News & LinksTue, 12 Dec 2017, Charles Jenkins, American Held By North Korea For 40 Years After Defection, Dies At 77
Charles Jenkins, a former American soldier who defected across the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea in 1965 and was held by the totalitarian regime for 40 years, died in Japan on Monday at the age of 77.
Wed, 13 Dec 2017, Prosecutors move to keep death penalty an option in slayings
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors have moved to hold onto their ability to seek the death penalty against two cousins in the deaths of four men found buried on a Philadelphia-area farm, although attorneys have said a deal with one defendant would take capital punishment off the table.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress will allow a deadline on reimposing sanctions on Iran to pass this week, congressional and White House aides said on Tuesday, leaving a pact between world powers and Tehran intact at least temporarily. In October, Trump declined to certify that Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement reached among Tehran, the United States and others in 2015. Congressional leaders have announced no plans to introduce a resolution to reimpose sanctions before Wednesday's deadline and aides say lawmakers will let the deadline pass without action.
Crews battling wildfires ravaging southern California for a week have managed to slow the spread of the worst of the blazes, officials said Tuesday, as residents were taking stock of the catastrophic damage. Evacuation orders were in place for threatened areas in the Santa Barbara region about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Los Angeles. In the past day or so, the blaze figure has grown by around a thousand hectares.
For many in the state, the special election has become a way to project a message to the rest of the nation on what Alabama is. Supporters of Democrat Doug Jones want to shed the stereotype of Alabama as a stagnant backwater. Jones is best known for his work as a U.S. attorney in the 1990s, prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members for blowing up a black church in 1963.
Former Paralympic champion and convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius has been injured in a prison brawl over the use of a public phone, a South African official said on Tuesday. The double amputee -- who is serving a 13-year jail term for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp -- was left with a bruise after "an altercation with another inmate over the use of a public phone" on December 6, according to the department of Correctional Services. "Oscar Pistorius sustained a bruise following an alleged incident with another inmate over the use of a public phone in the special care unit where both offenders are detained at Attridgeville Correctional Centre," spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said.
Chinese authorities have collected DNA and other biometric data from the whole population of the volatile western region of Xinjiang, Human Right Watch said on Wednesday, denouncing the campaign as a gross violation of international norms. Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years in violence between Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people, and ethnic majority Han Chinese, which Beijing blames on Islamist militants. Police are responsible for collecting pictures, fingerprints, iris scans and household registration information, while health authorities should collect DNA samples and blood type information as part of a "Physicals for All" program, the New York-based group said in a statement, citing government a document.
A young Chinese climbing enthusiast's fatal fall from a skyscraper while making a selfie video on a $15,000 "rooftopping" dare has spurred warnings by state media against the perils of livestreaming. Wu Yongning plunged to his death from a 62-storey building in central China on Nov. 8, the day he stopped posting videos of his skyscraper exploits on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.
The United States, European Union and Japan jointly rounded on China's "market-distorting subsidies" at the World Trade Organization conference in Argentina Tuesday. A joint statement from the three powers made no direct mention of China, but said "severe excess capacity in key sectors, exacerbated by government-financed and supported capacity expansion, unfair competitive conditions caused by large market-distorting subsidies and state-owned enterprises" were serious problems for international trade.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s mistreatment of political prisoners is at least as egregious as that carried out in World War II concentration camps, according to a former international judge who survived Auschwitz.
Firefighters grappling with a wildfire that has burned out of control for 10 days on California's scenic coastline, destroying more than 700 homes, sought on Wednesday to defend homes from flames whipped by resurgent Santa Ana winds. The so-called Thomas Fire, already the state's fifth-largest wildland blaze on record, remained a threat to the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito despite gains made by crews during a lull in the winds a day earlier. "Very high fuel loading, critically low fuel moistures, above average temperatures and single-digit relative humidities will continue to support fire growth on the west, east and north sides of the Thomas Incident," the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.
Tue, 12 Dec 2017, The Latest: Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate seat
Until Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Jose Figueroa did brisk business renting kayaks to tourists itching to see a lagoon that lights up by night thanks to millions of microorganisms. "We do not know if we will have any work tonight," Figueroa said.
By Ben Gruber CARPINTERIA, Calif. (Reuters) - An out-of-control California wildfire that has already destroyed nearly 700 homes in its path of destruction crept closer to the upscale hillside community of Montecito on Tuesday despite calmer winds that slowed its progress. The Thomas Fire, which broke out on Dec. 4 near the community of Ojai, has since traveled 27 miles (43 km) to become the fifth-largest blaze in state history. It has blackened more than 368 square miles (953 square km) in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an area larger than New York City.
In a video that went viral on Twitter, people wearing American flag-themed clothing, including one wearing a shirt supporting President Donald Trump, can be seen laughing at a Palestinian-American family who attended a pro-Palestine rally in Los Angeles on Sunday.
By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura urged Russia on Wednesday to convince its ally the Syrian government of the need to clinch a peace deal to end the nearly seven-year-old war. De Mistura, speaking on Swiss television station RTS, said failure to make peace quickly through United Nations mediation could lead to "a fragmentation of Syria".
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Delta Air Lines plane nearly landed on a taxiway that was occupied by another plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, federal accident investigators said Wednesday.
Thus, despite the growing threat it faces from an increasingly powerful China and the high uncertainty surrounding the future of the region, circumstances—particularly the potential for Beijing to alienate Seoul should the relationship continue to sour—could in fact turn more favorable for Taiwan, thus creating an opportunity to play a greater role in regional security. Twenty-one years, as Taiwanese were readying to hold their country’s first direct presidential election later in March, China flexed its military muscles by holding a series of military exercises and firing missiles within thirty-five miles off the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung, causing a panic in Taiwan and prompted U.S. President William J. Clinton to deploy a carrier battle group to international waters near Taiwan.
The epitome of coffee cool, the flat white came under fire this week as Conal Lavery of Thomson’s Coffee Roasters told Channel 4’s Supershoppers that customers were being ripped off by excessive pricing. In Starbucks, you can expect to pay £2.40 for a tall latte (12 fl oz) with two shots of coffee, but £2.60 for a significantly smaller flat white (8 fl oz). In Caffè Nero, a medium latte is £2.50 - but a flat white will set you back £2.60. Based on their ingredients, he explained, a flat white (a double espresso shot with a single portion of textured milk) should be cheaper. "There is no reason for a flat white to cost any more," he said. "The chains and the speciality independent side of the market do a double shot as standard [in flat whites as well as lattes]," he added. "So you are getting the same amount of coffee and with a flat white but with less milk. So if anything, it should cost less." I hate the word hipster, but people are buying into the East London thing Previously the preserve of specialists and coffee drinkers in Australia and New Zealand, where it originated, the flat white entered public consciousness a couple of years ago. It's now a mainstream choice on the high street - but still comes at a seemingly bizarre premium. So, are hapless consumers being tricked into thinking we're buying a superior coffee? Or are we paying some sort of zeitgeist tax? What does the flat white represent to you? Credit: Getty The inflated price might have something to do with the fact that the espresso-based coffee is still synonymous with the "cool" East London lifestyle, says Chloe Callow, coffee expert and editor of Caffeine Magazine. Callow agrees that the flat white costs no more to produce than other conventional coffees - but she does say that there's an added skill in texturing the milk. A proper flat white should be made using whole milk that is steamed to microfoam consistency - this means aerating the milk less than if you were making a latte, which creates a silkier texture. There's also an art to producing the detailed and highly Instagrammable foam art that is synonymous with a flat white. If done properly, all of this requires investment in a skilled barista. Coffee decoded: why filter is the only way to brew beans now However, Callow suggests that the other reason for the higher cost of a flat white comes from its "perceived value". Retailers are relying on the desire of consumers to be part of a trend. "These customers are not just buying a flat white, she says. "They’re buying into a lifestyle." For Callow, the flat white represents an accessible, affordable, bite-sized portion of cool - which grants momentary inclusion into a certain tribe. "The [flat white] trend stemmed from the rise of independent coffee shops in London - think of the stereotype of the tattooed barista." Is your flat white really worth the extra pennies? "There are loads of them now, but when they first arrived, they were pioneers of this 'third wave' coffee scene. The flat white was less accessible back then, and seen as something a little bit different." Third Wave coffee, for those of you who didn't get the memo, is the term for the global movement towards treating coffee as an artisan food product. "The flat white is a small luxury but it's still affordable - it's perceived as niche, and above and beyond the everyday," continues Callow. "It's not like buying a cup of tea and a biscuit. I hate the word 'hipster', but people are buying into the East London thing, and taking a moment to feel like they're part of a different demographic. Full of beans: Britain's 30 best and buzziest coffee shops The mystery that still surrounds coffee, she suggests, also contributes to the allure of slightly less orthodox brews. "Because coffee isn't well understood by many, it's still seen as mysterious - even by chefs in restaurants. It's exotic and unknown, a bit like natural wine." But the question is, does Callow think the flat white is a rip-off? Apparently not. "For £3, it's worth it - and most people don't mind, because of what it represents." Whatever the flat white represents to you, it seems that the jury is out.
Instead of pressuring lawmakers to push new gun-control measures through the U.S. Congress, volunteers from groups including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are now running for office themselves. Nine of 13 volunteers trained by the group ran for office this year and won seats, ranging from New Hampshire state representative to city council member in West University Place, Texas. Fourteen more have already declared their intentions to run for office in 2018, seeking seats in Congress, state legislatures and local government, all running as Democrats.
PolitiFact on Tuesday revealed its 2017 “Lie of the Year,” focusing on how President Donald Trump has regularly disputed whether Russia interfered in last year’s election and questioned the widely held conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, which he has frequently undermined and dismissed as “political hacks.”
Wed, 13 Dec 2017, Mother who 'blacked out' during baby's death gets 13 years
Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the spiritual leader of Israel’s non-Hassidic ultra-Orthodox Jews of European descent and one of the country’s most influential and powerful rabbis, died on Tuesday. He was 104.