Top40 News for 04/16/2018

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#1 In Interview, Comey Calls Trump ‘Morally Unfit’ and a ‘Stain’ on All Around Him

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WASHINGTON — If there was any chance that President Trump and James B. Comey could have avoided all-out war, it ended Sunday night.

That was when ABC News aired an interview with Mr. Comey, the president’s fired F.B.I. director, as he uses a publicity blitz for his searing tell-all memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” to raise the alarm about the dangers he says Mr. Trump poses to the country.

[Read annotated excerpts from the full interview here.]

While ABC aired one hour of its conversation with Mr. Comey, it had conducted a five-hour interview with him, a transcript of which was obtained by The New York Times. In it, Mr. Comey called Mr. Trump a serial liar who treated women like “meat,” and described him as a “stain” on everyone who worked for him.

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#2 In Searing Interview, James Comey Unleashes Against ‘Morally Unfit’ Trump

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Former FBI Director James Comey gave a no-holds-barred interview on Sunday night in which he called Donald Trump “morally unfit to be president” and a liar who possibly obstructed justice.

Comey, speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, touched on many of the scandals that have plagued the Trump administration over the past 16 months, including the Russia dossier and the litany of sexual misconduct allegations leveled at the president.

“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Comey said.

Highlights from the interview include:

The interview comes just days before the release of his highly anticipated book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, which has already sold close to 200,000 copies. 

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#3 Trump Bowed to Pentagon Restraint on Syria Strikes

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WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump deferred to his Pentagon chief’s caution and tempered his preference for a more robust attack on Syria over allegations it used deadly gas on civilians, the first hints at the direction of his revamped national-security team.

The decision late last week, detailed by people familiar with the process, marked the first substantive test of the group now that John Bolton is serving as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.

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#4 Dangerous South Carolina prison secured after ‘mass casualty incident,’ officials say

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Update : Seven inmates were killed and 17 others were injured after a fight at one of South Carolina’s most dangerous prisons, a prison spokesman said Monday.

Earlier story follows:

One of South Carolina’s most dangerous prisons was secured early Monday after a “mass casualty incident” involving multiple inmates at several housing units, officials said.

Lee Correctional Institution was secured at around 2:55 a.m. after incident involving inmates in three housing units, the South Carolina Department of Corrections wrote on Twitter. The incident started at around 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

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#5 Cohen used same company to make payments to two women: report

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© Provided by The Hill

Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into Michael Cohen's use of a private company in Delaware to get money to women who alleged they had affairs with two of his clients.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Michael Cohen used Essential Consultants LLC to send money to a former Playboy model who alleged top Republican donor Elliott Broidy had impregnated her.

He used the same company to pay $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with President Trump in 2006.

The Journal reported that Broidy made an initial payment of $62,500 to Essential Consultants LLC as part of Cohen's negotiation fee, and later paid the rest directly to Cohen.

The newspaper reported on Friday that Cohen had negotiated a $1.6 million settlement for Broidy, who served as the deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee (RNC).

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#6 Trump Demands Chance To Review His Files Seized In Raids On Michael Cohen

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President Donald Trump is demanding the chance to review his files seized by federal investigators from his longtime fixer, Michael Cohen, to assess which are protected by attorney-client privilege, arguing that DOJ prosecutors cannot fairly make that determination.

Trump’s demands came in a letter filed late Sunday evening in federal court in Manhattan, where U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood has scheduled a hearing Monday to determine who gets to go through the seized records first. Prosecutors have said that a federal grand jury has been investigating Cohen for months. He has not been charged with any crimes.

Trump’s lawyers asked that he and Cohen receive a copy of the materials obtained in last week’s raids so they can give them a first pass for exchanges that may be privileged. A so-called “taint team” of DOJ attorneys uninvolved in the case would be “plainly inadequate” and fail to “zealously protect the President’s privilege,” Trump attorney Joanna Hendon wrote in the letter addressed to Wood.

The President retained this new legal team after federal agents raided Cohen’s office, home and apartment last Monday. Court filings released days later revealed that Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and close ally, has been under criminal investigation for matters related to his business dealings.

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#7 After strikes, accountability for Macron and May and a warning from Putin

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On April 14, 2018, the joint forces of the U.S., U.K. and France launched over 100 projectiles from planes and ships on weapons facilities at three sites in Syria, in retaliation to the April 7 chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma that reportedly claimed more than 40 lives and left 500 people injured. There have been no reports of casualties caused by the strikes so far. 

On April 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that if the Western nations execute another strike on Syria, it would bring chaos to global affairs. A statement released by the Kremlin said, "Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the U.N. Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations."

Here are the latest updates.

This combination of satellite images provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Barzah Research and Development Center in Syria on Friday, April 13 and on Sunday, April 15, 2018, following the missile attack.

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#8 Passengers Cry, Scream in Southwest Airlines Landing

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Passengers on board a Southwest Airlines plane screamed, cried and vomited during an attempted landing in a storm in New Orleans.

The harrowing incident on Southwest Airlines Flight 3461 on Saturday also prompted one passenger to send goodbye texts to loved ones as the pilot attempted to land the plane, which had set off from Fort Lauderdale.

“I thought we were going to crash,” WWLTV reporter Lauren Bale, who was a passenger on board the flight, said.

“It was going all over the place. People were screaming, people were crying. The flight attendants were yelling over the speakers to fasten seat belts as tightly as possible and I was texting my family goodbye,” she added in comments carried by UK newspaper The Daily Mail. “I just don't understand why [Southwest Airlines] put everyone in that situation.”

Another passenger, Marie Wary, told WWLTV she felt like she was about to die as the plane attempted to land, while at least one passenger vomited during the incident.

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#9 Storms unleash tornadoes in U.S. east, record snow in Midwest

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© Nebraska State Patrol via AP
This photo provided by Nebraska State Patrol show stranded motorists on Interstate 80 near Sidney, Neb., Friday, April 13, 2018. A potent spring storm system that's expected to persist through the weekend raked…

ATLANTA, April 15 (Reuters) - Deadly slow-moving storms generated record or near-record snowfall and low temperatures in the U.S. Midwest and tornadoes further east on Sunday, leaving airline travelers stranded and thousands without power.

In Michigan, where snowfall was expected to reach 18 inches (46 cm) in some areas, about 310,000 homes and businesses were without power because of an ice storm, most of them in the southeast of the state.

Large areas of Detroit were without power and customers were not expected to have it back on Sunday night, utility DTE Energy said. It was working to have 90 percent of outages restored by Tuesday, DTE spokeswoman Carly Getz said in a statement.

The weight of ice on power lines, coupled with high winds, caused more than 1,000 power lines to fall in Detroit and Wayne County, DTE said.

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#10 Feds: Increase medication-based treatment for opioids

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WASHINGTON — Deep within President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid abuse, overshadowed by his call for the death penalty for some drug traffickers, is a push to expand the use of medication to treat addiction.

It's a rare instance in which Trump isn't trying roll back Obama administration policies, and where fractious Republicans and Democrats in Congress have come together.

Trump declared last month that "we're making medically assisted treatment more available and affordable," even as Congress was working to approve $1 billion for a new treatment grant program for opioids as part of the massive spending bill to keep the government running.

Not to offer such treatment for opioid addiction is like "trying to treat an infection without antibiotics," new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the National Governors Association earlier this year.

Experts have long argued that medication-assisted treatment should be the standard of care for people addicted to heroin and other opioid drugs. But acceptance lags. Cost is a barrier, as are government regulations. Some of the treatment drugs are opioids themselves and there's no consensus on how long patients should remain in treatment.

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#11 Brush fire burning miles from Coachella music festival

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Coachella is heating up, and it's not just because of Beyoncé's historic Saturday night performance.

A small wildfire is burning about 6 miles away from the music festival, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. As of 10:45 a.m. local time, the fire had consumed about 15 acres and was 10% contained.

Just over 100 firefighters are battling the vegetation fire, according to an incident report page on the fire department's website. Authorities said the fire poses no threat to the Coachella music festival, and that they will continue to monitor the fire and work to contain it.

No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire is being investigated, the report said. No evacuations have been ordered and the fire's forward spread has been stopped.

Windy conditions in the area could make battling the blaze more difficult. A high wind watch is in effect, said CNN meteorologist Gene Norman, with winds from 35 to 45 mph and gusts up to 70 mph.

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#12 Gay-rights lawyer David S. Buckel sets himself on fire in protest suicide

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A prominent gay rights attorney who led lawsuits legalizing same-sex marriage set himself on fire in Brooklyn on Saturday morning in a fatal plea for action on issues related to the environment.

The body of David S. Buckel, 60, was found near Prospect Park's baseball fields about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday after a passerby reported a severely burned individual, the New York Police Department said.

"I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide," read a handwritten suicide note, according to the New York Daily News. "I apologize to you for the mess."

Another note found near his body, which was also emailed to local news outlets, said his self-immolation was a call to action, according to The New York Times.

"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather," he wrote in an email, according to the Times. "Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves."

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#13 How long will Missouri’s sex-scandal-ridden governor last?

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© AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens addresses the crowd during the Governor's Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo., Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017.

It might be one of the most shocking political fallouts of the #MeToo era. A governor once viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party, in part because of his squeaky-clean image, is now in the midst of a sex scandal and legal troubles that very likely will ruin any national ambitions he had and possibly drag down his entire party in his state ahead of November's elections.

So will Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens resign and potentially save his party a lot of headaches? Don't count on it, say both his allies and enemies.

“I've been watching this, and you know, I don't see the governor willingly stepping down,” said Rob Schaaf, a Republican state senator who feels so strongly that Greitens should go that he wrote a letter to President Trump this week asking him to urge Greitens to resign. “The longer he stays around, the worst it's going to be for the Republicans. It's guilty by association.”

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For Greitens, staying in office means fighting multiple battles. In May, he will face a trial related to an extramarital affair he had with a hair stylist in 2015 and allegations he photographed the woman naked without her consent. On Wednesday, an explosive report written by the Republican-controlled state House was released, detailing how the woman the governor had an affair with says he sexually assaulted her and threatened her.

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#14 Australia could run out of fuel in 43 days as escalating conflict in Syria threatens to cripple supply channels, experts warn

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Australia could completely run out of fuel by the end of next month, experts say, as the escalating conflict in Syria threatens to cripple supply channels from overseas.

A precarious combination of low oil reserves and over-dependence on international imports puts Australia at particular risk of running dry.

While the International Energy Agency mandates that countries hold a stock in reserve 'equivalent to 90 days of net imports', Australia only has 43 days worth of supply, the Australian reports.

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#15 Syria’s Assad in a ‘good mood,’ scorns U.S. weaponry after airstrikes

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BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised Russian weaponry on Sunday as his government celebrated victory over rebels in the town where an alleged chemical attack took place, triggering U.S. airstrikes over the weekend.

Assad made the comments during a meeting in Damascus with Russian lawmakers, who later told reporters that he was in a “good mood,” according to Russian news reports. Footage of the meeting broadcast by state television showed an animated Assad smiling and laughing as he met with the Russians.

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“President Assad was in absolutely positive spirits. He is in a good mood,” the Interfax news agency quoted Natalya Komarova, governor of Russia’s autonomous Khanty-Mansiysk district, as saying.

The meeting came a day after U.S.-led strikes, launched together with Britain and France, hit three Syrian chemical weapons facilities. The airstrikes were in response to the suspected April 7 chemical attack in Douma, a Damascus suburb.

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#16 8 lion cubs killed in suspected poison attack: report

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The Uganda Wildlife Authority said it believes villagers poisoned eight lion cubs—11 lions in all-- in retaliation for killing cattle near Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, National Geographic reported.

The report said hyenas likely devoured the dead lions prior to when researchers located the carcasses and bones on April 10 near a town called Mweya. It is believed that the lions ingested a poison called alibcarb, which causes difficulty breathing and suffocation.

“I broke down and I started crying,” Alex Braczkowski, a National Geographic Explorer who had been filming the tree-climbing lions, said. “I got attached to them because I was following them every day in a vehicle when I was filming them.”

Officials said they are working on how to secure the remaining lions in the park. Officials are optimistic because lions have the ability to reproduce relatively quickly, the report said.

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#17 911 system in trapped Ohio teen case may have crashed before call, official says

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The 911 dispatching system may have malfunctioned in the moments before an Ohio teenager called as he was being crushed to death in a minivan, the Cincinnati Police Department's union president said Saturday.

Fraternal Order of Police President Daniel Hils told FOX 19 the computer-aided dispatch system may have went down as Kyle Plush called 911 two times after being trapped inside the minivan at the parking lot of his school.

“This is not something that I think is terribly unusual. I mean electronic systems break down, they have to reboot, and they have to do different things,” he said.

In the event of a system failure, Hils told FOX 19 that the dispatch center would then have to relay messages by hand in order to get calls out.

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#18 Pence’s pick for national security adviser withdraws

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Vice President Mike Pence's pick for his national security adviser, Jon Lerner, has withdrawn after his hiring created tensions in the administration.

"Tonight Jon informed the vice president that he was withdrawing from coming on board as national security adviser and the vice president accepted his decision," Alyssa Farah, Pence's press secretary, said in a statement. "Vice President Pence holds Jon Lerner in the highest regard and expressed his deep gratitude for Jon's willingness to consider joining our team."

A GOP source close to the administration confirmed that news of Lerner's hiring by the vice president created some tension within the administration, saying it caused "a big damn mess."

On Sunday, Axios reported that President Donald Trump attempted to block Pence from hiring Lerner because of his "never Trump" views.

A White House official confirms that Trump and Pence talked about Lerner by phone on Friday.

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#19 Dems see Mueller firing as a red line on impeachment

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© Provided by The Hill

Democrats considered potential presidential candidates say if President Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller, it would be grounds for impeachment.

The would-be candidates, who have been careful in their comments about the politically thorny issue, have now begun to qualify on what grounds they would push for impeachment.

And they are signaling that terminating Mueller is a red line.

At a town hall in Sacramento last week, Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) said a firing of the special counsel would be an impeachable offense.

"I can't see how it wouldn't be," she told constituents.

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#20 Will Kim Jong Un Give Up North Korea’s Nukes? History Says No

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(Bloomberg) -- If U.S. President Donald Trump presses Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear arsenal when they meet, he’ll be asking the North Korean leader to surrender more than a half century’s labor.

North Korea has as many as 60 nuclear weapons, an achievement spanning three generations of Kims. They’ve repeatedly chosen the bomb as the best guarantee of survival despite decades of negotiations, international sanctions and threats of war.

Nuclear weapons have also become central to the regime’s identity -- and its propaganda efforts. North Korea’s status as a “nuclear state” is enshrined in its constitution, and Kim recently built monuments to commemorate last year’s tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S.

That history is why arms-control experts urge caution as Kim expresses a willingness to discuss “denuclearization” during an unprecedented summit with Trump in May or June. Giving up nuclear weapons is more than just a tactical choice: It would signal a fundamental change in how one of the world’s longest ruling dynasties maintains power.

“Without the bomb, North Korea is Albania,” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Pacific Forum. “No one would take it seriously. It could still threaten Seoul, but certainly not much beyond the peninsula.”

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