How Russia and China are bonding against the US

Moscow (CNN)With another crisis looming on the Korean Peninsula, it's extraordinary how old rivals Russia and China are -- yet again -- speaking with a single voice.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping just had a summit in Moscow at which the countries issued a joint statement, articulating a common peace plan for the peninsula, and together condemning US militarization in the region.
Indeed, Russia and China have common interests there.
 
 
Both share a land border with North Korea and have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
But, above all, both are desperate to check US ambitions in their backyards.
It's this desire, this fear of being hemmed in by the West and its allies, that is one of the factors pushing Moscow and Beijing together in a seemingly ever tightening embrace.
The two nations often vote in tandem at the UN Security Council, where both wield permanent member vetoes.
On Iran and Syria, Moscow and Beijing routinely follow each other's line, usually putting them at loggerheads with the West. And there has been some alignment on North Korea, too.
 
It's a potent diplomatic alliance between two giants who were once sworn communist rivals.
A brief border confrontation in 1969 threatened to spark a nuclear conflict between China and what was then the Soviet Union.
Decades of mutual suspicion followed.
But economics transformed the relationship, and as China emerged as one of the world's biggest energy consumers, it was naturally drawn to one of the world's biggest energy producers across a long, shared border.
For Russia, isolated by Western sanctions after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, China's economic muscle proved an even more crucial financial lifeline and served to accelerate its geopolitical pivot east.
Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of deals, mainly in the energy and infrastructure sectors, have been agreed between the two nations.
There are, of course, still problems.
Scratch the surface, and many Russians remain deeply suspicious of their powerful Asian neighbor.
For emerging China, declining Russia doesn't even make it into their list of top 10 trading partners.
Still, for Moscow and Beijing, their alliance appears well worth papering over the cracks.
Source:CNN

Breaking the silence in the world capital of female genital mutilation

(CNN)One of the few positives for U.S. women and girls in recent years has been the increased awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) as an urgent issue which affects over half a million people on American soil. The first ever U.S. trial is about to take place too and the government is finally taking action to end it.

Over 200 million of us around the world and where I live in rural Somalia almost every single woman and girl has undergone FGM. 98% of Somali women and girls have been affected - the highest prevalence rate of anywhere in the world.
Over 80% of us are cut between the ages of five and nine - old enough to remember what happened to them but not "too old" that we have already experienced too much independence.
 
 
Almost two thirds of us undergo infibulation - the most extreme form, which leaves girls with their labia stitched together following excision of the clitoris.
This makes urinating and menstruating almost impossible as a girl is forced to do so through a hole the size of a matchstick. That's not to say that any form of FGM is acceptable and it is always a human rights violation.
Last year, I met 15 year-old Istar, who had been married off to a 70 year-old man in Eastern Somalia. He paid 10 camels and a gun for her. Istar had been subjected to infibulation.
As happens with many girls who have undergone this type of FGM, her new husband was unable to penetrate her during sex. He used a traditional dagger to cut her open. But he did it with so much force that the dagger went deep, affecting the vagina walls and cutting into her cervix.
Istar started bleeding profusely, forcing her family to seek medical help and counseling. Although she is now out of immediate danger, Istar is deeply traumatised and, unsurprisingly, she does not want to go back to her husband.
Although it is sometimes used as an excuse, there is no religious obligation at all for girls to undergo FGM. Nor does it happen in a vacuum. FGM is directly related to other forms of violence against women and girls.
Domestic violence is also highly prevalent here - and over three quarters of married women aged 15-49 think that a beating can be justified in certain circumstances. So-called "child marriage" is highly prevalent too and is often seen as a driver for FGM occurring in the first place.
After several months of extreme drought, it has finally rained in Somalia. This is a huge relief to many, but it also means that girls are now at enormous risk. Schools are closed for the Summer and many town dwellers have moved back to rural areas. Families think it's the "right time" for them to hold FGM ceremonies. This is the time of the year when girls are at extreme risk.
As a survivor myself, I know its effects first hand and wanted to do something to help end it. I set up a center in the late 1990s to end FGM and other forms of violence against girls by working at various levels, but with a big focus on education.
We provide free schooling to more than 800 poor, orphaned and displaced girls in primary school and to 1,600 girls over age 13 in "non-formal" education. Nationally, only 24.6% of girls attend school, but as a result of our work, girls' enrollment in northeast Somalia has increased to 40%, the highest rate in the country.
We teach each of these girls about the harms of FGM and how it can be ended. We try to persuade these girls that their destinies are their own to make.
They can break the cycle of abuse in their own lives and in their families. Somalia has promised to ban FGM for several years, but has yet to follow through on doing so. Since 2014 though,the most severe form of infibulation has been illegal in the Puntland region - thanks to a Presidential decree.
This is part of a recent wave of bans across the African continent. Nigeria and The Gambia both made it illegal to perform FGM in 2015. This leaves Somalia in a small group of countries including Liberia, Mali, Sudan and Sierra Leone, which have yet to enact laws against it.
Unfortunately, only 33% of Somali women and girls think FGM should end, although this number is somewhat higher for wealthier and more educated categories. There is no discernible reduction in prevalence either between middle-aged women and adolescent girls.
I know that we must still climb a huge mountain if this abuse is to be eliminated within our lifetime.
That said, my eyes are firmly on the goal.
We can speed things up, but we need to get money to the front-lines, where it can be used most effectively. There are so few of us working on this and we cannot always reach everyone with such limited resources.
To date, we have seen much increased awareness of the issue in the U.S. and discussion at international level, but those of us working at local level have not been able to access enough funds to carry out our urgent work.
Changing the futures of girls in this region is my life's mission and I won't stop until I have done my part to protect every single girl at risk. Hearing the experiences of girls like Istar - as I do almost every day - terrifies me, but it also drives me to keep going. I have no other option.
The lives of Somali girls and women depend on it.
Source:CNN.com

Can poor sleep lead to Alzheimer's?

(CNN)One in three Americans doesn't get enough sleep, and 45% of the world's population doesn't, either. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls that a "public health problem," because disrupted sleep is associated with a higher risk of conditions including diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

It may not be long before we can add Alzheimer's and other types of dementia to that list.
It's well known that people with Alzheimer's suffer sleep issues. Insomnia, nighttime wandering and daytime sleepiness are common for them, as well as other cognitive disorders such as Lewy body dementia and frontal lobe dementia.
 
 
But could poor sleep earlier in life actually cause dementia?

Sleep and dementia

A growing body of research in both mice and humans shows that disturbed sleep leads to higher levels of soluble beta amyloid, the protein that folds and forms the sticky plaques that kill brain cells and bog down information processing. Depositing amyloid in brain tissue is the first known preclinical stage of Alzheimer's and happens well before any obvious symptoms of dementia begin.
A few studies in cognitively normal people and one in mice have shown a connection between chronic sleep disruption and the development of amyloid plaques. The research in mice was particularly interesting because it showed that mice who slept well reduced their levels of beta amyloid, effectively clearing the toxin from their brains.
A new study in Neurology, the journal for the American Academy of Neurology, is adding to that research by looking at the relationship between sleep quality and levels of various proteins and inflammatory markers in the cerebrospinal fluid of 101 cognitively healthy adults with an average age of 63.
All participants had known risk factors for Alzheimer's, such as family history or evidence of the APOE gene, which is associated with a greater chance of developing the disease. Their sleep quality was rated on a standard scale that measured amount, quality and trouble sleeping, along with daytime drowsiness and naps.
"Participants in our study were willing to undergo a lumbar puncture to move research on Alzheimer's disease forward," said co-author Barbara Bendlin of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. "Analyzing this fluid allowed us to look at markers related to Alzheimer's disease such as plaques and tangles, as well as markers of inflammation and nerve cell damage."

Tangles and cell damage

Tangles are created by damaged tau, a protein responsible for cell stability and structure. Recent research points to tau-tangle accumulation as a possible step beyond amyloid plaques in the development of actual signs of Alzheimer's disease.
By comparing the spinal fluid against self-reported sleep problems, Bendlin and her colleagues found that the subjects who had sleep issues were more likely to show evidence of tau pathology, brain cell damage and inflammation, even when other factors like depression, body mass, cardiovascular disease and sleep medications were taken into account.
"Our findings align with the idea that worse sleep may contribute to the accumulation of Alzheimer's-related proteins in the brain," Bendlin said. "The fact that we can find these effects in people who are cognitively healthy and close to middle age suggest that these relationships appear early, perhaps providing a window of opportunity for intervention."
That's important, Bendlin added, because delaying the onset of Alzheimer's in those at risk by a mere five years "could reduce the number of cases we see in the next 30 years by 5.7 million and save $367 billion in health care spending."
"Another new finding in this study is that daytime sleepiness, and not just disrupted nighttime sleep, is associated with early changes of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Yo-El Ju, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University's Sleep Medicine Center. Ju also studies the association between sleep and dementia, and she co-wrote an accompanying editorial for the new study.
"Overall, this study confirms the relationship between early Alzheimer's disease and sleep disturbance," Ju said, "and (it) expands -- in terms of both time and symptoms -- the window in which sleep-wake problems can be assessed for and treated, with the hope of reducing the risk of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease."
One of the limitations of the study was that the sleep problems were self-reported. Bendlin and her colleagues are recruiting people at risk for Alzheimer's to be studied in a sleep lab, where objective measurements can be taken.
"If it turns out to be the case that an intervention which improves sleep also results in less amyloid being deposited in the brain, that would provide strong support for implementing interventions before people start to show cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease," she said.
Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, who directs the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, agreed.
"Increasing amounts of evidence indicate that getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep is essential for brain health and function," Tanzi said. "In the deepest stage of sleep, the brain cleans itself out of plaque and other toxic materials that trigger Alzheimer's disease. This reduces brain inflammation and is entirely consistent with this exciting new study."

Which problem came first?

Not everyone with sleep problems in the study had abnormalities in their spinal fluid. For example, those with obstructive sleep apnea showed no association. Bendlin stresses that much remains to be discovered about the link between sleep and dementia.
"Not everyone who experiences sleep problems should now worry about developing dementia due to Alzheimer's disease," she said, adding that there is not yet a clear cause and effect relationship.
"Animal studies suggest sleep affects development of brain changes, but brain changes in turn also affect sleep," Bendlin said. "In terms of figuring out which comes first, brain changes or sleep problems, that will be difficult to tease apart, because the effects really do appear to be going in both directions."
"In experimental studies, there does seems to be evidence of both chicken and egg," said neuroscientist Jeffrey Iliff of Oregon Health and Sciences University. "You can drive it either direction. So there may be a bio-directional interaction."
That's good news if true, he said, because it means we have may have some control over whether we develop dementia.
"No, the public can't remove amyloid plaque," Iliff said. "But if sleep disruption is promoting this process, then improving sleep is half of the solution to slowing the process of dementia as it develops over one's life."

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association, agreed: "This new study suggests there may be an opportunity to improve cognition and possibly reduce dementia risk through early diagnosis and effective treatment of sleep disorders."

Source:CNN.com

US teen birth rate drops to all-time low

(CNN)In the United States, teen-aged moms are increasingly rare. In 2016, the teen birth rate dropped 9% compared to the previous year, a new government report published Friday found. This record low for teens having babies continues a long-term trend.

The birth rate among teen girls has dropped 67% since 1991, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which presented preliminary data for 2016 based on a majority (99.9%) of births.
In 2016, the number of US births totaled 3,941,109, a decline of 1% compared to 2015. The fertility rate of 62 births per 1,000 women is a record low for the nation.
The teen rate is a "phenomenal decline," said Dr. Elise Berlan, a physician in the section of adolescent medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Berlan, who did not conduct this research, said the reason she's so excited is "because we know that the vast majority of teen births are unintended."
What's fueling the declines?
"Data [from previous years] really suggests it is access to contraceptives and use of contraceptives that has really led to these kind of changes," said Berlan, who noted that "most teens are using some form of birth control" and the top method is "the condom, followed by withdrawal and the pill."

Older moms

On the flip side, the increase in births to older moms is also important, said Martin.
For women between the ages of 30 and 34, the birth rate increased by 1% over 2015 -- the highest rate for this age group since 1964. The birth rate for women who are between 35 and 39 is up 2% over 2015, representing the highest rate since 1962.
Even older women, those between the ages of 40 and 44, showed a swelling increase of 4% over 2015 -- the highest rate for this group since 1966, according to the statisticians, while the rate of birth for women who are older than 45 is also a record high though the number of births remains essentially unchanged compared to last year.
Joyce A. Martin, a co-author of the report and lead statistician, also noted the declining rate of nonmarital births -- births to people who aren't legally married -- in 2016, which fell 3% compared to the previous year.
The report, first in a new annual series, provided additional vital statistics.

Prenatal care

Three out of four woman got prenatal care in their first trimester, noted Michelle J.K. Osterman, a co-author of the report and statistician. That said, 6.2% of pregnant women in 2016 had late prenatal care (beginning in the third trimester) or no prenatal care.
"In a perfect world, every woman would get early prenatal care," said Osterman. She noted that "2016 is the first year for which we have national data" measuring prenatal care, so there can be no comparisons to previous years.
The percentage of women receiving prenatal care beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy ranged from 51.9% for non-Hispanic native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders women to 82.3% for non-Hispanic white women. Nearly 81% of Asian women also received prenatal care, while 72% of Hispanic and 67% of non-Hispanic black women did the same.
"We want to bring everybody up to an overall rate of over 80%," said Martin.
Sarah Verbiest, executive director of the Center for Maternal & Infant Health in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, noted the "inequities among who is getting early access to care" during pregnancy. Verbiest was not involved in the research.
"We know that the growth of the baby happens really fast, really soon. So in the first nine weeks, all of the key parts of the baby are formed," said Verbiest. Prenatal care in the first trimester helps a pregnant woman learn what changes to expect and address any unhealthy factors in her life.
"If someone has diabetes and it's not really well-controlled that could lead to birth defects," said Verbiest. "Right away, you want to be helping her manage diabetes or any chronic conditions."
Pregnant women also need to be taking vitamins while eating and exercising in healthy ways. Prenatal care helps reduce all potential risks as early as possible and leads to healthier babies, explained Verbiest.

Shift in preterm births

"For many years in this field we saw that women who are Hispanic had really good birth outcomes -- even in the face of some more challenges in terms of accessing care," said Verbiest. "We always said, 'Thank heavens for that.'"
However, the new data suggests there may be a shift.
For example, the overall rate of low birthweight rose for the second straight year to 8.2% in 2016 from 8.1% in 2015. The rate among Hispanic woman was 7.3% compared to about 6.9% for white women.
Verbiest worries that Hispanic women may be adopting some of the "not healthy habits in this country," including unhealthy eating and lifestyle, while also being affected by "community stress that isn't good for pregnant women."
This is the second year in a row for an undesirable rate of low birth weights, noted Verbiest.
"It's not the direction we want it to go," said Verbiest. "We know that the outcomes for babies who are too thin and too small are not as good -- they start life out like a step behind" children who are born at a normal weight at full-term, about nine months.
The preterm birth rate -- when a baby is born more than three weeks before a full nine month pregnancy -- also rose for American women overall. Preterm births can lead to poor health for babies.
Martin said the increase in the preterm birth rate was not a "small one -- a 2% rise is fairly substantial. At a minimum, it tells us the improvements that have been going on for the last decade [appear] to have stalled."
On the positive side, Verbiest celebrated the declining rate of cesarean births noted in the report.
The rate of C-sections decreased for the fourth year in a row to about 32%, having peaked in 2009 at about 33%.
"That is the result of work across all kinds of partners in this country," said Verbiest. Patient advocate groups, payers such as insurance companies and Medicaid, nurses, physicians, and midwives all have worked hard to bring that trend line down, she said.

Access to care

Both Verbiest and Berlan see access to health care as crucial to achieving the best results for women's health, particularly pregnancy and birth.
"Putting restrictions on teens' access to birth control could really have some profound effects on unintended births in those folks," said Berlan. The hospital where she works requires parental consent for teen patients since her home state of Ohio lacks a statute protecting a minor's right to access contraception confidentially.
"We certainly see teen girls and young women coming to the office with their parents. And that's really just a wonderful thing to work with a mom-daughter [pair] on these important decisions," said Berlan.
"The other side of it, though, is a lot of teens need confidential access to birth control and it's important to preserve that," said Berlan.
The "significant differences in how babies are getting a start in life" speaks to "larger issues," such as health care access, that need to be dealt with by our society, said Verbiest. "All of our sweet babies and families should get to have the best start."
Source:CNN.com

Lionel Messi: Barcelona forward agrees new deal

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has agreed a contract extension which will keep him at the club until 2021.

The 30-year-old, who joined Barca aged 13, will sign the deal when he returns to training from pre-season.

"The club is very happy with the renewal and commitment of Messi, the best player in history," said the La Liga club.

The Argentina forward has scored a club-record 507 goals in 583 matches since his competitive debut in 2004.

Messi, who is currently on honeymoon after marrying childhood sweetheart Antonela Roccuzzo, is also La Liga's record scorer on 349 goals.

'Marvel in his greatness'

This is the eighth contract Messi has signed with Barca since joining at the age of 13

This is the eighth contract Messi has signed with Barca since joining at the age of 13

Spanish media say the new deal contains a 300m euro (£263m) buy-out clause and comes after Messi reportedly rejected an initial offer in May.

In a statement, Barca said Messi has "led the team to an era of extraordinary success, the likes of which has never been seen in world football".

"Leo Messi will not stop there - the Argentinian is in one of the best moments of his career and still has a lot more left to give, which is music to the ears of all Barca fans who will get to continue marvelling at his greatness for at least another four years," the statement added.

Messi's previous deal was scheduled to end in the summer of 2018.

The striker has been previously linked with a move to Manchester City but his new contract ties him to the 24-time La Liga winners until he is 34.

Since breaking into the first team under former Barca boss Frank Rijkaard, Messi has won eight La Liga titles, the Champions League four times and the Copa del Rey on five occasions.

The ever-changing Russia stories of the two Donald Trumps

Washington (CNN)When it comes to Russia, Donald Trump -- and his son -- can't get their stories straight.

Consider the last day and a half.
On Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. said that a 2016 meeting between himself and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin was primarily about "adoptions." That came in response to a New York Times piece detailing the meeting between Trump, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
 
 
On Sunday, when the Times reported a second piece alleging that Trump Jr. had met with Veselnitskaya after receiving a promise that she possessed "damaging information" about Hillary Clinton, he changed his story.
"After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton," Trump Jr. said in a statement. "Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information."
Then there was this odd reversal from the President himself on another matter involving Russia.
On Sunday at 7:50 a.m., President Trump tweeted: "Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded."
On Sunday at 8:45 p.m., President Trump tweeted: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!"
So. That's a lot to process.
As of Monday morning, here's what we know (I think):
1. At the behest of a friend he made from the Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Russia in 2013, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer who promised him dirt on Clinton. He has said he didn't know the name of the person prior to the meeting, but we now know that person was Veselnitskaya. He said he didn't tell Manafort or Kushner anything about the meeting -- other than to ask them to come.
2. Trump Jr. initially said the meeting was primarily about adoption when initially confronted about it by the Times on Saturday. He did not mention that it had anything to do with the 2016 election despite the fact that Veselnitskaya's promise of negative information appears to have been the impetus for the meeting in the first place.
3. At the much-anticipated meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Trump confronted Putin about meddling in the election. Putin denied it. Reports differ about whether Trump accepted that denial or not (Russia says he did, the White House says he didn't).
4. The two sides agreed to put the Russian campaign meddling (or not) in the past -- by, in part, discussing the possibility of creating an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit" to make election hacking a thing of the past. After a huge amount of blowback to that proposal Sunday -- Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, tweeted: "Partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit'" -- Trump changed his tune, insisting that he didn't really think the "cyber security unit" would happen anyway.
Got all that?
The point here is simple: With each passing week, the story seems to change when it comes to Trump and Russia. And, in almost every instance, what we find is more smoke around those connections. We don't have fire yet -- as Trump like to remind people (and he's right). But, man oh man, the smoke just keeps getting thicker.
Why, even if he didn't know exactly who he was meeting with, did Don Jr. take the meeting -- with the promise that he would get dirt on Hillary Clinton? (Remember that Trump Jr. knew this was someone who was a friend of a friend he had made in Russia -- meaning that it doesn't take much of a logical leap to think this person he was meeting with might be Russian.)
And does President Trump think it's a good idea to form a cybersecurity task force with Russia? Or not? If he does support it, why did he walk away from it -- or hedge on it -- 12 hours after he seemed to suggest it was the successful result of his confrontation with Putin?
Like almost everything with Trump and Russia, there are more questions than answers. And, if past is prologue, Trump and his senior advisers won't answer any of them.
CNN.COM

Baby Charlie Gard's new day in court

London (CNN)The UK's High Court will reconvene Thursday to hear new medical evidence in the case of baby Charlie Gard, whose parents are fighting doctors to keep him on life support so they can take him to the United States for experimental treatment for a rare genetic disorder. The new date was set at a preliminary hearing Monday.

Charlie's parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have until Wednesday to submit new written evidence regarding the viability of having Charlie treated abroad with experimental nucleoside therapy.
On Monday, the judge instructed Charlie's parents to cite the source of all evidence, when it was produced and what difference will it make for their son. They did not produce any new evidence during the preliminary hearing.
 
 
At several points during the hearing, Charlie's parents spoke out. Gard shouted at lawyers for the hospital where Charlie is being cared for, "when are you going to start telling the truth?"
The terminally ill 11-month-old is at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which requested the new hearing last week. He's been there since October, when he began suffering the effects of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.
Charlie's parents' legal battle with doctors to prolong his life has gained international attention, with Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump among those weighing in.
On Sunday, the couple gave the hospital a petition with more than 350,000 signatures from around the world. It called for the family to be allowed to travel for the experimental treatment, though a High Court ruling blocked such a move on June 30.
That ruling was preceded by a series of legal attempts by the young couple, who have tried to make their cases to judges in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in London. The hospital has countered that it's in Charlie's best interest to be removed from life support, as none of the treatments are certain to help him and could cause him to suffer.
Dr. Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said Monday that the high-profile interventions in the case are "unhelpful."
"Only the family, the doctors treating Charlie, and now the legal teams involved, know the details of complex issues that define his situation," she said in a statement.
"These issues -- unknown to us and all those voicing opinions -- will have been considered very carefully in reaching any decision. This is why interventions by external agencies or individuals, no matter how well-intended, are unhelpful."
Charlie's condition, mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, is extremely rare. His doctors in Britain argue that he has no hope of surviving without assistance and that he should be allowed to die in dignity.
CNN

How to make fast food healthier for vegetarians and vegans

(CNN)Ordering fast food can be tricky for people who are trying to eat healthfully, but it can be particularly challenging for vegetarians. Menus are often limited in vegetarian staples such as beans, lentils, whole grains and vegetables.

The good news is that more and more restaurants are catering to meatless customers, which now number approximately 8 million adults in the United States, with many more trying to eat less meat in general for health reasons.
"I am seeing more options out there for plant-based eaters who want to grab fast food," said Sharon Palmer, a vegetarian, nutritionist and author of "Plant-Powered for Life."
Vegetarian dining requires some careful planning, however. Here are some tips and strategies for eating well at fast food restaurants if you are a vegetarian or vegan:
Check out menus in advance. Since some chains have more vegetarian options than others, you should go online or try calling a restaurant to see whether there's something you will eat. If the menu seems limited, it may be worth traveling a bit farther if it means you'll get healthier, more appealing meatless options.
Seek out newer fast food chains. Traditional chains offering burgers and fried chicken are sometimes less vegetarian-friendly than newer chains. "Look for plant-based fast food restaurants, such as Veggie Grill, which are on the rise," Palmer said. "Also, look for ethnic fast casual restaurants -- Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Ethiopian -- as they have many traditional vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu that offer delicious options just as quickly as a drive-through."
A website (or app) such as Happy Cow can help you identify vegetarian-friendly restaurants if you are traveling in a city you're not familiar with.
Veggie up. "I like to look for plenty of veggie-rich options -- salads, sandwiches with a side salad, a wrap filled with veggies -- so I am gaining all of those health benefits and the satiety value and lower calorie load of eating more vegetables at a meal," Palmer said.
A good old veggie burger is often an option. "Savvy vegan and vegetarian travelers know that veggie burgers are cropping up in the most unlikely places, like the new veggie sliders at White Castle," said Virginia Messina, a registered dietitian who blogs at The Vegan RD.
Ask about "off-menu" items. Don't assume that if a vegetarian option is out of sight, it's not available. "You'd be surprised how many fast casual restaurants I've been to that offer a veggie burger, but it's not listed on the menu," Palmer said. Additionally, you can try custom-ordering your meal. For example, vegans can ask for burritos, pizza or tacos without cheese and sour cream.
Breakfast, for lunch. Some chains serve breakfast all day long, which means an egg and cheese sandwich from the breakfast menu can be a healthful option, especially if it's paired with a side salad for some veggies.
Pack foods that can balance out the meal. "If you're traveling, you can use fast food restaurants to round out your own picnic fare. I always take whole-grain crackers, peanut butter and mixed nuts on the road with me and then grab a side salad at a fast food restaurant when nothing else is available," Messina said.
Palmer agrees. "Sometimes, your options are limited to a piece of whole fruit and a green salad, leaving you hungry and improperly nourished. Look for ways to make a balanced meal no matter where you go; if you really are stuck, you can combine that salad and piece of fruit with a bag of peanuts and some whole-grain crackers for a more balanced option."
Check ingredients. "Bread used for burgers and sandwiches is sometimes not vegan," Messina said. The breads might have milk products or honey added to them, for example. Veggie patties may also contain milk or egg ingredients. "People may often assume that veggie burgers are vegan; they often are not. So it's important to ask or to check ingredient lists online."
Find tofu. The soy bean-based curd is a helpful source of vegetarian protein. "I get extra excited if I find tofu or tempeh on a fast food menu," said Kristine Duncan, a registered dietitian and nutrition blogger at Veg Girl RD. If you are watching your salt intake, you may wish to share, however, as meals with tofu can be high in sodium.
Beans in general are protein-rich. "Beans are getting more common in fast food restaurants, making it an excellent go-to option," Palmer said.
Palmer agrees. "Sometimes, your options are limited to a piece of whole fruit and a green salad, leaving you hungry and improperly nourished. Look for ways to make a balanced meal no matter where you go; if you really are stuck, you can combine that salad and piece of fruit with a bag of peanuts and some whole-grain crackers for a more balanced option."
Check ingredients. "Bread used for burgers and sandwiches is sometimes not vegan," Messina said. The breads might have milk products or honey added to them, for example. Veggie patties may also contain milk or egg ingredients. "People may often assume that veggie burgers are vegan; they often are not. So it's important to ask or to check ingredient lists online."
Find tofu. The soy bean-based curd is a helpful source of vegetarian protein. "I get extra excited if I find tofu or tempeh on a fast food menu," said Kristine Duncan, a registered dietitian and nutrition blogger at Veg Girl RD. If you are watching your salt intake, you may wish to share, however, as meals with tofu can be high in sodium.
Beans in general are protein-rich. "Beans are getting more common in fast food restaurants, making it an excellent go-to option," Palmer said.
CNN.com

Nelsan Ellis, 'True Blood' actor, dead at 39

Nelsan Ellis, the actor who lit up the screen on HBO's vampire drama "True Blood," has died at age 39.

The cause of death was complications from heart failure, his manager, Emily Gerson Saines, told CNN.

 

Ellis had roles in several movies during his career, including "Get on Up," "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and "The Help." But he was best known for his performance on "True Blood" as Lafayette, a cook and medium whose tell-it-like-it-is attitude made him a favorite among the television show's fans.

HBO said in a statement Saturday that it was "extremely saddened" to hear of his passing.

"Nelsan was a long-time member of the HBO family whose groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette will be remembered fondly within the overall legacy of True Blood. Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO," the statement read. HBO, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.

"True Blood" creator Alan Ball added: "Nelsan was a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege."

Octavia Spencer, who worked with Ellis on "The Help," paid tribute to him on Instagram: "My heart breaks for his kids and family."

"True Blood" cast member Joe Manganiello, who played the werewolf Alcide, tweeted that Ellis was "a wonderful person, a pioneer, and a one of a kind artist."

And Sam Trammel, who played Sam on "True Blood," wrote on Twitter: "I don't know if I've ever seen the level of humility and kindness that came with the Magnificent Talent that Nelsan Ellis had. Miss u friend."

CNN.com

Amazon takes on Geek Squad with new service

Amazon really wants you to buy smart home products. In fact, it'll even come and set them up for you.

The tech giant is rolling out its own version of Best Buy's popular Geek Squad service, which offers in-home product installations and repairs on electronics and appliances.

 

The new "Amazon Smart Home Services Store" on its website allows users to book appointments for installations or free consultations. Company experts will answer questions and set up products like smart lights, thermostats and of course, Amazon's line of smart devices.

When customers buy a smart home device on Amazon, they have the option to set up an appointment.

ervice fees vary. For example, the price to set up and personalize an Amazon Fire TV is $10, while an ecobee3 Smart Thermostat installation is $99. Geek Squad prices vary, too: A TV installation is $150 and setting up home Wi-Fi starts at $100.

Amazon is offering a 20% discount for some services leading up to Prime Day, which runs for 30 hours starting Monday night. The discount will continue for the following week.

The company notes on the service page that its experts are employees -- not contractors.

"All experts have been background-checked and are licensed and certified where applicable," the site says.

Best Buy (BBY) employs 20,000 Geek Squad staffers and also hires contractors. Amazon has not responded to a request for comment on how many workers it will employ.

Best Buy shares dropped more than 7% late Monday morning following news of the service.

mazon's service is currently available in seven markets: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Calif. and San Jose.

Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) already connects customers with local handymen for services such as plumbing, wall hanging, painting and other odd jobs.

Source: CNN

Microsoft cuts thousands of jobs

Microsoft is undergoing a major reorganization.

The tech company is slashing thousands of jobs, mostly in sales positions, according to a source familiar with the matter.

 

Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) confirmed the move in a statement sent to CNN Tech, noting it is "taking steps to notify some employees that their jobs are under consideration or that their positions will be eliminated."

"Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis," the spokesperson said. "This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time-to-time, re-deployment in others."

The job cuts impact employees primarily outside the U.S. Microsoft would not specify the exact number of layoffs.

The reorganization was announced internally on Monday.

Last week, reports surfaced that Microsoft planned a reorganization to focus more on cloud sales.

The news came as its cloud businesses continue to perform well. Revenue from Azure, its key cloud-computing platform, soared 93% in its most recent quarter.

Source:CNN

GOP Health care bill on the brink (again)

(CNN)The Senate returns for a critical three-week period when Republicans will try to salvage their health care bill. But it's clearly in deep trouble and they might not be able to save it.

Things are looking especially tough after the bill hung out there over the recess (which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell badly wanted to avoid) and it got battered by voters and senators.
Watch Tuesday's Senate lunch -- that's when we might get the first real indications of the week on which direction leadership is moving, and it'll be an opportunity for leaders to take the temperature of the conference on how they're feeling after the week-long recess.
 
 
Maybe the clearest sign that things aren't looking good? President Donald Trump's tweet Monday morning: "I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!"

CNN's latest whip count on the "no" votes: 10

At least 10. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota became at least the 10th GOP senator to publicly oppose the bill in its current form with remarks he made to local media and a public statement released during the July 4 holiday.
*First caveat: 10 = only the Republicans who have publicly said no. There could be more, and other Republicans -- while perhaps not saying directly that they'd oppose the legislation as written -- described concerns or reservations they had about the current proposal.
*Second caveat: Plenty of the "no" folks have said they want to get to a yes, and some ultimately could.

What's the deal with McConnell?

What he said in Kentucky last week: Republicans might need to work with Democrats to prop up Obamacare if they fail to pass repeal and replace legislation.
No, McConnell isn't giving up on health care, and he's not yet close to pulling the plug. (And these weren't new comments -- McConnell has brought up the possibility of having to work with Democrats to stabilize markets the day he delayed the vote two weeks ago.)

Two ways to read McConnell's comments:

This has been a genuinely difficult process. The needle that he's trying to thread to get to 50 "yes" votes is very, very tough. It's not a secret that there is real frustration about how long the health care exercise has dragged on.
This is a warning shot to Republicans -- They can either suck it up, and vote for a bill that isn't perfect (and it's never going to be perfect for everyone). Or they can let the bill fail and stomach the political reality of reneging on a promise they've been making for years and years -- and the fact that the next necessary step would be to work with Democrats to do damage control on Obamacare.
Exactly as McConnell had feared and expected -- Senate Republicans got an earful over the July 4 recess. Just a sampling of the political heat GOP senators got when they went home last week:
Hoeven made clear he was against the bill.
Sen. Susan Collins: People in Maine are telling her "they don't want me to support it."
Sen. Jerry Moran: Said at a town hall in Palco, Kansas, that he's still a no, and that the bill would hurt rural communities.
Sen. Dean Heller, who is currently a "no" on the bill, got yelled at by a man back home to vote for the bill. So the pressure goes both ways.
Protesters cropped up everywhere: Outside Sen. Pat Toomey's office; at a Sen. Ted Cruz event in Texas and inside two offices of Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio.

What happened over the weekend?

Sen. John McCain did not sound optimistic about his party's chances when he told CBS' John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" when he said the health care proposal was "probably going to be dead."
"I fear that it's going to fail, and then we should convene a Republican Conference and say, what are we going to do? Introduce a bill," the Arizona Republican said Sunday. "Say to the Democrats, here's a bill. It doesn't mean they don't -- that they control it. It means they can have amendments considered. And even when they lose, then they're part of the process. That's what democracy is supposed to be all about."
Also Vice President Mike Pence -- who's been active with Hill Republicans' health care discussions -- went horseback riding Saturday with Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference Roy Blunt of Missouri as well as another crucial White House voice on health care: Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

What changes could be made to the bill?

Short answer is we don't know yet what the revised bill will look like. Those conversations will have to happen this week. But we do know at least two potential revisions to the bill that were sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring before members left town for the July 4 recess:
The Cruz amendment: Known as the "consumer freedom" amendment, it would allow insurers who offer plans under Obamacare to also offer plans that are unregulated under the law. (Conservatives like this, because they say it would lower premiums; critics -- including some moderate Republicans -- hate it, because they think it means skyrocketing premiums for the sick, as well as weakened protections for those with pre-existing conditions.)
Flexibility for Health Savings Accounts: Another provision that conservatives find appealing, it would offer more flexibility on how people can use HSAs, including using them to pay for premiums.
Don't expect that Cruz amendment to be a silver bullet. A telling comment from one GOP aide last week: "I think there's very little interest in the caucus in touching pre-existing conditions, so I have a hard time seeing the addition of the 'Consumer Choice Amendment.' And outside health policy folks have said that would set up a death spiral for the markets."
Asked about the Cruz amendment, Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, said: "The White House is very comfortable with the policy. I think the question we all need to address is does it add votes or subtract votes?"
'We'll have a better sense this week after it is scored" and after Cruz talks with more senators himself.

What is the White House saying?

Short acknowledged that the messaging around the health care repeal effort has not been strong and faults all parties involved -- including the administration and congressional Republicans.
"I think it's fair to say the messaging throughout has been underwhelming, collectively, among Republicans," Short told CNN over the weekend. "It's a complicated subject."
Short said a lot of things were under discussion when it comes to how Trump might engage in this sales effort, but was reluctant to say for sure what the President would do beyond additional phone calls.
"You might see the President travel," he said. "You might see more messaging coming from him too." Short would not expand on what that messaging could look or sound like.
If the President does travel to try to sell the bill, he is likely to visit states of wavering Republicans, like Ohio or West Virginia -- though there are no plans for travel set in stone.

A vote next week?

There will be a vote when McConnell decides he has 50 "yes" votes. He's not there yet.
Talk from the White House of a possible vote next week? Just remember how many times the White House predicted votes when the House was considering its bill earlier this year, and how many times those predictions were not accurate. The White House doesn't determine the Senate schedule.

When will we see new CBO score(s)?

Still unclear. But, Senate GOP leaders have been in constant touch with CBO -- all so that when they're ready to pull the trigger, they can get a score from the CBO as quickly as possible.
Short said he expects the CBO score on the latest drafts in the next seven to 10 days.
"This week will be more focused on continuing to talk about the policy that is in the bill with the various senators that are undecided," he said.
Source:CNN.com

Floyd Mayweather Asks IRS for Tax Reprieve Until After Conor McGregor Fight

Floyd Mayweather filed a petition July 5 asking the IRS for a reprieve from unpaid taxes from 2015 until after his fight with Conor McGregor in August.

"Although the taxpayer has substantial assets, those assets are restricted and primarily illiquid," Mayweather's petition stated, per the legal website Law360 (h/t ESPN.com's Darren Rovell). "The taxpayer has a significant liquidity event scheduled in about 60 days from which he intends to pay the balance of the 2015 tax liability due and outstanding."

Mayweather, 40, made $220 million alone from his 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao. It is unclear how much he owes the IRS in taxes.

The petition asks the government to reduce Mayweather's penalty on the unpaid taxes. Given a 15-month lapse since the 2015 tax due date, Mayweather would owe 7.5 percent in penalties on top of what he was already scheduled to pay, according to Rovell.

Mayweather is expected to bring home a nine-figure payday from his bout with McGregor, which is slated for Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. The fight will end a nearly two-year retirement. Mayweather has not boxed professionally since defeating Andre Berto via unanimous decision in September 2015, which moved him to 49-0 for his career.

Forbes estimated Mayweather's net worth at $340 million in January.

Source:CNN

James Harden, Houston Rockets Agree to Biggest Contract in NBA History

The Houston Rockets announced Saturday that they signed James Harden to a four-year contract extension that will run through the 2022-23 season. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported the extension is worth $170 million over four years. 

Harden, who signed a four-year, $118 million extension with the Rockets last July, became eligible for the designated player veteran extension by virtue of making the All-NBA team.

According to Wojnarowski, Harden will now earn $228 million total through the end of his contract. 

"Since he arrived in Houston, James has exhibited the incredible work ethic, desire to win, and passion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and talented superstars in the history of the game," Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in the team's statement. "Additionally, the commitment he has shown to our organization, the City of Houston, and Rockets fans all over the world makes him a perfect leader in our pursuit of another championship."

Wojnarowski and Windhorst also reported Saturday the Rockets "are turning full attention" to completing a trade with the New York Knicks for Carmelo Anthony after putting a bow on Harden's extension. 

"Houston is home for me," Harden said, according to the team's official Twitter account. "Mr. Alexander has shown he is fully committed to winning."

According to the terms of his 2016 extension, Harden will earn $28.3 million next season and $30.4 million during the 2018-19 campaign before the new DPVE terms kick in. 

The MVP runner-up last season, Harden averaged 29.1 points, a league-high 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 44.0 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three. 

Source:CNN

Lagos floods: Heavy rain, storms cause chaos

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Lagos, one of Africa's most populous cities, has been hit by torrential downpour and thunderstorms over the weekend that has left many parts of the city flooded.

Residents in the Lekki and Victoria Island suburbs woke up on Saturday morning to flooding in their homes and their cars submerged under water.
One brave resident took to swimming in the infested waters on Lekki road, an affluent suburb that is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the coastal city. A crocodile was spotted along Chevron Drive in the same neighborhood.

Lagos floods: Heavy rain, storms cause chaos

 

Story highlights

  • Lagos, one of Africa's most populous cities has been hit by torrential downpour
  • Poor drainage systems and weak urban planning have compounded effects of the rainfall
 

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Lagos, one of Africa's most populous cities, has been hit by torrential downpour and thunderstorms over the weekend that has left many parts of the city flooded.

Residents in the Lekki and Victoria Island suburbs woke up on Saturday morning to flooding in their homes and their cars submerged under water.
One brave resident took to swimming in the infested waters on Lekki road, an affluent suburb that is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the coastal city. A crocodile was spotted along Chevron Drive in the same neighborhood.
 
 
Another was spotted kayaking across Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, a usually bustling business district.
The past 40 years has transformed Lagos, infamous for its heavy traffic and poor air quality.
Nigeria's largest city and commercial capital has been hit by days of persistent heavy rain and storms at the height of the rainy season.
However, poor drainage systems and inadequate urban planning have compounded the effects of the downpour.
The state government issued a statement urging residents in affected areas to stay at home and for those living in lowlands to 'move uplands.'
"You are implored as much as possible to stay indoors unless it is essential to your safety and livelihood," said Samuel Adejare, the city's environment commissioner.
He added: "We are on top of the situation.. our emergency lines 112 and 767 are open for residents to report any emergency situation."
Lagos is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and a 2008 report warned that millions of people were at risk of losing their homes because of rising sea levels.
"Lagos is a megacity with 15 million people, half of them at two meters (6 ft) above sea level, and that puts them at risk as hardly any other big city in the world," Stefan Cramer, Nigeria director of Germany's Heinrich Boll Foundation think-tank and an adviser to the Nigerian government on climate change, said at the time in a Reuters news report.
The city was recently admitted to a 100 Resilient Cities program by the Rockefeller Foundation to fund a chief resilience officer for African cities.
"Africa is one of the front lines in terms of urbanization globally. People are moving out of the villages and into the cities at a pace unprecedented in history," says Michael Berkowitz, President, 100RC.
The aim is to provide a model for what a new, more resilient urbanization might look like.
"It's one of the biggest cities in the world, and therefore incredibly complex," Berkowitz says.
Nigeria's population of 187 million is expected to double by 2050, making it the fourth most populous country in the world — with the world population predicted to hit the 10 billion mark in 2053.
Source:CNN
 
 

Oly sink Wa All Stars

Wonder Club, Accra Great Olympics yesterday ended their three-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over defending champions, Wa All Stars in their week 21 clash at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Playing an improved game from their last two home games that ended in defeat, Great Olympics squandered glorious opportunities that came their way in the opening minutes but had to thank Benjamin Arthur and Cofie Bekoe for ensuring victory.

The game started on a high note, making incursions into each other’s half but with Olympics enjoying greater share of the dominance.

Olympics grew in confidence minute after minute and could have opened the scoring in the ninth minute but Kwame Boateng’s effort in front of goal was too weak to beat goalkeeper Richard Ofori in post for Wa All Stars.

Striker Daniel Appiah also had two goal scoring opportunities in the 19th and 25th minutes but his final delivery raised question mark over the Oly attack.

On the 28th minute mark, midfielder Benjamin Arthur headed in the opener from an incisive free kick taken by Emmanuel Asante.

Spurred on by the goal, they kept probing but their problem remained the same – poor shooting from the strikers with Appiah being the worst culprit.

Wa All Stars did little to threaten the goal area of the host forcing only two saves from goalkeeper Michael Sai in post for Olympics.

The defending champions came back in the opening exchanges of the second half and could have drawn level after two minutes of play but Seth Amoateng who broke through the offside trap was stopped by Olympics’ skipper, Adom Ampofo.

Five minutes after that effort from Ampofo, Cofie Bekoe made it 2-0 for Great Olympics when he took a loose ball behind the center line and run past a host of defenders before hitting a right footed shot past Ofori in post for the visitors.

Source: Ghanian Times

Badu considering China offers

Ghana midfielder, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu could be playing in China next season, after revealing having received offers from the Asian country.
After seven years with Italian outfit Udinese, the Ghanaian is considering a new

challenge, amid rumours that he could be heading to England.
“I have been there [with Udinese] for some time,” Badu said on GTV.
“I think for seven years now, I have been with them. I have made almost 200 appearances for them.
“I think it’s time for me to face a new challenge and so I will definitely grab a good offer that comes my way.
“I have received lots of offers. I have got a lot of offers from China.
“I don’t want to mention any name now because my managers are talking with the clubs.
“We will look at the offers well and if it is good, I will move.”
Badu joined Udinese in 2010, following impressive loan stints at local giants Asante Kotoko and Spanish club Recreativo de Huelva.
The 26-year-old made 29 Serie A appearances for Luigi Delneri’s outfit last season.
-Goal.com

Source:Ghanian Times

Revenue fraud alert; Cotecna coming to Ghana Ports

There is a shadow of potential financial disaster hovering around Ghana as THE PUBLISHER is informed that Cotecna, an attention-grabbing Swiss company that provides Testing Inspection and Certificate (TIC) services is at the final stages of discussions to start operations at Ghana’s ports with the supposed aim of helping seal leaks in government revenue.

The company has a certain reputation around the globe and has earned a barrage of fraud-related news stories and investigations in several of the countries it has operated.

Though Cotecna has denied wrong doings in all the instances it had been accused or even some of its workers investigated over fraud related allegations, the government of Ghana may have a herculean task convincing stakeholders and the public that there is a crucial necessity to offer the company a new contract at the country’s ports and revenue points.

The news that Cotecna is proposing and lobbying to start operations in Ghana, which should ordinarily be a heartwarming one, has rather raised eyebrows and ignited silent grumblings and murmurings among key revenue stakeholders who have told THE PUBLISHER that it would be superfluous to contract a new company in addition to the work being done by the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet)

While some speculate Cotecna is lobbying to position itself in a way that it would take over the operations of GCNet, others say Cotecna would rather be taking over some of the duties of West Blue while a third group suggest Cotecna would be teaming up with Nick Danso’s Ghana Link to create a platform akin to the existing Single Window system.

In 2004, the New York Times reported that: “a Swiss company that is being investigated on suspicion of fraud and abuses in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program paid the son of Secretary General Kofi Annan more than $50,000 for consulting at United Nations meetings and other projects in the year it won a lucrative oil-for-food contract, investigators said yesterday.
“Representatives of the company, Cotecna Inspection Services, which is based in Geneva, previously said that Kojo Annan, the secretary general’s son, had no involvement in any United Nations contracts.

“But billing records from Kojo Annan, 29, and other documents provided by Cotecna to House and Senate committees investigating the United Nations program show that in 1998, he traveled to United Nations meetings in New York and Durban, South Africa, to develop “contacts” and work on unspecified “specific projects.” In December 1998, Cotecna, which is privately held, won a $4.8 million United Nations contract to monitor goods shipped to Iraq.”

In another alarming incident THE DAILY STAR of Bangladesh reported in 2008 that the system for pre-shipment inspection (PSI) of imports had become riddled with corruption, and plagued by tax dodging and money laundering, depriving the country of huge amounts of revenue to an extent that the sheer scale of the abuse forced the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to cancel the license of PSI company Cotecna Inspection SA.

“It is not the first time Cotecna has run into problems with the NBR, which has already issued several warnings to the company and dealt out several crore taka worth of fines following probes into the Swiss group’s operations. Indeed the National Coordination Committee against Grievous Offences asked the Central Intelligence Cell of NBR to take legal action against Cotecna for its alleged illegal activities back in December last year.

“However, the stern action of today mocked NBR’s decision to award about 50 percent import areas to a relatively inexperienced company like Cotecna that has no offices in many of the main cities in countries of the blocks assigned to it– a major qualification for the PSI job.

“NBR turned to the PSI system against a backdrop of massive corruption and harassment by a significant section of customs people, but its major move failed to live up to expectation as irregularities started with awarding of first license to 3 companies, dividing countries of import in 3 blocks.”

Source:Ghanian Times

'Night of the Living Dead' creator George A. Romero dies at 77

Zombie movie maestro George A. Romero has died at age 77.

The Night of the Living Dead writer/director died Sunday in Toronto, his agent David Gersh confirmed to USA TODAY. Romero, who died from lung cancer, wrote on Facebook in May that he was fighting a respiratory infection that had grounded him from flying.

He died while listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his favorite films, with his wife Suzanne and daughter Tina by his side, his family said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The Los Angeles Times was first to report the news of his death. 

After developing a cult following with his small-budget 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, Romero put out plenty of zombie films, including Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985) and the more recent Land of the Dead (2005). 

When his first movie about undead flesh-eaters came out, "nobody wrote about it in any kind of context at all," Romero told USA TODAY in 2010. "If anyone wrote about it, it was to say, 'You need to control these crazy filmmakers! Look what they'll do!' "

Decades later, however, Romero found that his work overappreciated.

"People write their thesis about it," he said. "I don't think it deserves half of the treatises about it."

As Romero learned, his stories about the undead have become cultural touchstones that inspired many filmmakers. A number of fans took to social media Sunday to share their condolences.

"The world has lost a master," wrote Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder. "Thank you for the inspiration. You changed my life with your art. You will be missed."

"A true legend," tweeted The Big Sick writer/star Kumail Nanjiani. "Started a new genre on his own. Who else can claim that?"

"George, there will never be another like you," horror writer Stephen King tweeted.

"All the zombies owe him everything!" wrote Rob Zombie, the horror director and heavy metal musician.

"You made me want to make movies, and helped me to find meaning in monsters," tweeted James Gunn, the writer/director of Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians 2. "Thank you. I love you." 

Source:USATODAY.com

Trump campaign shoulders big legal bills as Russia probes rapidly expand

WASHINGTON — President Trump already has stockpiled nearly $12 million for his 2020 re-election campaign, but his spending on legal expenses is soaring as his administration deals with a rapidly expanding investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, documents released Saturday afternoon show.

Trump's campaign racked up more than $677,000 in "legal consulting" fees between April and June, more than twice the $249,000 he spent on legal bills during the first three months of his presidency, newly filed Federal Election Commission reports show.

Most of the legal expenses were tied to his longtime election law firm, Jones Day.

But the filings also show a nearly $90,000 payment for legal expenses to his company, the Trump Organization, and $50,000 payment on June 27 to the law firm of Alan Futerfas, the New York-based criminal attorney now representing Donald Trump Jr. 

The younger Trump is facing increased scrutiny over revelations that he met a Russian lawyer in the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign, believing that the Russian government had dirt to offer on Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton. 

Michael Glassner, the executive director of Trump's campaign, did not respond to requests for more information about the payment to Futerfas and whether it amounted to a plan to use campaign dollars for all of the younger Trump's future legal bills.

Futerfas did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the payment and its timing, and a White House official referred the question to the campaign.

Using donors' money to pay his son's legal bills "should be permissible," Washington election lawyer Ken Gross told USA TODAY, because the younger Trump's actions "were purportedly on behalf of the campaign."

New details have emerged in recent days about the meeting involving the president's son. On Friday, news broke that a Russian-American lobbyist who once served in the Soviet military also was part of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.

On Saturday, the president formally announced the addition of a veteran Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to his legal team at the White House. Cobb, a partner in the investigations practice at the Hogan Lovells firm is expected to oversee the White House's legal and media response to the Russia probes.

 

Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said if Trump campaign pays his son's legal expenses a key question will be whether it will underwrite the legal expenses related to the Russia investigation for other campaign staffers.

Big cash reserves

In all, Trump’s campaign spent more than $4.3 million during the April-to-June fundraising quarter. Nearly half the money went to “digital consulting” and “online advertising” conducted by Giles-Parscale, a Texas firm that oversaw Trump’s 2016 digital efforts.

(Brad Parscale, a firm owner and the campaign’s digital guru, announced Friday that he had accepted an invitation to testify before the House intelligence committee as it examines Russia’s election meddling. In a statement, Parscale said he was "unaware of any Russian involvement in the digital and data operations" of the Trump campaign.)

The campaign also spent more than $200,000 at Trump-owned properties during the three-month period covered by Saturday’s filings, including lodging expenses at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and rent to Trump Towers in New York, where his campaign is headquartered

Those earning salaries from the campaign include John Pence, the nephew of Vice President Pence, hired in January as the campaign’s deputy executive director. He’s earned $82,000 in the first six months of this year.

Still, the Trump political operation has big cash reserves.

In addition to the nearly $12 million Trump’s reelection campaign had stockpiled in the bank at the end of June, two other joint fundraising committees he shares with the Republican National Committee had a combined $10.6 million in leftover funds in their campaign accounts, Federal Election Commission filings show.

Those committees, Trump Victory and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, allow the Trump campaign operation to solicit six-figure checks. And the new filings show big donors gravitating to the president, who relied largely on small-dollar contributors to fuel his 2016 campaign.

Among the biggest donors: Lianbo Wang and Sherry Li, who gave a combined $600,000.

In recent years, Li has pushed a development project near the Catskills Mountains in New York initially described in media accounts as a Chinese Disneyland.

The project now is touted as a higher-education center, The Thompson Education Center, to be funded by wealthy Chinese individuals, who could ultimately earn permanent residency in the United States through their investments.

Among other six-figure contributors to the Trump campaign operation: Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who gave $100,000.

Source:USA today.com

Lonzo Ball leaves Lakers' Summer League playoff win with calf strain

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Lonzo Ball’s bid for a third straight triple-double was short-circuited by a calf injury. The lead he helped the Los Angeles Lakers build while he was in the game proved to be just enough to top Dennis Smith Jr. and the Dallas Mavericks.

Ball had 16 points and 10 assists in 21 minutes before leaving with a strained right calf, and the Lakers held on for a 108-98 victory in the Las Vegas Summer League semifinals on Sunday night.

Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points, Matt Thomas had 20 and Vander Blue added 17 to help the Lakers reach the championship game. They will face the Portland Trail Blazers, who beat Memphis 87-82 in the other semifinal, on Monday night.

Smith scored 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting for the Mavericks, who trailed by as many as 26 points in the second half before mounting a huge comeback in the fourth quarter. Yogi Ferrell added 15 points and Dorian Finney-Smith and Brandon Ashley each had 13.

The injury took a little of the edge away from an anticipated matchup of two rookie point guards who have excelled in Vegas. Ball was drafted second overall and Dennis Smith was taken ninth. Both have been cast as the future faces of their respective franchises, and both have made strong first impressions in summer league play.

The two went right at each other from the jump, combining to hit their first seven field goals in a back-and-forth affair.

The Lakers led by as many as 26 points before the Mavericks mounted a comeback, trimming the deficit to two with 2 minutes to play. Smith went right to the rim, using a little Euro-step to draw a foul.

But Thomas, who went 6 of 7 from 3-point range, hit a 3 on the other end and the Lakers were able to hold off the charge.

In the other game on Sunday night:

TRAIL BLAZERS 87, GRIZZLIES 82

Jarnell Stokes had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead Portland over Memphis in the first semifinal on Sunday night.

Caleb Swanigan continued his strong summer league with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who trailed by 16 points in the first half before rallying to overtake the Grizzlies in the second half.

Stokes got his NBA start with the Grizzlies, playing 19 games for Memphis in 2014-15 after he was acquired in a draft-night trade with Utah. The Grizzlies traded Stokes to Miami the following season in the deal that brought Mario Chalmers to Memphis. He played two games with the Nuggets last season.

Wayne Selden led the Grizzlies with 13 points in 22 minutes.

Jorge Gutierrez added 16 points and eight assists, including a pair of nifty, behind-the-back passes for easy layups, for the Grizzlies.

SOURCE:USATODAY

IRS warns tax professionals: 'Don't take the bait' from scammers

ID crooks and hackers are doing an end-run around you by targeting your tax pro with what the Internal Revenue Service is dubbing a phishing epidemic. 

According to the IRS, there were 177 tax professionals or firms that reported data thefts involving client information relating to thousands of tax filers from January through May.

The IRS said it is currently receiving three to five data theft reports a week from those who prepare taxes. Not all the data breaches involve phishing, of course.

But the IRS has spotted enough trouble that the agency is kicking off a 10-week campaign called Don't Take the Bait to educate tax professionals about the need for extra care.

Think about it: We hand all sorts of data over to our accountants and tax professionals each year. Bank account numbers for direct deposit information. Social Security numbers for our children. The names of the places where we bank or invest.

Tax files can hold all sorts of data that can easily be used by hackers or sold on the dark web. 

"Either they use it or they will sell it," said Luis D. Garcia, a spokesperson for the IRS In Detroit.

ID thieves, like other con artists, tend to do their homework to sound legitimate and quite convincing the first time they send a scam email, Garcia said.

Fraudsters can do research via social media and other sites to better craft their pitches. 

Joseph DeGennaro, tax director for Doeren Mayhew in Troy, said he recently attended a joint conference with the Internal Revenue Service and the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants. 

"And every topic segued into cybersecurity and identity theft issues. This is the main emphasis of the IRS today," DeGennaro said. 

Scams can vary. In some cases, an e-mail can be disguised to look like it is an alert from a tax client, a potential client or even a tax software vendor.

 

"They send you an e-mail and they say we have this tax software we'd like you to try. 'Please click here,'"  said Audrey M. Victor, senior manager and certified public accountant for Rehmann Robson in Troy.

By clicking here, though, you're often taking the first step to having some data compromised. 

What's interesting is that more people can open those links or attachments than you might expect.

The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report has warned that in general one in 14 users are tricked into opening a link or attachment from a phishing email. A quarter of the victims have been duped more than once. 

In some complex cases, it's possible to use tax form data and earlier invoices in a scam to get a business to wire money to con artists who are pretending to collect on another bill. 

In some cases, the ID thieves can send an e-mail, pretending to be the legitimate client, and request that their income tax refund be directly deposited into a different account. 

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said national and international cybercrime rings are targeting the tax professionals and businesses.

"We urge the tax professional community: Beware your inbox. Don't take the bait from these phishing scams," Koskinen said in a statement.

While tax professionals take protecting data seriously, Koskinen's statement indicated that many still "overlook basic security steps."

"Doing nothing or making a minimal effort is no longer an option," he said.

As part of its Security Summit program, the IRS and others in the tax industry are holding an educational series to focus on the need for added computer security and awareness to combat e-mail scams that begin simply enough with fraudsters identifying themselves as friends, customers or well-known companies. 

"Tax professionals must remember that they have not just an obligation, but a legal requirement under federal law to protect taxpayer information," the IRS said.

To promote security, the IRS has rolled out a 20-page booklet  — IRS Publication 4557 "Safeguarding Taxpayer Data." 

The checklist covers tips on how to put safeguards in place, train staff and make sure that the employee who leaves or is terminated returns laptops and other property that could allow access to taxpayer information.

Victor said tax professionals, including CPAs and enrolled agents, know it needs to be a top priority when it comes to making sure that a client's information remains confidential. 

"We understand we have highly sensitive information, and we do everything in our power to protect it," Victor said. 

In some cases, tax professionals work to educate clients, as well, about how to use the e-mail system to exchange data safely. The IRS checklist, for example, notes that it's important to encrypt taxpayer information when attached to e-mail and require periodic password changes. 

Other scams target employers and payroll service providers who have large stacks of W-2 data. Fraudsters want to engineer a massive theft of sensitive personal data that can be used by criminals or sold on the black market to craft fraudulent tax returns and commit other ID-related crimes.

When it comes to seek W-2 data bases, the phishing e-mail can look like it's from the top brass at a company, such as the owner of the business or the chief financial officer.

But seriously — would the CEO really be requesting a list of employees and information including Social Security numbers? In many cases, employees just naturally respond too quickly to any e-mail if it looks like it's from the boss. 

SOURCE:USATODAY.COM

Report points to trouble for auto industry

DETROIT -- Automakers face a perilous road over the next 10 years as they place multibillion-dollar bets on the development of self-driving vehicles and other new technology, a new study finds.

 

A survey of 1,000 drivers in 10 key markets conducted by AlixPartners reveals consumers are not yet aware of the work that companies such as Ford and General Motors are doing to develop self-driving cars and might not trust them when they do launch new vehicles.

The auto industry must grapple with what form of driverless technology it is going to develop and how soon to deploy it.

What’s more, automakers are going up against technology companies that sometimes have more cash at their disposal to spend on product development. 

“There are more than 50 ... companies that are trying to develop an autonomous vehicle system ... and a lot of them are wasting money right now,” said Mark Wakefield, a partner with AlixPartners, a global consulting firm based in Southfield. “You really have to step back and recognize they are not all going to be successful.”

 

Consumers are more aware of self-driving car technology from Google and Tesla than any traditional automaker.

In the survey, when drivers were asked to name a company with self-driving car technology, 55% of respondents named Tesla and 20% named Google but only 12% could name a traditional automaker.

Equally troubling: Consumers trust Silicon Valley more on autonomous vehicle software than automakers. Among those surveyed, 41% said they would trust a Silicon Valley company the most for autonomous vehicle software while only 16% said they would trust a traditional Detroit manufacturer the most.

"That doesn’t mean you don’t participate" in the development of self-driving cars, Wakefield said. "You have to be humble in one sense about knowing what your capabilities are but also, at the same time, move fast."

Automakers and suppliers that move too slowly could be left out of one of the most fundamental changes in the auto industry in decades.

 

Wakefield said the smart automotive and technology companies will form partnerships to spread out both the costs and the risk of making the wrong choices. 

“Things are changing so quickly that it’s risky to commit billions to technologies that lock you in or partnerships that lock you in,” Wakefield said.

The smartest strategy for automakers is to develop partnerships with suppliers and technology companies to spread out the risk and development cost.

And that has been happening. Troy, Mich.-based Delphi has either acquired or invested in a number of companies over the past two years as it has expanded its autonomous vehicle technology.

Ford earlier this year acquired a majority interest in Argo AI, which is developing the software that will operate the Dearborn, Mich., automaker's self-driving car.

And GM spent $581 million last year to acquire Cruise Automation, a Silicon Valley start-up that is developing self-driving software for the Detroit automaker.

SOURCE:USA TODAY

Trust, but verify: Keep an eye on your college kid’s spending

When you’re a parent shipping a kid off to college, it’s hard not to worry about every possible financial mishap, for example: is money that was meant for textbooks paying for a music festival ticket? But there are ways to ensure students are making the right financial decisions without hovering over them.

Joint bank account

Setting up a joint checking or savings account means parents and students have access to money in the account and can see all transactions.

In addition to tracking account activity online, parents can sign up for text or email alerts when their student’s balance falls below a specified amount, for example, or when large purchases are made.

A joint account offers a bonus, too: Transferring money from a parent’s separate bank account is easy, particularly if all accounts are at the same bank.

Be aware that parents who co-own accounts can be held responsible for overdrawn balances, regardless of who spent the money. Americans ages 18 to 25 incur overdrafts more than any other age group, according to a NerdWallet study, so parents have an incentive to make sure their kids don’t spend more than what’s in the account.

Joint credit card or authorized user

Getting a joint credit card or adding a student as an authorized user on a credit card is another way for parents to keep track of spending, says Winnie Sun, a financial adviser in Irvine, Calif.

Just as with joint bank accounts, having a joint credit card means a parent can check transactions. Most credit card companies, Sun says, also offer text or email alerts for out-of-the-ordinary activity like big purchases or when balances approach the card’s limit. Parents can ensure their student stays on top of payment due dates, which if missed can bring down the parent’s score.

New options

If these traditional methods of sharing funds don’t fit your needs, financial services companies offer alternatives.

Companies like Greenlight have released reloadable cards that can be used like debit cards — but only for stores preapproved by the card’s primary account holder. Parents can make sure the $500 earmarked for textbooks, for example, is spent only at the campus bookstore, says Greenlight CEO Tim Sheehan. Some companies allow account holders to block categories of purchases, such as alcohol, in addition to individual merchants.

 

Though it could be nerve-wracking watching your student stumble through adulthood for the first time, methods like these will show if he or she can be financially responsible. “At some point, you’re going to have to release the reins and let them go,” Sun says. “If you raised them properly, you’ve got to trust yourself, too.”

Source: USA TODAY

Garbine Muguruza overpowers Venus Williams to win first Wimbledon title

Wimbledon (CNN)Trading blows from the baseline with Garbine Muguruza with two set points in hand to clinch the first set, it looked like Venus Williams was on the way to a historic sixth Wimbledon crown.

Then, with Muguruza serving to stay in the first set at 5-4 down, came a 19-shot rally that changed everything.
illiams lost it as she dumped a forehand into the net, and was never the same player again.
 
 
It was all Muguruza after that, taking nine straight games to win her first Wimbledon crown, 7-5 6-0, and become the first player in history to defeat both Williams sisters in grand slam finals.
What looked like a classic Wimbledon final after the first set turned into an anti-climax when Muguruza won the second, and the championship, 6-0 in 26 minutes on a challenge in front of a stunned Centre Court crowd.
"It was my hardest match today," said Muguruza, as former Spanish king Juan Carlos watched from the royal box. "I grew up watching her play."

Emotional rollercoaster

Williams' stunning collapse in the second set capped an emotional few weeks for the former top-ranked American, who had been involved in a car crash last month at home in Florida in which a man eventually died.
On July 8, Florida police said a newly surfaced video showed Williams "was acting lawfully" when she steered her car into a crossing before the fatal collision with another car on June 9, the Reuters news agency reported at the time.
"I try to do the same things you do, but I think there will be other opportunities" Venus said at the trophy ceremony, when asked if she missed her sister and last year's winner, Serena Williams, who is at home awaiting the birth of her first child.

French heartbreak

Muguruza's triumph comes two years after she lost to Serena in her maiden grand slam finals at the All England Club.
Six weeks ago, Muguruza crashed out of the French Open in tears, losing her Roland Garros crown in front of a hostile crowd rooting for her opponent and not many people would have bet on her winning the title on the Wimbledon grass.
For her temporary coach, Conchita Martinez, it must have been a case of deja-vu. In 1994, Martinez spoiled the party for Martina Navratilova, who had been trying to win her tenth Wimbledon crown at the age of 37.
"She just told me to go out there and forget about all of this," Muguruza said in a news conference. "Try to think it's another match."
With Muguruza's traveling coach, Sam Sumyk, absent from Wimbledon, Spanish Fed Cup captain Martinez had guided her at the All England Club.
It appeared Martinez had a calming influence on the 14th-seeded Spaniard, one of the game's hardest hitters who is capable of beating anyone when she in full flow but had struggled with pressure since winning her first major at the French Open last year.
When Muguruza was dethroned in the fourth round of the French Open in a tempestuous match against by France's Kristina Mladenovic, not many experts would have expected her to recover this quickly.
But her confidence increased with each round won and, after beating women's top seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round in a thrilling encounter, Muguruza started to believe.

Missed opportunities

Williams had started off the final with an ace and easily held with a blistering forehand down the line, as the sound of her shots reverberated under the roof of Centre Court on a rainy day in southwest London.
Playing in her first final since she won Roland Garros last year, Muguruza started nervously as she produced a double fault in her first service game.
With both women playing first-strike tennis, Williams stood slightly closer to the baseline, thumping winners as she held to love for a 3-2 lead and then set up her first break point with a forehand passing at full stretch in the next game.
But she was unable to convert it, dumping a forehand into the net, and Muguruza ended up holding.
In the next game, Williams held despite serving three double faults, saving a break point with a 106 miles-per-hour second serve.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-4 down, Muguruza gifted Williams two set points with a couple of forehand errors.
 
Targeting her opponent's forehand relentlessly, Williams failed to take the first set point as she put a forehand into the net after the longest rally of the match at 19 shots.
After Muguruza saved the second set point with a huge serve, she held with an error and all of a sudden, Williams started to look vulnerable.
"Definitely would have loved to have converted some of those points," Williams, who made 25 unforced errors, said in a news conference. "But she competed really well. So credit to her. She just dug in there and managed to play better."
Completely losing her way on the forehand, Williams, who had been diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren's syndrome in 2011, got broken on the second break point with a wayward forehand that sailed over the baseline.
Serving for the set at 6-5, Muguruza set up two set points with a defensive backhand lob that seemed to go out. Williams chased it, but then let it go, and saw it land on the baseline.
"Vamos!" shooted Martinez from the players' box.
Muguruza missed the first set point as Williams drilled a forehand she failed to control, but took the first set when the American hit her 15th unforced error of the match.
"When I had those set points against me, I'm like, Hey, it's normal, I'm playing Venus here," Muguruza said. "So I just keep fighting. And I knew that if I was playing like I was playing during the two weeks, I was going to have eventually an opportunity. So I was calm. If I lose the first set, I still have two more. Let's not make a drama."

"Not ideal"

The momentum now completely with the Spaniard, she went up a double break in the second set as Williams struggled to find her range and sunk to the grass, holding her head in her hands after she crossed the finish line on a challenge.
"Not an ideal scoreline," said Williams about losing her first set to love at Wimbledon in 20 appearances.
"Very satisfied because I never knew how it was going to go because I was very nervous," Muguruza said. "I wanted it to go my way. I was doing everything I could to be prepared. Once you step on the court, you see the crowd, you see the final, you see I'm here playing another Wimbledon final. So very satisfied the way I handled it."

Williams believes

As for Williams, also a losing finalist to her sister in Australia in January, she will leave Wimbledon in the knowledge she is back in the mix when it comes to playing for the sport's biggest titles.
The US Open starts at the end of August, and there is no reason to think she won't be competing for the trophy once again.

"I'm in good form," she said. "I've been in a position a lot of times this year to contend for big titles. That's the kind of position I want to keep putting myself in. It's just about getting over the line. I believe I can do that."

SOURCE; CNN

In Somali drought, women fighting sexual predators as well as hunger

(CNN)With more than a third of Somalia's population now facing starvation, new statistics show that in addition to hunger, many women in Somalia are at risk for being raped.

The reported cases of rape and sexual violence in drought-affected areas are on the rise, in what UNICEF calls another troubling consequence of the crisis.
 
 
Between November and March, UNICEF and partners responded to about 300 cases of rape, sexual assault and gender related violence on average each month. In June, however, the number tripled, with 909 reported cases. So far, that's the highest number of reported cases in a single month in 2017.
"Gender-based violence was an issue before the current drought in Somalia, but we see with the current drought the way it has increased," says Jean Lokenga, head of UNICEF Child Protection in Somalia.
Many people in Somalia have been displaced because of the drought, forced to look for food and resources elsewhere as a means of survival. As of last November, the number of displaced people in Somalia has surpassed 700,000.
According to Lokenga, displacement means women travel long distances to find food and other necessities in towns such as Mogadishu or Baidoa.
Traveling and in some cases, lack of a permanent residence, make them vulnerable to gender-based violence, even from the people meant to protect them during a time of food insecurity.
"There's a wide range of perpetrators," says Lokenga. "Some of them are community members unfortunately. But beyond some members of the community, we have cases of people who come with arms at checkpoints or around the IDP site where there are not police, and people are vulnerable to these kinds of abuses."
And the number of sexual assault and rape cases reported is not actually indicative of the full scope of violence Somali women are facing, according to UNICEF officials. These reported cases only represent the women who were able and willing to access medical help and other assistance.
"They need to treat cases of gender-based violence in a way that encourages people to continue reporting cases," says Lokenga.
But the trend isn't just isolated to Somalia. The International Rescue Committee recently published a report showing a correlation between prolonged drought and more gender based violence in Northern Kenya as well.

Sexual violence also on the rise in Northern Kenya

Along with the rising incidence of gender-based violence in northern Kenya, there is an increasing number of women and girls engaging in transactional sex.
"Since the the drought, we've seen in an increase in girls and women engages in sex work as a means of survival," says Mercy Lwambi, IRC Women's' Protection and Empowerment Manager for Kenya.
The IRC has been working working to mitigate the violence. During one night in Feburary, Lwambi and the IRC team working in northwest Kenya picked up on 320 sex workers in a single area. She says the large amount of sex workers boils down to the consequences of drought and food insecurity that is so prevalent, it affects 2.6 million people in the region.
"The figures are way higher than what we were seeing before," says Lwandi.
Through IRC assessments and Lwambi's work to remedy the effects of prolonged drought, she's found that girls as young as 9 years old are engaging in transactional sex to provide food for themselves and their families.
"Some of the girls are marginalized, they don't have an education. We find that most of the are responsible for their family members of head of their household. They need to eat, they need to live, they need to send food back home, so most of them engage in sex work, " says Lwambi.
Some girls accept as little as 50 shillings (USD $.50) for sex if it means they can continue to provide for their families. But often times, says Lwambi, because these girls are so young, clients often won't pay them as promised or they beat them when they ask for payment.
Before funding cuts in 2016, the IRC worked with the Kenya Ministry of Health to provide resources and care for 10,000 people, including those affected by GBV and the female sex worker population. Funding cuts reduced the IRC's capacity to continue some of its programs and services in the area, with devastating effects for the population during prolonged drought.
Transactional sex and incidences of violence against women have only increased.
Funding cuts, says Lwambi have overall reduced IRC's capacity to operate in the area and help the extremely vulnerable people in the country needing it most.
Between 2010 and 2012. famine in Somalia killed roughly 258,000 people, according to joint report by the United Nations and the United States Agency for International Development.
Source:CNN

Beyoncé debuts newborn twins Sir and Rumi

(CNN)Forgive the Beyhive if they are tired on Friday.

Overnight, Beyoncé debuted the long awaited photo of her newborn twins on her official Instagram account.
Naturally, it was glorious.
 
 
The photo was just what we have come to expect from the superstar.
It featured Queen Bey cradling her babies while swathed in fabric including a blue veil. She is posed before a stand of flowers with the ocean in the background. The image is similar to ones she posted to announce her pregnancy in February.
If you are wondering how followers were so quick to respond, many of them set their Instagram accounts to receive notifications the minute Beyoncé posted anything.
Yes, it's that serious.
Beyoncé's mother, Tina Lawson, confirmed via social media that the twins are a boy and a girl -- a fact that had been widely reported but not confirmed by the parents.
"So Happy my baby shared a photo of her babies with the world," Lawson wrote on her Instagram account. "Proud grandma hello Sir Carter and Rumi Carter. Boy and girl what a blessing."
 
SOURCE:CNN

'Astounding' second-chance cancer drug heading for FDA approval

(CNN)A new gene therapy drug, the first in its class, was recommended for approval to the US Food and Drug Administration by an advisory committee on Wednesday. If approved by the FDA, the agency would consider it the first gene therapy to hit the market.

The drug may provide a second chance to some leukemia patients whose first-line drugs have failed.
A panel of experts voted to endorse the immunotherapy drug, known as tisagenlecleucel, which treats a type of leukemia that is more common among children. Ten committee members voted in favor, and one left early without voting. None voted against.
The drug enables patients' own immune cells to recognize and kill the source of the cancer: a different immune cell gone awry.
"Which one wins is really the question of life or death," said Dr. Catherine Diefenbach, clinical director of lymphoma at the NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center. Diefenbach, who was not involved in researching the drug and has no ties to its manufacturer, Novartis, described its results as "astounding."
The research presented to the committee studied the drug as a treatment for the relapse of a blood cancer known as B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. This is the most common type of cancer among children, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Nearly 5,000 people were diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2014, the most recent year on record, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although more than half of those with this diagnosis were children and teens, they represented only 14% of those who died that year.
The vast majority of people with ALL recover through other treatments, including chemo, radiation and stem-cell transplantation. But if the cancer comes back, the prognosis can be dire.
"The patients who are left behind when chemotherapy doesn't work are left in really tough shape," Dr. Stephan Grupp, director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, said Wednesday at the FDA advisory committee's meeting. His hospital is one of 26 clinical centers that participated in the study, and he served as the lead investigator there. As such, he has studied and treated patients with tisagenlecleucel for over five years and receives research support from Novartis.
But the drug has side effects that can be fatal, such as cytokine release syndrome or CRS, which "looks like sepsis" and causes blood pressure to drop dangerously low, said Diefenbach. This could limit the drug's availability to those hospitals that are specially equipped to deal with this complication, she added.
In this pivotal study informing the committee's decision, roughly half of 68 patients receiving the drug experienced high-grade CRS, though none died from it.
Slightly fewer patients experienced neurological side effects, such as seizures and hallucinations, according to the committee's briefing document.
And because the treatment kills one type of immune cell, patients are more likely to come down with certain infections. At least three patients died with various infections -- including viral, bacterial and fungal -- more than a month after the drug's one-time infusion, according to the brief.
But the overall effectiveness of the drug and the lack of other options seem to have won the committee over: Based on the available data, patients had an 89% chance of surviving at least six months and a 79% chance of surviving one year or more, with the majority being relapse-free at that point.
"They're taking some people that had uncurable diseases and potentially turning them into curable diseases," said Dr. Joshua Brody, director of the Lymphoma Immunotherapy Program at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine. Brody has helped design trials for similar drugs but not for Novartis.
Tisagenlecleucel is a type of immunotherapy called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR-T.
CAR-T drugs like tisagenlecleucel are made by removing immune cells from a patient, genetically modifying them using a virus and putting them back into the patient. The virus creates a new cell receptor -- which is, in Novartis' case, part mouse -- that targets another receptor on the cancer cells: CD19. This modification of the cells causes them to attack the cancer cells.
By modifying immune cell DNA, this method could, in theory, lead to other cancers -- a longtime concern for gene therapy. But researchers have found no cases of this happening with the CAR-T treatment so far. Brody said it could take decades to conclusively say this does not happen.
"We've never seen this theoretical thing," Brody said, arguing that the chance of any adverse event happening is certainly smaller than the certain death of relapsed cancer. "It's not an opinion. This is straightforward numbers."
Brody said personalized immunotherapy treatments like this one require that patients use their own immune cells because they would "almost never (find) a match" in an off-the-shelf product.
"You can put someone else's red blood cells into you," he said. "You can almost never put someone's (immune) cells into you."
"This therapy will no doubt save the lives of many children and young adults who have had no other effective therapy," said Dr. John Maris, a pediatric oncologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and leader of the SU2C-St. Baldrick's Pediatric Cancer Dream Team. "This is truly a turning point in the management of this disease."
Kite Pharmaceuticals has another CAR-T drug up for FDA priority review for the treatment of lymphoma.
The Novartis drug would not be the only FDA-approved drug to target CD19; Amgen's blinatumomab treats ALL using this target, but "it's overall not quite as good" as the data coming out of the Novartis trials, Brody said.
The FDA previously approved Amgen's T-VEC, which injects a modified herpesvirus into melanoma cells, causing them to rupture. The same goes for personalized immunotherapy: Dendreon's Provenge was FDA-approved to treat prostate cancer in 2010, for example.
Novartis refers to the drug as immunotherapy, not gene therapy. The FDA, however, would classify it as gene therapy.
The FDA does not have to follow the recommendation of their advisory committees, although it often does. The agency declined to comment on when it would issue a final decision on the committee's recommendation. Novartis expects the FDA to make a final decision by October but declined to comment on
SOURCE:CNN

Kenya elections one of the most expensive in the world - reports

Kenya is feeling the strain of funding possibly the second most expensive election in the world in the face of falling revenues, public sector wage pressures and emergency spending following a prolonged drought, the country’s Daily Nation reports.

The paper reports that Kenya’s treasury will be forced to cut spending in critical sectors and divert resources from others, with infrastructure projects that the government is touting in its re-election bid the most likely to be sacrificed.

Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge said higher salary demands by striking nurses and lecturers, security interventions in Somalia and preparations for the General Election posed a risk to public sector operations in the current financial year.

“The General Election could create uncertainty that would weaken both foreign and local investor confidence and slow down projected growth of the economy,” the treasury boss is quotes as saying.

A Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Report released last week shows that up to KSh49.9 billion ($499 million) has been allocated for the election, with KSh5.3 billion ($53 million) going to election-related security operations such as policing 23 counties that the intelligence service has identified as potential hotspots for election violence.

In East Africa, Rwanda is expected to have the most cost-effective election, with the electoral body expected to spend $6.9 million for the 6.8 million voters or $1.05 per voter on average, the Daily Nation further reports.

That will be an improvement over the $1.71 per voter spent in 2010.

In contrast, Kenya’s average cost for the August 8 polls reflects an increase of more than half on the 2013 elections and is a quarter more expensive than in 2007.

The cost of the election in Uganda last year was $4 per voter compared with $5.16 per voter in Tanzania in 2015.

SOURCE:AFRICANEWS.COM

Minister warns against producing Nigerian movies, music videos abroad

Nigeria’s information minister has warned against the production of music videos and films outside the country.

Lai Mohammed said over the weekend that the government cannot allow Nigerians to produce local content in foreign countries which inversely affects the local job market.

“This government has agreed that henceforth, whatever we consume in Nigeria in terms of music and films, must be made in Nigeria,” he said during a visit to the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON).

“We cannot continue to go to South Africa or any other country to produce our films and then send them back to be consumed in Nigeria … It is like somebody going to China or Japan to make a product that looks like palm wine and bring it back home to label it Nigerian palm wine,” he added.

We cannot continue to go to South Africa or any other country to produce our films ... It is like somebody going to China or Japan to make a product that looks like palm wine and bring it back home to label it Nigerian palm wine.

The minister remarked that the action of artistes is a breach of the country’s broadcasting code that classifies content to be Nigerian when a percentage is produced in the country.

He advised that if the content is produced locally, Nigerians will get jobs and the money spent in foreign economies will remain locally to develop the country.

Lai Mohammed indicated that there will be an amendment to the broadcasting code to stop the phenomenon, while the government prepares a proposal to promote the creative industry.

Nigerian artistes and the public have expressed strong reactions towards the minister’s pronouncement.

Peter Okoye, one half of the popular Nigerian music duo P-Square said he is sometimes “ashamed to be a Nigerian”.

He tweeted in Nigerian pidgin that the entertainers “cover the shame” of the government which has been “failing the people since 1960”.

SOURCE:AFRICANEWS.COM

WATCH LIVE: OJ Simpson says he has lived 'conflict-free life' at parole hearing

A gray-haired O.J. Simpson went before a Nevada parole board Thursday, telling them he "had no weapon" and "didn't threaten" anyone in a 2007 Las Vegas hotel room memorabilia heist.

In a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star, he said he is "no danger to a pull a gun on anybody. I never have in my life."

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Simpson also said he’s never made any excuses during his years in prison, but he wishes he had not brought two “security” men along as he attempted to retrieve sports collectibles he says were stolen from him a decade earlier. The encounter led to his conviction on armed robbery. One of the companions had a gun, and Simpson told the board he only found out about the gun afterward.

Simpson, who avoided a murder conviction in the "Trial of the Century" in 1995, also said he has lived a "conflict-free life." He claims he has often mediated conflicts among inmates at Nevada's Lovelock Correctional Facility and learned much from an alternative-to-violence class.

Simpson, now 70, has spent more than eight years in prison and is eligible to get out as early at Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year armed-robbery sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia he claimed had been stolen from him.

"I've done my time," he said plainly.

Simpson's daughter, Arnelle Simpson, said his family know he's not perfect, but he has been a model inmate and is remorseful.

The hearing began with a series of basic questions about Simpson's background and a lighthearted moment when Nevada Board of Parole Commissioner Connie Bisbee asked Simpson to confirm that he recently turned 90 years old.

"I feel like it," Simpson said as the crowd burst into laughter.

"You look great for 90!" Bisbee responded.

Appearing as inmate No. 1027820, Simpson is dressed in blue jeans and a blue button-down shirt in the stark hearing room at Lovelock.

 
 
 

The robbery was a new low for Simpson, whose celebrity spanned sports, movies, television and advertising before his fall from grace during his highly publicized murder trial in 1995.

Simpson was found not guilty in the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. In 1997, he was found liable in civil court for the deaths and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors including his children and the Goldman family

The Goldmans believe Simpson got away with murder in Los Angeles, and many people felt the stiff sentence handed down in Las Vegas wasn’t just about the robbery.

A Goldman family spokesman said Ron Goldman’s father and sister, Fred and Kim, won’t be part of Simpson’s parole hearing but feel apprehensive about “how this will change their lives again should Simpson be released.”

Cavaliers finalizing one-year contract with Derrick Rose

After one tumultuous season with the New York Knicks, former NBA MVP Derrick Rose is finalizing a one-year agreement with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

The person requested anonymity because the deal wasn't announced publicly.

The one-year deal is for the veteran's minimum at $2.1 million.

Rose's signing comes on the heels of last week's possibly landscape-altering news that Kyrie Irving told Cavs management he was seeking a trade out of Cleveland.

If the Cavs follow through on Irving's request, Rose gives the team insurance in the backcourt. Rose would also get the chance to be an immediate starter on a title-contending team. If the Cavs don't trade Irving, Rose provides upgraded backcourt depth.

The Lakers were also pursuing Rose despite selecting point guard Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in last month's draft.

Shortly after news of Rose's contract broke, LeBron James weighed in on social media.

Rose, who averaged 18.0 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 64 games for the Knicks, had his season cut short after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee late in the year.

Though injuries ultimately undermined Rose's time with the Chicago Bulls prior to last season, he at times showed glimpses of the athleticism that made him the 2010-11 MVP.

His 47% field goal percentage was his highest since 2009-10, and he still consistently showed the speed and ability to get to the rim.

The Vertical first reported Rose's deal.

Source:USA Today

Mike Tyson is positive that Conor McGregor is 'going to get killed boxing' Floyd Mayweather

The “world tour” is over, and we’re now closing in on a month until Conor McGregor’s Aug. 26 fight against Floyd Mayweather.

 
 
 
 
 

By now, most of the boxing world has weighed in on the fight. Very few think McGregor, who has never boxed professionally, has any chance of handing Mayweather the first loss of his career.

We can count Mike Tyson in with that crowd.

Tyson blasted the fight itself and McGregor — referring to the UFC star as “McConor” on two occasions. Tyson said in an appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast:

“McGregor is going to get killed boxing. I got mad because I thought they were going to use MMA rules against boxing because that’s what it’s all about: Can the boxer beat the MMA guy? McConor put his (expletive) in a position where he’s gonna get knocked out because this guy’s been doing this all his life since he was a baby. McConor can’t kick and grab and stuff so he won’t stand much of a chance.”

And well, Tyson is going to be right.

Mayweather has been boxing his entire life. He’s arguably the best boxer of this generation, and McGregor has no experience as a professional boxer. He talked his way into the fight, and he continued to talk his way around Mayweather in the world tour.

No amount of criticism will change the fact that both fighters will cash in on a ridiculous pay day, and millions will watch this fight. That’s why this fight is happening.

Source:USA Today

Your financial adviser will lose some of your money. Here's what to do.

Losing money when investing is as inevitable as death and taxes. Those who immediately fire their advisers for incurring such losses will never be satisfied.

I’m referring to short-term losses, over periods as long as a year, if not more. Even advisers with the very best long-term records regularly lose money in many calendar years along the way.

That sobering truth was confirmed by a recent Hulbert Financial Digest study of the more than 1,000 newsletter model portfolios whose performances it has audited over the last four decades. The study focused on just the small minority of these portfolios that beat the Standard & Poor's 500 index over any 20-year period since 1980. It found that, on average, these market beaters still lost money in 1 of every 4 years and lagged the S&P 500 in 1 of every 2 years.

And remember that these statistics apply to the very best advisers. Others did even worse.

You might object that losses aren’t inevitable for an adviser who always recommends money markets or short-term bond funds. But such an adviser will pay a high price for doing so, since he will lag the stock market in the majority of calendar years. None of the 1000-plus portfolios in the Hulbert Financial Digest database has come close to beating the stock market in every single year.

Another objection I often hear is that the investment newsletter industry is unrepresentative of Wall Street’s professional money managers, who presumably really know what they’re doing. But at least in regards to the frequency of short-term losses and market-lagging returns, those managers do no better.

 

Consider a study conducted several years ago by Brandes Investment Partners, a money management firm based in San Diego. The study analyzed actively-managed U.S. equity mutual funds in the Morningstar database that had beaten the S&P 500 over a 10-year period. It found that “all of them underperformed the Index substantially during shorter periods within the decade.”

 

Even Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and considered the most successful investor alive today, has suffered numerous bouts of short-term market-lagging returns. The book value of his firm has lagged the S&P 500 in nine of the last 20 calendar years, for example, a proportion that is virtually identical to what was found among the best investment newsletters.

Clearly, then, you shouldn’t use short-term losses or market-lagging returns as the basis for firing your investment adviser. Most investors who nevertheless do so compound their error by switching from the adviser at the bottom of the short-term performance scoreboards to the one at the top. The folly of that approach is illustrated by the awful performance of a strategy that, each year for the last four decades, invested in the top performing investment newsletter portfolio from the previous calendar year. This investor would have lost more than 90%, according to the Hulbert Financial Digest.

 

Clearly, we need to shift our focus away from the short-term winners and losers towards those who beat the market over the very long term. Though there is no magical minimum threshold for how many years this long term should encompass, I recommend to clients that it be at least 15 years.

Once you have chosen an adviser, be sure to stick with him even if he lags the market over a year or two, or even loses money. The rule of thumb I recommend: Fire your adviser only when you would no longer choose him if you were to freshly reapply the same criteria that led you to choose him in the first place. For example, if you chose an adviser because he beat the market over the trailing 15 years, then you’d fire him only if he no longer was ahead of the market over the trailing 15 years. That’s unlikely to be the case even after a couple years of disappointing performance.

That seems like a lot to ask, and it is. But the alternative is guaranteed to lead to long-term market-lagging returns, if not outright losses.

Source:USA Today

The importance of bigger earnings for stock funds

NEW YORK — This earnings season is off to a good start, and the encouraging run is expected to keep going.

Instead of excitement, though, the reaction so far from Wall Street has been more like quiet relief, and funds that track the broad stock market have only edged higher since earnings reports began arriving in earnest last week. That's because the strong reports that are forecast would be more a justification for the big moves that stock prices have already made rather than reason for further gains.

Stock prices have risen more quickly than earnings in recent years, and the two tend to track with each other over the long term. Stocks even rose when profits were shrinking from mid-2015 into 2016, which has the market at more expensive levels relative to corporate profits.

Stock prices for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index are trading at close to 21 times their earnings per share over the last 12 months, for example. That's well above their average price-earnings ratio of 15.5 over the last 10 years, a period that includes both the Great Recession and the long run-up for stocks following it.

Of course, interest rates are still low, and investors are willing to pay a higher price for each dollar of earnings in stocks when bonds are offering small yields. But rates are expected to continue climbing modestly, as the Federal Reserve raises short-term interest rates and begins paring back its massive trove of bond investments.

So, depending on how high interest rates climb and other factors, corporate earnings may need to keep rising just to keep stock prices where they are today. This reporting season, analysts are expecting S&P 500 companies to report a roughly 6% rise in earnings per share from a year earlier. That would be less than half the growth rate of the first three months of the year, but the slowdown is understandable given that the first quarter's growth rate was the fastest since 2011.

Among the trends to watch for as companies report how they did from April through June:

 

Globalists glitter

Coming into this year, many expected President Donald Trump's "America First" policies to mean companies that do most of their business at home would be the biggest winners.

But the companies that get most of their sales from abroad may end up this earning season's stars, now that Europe and developing economies around the world are showing more life after years of disappointment.

Those economic upturns, coupled with a weakening dollar, spell stronger results for companies that sell a lot to customers in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. The euro has climbed about 10% against the dollar this year, for example, which means that each euro of sales at the Apple store in Amsterdam is worth more dollars than before.

Like Apple, the technology sector broadly gets most of its revenue from outside the United States, and analysts expect tech stocks to report the second-strongest earnings growth of the 11 sectors that make up the index, at nearly 11%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Oil is a wild card

The strongest growth this reporting season is expected to come from the energy sector, where analysts say profits more than quadrupled from a year earlier.

Energy is the only area of the market that's more international than technology in terms of where it gets its revenue, but the biggest factor is the higher price of oil. After plunging below $30 per barrel early last year, crude has remained between $45 and $55 for much of this year.

It's easier to make outlandish percentage gains when coming off a small base, and energy companies' profits were decimated by oil's fall from more than $100 per barrel in 2014.

But crude's price still isn't stable. During June, it dropped as low as $42.05 on expectations that the world still has more oil than it needs. Analysts have already pulled down their earnings expectations as a result, but did they do so by enough? And if oil's price remains volatile, it could have a big impact on energy companies' earnings for the second half of the year.

Outlook is key

For stocks to rise any more from their already lofty levels, companies will need to keep pumping out further earnings gains, even after this reporting season closes.

For the most part, that's what analysts expect to happen. The U.S. economy continues to muddle along with modest growth, while other economies are accelerating.

Companies, meanwhile, have slashed their costs and are able to hold onto more of each dollar in revenue as profit.

Corporate CEOs will offer their own clues for where they see profits heading for the rest of the year when they release their second-quarter results. Many are forecasting further gains, though they have ratcheted back their expectations for how much of a boost they may get from a potential tax cut or other changes from Washington.

Source:USA Today

Rihanna is red-hot at the 'Valerian' premiere in London

If the reviews are bad and you've still got press left to do, fly Rihanna in.

The Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets star lit up the red carpet of the film's European premiere in London Monday night, looking ravishing in a cleavage-baring, scarlet Giambattista Valli Couture gown.

She matched the look with stunning ruby earrings and deep red lipstick.

Later, Rihanna posed with co-star Cara Delevingne, her fave red carpet BFF as of late. 

The style stars' appearance in Leicester Square was a welcome break from the U.S. headlines, which declared the sci-fi epic a massive bomb. Valerian pulled in just $17 million in its opening weekend against a hefty $180 million budget.

Source:USA Today

John McCain to return to Senate Tuesday for health care vote

(CNN)Sen. John McCain, recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, will make a dramatic return to the Senate Tuesday to cast a critical vote on health care legislation.

McCain's office announced Monday night that he would return Tuesday -- a surprise to most in Washington who expected him to miss the crucial vote and return to Washington at a later date.
McCain is expected to get GOP leadership one vote closer to beginning debate on health care legislation, which is on the verge of collapsing.
 
 
"Senator McCain looks forward to returning to the United States Senate tomorrow to continue working on important legislation, including health care reform, the National Defense Authorization Act, and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea," his office said in a statement.
The Arizona Republican underwent brain surgery earlier this month and announced last week he has been diagnosed with brain cancer.
But McCain's return hardly guarantees leadership will be able to advance a health care bill now. It helps, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still needs at least 50 votes to start debate on overhauling Obamacare, and can only lose two votes from his 52-member conference. Already, Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, has expressed deep concerns about the motion to proceed. And several other senators including Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dean Heller of Nevada and more remain undecided as of Monday night.
Adding to the suspense of Tuesday is the fact that leaders have yet to lay out exactly what will come next after members vote to begin debate on their health care bill. Republicans will vote to begin debate on the House-passed legislation Tuesday, but GOP members are still waiting on what their leadership plans to do after that.
Some lawmakers have said their vote to advance the health care bill Tuesday is contingent on them approving on the steps that come next.
"I'm not blindly voting," Paul told reporters Monday.
"I would like to know more as I'm sure all of you would too," Murkowski said when she was asked about where she stood on voting to advance a health care bill.
The original plan was for members to find an agreement on a Senate repeal and replace bill before the motion to proceed vote, but after two different versions were released, there still wasn't consensus on a proposal. Leadership entertained the idea last week of bringing up a repeal-only bill that the Senate voted on in 2015, but President Donald Trump made it clear he preferred senators find a path forward on simultaneously repealing and replacing Obamacare instead.
Republicans are expected to huddle for the GOP lunch Tuesday afternoon and get more information on next steps.
One thing is certain, McCain's return to Washington puts additional pressure on his colleagues. Whether it is enough to get McConnell all the votes he needs remains unclear.
McCain isn't just returning to Washington because of the health care vote. If that vote fails, the Senate is expected to take up the National Defense Authorization Act, according to two congressional aides.
That bill was marked up by the armed services committee, which McCain leads, and he would lead debate on the floor. McCain takes great pride in the legislation and does not want anyone else managing it on the floor in his absence if he can help it.
McConnell made a procedural motion on the floor Monday night to proceed to the defense bill after health care, signaling that's his backup plan this week.
Source: CNN.com

29 dead in Kabul car bomb attack claimed by Taliban

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a car bombing in Kabul that left at least 29 people dead, as the Islamist fundamentalist group ratchets up an offensive across Afghanistan.

The blast happened at around 6:40 a.m. Monday (10:10 p.m. ET Sunday) when a Toyota Corolla exploded in the city's west, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told CNN.
It is the latest in a string of attacks in recent days by the Taliban, which said it had captured two districts in northern and central Afghanistan at the weekend.
In a statement released by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, the group said the Kabul bomb's target was a bus carrying Afghan intelligence staff, but Danish said that all the victims were civilians, including some employees of the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum. Women and children were among the dozens injured, Danish said.
Saleem Rasooli, head of Kabul hospitals, put the death toll at 29 and said at least 40 others were injured in the blast.
A witness told CNN he saw injured people in the streets and others yelling in the bombing's aftermath.
"In the morning I was sleeping when I heard a loud boom, which woke me up," said 33-year-old Safiullah, who gave only his first name.
He looked out of a window in his home and saw plumes of smoke rising from the site as people ran in a panic.
Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani both condemned the attack.
"I strongly condemn the terrorist attack on civil servants in Kabul today," Abdullah said in a tweet.
"Our security institutes will hold perpetrators accountable."
Ghani's office said in statement: "The enemy of Afghanistan can't face our forces in battle field so they target innocent civilians."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, saying "the deliberate targeting of civilians constitutes a grave violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute a war crime."
The uptick in violence comes as President Donald Trump mulls sending more US troops to Afghanistan, amid no signs that the Taliban is weakening.
There are about 8,400 US troops in the country at the moment. The US counterterrorism mission there, which also fights ISIS, is separate from a NATO-led effort to train, advise and assist the Afghan army and police force to fight the Taliban.
More than 1,600 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in the first half of the year, UN figures show, a record high in the 16-year war.
Source:CNN.com

Rare case of 9-year-old in HIV remission for years -- without drugs

Paris (CNN)A 9-year-old South African child diagnosed with HIV when he was 1 month old has been in HIV remission for 8½ years -- without regular treatment.

This is the first reported case of a child controlling their HIV infection without drugs in Africa and the third known case globally.
Soon after diagnosis, the child was placed on antiretroviral treatment, or ART, for 40 weeks, at which point treatment was stopped and the child's health was monitored.
 
 

Blood tests in late 2015 revealed the child is in HIV remission, meaning levels of the virus in the blood are undetectable using standard tests. Subsequent testing of samples dating back to the child's infancy confirm remission was achieved soon after treatment was stopped.

Treatment was paused as part of a larger research trial investigating the potential for early ART to decrease infant mortality and reduce the need for lifelong treatment among newborns infected with HIV.
"This is really very rare," said Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Violari is the child's doctor and presented the findings at the 9th International AIDS conference on HIV Science in Paris on Monday.
"By studying these cases, we hope we will understand how one can stop (treatment)," Violari told CNN.
There is no cure or vaccine against HIV, and lifelong treatment for children comes with the risk of potential toxicity, side effects and the need for daily adherence, which becomes harder during the teen years.

The benefits of early treatment

The child, who was not identified, was part of a study known as the Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy, or CHER, trial, which ran from 2005 to 2011. More than 370 infants infected with HIV were randomly assigned to immediately receive ART for either 40 weeks or 96 weeks. A third group were not placed on immediate treatment, but instead received treatment according to standard guidelines at the time.
When the trial began, standard treatment was based on the level of immune cells damaged by the virus, known as CD4 cells, within the body. Current guidelines recommend immediate treatment, irrespective of CD4 cell count.
In infants infected with HIV close to birth, progression of the disease occurs very rapidly within the first few months of life and can often lead to death, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 110,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2015, according to UNAIDS.
Pediatricians also worry about the side-effects and health impacts of lifelong treatment with antiretroviral drugs for those who survive.
More than 1.8 million children were living with HIV in 2015, according to UNAIDS, and 150,000 children became newly infected, the majority of which were in Africa.
The CHER trial set out to investigate whether mortality rates could be reduced, but also whether earlier treatment could keep children healthy enough to enable them to come off treatment for certain periods.
"We were hoping to make it a slower-progressing disease," said Violari.
The study found mortality decreased by 76% and HIV disease progression reduced by 75% among the infants who received treatment immediately, for 40 or 96 weeks. The group receiving standard treatment saw an increase in mortality based on interim results, so that arm of the trial was stopped early.
Children receiving early treatment in the trial needed to go back onto it, on average, after two years, Violari said, with cases ranging from needing it immediately to needing it after four years. An estimated 10 children have not had to go back on treatment, she said, as their viral loads are fairly low -- between 1,000 to 3,000 per milliliter of blood -- meaning they are healthy, in clinical terms.
But virus levels in the 9-year-old case are undetectable. "The child is the only child showing remission," said Violari.
"We cannot see virus in the blood using standard techniques ... we can see fragments of the virus in the cells," she said, adding that these fragments appear not to be able to replicate, for now, giving hope the child may stay this way. "This child is unique."

Only three cases

The South African child is the third reported case of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs.
The first case was a Mississippi baby, a girl born in 2010, who received ART just 30 hours after birth until she was 18 months old, at which point HIV remission was achieved. The baby sustained remission for 27 months, until 2015, when she rebounded and the virus was found in her blood, crushing hopes that this approach could be the route to a "functional cure" for HIV.
Next came the 2015 case of a French teenager, now 20, whose mother was HIV positive. The French child was given antiretroviral treatment soon after birth, stopped treatment at age 6 and has maintained undetectable levels of the virus in her blood since.
Asier Saez Cirion from the Institut Pasteur in France, who presented the findings on the teenager in 2015, confirmed to CNN this week that the teen is still in remission and maintaining good health, meaning she has been controlling her virus for more than 13 years.
Now comes the case of the 9-year-old in South Africa, in remission for more than eight years, but after just 40 weeks of treatment. Violari stressed, however, these cases are extremely rare and that people infected with HIV should by no means come off their treatment.
"Not everyone can achieve remission," she said.
Three adults have also been reported to achieve remission to date, known as the Boston patients and Berlin patient, but all received bone marrow transplants for this result, not early treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The two Boston patients rebounded, leaving Timothy Ray Brown, the Berlin patient, as the only person to be clinically cured of HIV.
"This (case in South Africa) tells you this is possible in some babies, to see long-term remission," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the CHER trial and ongoing followup on these infants.
"The real question will be what percentage of babies treated early will achieve this result? We don't know," he said.
Fauci believes this kind of outcome only becomes important if you have a considerable proportion of babies protected, making it applicable as a potential therapy approach.
"You always get an outlier," he said. In this case, the outlier being the 9-year old. "Further study is needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies," Fauci said.

How is it possible?

Violari agrees that this new remission case is not applicable to all infants with HIV, but instead that something unique about his biology and immune system helped him protect himself from the virus, aided by starting treatment early.
He developed an effective immune response to the virus early on, she said, and treatment then protected the child. "I think the early treatment aided it," she said.
Her team now hopes to investigate the child, and others from the original CHER trial along with HIV-negative children to try to elucidate just what is unique about the biology enabling a child who has been treated to then suppress the virus indefinitely -- and independently -- known as a post-treatment controller.
"We need to see where the differences lie," she said, adding that this insight could be used to inform vaccine design or new treatment approaches, such as the use of neutralizing antibodies to help people suppress the virus.
We could develop a product given to people in combination with ART so people can eventually stop ART, said Violari. This would not be because they are cured, but because virus levels are low enough, or undetectable, to help them stay healthy without the need for drugs.
"It's a long shot," Violari said. "But we can look at what's different."
Fauci agreed that extensive evaluation of immune regions of these cases could help scientists find something special to guide inducing this in others. "That's being intensively studied now," said Fauci. "We have the outcome, we just need to get there."

Hope for future HIV control

"We are delighted and excited by what happened with this child ... we need to extrapolate (from this) to the benefit of other children on antiretroviral drugs," said Dr. Mark Cotton, professor of pediatrics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, who co-led the study. "Africa is still the epicenter of the epidemic and more babies are acquiring HIV than anywhere else."
Cotton hopes his team presenting these results will boost morale, both among cure researchers and those managing treatment programs for children across the continent.
Dr. Deborah Persaud, professor pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the United States, agreed this discovery will become useful in terms of treating HIV-infected infants.
"This offers hope for the field," she said. "Every case like this keeps optimism around perinatal infection."
Persaud is part of team that reported the case of the Mississippi baby in 2013 and continues to care for the child and track progress.
She agreed with Violari's team that there is something unique about the South African child's biology, because their viral levels began coming down even before the child received treatment. "This suggests there was an immune mechanism at play here," she said. "Somehow, there was early control of the virus."
The three cases to date all form part of this era in which rare examples of remission are coming to light and providing valuable insight for HIV cure researchers. They serve as proof of concept that this can occur, she said, stressing that this is far from the norm.
"Many kids around the world have been treated early and are not off treatment," she said.
A current trial, known as IMPAACT P1115 and funded by the US NIH, is providing treatment to HIV-infected infants within 48 hours of birth, further exploring options to eventually enable children to come off ART, even if just for a few months at a time, and investigate the potential for remission.
Almost 400 infants have been enrolled across nine countries. The first cases might be eligible to stop ART later this year, according to the NIH.
While Persaud said remission cases are likely to be the exception to the rule, she added that the long-term hope is to go from the need for daily ART, which involves potential toxicity and the need for adherence, to children being able to come off treatment for extended periods.
Even not taking drugs for three months of life, some adults say is a big step for them, she said. "This can make living with HIV less burdensome ... and just make life a lot more livable."
Source:CNN.com

The new secret to losing weight? Water

(CNN)Suddenly starving? Try drinking some water.

That recommendation isn't new -- but it suddenly got some serious evidence to back it up. A study of nearly 10,000 adults ages 18 to 64 shows that staying hydrated by drinking water and eating more water-loaded fruits and vegetables could help with weight management, especially if you're overweight or obese.
"Staying hydrated is good for you no matter what, and our study suggests it may also be linked to maintaining a healthy weight," said lead author Dr. Tammy Chang, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. "Our findings suggest that hydration may deserve more attention when thinking about addressing obesity on a population level."
Being dehydrated can mess with your mental, physical and emotional health. Numerous studies show attention, memory and mood can be damaged, and physical distress such as headaches, constipation and kidney problems can result.
But when it came to weight loss and gain, the science on the role of water has been murky. Some studies found drinking water helped control weight gain, yet other studies showed the opposite. Part of the problem, said Chang, was the way hydration has been measured.
"Water consumption is not an ideal measure of hydration," explained Chang. "The amount of water it takes to stay hydrated depends on your body size and many other factors like your activity level and the climate you live in. Imagine if you were a landscaper in Arizona versus a receptionist in Michigan. The amount of water it takes to stay hydrated will be drastically different."

Some need more water to stay hydrated

Chang and her fellow researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the topic in a new way -- not how much water you drink, but how well hydrated you are when you do so. To do that, they measured the concentration of water in urine.
They found that staying hydrated -- which helps your heart pump blood more efficiently to your muscles, which then makes them work more efficiently -- was especially important for anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over 25, which is technically overweight and unfortunately applies to all too many of us. In fact, two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese.
"We found hydration and BMI/obesity are associated," said Chang. "A bigger person needs more water than a smaller person to stay hydrated."
"It could be that those people with higher BMI are more likely to be inadequately hydrated or that those that stay well hydrated are less likely to be obese."

Signs you need more fluids

More research is needed, said Chang. But in the meantime, here are ways you can find out if your body has enough fluids.
"Feeling thirsty is the most straight forward way to know if your body needs more water," said Chang. "Your mouth may feel dry. You may feel run down or less alert. However, I have found that my patients often confuse these symptoms with other urges like hunger or general fatigue."
The color of your urine is another good way to tell. If your urine is light yellow, almost the color of water, you're in good shape. If your urine is dark yellow, it's time to drink up.
And yes, water is best. "Other beverages come with other substances like sugar in soda, or caffeine in coffee that are not recommended in large amounts," said Chang. "Soft drinks typically contain sugar or chemical sugar substitutes that I do not recommend to my patients. Water is the best for hydration for most people."
Here's another easy way: Increase your intake of water-laden foods, such as cucumbers, celery, watermelon, raw broccoli and carrots, plums, apples and peaches.
"Eating fruits and vegetables with high water content is good for you not just because of the nutrients they deliver to your body, but also because they can improve your hydration."
And they don't come with a ton of calories. It's a win all around.
Source:CNN.com

San Antonio driver says he didn't know immigrants were in truck

San Antonio (CNN)Crowded inside of the boiling tractor-trailer, they took turns taking breaths from a hole in the semi. Some fainted. Others banged on the wall to get the driver's attention but he kept going, one man who survived the journey told federal authorities.

The driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr. told federal investigators he had no idea dozens of undocumented immigrants were stuffed inside tractor-trailer he was hauling. The 60-year-old Florida man was charged Monday with knowingly transporting undocumented immigrants.
The assistant public federal defender who is representing Bradley couldn't be reached for comment.
 
 
The tractor-trailer was found parked at a Walmart in San Antonio early Sunday morning after an employee at the store called police. Authorities found dozens of undocumented immigrants inside.
Eight people in the truck were already dead, and two more died after being hospitalized. Dozens more were severely injured, and many will suffer from "irreversible brain damage," the city's fire chief said.
A federal complaint shed light on the ordeal. One man from Mexico, who crossed the border through Laredo, Texas, said he and his brother traveled for a day before they climbed into the tractor-trailer; another man said he spent nearly 11 days at a Laredo "stash house" with about two dozen others before their journey on the semi.
Federal authorities are classifying the incident as a human smuggling case.
"This most recent example is an example of human smuggling where individuals were brought into the United States in violation of immigration law," Jack Staton, acting assistant director for intelligence for Homeland Security Investigations at ICE, told reporters on Monday.

Driver said he was surprised by 'Spanish' people

When police came to investigate the semi, an officer found "multiple people standing and laying at and around the rear of the trailer," according to a criminal complaint against Bradley.
That's when they started talking to the driver.
"Bradley advised the officer that the trailer he was hauling had been sold and he was transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas," on the border with Mexico, the federal criminal complaint says. Bradley said he was delivering the truck to its new owner in Brownsville at his boss' request, but that he was not given a time frame nor a delivery address, the complaint said.
Bradley later told authorities he was traveling to San Antonio from Laredo, Texas, after getting the tractor-trailer washed and detailed, the complaint said. After the wash at the Laredo truck stop, Bradley said he drove to the "old truck stop," which was about 10 miles away, to have the tractor-trailer detailed and polished, the complaint said.
Pat Sullivan, a spokesman for Blue Beacon Truck Wash, told CNN the tractor-trailer was washed at the company's facility on Beltway Parkway in Laredo at 11:58 a.m. on Saturday. Sullivan said drivers typically pull up, pay inside the facility and then workers wash the truck, which takes about 20 minutes.
Sullivan said the employees who washed the truck did not report hearing any noises from inside the trailer or notice anything strange about the truck. The company is investigating and cooperating with authorities, Sullivan said.
"Bradley stated he was unaware of the contents and/or cargo," the complaint said, until he parked the tractor-trailer at the Walmart and went outside to urinate. That's when he heard movements in the trailer, the driver told investigators.
"Bradley said he went to open the doors and was surprised when he was run over by 'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground," the complaint states.
"Bradley said he then noticed bodies just lying on the floor like meat. Bradley said he knew at least one of them was dead. Bradley said he knew the trailer refrigeration system didn't work and that the four vent holes were probably clogged up."
But the driver didn't call 911, authorities said. Instead, he went back to the tractor and called his wife.
Bradley was in handcuffs as he limped into a federal court on Monday, surrounded by several US marshals. The driver spoke briefly with his assistant public federal defender before the arraignment. Bradley's detention and request for bail will be addressed at a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

A horrific journey

Homeland Security Investigations agents interviewed several of the undocumented immigrants who had been hospitalized.
One said he left the central Mexican city of Aguascalientes and waited with about 28 other people in Nuevo Laredo to be smuggled across the river into the United States, bound for San Antonio.
He told investigators he paid about 12,500 pesos ($707) for protection and a raft ride across a deep portion of the Rio Grande. After crossing at night, "they walked until the next day," the court document states.
At 9 a.m the next day, his group was picked up in a silver Chevrolet Silverado truck and taken to the trailer, which already had about 70 people inside, the criminal complaint says.
"He was told to get inside and he would be transported later that evening. The smugglers closed the door and the interior of the trailer was pitch black and it was already hot inside."
With no food or water, the migrants tried to make noise and get the driver's attention, "but nobody ever came."
Twelve hours later, they were moved to another trailer, the man said. Some people had trouble breathing and passed out.
When the trailer eventually braked hard and stopped, some people fell over because they were so weak, the man said. After the door opened, six black SUVs were waiting to pick up the people, but those SUVs quickly filled up and took off.
The man said once he arrived in San Antonio, he was supposed to pay his smugglers $5,500. But instead he was taken to a hospital, severely injured from the journey.
"These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters," said Richard L. Durbin Jr., US attorney for the Western District of Texas. "All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo."
Authorities have not released the nationalities of the people crammed inside the tractor-trailer. But the Mexican government issued a statement offering its condolences to the families of the victims.
Four Mexican nationals died after the journey, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Twenty-five of the immigrants are also Mexican nationals, officials said, of which 21 remain hospitalized.
Guatemala Foreign Minister Carlos Morales confirmed to CNN that Frank Guisseppe Fuentes González, 20, of Guatemala City, was among the dead. Fuentes González was supposed to meet with his family in the United States, officials said.

'Irreversible brain damage'

The tip-off to authorities started when a man from the trailer asked a Walmart employee for water, the police chief said. The employee was concerned and called police for a welfare check.
San Antonio officers investigate the scene where people were found dead in the parked truck.
 
The fire department also responded and soon declared a "mass casualty incident," San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
"With heat strokes or heat injuries, a lot of them are going to have some irreversible brain damage," he said.
A heatstroke can cause swelling of the brain and other vital organs, possibly causing permanent damage, if a person's body temperature isn't quickly lowered, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Officials said the air conditioner in the trailer was not working. And the high temperature in San Antonio on Saturday was 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
"Unfortunately, some of them were severely overheated, and that was a refrigerated truck with no refrigeration," Hood said. "So we were very fortunate that they were found."
Two of the people hospitalized are 15 years old, the fire department said.

Echoes of 2003 case

In a state where human smuggling happens with alarming frequency, Sunday's discovery stirred memories of a 2003 case in Victoria, Texas, that left 19 people dead. At the time, a border and transportation security official called it "the greatest loss of life in recent history in what appears to be an alien smuggling case."
The victims, ranging from a 7-year-old boy to a 91-year-old man, died of asphyxiation, dehydration or heat. They had been crowded in the back of a truck with about 100 other people, with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, investigators said.
The driver in that case, Tyrone Mapletoft Williams of Schenectady, New York, was initially sentenced to life in prison, but in 2011 was resentenced to almost 34 years in prison.
Thomas Homan, the current acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was a lead investigator in the Victoria case.
Last month, he disputed the notion that his policies were heartless and said the humane thing to do is to deter people from paying the human smugglers and cartels that are the only way to illegally cross the Southwest border.
"Why am I so strong in what I'm trying to do? Because people haven't seen what Tom Homan's seen," Homan said.
"They haven't seen the dead immigrants on a trail that were left stranded. ... People weren't standing with me in Victoria, Texas, in the back of a tractor-trailer with 19 dead aliens including a 5-year-old child laying dead under his father that suffocated."

Human smuggling is a horrendous crime'

Because deaths are involved in the case, Bradley faces up to life in prison or the death penalty if he is convicted of the federal alien smuggling charge.
"Human smuggling is a horrendous crime, and unfortunately, it does not get a lot of media attention, until you have a tragic situation like this happen," Staton said.
Staton pointed to several other instances of human smuggling over the past 30 years: In 1987, 18 people died in a boxcar in Sierra Blanca, Texas, and 11 people died in a grain hopper in Denison, Iowa, in 2002.
"Time and time again, I've seen houses where people are being pretty much held against their will. People abused, people left in the desert to die," Staton said.
Human smuggling across the southwest border is like a "travel agency type of event," and fees are paid to smugglers at points in the journey, Staton said. There is an overlap with transnational drug sales, but he said human smuggling cases typically are not run by cartels.
It's too soon to say if the immigrants found alive inside the sweltering truck will be deported, or if they could be eligible for visas protecting them as crime victims if they testify or cooperate with investigators.
Staton said he couldn't discuss details of the pending San Antonio case. But he said some survivors could be called as witnesses.
Asked what's happened to victims in past smuggling cases, Staton said each case is different.
"It just depends on the case, and what had transpired, and what information was provided," he said. "In some cases, people could get sent back, and in some cases, people do stay."
Source:CNN.com

Construction in China's 'skyscraper capital' shows little sign of slowing

(CNN)It rises like a mirage as you pass the fallow fields and fish ponds of outer Hong Kong: a wall of skyscrapers shimmering in the distance. This is Shenzhen, which has grown from a small fishing village into a major financial and technology hub in less than 40 years.

Like many other cities in China, Shenzhen is crazy for skyscrapers.
Of the 128 buildings over 200 meters tall that were completed in the world last year, 70% were in China, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).
Shenzhen was responsible for 11 of them -- more than the entire United States, and almost twice as many as any other Chinese city (Chongqing and Guangzhou tied for second place, alongside Goyang in South Korea, with six skyscrapers each).
 
 

Tall by design

The city's relationship with high-rises goes back to 1980, when China's reformist leader, Deng Xiaoping, declared that a swath of farmland along the Hong Kong border would become a so-called Special Economic Zone.
The decision meant that companies could operate with fewer of the restrictions of a planned economy -- China's first major experiment with free markets since the Communist revolution of 1949. Investors from Hong Kong -- and beyond -- rushed across the border to build factories and other businesses.
From the beginning, urban planners decided that it would be a city of skyscrapers. Shenzhen's growing skyline is simply part of its DNA, according to University of Hong Kong architecture professor Juan Du, whose book, "The Making of Shenzhen: A Thousand Years in China's Instant City," will be published next year.
"In Shenzhen, (skyscrapers are) really linked to the image of the city," she said over the phone. "Between the early 1980s and the early 90s, it had more tall buildings than any Chinese city.
"The term 'Shenzhen speed' was coined from the (time of) the construction of the city's earliest skyscrapers. When Deng Xiaoping made his first visit to Shenzhen, he was really excited by the speed at which tall buildings were being built."
Today, Shenzhen has evolved beyond its manufacturing roots to become a hub for service industries -- especially technology and design. Often described as "China's Silicon Valley," the city is home to huge companies like Tencent (which itself built two skyscrapers) and a network of thousands of smaller firms.
But Shenzhen's geography plays a part, too: the city center is located in a narrow strip between mountains and the Hong Kong border. A growing network of subway lines and a new high-speed rail connection to Hong Kong have made this strip even more desirable, pushing development up rather than out.

Cities in slowdown

Shenzhen appears to be showing no signs of slowing. In addition to a current crop of 49 buildings taller than 200 meters, a further 48 skyscrapers are under construction, according to CTBUH data.
 
But as Shenzhen grows skywards, empty office space in other big cities has led market analysts to speculate that China is caught in a spiral of overbuilding. The office vacancy rate in Beijing, which stood at 8% at the end of 2016, is forecast to rise to 13% by the end of 2019, according to a report by property firm Colliers International. The report noted that "the growing office supply will still outstrip the growth in demand."
In Shanghai, the country's tallest building, the 632-meter Shanghai Tower, has sat largely empty since opening in 2015, with one of the project's lead developers, Gu Jianping, admitting at an awards ceremony last year that "the biggest challenge facing China is how to build fewer skyscrapers."
Across China, the race upwards has produced outsized landmarks (like Nanjing's Zifeng Tower which is nearly twice the height of the city's next-tallest building) in areas where there was not enough demand to justify construction. Entire new cities were built in places like Ordos, a dusty outpost in the Gobi Desert, which then sat empty for years. Tianjin built no fewer than three central business districts filled with skyscrapers -- including one unashamedly modeled on Manhattan.
Some media reports have pointed to the so-called "Skyscraper Index," an idea first proposed by economist Andrew Lawrence in 1999, which suggests that a surge of investment in skyscrapers is a harbinger of recession.

Bucking the trend

But rather than signaling a downturn, Shenzhen's spate of new skyscrapers may simply reflect its booming economy. With the highest per capita GDP of any major city in China, Shenzhen is also experiencing soaring land prices.
 
Last year, the city's property market was named the mainland's most expensive, with homes selling for an average of $6,500 per square meter, according to SouFun, which tracks house prices in 100 Chinese cities. There has been a similar trend in the office market, according to David Ji, the head of research for Greater China at property consultancy Knight Frank.
"Shenzhen has a lot of demand for Grade A office space, unlike some other mainland cities that just go for height to compete with each other," he said over the phone.
And aside from the 600-meter Ping An Financial Centre, which became the world's fourth tallest building when it opened last year, Ji said that "buildings built in Shenzhen tend not to be that tall relative to Shanghai or other cities."
In other words, Shenzhen may be building plenty of skyscrapers, but most of them aren't showstoppers.
Rather than tolerating vanity projects, urban planners encourage projects that fit in with the surrounding city, according to Hong Kong-based architect Stefan Krummeck. His firm, TFP Farrells, designed KK100, a 442-meter tower that is currently the second tallest in Shenzhen. Rather than an isolated landmark, the skyscraper is part of a former village that was redeveloped in conjunction with KK100.
"There's always a bit of an ego trip involved in super high-rises, but in Shenzhen it's more sustainable -- the towers are reasonably modest," he said over the phone. "There are only a few super-high-rise towers and they're pretty well integrated into the urban fabric.
"To the best of my knowledge, the towers are full and the streets are lively. It works quite well."
Source:CNN.com

This Ohio factory owner says she has jobs but few sober applicants

(CNN)An Ohio factory owner said Saturday that though she has blue-collar jobs available at her company, she struggles to fill positions because so many candidates fail drug tests.

Regina Mitchell, a co-owner of Warren Fabricating & Machining in Hubbard, Ohio, told The New York Times this week that four out of 10 applicants otherwise qualified to be welders, machinists and crane operators will fail a routine drug test.
In an interview Saturday with CNN's Michael Smerconish, Mitchell said that her requirements for prospective workers were simple.
 
 
"I need employees who are engaged in their work while here, of sound mind and doing the best possible job that they can, keeping their fellow co-workers safe at all times," she said.
"We have a 150-ton crane in our machine shop. And we're moving 300,000 pounds of steel around in that building on a regular basis. So I cannot take the chance to have anyone impaired running that crane, or working 40 feet in the air."
President Donald Trump addressed his blue-collar base in Ohio this week, returning to his campaign theme of getting local communities back to work and returning jobs to America from overseas.
But Mitchell said she has jobs. She just doesn't have sober applicants.
For 48 of the 50 years her company has been around, drug abuse had never been an issue, she told Smerconish.
"It hasn't been until the last two years that we needed to have a policy, a corporate policy in place, that protects us from employees coming into work impaired," she said.
Opioid use is on the rise across the country, but especially in Ohio. In 2014, the state had the second-largest number of opioid-related deaths in the United States and the fifth-highest rate of overdose.
"This opioid epidemic that we're experiencing ... it seems like it's worse than in other places all over the country," Mitchell said.
Ohio's new law on medical marijuana, which went into effect in 2016 and allows those with a qualifying condition and a recommendation from a physician to buy the drug legally, was another hurdle for employers to overcome, she said.
"The difficult part about marijuana is, we don't have an affordable test that tells me if they smoked it over the weekend or smoked it in the morning before they came to work. And I just can't take the chance of having an impaired worker running a crane carrying a 300,000-pound steel encasement," she said.
For now, she said, there are almost 12,000 open skilled labor jobs in Mahoning County.
"There are good-paying jobs and the opportunity for people in our area. We just can't find people to show up who can pass a drug test," she said.
Source:CNN

Australian authorities arrest 4 in alleged airplane terrorist plot

(CNN)Authorities in Australia foiled a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane and arrested four men Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced at a news conference Sunday in Sydney.

Police said it was an Islamist-inspired plot, but they did not link the plan to a specific terrorist group.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said officers became aware people in Sydney were allegedly planning to carry out a terrorist attack using an "improvised device."
 
 
Turnbull said it was an elaborate conspiracy that involved bringing down an airplane.
The suspects were rounded up in raids in four Sydney suburbs, Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police Force said in a news release.
The investigation is ongoing, officials said. Police did not specify the date or location of the threat to Australia's aviation industry.
The suspects are in police custody but have not yet been charged, Colvin said.
"Exactly what is behind this is something that we will need to investigate fully," he said.
The Prime Minister said extra security measures have been in place at Sydney Airport since Thursday and have since been put in place at the country's other major airports.
Transport security officials advised travelers to get to their airports two hours before their scheduled flight departures.
"Those traveling should go about their business with confidence," he added.
Australia's terrorism threat level remains in the middle at "probable," Turnbull said, between "possible" and "expected."
Last month, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack at a suburban Melbourne apartment building where one man was killed and three police officers were wounded.
The attacker, who was known to police and out on parole, was shot dead after he ended a standoff by bursting out of an apartment.
Source:CNN

Police push back against Trump's law-and-order speech

(CNN)President Donald Trump's statement encouraging police officers to be "rough" with people they arrest has drawn criticism in law enforcement circles for sending the wrong message at a time of heightened tensions with the public.

"As a department, we do not and will not tolerate 'rough(ing)' up prisoners," the Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement.
Trump delivered a combative law-and-order speech in the New York suburb Friday, calling gang members "animals" and praising law enforcement for being "rough."
 
 
Speaking before law enforcement officers, Trump praised the aggressive tactics of immigration officers and suggested that police shouldn't protect the heads of handcuffed suspects being put in the back of a car.
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in rough. I said, 'Please don't be too nice,'" Trump said to applause, referring to officers shielding prisoners' heads with their hands.
"Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody. I said, 'You can take the hand away, OK?'"
From Boston to Los Angeles, however, law enforcement agencies pushed back.
The police statement in the suburb where Trump spoke added, "The Suffolk County Police Department has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners, and violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously."
Suffolk County police have been under Justice Department oversight since 2013, after a federal investigation exposed a pattern of anti-immigrant violence.
A Boston Police Department statement said its "priority has been and continues to be building relationships and trust with the community we serve. As a police department we are committed to helping people,not harming them."
In New York, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said in a statement that to "suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public."
The head of the New York City agency tasked with investigating complaints against officers also denounced the remarks.
"President Trump's comments fly in the face of the responsibility our city's officers display in the line of duty," Maya Wiley, chairwoman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, said in a statement.

Police push back against Trump's law-and-order speech

Story highlights

  • Trump to law enforcement officials: "Please don't be too nice"
  • From Boston to Los Angeles, law enforcement agencies push back
 

(CNN)President Donald Trump's statement encouraging police officers to be "rough" with people they arrest has drawn criticism in law enforcement circles for sending the wrong message at a time of heightened tensions with the public.

"As a department, we do not and will not tolerate 'rough(ing)' up prisoners," the Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement.
Trump delivered a combative law-and-order speech in the New York suburb Friday, calling gang members "animals" and praising law enforcement for being "rough."
 
 
Speaking before law enforcement officers, Trump praised the aggressive tactics of immigration officers and suggested that police shouldn't protect the heads of handcuffed suspects being put in the back of a car.
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in rough. I said, 'Please don't be too nice,'" Trump said to applause, referring to officers shielding prisoners' heads with their hands.
"Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody. I said, 'You can take the hand away, OK?'"
From Boston to Los Angeles, however, law enforcement agencies pushed back.
The police statement in the suburb where Trump spoke added, "The Suffolk County Police Department has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners, and violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously."
Suffolk County police have been under Justice Department oversight since 2013, after a federal investigation exposed a pattern of anti-immigrant violence.

'Sends wrong message to law enforcement'

Trump to police: "don't be too nice" to suspects_00051122
 

 

 

 
 

 

 
Trump to police: "don't be too nice" to suspects 06:08
A Boston Police Department statement said its "priority has been and continues to be building relationships and trust with the community we serve. As a police department we are committed to helping people,not harming them."
In New York, Police Commissioner James O'Neill said in a statement that to "suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public."
The head of the New York City agency tasked with investigating complaints against officers also denounced the remarks.
"President Trump's comments fly in the face of the responsibility our city's officers display in the line of duty," Maya Wiley, chairwoman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump points to the crowd after speaking to law enforcement officers on Friday.
 
"But for many communities in our city, President Trump's comments only (stoke) fears of interacting with officers. President Trump's speech today was shameful, dangerous, and damages the progress our city has made toward improving police-community relations."
The Gainesville, Florida, police department said on Facebook the President "has no business endorsing or condoning cops being rough with arrestees and suggesting that we should slam their heads onto the car while putting them in."
Trump's remarks "set modern policing back and erased a lot of the strides we have made to build trust in our community."
Gainesville police spokesman Ben Tobias took to Twitter to rebuff the President's position.
"I'm a cop," he wrote. "I do not agree with or condone @POTUS remarks today on police brutality. Those that applauded and cheered should be ashamed."

'This is disgusting'

A Los Angeles police spokesman, Mike Lopez, said the department will "treat everyone with integrity and respect."
"We work with partnerships in our community and continue to do that to keep our communities safe and secure from crime. With the help of our community we will continue to do this."
The Portland Police Bureau in Oregon expressed similar sentiments on Twitter, saying that officers were "expected to treat everyone with dignity & respect, even when they are a suspect."
The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a statement on the use of force by police, saying officers are trained to treat everyone with "dignity and respect."
Jim Bueermann, the president of the nonprofit Police Foundation, which works to improve policing, said Trump's support for law enforcement was appreciated but "we cannot support any commentary -- in sincerity or jest -- that undermines the trust that our communities place in us to protect and serve."
The topic of rough police tactics is a sensitive one in Baltimore, a city still reeling from the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray after he was arrested and put in the back of a police van.
"Are you kidding me? This is disgusting," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz wrote on Twitter about Trump's remarks on the handling of suspected criminals.
There was no immediate response from Baltimore's police department, where six officers were charged in connection with Gray's death. The 25-year-old suffered a fatal spine injury while being transported in the van. The cases against the officers, who were charged with crimes ranging from reckless endangerment to murder, ended without convictions.
Gray's death sparked protests and riots in the city and fueled an impassioned national debate over fatal police encounters involving African-American men.
Trump's Justice Department is charged with enforcing a sweeping consent decree with reforms for Baltimore's police department after a federal investigation, launched in the wake of Gray's death, revealed patterns of discriminatory and unconstitutional policing.

'It was a joke'

Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year directed his lawyers to ask the judge for additional time for the department to review the proposed decree to ensure it aligned with the priorities of the Trump administration on "crime reduction."
In April, a federal judge approved the reform plan anyway. That same month, Sessions had ordered a comprehensive review of all police reform activities, including any existing or contemplated consent decrees.
Several rights and civil liberties groups also criticized the President's law enforcement remarks, but the head of the Suffolk County Deputy Sheriff's Police Benevolent Association said his members backed Trump's message.
"For the first time in many years we feel we have a president who supports law enforcement," John Becker said in a statement.
The group Blue Lives Matter tweeted that Trump's remarks were made in jest.
"Trump didn't tell police to go out & brutalize people as the media would have you believe," the tweet said. "It was a joke."
Support also came from the head of the union representing Cleveland's rank-and-file police officers. Without addressing Trump's specific comments on Saturday, Detective Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, told CNN there is "unwavering" support for Trump from law enforcement agencies across the country.
"Not surprisingly, (Trump's) comments have been completely taken out of context by the racially exclusive and divisive profiteers seeking to call into question his support of all law abiding citizens and the law enforcement that live and work among them," Loomis said in a statement to CNN.
Source:CNN

McCain's thumbs down caps contentious relationship with Trump

(CNN)With the tilt of his thumb, Sen. John McCain got the last laugh.

McCain -- with a simple, yet dramatic, thumbs down on the Senate floor in the wee hours of Friday morning -- signaled to the Senate, his colleagues and the rest of the United States that he was not prepared to go along with the latest Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
After the vote, the 80-year-old senator, who earlier this month was diagnosed with brain cancer, was seen laughing with Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the two other Republicans who voted against the health care bill.
 
 
Trump fumed at the loss, tweeting that the three Republicans "let the American people down," linking them to the Democrats who were uniformly against the plan.
But, more than just a vote in the Senate, the moment was the climactic cap of a years long contentious relationship between McCain, a revered Capitol Hill Republican and former presidential candidate whose recent brain cancer diagnosis rocked Democrats and Republicans alike, and Trump, an unexpected president whose 2015 attack on the Arizona senator was one of the first crises in a campaign full of them.
Trump ran for president, in part, on a pledge to break a mold that McCain fell into. The longtime Arizona lawmaker worked his way up in the Republican Party after years in the United States Navy, representing the state in the House and Senate for over 25 years before he ran for president in 2008.
Trump was anathema to that, making a name for himself as a boisterous real estate developer, reality TV star and political donor before he decided to make the presidency his first foray into public office.
The two men, despite representing the same party eight years apart, are diametrically different. And Trump's animosity for McCain was clear early in his 2016 run.
Sitting before an audience in Iowa in July 2015, Trump argued that McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, was not a war hero because he was captured.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said. "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
The comment -- which came after a week of back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, including the Arizona senator telling reporters that Trump was energizing the "crazies" in his party -- was an early inflection point in Trump's campaign. Many Republicans condemned Trump for the comment, including Sean Spicer, who later became the President's spokesman.
McCain, Spicer said, "is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period."
Trump's defense of himself over the McCain comment was scattershot. At first, the presidential candidate denied that he ever said McCain wasn't a war hero. Then seemingly justified the attacks by saying he was "disappointed" that McCain has done "very little for the veterans."
Something Trump never did: Apologize.

An earlier booster of McCain

Trump was a McCain supporter in the early 2000s and endorsed the Arizona lawmaker during his run for president in 2008.
"I've known him. I like him. I respect him. He's a smart guy and I think he's going to be a great president," Trump told CNN months before the 2008 election.
Campaign finance records show Trump had donated to McCain for years before the 2008 run, including giving the legal maximum to his campaign in May 2008. The same month, members of Trump's family -- wife Melania and children Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric -- also gave McCain the maximum individual donation allowed under federal campaign finance laws.
Their relationship soured after the early support, however, highlighted by Trump questioning McCain's service.
McCain responded to Trump by asking him to apologize to other prisoners of war who he degraded.
"I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country," McCain said at the time. "I'm not a hero. But those who were my senior ranking officers ... those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn't have been capable of doing -- those are the people that I think he owes an apology to."
McCain also declined to attack Trump's lack of military service, despite being prodded to do so in numerous interviews. Trump had multiple student deferments and one medical deferment.
Trump, despite the early controversy, would go on to win the Republican nomination and with it came McCain's hesitant support.
But the Arizona senator rarely held his fire on Trump when the Republican nominee found himself embroiled in controversy.
When Trump questioned a judge's ability to decide a case because of his Mexican heritage, McCain called the comment "very harmful."
And when Trump attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son -- Humayun Khan -- was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq, after their speech at the Democratic National Convention, McCain warned Trump.
"Arizona is watching," he said. "While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us."
When the tape of Trump casually describing sexual assault during a years old interview with Access Hollywood was published by the Washington Post in October, McCain broke with the Republican nominee.
"I have wanted to support the candidate our party nominated," McCain said, nodding to the fact he was a past nominee. "But Donald Trump's behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy."
Despite Republicans like McCain leaving Trump, the businessman-turned-politician won in November. And so did McCain. The Arizona senator won a sixth term the same day that Trump won the White House, beating Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in the process.

Continues to criticize Trump

The fact that Republicans accepted Trump did little to alleviate McCain's public critiques.
The Arizona senator has called Trump's dealings with Russian diplomats "deeply disturbing," called his plan to hike the Defense Department budget "totally inadequate" and, more recently, called Trump's tweets calling for a ban on transgender service men and women in the military as "unclear" and unnecessary.
Trump's presidency has further cemented the view, in the eyes of Capitol Hill staffers and political watchers, that McCain has never felt beholden to anyone other than voters in Arizona. But his contempt for Trump, these Capitol Hill staffers said, has further caused McCain to embrace the "maverick" nickname he embraced during the 2008 campaign.
Before the Friday morning vote, McCain's cancer diagnosis had given many of his colleagues a chance to herald him and his meaning to the Senate as an institution.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called McCain a "true figure," while Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and longtime McCain friend, said, "This disease has never had a more worthy opponent."
Trump's response to McCain's ailment was far more passive, and usually framed around how Republicans needed his vote to pass health care.
After McCain had surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye, Trump wished him well at a White House event by calling him "crusty."
"And I can tell you, we hope John McCain gets better very soon. Because we miss him. He is a crusty voice in Washington," Trump said Monday to a smattering of laughs before pausing and adding, "Plus, we need his vote."
After McCain's diagnosis was made public, Trump's written statement called him a "fighter," but his in-person comments focused more on the practical need for his vote.
As Capitol Hill and White House aides worked to move debate in the Senate, McCain returned to the debate and Trump trumped the decision.
"John McCain was great to show up. Big moment. We got the vote," Trump, speaking with service men and women in Ohio, said about a preliminary vote.
By Friday morning, though, Trump may have thought he needed to be careful what he wished for.
"It was," McCain said as he got into a car to head back to Arizona and begin radiation and chemotherapy, "the right vote."
Source:CNN

Jeff Bezos briefly dethrones Bill Gates as world's richest person

Just over two decades ago, Jeff Bezos started selling books online from his garage. Today, the Amazon CEO surpassed Bill Gates as the richest person on Earth, for a few hours at least.

Bezos's net worth topped $90 billion on Thursday morning, allowing the Amazon founder and CEO to dethrone Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), as the richest man in the world, according to Forbes and Bloomberg.

 

However, an afternoon dip in Amazon's stock price caused Bezos to slip back behind Gates, who has been No. 1 since 2013 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bezos finished the day worth $88.8 billion, just behind the $89.8 billion for Gates.

What's a billion dollars between the world's richest guys anyway?

Bezos has been hailed as the smartest guy in business for turning a bookselling platform into a disruptive force that has flipped traditional retail on its head.

His world's-richest-man milestone was made possible because of Amazon (AMZN, Tech30)'s surging stock price. The e-commerce juggernaut's market value surpassed $500 billion this week for the first time ever.

The vast majority of the Bezos fortune is tied up in Amazon stock, of which the CEO owns nearly 17%. That stake alone is worth $83 billion, meaning Bezos could just as quickly lose his new title as the world's richest man should Amazon's stock decline, or Microsoft's value rise.

In recent years, Bezos's fortune has whizzed past that of legendary investor Warren Buffett, Spanish retail magnate Amancio Ortega and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. Bezos added more than $24 billion in net worth since January 2017, according to Bloomberg.

Bezos founded Amazon in the mid-1990s from a garage, originally as an online bookseller. But over the years Bezos has deftly steered Amazon into hardware, cloud services, music and streaming shows. All along the way, Amazon used technology and sheer force to ruthlessly cut prices. Customers in turn have flocked to Amazon, which raked in a stunning $136 billion in sales last year alone.

The Amazon boss's bold vision was on full display again in June when he shocked Wall Street and the business world with a $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods (WFM). The surprise deal instantly made Amazon a major bricks-and-mortar player and sent a wave of fear through traditional grocery stores and food companies.

Bezos has used his fortune to purchase The Washington Post in 2013 and launch his own rocket company, Blue Origin.

Bezos is also thinking more about how to give back to society and even asked his Twitter followers last month for ideas.

"I'm thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now -- short term -- at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact," Bezos wrote.

Source:CNN

How a hacker could take down the electric grid

n the world of cybersecurity, a hacker taking down a city's electrical grid is a classic nightmare scenario. Indeed, it's already happened in Ukraine.

But while the idea of a hacker blackout seems scary, experts say the chances of a disruptive electric-grid attack are low in the U.S.

 

"Should people be concerned and should governments be taking action? Yes," said Robert M. Lee, CEO and founder of cybersecurity firm Dragos. "Should we be building bunkers and freaking out? No."

Lee investigated the 2016 attack on Ukraine's power grid. Hackers created malware to attack an energy site, causing blackouts in Kiev for about an hour. The malware is called CrashOverride.

At the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas this week, Lee explained how CrashOverride could be used as a blueprint for cyberattacks on energy facilities around the world.

It might be concerning that this could be scaled to other facilities, but don't panic just yet.

How it works

Before electricity gets to your house, it goes through a couple steps first. It is generated -- from things like fossil fuels, nuclear power, or renewable sources -- and then goes through a transmission site before it is pushed out to your home.

CrashOverride targets the transmission site.

Related: How Trump can keep America's grid safe from hackers

Although CrashOverride could be used for attacking other transmission sites, it is not a likelihood it would be used in the U.S., said Lee, who previously worked in the intelligence community. It's not easy to get the malware on the transmission site in the first place.

"It's fairly easy to do if the adversary has the intention to do it, and can get into the environment," he said. "That 'get into the environment' gap depends on where in the world you are, and how you're relying on power. Here in the U.S., it's difficult."

U.S. energy networks are segmented. That means computers on the business side are not connected to the machines responsible for distributing power. So if someone launches an attack against business computers to try and steal credentials or places malware on a computer, it would not be able to jump to the machines controlling the grid.

A secure grid

Cyber intrusions at energy facilities are often means of gathering intelligence or data, and some types, like phishing attacks, aren't unusual. For instance, the government recently warned U.S. energy facilities of a targeted campaign trying to steal credentials, like usernames and passwords, from energy firms' corporate networks.

The Wolf Creek nuclear facility in Kansas was one of the victims of this recent attack. A spokeswoman for Wolf Creek told CNN Tech earlier this month that the attacks did not impact operations at all because the operation systems were separate from the networks that were targeted.

The electric grid is resilient. If the grid in your city was hit with a cyberattack, it would bounce back quickly, Lee said. The actual impact -- or time of electricity going out -- would be a few hours.

It's not the outage that would be the most damaging aspect to a destructive grid attack, however.

"The biggest impact to us would be psychological in nature," Lee said.

Source:CNN

Repeal is dead (for now). But will Obamacare survive?

Now what?

The Republicans' years-long desire to repeal Obamacare has collapsed, but that doesn't mean all is well with the health reform law.

 

There are signs that the individual marketplace is stabilizing, but it remains fragile in many states. And the sudden halt to the repeal and replace effort early Friday morning added more uncertainty into Obamacare's future.

With the deadline to set 2018 rates fewer than three weeks away, insurers were hoping Congress and the White House would address their most pressing needs, including the continued funding of a critical set of subsidies and other funds to cover high-cost enrollees.

"Important improvements are needed to ensure the individual market delivers lower costs and more choices," Marilyn Tavenner, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, wrote to Senate leaders this week. "The status quo is not sustainable."

President Trump, however, injected more drama into the situation on Saturday, tweeting that he will cut off the cost-sharing subsidies if Congress doesn't pass a health care bill quickly. The subsidies reduce deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for lower-income enrollees.

nsurers have had to deal with this threat since Trump took office in January. The administration is now paying the subsidies on a monthly basis, leaving the industry worried that he could end them at any time.

Already, some carriers have requested large rate hikes for next year to cover them in case Trump decides to stop paying the cost-sharing reduction subsidies. In Nevada, for instance, insurers have asked to increase rates by 38%, on average for 2018. Meanwhile in Colorado, Cigna wants an average hike of 41% next year.

Other carriers no longer wanted to deal with the volatility and decided to walk away from the individual market. Anthem, Aetna, Humana and other insurers have reduced their footprint or have exited completely. Nearly 25,000 people in 38 counties are at risk of having no options on the exchanges in 2018 unless another carrier steps in, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. If this actually comes to pass, it will be the first time in the nearly four years since Obamacare launched.

Related: GOP Obamacare repeal bill fails in dramatic late-night vote

Anthem, which has already announced it will withdraw from three of its 14 states next year, said Wednesday it needs more predictability, particularly on the subsidies. The insurer, one of the largest on the exchanges, has 1.5 million enrollees in Obamacare plans.

"If we aren't able to gain certainty on some of these items quickly, we do expect that we will need to revise our rate filings to further narrow our level of participation," CEO Joseph Swedish said in an earnings call.

Insurers have until September 27 to make a final decision about their participation next year. State regulators had hoped the repeal effort would have funded the cost-sharing reduction subsidies in the short run, giving carriers some peace of mind. But now, with Trump rooting for Obamacare to implode and conservative lawmakers reluctant to prop it up, more may decide to withdraw.

"If we don't see any rapid action to reconsider at least the CSR appropriations, we're going to see a large number of insurers reconsidering their participation decision," said Julie Mix McPeak, president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Relying on the administration -- that has only agreed to pay the CSRs on a month-to-month basis, even through 2017. They haven't agreed to anything for 2018 -- that is what is most concerning for us as regulators."

Insurers say they are committed to working with Congress and the Trump administration to stabilize the individual market. Some Republican lawmakers say they are open to reaching across the aisle to find solutions, at least in the short term.

Related: Cryptic calls, lip-reading and a thumbs-down: Behind McCain's dramatic vote

Arizona Senator John McCain, whose opposition to the repeal bill helped doom it early Friday, exhorted his colleagues to seek a bipartisan fix. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the health committee, said he would hold hearings over the next few weeks on shoring up the individual market.

The big wild card, however, remains Trump and his administration. The president has repeatedly said Obamacare is dead, and that it's the Democrats' fault. But he and his officials have done things to hasten that outcome.

Hours after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order seeking to ease the financial burden that the law placed on Americans, insurers and others. More recently, he and his officials have showcased the health reform law's "victims," saying Americans must be rescued.

"Since day one of the Trump Administration, the team at HHS has taken numerous steps to provide relief to Americans who are reeling from the status quo, and this effort will continue," said Health Secretary Tom Price after the Senate failed to pass a repeal bill.

Related: Will Obamacare really fail?

In addition to refusing to commit to paying the cost-sharing subsidies, the administration has left insurers wondering whether it will enforce the individual mandate. The provision, which requires nearly all Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty, is key to getting coveted young and healthy consumers to buy policies.

Also, insurers are concerned that the Trump administration will undermine open enrollment this fall. It has already cut the sign-up period in half and ended contracts with two marketing firms that promote participation. These moves come after it abruptly pulled ads at the end of the last season, just days after the president took office.

About half a million fewer people signed up for coverage on the exchanges for 2017 compared to the year before -- the first drop since Obamacare began.

Source:CNN

Could Boniface Mwangi stage a shock upset in the Kenyan elections?

(CNN)Boniface Mwangi is Kenya's most famous provocateur; a poverty-boy done bad -- at least in the eyes of the political elite.

He's upset the establishment in nearly every way thinkable. He was arrested for letting pigs loose in front of parliament to highlight the greed of politicians and claimed that President Uhuru Kenyatta is an alcoholic, to name a few.
Mwangi has spent the last decade ridiculing parliament and now -- not content with leading protests from the sidelines -- he wants to join it. On August 8 he will contest the Starehe constituency in Nairobi.
 
 
Recent elections around the world have given rise to anti-establishment candidates. Will Mwangi be next?
His newly created political party, Ukweli, which means truth, is standing on an anti-corruption platform and looking to encourage active participation in politics.
Mwangi faces an uphill battle to win the seat. It's held by incumbent President Kenyatta's Jubilee Alliance who this year are fielding Charles Njagua Kanyi, known as "Jaguar", a well-known pop singer. The opposition party's MP aspirant is businessman Steve Mbogo.

Who is Boniface Mwangi?

Mwangi grew up in Pangani, a suburb in Nairobi, with his mother who he helped sell books on the street. After getting kicked-out of school and failing to graduate he eventually took up photography -- and found he had an eye for it.
In 1998 Mwangi's received his first commission for photos of the bombed-out United States Embassy in Nairobi.
But it was in 2007 that Mwangi was thrusted into the world's spotlight.
His images of Kenya's post-election violence -- in which over 1200 people were killed -- spoke to a reeling nation and revealed the crisis to the world. Afterwards, he traveled the country with a public exhibition of his photography, "Pitchamtaani," to encourage reconciliation and healing after the violence.
Kenyan activist, Boniface Mwangi,  leads demonstrators during a protest against rising cases of corruption in the government, high unemployment and poverty.
 
At this point Mwangi was no longer an observer, but an active citizen.
Together with other artists and activists he launched PAWA254 in 2010, a youth movement railing against social injustice. Mwangi used PAWA254 as a vehicle to organise and protest. Their hub in central Nairobi was their action base.
Mwangi's protests are theatrical and disruptive. He's led donkeys down the streets in Nairobi to symbolise the nation's fatigue with politics, and littered the roads with polystyrene babies to call-out the immaturity of Kenya's politicians.
Can Mwangi go from activist to politician?

Mwangi's electoral chances

In Kenya the two main alliances, The Jubilee Alliance which supports incumbent President Kenyatta, and the opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance, dominate the political landscape.
These two alliances are well rooted in the public's minds. This means a startup political party, like Ukweli, has the extra challenge of introducing itself to an electoral well-versed and conscious of long-standing organisations with established party machines and financial backing.
Kenyan politics is also still largely divided along tribal lines, with groups aligned to various mainstream parties. Mwangi will have to overcome these attitudes if he's to win.
However, Mwangi's alternative approach to politics has caught people's attention. Instead of relying on wealthy individual donors, he's crowdfunding his candidacy with small donations -- and even had a truck donated to the campaign.
Mwangi also has huge reach on social media. His 700k followers on Twitter and 250k Facebook page likes could be key to tapping into Kenya's staggeringly young and social media-savvy population -- who increasingly disregard tribal identities. As ever, though, it's difficult to know if these numbers will translate into actual votes.
As is the case with change-makers, sceptics worry Mwangi's influence will be stifled by parliament, that he can be more effective on the outside. For voters, candidates have come to them before claiming to clean up corruption, only to be consumed by it.
Mwangi insists he wants to shake-up the system from the inside. Yet win or lose, he has left his mark on Kenyan politics, challenging the old order and providing some hope for those fed-up with the status-quo.
Source:CNN