It’s Thursday December 7, 2017



An elite Michigan sports doctor who possessed child pornography and assaulted gymnasts was sentenced Thursday to 60 years in federal prison in one of three criminal cases that ensure he will never be free again. U.S. District Judge Janet Neff followed the government’s recommendation in the porn case, saying Larry Nassar “should never again have access to children.” Neff said Nassar’s federal sentence won’t start until he completes his sentences for sexual assault. The 54-year-old Nassar worked at Michigan State University and at USA Gymnastics, the Indianapolis-based group that trains Olympians. He admits he molested girls with his hands when they sought treatment for hip and back pain. Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Gabby Douglas say they were victims when Nassar worked for USA Gymnastics and accompanied them at workouts or international events. In a court filing, defense lawyers said Nassar “deeply regrets the pain that he has caused the community.” The child pornography was discovered last year when Nassar was being investigated for assault. Aside from the criminal cases, more than 100 women and girls are suing Nassar. Michigan State and USA Gymnastics are defendants in many of the lawsuits.




Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once-rising Democratic star. “I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice,” Franken said in the otherwise-hushed Senate chamber. Franken quit just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging misconduct by him to at least eight. On Wednesday, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he vehemently denied. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009. His announcement followed Tuesday’s resignation of Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House. When he does resign, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November 2018 would serve through the end of Franken’s term in January 2021.




The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians on Thursday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinian factions called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday, and on Thursday, a wave of protest in the West Bank and Gaza brought clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops. At least 31 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire and rubber bullets. The Israeli military said late on Thursday two rockets had been fired toward Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip but did not cross into Israeli territory. The military said it was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank. Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, angering the Arab world and upsetting Western allies. The status of Jerusalem, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of their own to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.




Southern California has been hit hard by four major fires that have put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings, a figure that is almost certain to grow. The wildfires have burned more than 100,000 acres across Southern California, spurred by unusually strong Santa Ana winds and extremely dry terrain. The Thomas Fire, burning in Ventura County just northwest of Los Angeles, is the largest blaze. It has burned more than 90,000 acres and prompted the mandatory evacuation of nearly 50,000 people. It grew exponentially after starting Monday night and remained just 5 percent contained as forecasters warned of winds up to 80 miles per hour and low humidity, "a recipe for explosive fire growth," on Thursday. Calmer overnight conditions helped crews protect the Ventura County resort town of Ojai, where most of the 7,000 residents were under new evacuation orders following a burst of wind late Wednesday. A separate fire erupted early Wednesday in Bel-Air, a wealthy area of Los Angeles, and was spreading quickly, fanned by the strong winds. The neighborhood is home to celebrities and business leaders including Beyoncé and Elon Musk. Firefighters were seen removing artwork from some opulent homes as they attempted to contain the fire. The nearby Getty Museum said it would remain closed on Thursday. It said it had not removed its artworks and that air filtration systems were protecting its priceless collection from smoke damage. The museum's collection includes pieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh




A white former South Carolina officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday for fatally shooting an unarmed black motorist in the back in 2015, wrapping up a case that became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. Attorneys for ex-North Charleston Officer Michael Slager said he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in self-defense after the two fought and Scott grabbed Slager’s stun gun. They said race didn’t play a role in the shooting and Slager never had any “racial animus” toward minorities. Still, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights. A year ago, a state judge declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked in that case. A bystander recorded the shooting on a cellphone, and it was shared around the world, setting off protests across the U.S. as demonstrators said it was another egregious example of police officers mistreating African-Americans.




Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Ukraine was the sole sticking point keeping the United States and Russia from forging a closer relationship, suggesting that all other disputes were secondary. Tillerson’s focus on Ukraine came as he met with European diplomats at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, established during the Cold War to serve as a bridge between East and West. Tillerson insisted the U.S. could never overlook Russia’s “attempted annexation” of Crimea or Moscow’s military intrusion in eastern Ukraine. Tillerson said President Trump campaigned on the need to improve ties with Russia, adding that “normalizing” relations between the nuclear powers was something the U.S. still “badly would like to do.” He said that from the start, the Trump administration had told Moscow that addressing Ukraine was essential to warmer ties.




Top Republicans left no doubt that the House will approve legislation Thursday preventing a weekend partial government shutdown, erasing any suspense over an impending budget clash that would put a calamitous exclamation point at the end of the capital’s tumultuous year. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters, “I feel good where we are." He made the statement prior to the vote on legislation keeping federal agencies afloat through Dec. 22. The money runs out at midnight Friday without approval of fresh funding, and Senate approval was also expected. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said her party would not support the funding bill because it did not include any key Democratic priorities. Pelosi said Democrats were seeking funding for fighting opioid addiction, veterans, the children’s health program, community health centers, disaster funding and a fix for the problem of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.




House Republicans pushed through a bill that would let gun owners with concealed-weapon permits freely travel between states without fear of conflicting state laws. The reciprocity measure, a high priority for the National Rifle Association, passed along party lines, 231-198. It marked the first major gun legislation to get this far in Congress since the recent mass shootings in Nevada and Texas, which left more than 80 people dead. Democrats objected. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) said the bill would curtail states' rights, "hamstring" police, and let criminals "walk around with hidden guns anywhere" they choose. "It's unspeakable that this is Congress' response to the worst gun tragedies in American history," Esty said. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces a tougher challenge.




Australia's Federal Parliament on Thursday approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, a move expected after the public embraced marriage equality in a postal survey last month. Public opinion has shifted since Australian politicians changed the Marriage Act 13 years ago to explicitly prohibit same-sex unions. "Australia has done it. What a day for love, for equality, for respect," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. "This belongs to us all. This is Australia — fair, diverse, loving, and filled with respect for every one of us. This has been a great, unifying day in our history."




Time named "the Silence Breakers" who helped launch the #MeToo movement as its 2017 Person of the Year. "The people who have broken their silence on sexual assault and harassment span all races, all income classes, all occupations, and virtually all corners of the globe," Time writes. "Their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results." Runners-up include President Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

It’s Wednesday December 6, 2017



In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's official capital, an action that is already inflaming the Middle East and the Arab world. In a statement from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump said, "I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel." Trump also directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In explaining the move, which breaks with Trump's predecessors, officials emphasized that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a "recognition of reality." They also admitted that the president fulfilled a promise that he made on the 2016 campaign trail. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump's decision as "historic". Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned of the dangerous consequences the decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security, and stability of the region and of the world. The Palestinian Authority called for three days of 'rage" against the United States. Israeli security forces have been placed on a "high alert". Officials said that it was not possible to move the embassy to Jerusalem immediately, however, and it could take "a matter of some years.




Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, reportedly foiled a plot by Islamist terrorists to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May. MI5 leaders reportedly revealed the plot to cabinet members on Tuesday. Two men — 20-year-old Naa'imur Zakariyah Rahman, and 21-year-old Mohammed Aqib Imran — are to appear in a London court Wednesday to face terror charges in the case. The suspects allegedly plotted to detonate a bomb outside the gates at the entrance to Downing Street, where the prime minister's residence is located, and stab May in the ensuing chaos. May's spokesman declined to discuss the details of the alleged plot. The suspects reportedly were arrested last week.




Six women filed a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday, claiming that the movie mogul’s actions to cover up assaults amounted to civil racketeering. The lawsuit was filed at a federal court in New York seeking to represent a class of “dozens, if not hundreds” of women who say they were assaulted by Weinstein. The lawsuit claims that a coalition of companies and people became part of the growing “Weinstein Sexual Enterprise” and that they worked with Weinstein to conceal his widespread sexual harassment and assaults. According to the lawsuit, actresses and other women in the film industry were lured to industry events, hotel rooms, Weinstein’s home, office meetings or auditions under the pretense that they were to discuss a project. At least 75 women have come forward in the media to detail accounts of assault, harassment and inappropriate conduct by Weinstein , who is being investigated by police in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, New York and London




Sen. Al Franken’s support among his fellow Democrats was collapsing Wednesday as a group of female Democratic senators called upon him to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., called on Franken to step down. Some Democratic male senators joined them. Murray said, “I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior. It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.” Gillibrand said “it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.” With Franken’s position appearing untenable, his office issued a statement saying, “Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow. More details to come.” The calls came as another woman accused Franken of sexual misconduct in an account provided to Politico. The Minnesota Democrat said in a statement that the allegation, reported by Politico, was “categorically not true.”



President Vladimir Putin confirmed Russia’s worst kept political secret on Wednesday, saying he would run for re-election in March 2018 - a contest he seems sure to win comfortably and extend his grip on power into a third decade. Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000, longer than veteran Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and outstripped only by dictator Josef Stalin. If he wins what would be a fourth presidential term, he will be eligible to serve another six years until 2024, when he turns 72. Backed by state TV, Putin regularly enjoys approval ratings of around 80 percent, and his decision to run for re-election -- which he announced at a car-making factory in the Volga river city of Nizhny Novgorod -- was widely expected. Allies laud Putin as a father-of-the-nation figure who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow’s global clout with interventions in Syria and Ukraine.



President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., returned to Congress on Wednesday to face questions from lawmakers about alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with Moscow by his father’s presidential campaign. Trump Jr. is expected to be questioned for several hours by members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, one of three main congressional committees investigating the matter. Trump Jr.’s appearance on Wednesday came amid mounting criticism of the Russia probes by some of his father’s fellow Republicans in Congress, who accuse investigators of bias against Trump. Lawmakers said they want to question him about a meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York at which he had said he hoped to get information about the “fitness, character and qualifications” of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democrat his father defeated in last year’s race for the White House. Trump Jr., like his father, denies collusion with Russia.




Supreme Court justices asked questions suggesting a split along ideological lines on Tuesday during oral arguments in a dispute over a Colorado baker's refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. "Cake artist" Jack Phillips says making a cake celebrating gay marriage would violate his religious beliefs. The court's liberal justices asked whether he could refuse service to other groups or minorities if he could turn away a same-sex couple. Justices in the court's conservative majority appeared to give Phillips leeway to decide whether baking a cake for a gay wedding went against his religious and free speech rights. Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy asked pointed questions to both sides, saying denying service is "an affront to the gay community" but that Colorado officials had shown "hostility to religion" by cracking down on Phillips.




The International Olympic Committee barred Russia's Olympic team from competing in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as punishment after confirming Moscow's extensive state-backed doping program. Russian officials also were banned due to the government's role in cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games, where operatives of Russia's sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to hide star athletes' steroid use. Olympic officials have tossed out performances by more than two dozen athletes and rescinded numerous medals. Russian officials have called the penalties insulting and threatened to boycott the IOC. Some athletes cleared in an investigation will be allowed to compete wearing a neutral uniform.




The number of people caught crossing illegally from Mexico into the U.S. fell to the lowest level in 46 years in the last year, according to Homeland Security figures released Tuesday. Border agents made 310,531 arrests, down 24 percent from the previous year. The number of people being caught fell sharply immediately after President Trump's election, a possible reaction to his harsh rhetoric against undocumented immigrants. Arrests of people living in the U.S. illegally have surged. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detained 110,568 undocumented people from Trump's inauguration to the end of September, a 42 percent increase over the same period last year.




The Senate confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen as the next homeland security secretary on Tuesday in a 62-37 vote. Nielsen served as deputy chief of staff at the department when John Kelly, now White House chief of staff, ran it. She has served as Kelly's deputy at the White House and is considered his loyal confidant. Nielsen, 45, is an attorney and cybersecurity expert, and she will be the first DHS secretary with previous experience working at the agency, which handles border patrol, immigration enforcement, domestic counterterrorism, and disaster response. Her confirmation gives President Trump a DHS chief familiar with his immigration enforcement policies. Democrats who voted against Nielsen said she lacked the leadership experience necessary to run the department free from White House interference.




The little blue pill that’s helped millions of men in the bedroom is turning white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week. Pfizer will begin selling the white pill at half the $65-a-pill retail price on Monday, when its patent-protected monopoly ends. Generic maker Teva Pharmaceuticals can start selling its version then, but isn’t disclosing the price. Many more generics go on sale next summer, which will steadily slash the price of generics, possibly by 90 percent. Launched in 1998, Viagra was the first pill for impotence. It transformed a private frustration for many aging men into a publicly discussed medical condition with an easy treatment, far more appealing than options like penile injections and implants. Pfizer’s early TV ads for the little blue pill even coined the term erectile dysfunction, ED for short. Eli Lilly’s Cialis came out in 2003 and now dominates the U.S. market with on-demand pills and daily, low-dose ones. Viagra is a close second. Last year, more than 12 million prescriptions for Viagra and Cialis were filled in the U.S., generating a combined $3 billion in sales, according to health data.

It’s Tuesday December 5, 2017



Please listen to the end of this podcast for a special announcement.

Raked by ferocious Santa Ana winds, explosive wildfires on the edge of Los Angeles and in the foothills outside the city burned a psychiatric hospital and scores of other structures Tuesday and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from their homes. County fire officials said one of the blazes broke out Monday in Ventura County and grew wildly to more than 70 square miles in a matter of hours. It was fanned by winds clocked at more than 60 mph. A smaller fire erupted on the northern edge of Los Angeles, threatening the Sylmar and Lakeview Terrace neighborhoods, where residents scrambled to get out. It was estimated at more than 6 square miles. About 2,500 homes were ordered evacuated. Just weeks ago, wildfires broke out some 400 miles to the north in wine country and other parts of the state, killing 44 people and destroying 8,900 homes and other buildings. Officials said at least 150 structures burned in the Ventura County fire. TV news reports showed homes in flames, along with Vista del Mar Hospital, which treats patients with mental problems or substance abuse, including veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome.




The federal investigator probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election asked Deutsche Bank for data on accounts held by President Donald Trump and his family. According to a person close to the matter, Germany’s largest bank received a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller several weeks ago to provide information on certain money and credit transactions, adding key documents had been handed over in the meantime. Deutsche Bank loaned the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major lenders that has given large amounts of credit to Trump in the past decade. One U.S. official with knowledge of Mueller’s probe said one reason for the subpoenas was to find out whether Deutsche Bank may have sold some of Trump’s mortgage or other loans to Russian state development bank VEB or other Russian banks that now are under U.S. and European Union sanctions. Mueller is investigating alleged Russian attempts to influence the election, and potential collusion by Trump aides. Russia has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it meddled in the campaign and Trump has said there was no collusion with Moscow.




The Supreme Court has fully reinstated the third version of President Trump's travel ban while legal challenges move through the courts, giving Trump a victory after mixed success fighting challenges to earlier versions over the summer. The 9th Circuit of Appeals had upheld a lower court ruling against Trump's restrictions on travel by people from six Muslim majority nations — Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Chad — unless they had a legitimate relationship with an individual or organization in the U.S. The American Civil Liberties Union, representing groups challenging the order, said it was simply a disguised reworking of the first two bans. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Trump merely exercised his broad powers to control immigration.





Democrat John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced his retirement on Tuesday, amid accusations of sexual harassment, and endorsed his son to take his place in Congress. Conyers said in an interview with a Detroit radio station. “I am in the process of putting my retirement plans together and will have more on that very soon ... I am retiring today. I have a great family here and especially in my oldest boy, John Conyers III, who incidentally I endorse to replace me in my seat in Congress." The House Ethics Committee last week opened an investigation into the 88-year-old Conyers after he said his office had resolved a harassment case of a former staffer with a payment but no admission of guilt. Conyers, who was first elected to the House in 1964, is the first major U.S. politician to step down since the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations. He has denied the accusations and continued to do so in the interview on Tuesday.




A federal judge in Florida on Monday sentenced former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown to five years in federal prison for her conviction on corruption charges. Defense attorney James Smith, who argued Brown should get probation, said she would appeal the decision. Brown, 71, was found guilty in May of raising $800,000 with a scam charity and spending the donations on personal expenses. Her longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, received a 48-month sentence, and the founder of the One Door for Education charity, Carla Wiley, got 21 months. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan told Brown the "outpouring of support" she received was "a tribute to all the work you've done over the years. That's what makes this all the more tragic."




President Trump told Palestinian and Jordanian leaders on Tuesday that he intends to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, their representatives said, amid a growing outcry across the Middle East against any unilateral U.S. decision on the ancient city. Senior U.S. officials have said Trump is likely on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while delaying relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months, though he is expected to order his aides to begin planning such a move immediately. The officials said, however, that no final decisions have been made. U.S. endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would break with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city.




Just one month after announcing his resignation, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has formally withdrawn that resignation. He declared his official decision after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday near Beirut, at which Lebanon's president and high-ranking ministers endorsed his call for the country to stay out of the affairs of other Arab countries. Reaffirming that policy of neutrality — first issued in 2012 — had been a priority for Hariri, whose perplexing statement of resignation last month specifically criticized Hezbollah for interfering in neighboring nations' affairs. The Iran-backed Shiite militant group shares power in Lebanon's tenuously balanced coalition government with Hariri, who heads a predominantly Sunni political party, as well as President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian. Hezbollah also has men fighting for Shiite interests in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen — placing it at loggerheads with Sunni Saudi Arabia, which has been waging a regional cold war of competing interests with Iran. In his comments Tuesday, Hariri stressed that whatever the future may hold for the region, Lebanon must remain aloof.




Former Illinois congressman John Anderson, who left the Republican party to run for president as an independent in 1980, has died, his family confirmed Monday. He was 95. Anderson originally sought the 1980 Republican presidential nomination but never finished better than second in a primary. He went on to run in the general election as an independent, billing himself as an honest, moderate alternative to Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican challenger Ronald Reagan. He drew support from moderate to liberal Republicans and liberal Democrats and college students, receiving 7 percent of the vote. "He really, really believed the two-party system was broken in 1980," his daughter, Diane Anderson, said. "He wanted to express that, and he did."




Netflix confirmed Monday that it would resume production of House of Cards in early 2018 and complete an eight-episode sixth and final season without star Kevin Spacey, who was sidelined after several men accused him of sexual assault and harassment. "We are excited to bring closure to fans," Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos said. Production company Media Rights Capital shut down production in November after the allegations surfaced against Spacey, who plays the ruthless politician Frank Underwood in the show. The final season, which originally was to include 13 episodes, will star Robin Wright, who plays Spacey's equally devious wife, Claire Underwood.




As we continue the first week of December for this podcast, I am asking each of you to kindly consider making a small monthly donation to support the cost of producing this recording and keep the podcast commercial free. If you click the link on the landing page " become a patron" you can make a secure monthly pledge through Stripe or PayPal. Several thousand of you are followers of this podcast and if 10 percent of you made a 1 or 2 dollar monthly donation, it would solve all financial issues, and eliminate the possibility of adding advertising to support production. Thank you for listening and for supporting this podcast. I'm Larry Rice and I hope you have a wonderful day.

It’s Monday December 4, 2017



Hundreds of South Korean and U.S. military aircraft, including two dozen stealth jets, started five days of war games on Monday, a week after North Korea test-fired its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile ever — one that could target the U.S. East Coast. The U.S. Seventh Air Force said the timing was not in response to any provocation by Pyongyang. The training exercises are held each year in the late fall. North Korean state media said the drill pushed the Korean Peninsula "to the brink of nuclear war" and that the U.S. and South Korea would "pay dearly for their provocations." On Saturday, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the risk of war with North Korea is "increasing every day."




The Syrian government’s decision to quit peace talks last week was an embarrassment to its main supporter Russia, which wants both sides to reach a deal quickly, according to opposition spokesman Yahya al-Aridi on Monday. The delegation left the U.N.-backed talks in Geneva on Friday, blaming the opposition’s demands that President Bashar al-Assad should play no role in any interim post-war government. There was no immediate comment from Russian officials at the talks on the withdrawal of the government delegation. Russia helped to turn the Syrian war in Assad’s favor and has become the key force in the push for a diplomatic solution. Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin said a political settlement should be finalized within the U.N. Geneva process. A source close to the government delegation told Reuters on Monday that Damascus was still studying the feasibility of participation in the talks and when a decision was reached it would be sent through ordinary diplomatic channels.




Veteran former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed in a roadside attack on Monday after switching sides in Yemen’s civil war, abandoning his Iran-aligned Houthi allies in favor of a Saudi-led coalition. Sources in the Houthi militia said its fighters stopped Saleh’s armored vehicle with an RPG rocket outside the embattled capital Sanaa and then shot him dead. Sources in Saleh’s party confirmed he died in an attack on his convoy. An unverified video of his bloodied body lolling in a blanket circulated just days after he tore up his alliance with the Houthis following nearly three years in which they had jointly battled the Saudi-led coalition that intervened to try to reinstate Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Saleh’s death, close watchers of Yemen say, will be a huge morale boost for the Houthis and a major blow to the Saudi-led coalition. Any hope of the coalition that Saleh could have been bought off to help them against the Houthis has now been dashed and the Houthis have destroyed a powerful new adversary. The coalition must either continue its long war in Yemen or offer compromises to bring the Houthis to the negotiating table.




Ten Maltese suspects were arrested Monday over the car bomb slaying of a prominent investigative journalist. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made the announcement about six weeks after the assassination that shocked Malta and drew European Union pressure to ensure rule of law here. Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose reporting focused heavily on corruption on the EU island nation, was killed Oct. 16 when a bomb destroyed her car as she was driving near her home. Muscat told reporters at a news conference, that eight Maltese citizens were arrested because of a “reasonable suspicion” of their involvement in Caruana Galizia’s killing. Shortly afterward, he tweeted that two others had been arrested. The two additional suspects are also Maltese. Investigators have 48 hours to question the suspects to decide whether to seek charges, in accordance with Maltese law.




Congress is heading into another busy week following the frenetic rewriting and passage of the Senate GOP tax bill. At the top of the agenda is negotiating a deal on keeping the federal government funded to avoid a shutdown of some agencies on Friday, when current funding runs out. House Republican leaders are proposing a two-week extension through a "continuing resolution" that would keep government agencies funded until Dec. 22. GOP leaders say the extra time would allow for negotiations on boosting spending for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, which otherwise face cuts. Democrats are demanding a deal on protecting young undocumented immigrants. Republicans don't want to include the immigration fix in the budget deal, suggesting a possible deadlock.




President Donald Trump formally endorsed embattled Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race on Monday, looking past sexual misconduct allegations against the GOP candidate to argue that Moore’s vote is needed in Congress. It was Trump’s strongest show of support for Moore since allegations surfaced that the candidate had sexually assaulted teenage girls decades ago, including one who said he molested her when she was 14 and he was in his 30s. Many national Republicans have called on Moore to step aside in the wake of multiple sexual assault and harassment allegations, but on Sunday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) changed his mind and said that Alabama voters should "make the call" in the state's special Senate election Dec. 12. Last month, McConnell joined numerous other political leaders in saying Moore should "step aside." Moore has bounced back in polls after falling clearly behind Democrat Doug Jones after the scandal erupted. In two new polls released over the weekend, Moore has a slight lead in one and trails narrowly in the other.




A California teenager, 18-year-old Joseph Hayden Boston, turned himself into police and confessed to molesting more than 50 children across Southern California since he was 10 years old, according to authorities. Boston reportedly called his mother to tell her that he had assaulted two boys, ages 8 and 4, at a Riverside motel, and she took him to a police station, according to Riverside police spokesman Officer Ryan Railsback. Boston was arrested on suspicion of two counts of oral copulation on small children and was jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.




Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Sunday that his populist, socialist government would launch a cryptocurrency called the "petro" to help it contend with a U.S.-led financial "blockade." The digital currency will be backed by Venezuelan oil reserves and other natural resources to keep the financial sanctions from driving its economy further into chaos. "Venezuela will create a cryptocurrency ... the 'petro,' to advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions, and overcome the financial blockade," the leftist Maduro said in his weekly Sunday televised broadcast. "The 21st century has arrived!" Opposition leaders questioned whether Maduro's beleaguered administration could pull off the launch, and said it would need congressional approval to even try.




The European Union and Britain ended a flurry of top-level diplomacy on Monday without a deal on the terms of their divorce, as agreement on how to maintain an open Irish border after Brexit slipped out of the negotiators’ grasp. But the two sides said they were within striking distance of consensus, setting up a hectic negotiating rush ahead of next week’s EU summit which must decide whether to broaden the talks to the topic of future relations. EU leaders want a deal on divorce terms in time for them to agree at a summit on Dec. 14-15 whether to move the negotiations on to the next stage of talks, including trade. The lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal on key issues by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019. The EU and the U.K. are nearing agreement on some divorce terms, including the size of the bill that Britain must pay as it leaves and the rights of citizens affected by Brexit. But the border issue has proved more intractable. After Britain leaves the bloc, the currently invisible 310-mile frontier will be the U.K.’s only land border with an EU country.




Pharmacy chain CVS Health Corp. will buy health insurer Aetna for $69 billion, the companies announced Sunday. The merger is one of the largest in the health-care industry in the past decade, creating a company with drug stores, health-plan management services, and insurance. CVS will pay $207 a share for Aetna, a 29 percent premium on Aetna's share price on Oct. 25, before news of the negotiations broke. CVS also will assume Aetna's debt, bringing the value of the deal to $78 billion. The companies expect $750 million in synergies, but the main benefit is that the deal will help them develop a new way of delivering care, creating what the companies' CEOs said would be "10,000 new front doors for the health-care system" at CVS stores and clinics.




Tesla CEO Elon Musk fully intends to put his very own Tesla red sports car into an enormous rocket ship made by his SpaceX company and fire both into Mars orbit. The car, as it hurtles into space, will be playing a song by David Bowie on repeat. It goes without saying that the song will be “Space Oddity”. A person familiar with the launch plan at SpaceX confirmed the story. This SpaceX launch slated for January will be noteworthy for reasons that go beyond the payload, a cherry-red Tesla Roadster owned by Musk. It will also mark a coming out for the much-awaited Falcon Heavy, in a launch slated for the same Florida launchpad - 39A - where Apollo astronauts were launched to the moon. SpaceX currently flies its Falcon 9 rocket for customers that include NASA, commercial satellite operators, and the U.S. military. Falcon Heavy is a far more powerful rocket that has been in development for years. While a Falcon 9 has nine Merlin engines, a Falcon Heavy has 27. The first test, which will precede the attempt to fire a Tesla Roadster into Mars orbit, will be a “static fire” in which all the engines are activated at once. SpaceX has Falcon Heavy launches for satellite customers and the U.S. military on its launch manifest.




As we head into the first week of December for this podcast, I am asking each of you to kindly consider making a small monthly donation to support the cost of producing this recording and keep the podcast commercial free. If you click the link on the landing page " become a patron" you can make a secure monthly pledge through Stripe or PayPal. Several thousand of you are followers of this podcast and if 10 percent of you made a 1 or 2 dollar monthly donation, it would solve all financial issues, and eliminate the possibility of adding advertising to support production. Thank you for listening and for supporting this podcast. I'm Larry Rice and I hope you have a wonderful day.

It’s Friday December 1, 2017



Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI, becoming the first Trump White House official to face criminal charges and admit guilt so far in the wide-ranging investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Flynn also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe, which focuses on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump’s former national security adviser admitted to lying about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the transition period before Trump’s inauguration. In a statement, Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general said he accepted responsibility for his actions and added: “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country.” White House lawyer Ty Cobb sought to distance the plea from Trump himself, saying, “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”




A Japanese court on Friday convicted a former U.S. Marine, Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, for the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Japanese woman, Rina Shimabukuro, last year, and sentenced him to life in prison. The case stoked angry demonstrations on the island of Okinawa over crimes linked to the 26,000 American troops stationed there. According to the indictment, Shinzato, 33, raped Shimabukuro after stabbing her in the neck and hitting her on the head with a bar to subdue her. He admitted to the attack and rape, and to abandoning Shimabukuro's body, but said he didn't mean to kill her. Shimabukuro's body was found abandoned in a forest near the village of Onna, three weeks after she disappeared while taking a walk.




A California jury on Thursday found a homeless undocumented Mexican immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, not guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco Bay pier. Garcia Zarate was convicted of possession of a gun by a convicted felon. The case fueled the debate over sanctuary cities. San Francisco had released Garcia Zarate from jail before the killing despite a federal request to hold him for his sixth deportation. Defense attorneys noted that the bullet ricocheted before hitting Steinle, saying that proved that Garcia Zarate fired the gun accidentally when he found it. President Trump called the verdict "disgraceful" in a tweet, saying, "No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration."




Senate Republicans steamed toward passage of a $1.4 trillion tax bill Friday, overcoming eleventh-hour hitches in their drive to deliver a major legislative accomplishment to President Trump by Christmas. “We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after a closed-door meeting of Republican senators. One prior holdout, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced that he would support the bill. And another, Sen. Susan Collins, came close. The Maine Republican said she won an agreement to add a deduction for local property taxes. Still, Collins was coy about whether she ultimately would vote for the bill. With the party controlling the Senate 52-48 and Democrats uniformly opposed, Republicans need 50 votes to win approval for the bill. Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie. Senate passage would push Congress a step closer to the first rewrite of the nation’s tax code in three decades. The bill seemed to be sailing toward passage Thursday until a report was released by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimating the package would produce budget deficits totaling $1 trillion over the coming decade. Trump administration officials and leading congressional Republicans have said the measure’s tax cuts would spark enough economic growth to pay for the lowered levies.




Rep. Joe Barton of Texas announced to The Dallas Morning News that he is retiring following national publicity about his private life that started with the posting of a naked image of him online. Barton, a Republican, said he would not seek an 18th term next year because "There are enough people who lost faith in me that it's time to step aside." The anonymous posting of the nude selfie Barton had shared with a woman in an extramarital relationship prompted a number of other women to speak publicly about their relationships with Barton. Unlike several high-profile politicians, Hollywood figures, and news personalities who have faced sexual allegations recently, Barton was not accused of sexual harassment or other abuse.




U.S. oil refineries that are unable to sell a dirty fuel waste product at home are exporting vast quantities of it to India instead, according to an AP investigation. Petroleum coke, the bottom-of-the-barrel leftover from refining Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils, is cheaper and burns hotter than coal. But it also contains more planet-warming carbon and far more heart- and lung-damaging sulfur — a key reason few American companies use it. Refineries instead are sending it around the world, especially to energy-hungry India, which last year got almost a fourth of all the fuel-grade “petcoke” the U.S. shipped out. In 2016, the U.S. sent more than 8 million metric tons of petcoke to India. The petcoke being burned in countless factories and plants is contributing to dangerously filthy air in India, which already has many of the world’s most polluted cities. Laboratory tests on imported petcoke used near New Delhi found it contained 17 times more sulfur than the limit set for coal, and a staggering 1,380 times more than for diesel, according to India’s court-appointed Environmental Pollution Control Authority. India’s own petcoke, produced domestically, adds to the pollution. Industry officials say petcoke has been an important and valuable fuel for decades, and its use recycles a waste product. Health and environmental advocates, though, say the U.S. is simply exporting an environmental problem. Federal and international data show the U.S. is the world’s largest producer and exporter of petcoke.




Pope Francis asked for forgiveness Friday from refugees in Bangladesh for all the hurt and persecution they have endured, demanded their rights be recognized and pronounced the word he had so assiduously avoided only days earlier in Myanmar: “Rohingya.” In a deeply moving encounter, Francis greeted and blessed a group of Rohingya Muslim refugees, grasping their hands and listening to their stories in a show of public solidarity amid Asia’s worst refugee crisis in decades. He apologized for the “indifference of the world” to their plight and then pronounced the name of their ethnic group to a gathering of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian leaders. “The presence of God today is also called ‘Rohingya," Francis said. Refugee camps are overflowing with more than 620,000 Rohingya who fled what the U.N. says is a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s military. The campaign has included the burning of Rohingya villages and fleeing Rohingya have described rape and shootings by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs that left them no option but to make the dangerous and sometimes deadly journey through jungles and by sea to Bangladesh. The Myanmar government has denied any such campaign is underway. The army says “clearance operations” are targeting militants who attacked security positions in August.




Argentina's navy said that it had ended its effort to rescue the 44 crew members on a submarine that went missing two weeks ago. Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said, "Despite the magnitude of the efforts made, it has not been possible to locate the submarine." Hopes of a rescue faded last week when the navy said an explosion, possibly the sub imploding as it sank into the deep, had been heard shortly after the time of the sub's last contact on Nov. 15. Investigators believe water got into the submarine's snorkel, used to take in air near the surface, and caused vital batteries to short circuit.




Singer and actor Jim Nabors, best known for playing the classic comic TV character Gomer Pyle, died Thursday in Hawaii. He was 87. Neighbors appeared in numerous TV shows and films and recorded more than two dozen albums. The Alabama native's fame soared when he played the sweet and naive Gomer Pyle, first on The Andy Griffith Show and then on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. In that show, Gomer was a gentle Marine — known for catch-phrases like "Shazam!" and "Well, Golllll-ly!" — who often tried the patience of his hard-nosed superior, Sgt. Carter. After that show ended he hosted a variety show, The Jim Nabors Hour, and was a frequent guest on other variety shows, including The Carol Burnett Show and The Sonny and Cher Show.




A new approach to preventing migraines can cut the number and severity of attacks. According to two clinical trials, about 50% of people on one study halved the number of migraines they had each month, which researchers at King's College Hospital called a "huge deal". The treatment is the first specifically designed for preventing migraine and uses antibodies to alter the activity of chemicals in the brain. Further trials will need to assess the long-term effects. Research has shown a chemical in the brain - calcitonin gene-related peptide or CGRP - is involved in both pain and sensitivity to sound and light in a migraine. Four drug companies are racing to develop antibodies that neutralize CGRP. Some work by sticking to CGRP, while others block the part of a brain cell with which it interacts. The hope is discovering CGRP and precisely targeting it with antibodies should lead to fewer side-effects. Both studies say long-term safety data still needs to be studied. The problem with antibodies is they tend to be more expensive to make than other therapies. Clinical trials on two of the antibodies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.




As we start a new month for this podcast, I am asking each of you to consider making a small monthly donation to support the cost of producing this recording and keep the podcast commercial free. If you click the link on the landing page " become a patron" you can make a secure monthly pledge through Stripe or PayPal. Several thousand of you are followers of this podcast and if 10 percent of you made a 1 or 2 dollar monthly donation, it would solve all financial issues, and eliminate the possibility of adding advertising to support production. Thank you for listening and for supporting this podcast. I'm Larry Rice and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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