Trump called on spy chiefs for help as Mueller probe began

international News, Politics, Power

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in the spring of 2017, President Donald Trump picked up the phone and called the head of the largest U.S. intelligence agency. Trump told Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, that news stories alleging that Trump’s 2016 White House campaign had ties to Russia were false and the president asked whether Rogers could do anything to counter them.

Rogers and his deputy Richard Ledgett, who was present for the call, were taken aback.

Afterward, Ledgett wrote a memo about the conversation and Trump’s request. He and Rogers signed it and stashed it in a safe. Ledgett said it was the “most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service.”

Trump’s outreach to Rogers, who retired last year, and other top intelligence officials stands in sharp contrast to his public, combative stance toward his intelligence agencies. At the time of the call, Trump was just some 60 days into his presidency, but he already had managed to alienate large parts of the intelligence apparatus with comments denigrating the profession.

Since then, Trump only has dug in. He said at a news conference in Helsinki after his 2017 summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he gave weight to Putin’s denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, despite the firm conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that it had. “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, Trump said. And earlier this year, Trump called national security assessments “naive,” tweeting “perhaps intelligence should go back to school.”

Yet in moments of concern as Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election got underway, Trump turned to his spy chiefs for help.

The phone call to Rogers on March 26, 2017, came only weeks after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had angered Trump by stepping aside from the investigation. James Comey, the FBI director who would be fired that May, had just told Congress that the FBI was not only investigating Russian meddling in the election, but also possible links or coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

The call to Rogers and others like it were uncovered by Mueller as he investigated possible obstruction. In his 448-page report released Thursday, Mueller concluded that while Trump attempted to seize control of the Russia investigation and bring it to a halt, the president was ultimately thwarted by those around him.

The special counsel said the evidence did not establish that Trump asked or directed intelligence officials to “stop or interfere with the FBI’s Russia investigation.” The requests to those officials, Mueller said, “were not interpreted by the officials who received them as directives to improperly interfere with the investigation.”

During the call to Rogers, the president “expressed frustration with the Russia investigation, saying that it made relations with the Russians difficult,” according to the report.

Trump said news stories linking him with Russia were not true and he asked Rogers “if he could do anything to refute the stories.” Even though Rogers signed the memo about the conversation and put it in a safe, he told investigators he did not think Trump was giving him an order.

Trump made a number of similar requests of other top intelligence officials.

On March 22, 2017, Trump asked then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats to stay behind after a meeting at the White House to ask if the men could “say publicly that no link existed between him and Russia,” the report said.

In two other instances, the president began meetings to discuss sensitive intelligence matters by stating he hoped a media statement could be issued saying there was no collusion with Russia.

After Trump repeatedly brought up the Russia investigation with his national intelligence director, “Coats said he finally told the President that Coats’s job was to provide intelligence and not get involved in investigations,” the report said.

Pompeo recalled that Trump regularly urged officials to get the word out that he had not done anything wrong related to Russia. But Pompeo, now secretary of state, said he had no recollection of being asked to stay behind after the March 22 meeting, according to the report.


Police visits R Kelly home over allegation of holding two women hostage in his home

Celebrity Gists

Police visited the Chicago home of R&B star R. Kelly Friday after receiving a tip that two women were being held hostage by the singer but found no evidence to support the allegation, authorities said.

The morning visit came after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office passed along information to police from someone from out-of-state who alleged to prosecutors that two women were being held against their will at Kelly’s Trump Tower residence, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told USA TODAY.

Kelly has been facing mounting backlash since the airing of Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” docu-series that details allegations of abuse and statutory rape of girls and young women by the singer.

Officers went to the apartment and interviewed Kelly and the two women independently.

“The women stated that they were not being held against their will and they were in good health and spirits,” said Guglielmi, who said Kelly invited officers into the apartment. “Nothing looked out of place in the apartment and the call was closed as unfounded.”

R. Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, has denied the allegations made against Kelly in the Lifetime series and said he hoped Friday’s visit by police would end the scrutiny of his client.

– USAToday

APC Planning to Influence 2019 Elections with Military Operations – PDP

2019 Elections, APC, PDP, PMB, Politics

“Our investigation shows that part of the plot is to use the military operation as a subterfuge to unleash heavy security presence to intimidate, harass and instil fear in voters in PDP strongholds across the country and pave the way for the allocation of fictitious votes to President Buhari and the APC,” the spokesman of the opposition party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement on Saturday.

Tinubu and buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, has been accused of planning to use a military operation code named ‘Operation Python Dance 3’ to influence the results of the February 14, 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria by the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Operation Python Dance designed as a military ‘show of strength‘ exercise by the Nigerian Army directed at silencing the growing influence of Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) and other criminal associations in the South East region of the country in the first and second versions of the operation took place in the region between 2017 and 2018.

Nigerian Army parades Armoured Tanks in the streets of Port Harcourt Rivers State

Announcing the launch of a third version on Friday, the military said the exercise would now be conducted nationwide and would commence from January 1, 2019 and last till February 28.

The presidential election is billed to take place on February 16.

The army said the military operation was needed to tackle already “observed upsurge” insecurity challenges anticipated before, during and after the 2019 general election.

But kicking against the timing of the exercise, the PDP alleged that Mr Buhari was plotting to use the planned nationwide military exercise to legitimise his administration’s alleged ploy of using the military to intimidate voters and rig next year’s presidential election.

“Our investigation shows that part of the plot is to use the military operation as a subterfuge to unleash heavy security presence to intimidate, harass and instil fear in voters in PDP strongholds across the country and pave the way for the allocation of fictitious votes to President Buhari and the APC,” the spokesman of the opposition party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement on Saturday.

“Further investigation revealed that agents of the Buhari Presidency are working in cohort with some compromised top officials of the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission to use soldiers to provide cover for diversion of electoral materials, as well as aid APC agents in their plan to unleash violence and disrupt the electoral process in areas where the PDP is winning.

“In spanning the military operation to February 28, 2019, the Buhari Presidency betrayed its anticipation of public rejection or violence, which can only come when a result that does not reflect the actual wish of the people is announced,” he said.

Ologbondiyan, who is also the Director, Media and Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organization, said Nigerians are eager for a new president, having lost confidence in Buhari, due to his alleged failures in governance.

“The PDP PCO, therefore, rejects this deliberate attempt by the Buhari Presidency to set our military on a collision course with Nigerians, bearing in mind the collateral damage that usually occurs whenever the civilian population clashes with military.

“Our nation is a democratic state and we are not in a state of emergency that requires the militarization of our electoral process.

“Our military, which is cherished by Nigerians, should, therefore, foreclose any attempt by the Buhari Presidency to use it to set our country on fire.”

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s false claims on migrant child deaths



Catarina Alonzo Perez, the mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the second Guatemalan child this month to die while in U.S. custody near the Mexican border, pauses during an interview in her home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Felipe was chosen to make the journey north with his father because he was the oldest son. It didn’t occur to anyone that the road could be dangerous. “I didn’t think of that, because several families had already left and they made it,” Alonzo said. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump twisted circumstances behind the deaths of two migrant Guatemalan children to insulate his administration from any blame, contending without justification that they were in dire health before they reached the border.

Felipe Gomez Alonzo

Felipe Gomez Alonzo , 8,

The children cleared initial U.S. health screenings and one of them was in the U.S. for five days before suddenly showing signs of illness.

His tweets on the deaths in U.S. custody of a 7-year-old girl and an 8-year old boy were his first words on the subject and came with no expression of remorse for what happened. Instead he said their fate shows why the U.S. needs a wall at the Mexican border

TRUMP: “The two … children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol. The father of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn’t given her water in days. Border Patrol needs the Wall and it will all end.” — tweets Saturday.

THE FACTS: This account is not supported by timelines released by Customs and Border Protection or other sources.

As well, Trump is wrong in saying the father of the girl who died has absolved U.S. officials of responsibility. Through family lawyers, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz said he made sure his daughter Jakelin had food and water as they traveled through Mexico. The Border Protection timeline on her case says: “The initial screening revealed no evidence of health issues.” And nothing was mentioned about the girl being dehydrated.

The record so far neither establishes that U.S. officials were to blame for the children’s deaths nor clears them of blame, despite Trump’s pronouncement. All the facts are not known, but he rendered what is known inaccurately.

Circumstances are laid out in the Customs and Border Protection accounts of the capture, treatment and deaths of Jakelin Caal, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo , 8, who both came to the border with their fathers:

When Jakelin Caal and her father were caught the evening of Dec. 6, her father described her as in good health and no illness was observed by agents. It’s possible father and daughter did not acknowledge an illness. The next morning, she vomited on a bus waiting to take them to a Border Patrol station, then stopped breathing. Twice revived by Border Patrol personnel, she was then flown by helicopter to an El Paso, Texas, trauma center, went into cardiac arrest and was revived once more. She died Dec. 8 at 12:35 a.m.

Trump’s assertion that both children were very ill before their apprehension is even more flagrantly untethered from the record in the case of Alonzo.

Catarina Alonzo, the boy’s mother, told The Associated Press her son was well and eating chicken after arriving at the U.S. border when she spoke with him by phone.

According to a Border Protection timeline, Felipe and his father, Agustin Gomez, were caught Dec. 18 near El Paso. Agents recorded giving them 23 “welfare checks” — checking on the well-being of father and son — over the next four days. No concern about the boy’s health is noted in the timeline. But on Dec. 24, a day after being transferred to a New Mexico center, the boy was taken to a hospital with a cough and high fever, released after more than five hours with flu medicine, then taken back late that evening. He lost consciousness on the way and doctors could not revive him.



TRUMP: “I am in the Oval Office & just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.” — tweet Dec. 24.

TRUMP: “Yesterday, I gave out 115 miles’ worth of wall, 115 miles in Texas. It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly. I’m going there at the end of January for the start of construction.” — remarks to reporters Tuesday.

THE FACTS: He appears to be representing work financed months ago, as new construction. A president cannot simply give out a construction contract. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers award contracts for border wall construction after Congress approves the money and months have gone into planning.

In March, Congress approved money for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. The government said in November that construction in the Rio Grande Valley would begin in February. Targeted areas include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park and privately owned ranches and farmland. Trump’s statement that he plans to visit the site in late January suggests he may be referring to this previously announced construction.

It’s a mystery how he comes up with 115 miles (185 km), and neither the White House nor the Homeland Security Department explained that when asked.

Homeland Security has said the money approved by Congress in March will pay for 84 miles (135 km) altogether along the southern border, including the Texas stretch. If the Trump administration got the entire $5 billion it’s requested from Congress, the administration says that would be enough to build 215 miles (346 km) of barrier.

What’s not a mystery is that Trump has repeatedly exaggerated what’s been accomplished on his campaign promise to build a wall sealing the border with Mexico.



TRUMP: “You just got one of the biggest pay raises you ever received. Unless you don’t want it. Does anybody here? Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? I don’t see too many hands. Ah, OK. Don’t give it up. It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.” — remarks prompting cheers from troops Wednesday at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong about there being no pay increase for service members in more than 10 years and about their raise being especially large. U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for decades. As well, several in the last 10 years have been larger than service members are getting now — 2.4 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2019. Raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.

Trump has repeatedly told service members that they’re getting the biggest or only pay raise that they have received in 10 years or more. In May, for example, he told graduates of the United States Naval Academy: “We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years.”


TRUMP: “You had plenty of people, they came up, they said, you know we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent, we could make it 2 percent, we could make it 4 percent. I said, ‘no, make it 10 percent — make it more than 10 percent.’” — remarks Wednesday at al-Asad base.

THE FACTS: Whatever he might have said at the time, the 2.6 percent for 2019 obviously falls far short of the 10 percent or more that he implied was achieved.



TRUMP: “For all of the sympathizers out there of Brett McGurk remember, he was the Obama appointee who was responsible for loading up airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH & sending it to Iran as part of the horrific Iran Nuclear Deal (now terminated) approved by Little Bob Corker.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: There are three or more things wrong with this short tweet as he takes a slap at a retiring Republican senator who criticized him, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and a U.S. official who resigned in protest against Trump’s plan to pull troops from Syria, Brett McGurk.

First, Corker was no architect of the 2015 deal between world powers and Iran. He was a leading critic of it in Congress.

He argued at the time that President Barack Obama should have made the pact a treaty subject to approval by the Senate. When Obama didn’t do that, Corker helped fellow senators write legislation that subjected the accord to periodic congressional review. The legislation would have blocked the deal if that effort got enough votes. It didn’t. Obama brought the deal into effect, not Congress.

Corker has sharply criticized Trump, calling him “utterly untruthful” and responsible for “the debasing of our nation.”

Second, branding McGurk an “Obama appointee” is misleading. The veteran diplomat bridges administrations. Republican President George W. Bush appointed him as a senior aide for Iraq and Afghanistan. During the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal by the Obama administration, McGurk led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there. He is Trump’s envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, but quitting in protest of the troop withdrawal.

As for cash flown to Iran, that’s true, though Trump is off on the amount and leaves out important context: The money was a debt owed to Tehran, which bought military equipment from the U.S. that it never received because relations ruptured when the shah was overthrown in 1979. A cargo plane took $400 million, representing the principal, to the Iranians. The remaining $1.3 billion, representing interest accrued over nearly 40 years, was transferred separately.

The diplomatic break meant that a variety of debts between the two countries went uncollected and became the subject of international arbitration. As part of that process, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses over the years.


Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Border Protection information on Jakelin Caal:

Border Protection information on Felipe Gomez Alonzo:

Find AP Fact Checks at

Jets fire coach Todd Bowles after 4 seasons with no playoffs


NEW YORK (AP) — Todd Bowles’ tenure with the New York Jets began four years ago with plenty of promise. It ended with too many losses and no playoff appearances.

The team announced the long-expected decision that it moved on from Bowles on Sunday night, a few hours after the Jets wrapped up their season with a 38-3 loss at New England.

“I would like to thank coach Bowles for his dedication to the New York Jets for the last four years,” Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “After carefully evaluating the situation, I have concluded that this is the right direction for the organization to take. I would like to wish Todd, Taneka and their family only the best.”

Bowles, 54, was hired in January 2015 after New York fired Rex Ryan. The Jets got off to a solid start under Bowles, who guided them to a 10-6 record. But they fell a win shy of the playoffs in his first season after losing a win-and-in game against Ryan’s Bills. Still, many expected the Jets to take the next step under Bowles.

It never happened.

There was some uncertainty surrounding general manager Mike Maccagnan’s job status, but it appears he will remain in his role and help lead the Jets’ search for a new coach.

New York went 4-12 this year after going 5-11 in each of the last two seasons, and Bowles’ in-game management became a focus of heavy criticism. The stoic coach also never endeared himself to frustrated fans who often mistook Bowles’ lack of public emotion for an absence of passion.

Bowles was on the hot seat last season, but the team stuck together and he and Maccagnan were given two-year extensions last December by Johnson.

The Jets entered this season with their focus on developing rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall draft pick in April, and Johnson did not set a playoff mandate for Bowles or Maccagnan. But the former USC star threw a league-leading 14 interceptions before straining his right foot against Miami on Nov. 4 and sitting out three games.

There were glimmers of promise when Darnold returned from the foot injury, with the rookie throwing for 931 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception — and looking very much a quarterback who can lead the team into the future.

Darnold will have to do that with a new coach, though

It appeared Bowles’ fate was sealed when the Jets were blown out by AFC East-rival Buffalo 41-10 on Nov. 11. But Johnson chose to have Bowles finish the season, something New York has traditionally done with its head coaches. The Jets haven’t had an in-season coaching change since 1976, when Lou Holtz resigned with one game remaining and was replaced by Mike Holovak.

Still, Bowles was headed to an inevitable ending with the Jets — but never allowed the outside speculation and rumors affect his day-to-day approach with his players.

Several players praised Bowles for how he handled himself through everything, and often insisted the team’s failing weren’t the coach’s fault. Still, when asked last week of his assessment of his performance, Bowles pointed the finger only at himself.

“The record says it all,” Bowles said.

The Jets’ next coach will likely be working with a revamped roster, with the team expected to have more than $100 million in salary cap space in the offseason. The goal will be to surround Darnold with as much talent as possible while the franchise builds for the future.

Maccagnan has also been heavily criticized for his spotty track record in the draft and lack of overall roster depth at key spots, but will get a chance to continue shaping the team.

“You have to go get players, man,” safety Jamal Adams said after the game. “You have to get big-time players. It’s simple. You look at the Saints. You look at the Rams. You look at the Chicago Bears. You look at all those teams. You have to go get players.”

Maccagnan was hired by the Jets a day before they brought on Bowles, and the two appeared to have a mostly solid working relationship. But the makeup of the roster has left something to be desired — and Maccagnan didn’t have the ultimate say in the hiring of Bowles, something he will likely have this time around.

Recent first-rounders Adams, Leonard Williams and Darron Lee are starters, along with Darnold, but only 12 of the 22 players drafted from 2015-17 under Maccagnan remain on the roster. The bulk of the crop from those draft classes should be major depth pieces now, namely wide receivers Devin Smith (second round, 2015), ArDarius Stewart (third round, 2017) and Chad Hansen (fourth, 2017), and linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (third round, 2015).

Maccagnan’s biggest draft blunder came in 2016, when he took quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the second round despite most NFL scouts considering the former Penn State star a major project. Hackenberg never developed, was traded to Oakland in May and is now in the Alliance of American Football after stops with two other NFL teams.

As a result of the lackluster drafts, the Jets will need to make a big-time splash in free agency during the offseason.

Bowles came to the Jets as a highly sought candidate after leading Arizona’s aggressive-style defense for two seasons and winning the first AP Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2014. He beat out five other candidates, including current Atlanta coach Dan Quinn and Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone.

It marked a homecoming for Bowles, a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who also served as the Jets’ defensive backs coach under Al Groh during the 2000 season. Bowles played eight NFL seasons as a defensive back before working his way through the coaching ranks as an assistant. He went 2-1 as Miami’s interim head coach in 2011.

Bowles was the Jets’ sixth straight defense-focused head coach and fifth since Woody Johnson took over the Jets in 2000, joining Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Groh and Bill Parcells.

New York could opt to go with an offense-minded coach this time around, especially with Darnold the face of the franchise and the team’s inability in recent years to develop young quarterbacks.

The franchise is also starving for a Super Bowl appearance, something it hasn’t had since 1969.


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Vatican spokesman, deputy resign suddenly

international News

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The spokesman for the Vatican and his deputy resigned suddenly on Monday, an official statement said.

It gave no reason for the resignation of Greg Burke, an American, and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, a Spaniard, but they quit several weeks after Pope Francis appointed an Italian journalist and personal friend, Andrea Tornielli, to become editorial director of Vatican communications.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet)

Vía One America News Network

Ravens win AFC North, Eagles, Colts get wild cards



Week 13

The playoff chase went down to the final minutes of the season Sunday, when Baltimore squeezed in as AFC North winner, and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia got some help to secure an NFC wild card.

Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt

That left Pittsburgh and Minnesota out.

Kansas City (12-4) grabbed the AFC’s top seed, followed by New England (11-5), Houston (11-5) and Baltimore (10-6). The Chargers (12-4) own the first wild card and will play at the Ravens next Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. The Colts (10-6) romped past the Titans 33-17 at Tennessee and have the other wild card. They travel to Houston on Saturday afternoon.

DeAndre Hopkins, Myles Jack

The Saints (13-3) have the top seed in the NFC, and the Rams (12-4) got the No. 2 spot when they beat San Francisco. Chicago (12-4), whose win at Minnesota knocked out the Vikings and put the Eagles into the postseason, is seeded third and gets Philadelphia (9-7) next Sunday at 4:40 p.m.

Dallas (10-6) is the fourth seed and will play Seattle (10-6) on Saturday night.

C.J. Mosley intercepted a fourth-down pass by Baker Mayfield to preserve the Ravens’ 26-24 win as Baltimore rushed for a season-best 296 yards. A year ago, Baltimore missed the playoffs by losing its finale at home to the Bengals, who rallied with a last-minute touchdown.

“If you want to write a book about this season, probably no one would believe it,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Steelers players remained on the field after they edged Cincinnati 16-13 and watched the drama from Baltimore on the videoboard. But their archrival Browns couldn’t help them against the equally hated Ravens, and Pittsburgh (9-6-1) is out.

“It just sucks,” Steelers guard David DeCastro said. “How hard we work, how much effort we put in. To go from 7-2-1 to where we are now is heartbreaking.”

Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title over the Patriots in Minneapolis last February, guided them to a resounding 24-0 victory at Washington. Then the Bears helped out at Minnesota with a 24-10 win even though they had nothing to play for, being set as the NFC’s third seed.

“We’re not sneaking in. We’re here to do some damage,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said.

Earlier, the Texans rallied from losing their first three games to win the AFC South and become the No 3 seed.

Houston easily handled Jacksonville 20-3 Sunday as Deshaun Watson threw for 234 yards and ran for a touchdown, and DeAndre Hopkins had 147 yards receiving.

The Texans finished last in the division in 2017. They and the Bears have done the worst-to-first turnaround this season, making it 15 of the past 16 seasons that has occurred in the league.

“It’s do or die now, so you’ve got to put everything on the line now,” Watson said. “Prepare harder than you did before and anything can happen at this point. The tournament is wide open and it’s my first playoff, so I’m just excited to get in and see how things go.”

New England, meanwhile, will get a week off in early January for the 13th time since 2001, most in the NFL during that span. The Patriots routed the Jets 38-3, and because they defeated Houston during the season, they get the bye.

“Eleven and five is nothing to be sad about,” Tom Brady said. “We fought pretty hard and put ourselves in good position.”


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Weed that sprouted holiday cheer mysteriously uprooted

international News

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A street corner weed that had been decked out with Christmas lights and brought out holiday goodwill in Ohio has apparently met an early demise.

In this Dec. 18, 2018 photo, Jimmy Izbinski, wearing a Santa suit, waves to motorists passing the Christmas weed in Toledo, Ohio. The street corner weed decked out with lights and ornaments is spreading holiday goodwill. (AP Photo/John Seewer)

WTVG-TV in Toledo reports that someone pulled out the “Christmas weed” early Friday morning and drove off with it in his trunk.

The weed had become a holiday attraction after a family decorated it with tinsel to spread some Christmas cheer.

Embedded video

O Christmas Weed: An overgrown street corner weed now decorated with lights and ornaments has turned into a holiday attraction in Ohio. Read more: 1299:56 AM – Dec 20, 201850 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

Others added their own ornaments and began leaving behind donations for the needy. It became so popular that Toledo officials set up donation boxes and handed out the items to local charities.

The weed had been scheduled to be cleaned up on Saturday along with all of the decorations and donations surrounding it.

Scrutiny, criticism of ICE come with immigration enforcement – AP

international News


In this Oct. 22, 2018, photo U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround and detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va. ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election, prioritizing criminals. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The officers suit up in the pre-dawn darkness, wrapping on body armor, snapping in guns, pulling on black sweat shirts that read POLICE and ICE.

They gather around a conference table in an ordinary office in a nondescript office park in the suburbs, going over their targets for the day: two men, both with criminal histories. Top of the list is a man from El Salvador convicted of drunken driving.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election — prioritizing criminals.

But they have also stepped up arrests of people who have no U.S. criminal records. It is those stories of ICE officers arresting dads and grandmothers that pepper local news. Officers are heckled and videotaped. Some Democratic politicians have called for ICE to be abolished.

ICE employees have been threatened at their homes, their personal data exposed online, officials said.

“There is a tension around ‘It could be that somebody could find out what I do and hate me for it or do worse than hate me for it,’” Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the agency, told The Associated Press.

Vitiello said the agency is monitoring social media and giving employees resources for when they feel threatened.

ICE, formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, had been told under the Obama administration to focus on removing immigrants who had committed crimes. Trump, in one of his first moves in office, directed his administration to target anyone in the country illegally.

Government data back up that ICE is still mostly targeting people convicted of a crime. But the data also show the agency has greatly ramped up arrests of people who were accused of a crime but not convicted, and increased arrests solely on immigration violations.

ICE arrested 32,977 people accused of crimes and 20,464 with immigration violations during the budget year 2018. There were 105,140 arrests of someone with a criminal conviction and 158,581 arrests overall. The most frequent criminal conviction was for drunken driving, followed by drug and traffic offenses.

Manhunt Still on for inmate who escaped from California prison

international News

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) — California authorities were on a manhunt Thursday for an inmate who walked away from San Quentin State Prison and is believed to have carjacked a vehicle overnight.

Shalom Mendoza, 21, was last seen at the prison before 6 p.m. Wednesday and reported missing after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. He fled from a work assignment outside the prison walls, spokesman Sgt. Robert Gardea said.

Mendoza is believed to have carjacked a victim in a Home Depot parking lot less than a mile from the prison after 9 p.m., fleeing in a silver Toyota RAV4 with California license plate number 6STZ502, San Rafael police said.

They said a man with a similar physical description to Mendoza, last seen wearing a white T-shirt and khaki or light-yellow pants, motioned to the victim as if he had a weapon or gun under his shirt. He then threatened to kill her and demanded her car keys, but she was not injured.

Mendoza was sentenced to prison a year ago to serve a five-year term for using a deadly weapon during a Los Angeles County carjacking and evading or attempting to evade police while driving recklessly.

He arrived at San Quentin in April and was assigned to a minimum-security inmate work crew in May, Gardea said. Mendoza lived in a dormitory behind a security fence, but he was with a work crew outside the prison fence when he walked away, he said.

San Quentin is California’s oldest prison, opening in 1852. It houses more than 4,100 inmates, including those on death row.

Walk-aways by inmates outside of secure areas are not unusual, and most are quickly apprehended without incident. Far more uncommon are escapes from walled or fenced prisons, like Michael Garrett’s escape in January from the California Institution for Men in Chino, east of Los Angeles.

Officials released new details on that escape Thursday, telling the Associated Press that Garrett went over a non-lethal fence at the prison holding minimum- and medium-security inmates. He was caught without incident the next day.

The department subsequently improved the fence, lighting and alarms and added staff in the area of the escape, spokesman Jeffrey Callison said.


This story clarifies that Mendoza left from a work assignment, not a dormitory, based on new information from corrections officials.

Russia: 4 dead in apartment collapse, apparent gas explosion


MOSCOW (AP) — Russian emergency officials say that at least four people have died after sections of an apartment building collapsed after an apparent gas explosion in the Ural Mountains region.

The authorities say four others have been hospitalized with injuries, and 68 other residents remained unaccounted for in the accident in Magnitogorsk, a city of 400,000 about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) southeast of Moscow. They say some residents could have been buried under debris after Monday’s accident.

The Investigative Committee said the collapse of a section of the ten-storey apartment building was apparently caused by a gas leak. It happened before dawn when most residents were still asleep.

The Kremlin said that President Vladimir Putin has been briefed on the situation. Cabinet officials headed to Magnitogorsk to oversee the rescue efforts.

2 dead, nearly 30 wounded in bomb blast at Philippine mall -AP

international News, Terrorism

COTABATO, Philippines (AP) — Suspected Muslim militants remotely detonated a bomb near the entrance of a mall in the southern Philippines on Monday as people did last-minute shopping ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, killing at least two and wounding nearly 30, officials said.

The bomb went off near the baggage counter at the entrance of the South Seas mall in Cotabato city, wounding shoppers, vendors and commuters. Authorities recovered another unexploded bomb nearby as government forces imposed a security lockdown in the city, military and police officials said.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said by phone that an initial investigation showed the design of the bomb was similar to those used in the past by local Muslim militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Government forces launched an offensive against the militants belonging to a group called Daulah Islamiyah last week and at least seven of the militants died in the fighting, Sobejana said.

“This is a part of the retaliation, but the problem is they’re victimizing innocent civilians,” he told reporters.

Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., the deputy police director of Cotabato, said witnesses saw a man leave a box in a crowded area near the mall’s entrance where vendors and shoppers were milling. The explosion shattered glass panels and scattered debris to the street fronting the mall.

Two of the roughly 30 people hit by the blast died while being brought to a hospital, Sobejana said.

Cotabato Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi condemned the bombing and called on residents to help fight terrorism.

“This is not just another terroristic act but an act against humanity. I cannot fathom how such evil exists in this time of merry making,” she said.

“It is unimaginable how some people can start the new year with an act of cruelty but no matter how you threaten us, the people of Cotabato are resilient. … We will stand up against terrorism,” she told reporters.

The bombing, the latest in a number of attacks blamed on militants in the volatile region, occurred despite on-and-off military assaults against pockets of militant groups operating in the marshlands and hinterlands not far from Cotabato and outlying provinces.

Hundreds of militants aligned with the Islamic State group laid siege in the southern Islamic city of Marawi in May last year, sparking five months of intense fighting and military airstrikes that left more than 1,100 mostly militants dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of villagers.

Throngs to pack Times Square for mild, rainy New Year’s Eve


NEW YORK (AP) — Snoop Dogg, Sting and Christina Aguilera will welcome 2019 in a packed Times Square Monday along with revelers from around the world who come to see the traditional crystal ball drop, fireworks and a blizzard of confetti.

Spectators are expected to start assembling in early afternoon for the made-for-TV extravaganza. As has been the case for years, the celebration will take place under tight security, with partygoers checked for weapons and then herded into pens, ringed by metal barricades, where they wait for the stroke of midnight.

FILE – In this Jan. 1, 2018, file photo, confetti flies over Times Square during the New Year’s celebration in New York. The New York Police Department is adding a drone this year to the security forces it uses to protect the huge crowds celebrating New Year’s Eve in the city. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig,

Any repeat visitors from last year’s celebration will undoubtedly be praying for better weather. Last year’s event was one of the coldest on record at 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Forecasters say Monday’s party will take place amid mild temperatures but possibly rain. Umbrellas are banned for security reasons.

Rain or shine, performers will try to light up the crowd.

Bastille and New Kids On The Block will perform medleys of their hit songs on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and singer songwriter Bebe Rexha will perform John Lennon’s “Imagine” before the 60-second countdown to the midnight ball drop.

People who arrive early enough to grab a standing spot in Times Square itself may have a good view of the stages where the entertainers perform. The rest of the throngs, stuffed into pens stretching several blocks north toward Central Park, will be able to follow the action on viewing screens.

There are no public toilets in the pens, backpacks are banned and there are no garbage cans either, so picnicking for the event can be rough. But revelers will have plenty of companionship, though experts say probably well short of the 1 million to 2 million spectators claimed by city officials and organizers.

Thousands of police officers will be on hand to provide security, with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs, 1,225 security cameras and 235 “blocker vehicles” used to stop any potential vehicle attacks.

The show’s official programing begins at 6 p.m., with the lighting and raising of the New Year’s Eve Ball up a pole atop One Times Square. The Sino-American Friendship Association will flip the giant switch that lights the ball before presenting a Chinese cultural performance culminating in red and gold pyrotechnics.


PM Sheikh Hasina wins landslide in disputed Bangladesh election


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has secured her third consecutive term with a landslide victory, Bangladesh’s Election Commission said on Monday.

Her ruling party and its allies have won 288 of the 300 parliamentary seats contested, surpassing its previous election wins.

The opposition has condemned the vote as “farcical,” marred by violence, intimidation and vote rigging claims.

They won just seven seats and have demanded a new vote.

Bangladesh’s parliament has 350 seats in total, 50 of which are reserved for women and allotted proportional to the overall vote.

“We urge the election commission to void this farcical result immediately,” opposition leader Kamal Hossain said.

“We are demanding that a fresh election is held under a neutral government as early as possible.”

Bangladesh grows tired of its battling leading ladies ( )
More on life in Bangladesh ( )

The Bangladesh Election Commission told Reuters news agency that it had heard vote-rigging allegations from “across the country” and would investigate.

At least 17 people have been killed in clashes between ruling party supporters and the opposition.

What are the allegations?

Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League has run Bangladesh since 2009, but one of the leading opposition parties has accused it of using stuffed ballot boxes.

A spokesman for the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) alleged there were “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats being contested.

Soon before polls opened, a BBC correspondent saw filled ballot boxes at a polling centre in the port city of Chittagong. The presiding officer declined to comment.

Only ruling party polling agents were present at that and several other polling centres in the second-largest city of the country.

Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said on Twitter ( )  that “with serious allegations of voter intimidation, restrictions on opposition polling agents and several candidates seeking a re-poll, there are concerns about the credibility” of the election.

At least 47 candidates from the main opposition alliance withdrew before polling closed, alleging vote rigging and intimidation.

Activists, observers and the opposition party had warned that the vote would not be fair, but the governing party accused the opposition of peddling false claims.

Ms Hasina told the BBC on Friday: “On the one hand, they are placing allegations. On the other hand, they are attacking our party workers, leaders. That is the tragedy in this country.”

‘Too scared to speak out’

As we went from polling booth to polling booth on Sunday, one pattern became clear. People who were supporters of Prime Minister Hasina’s party were vocal, and happy to answer our questions on camera, about what issues they’d voted on. The others were mostly too scared to speak out.

One man told us that several members of his extended family found that their votes had already been cast when they went to the polling booth. He said he didn’t think it was a fair election but didn’t want to be identified.

It wasn’t hard to see why he felt intimidated. Outside every polling booth we went to, there were dozens of workers from the prime minister’s party, listening intently when anyone was interviewed. No-one from the opposition parties was visible.

While the election commission has said it will investigate claims of vote-rigging, the organisation has itself been accused of bias by the opposition.

So far, the prime minister has not responded to these latest allegations but two days ago rejected claims the election was unfair.

It was widely anticipated that her party would win the polls, but it will be a controversial victory.

Why was this election important?

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation of more than 160 million people and faces issues ranging from possibly devastating climate change, Islamist militancy ( ) , endemic poverty and corruption.

The country has recently been in the international spotlight as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled there from neighbouring Myanmar.  ( )

Image copyright Reuters

Image caption  PM Sheikh Hasina, who has been in power since 2009, casts her ballot on Sunday

The lead-up to the election saw violence between rival supporters and a crackdown on dissent by a government that critics say has only grown more authoritarian during its 10 years in power.

Who were the contenders?

Sheikh Hasina’s long-term rival, Khaleda Zia, was sent to prison on corruption charges earlier this year and barred from competing in the vote, in a case which she claimed was politically motivated.

In Ms Zia’s absence, Kamal Hossain, who was previously both an AL minister and Hasina ally, leads the main opposition grouping, the Jatiya Oikya Front, which includes Ms Zia’s Bangladesh National Party (BNP).

However, the 81-year-old lawyer, who drew up the country’s constitution, did not stand in the election.

The BNP boycotted the last vote in 2014, making Sunday’s poll the first to involve all the major parties in 10 years.

Wife of Bauchi State Governor Donates Foods to Christian Homes

Church, News, personality
Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar
Hajiya Hadiza Abubakar

The wife of the Bauchi State Governor,Hajiya Hadiza Mohammed, recently put smiles on the faces of Christian women at Bayara community of Bauchi when she distributed food items in the spirit of Christmas.

The gesture was done through her pet project known as the Bauchi Sustainable Women Economic Empowerment and Peace Initiative, B-SWEEEP

‘Christmas celebrations are not complete when we have not touched the lives of women who are the pillars of the family.This intervention is been carried out every festive season with the support of the state government who is mindful of the needs of the citizens at such celebrations’’

“This period calls for sober reflection on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the purpose of his birth.You should also use the season to pray for the peace of the state and nation, particularly we are approaching the general election,’’she said

She implored women to instill moral virtues in the lives of their children so that they can be responsible persons in the society and urged to acquire skills to empower thier lives and family.

In her remarks , the state Commissioner of Women Affairs, Rukaiya Ibrahim Kewat,noted that the cardinal responsibility of any government was to affect the citizens through interventions that bring radical improvement for them.

The commissioner, who said that the gesture was aimed at putting smiles on the faces of the women, urged the women associations to ensure that the food items are distributed justly to every woman beneficiary.

SUSAN EDEH- Nigeria Independent

Father Christmas: FG Overpays Ex-Nigeria Airways Staff, 79 Yet To Get Payment

2019 Elections, Nigeria
Nigeria Air

Lagos – Investigation by Daily Independent has revealed that some of the ex-Nigeria Airways workers whose payment of 50 percent pension and other severance packages commenced in October were credited twice.

Also, no fewer than 79 of the supposed beneficiaries of the N45 billion severance packages were yet to be paid any amount of money by officials of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), a department in the Ministry of Finance which was mandated to disburse the sums to the former workers of the national carrier.

Investigation by Daily Independent indicated that no fewer than 100 beneficiaries received ‘alerts’ twice through their banks. About 6,000 of the former workers were slated for payment.

Some of the beneficiaries confirmed that they were actually credited twice by the Accountant-General Office and an account, training and operations, indicating Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with 13 digits account number, 002 0076861038, was provided for them to return the excess payment.

But it was gathered that the leadership of the former workers prevailed on them not to refund the sum to any account provided for that purpose by the apex bank, suspecting foul play in the entire process.

Speaking on phone with our correspondent, Animashaun said the error occurred but that it had been addressed by the appropriate quarters.

He also confirmed that some of the former workers of the national carrier were yet to receive their benefits.

As at the last count, he said, those in that category were 79, but noted that most of them had issues with their bank details.

He explained that the payment was divided into five batches, saying as at last week, government had concluded payment for four batches, while the fifth batch would commence from today.

He said: “The payment is a process. Those who have not received are those who have issues with their bank details. At the end of the day, 79 names were returned by the CBN because of incorrect or inadequate details and they have been calling those affected for correction. There are five batches so far, four have been attended to.

“The fifth batch, which is remaining, are those who have issues with their account details and those who just did the verification in Abuja, which was closed about two weeks ago at the mop up centre in Abuja. Those are the ones remaining and most probably on Monday (today) the Ministry of Finance will take it to the Accountant-General Office and by Friday, they may get alerts.”

On double payment, he said: “The platform in which they were paid was the same platform in which the sums were reverted. The platform is with the CBN. So, they are collaborating with the bank. Majority of money have been reverted by the banks.

“The account CBN provided was not a personal account, I was involved in it throughout. It is a special account in the CBN office through the Accountant-General Office and such money can’t be paid on the counters. You need special form to pay that money. It is not normal. For you to pay that money, you have to go online to fill a form.”

Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, another beneficiary, confirmed credit of accounts of some of the former workers twice.

But, like Animashaun, he said the monies were recalled with that of a second generation bank having some glitches, which he believed were being sorted out.

He also confirmed that over two months after the exercise was rounded off in the three designated centres, Lagos, Kano, and Enugu, some of the workers were yet to be paid, but attributed this to the double payment of some by the CBN.

“The money has been reverted the way it came in. I think they wanted to be smart when they gave an account number in which such beneficiaries were told to pay into.”

Besides, Chukwudi Ileje slammed PICA for inefficiency in the disbursement of the sum.

According to him, PICA had shown incompetence in handling payment right from the outset, stressing that there were unpardonable errors at each stage of the exercise.

He said: “For instance, the figures and years of service were miscalculated for many and in absentia. Now, even in remitting the amount, some were credited twice, while others did not get. Crass incompetence!

“An inept contraption like PICA has no business handling this matter. They are lucky and should be happy that they found us in a forlorn situation and hence we are thankfully willing to accept anything to keep clear of impending doom.

“Else why are they getting away with so much clumsiness? Where are the AUGA and NUP officials? Why are they looking the other way, while so much pain is being inflicted on those they should protect? Is this a case of timidity or connivance? If yes, why?”

It would be recalled that the sum of N45 billion was expected to be disbursed to the entire former workers of the airline numbering 6000, but the government said it would disburse 50 percent of the sum, representing N22.5 billion in the first phase, while the other 50 percent would be disbursed within the next six months.

Olusegun Koiki Independent Nigeria

PDP Raises The Alarm Over Dino Melaye’s Safety

2019 Elections

Samuel Ogidan, Abuja Nigeria
Abuja – As police continue to lay siege to the Abuja residence of Senator Dino Melaye, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has raised the alarm over the senator’s safety.

The party said with the continued lockdown on the residence of Melaye by the police, the Muhammadu Buhari presidency was turning Nigeria into a police state where those opposed to President Buhari’s re-election were treated like enemies of the state.

The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, in a statement by its Director of Media & Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Sunday, said: “The continued siege, which has been widely condemned as unwarranted and provocative, shows that the police under President Buhari has become an instrument of oppression to subjugate dissenting voices ahead of the 2019 general election.”

“The PDP has become extremely worried about the safety of Senator Melaye and his family members under police lockdown and charges Nigerians to hold President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) responsible should any harm befall him or any member of his family.

“This is particularly against the background of Senator Melaye’s outcry that the police planned to arrest and inject him with poisonous substance.

“The PDP hopes that opposition figures such as Senator Melaye will not suddenly become victims of ‘accidental discharge’, unexplained assassinations or mysterious motor accidents as we move on to the general elections.”

Meanwhile, the police have again intensified manhunt for Melaye two days after storming his house.

The police on Sunday intensified their search for the lawmaker with a reinforcement of security within and around his residence along 11 Sangha Street in Maitama, Abuja.

The police had arrived early Sunday with more officers and at least nine patrol vehicles to seal off all the entry and exit routes to Melaye’s house.

The police officers also occupied the entrance to an uncompleted building directly behind Melaye’s house, near the Chadian embassy on Mississippi Street.

Source: Independent Nigeria

Major US newspapers hit by cyberattack, disrupting printing and distribution

News, Terrorism
Los Angeles Times

By Mark Wycislik-Wilson

A number of major US newspapers — including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and New York Times — have been hit by a cyberattack that is said to originate from another country.

Malware was first detected on Thursday by Tribune Publishing, the owner of some of the affected titles, but unsuccessful attempts at quarantining meant that there was disruption well into Saturday. The Department of Homeland Security is currently investigating the incident which is not thought to have exposed any personal customer details.

Writing about the malware attack, the Los Angeles Times explains: “Technology teams worked feverishly to quarantine the computer virus, but it spread through Tribune Publishing’s network and reinfected systems crucial to the news production and printing process. Multiple newspapers around the country were affected because they share a production platform”.

An anonymous source is quoted as saying that the attack was launched from outside the US, but it is not clear whether it was the action of an individual, or an enemy state:

We believe the intention of the attack was to disable infrastructure, more specifically servers, as opposed to looking to steal information.

The attack appears to take the form of the Ryuk ransomware, but more will not be known until the investigation proceeds. DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said:

We are aware of reports of a potential cyber incident affecting several news outlets, and are working with our government and industry partners to better understand the situation.

In a statement issued on behalf of Tribune Publishing, spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said: “There is no evidence that customer credit card information or personally identifiable information has been compromised”.

Source: Beta News

NASA Wants to Send Hot Air Balloons to The Hellscape of Venus


We know that Venus, our closest planetary neighbour, has a volcanic terrain and a hellish atmosphere with extreme temperatures. But we don’t know much about seismic activity on the planet, which in turn could give us more clues about its internal composition.

Now, NASA has a rather exciting proposal to try and answer those questions: a bunch of hot air balloons.

Recent tests carried out in the Nevada desert show that helium-filled balloons – either tethered or free-flying – can indeed be used to measure vibrations and quakes happening far below, and if the technology can be transferred to the second planet from the Sun it could give us unprecedented insight into its make-up and history.

The heat and pressure on the surface of Venus mean that any lander probe that tries to monitor Venusquakes would quickly get crushed and melted out of existence. However, the conditions in the upper atmosphere are much more clement.

“We’ve never made a direct seismic measurement on Venus,” Siddharth Krishnamoorthy, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, told Adam Mann at Science Magazine ( ) . “There is a lot balloons can offer in terms of unlocking some major questions about the planet.”

For the Nevada desert test carried out on the 19th of December, a team from the US Department of Energy created a magnitude 3-4 tremor with the help of a 50-ton chemical explosion that happened around 300 metres (984 feet) underground.

Up in the sky above, two helium-filled balloons were carrying instruments to detect changes in atmospheric pressure and low-frequency infrasound waves beyond our hearing – both tell-tale signs of earthquake activity. One balloon was tethered to the ground, while the other was left to float freely.

Add the new experiments to previous tests ( )  carried out last year, and it seems this sort of approach might work on Venus. A pair of Russian balloons ( )  were used to explore the Venusian atmosphere back in the 1980s, though they only lasted for a couple of days and weren’t designed to measure seismic activity.

Getting this tech working on Venus won’t be easy though, even with that precedent. While the atmosphere on Venus is thicker – and therefore easier to measure infrasound waves through – it’s also home to supersonic winds ( )  that could quickly confuse the balloon’s finely tuned instruments.

Nevertheless, the scientists think balloons could measure quakes as slight as magnitude 2, and help confirm a long-running hypothesis that heat is still trying to escape the core of the planet Venus – a process that would trigger surface tremors.

While Venus shares a lot of similarities with Earth (including its mass and proximity to the Sun), there are also plenty of questions about why it ended up evolving so differently, with no magnetic field and no water. A fleet of hot air balloons dispatched to measure Venusquakes could help us find some answers to those questions.

Future experiments are planned in Oklahoma as the NASA team works to get the technology more accurate and operating over longer distances. After that, it might be time to start prepping a mission to Venus.

Meanwhile, NASA is also working on a plan to develop drones ( )  capable of operating in the Venusian atmosphere – which at 96 percent carbon dioxide is rather toxic, though pressures and temperatures away from the planet’s surface are similar to those on Earth. These remote workers could teach us more about Venus even from a long way up.

“We know, with a degree of certainty, that Venus has no global plate tectonics like on Earth,” Krishnamoorthy told Seeker ( )  last year. “Below the surface, there is seismic activity of a different nature, but we don’t know exactly what.”

Source link  ( )

Eagles leapfrog Vikings into NFL playoffs with help from Bears


Defending Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles progressed to the NFL playoffs as the Minnesota Vikings bowed out. It was win or go home for the Eagles and the Vikings in week 17 on Sunday and Philadelphia came out on top at the expense of Minnesota.

Both teams had a chance to secure the NFC’s final playoff spot and the Eagles – who have won five of their last six games – captured it by blanking the Washington Redskins 24-0, while the Vikings lost 24-10 to the Chicago Bears.

Lion escapes enclosure, kills worker


By Deanna Hackney, CNN

As a team led by a trained animal keeper cleaned the enclosure, “One of the lions somehow left a locked space and entered the space the humans were in and quickly killed one person,” the Conservators Center ( )  in Burlington, west of Durham, said on its Facebook ([0]=68.ARDSvhJ_w0wxd69TTriMaaIS6_dOkSq8UR_72tMUsgv5u9CbYjEsU5tHNtLoCDSglWb-GO8m2uCnuYee1eLZPRyoR7qcORtmCKdRNAIHfhRO4B0NTmTNeAbat8pcZLebJBxMMVEXgHBlgkn21Fk96UBIcc0uha3tsDwhZUq8sY19dmlOW-lVLStewLYhCZgZ9iysl6PU4KzH15cyJxt9K3HR8EMQBZMXoQyUPFgM42PwO_DmOC3JRSoKMqgBCUfla8f8w_Vq-eMzVExc9GRgZP-ckPy-c7Sj5o4KoRRh-ktG7NFDcl4Zdmy8Qf_Xd51UsSRQCM8yN5M6D0SN&__tn__=-R )  page.

“The Conservators Center is devastated by the loss of a human life today,” the center said.

The center did not name the worker but the Caswell County Sheriff’s Office identified her as Alexandra Black, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Indiana State University. Black, a native of New Palestine, Indiana, had been an intern at the Conservators Center for about two weeks, the sheriff’s office said.

Black’s “passion was the zoological industry — this was not this person’s first internship,” the center’s executive director, Mindy Stinner, said, according to CNN affiliate WNCN ( ) .

“And this person wanted to spend a lifetime around these animals,” Stinner said in an emotional press conference.

Black was not a staff member but was working under the supervision of a staff member, according to Stinner.
Male lion was shot and killed
The male lion was euthanized, Stinner said. It was unclear how the lion escaped, the center said.

Stinner said all large cats are locked in a separate area from humans during the routine cleanings.

“At no time did the lion ever enter a space that was not enclosed by the park’s perimeter fence,” she said.

Stinner said visitors were at the park but officials safely and quickly got them out of the park.

“This is not a situation we’ve ever had before. Safety is a very, very important feature of running any zoological park,” she said.
Center is closed until further notice
The zoological park houses more than 80 animals, including tigers, small wild cats and other small carnivores, according to its website. It offers guided walking tours near the animal enclosures. The park is regulated the US Department of Agriculture, according to Stinner.

Stinner, an educator, co-founded the center in 1999 in Mebane, North Carolina, as an educational nonprofit to provide a home for select carnivore species, according to the center’s website. It relocated to a 45-acre swath in 2004, the website said.

Stinner said they first started doing rescue and sanctuary work, but moved away from that emphasis and worked with more species, trying to involve the community more.

“We like to think of ourselves as kind of a community zoo,” she said.

The center is closed until further notice, officials said.

“We need to assess our situation, and we need to make sure that everyone here is safe and feels safe,” Stinner said, “because this is a very scary thing.”

By Deanna Hackney, CNN


Kartje: In wide open Super Bowl race, Rams and Chargers are serious contenders


LOS ANGELES – Two Januarys ago, after a disastrous debut season for the NFL in Los Angeles, there were no delusions of Super Bowl grandeur to be found in the Southland. The Rams were an unwatchable mess, still feeling the prolonged hangover of the Jeff Fisher era. The Chargers were an unwanted enigma, with nine wins in their last two seasons.

Both had just fired their coaches. After more than two decades without the NFL, a single season had made Los Angeles a league-wide punchline.

Sign up ( )  for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here ( ) .No one is laughing now. As the NFL postseason begin next weekend, the Rams and Chargers are now indisputably two of the league’s most dangerous playoff teams, each with designs on hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

For the Chargers, that pursuit begins next week in Baltimore. For the Rams, a week off awaits before a divisional round matchup at home against either the Bears, Seahawks or Cowboys.

For either, a Super Bowl victory would forever shift the city’s sports paradigm. And if they happen to both make it that far, well … there’s no telling what might happen here.

Of course, it’s a long road for both until that point. But at their best, both have certainly looked the part of serious Super Bowl contenders. The Rams didn’t lose a single contest until November, while the Chargers have won close game after close game, in every possible fashion, exorcising demons that once haunted them whenever the spotlight beckoned. Only once this season did either team lose consecutive games.

Neither, though, has looked all that convincing down the season’s final stretch. Over the past month, a Rams offense that once paced the league stalled at the worst possible time, before running over two inferior opponents to close out the season. The Chargers squandered their chances at home-field advantage with an ill-timed sequence of miscues against the Ravens and Broncos, as they briefly reverted back to their mistake-prone ways.

Both L.A. teams are potentially as vulnerable as they are vicious. Which, in these particular playoffs, means they should fit right in.

The road to this Super Bowl is as wide open as its been in recent memory. There are no overwhelming favorites and no obvious write-offs. The Chiefs and Saints will be the betting favorites, and it’s hard to argue with either. But there’s a compelling case to be made that just about anyone can win it all. In the same way, there’s just as much reason to believe any of the team’s in this year’s field could fall apart.

The Chiefs have an historic offense – and a quarterback that threw 50 touchdowns in his first season a starter – but they also boast one of the worst defenses to make the playoffs in years. The Bears have the league’s stingiest defense, but an offense that often forgets how to score without its defense’s help. And then, there’s the Eagles, whose Super Bowl hangover nearly lasted through December, before lifting just in time for them to round into postseason form and slip into the last wild card spot.

Recent history tells us that circumstance is as crucial as anything this time of year. Home-field advantage makes a gargantuan difference. Not since 2013 has a Super Bowl participant had to win a playoff game on the road before the Big Game. It’s why the Patriots, who won the AFC East for the 10th straight season in spite of their obvious mediocrity, can’t be ruled out.

The odds are stacked even further against wild card teams, who have only made the Super Bowl 10 times since the system was implemented nearly 50 years ago. Over the past decade, only one wild card (the 2010 Packers) has managed to run the table.

But this season, that history may not apply. These are no ordinary wild cards. The Colts won nine of 10 to finish out the season. The Eagles won five of six and have the hottest quarterback in the NFL – and last year’s Super Bowl MVP – at the helm. The Seahawks have Russell Wilson, a grinding run game and the league’s best turnover margin. And the Chargers were one defensive stop of the Broncos away from securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Chargers rookie safety Derwin James and his teammates will be looking to redeem themselves in next week’s rematch with the Baltimore Ravens, the team that handed the Chargers a humbling loss on Dec. 22. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)Any of those four could jump-start a run next weekend, but the most difficult road may belong to the Chargers, who just a week ago were shut down by Ravens’ stalwart defense. Even with a victory on the road in Baltimore, assuming the Texans defeated the Colts, the Chargers would then have to travel back to Kansas City, where they staged a thrilling comeback victory ( )  this month. Before that Thursday night, they hadn’t beat the Chiefs since Dec. 2013.

The Rams may also find themselves matched up with an opponent that recently took them to the woodshed. If the Bears can beat the Eagles next Sunday, they’ll again face the Rams, who they held to just six points earlier this month ( ) . This time, at least, that game would be played at home, and a victory, barring an upset, would likely send them to New Orleans, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Two years ago, those aspirations were no more than a pipe dream. But now, with a wide-open postseason ahead, L.A.’s pair of NFL teams find themselves in the thick of a Super Bowl race, with one, simple directive.

“Just find a way to win,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “Nobody cares how. Just find a way to advance.”

A first look at the playoff matchups:

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Houston Texans (11-5)

When: 1:35 p.m., Saturday

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX

The Colts win if … Indy’s offensive line can give Andrew Luck enough time to make plays downfield. Luck went five games without taking a sack earlier this season.

The Texans win if … Houston can force turnovers on defense and eliminate them on offense. The Texans are tied for 2nd in the NFL in turnover differential; the Colts were 15th.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

When: 5:15 p.m., Saturday

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

The Seahawks win if … They can stay on schedule and establish the run game. Seattle is built to wear teams down with long drives, but the challenge with the Cowboys is how similarly they’re built.

The Cowboys win if … Dak Prescott can continue to be an efficient passer. Since Week 10, Prescott is completing over 73 percent of his passes. The Cowboys are 6-1 during that stretch.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Chicago Bears (11-5)

When: 1:40 p.m., Sunday

Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

The Eagles win if … They can force the Bears offense into long third-down situations. Mitch Trubisky is one of the worst downfield passers in the NFL this season.

The Bears win if … Nick Foles is consistently pressured inside the pocket. Foles has been impressive recently, but pressure has always been his Achilles heel.

Culled from:
December 30, 2018 at 9:28 pm
Author     : gqlshare

Senior Pastor Stabbed to Death during Church Service


Their was commotion at the Central Assemblies of God Church after a senior pastor was stabbed to death during church service.

The shocking incident happened on Sunday (today) at Tema Community 4 in Ghana.

According to media reports, the deceased pastor identified as Rev. Dr. David Nabegmado was attacked while preparing to leave his inner office to the main church auditorium to preach as Service was ongoing.

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He was allegedly attacked by his nephew in his office and was rushed to a nearby medical facility for treatment and died hours later.

It was gathered that his nephew, Francis M.Nabegmado who lived with him for some time, has been identified as a key suspect in the gruesome murder and has been arrested by the police.

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A second suspect has also been arrested and being interrogated by the police.

The deceased was accosted by the suspect while moving from the church office into the main auditorium for the day’s service at about 9am.