It’s Monday June 19, 2017

19Jun

00:0000:00

Russia's defense ministry says it will treat U.S.-led coalition planes in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, as targets after the U.S. military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday. Moscow has condemned the U.S. downing of the Syrian government fighter jet after it dropped bombs nears U.S. partner forces. The Russian defense ministry says in a statement that, starting Monday, it will track all jets and drones of the U.S.-led coalition west of the Euphrates and treat them as targets. The ministry also called on the U.S. military to provide a full account of why it decided to shoot down the Syrian SU-22. Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been providing an air cover to the government's offensive on the Islamic State group since 2015.

 

 

British security officials say hate crimes directed at Muslims have increased nearly five-fold in the wake of several attacks in Britain blamed on Islamic extremists. An official says counterterrorism officials are closely monitoring terror activity linked to far-right groups but most of the recent attacks have been traced back to individuals rather than groups. Ten people were injured by a 48-year-old white man plowing a van into a crowd of worshippers, leaving Finsbury Mosque following Ramadan prayers. Police are treating the attack as a terrorist incident - the fourth in the UK in as many months.

 

 

Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed Monday to intensify their fight against Islamic militants who have laid siege to a southern Philippine city. Defense ministers and military chiefs from the three countries launched coordinated maritime patrols in the Indonesian city of Tarakan in northern Borneo, just across the border from Sabah, Malaysia.

 

 

Gunmen on Sunday attacked a Malian luxury resort popular with Western tourists outside the capital city of Bamako, killing at least two people. An undetermined number of people were injured, and another 30 people were rescued by Malian anti-terror forces that rushed to Le Campement resort. The U.S. embassy in the West African nation warned Americans that there could be an increased threat of attacks against Western diplomats and places frequented by Westerners, and urged U.S. citizens to "avoid vulnerable locations with poor security measures in place."

 

 

European researchers say that the Grenfell Tower disaster is now the deadliest fire in mainland Britain since they started keeping close records more than 100 years ago - at the start of the 20th century. London police say that 79 people are now believed to have died in last week's high-rise apartment building fire. The Emergency Events Database in Belgium compiles natural and man-made disasters around the world. The database tracks fires from 1900 to the present. It says that the Grenfell fire now ranks above the fire at Bradford City Stadium in northern England on May 11, 1985, when flames swept through the wooden stands and killed 56 people.

 

 

Japan's coast guard is investigating why it took nearly an hour for a deadly collision between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a container ship to be reported. Coast guard officials said Monday they are trying to find out what the crew of the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal was doing before reporting the collision to authorities 50 minutes later. Seven U.S. sailors on board the USS Fitzgerald were killed in the collision.

 

 

Jared Kushner is traveling to the Middle East this week to work toward a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. A White House official said the senior aide and son-in-law to President Donald Trump will arrive on Wednesday for meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Jason Greenblatt, Trump's international envoy, will arrive on Monday. Trump made a personal appeal for peace during a visit to Jerusalem last month. He has cast Middle East peace as the "ultimate deal." Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all tried and failed to achieve a peace deal.

 

 

The congressman critically wounded when a gunman opened fire at a Republican baseball practice is getting better, and sent out a message on Sunday via Twitter. Steve Scalise of Louisiana tweeted "This Father's Day has special meaning for the Scalise Family, and they send their best wishes to every family, especially the dads. Take the time to be close to the ones you love." The message thanks the many people for their prayers, support and outpouring of love. It included photos of Scalise and his family. The House majority whip remains in serious condition at Medstar Washington Hospital Center. Doctors said Scalise "continues to show signs of improvement" four days after being shot in the hip by a gunman in Alexandria, Virginia. The hospital said Scalise underwent another surgery Saturday one of several since Wednesday. Doctors said the bullet entered at his hip but then traveled across his body, causing severe damage to internal organs. He suffered massive blood loss and doctors said he was at "imminent risk of death" upon arriving at the hospital Wednesday.

 

 

Bill Cosby's criminal defense attorney, speaking two days after a mistrial was declared in the comedian's sexual assault case, said he is confident that if there is another trial his client will be acquitted. Brian McMonagle told ABC's Good Moring America, "Trust it, believe in it and I'm confident that if this case is retried, he'll be acquitted." After six days and 52 hours of deliberation, the seven men and five women selected to serve on the Pennsylvania jury were unable to render a unanimous verdict on any of the three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault with which Cosby had been charged. Cosby, who is 79, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

 

 

 

Google is intensifying its campaign against online extremism, saying it will put more resources toward identifying and removing videos related to terrorism and hate groups. Google says in a blog post that it will nearly double the number of independent experts it uses to flag problematic content and expand its work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be used to radicalize and recruit extremists. It will also train more people to identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content faster. Google said it will also take a tougher stance on videos that don't clearly violate its policies, like those that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. That content may still appear, but with a warning. It is also increasing resources for engineering to identify extremist videos.

 

 

 

The Supreme Court is wading into the thicket of partisan redistricting in a case from Wisconsin. The justices said Monday they will decide whether Republican lawmakers drew electoral districts so out of whack with the state's political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters. It's the high court's first case on what's known as partisan gerrymandering in more than a decade, and the outcome could affect elections across the country. The case will be argued in the fall. A three-judge court struck down Wisconsin's legislative districts in November and ordered new maps drawn in time for the 2018 elections. That work is proceeding.

 

 

George P. Bush is seeking re-election as Texas land commissioner next year, hoping to continue running a little-known but powerful agency in a state where his political-dynasty family has been prominent for decades. Bush unveiled a campaign website early Monday, and was emailing supporters. His grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, was once a Texas congressman and his uncle, George W. Bush, left Texas' governorship for the presidency. Bush was elected land commissionership in 2014 - the first Bush to win an election on his first try. After his father, Jeb, left last year's presidential race, Bush broke with his relatives and campaigned publicly for then-candidate Donald Trump. The land commissioner's office regulates oil exploration on Texas' 13 million acres of public land. Bush also has overseen a $450-million remodel of the Alamo.

 

 

Nevada regulators are working against a fast-approaching deadline to launch recreational marijuana sales July 1. The startup could hinge on a court decision on whether the liquor industry should be guaranteed a piece of the pot pie before tourists and residents can light up. Lawyers for the alcohol distributors, marijuana retailers and the state go before a judge Monday. They're arguing over whether the state can issue marijuana distribution licenses to anyone besides alcohol distributors. The state says it has the power to temporarily license some existing medical marijuana cultivators and retailers to serve as their own middlemen. The liquor lobby says the law gives it the first shot at licenses, the only legal pot state with that mangement. Carson City District Judge James Wilson has blocked all licensing until the matter is resolved.

 

 

An Indian airline just gave a newborn child a birthday gift his parents will find it hard to top. Jet Airways said it will give free flight tickets for life to a boy who was born on one of its flights between Saudi Arabia and India. The airline said the child's mother went into labor prematurely on Sunday at an altitude of 35,000 feet. The flight, bound for the southern Indian city of Kochi, was diverted to Mumbai, where the mother and baby were taken to a local hospital and are now "doing well," according to an airline spokeswoman. Members of the flight crew helped deliver the baby alongside a trained paramedic who was among the passengers. Inflight births are rare but not unheard of. They result in an unusual line in the person's passport that says "holder born on an aeroplane." Jet Airways joins about half a dozen airlines to have granted that "free flights for life" privilege, including Thai Airways and AirAsia.

 

It’s Friday June 16, 2017

16Jun

00:0000:00

Russia's military said Friday it believes it killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike outside of Raqqa, Syria, the Islamist extremist organization's de facto capital. The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of his security council in Moscow to discuss the claim that al-Baghdadi was taken out along, along with a number of his top comanders in Russian airstrike back in May that reportedly hit a planned meeting of ISIS leaders involving about 30 ISIS commanders, and up to 300 fighters. Russia's Defense Ministry said it was checking information "through various channels" to confirm reports that al-Baghdadi was at the meeting and died ‌in the strikes. The ISIS leader is believed to have been hiding in the desert outside of Mosul, Iraq, until escaping after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured most of that city. The spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition - Army Col. Ryan Dillon said Friday morning that, "There have been several past claims of this kind that have been proven false and we have seen no definitive proof that this report is true either." However Dillon added, "the Coalition and the global community would welcome the news of al-Baghdadi's demise." Regardless of al-Baghdadi's personal status, Dillon said that the Islamic State group is "a losing organization" that would soon lose its control of its last two major urban strongholds - the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa.

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II along with her grandson Prince William, arrived in west London, meeting with victims of the deadly high-rise tower blaze near Kensington Palace. The monarch expressed her sympathies to families of victims of the blaze that ripped through the 24-story building, killing at least 30. The queen is also meeting with volunteers Friday. Prime Minister Theresa May is also speaking with survivors. May visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition. Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London continue to recover bodies from the 24-story Grenfell Tower, and some officials fear the death toll could triple. Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building renovations were properly done. Britain's Guardian newspaper on Friday is reporting that cladding used on the high-rise structure refurbishing project was made of the cheaper, more flammable material of two types of cladding offered by the manufacturer. Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said there is no evidence that tower fire was caused by arson.

 

 

Chinese authorities say a homemade bomb was used in an explosion at the front gate of a kindergarten that killed eight people, including the suspect. Police say the 22-year-old male suspect was identified primarily using security camera footage and DNA collected at the blast scene. They could not determine his motive. Investigators say they found materials for making a homemade bomb at the man's nearby residence. They say emblazoned on the walls of the residence were the Chinese characters for death and disaster. The police announcement says the man had left school because of an autonomic nervous system disorder, whose symptoms can include dizziness and problems with basic bodily functions. Sixty-five people were injured including eight listed in critical condition.

 

 

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana has undergone several operations and remains in critical condition nearly two days after he was shot in the hip by a gunman who opened fire on Republican lawmakers and staffers practicing for a charity baseball game. MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Scalise was improving but needed more surgery "related to his internal injuries and a broken bone in his leg" and will stay in the hospital for "some time." President Trump said Thursday that Scalise's recovery will be "much more difficult" than initially thought. The attack left Scalise, two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist injured. The alleged gunman, a vocal Trump critic named James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with the officers, who were on Scalise's security detail. The FBI is investigating Hodgkinson's political activities and social media posts in an attempt to determine his motives and how he planned the attack. Police did say the shooter obtained his weapons through legal means.

 

 

That annual congressional baseball game went on as scheduled Thursday night at National's Park. Democrats won the game 11-2, and presented the trophy to Representative Scalise at his hospital bedside. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a joint interview, that everyone was on "Team Scalise." President Donald Trump addressed both sides in a video message on the stadium's jumbo screen, saying, "By playing tonight, you are showing the world that we will not be intimidated by threats, acts of violence, or assaults on our democracy." A record of close to 25 thousand tickets were sold for the annual contest which raised about one million dollars for charity.

 

 

Authorities say the two escaped inmates, sought in the killings of two guards on a Georgia prison bus, were captured Thursday. It happened after a chase, and being held at gunpoint by a rural Tennessee homeowner whose vehicle they were trying to steal. Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose were apprehended in the rural community of Christiana, Tennessee, ending a multi-state manhunt that began earlier this week. The two men had been on the run since early Tuesday, when authorities say they killed Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue. Authorities say the two inmates overpowered and disarmed the guards on a bus early Tuesday as 33 inmates were being transported between prison facilities.

 

 

The Obama administration's end-of-term wind-down of the American military commitment in Afghanistan is being reversed. Confirmation of an escalating involvement in the drawn-out conflict comes in a revelation by a Trump administration official that the Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional U.S. forces there. Washington has been striving to break the stalemate and the deployment will be the largest of American manpower under Donald Trump's young presidency.

 

 

An Indian court has convicted six people of involvement in an attack in Mumbai in 1993 in which powerful bombs packed in cars and scooters killed 257 people. The court found the six Muslims guilty on Friday on charges of criminal conspiracy, transporting weapons and murder, which are punishable by a maximum penalty of death. The court is to announce sentences next week. Prosecutors said the bombings were an act of revenge for the demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India in 1992. That triggered religious riots in parts of India, leaving more than 800 dead, mostly Muslims. The six are the second group to be tried in the blasts. Eleven others were sentenced to death In 2007.

 

 

President Trump is ready to reveal a change in Cuba policy designed to sever the flow of U.S. cash to the country's military and security services. That's according to senior White House officials who have briefed reporters on the pending announcement. The partial reversal of President Barack Obama's opening to Havana midway through his second term will maintain diplomatic relations and allow U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue servicing the island.

 

 

15 thousand residents in the northern German city of Hannover had to evacuate their homes after a 550 pound World War II-era bomb was found during construction work. The DPA news agency says the bomb was found during digging Thursday afternoon but disposal experts couldn't begin work until the early morning hours Friday as some recalcitrant residents refused to evacuate their homes. A helicopter deployed to make sure there were no people in the area had to break off its search after someone shined a laser pointer into the pilot's eyes. Once begun at 3:13 a.m., it took disposal experts a half hour to secure and remove the bomb. More than 70 years after the end of World War 2, such finds are still common in Germany.

 

 

Italians and tourists alike are struggling to get around as a nationwide transport strike has forced the cancellation of Alitalia flights, the closure of subway stations and the suspension of bus service. Huge lines formed at taxi stands in Rome and Milan, where very warm daytime temperatures added to the discomfort for frustrated commuters and tourists. Italian unions often stage strikes on Fridays in summer, fueling outrage and contributing to even worse traffic jams than usual. Italy's major unions opposed the strike by a handful of smaller ones, saying it was particularly damaging for Alitalia, which is currently searching for a buyer. Ex-Premier Matteo Renzi took to Facebook to vent Friday, saying unions have a right to strike but that cities have a right to not be paralyzed.

 

 

This Father's Day, Betsy Roddy will write two cards: one to her dad, and the other to her late great-grandmother, Sonora Smart Dodd. She is the Mother of Father's Day, the woman who launched the celebration in 1910 in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Roddy, who is Dodd's last direct descendant, says inspiration came as her great-grandmother sat through a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, wondering why there was no Father's Day. Dodd's own father had raised six children on his own after his wife died. His daughter decided he and other fathers deserved credit for things like that. After the first celebration, Dodd lobbied for decades to make Father's Day an official federal holiday. President Richard Nixon did so in 1972. Now, Dodd's great-granddaughter is keeping the day's history alive.

It’s Monday June 12, 2017

16Jun

00:0000:00

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 shook western Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday, injuring at least 10 people and damaging buildings. The US Geological Survey placed the quake's epicenter in the Aegean Sea at a very shallow depth of some four miles and hit at 3:28 p.m. local time. At least 25 aftershocks were recorded. Tremors were felt in densely populated Istanbul and in the western Turkish provinces of Izmir. Authorities in Lesbos said dozens of homes were damaged in parts of the island and some roads were closed. At least 10 people were injured in the Greek village of Vrisa. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece and Turkey, which are on active fault lines. Senior Greek government officials, seismologists and response teams are heading from the capital, Athens, to Lesbos to assess the damage. Turkey's emergency management agency said there were no reports of casualties and has dispatched emergency and health teams, and 240 family tents to the area as a precaution.

 

 

Riot police in Moscow have begun detaining demonstrators Monday in an unsanctioned opposition rally in the center of the city. At least three demonstrators were detained on a main thoroughfare leading from the Red Square area. The demonstrators in Monday's opposition protests across Russia say they are fed up with endemic corruption among officials. In Vladivostok, where hundreds of people assembled for a protest, demonstrator Alexei Borenko said after eluding police attempts to detain him, that he was "here first of all because of the corruption in Russia which is becoming incredibly big in Russia." The protest gatherings in cities from Far East Pacific ports to St. Petersburg were spearheaded by Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who has become the Kremlin's most visible opponent. A spokeswoman for Navalny says electricity has been cut at Navalny's offices in Moscow.

 

 

 

Thai police say they have seized more than 1 million methamphetamine tablets this month, as trade in the illicit drug shows little sign of abating. The Narcotic Suppression Bureau on Monday displayed 1.21 million methamphetamine tablets and 17 kilograms of crystal meth it seized as it made arrests in four separate cases. Much of the illegal drug came from Myanmar, where most methamphetamine seized in Thailand originates.

 

 

A year after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, residents in Florida were remembering the 49 patrons who were killed at a gay nightclub with three services at the Pulse club and a large evening gathering in the heart of downtown Orlando. Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags around Florida to be flown at half-staff Monday, and at noon, church bells throughout Orlando were scheduled to ring 49 times.

 

 

Closing arguments are set for Monday in a Minnesota police officer's manslaughter trial in the fatal shooting of a black motorist. Officer Jeronimo Yanez is charged with killing Philando Castile following a traffic stop last July in a St. Paul suburb. Castile had informed Yanez that he was carrying a gun. The jury is set to begin considering the case later Monday after five days of testimony.

 

 

The defense has rested after bringing forth a single brief witness in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial. And Cosby said he would not testify in his own defense. The 79-year-old comedian told a judge Monday that he made the decision after talking it over with his lawyers. The case presented by Cosby's lawyers consisted of a six-minute appearance by a detective, seemingly designed to remind jurors that Andrea Constand had visited with Cosby at an out-of-state casino and that police knew he had vision problems even then. Jurors soon will hear closing arguments and could perhaps start deliberating Monday afternoon.

 

 

Does President Trump have tapes of private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey? Fellow Republicans are pressing Trump to come clean about whether he has tapes. They also want Trump to provide them to Congress if he does have them or else possibly face a subpoena. Trump's attorney general is preparing for a Senate hearing as the congressional investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials extends to his Cabinet.

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May insists she is staying put, despite calls for her resignation after the Conservative Party's poor election result. Asked if she is now just a caretaker leader, May noted that "I said during the election campaign that if elected I would intend to serve a full term." The Conservatives won the biggest share of seats in the election, but lost their majority in Parliament and will have to rely on support from a smaller party to govern. The outcome shocked the party.

 

 

 

French voters are throwing out old faces in politics and are trying something new. With most of the vote counted in the first round of parliamentary elections, President Emmanuel Macron's new movement has won by a large margin. And polling agencies have projected that Macron's party would win more than 400 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly in the second-round vote on June 18.

 

 

A jetliner heading to Shanghai had to return to Sydney after an in-flight problem left a gaping hole in the engine casing. The airline - China Eastern - said it's crew noticed damage to the air inlet on the left engine after takeoff Sunday evening and the captain decided to return to Sydney. The airline posted online that the Airbus A-330 landed safety and the airline was taking care of passengers' needs. Passengers told Australian media they heard a massive noise and smelled something burning. Photos shared on social media showed a jagged, vertical hole in the side of the engine casing.

 

 

Officials fear a surge in drownings following record snowfall this winter as the weather heats up in California and other U.S. western states. Several drownings have already been reported in frigid, swift rivers that are popular for swimming, whitewater rafting and fishing. Some California rivers have been closed for recreation by officials in the name of safety. And rivers in Utah and Nevada are expected to continue surging for the next several weeks. Moose Mutlow of the Yosemite National Park Swift Water Rescue Team says people need to be extremely cautious at rivers this year He says the powerful water tempts people in for selfies or swims that can turn tragic. U.S. Forest Service ranger Eric LaPrice says, so far this year, six people have died in California's rugged Tule River.

 

 

Puerto Rican voters on Sunday overwhelmingly supported making their Caribbean island the 51st state in the U.S. Preliminary results showed nearly half a million votes for statehood, 7,600 for free association/independence, and nearly 6,700 for keeping the island's current status as a U.S. territory. Gov. Pedro Rosello declared that "Puerto Rico voted for statehood," although turnout was just 23 percent, lower than in the last statehood referendum in 2012. Opposition activists said the nonbinding referendum was meaningless. Congress would have to approve any formal proposal to make Puerto Rico a state.

 

 

President Trump's wife, first lady Melania Trump, and 11-year-old son, Barron, moved into the White House on Sunday, after spending the first several months of the Trump administration in their New York City penthouse in Trump Tower. "Looking forward to the memories we'll make in our new home!" Melania Trump tweeted from her official @FLOTUS account. It is rare for first families to live apart, especially early in a presidency, but Melania Trump and Barron remained in New York so he could finish the year at his old school, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Barron Trump will enroll at the private St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Maryland in the fall.

 

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 6 of the pro hockey's Stanley Cup finals, 2-0, on Sunday, ending the Nashville Predators' improbable run for the championship. It was the Penguins' second consecutive Stanley Cup title, and their fifth in franchise history. Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin scored the two goals. Still, the Predators had by far their best season in their 19-year history, becoming the first eighth-seeded team since 1994 to sweep a first-round series, beating the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, and Nashville rallied behind the team.

 

 

Rafael Nadal of Spain won his 10th French Open title on Sunday, beating Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the men's final. No other men's tennis player has won more than seven singles titles at any single Grand Slam tournament. Nadal lost only 35 games in his seven matches on the way to the title, the second fewest in the Open era behind Bjorn Borg's march to the 1978 French Open title, in which he lost just 32 games.

 

 

Former President George H.W. Bush is celebrating his 93rd birthday with family on the Maine coast. Bush was planning a low-key celebration Monday with his wife, Barbara Bush, and other family members at their summer home in Kennebunkport. She turned 92 last week. The former president was hospitalized in the spring with a case of bronchitis, but his staff says he's doing well. He arrived in Maine last month. Bush is the oldest living ex-president and has celebrated previous birthdays by skydiving. His last jump came when he turned 90. His chief of staff, Jean Becker, says he's going to remain firmly planted on the ground Monday. Becker joked that she "hid his parachute."

It’s Thursday June 15, 2017

15Jun

00:0000:00

Seven people were killed and 59 injured in an explosion Thursday at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China as relatives were picking up their children at the end of the school day. Chinese officials said the blast at the Chuangxin Kindergarten in Fengxian, which struck at 4:50 p.m., was under investigation. It's located near Shanghai. The official newspaper Global Times reported on its website that the incident was caused by the explosion of a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall, citing a witness. However it remains unclear whether the explosion was deliberately set or the result of an accident. Kindergartens in China have been targeted before in apparent revenge attacks carried out by mentally ill people or those bearing grudges against their neighbors and society. The local government said two people died at the scene and five others died at a hospital. At least four others were seriously injured.

 

 

The United States is condemning the overnight attack on a popular restaurant in Somalia's capital that police say left at least 31 people dead. A statement Thursday by the U.S. mission to Somalia says many of the victims had been breaking their daily Ramadan fast when the attack began Wednesday night. The statement says the Muslim holy month of Ramadan "is a time of spiritual reflection and increased piety, which makes the timing of this attack all the more atrocious." The statement calls the attack by extremist group al-Shabab "barbaric."

 

 

A United Parcel Service driver opened fire on a meeting of his co-workers and killed three other drivers at a UPS facility in San Francisco on Wednesday. Witnesses said the alleged attacker, identified as Jimmy Lam, walked up and shot one driver, Benson Louie, then shot another colleague, Wayne Chan, as he and other employees tried to flee. The third victim, Mike Lefiti, was shot in the street. Two other workers were wounded. Lam, 38, reportedly then fatally shot himself in front of police. Lam had filed a complaint in March that the package delivery company was assigning him excessive overtime and requesting that he be relieved of extra hours in the future, according to Joseph Cilia, an official with a Teamsters Union that represents UPS workers in San Francisco.

 

 

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana remained in critical condition overnight after he and four others were wounded Wednesday, by a gunman who opened fire on lawmakers and staffers practicing in Alexandria, Virginia, for a charity baseball game. Police said the shooter - James T. Hodgkinson - was a 66-year-old unemployed home inspector from southern Illinois who was angry about the election of President Trump. Hodgkinson was killed in a shootout with members of a Capitol Police detail assigned to protect Scalise because of his leadership position. Two members of Scalise's security detail, officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner, were injured, as were congressional aide Zachary Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika. Hodgkinson had made anti-Trump posts to his Facebook page and accused Republicans of supporting policies that favored the wealthy over the poor. He had been living in his van near Washington, D.C., for several months. Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to Scalise Thursday morning at MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Thursday morning a day after President Trump and the First Lady made a similar visit. After the hospital visit, Pence headed to Miami for a conference on Central America and meetings with the leaders of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The congressional baseball game that Scalise and others were practicing for, pits Republicans against Democrats. The popular annual face-off, which raises money for charity, is scheduled to go forward as planned Thursday evening at Nationals Park in Washington.

 

 

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the high-rise fire in West London. The British leader made the decision Thursday shortly after making a private visit to the site where at least 17 people were killed in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but experts have said that it was highly unusual because of the speed with which the tower was engulfed in flame. Authorities said the death toll could still rise, because they don't expect to find any more survivors. Entire families remained missing a day after the blaze engulfed every floor of the 24-story building, and 74 people were injured, 18 of them critically. Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told Sky News, "The severity and the heat of the fire will mean that it will be an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive." More than 200 firefighters who responded to the fire have finally finished extinguishing the last of the flames as of early Thursday, but parts of the building located in west London's North Kensington district remained unsafe.

 

 

An Ohio hospital spokeswoman says the American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma suffered a "severe neurological injury." Kelly Martin of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Thursday that Otto Warmbier is in stable condition after arriving at the hospital two days ago. Doctors plan a news conference on campus later Thursday. His father said Thursday he does not believe North Korea's explanation that the coma resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill. Fred Warmbier said there's relief to have their son home in the arms of those who love him and anger that he was so brutally treated for so long.

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says former FBI Director James Comey's acknowledgement that he had given memos of his conversations with President Donald Trump to a friend who leaked them to the media is "weird." Speaking Thursday in live call-in show, Putin compared Comey's move to that of NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of secret documents from the National Security Agency. Putin added on a sarcastic note that Russia could grant Comey political asylum. Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 when it gave him asylum, resisting U.S. pressure to extradite him. Comey told Congress last week that he leaked his memos of his conversations with Trump to a friend, after a tweet by the president suggested he may have taped the conversations.

 

 

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify in open session before the House intelligence committee as part of its investigation into Russian interference in last year's election campaign. The panel announced Thursday that Johnson will testify June 21. Last week, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the committee would ask Johnson to testify about interactions former President Barack Obama's administration had with secretaries of state and local election officials about the dangers the Russian hacking posed to election systems. The Senate intelligence committee has also interviewed Johnson in connection with its investigation of Russian activities during last year's election campaign.

 

 

President Trump made new revisions to his travel ban, which has been frozen by courts, to keep it from expiring Wednesday as the Supreme Court considers whether to revive the policy. Trump, arguing his administration needed time to tighten vetting to keep out terrorists, had proposed banning travel from six mostly Muslim nations "for 90 days from the effective date of this order." Groups led by the International Refugee Assistance Project challenged the ban, telling the Supreme Court this week that it would expire June 14 as written. The change starts the 90-day ban when court orders blocking the order are lifted. Two federal trial judges have blocked the ban, saying it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims, but neither ruling addressed the matter of when Trump's order would expire. The administration turned to the Supreme Court after two appeals courts upheld the core of both rulings.

 

 

Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs has been captured after being on the run for nearly a year. FBI spokeswoman Sandra Barker said Thursday morning that Jeffs was arrested in South Dakota Wednesday evening. Authorities had been looking for Jeffs since June 18, 2016, when he escaped from home confinement in Salt Lake City pending trial on charges in an alleged multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. Jeffs is the brother of the sect's highest leader, the imprisoned Warren Jeffs. Prosecutors said Lyle Jeffs was a flight risk, but U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart let him out in early June 2016, citing the fact that 10 other defendants in the food stamp fraud case already out had complied with the court's conditions.

 

 

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the government to conduct a new environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, saying the original review was inadequate. The ruling marked a limited victory for tribal opponents of the 1,170-mile pipeline project, although U.S. District Judge James Boasberg did not order the pipeline's operators to stop pumping oil through the now-completed pipeline. Boasberg wrote that the Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project, "did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial." Boasberg said opponents' request to halt the flow of oil was a "separate question" he will consider later.

 

 

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark short-term interest rate for the third straight quarter in a sign of confidence in the economy. At the end of a two-day meeting, Fed policy makers lifted the interest rate by a quarter percentage point to a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent, and said they were sticking to their forecast of one more interest rate increase this year. They also announced a plan to reduce the $4.5 trillion portfolio in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities the central bank accumulated as part of its effort to stimulate the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. Fed leaders said that with inflation nearing their 2 percent target and the employment market improving, they believe the economy can continue gaining strength on its own. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said, "We continue to feel the economy is doing well."

 

 

The aerialist wife of daredevil Nik Wallenda has successfully hung by her teeth from a helicopter over Niagara Falls. Erendira Wallenda was tethered to a hoop suspended from a helicopter 300 feet above the water Thursday. After performing a few acrobatic maneuvers, she briefly hung twice by her teeth with the use of a tethered mouth guard in between hanging upside-down by her toes for a few seconds. The Wallendas say the stunt broke a height record Nik Wallenda set in 2011 when he hung by his teeth 250 feet above Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. The 36-year-old mother of three spent about eight minutes of the 10-minute stunt hovering over the falls. Thursday's performance came on the fifth anniversary of Nik Wallenda's televised high-wire walk over Niagara Falls.

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.

 

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