It’s Friday July 14, 2017

14Jul

00:0000:00

Thermal images of North Korea's main nuclear site show Pyongyang may have reprocessed more plutonium than previously thought that can be used to enlarge its nuclear weapons stockpile. That's according to a U.S. think tank. The analysis by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korean monitoring project, was based on satellite images of the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon nuclear plant from September until the end of June, amid rising international concerns over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. The think tank said images of the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon could also indicate operation of centrifuges that could be used to increase North Korea’s stock of enriched uranium, its other source of bomb fuel. 38 North said there were also signs of at least short-term activity at North Korea’s Experimental Light Water Reactor that could be cause for concern. The images of the radiochemical laboratory showed there had been at least two reprocessing cycles, not previously known, aimed at producing "an undetermined amount of plutonium that can further increase North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile," something that would worry U.S. officials who see Pyongyang as one of the world's top security threats.

 

 

An admitted drug dealer with a history of mental illness was charged Friday with the killings of four Pennsylvania men who vanished a week ago. A second suspect was also arrested and charged in three of the deaths. 20 year old Cosmo DiNardo is charged with four homicides and 20 other counts, including abuse of corpse, conspiracy and robbery, according to court documents. 20 year old Sean Kratz faces 20 counts, including three of criminal homicide. DiNardo's lawyer announced that his client had admitted to the killings and was cooperating with investigators. Authorities said Kratz was arrested later on Thursday. All the victims were believed buried on a farm property in Solebury, Penn., owned by DiNardo's parents. Only one set of remains has so far been identified. A person with firsthand knowledge of DiNardo's confession said he killed the men after he felt cheated or threatened during three drug transactions and then burned their bodies at his family's farm, and that DiNardo told authorities that a co-conspirator from Philadelphia was involved in three of the deaths. Attorney Paul Lang said his client has agreed to plead guilty to four first-degree murder counts, and in exchange for DiNardo's cooperation, Lang said, prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

 

 

More than 400 people, including doctors and nurses, have been charged with defrauding Medicare and other federal healthcare programs of $1.3 billion, with many accused of illegally distributing opioids and other narcotics. The Justice Department said in a statement, a total of 412 people, including almost 115 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, have been charged in the sweeping enforcement action, the biggest ever by the multi-agency Medicare Strike Force. More than 120 people were accused of illegally prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Those charged allegedly participated in schemes that billed Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE - which serves military personnel, veterans and their families - for unneeded drugs and treatments that were often never provided. The Justice Department said in many cases, healthcare providers paid cash kickbacks to patients and others in exchange for medical data that would allow them to file fraudulent bills to Medicare. In addition to the hundreds charged, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched suspension procedures against almost 300 medical service providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

 

 

A federal judge in Hawaii declared late Thursday that grandparents and other extended relatives are exempt from President Trump’s travel ban, again stopping the administration from implementing the president’s controversial executive order in the way that it wants. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson wrote that the government’s “narrowly defined list” of who might be exempt was not supported by either the Supreme Court decision partially unfreezing the ban, or by the law. Watson wrote, “Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.” Watson wrote that refugees with an assurance from a resettlement agency could also be exempt from the ban. The Trump administration said Friday afternoon that it will appeal Watson's order.

 

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department will require all nations to provide extensive data to help it vet visa applicants and determine whether a traveler poses a terrorist threat, according to a cable obtained by Reuters. Countries that fail to comply with the new protocols or take steps to do so within 50 days could face travel sanctions. The cable, sent to all U.S. diplomatic posts this week, is a summary of a worldwide review of vetting procedures that was required under President Trump’s revised March 6 executive order. The memo lays out a series of standards the U.S. will require of other countries, including that they issue, or have active plans to issue, electronic passports and regularly report lost and stolen passports to INTERPOL. It also directs nations to provide "any other identity information" requested by Washington for U.S. visa applicants, including biometric or biographic details. The cable sets out requirements for countries to provide data on individuals it knows or has grounds to believe are terrorists as well as criminal record information. Further, countries are asked not to block the transfer of information about U.S.-bound travelers to the U.S. government and not to designate people for travel watchlists based solely on their political or religious beliefs.

 

 

Government watchdogs filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday arguing that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort violated the law by meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton during last year's presidential campaign. "The evidence is clear that Don Jr. knew that the offer of opposition campaign research came from the Russian government, and the law is clear that giving such valuable research for free would have been a contribution to the Trump campaign," according to Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center. President Trump on Thursday repeated his defense of his son, saying it is standard campaign practice to research opponents and that "nothing happened" as a result of the June 2016 meeting.

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he hoped for further dialogue with Donald Trump after their meeting in Hamburg earlier this month on the fringes of the G20 summit. During a meeting with workers from the Lebedinsky mine in the Belgorod region Putin said, "If the dialogue were to go on, as you've said in this sense, in a humanitarian sense, there is the chance to hope that the dialogue develops further." The meeting was aired by the Russia 24 TV channel. Putin again praised Trump's ability "to listen." In Hamburg, Putin said he believed he had already established a personal relationship with Trump, adding that "the TV Trump is very different from the person in reality". Speaking about crisis in Ukraine, Putin said on Friday that he hope it would eventually be resolved "bloodlessly" and via "democratic processes".

 

 

A muscular handshake that turned their knuckles white seems to be giving way to a budding friendship between U.S. President Donald Trump and Frenchy President Emmanuel Macron. The unexpected 'bromance' between the leaders of America and France was on full display for the world Friday at the annual Bastille Day military parade and celebration in Paris. This year the event coincided with the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War One. Trump spent a large portion of his day and a half in the French capital in the embrace of Macron, who went to extraordinary lengths to impress the U.S. president by turning a day of national pride into a celebration of American patriotism and friendship between the two countries. They appeared to have moved beyond that tense introduction in May, when a white-knuckle handshake that Macron later said was meant to show he’s no pushover was widely interpreted as a sign of the fraught relations to come. Macron, in closing the parade, publicly thanked the U.S. for coming to France’s aid during the war, saying “nothing will ever separate us.” Trump made no remarks at the conclusion of the parade, but he returned the kindness in a statement released as Air Force One flew back to the U.S. In the statement Trump said, “America and France will never be defeated or divided,” adding that it was his “high honor” to commemorate, on French soil, France’s most historic day and the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War One.

 

 

A Republican leader says the House is moving ahead with the party’s long-overdue budget blueprint, even as divisions between moderates and conservatives over cutting programs like food stamps threaten passage of the measure. Majority Leader KevinMcCarthy said Friday that the Budget Committee will vote next week on the plan, which would spend far more money next year than President Trump’s proposal. Passing the measure through the House and Senate is a prerequisite to the Republican drive this fall to overhaul the tax code. Earlier divisions between the GOP’s defense hawks and the party’s tough-on-spending wing have been resolved, but tea party forces and Republican moderates remain at odds.

 

 

Crews battling dozens of wildfires across parts of the parched western U.S. will face tinderbox conditions that could stoke more blazes on Friday and through the weekend. The National Weather Service issued Red Flag Warnings for northern California, southern Oregon, northeastern Utah and northern Montana. Forecasters expect temperatures to reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and winds to gust 50 miles per hour in parts of the region. As of Thursday evening, crews were battling 43 large fires that were out of control across the U.S. West, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. The hot, dry forecast comes after firefighters made gains in California on several blazes, including the so-called Wall Fire, which had damaged or destroyed 44 homes in Butte County and more than 60 other structures. Evacuation orders have been lifted for about 4,000 people as firefighters have cut containment lines around 85 percent of the blaze, according to the Cal Fire website. The state also said flames have charred more than twice as much land mass in California so far in 2017 than a year earlier.

 

 

Former President Jimmy Carter was back at a Habitat for Humanity worksite Friday, a day after he was hospitalized for dehydration while working with the organization to build homes for needy families in Canada. A smiling Carter showed up in blue jeans and a work shirt to the site in the St. James neighborhood of Winnipeg, where hundreds of Habitat for Humanity volunteers joined the former president and his wife, Rosalynn, to build 25 homes. A spokesperson for the former president, who is 92, said he was discharged Friday morning from St. Boniface General Hospital where he was treated “as a precaution” for dehydration. Habitat for Humanity, which has had a long association with the Carters, is constructing 150 homes this year for people in need in Canada to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary.

 

 

A new Olympic-themed television network makes its debut Saturday morning. The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA is designed to highlight Olympic sports and athletes and will begin airing in some 35 million American homes. NBC’s Mike Tirico kicks it off with a programming preview that will be repeated throughout the weekend for those sleeping in. It’s a difficult time in the broadcast industry to start a new network, but NBC News is sharing costs and creative control with the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee. Early programming includes world championships in track & field and swimming, along with a look-back at the 1992 basketball “Dream Team.”