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IT40 News for 01/03/2019

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#1 New Congress gavels, more diverse, ready to confront Trump

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 6 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

© The Associated Press
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes a selfie with Rep. Ann McLane Kuster and Rep. Barbara Lee on the first day of the 116th Congress at the Capitol on Jan. 3, 2019. 
Update: The new Democratic-led House has begun voting on who will serve as the next speaker. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California is expected to win, retaking a post she held for four years until January 2011. She has been serving as minority leader ever since.

Pelosi all but ensured her election by agreeing to limit her tenure to no more than four years in the chamber's top spot.

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Some Democrats have been calling for new leadership in the caucus.

There are 235 Democrats in the House and 199 Republicans, with one vacancy.

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#2 Paul Whelan, American Accused of Spying, Is Said to Be Charged in Russia

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MOSCOW — The Russian authorities have brought espionage charges against an American citizen, Paul N. Whelan, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the news agency Interfax reported on Thursday.

Mr. Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir A. Zherebenkov, who said he spent much of Wednesday with Mr. Whelan, said he had found his client in an upbeat mood despite the long legal road that he faces.

“I was surprised to see him being so confident,” said Mr. Zherebenkov, a high-profile criminal defense lawyer.

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Mr. Whelan, 48, the head of global security for the Michigan auto parts maker BorgWarner and a Marine Corps veteran, was arrested last Friday and is being held in solitary confinement in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison. Russia’s domestic security agency, the F.S.B., issued a brief statement on Monday saying that Mr. Whelan had been caught in “an act of espionage” but provided no other details.

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#3 Lindsey Graham: Trump caving on border security ‘probably the end of his presidency’

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 8 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

© AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Republicans will continue to fight for the border wall.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News' "Hannity" Wednesday night that if President Trump backs away from his demand for $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, it would mark "the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president" and "probably the end of his presidency."

"I'll tell you exactly how this is going to end," Graham told host Sean Hannity about the border-security standoff, which has shut down parts of the federal government for nearly two weeks. "The president is going to challenge the Democrats to compromise and if they continue to say no, they’re going to pay a price with the American people."

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Graham told Hannity he would support a compromise providing funding for the wall "as a down payment to securing the border."

In exchange, Graham said, he would support giving three-year work permits to approximately 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and covered by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In addition, Graham said, people from ten countries who have temporary protected status (TPS) should have their legal status reaffirmed, but should not be given a pathway to citizenship.

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#4 Stocks tumble on weak factory data, dim Apple outlook

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 9 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

Stocks fell sharply Thursday after Apple warned first-quarter sales would be less than it previously expected. The iPhone maker blamed a slowing Chinese economy for the shortfall, intensifying fears that the global economy may be slowing down.

The Dow was down 560 points after tumbling more than 600 points earlier in the session as Apple led the decline. The S&P 500 pulled back 2 percent as the tech sector fell. The Nasdaq slid 2.4 percent as Apple's stock dropped more than 10 percent.

A weaker-than-expected economic reading on manufacturing sent the Dow to its lows of the day.

"This piles on to existing anxiety of a slowdown in global growth," said Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial. "Apple can be used as a proxy to China's growth."

Apple said it sees first-quarter revenue of $84 billion vs. a previous guidance of a range of $89 billion and $93 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $91.3 billion for the period, according to the consensus estimate from FactSet. Apple blamed most of the revenue shortfall for struggling business in China. But the company also said that upgrades by customers in other countries were "not as strong as we thought they would be."

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#5 Day 13: New Congress, same old impasse over Trump’s wall

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 9 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

A partial US government shutdown began at midnight on Dec. 22, 2018,. when a funding agreement between the Congress and President Trump could not be reached.

(Pictured) President Donald Trump attends a Cabinet meeting on day 12 of the partial U.S. government shutdown at the White House in Washington, on Jan. 2.

The United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Narwhal sits at a dock at its station during the partial US government shutdown on Dec. 30, in Newport Beach, Calif.. Active duty Coast Guard service members will receive a one-time emergency paycheck on Dec. 31 after working without pay since Dec. 21.

Tourists look at Statue of Liberty statues as they congregate in lower Manhattan during the holiday week on Dec. 29 in New York City. Despite the government shutdown, the Statue of Liberty and the Museum of the American Indian, two major tourists destinations, have so far remained open.

Tourists look at Statue of Liberty statues as they congregate in lower Manhattan on Dec. 29 in New York City.

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#6 ‘We gave more than enough sacrifices’: Afghans blast Trump’s praise of the Soviet invasion

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Video by USA Today

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KABUL —Afghan officials on Thursday denounced President Trump’s praise of the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of their country, which he described this week as a fight against terrorism, breaking with decades of Republican anti-communist tenets.

According to the revisionist historical account Trump delivered during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, “the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.” He added: “They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight.”

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#7 North Korean envoy to Italy vanishes _ did he defect?

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ROME — North Korea's top diplomat in Italy has gone into hiding along with his wife, according to a South Korean lawmaker, raising the possibility of a defection of a senior North Korean official.

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The news came from South Korea's spy agency, which briefed lawmakers in Seoul on Thursday on the status of North Korea's acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil. It said he went into hiding with his wife in November before his posting to Italy ended late that month.

A high-profile defection by one of North Korea's elite would be a huge embarrassment for leader Kim Jong Un as he pursues diplomacy with Seoul and Washington and seeks to portray himself as a geopolitical player.

South Korean lawmaker Kim Min-ki said an official from Seoul's National Intelligence Service shared the information during a closed-door briefing. Kim did not say whether the spy agency revealed anything about Jo's current whereabouts or whether he had plans to defect to South Korea.

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#8 Arrest of French ‘yellow vest’ leader sparks outrage

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 9 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

One of the leaders of the "yellow vest" demonstrations in France was detained by police in Paris, signalling a harder line from the government that sparked a wave of criticism from opponents on Thursday.

Eric Drouet -- who already faces a trial for carrying a weapon at a previous protest -- was arrested late Wednesday for organising an unauthorised protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue. He was released Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters after his release, Drouet said he had been on his way to a restaurant with four others when they were picked up.

"I wasn't wearing a yellow vest, just walking on the pavement," he said, calling the arrest "incomprehensible".

"I'm not the yellow vests' representative. With or without me, it will continue", he said, speaking of the protests.

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#9 Kicked out of Somalia, U.N. envoy publicly raises poll concerns

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations envoy to Somalia warned on Thursday that the arrest of a former militant leader could deter others from choosing politics over violence, speaking publicly about the incident despite being kicked out of the country just days earlier for privately expressing his concerns to the government.

Nicholas Haysom briefed the U.N. Security Council in New York but did not address a statement issued by Somalia's foreign affairs ministry late on Tuesday that accused him of interfering in internal affairs and said he "cannot work in this country."

Haysom had raised questions in a letter on Sunday about the involvement of U.N.-supported Somali security forces in the arrest of a former militant of the Islamist al Shabaab group who was blocked from running in a recent regional election.

He told the 15-member Security Council that the allegations of interference by the federal government in the regional election and the violence that followed the former militant's arrest "does not bode well for the upcoming electoral processes in other regions or for the 2020 national elections."

"This may also have implications for the likelihood of future al Shabaab defectors who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path," said Haysom, a South African.

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#10 Death toll reaches 39 in Russian apartment block collapse – Interfax

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MAGNITOGORSK, Russia, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Thirty-nine bodies have been pulled from under the rubble of a Russian apartment building that partially collapsed this week after an apparent gas explosion, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

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The blast in the early hours of December 31 damaged 48 apartments in a 10-storey building in the industrial city of Magnitogorsk, some 1,700 km (1,050 miles) east of Moscow.

The death toll has progressively risen in the past few days as rescuers battle blisteringly cold temperatures to recover people trapped under the rubble.

The emergencies ministry said earlier on Thursday that 37 people had been killed.But the death toll went up to 39 when rescuers recovered another two bodies from the rubble on Thursday afternoon.

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#11 Serial killer known as China’s ‘Jack the Ripper’ executed

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 16 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

A man who earned the nickname of China's "Jack the Ripper" for the slayings of 11 victims was executed Thursday, according to reports.

Gao Chengyong, 54, was sentenced to death in March during a court appearance in Baiyin, China, for robbery, rape, murder, and defiling the dead, according to the South China Morning Post.

Gao was charged for the murders of 11 women and girls between 1998 and 2002, reports AFP. Gao targeted young women wearing red and followed them home, sometimes mutilating his victims, said the report.

"The motives of the defendant’s crimes were despicable, his methods extremely cruel, the nature of the acts vile and the details of the crimes serious," said the Baiyin Intermediate People’s Court during his sentencing in March, reports The Morning Post.

Police had been searching for Gao for years until they discovered a break in the case: his uncle was arrested for a minor crime and gave a DNA sample police linked to the crime, concluding a relative likely committed the murders, reports BBC.

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#12 China lands spacecraft on ‘dark’ side of moon in world first

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 9 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

BEIJING — China's burgeoning space program achieved a first on Thursday: a landing on the so-called dark side of the moon that brings the country closer to its goal of becoming a space power.

Three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China — have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, which faces Earth, but this landing is the first-ever on the far side.

The China National Space Administration said the 10:26 a.m. touchdown of the Chang'e 4 craft has "opened up a new chapter in human lunar exploration."

A photo taken at 11:40 a.m. and sent back by Chang'e 4 shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the lunar explorer. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia.

The landing highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement the nation's position as a regional and global power.

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#13 U.S. warns Iran against space launches, ballistic missiles

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 18 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States issued a pre-emptive warning to Iran on Thursday against pursuing three planned space rocket launches, which it said would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution related to its ballistic missile activity.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had announced plans to launch in the coming months three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), which he said incorporate ballistic missile technology.

"The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime's destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," Pompeo said in a statement.

"We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation."

Pompeo said such rocket launches would violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. It calls upon Iran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology. It stops short of explicitly barring such activity.

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#14 Toxic smog shrouds Indian capital as pollution soars, govt measures fail

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 19 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

NEW DELHI, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Residents of the Indian capital of New Delhi woke on Thursday to a thick, grey smog, as pollution surged to "severe" and "emergency" levels, with authorities showing little sign of finding new solutions to the crisis.

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The air quality index of the state-run Central Pollution Control Board showing the concentration of poisonous particulate matter known as PM 2.5 stood at 440, up from 430 on Wednesday, and about 12 times the U.S. government recommended level of 35.

Pollution levels hit 500 in some parts of New Delhi, with very poor visibility in some areas. Last year, the high was 450 on Dec. 23.

"Climatic conditions have contributed to the crisis, but let's admit that most steps announced in 2018 have failed miserably," said Sunil Dahiya, a senior campaigner with environmental group Greenpeace.

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#15 A massive floating device created to clean up the Pacific Ocean breaks down

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A 2,000-foot-long system created to clean up plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean is broken and being towed back to port for repair.

The Ocean Cleanup System 001, a U-shaped floating barrier created by the organization The Ocean Cleanup, arrived in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in October.

Ocean garbage patches are formed by rotating ocean currents called "gyres" that pull marine debris (litter, fishing gear, and plastic) into one location, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The are several of these patches in the ocean, including two in the Pacific. The one known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located between Hawaii and California, and it's about double the size of Texas, or three times the size of California.

After several months at sea, it was determined the system failed to retain plastic, the organization announced earlier in December.

Now, a 60-foot section of the device has broken free from the system, the organization announced December 29. The entire floating system, along with over 4,400 pounds of plastic it has recovered, is being brought back to shore.

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#16 Mayor of a Mexican town is assassinated just 90 MINUTES after being sworn into office

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 21 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited
Alejandro Aparicio Santiago was assassinated New Year's Day, just ninety minutes after he had been sworn as mayor of the indigenous Mexican town of Tlaxiaco in the state of Oaxaca

A mayor in central Mexico was shot dead just 90 minutes after his New Year's Day oath of office ceremony.

Alejandro Aparicio Santiago had just been sworn in the indigenous town of Tlaxiaco in the state of Oaxaca on Tuesday morning when two men approached started shooting at him and three other politicians. 

Aparicio Santiago was traveling to the a meeting a city hall at 11.30am when he was attacked by the two gunmen, according to the state prosecutor's office.

Villagers quickly jumped into action and apprehended one of the suspects, who has not been identified.

They beat the suspect and detained him before police officers arrived. 

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#18 Barack Obama Makes Billboard Hot R&B Songs Chart Debut

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 9 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

(Video provided by Buzz60)

And new at No. 22 on this week’s Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart is Barack Obama.

The former president made his debut on the chart with his performance, alongside Christopher Jackson and gospel singer BeBe Winans, on the remixed version of “Hamilton” showstopper “One Last Time.”

Check out “One Last Time (44 Remix)” here:

The track on which Obama recites a passage from George Washington’s 1796 farewell address sold 9,000 downloads and had 307,000 online streams in the first week following its Dec. 20 release, per The Hollywood Reporter. 

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#19 Billy Connolly, 76, says his ‘life is slipping away but is ready for an adventure’ as he bravely speaks about Parkinson’s disease in BBC documentary

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Billy Connolly has revealed he feels his 'life is slipping away' as his Parkinson's disease progresses. 

The comedian, now 76, who was diagnosed in 2013, makes the admission in the second part of his BBC documentary series Made In Scotland. 

He says: 'There is no denying it, I am 75 [at the time of filming], I have got Parkinson’s and I am at the wrong end of the telescope of life, I am at the point where the yesteryears mean more than the yesterdays.

He adds: 'I’m 75, I’m near the end, I’m a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning but it doesn’t frighten me, it’s an adventure and it is quite interesting to see myself slipping away.' 

The Mirror reports that at certain points in the show, Billy asks the camera to stop filming as he struggles with his symptoms, while in another scene his hand shakes uncontrollably. 

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#20 Andy Cohen’s umbrella flap won’t go away

IT40 News for 01/03/2019 9 IT40 News for 01/03/2019

© Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock
Andy Cohen attends Z100's iHeart Radio Jingle Ball 2018 in New York City on Dec. 7, 2018.

Has an umbrella ever caused so much chaos?

A few days after Andy Cohen ranted live on the air about Times Square authorities forbidding him from using an umbrella during a New Year's Eve downpour, those same authorities are pushing back.

"It has been our policy that umbrellas are not permitted on the media riser so as to not interfere with media colleagues' sightlines," a spokesperson for the Times Square Alliance told Page Six. "There were over 100 credentialed members of the media and 15 live broadcast camera spots on the media riser this year."

Andy, though, thinks he was singled out, and even posted a collage of celebrities on Twitter who were apparently allowed to keep their umbrellas up during their New Year's Eve telecasts from Times Square.

"We don't monitor this issue on other stages that are stand-alone with no other networks present, thus no potential for other camera shots to be blocked," the authority explained when asked why other networks were able to keep their umbrellas.

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#21 ‘He’s mad’: Heidi Klum tells Ellen DeGeneres Drake replied to her apology with this emoji

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Heidi Klum finally made Drake's hotline bling – sort of.

The "America's Got Talent" judge previously revealed on a September episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" that the Canadian rapper had texted her asking for a date, after she expressed interest in the "In My Feelings" artist on an earlier episode of "Ellen." 

"Someone who I know, knows him, and I guess he asked to have my number, and then he texted me," the model explained back in September. "And I was like 'Oh, my gosh this is so weird.' But then, I never texted him back because I found the love of my life (Tokio Hotel guitarist Tom Kaulitz)."

On Wednesday's episode of "Ellen," Klum said she reached out to Drake after appearing on the show. 

"I said I’m sorry because I know it made a huge wave after I was here, and he just made that face,” she explained, impersonating the emoji with its eyebrow raised. 

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