It’s Monday June 26, 2017

26Jun

00:0000:00

Several major rulings and decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court top the news this Monday:

The nation's highest court is letting a limited version of the Trump administration ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect, a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency. The court said Monday the ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen could be enforced ,as long as the visitors lack a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." The justices will hear arguments in the case in October. Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have let the entire ban take effect immediately.

 

 

The Supreme Court is also taking on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado. The justices said Monday they will consider whether a baker who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds can refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The case asks the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple's right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the United States. The decision to take on the case reflects renewed energy among the court's conservative justices, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court.

 

 

Also , the Supreme Court reduced the wall of separation between church and state Monday in one of the most important rulings on religious rights in decades. The decision could doom provisions in 39 states that prohibit spending tax dollars to support churches. The states defended the limits as necessary to keep the government from meddling in religious affairs. Monday's ruling said Missouri was wrong to exclude Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri from a program intended to help non-profits cover their gravel playgrounds with a rubber surface made from recycled tires. The church wanted to improve the playground at its preschool and daycare center.

 

 

Speculation is swirling that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could announce his retirement as early as this term, according to reports by The Associated Press and CNN. Kennedy is considered the most pivotal justice on the Supreme Court, often known for casting the tie-breaking vote in key decisions. Fueling such speculation is a reunion between Kennedy and his law clerks happening over the weekend that was pushed up a year from its original date, according to the AP. If Kennedy - who is 80 - leaves the Supreme Court in the near future, it would pave the way for President Trump to further shape the court by nominating his replacement. Trump's first pick for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April. Supreme Court nominations, however, have become increasingly political. Senate Republicans voted earlier this year to change the chamber's rules to require only 51 votes to confirm nominees to the high court, amid efforts by Democrats to block Gorsuch's confirmation.

 

 

The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist who was killed by a Minnesota police officer last year, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement in his death. The settlement was announced Monday by attorneys for Valerie Castile and the city of St. Anthony. The settlement avoids the drawn-out process of a federal wrongful death lawsuit stemming from Philando Castile's death. The 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker was killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a July 6 traffic stop after Castile said he was armed. Castile had a permit for his gun. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile's girlfriend live-streamed its aftermath on Facebook. Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges this month. The settlement requires state court approval.

 

 

Scuba divers are continuing to search for bodies in a reservoir near the Colombian city of Medellin where a tourist boat packed with more than 150 passengers for the holiday weekend capsized, leaving at least six people dead and 15 missing. Rescuers including firefighters and air force pilots in helicopters searched for survivors at the Guatape reservoir where El Almirante ferry sank. A flotilla of recreational boats and jet skis rushed to the scene, pulling people from the boat as it went down and avoiding an even deadlier tragedy. In the absence of a passenger list, authorities have been relying on family numbers and survivors to report their whereabouts. Overnight they reduced to 15 the number of people missing, down from an earlier count of twice that amount.

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has provided additional details for proposed treatment of European Union citizens living in Britain once Brexit takes effect. May said Monday that she wants to ease anxiety and provide certainty for the many EU residents inside Britain. She says these rights must also be granted by the EU to Britons living in European countries. The prime minister said Britain wants EU residents who are inside Britain lawfully to stay in the country and enjoy full rights. The issue is being dealt with at the start of the formal Brexit negotiations, which are expected to be completed within two years.

 

 

President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Monday in Washington, D.C., for their first face-to-face talks. Trump and Modi disagree on several major issues. Trump, who campaigned on an "America First" theme, has criticized the growing U.S. trade deficit with India, and accused the country of underhandedly pushing for the Paris climate agreement to collect billions of dollars in aid. Indian officials have rejected accusations that Modi's "Make in India" platform is protectionist, and complain that U.S. regulations hinder some Indian exports. A Trump administration official told Reuters that the two leaders' shared affinity for social media - both have more than 30 million Twitter followers - show they have much in common, and could form a bond. Another senior White House official said the administration is "very interested in making this a special visit. We're really seeking to roll out the red carpet." An Indian official told Reuters "if the chemistry is good, everything else gets sorted."

 

 

President Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin with full diplomatic bells and whistles when the two are in Germany for a multinational summit next month. But the idea is exposing deep divisions within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of an investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. Elections. Many administration officials believe the U.S. needs to maintain its distance from Russia at such a sensitive time - and interact only with great caution. But Trump has been pressing for a full bilateral meeting. He's calling for media access and all the typical protocol associated with such sessions, even as officials within the State Department and National Security Council urge more restraint, according to a current and former administration official.

 

 

 

Japanese auto-component maker Takata Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection late Sunday, after failing to bounce back from its massive air bag inflator recalls. The company's defective inflators, which can explode and blast shrapnel into vehicle interiors, have been blamed for 16 deaths and 180 injuries, setting off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history. More than 100 million inflators have been recalled - 69 million of them in the U.S. - affecting 42 million vehicles. A Chinese-owned U.S. rival, Key Safety Systems, plans to buy most of Takata's assets in a $1.6 billion deal. Key Safety Systems will take over Takata's production of seat belts, air bags, and other safety devices.

 

 

There's Greek yogurt, Icelandic yogurt and Australian yogurt. Now, the U.S. maker of Yoplait is hoping to revive its declining sales by marketing yet another culture in the yogurt section. Enter "Oui," which General Mills is hailing as the arrival of "French-style" yogurt in the United States. Like the yogurts that channel the heritages of other countries, however, the company says there's no official definition for French yogurt. David Clark, head of U.S. yogurt at General Mills, says "French is more a standard we have created." The attempt to cultivate a trendy new yogurt comes as overall sales are slumping and General Mills has been particularly hard-hit. The company attributes the industry-wide weakness to a lack of exciting new options since Greek yogurt upended the market years ago.

t’s Friday June 23, 2017

23Jun

00:0000:00

The U.S. Supreme Court has almost certainly decided what to do about President Donald Trump's travel ban affecting citizens of six mostly Muslim countries. The country is waiting for the court to make its decision public about the biggest legal controversy in the first five months of Trump's presidency. The issue has been tied up in the courts since Trump's original order in January sparked widespread protests just days after he took office. The justices met Thursday morning for their last regularly scheduled private meeting in June. They probably took a vote about whether to let the Trump administration immediately enforce the ban and hear the administration's appeal of lower court rulings blocking the ban. The court's decision could come any time and is expected no later than late next week.

 

 

The Supreme Court has ruled immigrants can get a second chance in court when their lawyers advise them to plead guilty to a crime that leads to deportation. The court's 6-2 ruling Friday applies to immigrants facing overwhelming evidence they are guilty of a crime. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that Jae Lee can withdraw the guilty plea on drug charges his lawyer advised him to enter. The South Korean immigrant was living in the Memphis, Tennessee, area. Federal law prescribes near-automatic deportation for non citizens convicted of serious crimes. Lee claimed he wouldn't have pleaded guilty had he known the consequences. Roberts wrote that Lee still would "almost certainly" be convicted and deported if he goes to trial, but "that 'almost' could make all the difference."

 

 

President Trump said Thursday that he never recorded any of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired last month. After Comey said Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's Russia ties, Trump posted a cryptic tweet saying that Comey should hope there were no tapes of their conversations. On Thursday, Trump tweeted that he had "no idea" whether anyone else recorded their talks, but that he "did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

 

 

The FBI arrested a former State Department security officer, Kevin Patrick Mallory, on espionage charges related to the alleged sale of classified documents to a person suspected of working for a Chinese intelligence agency. Mallory, 60, had a Top Secret security clearance when he worked for the government and private contractors from 1987 to 2012. Since then, he has worked as a consultant. He was stopped returning from Shanghai with $16,500 in cash in his carry-on bags. Investigators said he told his contact in a May message, "your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid." Charlie Sherrod, a friend and former financial adviser, said he found it "hard to believe" Mallory would sell government secrets because he seemed to be "a strong Christian family man."

 

 

The city attorney in Ferguson, Missouri, says the city's insurance company paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Brown. Attorney Apollo Carey disclosed the amount Friday in in response to an open records request from The AP. The settlement of the federal lawsuit was announced Tuesday, but financial details were not initially released. Brown was 18, black and unarmed when he was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing and resigned in November 2014. Michael Brown Sr. and Lezley McSpadden sued the city, former Police Chief Tom Jackson and Wilson in 2015. They cited a police culture hostile to black residents and claimed Wilson used excessive force. The City of Ferguson, along with Jackson and Wilson deny the allegations.

 

 

In Britain officials at 10 Downing Street ordered an immediate examination of the model of refrigerator that is believed to have sparked last week's Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least 79 people. Metropolitan Police Detective Supt. Fiona McCormack said the Hotpoint model fridge-freezer had not been subject to any product recall. The fire spread quickly through the tower block, leading to concerns that cladding on the building did not meet fire safety rules.

 

 

A Pakistani government official says twin bombings, minutes apart, have hit a crowded market in the country's northwestern tribal region, killing at least 15 people and wounding 70. A police spokesman said the attack took place Friday morning in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province. TV images showed several badly damaged cars and a road littered with broken glass. No one has claimed responsibility. Pakistani Taliban and Islamic militants have previously targeted the province, which for over a decade has been the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by nationalist and separatist groups demanding a bigger share of regional resources.

 

 

North Korea has called itself the "biggest victim" in the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma. The North's official Korean Central News Agency on Friday denied that North Korea cruelly treated or tortured Otto Warmbier and accused the United States and South Korea of a smear campaign that insulted what it called its "humanitarian" treatment of him. Doctors in the United States who examined Warmbier after his release by North Korea said he had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause. Relatives say they were told the 22-year-old University of Virginia student had been in a coma since shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea in March 2016. His family and others have blamed North Korea for his condition. Warmbier was accused of stealing a propaganda poster. KCNA said North Korea dealt with him according to its domestic laws and international standards.

 

 

The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel will host a meeting next week of European participants in the Group of 20 summit to prepare for the meeting of global powers in July. A German government spokesperson said Friday that the meeting will involve the leaders of Spain, France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway as well as the head of the EU's executive Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council head Donald Tusk. The meeting will take place Thursday at the chancellery in Berlin. Earlier that day, Merkel will give a pre-summit speech to the German parliament. Merkel will host the leaders of the G-20 in Hamburg on July 7-8.

 

 

The Interior Department announced Thursday that the Yellowstone grizzly bear had recovered and would be removed from the threatened species list. The bear, which lives in and around Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, has been protected under the Endangered Species Act for four decades, during which its population grew from 150 to around 700. "As a kid who grew up in Montana, I can tell you that this is a long time coming and very good news for many communities and advocates in the Yellowstone region," said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "This achievement stands as one of America's great conservation successes." Republicans praised the move, but conservationists said it was too early to remove the protections because the bear's recovery was not yet assured.

 

 

Former tropical storm Cindy weakened to a tropical depression Thursday after coming ashore in Louisiana near the Texas border. Despite the downgrade, the storm's heavy rains continued to pose a flood threat to an already wet Gulf Coast. Its top sustained winds dropped from 50 mph to 25 mph after it made landfall, but more than six million people remained under tornado watches as the storm continued to bring strong winds and heavy rains from East Texas to the Florida panhandle. Cindy disrupted shipping and oil and gas operations in the Gulf as it approached shore.

 

 

NBC 4 New York senior correspondent Gabe Pressman, a New York icon and pioneering news reporter whose local broadcast career spanned more than six decades, died Friday at the age of 93. Having invented the craft of street reporting, Pressman is recognized by the viewing audience, political and community leaders, and colleagues as one of New York's most respected journalists. Credited with being the first television reporter in New York City Pressman worked at WNBC Channel 4 for more than half a century. He also spent 8 years in the 1970s as a reporter for WNEW Channel 5. New Yorkers embraced Pressman over his 60-plus years on television, and the public outpouring of memories and condolences was immediate and heartfelt. Mayor de Blasio tweeted condolences, calling Pressman "a New York City treasure" who mentored "countless reporters." He started his news career in newspaper journalism, and was also a member of The Greatest Generation. Pressman was a combat naval officer in WWII and participated in two invasions of the Philippines. After the war, he was a public relations officer under the Commander-In-Chief of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Pressman is survived by his wife, four children and eight grandchildren.

It’s Thursday June 22, 2017

22Jun

00:0000:00

Senate Republican leaders released their much-awaited health care bill Thursday morning after months of closed-door meetings, but it's not yet clear if they will have the votes to pass it as soon as next week. Republican senators said they expect a slower phase-out of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion than the House-passed bill as well as more generous tax credits than the House bill for lower-income people. But the legislation is still expected to result in millions of people losing insurance when evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office -- an estimate the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said he expects by Monday. The 142-page bill itself will be subject to significant revisions as well -- McConnell earlier in the week called it a "discussion draft" -- giving moderates and conservatives the potential to claim wins later as it heads to the floor if they are able to secure changes. Republicans were also negotiating with the Senate parliamentarian to see which pieces of their emerging draft comply with rules governing the use of a mechanism allowing the bill to pass the Senate with only 50 votes, plus the support of Vice President Mike Pence.

 

 

A Canadian man from Tunisia accused of shouting "Allahu akbar" before wounding a Michigan airport police officer in a stabbing authorities are investigating as an act of terrorism remains in custody after appearing in federal court. Amor Ftouhi is charged with committing violence at an airport following Wednesday's attack in Flint. He appeared in court hours later to hear the charge. A bond hearing is set for next Wednesday. The FBI says Ftouhi said something similar to "you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die." Neville was stabbed in the neck. He's recovering at a hospital.

 

 

A French prosecutor says a man who was killed when he drove a car packed with arms and explosives into a police convoy had pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group. Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said Thursday the attacker had a huge cache of weapons both at home and in the vehicle used in Monday's rampage. Molins says evidence from the investigation shows the suspect wanted to join IS forces in Syria and Iraq. The driver in the latest attack on one of the French capital's busiest shopping and tourist districts set off a fiery blast when he drove his car into police patrolling the Champs-Elysee. Witnesses said gendarmes jumped out of the vehicle, ran to the car, smashed its windows and pulled out the driver in an apparent attempt to save him. Police officials earlier identified the suspect as 31-year-old Adam Djaziri from a Paris suburb.

 

 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the suicide car bombing outside a bank in southern Helmand province that killed at least 29 people. Though no one has taken responsibility for Thursday's bombing, Ghabi assailed the insurgents as enemies of Afghanistan with no respect for religion or for the holy month of Ramadan. The bombing also killed soldiers and civil servants waiting to collect salaries ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. Ghani says "these brutal terrorist attacks ... prove that they have no respect for any religion or faith. They are enemies of humanity." Pakistan also condemned the attack. The foreign ministry said "we firmly stand with our Afghan brothers in this hour of grief and anguish."

 

 

A Homeland Security official told Congress that hackers linked to the Russian government appear to have targeted the election systems of 21 states last year, although none of the systems was involved in counting votes. The official, Samuel Liles, serves as the acting director of the Cyber Division of the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Liles said the hackers' attempts to scan databases on some of the states were unsuccessful, "as if someone rattled the door knob and was unable to get in," and in a small number "they made it through the door." Liles made the comments in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing involving DHS and FBI cyber security officials.

 

 

Doctors have upgraded the condition of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) to "fair" a week after he was admitted in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the hip, MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Wednesday. Scalise was shot last Wednesday morning at a Republican congressional baseball team practice in Alexandria, Virginia. He suffered fractured bones, internal bleeding, and extensive damage to his internal organs after being shot, but he "continues to make good progress," the hospital said. He is now "beginning an extended period of healing and rehabilitation." Scalise's lead surgeon said Friday that the congressman will likely remain in the hospital for a "considerable period of time," perhaps "weeks."

 

 

Tropical Storm Cindy has made landfall early Thursday and brought heavy winds and rain to southeast Texas but minimal damage as the weakening storm system moves northeast. Some flooding was reported in places such as Port Arthur, along Sabine Pass and the state line with Louisiana. Winds in the Galveston County town of San Leon exceeded 50 mph but were slightly weaker along other parts of the Texas coast southeast of Houston. The Houston area was expected to get a couple inches of rain through Thursday. A flash flood watch was issued for parts of East Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation says all state roads and bridges are open in the area.

 

 

A Democratic candidate's defeat in the high-stakes House race in Georgia has brought new attention to the party's highest-ranking officer-holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. As Democrats look ahead to 2018, some are saying that Pelosi's position will be at risk if the party doesn't succeed in taking back control of the House.

 

 

A juror says after 52 hours of deliberations, two holdouts in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial outside Philadelphia refused to convict the 79-year-old comedian. The juror, who spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity, says the jury couldn't reach a consensus after voting 10-2 to convict on the first and third counts and 11-1 to acquit on the second count. The juror says they initially voted overwhelmingly to acquit Cosby on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

 

 

Food exporters including the United States and Europe are stepping up pressure on China to scale back plans for intensive inspections of imports that they say will hamper access to its fast-growing market. Nine nations and the EU have sent a joint letter to Chinese regulators asking them to suspend a proposed requirement, due to take effect Oct. 1, for each shipment to have an inspection certificate from a foreign government. The dispute adds to complaints Beijing is reducing market access for other goods ranging from medical technology to farm-related biotechnology in violation of its free-trade commitments. The letter says the rules will affect billions of dollars' worth of meat, fruit, dairy and other products and thousands of suppliers who look to China as a growing market.

 

 

Boeing flew past Airbus in the race for plane orders at this year's Paris Air Show, thanks to a surge in interest in the newest version of the 737. High interest from Asian and Iranian airlines notably boosted sales for both plane makers, dispelling some concerns of slumping demand. Most of the sales were of single-aisle jets that are the workhorses of global aviation, particularly Boeing's 737 Max series and Airbus A320 neo range. Boeing reported Thursday it registered firm orders or promised orders for 571 planes this week, worth $74.8 billion at list prices. Customers routinely negotiate discounts. Airbus announced 326 orders or commitments worth $40 billion. Airbus won a late boost from two big orders from Iran, which is expanding its aviation industry after years of sanctions.

 

 

The Italian port city of Genoa has taken pride in its famed pesto sauce to new heights by granting special airport waivers for those who can't get enough of the basil and pine nut pasta sauce. Genoa's airport is letting travelers take as much as 500 grams of pesto in their carry-on luggage, exempting them from the 100-milliliter rule for liquids in carry-on baggage. The catch: Passengers must make a donation of 50 cents or more to a charity that airlifts sick children to hospitals. The airport said in a statement this week that some 500 euros had been raised in the first 20 days of the initiative, which was inspired by the anguish of having to confiscate so many jars of pesto from foodies trying to get them through security.

 

 

You may have heard the saying - "it's good to be the king." Well that doesn't appear to be the case for the most prominent royal family on Earth. Britain's Prince Harry has suggested that no one in their royal family really wishes to rise to the throne. Harry says in an interview with Newsweek magazine that it is duty, rather than desire, that prompts the family to continue serving the British people. The prince says that the House of Windsor is "not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people." Harry also revealed his distress at having to walk behind his mother's coffin as a 12-year-old child following her death in a 1997 car accident. Harry and other members of the family, including his 15-year-old brother Prince William and his father Prince Charles, walked behind the hearse in full public view. Harry says no child "should be asked to do that under any circumstances."

It’s Wednesday June 21, 2017

21Jun

00:0000:00

A Belgian official says security will remain high Wednesday at Brussels rail facilities after a man blew up an explosive device at the city's Central Station. The man was shot by soldiers after detonating a small device there late Tuesday. He later died. No one else was hurt. Central Station was due to re-open early Wednesday. Staff had begun arriving at the station in the morning but a police cordon was still in place. Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told VRT broadcaster that it is important to address security concerns but avoid over-reacting. He warned "against a society where we always and everywhere will be checked. If we do that, it would be fulfilling the aim of the terrorists."

 

 

The FBI says a gunman acted alone when he shot and wounded a top House Republican and four other people on a northern Virginia baseball field. Tim Slater, who leads the criminal division of the FBI's Washington field office, also said during a news conference Wednesday that James T. Hodgkinson did not have any ties to terrorism.

 

 

A U.S. F-15 fighter jet shot down an armed, Iranian-made drone operated by pro-Syrian-government forces in southern Syria. American officials said the incident occurred late Monday night as the drone approached U.S.-led coalition forces, in the latest sign of rising tensions and U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war and the broader fight against the Islamic State. The coalition forces were establishing a combat outpost where they are training and advising allies fighting ISIS. The U.S. shot down a Syrian military fighter jet on Sunday, and another drone earlier this month. Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, has accused the U.S. of targeting Syrian aircraft that also are fighting ISIS, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the U.S. of "complicity with terrorism."

 

 

A Russian fighter jet came within five feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on Monday, in an encounter the American pilot determined was unsafe. The incident occurred Monday as an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft flew in international airspace above the Baltic Sea. It was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet, which approached at a high speed. A spokesperson for the Pentagon said the RC-135 was flying in international airspace with its transponder on, making it identifiable to other aircraft, and the pilot of the American aircraft determined that the Russian aircraft's actions were "unsafe" because of its "high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft." The Russian Defense Ministry countered with a different narrative of the intercept. According to the Russian news agency Interfax the Russian Defense Ministry accused the RC-135 of performing provocative maneuvers toward the Russian fighter. The ministry added that after the 10-minute encounter, another RC-135 entered the same area and was also intercepted by a Russian Su-27 fighter. U.S. defense experts noted that the "vast majority" of intercepts of American aircraft by the Russian military are safe encounters, and Monday's incident was labeled "the exception, not the norm."

 

 

Republicans have some breathing room after Karen Handel won a nationally watched congressional election in Georgia to avoid a major upset ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Her victory Tuesday over Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District means Republicans held all four of their seats that were up for grabs in special elections this spring. Democrats still managed narrower margins than usual in all four districts, and they hope that bodes well for next year's midterms. The Georgia race ends as the most expensive House campaign in U.S. history, with a tab that may exceed $50 million. Handel becomes the first Republican woman to represent Georgia in Congress.

 

 

Travis Kalanick, the combative and troubled CEO of ride-hailing giant Uber, has resigned under pressure from investors. The company's board confirmed the move early Wednesday, saying in a statement that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident "while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber's history." The resignation came after a series of costly missteps under 40-year-old Kalanick.

 

 

U.S. and Chinese diplomats and defense chiefs have begun talks in Washington that are expected to focus on the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea. Secretary of State State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are hosting China's foreign policy chief and the head of the People's Liberation Army's joint staff department. But the death of an American college student after his imprisonment in North Korea is threatening to overshadow the talks at the State Department. The death last week of that American student - Otto Warmbier - who fell into a coma after being arrested in North Korea, has raised questions about whether his tour agency was adequately prepared for its trips into the hard-line communist state. The Young Pioneer Tours agency built up a business attracting young travelers with cut-rate, hard-partying adventures into one of the world's most isolated countries.

 

 

Iran's state TV says the Saudi Arabian monarch's decision to promote his high-profile son to crown prince amounts to a "soft coup." Saudi Arabia's King Salman appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince early Wednesday, removing the country's counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington from the royal line of succession. Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran are bitter rivals that back opposing sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen. Crown Prince Mohammed has adopted a hard line against Iran, ruling out any dialogue. He also played a central role in the decision to isolate Qatar, in part because of its ties to Iran, and in escalating the Saudi-led war against Yemeni rebels supported by Tehran.

 

 

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, has arrived in Israel for a daylong visit aimed at restarting long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Kushner touched down for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.. Trump has a number of advantages that could help him succeed where a string of predecessors have failed. But the deep divisions between the sides remain, clouding the chances of any significant breakthrough.

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II outlined the government's legislative program with far less pageantry than usual Wednesday in a speech dominated by a discussion of Britain's plans for leaving the European Union. The speech comes after May lost her majority in a snap election earlier this month, leaving her to head a minority government with no deal so far to insure that the government can deliver on its agenda. Normally this speech repeats key legislative promises made during the election campaign, but May is expected to omit the most controversial items of her election manifesto because they were rejected by a majority of voters.

 

 

Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip has been admitted to a hospital for treatment of an infection and will not be attending the queen's speech. The palace says Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, was admitted as a precautionary measure and is said to be in good spirits. Philip is 96 and recently said he was stepping down from public events. The Duke of Edinborough has suffered heart ailments in the past.

 

 

 

Imprisoned former football star O.J. Simpson has a July 20 parole hearing that could have him released from a Nevada prison on Oct. 1, a state parole official said Tuesday. Simpson, who is now 70, has served more than eight years of a nine-to-33 year sentence imposed after he was found guilty in 2008 of armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges stemming from a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers at in a Las Vegas casino hotel room in September 2007. Simpson is due to appear by videoconference from Lovelock Correctional Center, where he is being held, before a panel of four parole commissioners sitting in Carson City.

 

 

Las Vegas has tied its record high temperature of 117 degrees (47.2 degrees Celsius) as a weather system continues to bring scorching heat to the Southwest U.S. The National Weather Service in Las Vegas says the record was tied at 4:07 p.m. Tuesday. Meteorologist Chris Outler says it is possible that the heat wave affecting the area could push thermometers to hit the same temperature again Wednesday. The first day of summer brought some of the worst heat the Southwest U.S. has seen in years, forcing flights to be canceled, straining the power grid and making life miserable for some. At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, airlines cancelled at least one flight and delayed at least two others because of the heat. The last time Las Vegas saw 117-degree temperatures was June 30, 2013.

 

 

Residents and officials along a stretch of the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle to eastern Texas are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Cindy. The storm formed Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico. It's expected to move slowly toward the Louisiana-Texas line. But the heaviest rain bands were to the east. And the National Weather Service says it poses a threat of dangerous flash flooding. Forecasters say some areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida could see a foot of rain. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency Tuesday because of the threat of torrential dangerous high tides and rip currents. Other state and local officials along the coast were mulling similar declarations.

 

 

It’s Tuesday June 20, 2017

20Jun

00:0000:00

South Korea says the United States has flown two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force during joint military drills. Seoul's Defense Ministry said the B-1B bombers were part of routine exercises with South Korea aimed at showing deterrence against North Korea. The U.S. military said the bombers conducted drills with the Japanese and South Korean air forces, demonstrating solidarity with the U.S. Allies. The United States stations tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan. U.S. and South Korean warplanes regularly conduct drills, but Tuesday's flights came shortly after the death of a U.S. college student who was recently released by North Korea in a coma following more than 17 months of captivity. 22 year old Otto Warmbier, died Monday in a Cincinnati hospital. Wambier's parents did not cite a specific cause of death, but cited "awful, torturous mistreatment" by North Korea. Doctors had described Warmbier's condition as a state of "unresponsive wakefulness" and said he suffered a "severe neurological injury" of unknown cause.

 

 

U.S. Sen. John McCain says Americans who are "stupid" enough to still want to visit North Korea should be required to sign a waiver absolving the U.S. government of any blame if they're harmed while there. The senator from Arizona says, "There should at least be a form for them to fill out that says, 'If I go to North Korea, I understand I am taking great risk, and I do not hold the American government responsible.'" He says "if people are that stupid that they still want to go to that country, then at least they assume the responsibility for their welfare." McCain is the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

 

 

Egypt's military says its air force has killed 12 "extremely dangerous" militants in airstrikes in northern Sinai, a militant hotspot. In a Tuesday statement, the armed forces said the strikes also destroyed four vehicles as it targeted a "terrorist stronghold" of the local Islamic State affiliate, formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. Egypt has in recent years been battling a stepped-up insurgency in northern Sinai, mainly by militants from the IS affiliate. The militant campaign accelerated after the military ouster of elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. The military claims to kill hundreds of militants in the area each year, although it rarely offers proof and journalists and non-residents are banned from the area. Hundreds of security forces have been killed.

 

 

A man who had been flagged for extremism died on Monday when he rammed into a police vehicle in Paris, and his explosives-laden car burst into flames. The suspect's Renault vehicle was carrying two gas canisters. Several police officers rushed to smash the burning vehicle's windows and pull the man out. Other officers used fire extinguishers to put out the fire. "When it exploded we all looked to see where it came from," witness Leonard Odihe said. "We all thought it was a terrorist attack, especially when they took the man out of the car. He was armed and there was also a gun in the car in the back seat." Authorities opened a terrorism investigation. They did not name the suspect, but said he was 31 years old and lived in a Paris suburb.

 

 

British health authorities say seven people remain hospitalized after a driver plowed into a crowd spilling out of north London mosques after Ramadan services. Three of the injured remain in critical care. British leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May, have moved swiftly to ease concerns in the Muslim community following the attack in London's Finsbury Park neighborhood, which is home to a large Muslim population. The incident is being treated as a terror attack. One man died at the scene, although he was receiving first aid at the time and it wasn't clear if he died as a result of the attack or from something else. The attacker has been arrested and is from the Welsh city of Cardiff.

 

 

Authorities say 11 people have been killed by a landslide in western Guatemala near the border with Mexico. The slide buried six homes, a small bus and a truck in the municipality of San Pedro Soloma. 10 of the dead were passengers on the bus and it's not clear how many people live in the homes that were affected. The area has been drenched by heavy rains in recent hours. Disaster agency workers, firefighters and the army were responding to the scene.

 

 

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to fill the House seat left vacant when Tom Price became secretary of health and human services, with Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel locked in an extremely close race in the traditionally conservative district. Ossoff, 30, led all candidates with 48 percent in the first round of the vote, falling just short of the majority he needed to win the seat without a runoff. The seat in Atlanta's suburbs has been in the GOP's hands since 1979, and the result will be interpreted as an indication of how the early months of the Trump presidency has affected the prospects of Democrats and Republicans heading toward the 2018 midterm elections. Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, has been highly critical of Trump, who this week tweeted his endorsement of Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state. The race has become the most expensive campaign for a House seat in U.S. History.

 

 

Political consultants that worked for the Republican National Committee left detailed information on nearly every U.S. voter exposed online for nearly two weeks, said researcher Chris Vickery of the cybersecurity firm UpGuard. Vickery said he notified law enforcement officials after coming across the unprotected files of 198 million voters in a routine internet scan last week. The high level of detail and the sheer quantity of information, which included facts in dozens of categories on GOP, Democrat, and independent voters, provided a rare look at the expanding capabilities of data-mining used by political campaigns.

 

 

House Speaker Paul Ryan is promising to overhaul the tax code by the end of the year despite political divisions among Republicans and a crowded legislative agenda for Congress. Ryan is due to give a speech on tax reform Tuesday afternoon to the National Association of Manufacturers. In excerpts released by his office, Ryan says Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, have a rare opportunity to re-write the tax code for businesses and individuals.

 

 

President Trump's chief spokesman is seeking to step back from his duties as press secretary to take on a more strategic role at the White House. A senior administration official and three people familiar with the potential changes tell The Associated Press that Sean Spicer has discussed taking a more senior communications role at the White House. They say that no decision has been made. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations ahead of a decision. Spicer's public role has already diminished in recent weeks. The White House has increasingly tapped Cabinet officials and other White House advisers to address reporters on camera and moved to take some of the daily briefings off camera to keep the focus on Trump.

 

 

The last hours of Spring 2017 will bring some of the worst heat the southwestern U.S. has seen in years. The forecast calls for 119 degrees in Phoenix, where some flights have been canceled because some planes can't take off in extreme heat. The air just isn't dense enough to provide proper lift on takeoff. Arizona is seeing the most stifling temperatures, but the wrath of the heat wave is being felt across Nevada and California as well. Las Vegas was forecast to hit 117 - which is about 47 Celsius on Tuesday and excessive heat warnings cover almost all of California. Phoenix hit 118 degrees on Monday.

 

 

Carrie Fisher's autopsy was released Monday and revealed that the Star Wars actress had drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, in her system when she fell ill on an airliner in December, although sleep apnea was the primary cause of death. The coroner's report listed the drug cocktail as a contributing factor, but coroners said they were unable to determine how big a role the drugs played because they had to rely on limited toxicology specimens since Fisher's family did not want a full autopsy. Fisher died four days after suffering cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Her assistant, who was on the plane with her, said Fisher appeared normal when the flight began, but she had "multiple apneic episodes" during the flight, according to the report.

 

 

Regulators on Monday moved to block the merger between DraftKings Inc. and FanDuel, saying that combining the fantasy sports companies would hurt competition. The Federal Trade Commission, joined by the attorneys general of California and the District of Columbia, will file a lawsuit asking for a court injunction. DraftKings, which is based in Boston, is the biggest fantasy sports business by revenue, and FanDuel, based in Scotland, is second. The companies said in a joint statement that they would "work together to determine our next steps." "We are disappointed by this decision and continue to believe that a merger is in the best interests of our players, our companies, our employees, and the fantasy sports industry," they said.

 

 

Amazon is increasingly claiming territory once held exclusively by department stores and it's doing so again, essentially placing a dressing room in your house. Amazon is testing a new service for Prime members that allows them to try on the latest styles before they buy at no upfront charge. Customers have seven days to decide what they like and only pay for what they keep. Shipments arrive in a re-sealable box with a pre-paid label for returns. Amazon said Tuesday that more than a million pieces of clothing and accessories are eligible and include brands like Calvin Klein and Levi's. Shoppers receive discounts depending on how much they keep. The Prime Wardrobe service is the latest move by Amazon into fashion and could be another big blow to department stores.

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