It’s Wednesday June 14, 2017

14Jun

00:0000:00

A massive fire engulfed a 24-story apartment building in West London early Wednesday, killing at least 12 people. More than 50 others were taken to five hospitals, many in critical condition. London's Metropolitan Police say that death toll is likely to rise during what they said "will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days. Witnesses said they heard residents scream for help, and saw some jump from windows, as high as the 15th floor. Some residents reportedly used bed sheets as makeshift ropes. One building resident who escaped down nine flights of stairs on crutches with his wife and three children said, "It was like a horror movie, smoke was coming from everywhere." Fire officials said the fire affected every floor of the 120-unit Grenfell Tower from the second floor up. Forty fire engines and 200 firefighters were dispatched to fight the blaze. The building is about a mile away from Kensington Palace. One survivor said he was on the 16th floor and heard a neighbor's smoke alarm go off and another neighbor called and told him to get out. He says there was heavy smoke in the hallway and he couldn't find the stairs. A witness on the street below told reporters she watched as a mother tossed her baby to people on the street 10 floors below, and someone miraculously managed to catch the infant. A structural engineer and urban search and rescue crews have assessed the stability of the burning tower and believe it is not in danger of collapsing. A local community group says it has repeatedly warned about poor fire safety standards at the building - called Grenfell Tower. A spokesman for the organization that manages the apartment block declined to comment.

 

 

A 66 year old gunman is dead, after he opened fire at a congressional baseball practice game Wednesday morning. The shooter was taken down by Capitol Police who were at the field and returned fire. The news of the shooter's death was first revealed in a television statement by President Donald Trump who offered the prayers of the nation to the five innocent victims of the shooting, which included the House majority whip, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, whom the president called a close personal friend. The two Capitol Police officers who returned fire were also wounded. Scalise and the officers did not have life threatening injuries, but George Washington hospital said a congressional aide, who was hit in the chest, and another victim were listed in critical condition. Police said the dead shooter is James T. Hodgkinson, of Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. Facebook pages that appeared to belong to Hodgkinson showed multiple posts critical of President Trump and supportive of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Capitol Police were at the practice, as part of a security detail for Scalise, who is the No. 3 House Republican. Witnesses said the gunman fired dozens of shots from near the third base dugout. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recovered one assault rifle and at least one handgun at the scene. The FBI is in charge of the investigation, which is standard protocol in attacks involving federal officials such as a congressman. Because of the shooting the Secret Service has ramped up security in the nation's capitol , and planned travel for speeches by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been cancelled for the day. All scheduled activity on the floor of the House has been suspended. Sources say Thursday night's congressional baseball game will go on as scheduled. The annual contest between Democrats and Replublicans benefits local charities, and in 2016 it raised more than $500,000.

 

 

The reward has increased for information leading to the arrests of two escaped Georgia inmates accused of killing two prison guards. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in an email Wednesday that multiple agencies have contributed $70,000 to the arrest of 43-year-old Donnie Russell Rowe and 24-year-old Ricky Dubose. Authorities say Rowe and Dubose killed Baldwin State Prison transfer sergeants 42-year-old Christopher Monica and 58-year-old Curtis Billue after overpowering and disarming them on a transport bus Tuesday morning. Police said the two - both white men - were last spotted in a green Honda that they carjacked after their escape.

 

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that it was "an appalling and detestable lie" to suggest that he could have colluded with Russians in their alleged attempts to interfere with last year's presidential election. Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation after revelations that he had failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing that he had spoken with Russia's ambassador while still serving as a senator, repeatedly refused to provide details on whether he had any undisclosed meetings with the ambassador, and whether he discussed former FBI Director James Comey's handling of the Russia inquiry with President Trump before Trump fired Comey. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) called for Sessions to justify his refusal given that the White House had not asserted executive privilege. Sessions replied: "I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses."

 

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee as momentum builds for a package of new Russia sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Tillerson is scheduled to testify Wednesday, just hours ahead of a vote in the Senate on the sanctions. He has warned lawmakers the U.S. relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and deteriorating further. And he's also cautioned against taking steps that might close off promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes. Tillerson was noncommittal about a package of new Russia sanctions during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said he's still reviewing the proposed penalties that Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed upon after lengthy negotiations.

 

 

An organization that monitors political repression in Russia says at least 26 people in Russia's second-largest city have been sentenced to jail terms for participating in an anti-government protest. Tens of thousands took to the streets across Russia's 11 time zones on Monday to protest government corruption. Some of the protests, like in Moscow and St. Petersburg, were explicitly banned by authorities and nearly 2,000 people were detained although not yet sentenced. The crackdown on the protesters appeared to be the toughest in St. Petersburg. The OVD-Info group said Wednesday at least 26 people in St. Petersburg were sentenced to five to 14 days in jail, an unusually harsh punishment for taking part in an unsanctioned rally. More protesters in St. Petersburg are to face court later on Wednesday.

 

 

Cuba is starting an electoral process that is expected to end with President Raul Castro stepping down in February. The Council of State says in Wednesday's state media that voting for municipal assemblies will take place on Oct. 22. It doesn't set the date of voting for the country's parliament, which selects the Council of State and the president. Elections are held every five years. Castro has said he'll step down as president in February, although he is expected to remain head of the ruling Communist Party. Above the municipal level, Cuban elections are choices between candidates pre-selected by the Cuban Communist Party and related organizations. That guarantees that the country's nominally representative bodies in practice answer to the president and a small group of high-ranking officials.

 

 

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 has struck Guatemala, close to the country's border with Mexico.The quake hit around 97 miles west of Guatemala City in the San Marcos district, close to the border with Mexico's Chiapas state, damaging homes and buildings and cutting power. At least one person was hurt after a church collapsed in the tremor, but there have been no reported fatalities. Guatemala's president Jimmy Morales tweeted that everyone should "stay calm and be alert to possible aftershocks". There have already been several with a magnitude greater than 5. The earthquake was felt across the region - and although it struck close to the Pacific Ocean no tsunami warning was issued.

 

 

The head of the Michigan health department has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Flint's lead-tainted water crisis. Nick Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area, which has been linked by some experts to poor water quality in 2014 and 2015. Charges were read Wednesday in a Flint court. Lyon is the highest-ranking official to be charged in the state attorney general's investigation. Flint began using water from the Flint River in 2014 but didn't treat it to reduce corrosion. Lead from old plumbing leached into the water flowing through the system. Legionnaires'disease is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water and infect the lungs.

 

 

Embattled Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that he would take a leave of absence in the latest fallout from an investigation that concluded that the ride-hailing company needs to reform its corporate culture. Kalanick's move was part of a list of actions adopted by Uber's board on the recommendation of the law firm of former Attorney General Eric Holder after a months-long investigation sparked by a sexual harassment complaint. Kalanick said he would use his leave of absence to work on his own performance and actions, and to figure out how to build a "world class leadership team" for Uber. On the same day, David Bonderman of the private equity firm TPG resigned from Uber's board after making a sexist remark. Fellow board member Arianna Huffington said that once there is one woman on a board, more women tend to join, but Bonderman responded by saying that including women on boards results in "more talking."

 

 

The trapeze-artist wife of daredevil Nik Wallenda is a day away from a planned stunt to hang from a helicopter by her teeth as it flies over Niagara Falls. Erendira Wallenda is scheduled to discuss her plans with reporters Wednesday on the American side of the Falls. Wallenda's stunt is planned for Thursday, the fifth anniversary of her husband's televised 1,800-foot tightrope walk from the New York side of Niagara Falls into Canada. Erendira Wallenda plans to hold on by her teeth as the helicopter carrying her flies high above the Falls. Five members of the famed Wallenda circus troupe fell from a high-wire in Sarasota, Florida, back in February while practicing an eight-person pyramid. Everyone survived.