Search officially ends & mystery continues for MH370 That’s in the news on Wednesday May 23, 2018

23May

00:0000:00

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he was “very hopeful” that the U.S.-North Korean nuclear summit would take place as planned next month, although he laid the meeting’s fate squarely on Kim Jong Un. Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the decision about whether the June 12 meeting in Singapore between Kim and President Donald Trump happens is “ultimately up to Chairman Kim.” Lawmakers’ questioning of Pompeo followed Trump’s comment Tuesday that “there’s a very substantial chance” the meeting would not proceed as scheduled. Pompeo said the North Korean leader “asked for the meeting, the president agreed to meet with him. I’m very hopeful that meeting will take place.” The former CIA director, who has met twice with Kim since the start of April, told the committee that it’s his hope that when Trump and Kim confer, “we can get the North Koreans to make this strategic shift about how best to serve the country — that the nuclear weapons program isn’t, in fact, the thing that keeps the regime in power, but the thing that prevents the regime from being in a place it wants to be with economic success.”

 

 

 

President Trump escalated his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation Wednesday, saying the FBI has been caught in a “MAJOR spy scandal” over its use of a secret informant to determine whether some of Trump’s campaign aides were working with Russia ahead of the 2016 election. Trump tweeted, “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!” At issue are reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of Trump’s campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election. The New York Times was the first to report that. Trump and his GOP supporters claim that's proof that the Obama administration was trying to spy on his Republican campaign for political reasons. At least 18 GOP lawmakers backed a resolution telling Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Justice Department and the FBI's actions during the 2016 campaign. The White House has negotiated rare access to classified documents in a briefing expected Thursday with FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, and Justice Department official Edward O’Callaghan. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy will also attend. Congressional Democrats, who were not invited, called the move "partisan."

 

 

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday that the football league's players who are on the field will need to stand for the national anthem -- capping months of controversy and coming in the wake of a series of player protests. In a statement, Goodell said, "The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL's ongoing commitment to local communities and our country." Goodell said, "it was unfortunate" that on-field protests by players taking a knee during the national anthem "created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case." If players break the new rules, their teams will be fined. No specific dollar amount was provided in the statement, though Goodell added that he "will impose appropriate discipline" on any team members who do not stand for the anthem. Players who do not wish to stand will be allowed to stay in the locker room during the anthem. The NFL Players Association vowed to challenge any aspect of the new rules that are "inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."

 

 

 

Former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, becoming the first black woman to be a major party's candidate for governor in the U.S. She also is Georgia's first African-American nominee. Abrams, a Yale-educated lawyer, and businesswoman defeated ex-state Rep. Stacey Evans in the primary. She will run against either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will meet in the Republican runoff in July. The November election will test whether the state's politics have shifted enough for a liberal Democrat to win after more than a decade of Republican rule. Cagle led a five-man Republican field, with Kemp qualifying for the second spot after a campaign that was a sprint to the right on everything from immigration to support for President Trump.

 

 

 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the expulsion of two top U.S. diplomats in Caracas in retaliation for a new round of sanctions over Venezuela’s widely-condemned election, accusing them of being involved in “a military conspiracy” that was denied by the State Department. The U.S., the European Union, and most major Latin American nations have all said Sunday’s vote did not meet democratic standards. Maduro, the 55-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez, won re-election easily, but critics said the vote was riddled with irregularities, from the barring of two popular opposition rivals to the offering of a government “prize” to voters. President Trump responded to the vote with an executive order limiting Venezuela’s ability to sell state assets. Maduro gave no details of the accusations but said the U.S. Embassy had been meddling in military, economic and political issues, and vowed to present evidence shortly.

 

 

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will end next week after more than four years, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars spent and with no clue of what happened to the ill-fated plane. Malaysia's cabinet agreed to a request by Ocean Infinity, the US company operating the search, to extend the hunt until May 29. The company agreed to continue the search on a "no find-no fee" basis. Malaysia's Minister of Transport told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday there would be no more extensions after that. The flight, MH370, disappeared in 2014 carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, in what has become one of the world's biggest aviation mysteries. The initial search, carried out by Malaysia, China, and Australia, was called off in January last year after failing to find any trace of the plane within a 710,000-plus square kilometer area of the Indian Ocean. The search is estimated to have cost some $200 million dollars, according to Australia's government. Most of the funds were provided by the Malaysian government. It has been the most expensive search for a missing plane in history. Several theories on what might have happened to the flight have been put forward, including pilot suicide. Australian investigators who led the joint search for the flight dismissed that theory and defended their belief that the plane's disappearance was due to some sort of accident.

 

 

 

Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano began encroaching on a power plant on Tuesday in the latest new danger posed by an ongoing eruption. Molten rock bubbling out of a newly reactivated fissure came within about 300 yards of a well on the 800-acre Puna Geothermal Venture Plant property. If lava gets into any of the facility's wells, it could release toxic and flammable hydrogen sulfide gas. Most of the wells have been capped with steel plates, although Hawaii emergency management officials say intense heat could weaken the metal. "That's why having lava flow across the well causes some uncertainties that have to be dealt with," said Thomas Travis, an administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. "To our knowledge, no one has faced this before."

 

 

 

The House voted 258 to 159 to roll back Dodd-Frank rules for midsize and regional banks put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. The bill, already passed by the Senate, lets banks with up to $250 billion in assets avoid supervision from the Fed and stress tests. Under Dodd-Frank, banks with at least $50 billion in assets had to abide by tougher financial rules. Republican lawmakers say easing the regulations will make it easier for small banks and credit unions to lend more money to people. Some Democrats warned the bill also assists some large regional banks that failed during the financial crisis. The bill does not affect the biggest banks, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

 

 

 

Comcast confirmed on Wednesday it was preparing a higher, $60 billion all-cash offer for most of the media assets of Twenty-First Century Fox, setting up a bidding war with rival Disney, which already has agreed to a $52-billion deal with Fox. The largest U.S. cable operator said it was in advanced stages of readying a bid that would be superior to Disney’s all-stock offer. By going public with its plans, Comcast is putting pressure on Fox and its shareholders to not rush into approving the Disney deal. Fox shareholders will vote on the Disney deal later this summer. A date has not yet been set. Comcast may have a tough time winning over Fox’s largest shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, however. The Murdoch family owns a 17-percent stake in the TV and movie giant and tax experts have told Reuters he would face a multi-billion dollar capital gains tax bill if he accepted an all-cash offer from Comcast. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month that Comcast was working on financing for a cash offer worth as much as for the Fox assets, but Wednesday’s statement was the first formal confirmation by the company. Fox and Disney declined to comment.

 

 

 

Philip Roth, one of the most prolific and celebrated writers of his generation, died Tuesday. He was 85. The cause of death was reported to be congestive heart failure. Between his first collection of stories, Goodbye, Columbus (1959), and his final novel, 2010's Nemesis, Roth won two National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker International Prize, two National Book Critics Circle awards, and three PEN/Faulkner Awards. He is best known for 1969's Portnoy's Complaint, and his literary explorations of sex and life as an American, a Jew, and a man. Many of his protagonists were thinly veiled versions of himself — Nathan Zuckerman, Alexander Portnoy, David Kepesh — and his work explored and blurred the lines between truth and fiction. The meaning of life, he once said, paraphrasing his idol Franz Kafka, is that it stops. “Life’s most disturbing intensity is death,” he wrote in his novel “Everyman,” published in 2006.

WHO: Ebola cases on the rise in Congo - That’s in the news on Tuesday May 22, 2018

22May

00:0000:00

Congo’s health ministry announced six new confirmed Ebola cases and two new suspected cases Tuesday as vaccinations entered the second day in an effort to contain the deadly virus in a city of more than 1 million. Dozens of health workers in the northwestern provincial capital, Mbandaka, have received vaccinations amid expectations that some will be deployed to the rural epicenter of the epidemic. Front-line workers are especially at risk of contracting the virus, which spreads in contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, including the dead. Congo’s health ministry said there are now 28 confirmed Ebola cases, 21 probable ones and two suspected. The death toll from hemorrhagic fever stands at 27, with three of them confirmed as Ebola. Two of the Ebola victims were nurses, one in Iboko and the other in Bikoro. The vaccine, provided by U.S. company Merck, is still in the test stages but it was effective toward the end of the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia from 2014 to 2016.

 

 

 

The White House announced that top FBI and Justice Department officials have agreed to meet with congressional leaders and “review” highly classified information the lawmakers have been seeking on the handling of the Russia probe. The agreement came after President Donald Trump made an extraordinary demand that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump chief of staff John Kelly will broker the meeting between congressional leaders and the FBI, Justice Department and the office of the Director of National Intelligence. She said the officials will “review highly classified and other information they have requested,” but did not provide additional detail. On Tuesday, a group of conservative House lawmakers planned to call for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate whether misconduct took place in the FBI and the Justice Department.

 

 

 

Senior Trump administration officials warned Congress on Tuesday of ongoing efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2018 midterm congressional elections as the federal government prepares to hand out $380 million in election security funding to states. At a briefing attended by about 40 or 50 members of the House, the heads of FBI, Homeland Security Department and the director of National Intelligence told members to urge states and cities overseeing elections to be prepared for threats. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters she agreed Russia was trying to influence the 2018 elections but added there is no evidence of Russia targeting specific races. Nielsen said DHS is watching other countries that have the capability to influence U.S. elections, including China and Iran. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian leadership at a very high level was involved in the attempt to interfere in the U.S. election in order to boost President Donald Trump’s candidacy. Russia has denied interfering in U.S. elections.

 

 

 

At least 16 people have been killed in southern Afghanistan when security forces tried to dispose of a container full of explosives in the city of Kandahar. Officials said another 38 wounded people were brought to a hospital. Among the dead; four members of the Afghan security forces. At least five small children were wounded in the explosion. Dozens of shops and nearby homes were destroyed or damaged, and officials believe the death toll could rise. Officials said the explosives were in two containers stored in an area of mechanics workshops. No group immediately claimed responsibility. The blast was quickly condemned by President Ashraf Ghani, who praised the "brave" officers who dealt with it. Hundreds of people have been killed in high-profile attacks carried out by the Taliban and ISIS since the beginning of this year.

 

 

 

The Syrian military on Monday drove Islamic State fighters out of a stronghold in southern Damascus, giving the government full control of the capital city and its suburbs for the first time since civil war broke out in 2011. The victory came after a month of fighting that left the enclave in ruins. President Bashar al-Assad's forces will now focus on rebel territory in southern Syria. A monitoring group said that 1,600 people, including hundreds of ISIS militants, left southern Damascus on Saturday and Sunday, and went toward the eastern desert after reaching a deal with the Syrian government. The gains came as Iran, which has backed militias providing critical support for Assad's overstretched forces, faces mounting pressure from the Trump administration to get out of Syria.

 

 

 

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malk has asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands to open an “immediate investigation” into alleged Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinian people. The development was sure to worsen the already troubled relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Peace talks have been frozen for more than four years, and contacts between the two sides are minimal. Malk told reporters at the ICC on Tuesday he submitted the “referral” to the court seeking an investigation into Israeli policies since the state of Palestine accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction in 2014. This includes Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as the recent round of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli fire killed more than 100 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border. The move comes with Israeli-Palestinian relations at their lowest point in years in the aftermath of the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and the recent bloodshed on the Gaza border.

 

 

 

Japan, Russia, and Turkey have warned the United States about potential retaliation for its tariffs on steel and aluminum, the World Trade Organization said on Tuesday, bringing the total U.S. tariff bill to around $3.5 billion annually. The three countries are following similar moves by the European Union, India, and China. Each showed how much the disputed U.S. tariffs would add to the cost of steel and aluminum exports to the United States, based on 2017 trade. Russia said the U.S. tariffs, which President Trump imposed in March, would add duties of $538 million to its annual steel and aluminum exports. Japan put the sum at $440 million. Turkey added a further $267 million. Neither Russia nor Japan specified how they might retaliate against U.S. exports, but Turkey listed 22 U.S. goods that it was planning to target, ranging from nuts, rice, and tobacco to cars and steel products.

 

 

 

An Australian archbishop, Philip Wilson, was found guilty Tuesday of concealing crimes of a pedophile priest in the 1970s, becoming the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of a cover-up in the church's global child sex abuse scandal. Wilson, 67, had pleaded not guilty, but Magistrate Robert Stone said Wilson had concealed the abuse of two altar boys by priest James Fletcher by failing to report it to police. Fletcher was arrested in 2004 and convicted of sexually abusing another boy and died in prison of a stroke in 2006. Wilson will be sentenced in June and could face two years in prison.

 

 

 

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of companies to make workers sign arbitration contracts preventing them from joining together in class-action lawsuits seeking better pay and work conditions. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the conservative 5-4 majority, said that it was "clear" that the contracts are valid under federal law encouraging arbitration over litigation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reading her dissent from the bench in a sign of strong opposition, called the majority opinion "egregiously wrong," saying it would lead to "huge underenforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers," and force millions of workers into "arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts." She urged Congress to address the issue to protect workers.

 

 

 

Consumer Reports said Monday that the Tesla Model 3 had failed to earn its recommendation. CR said the Model 3, the electric car maker's first mass-market vehicle, had "flaws — big flaws" with its braking distance. In Consumer Reports' tests, the Model 3 stopped in 152 feet from a speed of 60 mph, which was "far worse than any contemporary car" the company has tested. Tesla said the Model 3, which is critical to the company's plans for profitability, brakes faster than Consumer Reports found. In internal tests, the Model 3's average braking distance was 133 feet. The reviewers also said they found the car's touch-screen control panel distracting, and that the Model 3 offered a "stiff ride, unsupportive rear seat, and excessive wind noise at highway speeds."

 

 

 

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have "entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series for Netflix." The streaming service announced the content will "potentially" include "scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features." The Hollywood Reporter notes that the move is "unprecedented in media" and that "no previous former president has ever made such a deal." Post-White House productions are typically limited to autobiographies. In a statement, Obama said he and Michelle "hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world."

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy activists are asking Amazon to stop marketing a powerful facial recognition tool to police, saying law enforcement agencies could use the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.” The tool, called 'Rekognition', is already being used by at least one agency — the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon — to check photographs of unidentified suspects against a database of mug shots from the county jail, which is a common use of such technology around the country. But privacy advocates have been concerned about expanding the use of facial recognition to body cameras worn by officers or safety and traffic cameras that monitor public areas, allowing police to identify and track people in real time. Amazon released 'Rekognition' in late 2016. The letter to Amazon followed public records requests from ACLU chapters in California, Oregon, and Florida. More than two dozen organizations signed it, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch.

Mueller’s Russia-Trump investigation to end by September - That’s in the news on Monday May 21, 2018

21May

00:0000:00

The United States on Monday issued a steep list of demands to be included in a nuclear treaty with Iran to replace the deal scuttled by President Donald Trump and threatened “the strongest sanctions in history” if Iran doesn’t change course. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a stronger pact should require that Iran stop enrichment of uranium, which was allowed within strict limitations under the previous deal in 2015. Iran would also have to end its involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Pompeo vowed that Trump’s approach would ensure “Iran has no possible path to a nuclear weapon, ever.” The list of 12 requirements included allowing nuclear inspectors “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country,” alluding to military sites that were off-limits under the 2015 deal except under specific circumstances. Pompeo also said that “a treaty is our preferred way to go.” Former President Barack Obama did not seek a Senate-ratified treaty with Iran because of the dim prospects for getting approval from a Republican-run Congress.

 

 

 

President Trump praised new CIA Director Gina Haspel at her swearing-in ceremony Monday, saying there was “no one in this country better qualified” for the job. Striking a different tone than in his previous visit to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Northern Virginia, Trump hailed the agency staffers, calling them the “most elite intelligence professionals on the planet” and promised them the “the tools, the resources and the support they need.” The Senate confirmed Haspel last week after overcoming concerns about her role in the agency’s use of harsh interrogation techniques after 9/11. Trump said she showed courage during the process in the face of “very negative politics.” Haspel said she took pride in being the first woman to lead the agency, adding: “I stand on the shoulders of heroines who never sought public acclaim, but served as inspirations to the generations that came after them.” Haspel said she wants to send more officers into the field, improve foreign language proficiency among the ranks and strengthen the agency’s working relationships with intelligence agencies in partner nations.

 

 

 

Hours before his visit to CIA headquarters, President Trump struck a different tone, promoting criticism of former CIA Director John Brennan and suggesting Brennan is to blame for the Russia probe. On Twitter Monday, Trump referenced comments from conservative commentator Dan Bongino on “Fox and Friends,” which argued that Brennan “started this entire debacle.” Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, also said Brennan had “disgraced the intelligence community.” Brennan, a vocal critic of Trump, became the agency’s director in 2013 under President Barack Obama and served until Obama left office in January 2017.

 

 

 

The Justice Department told its inspector general to look into whether the early FBI investigation into links between Russia and President Trump's campaign was politically motivated. The move came after Trump began a series of Twitter posts calling for an inquiry into a report that an American academic working as an FBI informant met with several members of his 2016 campaign in the early days of the agency's investigation into Russian election meddling. Trump tweeted Sunday, "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!" Reports on the matter said there was no evidence the informant was embedded in the Trump campaign, as Trump suggested.

 

 

 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller plans to wrap up his investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the inquiry into Russian election meddling by Sept. 1. That's what Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Sunday. The former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney, now a member of the president's legal team, said Mueller's team disclosed the timeline two weeks ago in negotiations about a possible interview with Trump and said the target date only applied if Trump agreed to answer questions by Mueller's investigators. Giuliani said letting Mueller's investigation last any longer could improperly influence midterm voters. Still, reaching a conclusion on the obstruction question would not necessarily end Mueller's inquiry on Russia's interference and possible collusion by Trump associates. A spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment.

 

 

 

A growing roster of nations Monday condemned Venezuela's presidential election over the weekend and threatened to ramp up diplomatic and economic pressure on President Nicolas Maduro's already embattled government. A coalition of 14 nations from throughout the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia, pledged to scale back diplomatic relations with Venezuela and urge international organizations not to issue Venezuela any new credit. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy decried the vote as not respecting "minimal democratic standards" and vowed to consult with European counterparts on new measures in hopes of "easing the suffering of Venezuelans." Maduro won a second six-year term by a landslide in the disputed election on Sunday. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan announced the U.S. would not recognize Maduro's election, and Vice President Mike Pence issued a statement Monday calling the results of the election a"sham". The U.S. is also actively considering oil sanctions on Venezuela, to be discussed at a G20 meeting in Buenos Aires on Monday. Maduro won despite a political and economic crisis that has left the public facing grave shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, as well as hyperinflation.

 

 

 

Vietnam's foreign ministry said recent activity by China’s strategic bombers in the South China Sea’s Paracel Islands seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the disputed territory. China’s air force said bombers such as the H-6K had landed and taken off from islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of training exercises last week. A spokesman for Vietnam's foreign ministry said the flights “increase tensions, cause regional instabilities and are not good for maintaining a peaceful, stable and cooperative environment in the East Sea.” The statement used the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea. The Philippines also expressed “serious concerns” on Monday over the presence of the bombers in the area and its foreign ministry has taken “appropriate diplomatic action”. Vietnam and China have long been embroiled in maritime disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich maritime territory.

 

 

 

Two climbers died trying to reach the top of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, according to a Nepal mountaineering official. Other climbers reported that a 63-year-old Macedonian climber died Sunday, and a 35-year-old Japanese climber, who was an experienced mountaineer that made several unsuccessful attempts to scale Everest, including a 2012 effort in which he lost most of his fingers to frostbite, died Monday. About 340 foreign climbers and their Sherpa guides are climbing Everest this month. Many made it to the top in the past week, in a stretch of good weather. The Everest climbing window closes at the end of this month when weather conditions in the Himalayas will deteriorate.

 

 

 

Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano reached the Pacific Ocean over the weekend, creating a new hazard. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said when lava hits seawater, it sends hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air. The steam cloud — known as laze, for "lava" and "haze" — can cause lung, eye, and skin irritation. It can even be deadly. The HVO said "This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows," and warned the laze plume could be blown miles downwind. The U.S. Coast Guard enforced a Lava Entry Safety Zone for 300 meters around the area where lava entered the sea.

 

 

 

A cougar attacked two mountain bikers in a remote area in Washington state, killing one and wounding the other. The 31-year-old survivor said the men made loud noises when they realized the cougar was chasing them. They thought they had scared it away, but the animal reappeared and grabbed the man's head in its mouth. The other man ran, attracting the cougar's attention, and it chased him down and killed him. The survivor fled to call help, and medics found the cougar standing over the man's body. Wildlife officers later killed the cat, which was emaciated. The survivor was airlifted to a Seattle hospital 30 miles away and was reported to be in satisfactory condition. There have been 16 previous cougar attacks and one fatality reported in Washington state in the last century.

 

 

 

Britain will use new laws for social media companies to rein in "the Wild West elements," including cyberbullying and online child exploitation. In a statement, UK Digital Minister Matt Hancock said, "Digital technology is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better." Hancock's statement also said, "At the same time, I have been clear that we have to address the Wild West elements of the internet through legislation, in a way that supports innovation." Hancock's statement kicked off consultations on what measures the U.K. should enact. The process is intended to produce a set of proposals for future legislation. He said, "I don't want the trolls to win."

Texas high school shooter kills 10, wounds 12 before he’s arrested - That’s in the news on Friday May 18, 2018

18May

00:0000:00

In Texas, as many as 10 people, all believed to be students, were killed Friday in a shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. The suspected shooter - a 17-year-old student - was taken into custody after the attack at the school about 30 miles southeast of Houston. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said that two students are now in custody in connection with the shooting. 12 other students and a school police officer were being treated for injuries. Police also reported finding what appeared to be explosive devices both in the school and outside on the campus and were in process of defusing them. One student told a Houston TV reporter that a gunman came into her first-period art class and started shooting. It was the 22nd school shooting in the U.S. this year, and the nation’s deadliest since the February attack in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and re-energized the gun-control movement after surviving teens launched a campaign for reform. It was also the third school shooting incident in the past week when police said a 14-year-old boy, armed with a rifle, shot and wounded a student at a Southern California high school before fleeing the scene and being arrested. On Wednesday a police officer assigned to an Illinois high school shot and wounded a 19-year-old former student who had brought a gun to the school. Only the shooter was wounded in that incident.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump has said the US is not pursuing the "Libya model" for the denuclearisation of North Korea. Trump said Kim Jong-un would stay in power if he made a deal, and hinted he could be deposed if he refused. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi agreed to give up nuclear weapons in 2003. He was later killed by Western-backed rebels. Most analysts say North Korea was angered by the prospect of a Libya scenario precisely because of what happened to Gaddafi. The comparison was made by Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton. That statement led the North to threaten to pull out of the summit with Trump in Singapore on June 12. As Bolton looked on, Trump said: "if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy... he'd be there, he'd be in his country, he'd be running his country, his country would be very rich." As for the planned summit, Trump said: "Nothing has changed on North Korea that we know of. We have not been told anything." At the summit between the leaders of North and South Korea in late April both sides agreed to work to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. North Korea said last week it would begin dismantling its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri between 23-25 May, but there was no mention of allowing foreign experts access to the site.

 

 

 

The World Health Organization announced Friday that Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak does not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency. The word comes as health officials rushed to contain the often deadly virus that has spread to a city of more than 1 million. The health agency called the risk to the public in Congo “very high” and the regional risk high, with the global risk low. The Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic are nearby and are among nine neighboring countries alerted. The WHO said there should be no international travel or trade restrictions. Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour’s flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor. The vast, impoverished country now has 14 confirmed Ebola cases, with dozens of others probable or suspected. WHO officials said vaccinations could begin as early as Sunday in a key test of an experimental treatment. The Ebola vaccine proved highly effective in the West Africa outbreak a few years ago, although the vaccine was used long after the epidemic had peaked. More than 4,000 doses have arrived in Congo this week, with more on the way, but one challenge will be keeping the vaccine refrigerated in a region with poor infrastructure and patchy electricity.

 

 

 

New York City police said a former Playmate centerfold model, involved in a custody battle, jumped to her death from a Manhattan hotel while holding her 7-year-old son. The bodies of 47-year-old Stephanie Adams and her son Vincent were found on the second floor of the rear part of The Gotham Hotel on East 46th Street in midtown Manhattan. Sources told ABC News that Adams had a history of domestic violence with her estranged husband. Investigators said the pair checked into the penthouse suite of the Gotham Hotel on the 25th floor the night before. They were found on a second-floor balcony Friday morning by hotel workers, who called the police.

 

 

 

President Trump said on Friday he will nominate Robert Wilkie to take over as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, replacing David Shulkin who was pushed out of the job over alleged ethics problems. Wilkie has been serving as acting secretary of the department since Shulkin departed. Trump had nominated his presidential physician, Ronny Jackson, for the top Veterans Affairs job in place of Shulkin, but the Navy admiral's nomination fizzled in the Senate amid questions about whether he had the right experience for the position.

 

 

 

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, despite objections over her role in harsh post-9/11 interrogations critics described as torture. Haspel, previously the CIA deputy director, will be the first woman to lead the agency. She has served in the CIA for three decades, mostly undercover. She was the supervisor of a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 when a terrorist suspect was waterboarded there, and some senators expressed misgivings about that and about her role in the destruction of videotapes of the sessions in 2005. Haspel won support from key Democrats by writing this week that the program "did damage to our officers and our standing in the world."

 

 

 

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was released from a hospital in southern England on Friday, more than two months after he and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. The 66-year-old former double agent's daughter, Yulia, was discharged from the hospital last month, although doctors cautioned that they faced many "unknowns" in their recovery and could still have problems with cognition, mobility, and mental state. Investigators have blamed the attack on Moscow, which denies involvement. Skripal sold secrets to Britain and was convicted and jailed in Russia, then released in a 2010 prisoner swap. Britain's Foreign Ministry issued an April statement claiming that the poisoning "was attempted murder using an illegal chemical weapon that we know Russia possesses."

 

 

 

Online payments firm PayPal bought Swedish startup iZettle for $2.2 billion. Stockholm-based iZettle is one of Europe's best-known fintech companies. Serving nine countries in Western Europe, as well as Brazil and Mexico, iZettle offers financial products for small businesses, including payments through smartphones. The acquisition - the largest in PayPal’s history - comes only two weeks after iZettle announced its upcoming plans to go IPO. iZettle expects to generate $165 million in revenue in 2018, with approximately $6 billion processed on its platform. Jacob de Geer and Magnus Nilsson launched iZettle in 2010. The name is a combination of the words "I" and "Settle," positioning the company as a fixer in settling debts. News of PayPal’s acquisition prompted shares of one of iZettle’s largest competitors, Square, founded by billionaire Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, to slip by 5% on Thursday.

 

 

 

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk- who made a large part of his fortune as PayPal's founder - unveiled details for his Loop "personalized mass transit" system that will carry people in pods traveling at 150 miles per hour through a network of tunnels under Los Angeles. He said the project by one of his ventures, The Boring Company, would take people from downtown Los Angeles to Los Angeles International Airport through a vacuum tube in eight minutes, for $1. Musk's company has been digging, or "boring," its first tunnel under Los Angeles after Musk tweeted complaints about LA's traffic many times. "It's the only way we can think of to address the chronic traffic issues in major cities," Musk said at the event.

 

 

 

Prince Charles will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle when she marries his son, Prince Harry, on Saturday. Kensington Palace announced Friday that "The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way." A day earlier, Markle confirmed that her father, Thomas Markle, would not be able to travel to the U.K. to attend the royal wedding as planned, due to health problems following heart surgery. The royal couple arrived at Windsor Castle on Friday as the military began rehearsals for the wedding.

City of more than one million residents threatened by Ebola in Congo - That’s in the news on Thursday May 17, 2018

17May

00:0000:00

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted from its summit before dawn Thursday, shooting a dusty plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky. The U.S. Geological Survey said the explosion came at about 6 a.m. after two weeks of volcanic activity and the opening of more than a dozen fissures east of the crater that spewed lava into neighborhoods. Residents who live in a nearby town reported light amounts of ash falling following the eruption. The lava that has emerged over the last two weeks has destroyed at least 26 homes and 10 other structures. The crater sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11 in preparation for an eruption. Officials have said they didn’t expect the explosion to be deadly as long as people remained out of the closed national park. Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Communities a mile or two away may be showered by pea-sized fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash, they said. Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983. It’s one of five volcanoes that comprise the Big Island of Hawaii, and the only one currently erupting. An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash, and dust into the air for 17 days.

 

 

 

Congo’s Ebola outbreak has spread to a crossroads city of more than 1 million people. According to authorities, it is a troubling turn that marks the first time the vast, impoverished country has had to fight the lethal virus in an urban area. Medical teams rushed to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people, while the World Health Organization continued shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine. One confirmed case and one suspected case of hemorrhagic fever were discovered in an area that includes Mbandaka, a densely populated provincial capital on the Congo River. The city is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week. A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo since last week: three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to WHO. Twenty-three people among those cases have died. Up to now, the outbreak was confined to remote rural areas, where Ebola is easier to contain. The virus, which is spread by bodily fluids, can travel far more easily in heavily populated areas.

 

 

 

North Korea’s chief negotiator called the South Korean government “ignorant and incompetent” on Thursday, denounced U.S.-South Korean air combat drills and threatened to halt all talks with the South unless its demands are met. The comments by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country, were the latest in a string of inflammatory statements marking a drastic change in tone after months of easing tension with plans for denuclearization and a summit scheduled with the United States. Ri criticized the South for participating in the drills, as well as for allowing “human scum” to speak at its National Assembly, the North’s KCNA news agency said in a statement. The statement said, “Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face to face again with the present regime of South Korea." However, the statement did not elaborate.

 

 

 

Michigan State University has reached a $500 million settlement with hundreds of victims of Larry Nassar, the former school physician who has been accused of sexual assault by scores of women. The settlement, announced Wednesday, requires the school to pay out $425 million while reserving $75 million should more victims come forward. Nassar remained employed by Michigan State for years after his abuse was first reported to school officials; university president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis have resigned in the backlash. Nassar was also a longtime team doctor for USA Gymnastics, and several athletes spoke out about his abuse at his sentencing earlier this year, including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.

 

 

 

A New York state appeals court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s bid to halt a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” who accused him of making unwanted sexual advances on her. In a one-page order, the Appellate Division in Manhattan did not explain why it denied Trump’s motion to stay the lawsuit by Summer Zervos. The White House was not immediately available for comment. Trump has been challenging a March 20 ruling by Justice Jennifer Schecter of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, which rejected his claim that as president he was immune from lawsuits over private conduct predating his entering the White House. Zervos first came forward in October 2016, a month before the presidential election, following the release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump spoke in vulgar terms about trying to have sex with women. While Trump apologized for his comments, Zervos accused him of having kissed her against her will at a 2007 meeting in New York, and later groped her at a Beverly Hills hotel. During his campaign, Trump repeatedly said all accusations made by women after the “Access Hollywood” recording became public were “lies,” and republished on Twitter a post that called Zervos’ accusations a hoax. Zervos has said those denials amounted to defamation.

 

 

 

President Trump lent credence Thursday to reports that FBI informants had infiltrated his presidential campaign, saying that “if so, this is bigger than Watergate!” Trump’s comments came on the anniversary of Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to head the Justice Department probe into possible coordination between Russia and Trump campaign officials, an investigation Trump repeatedly has called a “witch hunt.”Trump said Thursday on Twitter, “Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT". The New York Times reported this week that at least one government informant met several times with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, both former foreign policy advisers on Trump’s Republican campaign. The newspaper attributed the information to current and former FBI officials. The Watergate scandal in the early 1970s occurred following a break-in by five men at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington and subsequent attempts by the administration of President Richard Nixon to hide its involvement. Nixon, a Republican, ultimately resigned from office as a result of the ensuing investigation.

 

 

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday listed drugmakers, including Celgene, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and Novartis AG, who the regulator says are potentially blocking access to samples of their drugs to delay generic competition. The FDA said generic drugmakers may not be able to develop alternatives without access to samples of branded products they intend to copy. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb who has made faster approvals of cheaper generic medicines a priority said in a statement this should be true even in cases where there is limited access to drugs for safety reasons. The FDA said it has also heard of some drugmakers adopting tactics to make it hard for generic companies to purchase branded drugs even at a fair value and in open market. The industry lobby group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said it was concerned that the FDA list lacks context and conflates a number of issues. The list of dozens of companies can be found on the FDA’s website.

 

 

 

Senate Democrats, with the help of three Republicans, approved legislation seeking to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's plan to ditch the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules preventing internet service providers from slowing connections for some users and letting others pay for faster service. Despite prevailing in the 52-47 vote, Democrats have little hope of passing the measure in the Republican-controlled House. Even if they did, President Trump would be expected to veto it, and Democrats would lack the votes to override him. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by Trump in January 2017, got the commission to overturn the net neutrality rules in December, calling them heavy-handed.

 

 

 

Google’s YouTube will launch a music streaming service next week, it said on Thursday, looking to use its popular internet video brand to tap the growing market for paid music streaming. YouTube Music, which will offer both ad-supported and $9.99-per-month versions, will compete directly with services from Spotify, Pandora, Apple, and Amazon. YouTube Music will launch on May 22 and include features such as personalized playlists based on a user’s YouTube history. The service is expected to eventually replace Google Play Music, parent company Alphabet's existing music streaming brand. The news sent stocks of music streaming companies Spotify and Pandora lower by about 2 percent on Thursday morning. The growing adoption of paid music streaming has helped wean a generation of music listeners away from free or pirated music and has led to services such as Spotify and Apple Music becoming the recording industry’s single biggest revenue source.

 

 

 

Meghan Markle said Thursday that her father will not be able to attend her wedding to Prince Harry due to health problems. The news came as British military personnel rehearsed for a gala procession through Windsor that will follow Saturday’s ceremony, which will be televised live around the world. Markle said in a statement released by Kensington Palace. “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.” The palace has not revealed any details about Thomas Markle’s health issues, but the celebrity website TMZ says the 73-year-old retired Hollywood cinematographer is hospitalized in California after undergoing a procedure to clear blocked coronary arteries. He reportedly told the website he was OK after three stents had been inserted, but needed to rest. Thomas Markle had been scheduled to walk his daughter down the aisle when she weds her prince Saturday in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. It’s possible that Doria Ragland, the bride’s mother, could fill that role instead. No replacement has been officially named. Meghan Markle may also choose to walk down the aisle by herself.

- Older Posts »