Canada Becomes World’s 2nd Nation to Legalize Marijuana - That’s in the news Wednesday October 17, 2018

17Oct

00:0000:00

At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured at a college in the Black Sea region of Crimea on Wednesday when a student went through the building shooting at fellow pupils before killing himself, Russian law enforcement officials said. Investigators said 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov turned up at the college in the city of Kerch on Wednesday afternoon carrying a firearm and then began shooting. His body was later found in the college with what they said were self-inflicted gunshot wounds.There were no immediate clues as to his motive in mounting such an attack, which recalled similar shooting sprees carried out by students in U.S. schools. Many of the victims from Wednesday’s attacks were teenage students who suffered shrapnel and bullet wounds. The Investigative Committee, the state body that investigates major crimes, said later that it was re-classifying the case from terrorism to mass murder.

 

 

 

Turkish investigators have entered the residence of the Saudi consul in Istanbul to gather more evidence about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish officials suspect the Saudi journalist was killed during a visit to the consulate building on October 2. Several vehicles with Saudi diplomatic number plates were filmed by security cameras moving from the consulate to the residence just under two hours after the journalist entered the consulate earlier this month. Wednesday afternoon, Turkish investigators, including prosecutors and forensics experts in white overalls, entered the residence, about 200 meters from the consulate, as part of the probe into Khashoggi's disappearance. The consul, Mohammed al-Otaibi, flew back to Riyadh on Tuesday. He denies knowing what happened to Khashoggi. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the case with Turkey's president and foreign minister during a visit to Ankara. On Tuesday, Pompeo travelled to Riyadh for talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who he said "strongly denied" any involvement in the journalist's disappearance. President Donald Trump meanwhile cautioned against rushing to blame Saudi leaders, telling the Associated Press that they were being treated as "guilty until proven innocent". Khashoggi was a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post who went into self-imposed exile last year after reportedly being warned by Saudi officials to stop criticising the crown prince's policies.

 

 

 

The death toll from Hurricane Michael is now at 31 people, and most of the victims are from Florida, where the storm roared ashore last week. At least 21 died in Florida, six in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia -- all connected to the storm that hit northeast Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm last week. One rescue group said as many as 1,300 people in the Florida Panhandle are also unaccounted for. Officials said damaged cellphone towers and downed power lines have slowed the search. However, in hard-hit Mexico Beach, where the eye of the storm destroyed much of the resort town, officials said the number of those reported missing has dropped "significantly" in recent days. Officials in Tallahassee said Wednesday that electricity is nearly fully restored. Fewer than 1,000 are still without power. The storm initially knocked out power to 97 percent of the city. Nearby Tyndall Air Force Base and the towns of Panama City and Lynn Haven also were badly damaged.

 

 

 

As of midnight, Canada became the world's largest nation, and the second country after Uruguay, to allow the legal sale, possession, and use of recreational marijuana. While any adult will be able to purchase dried weed and cannabis oil from licensed producers and retailers, it will be illegal to possess more than 30 grams in public, grow more than four plants in a household, and buy from an unlicensed dealer. Provinces and territories will set the age limit and parameters of where pot can be purchased and consumed in their boundaries. Marijuana possession became a crime in Canada in 1923, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has argued that laws criminalizing marijuana haven't done anything to curb use. Trudeau campaigned on a platform to legalize marijuana, saying it's too easy for minors to get the drug and for criminals to reap the profits. The Cannabis Act, which passed the Canadian Senate in June, also allows the purchase of dried or fresh cannabis or cannabis oil from licensed retailers or online from federally licensed producers. Experts say the new industry could be worth more than $4 billion. Those who have marijuana convictions on their record in Canada may also be eligible for a pardon. The pardons would be issued to people who have been convicted of possession of 30 grams or less. They won't be issued immediately and may require an application process. Trudeau told reporters that the pardon issue will be a focus for his administration in the coming days.

 

 

 

Kim Jong Un requested the United States lift economic sanctions on North Korea during his most recent meeting in Pyongyang with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to a Japanese press report Wednesday, the North Korean leader made an official sanctions request to a U.S. official for the "first time" since he began to engage the Trump administration. Quoting a diplomatic source, possibly based in Seoul, the Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported North Korea is eager to bring an end to the embargoes that have placed strict limitations on imports and exports. The source added "North Korea is very motivated" to have sanctions lifted." On Oct. 7, Pompeo met with Kim for about five hours, including a lunch. The North Korean leader had discussed the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, and the two sides agreed to a second summit between President Trump and Kim in the near future. Kim refused to provide a "nuclear list" of North Korea's deadly weapons, and asked for the signing of an end-of-war declaration and the lifting of sanctions.

 

 

 

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is getting a firsthand look at the enduring costs of fighting the Vietnam War. Mattis visited an air base north of Ho Chi Minh City - once known as Saigon - that was heavily contaminated in the late 1960s and early 1970s by American forces through storage and spillage of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. Four years ago the U.S. pledged to clean and restore the parts of Bien Hoa air base that were contaminated. The U.S. Agency for International Development will soon begin a soil restoration project at the base. That effort will likely take several years to complete and cost $390 million. The officials said soil excavation at the base is scheduled to start next year, with contractors arriving at Bien Hoa by December.

 

 

 

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to end aid to Honduras unless officials in the Central American nation stop a caravan of about 2,000 asylum seekers and economic migrants trying to reach the U.S. Trump tweeted that the U.S. had told Honduran leaders that unless the caravan is turned around "no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!" It was unclear what Trump expected Honduras to do, because the group crossed the border into Guatemala on Monday. Guatemalan authorities arrested former Honduran congressman Bartolo Fuentes, a spokesman for the caravan. The U.S. in 2017 sent Honduras more than $180 million appropriated by Congress for programs to improve security and combat poverty and drug trafficking, according to the Washington Office on Latin America think tank.

 

 

 

Mary Bono abruptly resigned Tuesday as interim president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics after facing a barrage of criticism. Two-time Olympian Aly Raisman and others slammed Bono, who took over less than a week ago, because of the former congresswoman's work with a law firm linked to the cover-up of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Another former Olympic star, Simone Biles, criticized Bono for posting a photo to social media in which she blacked out a Nike logo on her golf shoes in response to Nike's inclusion of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign. Bono said she merely exercised her free-speech rights in her tweet, just as Kaepernick did by kneeling during the national anthem to support civil rights.

 

 

 

YouTube experienced a major, but brief, outage late Tuesday. Google, the owner of YouTube, said the nearly two hour outage knocked the video website, its subscription TV service and its Music access offline. It affected users in the United States, Brazil, Japan, parts of Australia, Southeast Asia and Western Europe. Users who tried to access YouTube during the outage got "503" error messages, which usually means the server is overloaded. Some users also got "500 internal server error" messages. YouTube has had outages before, like a brief crash during the FIFA World Cup this summer when many customers paid for a live stream of the games. By 11 p.m. EDT, YouTube said service had returned. On Twitter a Google rep tweeted, "We're back! Thanks for all your patience." It wasn't immediately clear what caused the outage.

History Books may be Wrong on Destruction Date of Pompeii - That’s in the news Tuesday October 16, 2018

16Oct

00:0000:00

Police who searched the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul found evidence that Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed there. That's according to a high-level Turkish official Tuesday, who also said authorities are also preparing to search the consul’s nearby residence, just hours after Consul Mohammed al-Otaibi flew out of the country. Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the consul left the country, two weeks after Khashoggi disappeared at the diplomatic post he ran. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Riyadh with Saudi King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in The Washington Post while in self-imposed exile in America. Saudi officials have called Turkish allegations that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi “baseless,” but reports on Tuesday suggested the Saudis may acknowledge the writer was killed at the consulate, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation. CNN reported that the Saudis were going to acknowledge the killing happened but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it — which does not match what analysts and experts know about the kingdom’s inner workings. Leaked surveillance footage show diplomatic cars traveled to the consul’s home shortly after Khashoggi’s disappearance at the consulate on Oct. 2.

 

 

 

The US military says it believes some 60 al-Shabab militants were killed by one of its air strikes in central Somalia on Friday. The "precision" strike around Harardere did not injure or kill civilians, it added in a statement. The US said the attack was carried out as part of a joint effort with Somali forces to hit the al-Shabab group. This was the deadliest air strike since November 2017 when 100 militants were killed. Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has not yet offered a comment. The US military has conducted more than two dozen air strikes, including drone strikes, in Somalia this year. President Trump expanded U.S. military operations against al-Shabab in March 2017. Al-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011 following an offensive spearheaded by African Union (AU) troops. But it still has a strong presence in regions around the capital. The port town of Harardere was the hub for piracy in the region when the hijacking of ships off the Somali coast was at its peak in 2009-2011.

 

 

 

A shuttle train linking the Moroccan capital to a town farther north on the Atlantic coast derailed Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens, according to Moroccan authorities and the state news agency. The shuttle train linking Rabat to the town of Kenitra derailed about halfway between the two, in the town of Sidi Bouknadel, near the city of Sale. The town's deputy mayor, Abdellatif Soudou, said rescue workers were searching for passengers who might be trapped in the twisted wreckage of the train. In addition to 7 deaths, more than 80 people were injured. State media reported the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, offered to pay the costs of the victims’ funerals out of his own pocket.

 

 

 

North and South Korea held their first three-way talks with the United Nations Command (UNC) on Tuesday to discuss ways to demilitarize the border as the neighbors push for peace. South Korea’s defense ministry said the two Koreas agreed this week to begin reconnecting rail and road links, in spite of U.S. concerns that a rapid thaw in relations could undermine efforts to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Tuesday’s meeting followed a summit between leaders of the two countries in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, last month. The two leaders agreed to hold talks with the UNC, which overlaps with U.S. forces in the South and oversees affairs in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, to smooth the way to disarming one of the world’s most heavily fortified frontiers. The meeting on Tuesday lasted for about two hours at the border village of Panmunjom. As an initial step, the neighbors are looking to pull out 11 guard posts within 1 km (0.6-mile) of a Military Demarcation Line on their border by the end of the year. North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

 

 

 

U.S. employers posted the most jobs in two decades in August, and hiring also reached a record high, fresh evidence that companies are desperate to staff up amid solid economic growth. Job openings rose a slight 0.8 percent to 7.14 million, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, according to the Labor Department Tuesday. That is also far more than the 6.2 million of people who were unemployed that month. The number of available jobs has swamped the number of unemployed for five straight months. Hiring has been solid, which has pushed down the unemployment rate to a nearly five-decade low of 3.7 percent. Strong demand for workers when so few are out of work may force more companies to raise pay in the coming months. It’s a sharp turnaround from the Great Recession and its aftermath. In 2009, there were as many as six unemployed workers for each available job. Now, that number has fallen below one. Job openings rose in August in professional and business services, which include mostly higher-paying positions in engineering, accounting and architecture, as well as temporary help. Postings in that category have jumped 27 percent from a year ago. Construction firms are also desperate for workers, posting 298 thousand open jobs. That’s nearly 39 percent more than a year ago. Job openings also increased in finance and insurance and health care. Openings fell in August from the previous month in manufacturing, retail, and slipped slightly in hotels and restaurants.

 

 

 

The federal government ended the 2018 fiscal year with a $779 billion budget deficit, a 17 percent increase over the same period a year earlier and the biggest since 2012, according to Treasury Department data. Economists had warned that last year's Republican tax cuts and rising government spending would widen the spending gap. The rising cost of interest payments on the national debt also was a factor. Borrowing has increased over the last year to make up for reduced revenue due to the tax cuts. Interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, which is nudging borrowing costs higher to keep the strengthening economy from overheating, also have contributed. President Trump has criticized the Fed for the rate hikes, saying it has "gone crazy."

 

 

 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday that he was open to moving his country's Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The comment by Morrison, who faces a crucial by-election in four days, prompted a backlash from Indonesian and Palestinian officials. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, "Indonesia asks Australia and other countries to support peace talks ... and not take steps that would threaten that peace process and stability of world security." Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. Recognizing Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians, would mirror a move President Trump made in December and reverse decades of Australian policy.

 

 

 

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died Monday from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 65. Two weeks ago, Allen revealed through social media that he had suffered a recurrence of the cancer, which he was treated for several years ago. Allen and his childhood friend Bill Gates started Microsoft in 1975, selling software that revolutionized the personal computer industry. Gates, who met Allen at a private school in Seattle, said he was heartbroken to have lost one of his “oldest and dearest friends.” With his sister Jody Allen in 1986, Allen founded Vulcan, which oversees his business and philanthropic efforts. Allen later became the owner of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into nuclear-fusion power and scores of technology startups. In a statement Allen's sister Jody said, "My brother was a remarkable individual on every level. While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend." Over his lifetime, Allen donated more than $2 billion to efforts aimed at improving education, science, technology, conservation and communities.

 

 

 

Archaeologists in Italy have uncovered an inscription they say may show that the history books have been wrong for centuries. Historians have long believed that Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24, in the year 79 AD, destroying the nearby Roman city of Pompeii. But now, an inscription has been uncovered dated to mid-October - almost two months later. Italy's culture minister Alberto Bonisoli labelled it "an extraordinary discovery." The writing came from an area in a house that was apparently being renovated just before the nearby volcano erupted, burying Pompeii under a thick blanket of ash and rock. The inscription discovered in the new excavations is dated to 16 days before the "calends" of November in the old Roman calendar style - which is October 17 in our modern dating method. The archaeology team said in a statement, "Since it was done in fragile and evanescent charcoal, which could not have been able to last long, it is highly probable that it can be dated to the October of AD 79." They believe the most likely date for the eruption was, in fact, October 24. The differences between the texts could easily have been influenced by confusion over the ancient and modern systems of counting days. The discovery was made in a new excavation, uncovering previously untouched areas of Pompeii.

UN Report: 13 Million in Yemen Face World’s Worst Famine in 100 Years - That’s in the news Monday October 15, 2018

16Oct

00:0000:00

Turkish police investigators entered Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate on Monday, two weeks after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A Turkish diplomatic source had earlier said that a joint Turkish-Saudi team would conduct a search of the consulate - the last place that Khashoggi was seen before he vanished on Oct. 2. Turkish officials have said authorities believe he was killed at the Saudi mission, and his body removed. International concern continues to grow over his disappearance. American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain have jointly called for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Saudi Arabia has responded to Western statements by saying it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions “with greater action”, and Arab allies rallied to support it, setting up a potential showdown between the world’s top oil exporter and its main Western allies. President Donald Trump said he had spoken with King Salman about Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policies, and that he was sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately to meet the king and travel to other places as needed. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to get marriage documents. Khashoggi had written Washington Post columns critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Turkish officials have said authorities believe he was murdered in the consulate and his body removed. The kingdom has called such allegations “baseless” but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

 

 

 

The United Nations is warning that 13 million people in Yemen are facing starvation. It's calling on the military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, to halt air strikes which are killing civilians, and contributing to what the UN says could become "the worst famine in the world in 100 years". Yemen's civil war began three years ago, when Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized much of the country, including the capital Sanaa. Saudi Arabia, backed by the US, the UK and France, is using air strikes and a blockade - in support of the internationally-recognised government. At least 10 thousand people have been killed in the conflict and millions are displaced.

 

 

 

President Trump flew above the Florida Panhandle on Monday to see the wreckage left behind after Hurricane Michael slammed its coastal communities and he immediately praised Gov. Rick Scott for an “incredible” response to a storm that flattened homes and left thousands without electricity. Scott greeted Trump upon his arrival at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso. “The job they’ve done in Florida has been incredible,” Trump told reporters. Scott told Trump he’s received everything he’s asked for from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said he’s spoken with Trump “almost every day.” The Florida Panhandle took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael, which ravaged the coastline last week with powerful 155 mph winds. More than 190 thousand homes and businesses in Florida remain without electricity, along with about 120 thousand homes and businesses in Georgia. Trump tweeted before leaving the White House accompanied by his wife, Melania, that he will meet with law enforcement and government officials aiding the massive recovery effort. He said “maximum effort is taking place, everyone is working very hard. Worst hit in 50 years!” He tweeted after arriving in Florida that he’s “also thinking about our GREAT Alabama farmers and our many friends in North and South Carolina today. We are with you!” Trump was also surveying hurricane damage in Georgia before returning to the White House later Monday. The death toll from Michael’s destructive march from Florida through to Virginia stood at 17, with one confirmed death in Mexico Beach, Florida.

 

 

 

Flash floods killed 10 people in southwest France Monday morning, mostly in the town of Trebes. Forecasters said the storm dumped several months worth of rain in a matter of six hours. Several others were injured and at least one was reported missing. The storm left behind overturned cars, damaged roads and collapsed houses. It's believed to be the worst flood in the area since 1891. French Prime Minister Edouard Phillppe announced that he would visit the area "as soon as conditions allow it." Phillippe also tweeted that 350 rescue personnel are in place and another 350 are on the way. Seven helicopters have also been deployed. All schools are closed in the area. This type of weather is unusual in France in October, but meteorologists say warmer ocean water ahead of Tropical Storm Leslie could be to blame. Leslie has already passed over Portugal and Spain. One of the victims was an nun who got swept away by floodwaters.

 

 

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he had designated five groups, including Hezbollah and MS-13, as transnational criminal organizations to target with tougher investigations and prosecutions. Sessions also said he had designated the Sinaloa Cartel, Clan de Golfo and Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion for the crack down to be carried out by a special new task force. Sessions said a special team of “experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors” will investigate individuals and networks providing support to Hezbollah. Mostly active in Lebanon, Hezbollah was an outlier on the Attorney General’s list, which was otherwise focused on groups with ties to Latin America. “With this new task force in place, our efforts will be more targeted and more effective than ever,” Sessions said, explaining that in 90 days task-force members will give him specific recommendations “to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets.”

 

 

 

North and South Korea agreed on Monday to begin reconnecting rail and road links, another step in an improving relationship that has raised U.S. concern about the possible undermining of its bid to press the North to give up its nuclear program. The agreement on transport links came during talks in the border village of Panmunjom aimed at following up on the third summit this year between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, last month. A joint statement released by the South’s Unification Ministry said they agreed to hold ceremonies in late November or early December to inaugurate work on reconnecting the railways and roads that have been cut since the 1950-53 Korean War. The two sides will carry out joint field studies on the transport plans from late this month. According to the statement, they also agreed to discuss later this month a plan to pursue a bid to co-host the 2032 Olympic Games, and to explore in November ways to restart webcam reunions and video exchanges for families separated by the Korean War. Military officials from both sides are to meet “in the near future” to craft follow-on steps to a military pact struck at last month’s summit.

 

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's allies in Bavaria made their worst state-assembly election showing since 1950 on Sunday, losing ground against both the far-right and the pro-environment, pro-immigrant Greens. Merkel's conservative Christian Social Union allies won 37.3 percent of the vote for the state assembly, losing their absolute majority for just the second time in more than five decades, according to preliminary election results. The Greens came in second with 17.8 percent, and the right-wing Alternative for Germany party won representation in the state parliament for the first time. "The political earthquake was in Bavaria, but the aftershocks will be felt in Berlin ... Talk will increase ever more about the end of the Merkel era," said Fred Kempe, president of the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank.

 

 

 

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, with plans to shutter 142 unprofitable stores in the hopes that it can stay in business. The question now is whether a smaller version of the company that once towered over the American retail landscape can be viable. Sears, which started as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and incurred huge losses over the years. The company has struggled with outdated stores and complaints about customer service even for its once crown jewels: major appliances like washers and dryers. That’s in contrast with chains like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy’s, which have been enjoying stronger sales as they benefit from a robust economy and efforts to make the shopping experience more inviting by investing heavily in remodeling and de-cluttering their stores. Last year, Sears sold its famous Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc., following earlier moves to spin off pieces of its Sears Hometown and Outlet division and Lands’ End. The company, which once had 350 thousand workers, has shrunk to 68 thousand workers as of the court filing. It had fewer than 900 stores as of May, down from a 2012 peak of 4,000.

 

 

 

Bill Coors, former chairman of the Adolph Coors Company, has died at the age of 102. Coors was a pioneer of the U.S. brewing industry. He started working for his grandfather Adolph Coors' brewing company in 1939 and took over as the company's chairman 20 years later. Coors created and developed the aluminum can, a key innovation. The earlier tin-lined steel packaging was costlier and affected product taste. Mark Hunter, president and CEO of Molson Coors said in a statement, "His dedication, hard work, and ingenuity helped shape not only our company but the entire beer industry."

 

 

 

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are expecting their first child in the spring of 2019, around a year after their glittering wedding injected Hollywood glamour into the British royal family. Harry, who is the 34-year-old younger son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, married American television star Meghan Markle in May at a ceremony that mixed traditional British pomp with a gospel choir and other nods to her American heritage. British media said Meghan, who is 37, was believed to be about 12 weeks pregnant. The baby will be seventh-in-line to the British throne. The news emerged shortly after the royal couple landed in Australia for their first overseas tour, a busy trip which will also take in New Zealand and the South Pacific islands of Tonga and Fiji. There had been media speculation for a number of weeks that Meghan might be pregnant, and the couple had made no secret of their desire to have children. According to royal experts, the child will not be a prince or a princess unless the queen authorizes such a title before the birth. Instead, royal experts said if they have a boy, the child would officially be styled the Earl of Dumbarton - one of Harry’s subsidiary titles - and Lady Windsor if they have a girl.

Devastating Effects of Hurricane Michael Described as “Mother of All Bombs” - That’s in the news on Friday October 12, 2018

12Oct

00:0000:00

Hurricane Michael has all but rubbed a Florida beach town off the map after landing like the "mother of all bombs". The storm smashed into the Florida panhandle near the community of Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon packing 155 mph winds. Tom Bailey, the town's former mayor, told the New York Times: "The mother of all bombs doesn't do any more damage than this." More than 1.4 million homes and businesses had no power in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas on Friday morning. Rescuers are still searching for survivors. Michael, which fell just 2 mph short of a top-level category five, ripped apart entire neighborhoods, reducing properties to kindling and rubble. The third most powerful hurricanes in US history, Michael is now being blamed for the deaths of at least 11 people. The storm was so powerful that it snapped boats in two and knocked over 30-ton freight rail cars like toys. The storm had moved out to sea off the Virginia coast by early Friday morning. The early damage estimate is said to be 8 billion dollars, and officials fear the death toll will climb.

 

 

Cyclone Titli pounded the eastern shore of India Thursday, killing eight people and forcing 300 thousand to evacuate. The cyclone battered the coastal states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh with 95 mph winds and knocked out power to a half-million people. The area with the most damage is the Gajapti district, where the storm uprooted trees. The Andhra Pradesh area reported eight people had died, including a fisherman. Cyclones are hurricanes that occur in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Cyclone Titli, the Hindu word for butterfly, is expected to weaken as it moves over the Indian coast. The storm was named by weather authorities in Pakistan.

 

 

A Turkish court ruled on Friday that the American evangelical Christian pastor at the center of a battle between Ankara and Washington could go free, a move that could be the first step toward mending ties between the NATO allies. The court sentenced Andrew Brunson to three years and 1-1/2 months in prison on terrorism charges, but said he would not serve any further jail time. The pastor, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was put in prison two years ago and has been under house arrest since July. President Donald Trump, who has imposed sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to secure Brunson’s release, tweeted: “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!” The diplomatic stand-off over Brunson, who had been pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, had accelerated a selloff in Turkey’s lira, worsening a financial crisis. Brunson had been accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt in 2016. Brunson denied the accusation and Washington had demanded his immediate release.

 

 

Over-pressurized natural gas lines were the source of deadly explosions and fires that rocked communities north of Boston last month. A five page preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board released Thursday found that utility workers contracted by Columbia Gas had failed to account for critical pressure sensors as they replaced century-old cast-iron pipes in Lawrence on Sept. 13. That omission caused high-pressure gas to flood the neighborhood’s distribution system at excessive levels, triggering more than 80 explosions and fires across the city, as well as neighboring North Andover and Andover. One person was killed and about 25 others were injured in the ensuring chaos. The gas explosions also damaged 131 structures and destroyed five homes. Thousands of homes and businesses are still without natural gas service as Columbia Gas replaces some 50 miles (80 kilometers) of gas pipeline. The work is about one-third complete, and the company says all customers should have gas service by Nov. 19.

 

 

 

South Korea never considered lifting sanctions against North Korea imposed over the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, the country’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said on Thursday. South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Wednesday that the sanctions, imposed against Pyongyang following a torpedo attack on a corvette that killed 46 South Korean sailors in 2010, were under review. North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking. Kang’s remarks on sanctions, retracted after criticism from South Korean lawmakers, prompted President Trump to say South Korea would need U.S. approval to relieve sanctions. “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Trump told reporters, when asked about her comments. Trump has said sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearizes. Kang backtracked on her remarks after facing criticism from some conservative lawmakers that the sanctions cannot be removed unless North Korea first apologized for the attack, a stance adopted by former South Korean governments. The sanctions ban all North Korean ships entering South Korean ports and cut off most inter-Korean exchanges, including tourism, trade and aid.

 

 

 

Malaysia has decided to abolish its death penalty and work with pardon boards to spare the lives of more than 1,200 death row inmates. The cabinet resolved to end the practice at a meeting Wednesday. Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said changes to death penalty laws would be tabled until the next meeting, with necessary paperwork to abolish the death penalty in its final stages. He said there should be a moratorium in the interim. Execution by hanging has been mandatory in Malaysia for crimes of murder, drug trafficking and firearms offenses. Thirty-five people faced the gallows in the past 10 years, and 1,267 prisoners are still on death row. Malaysian Bar President George Varughese praised the government's decision to end the death penalty, referring to the practice as "akin to taking 'an eye for an eye.'" Varughese said an inherent right to life is guaranteed by Malaysia's constitution. Amnesty International applauded the move. Its International Secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said. "Malaysia's resort to the death penalty has been a terrible stain on its human rights record for years." The government imposed a moratorium on executions in July, but criticism over a sentence in August for a man who sold medical cannabis oil to cancer patients sparked outrage. New Prime Minister Mhathir Mohammed then called for a review.

 

 

 

Ukraine secured approval on Thursday to establish an independent church in what Kiev says is a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but the Russian clergy fiercely opposes the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years. At a three-day synod presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians, endorsed Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous” (independent) church. The tussle over Ukraine’s spiritual future flows from the poisoning of relations between Kiev and Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of separatist fighting in Ukraine’s east that has killed more than 10 thousand people. Ukraine accuses the Russian Orthodox Church of wielding a pernicious influence on its soil, allowing itself to be used as a tool of the Kremlin to justify Russian expansionism and support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church has compared Ukraine’s moves for independence to the Great Schism of 1054 that split western and eastern Christianity, and warned they could lead to an irreversible rupture in the global Orthodox community.

 

 

 

Facebook said Thursday that it had purged more than 800 accounts for flooding users with political content. Facebook said the spiked accounts and pages violated its spam policies. It said most of the accounts belonged to domestic entities that used clickbait to drive traffic to their websites so it could barrage them with ads. The accounts did not appear to be linked to Russia, Facebook officials said. One of the pages called itself "the first publication to endorse President Donald J. Trump." The decision could prove sensitive, as some critics, including President Trump, have accused Facebook and other social media of censoring conservative content, and Facebook removed the 559 pages and 251 accounts just weeks before the midterm elections.

 

 

 

Medicinal marijuana will be legal for all patients in Britain with a specialist doctor's prescription beginning on Nov. 1. The government announced Thursday that the law change will no longer limit the types of conditions doctors can prescribe marijuana for and no longer require doctors to consult an expert panel before being allowed to prescribe the medicine. However, only specialist doctors -- not general practitioners -- will be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana. Despite the continued regulations, Thursday's announcement was seen as a major change in British drug reform. Home Secretary Sajid Javid in a statement, "We have now delivered on our promise and specialist doctors will have the option to prescribe these products where there is a real need." The policy change comes after Javid ordered a review of Britain's medical marijuana rules after officials at Heathrow Airport in London on June 11 confiscated medicinal marijuana from a 12-year-old boy who suffers from life-threatening epileptic seizures.

 

 

 

Musicians will get a greater share of the money for music they create under updated U.S. copyright law that was signed by President Trump Thursday. The president welcomed various artists to the White House for a signing ceremony, including Kid Rock, Kanye West, Beach Boys singer Mike Love and country singer Craig Morgan. "The Music Modernization Act closes loopholes in our digital royalties laws to ensure that songwriters, artists and producers receive fair payment for licensing music," Trump said before signing the bill into law. The new law protects intellectual property and sets up a single licensing system for music, whether it's streamed or bought digitally or in physical form. The bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously. Musical artists have been pushing for the law for years. Soul legend Sam Moore said, "With [President George W.] Bush we couldn't get it done. When [President Barack] Obama was in we couldn't get it done. But we got it done with this man," Moore said of Trump. The final bill is the result of years of compromise and political involvement from music artists and the National Music Publishers Association.

Hurricane Michael Brings “Unimaginable Destruction” to Florida - That’s in the news Thursday October 11, 2018

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Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Hurricane Michael’s wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful storm on record to hit the continental U.S. At least two deaths were blamed on Michael, and it wasn’t done yet: Though weakened into a tropical storm, it continued to bring heavy rain and blustery winds to the Southeast as it pushed inland, soaking areas still recovering from last month’s Hurricane Florence. More than 900 thousand homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power. Gov. Rick Scott said, “This morning, Florida’s Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction... This hurricane was an absolute monster.” Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Based on top wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (184 mph, or 296 kph), Camille and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

 

 

 

The rebuilding of an Indonesian city shattered by an earthquake and tsunami will take two years. That's according to the national disaster agency’s spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who told a news conference that the official search and rescue effort was extended by a day and would end Friday. Assessments of the cost of reconstruction are still being carried out. Nugroho said, “We expect full recovery by 2021.” Firefighters, soldiers and other personnel searched the rubble Thursday in a last push to find victims. They also burned debris and excavators dug into the tangled remains of buildings. Heavy equipment hasn’t been able to operate in neighborhoods where the earth turned to mud, hampering the search effort, and many bodies have decomposed beyond recognition due to the tropical heat. Miles of coastline were trashed by the tsunami that followed the quake, with houses swept off their foundations, trucks crumpled and numerous ships beached. Indonesian officials said the death toll had risen to 2,073 as of Thursday, with most of the fatalities in Palu. Officially, 680 people are missing but officials have acknowledged the number could be several thousand because hundreds of homes were sucked into the earth. Save the Children’s affiliated organization in Indonesia said there could be as many as 1,500 children missing.

 

 

 

A booster rocket failed less than two minutes after launching an American and a Russian toward the International Space Station on Thursday, forcing their emergency — but safe — landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin were subjected to heavy gravitational forces as their capsule automatically jettisoned from the Soyuz booster rocket and fell back to Earth at a sharper-than-normal angle and landed about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. It was the latest in a recent series of failures for the troubled Russian space program, which is used by the U.S. to carry its astronauts to the station. Hague, 43, and Ovchinin, 47, were to dock at the International Space Station six hours after the launch and join an American, a Russian and a German currently aboard the station. But the three-stage Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure of its second stage about two minutes after launching. The next manned launch was planned for December but Russia has suspended all manned flights pending an investigation of the latest failure, and is also considering a halt to all launches for the remainder of 2018. Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said Russia will fully share all relevant information with the U.S. and NASA.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump said Thursday the United States is being “very tough” as it looks into a Saudi writer missing and feared murdered in Istanbul, adding “we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey” and with Saudi Arabia. Trump spoke on “Fox & Friends” about 59-year-old Jamal Khashoggi, a government critic who disappeared a week ago after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey. The wealthy former government insider wrote columns for The Washington Post, including some critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He’d been living in the United States in self-imposed exile. Turkish officials say they fear Saudi Arabia killed Khashoggi but offered no evidence. Saudi royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert were part of a 15-member team from the kingdom that targeted Khashoggi, according to Turkish media reports Thursday. The president did not provide details on a U.S. investigation. The Washington Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence, said Prince Mohammed ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia and then detain him. Saudi Arabia has called the allegation it abducted or harmed Khashoggi “baseless", but has offered no evidence to support its claim the writer simply walked out of its consulate and vanished despite his fiancée waiting outside for him.

 

 

 

The rate of new Ebola cases in Congo has more than doubled since September after rebel violence in northeastern Congo caused response efforts to be briefly suspended. In a statement Thursday, the International Rescue Committee said it was “alarmed” that there were 33 new cases between Oct. 1 and Tuesday, versus 41 cases during all of September. Most of the new cases have been in Beni, where experts had to suspend Ebola containment efforts for days after a deadly rebel attack. With multiple armed groups active in the region, health officials have said they are effectively operating in a war zone. Congo’s healthy ministry says that to date there have been 159 confirmed cases, including 87 deaths. More than 15,000 people have been immunized with a novel vaccine since this outbreak was declared on Aug. 1. WHO has warned that the risk for Ebola’s regional spread is “very high,” pointing out that Congo’s affected North Kivu and Ituri provinces share borders with Uganda and Rwanda. WHO said the risk for international spread remains low.

 

 

 

More North Korean children were hungry in 2017 than there were a year ago. In its annual 2018 Global Hunger Index, Concern Worldwide, German World Hunger Aid, and the U.S.-based International Food Policy Research Institute, ranked North Korea as a country at serious risk. The report, released Thursday said about 124 million people [worldwide] suffer acute hunger. That's up from 80 million people two years ago. The U.N. World Food Program has said funding shortages have contributed to malnutrition among North Korean children. Herve Verhoosel, a spokesman for the World Food Program said, "Ten million people -- that's 40 percent of the population -- are undernourished and require humanitarian assistance. One in every five children is suffering of chronic malnutrition." North Korea ranked 11th worst among the 119 countries surveyed. North Korea's hunger situation is considered to be serious, and worse than the previous year when the country ranked 27th. Other countries in a major hunger crisis include the Central African Republic, Chad, and Yemen.

 

 

 

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said there was a 50-50 chance of getting another Brexit referendum as Prime Minister Theresa May will be unlikely to secure a majority for any divorce deal in parliament. May is trying to clinches a deal but there is uncertainty on whether she could sell it at home, where she will need approval from the British parliament. Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, told Reuters, “Whatever Brexit is on offer today is going to result in significant economic harm." Less than six months before the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, there is little clarity about how the world’s fifth largest economy and its preeminent international financial center will trade with the EU after Brexit. Blair said European regulators would not want the center of European finance to be outside their orbit so jobs would be lost in the financial sector. Blair said that if Brexit did go ahead and was followed by a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn, then the country would face a “truly damaging and challenging situation”.

 

 

 

Washington state’s Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty violates its Constitution. The ruling Thursday makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment. The justices said the “death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially.” They ordered that people currently on death row have their sentences converted to life in prison. The ruling was in the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, who was convicted of raping, robbing and killing Geneine Harshfield, a 43-year-old woman, in 1996. His lawyers said the death penalty is arbitrarily applied and that it is not applied proportionally, as the state Constitution requires. Gov. Jay Inslee, a one-time supporter of capital punishment, had previously said no executions will take place while he’s in office.

 

 

The US military has temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a crash in South Carolina last month. Inspections are to be carried out on faulty fuel tubes. An official report questioned earlier this year whether the F-35 was ready for combat after dozens of faults were found. The F-35 - the largest and most expensive weapons program of its type in the world is expected to last several decades and global sales are projected to be 3,000. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars. In a statement, the F-35 Joint Program Office said the US and its international partners have suspended flight operations while a fleet-wide inspection of fuel tubes was conducted. The F-35, first used in combat by Israel earlier this year to carry out two strikes, is designed for use by the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. It boasts avionics, sensors and communications that allow data to be shared quickly with operational commanders. The aircraft also uses stealth technology to reduce its visibility to radar, and comes in three variants. The crash in South Carolina involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100 million. The pilot in that incident ejected safely but the aircraft was destroyed.

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