33 Die in Arson Attack on Anime Studio-Japan’s Worst Mass Killing Since 2001 That’s in the news on Thursday July 18, 2019

18Jul

A man shouted “die” as he doused an animation studio with fuel and set it ablaze in Kyoto, Japan on Thursday, killing at least 33 people in the nation’s worst mass murder in nearly two decades. 36 others were injured. Fire officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time. The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital. Police identified him only a 41-year-old man who was not a company employee. A witness who saw the attacker being approached by police told Japanese networks that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting the fire with a lighter, and told NHK public television that the man was angrily complaining that something of his had been “stolen,” possibly by the company. Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, which does work on feature films and TV productions but is best known for its anime stories. The arson attack is Japan’s worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack in Tokyo in 2001.

 

 

 

The World Health Organization announced that the deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency. The news came after a case was confirmed in Goma, a major regional crossroads with two million people in northeastern Congo. More than 1,600 people have died since August in the latest Ebola outbreak, the second deadliest in history. Authorities say Congolese soldiers and police will now enforce hand-washing and fever checks. The coordinator of the outbreak response at Congo’s health ministry said Thursday that soldiers and police will “force” people to follow the sanitation steps to help contain the deadly disease. A vast campaign of vigilance and vaccination, with almost 75 million screenings, has kept the highly infectious virus almost entirely confined to two provinces in northeastern Congo.

 

 

 

Iran said on Thursday it had seized a foreign tanker smuggling fuel in the Gulf, and the U.S. military commander in the region said the United States would work “aggressively” to ensure free passage of vessels through the vital waterway. It was unclear if the impounded ship was the same vessel Iran towed to safety on Sunday after sending a distress signal. The vessel appears to be a United Arab Emirates-based tanker. Iran’s state television did not identify the seized vessel or nationalities of the crew, which had 12 foreign crew members on board and was involved in smuggling some 1 million liters (264 thousand gallons) of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers. The ship’s seizure comes after a tense, but brief standoff last week where a British navy frigate had to warn away Iranian paramilitary vessels from disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz. In May, two Emirati oil tankers were among four tankers attacked in acts of sabotage that the U.S. has blamed on Iran. Last month saw two other attacks on oil vessels. Iran denies involvement in any of the vessel attacks.

 

 

 

American financier Jeffrey Epstein will remain behind bars while he awaits trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls. At a hearing in federal court in Manhattan Thursday, a judge rejected Epstein’s request to stay under house arrest in his New York mansion valued at $77 million. Epstein is accused of arranging for girls under the age of 18 to perform nude “massages” and other sex acts, and of paying some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005. Prosecutors have said that a search of Epstein’s Upper East Side home, turned up hundreds or thousands of pictures of nude women, some of them minors, along with cash, diamonds and valuable art. Epstein has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors had argued that Epstein should remain jailed both because he posed a danger to the community and because there was a high risk he would use his vast wealth to flee the country. In a one-page summary of his finances filed in court, Epstein said he had a net worth of $559 million, with assets including his jet, four homes and two private islands. The judge scheduled a hearing in the case for July 31.

 

 

 

Prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped a sexual assault charge against actor Kevin Spacey, abruptly ending the case after Spacey's accuser invoked the Fifth Amendment after learning he could face a felony charge if he deleted phone evidence. Spacey, who is 59, was accused of groping an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket restaurant three years ago. A Nantucket District Court judge said the loss of the accuser might make proceeding with the case impossible. Michael O'Keefe, the Cape and Islands district attorney, wrote that his office was scrapping the prosecution "due to the unavailability of the complaining witness." Spacey had pleaded not guilty to felony indecent assault and battery after being charged in December.

 

 

 

The House on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for defying congressional subpoenas. The 230-198 vote was largely along party lines. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he did "everything in my power to avoid" a contempt vote, but that Barr and Ross forced the matter when "they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight" into why Ross tried to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The House vote calls for the Justice Department to prosecute Barr and Ross, which President Trump's Justice Department won't do. Barr and Ross said they "strongly disagree" with any suggestion that they obstructed the congressional investigation.

 

 

 

British lawmakers on Thursday approved proposals to make it harder for the next prime minister to force through a no-deal Brexit by suspending parliament, showing again their resolve to stop a divorce from the European Union without an agreement. The three-year Brexit crisis is deepening as Boris Johnson, the favorite to become the next PM, has pledged to leave the EU with or without a transition deal on Oct. 31, setting Britain on a collision course with the bloc and his own parliament. The OBR budget watchdog underlined the high stakes, saying Britain might be entering a full-blown recession that a no-deal exit from the EU would only compound, blowing a 30-billion-pound ($37.46 billion) hole in the public finances. Johnson, a Conservative ex-foreign minister, has refused to rule out “proroguing”, or suspending, the House of Commons to prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to block his Brexit plan if he tries to exit without a deal. Those hoping to stop a no-deal Brexit believe that if parliament is in session in the run-up to Oct. 31 they will have the chance to prevent Britain leaving without a deal, the current legal default position. The results of a ballot to choose the next party leader and prime minister will be announced on July 23, with incumbent Theresa May resigning the next day. She is resigning after she failed three times to win parliamentary ratification of the Brexit deal she reached with the EU.

 

 

 

Software giant Microsoft has unveiled new technology it says will upgrade security in U.S. voting machines, and ensure all ballots are counted and authentic. Developers said the software uses tracking codes, encryption and third-party apps that protect identities and voter choices. It's designed as an end-to-end verification process for voting that guards against hacking and other potential intrusions. Voters using the system are given a tracking code to confirm their vote. Third parties, including news media, will have access to encrypted votes to ensure they were counted. The software maker said it has observed an increase in cyberattacks against think tanks, political parties and other electoral organizations -- as recently as the 2016 U.S. election and the French election a year later. States and federal lawmakers have pushed for better election security since it was learned the Russian government attempted to influence the 2016 vote. Microsoft unveiled the innovative ElectionGuard software Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, and said it will be available at no cost and open sourced through GitHub this summer.

Mexican Drug Lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Sentenced to Life in U.S. Federal Prison - That’s in the news Wednesday July 17, 2019

17Jul

The Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced Wednesday to life behind bars in a U.S. prison, ending the drug lord's notorious ability to kill, bribe or tunnel his way out of trouble. A federal judge in Brooklyn handed down the sentence, five months after Guzman’s conviction in an epic drug-trafficking case. The guilty verdict in February at Guzman’s 11-week trial triggered a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Guzman was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in ill-gotten proceeds— money his drug-trafficking organization made distributing cocaine and other drugs around the United States. He likely will spend the rest of his life at a federal prison in Florence, Colorado, better known as ADX Florence, the nation’s most secure “Supermax” prison. No one has escaped from the prison since it opened in 1994, and Guzman would join a long list of the most infamous of criminals who call it home. The 62-year-old drug lord, who had been protected in Mexico by an army of gangsters and an elaborate corruption operation, was brought to the U.S. to stand trial after he twice escaped from Mexican prisons, once by arranging to have a mile-long tunnel constructed from his cell.

 

 

 

A federal judge in Chicago on Tuesday ordered embattled R&B singer R. Kelly held without bond on new indictments accusing him of abusing young girls over decades. Kelly was first charged with child pornography 17 years ago, and five months ago he was released from Cook County Jail on sexual abuse charges. In the new case, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber's decision marked the first time Kelly was forced to remain in custody for an extended period. Prosecutors argued that Kelly, who is 52, should be held pending his trial because he posed a serious flight risk, due to the fact that he could face life in prison if convicted.

 

 

 

Pakistan on Wednesday arrested a radical cleric and U.S.-wanted terror suspect implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, just days ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s trip to Washington. Officials said Hafiz Saeed was taken into custody in Punjab province while traveling from the eastern city of Lahore. Saeed founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, which was blamed for the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The United States had offered a $10 million reward for Saeed’s arrest and Washington recently stepped up pressure on Islamabad to crack down on terror groups. Pakistan is currently on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list, denoting its status as a haven for money laundering. It has until October to avoid black listing. Prime Minister Khan was to leave for Washington over the weekend on his first official visit to the United States as premier of Pakistan.

 

 

 

Nineteen suspected Mafia members were arrested early Wednesday as part of a joint operation between Italian police and the FBI's New York bureau. Italian officials said their investigation revealed strong links between the Sicilian Mafia of Palermo (known as Cosa Nostra) and American organized crime families -- particularly the Gambino crime family of New York. The operation, codenamed ''New Connection," involved more than 200 officers in Palermo and New York City. 18 suspects were detained in Sicily and one suspect was detained in New York. Charges included association with organized crime, extortion, and fraudulent transfer of valuable goods. Around $3.36 million worth of real estate and other assets were confiscated by Italian authorities. The investigation also revealed how pervasive the influence of the Mafia is in the Sicilian town of Passo Rigano. According to Italian police, the Mafia not only engages in extortion there, but also has a large role in the town's legal economy -- with its involvement in business such as wholesale food supplies, online betting and gambling.

 

 

 

Millions of people are stranded by flooding in northeast India with concern growing about food and water supplies, and officials said on Wednesday that water levels of a major river were rising even further. Government officials said at least 5.8 million people have been displaced - a million more than on Monday - and some 30 have died in the past two weeks in the tea-growing state of Assam due to the monsoon rains. Many thousands in the state are making do with only the most meager food supplies and dirty water. Assam has been the worst-affected part of India. Floods have also hit neighboring Nepal and Bangladesh. At least 153 people have been killed in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Parts of Pakistan have also seen flooding. The rains in north India usually last from early June to October, with the worst of the flooding usually later in the season.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump said the United States will not sell Turkey any F-35 jets after the Middle Eastern country purchased a Russian missile defense system. Speaking to reporters during a Cabinet meeting, Trump said, "we are now telling Turkey ... we're not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets." The decision came after Turkey decided to take delivery of nine S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile defense systems from Russia last week. The system is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range ones. The S-400 system can hit targets at a distance of around 250 miles and at an altitude up to around 22 miles. Turkey signed a $2.5 billion deal with the Russian government in April 2017 to the dissatisfaction of the United States, which had warned its NATO ally of repercussions if the deal went through. The United States also threatened to impose sanctions against Turkey in reaction to the deal. Trump didn't comment on potential sanctions during the Tuesday Cabinet meeting. Acting Defense Secretary Mike Esper said he told Turkish officials "you can either have the S-400 or the F-35, you cannot have both."

 

 

 

The European Commission on Tuesday elected Ursula von der Leyen, of Germany, to be the first woman to lead the bloc in its 61-year history. Von der Leyen replaces outgoing President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose five-year term comes to an end in October. The German defense minister earned 383 votes, nine more than the absolute majority required. Von der Leyen is a member of the center-right European People's Party and is a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The center-right won a plurality of seats in the European Parliament's May election, slightly more than the socialists and democrats. The Parliament, the legislative branch of the bloc, elected Italian journalist David-Maria Sassoli, as its president earlier this month.

 

 

 

John Paul Stevens, the third longest-serving Supreme Court justice in history, died Tuesday in Florida of complications from a stroke. He was 99. Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, he served 35 years before retiring in 2010. Stevens told The New York Times in 2007 that "as part of my general politics, I'm pretty darn conservative," but he ended up leading the liberal wing as the court moved right. He was known for standing up for the rights of individuals. Born in 1920, the Chicago native served in the Navy during World War II as a code breaker, and graduated at the top of his Northwestern University School of Law class. Following his retirement, Stevens wrote three books, including 'Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution'. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced but he will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife Maryan, who died in 2015.

 

 

 

NeuraLink, a company set up by Elon Musk to explore ways to connect the human brain to a computer interface, has applied to US regulators to start trialling its device on humans. According to Musk, the system has been tested on a monkey that was able to control a computer with its brain. The device the firm has developed consists of a tiny probe containing more than 3,000 electrodes attached to flexible threads - thinner than a human hair - which can then monitor the activity of 1,000 neurons. The company said it wanted to focus on patients with severe neurological conditions. Musk envisions a future of "superhuman cognition", saying that connecting the brain to an interface would create a new layer of "superintelligence" in the human brain, something people "already have via their phones". NeuraLink released a paper to coincide with the announcement, but it has not been peer-reviewed, something that is generally seen as a crucial part of any new scientific breakthrough.

U.N. Report says 20 Million Children Worldwide Not Properly Vaccinated Last Year - That’s in the news Tuesday July 16, 2019

16Jul

North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion. The statement by the North’s Foreign Ministry comes during a general deadlock in nuclear talks, but after an extraordinary meeting of the U.S. and North Korean leaders at the Korean border that raised hopes that negotiations would soon resume. The comments ramp up pressure on the United States ahead of any new talks. North Korea has had longstanding antipathy toward U.S.-South Korean military cooperation, which the allies call defensive and routine but the North sees as hostile. At the dramatic June 30 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, Trump crossed the border dividing the North and South, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korean territory. The leaders agreed in closed-door talks to resume nuclear diplomacy that had been stalled since their failed second summit in Vietnam in February.

 

 

 

At least two people were dead and another 40 feared trapped after a four-story building collapsed Tuesday in the Indian city of Mumbai. Authorities said three National Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed to the site in the Dongri neighborhood of south-central Mumbai to search for survivors. According to preliminary reports, the building, located amid streets crowded with people and congested with other structures, collapsed at 11:40 a.m. The incident is being considered a "Level 2," the second most severe under the system that gauges building collapses. Between 40 and 50 people are believed to be trapped in the rubble, and disaster management offficials erected a shelter at a nearby girls' school for those rescued. The 100-year-old building was to be redeveloped but whether that project went forward will be investigated later. The collapse comes as the area has been hit with torrents of monsoon rains that have devastated northern areas of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

 

 

 

A new U.N. report shows nearly 20 million children worldwide were not properly vaccinated last year, leading to greater concern about potential outbreaks of preventable illnesses. The annual report Monday from the WHO and United Nations Children's Fund showed 19.4 million children weren't fully vaccinated in 2018 -- an increase over 19 million in 2017 and 18.5 million the year before. WHO researchers said war, inequality and complacency are the primary contributors as to why children go without vaccines. Nearly half live in just 16 countries, including some of the most war-torn -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Those children, the report says, are less likely to have access to proper medical care. UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said measles, for example, is a real-time gauge of where improvements can be made. Measles cases more than doubled last year, with 350 thousand reported worldwide. Measles cases in the United States have dramatically increased so far this year to a level not seen in nearly 30 years. The number of cases -- more than 1,000 in at least 28 states -- are the most on record since 1992.

 

 

 

The Trump administration on Monday announced new restrictive rules that would effectively bar Central American migrants from requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the new rule, Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans would have to apply for and be denied asylum in countries they pass through on the way to the U.S. in order to be eligible to apply for asylum in the U.S. The Trump administration is using the rules as part of an effort to confront a surge of migrants from Central America currently overwhelming border officials. Many Africans, Cubans, and Haitians who try to reach the border by traveling to Mexico also would be barred from making asylum claims in the United States. A court challenge is expected.

 

 

 

A massive forest fire forced thousands of music fans to evacuate a Croatian beach Monday night but no injuries were reported. The fire broke out near the Fresh Island hip-hop festival on the island of Pag, Croatia. Fans were escorted to a parking area to wait for shuttle buses to transport them to the town of Novalja. As the fire raged, the performances stopped. Festival organizers were unable to say how future performances would be affected because the fire was still raging on Tuesday. The three-day concert was originally set to end Wednesday. Fresh Island promoters said in a statement, "The safety of fans is incredibly important to us and we worked with the emergency services to contain the fire over the following hours, transporting festival-goers off site when possible and safe."

 

 

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the House would not raise the debt ceiling unless the move is part of a budget deal. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling before its August recess if there is no budget deal before then. Otherwise, he said, the federal government won't have enough money to pay all of its bills. Lawmakers have until the end of September to hammer out a budget deal, as that's when funding for several agencies is scheduled to run out. The Treasury Department can only issue debt up to the limit set by Congress. Since President Trump's inauguration, total government debt has increased by about $3 trillion, to more than $22 trillion.

 

 

 

Europe’s biggest airline, budget carrier Ryanair, will cut flights and close some of its bases beginning this winter because of the delay to deliveries of the Boeing 737 Max plane, which has been grounded globally after two fatal crashes. The airline also warned Tuesday that its growth in European summer traffic for 2020 will be lower than expected because of the slowed deliveries. Ryanair, which is Europe’s top airline by passengers, says some delays are expected and doubts about when the plane can return to the skies means it will take delivery of only 30 Max jets a year from now, rather than the previously scheduled 58. Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary says the airline “remains committed” to the Boeing 737 Max and expects it to be back in service before the end of the year but that the date is uncertain. Boeing’s 737 Max has been grounded after the Lion Air crash off the coast of Indonesia in October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March that killed a total of 346 people. The Federal Aviation Administration is due to review Boeing’s fixes and has said it is following a thorough process, but has no timetable for when the recertification will be completed. European regulators have to then also approve the jets before they can be used in the region.

 

 

 

SpaceX announced that the explosion of its Crew Dragon space capsule during an April test in Florida was due to the failure of a titanium valve. The explosion put the planned schedule for a crewed flight of SpaceX missions to the International Space Station in doubt. A SpaceX spokesperson said sending people up in a Dragon capsule this year still was possible, but would require a lot of things to go right in the remaining months. SpaceX and Boeing are working on competing capsules to send people to the space station from U.S. soil -- which hasn't happened since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. The nation has been relying on purchased Russian Soyuz capsules, launched from Kazakhstan. Known as a check valve, the component that failed has been replaced and is being tested in the company's remaining capsules with a type of seal that would prevent the same problems. The accident investigation team had found evidence of burning within the valve, which was recovered from debris of the explosion. NASA emphasized that approving a spacecraft to carry people is a lengthy process that requires many test flights.

‘Technical Snag’ Aborts India’s 3rd Attempt to Launch Moon Mission in Last 15 Months - That’s in the news Monday July 15, 2019

15Jul

India on Monday aborted the launch of a spacecraft designed to explore the far side of the moon. India's space agency said the Chandrayaan-2 mission was called off less than an hour before liftoff due to a "technical snag" in the 14-story rocket launcher. Chandrayaan, which means "moon craft" in Sanskrit, is supposed to make a soft landing on the lunar south pole and deploy a rover to explore water deposits confirmed by a previous Indian space mission. The spacecraft was to take two months to reach the moon before it was scheduled to deploy the six-wheeled rover Vikram lander to its surface in September. Monday was India's third failed launch attempt to land a rover on the moon. The launch was first scheduled in April 2018 but was postponed to October of that year, which was subsequently delayed until Monday. A revised launch date will be announced later. India is trying to join the ranks of the United States, Russia and China as the only nations to make a soft landing on the moon.

 

 

 

Landslides and flooding triggered by seasonal monsoon rains have killed more than 100 people in South Asia. In Nepal, police said Monday that at least 67 people have been killed with another 43 injured due to the torrents of rainfall that are expected to continue throughout the next few days. Police said another 30 people were still missing and 1,446 people were reported rescued. In India, more than 5 million people have been affected by flooding in the states of Bihar and Assam, the two worst hit in the country, where there is urgent need for food, and drinking water. Officials said at least 25 people had died in India and the number could significantly increase over the coming days, because of continuous rains and overflowing rivers. In Bangladesh, at least 14 people have died in seven districts while more than 60 thousand families in low-lying areas have been marooned in their homes or shelters. The monsoon season lasts from June to September throughout South Asia.

 

 

 

Tropical Storm Barry failed to unleash catastrophic flooding in New Orleans, but it still swamped parts of Louisiana with up to 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain and transformed part of the Mississippi Delta into “an ocean.” Although Barry was downgraded from tropical storm status Sunday afternoon, its torrential rains continued to pose a threat Monday. Much of Louisiana and Mississippi were under flash-flood watches, as were parts of Arkansas, eastern Texas, western Tennessee and southeastern Missouri. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was “extremely grateful” that the storm had not caused the catastrophic floods that had earlier been forecast. More than 90 people had been rescued in 11 parishes, but there were no reports of weather-related fatalities. Forecasters had warned of a continued threat of heavy rains into Monday as the center of the storm trudged inland. Many government officials continued to urge caution, warning that dangerous flooding was still possible as rivers rise. The National Hurricane Center said parts of south-central Louisiana could still see up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rainfall, with isolated areas getting as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters).

 

 

 

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera, which is part of the country's eastern Maluku island chain The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake occurred at a depth of 6.2 miles, and the main quake was felt throughout cities in the Sulawesi and Papua islands, and there were least seven aftershocks, each stronger than 5 magnitudes. Last week, a 6.9-magnitude quake rocked the northeast shore of Sulawesi, which is west of the area impacted on Sunday. One hour before the earthquake in Indonesia, a magnitude 6.6 quake struck northwestern Western Australia at a depth also of 6.2 miles, 12.6 miles east of Broome. Indonesia regularly experiences major earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions because the area sits on the Ring of Fire, which stretches from North and South America to Japan and New Zealand, covering several major faultlines.

 

 

 

The Congolese Health Ministry confirmed on Sunday that the Ebola virus has spread to the city of Goma, home to more than one million people. The patient is a pastor who tested positive after being screened at a health center. He arrived in Goma via bus from Butembo, about 125 miles away, and had been meeting with people who have Ebola. Officials said the bus driver and 18 passengers will receive vaccinations on Monday. The health ministry said in a statement, "Due to the speed with which the patient has been identified and isolated, as well as the identification of all passengers from Butembo, the risk of spreading to the rest of the city of Goma remains low." Since the Ebola outbreak began in the eastern part of the country last August, more than 1,600 people have died.

 

 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Sunday night that he had granted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif a visa to visit New York for a United Nations meeting, but that his movements would be limited to traveling between U.N. headquarters, Iran's U.N. Mission office (which is six blocks away), and the nearby Iranian U.N. ambassador's residence. "U.S. diplomats don't roam around Tehran, so we don't see any reason for Iranian diplomats to roam freely around New York City, either," Pompeo said. The U.S. is required to promptly issue visas to foreign diplomats heading to U.N. events in New York, but "nothing more than that," Pompeo said. The Trump administration has considered sanctioning Zarif, which would complicate efforts to resume negotiations on curbing Iran's nuclear program.

 

 

 

American Airlines has extended the cancelations of its Boeing 737 Max jets through Nov. 3, two months longer than planned. American said the move would result in scrapping about 115 flights per day. United said Friday it was extending its cancelations to November, a month longer than it had previously expected. Airlines around the world grounded their Boeing 737 Max aircraft in mid-March following two deadly crashes of Boeing 737 Max planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. A total of 346 people were killed. Boeing came up with a software fix for an anti-stall system on the planes that was believed to have contributed to the crashes by persistently pointing the jets' noses down, apparently due to faulty data. American, which reports earnings in 10 days, has said the grounding cost it $185 million in second-quarter pre-tax income.

 

 

 

China's economy continued to slow down in the second quarter, with growth dropping to its lowest level in 27 years as Beijing remained locked in a trade war with the U.S., Chinese officials announced Monday. The economy grew 6.2 percent between April and June compared to a year earlier, matching estimates. In June, retail sales went up by 9.8 percent and factory output rose 6.3 percent, while investment gained 5.8 percent during the first half of the year. Following President Trump's decision to impose more tariffs on Chinese goods, exports to the U.S. fell 7.8 percent in June compared to a year ago. Representatives from the U.S. and China are still trying to craft a trade deal between the two countries.

 

 

 

Activists and officials in Russia are warning of a "gold rush" for mammoth ivory in the country as permafrost thaws. The melting permafrost has made it easier for prospectors to find and dig up woolly mammoth tusks and other remains that can then be sold to China, where it is fashioned into jewelry and other decorations, for a small fortune. Woolly mammoth ivory preserved in permafrost in Russia's Yakutia region reportedly makes up 80 percent of Russia's trade in what is largely an unregulated market. While activists and regional officials aim to regulate the trade market, local officials argue that such a measure could disenfranchise locals, who they say should have the right to collect a limited number of tusks and live off the proceeds.

 

 

 

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer (7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12) to win his second straight Wimbledon men's singles title, and his fifth overall. The tennis match lasted just under five hours, and ended in the first ever Wimbledon Gentleman's Final tiebreak. Djokovic, ranked no. 1 in the world, has now won 16 major championships, gaining on Federer, who is the all-time leader with 20. "This has always been the tournament for me," Djokovic, 32, said on the court after receiving his trophy. "I used to make the trophies out of different materials in my room just imagining that I would be standing here." Federer, who was trying for his ninth Wimbledon title, said he hoped his marathon battle against a younger opponent would "give some people a chance to believe that at 37 it's not over yet."

India to Launch Moon Mission Monday With Spacecraft to Land on Moon’s South Polar Region - That’s the news on Friday July 12, 2019

12Jul

New Orleans residents stocked up on supplies and prepared their homes on Friday as a strengthening Tropical Storm Barry threatened severe rain and flooding when it comes ashore as possibly the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019. Barry packed maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100 km per hour) on Friday morning and the National Hurricane Center said it will likely strengthen into a hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph (119 km) by the time it reaches the central Louisiana coast on Saturday. It was forecast to bring a coastal storm surge into the mouth of the lower Mississippi River that winds through the heart of New Orleans, pushing its crest to 19 feet (5.79 m) on Saturday. That would be the highest since 1950 and dangerously close to the top of the city’s levees at 20 feet. New Orleans is already saturated after torrential rains flooded streets on Wednesday, but the New Orleans mayor said no evacuations were ordered from the low-lying city. Gov. John Bel Edwards said, "There are three ways Louisiana floods — storm surge, high rivers, and rain. We're going to have all three." President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana and the region’s oil production was cut in half as energy companies evacuated offshore drilling facilities as a precaution.

 

 

 

Federal agents arrested singer R. Kelly in Chicago on Thursday night after a federal grand jury handed down a 13-count indictment earlier in the day. Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois said, "The counts include child porn, enticement of a minor, and obstruction of justice." These are the first federal charges against Kelly, who also faces sexual assault charges in Illinois to which he has pleaded not guilty. He was acquitted of state child pornography charges in 2008. A law enforcement official tells The New York Times that Kelly will be moved to New York and prosecutors in Brooklyn will announce further details Friday.

 

 

 

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned on Friday amid fresh scrutiny of his handling of the sex abuse case against financier Jeffrey Epstein, becoming President Trump’s latest adviser to leave the administration in controversy. Acosta, joining Trump at the White House before the president left for a trip to Wisconsin, said he did not want to be a distraction to the administration’s work because of his leadership of the Epstein case more than a decade ago. Trump, who has fired numerous cabinet and other administration officials during his 2 1/2 years in the White House, said it was Acosta’s idea to step down. Acosta’s resignation is effective in seven days. Trump named Deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella as the acting secretary of Labor.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, more than a dozen new victims have come forward to say they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein, now awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, according to The Miami Herald. Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola said he and a colleague have been contacted by five of the women. Scarola said, "The people we are speaking to are underage victims in Florida and in New York. They are not individuals whose claims have previously been part of any law enforcement investigation." Epstein was arrested in New Jersey on Saturday. His lawyers proposed letting him await trial at his Manhattan townhouse under a $77 million bond package, and said the new charges stem from allegations resolved years ago in Florida.

 

 

 

China’s Foreign Ministry said President Xi Jinping urged President Trump to ease sanctions on North Korea during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan last month. China has signed up for strict U.N. sanctions following North Korea’s repeated missile and nuclear tests but has also suggested sanctions could be eased to reward North Korea for good behavior. Xi and Trump have both held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently - Xi before the G20 summit during a trip to Pyongyang, and Trump after the summit, when he met Kim at the Demilitarized Zone along the North’s border with South Korea. The U.S. State Department hopes to see a freeze in the North Korean nuclear program as the start of a process of denuclearization, ahead of fresh talks with Pyongyang supposed to take place this month.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un has been formally named head of state of North Korea and commander-in-chief of the military in a new constitution observers said was possibly aimed at preparing for a peace treaty with the United States. North Korea has long called for a peace deal with the United States to normalize relations and end the technical state of war that has existed since the 1950-1953 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. A previous constitution simply called Kim “supreme leader” who commands the country’s “overall military force”. Previously, North Korea’s official head of state was the president of the titular parliament, known as the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. Kim shifted his focus to the economy last year, launched nuclear talks with the United States and moved to revamp his image as a world leader via summits with South Korea, China and Russia.

 

 

 

More than three dozen people were injured on an Air Canada flight to Australia after experiencing turbulence. Air Canada Flight 33 was diverted to Hawaii after 37 people were injured, including nine who were hospitalized with what officials described as serious injuries, after experiencing unexpected turbulence over the Pacific Ocean. Passengers said the turbulence occurred about 4 hours into the flight. The plane suddenly jerked downward and launched some passengers out of their seats, because they hadn't buckled their seat belts. The flight originated from Toronto and took off from Vancouver International Airport on Wednesday night with 269 people, including crew members, on board.

 

 

 

President Trump said Thursday he was ending his push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census, reversing his vow to keep fighting even though the Supreme Court blocked the change. Trump said he would shift gears by signing an executive order instructing federal agencies that collect information on citizenship to send "all requested records" to the Commerce Department so it can come up with figures on citizens and non-citizens in the country. "We will leave no stone unturned," Trump said. The Commerce Department started printing forms for the 10-year census last week even as the Justice Department said it had been told to find a way to add the question that was consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.

 

 

 

India will try to become just the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, after its Chandrayaan 2 mission takes off Monday. India's space agency is making final preparations over the next three days before liftoff from an island in the Bay of Bengal. Officials said, the spacecraft will take two months to get to the moon, first going into orbit 60 miles above the lunar surface before deploying the Vikram lander in September. Once the Vikram lands, it will release a six-wheel rover to study the environment in the moon's south polar region. The Indian Space Research Organization said, "The aim is to improve our understanding of the Moon -- discoveries that will benefit India and humanity as a whole." The countdown will start Sunday with liftoff scheduled for 2:51 a.m. Monday. If the mission succeeds, India will join the United States, Russia and China as the only nations to have made soft landings on the moon. Israel attempted to put down a lander in April, but a technical glitch sent its craft crashing into the lunar surface.

 

 

 

Coffee brewing giant Starbucks announced Friday it will stop selling newspapers in the cafes at U.S. stores in September. Starbucks said the decision was made due to "changing customer behavior." For years, the Seattle-based chain has sold physical copies of The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal on cafe newsstands. All three will be removed. A spokesperson said, "In addition to the newspaper stands, we will also be removing shelving fixtures that display whole-bean coffee and different grab-and-go snacks." One potential problem with the papers, is customers mistakenly believing they are complimentary. There are 8,600 Starbucks locations in the United States.

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