately delay or stop Brexit.

 

 

 

A southwestern province in Argentina has been hit by what appears to be a Hantavirus epidemic that's killed ten people and sickened more than two dozen. The newspaper El Pais reported, this particular variation of Hantavirus is transmitted by wild rodent feces and saliva and person to person. About 100 residents have been isolated by a judicial order. Two other unrelated and deadly cases of Hantavirus have also been reported -- one in the Salta region in northern Argentina and one in Entre Rios in the country's east. Hantavirus outbreaks have been seen in Argentina in recent years, with nearly 600 cases between 2013 and 2018 that killed 111 people. The mortality rate in the new breakout appears to be higher and has authorities concerned. Contagion occurs when rodent feces and urine mix with the soil, and can infect humans through inhalation of contaminated air. It can also infect humans through open wounds exposed to the air. The virus, endemic to Argentina, is particularly difficult to control because it's easily confused with regular flu and its incubation period is as long as three weeks.

 

 

 

The storm that pummeled much of California for three days began moving east Thursday after causing at least six deaths, forcing wildfire victims threatened by floods to flee their homes and plunging nearly 300 thousand utility customers into darkness. National Weather Service meteorologistst said the winter storm is forecast to unleash heavy rain, snow and wind in Colorado and “will be slamming the East Coast by Sunday... from Maine to Florida.” The three-day drenching put a dent in California’s drought, dumping as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain in parts of Southern California, and between 3 and 6 inches (7.6 and 15 centimeters) in Los Angeles. Government and university researchers who maintain the U.S. Drought Monitor map now classify most of the state as abnormally dry or in moderate drought. Only about 6 percent is in severe or extreme drought, compared to nearly a quarter of the state last September. Rain and snow fell from one end of the state to the other, canceling flights, uprooting trees, knocking down power lines and causing localized flooding.

 

 

 

Two skiers were rescued after being buried by an avalanche at a ski resort in New Mexico Thursday. The two male skiers were critically injured and taken to the resort's Mogul Medical Clinic after being pulled from the snow by members of Taos Ski Valley Ski Patrol and other first responders. Rescuers searched for other skiers and medics with Taos County Emergency Services, and firefighters with Taos Volunteer Fire Department were on standby at the base of the resort. The search was called off after rescuers determined there were no additional victims. The Taos Ski Valley resort issued a statement saying an inbounds avalanche took place on an offshoot of the Kachina Peak at 11:30 a.m. Chris Stagg, vice president of public relations at the resort, said members of the mountain's ski patrol team detonated explosives in the area of Kachina Peak earlier in the day prior to opening, to reduce the risk of avalanche.

 

 

 

The Duke of Edinburgh has been involved in a car crash while driving near the Queen's Sandringham estate, according to a staterment from Buckingham Palace. Prince Philip, who is 97, was not injured in the accident, which happened as he drove a Land Rover out of a driveway onto a highway mid afternoon. The other car involved was a Kia. The driver of the Kia suffered cuts, while police said the passenger suffered an arm injury. Eyewitnesses said the duke's Land Rover overturned during the collision. They said they helped the duke out of the vehicle. He was conscious but very, very shocked and shaken. Norfolk police said it was policy to breath test all drivers involved in collisions and both the Kia driver and the husband of Queen Elizabeth tested negative for alcohol. The duke returned to Sandringham and has seen a doctor as a precaution. The Queen and Prince Philip have been staying at the royal estate in Norfolk since Christmas.

 

 

 

In a moment of rare bipartisanship, President Donald Trump signed a Democrat-sponsored bill guaranteeing back pay to workers furloughed by the ongoing partial government shutdown. Since Dec. 22, several government departments have been shut down due to an impasse between congressional Democrats and Trump over the president's request for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. This stalemate has forced tens of thousands of federal employees to work without pay, with some 80 thousand not receiving a paycheck for the first time on Friday. The signing of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, requires that all government employees be compensated for "wages lost, work performed or leave used" during the shutdown, according to a White House news release. The measure follows last week's introduction of a bill that would protect furloughed federal workers from landlords and creditors filing legal action against them for failing to pay their bills during the shutdown.

 

 

 

Sears Holdings said Thursday that ESL Investments, the hedge fund owned by its chairman and largest investor, won the company's bankruptcy auction. Eddie Lampert's investment firm will pay $5.2 billion for substantially all of Sears' remaining assets, including 425 stores, its Home Services business, and the Kenmore and DieHard brands, if approved by the court. Sears added the deal will save 45 thousand and that some severance costs gathered during the bankruptcy process will be paid through the deal. Extended warranties on items purchased with the store will also be honored through the deal. A committee of unsecured creditors, including mall owners, accused ESL of shaping previous transactions in ways that primarily benefited itself. The unsecured creditors have eight days to object to ESL's bid and Sears will have two business days to respond. The bankruptcy judge overseeing the case will examine the validity of any objections at a hearing on Feb. 1.

 

 

 

High-end children's clothing brand Gymboree will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and close more than 800 U.S. and Canadian stores The company said Thursday that all Gymboree and Crazy 8 locations will close, and Janie and Jack will be sold to Special Situations Investing Group, part of Goldman Sachs. Newly appointed CEO Shaz Kahng said the Janie and Jack business continues to be a strong brand that is poised to grow. "We are saddened and highly disappointed that we must move ahead with a wind-down of the Gymboree and Crazy 8 businesses," Kahng said in a statement. The online websites for Gymboree, Janie and Jack and Crazy 8 will remain open. Thursday marks the second time Gymboree has filed for bankruptcy in the past two years. Gymboree will also seek protection in Canada.

 

 

 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Friday that the electric-car maker is cutting its full-time staff by 7 percent as it struggles to cut prices and ramp up production of its Model 3 sedan, the company's first mass-market vehicle. The job reductions follow other cost-cutting measures as Tesla struggles to expand profitability. Musk wrote in an email to Tesla employees that the company is "up against massive, entrenched competitors" and has to work "much harder than other manufacturers to survive while building affordable, sustainable products." He added that building "affordable clean energy products at scale necessarily requires extreme effort and relentless creativity." Tesla shares fell on the news, declining by nearly 6 percent in premarket trading.

 

 

 

Hyundai and Kia are moving ahead with a recall of about 168 thousand vehicles to fix a fuel pipe problem that can cause engine fires. The problem stems from improper repairs during previous recalls for engine failures. The Korean automakers have been dogged by fire and engine failure complaints from across the nation. They're both under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been trying to figure out whether initial recalls covered enough vehicles. But the agency is mostly closed due to the government shutdown. In addition to the recall, each automaker said it will do a "product improvement campaign" covering a total of 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures and send the cars into a reduced-speed "limp" mode if problems are detected. NHTSA employees who do safety investigations and recall notifications are not at work. Under normal circumstances, the agency would review the recalls to make sure they're adequate and post details on the agency website. It also would monitor notices to customers and make sure they could check to see if their vehicles are included.

 

 

 

A total lunar eclipse and supermoon, all wrapped into one will happen this weekend. The moon, Earth and sun will line up this weekend for the only total lunar eclipse this year and next. At the same time, the moon will be ever so closer to Earth and appear slightly bigger and brighter than usual —known as a supermoon. Astronomers said the whole eclipse starts Sunday night or early Monday, depending on location , and will take about three hours. If the skies are clear, the entire eclipse will be visible in North and South America, as well as Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and the French and Spanish coasts. The rest of Europe, as well as Africa, will have partial viewing before the moon sets. During totality, the moon will look red because of sunlight scattering off Earth’s atmosphere. That’s why an eclipsed moon is sometimes known as a blood moon. In January, the full moon is also sometimes known as the wolf moon or great spirit moon. So informally speaking, the upcoming lunar eclipse will be a super blood wolf — or great spirit — moon. Asia, Australia and New Zealand are out of luck. But they had prime viewing last year, when two total lunar eclipses occurred. The next total lunar eclipse won’t be until May 2021.

Trump Administration Report Evokes Reagan’s “Star Wars” Type Missile Defense Plan - That’s in the news Thursday January 17, 2019

17Jan

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High-level talks aimed at finalizing a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are planned for this week in Washington. Officials said Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet former North Korean spy chief Kim Yong Chol at a Washington hotel on Friday.. The meeting will likely be followed by a visit to the White House by Kim, where he could meet with Trump. Neither the U.S. nor North Korea have confirmed any meetings, although earlier Thursday, Kim Yong Chol arrived in Beijing, where he was booked on a flight to the United States. Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit with Kim early this year despite little tangible progress on a vague denuclearization agreement reached at their first meeting in Singapore last June. The talks had stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them. The North has been demanding that the U.S. lift harsh sanctions and provide it with security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, President Trump unveiled a revamped U.S. missile defense strategy on Thursday that singles out North Korea as an ongoing and “extraordinary threat,” seven months after he declared the threat posed by Pyongyang had been eliminated. The Missile Defense Review is a sweeping examination of efforts to shield the United States from enemy missiles, and highlights concerns about advancing capabilities by North Korea, Iran, Russia and China. As he unveiled the report, Trump said, “Our goal is simple: To ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States - anywhere, anytime, anyplace." Trump did not mention the North Korean missile threat in his remarks at the Pentagon. But acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said North Korea’s missiles remain a “significant concern.” The document was even stronger. The report stated, “While a possible new avenue to peace now exists with North Korea, it continues to pose an extraordinary threat and the United States must remain vigilant.” The Trump administration's plan to expand American missile defenses is on a scale not seen since the Reagan administration. It recommended studying experimental technologies, including prospects for space-based weaponry that might be able to shoot down enemy missiles, a throwback to President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative in the 1980s.

 

 

 

Days after the defeat of her Brexit deal and another no-confidence vote in Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May will present a new plan on Monday with a vote set for Tuesday. May is meeting with party leaders from across the political spectrum to find a compromise so Britain can leave the European Union with clear guidelines on trade and border security. May urged MPs to "put self-interest aside." Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he wouldn't meet with May unless she agreed that a no-deal Brexit is off the table. But political commentators and other MPs blasted Corbyn, saying it's impossible for a no-deal Brexit to be off the table at this point. May has refused to take Corbyn's offer. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29 and many in Britain want to hold firm to that deadline with or without a deal in place. Some have called for Britain to have a second referendum on Brexit. British voters approved leaving the EU in a 2016 referendum. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Thursday that the European Union is open to the possibility of a “more ambitious” Brexit deal than the one rejected by the British parliament

 

 

 

At least eight people were killed and another 10 injured in a car bombing at a police academy in Colombia’s capital on Thursday. Officials described the scene outside the General Santander police academy in southern Bogota as chaotic in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, with ambulances and helicopters rushing to the normally tightly controlled facility. Witnesses said they heard a loud blast that destroyed windows in adjacent apartment buildings. For decades, residents of Bogota lived in fear of being caught in a bombing by leftist rebels or Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug cartel. But as Colombia’s conflict has wound down, security has improved and attacks have become less frequent. While authorities had yet to suggest who was behind the attack, attention was focused on leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army, which has been stepping up attacks on police targets in Colombia amid a standoff with the conservative Duque over how to re-start stalled peace talks.

 

 

 

The death toll from an attack by Islamist extremists on a Nairobi luxury hotel and shopping complex rose to 21 on Wednesday, according to police in the Kenyan capital. Five militants believed to be members of al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked group based in neighboring Somalia, also were killed by security forces dispatched to end the siege. The toll at the DusitD2 complex went up when authorities found six more bodies, and a wounded police officer died. The dead included one American. Police arrested two suspects believed to have facilitated the attack.

 

 

 

French authorities say a strong explosion and fire has hit a science building at the University of Lyon. At least three people were injured. The university says construction work was the cause and that it was "accidental." The town of Villeurbanne, the Lyon suburb where the university is located, tweeted that the area has been evacuated after Thursday's blast. It said the explosion hit the roof of the building. The explosion hit days after a blast apparently caused by a gas leak hit a Paris bakery, killing four people and injuring several others.

 

 

 

The Pentagon is finalizing a policy to closely examine recruits who have green cards or other foreign ties, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing two Defense Department officials with knowledge of the matter. The initiative would likely target thousands of people every year. Last year, a federal judge blocked a similar effort to target green-card holders. The Pentagon is concerned about espionage and terrorism. The new screening for "foreign nexus" risks could include people with foreign citizenship and those with family members who are not U.S. citizens. Some U.S. citizens could also be targeted, including those with foreign spouses or relatives with dual citizenship. Those screened would not be allowed to go to recruit training until cleared.

 

 

 

The top U.S. and Chinese trade envoys will hold talks in Washington this month in a possible sign of progress toward ending a costly tariff battle over Beijing’s technology ambitions. The Ministry of Commerce announcement of the Jan. 30-31 event was the first sign of a next step by the two sides following negotiations in Beijing earlier this month between lower-level officials. The two sides have imposed tariff hikes of up to 25 percent on tens of billions of dollars of each other’s goods in the fight over U.S. complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Washington also is pressing China to roll back plans for state-led industry development that its trading partners say violate its market-opening obligations. The Washington talks are aimed at carrying out the Dec. 1 agreement by Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping to suspend further tariff increases for 90 days while they negotiate. Chinese officials have suggested Beijing might adjust its industry plans. But they reject pressure to abandon what they consider a path to prosperity and global influence. Neither side has shown any sign of changing its basic position. Economists say the 90-day window is too short to resolve conflicts that have strained their relations for nearly two decades.

 

 

 

The head of the World Health Organization has ordered an internal investigation into allegations the U.N. health agency is rife with racism, sexism and corruption, after a series of anonymous emails with the explosive charges were sent to top managers last year. Three emails addressed to WHO directors complained about “systematic racial discrimination” against African staffers and alleged other instances of wrongdoing, including claims that some of the money intended to fight Ebola in Congo was misspent. Two further emails addressed to WHO directors complained that senior officials were “attempting to stifle” investigations into such problems and also alleged other instances of wrongdoing, including allegedly misspent Ebola funds. The last email, sent in December, labeled the behavior of a senior doctor helping to lead the response against Ebola as “unacceptable, unprofessional and racist,” citing a November incident at a meeting where the doctor reportedly “humiliated, disgraced and belittled” a subordinate from the Middle East. Last month, WHO's Director-General (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) told staffers he had instructed the head of WHO’s office of internal oversight to look into the charges raised by the emails. Critics, however, doubt that WHO can effectively investigate itself and have called for the probe to be made public.

 

 

 

Officials in Louisville, Ky., want the world to know the city is the hometown of boxing champion Muhammad Ali, and they will change the name of the airport to cement that fact. Louisville International Airport will be will be renamed Louisville Mohammad Ali International Airport, the airport's board voted this week. Its SDF airport code will not change. Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher said, "Muhammad became one of the most well-known people to ever walk the Earth and has left a legacy of humanitarianism and athleticism that has inspired billions of people." The Louisville Regional Airport Authority board started discussing the change in November 2017. Ali, also known as "The Greatest of All Time" and "the Champ," would have been 77 years old on Thursday. He died in 2016. Officials need to finalize an agreement with Muhammad Ali Enterprises for use of his name and likeness, but Dan Mann, executive director of the airport authority, said they are 99 percent there. Lonnie Ali, the boxer's widow, said she's proud of the name change. Although Ali was a "global citizen," she said, he never forgot where he came from.

British PM Theresa May’s BREXIT Plan Overwhelmingly Rejected By Parliament Vote - That’s in the news on Wednesday January 16, 2019

16Jan

00:0000:00

Four American soldiers were killed in an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria on Wednesday. The U.S. military said the attack occured less than a month after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from the war torn country. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the rare morning attack, which local groups said killed 16 people in the U.S.-patrolled town of Manbij. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 people were killed including nine civilians and others were wounded in the blast. It added that at least five U.S.-backed Syrian fighters were also among the dead. The claim, calls into question Trump’s claim that IS has been defeated in Syria — his stated reason for pulling 2,000 American troops out of the country. Trump has been clear about his desire to pull out of Syria, a country he described as “sand and death.” But critics have said a pullout was premature, that IS was still not defeated and a pullout could lead to a power vacuum that would fuel even more violence.

 

 

 

Kenyan security forces have killed the militants who stormed an upscale Nairobi hotel compound Tuesday, taking at least 14 lives and forcing hundreds of others into terrifying escapes. In a televised address to the nation, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta declared an end to the brazen, overnight siege that also underscored the ability of al-Shabab extremists to strike despite military setbacks. Security footage showed at least four heavily armed men in military-style garb took part in the attack, an assault marked by explosions and heavy gunfire. More than 700 civilians were evacuated from the dusitD2 complex after a 20-hour, overnight siege that echoed a 2013 assault that killed 67 people in Nairobi’s Westgate shopping center in the same neighborhood. Fifty people believed to have been in the complex remained unaccounted for by mid-afternoon on Wednesday, raising the possibility the death toll may go higher. Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved, but said “all the terrorists have been eliminated.”

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a crushing defeat on Tuesday when the House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected her plan for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union. The 432-to-202 vote marked the biggest loss for a prime minister in such a parliamentary vote in recent British history. It thrust the Brexit process into chaos just 10 weeks before the U.K. is supposed to leave the European trading bloc. Immediately after the vote, the opposition Labor Party's leader, Jeremy Corbyn, announced that he was putting forward a motion of no confidence Wednesday due to what he called the "sheer incompetence of this government." May now has to quickly come up with a backup plan, although the EU has said the one lawmakers rejected is the only one it will accept.

 

 

 

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a request from Democrats to consider a package of bills already passed by the House seeking to reopen the federal government. One of the bills would fund departments and agencies affected by the partial shutdown, now in its 26th day, and keep them open through September. The other would fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks, without paying for President Trump's promised wall on the Mexican border. Trump has threatened to veto any spending deal that doesn't include wall funding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked the bills, saying the solution to the standoff was "a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues."

 

 

 

President Trump's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that if confirmed he would remain independent, saying he had not and would not promise Trump any type of "assurances, promises, or commitments." Barr rejected claims often repeated by Trump that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion by Trump campaign associates was a "witch hunt," although he said he understood how someone who felt wrongly accused could see it in those terms. Barr started his two-day confirmation hearing promising to let Mueller finish his investigation. Barr has criticized parts of Mueller's investigation in the past, and Democrats want assurances he will let Mueller work unimpeded.

 

 

 

Top Russian officials on Wednesday ridiculed allegations that President Trump could have worked for Moscow’s interests, dismissing them as “absurd” and “stupid.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference that U.S. media reports claiming that Trump might have been a Russian agent reflect a dramatic plunge in standards of journalism. Trump said this week that he never worked for Russia and repeated his claim that the investigation into his ties to Moscow is a hoax. Asked if Russia could release the minutes of Trump’s one-on-one negotiations with President Vladimir Putin, Lavrov dismissed the idea, saying it defies the basic culture of diplomacy. He added that such requests reflect illegitimate meddling in the U.S. president’s constitutional right to conduct foreign policy. The Kremlin’s hopes for better relations with the U.S. under Trump have been shattered by ongoing investigations into the allegations of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Lavrov noted that a probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller has produced no evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia. He particularly scoffed at the charges leveled against Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying that he only talked to the Russian ambassador in a bid to protect U.S. interests.

 

 

 

A meeting between Russia and the United States failed to resolve U.S. accusations that Moscow is violating a Cold War missile treaty, setting the stage for Washington to withdraw from the pact. The United States is now set to start the six-month process of quitting the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on Feb. 2, according to comments from Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson, after briefing NATO allies. Thompson told reporters, “We weren’t able to break any new ground yesterday with Russia.” She was speaking about the Jan. 15 meeting with Russian Foreign Ministry officials in Geneva. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday the United States had not properly considered Moscow’s proposals to save the pact and prevent a new arms race in Europe. Moscow says the range of its missiles puts them outside the treaty altogether and that the distance they can fly is not as long as Washington alleges, meaning Moscow is fully compliant with the INF. The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

 

 

 

Venezuela's opposition-run Congress on Tuesday declared President Nicolas Maduro a "usurper" of democracy, and said his actions during his disputed second term would be considered null and void. Maduro was sworn in last week despite widespread claims that the 2018 election he won was fraudulent and his victory illegitimate. Countries around the world have disavowed Maduro's government. The U.S. and many Latin American nations say Maduro has become a dictator, and his failed, state-led socialist policies have driven the South American nation into its worst economic crisis ever. President Trump is considering recognizing the leader of the Congress, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela's legitimate leader, CNN reported, citing three unidentified sources.

 

 

 

Broadway is remembering Tony-winning actress Carol Channing. The marquee lights of every Broadway theater will dim at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday to honor Channing, who died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 97. The Broadway League says the date marks the anniversary of the 1964 opening of “Hello Dolly!” Channing delighted American audiences in over 5,000 performances as the scheming matchmaker Dolly Levi. Her performance earned her a Tony Award for best actress. Broadway League chairman Thomas Schumacher says to see Channing “hold an audience in her thrall was a master class in star power.” Besides “Hello, Dolly!”, Channing starred in other Broadway shows, but none with equal magnetism. Channing received a special Tony in 1968 and a Tony for lifetime achievement in 1995.

Chinese Space Scientists Announce Success in Growing 1st Plant Life on the Moon - That’s in the news on Tuesday January 15, 2019

15Jan

00:0000:00

Militants attacked a luxury hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least one person and wounding 8 others. Gunfire and blasts were heard at the compound in the Westlands district of the Kenyan capital, which houses the five star DusitD2 hotel as well as offices. Some of the wounded were escorted out of the building by heavily armed police. The attack began at about 3 pm local time, as the militants arrived at the complex by car, shot their way past guards, threw bombs at vehicles in the parking lot and entered the building. Kenya has seen a number of terror attacks in recent years - most notably in areas close to the Somali border and in the country's capital. Kenya is part of a regional peacekeeping operation that supports the Somali government in its battle against al-Shabab, and its often been targeted by al Shabab, which killed 67 people in a shopping center in 2013 and nearly 150 students at a university in 2015. Tuesday’s violence also came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

 

 

 

Parliament was set for a historic vote Tuesday as British Prime Minister Theresa May lobbied for support but braced for defeat of the U.K.’s divorce deal with the European Union. Lawmakers finally get their chance to say yes or no to May’s deal after more than two years of political upheaval. All signs indicate a resounding rejection, despite pleas from May and her allies on the final day of debate. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told lawmakers in the House of Commons it would be the “height of irresponsibility” to reject the agreement and plunge the country into uncertainty. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favor an even closer economic relationship with Europe. A “no” vote would mean further turmoil for British politics only 10 weeks before the country is due to leave the EU on March 29. May, who leads a fragile Conservative minority government, has made delivering Brexit her main task since taking office in 2016 in the wake of the country’s decision to leave the EU. Despite a last-ditch plea from the prime minister for legislators to give the deal “a second look,” it faces deep opposition from both sides of the divide over U.K.’s place in the bloc.

 

 

 

The Taliban on Tuesday threatened to stall peace talks with the United States if they deflect from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the hardline Islamic militants to end the 17-year war. The warning comes a day after Taliban fighters blew up a car-bomb outside a highly fortified compound killing at least five people and wounding more than 110 Afghans and expatriates in Kabul city. Last week senior leaders of the Taliban canceled the fourth round of peace talks with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan over an “agenda disagreement.” Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Tuesday after meeting officials in India, the United Arab Emirates and China. He has met with the Taliban leaders at least three times to discuss foreign troop withdrawal and a timeline for a ceasefire. The United States has also insisted that any final settlement must be led by Afghans themselves. But the leaders of the insurgent group have rejected requests from the United States and regional powers to deal directly with the government in Kabul, which it considers an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime.

 

 

 

The Pentagon said it would extend the assignment of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border for another eight months, extending President Donald Trump's use of the military in his campaign against illegal immigration. The deployment, which Trump ordered before the November midterm elections, had been scheduled to end Jan. 31, but Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved a request to assist the Department of Homeland Security through September. There are 2,300 active-duty troops assigned to the border in California, Arizona, and Texas, down from a peak of 5,900. The Pentagon said it is "transitioning its support at the southwestern border from hardening ports of entry to mobile surveillance and detection, as well as concertina wire emplacement between ports of entry." The military also will provide aviation support.

 

 

 

President Trump said Monday that he rejected the suggestion by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to temporarily reopen the government. Graham, a key Trump ally, had urged Trump to accept a stopgap spending deal to fund the federal government for about three weeks to allow time for negotiations with Democrats on funding Trump's border wall and other border security matters. "I'm not interested. I want to get it solved," Trump told reporters. "I don't want to just delay it. I want to get it solved." The shutdown is now in its 25th day, with no end in sight for the standoff over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to fund the wall on the Mexican border.

 

 

 

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the Trump administration’s plan to add a U.S. citizenship question to the 2020 census, the first ruling in a handful of lawsuits nationwide that claim the question will hurt immigrants. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross concealed his true motives in adding the question last March, ostensibly to help the government enforce the federal Voting Rights Act. Only American citizens can legally vote in federal elections. The decision will almost certainly be appealed, and could wind up at the Supreme Court this year. The plaintiffs - 18 U.S. states, 15 cities and various civil rights groups - said that asking census respondents whether they are U.S. citizens will frighten immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the count. That could cost their mostly Democratic-leaning communities representation in the U.S. Congress, as well as their share of some $800 billion a year in federal funding.

 

 

 

House Republican leaders on Monday unanimously voted to strip Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments over comments questioning why "white supremacy" and "white nationalist" had become offensive terms. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said King's comments, which he made to The New York Times, were "beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America." King, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration who had served on the Agriculture and Judiciary committees, said his comments were "mischaracterized," and called the punishment a "political decision that ignores the truth." McCarthy, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested King should find "another line of work;" Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said King should resign. House Democrats introduced a resolution to censure King for comments dating to 2006.

 

 

 

Antarctica is losing its icy covering at an unprecedented pace, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Antarctica's glaciers may have melted at a rate of 40 billion tons per year in the 1980s, but scientists say that total increased more than six-fold from 2009 to 2019. In the National Academy's most recent measurement, Antarctica's ice sheet lost 250 billion tons of ice every year. It takes 360 billion tons of melting ice to produce a millimeter of sea level rise, so sea levels have gone up by nearly 7 millimeters due to Antarctica's melt alone. At the world's current carbon emissions rate, scientists say global sea levels could rise 3 feet by 2100.

 

 

 

Iran attempted to put a satellite into orbit Tuesday, but failed due to a technical glitch on board. State media reported the rocket launch successfully passed the first and second stages but malfunctioned in the third stage. The Iranian-built satellite would have collected environmental data to improve the country's forecasting abilities. Iranian officials said another low-orbit satellite, called Doosti, will be launched next. Iran's first satellite was launched in 2009 and there have been others since then, usually in February during the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. U.S. officials have said Iran's launch attempts violate a U.N. Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.

 

 

 

Chinese state media said Tuesday that cotton seeds taken to the Moon by its Chang'e-4 mission have sprouted. China's National Space Administration said it marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration. Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon. The lunar mini biosphere experiment on the Chinese lander is designed to test photosynthesis and respiration - processes in living organisms that result in the production of energy. The Chang'e 4 is the first mission to land on and explore the Moon's far side, facing away from Earth. It touched down on January 3, carrying instruments to analyze the region's geology, as well as soil containing cotton and potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs. The plants are in a sealed container in a mini biosphere - an artificial, self-sustaining environment with a supply of air, water and nutrients to help them grow. The seeds were dormant during the 20-day journey to the Moon and only began growing once ground controllers sent a command to the probe to water the seeds. The ability to grow plants on the Moon will be integral for long-term space missions allowing astronauts to grow and harvest their own food.

French Government Pledges One Billion Euros to Help Rebuild Iraq - That’s in the news on Monday January 14, 2019

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More than 25 thousand teachers went on strike Monday in Los Angeles. It's the first teachers strike in LA in 30 years. Class sizes, hiring of more nurses and counselors, and pay are among the sticking points. The district on Friday offered a 6 percent raise spread over two years; the union wants 6.5 percent to take effect all at once. The district maintained that the union’s demands could bankrupt the school system, which is projecting a half-billion-dollar deficit this budget year and has billions obligated for pension payments and health coverage for retired teachers. Negotiations broke down in December and started again this month, but little progress was evident in the contract dispute. The union rejected a district offer Friday to hire nearly 1,200 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians and reduce class sizes by two students. The district is the nation's second largest, with 694 thousand students. District officials said schools would remain open, staffed by substitutes and administrators. The showdown in blue-state California follows walkouts that hit the red states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona last year. United Teachers Los Angeles secretary and negotiations team co-chair Ilene Inouye said the strike "is a last resort."

 

 

 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Monday, where he vowed those responsible for killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. Pompeo said they discussed the relationship between Washington and Riyadh and a need for a "comprehensive political solution" to Yemen's civil war. Saudi Arabia has come to the aid of the Yemen government during the conflict, while Iran has taken the side of the Houthi rebels. He told reporters the U.S. wants to know what the Saudis are doing about Khashoggi, who was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October. The remains of the writer, who was often critical of the crown prince and the Saudi royal family, have not been recovered. The CIA believes the crown prince likely ordered the hit. The U.S. Senate last month voted to rebuke bin Salman over Khashoggi's death. Pompeo's trip is part of his tour of the Middle East, which has included stops in Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump warned Sunday that the U.S. would "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. Critics of Trump's decision to withdraw America's 2,000 troops from Syria have said the move would leave Kurdish allies fighting the Islamic State vulnerable to attack by Ankara, which views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists allied with Kurdish insurgents within Turkey. Trump also tweeted a warning to Kurdish forces, telling them not to "provoke Turkey." Defense Department officials said last week that the U.S. withdrawal had begun with shipments of military equipment out of Syria.

 

 

 

Navy divers found the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea in October, killing all 189 people on board, Indonesian officials said Monday. Remains of some of the victims were also found near the black box on the sea floor, said Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy maritime minister. The plane crashed in 98-foot-deep water, and the recorder was found beneath 26 feet of seabed mud. "This is good news, especially for us who lost our loved ones," said Irianto, the father of Rio Nanda Pratama, a doctor who died in the crash. "Even though we don't yet know the contents of the CVR, this is some relief from our despair." The device from the Boeing 737-MAX was sent to a Navy port in Jakarta and will be given to investigators.

 

 

 

An Iranian military plane crashed into a neighborhood in Alborz province Monday after it overshot a runway at the airport and killed 15 people who were on board. Officials said the Boeing 707 was scheduled to arrive at Payam International Airport in Karaj but the pilot attempted to land at Fath Airport, 25 miles west of Tehran. Iranian state-owned Press TV reported its runway is too short for large aircraft. The cargo plane skidded off the runway and crashed into a wall separating the airfield from a residential neighborhood. The bodies of many of the 15 killed were recovered a short time later. Authorities said a flight engineer survived with critical injuries. Officials said the flight, which was carrying meat, originated in Kyrgyzstan. The plane's "black boxes" were recovered and could give investigators key information about what brought the plane down. The Boeing 707 is an older plane, first introduced in 1958. The last models were built by Boeing in 1979.

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May is making a last-minute appeal for her Brexit plan ahead of a key vote in Parliament on Tuesday. May is telling factory workers that if her plan fails, it is more likely that Parliament will scrap Brexit entirely than let the U.K. leave as scheduled in March with no deal. A significant number of Brexit supporters now argue a "no deal" Brexit is the best option. Brexit opponents are hoping to force a second referendum or, according to one plan being floated, let Parliament take control of the process. May is warning Monday that if lawmakers stop the U.K. from leaving the European Union as called for in a referendum, "people's faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm."

 

 

 

France is committing 1 billion euros ($1.15 billion) to help Iraq rebuild after its war against the Islamic State group. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, meeting with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on Monday, said the aid would go to rebuilding Iraq’s most devastated areas. Iraq’s Planning Ministry has estimated the cost of reconstruction at $88 billion. Iraq was able to raise $30 billion at a donor conference in Kuwait last year. Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim thanked France for its assistance to Iraq’s minority Yezidi community. Islamic State militants enslaved and killed thousands of Yezidis during their brief reign in north Iraq earlier this decade. France is a member of the international coalition that territorially defeated the group in Iraq and Syria.

 

 

 

The parent company that owns Pacific Gas and Electric, the biggest U.S. power utility by number of customers, said on Monday it is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for all of its businesses as it faces potentially crushing liabilities linked to catastrophic wildfires in 2017 and 2018. PG&E is reeling from the November Camp fire that swept through the California mountain community of Paradise and killed at least 86 people in the deadliest and most destructive blaze in state history. PG&E said in November it could face “significant liability” in excess of its insurance coverage if its equipment was found to have caused the Camp fire.The company’s shares tumbled 55 percent in early trading. The state could find PG&E responsible for the 2018 wildfires. Under California law, utilities are exposed to liability from wildfires regardless of their negligence. PG&E, the biggest power company in the United States with customers, said it planned to file for bankruptcy protection around Jan. 29, and was giving a 15-day notice to employees to comply with California law. The utility holding company said the bankruptcy process will not impact to electric or natural gas services for 16 million customers.

 

 

 

Chinese space officials said China will launch a probe to collect samples from the moon around the end of this year. The announcement came just weeks after Beijing hailed the successful touch down on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e-4 lunar probe landed on Jan. 3 and transmitted the first-ever “close range” image of the far side of the moon. China’s National Space Administration applauded the event as a first that “lifted the mysterious veil” of the far side of the moon and claimed it as a major achievement for the country’s ambitious space program. The tasks of the Chang’e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon’s terrain and mineral makeup and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side. The Chang’e-5 mission, set to collect samples from the near side of the moon, will be carried out at the end of the year, while another probe will be sent to Mars by 2020. Tests carried out by future missions could lay the groundwork for building on the moon’s surface, by testing technologies like 3D printing or the use of moon soil in construction, he said.

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