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  • Impeachment charges head to House; Trump cries anew: 'Hoax'

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    Democrats propelled President Donald Trump’s impeachment toward a historic vote by the full U.S. House as the Judiciary Committee on Friday approved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It's the latest major step in the constitutional and political storm that has divided Congress and the nation. The House is expected to approve the two articles of impeachment next week, before lawmakers depart for the holidays.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 01:13:19 -0500
  • Hong Kong police slip up with tweet linking tear gas use to banana artwork

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    A clumsy attempt by the Hong Kong police force to co-opt the art world’s most famous banana to make light of their frequent use of tear gas on pro-democracy protesters spectacularly backfired on Friday. Using its official Twitter account, the embattled force posted a picture of a tear gas cartridge taped to a black background, mimicking the “Art Basel Banana,” the conceptual artwork of a banana duct-taped to a wall, which made headlines last week when three editions were sold for $120,000 to $150,000 each. It added: “For a Police officer, using force, including tear gas, is always the last resort. If rioters don’t use violence, Hong Kong will be safe and there’s no reason for us to use force. Say NO to violence. Let’s leave the tear gas cartridge on the wall forever.” The tone-deaf messaging sparked a Twitter backlash and widespread mockery of the claim that the use of tear gas during anti-government demonstrations in the Asian financial hub was “the last resort.” Since the anti-government movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, police officers have fired nearly 16,000 tear gas rounds and made more than 6,000 arrests during demonstrations that have at times seen violent clashes with protesters. Many responded with video of incidents where riot officers have lobbed teargas at journalists and members of the public for no apparent reason. The protests have been saturated with media coverage, much of it livestreamed. One clip showed a riot officer appearing at the entrance of a metro station and casually throwing a tear gas cannister at a journalist’s helmet. Another shows an officer aiming at people on a bridge as they watch police vans drive off. Accusations of officers’ excessive use of force have led to a breakdown of trust between the Hong Kong police and the public.   “Just another failed PR show. Because literally, no one stands with them,” remarked one jaded Twitter user about the force’s latest social media effort. Meanwhile, it was revealed on Friday that the police force received about £91 million in overtime pay from June to November, which works out at an average of £8,300 for each officer.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 07:35:49 -0500
  • U.S. sanctions on Iran violate international law: Mahathir

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    The American sanctions imposed on Iran violate the United Nations charter and international law, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a conference in Qatar on Saturday. ''Malaysia does not support the reimposition of the unilateral sanctions by the US against Iran,'' he told the Doha Forum, also attended by Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

    Sat, 14 Dec 2019 01:52:04 -0500
  • Biden, Warren, Sanders, Yang, and Buttigieg are threatening to skip the next Democratic debate amid a labor dispute

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    The Democratic candidates say they stand in solidarity with campus food service workers who are on strike as they demand better wages and healthcare.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:55:14 -0500
  • Yes, China's New Submarine-Launched Nuclear Missiles Could Destroy America

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    But that's why we have M.A.D.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 10:00:00 -0500
  • British Author Found Dead and Buried in Woods Near Her Dominican Republic Home

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    A British author was found dead and buried in a shallow grave outside her Dominican Republic home days after she was reported missing, according to local media reports.The body of Lindsay de Feliz, 64, was found Thursday by a canine unit in the woods near her home in Moncion, according to local news outlet, Hoy. Her body, which showed signs of strangulation, had reportedly been buried in a 2-foot-deep hole, wrapped in a yellow sheet and plastic bags used for dog food.  Authorities said Danilo Feliz, her 50-year-old husband, reported the author missing on Tuesday. On Thursday, he was arrested in connection with her death along with his 29-year-old son, Dani Alberto Feliz, and a third man, 37-year-old Anquilino Rosario Sanchez. “We are in close contact with the police in the Dominican Republic following the death of a British woman in Mao,” a spokesperson for the U.K. Foreign Office told The Independent. Some of her former classmates and friends offered a reward this week for any information resulting in de Feliz’s discovery, writing on Facebook that she was “in great spirits” before she disappeared. “She is loved by so many people and is the most generous caring woman I have ever met,” Easton Hector-Brown wrote.Air Force Major Charged With Murder After Missing Wife’s Remains FoundAccording to her website, de Feliz was born and raised in the U.K., where she earned a degree in French and German at Wolverhampton University, and later an MBA at Bradford University. “Following a successful career in marketing she decided to leave it all behind and follow her dreams,” her website states. “Arriving in the Dominican Republic as a scuba diving instructor, for a six-month contract, she ended up staying and married a Dominican, becoming a stepmother to three young boys.”The 64-year-old has written two books about living in the Dominican Republic—What About Your Saucepans? in 2013 and Life After My Saucepans: Lifting the Lid on Living in the Dominican Republic in 2017.In her first memoir, de Feliz chronicled the first decade of her life in the Dominican Republic, from her decision to abandon her marriage and “successful career” in England to her at times tumultuous life in the Caribbean, where she fought against political corruption alongside her new husband and was once shot at in her home. In her second book, de Feliz shares more about her life as an expat, and their decision to live “in hiding, away from the beaches and tourist resorts, in the mountainous, remote, sparsely populated north-west of the country.”“Will Danilo return to politics, will they turn their lives around and will they adapt to their new surroundings?” a description of the book reads. St. Louis Woman Looked Up ‘What to Do if Your Husband Is Upset You Are Pregnant’ Before Her Murder: WarrantsIn addition to her books, de Feliz worked as a translator and marketing consultant. She also maintained a blog chronicling her adventures in the Dominican Republic. Days before she went missing, the author wrote that she and her husband, a newly minted lawyer, went to Puerto Plata for a murder trial, where she was serving as a translator for his client. Later in the Nov. 29 post, de Feliz said she excused herself from the courthouse to stop by a grocery store to pick up some special items for her birthday, which she feasted on while her husband was traveling for work.“The next few days he was away, working on more cases so I stuffed my face with baked potatoes, slathered in real butter and horseradish, rare steak and cream pepper sauce, and a pile of mushrooms,” she wrote. “Pure heaven and a total change from mashed plantains and a tin of sardines.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 17:28:23 -0500
  • Eagle v octopus: Canadians rescue bird locked in battle with giant mollusc

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    Employees at a fish farm in Vancouver intervened when an eagle tried to eat a large octopus, resulting in a battleA bald eagle on Canada’s west coast has learned that its eyes may be bigger than its stomach after it was nearly drowned by an octopus it tried to eat.After hearing shrieks coming from the water on the north-western tip of Vancouver Island, employees at a fish farm investigating the noises happened upon a bird and cephalopod locked in battle.The octopus, which had turned a deep crimson, had wound its tentacles tightly around the eagle, which was floating helplessly at the surface.“At first we just watched and we didn’t know if we should interfere because, you know, it’s Mother Nature,” said John Ilett, an employee at Mowi West Canada, told CTV News.But realizing the eagle was likely to drown, the crew ultimately decided to intervene.Ilett maneuvered a pike pole in the water to pull the octopus over to the boat. The crew managed to haul both aboard, disentangling the bird from the strong tentacles, before tossing the octopus back into the water.“That was amazing. Look at the size of this [expletive],” said one worker as the octopus hovered briefly at the surface.“Holy [expletive],” another worker adds as the crew laughs in disbelief.Workers said the octopus was the largest theyhad ever encountered, and probably measured more than four and a half feet across.But much larger individuals lurk in the deeps: octopuses in the region – including the giant Pacific octopus – can grow to more than 25ft in diameter.After the eagle was pried from its grasp, the octopus dove back into the depths, its colours subtly shifting from reddish to brown.The shaken eagle perched warily on a nearby log before flying off.“It was a very cool situation,” said Ilett. “I’ve been out here 20 years and that’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 12:17:33 -0500
  • Jersey City shooter was Army veteran with a lengthy criminal history

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    David Anderson, was arrested at least five times since 2003, the year he was discharged from the Army, records show.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 18:36:34 -0500
  • US military releases photos showing Bagram Air Base damage following brazen Taliban assault

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    A source on the ground detailed to Military Times that a firefight between the Taliban and Afghan and U.S. forces lasted nine to 10 hours.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 16:22:19 -0500
  • Fire on Russia's only aircraft carrier kills 1, injures 11

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    Russia's only aircraft carrier suffered a massive fire Thursday that killed one crew member, injured another 11 people and significantly damaged the ill-fated ship that has been haunted by incidents throughout its service. The fire on the Admiral Kuznetsov broke out during welding work at a shipyard in the Arctic port of Murmansk and spread quickly through the carrier's internal compartments. The military said one crew member died while battling the fire, and another one is missing.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 05:56:57 -0500
  • The 10 Best Tech Gadgets of 2019

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    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 14:58:00 -0500
  • I need a break, says globetrotting Greta

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    Tireless teenage activist Greta Thunberg has been crisscrossing the globe by car, train and boat - but not plane - to demand action on climate change. Fresh from being named Time magazine's Person of the Year, the 16-year-old Swede joined thousands of students in the north Italian city of Turin on Friday for a protest to pressure the government to take more action to curb carbon emissions. Thunberg, who refuses to fly, travelled to Turin by train and car from Madrid after attending a U.N. climate summit in the Spanish capital.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:47:36 -0500
  • Former FBI agent: Justice Department investigation finds Trump's FBI conspiracy is false

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    We need to put things in perspective. President Trump spread some baseless rumors. But now it's up to the FBI to undertake some major reforms.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 11:34:51 -0500
  • In 2030, What Countries Will Have the Most Power Airforces?

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    We can tell you.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 21:30:00 -0500
  • Meghan McCain Confronts Tom Steyer: ‘You Bought Your Way’ Onto Debate Stage

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    2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer got a warm welcome from every co-host of The View except one on Friday morning. “Mr. Steyer, between you and Mayor Bloomberg, you have now spent $200 million on political ads,” Meghan McCain told their guest. “It hasn't really helped you very much in the polls, but you did make it to the next debate stage. I think you bought your way there, and I don't think it's fair that you’re there and Cory Booker isn't. Change my mind.” After letting out an uncomfortable chuckle, Steyer skirted the question by touting his message about a “broken” government “bought by corporations.” When the candidate pointed out that he has been spending time in the early primary states—unlike that other billionaire—McCain shot back, “Cory Booker has too, who doesn't have $200 million.” “I’m talking about breaking a corporate stranglehold on our government that is preventing it from acting on anything,” Steyer said. “And no one can say that I have been purchased, but I also have 10 years of putting together coalitions like the people in this audience to stand up for our rights and to take on unchecked corporate power that has bought our government.” “But it’s good you have $100 million to buy Facebook ads to get you on a debate stage,” McCain said, interrupting him. “I’m completely unconvinced by this, but we can move on.” Later in the segment, after Steyer vowed to help elect whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being and reminded the hosts that he started “one of the biggest grassroots organizations in the United States,” McCain came back with, “That doesn’t make you a good politician, with all due respect.” “Mayor Bloomberg was mayor for three terms, and so if you’re going to go the billionaire route,” she continued, with a dramatic eye roll, “he's a lot more compelling than you are.” Meghan McCain: Greta Thunberg Didn’t ‘Earn’ Person of the YearRead more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 12:30:06 -0500
  • Satellite evades ‘day of reckoning' to discover puzzling weather phenomenon on Jupiter

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    At first glance, these newly released images by NASA may look like lava churning in the heart of a volcano, but they reveal otherworldly storm systems whirling in a way that surprised scientists.The swirls in the photos are cyclones around Jupiter's south pole, captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on Nov. 3, 2019. Juno has been orbiting the solar system's largest planet since 2016 and has seen these polar cyclones before, but its latest flight over this region of the planet revealed a startling discovery - a new cyclone had formed unexpectedly. Six cyclones can be seen at Jupiter's south pole in this infrared image taken on Feb. 2, 2017, during the 3rd science pass of NASA's Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM) Prior to its early November pass, Juno had photographed five windstorms arranged in a uniform, pentagonal pattern around one storm sitting stationary over the south pole."It almost appeared like the polar cyclones were part of a private club that seemed to resist new members," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.It is unclear when exactly the new cyclone formed, but it changed the arrangement of the storms from a pentagon to a hexagon.Winds in these cyclones average around 225 mph, according to NASA, wind speeds higher than any tropical cyclone ever recorded on Earth. An outline of the continental United States superimposed over the central cyclone and an outline of Texas is superimposed over the newest cyclone at Jupiter's south pole give a sense of their immense scale. The hexagonal arrangement of the cyclones is large enough to dwarf the Earth. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM) The discovery of this evolving meteorological phenomenon almost didn't happen as Jupiter itself almost caused the mission to end abruptly.Juno is a solar-powered spacecraft that relies on constant light from the sun to keep the craft alive. Flying through Jupiter's enormous shadow would take about 12 hours to complete, which would cut off the power source, drain the spacecraft's battery and potentially spell the end of the mission."Our navigators and engineers told us a day of reckoning was coming, when we would go into Jupiter's shadow for about 12 hours," said Steve Levin, Juno project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.To avoid the potential mission-ending eclipse, Juno fired up its engine (which was not initially designed for such a maneuver) and adjusted its trajectory just enough to avoid the icy grip of Jupiter's shadow. Jupiter's moon Io casts its shadow on Jupiter whenever it passes in front of the Sun as seen from Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik, (C) CC BY) "Thanks to our navigators and engineers, we still have a mission," said Bolton. "What they did is more than just make our cyclone discovery possible; they made possible the new insights and revelations about Jupiter that lie ahead of us."NASA scientists will continue to study these polar vortices in future flights over Jupiter's south pole to better understand the atmosphere over this part of the planet."These cyclones are new weather phenomena that have not been seen or predicted before," said Cheng Li, a Juno scientist from the University of California, Berkeley. "Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work. Future Juno flybys will help us further refine our understanding by revealing how the cyclones evolve over time."

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 19:51:03 -0500
  • Russia said it was alarmed after the U.S. tested a ground-launched ballistic missile

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    Russia said on Friday it was alarmed after the United States tested a ground-launched ballistic missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the RIA news agency reported.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:16:02 -0500
  • Death toll from New Zealand eruption rises to 14 after authorities conduct harrowing mission to retrieve bodies from the island

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    New Zealand police said that two people remain missing and are presumed dead after one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes erupted on Monday.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 23:14:00 -0500
  • China welcomes preliminary deal in trade war it blames on US

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    China put a positive face Saturday on a first-step trade agreement that dials down a trade war it blames the U.S. for starting. “It at least stabilizes the situation and lays a foundation for the next round of trade talks or canceling additional tariffs in the future," said Tu Xinquan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The two countries announced a “Phase 1" agreement Friday under which the U.S. will reduce tariffs and China will buy more U.S. farm products.

    Sat, 14 Dec 2019 03:27:19 -0500
  • The 7 candidates who qualified for the December debate

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    The next 2020 debate takes place December 19 and with a smaller group.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 05:40:25 -0500
  • Turkey adds former Palestinian politician Dahlan to most wanted list

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    Turkey has added exiled Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan to its "red list" of most-wanted terrorism suspects, offering a reward of up to 10 million lira ($1.75 million) for information leading to his capture, the Interior Ministry said on Friday. Arrest warrants have been issued for Dahlan on accusations of playing a role in the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, seeking to change the constitutional order by force, and various spying-related charges, the ministry said in a statement. Dahlan has also recently been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 07:26:34 -0500
  • Trump threatens Democrats who he says are 'trivializing' impeachment: 'Some day there will be a Democrat president and there will be a Republican House, and I suspect they're going to remember it'

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    On Friday the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance two articles of impeachment against Trump for abusing his office and obstructing Congress.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 13:39:11 -0500
  • Taiwan Still Has a Giant World War II-Era Artillery Gun (Pointed at China)

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    Could it fight?

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 03:49:00 -0500
  • ‘Move to Canada’ searches spike after Tories win general election

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    Online searches for 'move to Canada' surged 49-fold in the wake of the Conservative's general election victory, according to data from Google.People seemingly unhappy with the prospect of another five years of Tory rule began searching for alternative countries as soon as the exit poll results were published on Thursday evening.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 09:08:36 -0500
  • Republican congressman publicly identifies purported whistleblower

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    On Wednesday, Rep. Louie Gohmert publicly named a person some Republicans and allies of President Trump claim is the alleged whistleblower who first brought the Trump-Ukraine scandal to light.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 17:52:54 -0500
  • Heavy, gusty storms to rattle Florida, Georgia into Friday night

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    While a widespread outbreak of severe weather is not anticipated, storms capable of producing strong gusts and flash flooding will pester parts of the southeastern United States into Friday night.The thunderstorms are part of a large and strengthening storm that is producing an expanding swath of heavy rain in the eastern third of the nation. The risk is greatest from the central part of the Florida Peninsula to southeastern Georgia and the immediate coast of South Carolina. The risk also extends westward over part of the Florida Panhandle as well.People in this area should keep an eye on the weather. Heavy, gusty thunderstorms can briefly become severe with high winds, small hail and isolated tornadoes. A satellite image showing precipitation over the southeastern U.S. on Friday, December 13, 2019, around midday. (AccuWeather) What adds to the threat is the likelihood of storms developing after dark Friday.By Saturday afternoon, dry air is forecast to sweep from west to east across the region and end the thunderstorm threat.Download the free AccuWeather app to check the forecast in your area. Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 12:21:42 -0500
  • Spokane Cop Accused of Sex Assault Finally Loses Pay After More Accusers Come Forward

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    A Washington state police officer once told a coworker he would “say exactly what's on my mind, unless I'm on body camera.” This week, his boast came back to haunt him. The Spokane Police Department suspended Officer Nathan Nash without pay after a domestic violence victim accused him of assaulting her, and a police investigation found he had turned off his body camera during the event.The investigation began in October, when a domestic violence victim told the police department Nash had sexually assaulted her in a follow-up call to her house. The woman says she called Nash to ask about the location of her evidence photos, according to court documents obtained by KXLY. Nash allegedly asked her to meet in a private place to “go over the bruises on her body” and then pressed her to let him come over before her mother returned. On his way to the woman’s apartment, Nash allegedly turned off both his body camera and tracking equipment, resulting in a 36-minute location gap that a police analyst later described as “peculiar.” Once inside, the woman says, Nash followed her into her bedroom and directed her to take off her pants and underwear. She told investigators she was confused by the request, but complied because he was a police officer. The woman says Nash then penetrated her with his fingers for 30 seconds to a minute. She says she panicked, but thought it might be what he was supposed to do. Eventually, she says she told Nash "OK, that's enough." She later told investigators the alleged assault was the worst thing that has ever happened" to her.Before leaving, the woman says, he gave her his personal cellphone number. He did not photograph or otherwise document her bruises.When questioned by investigators, Nash blamed the incident on the domestic violence victim, suggesting that she had come on to him and become “embarrassed, mad, or upset,” when he ended the sexual contact, according to court documents. He added that the police department's body camera manual was more than 100 pages and “there's no way I'm gonna know all that content." In a statement after Nash's arrest, his personal attorney Rocco Treppiedi said Nash “categorically denies the allegation of sexual assault and any criminal activity.” “Ofc. Nash considered the additional evidence she provided, and immediately followed up on the information she provided,” Treppiedi said. Nash’s attorneys did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.In the weeks after the initial report, two more women came forward with concerns about Nash. One was a second domestic violence victim, who told investigators that Nash had come on to her while he was investigating her complaint in May. During a visit to her home, the woman said, Nash made a point of turning off his bodycam, then gave her his personal cellphone number and said he would respond faster than 911. Over the following weeks, she says he friended her on Facebook and started liking photos of her in lingerie, and sending her “creepy” and “needy” messages. According to court documents, she told investigators she felt he “had a hidden agenda of starting a relationship with her.”A police department volunteer also complained about Nash, claiming he had given her his personal number and sent her inappropriate texts, including a Jeopardy-themed message reading, “Things I would like to do to you for $600,” and “Answer: what is a naked back rub?”“I’m too old to play games, no need in beating around the bush,” Nash allegedly wrote in another message. “I just say exactly what’s on my mind, unless I’m on body camera."Nash was arrested on Nov. 22 and pleaded not guilty to second- and third-degree rape and official misconduct. His trial is set to begin in February.Nash was originally placed on administrative leave while the investigation progressed. This week, the police department put him on “unpaid lay-off status,” meaning he will not work or be paid until the outcome of his case is determined.  If he is found not guilty, he will be reinstated while the department investigates whether he violated any department policy, City spokesperson Marlene Feist told local news station KREM.“The alleged conduct is completely unacceptable and in absolute conflict with the high standards of the Spokane Police Department,” Chief Craig Meidl said in a press release. “Our men and women took an oath to protect and serve the community in which we live. We will not shy away from that oath and it will be upheld.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 13:32:53 -0500
  • George P. Bush says GOP can't let 'racist' episodes slide

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    Republican George P. Bush, the only member of the Bush dynasty still in public office, condemned Thursday recurring episodes of what he described as racist or hateful rhetoric within the Texas GOP, and ripped what he called false accusations fanned by his Hispanic heritage. Bush, Texas' land commissioner, first denounced a white GOP state legislator who suggested “Asian" challengers on the ballot in 2020 were motivated by race.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 16:28:26 -0500
  • The Tiny, Simple Nuclear Reactor That Could Change Energy

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    The next step in nuclear power is 1/100th the size of today's reactors.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 18:31:34 -0500
  • Washington state seeks to ban sale of 'assault weapons,' high capacity magazines

    If successful, Washington would become the seventh U.S. state to ban assault weapons, which it defines as semi-automatic rifles with at least one military feature, and the ninth to limit the capacity of ammunition magazines. "We should be making it harder for those who want to inflict mass violence and destruction upon innocent people," Governor Jay Inslee said in announcing the gun-control push.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 19:46:12 -0500
  • What went so badly wrong for the Liberal Democrats?

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    Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson went into the general election predicting numerous gains but ended up losing her seat.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 07:45:27 -0500
  • The 25 Best Adventure Games

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    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 09:00:00 -0500
  • Inside the Assassination of Imperial Japanese Admiral Yamamoto

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    A daring tale.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 08:00:00 -0500
  • McDonald’s Wins High-Stakes Labor Battle With Help From White House

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    (Bloomberg) -- In a television commercial that’s become part of the lore surrounding Donald Trump’s affinity for McDonald’s Corp., he embraced a purple, lumpy denizen of the fast-food chain’s “McDonaldland” and said, “Together, Grimace, we could own this town.”He was talking about New York, not Washington. Yet on Thursday, some 17 years after he appeared in that spot for the “Big ’N’ Tasty” sandwich, President Trump’s appointees delivered a high-stakes political victory for McDonald’s in one of the most important labor disputes in decades.The national board that referees union-organizing drives effectively absolved the company of liability for alleged labor-law violations in some of its franchisees’ restaurants, easing a major threat to the fast-food giant’s business structure. Trump’s appointees overrode an agency judge and rebuffed ethical concerns raised by labor advocates to approve a group of settlements in the matter on a 2-1 decision. The deal resolves allegations of wrongdoing without holding the corporation legally liable as “joint employer” with its franchisees.The victory, which eluded McDonald’s during Obama’s presidency, could help the fast-food giant close a bruising chapter in its history that imperiled its valuable brand as well as the franchise structure it’s built on.  In an emailed statement, McDonald's Corp. said it was “pleased” that the case had been concluded, and that the decision “allows our franchisees and their employees to move forward, and resolves all matters without any admission of wrongdoing.”Separately, top administration officials, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, are pushing to enact new, more lenient rules that would help insulate McDonald’s and similar chains from liability for the conduct of their franchisees. “President Trump has made deregulation a priority across the administration, which has helped unleash unprecedented economic and job growth,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.There’s no sign that Trump has personally intervened in the NLRB’s McDonald’s case. Regardless, the case stands apart—both in terms of its history and its potential repercussions.During a messy, multi-year saga, the company became a focal point in the “Fight for $15” movement to increase pay and unionize fast-food workers, among others. As protests engulfed McDonald’s restaurants, a corporate team responded by organizing a central effort to help franchisees push back against the union, according to evidence submitted in the case. Workers eventually complained to the NLRB, alleging that the tactics franchisees used amounted to illegal retaliation for engaging in federally protected union activities. In 2014, the board’s general counsel found enough merit in the workers’ claims to issue formal complaints against a group of franchisees, complaints that also accused McDonald’s of acting as a “joint employer” with them. McDonald’s and the franchisees have denied any illegal retaliation or other unfair practices. McDonald’s has called the allegations baseless and argued that it can’t be legally held responsible for decisions of its franchisees, who run more than 90% of McDonald’s restaurants and set their own wages and hiring practices. Franchisees denied the allegations as well.  In the board’s ruling Thursday, two Trump appointees approved proposed settlements that provide back pay to McDonald's workers but do not hold McDonald's Corp. liable as a "joint employer." In their decision, the members wrote that the deal would "remedy every violation alleged" in the government’s complaints against McDonald's."Moreover, we conclude that further litigation would impose a substantial burden on the parties, without a significant probability of prevailing on the complaint’s joint-employer allegation," board members Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel said in the ruling.Union advocates had lodged a formal petition with the board arguing that Emanuel needed to recuse from the case because he worked at a law firm that McDonald’s hired to counter the Fight for $15 organizing and protest efforts.Emanuel "has considered the motion and has determined, in consultation with the Board’s Designated Agency Ethics Official, not to recuse himself," according to the ruling, which noted that his firm had not been representing McDonald’s or franchisees in the NLRB case itself. Last month, Board Chairman John Ring — who also came from a law firm that has worked for McDonald’s — revamped ethics policies that might have made it harder for him or Emanuel to participate in the case. As it turned out, Ring was not part of the three-member panel that ruled on the McDonald’s decision.In a dissent, the NLRB's sole Democrat, Lauren McFerran, said the settlements were "unreasonable," and that with McDonald's joint-employer status unaddressed, "it is likely that similar issues will arise in the future."The decision represents a setback for the Service Employees International Union, which since 2012 has backed the “Fight for $15” protests. The SEIU’s president, Mary Kay Henry, pledged to appeal any adverse decision.“It’s going to take a lot more than a politically motivated decision on behalf of a Trump administration doing McDonald’s bidding to stop the workers of the Fight for $15,” Henry said in a statement.The board's vote also means that the corporation’s moves to help resist the protests and unionization effort have received, more or less, tacit acceptance from federal regulators. Those tactics, which were discussed by and, at times, coordinated by regional executives of the company, included gathering intelligence from a cashier who attended a union meeting as a mole, circulating names of suspected pro-union workers and coaching a franchisee on how to avoid hiring union sympathizers, according to excerpts from thousands of previously unreported documents and internal emails. The documents, which were provided to the NLRB by McDonald’s and several franchisees under a federal judge’s subpoena, reveal an inside look at how McDonald’s corporate staff members worked with franchisees on strategies to fight the union.McDonald’s didn’t respond to specific questions about several allegations, but said in a statement to Bloomberg News that the case is “incredibly complex” and that the “evidence is vast and complicated, and requires significant context to accurately and responsibly consider.” The company took issue with Bloomberg’s summary of that evidence, saying, “What you have highlighted are selective allegations and asserted them as facts, when there has been no judicial decision or review.” Last year, as she rejected a proposed settlement in the case, an administrative judge for the NLRB found that the case contained “copious evidence pertinent to McDonald's activities in order to provide resources and support for its franchisees throughout the country in response to the Fight for $15 campaign.” Specifically, Judge Lauren Esposito wrote that the case included “evidence that McDonald’s response to the Fight for $15 campaign was formulated and implemented from its corporate headquarters.” On Thursday, the board ordered her to accept the settlement.The joint-employer question at the heart of the NLRB case carries profound implications. In 2015, in a different case that didn’t involve McDonald’s, the NLRB issued a ruling that would make it easier to hold companies accountable for franchisees’ mistreatment of workers. By 2017, that issue was seen as so dire—not just for McDonald’s, but for franchise operations generally—that the then-chair of the International Franchise Association compared it to the 9/11 terror attacks. While fighting McDonald’s at the NLRB, the union has opened other fronts too, arguing the company should share any liability for a range of alleged transgressions inside franchised stores. Recently, dozens of workers have alleged sexual harassment in the chain’s restaurants in lawsuits or complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In August, McDonald’s announced an “operator-led, company-supported” training initiative for 850,000 workers across the country to help ensure “safe and respectful” workplaces.Last month, amid that latest rash of allegations, the company fired Chief Executive Stephen Easterbrook for engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee, a violation of company policy. During his almost five-year tenure atop McDonald’s, Easterbrook presided over a sharp rise in the company’s share price—despite a decline in annual revenue to about $21 billion from $25 billion. The revenue changes stem from a “refranchising” strategy to sell corporate-owned stores to independent owners that began in 2015, according to McDonald’s. Over the same period, annual profit margins surged to about 28% from 17%, a jump driven partly by new innovations such as all-day breakfast, touch-screen ordering kiosks and home delivery.But in time, overseeing the company’s reversal of fortune in Washington—and preserving the liability buffer between the corporate headquarters and the franchisees—may be viewed as Easterbrook’s most lasting impact. After being targeted by the Fight for $15 campaign for years, this March McDonald’s announced that it would no longer fund lobbying efforts to prevent minimum wage increases. The company said in a letter that it would continue talking to lawmakers about how any increases should work, including that “all industries should be treated the same way.” In its statement, the company said it has “made significant investments in our people practices to provide employees at both McDonald’s corporate-owned and franchise locations with opportunities for competitive wages, education and safe and respectful workplaces.”Average starting pay at its corporate-owned restaurants is $10 an hour, the company said—well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour but well below the fought-for $15. The average starting wage equates to $20,800 over a year’s worth of 40-hour weeks. “While franchisees control wages in their restaurants, we believe they are similar and competitive,” the company said.Most people remember Ray Kroc, who took McDonald’s from a small, California-based chain to a global fast-food empire, for innovations in franchising, but he also pioneered the low-wage fast-food job. As he oversaw the chain’s proliferation nationwide, the new restaurants staffed up with low-wage workers, many of them teenagers. Today, teens are a declining share of the food-service workforce; 18% of restaurant workers are aged 16 to 19, down from 20% in 2008, according to the National Restaurant Association, which projects additional declines by 2026. About 90 percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are franchises, a structure that keeps the company relatively asset-light and low-risk. The Trump administration is working on new rules that would reduce legal exposure for corporate franchisers. The proposals would make it harder, for example, to hold McDonald’s Corp. liable, along with franchisees, if kitchen managers are accused of sexual harassment or workers claim they weren’t paid overtime. The structure also makes it nearly impossible for workers at franchised restaurants to win the right to bargain collectively with McDonald’s executives—unless the NLRB determines that the corporation is indeed the workers’ “joint employer.” Without that, or a negotiated deal between the company and the union, any organizing effort would have to take place in pieces, franchise by franchise. The risk that the corporation could simply drop any unionized franchise would make that even harder to accomplish.Over the years, the company has weathered its share of public relations challenges. French anti-globalization radicals bombed its restaurants. Animal-rights extremists distributed “Unhappy Meals” with a plastic chicken covered in fake blood. The 2001 book Fast Food Nation tied McDonald’s to the obesity epidemic. But the Fight for $15 movement took place on a scale the company hadn’t seen before.Beginning in 2012, in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, a union-backed drive immersed McDonald’s restaurants in street protests that eventually spread globally. Protesters jammed drive-thrus, chanted in restaurants, banged on windows and stood atop tables. Corporate executives monitored developments as managers helped orchestrate a years-long anti-union response across the U.S., according to an analysis of thousands of pages of documents filed in the national labor board’s case. In 2014, the NLRB’s Obama-era general counsel alleged that the company’s subsidiary, McDonald’s USA LLC, was liable as a joint employer for a nationwide pattern of anti-union activity that included franchisees making threats, conducting surveillance, cutting work hours and firing workers who sought better pay and working conditions.Signs of unionizing efforts began emerging in October 2012, as reflected in a memo about organizing activity that circulated via McDonald’s internal email. “Seems to be affiliation with Occupy Wall Street movement,” said the document, which was in an email from a senior director of human resources. Soon, notes about the union showed up on an internal McDonald’s “activity log.” Said one entry: “White male talking to employees about affordable housing and asking questions about pay. Repeatedly in restaurant.”After word of an upcoming union meeting surfaced, a cashier at one New York City McDonald’s acted as a mole for the company, records show. She attended the meeting in Harlem, and by the next day, she shared her findings: About a dozen workers signed up to be union leaders, a report on the incident said.“They said McD makes $Billions + only pay minimum wage,” the worker reported. “… Focus seems to be on young, attractive female cashiers that speak English well ….”On Nov. 29, 2012, the Fight for $15 campaign made its first public splash with protests at fast-food restaurants across New York City as workers at McDonald’s and other chains went on strike for the day. From there, protests spread nationwide, fueled by old-school organizing and social-media messaging. At the time, McDonald’s had only a sparse social-media team and had yet to match the union in that capacity, according to two people familiar with the company’s operations.The company created fast, effective communications channels with franchisees to discuss the union’s activities. In emails and text messages, its managers made plans to combat “the opposition” and emphasized that some messages needed to be secret.“There is a sense of urgency regarding the gathering of this intel so that we can plan and prep the operators …,” said one email from a human resources director. “As a tip, you can text your operators regarding this message, however you have to instruct them to ERASE the message and response back to you, and you will need to do the same.” McDonald’s didn’t respond to questions about why recipients were advised to erase messages.In addition to a cadre of labor lawyers and several public relations firms, McDonald’s worked with “union avoidance” strategists, records show. In one case, a regional executive shared with a franchisee strategies on how to identify and avoid “salts,” or people who try to get hired in order to help organize a workplace. Federal law restricts the organized avoidance of such hires.Corporate employees circulated names of workers thought to be supporting the union. Once, in 2013, the company dispatched a “mobile security detail” to several Manhattan franchisees’ restaurants after receiving what an internal email described as “intel” about a possible Fight for $15 rally. The company told Bloomberg News that at times “security may be necessary on-site at restaurants for the safety of our property, customers and/or employees.”More than once, a regional McDonald’s executive organized gatherings in downtown Chicago for franchisees to discuss the situation, internal emails show. Their choice of venue? A Ronald McDonald House, part of the nonprofit foundation whose stated mission is to “improve the health and well-being of children and their families.”Since the unionization drive began, dozens of workers have filed complaints with the NLRB alleging elements of an anti-union culture in McDonald’s restaurants. Emmanuel Flores, 28, told Bloomberg he saw just such a culture firsthand at a company-owned restaurant in Monterey Park, California.Flores said he endured months of lewd comments, sexual overtures and groping from supervisors and co-workers. Early this year, on the advice of a union organizer, he told his store manager about it.The next day, Flores said, his shift hours were cut. Days later, during an informal staff meeting with him and other workers, the manager compared union activists to “leeches” and said “that even if we got paid $15 an hour, it wouldn’t matter because she would cut our hours,” Flores said. Flores filed complaints with California officials and the EEOC, and he was named as a witness in a retaliation complaint that the union filed with the NLRB. Trump’s fondness for McDonald’s is no secret. During his 2016 campaign, it was part of his standard fare; one order consisted of “two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted,’’ wrote his former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie in their 2017 book, Let Trump Be Trump.McDonald’s soon met with senior members of the new administration. In July 2017, Trump’s first labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, sat down for dinner at The Smith, a popular restaurant near Capitol Hill, with Easterbrook and Sam Tatevosyan, the company’s top lobbyist, according to the official Department of Labor calendar. The next day, Acosta and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke at a McDonald’s lobbying summit, records show. Acosta declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mnuchin.McDonald’s said it hosts both Democrats and Republicans for such Washington meetings. “The company traditionally invites officials from the current administration to discuss topics relevant to the business—and did the same during the Obama administration,” the company said.  Once Trump’s appointees began taking office, McDonald’s sought to end its long struggle at the NLRB. In December 2017, a lawyer for the company emailed a letter to the board’s new general counsel, Peter Robb. Robb prosecuted a landmark case against the American air traffic controllers’ union during President Ronald Reagan’s administration. The union was found to have engaged in an illegal strike, and Reagan fired more than 11,000 workers, a lasting blow to the American labor movement.“Our request is straightforward,” said the McDonald’s letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Bloomberg News. “We ask that you use your prosecutorial discretion to end this waste of taxpayer resources and consider what your predecessor would not consider—a global resolution of the underlying unfair labor practice allegations.” The lawyer asked for a resolution that would not designate McDonald’s a “joint employer.”Within a few months, the company got what it asked for: Robb’s office offered to settle the case with no joint-employer finding. The proposed settlement would have provided back pay to about 20 workers, in amounts ranging from about $30 to $50,000, and it required no admission of any wrongdoing. But the administrative judge overseeing the case, Esposito, rejected the settlement, calling it too lenient on the company.The White House in effect aided McDonald’s in other ways. According to people who’ve worked in the administration, Acosta drew Mulvaney’s ire for dragging his feet on Labor Department rule changes, including making the agency’s “joint employer” standard more lenient. Colleagues thought Acosta was too concerned about provoking congressional Democrats, according to two people familiar with the situation. Trump’s aides repeatedly pressed Acosta’s staff during White House meetings about the status of the rules—and Mulvaney largely replaced Acosta in the process, taking final say over the new rules’ content and timing, the people said. Mulvaney tends to get more involved in policy than previous chiefs of staff because of his dual role as White House budget director, according to a White House official who spoke on background. When his Office of Management and Budget pushes back on an agency’s work, it’s for good reasons, the official said.At the NLRB, Trump appointees have attempted to defang the joint-employer threat, despite encountering ethical snags. The Board tried in 2017 to overturn an Obama-era precedent on the issue, but then had to quickly invalidate that change after the agency’s ethics officer found that one of Trump’s appointees, Emanuel, had wrongly failed to recuse himself. The board is now trying to change the standard using its rulemaking authority instead.Meanwhile, Robb has asked board members to overturn the judge’s rejection of his proposed McDonald’s settlement. Union advocates lodged a formal petition with the board, arguing that two of Trump’s appointees must recuse themselves from the case because they worked at law firms that McDonald’s hired to counter the Fight for $15 organizing and protest efforts.On Nov. 19, the board’s Trump-appointed chairman, John Ring, released what he called a “first of its kind” internal ethics review, which clears a path for the board to set aside such objections. Ring is one of the two board members who’ve been urged to recuse; while he came to the board from a law firm that worked for McDonald’s, there’s no evidence that he personally worked for the company.Ring’s unusual “ethics recusal report” last month concluded that each NLRB member can “insist on participating” in cases even if federal ethics officials say otherwise. While the ethics officials’ decisions may be binding, they’re not “self-enforcing,” the report found. So NLRB board members can overrule them simply by disagreeing with their legal conclusions, Ring wrote. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.The McDonald’s case has generated 21,000 pages of trial transcript, with testimony from more than 100 witnesses. Judge Esposito called it “the largest case ever adjudicated by this agency.” The union’s pledge to appeal Thursday’s decision suggests that it could go on for years to come.For now, at least, the company has friends in the White House. In April, Mulvaney spoke at McDonald’s latest lobbying event, where the joint-employer issue was a key topic. He wore a tie the color of the golden arches.—With assistance from Leslie Patton and Ben Penn.  (Updates throughout with labor board’s decision. An earlier version of this story was  updated with additional comment from McDonald’s on refranchising strategy)To contact the authors of this story: Lauren Etter in Los Angeles at letter1@bloomberg.netJosh Eidelson in Palo Alto at jeidelson@bloomberg.netHassan Kanu in Arlington at hkanu2@bloomberg.netMichael Smith in Miami at mssmith@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: John Voskuhl at jvoskuhl@bloomberg.net, Flynn McRobertsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 17:19:49 -0500
  • Man dresses as mother to take driving test after she failed three times

    Golocal247.com news

    A man has been arrested for attempting to take a driving test on his mother’s behalf – by dressing like her in a bold attempt to fool examiners.Heitor Márcio Schiave, 43, wore a stuffed bra, floral top, long skirt, earrings, and a handbag to impersonate his mother at the State Department of Traffic in Novo Mutum Parana, in the Brazilian Amazon.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 06:23:27 -0500
  • Scandinavian woman 'forced to withdraw rape claim' in case similar to British teen's Cyprus ordeal

    Golocal247.com news

    A Scandinavian woman says she was forced by Cypriot police to withdraw a rape claim or face arrest, in a striking parallel to the case of a British teenager who was allegedly gang raped on the Mediterranean island. The Scandinavian woman said police officers questioned her aggressively for several hours after she was raped by two men outside a nightclub. The officers accused her of lying and said that if she did not withdraw the rape claim they would arrest her and send her to prison. Her account bears striking similarities to the alleged treatment of a British teenager who is on trial in Cyprus, accused of concocting a claim of gang rape by Israeli tourists in the resort town of Ayia Napa. She made the initial complaint in July but 10 days later, after being questioned without a lawyer for eight hours in a police station, signed a retraction statement. The alleged gang rape of the British teenager happened in the resort of Ayia Napa Credit: AFP On trial for public mischief, she faces up to a year in prison and a fine of €1,700 if found guilty. She has pleaded not guilty. The judge in the case is expected to hand down his verdict on December 30. The 19-year-old British woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has told the trial that officers threatened to arrest her and her friends unless she retracted the claims of being gang raped by a group of young Israeli men. After reading about the Ayia Napa case, the Scandinavian woman decided to come forward with her account of similar treatment at the hands of the Cypriot police 20 years ago. It is the first time she has spoken publicly of the assault and has previously only discussed it with her doctor and her husband. Now aged 43, she was 21 when she met the men in a nightclub in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, in January 1998. They offered to give her a lift to her hotel. Instead, they raped her in a car park. “I fought for my life and thought I was going to die,” she told The Telegraph. She went to the nearest police station to report the rape and was taken to a hospital for an examination. She was then taken to a police station for questioning. “The main investigator was extremely brutal and aggressive. I was in big shock so I had some difficulties remembering details. “This made him very angry. He then started accusing me of making the whole story up to receive money from my insurance company.” The same allegation was made by in court by Cypriot police against the British woman. Both alleged victims said they were mystified by the accusation because they did not think that holiday insurance covered rape and had no intention of claiming any financial compensation. “I was very afraid and felt trapped in the room with them. They treated me as a big criminal. They kept me in the police station for many hours. They told me that if I didn’t withdraw the rape allegation they would arrest me and send me to prison. So I did and they let me go,” said the Scandinavian woman, who asked to remain anonymous. She said she was still deeply affected by the ordeal and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – just like the British teenager who is on trial. “The treatment I received from police was terrible,” she said. Michael Polak, a British lawyer representing the teenager in the trial Credit: AFP Michael Polak, a British lawyer representing the British woman, told The Telegraph: “This case bears remarkable similarities to the teenager’s case. It raises serious questions about the investigation of rape in Cyprus and the treatment of rape complainants there.” In a report in 1998, a Norwegian newspaper claimed that police on the island routinely dismissed rape claims, treating the victims as liars. The report quoted a Norwegian tour operator who said that “police never take rape claims seriously. All such claims are treated as false.” “Police have a theory that tourists make such allegations so they can claim expenses for their holiday,” the report said. A senior Cyprus police officer was quoted as saying: "Why rape when it's so easy to find somebody to have sex with?" At a hearing on Thursday, a Cypriot defence lawyer denied that the teenager had made up the rape complaint. Ritsa Pekri criticised police for failing to download all the social media messages sent by the Israeli men on their mobile phones and said officers failed to secure the crime scene properly. The prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there had been no rape, Ms Pekri said, calling on the court to acquit the woman. But Adamos Demosthenous, the prosecutor, insisted the British girl had accused the Israelis of raping her because she felt humiliated and ashamed after learning that she had been filmed while having sex with one of them. He called on the judge to convict her.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 12:40:53 -0500
  • Man gets life for killing 2 engaged doctors in their condo

    Bampumim Teixeira, 33, requested not to be in the courtroom when the sentence was handed down because he said he wouldn't control himself. Teixeira declined to address the court, but the victims' families gave impact statements. Field's brother, Jason Field, delivered a tearful speech in which he described his brother as his “life adviser and best friend," the best man at his wedding and his roommate in college.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:52:11 -0500
  • GOP lawmaker fires back after being accused of downplaying Ukrainian deaths

    Golocal247.com news

    Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, fired back at a Democratic colleague in one of the more testy exchanges in the 14 hours of debate during Thursday's impeachment hearing.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 07:57:09 -0500
  • Counting the cost of protest - Hong Kong police rack up $120 million overtime bill

    Golocal247.com news

    Hong Kong police have earned an average of US$11,000 for each officer in overtime pay during the last six months of anti-government protests, with the total overtime bill coming to more than US$120 million, government figures showed on Friday. Police have covered more than 900 protests since June and worked overtime only in "inevitable circumstances", the government's security bureau said in a written response to questions from pro-democracy lawmakers. The Chinese-ruled city as been convulsed by almost daily and often violent protests since public opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill developed into demands for greater freedoms.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 08:40:17 -0500
  • The US and NATO are preparing for Russia to go after troops in the field and at home

    Golocal247.com news

    NATO is designed for air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace operations, but on the fringes of those, hybrid activity poses a new kind of challenge.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:43:12 -0500
  • Israel hails Johnson win as defeat for anti-Semitism

    Golocal247.com news

    Israel Friday hailed the election defeat of Britain's Labour Party as a "milestone in the fight against hatred" after its leadership was accused of inaction against anti-Semitism in its ranks. "The spectre of anti-Semitism loomed large over this campaign, and the British public overwhelmingly voted against it," Katz said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his plaudits.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 09:39:04 -0500
  • Would China Try to Claim Most of the Pacific Ocean?

    Golocal247.com news

    Nine-dash line? How about two hundred and fifty? Some fake news freaked an academic conference out several years ago.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:11:00 -0500
  • Ocasio-Cortez condemns 'white supremacist sympathizer' Tucker Carlson

    Golocal247.com news

    Top Democrat says host’s Fox News show an ‘hour-long production of unmitigated racism’ after racist and xenophobic debateDemocratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has condemned Fox News and Tucker Carlson, calling the TV host a “white supremacist sympathizer” and saying his show represents an “hour-long production of unmitigated racism”.The comments came following a segment on Carlson’s show in which he and his guest, City Journal editor Seth Barron, commented on footage of an unremarkable amount of trash on the streets of Ocasio-Cortez’s New York City district and blamed it on immigrants, whom Barron said had “occupied” the district and made it “one of the least American districts in the country”.Carlson asked: “How can we take seriously anything she says about the environment when this is her congressional district? She should be ashamed of this.”Using racist and xenophobic tropes, Barron responded that “her district is actually one of the least American districts in the country, and by that, I don’t mean that it’s not part of America, but it’s occupied by relatively few American citizens.”He went on: “The way they inhabit housing there is such that they live in a lot of illegal spaces like basements, and many people live there, so they wind up producing a lot of garbage that the landlords don’t want thrown out normally. Hence, you wind up with a lot of garbage on the streets. You have illegal food vendors pouring their pig grease in the gutters.”It was unclear where he was getting this information from.Carlson and his guests, much like the president, frequently imply that immigrants are making the country “poorer and dirtier”.Carlson has called the idea of white supremacy in America a hoax.On Wednesday night on Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez shared video of the segment and wrote: “I go back and forth on whether to go on Fox News.”She said: “The main reason I haven’t is squaring the fact that the ad revenue from it bankrolls a white supremacist sympathizer to broadcast an hour-long production of unmitigated racism, without any accountability whatsoever.”She added: “‘Immigrants are dirty’ is a lazy, tired, racist trope.”Barron later apologized on Twitter, saying he had not done “justice to a complicated issue” of crowded housing conditions.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 11:04:21 -0500
  • An Invisible Menace to the Climate, Revealed in Infrared

    Golocal247.com news

    To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world.But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate.Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane's instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions.Methane is loosely regulated, difficult to detect and rising sharply. The Times' aerial and on-the-ground research, along with an examination of lobbying activities by the companies that own the sites, shows how the energy industry is seeking and winning looser federal regulations on methane, a major contributor to global warming.Operators of the sites identified by The Times are among the very companies that have lobbied the Trump administration, either directly or through trade organizations, to weaken regulations on methane, a review of regulatory filings, meeting minutes and attendance logs shows. These local companies, along with oil-industry lobby groups that represent the world's largest energy companies, are fighting rules that would force them to more aggressively fix emissions like these.Next year, the administration could move forward with a plan that would effectively eliminate requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency's own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than 1 million homes for a year.In the air, Times reporters surveyed an area in and around two counties in the heart of the Permian with the help of specialists in methane detection."This site's definitely leaking," said Paolo Wilczak, a scientist and the pilot of the two-seater aircraft, as a laptop monitor hooked up to the equipment registered a blip in methane levels. "And that one, too."The reporters drove to the sites armed with infrared video gear that revealed methane billowing from tanks, seeping from pipes and wafting from bright flares that are designed to burn off the gas but sometimes fail to do so completely. At one site, a worker walked directly into a methane plume unprotected.Tim Doty, a former senior official at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who is trained in infrared leak detection, examined and helped analyze the findings. "That's a crazy amount of emissions," he said. "It takes a little bit of investigative work, but with an infrared camera, you can see it."Oil and gas companies were committed to driving down emissions "while delivering affordable, reliable energy to American families," said Howard Feldman, senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, a major industry lobby group. Its members believed that regulations should be improved, however, to provide clarity for businesses, avoid duplicating state rules and drive industry innovation, he said.The regulatory rollback sought by the energy industry is the latest chapter in the administration's historic effort to weaken environmental and climate regulations while waging a broad-based attack on climate science.Scientists say that, in weakening the rules, the Trump administration underestimates methane's global climate effects. It also disregards research that suggests methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure are far larger than previously estimated.The findings address the mystery behind rising levels of methane in the atmosphere. Methane levels have soared since 2007 for reasons that still aren't fully understood. But fracking natural-gas production, which accelerated just as atmospheric methane levels jumped, is a prime suspect.Methane leaks from oil and gas production threaten to erode the advantage that natural gas has over coal in meeting the world's energy needs, scientists say. When burned for electricity, natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide that coal does. But if methane is not burned off when released, it can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.Methane also contributes to ground-level ozone, which, if inhaled, can cause asthma and other health problems."It's increasingly clear that fossil fuel production has dramatically increased global methane emissions," said Robert Howarth, an Earth system scientist at Cornell University and author of a study estimating that North American shale gas production may be responsible for about a third of the global increase in methane emissions over the past decade.A bright red-and-white plane pirouetted above the Texas scrub, banking so sharply it were as if the tiny aircraft was spinning on a wingtip. Wilczak, a pilot and flight scientist for Scientific Aviation, an aerial leak-detection company, executed tight circles above an oil installation.Tiny tubes affixed to the wings siphoned air to a sensitive spectrometer, jammed behind the seats, capable of detecting and measuring methane. Wilczak said it takes about seven seconds for the air to pass through and register a reading on a computer balanced on the lap of the only passenger.Detecting methane emissions is difficult work that often begins with flights like these. Oil and gas sites are not required to install round-the-clock emissions monitors, and flights are one of the ways to spot trouble.In the course of about four hours of flying, we found at least six sites with high methane-emissions readings, ranging from about 300 pounds to almost 1,100 pounds an hour, including at DCP Pegasus, which is part owned by energy giant Phillips 66.Those readings would very likely put those sites in the category of "super emitters," a term used by scientists to describe large-scale releases that are responsible for a disproportionately high share of methane emissions from oil and gas sites. In a 2017 study of the Barnett shale basin in Texas, methane releases of about 60 pounds or more an hour were classified as super emitters, making up just 1% of sites but accounting for nearly half of total emissions.On the ground, the Permian is a landscape of parched cotton fields, bobbing pump jacks and dirt roads that stretch for miles. We drove out to photograph the emissions we had detected from the air with a specialized infrared camera fitted with a lens made not of glass, but metal.At the DCP Pegasus plant, south of Midland, the camera transformed a tranquil scene into a furnace. Hot columns of gas shot into the air. Fumes engulfed structures.The camera sees several types of gases, including methane and ethane, both greenhouse gases, as well as pollutants called volatile organic compounds. Any emissions are likely to contain a mixture of the gases. Doty, who now runs a consultancy, said the emissions appeared to be from vapor combustors, compressors and storage tanks.According to Texas regulatory records, DCP has reported more than 250 unpermitted emissions events this year in the Permian Basin and is among the area's bigger emitters. State rules allow facilities to report irregular emissions without penalties.Sarah Sandberg, a spokeswoman for DCP, which operates several pipelines and almost 50 gas processing plants nationwide, said she had "many questions regarding the accuracy of your assessment and assumptions." She did not respond to repeated follow-ups.Phillips 66 declined to comment.At the EagleClaw Midstream gas processing plant just south of Pecos, we found emissions spewing from the top of a wastewater tank. The plant's manager, Justin Bishop, walked over to look at what we were filming. "We didn't know it was leaking," he said.A worker went to check on the tank, climbing some stairs and walking into the plume.He said the emissions were simply water vapor. "There's no problem," he said. "We aren't reporting it."But Doty, the former Texas emissions regulator, said water vapor would have been visible to the naked eye. "That isn't water," he said. "That's a whole lot of emissions."In a statement, EagleClaw said its workers had discovered that the tank's valve did require maintenance and that the problem had been fixed 30 minutes later."The amount of gas that leaked was determined, by our experts, to be well below any legal reportable limits," Todd Carpenter, the company's chief compliance officer, said in an email. He added that the safety and security of EagleClaw's employees, and of the public, "was of primary concern." The company has not filed an emissions event report this year.As early as March 2017 -- just months after the presidential inauguration -- fossil fuel companies made contact with the Trump administration to argue for a rollback of methane emissions rules.They held repeated meetings with federal officials, including an important one in November 2018, when lobbyists for DCP, EagleClaw and other oil processing companies met with officials from the EPA to discuss a critical topic: unintended or "fugitive" methane emissions.Representatives of the lobby group, GPA Midstream, argued that the EPA should relax monitoring requirements for fugitive emissions at gathering and compressor facilities, according to regulatory records reviewed by The Times. GPA Midstream met with Trump administration officials at least three times on the matter."More frequent monitoring would not be cost-effective," GPA lobbyists later said in comments filed with the agency, and stricter regulation was "costly and burdensome."The efforts were part of a broader industry push to reverse Obama-era rules that would have forced operators to more aggressively monitor and repair natural gas leaks while reducing flaring.Earlier, at a March 2018 meeting, lobbyists for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents thousands of oil and gas companies nationwide, circulated material that forcefully rebutted the scientific evidence of large fugitive emissions from drilling sites. The lobbyists said the data "create the illusion" that super emitters pose a problem, according to a handout from the meeting.The petroleum association vice president, Lee O. Fuller, said in an interview that for smaller operators, which often run low-producing wells, the costs of excessive regulations could be crippling. They "could put many out of business," he said.The companies found an administration willing to listen. Before his appointment to the post of assistant administrator at the EPA overseeing air pollution, William L. Wehrum lobbied on behalf of oil and gas producers, including gas processors and petroleum refineries.Wehrum resigned from the agency in June and is under investigation for his contacts with former clients. His former boss, Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator, also lobbied for energy companies earlier in his career.By this August, the EPA had proposed a broad rollback, including rescinding direct regulations of methane emissions completely. Volatile organic compounds, a separate but related category of gases, would remain regulated, which would have a side effect of limiting some methane emissions.In a statement, an EPA spokesman, Michael Abboud, said methane was a valuable resource, so the industry already "has an incentive to minimize leaks." He added that EPA staff members work with ethics officials "to ensure they are in compliance with all ethics rules." Wehrum did not respond to a request for comment.Energy giants including BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell have, to varying degrees, publicly supported methane regulation. However, trade associations representing all three, including the American Petroleum Institute and the Independent Petroleum Association of America, have fought against direct regulation.A spokesman for BP said the company wanted to maintain the direct regulation of methane, and an official from Exxon said the company was making voluntary efforts to reduce methane, including infrastructure upgrades. A Chevron spokesman, Sean Comey, said the company "supports global efforts to reduce flaring and methane emissions." Shell said it supported the continued direct regulation of methane and more frequent leak inspections.Some companies are starting to use infrared cameras, drones and other technology to detect methane leaks. BP said recently it would use drones and surveillance cameras to monitor for fugitive emissions at new oil and gas projects. Shell is testing solar-powered technology to watch for leaks.As the boom-and-bust oil business goes through another one of its financial gyrations -- production in the Permian is expected to slow as a glut of gas and rock-bottom prices take their toll -- there are concerns that investments in methane detection won't be a priority, particularly for smaller operators.One site where we identified leakage with the infrared camera was an unmanned well pad with a battery of gray tanks. "There's a lot of volume coming out of there," Doty later said of the images. "If this is going 100% of the time, that's a lot of emissions."The site was owned by MDC Texas Operator, which we discovered had filed for bankruptcy that very day.Calls to the company went unanswered, and its bankruptcy lawyers didn't return requests for comment. It is unknown whether the tank is still spewing gas.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:07:29 -0500
  • California police officer involved in two fatal shootings in one year

    Golocal247.com news

    A new report has found that a California police officer was involved in two fatal shootings in just one year, highlighting the deadly results of American police policies that generally allow officers to use deadly force when they deem necessary.In both instances, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, Ceres police officer Ross Bays shot at individuals who had stumbled out of a car and began running away — and experts say that the timing of the shootings should be worrisome, even though both were ultimately ruled justified.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:05:35 -0500
  • A tale of 2 migrations: Before and after new Trump policies

    Golocal247.com news

    María Teresa Carballo was worried. The silence was unexpected: Seventeen other members of Carballo’s family had undertaken the same journey between last December and May, and all had made it safely after paying the smuggler $3,000 per person. “For the ones I’d sent it was easy,” the 59-year-old Salvadoran woman said of the relatives who migrated to the U.S. earlier in the year.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:04:57 -0500
  • A British doctor was treated in an American emergency room and said it revealed how broken US healthcare really is

    Golocal247.com news

    Adam Kay, the former British doctor who wrote "This Is Going to Hurt," says the UK's National Health Service actually works.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 18:09:53 -0500
  • Spain pledges funds for asylum seekers as Latin American arrivals spike

    The Spanish government on Friday authorized nearly 150 million euros ($165 million) in subsidies to ease the strain on its migrant-processing system after a recent spike in arrivals from Latin America overwhelmed its social services. Government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa, who announced the measure at a weekly briefing, said the subsidies will be complemented by 25 million euros from European funds. Provoked by national crises in Spanish-speaking countries like Venezuela and Colombia, the number of people seeking asylum in Spain has skyrocketed.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 11:55:23 -0500
  • 29 photos show how climate change has ravaged the Arctic in the past decade

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    NOAA's Arctic Report Card warns that climate change is transforming the Arctic. These photos show its dire effects on the region so far this decade.

    Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:14:00 -0500
  • US warnings over spate of Iranian-backed rocket attacks on its bases in Iraq

    Golocal247.com news

    Attacks on bases hosting US-led coalition forces by Iranian-armed militias are heading towards a red line for the coalition, who would respond with such force that “no one would like the outcome,” a senior US official warned on Wednesday. Just hours later a further two rockets hit near the military section of Baghdad airport. The attack is the tenth of its type since October, targeting joint US-Iraqi military facilities that host forces from the US-led coalition to defeat Isil.   Speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the US official reportedly said that while there were no claims of responsibility for the attacks, intelligence and forensic analyses indicated Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia groups are behind them. The Iraqi paramilitary groups and the US are trading blame on the series of attacks. “We’re waiting for full evidence...If past is prologue, I’d say there’s a good chance it was Iran that’s behind it,” David Schenker, the US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters last Friday. Two further attacks have happened since. The rocket attacks come amid US accusations that Iran has capitalised on the continued unrest in Iraq to secretly move short-range ballistic missiles into the country. The Trump administration hit Iran with fresh sanctions on Wednesday in an effort to intensify their “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.  The sanctions target several transportation firms in the Islamic Republic, including the state-shipping line, as well as a China-based company that has been involved in delivering missile parts to Iran.  Piling economic sanctions and ramped up rhetoric have been a pillar of the “maximum pressure” campaign since Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018. Iran has since taken several major steps away from the deal amid fears of a war with the US, further exacerbating tensions.  An attack on Monday saw four Katyusha rockets hit a base near Baghdad airport, wounding five members of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service. A larger 240-millimetre rocket was used in a similar attack near the airport on Friday, which is thought to have not been used in Iraq since 2011.

    Thu, 12 Dec 2019 10:02:06 -0500
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