Engine explodes on Dallas bound jetliner.. That’s in the news on Tuesday April 17, 2018


A Southwest Airlines jet made an emergency landing at Philadelphia’s airport Tuesday with part of the covering from its left engine ripped off and a window damaged. Southwest said there were 143 passengers and five crew members on board the Boeing 737, which was headed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas’ Love Field. The Federal Aviation Administration said that the plane landed after the crew reported damage to one of the plane’s engines, along with the fuselage and at least one window. Southwest has about 700 planes, all of them 737s, including more than 500 737-700s like the one involved in Tuesday’s emergency landing. It is the world’s largest operator of the 737. The Boeing 737 is the best-selling jetliner in the world and has a good safety record.




Global chemical weapons inspectors finally reached the Syrian town on Tuesday where a suspected poison gas attack took place, days after the United States, Britain and France launched missile strikes to punish Damascus for it. Syrian state television reported that the experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had entered Douma, where Western countries say scores of civilians sheltering from bombs were gassed to death on April 7. France said it was very likely that evidence of the poison gas attack was disappearing before the inspectors could reach the site. Syria and its ally Russia deny that any chemical attack took place. Douma is now in the hands of government forces after the last rebels withdrew just hours after U.S., French and British forces fired more than 100 missiles to hit three suspected chemical weapons development or storage sites. Saturday’s air strikes were the first coordinated Western strikes against Assad’s government in a seven-year war that has killed more than 500,000 people and drawn in global powers and neighboring states. The intervention threatened to escalate confrontation between the West and Russia but has had no significant impact on the ground, where President Bashar al-Assad is now in his strongest position since the war’s early days and shows no sign of slowing down his campaign to crush the rebellion.




Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition if a decision was taken to widen it. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir said, “We are in discussion with the U.S. and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria.” Jubeir was speaking at a news conference in Riyadh with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He said Riyadh had expressed its readiness while Barack Obama was U.S. President to send ground forces into Syria if the United States were to add an on-the-ground component to the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State insurgents. Jubeir was responding to a question about a report that the Trump Administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria. Trump wants to bring U.S. troops home from Syria but has not set a timeline, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday, two days after Western allies bombed Syrian targets over a suspected chemical weapons attack.



President Trump held off on imposing new sanctions to punish Russia for supporting Syria on Monday, reversing plans announced just a day earlier by United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. The additional sanctions were expected as a response to Syria's suspected chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held area. Moscow had referred to the looming measures as "international economic raiding." Haley had said Sunday on CBS News' Face the Nation that the sanctions would target Russian companies linked to equipment used in the alleged chemical attack, indicating they would be unveiled Monday. Trump, however, reportedly told his national security advisers he was not yet comfortable pulling the trigger on the sanctions.




An attorney for Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer, said in court on Monday that Cohen also represents Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, who regularly and fiercely defends Trump on his show. Cohen's lawyers, who were challenging an FBI search of Cohen's office last week, tried to avoid identifying a "prominent" client who would be "embarrassed" to be publicly associated with Cohen. After a courtroom exchange, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered Cohen's team to name the client, who turned out to be Hannity, a hardline conservative. Wood also denied an attempt by Trump and Cohen to block prosecutors from reviewing files seized by the FBI until they could review them. Wood indicated she was considering appointing a special master to help weed through the material.




The U.S. and Britain on Monday jointly accused Russia of orchestrating cyber attacks against government agencies, private organizations, and individual homes and offices in both countries. In a first-ever joint U.S.-British cybersecurity alert, the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Britain's National Cyber Security Centre said the years-long campaign targeted millions of devices, primarily used by "government and private-sector organizations, critical infrastructure providers, and the internet service providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors." The warning appeared to mark a joint effort to prevent future attacks by alerting people to vulnerabilities so they can address them, and by threatening retaliation.




Starbucks said Monday that the Philadelphia store manager who called the police on two black men last week "is no longer at that store." The coffee chain's CEO, Kevin Johnson, told Good Morning America that he was calling for store managers to get "unconscious bias" training. He said the incident was "reprehensible," and repeated an apology, saying "what happened to those gentlemen was wrong." Johnson added that his duty was to go beyond the individuals involved and "look more broadly at the circumstances that set that up just to ensure that never happens again." Johnson is expected to meet with the two men, who were not charged. About 40 protesters returned to the store for a second straight day on Monday, chanting such lines as, "Anti-blackness anywhere is anti-blackness everywhere."




Chinese social media site Sina Weibo on Monday ditched plans to censor content with gay themes. The site had announced Friday that it planned to weed out gay-themed cartoons and video games that were inconsistent with a new policy, but the news sparked an angry backlash from millions of internet users. After a barrage of #Iamgay hashtags and slogans such as "gays aren't scary," the site reversed course and said it would shift its "cleanup" campaign to focus on removing pornographic and violent material. Critics welcomed the backpedaling, but some said the company had not gone far enough. "They have already harmed us," said Bai Fei, a feminist activist. "I want them to stand up and make a public apology."




New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow shared the Pulitzer Prize for public service in recognition of their reporting on allegations of sexual assault and harassment of women by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The scandal touched off the larger #MeToo and Time's Up movements that started last year. Other winners included Washington Post staff coverage of sexual misconduct allegations against then-Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, Reuters staff for photos of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar, and the Times and the Post for coverage of Russian election meddling and possible links to President Trump's associates. Kendrick Lamar won the prize for music for Damn, his fourth album and the first rap album ever to win a Pulitzer.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe may resign by June. That’s in the news on this Monday April 16, 2018



U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has indicated new economic sanctions will be announced Monday against Russia for enabling the government of Syrian leader Bashar Assad to continue using chemical weapons. The ambassador to the U.N. said Russia has blocked six attempts by the U.N. Security Council to make it easier to investigate the use of chemical weapons. “Everyone is going to feel it at this point,” Haley said, warning of consequences for Assad’s foreign allies. President Donald Trump on Sunday said a U.S.-led missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons program was “perfectly carried out.” Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished” over the weekend after U.S., French and British warplanes and ships launched more than 100 missiles nearly unopposed by Syrian air defenses. While he declared success, the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.




An Arab League summit called on Sunday for an international probe into the “criminal” use of chemical weapons in Syria and condemned what it saw as Iran’s interference in the affairs of other countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for regional supremacy that is now being played out in proxy wars in several countries, including Yemen and Syria. A statement issued to journalists said, “We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people and we demand an independent international investigation to guarantee the application of international law against anyone proven to have used chemical weapons." It emphasized the need for a political solution to the multi-sided Syrian war. Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed support for Saturday’s missile strikes by the United States, Britain, and France against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, while Iraq and Lebanon condemned the strikes. Damascus denies using or possessing chemical weapons and called the strikes an act of aggression.




Seven inmates were killed and at least 17 others seriously injured as inmates were left to fight for more than seven hours before authorities regained control of a maximum-security prison. A spokesman for the Carolina prisons system announced the grim outcome after State Law Enforcement Division agents helped secure Lee Correctional Institution around 3 a.m. Monday. It’s the latest violence in a system where 12 inmates were killed by other prisoners last year and 250 prisoners were assaulted so severely in 2016 and 2017 they had to be treated in outside hospitals. At the Bishopville prison where the seven were killed, one inmate held a guard hostage for 90 minutes in March and another killed a fellow prisoner in February. No officers were wounded after multiple inmate fights broke out at 7:15 p.m. Sunday. 17 inmates required medical attention outside the prison. The coroner's office said most of the slain inmates were stabbed or slashed, while the remainder appeared to have been beaten.




Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political crisis deepened on Monday after polls showed that suspected cronyism scandals have pushed his support to record lows and a popular predecessor said Abe would probably resign in June. Abe’s sliding ratings raise doubts about whether he can win a third three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader in a September vote, that he needs to win to stay in office, or whether he might resign before the party vote. Speculation has even emerged that Abe, who surged back to power for a second term as prime minister in December 2012, promising to reboot a stale economy and bolster Japan’s defenses, could call a snap general election as he did last October when his ratings were in a similar slump. A survey by broadcaster Nippon TV released on Sunday showed Abe’s support had sunk to 26.7 percent, the lowest since he took office in December 2012. An Asahi newspaper poll on Monday put his support at 31 percent. The latest signs of trouble for Abe come ahead of a summit this week with President Trump, where the difficult topics of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and trade will be on the agenda.




Former FBI Director James Comey said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday that President Trump is "morally unfit to be president." Comey said it was "possible" that Russia had material it could use to blackmail the president, such as video of him with prostitutes described in a dossier compiled by a former British spy. "This president does not reflect the values of this country," Comey told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in his first televised interview since he was fired last year. Comey is starting a tour to promote his memoir, A Higher Loyalty. Trump tweeted Sunday that Comey was "slippery" and stupid, accusing him of lying. After the interview aired, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted that Comey "has no credibility."



Cuba is bringing forward the start of the national assembly session where a new president to succeed Raul Castro will be selected. Cuban state-run Radio said on Monday that the new assembly, selected in a March vote, had originally been set to meet on Thursday but will now start its “constitutive session” on Wednesday. The change was to “facilitate the development of the steps that a session of such importance requires,” Radio Rebelde said on its website. It did not say how long the gathering would last. The 86 year old brother of Fidel Castro said he will step down as president at the next assembly session, after completing two successive five-year mandates. The man expected to succeed him is First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who is 57. Diaz-Canel would be the first president since Cuba’s leftist 1959 revolution to be born after it took place. Castro, who formally took over the presidency 10 years ago from his brother, Fidel, will remain head of the Communist Party, Cuba’s sole political party.




Porn actress Stormy Daniels is expected to attend a court hearing in New York Monday where a U.S. judge will hear more arguments about President Trump’s extraordinary request that he be allowed to review records seized from his lawyer’s office as part of a criminal investigation before they are examined by prosecutors. FBI raids targeted his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who prosecutors said is being investigated for an undisclosed crime related to his personal business dealings. The raid carried out last Monday at Cohen’s apartment, hotel room, office and safety deposit box sought bank records, records on Cohen’s dealing in the taxi industry, Cohen’s communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and to Daniels. Both women say they had affairs with Trump. One of Trump’s lawyers, Joanna Hendon, filed papers late Sunday asking a federal judge to block prosecutors from studying material seized in the raid until Cohen and the president have both had a chance to review those materials and argue which are subject to attorney-client privilege.




Since Jan. 1, President Trump's 2020 re-election campaign has spent $835,000 in legal fees, about 22 percent of its total spending, reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show. The campaign has paid at least eight law firms, with the two firms working on the Stormy Daniels case receiving a combined $280,000. The reports also state that the campaign has spent $125,000 at several Trump businesses, including Trump International Hotel and Trump Tower, and paid former Trump White House aide Johnny McEntee $22,000. After McEntee was fired over security concerns, he was immediately hired by the campaign. So far this year, the Trump campaign has raised $10.1 million, spending $3.9 million.




About 75 protesters briefly occupied a Philadelphia Starbucks on Sunday to demand the company fire a store manager who called police to get two African-American men to leave the store because they had not bought anything. The men were waiting for another friend and sat at a table after being refused access to a restroom. Another protest is planned for Monday. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said he wanted to meet with the two men who were arrested so he could "offer a face-to-face apology." The men were handcuffed and arrested for suspected trespassing, but no charges were filed. A viral video of the incident sparked angry backlash.




Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and, after a series of hospitalizations, has decided to focus on "comfort care" rather than getting further treatment. Mrs. Bush, who is 92 and is the wife of 73 years of former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush, has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - COPD - and congestive heart failure. She is being cared for at her Houston home and is "surrounded by a family she adores," a family spokesman said in a statement. "It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others."



R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine who made a career in Hollywood playing hard-nosed military men like Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” has died, following pneumonia-related complications. He was 74. The Kansas native was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his memorable performance in “Full Metal Jacket,” in which he immortalized lines such as: “What is your major malfunction?” His co-stars Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio tweeted their condolences Sunday evening. Born Ronald Lee Ermey in 1944, Ermey served 11 years in the Marine Corps and spent 14 months in Vietnam and then in Okinawa, Japan, where he became staff sergeant. His first film credit was as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” which was quickly followed by a part in “The Boys in Company C” as a drill instructor. He raked in more than 60 credits in film and television across his long career in the industry. The part he would become most well-known for, in “Full Metal Jacket,” wasn’t even originally his. Ermey had been brought on as a technical consultant for the 1987 film, but he had his eyes on the role of the brutal gunnery sergeant and filmed his own audition tape of him yelling out insults while tennis balls flew at him. An impressed Kubrick gave him the role. Kubrick told Rolling Stone that 50 percent of Ermey’s dialogue in the film was his own.

Russia to Britain:’YOU gassed those Syrian civilians!’ That’s in the news on this Friday April 13, 2018



The Russian military says that an alleged chemical attack in Syria was staged and directed by Britain. Volunteer first responders and activists claimed a chemical attack by the Syrian government killed over 40 people in the town of Douma, which drew international outrage and prompted Washington and its allies to consider a military response. Moscow warned against any strikes and threatened to retaliate. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, released statements by medics from Douma’s hospital who said a group of people toting video cameras entered the hospital, shouting that its patients were struck with chemical weapons and causing panic. The medics said none of the patients were hurt by chemicals. Konashenkov said Friday that Britain was “directly involved in the provocation,” but didn’t elaborate or provide evidence.




International sanctions against North Korea might have played the principal role in pushing the regime to seek a way out of isolation. According to a South Korean economist, Kim Byung-yeon, a professor of economics at Seoul National University, the sanctions have played a role in creating a "dilemma" for Kim Jong Un, who seeks to bolster his legitimacy through the military and the economy. While statistics about the North Korean economy are rarely available, Seoul's central bank estimates North Korea's economy grew by 3.9 percent in 2016, a rate that's the highest in 17 years, when North Korea emerged from a famine that may have led to the deaths of millions of North Koreans. "There are three reasons for the growth in the North Korean economy," Kim Byung-yeon said. "Trade and markets, and the tacit approval of the government of markets." The economist added North Korea's trade dependency reached as high as 52 percent of GDP in 2014, approaching 60 percent, the world average. But the United States has pursued and implemented unilateral sanctions against Chinese banks suspected of dealing with North Korea.




President Donald Trump said the United States would only rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade deal his administration walked away from last year if it offered “substantially better” terms than those provided under previous negotiations. His comments, made on Twitter, came only hours after he had unexpectedly indicated the United States might rejoin the landmark pact, and amid heightened volatility in financial markets as Washington locked horns with China in a bitter trade dispute. Trump had told Republican senators earlier in the day that he had asked United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow to re-open negotiations. Policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region on Friday responded to the possibility of the U.S. rejoining the trade deal with skepticism.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, commenting after Trump’s tweet, said it would be “great” to have the U.S. back in the pact though doubted it would happen. The TPP, which now comprises 11 nations, was designed to cut trade barriers in some of the fastest-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region and to counter China’s rising economic and diplomatic clout. Trade experts believe Trump is probably trying to placate his political base in the wake of criticism over the U.S.-China tariff standoff.




Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump last year, brutally criticizes Trump in his new book, A Higher Loyalty, likening him to a "mob boss" who lies "about all things, large and small." In the book, due to be released next week, Comey writes that Trump once asked him to investigate the dossier compiled by ex-spy Christopher Steele, which contains unconfirmed claims that Moscow has video of Trump and Russian prostitutes. Comey said Trump explained that it bothered him to think there was "even a 1 percent chance" first lady Melania Trump thought it was true. Reacting to the news accounts of the book, President Trump attacked Comey on Friday as a “weak and untruthful slimeball." “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!” Trump said in a series of angry Twitter messages, adding he had been a terrible FBI director. Trump fired Comey last May and has publicly criticized him since then, but not to this extent. The Republican National Committee is preparing a campaign to challenge the book's credibility, calling the former FBI director "Lyin' Comey" on a new website.




CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Trump's nominee for secretary of state, said Thursday in his confirmation hearing that Trump had never asked him to "interfere" in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling. Democrats and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) grilled Pompeo on his views on the executive branch's authority to send the military to conflict zones, forcing Pompeo to deflect suggestions he was too hawkish to be the nation's top diplomat. Pompeo faces a potentially difficult confirmation fight. Republicans have a one-vote majority on the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Paul opposes Pompeo, so the nominee will need Democratic support if he is to get the committee's recommendation.




A venture capitalist billionaire said he received enough signatures to get a measure on California's November ballot that asks voters if they want to split California into three states. Tim Draper, the chairman of Cal 3, the organization pushing the measure, said they've obtained more than 600,000 signatures -- nearly twice the number needed to get on a state ballot -- and will present them to the California Secretary of State for verification. The measure would separate the Golden State into California, which will be the coastal area between Los Angeles and Monterey; Northern California, which will include everything north of Merced, including San Jose and San Francisco; and Southern California, which will include the area west of the new California and south of Los Angeles. If voters were to approve Draper's ballot, it would still need to be approved by the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.




President Trump reportedly plans to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, numerous news outlets reported late Thursday and early Friday. Trump reportedly has received and accepted a recommendation to grant the pardon. Libby was convicted of perjury in connection with the 2003 leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. In one of his last acts in office in 2008, former President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence, calling him "a loyal American." The move spared Libby from prison time, but he paid a fine and the conviction remained on his record.




Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover will cut around 1,000 jobs and production at two of its English factories due to a fall in sales caused by uncertainty around Brexit and confusion over diesel policy. A spokesman at Jaguar Land Rover said is not renewing the contracts of a number of agency staff at the Solihull site and would be informing staff on Monday of its plans for the 2018-19 financial year. In January, the firm said it would temporarily reduce production at its other British plant of Halewood later this year in response to weakening demand due to Brexit and tax hikes on diesel cars but did not detail any job losses. Jaguar sales are down 26 percent so far this year whilst Land Rover demand dropped 20 percent in its home market as buyers shun diesel, concerned over planned tax rises and possible bans and restrictions in several countries. British new car registrations have been falling for a year which the car industry body has partly blamed on weakening consumer confidence in the wake of the Brexit vote, after record demand in 2015 and 2016.




Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Friday that his company will be profitable in the third and fourth quarters of this year and will not have to raise any money from investors. The billionaire's comments drove shares in the electric carmaker up to 3 percent higher. Tesla has already sought this month to play down Wall Street speculation that it would need to return to capital markets this year to raise more funds as it ramps up production of the Model 3 sedan seen as crucial to its long-term profitability. The carmaker, which has consistently fallen short of promised targets on production and is fighting bad publicity over a crash of a car using its Autopilot system, said 10 days ago it would have positive cash flow from the third quarter. Tesla shares, which have gained nearly 10 percent since disclosing the Model 3 production numbers on April 3, gained as much as 3.2 percent in premarket trade on Friday. They were up around 2 percent soon after the opening bell on Wall Street. One brokerage firm said in a note last week it expects a refinancing risk to remain high for the Silicon Valley venture until it can consistently produce 10,000 Model 3s a week.




Prince Phillip was discharged Friday from King Edward VII's Hospital in London following a successful hip replacement and 11 days in the hospital. The Duke of Edinburgh, who is 96, will continue his recovery in Windsor. He was admitted to the hospital last week. On Thursday, Princess Anne visited her father in the hospital and said he was "on good form." Queen Elizabeth II also gave an update, saying, "he said he's getting on very well." The Duke, who retired from royal duties last August, had missed recent events due to the health issue -- including the Easter service, the Royal Maundy Service at St. George's Chapel and a parade observing Prince Andrew's appointment as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards. Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have been married for 70 years. In 2016, the duke attended 110 days of public engagements, making him the fifth busiest member of the royal family. A statement from Buckingham Palace thanked the public saying, "His Royal Highness would like to convey his appreciation for the messages of good wishes he has received."




The World Meteorological Organization retired the names of four storms that caused devastating damage during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. The Hurricane Committee chose to retire Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate from its list of rotating names during a meeting in Martinique, France, due to their extraordinary structural damage and death toll. The WMO said, "Damage costs exceeded 250 billion dollars in the United States alone, whilst recovery for the worst hit Caribbean islands such as Dominica may take years. Several hundred people died, and the lives of millions were impacted." The WMO compiles a list of names for each storm in the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific based on nearly every letter of the alphabet. The list alternates between male and female names. Every six years the names are placed back into rotation unless a hurricane is particularly deadly or costly, in which case the name is retired and replaced by a new one.
Harold, Idalia, Margot, and Nigel will replace the newly retired Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate for the 2023 season.

France to Syria: You DID use chemical weapons.. That’s in the news on this Thursday April 12, 2018



The Russian military announced on Thursday that the Syrian government is now in full control of the last rebel-held town on the outskirts of Damascus that was the site of that suspected chemical attack. The development would mark a major victory for Syrian President Bashar Assad as the United States and its allies consider punitive military attacks against Syria following the suspected chemical attack that killed 40 people. President Donald Trump said Thursday that an attack on Syria could take place “very soon or not so soon at all.” Seeking to dispel criticism he had tweeted the time of an attack a day earlier, Trump argued he had never signaled the timing of retaliation. In response to U.S. threats, Assad said Thursday a potential retaliation for the suspected chemical attack would be based on “lies” and would seek to undermine his forces’ recent advances near Damascus. There was no official announcement by Damascus yet that Douma has been liberated and also no indication that Syrian government forces had entered the town on Thursday.




Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said France has proof the Syrian government carried out the attack, which aid groups have said killed dozens of people, and will decide whether to strike back when all the necessary information has been gathered. Macron said, “We have proof that last week ... chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” However, Macron did not offer details of any evidence. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would not participate in possible military action in Syria but supports sending a message that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. Assad said Western countries were lashing out after they lost their “bet” on opposition forces in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital, Damascus.




Mike Pompeo, the congressman-turned-CIA director who’s now been chosen to be secretary of state, promised Thursday to make the State Department as central to national security decisions as the intelligence agency. In his Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo drew a sharp contrast with his ousted predecessor, Rex Tillerson. He lamented the “demoralizing” vacancies at the top echelons of the State Department that became a notorious hallmark of Tillerson’s tenure and said he planned to fill those vacancies, asking the Senate’s help to get nominees confirmed. He cast his close connection to President Trump as an advantage that would help him restore the significance of the State Department. He also confirmed he’s been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller in the federal probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He wouldn’t talk about what he might have told investigators.




Vice President Mike Pence will hold bilateral meetings this weekend at a regional summit in Lima with Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, Chile’s Sebastian Pinera and Peru’s Martin Vizcarra. Pence, who is traveling to the Summit of the Americas after President Trump canceled his trip, plans to urge regional partners to increase pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Pence will be in Lima on Friday and Saturday. He also plans to meet with a group of Caribbean leaders.




President Trump said on Thursday he was in no rush for negotiators to finish NAFTA talks but he thinks they are getting pretty close to a deal. “It’s coming along great,” Trump told reporters at the White House, adding that he was not pushing for a deal to be concluded quickly on changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump said, “There’s no timeline." Meanwhile, Trump said that the trade “negotiations” between Washington and Beijing were going well, conflicting with Chinese official statements on the dispute. At a meeting with reporters and lawmakers present, Trump said, “I think we’re having some great discussions, we’ll see what happens. We want more trade. We want no barriers." Trump has led efforts to slap penalties on $150 billion worth of imports from China, creating fears of a trade war among investors and leading to wild swoons in global stock markets. China has responded with a decision to tax $50 billion in U.S. products like soybeans and small aircraft.




The head of the World Trade Organization says he understands that President Trump wants to create U.S. jobs, but warns that getting tough on trade can trigger a “domino effect” that could derail such goals in the first place. Speaking to AP, Roberto Azevedo waded delicately into the possible impact of a simmering U.S.-China dispute involving tit-for-tat tariffs that could escalate into a trade war with consequences for the global economy. Trump has called the WTO “unfair” to the United States, raising speculation that the U.S. might exit the organization if its efforts to challenge Chinese policies through the trade body don’t go its way. Azevedo said he had heard from several members, not just the U.S., that the WTO’s rules needed to be updated and improved for a 21st-century world. “That’s a conversation that members have to have,” he said. The comments came after Azevedo chaired an annual WTO news conference to lay out its predictions for trade, but acknowledging they are clouded by the possible fallout from the spat between the U.S. and China.



Attorney General Jeff Sessions told border sheriffs on Wednesday that cracking down on illegal crossings over the Mexican border was crucial to national security and an orderly immigration system. Sessions said without tough border enforcement, smugglers can bring opioids and cocaine into the U.S., and undocumented migrants can enter at will. "This is not acceptable," Sessions said at the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition annual spring meeting with the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition. "It cannot continue." The event, held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, brought together sheriffs from 31 departments in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. As Sessions arrived, dozens of activists protested and waved signs critical of President Trump's proposed border wall and the dispatching of National Guard troops to border areas.




Pope Francis said Wednesday that he had made "grave errors" in judgment by pushing back at victims in Chile's sex abuse scandal. After sending an investigator to look into the case, the pope asked for victims' forgiveness, saying he had discredited the Vatican. In a public letter, he summoned Chile's bishops to Rome for an emergency meeting on the scandal. Francis said his mistakes stemmed from a lack of "truthful and balanced information" about the case of Bishop Juan Barros, a one-time protege of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, Chile's most notorious sexually predatory priest. Some victims have said Barros witnessed some of the abuse by Karadima but did nothing to stop it. Francis aggressively defended Barros during a January trip to Chile.




Los Angeles County prosecutors are reviewing sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey for possible criminal charges. Sheriff’s investigators presented the allegations on April 5 to the district attorney’s task force on sex crimes in the entertainment industry. District attorney’s spokesman Greg Risling confirmed that the case was under consideration by prosecutors. The sheriff’s statement said a man alleges that Spacey sexually assaulted him in West Hollywood in October of 1992. Investigators from the department’s Special Victims Bureau began an investigation in December, a few weeks after the actor was first publicly accused of sexual misconduct by actor Anthony Rapp. No further details about the investigation were provided. A representative for Spacey declined to comment in an email. British media have reported that the 58-year-old actor is also under police investigation for sexual assault in London. The Academy Award winner was first publicly accused of sexual misconduct in October. He quickly lost roles in the film “All the Money in the World” and the TV show “House of Cards,” and future projects were shelved. Spacey apologized to Rapp and his former publicist said he was seeking unspecified treatment.




Sea reptiles the size of whales swam off the English coast while dinosaurs walked the land, according to a new fossil discovery. The jaw bone, found on a Somerset beach, is giving clues to the ''last of the giants'' that roamed the oceans 205 million years ago. The one-meter-long bone came from the mouth of a huge predatory ichthyosaur. Scientists said the creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs. Fossil collector Paul de la Salle said the ancient jawbone was found near the village of Lilstock. He first thought it was a piece of rock but after seeing a distinctive ''groove and bone structure'' realized it might be part of an ichthyosaur. Dean Lomax, a world-leading expert on ichthyosaurs from the University of Manchester, compared the bone with other specimens, and said, 'It was a giant piece of mandible from an ichthyosaur." The paleontologist told the BBC, ''We were mind blown to think that a sea creature the size of a blue whale was swimming off the English coast about 200 million years ago.''

More than 80 die from tainted liquor sold illegally. That’s what’s happening on Wednesday April 11, 2018



Defying Russian warnings against U.S. military strikes in Syria, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” in response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, however, indicated that evidence of what happened in Saturday’s suspected attack near Damascus is still being studied. Asked whether the U.S. military was ready to conduct an attack in Syria if ordered, Mattis replied, “We stand ready to provide military options if they’re appropriate, as the president determines.” Trump did not detail what a strike would look like, or whether these would be U.S. missiles. U.S. officials have been consulting with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack. Trump canceled a foreign trip in order to manage a crisis that is testing his vow to stand up to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct military clash between the two former Cold War adversaries.




Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday around 500 people had been treated for “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals” after the suspected poison gas attack in the town of Douma. Damascus said reports of a gas attack are false. The WHO condemned the incident and said over 500 people from Douma had been treated for symptoms of gas poisoning. WHO also said that more than 70 people sheltering from bombardment in basements in the former rebel pocket of eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located, were reported to have died. It said 43 of those deaths were “related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals,” citing reports from its local health partners. The WHO said it had trained more than 800 Syrian health workers to recognize symptoms and treat patients for chemical weapons exposure. The U.N. agency has also distributed antidotes for nerve agents, including in besieged Douma last year. Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in Douma. More than 133,000 people are estimated to have fled a desperate humanitarian situation in eastern Ghouta over the past four weeks, UNHCR added.




Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted a ballistic missile over Riyadh on Wednesday after at least three blasts were heard and three clouds of smoke were seen in the sky above the Saudi capital. Yemen’s Houthis has stepped up missile attacks on the kingdom in what it says is retaliation for air raids by a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned armed movement. One man was killed in Riyadh last month by debris after the military shot down a flurry of missiles, the first casualty of the Yemen war in the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia and a coalition of mostly Gulf Arab states intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to try and push back the Houthis after the movement drove the internationally recognized government into Saudi exile. The attack on Wednesday marked the fourth time in five months that missiles have flown over Riyadh, as the Houthis step up efforts to demonstrate they can reach the Saudi capital and threatens to escalate a regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The coalition has launched thousands of air strikes in Yemen which have hit schools, markets, and hospitals, killing hundreds of people - though it says it does not target civilians.




An Algerian military plane carrying soldiers and their families crashed soon after takeoff Wednesday into a field in northern Algeria, killing 257 people in what appeared to be the North African nation’s worst-ever plane crash. Algeria’s Defense Ministry said those killed included 247 passengers and 10 crew. The flight had just taken off from the Boufarik military base, 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of the capital Algiers, for a military base in Bechar in southwest Algeria. The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane crashed in a farm field. Several witnesses said they saw flames coming out of one of the planes’ engines just before it took off. The cause of the crash was unclear and an investigation has been opened. It was the first crash of an Algerian military plane since February 2014, when a U.S.-built C-130 Hercules turboprop slammed into a mountain in Algeria, killing at least 76 people.




House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election and will retire next year. The Wisconsin Republican cast the decision to end his 20-year career as a personal one. He told reporters he believes he’s leaving with strong accomplishments his party can sell to voters ahead of November elections. A self-styled budget guru, Ryan had made tax cuts a centerpiece of his legislative agenda, and a personal cause and Congress delivered on that late last year. Ryan told reporters that if he were to stay for one more term, his children — now all teens — would only know him as a weekend dad, saying, “I can’t let that happen.” Ryan, who has had a difficult relationship with President Trump, thanked the president for giving him the chance to move the GOP ahead. Ryan, a Republican from Janesville, Wisconsin, was first elected to Congress in 1998.




The FBI agents who raided the home and offices of Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney, were looking for records of payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels, both of whom say they had sex with Trump more than a decade ago, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The alleged affairs occurred early in Trump's marriage to first lady Melania Trump. Trump angrily criticized the raid. "Attorney-client privilege is dead!" he tweeted. Cohen acknowledged to CNN that he was worried about what would happen next. Former Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday that, based on what has happened in past cases where judges agreed to issue search warrants against attorneys, "the likelihood that Michael Cohen is going to be charged is high."




Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a House oversight panel Wednesday that he believes it is “inevitable” there will be regulation of the social media industry and also disclosed to lawmakers that his own data was included in the personal information sold to malicious third parties. Lawmakers in both parties have floated possible regulation of Facebook and other tech companies amid privacy scandals and Russian intervention on the platform. His remarks came as he opened the second day of a congressional inquisition in the wake of the worst privacy debacle in his company’s history. A day earlier Zuckerberg batted away often-aggressive questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees who accused him of failing to protect the personal information of millions of Americans from Russians intent on upsetting the U.S. election.




President Donald Trump has signed a new law aimed at curbing sex trafficking. During a White House signing ceremony Wednesday, the president said the survivors “are very brave.” Among those at the ceremony were Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, several members of Congress and families of victims. The law passed Congress overwhelmingly. It weakens a legal shield for online services that host abusive content, including sex trafficking. The protections made users of such sites as Facebook liable for the content. The legislation grew out of frustration that classified-ad sites can claim they aren’t the publisher of questionable content but are merely transmitting posts by others. Trump called the issue “a tough one” and handed one signing pen to the mother of a victim of the sex trade.




82 Indonesians have died and many more have been hospitalized after drinking tainted bootleg liquor. Police said the deaths occurred in the capital Jakarta and neighboring province of West Java and at least a dozen men had been detained on suspicion of making and distributing the drink. Laboratory tests showed that nearly pure alcohol had been mixed with herbal drinks and energy drinks with high caffeine. Police had previously said at least one suspected bootlegger had added mosquito repellent to the mix. Police raided street stalls and homes across several cities towns and found large steel and rubber tanks used to mix the drinks. Thousands of bottles and small plastic bags of the drinks were seized. Muslim-majority Indonesia imposes high rates of tax on alcohol, which sometimes leads to people turning to cheap homebrews. Deaths from such consumption are reported frequently, but the latest toll is among the highest in recent years. In 2016, 36 people died after drinking locally made liquor, according to media.




Prices rose 454 percent in the first three months of this year in Venezuela, according to the country’s opposition-led National Assembly, whose numbers are broadly in line with those of independent economists. The country is undergoing a major crisis, with millions of people suffering from food shortages, hyperinflation and a currency that weakens significantly every day. Annual inflation over the last 12 months, according to the National Assembly, is just shy of 8,900 percent. Monthly inflation in March was 67 percent, down from 80 percent the previous month. President Nicolas Maduro blames the problems on an “economic war” being waged against Venezuela by the United States, the opposition and business people. In June, the bolivar currency will be redenominated by having three zeros lopped off though there will be no change in its value, which has dropped well over 99 percent against the U.S. dollar since Maduro came to power in 2013.




Volkswagen is poised to replace CEO Matthias Mueller with senior VW executive Herbert Diess, according to numerous media reports on Tuesday. Mueller took over after the German automaker's diesel-emissions cheating scandal erupted in 2015, and he has been credited with putting the company back on track. He has sped up the company's strategy to develop electric vehicles and self-driving cars and restored strong profits. VW's board, however, is expected to replace Mueller with Diess, VW's brand chief, at a Friday meeting as part of an effort to increase efficiency through changes in the company's management structure.

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