It’s Monday August 14, 2017

14Aug

00:0000:00

French officials said a car was intentionally rammed into a pizzeria in a village east of the French capital Paris, Monday, killing an 8 year old girl and injuring seven others. French media report the 39 year old driver was arrested after the vehicle hit the terrace of the cafe in the village of Sept-Sorts. According to French prosecutors, the car was driven into the pizzeria as a "deliberate act" but the driver did not appear to be motivated by terrorism. Officials said the driver appears to have had no previous criminal record., France and a number of other countries have seen deadly vehicle attacks on civilians, notably in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day 2016 when 84 people were killed. Last week, a man rammed a group of soldiers in Paris, injuring six of them, before being shot and injured by police as he tried to escape on a motorway.

 

 

A man accused of ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia was denied bond Monday. 20 year old James Alex Fields Jr. was not present in the courtroom but appeared via video monitor dressed in a black-and-white striped uniform. When the public defender’s office said it couldn’t represent him because of a conflict of interest, the judge was forced to find a local attorney to be the defendant's lawyer. Judge Robert Downer said the public defenders’ office informed him it could not represent Fields because a relative of someone in the office was injured in Saturday’s protest. Fields is charged in the death of 32 year old Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, who died after a car that police say Fields was driving, slammed into a crowd of people protesting the nationalist rally Saturday. Fields was arrested shortly afterward and taken into custody. The judge set an August 25 hearing for Fields, who has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump on Monday named and condemned hate groups as “repugnant” and declared “racism is evil” in an updated, more forceful statement on the deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump had been under increasing pressure to call out the groups by name after his previous remarks bemoaning violence on “many sides” prompted criticism from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats. The president described members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.” In a prepared statement from the White House, the president also called for unity. Attorney general Jeff Sessions, said earlier Monday that the violence - in which a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing that 32 year old woman, “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute.” He told ABC’s “Good Morning America, “You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.” Trump, vacationing in New Jersey, returned to the White House Monday for a meeting with Sessions and FBI director Christopher Wray about the race-fueled weekend violence.

 

 

Heavy rains and flooding Monday killed at least 200 people in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capitol city. Relatives dug through the mud in search of their loved ones and a morgue overflowed with bodies. Sierra Leone's national television broadcaster interrupted its regular programming to show scenes of people trying to retrieve their loved ones' bodies. Officials said military personnel have been deployed to help in the rescue operation. Many of the impoverished areas of Sierra Leone's capitol are close to sea level and have poor drainage systems, exacerbating flooding during the West African country's rainy season.

 

 

The Trump administration launches renegotiations of the 23-year-old NAFTA trade pact this week, aiming to shrink the growing U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and tightening rules on imports of cars and parts. President Trump blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement for pushing automobile factories and jobs out of the U.S. and into Mexico, where wages are lower. The U.S. had a $74 billion trade deficit with Mexico in cars and parts last year. Caroline Freund, a senior trade fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics said,"The Trump administration has framed their NAFTA negotiating objectives around reducing the trade deficit with Mexico. If they don't touch autos, there's no way of getting at what they want."

 

 

China on Monday announced a ban on iron ore, iron, lead, and coal imports from North Korea, a potentially devastating blow to North Korea's economy. The move marked an important step by Beijing toward implementing United Nations Security Council sanctions aiming to punish Pyongyang for defying calls to curb its nuclear weapons and missile programs. At the same time, China warned the Trump administration not to start a trade war with Beijing and split the international coalition against North Korea.

 

 

Meanwhile America's top military officer said Monday that the United States wants to peacefully resolve a deepening standoff with North Korea but is also ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities in case of provocation. The comments by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, made in a series of meetings with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media, appeared to be an attempt to ease anxiety over tit-for-tat threats between President Trump and North Korea while also showing a willingness to back up Trump’s warnings if need be. Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is visiting South Korea, Japan and China after a week in which Trump declared the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States. North Korea has threatened to lob four intermediate-range missiles into the waters near Guam, the tiny U.S. territory about 2,000 miles from Pyongyang. The U.S.-North Korea impasse, which has simmered since the end of the Korean War in 1953, has grown more tense in recent months over worries that the North’s nuclear weapons program is nearing the ability to target the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. In a meeting with top aides, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his nation would work to safeguard peace on the peninsula in cooperation with the United States and other countries. Moon said North Korea must stop issuing menacing statements and provoking.

 

 

 

Seeking to highlight the growing plight in Venezuela, Vice President Mike Pence on Monday met with people who’ve fled the country to neighboring Colombia. Pence visited the Calvary Chapel in Cartagena, where met with faith leaders and Venezuelan families before planning to depart to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The vice president, and his wife Karen, also spent time speaking with the migrants, listening to their emotional stories. Reporters were not able to hear their conversations, but watched the vice president comfort several women, including at least one who was seen wiping away tears. He said he heard “heartbreaking” stories of their struggle for food. Pence is trying to rally the region against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to consolidate power. Pence on Sunday denounced Maduro’s tactics and said the U.S. will not stand by as Venezuela “crumbles.” Pence said, “President Trump’s made it very clear we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship,”arguing that “a failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of our entire hemisphers and the people of the United States.”

 

 

Police in Texas, acting on a tip, found 17 immigrants locked inside a tractor-trailer parked at a gas station about 20 miles from the border with Mexico, less than a month after 10 people died in the back of a hot truck with little ventilation in San Antonio. Edinburg police said the immigrants from Mexico, Honduras and other countries may have been locked inside the 18-wheeler in Edinburg for at least eight hours before being freed by officers late Sunday morning. None of the people inside the tractor-trailer required medical attention. A man and woman who Trevino said are Cuban nationals were in charge of the rig and have been detained. A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the agency is investigating the matter. The discovery comes three weeks after 10 people died in a sweltering rig parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. Officials said 39 people were inside when rescuers arrived, and the rest either escaped or hitched rides to their next destination. Nearly 20 of those rescued from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke. The driver of that rig remains in federal custody, charged with illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death.

 

 

A stunt woman died Monday morning following a motorcycle accident on the set of Deadpool 2 in downtown Vancouver, Canada. Witnesses say the woman was filming a stunt when she lost control of her bike, jumped a curb and crashed into Shaw Tower across from Canada Place. Police say she died at the scene and the accident is under investigation. Deadpool 2, the sequel the 2016 Marvel Comics blockbuster starring actor Ryan Reynolds, who hails from Vancouver, has been shooting in the city since June 26. The film crew closed downtown streets last week to film sequences involving motorcycles and scooters.

 

 

Four people, accused of leaking an episode of the popular HBO series "Game Of Thrones", have been arrested in India. According to a report Monday by the AFP news agency, police said the four are "accused of criminal breach of trust and computer-related offenses." The episode leaked from Star India, a company that distributes HBO programming in that country. When the leak was first reported earlier this month, Star India called it a "grave issue." The arrests are unrelated to the cyberbreach that hit HBO in July. Since then, hackers have released scripts of "Game of Thrones" in an effort to get the network to pay a ransom. Hackers on Sunday also reportedly leaked episodes of "Insecure" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which is set to return to the network Oct. 1.

 

 

A SpaceX capsule rocketed to the International Space Station on Monday, carrying tons of science research, plus ice cream. Experiments make up most of the 6,400 pounds of cargo, which should reach the orbiting lab Wednesday. That includes 20 mice that will return alive inside the SpaceX Dragon capsule in about a month. The Dragon also holds an instrument to measure cosmic rays from the space station. This type of device has previously flown on high-altitude balloons. The Army has an imaging microsatellite on board for release this fall from the station. It’s a technology demo. The military wants to see how small satellites like this, with low-cost, off-the-shelf cameras and telescopes, might support critical ground operations. It’s about the size of a dormitory-room refrigerator. There was extra freezer space on board the Dragon cargo ship, so NASA packed little cups of vanilla, chocolate and birthday cake ice cream, as well as candy bars for the crew. This is the 13th delivery by SpaceX and its Dragon cargo ship. The booster rocket landed sucessfully back at Cape Canaveral shortly after liftoff. It was the 14th successful booster returng for SpaceX and the sixth at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just a few miles from its launching pad at the Kennedy Space Center.

 

 

The price of bitcoin broke $4,000 per unit for the first time this weekend, reaching a record high of $4,056.80 and remaining above the symbolic threshold early Monday. Iqbal V. Gandham of trading platform eToro called the mark "another milestone in a long list of big moments the cryptocurrency has witnessed in recent weeks" after a fall to $1,800. "Furthermore, the ecosystem is also getting stronger. You now have more places to spend Bitcoin, more regulators thinking about the right infrastructure, and more investors learning about the asset." Bitcoin has gained by more than 300 percent so far this year.

 

 

Big Ben — the huge clock bell of Britain’s Parliament — will fall silent next week as a four-year restoration project gets underway. The bongs of the iconic bell will be stopped after chiming noon on Aug. 21 to protect workers during a $38 million repair project on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben and its clock. It isn’t due to resume regular service until 2021. Officials said Monday the clock mechanism will be dismantled piece by piece and its four dials will be cleaned and repaired. The bell, which weighs 13.7 metric tons, will be cleaned and checked for cracks. Big Ben has been stopped several times since it first sounded in 1859, but the current restoration project will mark its longest period of silence. Officials with Britain's Parliament say they will ensure that the bell still sounds on major occasions, such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

It’s Friday August 11, 2017

11Aug

00:0000:00

President Donald Trump escalated his rhetoric against North Korea, saying his threat of "fire and fury" might not have been tough enough given Pyongyang's continued provocations. Trump warned North Korea that "things will happen to them like they never thought possible" if the isolated and combative communist-run nation attacks the U.S. or its allies. The remarks came after North Korea mocked Trump for his earlier threat, which came after North Korea conducted its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and U.S. intelligence analysts said the country had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. North Korea also said it had prepared a plan to fire missiles into waters near Guam, a small U.S. territory in the Pacific.

 

 

President Trump on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, pledging more federal money and attention to the epidemic. "I'm saying officially right now it is an emergency. It's a national emergency," Trump said. "We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis." Last week, the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), issued a preliminary report describing deaths by overdose as a "September 11th every three weeks." The commission urged the president to declare a national emergency. Declaring an emergency would let Trump remove bureaucratic barriers to fighting the epidemic, but experts caution progress will be slow in fighting a drug epidemic that has been building for more than a decade.

 

 

Two trains collided in Alexandria, Egypt on Friday, leaving 36 dead and 123 injured, according to the latest figure from Egypt's Health Ministry. The collision involved one train that had been traveling from Cairo and another from Port Said, according to state news agency Al-Ahram. Some 75 emergency vehicles were used to transport the dead and wounded, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry. Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city, sits on the Mediterranean coast in the north.

 

 

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency in New Orleans on Thursday as some of the city's already waterlogged neighborhoods faced the risk of more rain that could bring more flooding. City workers rushed to fix a malfunctioning water-pumping system and improve drainage. Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents of threatened neighborhoods to move their vehicles to higher ground, and joined Edwards in calling for calm as many residents continued to express anger over last weekend's flooding. "Obviously this is a serious situation, but it's not something to be panicked about," Edwards said at a City Hall news conference. Public schools were ordered closed on Thursday and Friday.

 

 

Early Uber investor Benchmark filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the ride-hailing company's co-founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, of fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The board forced Kalanick to step down in June after a series of sexual harassment scandals sparked criticism of Uber's corporate culture. Benchmark, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm that holds an Uber board seat, accused Kalanick, who remains on the board, of trying to pull strings to get himself reinstated as CEO, and trying to remain influential by packing the board with allies in "fraudulently procured seats." Kalanick's spokesperson said the complaint was "completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations."

 

 

Google on Thursday canceled a company-wide meeting on the controversy over a memo criticizing company gender and diversity policies, saying it feared employees would be subject to harassment from far-right internet commenters. "Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be 'outed' publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall," Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to staffers. The meeting was scheduled after Google fired engineer James Damore for posting an internal memo arguing that the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry was because they were less genetically suited for software engineering jobs than men.

 

 

CNN severed ties with Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, who had frequently appeared as a commentator since last year's campaign, over a tweet in which he used the Nazi phrase "Sieg Heil" in response to Angelo Carusone, who heads the liberal activist organization Media Matters for America. Lord, a columnist at the conservative magazine The American Spectator, recently criticized Media Matters for its campaign to get Sean Hannity fired from Fox News, a "fascist game" aiming to deny Hannity's "free speech." CNN said Lord's tweet crossed a line. "Nazi salutes are indefensible," the network said in statement. "Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network." The split marked the latest in a series of CNN clashes with Trump and his supporters.

 

 

President Trump on Thursday expressed gratitude for Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to tell the U.S. to cut its embassy staff by hundreds of people in response to new sanctions passed overwhelmingly by Congress late last month. "I want to thank him, because we're trying to cut down on payroll," Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. "We'll save a lot of money." The U.S. diplomatic mission was instructed to cut 755 employees, nearly a 60 percent reduction from the current level. It was not immediately clear whether Trump was joking, but critics said Trump was wrong to suggest the cuts would not damage the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia. "This is insulting to US diplomats," Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) tweeted.

 

 

A Russian military jet flew low over Washington, D.C. this week, with the blessing of the U.S. government. The flight - as low as 3,800 feet above the Capitol and the Pentagon - was permitted under a 2002 agreement called an Open Skies Treaty between the U.S. and Russia. The treaty between 34 countries is intended to promote transparency and reduce mistrust between the governments. The latest Russian flight came at a time of high tension between the U.S. and North Korea, as well as heightened tension between Washington and Moscow. The overflight was conducted by an unarmed TU-154 - a military version of a civilian airliner - equipped with film and sensors. U.S. Capitol Police issued a warning that a “low-altitude aircraft” could fly over the dome between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time. Such flights are exceedingly rare since Sept. 11, 2001, even for small civilian planes. There have been 1,200 flights since the agreement began.

 

 

Apple has accidentally confirmed it's supersizing the iPhone, through its own software. According to Forbes, Apple’s software HomePod beta code was accidentally shipped full of product roadmap information, and it verified numerous case leaks, schematics and dummy units that all point to a 1.1-inch jump from the iPhone 7’s 4.7-inch display to 5.8-inches. A developer - Steve Troughton-Smith - is the one who has uncovered it. In a new tweet he revealed he had extracted the exact metrics - or screen points, which offered the first formal confirmation direct from Apple that the iPhone 8 will deliver a massively increased display compared to the iPhone 7 - the largest smartphone display Apple has ever made, larger even than the 5.5-inch display in the iPhone 7 Plus.

 

 

A sharp increase in global demand has caused the wholesale price of butter to nearly double in Europe. According to data from Euromonitor consumers paid nearly 20% more in June over the previous year. Global butter consumption is rebounding after years of declines, when consumers ditched butter for margarine and other substitutes. Recent scientific studies have suggested that butter, which had been linked to heart disease and increased risk of death, might not be as unhealthy as previously thought. One such study, published in 2016, indicated that butter actually has more of a neutral association with mortality. Consumption of butter is also booming thanks to higher demand from countries including China. Meanwhile, production has dipped in Europe. One industry group that represents French bakers, has described the situation as a "major crisis." It is warning of a sharp increase in the price of croissants, tarts and brioches.

 

 

American researchers studying critically endangered North Pacific right whales in the Bering Sea managed to photograph two of the animals Sunday and obtained a biopsy sample from one. NOAA- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - is part of a collaborative effort headed by the International Whaling Commission. Biologists picked up faint calls of the whales east of Bristol Bay, Alaska. Scientists said these two right whales are part of the eastern stock that number just 30 to 50 whales, and the right whale biopsied on Sunday had been seen eight times before. The last time was a decade ago. North Pacific right whales inhabit the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Critical data remains unknown, including their winter habits and many of their preferred summer feeding areas for copepods, a tiny crustacean plankton. Once hunted to near extinction, biologists said the biggest threats to the animals today, are fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes.

It’s Thursday August 10, 2017

10Aug

00:0000:00

North Korea on Thursday dismissed President Donald Trump's warning that the U.S. would unleash "fire and fury" on the communist-run nation if Pyongyang continued to threaten America, saying Trump's statement was a "load of nonsense." North Korea said it was finalizing a plan to fire four missiles over Japan into waters around the tiny Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory of 163,000 people with a military base. South Korea's military vowed a "stern and strong" response if North Korea launches the salvo, and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Pyongyang "should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on a previously scheduled visit to Guam that North Korea posed no immediate threat, and that "Americans should sleep well at night."

 

 

At least 19 migrants have died after being deliberately drowned Thursday, according to the UN's migration agency. Many of the drowned were thought to be teenagers originating from Somalia and Ethiopia. Hundreds of migrants were forced from a boat off the coast of Yemen for the second time in two days. A spokeswoman for the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) said the incidents "may be the start of a new trend. Smugglers know the situation is dangerous for them and they could be shot at, so they drop them near the shore." The UN say another 180 people were forced off a boat near the coast of Yemen on Thursday. On Wednesday the IOM uncovered bodies of 29 of migrants in shallow graves on a beach. They say survivors of the incident had tried to bury them after the smugglers had forced about 120 of them from a boat close to Shabwa, Yemen. The IOM think as many as 50 could have died in Wednesday's drowning. The UN say the migrants were a mix of men and women, and estimated their average age to just be 16.

 

 

Cuba said Wednesday it had launched an "urgent investigation" into U.S. allegations that unspecified "incidents" left several Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Havana with hearing problems and other symptoms over the past six months. U.S. officials believe some sort of sonic weapon outside the range of audible sound had been placed in or near the diplomats' homes, causing them to lose their hearing. The U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from Washington in May. Washington is looking into the possibility that a third party such as Russia could have deployed the weapons without Cuba's knowledge. Cuba said it "has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families."

 

 

 

President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) traded public criticism this week, starting with a statement by McConnell partly blaming Trump's "excessive expectations" for the GOP's failure to deliver promised legislative victories, such as repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Trump responded Wednesday with a tweet, saying, "Senator Mitch McConnell said I had 'excessive expectations,' but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?" Wednesday's spat wasn't the first between Trump and one of the congressional leaders he needs to advance his agenda. After Republicans failed to pass their "skinny" ObamaCare repeal plan, Trump urged Republicans to try again and called for McConnell to scrap the filibuster.

 

 

Taylor Swift testified Thursday that a former radio DJ reached under her skirt and intentionally grabbed her backside underneath her skirt during a meet-and-a-greet photo session before a 2013 concert in Denver. The pop star testified in federal court during a trial over the claim, saying,“He stayed attached to my bare ass-cheek as I lurched away from him." Mueller testified Wednesday that the photo taken before the concert was “weird and awkward,” but he insisted that he touched Swift in the ribs, not in the rear. Mueller testified his hand was touching Swift’s skirt after he put his arm around her and their arms got crossed: “My hand was at rib-cage level and apparently it went down.”The case is being tried in federal court under a law allowing the proceeding when the parties live in separate states and the dispute involves a damages claim higher than $75,000. Swift said a security guard working for her witnessed the groping. She testified guard Greg Dent saw David Mueller “lift my skirt” and grab her but that it was it was impossible for anyone to see Mueller’s hand beneath her skirt and on her buttock because they were posing for the photo with their backs to a wall. David Mueller sued Swift and others on her team, claiming they cost him his job and is seeking up to $3 million in damages. Swift countersued, alleging sexual assault, and is asking for a symbolic $1 judgment.

 

 

A black market for diesel and gasoline has rapidly spread around the United States, with organized crime gangs using fraudulent credit cards to syphon millions of dollars in fuel from gas stations into large tanks hidden inside pickup trucks and vans. Investigators and industry experts say stealing fuel can be less risky than selling drugs or other illegal endeavors, and criminals can make $1,000 or more a day re-selling the stolen fuel at construction sites and unscrupulous gas stations, or to truckers looking to cut costs. Industry experts said black market diesel started becoming a big business when credit card “skimmers” became more prevalent around 2006. Thieves install the devices at gas station pumps, where they record card information as unsuspecting customers fuel up. The information is later transferred to a magnetic strip on a counterfeit card. The problem has only grown as the devices become more sophisticated. The black market has grown quickly in part because the thefts total a few hundred dollars at a time, and prosecutors were slow to prioritize them. But as fuel thefts become more organized, they have caught the attention of state and federal authorities around the country. The U.S. Secret Service, which investigates financial crimes, is involved because the gangs use credit card skimmers. and one agents said Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are hot spots, together accounting for about 20 million gallons a year in stolen diesel.

 

 

A popular singer has been arrested for "dabbing" during a concert in south-west Saudi Arabia. Abdallah Al Shahani, a TV host, actor, and Saudi national, was performing the dance move, which involves a person tucking their head into the crook of their arm, at a music festival in the city of Taif at the weekend. Dabbing is banned in the conservative country where authorities consider it a reference to narcotics culture. A video of Mr Al Shahani's dab became popular on social media and thousands have tweeted about the incident. It is thought that dabbing originated in the hip-hop scene in Atlanta, Georgia, around two years ago, but gained a global following when celebrities, athletes and politicians including Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan began performing the move. The Saudi Interior Ministry's National Commission for Combating Drugs recently banned the move because they consider it to refer to marijuana use.

 

 

Walmart issued an apology Wednesday for a display marketing guns as back-to-school items, and said it was trying to identify the store behind the sign. A photo spread quickly on social media showing a sign reading "Own the school year like a hero" placed over a glass case containing guns. After a torrent of criticism on Twitter, Walmart said the display was "truly awful" and "horrible." A company spokesperson, Charles Crowson, said Walmart was "not happy" about the controversy, and was "working diligently" to get to the bottom of it.

 

 

What is thought to be an unexploded military bomb has been found at the site of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Officials believe the 3 foot device is a U.S. bomb dropped during WW2. It was found by workers building a car park at the site where a four-decade-long decommissioning process is under way. Tepco said construction work was immediately suspended after the object was found and a temporary exclusion zone put in place while bomb disposal experts were deployed. It is not uncommon for unexploded WW2 devices to be found in Japan over 70 years on from the end of the war. Tens of thousands of residents had to evacuate the area after a reactor meltdown in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami. The incident at the Tokyo Electric Power Co -TEPCO - site was the world's most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. No-one died directly in the meltdown but three former TEPCO executives are facing trial on charges of negligence because of deaths related to the area's evacuation. The Fukushima area was previously home to a Japanese military base.

 

 

Ruth Pfau, a German doctor and nun who dedicated her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan, and has been described as the country's Mother Teresa, has died in Karachi aged 87. Her order said she died in a hospital after being admitted on Friday. Dr Pfau witnessed leprosy in Pakistan for the first time in 1960 and returned to set up clinics across the country. Her efforts paid off and in 1996 the disease was declared to have been brought under control. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Dr Pfau "may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan". Harald Meyer-Porzky from the Ruth Pfau Foundation in Würzburg said Dr Pfau had "given hundreds of thousands of people a life of dignity". She was born in Leipzig in 1929 and saw her home destroyed by bombing during World War Two. She studied medicine and was later sent to southern India by her order, the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, but a visa issue meant she became stuck in Karachi, where she first became aware of leprosy.

 

 

Social media giant Facebook has made a move into dedicated video, pitting it against YouTube and TV networks. Users will soon see a new Watch tab that will offer a range of shows, some of which have been funded by the social network. Watch will be personalised so that users can discover new shows, based on what their friends are watching. Viewers will also be able to see comments and connect with friends and dedicated groups for shows. Video has been available on Facebook for some time, but until now, it has mostly been dominated by amateur clips or short segments from news organisations. The world's largest social network added a video tab last year, and has hinted for some time that it might make the move to producing original content. Watch could open up new revenue potential for both Facebook and program makers, while users can expect to see targeted advertising before and during the shows.

 

Tesla is developing a self-driving electric semi-truck that will be capable of driving in "platoons," with several of the vehicles automatically following a lead truck, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing emails exchanged between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. The emails were about potential road tests of the autonomous trucks. In California, state officials met with Tesla "to talk about Tesla's efforts with autonomous trucks," state DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez told Reuters.

It’s Wednesday August 9, 2017

9Aug

00:0000:00

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit a remote area in China's southwestern province of Sichuan on Wednesday, killing 19 people and injuring 247, according to the provincial government and local media. The quake hit in a mountainous region close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve. Six of the dead were tourists. Rescuers were slowly evacuating tourists and local people trapped by landslides. A separate 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck in a remote part of the northwestern Xinjiang region more than 1,200 miles away, injuring 32 people.

 

 

After passing over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday, Tropical Storm Franklin has steadily intensified over the Bay of Campeche and is on the brink of becoming 2017’s first hurricane in the Atlantic basin. The storm, packing winds of 70 mph, is on a collision course with Mexico’s east coast, south of Texas. Riding over warm water, it is expected to make landfall Wednesday night as a hurricane containing peak winds up to 85 mph. Hurricane warnings are in effect from Puerto de Veracruz to Cabo Rojo. The section of coastline that will be hit the hardest is quite rural and unpopulated, but life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides from the rain will affect a large area. Rainfall totals of four to eight inches could be seen in the hurricane warning area, with isolated amounts up to 15 inches. Near and north of where the center crosses the coastline, a storm surge or rise in water level of four to six feet above normal tide levels is possible. Damaging winds are also likely. Tropical-storm-force winds extend about 140 miles northward from the center and up to 70 miles on the south side of the storm.

 

 

Police in France shot, wounded and arrested a man after a dramatic car chase along a motorway in the north of the country following an attack on soldiers in a suburb of Paris. Earlier, six soldiers were wounded after a car was driven at them near their base in Levallois-Perret. The Paris prosecutor described the attack as "attempted killings... in relation to a terrorist undertaking". Reports say one policeman was injured during the arrest operation in the town of Marquise near the port of Boulogne. The suspect vehicle - a BMW - is said to have hit at least one other vehicle during the chase and the police opened fire several times. The suspect is in his 30s. Three of the soldiers were taken to hospital, though none is listed in a life-threatening condition, according to the French Defence Minister Florence Parly. The motivation for the attack is as yet not known, but France, which is contributing to the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has frequently been the target of attacks by Islamist militants. A state of emergency in force since November 2015 includes highly visible patrols under Operation Sentinel, numbering some 7,000 troops.

 

 

A Canadian pastor imprisoned in North Korea has been freed after two and a half years in detention. The state-run news agency KCNA said Hyeon Soo Lim, North Korea's longest-held western prisoner in decades, was "released on sick bail" Wednesday by the country's top court for "humanitarian" reasons. Lim's son, received word over the weekend that a plane carrying senior Canadian officials, a medical doctor, and a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was dispatched to Pyongyang "at the last minute," according to a family spokeswoman. The 62-year-old's health has deteriorated while in North Korean custody and the pastor has experienced "dramatic" weight loss. Lim was serving a life sentence of hard labor after being convicted of crimes against the state in December 2015. Lim's release comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula after President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury" on Tuesday and Pyongyang said it was considering a military strike against the US territory of Guam.

 

 

FBI agents have searched one of the homes of President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose past foreign political work has been swept into the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. A Manafort spokesman confirmed the search Wednesday. A Manafort spokesman said in a statement that FBI agents had obtained a warrant and searched one of Manafort’s homes, but would not say when the search occurred. The Washington Post, which first reported the raid, said agents working Special Counsel Robert Mueller conducted the search the morning of July 26 at Manafort’s home in Alexandria, Va. Manafort has been a subject of a longstanding FBI investigation into his dealings in Ukraine and work for the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych. That investigation has been incorporated into the probe led by Mueller, who is also scrutinizing Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign as he looks into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump associates. Manafort, who led the Trump campaign for several months, has denied any wrongdoing.

 

 

The Trump administration notably shifted tone Wednesday, opening the door for a bipartisan plan to "fix" the Affordable Care Act, referred to as "ObamaCare". Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on Fox & Friends,"Both folks in the House and the Senate, on both sides of the aisle frankly, have said that Obamacare doesn't work, and it needs to be either repealed or fixed." Talk of fixing the law is new. Price and President Trump have long talked only of repealing the law, although they've taken various positions on whether a replacement should come later or at the same time as repeal. Both sides do agree that some changes could be made to improve insurance markets, which have been unstable in many places as some large insurers have pulled out of some states, leaving some consumers with few or no plans from which to choose. The shift comes soon after lawmakers intensified their own efforts at a bipartisan plan. Last week, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Washington State Sen. Patty Murray, the committee’s senior Democrat, announced plans to begin working on a plan to stabilize the markets.

 

 

Five active duty transgender service members filed the first lawsuit Wednesday against President Trump's directive -- expressed on Twitter -- to prohibit transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces. The service members, who are not named, all say they have relied on the Defense Department's current policy permitting open service by transgender service members and argue Trump's ban, which may result in early termination or failure to renew their contracts, is unconstitutional.
The President's three-tweet plan to stop transgender individuals from serving in the military has yet to be formally implemented, but attorneys for the service members have asked a federal court in Washington to block it immediately. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request from CNN for comment. Trump's decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under the Obama administration that allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.

 

 

South African President Jacob Zuma survived a no-confidence vote on Tuesday. It was the fourth such vote he has faced, but the first to be held by a secret ballot that gave cover to dissenters within his ruling African National Congress. The balloting was closer than expected with 177 lawmakers voting against Zuma and 198 standing by him, with nine abstaining. Zuma would have been forced to resign if he had lost. His standing and that of his party, which has ruled since the end of apartheid, has suffered over allegations of corruption, but Zuma told jubilant supporters his victory showed that "the A.N.C. is supported by the overwhelming majority" of South Africans.

 

 

Actress Amber Heard says she has broken up with billionaire SpaceX and Tesla mogul Elon Musk. The actress writes on Instagram that although she and Musk have ended their romance, they “care deeply for one another and remain close.” Heard says she is going through “difficult, very human times.” Both Heard and Musk made their relationship public with Instagram posts in April. Heard’s divorce from Johnny Depp was finalized earlier this year. Musk has been married three times, twice to British actress Talulah Riley. He has five sons from another previous marriage.

 

 

Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it would pull its children's programming from Netflix in 2019 to launch its own competing streaming video service. Disney's stock dropped by nearly 4 percent after the announcement, which Disney unveiled along with its quarterly results. The Disney-branded streaming service will be similar to one its sports network, ESPN, is launching in 2018. Analysts said spending on the technology needed to provide the service could weigh on Disney's future earnings. Disney is betting it will make more money in the long run by charging its own subscribers than it does renting its content to Netflix. Shares of Netflix dropped by 3 percent.

 

 

McDonald's announced Tuesday that it expects to nearly double the number of restaurants it has in China over the next five years. If the plans pan out, China will replace Japan as the fast-food chain's second-biggest market, after the U.S. McDonald's has 2,500 restaurants in China now, and aims to have 4,500 by 2022. McDonald's joins numerous other U.S. companies that have responded to slowing growth at home by ramping up operations in China, the world's second largest economy. Starbucks is looking to more than double its store count in China to 5,000 by 2021.

 

 

Grammy-award winning singer and guitarist Glen Campbell, who became a household name in the '60s and '70s with such hits as "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Wichita Lineman", died Tuesday after a "long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease," his family said in a statement. Campbell was 81. He sold more than 45 million records in a career that spanned six decades. He also made a mark as a sessions player, appearing on such hits as Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas" and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling". In 2011, Campbell revealed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and he embarked on a farewell tour, playing 151 shows.

 

 

Scientists have named a prehistoric crocodile described as “one of the nastiest sea creatures to have ever inhabited the earth” after late Motorhead frontman and British heavy metal icon Lemmy Kilmister. London’s Natural History Museum says the fossil of what’s now known as Lemmysuchus obtusidens was dug up in England in the early 20th century but was incorrectly categorized with other sea crocodiles found in the area. Researchers recently took another look at the specimen and gave it a new classification and a scientific name of its own. The fossil is housed at the museum. Curator Lorna Steel suggested it be named after Kilmister, who died in 2015. She says in a statement that “we’d like to think that he would have raised a glass to Lemmysuchus.”

 

It’s Tuesday August 8, 2017

8Aug

00:0000:00

Amid escalating tensions over North Korea, President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if North Korea continues to threaten nuclear action against the United States. "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," the president warned, responding to a question during a brief press availability at his Bedminster, New Jersey Golf Club, where he's spent the last several days. "They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before." A confidential US intelligence assessment, completed July 28 by the Defense Intelligence Agency and read to the Washington Post, concludes, "The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles." The assessment’s broad conclusions were verified by two U.S. officials familiar with the document. It is not yet known whether Pyongyang has successfully tested the smaller design, although North Korea officially last year claimed to have done so. The DIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the Post report. The new analysis comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Last month, North Korea proved its missile capabilities have reached a point where U.S. cities are within "target range."

 

 

Japan issued a military policy review on Tuesday that seemed to confirm that DIA assessment on North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear program. The Tokyo government's annual defense white paper, published on Tuesday, said, “North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and its nuclear program are becoming increasingly real and imminent problems for the Asia-Pacific region. It is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads.” The report will likely fuel a growing debate in Japan about whether the country should acquire the means to launch pre-emptive military strikes — attacks that could destroy North Korean missiles on the ground before they are fired at Japan or other targets. Since World War II Japan has constitutionally limited its military to a strictly defensive role. Although successive governments have argued that, in theory, striking an enemy pre-emptively to thwart an imminent attack would be an act of self-defense, and therefore constitutional, the country has mostly avoided acquiring the kind of weapons it would need to do so, like long-range cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles and refueling aircraft that extend the range of fighter jets. Some senior officials are now arguing that Japan should acquire such weapons.

 

 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday pressed Thai leaders for more action on North Korea during the highest level visit to Thailand by a U.S. official since a military coup in 2014 soured relations with the United States. Tillerson's top priority has been urging Southeast Asian countries to do more to cut funding streams for North Korea. The United States believes North Korean front companies are active in Thailand and is trying to encourage the Thais to shut them down, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton told reporters aboard Tillerson's plane. The companies are using Bangkok as a regional hub and change their names frequently, she said. Before meeting Tillerson, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would support a U.N. resolution on new sanctions on Pyongyang over its missile tests. But he made no mention of specific action.

 

 

The Pentagon is considering allowing U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State militants in the Philippines. Two U.S. defense officials told NBC News the strikes would be conducted using armed drones, and the operation could be named as soon as Tuesday. In Manila, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave Secretary of State Tillerson a warm reception and dropped his frequent hostile remarks against the Trump administration, saying he was a "humble friend" of the U.S. at a time of tensions in Asia over North Korea and China's territorial aggression in the South China Sea. Duterte said. "We are friends. We are allies."

 

 

Another victim of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City has been identified. Using the latest technology, New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has been retesting DNA recovered in 2001, and was able to identify the male victim, who's name is being withheld at the request of his family. He is the 1,641st person to be identified out of a total of 2,753 people who died in the attack. The last time a 9-11 victim was identified was March 2015. Some 40% of the 9-11 victims remain unidentified nearly 16 years after then attack when hijacked jetliners crashed into New York City's World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Virginia and a field in Pennsylvania, claiming nearly 3,000 lives and injuring thousands more.

 

 

British model Chloe Ayling said that she was lucky to be alive after being kidnapped in Italy and held for more than two weeks before being saved by authorities. Ayling told Italian investigators that she had been lured from London for a phony photo shoot at an abandoned storefront in Milan, and then drugged, bound, and stuffed into a duffel bag before being driven to a remote farmhouse. She said her abductors were preparing to "auction" her as a sex slave for $300,000 or more over the dark web, an encrypted and clandestine internet network where people buy and sell illegal goods. "I've been through a terrifying experience," Ayling told Italy's RAI News. "I've feared for my life, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour." Italian police documents revealed Ayling's alleged captor held her because he needed to raise money for his cancer treatment. In his police testimony, Lukasz Herba said he got involved with the group behind the alleged kidnap near Milan because he had leukaemia.

 

 

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that he will hold a "major briefing" on the nation's opioid crisis. He is to hear from his secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, one of several administration officials who will meet with the president during his 17 day August break at his Bedminster New Jersey golf resort. Price's briefing is the only activity on Trump's public schedule Tuesday. A commission that Trump appointed to study the epidemic early in his term, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, recommended last week that Trump declare a national emergency. The commission wrote, “The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled.”

 

 

Recent decades have been the hottest in the past 1,500 years due to a sharp rise in temperatures since 1980, according to a federal climate change report obtained by The New York Times. Scientists from 13 federal agencies contributed to the report, which has been approved by the National Academy of Sciences but not released to the public. One government scientist told the Times that he and others who worked on the report feared it might be suppressed, because it contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet that scientists still aren't sure about the extent and causes of climate change. The report said future climate changes depend "on future emissions."

 

 

Google said it has fired the software engineer who wrote a controversial memo criticizing the company's diversity program, and claimed that women were underrepresented in the technology industry for biological reasons, not discrimination. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a company-wide email that he supported workers' rights to express themselves but that portions of the memo, which was titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," had violated the company's code of conduct "by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." Critics within the company had demanded action.

 

 

Hackers posted stolen HBO files online Monday, in the second data dump since a massive cyberattack on the cable entertainment company last week. The files included five scripts from the popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones, as well as emails from the company's vice president for film programming, Leslie Cohen. The hack or hackers, going by the name Mr. Smith, threatened to release more material unless HBO pays a ransom, estimated at $6 million or more in bitcoin.

 

 

Late-night talk show legend David Letterman and streaming video giant Netflix announced Tuesday that the former CBS “Late Show” host has signed on to do a six-episode talk show that will premiere in 2018. It will be Letterman's first series since retiring in May 2015 after a 33-year run across two networks. The 69-year-old comic’s only TV work since has been as host of an episode of National Geographic Channel’s “Years of Living Dangerously.” In the new series, which does not yet have a name, Letterman will conduct one in-depth guest interview per hour-long episode and will appear in segments produced outside a studio setting. Since his retirement from CBS, Letterman has been spending most of his time at his ranch home in Choteau, Montana. In a statement Letterman said, “I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.” The terms of Letterman’s deal with Netflix were not disclosed.

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