It’s Thursday May 18, 2017



Making good on a campaign promise, the Trump administration is informing Congress that it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer has sent a letter to congressional leaders, starting 90 days of consultations with lawmakers over how to revamp the pact. Talks with Canada and Mexico can begin after that. During the campaign, Donald Trump called NAFTA "a disaster." Last month, White House aides spread word that President Trump was ready to pull out of the agreement. Within hours, the president reversed course, saying he'd seek a better deal first. Lighthizer says, "We are going to give renegotiation a good strong shot," noting that the 23-year-old agreement needs to better protect American factory workers and to reflect new technologies.



The Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation into possible ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the decision he after pressure for an independent investigation grew louder on Capitol Hill due to a series of unexpected revelations. First, Trump fired James Comey as FBI director, then news reports, citing a memo written by Comey, said that Trump had asked Comey in February to drop the investigation into the Russia ties of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Rosenstein said his decision did not mean he had determined that crimes had been committed, but that the public interest "requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." Trump responded by saying that "a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly."



NATO's chief says members are discussing whether to join the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group but insists the alliance will not deploy combat troops. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that "no decision has been taken. The discussion is going on." He told reporters in Brussels that it "is absolutely out of the question for NATO to go into combat operations." President Trump is expected to pressure NATO to do more to fight extremists in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan when he meets his allied counterparts in Brussels on May 25. NATO supports the coalition with training and aerial surveillance. But members do not want NATO fighting Islamic State, even though all are also individual members of the anti-IS coalition.



Arrests of suspected illegal immigrants increased by nearly 40 percent in President Trump's first 100 days, according to government data released on Wednesday. Trump issued executive orders directing immigration officials to target a broader range of people with immigration violations. The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement -ICE- Thomas Homan, said the agency arrested 41,318 people between Jan. 22 and the end of April, up from 30,028 in a similar period last year. Nearly two thirds had criminal convictions, but the number of people arrested with no past convictions rose to 10,800 in Trump's first 100 days, up from 4,200 in the same period last year, a 150 percent increase, although Homan noted that crossing the border illegally is a "criminal act."



An Oklahoma jury on Wednesday acquitted Betty Shelby, a white Tulsa police officer, in the fatal 2016 shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. The verdict sparked renewed protests, with dozens of people chanting "No justice, no peace, no racist police" outside the courthouse. Crutcher's father, the Rev. Joey Crutcher, said, "Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder." The case attracted national attention and protests by the Black Lives Matter movement. Shelby said she had ordered Crutcher to lie on the ground, and fired fearing for her own safety when he failed to do as she said he reached into his vehicle for what she thought was a gun.



Meteorologists are predicting a major tornado outbreak in parts of the Southern Plains on Thursday, the latest in a stormy week that has raked the country's midsection and left two people dead. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, is classifying Thursday's storm chances at 'high' in parts of Oklahoma and Kansas - the most severe risk category. The forecast bull's-eye of the storm includes Wichita, Kansas, and rural areas of southern Kansas and western Oklahoma. Forecasters say the storms could bring "strong, large, long-track tornadoes" in central and southern Kansas into western Oklahoma along with baseball-sized hail. More storms are possible later in the day in the lower Great Lakes region. Storms have battered Southern Plains and Midwestern states all week, with deaths reported Tuesday in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.



The World Health Organization says officials are tracing more than 400 contacts amid an Ebola outbreak in Congo that has been blamed for at least three deaths. Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, said Thursday that a 39-year-old man is believed to be the first casualty. A motorcyclist transporting him and the man's caregiver also died. There are currently 17 other suspected cases in Likati, which is in one of the most remote areas of Congo. This Ebola outbreak is the eighth to hit Congo since 1976. The most recent came during the separate epidemic in West Africa in 2014. Since then an experimental vaccine has proven highly effective, but quantities are limited and there is still no specific treatment for the hemorrhagic fever.



General Motors is beating a retreat from one of the world's hottest car markets. GM said Thursday it will stop selling its cars in India by the end of this year, following a "comprehensive review" of plans for the country. Just two years ago, GM said it would pour $1 billion into its India operations. That plan has been scrapped as part of a bigger rethink of global operations. GM said it will continue using the country as an export hub with vehicles made at the firm's plant near Mumbai, exported primarily to Mexico, South America and Central America.



Facebook has been fined $122 million for misleading European officials about its takeover of WhatsApp. As part of a regulatory review of the merger, Facebook told the European Commission in 2014 that it would not be able to match up existing user profiles with WhatsApp phone numbers. Two years later it did exactly that. The European Commission said Thursday that Facebook staff knew at the time of the review that it was technically possible. It's the first time Europe's antitrust agency has fined a company for providing misleading information about a takeover. But it won't have an impact on the deal, which was completed in October 2014. Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp, by far its largest acquisition ever. Using the messaging app's data allows Facebook to target its ads better, boosting profits. Facebook said it had made an honest mistake.



Roger Ailes, who transformed TV news by creating the Fox News Channel, only to be ousted at the height of his reign for alleged sexual harassment, died Thursday. He was 77. A former GOP operative to candidates including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Ailes later turned his media savvy to running TV networks. In early 1996 he accepted a challenge from media titan Rupert Murdoch to build a news network from scratch to compete with CNN. That October, Ailes flipped the switch on Fox News Channel. It became the audience leader in cable news. It also emerged as a powerful force on the political scene, while the feisty, hard-charging Ailes swatted off criticism that the network he branded as "Fair and Balanced" had a conservative tilt. He was abruptly dismissed from Fox News in July 2016 in the wake of a lawsuit filed by former anchor Gretchen Carlson accusing Ailes of sexual improprieties.



Detroit police say the death of rocker Chris Cornell, the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden and later Audioslave, is being investigated as a possible suicide. A police spokesman said he can't provide details on what led investigators to make that determination, but noted there were "basic things observed at the scene." Cornell died at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel. Cornell's wife called a family friend and asked him to check on Cornell. The friend forced open a hotel room door and found Cornell on the bathroom floor. The 52-year-old Cornell was on tour and performed Wednesday night in Detroit with Soundgarden. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's office will make an official determination about the cause of death. Cornell was a key figure in the Seattle grunge scene in 1984 when he founded Soundgarden, which some see as the first band from the area to land a major record deal because Soundgarden joined A&M Records in 1989, two years before Nirvana's breakthrough Never Mind was released. Soundgarden followed with its first major hit album Superunknown, which launched in March 1994 at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart.



And finally we have yet another candidate who has qualified for a Darwin award. Authorities say a Florida man leaned in to kiss a rattlesnake - but got bitten instead. News outlets report the unidentified man was bitten on the tongue Tuesday in the Bostwick area and had to be airlifted to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. A friend of the victim said the man had been drinking while handling the seemingly calm eastern diamondback. But when he moved toward the reptile as if to kiss it, the snake bit him. It's wasn't immediately clear where the snake came from. It's illegal to keep a rattlesnake in Florida without a license.