It’s Thursday April 27, 2017

27Apr

00:0000:00

British police said on Thursday a man had been arrested on Whitehall, the street home to numerous government ministries in central London. Police said he will be charged with suspicion of terrorism. London's Metropolitan Police said the man in his late 20s was arrested Thursday "as part of an ongoing operation," and that knives were recovered. The incident happened close to Prime Minister Theresa May's official Downing Street residence in Westminster, but no one was injured but gave no further details. May was not at Downing Street at the time of the incident, her spokesman said. The incident comes just over a month after a British-born convert to Islam ploughed a car into pedestrians on nearby Westminster Bridge killing four people before stabbing to death a police officer in the grounds of parliament. 

 

 

A Russian naval reconnaissance ship sank Thursday after colliding with a freighter off Istanbul, but according to the Russian defense ministry all crew members were rescued. Turkey's coastal safety authority confirmed all 78 crewmembers from the Russian frigate Liman were safe, as were all crew aboard the freighter, the Togo-flagged Youzarsif H. The freighter was carrying livestock, and with only slight damage to its bow, was able to sail back to port. The Defence Ministry said a hole was punched in the starboard side of the Liman during the collision, which occurred around midday Thursday about 40 kilometres northwest of the Bosphorus Strait. The cause of the collision wasn't immediately clear, but there was dense fog in the area at the time. The Liman was part of the Black Sea Fleet, which is on Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

 

 

The House Oversight Committee said Thursday that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned against taking foreign payments. Documents released Thursday show Flynn was advised in 2014 by the Defense Intelligence Agency not to accept foreign payments as he entered retirement. A letter from the agency reminded him that as a retired military officer, he was still barred from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments. The committee also released an April 11 letter indicating Flynn is under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general.

 

 

President Donald Trump has told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not immediately pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. That came just hours after administration officials said he was considering a draft executive order to do just that. The White House made the surprise announcement Wednesday in a read-out of calls involving Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The White House said "the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures," to work on renegotiating the deal. Trump said he believes "the end result will make all three countries stronger and better." Meanwhile Congress and the White House are nearing agreement on a $1 trillion spending bill days ahead of a government shutdown deadline, and President Trump's 100th day in office. The latest progress came after the White House backed off a threat to withhold payments for lower-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

An acute shortage of gasoline in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang has gone on for a week with no explanation. That's raising fears of potentially crippling pain at the pumps if things don't improve soon, and driving rumors that China is to blame. The shortage began last week when signs went up at Pyongyang gas stations informing customers that sales restrictions would be in place until further notice. Prices have shot up. At least one station was charging more than $5 a gallon, about double the typical price of a week ago. China supplies most of energy-poor North Korea's fuel, and in lieu of official explanations, rumors are rife that Beijing is behind the shortage. There are indications Beijing has been quietly tightening enforcement of some international sanctions.

 

 

Two Pakistani intelligence officials say an overnight suspected U.S. drone strike has killed seven militants in a tribal region near the Afghan border. The officials said Wednesday's strike in Zuwai village in North Waziristan was the first since 2014 when the Pakistan army launched a major military operation there. The officials said Thursday no high value militant was killed in the strike. Pakistan's tribal regions have been the scene of CIA drone strikes and Pakistani operations, forcing militants to flee toward Afghanistan and set up sanctuaries there.

 

 

Israel bombed an arms supply center operated by the Lebanese group Hezbollah in Syria on Thursday, according to rebels and regional intelligence sources. The airstrikes near the Damascus airport targeted weapons allegedly sent into the country by Iran on commercial and military cargo planes. Syrian state media condemned what it called "Israeli aggression," saying the attack had caused material losses, without providing details on the damage. Israel normally does not comment on military involvement in Syria, but Intelligence Minister Israel Katz appeared to confirm the airstrikes, saying: "The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel's policy to act to prevent Iran's smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah."

 

 

Syria's government has condemned what it says are "lies and fabricated allegations" by the French foreign minister concerning a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the chemical analysis of samples taken from the April 4 sarin gas attack "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's government and shows it was responsible. In a statement issued Thursday, the Syrian foreign ministry said Ayrault's remarks show "France's involvement in masterminding this crime." It also said France was not suited and had no legal authority to determine what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, the rebel-held town where the incident occurred.

 

 

Italian prosecutors are investigating six people for manslaughter, including the provincial governor, in a deadly avalanche this past winter at a mountain hotel that killed 29 people. The news agency ANSA reported Thursday that the investigation is targeting the Pescara provincial governor, Antonio Di Marco, the mayor of Farindola, Ilario Lacchetta, and the director of the Rigopiano hotel, Bruno Di Tomasso. Also under investigation are two provincial employees and a Farindola city hall worker. The deadly avalanche buried guests and hotel staff as they waited for a snow plow to clear roads of meters-deep snow so they could leave the hotel after being shaken by a series of strong earthquakes. Two people escaped the avalanche while nine, including four children, were pulled alive from the snow and debris days after the tragedy.

 

 

United Airlines says it will raise the limit - to $10,000 - on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights. It's also increasing training for employees as it deals with fallout from the video of a passenger being violently dragged from his seat. United is also vowing to reduce, but not eliminate, overbooking - the selling of more tickets than there are seats on the plane. The airline made the promises Thursday as it released a report detailing mistakes that led to the April 9 incident on a United Express plane in Chicago. United isn't saying whether ticket sales have dropped since the removal of a 69-year-old passenger by three airport security officers, but the airline's CEO Oscar Munoz admits it could be damaging.

 

 

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio says it had to euthanize a 29-year-old male polar bear after veterinarians determined he had liver cancer with limited treatment options. The bear named Nanuq fathered five surviving offspring in a species with a low reproductive rate. Three are cubs born to the zoo's two female polar bears last November. Nanuq also fathered Nora, who moved from Columbus to the Oregon Zoo, and Luna, who remains at the Buffalo Zoo. Officials say Nanuq was rescued as an orphaned cub in Alaska in 1988 and lived at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Wisconsin. He was moved to Buffalo in 2009 and to Columbus in 2012. The zoo says Nanuq surpassed the median life expectancy for such a bear by eight years.

 

 

Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme died Wednesday of complications from cancer. He was 73. Demme was best known for the 1991 horror-thriller The Silence of the Lambs, which starred Anthony Hopkins as serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and Jodie Foster as the novice FBI analyst following his trail. The film became only the third ever to win Academy Awards in all five top categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Demme followed up his Silence of the Lambs success with Philadelphia, one of the first major films to address the AIDS crisis. Demme also made the comedy Something Wild, and he oversaw Stop Making Sense, a critically acclaimed documentary on a Talking Heads concert tour.

 

 

Some visitors to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at California's Disneyland got a surprise: Captain Jack Sparrow himself. Johnny Depp donned the getup of his swashbuckling alter ego and interacted with riders on Wednesday. Videos taken by park goers and shared on social media show Depp chatting with fans as they passed by on the ride's boats. He also spoke to a crowd outside. Depp returns to the big screen as Sparrow next month in the fifth film based on the ride. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" opens May 26, after opening at Shanghai Disneyland on May 11.

It’s Wednesday April 26, 2017

26Apr

00:0000:00

The White House will host a rare classified briefing for the entire 100 member Senate Wednesday on the tensions growing between the U.S and North Korea. It comes on the same day the U.S. military started moving parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD, a controversial missile defense system to a site in South Korea where it will be installed to help protect against threats from North Korea. The latest move comes after the U.S. moved a carrier strike group and a submarine to waters near the Korean peninsula as a show of force to counter increasing provocations by North Korea, and fears that Pyongyang might soon conduct its sixth nuclear weapon test. The Trump administration has been pushing China, a key North Korea ally, to increase pressure on Pyongyang to curb its weapons programs. Meanwhile the senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific says U.S. naval forces in the region are capable of defending themselves against any missiles North Korea may fire at them. During congressional testimony Wednesday, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., says reports that the USS Carl Vinson carrier, and its task force, may be vulnerable to North Korean attacks are misleading. Harris tells members of the House Armed Services Committee that "if it flies it will die" if launched against American war ships. He says North Korea doesn't have a weapon that can threaten the Vinson group. Harris is commander of U.S. Pacific Command. His testimony comes amid growing concerns over North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile programs.

 

 

 

Tense moments for the U.S. Navy this week in the Persian Gulf after a guided-missile destroyer fired a flare toward an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel that was approaching the vessel. A Navy spokesman from the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet says the Iranian boat came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan on Monday. The Mahan crew made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship's whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel's intentions. The Iranian vessel later sailed away. Iranian authorities did not immediately report the incident on Wednesday.

 

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says President Donald Trump's tax plan will amount to - in Mnuchin's words - "the biggest tax cut" and the "largest tax reform" in U.S. History. Mnuchin gave that description during a speech in Washington on Wednesday morning. The White House is set to release the broad outlines of Trump's proposed overhaul later in the day. Trump wants cuts for individuals and businesses, even as the government struggles with mounting debt. The president is trying to make good on promises to bring jobs and prosperity to the middle class. The top tax rate for individuals would fall by a few percentage points, from 39.6 percent to the "mid-30s." That's according to an official familiar with the plan. White House officials already have said the top corporate tax rate would drop from 35 percent to 15 percent under Trump's plan.

 

 

President Trump - in what's become common - has taken to Twitter in reaction to a federal judge's ruling that knocked down an immigration order, calling the decision "ridiculous." On Tuesday a judge issued a decision to block the president's order to withhold funding from "sanctuary cities" that do not cooperate with U.S. immigration officials, and Wednesday morning Trump said he would take his fight to the highest court, tweeting, "See you in the Supreme Court." Trump tweeted that the 9th circuit, which earlier ruled against his travel ban, has "a terrible record of being overturned (close to 80 percent)." The president also tweeted "They used to call this "judge shopping!" Messy system." That is apparently a reference to the 9th circuit's liberal reputation and rulings that have often irked conservatives.

 

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the airstrike that the United States launched at a Syrian military base earlier this month damages the prospects of a political settlement for the war-torn country. The airstrike was in response to a chemical weapons attack on April 4 on a northern Syrian town that Washington blamed on the Syrian government. Lavrov told a security conference on Wednesday the attack was a pretext for a regime change in Syria and said the U.S. response "pushes the prospect for a wide international front on terror even further away." Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier on Wednesday Russia had to boost security measures at its air base in Syria after the airstrike. Russia has provided an air cover for the government's offensive on Islamic State militants.

 

 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Moscow on Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and pursue talks on joint economic projects aimed at a possible breakthrough in their decades-old island dispute. Japanese officials said North Korea is also likely to be discussed given the timing of Abe's trip, though the leaders' approaches remain different. Japan recently held talks with key allies the U.S., South Korea and Australia, agreeing that China and Russia are crucial in pressuring North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs. While China is seen as more cooperative, U.S.-Russia ties have deteriorated over Syria. Abe is to visit Britain next for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May. Defense cooperation, trade and Britain's exit from the European Union are among key issues to be discussed.

 

 

Leaders of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday that President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, might have broken the law by failing to fully disclose his past business dealings with Russia during the process of getting the security clearance he needed to work in Trump's administration. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's ranking Democrat, said that Flynn did not mention on security forms he filled out in January that he had received a $45,000 payment from the Russian government for a 2015 speech he delivered in Moscow. The committee's chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, said Flynn also appeared to have taken payments from Russia-linked companies without getting Pentagon and State Department approval, which he should have done as a former military officer. "It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law," Chaffetz said. Chaffetz and Cummings also said the White House had refused to turn over documents on Flynn's hiring and firing.

 

 

French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron is going hunting for blue-collar votes, planning to meet on Wednesday with workers from a home appliance factory that is the latest hot-button symbol of the loss of French jobs to plants overseas. Macron's discussions with union leaders from the Whirlpool plant in northern France, a region where his anti-European Union opponent Marine Le Pen got the most votes, is not without risk. The pro-EU centrist must walk a fine line between defending his program to tackle France's chronic unemployment without falling into the trap that befell winners in previous elections of struggling to keep campaign promises.

 

 

Leading House conservatives are saying good things about a plan to revive the GOP health care bill. But an influential GOP House moderate is opposing the proposal. That's leaving party leaders to assess whether the idea could help one of President Trump's premier but most problematic priorities spring back to life. Republican lawmakers are scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider the effort to rescue the GOP drive to repeal much of President Barack Obama's health care law. Conservative and moderate GOP leaders have negotiated a plan to let states opt out of some insurance coverage requirements under Obama's statute. Separately, bipartisan negotiators are nearing agreement on a $1 trillion budget bill. Besides financing agencies for the rest of this year, the measure would prevent a partial federal shutdown Saturday.

 

 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Tuesday that President Trump's newly imposed tariff on Canadian lumber could result in a "thickening" of the border separating Canada and the U.S., hurting both of the strong longtime allies and trade partners. "There are millions of good U.S. jobs that depend on the smooth flow of goods, services, and people back and forth across our border," Trudeau said at a news conference, noting that an auto part can cross the border six times before rolling off an assembly line in a finished car. "You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it," Trudeau said. Trump has criticized Canada for allegedly subsidizing Canadian lumber to give its companies an unfair advantage, and enacting policies to drive down milk prices, hurting U.S. dairy farmers.

 

 

Pope Francis has warned the powerful to act humbly or risk ruin, in a TED talk urging the world to show more solidarity with the poor and weak. Francis delivered a videotaped talk to a TED conference in Vancouver on "The Future You," the first by a pope. The Vatican released the video Wednesday. In it, Francis outlined his vision of the interconnectedness of humanity, saying that with age he has grown increasingly convinced that "none of us is an island." He said: "Please allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more you are called to be humble. If you don't, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin others."

It’s Tuesday April 25, 2017

25Apr

00:0000:00

Did North Korea blink? On Tuesday to celebrate the founding of its military, North Korea conducted a major live-fire artillery drill, not a nuclear weapons test or a ballistic missle launch, which Pyongyang had been signaling. Fear has been growing in recent weeks that Pyongyang would soon launch its sixth nuclear weapons test, in defiance of United Nations sanctions. The U.S. made a show of force Tuesday with the docking of an American nuclear missle submarine in South Korea, while a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group continued sailing toward Korean waters. Diplomats from South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. met in Tokyo to discuss North Korea, and the White House plans to host an unusual private briefing on North Korea for the entire 100 member Senate on Wednesday.

 

 

Arkansas carried out the nation's first back-to-back executions in 17 years on Monday night. First, the state put to death Jack Jones, who was convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1995, shortly after 7 p.m. Lawyers for the second inmate, Marcel Williams, filed for a stay, saying the first execution had been botched, but a judge lifted the stay just before 9:30 p.m., local time. Williams, who was convicted of raping and murdering a 22-year-old woman he kidnapped from a gas station in 1994, was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. The executions were part of an unprecedented flurry of eight executions over 11 days that the state scheduled because its supply of a key lethal injection drug is expiring at the end of the month, but several of the other executions have been blocked by courts.

 

 

Kenyan police say 27 people have been killed in a collision between a passenger bus and a trailer truck. Police say the accident took place along the major road linking two of Kenya's biggest cities, capital Nairobi and the port of Mombasa. Road accidents kill around 3,000 people in Kenya every year and deaths through road accidents have increased in recent years despite a crackdown on drunk driving, including tougher fines and breathalyzer tests at random police roadblocks.

 

 

President Donald Trump indicated Monday that he was open to delaying his demand for money to start building his promised border wall, potentially removing an obstacle to a deal that would avoid a looming government shutdown. Congress has to approve a spending bill by Friday to keep government agencies funded through September, and Trump told a gathering of journalists from conservative media outlets that he would be willing to hold off on his push for wall funding until the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate to pass a spending bill, so they will need some Democrats to go along, but Democrats have said including money for Trump's wall on the Mexican border is a deal-breaker. Democrats also are angry over Trump's threat to withhold some ObamaCare subsidies for low-income people. If no agreement is reached, Trump faces the embarrassing prospect of marking his 100th day in office with a government shutdown on Saturday.

 

 

President Trump also plans to propose a sharp cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. White House officials said the proposal is expected to be unveiled Wednesday as part of an outline for a tax code overhaul being unveiled just before the end of Trump's first 100 days in office. Experts say such a cut would be likely to increase the national debt, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the tax cuts, which Trump has promised will be the biggest in U.S. history, would not hurt the federal government's bottom line. Mnuchin said, "The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth."

 

 

 

Pope Francis has told the Egyptian people he is coming to Cairo this week as a friend and a "messenger of peace." In a videotaped message released on Tuesday, Francis also says he hopes the pilgrimage will "be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East." Twin bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday this month killed 44 people. The Pope departs for Cairo on Friday and returns on Saturday. Francis expressed hope that his trip might also "offer a valid contribution to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world, and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerated and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church."

 

 

Alitalia - the airline that Pope Francis uses for world travel - is expected to start bankruptcy procedures after employees rejected proposed salary cuts and layoffs cuts aimed at saving Italy's financially troubled flagship airline. The company's board said Tuesday that "given the impossibility of recapitalization" it has decided to "begin procedures foreseen by law," a reference to extraordinary administration. An Alitalia statement said the board will meet Thursday to discuss the move. Such a scenario could result in shedding unprofitable routes, likely domestic ones, and selling off airliners. In results announced Monday, some two-thirds of employees in a referendum nixed the industrial plan the government had linked to Alitalia's survival. Alitalia has been losing 2 million euros ($2.2 million) daily. For decades, various industrial plans have failed to definitively relaunch Alitalia, but the airline is, meanwhile, flying its routes as usual.

 

 

Former President Barack Obama made an appearance at a public event Monday, the first since the end of his presidency in January, vowing at the University of Chicago to encourage young people to improve their communities and the nation. Obama said, "this community taught me that ordinary people, when working together, can do extraordinary things." Obama has stayed out of the public eye on an extended vacation since leaving the White House and is starting work on a memoir, but his Chicago appearance was the first in what is expected to be a series of events in the U.S. and Europe.

 

 

Harvard University researchers have found a rare second parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence in England. Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen got their first indication of the document's existence in 2015 when one of them spotted a listing in a catalog for the West Sussex Record Office for a "Manuscript copy, on parchment, of the Declaration in Congress of the 13 United States of America." At first, the pair did not suspect the document was anything more than a 19th century copy of the Declaration of Independence - the original version kept at the National Archives in Washington was the only known parchment copy. Twenty months of research convinced Sneff and Allen that the Sussex version, which has signatures out of order, with John Hancock not listed first - was probably a copy made in the 1780s in New York or Philadelphia.

 

 

Google has sprinkled some new ingredients into its search engine in an effort to prevent bogus information and offensive suggestions from souring its results. The changes announced Tuesday reflects Google's confidence in a new screening system designed to reduce the chances that its influential search engine will highlight untrue stories about people and events, a phenomenon commonly referred to as "fake news." Although only a small fraction of Google's search results were being polluted with falsehoods, it was still happening frequently enough to threaten the integrity of a search engine that processes billions of requests a day, largely because it is widely regarded as the internet's most authoritative source of information. Google also has reprogrammed a popular feature to omit derogatory suggestions from its automated recommendations of search requests.

 

 

That's not all that Google is up to these days. Co-founder Larry Page's aviation startup, Kitty Hawk, unveiled the prototype of its long-rumored "flying car" project, an "ultralight" multi-rotor aircraft that can lift off and land vertically. In a demonstration video posted online, the Kitty Hawk Flyer takes off over a lake with a rider perched on top, looking more like a motorcycle or personal watercraft rider than a pilot. Kitty Hawk says it has Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly the aircraft, which won't require a pilot's license, in "uncongested areas." Page said, "we've all had dreams of flying effortlessly... I'm excited that one day very soon I'll be able to climb onto my Kitty Hawk Flyer for a quick and easy personal flight."

 

 

What's the best way to immunize the human body against the malaria parasite? Scientists say one approach is to use the parasite itself as a vaccine, as long as it's been disabled somehow from fully infecting the human body. 'Science Friday' reports that a group in Seattle has completed early human testing on a genetically modified version of the malaria parasite that's hobbled from reproducing and infecting the bloodstream. Stefan Kappe, a professor at the Center for Infectious Disease Research, said the group genetically modified the malaria parasite to train the human immune system to fight back. The researchers knocked out three genes in the parasite to create one that cannot reproduce in the body, thus letting the immune system respond and attack it. In a trial with 10 volunteers, no one actually became ill. No one suffered any side effects, except some itching from the mosquito bites used to administer the vaccine. They say the vaccine proved safe, and is ready to advance to further tests, which would have to involve people who actually have a real case of malaria.

It’s Monday April 24, 2017

24Apr

00:0000:00

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged President Donald Trump to show restraint as tensions rise over North Korea. The two leaders spoke by phone on Monday as the Pyongyang government prepares to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of its military on Tuesday. Korea experts fear that North Korea will mark the occasion with another provocative missile or nuclear weapon test. North Korea said Sunday that it was prepared to bomb the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. aircraft carrier leading a Navy carrier strike group toward North Korea in a show of force. The Chinese leader said he hoped "all sides exercise restraint and avoid doing things that exacerbate tensions." President Trump also spoke by phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who called on Pyongyang to end its "dangerously provocative actions" after it marked its last major holiday a week ago with a failed missile test. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, isn't ruling out a U.S. strike against North Korea if Pyongyang tests another nuclear device. Haley spoke on several television networks Monday morning, praising China's involvement in trying to pressure North Korea to cease missile testing and criticized its leader, Kim Jong Un, as unstable and paranoid.

 

 

Police in the Russian republic of Dagestan say at least one person has been killed and 11 injured in a live grenade accident at a high school. The police said in a statement on Monday that they detained a teenager who brought the grenade to school in the rural area in Russia's North Caucasus. At least three teenagers are in intensive care. The police in Dagestan called it an accident but the circumstances of the explosion were not immediately clear. Following two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya, an Islamic insurgency spread to Dagestan where shootouts between the militants and police are almost routine occurrences and the illegal ownership of weapons is high.

 

 

Police say Maoist rebels have killed 24 Indian paramilitary soldiers in an attack in central India. Police said the Maoists fired from hilltops on Monday at a group of paramilitary soldiers who were guarding workers building roads in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh state. The insurgents, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than three decades in central and eastern India, staging hit-and-run attacks to press their demand for a greater share of wealth and more jobs for the poor. Last month, the rebels also killed 11 paramilitary soldiers in an ambush in the region.

 

 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has arrived in Afghanistan. Mattis made the unannounced trip to Kabul to assess America's longest war as the Trump administration considers sending in more U.S. troops. His visit also comes three days after a Taliban attack on a northern Afghanistan army base that killed at least 100 people, with some estimates up to 130. For Mattis, Afghanistan is the final stop on a six-nation, week long tour intended to bolster relations with allies and partners and to get an update on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan. Mattis is the first member of President Trump's Cabinet to visit Afghanistan. The top American commander in Kabul, Gen. John Nicholson, recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to complete their mission.

 

 

U.S. officials say the Trump administration will issue new sanctions against Syria Monday as part of its ongoing crackdown on the Syrian government and those who support it. Two officials say that the sanctions are part of a broader effort to cut off funding and other support to Syria's President Bashar Assad and his government amid the country's escalating civil war. The decision to expand sanctions on Syria comes less than a month after the U.S. fired a barrage of missiles on a Syrian airfield. The U.S. strike was retaliation for the recent chemical attack on Syrian civilians, which the U.S. blames on Assad's government. Trump has called Assad "evil" and said his use of chemical weapons "crossed a lot of lines."

 

 

Centrist independent Emmanuel Macron led the first round of France's presidential election on Sunday, and will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a May 7 runoff. With nearly all of the ballots counted, Macron led the 11-candidate field with just under 24 percent of the vote, followed by Le Pen with 21.4 percent. The vote marked the first time no mainstream party's candidate made it to the second run-off in France. Macron, a former investment banker and political newcomer, ran on a pro-European Union platform, while Le Pen, head of the anti-immigrant National Front, ran vowing to put "France first" and pull the country out of the EU, tapping into the rising nationalist tide that propelled President Trump's campaign and Britain's Brexit vote. French president Francois Hollande has also weighed on the contest, urging voters to choose Macron in the May 7 presidential runoff, claiming that Le Pen's platform of pulling out of the euro would devastate the country's economy and threaten French liberty. He said the far-right would "deeply divide France" at a time when the terror threat requires "solidarity" and "cohesion".

 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from General Motors Co. seeking to block dozens of lawsuits over faulty ignition switches that could expose the company to billions of dollars in additional claims. The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that said the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy did not shield it from liability in the cases. A federal appeals court ruled last year that GM remains responsible for ignition-switch injuries and deaths that occurred pre-bankruptcy because the company knew about the problem for more than a decade but kept it secret from the bankruptcy court. The company said well-established bankruptcy law allowed the newly reorganized GM to obtain the old company's assets "free and clear" of liabilities.

 

 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the city won't be deterred in its plans to remove three more Confederate monuments, but won't say when that will happen to protect the workers since there have been threats. At a Monday morning news conference, Landrieu said the monument taken down in the pre-dawn darkness Monday had been erected to honor the killing of police officers by white supremacists. The mayor said "we will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city." The Liberty Place monument taken down Monday was an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League, which tried to overthrow a biracial Reconstruction government in New Orleans after the Civil War.

 

 

The University of California, San Diego has developed an acne vaccine that can take care of the disease. UC Dermatology professor Eric Huang told reporters in Los Angeles "This is the first vaccine for human beauty... I think this vaccine has a huge market in the whole world." After five years of work, Huang said they have come up with two types of vaccines - therapeutic and preventative - that could be given to children in elementary school. Huang said the vaccine has been tested on mice and worked well, and now he needs to team up with a pharmaceutical company for large-scale clinical trials. If that happens soon, the vaccine could be available within three to five years after FDA approval.

 

 

A new study says global warming's milder winters will likely nudge Americans off the couch more in the future, a rare, small benefit of climate change. With less chilly winters, the study forecasts that Americans will be more likely to get outdoors, increasing their physical activity by as much as 2.5 percent by the end of the century, especially in the nation's northern tier. But hotter summers mean parts of the deep south and desert southwest would exercise less. Still, study author Nick Obradovich of Harvard and MIT and other experts said any overall exercise benefit for Americans will probably far outweighed by many other ways that climate change is likely to hurt human health. The study is in Monday's edition of the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

 

 

NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson has another record under her space belt. Early Monday, the International Space Station commander surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in orbit by an American. That record was set last year by Jeffrey Williams. Whitson already was the world's most experienced spacewoman and female spacewalker and, at 57, the oldest woman in space. By the time she returns to Earth in September, she'll have logged 666 days in orbit over three flights. As part of the celebration, Whitson spoke with President Trump who congratulated her achievement via telephone from the Oval Office. The world record - 879 days - is held by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Just to equal that record, Whitson would have to add another 7 months of spaceflight on a future mission.

It’s Friday April 21, 2017

21Apr

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South Korea said it was on heightened alert Friday, ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang. U.S. officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by Beijing, North Korea's sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. In Russia, a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on media reports that Russia was moving military hardware and troops toward its border adjacent to the west coast of North Korea. U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something both the United States and China have warned against. North Korea marks the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday, an important anniversary that comes at the end of major winter military drills.

 

 

French authorities closed the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Thursday after a gunman shot three police officers, killing one of them and seriously wounding the others. The attacker also was killed when he fled on foot after opening fire on the officers' police car. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. The shootout came three days before the first round of France's presidential election, and a day after police arrested two men in the southern France city of Marseille on suspicion that they were plotting a terror attack ahead of the vote. Thursday's shooting occurred just a few blocks away from France's presidential palace.

 

 

President Donald Trump says Iran is failing to fulfill the "spirit" of its nuclear deal with world powers, setting an ominous tone for his forthcoming decision about whether to pull the U.S. out of the landmark agreement. Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the U.S. and other world powers in 2015 and said "it shouldn't have been signed." Yet he pointedly stopped sort of telegraphing whether or not the U.S. would stay in. Earlier this week, the administration certified to Congress than Iran was complying - at least technically - with the terms of the deal, clearing the way for Iran to continue enjoying sanctions relief in the near term. Trump made the remarks during a news conference alongside Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni.

 

 

Arkansas carried out its first execution since 2005 Thursday night, putting to death convicted murderer Ledell Lee four minutes before his death warrant was set to expire at midnight. Lee was one of eight condemned inmates the state had planned to execute over 11 days in an unprecedented rush before the state's supply of midazolam, one of three drugs it uses for lethal injections, expires at the end of the month. A flurry of court challenges has disrupted the schedule. Courts blocked three executions earlier in the week, and another inmate who was scheduled to be executed next week has received a stay. The state has scheduled two other executions for Monday, and another for Thursday.

 

 

TSA officials are investigating a federal air marshal after she left her weapon in an aircraft bathroom on a trans-Atlantic flight to New York, and it was found by a passenger. Investigators said the passenger gave the weapon to a member of the flight crew, who returned it to the air marshal. But the marshal failed to report the incident to her superiors, as required by agency policy, until several days later. The incident happened on April 6, aboard a Delta flight from Manchester to Kennedy International Airport. The Transportation Security Administration, the parent agency of the air marshal service, said that it was aware of the episode but that it would not comment publicly on internal matters, adding that it was "reviewing the circumstances of this incident." Current and former air marshals told the New York Times that this incident constituted a significant security breach that should have resulted in discipline and an investigation.

 

 

Federal prosecutors are considering seeking criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other members of the organization. Since 2010, the Justice Department has been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks, which came to prominence after posting files stolen by former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, but the Obama administration decided against pursuing charges because WikiLeaks wasn't the only site to publish the documents, and prosecuting the group would be like charging a news outlet for publishing classified information. Still, the case wasn't closed, and federal prosecutors are now drafting a memo on the possibility of charging people at WikiLeaks with such crimes as conspiracy, theft of government property, and violation of the Espionage Act. Assange is living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, avoiding questioning on rape allegations in Sweden.

 

 

Authorities in northern California say they've arrested former Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins and found Elizabeth Thomas, the 15-year-old girl he allegedly kidnapped, and she is safe. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said both were found at a cabin in Cecilville, about 120 miles south of the Oregon state line. They had been missing since March, when Cummins disappeared with the girl, who had been a student of the 50-year-old high school teacher in Maury County, Tennessee.

 

 

Officials say that at least 20 people have been killed and several others seriously injured after a truck driver lost control and plowed into a group of protesting farmers in southern India. A government official says the truck first hit a car and an electricity pole before crashing into the farmers. The farmers were gathered outside the main police station in the town of Yerpedu protesting against illegal sand mining in their area.

 

 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Syria still possesses banned chemical weapons. At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis also said that in recent days the Syrian Air Force has dispersed its combat aircraft. The implication is that Syria may be concerned about additional U.S. strikes following the cruise missile attack earlier this month in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of sarin gas. Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Later Mattis planned a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lieberman declined to comment on news reports that Israel believes Syria still holds between one ton and three tons of chemical weapons.

 

 

Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Sydney for a weekend visit that will include meetings with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other top officials. Pence landed in Australia on Friday night, his latest stop on a 10-day tour through Asia. He's expected to meet with Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, opposition leader Bill Shorten and others. Pence and his family are also scheduled to tour the Sydney Opera House and other landmarks. The visit follows Pence's stops in South Korea, Japan and Indonesia for events focused on national security, trade and economic development.

 

 

White House officials are pushing a new compromise version of the Republican health-care bill in a bid to deliver on President Trump's promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare before his 100th day in office, which comes next week on Saturday, April 29. Revisions aiming to please the conservative Freedom Caucus, such as eliminating guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions, could stoke more opposition from moderate Republicans. Also, lawmakers have to reach an agreement quickly after returning from a two week recess on Monday to reach a deal on keeping the government funded past Friday, or face a partial government shutdown. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said any stopgap spending bill must include some initial funding for Trump's wall on the Mexican border, something Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) office said could be a deal-breaker.

 

 

 

Tesla is recalling 53,000 cars - nearly two-thirds of the 84,000 vehicles it made last year - to replace potentially faulty parking brakes. The electric car maker said the recall, its second largest to date, affected Model S and Model X cars produced between February and October 2016 due to a small gear from a supplier that might have a flaw that, if it breaks, could cause the parking brake to become locked in place. A statement from Tesla said "While less than 5 percent of the vehicles being recalled may be affected by this issue, we are recalling 53,000 vehicles total out of an abundance of caution." Tesla also said this is not a safety issue, since it only affect the parking brake, so the vehicles can still be used until the repairs are made.

 

 

Popular 1970s soul singer Cuba Gooding Sr., father of Academy Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., was found dead Thursday, slumped over in his silver Jaguar in Woodland Hills, California. Police reportedly found several bottles of alcohol and drug paraphernalia in the car, and they suspect a possible overdose. Gooding Sr. was the lead singer of the R & B group The Main Ingredient, best known for its 1972 hit "Everybody Plays the Fool." He was 72.

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