It’s Friday October 20, 2017

20Oct

00:0000:00

Nearly two dozen major companies in technology and other industries are planning to launch a coalition to demand legislation that would allow young, illegal immigrants a path to permanent residency, according to documents seen by Reuters. The Coalition for the American Dream intends to ask Congress to pass bipartisan legislation this year that would allow these immigrants, often referred to as “Dreamers,” to continue working in the United States. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel, Uber, IBM, Marriott International, and other top U.S. companies are listed as members, according to the documents. The push for this legislation comes after President Donald Trump’s September decision to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to expire in March. That program, established by former President Barack Obama in 2012, allows approximately 900,000 illegal immigrants to obtain work permits. Some 800 companies signed a letter to Congressional leaders after Trump’s decision, calling for legislation protecting Dreamers. The group has planned to take out ads in news publications. A signup form for the group said 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ DACA recipients. Trump campaigned for president on a pledge to toughen immigration policies and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. He has left the fate of DACA up to Congress. Action may come in December when Congress must pass a spending bill to keep the U.S. government open. Democrats have considered insisting on help for the Dreamers as their price for providing votes that may be required to prevent a government shutdown.

 

 

 

In Denver, federal agents said two sisters, one 5 years old and the other 3 months old, were rescued in the city by undercover agents during an FBI-led sting operation against sex traffickers. The FBI said the alleged trafficker, a friend of the children's family, made a deal to sell them for sex for $600, by communicating with an undercover agent, during what was called Operation Cross Country XI. While this alleged crime alone is disturbing, 82 other juveniles were rescued during last week's nationwide sweep. Some 120 people were arrested. Despite the arrest numbers, the FBI said the work is far from over. FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement, "Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested -- and the number of children recovered -- reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work." Among the recovered victims across the country was one from Russia. Local and state agencies were involved in the operation, as were police as far away as the Philippines and Thailand. The FBI said the average age of the victims recovered from this year's operation is 15. Sellers tried to pimp them to outsiders from hotels, truck stops or online. At a press conference in Denver on Thursday, District Attorney George Brauchler reminded traffickers that undercover agents and task force officers are always lurking, be it behind cameras, on the Internet or in a casino, prepared to make another bust. The FBI continues to work with agencies and organization specializing in child protective services for the 84 rescued children.

 

 

 

Police in Los Angeles have launched an investigation of Harvey Weinstein involving a possible sexual assault in 2013. Police detectives said they have interviewed a possible victim who recently reported she was sexually assaulted by the film mogul. However, a spokesperson for LAPD said he could not answer any questions about where the incident took place or when the woman was interviewed by detectives. The Los Angeles Times reported the woman is a 38-year-old Italian actress who spoke to the newspaper on Thursday. She was not named in the story but told the Times that Weinstein raped her after bullying his way into her hotel room. The woman’s attorney planned to release further details on Friday. A representative for Weinstein said in a statement that Weinstein can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but denies allegations of non-consensual sex. It’s the first investigation involving Weinstein in Los Angeles. Police in New York and London are also investigating the disgraced mogul over allegations of sex abuse in those cities. Weinstein has been accused by more than three dozen women, including several top actresses including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, and on Thursday, Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o added her account of misconduct by Weinstein toward her. Several of the incidents allegedly happened at hotels in Beverly Hills, however, their police department does not have an open investigation of Weinstein.

 

 

 

Men who catcall, harass or follow women on the street in France could face on-the-spot fines under a new sexual-abuse law planned by Marlene Schiappa, the country's minister for gender equality. The legislation aims to crack down on the kind of predatory behavior that Schiappa says restricts French women's everyday lives, making them afraid to leave their homes. She tells CNN, "In France .... every woman has experienced that situation. Going to work, in the subway, on the bus, between in her home and the office, she's been followed by men, she's been asked her number, she's been asked to talk." The author and activist turned politician explained, "It's about freedom ... you can't go to work if while you're walking between your house and your office, you are, you are constantly interrupted by men who are asking you for your number ... (or) following you." Schiappa said the exact details of the punishments involved had yet to be decided, but that the law would mean police who spot women being targeted would be able to step in. More importantly, she said, it was about getting the message across to men that such behavior is completely unacceptable. She said she hoped the law would embarrass those who harass women into changing their ways.

 

 

 

Seoul needs nuclear weapons of its own if it is to negotiate with North Korea on an equal footing. That's according to a leading South Korean opposition figure. A once marginal call for South Korea to add nuclear weapons to its arsenal has gained momentum and support in recent months as Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities have gone from theoretical threat to present danger. Hong Jun-pyo said, "Only by deploying tactical (nuclear) weapons on South Korean territory can we negotiate with North Korea on an equal footing." Hong will travel to Washington next week to press his case to US lawmakers. Hong leads the conservative Liberty Korea Party, which was formed from the rump of President Park Geun-hye's Saenuri Party after it collapsed amid infighting and finger-pointing in the wake of her impeachment on corruption and other charges. While Moon Jae-in, who beat Hong to replace Park as president in May, still has widespread support, Hong represents a growing swell of dissent from conservative South Koreans, who have long accused Moon and his liberal Democratic Party of being too soft on Pyongyang. Moon has outright dismissed the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in his country, warning it could "lead to a nuclear arms race in northeast Asia." However, President Trump -- who visits Seoul next month -- voiced support for the move during the campaign, and Republican Sen. John McCain said in September the US should consider deploying nukes to South Korea.

 

 

 

Republicans on Thursday muscled a $4 trillion budget through the Senate in a major step forward for President Donald Trump’s ambitious promise of “massive tax cuts and reform.” The 51-49 vote sets the stage for debate later this year to dramatically overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in three decades, cutting rates for individuals and corporations while eliminating trillions of dollars of deductions and special interest tax breaks. The tax cuts would add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the coming decade, however, as Republicans have shelved fears about the growing budget deficit in favor of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewrite tax laws. The White House hailed the bill’s passage, saying it “creates a pathway to unleash the potential of the American economy through tax reform and tax cuts.” Democrats blasted the GOP budget, warning voters that the upcoming tax measure will shower benefits on top-bracket earners, corporations, business partnerships and people inheriting multimillion-dollar estates. Trump promises that the tax plan — still under development — is aimed at the middle class, but previous versions have seen upper-income individuals benefiting the most.

 

 

 

The U.S. government is urging the world airline community to ban large, personal electronic devices like laptops from checked luggage because of the potential for a catastrophic fire. The FAA on said in a paper filed recently with a U.N. agency that its tests show that when a laptop’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery overheats in close proximity to an aerosol spray can, it can cause an explosion capable of disabling an airliner’s fire suppression system. The fire could then rage unchecked, leading to “the loss of the aircraft." As a result, the paper recommends that passengers shouldn’t be allowed to pack large electronic devices in baggage unless they have specific approval from the airline. The paper says the European Safety Agency, the FAA’s counterpart in Europe; Airbus, one of the world’s largest makers of passenger airliners; the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Association, and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association, which represents aircraft makers, concurred in the recommendation. The U.N. agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization, sets global aviation safety standards, although member countries must still ratify them. The proposed ban is on the agenda of a meeting of ICAO’s panel on dangerous goods being held this week and next week in Montreal.

 

 

 

A Pakistani court on Thursday indicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as his daughter and son-in-law on corruption charges stemming from documents leaked from a Panama law firm. A lawyer for the 67-year-old Sharif, who is currently in London, where his wife is receiving medical treatment, entered a plea of not guilty. The former prime minister's daughter, Maryam Sharif, and her husband, Mohammad Safdar, attended Thursday's hearing at the Accountability Court and also pleaded not guilty. The charges stem from a trove of documents, known as the Panama Papers, which investigators say showed the family held unreported assets overseas. The family has denied any wrongdoing. Maryam Sharif again denied the allegations as "baseless" after exiting the courtroom. She said her father would return to Pakistan and that they would "face these cases with courage." The former prime minister is unlikely to be arrested on his return home as the court has already granted bail. Sharif's political future has been hanging in balance since July when the Supreme Court disqualified him from being prime minister. Sharif was re-elected as party leader earlier this month after parliament approved a bill allowing officials disqualified by courts to hold party offices.

 

 

 

The wildfires that have devastated Northern California this month caused at least $1 billion in damage to insured property. In addition to the dollar loss, authorities increased the count of homes and other buildings destroyed by flames to nearly 7,000. Both numbers were expected to rise as crews continued assessing areas scorched by the blazes that killed 42 people, a total that makes it the deadliest series of fires in state history. State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the preliminary dollar valuation of losses came from claims filed with the eight largest insurance companies in the affected areas and did not include uninsured property. The loss total was expected to climb “probably dramatically so,” Jones told reporters, making it likely the fires also would become the costliest in California’s history. 22 of the 42 deaths in California’s October fires happened in a Sonoma County wildfire, making it the third-deadliest in California history. A 1933 Los Angeles fire that killed 29 people was the deadliest, followed by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire killed 25.

 

 

 

A bipartisan proposal to calm churning health insurance markets gained momentum Thursday when enough lawmakers rallied behind it to give it potentially unstoppable Senate support. But its fate remained unclear as some Republicans sought changes that could threaten Democratic backing. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said their plan had 24 sponsors, divided evenly between both parties, for resuming federal subsidies to insurers. Trump has blocked the money and without it, insurers are already raising premiums for many buying individual coverage and could flee unprofitable markets. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said all 48 Democrats — including two independents who support them — would back the measure in a vote. That meant that combined with the dozen GOP sponsors there would be 60 votes for the plan, the number needed to overcome a filibuster, a delaying tactic meant to kill legislation. The growing Senate support also improved the chances that the proposal would become law, perhaps later this year as part of a must-pass measure financing the entire government. The measure would still have to clear the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and many conservatives have been cold to the idea, and win Trump’s signature.

 

 

 

Late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner will make history by becoming the first solo man to feature on the cover of the magazine. A 1965 portrait of the publisher, who passed away last month, will grace the November/December 2017 issue. Hefner was 39-years-old in photographer Larry Gordon's shot. Hef will become the 11th man to grace the cover, but the first to appear without a female model. The new issue of the magazine will feature a piece from Hefner's son Cooper, as well as a celebration of the magazine mogul's life. The new issue will also feature Playboy's first transgender playmate. Ines Rau, who has posed for the magazine before, tells the men's magazine she's honored to break new ground, stating, "When I was doing this shoot, I was thinking of all those hard days in my childhood, and now everything happening gives me so much joy and happiness. I thought, 'Am I really going to be a Playmate - me?' It's the most beautiful compliment I've ever received. It's like getting a giant bouquet of roses." Ines, who poses nude in the new Playboy, adds, "Nudity means a lot to me since I went through a transition to get where I want to be. Nudity is a celebration of the human being without all the excess. It's not about sexuality but the beauty of the human body, whether male or female."

 

It’s Thursday October 19, 2017

19Oct

00:0000:00

Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career. Maroney posted a lengthy statement on Twitter early Wednesday that described the allegations of abuse against Dr. Larry Nassar, who spent three decades working with athletes at USA Gymnastics but is now in jail in Michigan, awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. Nassar also is awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges and has been sued by more than 125 women alleging abuse. Nassar has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, and the dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan are currently in mediation. Maroney, who is now 21, says the abuse began while attending a U.S. National team training camp at the Karolyi Ranch in the Sam Houston Forest north of Houston, Texas. Maroney was 13 at the time. Maroney says she decided to come forward as part of the “#MeToo” movement on social media that arose in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. “This is happening everywhere,” Maroney wrote. “Wherever there is a position of power, there is the potential for abuse. I had a dream to go to the Olympics, and the things I had to endure to get there, were unnecessary and disgusting.” Maroney called for change, urging other victims to speak out and demanding organizations “be held accountable for their inappropriate actions and behavior.”

 

 

 

U.S.-backed Syrian forces were removing landmines and clearing roads in the northern city of Raqqa on Wednesday, a day after commanders said they had driven the Islamic State group from its de facto capital. Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said preparations were underway for a formal declaration of the city’s liberation. The SDF said Tuesday that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that their troops have taken full control of the city. The U.S.-led coalition cautioned that the clearing operations would continue, saying some 100 militants may still be hiding in the city. On Wednesday, the spokesman for the coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, tweeted that 95 percent of the city is now under full control as clearing operations continue. The coalition stressed that the SDF has been successful in holding onto captured territory because of its thorough clearing procedures, which prevent counterattacks. The White House said the imminent liberation of the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa will open a new phase in the Syrian conflict. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders blamed the Syrian government for hindering previous efforts to free Raqqa.

 

 

 

A fire gutted a luxury teakwood hotel popular with foreigners in Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon on Thursday morning, causing one death. A body bag was carried out of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel on Thursday morning and firefighters said the victim was male. It was unclear if others were killed or injured. Photos and video posted online show the spectacular blaze racing through the traditional Burmese-style building early Thursday morning. Smoke was still rising from the remains of the lakeside hotel hours after daybreak, and dozens of firefighters were at the site. Firefighters said the blaze started about 3 a.m. and may have been set off by an electrical fault, and exploding gas cylinders caused it to spread quickly. The teak upper floors of the hotel were destroyed and the blaze also appeared to have swept through the cement ground and first floors. The hotel was built in the early 1990s, incorporating a colonial-era British rowing club.

 

 

 

A man with a lengthy criminal past who showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested. Authorities said three of them were killed and two critically wounded. Less than two hours later, police said Radee Labeeb Prince drove to a used car lot about 55 miles away in Wilmington, Delaware, and opened fire on a man with whom he had "beefs" in the past, wounding him. The shooting rampage set off a manhunt along the Interstate 95 Northeast corridor. Police cruisers were stationed in medians, and overhead highway signs displayed a description of Prince’sport utility vehicle and its Delaware license plate. The FBI assisted state and local authorities in the manhunt. Wilmington Police said Prince was arrested in Glasgow, 20 miles southwest of Wilmington after a tip led authorities to his vehicle. Prince was spotted nearby and discarded a handgun when he saw police had recognized him. He ran a short distance before being captured.

 

 

 

A white former Oklahoma police officer was convicted of first-degree manslaughter late Wednesday in the off-duty fatal shooting of his daughter’s black boyfriend after jurors in three previous trials couldn’t decide whether to find him guilty of murder. Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler’s then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison for the 57-year-old. Kepler’s attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O’Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house. Kepler told investigators Lake was armed and that he was acting in self-defense, but police didn’t find a weapon on Lake or at the scene. Kepler retired from the force after he was charged. Prosecutors said Kepler first watched his daughter and Lake from his SUV before approaching them on the street. Lake’s aunt disputed Kepler’s self-defense account and has said her nephew was reaching out to shake Kepler’s hand to introduce himself when Kepler fired. Jurors in the previous three trials had deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, forcing the judge to declare mistrials. Although they couldn’t agree on the murder charge, jurors in the first trial convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm.

 

 

 

The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino security guard shot by Stephen Paddock and hailed a hero for possibly saving lives in the Las Vegas massacre has gone missing. Jesus Campos vanished shortly before he was scheduled to appear on numerous television networks last week to share his story about encountering the Las Vegas shooter shortly before he killed 58 people and injured more than 500. David Hickey, president of the Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America union, told the Los Angeles Times, “We have had no contact with him…. Clearly, somebody knows where he is." Hickey was helping Campos get ready for his TV appearances in a Las Vegas hotel on Thursday when the guard disappeared. Hickey told the Times he was in a meeting in one room with MGM, which owns the Mandalay Bay Resort, while Campos sat in the other room but when he returned around 2 p.m., Campos was gone. After not hearing from the guard, Hickey canceled his appearances. Hickey later heard that the guard had gone to a Quick Care clinic, but the clinic said Campos was never there. The mystery comes after Campos was hailed after he was reportedly shot in the leg by Paddock on the night of the massacre on October 1. Las Vegas Metro Police said Campos was on the 32nd floor to check on a door alarm when he noticed that the stairwell door was blocked. He radioed a maintenance worker, who arrived and when the two started talking, then Paddock started shooting through the door of his room.

 

 

 

The authors of a bipartisan plan to calm health insurance markets said Wednesday they’ll push the proposal forward, even as President Donald Trump’s stance ricocheted from supportive to disdainful to arm’s-length and the plan’s fate teetered. Trump told reporters at the White House,“If something can happen, that’s fine. But I won’t do anything to enrich the insurance companies because right now the insurance companies are being enriched. They’ve been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anybody has ever seen before.” The agreement, by Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Patty Murray of Washington, on a two-year extension of federal subsidies to insurers that Trump has blocked, gained an important new foe. Jennifer Popik, the top lobbyist for the anti-abortion group National Right to Life said it opposed the measure because it lacked language barring people from using their federally subsidized coverage to buy policies covering abortion. In another blow, Doug Andres, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said Ryan “does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.” With hard-right conservatives wielding considerable influence and unwilling to prop up President Barack Obama’s health care law, it was unclear if Ryan would be willing to even bring the measure to his chamber’s floor.

 

 

 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the US wants to deepen co-operation with India in the face of growing Chinese influence in Asia. He described India as a "partner" in a "strategic relationship", adding the US would "never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society". He said Beijing sometimes acted outside international conventions, citing the South China Sea dispute as an example. His comments come ahead of his visit to India next week. Meanwhile, President Trump will visit a number of Asian countries including China, in November. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, Tillerson said: "the United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China's challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the US and our friends". He also described the US and India as "increasingly global partners" who "don't just share an affinity for democracy. We share a vision of the future." He called on India to play a greater security role in the region, saying "India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty... and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies."

 

 

 

The Australian auto manufacturing era is about to end after more than 90 years. General Motors last Holden sedan will roll off the production line in the industrial city of Adelaide on Friday. With the plant’s closure, 900 factory workers will clock off the last time. GM Holden Ltd. is the last of an array of carmakers that once included Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Leyland to abandon Australia in recent decades. Technical manager Peter Allison has worked at the Holden factory for 19 years and says he expected to stay there for the rest of his working life. The opposition party on Thursday accused the government of “goading General Motors to leave Australia” but refusing to guarantee future subsidies. The government denies the closure relates to subsidies.

 

 

 

Israel’s Space Communications has signed a deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch two communication satellites into orbit after a prior attempt ended in disaster. The explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket last year at Cape Canaveral in Florida dealt a major blow to the Israeli satellite operator. But Space Communications said on Wednesday the first new satellite, Amos-17, would be sent into orbit in 2019 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at no extra cost. Spacecom said it had agreed to pay SpaceX up to $62 million to launch a second satellite, Amos-8, a year later. The agreements are welcome news for Spacecom after a couple of years of setbacks beyond the SpaceX explosion. In 2015 it lost contact with one of its satellites and earlier this year its controlling shareholder became the target of a securities investigation. Amos-17, bought from Boeing Satellite Systems International for $161 million, is aimed at expanding and strengthening Spacecom’s coverage of growing satellite service markets in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The launch is scheduled for the second quarter of 2019 and it is set to operate for 19 years. The Amos-8 launch is expected for the second half of 2020.

 

 

 

U.S. regulators have approved a second gene therapy for a blood cancer, a one-time, custom-made treatment for aggressive lymphoma in adults. The Food and Drug Administration allowed sales of the treatment from Kite Pharma. It uses the same technology, called CAR-T, as the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. in August, a treatment for childhood leukemia from Novartis Pharmaceuticals. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement, “In just several decades, gene therapy has gone from being a promising concept to a practical solution to deadly and largely untreatable forms of cancer.” CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques not to fix disease-causing genes but to turbocharge T cells, immune system soldiers that cancer can often evade. The T cells are filtered from a patient’s blood, reprogrammed to target and kill cancer cells, and then hundreds of millions of copies are grown. Returned to the patient, all the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight the disease for months or years. That’s why these immunotherapy treatments are called “living drugs.” Kite’s therapy is for patients with three types of aggressive, or fast-growing, large B-cell lymphoma. The most common one accounts for about a third of the estimated 72,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed each year. The treatment, called Yescarta, will cost $373,000 per patient.

It’s Wednesday October 18, 2017

18Oct

00:0000:00

The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan Tuesday, targeting police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers in the country’s south, east, and west, and killing at least 74 people. Officials said scores were also wounded, both police and civilians. Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, Murad Ali Murad, called the onslaught the “biggest terrorist attack this year.” In southern Paktia province, 41 people — 21 policemen and 20 civilians — were killed when the Taliban targeted a police compound in the provincial capital of Gardez with two suicide car bombs. Among the wounded were 48 policemen and 110 civilians. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that after the two cars blew up in Gardez, five attackers with suicide belts tried to storm the compound but were killed by Afghan security forces. One hospital in Gardez reported receiving at least 130 people wounded in the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for all three attacks. Later on Tuesday, an Afghan official said drone strikes killed 35 Taliban fighters in the country’s east, near the border with Pakistan.

 

 

 

A federal judge in Hawaii blocked most of President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban Tuesday, just hours before it was set to take effect, saying the revised order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” It was the third set of travel restrictions issued by the president to be thwarted, in whole or in part, by the courts. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued the ruling after the ban on a set of mostly Muslim countries was challenged by the state of Hawaii, which warned that the restrictions would separate families and undermine the recruiting of diverse college students. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the ruling “dangerously flawed” and said it “undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe.” The Justice Department said it will quickly appeal. At issue was a ban, announced in September and set to go into effect early Wednesday, on travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, along with some Venezuelan government officials and their families. The judge’s ruling applies only to the six Muslim-majority countries on the list. It does not affect the restrictions against North Korea or Venezuela because Hawaii did not ask for that. The Trump administration said the ban was based on an assessment of each country’s security situation and willingness to share information with the U.S.

 

 

 

Kurdish fighters pulled out of disputed areas across northern and eastern Iraq on Tuesday, one day after giving up the vital oil city of Kirkuk — a dramatic redeployment of forces that opened the way for government troops to move into energy-rich and other strategically important territories. The vastly outnumbered Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, appeared to have bowed to demands from the central government that they hand over areas outside the Kurds’ autonomous region, including territory seized from the Islamic State group in recent years. The evacuations exposed a Kurdish leadership in turmoil in the wake of last month’s vote for independence as Iraq’s central government shores up its hand for negotiations over resource-sharing with the country’s self-ruling minority. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi acknowledged the power shift, saying Iraqi forces took over the disputed areas from the Kurds with barely a shot fired. The developments followed weeks of political crisis precipitated by the Kurdish leadership’s decision to hold the referendum for independence in territories beyond the boundaries of its autonomous region in northeast Iraq. The Iraqi government, as well as Turkey and Iran, which border the land-locked Kurdish region, rejected the vote. The U.S. also opposed the vote, saying it was a distraction from the war against IS.

 

 

 

Republican and Democratic senators joined in announcing a plan Tuesday aimed at stabilizing America’s health insurance markets in the wake of President Trump’s order to terminate “Obamacare” subsidies. Trump himself spoke approvingly of the deal, but some conservatives denounced it as an insurance company bailout, making its future uncertain. The agreement followed weeks of negotiations between Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington that sought to address health insurance markets that have been in limbo following GOP failures to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The talks took on added urgency when Trump announced last week that he would end monthly “cost-sharing reduction” payments the government makes to help insurance companies reduce costs for lower-income people. Without that money, industry officials warn premiums for some people buying individual health plans would spike, and some insurers would flee the markets. Trump’s position may seem contradictory in that he himself ordered an end to the payments, calling them a bailout, but is now encouraging legislation to reinstitute them. The Alexander-Murray deal would continue the insurer payments for two years while establishing new flexibility for states.

 

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping trumpeted his nation’s prospects as bright but made a rare acknowledgment of severe economic challenges as he opened the Communist Party’s twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday. Other Chinese leaders have regularly warned since the 2008 financial crisis that China’s economic growth faces “downward pressure” due to weak global demand that threatens export industries in the world’s second-largest economy. But Xi’s comments were unusual in a keynote speech meant to highlight the party’s confidence and long-range vision. Among the grave issues, Xi said were insufficiently addressed are a widening income gap and problems in employment, education, medical care and other areas. Xi has been consolidating his already considerable power and is expected to get a second five-year term as party leader at the gathering. In his speech, he also hailed China’s island-building efforts in the disputed South China Sea as well as his signature foreign policy initiative, the “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure investment project aimed at improving connections between China, Europe, and Africa. While Xi is limited to two five-year terms as president, the office of general secretary is bound by no such restrictions. Xi, who is 64, could also step aside for a younger leader while maintaining ultimate control from behind the scenes.

 

 

 

The pilot in the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history was probably impaired by Valium, opioids and cold and allergy medicine when he ignored weather warnings and flew the ride into a power line. According to Dr. Nicholas Webster, a National Transportation Safety Board medical officer, besides Valium and oxycodone, there was enough of the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl in Alfred “Skip” Nichols’ system to mimic “the impairing effect of a blood-alcohol level” of a drunken driver. During a meeting in Washington, the NTSB revealed its findings about the July 2016 crash near Austin that killed all 16 people aboard. Investigators scolded the FAA for lax enforcement of the ballooning industry and recommended that balloon pilots submit to the same medical checks as airplane pilots. The 49-year-old Nichols had at least four prior convictions for drunken driving, though no alcohol was found in his system after the crash. Investigators said Nichols was told during a weather briefing before the flight that clouds may be a problem. He brushed off the warning. Visibility was 10 miles about two hours before the balloon took off from a Walmart parking lot near the rural town of Lockhart but had diminished to just 2 miles before the ride began. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt ripped the FAA and questioned why the agency was endorsing voluntary pilot requirements written by the Balloon Federation of America instead of tightening regulations. The FAA said in a statement that it will carefully consider the NTSB recommendations but did not address Sumwalt’s criticism.

 

 

 

The Chicago Department of Aviation has fired two security officers for their roles in the forcible removal of a passenger on a United Airlines flight in April, an incident that provoked international outrage. The firings were included in a report on the incident released on Tuesday by the Chicago Office of the Inspector General. David Dao, a 69-year-old physician, was hospitalized after aviation officers dragged him from a United Airlines plane to make space for four crew members on the flight from Chicago’s O‘Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky. Videos of Dao being dragged down the aisle of the jet sparked public outcry. The report did not name the officers but said one escalated a non-threatening situation into a physically violent one, and said a second removed facts from one report. In addition to firing the two officers, the department issued five-day suspensions to two others, according to the report. The inspector general’s report noted significant confusion over aviation officers’ roles and expectations and cited a failure to implement practical policies and procedures. In July, the department said future airport disturbances would be handled by city police, not aviation security officers. They also planned to remove the word “police” from aviation security uniforms and vehicles and improve training.

 

 

 

Six fishermen are missing after their trawler capsized and sank off the east coast of Australia. A seventh man managed to survive being stranded for about 12 hours in waters near the Queensland town of Seventeen Seventy. According to authorities, the man survived by clinging to the boat's hull before treading water until he was seen by a passing yacht. Search teams have found debris but no trace of the missing men. The 55-foot commercial fishing trawler, Dianne, capsized at 7:30 pm local time on Monday and sank about five hours later. An Australian newspaper named the rescued man as Ruben McDornan and reported that he had heard crewmates trying to escape the vessel after it capsized. McDornan was saved on Tuesday morning after a yacht crew heard his cries for help. Police said they had not detected any emergency transmissions or beacons from the vessel. Wet weather hindered the search on Tuesday. Search vessels, aircraft, and local trawlers returned to the area on Wednesday.

 

 

 

A Missouri appeals court that vacated a $72 million award to an Alabama woman, who claimed her use of Johnson & Johnson products that contained talcum contributed to her ovarian cancer, has thrown the fate of awards in similar cases into doubt. The Missouri Eastern District Court’s ruled that Missouri was not the proper jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit filed by Jacqueline Fox of Birmingham, Alabama, who claimed the baby powder she used for feminine hygiene for about 25 years contributed to her cancer. The 62-year-old died in 2015, about four months before her case went to trial in St. Louis Circuit Court. In February 2016, a jury awarded Fox $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages — the first award in the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. The appeals court cited a Supreme Court ruling in June that placed limits on where injury lawsuits could be filed, saying state courts cannot hear claims against companies not based in the state where alleged injuries occurred. The case involved suits against Bristol-Myers Squibb over the blood-thinning medication Plavix. More than 1,000 others have filed similar lawsuits in St. Louis against Johnson & Johnson, which is based in Brunswick, New Jersey. In four of five trials held so far, jurors awarded more than $300 million combined. Only two of the 64 cases attached to Fox’s case lived in Missouri. The company appealed all the awards against it and says its products are safe. A spokeswoman said after Tuesday’s ruling that Johnson & Johnson is confident its appeals will be successful.

 

 

Some smartwatches, sold in Britain and designed for children, have security flaws that make them vulnerable to hackers. The Norwegian Consumer Council tested watches from brands including Gator and GPS for Kids. It said it discovered that attackers could track, eavesdrop or even communicate with the wearers. The manufacturers involved insist the problems have either already been resolved or are being addressed. Some UK retailers have withdrawn one of the named smartwatch models from sale in response to the report. The smartwatches tested essentially serve as basic smartphones, allowing parents to communicate with their children as well as track their location. Some include an SOS feature that allows the child to instantly call their parents. They typically sell for about £100. The NCC said it was concerned that Gator and GPS for Kids' watches transmitted and stored data without encryption. It said that meant strangers, using basic hacking techniques, could track children as they moved, or make a child appear to be in a completely different location. GPS for Kids said it had resolved the security flaws for new watches and that existing customers were being offered an upgrade. The UK distributor of the Gator watch said it had moved its data to a new encrypted server and was developing a new, more secure app for customers.

 

 

 

Qualcomm has demonstrated mobile internet speeds of 1Gbps using a 5G smartphone chip. The chipset manufacturer claims this is the first working 5G data connection on a mobile device. The fifth generation of the mobile network does not yet exist, but it promises faster data speeds and more bandwidth to carry more web traffic. Qualcomm is describing the demonstration as a "major milestone", but one expert is playing it down. Professor William Webb, an independent consultant and author of the book The 5G Myth: When vision decoupled from reality, told the BBC, "5G is not yet clearly defined, they've just postulated what they think it will look like. It's not 5G in its final form, so it's premature to say it's a 5G demonstration." Webb added that speeds higher than 1Gbps were already achievable on 4G. Qualcomm said the demonstration, at its laboratories in San Diego, had used its first dedicated 5G chip, the Snapdragon X50 NR modem chipset, on the 28GHz millimeter wave spectrum band. Today's 4G mobile networks currently make use of the sub-6GHz frequencies, but these are now heavily crowded. Mobile operators are running out of capacity to carry the huge amounts of web traffic generated by consumers on billions of mobile devices, in addition to data being sent from internet-enabled sensors in smart devices. The specifications for 5G have not yet been set out by the global mobile standards body, 3GPP, so various parts of the industry are trying different technologies, with the hope that 5G will be ready by 2019.

It’s Tuesday October 17, 2017

17Oct

00:0000:00

A wave of wildfires in central and north Portugal which started at the weekend has killed at least 31 people. A civil defense spokesperson said dozens of the 145 fires still raging are considered serious. To the north, fires which broke out across the border in Spain's Galicia region claimed at least three lives. Thousands of firefighters are battling the flames, which erupted after a hot dry summer. Conditions were worsened by Hurricane Ophelia, as it approached Europe's western coast, bringing strong winds to fan and spread the flames. More than 50 people have also been injured in Portugal; 15 are reported to be in a serious condition. Local media say several people are still missing there, including a month-old baby. In Spain, two of the victims were found in a burned-out car by the side of the road. A state of emergency has been declared in Portugal north of the Tagus river - about half of the country's land area. More than 6,000 firefighters in 1,800 vehicles were deployed by early Monday morning. As a result of the fires, at least a dozen roads were closed, as well as schools in some places. Rain is forecast for the affected regions.

 

 

 

The death toll in Somalia's capital has risen to more than 300 people, 302 to be precise, following a weekend truck bombing. Authorities said scores remained missing as the fragile African nation reeled from one of the world’s worst attacks in years. As funerals continued, the government said the death toll was expected to rise. Nearly 400 people were injured in the bombing that targeted a crowded street in Mogadishu. Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, though the Islamic extremist group has not claimed responsibility for the attack. Still, analysts said there was little doubt the Islamic extremist group carried out the bombing, one of the deadliest in sub-Saharan Africa. A police spokesman said nearly 70 people remained missing, based on accounts from relatives, and many bodies were burned to ashes in the attack. Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab has waged war in Somalia for more than a decade, often targeting high-profile areas of the capital. Earlier this year, it vowed to step up attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia’s recently elected Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced new military efforts against the group. After Saturday’s attack, Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a plea by hospitals to donate blood.

 

 

 

North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador warned Monday that the situation on the Korean peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment.” Kim In Ryong told the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee that North Korea is the only country in the world that has been subjected to “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat” from the United States since the 1970s — and said the country has the right to possess nuclear weapons in self-defense. Kim’s speech follows escalating threats between North Korea and the United States and increasingly tough U.N. sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that his country is curtailing economic, scientific and other ties with North Korea in line with U.N. sanctions, and the European Union announced new sanctions on Pyongyang for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops.” North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador called his country’s nuclear and missile arsenal “a precious strategic asset that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything.” He told the disarmament committee that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — North Korea’s official name — had hoped for a nuclear-free world.

 

 

Meanwhile, the US is not ruling out the eventual possibility of direct talks with North Korea. That's the word from Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan on Tuesday, hours after Pyongyang issued that dire warning that nuclear war might break out at any moment. Talks between the adversaries have long been urged by China in particular, but Washington and its ally Japan have been reluctant to sit down at the table while Pyongyang continues to pursue a goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States. Speaking in Tokyo after talks with his Japanese counterpart, Sullivan said, “Our focus is on diplomacy to solve this problem that is presented by the DPRK. We must, however, with our allies, Japan and South Korea and elsewhere, be prepared for the worst should diplomacy fail." Tensions have soared following a series of weapons tests by North Korea and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The U.N. Security Council has unanimously ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs since 2006. The most recent U.N. sanctions banned exports of coal, iron ore and seafood, aimed at cutting off one-third of North Korea’s total annual exports of $3 billion. Experts say North Korea has been scrambling to find alternative sources of hard currency to keep its economy afloat and to advance its weapons program further.

 

 

 

Malaysia has received proposals from three companies offering to continue the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which has been missing since 2014, but no decision has been made yet. Flight 370 vanished three years ago somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard and is thought to have been diverted thousands of miles off course out over the southern Indian Ocean before crashing off the coast of Western Australia. Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said proposals were received from US-based seabed exploration firm Ocean Infinity, Dutch firm Fugro and an unidentified Malaysian company. Liow told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Kuala Lumpur, “We won’t be deciding anything now on whether we are embarking on a new search or not. We have to discuss with the companies. It will take some time as it’s some detailed discussions." Liow was commenting on media reports from Australia that said Malaysia could resume the search as early as this week. Australia, Malaysia, and China called off a two-year search for the plane in January, amid protests from families of those onboard. Liow said the proposals would eventually be presented to the other countries in the tripartite committee – China and Australia – before a decision was taken. Representatives for Ocean Infinity have said the company would only want to be paid if the Boeing 777 aircraft was found. Its disappearance has become one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

 

 

 

US-backed forces in Syria say they now control so-called Islamic State's one-time capital of Raqqa, with only a few dozen militants remaining in the city. The Syrian Democratic Forces say they have retaken al-Naim square, where IS once held public executions. ISIS, which attracted fighters from across the globe with its extreme interpretation of Islamic law, used beheadings, crucifixions, and torture to terrorize residents who opposed its rule. The BBC reports an official declaration that the city has been recaptured is expected soon. Earlier, a convoy of local IS fighters and their families left Raqqa as part of a preplanned departure. SDF said no foreign fighters were allowed to join them. Local forces said more than 3,000 civilians have escaped the city in recent days. Raqqa was one of the first large cities IS took over in 2014 and had held control there for three years. But the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, has been besieging the city for nearly four months. The loss of Raqqa will be seen as another blow for IS, which has been steadily losing ground in both Syria and Iraq over the last two years.

 

 

 

Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States met in Oman on Monday to try to find ways of reviving peace talks with Afghan Taliban militants. But it was not clear if any Afghan Taliban had joined the talks, which have so far failed to restart a tentative process that collapsed in 2015. Taliban sources had previously said they would stay away from the discussions in Muscat, casting doubt on prospects for reviving long-stalled negotiations. Pakistani officials said the talks had resumed on Pakistan’s initiative. There was no immediate comment from the United States, China or Afghanistan about the talks resuming. The four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group, comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States, which last met in Islamabad early last year, has been trying to ease the path to direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with little success. A close aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and a senior member of the High Peace Council said last week his country would participate in the Muscat meeting, and that the Taliban representatives would also be there. The Taliban denied that they had received an invitation. The United States wants Pakistan, which it accuses of harboring Afghan Taliban commanders, to exert more influence on the group to bring them to the negotiating table. Pakistani officials deny sheltering Taliban militants and say their influence on the group has waned.

 

 

Airbus agreed on Monday to buy a majority stake in Bombardier’s CSeries jetliner program, grabbing control of a struggling competitor at the second attempt and giving the Canadian plane-and-train-maker an unexpected boost in its costly trade dispute with Boeing. The deal, which would come at no cost for Toulouse, France-based Airbus, would give the European planemaker a 50.01 percent interest in CSeries Aircraft Limited Partnership, which manufactures and sells the jets. The 110-to-130 seat plane has not secured a new order in 18 months and is being threatened by a possible 300 percent duty on U.S. imports. Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said the company has offered to assemble some of the narrowbody jets at its U.S. plant in Alabama for orders by American carriers, and that would mean the jets would not be subject to possible U.S. anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties. A Boeing spokesman dismissed the agreement as a “questionable deal between two state-subsidized competitors” to try to skirt a recent U.S. trade finding against the CSeries.

 

 

 

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell reaffirmed their alliance of necessity Monday in a raucous Rose Garden news conference that also underscored their sharp differences. In front of a hastily assembled White House press corps, Trump began his remarks by saluting McConnell and, as he described it, their longstanding friendship. “We’re probably now closer than ever before,” the president proclaimed as McConnell grinned stiffly at his side. “My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding.” Trump spent August assailing McConnell for his inability to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, calling the failure “a disgrace” and ordering McConnell over Twitter to “get back to work.” For his part, McConnell has complained that Trump had “excessive expectations” for how quickly Congress could act. It was not clear what led to Monday’s sudden question-and-answer session, which followed lunch between McConnell and Trump at the White House. Their meeting came at a critical time, with the Senate poised to vote this week on a budget that would set the stage for tax legislation that many Republicans view as make-or-break following the failure on health care. Both McConnell and Trump recommitted themselves to the goal of passing a tax bill by the end of this year.

 

 

 

Scientists have detected the warping of space generated by the collision of two dead stars, or neutron stars. The measurement of the gravitational waves given off by this cataclysmic event was made on August 17 by the LIGO-VIRGO Collaboration. The discovery enabled telescopes all over the world to capture details of the merger as it unfolded. David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech in Pasadena, California, said: "This is the one we've all been waiting for." The outburst took place in a galaxy called NGC 4993, located roughly a thousand billion, billion km away in the Constellation Hydra. It happened 130 million years ago - when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. It was so far away that the light and gravitational waves have only just reached us. The stars themselves had masses 10-20% greater than our Sun - but they were no larger than 30 km across. They were the crushed leftover cores of massive stars that long ago exploded as supernovas. They are called neutron stars because the process of crushing the star makes the charged protons and electrons in the atoms of the star combine - to form an object made entirely of neutrons. Such remnants are incredibly dense - a teaspoonful would weigh a billion tons. They have confirmed that such star mergers lead to the production of the elements gold and platinum that exists in the Universe.

It’s Monday October 16, 2017

16Oct

00:0000:00

The most powerful bomb blast ever witnessed in Somalia's capital killed 276 people with around 300 others injured. According to officials, it was the deadliest single attack in that Africa nation, and the number of dead and injured was expected to rise. Hospitals were overwhelmed a day after a truck bomb targeted a crowded street near key government ministries, including foreign affairs. Somalia's government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for what it called a "national disaster." Al-Shabab earlier this year vowed to step up attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia's recently elected president announced new military efforts against the group. The country's leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood.

 

 

 

Iraqi Kurdish officials said early Monday that federal forces and state-backed militias have launched a “major, multi-pronged” attack aimed at retaking the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, causing “lots of casualties” in fighting south of the city. The Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement that Kurdish forces known as peshmerga have destroyed at least five U.S.-supplied Humvees being used by the state-sanctioned militias following the “unprovoked attack” south of the city. Inside Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city that is home to more than 1 million people, residents shuttered themselves in homes and reported hearing sporadic booms they said sounded like shelling and rocket fire. A military spokesman for Kurdish forces, said federal forces have seized an oil and gas company and other industrial areas south of Kirkuk in fighting with Kurdish forces that caused “lots of casualties,” without providing a specific figure. He said Iraqi forces have “burnt lots of houses and killed many people” in Toz Khormato and Daquq, south of the disputed city. He said Kurdish forces have “destroyed one or two of their tanks.” The Kurds assumed control of Kirkuk, in the heart of a major oil-producing region, in the summer of 2014, when IS militants swept across northern Iraq and the country’s armed forces crumbled. Baghdad has demanded the Kurds withdraw.

 

 

The two final surviving leaders of a deadly siege in the southern Philippines, including a top Asian terror suspect, were killed Monday in one of the final battles by thousands of troops to retake the last area in Marawi city held by pro-Islamic State group militants. Four military and police officials told The Associated Press that Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed among the FBI’s most-wanted terror suspects, and Omar Khayyam Maute were killed in a gunbattle and their bodies were found Monday in Marawi. The U.S. State Department had offered a reward of up to $5 million for Hapilon, whom Washington blames for ransom kidnappings of several Americans, one of whom was beheaded in 2001 in southern Basilan province. Hapilon had been indicted in the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against U.S. nationals and other foreigners. More than 1,000 people have been killed in the Marawi violence, including more than 800 militants.

 

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis "will continue until the first bomb drops." That statement comes despite President Donald Trump's tweets a couple of weeks ago that his chief envoy was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man," a mocking nickname Trump has given the nuclear-armed nation's leader Kim Jong Un. Tillerson told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, "I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North Korea that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table. But be clear: The president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically. He's not seeking to go to war." Recent mixed messaging from the top of the U.S. government has raised concerns about the potential for miscalculation amid the increasingly bellicose exchange of words by Trump and the North Korean leader.

 

 

 

With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. While the danger from the deadliest, most destructive cluster of blazes in California history was far from over, the smoky skies started to clear in some places. People were being allowed to go back home in areas no longer in harm’s way, and the number of those under evacuation orders was down to 75,000 from nearly 100,000 the day before. Fire crews were able to gain ground because the winds that had fanned the flames did not kick up overnight as much as feared. The blazes were blamed for at least 40 deaths and destroyed some 5,700 homes and other structures. The death toll could climb as searchers dig through the ruins for people listed as missing. Hundreds were unaccounted for, though authorities said many of them are probably safe but haven’t let anyone know.

 

 

 

A Louisiana police department says an oil rig has exploded in Lake Pontchartrain in St. Charles Parish. Kenner Police said there were "a lot of injuries," many of them serious, with at least seven confirmed and more expected. Initial reports said six people were injured and one person was missing. A hospital spokesman said five of the injured suffered "blast-type injuries and burns" and are in critical condition, while the other two are in stable condition. No deaths have been reported. The platform, located in Jefferson Parish, is used for the transfer of oil. Authorities acknowledged there was a possibility that oil could be leaking into the lake, but noted that Jefferson Parish drinking water will remain safe because it comes from the Mississippi River. Lake Pontchartrain is 21 miles north of New Orleans.

 

 

 

British police are investigating three new allegations of sexual assault against film producer Harvey Weinstein, all made by the same woman. In another blow to the Hollywood titan, France’s president said Sunday he was working to rescind Weinstein’s prestigious Legion of Honor award. In the new British allegations, London’s Metropolitan Police force said Sunday that the woman reported being assaulted in London in 2010, 2011 and 2015. The force said officers from its Child Abuse and Sexual Offenses Command are investigating. British actress Lysette Anthony says she reported to police on Wednesday that Weinstein raped her in her west London home in the late 1980s. Dozens of women have made allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the movie mogul in recent days, some dating back decades. Weinstein denies non-consensual sexual activity. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, voted overwhelmingly this weekend to “immediately expel” Weinstein, breaking with 90 years of precedent and turning one of the biggest Oscar players in history into a hall-of-fame pariah. The academy’s 54-member board of governors made the decision at an emergency session after investigations by The New York Times and The New Yorker that revealed sexual harassment and rape allegations against him going back decades. Weinstein, who backed many British movies including “Shakespeare in Love” and “The King’s Speech,” also has been suspended by the British film academy. Weinstein, who was also fired by the movie and television studio he co-founded, the Weinstein Company, has denied rape allegations while acknowledging that his behavior “caused a lot of pain.”

 

 

 

South Korean police are seeking an arrest warrant for Cho Yang-ho, chairman of Hanjin Group, the parent of Korean Air Lines Co Ltd, on charges of breach of trust following their probe into construction work at his house, a police official said on Monday. In July, police raided the headquarters of Korean Air Lines, South Korea’s top airline, as part of an investigation into allegations that company funds were used to pay for the renovation work at Cho’s home. A Korean Air spokesman declined to comment.

 

 

 

Vietnam braced for typhoon Khanun on Monday after destructive floods battered the country’s north and center last week, killing 72 people, the disaster prevention agency said. Last week’s floods were the worst in years, the government and state-run Vietnam Television said, with thousands of homes submerged. Another 200 houses collapsed and several towns remain cut off by the floodwater. The floods also damaged more than 54,300 acres of rice. Vietnam is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice and the second-biggest producer of coffee, although the floods have not affected the Southeast Asian nation’s coffee belt. Eighteen people from the hardest-hit province of Hoa Binh in the north were buried by a landslide, but only thirteen bodies have been found, according to Vietnam’s disaster agency. It has also warned ships and boats to avoid the approaching typhoon.

 

 

 

Irish authorities ordered all schools in the country to close Monday and warned cyclists and motorists to stay off roads as Hurricane Ophelia bore down on Ireland and the U.K. with potentially deadly winds. Ophelia weakened to a Category 1 hurricane Sunday as it moved north-northeast across the Atlantic, with sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph). It is expected to be downgraded to a post-tropical storm before making landfall in southern Ireland Monday morning, but Ireland's national forecasting agency warned of "violent and destructive gusts" of up to 80 mph along with heavy rain and storm surges, as the storm crossed the country. The Irish weather service issued a red warning, the highest level, for the whole country. Cyclists and motorists were warned to stay off the roads during the height of the storm, and most ferry crossings between Ireland and Britain were canceled. The storm could bring two to three inches of rain in western Ireland and Scotland, with coastal flooding and "large and destructive waves" where it makes landfall. Dublin and Shannon airports advised passengers to check flight information before traveling, while Cork airport in southwest Ireland said cancellations were likely. Britain's Met Office said 80-mph gusts could hit Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and warned of potential power cuts, flying debris and disruption to transport and phone signals. Strong winds could also hit Scotland, Wales, and England.

 

 

 

T-Mobile U.S. and Sprint Corp plan to announce a merger agreement without any immediate asset sales, as they seek to preserve as much of their spectrum holdings and cost synergies as they can before regulators ask for concessions, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke with Reuters. While it is common for companies not to unveil divestitures during merger announcements, T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s approach shows that the companies plan to enter what could be challenging negotiations with U.S. antitrust and telecommunications regulators without having made prior concessions. Reuters reported last week that some of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust staff were skeptical about the deal, which would combine the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers. However, regulators can only begin reviewing a corporate merger once it has been agreed to and announced. A combination of T-mobile and Sprint would create a business with more than 130 million U.S. subscribers, just behind Verizon and AT&T. Sources also cautioned that it is still possible that the negotiations between T-Mobile and Sprint will conclude without a deal.

- Older Posts »