British PM Theresa May Resigns After Failing to Secure Orderly BREXIT From E.U. - That’s in the news Friday May 24, 2019

24May

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday announced her resignation after failing to pass a deal on the U.K.'s exit from the European Union. May said she felt "deep regret" that she could not fulfill her promise to lead the Brexit process to completion, saying she had "done my best." Parliament rejected the deal she negotiated with the EU three times, and she lost crucial support when she proposed a new plan that could have let lawmakers call for a second referendum on whether to leave the EU at all. May took over as prime minister shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum, following David Cameron's resignation. She will step down as Conservative Party leader on June 7, triggering a leadership contest on June 10.

 

 

 

Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with violating the Espionage Act by illegally obtaining and exposing secrets leaked by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The 18 new counts added pressure on Assange, who recently was arrested for skipping bail in the U.K. after Ecuador expelled him from its London embassy, where he found refuge six years earlier to avoid being sent to Sweden for questioning on a rape allegation. Assange already has been charged by the U.S. with conspiring with Manning to hack into secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents. Manning was arrested in May 2010 and convicted by court martial in 2013 of espionage in connection with the 2010 Wikileaks disclosures. President Barack Obama reduced Manning’s sentence to 7 years from 35 years, but she is now back in jail after repeatedly refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Assange.

 

 

 

President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Attorney General William Barr’s review of the events that prompted an investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. The order also allows Barr to declassify any information he sees fit during his review. The memorandum comes as the White House spars with congressional Democrats over the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller led a two-year investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election and if there were any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Of specific interest to Trump are the warrants that emanated from a secretive court that authorizes surveillance on foreign powers and their agents. Trump supporters believe the warrants will identify those responsible for the Russia probe that is still roiling Washington. Last month, Barr said at a Senate hearing that “spying” on Trump’s campaign was carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies, though he later referred to his concerns as focused on “unauthorized surveillance.” Barr has assigned a top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to probe the origins of the Russia investigation in what is the third known inquiry into the opening of the FBI probe.

 

 

 

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that his country will not surrender to U.S. pressure and will not abandon its goals even if it is bombed, stepping up the war of words between the Islamic Republic and the United States. Earlier in the day, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that Iran’s top military chief said the standoff between Tehran and Washington was a “clash of wills”, warning that any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response. Tensions are festering between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what U.S. officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region. On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Trump wants Iran to come to the table to negotiate a new deal with stricter curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.

 

 

 

North Korea said Friday that nuclear negotiations with the United States will never resume unless the Trump administration moves away from what Pyongyang described as unilateral demands for disarmament. The statement published in state media was the country’s latest expression of displeasure over the stalled negotiations as it continues to press Washington to soften its stance on enforcing sanctions against the North’s crippled economy. It came as President Trump prepares to travel to Japan this weekend for a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in which the North Korean nuclear issue will likely be high on the agenda. The North accused the U.S. of deliberately causing February’s collapse of talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with unilateral and impossible demands. The U.S. has said the Trump-Kim talks broke down because of North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Kim has since declared that the Trump administration has until the end of the year to come up with mutually acceptable terms for a deal.

 

 

 

Libya’s coast guard rescued 290 migrants clinging to inflatable rafts on Friday in two operations near the capital Tripoli. The western coast of Libya is the main departure point of hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing their countries from wars and poverty to reach shores of Italy. A naval forces spokesman said a coastguard vessel rescued 87 migrants off Qarabuli, a town 50 km (31 miles) east of Tripoli, on an inflatable boat. The coast guard is part of Libya’s Navy. Another group of 203 migrants were rescued from two inflatable boats off Zlitin, a town 160 km (100 miles) east of the capital. The migrants have been handed-over to anti-illegal migration department after they were disembarked at two cities of Khomas and Janzur. A Libyan government spokesperson said they are from different Arab and sub-Saharan countries, and included seven women and a child. After an Italy-backed deal, the number of crossings has sharply dropped since July 2017 when human traffickers were expelled by an armed group from the smuggling hub of Sabratha city in western Tripoli.

 

 

 

Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein has reached a tentative $44 million settlement with women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, creditors, and the New York attorney general. The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy last year, and lawyers told a bankruptcy court judge on Thursday that a deal has been reached in which the alleged victims, former Weinstein Co. employees, and studio creditors would receive $30 million, with an additional $14 million going toward legal fees. The money would reportedly come from various insurance policies. Weinstein is set to go on trial in September on rape and other sexual assault charges. He denies ever engaging in nonconsensual sex.

 

 

 

The former head of a Tokyo and Las Vegas investment firm was sentenced Thursday to 50 years in prison for bilking thousands of Japanese victims in what prosecutors called a $1.5 billion international Ponzi scheme that ranks among the largest-ever fraud cases in the U.S. The defendant Edwin Fujinaga, who is 72, was also ordered to pay nearly $1.3 billion in restitution to victims, including many vulnerable retirees in Japan who were told they were safely investing in a medical collections business that could earn a 6% to 10% annual return. Evidence at the trial showed that some lost their life savings while Fujinaga spent lavishly on himself, buying a Las Vegas golf course mansion, private jet, luxury cars and real estate in California wine country, Beverly Hills and Hawaii. The judge called efforts by Fujinaga to apologize “offensive", and acknowledged that the severity of his crimes approached those of convicted U.S. Ponzi schemers Bernard Madoff in New York, Allen Stanford in Houston and Scott Rothstein in Miami. The judge also ordered him to surrender $813 million in assets.

 

 

 

The Federal Aviation Administration expects to approve Boeing’s 737 MAX jet to return to service as soon as late June. That's what representatives of the FAA told members of the United Nations’ aviation agency in a private briefing on Thursday. The target, if achieved, means U.S. airlines would likely not have to greatly extend costly cancellations of 737 MAX jets they have already put in place for the peak summer flying season, but the FAA representatives warned that there was no firm timetable to get the planes back in the air. American, Southwest and United suspended 737 MAX flights into July and August after the FAA grounded Boeing’s best-selling jet in March following two crashes in the space of five months that together killed 346 people. Boeing said last week it had completed an update to the software, known as MCAS, which would stop erroneous data from triggering an anti-stall system that automatically turned down the noses of the two planes that crashed, despite pilot efforts to prevent it from doing so. Boeing has yet to formally submit the fix to the FAA and has not set a date to do so.

 

 

 

SpaceX company launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on Thursday on a mission to carry the first batch of five dozen small satellites into low-Earth orbit for Elon Musk's new Starlink internet service. The launch came a week after two back-to-back countdowns for the mission were scrubbed - once due to high winds over the Cape and the next night in order to update satellite software and “triple-check” all systems. The Falcon 9 released its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday’s launch. Each one weighs 500 pounds (227 kg), making it the heaviest payload for any SpaceX rocket to date. Those satellites are designed to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed internet service from space to paying customers around the globe. Musk has said he sees the new Starlink venture as an important new revenue stream for his California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, whose launch service income he expects to top out at around $3 billion a year.

 

This podcast will return on Tuesday May 28th, followiing the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.

NOAA: Atlantic Hurricane Season Expected to be ‘Average’ With Forecast of 9 to15 Named Storms - That’s in the news Thursday May 23, 2019

23May

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party claimed it won reelection with a commanding lead in Thursday’s vote count, while the head of the main opposition party conceded a personal defeat that signaled the end of an era for modern India’s main political dynasty. Official data from the Election Commission showed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead in 302 of the 542 seats up for grabs, up from the 282 it won in 2014 and more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament. That would give his party the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984. Votes will be fully counted by Friday morning. The election has been seen as a referendum on 68-year-old Modi, whose economic reforms have had mixed results but whose popularity as a social underdog in India’s highly stratified society has endured. Critics have said his Hindu-first platform risks exacerbating social tensions in the country of 1.3 billion people. India's stock market surged to a record high on expectations of a second term for Modi's business-friendly government.

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May faced mounting calls to resign in a backlash against her latest Brexit plan, and multiple reports indicated she could step down as soon as Friday. The resignation of the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, on Wednesday night appeared to have left May with no way forward. Leadsom was scheduled to introduce May's new Brexit plan on Thursday but she said she could not support it because it could pave the way for a second referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union at all, which she said would be "dangerously divisive." The turmoil came as the European Union starts parliamentary elections that could see far-right populists and EU skeptics expand their power.

 

 

 

John Walker Lindh, widely known as the "American Taliban," was scheduled to be released on probation Thursday after serving 17 years of a 20-year prison term. Lindh, now 38, converted to Islam from Catholicism as a teenager and traveled overseas to study Arabic and the Quran. He joined the Taliban by the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and was still in Afghanistan when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, which had refused to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Lindh was present when Taliban fighters staged an attack that killed CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann and was captured in 2001 during the invasion of Afghanistan, when he was 21. Critics expressed concern about his release due to reports that Lindh's still supports global jihad.

 

 

 

Federal prosecutors in New York City on Wednesday charged Michael Avenatti with diverting $300 thousand that his former client, porn star Stormy Daniels, was supposed to get for a book deal, and using it for his own expenses. Avenatti represented Daniels in her legal fight with President Trump over a hush money payment related to her claim that she had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago, which Trump denies. Avenatti tweeted that he never "misappropriated or mishandled" Daniels' money, adding later that his agreement for representing her "included a percentage of any book proceeds." In a separate case, Avenatti was charged with trying to extort as much as $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose alleged payments to steer star athletes to colleges Nike sponsored.

 

 

 

The United States and China had a heated exchange on Thursday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing the chief executive of Huawei Technologies of lying about his company’s ties to the communist government - and Beijing saying Washington must end its “wrong actions” if it wants trade talks to continue. Pompeo told CNBC, “The company is deeply tied not only to China but to the Chinese Communist Party. And that connectivity, the existence of those connections puts American information that crosses those networks at risk." Congress also moved Wednesday to provide about $700 million in grants to help U.S. telecoms providers with the cost of removing Huawei equipment from their networks, and to block the use of equipment or services from Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE in next-generation 5G networks. The U.S. placed Huawei on a trade blacklist last week, effectively banning U.S. firms from doing business with the world’s largest telecom network gear maker and escalating a trade battle between the world’s two biggest economies.

 

 

 

Meanwhile no further trade talks between top Chinese and U.S. negotiators have been scheduled since the last round ended on May 10, when President Trump sharply hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and took steps to levy duties on all remaining Chinese imports. With no resolution in sight, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a $16 billion aid program to help U.S. farmers hurt by the trade war, with some funds to be used to open markets outside China to U.S. products. Farmers have been among those hardest hit by the U.S.-China trade war, although retailers are also warning that the latest round of potential tariffs will raise prices for many of their consumers. Stock markets worldwide fell sharply on Thursday as concerns grew that the China-U.S. trade conflict was fast turning into a technology cold war.

 

 

 

A powerful tornado hit Jefferson City, Missouri, late Wednesday, causing heavy damage in the state capital as violent weather swept through the state. Missouri Public Safety confirmed via Twitter that three deaths occurred in Golden City, although no deaths were reported in the capital. "Across the state, Missouri's first responders once again responded quickly and with strong coordination as much of the state dealt with extremely dangerous conditions that left people injured, trapped in homes, and tragically led to the death of three people," Governor Mike Parson said. The violent weather came after several days of tornadoes and flooding in parts of the Southern Plains and Midwest.

 

 

 

Encouraged by a favorable weather outlook, SpaceX will try again to launch its first 60 Starlink satellites from Florida on Thursday night. Upper-level wind shift that derailed the launch a week ago is not expected to be a factor, according to a forecast from the U.S. Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Starlink payload is to ride aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40 into low-Earth orbit. Satellites such as Starlink have to achieve a precise path and orbit distance. The Starlink launch is aimed at establishing SpaceX's own high-speed Internet satellite network. The company is one of several big players trying to start new networks that use thousands of non-geostationary satellites to offer high-speed Internet and other types of communication around the globe. The focus is on boosting Internet access to rural areas first. The satellites are expected to deploy within an hour after launch, most likely over Tasmania. This will be the heaviest payload to be launched with the Falcon rocket.

 

 

 

Tropical storm experts say the Atlantic hurricane season should be an average one. Nine to 15 named storms are forecast during the six-month season that starts June 1, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been largely correct with its predictions in recent years. Of those, 4 to 8 will become hurricanes and 2 to 4 will be major systems with winds of 111 miles (179 kilometers) per hour or more. The Atlantic averages 12 named storms a year, with six becoming hurricanes and three major storms. The hurricane season will be closely watched because of its potential to take a heavy human toll as well as rattle oil and gas markets across the globe. Over the past two years, storms including Michael, Irma and Harvey led to scores of deaths and over $250 billion in damages. They have also sent U.S. gasoline prices surging, shifted global crude and fuel flows, disrupted production in the energy-rich Gulf Coast and threatened crops. Last year had 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and two major ones, Florence and Michael. Both storm names have been retired from official lists.

United Nations Says Risk of Nuclear Weapons Use is at Highest Level Since 1945 - That’s in the news on Wednesday May 22, 2019

22May

A senior United Nations security expert said the risk of using nuclear weapons is at its highest level since World War Two. Renata Dwan, director of the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), said it's an “urgent” issue that the world should take more seriously. Dwan said all states with nuclear weapons have nuclear modernization programs underway and the arms control landscape is changing, partly due to strategic competition between China and the United States. She told reporters in Geneva that traditional arms control arrangements are also being eroded by the emergence of new types of war, with increasing prevalence of armed groups and private sector forces and new technologies that blurred the line between offense and defense. She said, “I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognize – and this has been somewhat missing in the media coverage of the issues – that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War Two.” She added that the threat was not being adequately addressed in arms control talks or multilateral bodies such as the U.N. Security Council, nor by bilateral arrangements between states.

 

 

 

For the second day in a row, officials say the U.S. military has intercepted Russian military jets near the Alaskan coast. North American Aerospace Defense Command said Wednesday American pilots intercepted Russian Tu-95 bombers and Su-35 fighter jets on Tuesday. U.S. F-22 fighters chased the Russian aircraft until they left the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone - known as ADIZ. NORAD also said it intercepted four Russian bombers and two Russian Su-35 fighter jets off the coast of Alaska on Monday. The Russian nuclear capable long-range bombers flew into the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends approximately 200 miles off Alaska's western coast. U.S. officials said the Russian planes didn't enter U.S. sovereign airspace, which extends vertically above U.S. territorial waters. Aircraft are allowed to fly in the ADIZ without authorization, but will be intercepted and treated as enemy aircraft. The Russian defense ministry said they were "scheduled sorties" over neutral waters. NORAD said U.S. forces have intercepted an average of six or seven Russian planes in the Alaska zone every year since 2007. The Russian bomber flights are seen by US military officials as part of Moscow's effort to train its military for a potential crisis while simultaneously sending a message of strength to adversaries.

 

 

 

Yemeni Houthi rebels, who are allied with Iran, reportedly used a bomb-laden drone to attack a Saudi airport and military base on Tuesday. The attack on the Saudi city of Najran came as tensions escalated between Iran and the U.S. Tehran announced it had quadrupled its capacity to enrich uranium, a year after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark Iran nuclear deal that exchanged the curbing of Iran's nuclear program for sanctions relief. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking expanded powers to confront an "economic war," said in a televised speech that Iran would "not bow to bullies." U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said since the U.S. sent military resources to the Persian Gulf region, signs indicated that a once-imminent Iranian or Iranian-backed attack on U.S. interests in the region was "on hold."

 

 

 

President Trump abruptly quit a meeting with congressional Democrats Wednesday with a flat declaration he would no longer work with them unless they drop their investigations in the aftermath of the Trump-Russia report. Trump delivered an extensive denunciation of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation during a highly unusual appearance in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday. Trump said he had intended to sit down with Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, about infrastructure, but cut the planned White House meeting short. Speaking at a lectern with a sign in front of it that read “no collusion,” “no obstruction”, Trump said that he respects Congress, but said Democrats are abusing its power. Trump said, “This whole thing was a take-down attempt of the president of the United States,” blasting Democrats for continuing to investigate him and slamming Speaker Pelosi's comment earlier that he was “engaged in a cover-up.” Trump said Democrats would need to complete their various investigations before a deal on infrastructure or any other topic would be considered. As Trump stormed out of the meeting, a Democratic aide quoted Pelosi as saying, "I knew the president was not serious about infrastructure and would find a way out."

 

 

 

Easing some of the escalating tension between Congress and the White House, the House intelligence committee postponed efforts to enforce a subpoena against the Justice Department on Wednesday after officials agreed to hand over a cache of documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia report. The agreement came a day after the department said it would be willing to provide documents from Mueller’s investigation but only if the committee didn’t take action against Attorney General William Barr. The panel had been expected to vote at Wednesday’s meeting — now postponed — on an unspecified “enforcement action” against Barr or the department after they refused to hand over an unredacted version of Mueller’s report and other documents related to the Russia probe. Democrats are accusong President Trump and the Attorney General of trying to stonewall and block their constitutional oversight duties. A separate House panel voted earlier this month to hold Barr in contempt after he failed to comply with a similar subpoena. Rep. Adam Schiff, the intelligence committee’s chairman, said in a statement that the Justice Department will begin turning over 12 categories of “counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,” and that process should be completed by the end of next week.

 

 

 

Authorities in Indonesia on Wednesday temporarily restricted the sharing of videos and photos via social media after at least 6 people died in violent protests against the election of President Joko Widodo to a second and final term. Hundreds were also injured in clashes between police and people participating in the protests organized by losing candidate Prabowo Subianto. Subianto, an ultra-nationalist politician, has refused to accept the official results of the April 17 election and instead declared himself the winner. The Election Commission on Tuesday said Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, had won 55.5% of the vote, securing the moderate technocrat a second term as leader of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Subianto, an elite figure from a wealthy family connected to former dictator Suharto, also lost to Widodo in 2014. He has made four unsuccessful bids for the presidency since Suharto was ousted in 1998.

 

 

 

Nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from their homes in northern Alberta, Canada to escape a monstrous blaze that has reached 200 thousand acres. The provincial government said the Chuckegg Creek Wildfire, burning in Mackenzie County just three miles south of the town of High Level, has been scorching ground for more than two days and is just one of a "number of out-of-control wildfires" burning in Alberta. Premier Jason Kenney said the wildfire is a level 6 out of 6 on the fire intensity scale, "meaning that the fire is jumping crown to crown of trees." With continuing hot and dry condition, officials said the danger will only increase. Alberta Wildfire officials said there are about 90 firefighters and staff on the ground, 25 helicopters, air tankers and 10 structural protection units and heavy machinery fighting the fire, which is still out of control. Officials said residents should be prepared to be away from home for at least 72 hours. Kenney said no injuries or damaged homes had been reported by late Tuesday, but community members are stepping up to help residents that have been temporarily displaced by the wildfire.

 

 

 

Oklahoma was bracing for more rain Wednesday , with parts of the state already flooded following days of severe weather that’s blamed for at least three deaths after also battering Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. Officials were urging residents of Webbers Falls, some 70 miles (113 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa, to leave their homes as the Arkansas River approached near-historic levels in the town of about 600 people. The National Weather Service said the Arkansas River is at 34.5 feet (10.5 meters), or 6.5 feet (2 meters) above flood stage, as of Wednesday morning. The river was expected to rise to 40 feet (12 meters) by Thursday morning. Flood warnings were issued in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma through the weekend. More than 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain has fallen since Sunday in parts of Oklahoma after an already rainy spring. Forecasters say parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas could see more severe weather Wednesday, the latest in a multi-day stretch of storms that have produced dozens of tornadoes.

 

 

 

British and Japanese mobile phone companies said Wednesday they’re putting on hold plans to sell new devices from Huawei, in the latest fallout from U.S. tech restrictions aimed at the Chinese company. The U.S. government last week restricted technology sales to Chinese telecom gear suppliers because of alleged security risks, though telecom carriers got a 90-day grace period to let them find other suppliers. British mobile chip designer Arm said separately it was complying with the U.S. rules, after the BBC reported it was suspending business with Huawei — a move that could hobble the Chinese tech company’s ability to produce chips for new devices. It’s unclear when, or if, the companies will lift the sales freezes. British carriers plan this year to roll out 5G services while Japan will follow in 2020. Fifth generation mobile networks will enable superfast downloads and pave the way for new innovations like connected cars and remote medicine. The sales ban is part of a broader trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Nationwide Rallies Attract Thousands Protesting Anti-Abortion Laws Recently Approved by Some States. That’s in the news on Tuesday May 21, 2019

21May

Hundreds of rallies are taking place across the United States Tuesday to oppose new momentum in recent weeks to overturn the Supreme Court's 46-year-old ruling that makes abortion legal in the U.S. Rallies in all 50 states and thousands of demonstrators were expected to turn out -- likely for both sides -- from California to New York. The American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America are two groups participating in the "Stop the Bans" rallies Tuesday. More than 250 events are planned, including one outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The run of new legislation is a concerted effort to overturn the high court's landmark 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade. With a greater conservative majority on the bench -- with the inclusion of Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh -- abortion opponents hope the issue will again end up before the justices, for a new landmark ruling that outlaws the practice. President Donald Trump has supported efforts to overturn abortion laws. Last weekend, he said he favors a total abortion ban with only three exceptions -- in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.

 

 

 

As those protests take place Tuesday, the United Nations human rights office called on U.S. authorities on Tuesday to ensure that women have access to safe abortions, saying bans lead to risky underground abortions that can endanger a woman’s life. U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said evidence and experience have shown that complete bans on abortions do not reduce their number, but drive them underground “jeopardizing the life, health and safety of the women concerned." She added such bans are also “inherently discriminatory”, affecting women who are poor, from minority backgrounds or other marginalized communities.

 

 

 

Authorities in New Zealand have charged Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man facing 50 murder charges over the March 15 massacre at two Christchurch mosques, with committing a terrorist act. A police spokesman said the decision to charge Tarrant under the Terrorism Suppression Act, which is rarely invoked, came after consultations between police officials and government lawyers. Both the murder and terrorism charges carry possible life sentences. Some legal experts warned that a terrorism trial could give Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, a platform for his ideology. Bill Hodge, a University of Auckland law professor, told Newstalk ZB, "He will say 'I'm not a terrorist, I'm a patriot.'"

 

 

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected talks with the United States on Tuesday, after President Trump said Iran would call and ask for negotiations “if and when they are ever ready”. Tehran and Washington have escalated rhetoric against each other in recent weeks as the United States has tightened sanctions with what it says is the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal. State news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying, “Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only." Trump withdrew the United States a year ago from the deal between Iran and global powers, under which Tehran curbed its uranium enrichment capacity, a potential pathway to a nuclear bomb, and won sanctions relief in return. However Trump restored U.S. sanctions on Iran last year and extended them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own. Iran has repeatedly rejected any further negotiations as long as the United States remains outside the nuclear pact. Rouhani won two landslide elections in Iran on promises to ease its international isolation. But Trump’s decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal has helped ensure that Iranians have felt little or no economic benefit from Rouhani’s policies.

 

 

 

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, introduced a bipartisan bill Monday seeking to raise the national legal age to purchase tobacco. The bill known as the Tobacco-Free Youth Act would raise the legal age to purchase any tobacco product, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapor products, from 18 to 21. It does not include exceptions for military or other service members. Kaine said in a statement. "Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a critical part of our efforts to improve public health and keep tobacco products out of schools and away from our children." McConnell, of Kentucky, said he would make enacting the law one of his highest priorities, declaring youth vaping a "public health crisis" and citing statistics that 90 percent of adult smokers state they used their first tobacco product before turning 19. Both Senators serve states with long histories of tobacco production and have previously introduced measures to limit the sale and public use of tobacco. As governor of Virginia, Kaine signed legislation banning smoking in bars, restaurants, state buildings and vehicles, while McConnell noted he backed a tobacco buyback in Kentucky in 2004 and later advocated to allow farmers to grow hemp. 14 states and nearly 500 localities throughout the United States have already raised the minimum legal age to 21 and retailers including Walmart, Sam's Club and Walgreens have also raised the age for tobacco sales.

 

 

 

A Chinese airline is demanding compensation from Boeing for the grounding and delivery delay of the 737 Max aircraft. China Eastern Airlines claimed Tuesday that it has sustained losses because of the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes. State-run Chinese media Xinhua reports the airline did not disclose details in its letter of claim to Boeing. China Eastern, based in Shanghai, has not flown its 14 Max airplanes since March after China became one of the first countries to stop its commercial operations after crashes of an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March and an Indonesia Lion Air crash in October, killing hundreds. Boeing has been working on a software fix to the current safety system that forced the plane into a steep dive that the pilots could not override to prevent a stall. The system was believed to be involved in both crashes. Airlines and national aviation agencies around the world grounded the 737 Max until Boeing could make fixes and get clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. Boeing had also stopped delivering new 737 Max orders to customers and said it would slash production monthly from 52 to 42.

 

 

 

Ford announced Monday that it would cut 7,000 white-collar jobs to reduce costs. The automaker said it would start notifying affected workers on Tuesday. The cuts amount to about 10 percent of Ford's global salaried staff. The company expects to save about $600 million a year. About 2,400 of the eliminated jobs will be in North America. The cuts, announced in a letter from CEO Jim Hackett to employees, came as Ford executes a massive restructuring and spends $11 billion to remake its business in a bid to increase international sales and modernize its vehicle models. In November, General Motors announced that it was slashing 8,000 non-union jobs, amounting to about 15 percent of its salaried and contract employees.

 

 

 

Niki Lauda, a three-time Formula One champion driver and one of the most popular personalities in racing, died late Monday, eight months after a lung transplant. He was 70. Lauda was seriously injured in an accident that left him severely burned in 1976. He won acclaim by returning to the track and winning championships again in 1977 and 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business. Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed in flight, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew. Lauda also remained involved in racing after his retirement, working as team chairman of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. Lauda won 25 races over his career, winning world championships driving for Ferrari and McLaren. Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005. In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant in Vienna. Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.

 

 

 

A Nepalese man who already holds the record for the number of successful climbs on Mount Everest says he'll do it one more time before he retires. Sherpa climber Kami Rita scaled the world's tallest mountain twice this month and set a new record with his most recent on Tuesday -- his 24th. The 49-year-old man said he plans to make it an even 25 times before retiring. On the most recent trek, he took a group of Indian police officers up the Nepal side to the summit at 29 thousand feet above sea level. They left Monday night and reached the top of the mountain early Tuesday. Rita said he will soon begin planning for his 25th climb. Edmond Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first to climb Mount Everest in 1953, using a southeast route that Rita and other climbers still use today. So far this season, 75 climbers have reached the top of Everest. More than 380 permits have been issued for expeditions.

Iran Thumbs Nose at Nuke Accord Nations by Quadrupling its Uranium Production - That’s in the news Monday May 20, 2019

20May

Iran has apparently quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear accord. That's according to reports from two semi-official news agencies. While the reports said the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran reached with world powers, it means that Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations established by the accord. This news follows days of heightened tensions sparked by the Trump administration’s deployment of bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still-unspecified threats from Iran. So far this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers sustained damage in a sabotage attack; Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia; and U.S. diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.

 

 

 

This news from Iran comes after a Sunday tweet from President Donald Trump warning Iran it would face its “official end” if it threatened America again. In the tweet Trump said, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran." He went on to say, "Never threaten the United States again!" Trump took a more measured approach in an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday night saying, "I'm not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly — by far most importantly. I don't want to fight. But you do have situations like Iran, you can't let them have nuclear weapons — you just can't let that happen." An Iranian military official responded to Trump's threat Monday, saying Tehran would have a "crushing response" to any armed conflict involving the United States.

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia became the latest country to openly proclaim an aversion to warfare with Iran. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Abdel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia does not want or seek war with Iran, but if Iran strikes first, "the kingdom will respond with all force and determination" to defend itself. Riyadh has accused Tehran of ordering drone strikes on two Saudi Arabian oil pumping stations on Tuesday, though Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility and Iran has denied involvement. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly recently discussed strengthening security and stability in the Gulf region with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "The ball is in their court," Jubeir said, referring to Iran.

 

 

 

An explosion hit a tourist bus near the Grand Egyptian Museum next to the pyramids of Giza on Sunday, injuring at least 16 people. The bus reportedly was carrying 25 South African tourists. The injured included seven South Africans. The rest of the victims were Egyptian civilians. Most of the injuries were minor. An explosive device detonated near the museum fence as the bus passed. Islamist extremist militants have targeted tourists in Egypt before, but no group immediately claimed responsibility for this attack. The tourism minister said the victims were being "fully supported in their onward travels."

 

 

 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he's ordered his foreign minister to seek a pact with the United States, Canada and other nations in support of a development plan for Central America to control immigration. Lopez Obrador said President Trump had made a commitment for U.S. investment in Central America and Mexico, and had shown interest in his push for economic development over security aid, but that the next step was to sign an agreement. “We no longer want cooperation for security forces. We don’t want the Merida plan, we don’t want helicopters mounted with machine guns. We want cooperation for development,” Lopez Obrador said, reiterating his view that only economic development will tackle the root causes of immigration. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in December that Washington was committing $5.8 billion to development in Central America and increasing public and private investment in Mexico via the Overseas Private Investment Corporation by $4.8 billion.

 

 

 

Television comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office as Ukraine’s new president on Monday, promising that as hard as he had worked in the past to make Ukrainians laugh, he would now work to keep them from crying. As his first act, he dismissed parliament, setting up an election in two months in which his new party has a chance to win its first seats. Ukraine's Parliament is still dominated by the bloc named for Zelenskiy’s defeated opponent Petro Poroshenko and smaller parties founded mostly as personal vehicles for political insiders. The inauguration day was marked by informal moments that conveyed the outsider persona that helped carry the political novice to a landslide victory last month. Zelenskiy high-fived cheering supporters who held their arms outstretched outside the Soviet-era parliament building, and stopped for a selfie with the crowd. At one point he jumped up to kiss a man on the forehead. He later ditched his motorcade to make his way to his new office on foot. Meanwhile Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said he would step down after the next government meeting on Wednesday and that he would take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

 

 

 

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, appears to have won re-election in his country's huge parliamentary elections, according to exit polls. Modi survived in the largest democratic vote ever despite widespread voter dissatisfaction over unemployment and the troubles of struggling farmers. Exit polls showed that many of the country's 900 million voters responded positively to Modi's forceful Hindu nationalist politics and the strong image his government has projected abroad. "Modi remains incredibly popular despite everything that's happened in the last five years," said South Asia expert Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Nothing really sticks to him." At least seven exit polls projected that Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies would take at least 280 of the 545 seats in the lower house of Parliament, enough to let them choose the prime minister.

 

 

 

Australia's governing Liberal-National Coalition defied predictions over the weekend to win that country's federal elections, defeating presumptive favorite Labor. The coalition secured an outright parliamentary majority on Monday following the shock election victory, allowing Prime Minister Scott Morrison to progress his legislative agenda without the support of independents. Morrison’s coalition defied forecasts to be re-elected on Saturday in what he called a political miracle. The Australian Electoral Commission on Monday said Morrison’s coalition has won 76 seats in Australia’s parliament, which is comprised of 151 elected lawmakers. The victory comes in light of most pre-election opinion polling, which largely pointed to a narrow victory for Labor and its leader, Bill Shorten, who announced he would resign after accepting defeat. Members of the Labor party have blamed a combination of Shorten's unpopularity and the party's controversial tax agenda for the outcome.

 

 

 

Huawei appeared headed Monday toward losing its grip on the No. 2 ranking in worldwide cellphone sales after Google announced it would comply with U.S. government restrictions meant to punish the Chinese tech powerhouse. Google said basic services would still function on the Android operating system used in Huawei’s smartphones. Google also said existing smartphone owners would not lose access to its Google Play app store or security features. But analysts said unless the U.S. Commerce Department grants exceptions, a ban announced last week on all purchases of U.S. technology would badly hurt Huawei. Washington claims Huawei poses a national security threat. Its placement on the so-called Entity List by the Trump administration last week is widely seen as intended to persuade resistant U.S. allies in Europe to exclude Huawei equipment from their next-generation wireless networks, known as 5G.

 

 

 

Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith shocked graduating seniors at Morehouse College during his commencement speech on Sunday when he told them he would pay off the student-loan debts of everyone in their class at the historically black, all-male college in Atlanta. He said, "On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we're going to put a little fuel in your bus." The students responded with a standing ovation. Morehouse President David Thomas said Smith had made a "liberation gift" that could total $40 million for the 396 graduating students. Salutatorian Robert James said, "We're looking at each other like, 'Is he being serious? That's a lot of money." Another graduate, Jonathan Epps, called the gift a "tremendous blessing" and the most generous act he had ever seen.

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