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Manchester leaks will not damage US-British intelligence relations, say US officials

Trump (R) and British PM Theresa May (L) at the Nato summit in Brussels, May 25, 2017.

WASHINGTON – US intelligence officials said on Thursday (May 25) they do not expect British Prime Minister Theresa May’s concerns about US officials’ leaks on the Manchester suicide bombing to affect the closest intelligence partnership in the world.

British police stopped sharing information with US agencies about the Manchester attack after key details of the investigation, including the name of the bomber, first came out in US media.

British law enforcement officials say they fear the leaks could impede their investigation.

Officials at six US intelligence and defence agencies, all speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they have seen no other change in intelligence-sharing with Britain and do not expect to see any.

“The value of the intelligence that we and our allies share on terrorism and other issues is far too important to limit because of some newspaper pictures and the premature publication of the bomber’s name,” said one of the officials, who is familiar with longstanding agreements that include Britain, the United States and other countries.

“If we were to stop pooling our resources, especially on hard targets like ISIS, Russia and North Korea, all of us would be less safe, and the prime minister and (US President Donald) Trump both know that.”

May raised British concerns with Trump at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday, telling him intelligence shared between their two countries had to remain secure. It was a rare public show of dissatisfaction with Britain’s closest security ally.

“She expressed the view that the intelligence-sharing relationship we have with the US is hugely important and valuable, but that the information that we share should be kept secure,” a British government source said.

Trump, speaking in Brussels, called the leaks “deeply troubling” and said he would ask the Justice Department “to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Pentagon, CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates US intelligence agencies, did not respond to requests for comment on whether intelligence-sharing with Britain would be further affected by the controversy over leaks from Manchester.

TRUMP’S COMPLAINTS

The British concerns echo Trump’s own frequent complaints about officials in his administration leaking information to the media, often about allegations of connections between his election campaign and Russia.

But Trump critics, including some US intelligence officials, call his complaint ironic after he gave highly sensitive information about a foreign country’s covert operation against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to senior Russian officials in a White House meeting this month.

Two US officials from different agencies said photos of remnants of the Manchester bomb, which killed 22 people, and other evidence that US officials allegedly leaked were of what one of them called “limited intelligence and law enforcement value.”

Pictures published by The New York Times included parts of the bomb and of the rucksack carried by the suicide bomber, and showed blood stains amid the wreckage.

The United States and Britain have the closest intelligence-sharing relationship of any two countries on earth.

British liaison officers work at the CIA, the electronic eavesdropping National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and elsewhere.

US military and civilian counterparts are stationed in Britain including a contingent at the Cheltenham headquarters of the NSA’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Intelligence officers from both countries also work closely in third countries, including war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, the United States and Britain are members of the “Five Eyes” pact, which also includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The five countries share highly classified intelligence regarding electronic eavesdropping, code-breaking, and cybersecurity.

Both Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress said the relationship with Britain was too valuable to undermine with leaks.

“If they don’t feel comfortable sharing information, that can be a significant obstacle in terms of the worldwide terror fight,” said Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator John McCain, Republican chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “The British are citizens of a sovereign nation. They should do whatever they want to do. And if they are offended by leaks, then I respect whatever measures they take.”

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Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner under FBI scrutiny in Russia probe

US President Donald Trump and his senior advisor Jared Kushner arrive for a meeting with manufacturing CEOs at the White House in February.

WASHINGTON – Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.

The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.

FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.

The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target – or the central focus – of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. “Target” is a word that generally refers to someone who is the main suspect of investigators’ attention, though prosecutors can and do bring charges against people who are not marked with that distinction.

“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” said Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys.

In addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking broadly into possible financial crimes – but the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorised to speak publicly, did not specify who or what was being examined.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said, “I can’t confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of investigations or subjects of investigations.” The FBI declined to comment.

At the time of the December meetings, Trump already had won the election. Contacts between people on the transition team and foreign governments can be routine, but the meetings and phone calls with the Russians were not made public at the time.

In early December, Kushner met in New York with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and he later sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak.

Flynn was also present at the early-December meeting, and later that month, Flynn held a call with Kislyak to discuss US-imposed sanctions against Russia.

Flynn initially mischaracterised the conversation, even to Vice-President Mike Pence – ultimately prompting his ouster from the White House.

Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of US sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In addition to the December meetings, a former senior intelligence official said FBI agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

Kushner and Kislyak – along with close Trump adviser and current attorney general Jeff Sessions – were present at an April 2016 event at the Mayflower where then-candidate Trump promised in a speech to seek better relations with Russia. It is unclear whether Kushner and Kislyak interacted there.

The New York Times reported that Kushner omitted from security-clearance forms his December meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov, though his attorney said that was mere error and he told the FBI soon after that he would amend the forms.

The White House said that his meetings were normal and inconsequential.

Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In many ways, Kushner is a unique figure inside the White House.  He is arguably the president’s most trusted adviser, and he is also a close member of the president’s family. His list of policy responsibilities is vast – his foreign policy portfolio alone includes Canada and Mexico, China, and peace in the Middle East – yet he rarely speaks publicly about any of them.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller III is now leading the probe into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, and he has set up shop in the Patrick Henry Building in downtown District of Columbia.

Even before he was picked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to take over the case, investigators had been stepping up their efforts – issuing subpoenas and looking to conduct interviews, people familiar with the matter said.

A small group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight was recently notified of the change in tempo and focus in the investigation at a classified briefing.

It is unclear exactly how Mueller’s leadership will affect the direction of the probe. This week, Justice Department ethics experts cleared him to take over the case even though lawyers at his former firm, WilmerHale, represent several people who could be caught up in the matter, including Kushner, Manafort and Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner.

Mueller resigned from the firm to take over the investigation.

Investigators are continuing to look aggressively into the dealings of Flynn, and a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, recently issued a subpoenas for records related to Flynn’s businesses and finances, according to people familiar with the matter.

Flynn’s company, the Flynn Intel Group, was paid more than US$500,000 by a company owned by a Turkish American businessman close to top Turkish officials for research on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who Turkey’s president claims was responsible for a coup attempt last summer.

Flynn retroactively registered with the Justice Department in March as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests.

Separately from the probe now run by Mueller, Flynn is being investigated by the Pentagon’s top watchdog for his foreign payments. Flynn also received US$45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization.

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29th New York Fleet Week kicks off

The 29th New York Fleet Week kicked off in New York, on May 24 with the fleet parade.

USS Kearsarge, a Wasp-class multipurpose amphibious assault ship, is seen during the fleet parade on waters in New York, the United States, on May 24, 2017.

USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), the United States Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter (NSC), is seen during the fleet parade on waters in New York, the United States, on May 24, 2017.

Ships are seen during the fleet parade on waters in New York, the United States, on May 24, 2017.

USS Kearsarge, a Wasp-class multipurpose amphibious assault ship, is seen during the fleet parade on waters in New York, the United States, on May 24, 2017.

USS San Jacinto (CG-56), a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, is seen during the fleet parade on waters in New York, the United States, on May 24, 2017.

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LA Disneyland turns away hundreds of visitors after hitting capacity

LOS ANGELES, May 21 — Disneyland hit its capacity and closed its gates to hundreds of visitors this weekend, for the second time in five months.

The park is located in Anaheim, a city 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles.

Disneyland announced Saturday afternoon that the theme park could not admit new guests and would not reopen until 8:45 p.m. (0345 GMT).

The capacity problem continued even though no customer was turned away on Sunday.

“The Disneyland Resort is very busy today with many guests enjoying the parks. Please plan for longer than normal wait times,” said a post on the park’s Twitter account Sunday afternoon.

An employee in the park confirmed this to Xinhua, saying customers had to endure two-hour-long waits for Radiator Springs Racers, three-hour-long waits for Hyperspace Mountain and Splash Mountain and long waits for the shuttle back to the parking lot.

Disneyland hit its capacity on a non-holiday weekend in May because this weekend was the last chance for “Southern California Resident” passholders to get into the park on a weekend before their passes expire at the end of the day on May 25, according to Theme Park Insider website.

On Jan. 14, California’s Disneyland had to announce a capacity-related shutdown for the first time this year.

Disneyland changed its annual pass system in late 2015, eliminating the no-blockout premium level and replacing it with two signature levels in order to keep the gates open during the busiest weeks of the year, namely the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s.

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Trump urges Israel, Arab world to start “new partnership”

U.S. President Donald Trump (1st, L) and his wife Melania Trump (2nd L) pose for photos with  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1st, R) and his wife Sara Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on May 22, 2017. Speaking on the first day of his visit to Israel and the West Bank, U.S. President Donald Trump urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start a “new partnership” with the Arab world.

JERUSALEM, May 22 — Speaking on the first day of his visit to Israel and the West Bank, U.S. President Donald Trump urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start a “new partnership” with the Arab world.

“There are many things that can happen now that could never have happened before,” Trump said in a joint statement after his meeting with Netanyahu.

“We must seize them together. We must take advantage of the situation,” he stressed.

The president said Israel and Saudi Arabia, an Arab superpower in the Middle East, have common interests in struggling against Iran and the Islamic State group.

Speaking about his meetings with Arab leaders during his trip to Riyadh earlier this week, Trump said Saudi Arabia’s King Salman “wants to see great things in the world.”

“We are willing to work together. I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen,” the president added.

Trump also said he believes that “renewed effort” could lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

“I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling we will get there eventually,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot of love out there.”

Netanyahu responded to Trump’s remarks on a positive note.

“It won’t be simple. But for the first time in many years, and Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime, I see a real hope for change,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Trump slammed the nuclear deal with Iran, saying Iranian should be “grateful” to the U.S. for the benefits they received.

“We gave them wealth and prosperity and ability to continue with terror,” Trump said, vowing that Iran will never achieve nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu, whose vocal opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal put him at odds with Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, thanked Trump for his stance against Iran.

Trump, who previously suggested that it will be easier than seems to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spoke about “rare opportunity” to bring peace to the war-torn Middle East.

His first trip abroad started with a stop in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Arab leaders to struggle against extremism. His two-day tour in Israel and the West Bank is aimed at restarting the long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian, which reached an impasse in 2014 over Israel’s expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israel seized East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, together with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Shortly after the war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu warmly welcomed Trump as a “true friend” of “Israel and the Jewish people.”

Wearing a yarmulke, Trump becomes the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in East Jerusalem, which Israel claims part of its “indivisible capital.”

The Western Wall sparked controversy ahead of Trump’s arrival when U.S. officials declined to allow Netanyahu to join Trump’s visit to the site, asserting it is not located in Israeli territory.

On Monday, the police put the alleys of the Old City under lockdown, temporarily asking an undisclosed number of Palestinian residents and shop owners to evacuate their homes and shops.

On Tuesday, Trump is expected to travel to Bethlehem to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before coming back to Jerusalem for a speech to conclude his visit.

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Woman killed, 22 injured in NYC’s Times Square fatal car incident

Photo taken on May 18, 2017 shows the scene of a car crash incident at Times Square in New York City, the United States. 

NEW YORK, May 18 — A woman is dead and 22 other people injured after a car sped on to a pavement in New York City’s Times Square, the fire department says.

The driver, 26-year-old Richard Rojas from the Bronx, served in the U.S. Navy and has a criminal record, is in custody, and the cause of the incident is under investigation.

Police identify the driver as Bronx resident Richard Rojas.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference here that based on the information they had, “there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.”

The crash follows recent deadly car-ramming attacks in London, Berlin, France, Israel and Sweden.

The FBI is investigating the incident at the Midtown Manhattan tourist venue, but so far officials say there is no terror link.

NYPD said the suspect, Richard Rojas, is a Bronx resident who was arrested in 2008 and 2015 for drunk driving.

Officials said Rojas made a U-turn onto a sidewalk in Times Square. He drove on the sidewalk for there blacks, striking an 18-year-old woman who died of injuries.

The 22 injured are receiving treatment in nearby hospitals. Among those hurt, four were in critical condition and three sustained serious injuries, 15 other victims suffered less serious injuries, according to the fire department.

Photo from the scene showed casualties strewn across the walkway.

According to police, the car driver is in custody, it is believed to be an isolated incident.

Times Square is a major commercial intersection, tourist destination in New York City. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them tourists from around the world, pass daily through the commercial area, the heart of the Broadway theater district.

Police closed off the area after the incident.

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Washington becomes latest state to seek ID compliance

People in Washington state likely won’t have to worry next year about the identification they take to the airport after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure Tuesday seeking to make the state one of more than two dozen in compliance with federal identification requirements.

Washington and several other states have struggled for years to comply with the REAL ID Act, a 2005 federal law that requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and to be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States.

File photo in April 6, 2016, a sign at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Wash., is shown to inform visitors of the federal government’s REAL ID act, which requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they’re legally in the United States. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign a measure Tuesday, May 16, 2017, that seeks to bring the state into compliance with federal identification requirements. Just 25 states and the District of Columbia are currently in compliance with the federal law, though most of the remaining states and territories have extensions

The law was passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to strengthen rules for identification needed at airports and federal facilities.

Some liberal and conservative states have objected to the new rules, with concerns ranging from discrimination to worries that law-abiding U.S. citizens could be tracked using the new system.

Others have opposed the U.S. government unilaterally setting standards in an area traditionally handled by states.

With a January deadline looming, lawmakers across the country have been scrambling for legislative fixes so residents can board flights and travel without confusion.

“This will help to ease problems at border crossings, airports, federal courthouses, and military bases where REAL ID compliant documents are required,” Inslee said before he signed the bill, adding that the measure ensures the “convenience and security of our citizens.”

Just 25 states and the District of Columbia are currently in compliance with the federal law, though most of the remaining states and territories have been granted various extensions.

Residents of states that are in compliance have until Oct. 21, 2020, before being required to show the REAL ID compliant identification.

Residents of states that are not in compliance with REAL ID and do not have an extension need additional identification for access to some military bases and federal facilities and, starting next Jan. 22, to board commercial flights.

Washington state already offers, but does not mandate, enhanced driver’s licenses and IDs that require proof of U.S. citizenship and are valid under the federal law. The state also issues standard licenses that don’t comply with the federal rule.

Starting in July 2018, those standard licenses will be marked to indicate they are not REAL ID compliant and thus not acceptable for certain purposes by federal authorities.

Residents will have a choice of which license they want. Those with the non-compliant licenses will need additional documentation — such as a passport, permanent resident card or military ID — to board domestic commercial flights and for other federal purposes, most likely starting in October 2020.

Maine, Minnesota, Missouri and Montana are the only states currently listed as not compliant with the law and without an extension from the federal government. However, Maine’s governor last month signed a REAL ID compliance bill passed by the Legislature, and Montana and Missouri this year have both passed bills awaiting their governors’ signatures.

Several other states are considering bills related to REAL ID compliance, including Alaska, Minnesota, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Governors in Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina also have signed REAL ID compliance bills this year.

As Washington’s proposal worked its way through the Legislature, some opponents said it didn’t go far enough in requiring proof of legal presence for those receiving licenses or IDs. Others argued that the marked licenses could lead to discrimination.

Language added to the bill by the state House sought to prohibit the marked licenses from being used to determine or infer citizenship or immigration status or to spark an investigation or arrest that otherwise would not have occurred.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington had asked Inslee to veto the measure. The group’s Shankar Narayan said he and others still have serious concerns.

“There’s some visceral resistance of this idea of a national ID card and whether the federal government will misuse this information,” he said. “This really cuts across party lines.”

Now that a bill has been signed in Washington state, officials will seek review by the federal government, which will determine whether the state should be granted an additional extension past the current one of June 6.

That would allow time for the state to implement changes and to give people time to determine which license they want to get, said Tony Sermonti, legislative director for the state Department of Licensing.

Sermonti said federal officials have indicated the Washington state bill would comply with the law. He believes the state will likely be granted an additional extension and not be subject to REAL ID enforcement until October 2020.

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U.S. to send delegates to attend Belt & Road forum

WASHINGTON, May 12 — The United States is to send delegates to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing scheduled for May 14-15, the U.S. government said on Thursday night.

The United States “recognizes the importance” of China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and it will send delegates to attend the forum, according to a statement released by the U.S. Commerce Department.

At the upcoming forum, all parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center. They will also sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects.

During a meeting at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump that China welcomes U.S. participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In about one month following the meeting between the two leaders, the United States and China have also reached consensus on initial commitments in areas such as agricultural trade, financial services and energy to boost economic cooperation under a 100-day plan, according to the Commerce Department.

Under the agreement, the United States welcomes China to receive imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States, and the two countries will work to resolve outstanding issues for the import of China origin cooked poultry to the United States “as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, U.S. federal regulatory authorities remain committed to apply in the United States the same bank prudential supervisory and regulatory standards to Chinese banking institutions as to other foreign banking institutions, the Commerce Department said.

Currently, more than 100 countries and international organizations have voiced their support for the Belt and Road Initiative, among which more than 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013 and comprising the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along, and beyond, the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

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U.S. President Donald Trump fires FBI director James Comey

File photo taken on May 3, 2017 shows that James Comey, the director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing in Washington D.C., the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump fired James Comey, the director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the White House said in a statement on May 9.

WASHINGTON, May 9 — U.S. President Donald Trump fired James Comey, the director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the White House said in a statement Tuesday.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office,” the statement said.

“President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” the statement added.

“The FBI is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” the statement quoted Trump as saying.

A process to select a new FBI director is underway.

In a letter he sent to Comey earlier Tuesday, Trump said that “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump said.

Comey was appointed as FBI director in 2013, and has been embroiled in controversy during the presidential election in 2016 after announcing an investigation into the emails of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton days before election day, a move Hillary said was partially the cause of her loss.

The firing of Comey came as a shock for even many working inside the FBI, and has prompted an uproar of criticism from Democrats.

“You are making a big mistake,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, suggesting dismissing Comey was part of a bid by the administration to “coverup” any wrongdoing regarding the Russian investigations.

Bob Casey, another Democratic Senator, said Comey’s dismissal was “Nixonian”, citing an incident in 1973 when former U.S. President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox over the Watergate scandal.

Comey was the second FBI director that was fired from office. Former President Bill Clinton fired the then FBI Director William Sessions in 1993.

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U.S. service man killed in Somalia

WASHINGTON, May 5 — U.S. Africa Command said on Friday that one U.S. service member was killed on Thursday during an operation against al-Shabaab in Somalia.

“U.S. forces were conducting an advise and assist mission alongside members of the Somali National Army,” said U.S. Africa Command in a statement.

According to local media reports, which cited U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. service man killed was a U.S. Navy SEAL.

Speaking here at a briefing, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said al-Shabaab militants were “quickly neutralized” during the operation.

Al-Shabaab, an extremist group, is responsible for dozens of attacks in east Africa, particularly Kenya. The U.S. maintains a small force unit of about 50 troops in Somalia mainly to advise and assist Somalia and African Union mission in Somalia troops battling Al-Shabaab militants.

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People attend rally raising awareness of child care in Washington

People attend a rally raising awareness of the need for excellent and affordable child care accessible for all families on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, on April 25, 2017.

People attend a rally raising awareness of the need for excellent and affordable child care accessible for all families on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, on April 25, 2017.

People attend a rally raising awareness of the need for excellent and affordable child care accessible for all families on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, on April 25, 2017.

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Easter Bonnet Parade held in New York

The Annual Easter Bonnet Parade is held on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on April 16, which is one of the most distinctive festive events in New York. People with elaborately-decorated bonnets contend in their beauty and fascination, sweeping away the cold winter and bringing the cheerful breath of spring.

People with elaborately-decorated bonnets take part in the Easter Bonnet Parade in New York, the United States, April 16, 2017. Each year on Easter, New Yorkers show off their very best bonnets along Fifth Avenue on Manhattan.

A man with elaborately-decorated bonnet takes part in the Easter Bonnet Parade in New York, the United States, April 16, 2017.

Kids with elaborately-decorated bonnets take part in the Easter Bonnet Parade in New York, the United States, April 16, 2017.

Women with elaborately-decorated bonnets take part in the Easter Bonnet Parade in New York, the United States, April 16, 2017.

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Passenger dragged off overtaked United Airlines flight may file lawsuit

Lawyer Thomas Demetrio, who is representing David Dao, the passenger who was violently dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight, speaks during a press conference in Chicago, Illinois, the United States, on April 13, 2017.

CHICAGO, April 13 — The passenger who was violently dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight on Sunday night may file a lawsuit against the company, his lawyer Tom Demetrio said at a press conference Thursday.

While answering questions from reporters, Tom Demetrio said the passenger, David Dao, 69 years old, has a serious concussion, a broken nose, injury to the sinuses, and lost two front teeth as a result of the incident, adding the passenger also has psychological injuries because the rudeness of the treatment by security officials.

The lawyer said they have taken the first legal steps toward filing a lawsuit.
During the same press conference, Dao’s daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper told reporters that “what happened to my dad should not have happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstance.”

“We were horrified, and shocked, and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened to him. We hope that in the future, nothing like this happens again.”

Pepper thanked the medical team and people from around the world for what she described as an “outpouring of prayers, love, and concern.”
Video of the incident has gone viral on social media, with commentators accusing United Airlines of racism and having included several calls for a boycott.
The video shows three security officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation pulling the passenger David Dao out of his seat, and in the ensuing struggle, hitting his head on the armrest. The video then shows that Dao was dragged off the plane by the arms.

During a press conference on Thursday morning, the attorney told reporters that the City of Chicago bears responsibility as well.

“So were these three officers, these storm troopers, for a moment, doing the right thing? No, not at all,” Demetrio said. “This was not a troubled passenger. This was not a nutjob. This was not a threat to anybody. Should he have been unceremoniously dragged out of that plane the way he was? He’s a 69-year-old man. Is that really the way we went to treat the aged disembarking that plane?”

The viral reaction also extended to the markets as United Airlines stock dipped up nearly 4 percent during the morning session after the incident, and the Chief Executive Officer has publicly apologized in an interview with U.S. media.

“He was a paying passenger, sitting on our seat in our aircraft and no one should be treated that way period,” Munoz said. United Airlines’ stock has since recovered most of that loss.

Due to the concussion, Demetrio said that passenger David Dao has no recollection of the incident, and was released from the hospital on Tuesday night. According to the attorney, Dao will likely drive home to Louisville from Chicago, instead of taking a plane.

 

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Two killed in “Murder Suicide” shooting in California school

LOS ANGELES, April 10 — Two people were killed and two others were injured in a shooting incident occurred on campus of North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino of California on Monday.

A police car was seen in front of the gate of North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino of California, the United States, on April 10, 2017.

Local KESQ TV station reported two adults were killed while two injured students had been sent to hospital.

According to NBCLA, the incident happened at 10 am, two students and a teacher were shot and school district spokesperson said the tragedy might stem from domestic violence involving a teacher.

“We believe this to be a murder suicide. Happened in a class room, two students have been transported to the hospital.” Jarrod Burguan, Chief of San Bernardino Police Department posted on his twitter at 11:02 am.

He also said that preliminary information was that 4 victims were being treated and “suspect is possibly down as well.”

Students in North Park Elementary School were evacuated after the incident.

The road to North Park Elementary School was blocked in San Bernardino on April 10.

The school gate was sealed off on Monday.

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Chinese President Xi arrives in U.S. for first meeting with Trump

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are welcomed by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his wife upon their arrival at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida, the United States, April 6, 2017. Xi arrived here for the first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

PALM BEACH, United States, April 6 — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in this southeastern U.S. coastal town on Thursday for the first meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, in a bid to chart the course of bilateral ties in a new era.

In cloudy sunshine, the plane carrying the Chinese president, First Lady Peng Liyuan and other members of the delegation landed in the early afternoon at Palm Beach International Airport.

Under the gaze of an enthused welcoming crowd, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his wife, Xi and Peng stepped out of the hatch and waved before they walked down the ramp hand in hand.

During his two-day stay in the Sunshine State of Florida, Xi is scheduled to hold talks with Trump in the Mar-a-Lago resort, which Trump calls “the Southern White House,” to exchange views on bilateral ties and major regional and global issues of common concern.

Xi and Peng will also attend a welcome banquet hosted by Trump and First Lady Melania, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told a press conference on March 31.

Under the current international circumstances, “the meeting will be of great significance to charting China-U.S. relationship in a new era, advancing the development of bilateral ties in a healthy and stable way from a new starting point, and promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large,” Zheng said.

Also late last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing that Trump sees the meeting as an opportunity for him “to develop a relationship in person with President Xi.”

The U.S. president, he added, “looks forward to meeting with President Xi and exchanging views on each other’s respective priorities, and to chart a way forward on a bilateral relationship between our two nations.”

Prior to the trip, the two sides, respectively the world’s largest developed and developing country, have maintained close communication at various levels and reached important consensuses.

In a telephone conversation in February, the two heads of state, who have maintained contact through phone calls and letters, agreed to build a constructive China-U.S. relationship and step up cooperation. In addition, Trump reversed his earlier stance and pledged to honor the one China policy, the political bedrock of bilateral ties.

Senior officials of the two countries have also exchanged visits to prepare for the presidential meeting. While visiting Beijing last month, Tillerson vowed to develop bilateral relations on the basis of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, a principle Beijing has championed to describe its vision for China-U.S. ties.

Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1979, the two countries have witnessed twists and turns in their relationship, but have nonetheless become highly interdependent with their interests getting increasingly intertwined.

China is now the largest trading partner of the United States. Last year, two-way trade reached 519.6 billion U.S. dollars. In comparison, the figure was 2.5 billion dollars in 1979.

Meanwhile economic cooperation with China has been vital to job creation in the United States, the U.S.-China Business Council said in a report in January. Bilateral trade and investment supported some 2.6 million jobs in the United States across a range of industries in 2015, while Chinese products also help lower costs for U.S. consumers.

Although they still have many differences and frictions, with trade and currency among the major thorny issues, the two sides have sought to properly manage them and expand common ground, as the world craves a healthy relationship between the two countries.

Noting that the first Xi-Trump meeting takes place just two and a half months after Trump assumed office, Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm based in New York City, said such an early tete-a-tete will not only benefit both countries, but also serve “multilateral interests.”

A successful presidential meeting will publicly convey a message that the two countries are not caught in an “adversarial relationship” and will work together to solve problems through “constructive dialogue,” he added.

Joseph Nye, a renowned U.S. foreign policy expert, told Xinhua in an email interview that he is optimistic about China-U.S. relations for the long term.

“The U.S. and China will both compete and cooperate, but they have more gain from the cooperation dimension of the relationship,” he said.

 

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Americans’ views of China improve as economic concerns ease: poll

Americans’ views of China improve as economic concerns ease: poll
A new U.S. poll released Tuesday found that Americans’ views of China have greatly improved in the past year.

The poll was published ahead of the first meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Florida later this week.

The Feb. 16-March 15 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 44 percent of Americans have a favorable view of China, a 7-percent rise over a year ago.

The rise in Americans’ favorable ratings of China may be related to the easing of Americans’ concerns about the U.S. economy, Pew said.

Currently, 58 percent of Americans say the U.S. economic situation is either very or somewhat good, up from 44 percent in 2016, and 40 percent in 2015, the poll showed.

There are notable differences along partisan lines, with Democrats significantly more likely than Republicans or independents to offer a positive opinion of China, Pew said.

Despite the negative rhetoric about China by candidates during the 2016 presidential campaign, ratings of China have become more positive among both Republicans and Democrats, according to the survey.

Now 39 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of China, up from 27 percent a year ago. Among Democrats, 49 percent hold a favorable opinion, up from 39 percent a year ago, the poll found.

Americans are more worried about China’s economic strengthening, at 52 percent, than its military power, at 36 percent, the poll discovered.

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New study predicts major Southern California beaches erosion by 2100

Exposed bedrock on the beach during very low (negative) tide at Isla Vista, California.

LOS ANGELES, March 29 — Using a new computer model, U.S. scientists predict that 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches could be severely damaged by rising sea levels by the year 2100.

According to a new study, published online by the American Geophysical Union in their Journal of Geophysical Research, predictions of shoreline change with limited human intervention indicate that 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded by 2100 under predicted scenarios of one to two meters.

“Beaches are perhaps the most iconic feature of California, and the potential for losing this identity is real. The effect of California losing its beaches is not just a matter of affecting the tourism economy,” Sean Vitousek, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“Losing the protecting swath of beach sand between us and the pounding surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage. Beaches are natural resources, and it is likely that human management efforts must increase in order to preserve them,” said Vitousek, who was a post-doctoral fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey when he conducted this study.

Scientists apply “CoSMoS-COAST,” a newly-developed shoreline change computer modeling system for coastal hazard assessment and management planning, to simulate sandy shoreline evolution along 500 kilometers of coastline in Southern California, which hosts complex mixtures of beach settings variably backed by dunes, bluffs, cliffs, estuaries, river mouths, and urban infrastructure, providing applicability of the model to virtually any coastal setting.

“Beaches in Southern California are a crucial feature of the economy, and the first line of defense against coastal storm impacts for the 18 million residents in the region. This study indicates that we will have to perform massive and costly interventions to preserve these beaches in the future under the erosive pressures of anticipated sea level rise, or risk losing many of the economic and protective benefits beaches provide,” said U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologist and coauthor, Patrick Barnard.

As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the window to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius appears to be closing. Associated projections for sea-level rise generally range near or below 1 meter by 2100.

Coastal communities threatened by sea level rise and heavy storms are particularly hard hit. And according to a 2011 study, sea level rise could displace nearly 190 million people by the end of the century around the world.

Although 72 percent of beaches in Southern California show historical trends of accretion or getting larger, due to large artificial beach nourishments since the 1930s, future predictions indicate that nearly all of the beaches will experience erosion due to accelerated sea-level rise, according to the study.

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Trump unveils budget blueprint with huge increases in defense spending

WASHINGTON, March 16 — U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday unveiled the administration’s $1.1 trillion budget blueprint which proposes to increase $54 billion to defense spending and correspondingly to cut down expenses across federal departments and agencies with a massive cancellation of other federal programs.

Trump’s budget expenses in 2018 fiscal year is focused on spending on military and national security areas, the spending for Defense Department will be increased by 10% and Department of Homeland Security(DHS ) will also add $2.8 billion(also 6.8%) for uses of arresting and repatriating illegal immigrants.

After Trump’s request to ask Congress in this fiscal year to allocate $1.5 billion to build the US-Mexico border wall, he also requests an additional $2.6 billion in the 2018 fiscal year. While it have not mentioned Donald Trump’s $1 trillion in infrastructure programmes of budgets.

State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) became big losers in the budget, the former’s funds were even reduced more than $10 billion. RexTillerson, Secretary of State, responded that the State expenditures are at record highs, and such spending is unsustainable.

Copies of U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s first budget blueprint.

Copies of U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s first budget blueprint.

 

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Winter storm stella brings heavy snow to NE United States

A girl walks on the snow with her skis in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 14, 2017. Winter storm stella brought heavy snow and sleet Tuesday to the northeastern United States, where thousands of flights were canceled and most of schools closed.

A woman walks on the snow with her baby in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 14, 2017. Winter storm stella brought heavy snow and sleet Tuesday to the northeastern United States, where thousands of flights were canceled and most of schools closed.

Cherry blossoms are seen on the snow-covered street in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 14, 2017. Winter storm stella brought heavy snow and sleet Tuesday to the northeastern United States, where thousands of flights were canceled and most of schools closed.

People walk at Times Square in New York, the United States, on March 14, 2017. Winter storm stella brought heavy snow and sleet Tuesday to the northeastern United States, where thousands of flights were canceled and most of schools closed.

A girl poses for photos at Times Square in New York, the United States, on March 14, 2017. Winter storm stella brought heavy snow and sleet Tuesday to the northeastern United States, where thousands of flights were canceled and most of schools closed.

 

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Lincoln to make SUV in China with Chang’an Auto Group

Lincoln, the luxury unit of Ford Motor Co, said on Monday that it plans to build a luxury sport utility vehicle in China in partnership with the Chang’an Automobile Group.

The as-yet unnamed vehicle will be built at a plant in the city of Chongqing. It is scheduled to go on sale in late 2019 only in China, the world’s largest auto market, according to Lincoln spokesman Said Deep.

Building in China will help Lincoln meet growing customer demand and enable the company to become more responsive to changing customer preferences, Deep wrote in an email. “As Lincoln grows in China it makes sense to produce this new SUV in China,” he added.

Lincoln exports its vehicles from North America to China, and reported sales of 32,558 in 2016, three times more than it sold in 2015.

Ford and its joint venture partners sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China last year. Lincoln isn’t the only US luxury brand taking aim at China. General Motors said its Cadillac volume in China rose 46 percent in 2016 to 116,406 , the first time it passed 100,000 vehicles in China in a single year.

Over 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants use uber service to deliver food in U.S.

CHICAGO, May 17 — McDonald’s announced Wednesday it will cooperate with UberEATS, Uber’s food delivery service and over 1,000 locations are available to deliver online ordered Big Macs, fries.

This new move, called McDelivery, aims at winning back young customers who are willing to pay for food brought to their doors. According to UberEATS fees, food delivery charge is 5 U.S. dollars.

“Through the ease of the UberEATS app, our customers can enjoy their favorite McDonald’s foods delivered right to them enjoying greater choice, control and personalization than ever before,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a press release.

Jason Droege, who heads up UberEverything, said Uber is “thrilled to expand partnership with McDonald’s in the U.S. to bring the ease and reliability of Uber’s technology to deliver customer’s favorite menu items.”

According to McDonald’s statement, McDelivery is available at about 270 restaurants in Chicago, 300 in Los Angeles, 144 in Phoenix and 59 in Columbus, Ohio.

McDonald’s started testing delivery in several Florida cities in January, and customers have been pleased with the quality of food and services, according to local media.

Pollution from diesel vehicles worldwide underestimated by 50 percent: study

Lab-based tests of harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars, trucks and buses worldwide significantly underestimate the real-world emissions by as much as 50 percent, a new study said Monday.

These excess emissions alone lead to 38,000 premature deaths annually worldwide, according to the study led by the U.S.-based International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and Environmental Health Analytics LLC.

“Since 2015, revelations that Volkswagen and other manufacturers used ‘defeat devices’ to hide from regulators the fact that their diesel cars were emitting too much NOx helped to heighten public awareness of the problem,” the ICCT said in a statement.

“But this is not just a defeat device problem. Both light-duty and heavy-duty diesel vehicles emit more NOx in on-road driving conditions than during laboratory certification testing, for reasons that may range from details of the engine calibration to equipment failure, inadequate maintenance, tampering by vehicle owners, the deliberate use of defeat devices, or simply deficient certification test procedures.”

For the new study, researchers assessed 30 studies of vehicle emissions under real-world driving conditions in 11 major vehicle markets representing 80 percent of new diesel vehicle sales in 2015.

Those markets include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

They found that in 2015, diesel vehicles emitted 13.1 million tons of NOx, which is 4.6 million tons more than the 8.6 million tons expected from vehicles’ performance under official laboratory tests.

Heavy-duty vehicles, such as commercial trucks and buses, were by far the largest contributor worldwide, accounting for 76 percent of the total excess NOx emissions.

NOx is a key contributor to outdoor air pollution in the forms of ground-level ozone and secondary fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Long-term exposure to these pollutants is linked to a range of adverse health outcomes, including disability and years of life lost due to stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

“The consequences of excess diesel NOx emissions for public health are striking,” said Susan Anenberg, co-lead author of the study and co-founder of Environmental Health Analytics LLC.

China suffers the greatest health impact with 31,400 deaths annually attributed to diesel NOx pollution, with 10,700 of those deaths linked to excess NOx emissions beyond certification limits, it said.

In Europe, where diesel-passenger cars are common, 28,500 deaths annually are attributed to diesel NOx pollution, with 11,500 of those deaths linked to excess emissions.

The study also projected that by 2040, 183,600 people will die prematurely each year due to diesel vehicle NOx emissions unless governments act.

“Tighter vehicle emission standards coupled with measures to improve real-world compliance could prevent hundreds of thousands of early deaths from air pollution-related diseases each year,” said Anenberg.

The findings were published in the British journal Nature.