IT40 News for Week 3 of 2019




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#4 Revelations about Manafort’s 2016 interactions with Russian associate show special counsel’s intense focus on Russia contacts

© Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Paul Manafort arrives for a June 2018 hearing in federal court in Washington.

New revelations about Paul Manafort’s interactions with a Russian associate while he was leading President Trump’s campaign provide a window into how extensively the special counsel has mapped interactions between Trump associates and Russians in his 20-month-long investigation.

When Manafort pleaded guilty in September to federal crimes related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, Trump said the admissions by his former campaign chairman had “nothing to do” with the special counsel’s main mission, which Trump described as “looking for Russians involved in our campaign.”

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But new details inadvertently revealed in a court filing last week — including the fact that Manafort shared polling data about the 2016 race with an associate who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence — indicate that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has also been scrutinizing interactions between Russians and Manafort while he led Trump’s presidential bid.

Manafort is among at least 14 Trump associates who interacted with Russians during the campaign and transition, according to public records and interviews.

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#5 Indonesia recovers Lion Air jet’s cockpit voice recorder

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Navy divers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea in October, Indonesian officials said Monday, in a possible boost to the investigation into why the 2-month-old plane nosedived at high velocity, killing all 189 people on board.

Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy maritime minister, told reporters that remains of some of the people who died in the crash were also discovered at the seabed location.

A spokesman for the Indonesian navy's western fleet, Lt. Col. Agung Nugroho, said divers using high-tech "ping locator" equipment started a new search effort on Friday and found the voice recorder beneath 8 meters (26 feet) of seabed mud. The plane crashed in waters 30 meters (98 feet) deep.

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#6 Military cargo plane crashes in Iran, 15 killed

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Boeing 707 military cargo plane crashed in bad weather on Monday west of the Iranian capital, killing 15 out of the 16 people on board, the Iranian army said.

A flight engineer survived and was taken to hospital, the army said in a statement carried by the semi-official Fars news agency. The aircraft's black box - a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) - had been recovered at the crash site, Fars said.

The plane went down near Fath airport, which belongs to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps and is located near Karaj in the central Iranian province of Alborz.

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#7 ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Premiere Date Officially Set

The final season of “Game of Thrones” finally has a premiere date.

HBO announced that the megahit series will debut its eighth and final season on April 14. The announcement was made in a video released just ahead of the “True Detective” Season 3 premiere on Sunday.

The teaser depicts the underground crypt of Winterfell, with Sansa Stark, Arya Stark and Jon Snow facing their own statues as a frost approaches through the tunnels.

Little is known about the last season of “Game of Thrones” beyond that it will consist of six episodes. And although the flagship series is ending, HBO has multiple projects set in the “Game of Thrones” universe currently in development. The premium cabler has already ordered the project written by Jane Goldman to pilot.

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#8 A New Migrant Caravan Forms, and Old Battle Lines Harden

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — A new caravan of migrants is forming in Honduras, and even ahead of its scheduled departure at dawn on Tuesday, battle lines were being drawn to the north, with some vowing to help them on their journey north, and others to block them.

For President Trump, the timing of the caravan offered fresh ammunition in his fight with Congress over the $5.7 billion he wants for an enhanced border wall between Mexico and the United States. The dispute has led to a partial shutdown of the federal government.

As he did last fall, when another caravan made the same trek, Mr. Trump portrayed the migrants — who say they are trying to escape poverty and violence, and who in seeking asylum are exercising a legal right — in an ominous light.

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“There is another major caravan forming right now in Honduras, and so far we’re trying to break it up, but so far it’s bigger than anything we’ve seen,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “And a drone isn’t going to stop it and a sensor isn’t going to stop it, but you know what’s going to stop it in its tracks? A nice, powerful wall.”

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#9 Venezuela Opposition Leader Is Arrested After Proposing to Take Power

CARACAS, Venezuela — The president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly was briefly arrested on Sunday, two days after declaring that he was prepared to take over temporarily as the country’s leader in a renewed push to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power.

The opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, was captured when a van he was traveling in was stopped on a highway on Sunday morning.

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A video recorded by a driver on the highway appeared to show masked, heavily armed agents from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service pulling Mr. Guaidó from his vehicle and pushing him into a white van before driving away.

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#10 Fashion hits and misses from the 2019 Critics Choice Awards

From black and white couture to bow details everywhere (and we mean everywhere!), the 2019 Critics Choice Awards brought us plenty of fashion to critique -- both good, bad and otherwise! Which stars continued their hit list reign this awards season, and which earned solid spots on the miss list? Let's take a look, starting with the one and only Julia Roberts. Unfortunately for Julia, she couldn't duplicate her major win on the Globes carpet, and she instead proved exactly why the half-skirt style isn't always a safe bet. Our first impression: Ugh! The Louis Vuitton look started out a short-sleeved tuxedo-style-jacket top with the teeniest black belt detail that gave way to a black half-skirt over white dress pants. Making matters worse? The bizarre silver sparkly leopard print going on over the underside of that skirt. We won't subject you to anymore angles of this look, but keep reading to check out one of our favorite looks of the night as a palete cleanser...

Fairy princess couture! Constance Wu arrived in this delicate, frothy number with dainty, dazzling embellishments by Rodarte. An instant hit, the bow detail on the sleeves (we'll take a better look next), the plunging neckline and the full skirt rivaled her equally impeccable fashion choice at the Globes.

Look at those sleeves! We're obsessed with Constance Wu's entire ensemble, including those Lorraine Schwartz drop earrings. In the beauty department, her bangs, rosy lip and glimmering gold eyeshadow cemented this look as extraordinary.

From one "Crazy Rich Asians" beauty to the next! Equally thriving on the blue carpet? Constance Wu's co-star, Gemma Chan. Gemma opted for this show-stopping Jason Wu number, with all-over floral, drop sleeve and a full skirt. And her beauty look was equally fab...

We love a good braid on the red carpet! Gemma Chan's was perfectly tied with a black bow. Taking things up a notch? Her Anita Ko dangling earrings that matched her floral Jason Wu gown to perfection. Her rosy-hued makeup tied things altogether, ensuring Gemma's spot on the hit list.

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#11 Maroon 5 confirmed as Super Bowl LIII halftime headliners alongside Travis Scott and Big Boi

Maroon 5 will officially take the stage on Super Bowl Sunday as the headlining act for the Super Bowl LIII halftime show.

The “Girls Like You” rockers will be joined by rapper Travis Scott and Outkast’s Big Boi come Feb. 3, the NFL announced Sunday.

The announcement comes after months of speculation that Adam Levine and co. would be tackling the coveted role in the footsteps of stars like Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Katy Perry.

The high-profile show will take place this year in Atlanta, where football’s best two teams will go head to head at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Big Boi is an Atlanta native, something many fans were hoping the NFL would consider in picking their talent for this year’s show.

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#12 French Montana backtracks after appearing to support R. Kelly

A few hours after making waves when he appeared to support R. Kelly, French Montana is now changing tune.

While leaving the Rams football game on Saturday night, French said he's hardly surprised by the R. Kelly allegations, indicating that the embattled R&B singer was leaving clues in his music for years. He also indicated that R. Kelly should be able to appreciate his legacy, regardless of the serious allegations against him.

"Whatever happened, happened," French said Saturday night.

On Sunday, though, the rapper did a 180, tweeting, "Let me be clear. My heart is with the victims. I never thought the people I looked up to as a kid, who sang and danced and gave me hope to become a superstar would become drug addicts, child molestors [sic] and rapists. I am hoping we as a culture create better leaders. We need them."

Let me be clear. My heart is with the victims. I never thought the people I looked up to as a kid, who sang and danced and gave me hope to become a superstar would become drug addicts, child molestors and rapists. I am hoping we as a culture create better leaders. We need them.

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#13 2019 Critics’ Choice Awards: See all the stars on the red carpet

Lady Gaga attends the 24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, California, on Jan. 13, 2019.

Charlize Theron attends the 24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, California, on Jan. 13, 2019.

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski attend the 24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, California, on Jan. 13, 2019.

Gemma Chan attends the 24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, California, on Jan. 13, 2019.

Patricia Clarkson attends the 24th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, California, on Jan. 13, 2019.

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#14 Millie Bobby Brown, 14, Claps Back at Trolls Saying ‘Act Your Age’ After Wearing Midi Dress

Millie Bobby Brown has no time for haters.

Brown, 14, had a message for the internet trolls who shamed her for wearing a tight snakeskin midi dress and heels.

The Stranger Things actress posted a photo of the glam outfit on Instagram on Saturday, captioning the image with a fun request, “write a caption.”

Commenters were quick to shame Brown for the mature outfit. One wrote, “Act your age for once ?.” Another wrote, “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow – enjoy being a kid cause it doesn’t last long.”

On Sunday, many more commenters had chimed in to support Brown. One wrote, “I love people telling her to act her age… yet they are sitting on Instagram trying to bully a 12 year old… you know who does that??? Other 12 year olds. Perhaps you should take your own advice??” Another added, “♥️♥️♥️♥️BEAUTIFUL.”

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#15 Snooki Shuts Down Marriage Problem Rumors: ‘We’re Not Perfect’

Gym, tan, marriage problem rumors! Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi clapped back at reports that she and Jionni LaValle are having relationship issues.

“I feel like if I don’t post pictures of Jionni or he doesn’t post pictures with me, it’s like we have marital issues and it’s not even the case,” the Jersey Shore Family Vacation star, 31, who is expecting her third child with LaValle, also 31, exclusively told Us Weekly on Monday, January 7. “Jionni just wants nothing to do with the spotlight and I’m like, ‘Babe, when you marry me, sometimes we got to take pictures together.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, I’m good.’ I feel like, when people don’t see us together in pictures, it’s like, ‘OK, something must be wrong.’”

The MTV personality added, “We’re not perfect, you know? You have to put effort in and compromise and work on it. We’re not in a bad place. I love him so much.”

Polizzi, who announced her third pregnancy in November 2018, also told Us how her hubby of more than three years has been doting on her. “He’s helping me with the kids a lot, so me feeling this way and feeling disgusting and not in good moods, he usually takes the kids off my hands,” she explained of the couple’s son Lorenzo, 6, and daughter Giovanna, 4. “He lets me rest all day on Sunday. He’s just really forgiving with my attitude, which is great, because usually if he’s not, we have a full-blown fight.”

The Snooki & Jwoww alum previously defended her marriage amid divorce rumors in April 2018. “I’m still proudly wearing my ring. I love him to death,” she said at the time. “I think people worry because we never take pictures together and post on Instagram. He hates pictures, he hates his fame life. He likes to be quiet and reserved, which humbles me.”

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#16 ‘The Upside’ Leads With $19.5 Million at Box Office as ‘Aquaman’ Crosses $1 Billion Worldwide

STX and Warner Bros. came out as the big box office winners this weekend. STX's "The Upside" has beaten tracker expectations with an estimated $19.5 million opening from 3,080 screens. It's STX's first ever No. 1 opening, a surprise as it was expected to open to $10-12 million.

WB, meanwhile, won't take their fourth straight No. 1 weekend, but "Aquaman" will still become the studio's first $1 billion hit since "The Dark Knight Rises" in 2012 and the fifth in studio history. The superhero film added $17 million this weekend to push its domestic total to $287 million.

"The Upside" was originally supposed to be an R-Rated film released last year by The Weinstein Company. But after Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual abuse and TWC declared bankruptcy, STX reached a distribution deal last August with Lantern Entertainment, the label created out of TWC's bankruptcy sale to Lantern Capital. The film was then re-cut for a PG-13 rating, a move that has paid off as the film has earned an A on CinemaScore even as critics have given it just 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

In third this weekend is Sony's "A Dog's Way Home," which is opening to $11.3 million from 3,090 screens and against an $18 million production budget. By comparison, the last film adapted from a W. Bruce Cameron novel, "A Dog's Purpose," opened to $18 million in January 2017. "A Dog's Way Home" has a CinemaScore rating of A- and a RT rating of 59 percent.

The third new release of the weekend is Entertainment Studios' "Replicas," which is turning out to be the worst wide opening ever for lead star Keanu Reeves with just $2.2 million grossed from 2,329 screens. Critics and audiences alike have panned the film, giving it a C on CinemaScore and 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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#18 Newmont to Buy Goldcorp in Deal Valued at $10 Billion

Newmont Mining

NEM 0.17%

agreed to buy rival Canadian gold producer Goldcorp Inc. in a $10 billion, all-stock deal that would create the world’s largest gold miner and intensify a consolidation wave triggered in part by languishing prices and dwindling supplies of easy-to-find gold.

The move comes on the heels of another gold-mining blockbuster:

Barrick Gold

in September agreed to buy

Randgold Resources

for $6 billion in an all-share merger.

If Newmont consummates the Goldcorp deal it will allow Newmont, based in Denver, to surpass Toronto-headquartered Barrick—its longtime rival—in production, a key industry metric. The two gold giants have circled each other for years and toyed with a combination of their own back in 2014.

The depletion of global gold mines and the resulting increase in extraction costs has pushed gold miners to seek cost efficiencies, and smaller-scale combinations, as they compete to find and exploit the world’s remaining high-grade deposits.

Newmont, the U.S.’s largest miner measured by market capitalization, said it would acquire each Goldcorp share for 0.328 of their own stock. That represents a 17% premium to the Canadian company’s 20-day volume weighted average share prices.

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#19 The World’s Largest Peaceful Gathering Starts Today in India. Here’s What to Know

Starting Tuesday, tens of millions of Hindu devotees in India will gather to wash their sins away on the banks of the Ganges River in a festival known as the Kumbh Mela. The tradition, which dates back over a millennia, is billed as the world’s largest single gathering of humanity.

Through March 4, an estimated 120 million people will flock to the northern city of Allahabad to bathe at the Sangam, a confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the Saraswati rivers, BBC reports. By comparison, that’s almost 14 times the population of New York City.

While the full Kumbh Mela occurs in 12-year cycles, there are three additional festivals held in between. This year’s Kumbh Mela is projected to be even bigger than the last full one in 2013, which drew an estimated 100 million people.

As it begins, here’s what you need to know about the mega-festival.

Kumbh means pot or pitcher, while mela means festival or fair. According to ancient Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu released drops of an immortality nectar (carried in a kumbh) in four places where the holiday is now celebrated — Nashik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar. The festival rotates approximately every three years through these cities, with the exact dates, places and length largely determined by astrology. In 2017, UNESCO added the festival to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, citing the event’s “central spiritual role in the country.”

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#20 PG&E Bankruptcy Tests Who Will Pay for California Wildfires

LOS ANGELES — Pacific Gas and Electric said on Monday that it would seek bankruptcy protection as “the only viable option” as the giant California utility faces billions of dollars in liability claims from two years of deadly wildfires.

The company’s troubles pose a challenge to the state’s elected officials and regulators, who will ultimately decide whether part of the solution will be raising already high electricity rates. The problems could also make it harder to achieve California’s ambitious goals for renewable energy.

Experts said PG&E’s predicament could be an early indicator of a wider economic toll from climate change, which is making wildfires more frequent and destructive. At the same time, the financial straits could handicap the utility’s ability to step up the kind of preventive measures it has been faulted for neglecting, like trimming trees and brush around power lines and transformers.

For Gov. Gavin Newsom, who took office last week, the bankruptcy disrupts an agenda that until now had focused on early childhood education, paid parental leave and the expansion of the state’s health care program to cover more undocumented residents.

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#21 William Barr: 7 things to watch at Senate confirmation hearing for Trump’s AG pick

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear Tuesday from William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to become attorney general. Here are seven things to watch for at the hearing:

Barr wrote a memo in June about Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller pursuing a possible obstruction of justice charge against Trump, arguing the probe was “fatally misconceived.”

Senate Democrats plan to press Barr on whether he will support the Mueller probe. 

“I want to make sure that (Barr) is not going to take the position that he should just protect Trump at all costs,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told USA TODAY. “I want to hear from him that the attorney general’s office is an independent entity.”

Barr said in a copy of his testimony released Monday that Mueller should be allowed to complete his work. Barr said the memo was written about a narrow obstruction-of-justice statute rather than about the special counsel's authority more broadly.

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#22 Ariana Grande to Headline Lollapalooza 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

Among those who are so grateful to Ariana Grande right now: the nation’s festival bookers, who, facing a shortage of contemporary rock heavyweights, are increasingly looking to pop superstars as headliner. Multiple sources tell Variety that Grande has been booked for Lollapalooza, set to take place in Chicago’s Grant Park August 1-4, on top of her already announced slot at Coachella in April.

The Lollapalooza lineup isn’t traditionally announced until the third week of March, so any official confirmation of Grande’s appearance may be weeks or even months away.

Lest anyone suspect that Lollapalooza is merely borrowing a cue from Coachella in securing Grande as headliner, sources tell Variety that her booking at the Chicago festival has been in the works for several months. Discussions about it also took place much earlier than they did for the California fest, where published reports indicated that her camp got the official invite only days before the lineup was announced, as a replacement for Kanye West, whose staging demands grew too great. So if anything, Coachella may have been following Lollapalooza’s lead in realizing that Grande makes a perfectly suitable choice for a festival that’s no longer strictly tied to its alt-rock roots in 2019.

Grande enjoys a level of critical cred that a lot of her superstar pop contemporaries don’t, thanks to gushing reviews for her recent album “Sweetener,” above and beyond the fact that the post-album single “thank u, next” has been the ubiquitous signature musical event of the last six months.

While the Lollapalooza development hasn’t been officially announced, some other festival-related Grande news did go public Monday. Her camp officially announced that she is rescheduling some dates on her arena tour as a result of the sudden Coachella booking.

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#23 Broadway Legend Carol Channing Dead At 97

Actress and singer Carol Channing died early Tuesday morning at the age of 97 at her home in Rancho Mirage, California. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed she died of natural causes.

Whether you knew her as Dolly, Lorelei, Muzzy or just Carol, Channing was a one-of-a-kind talent who captivated any audience. Her razor-sharp wit, gravelly voice and big, bright smile became the trademarks of a performer who originated some of Broadway’s most iconic roles throughout the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Channing continued to share her gifts on stage into her late 90s, enshrining her in a class of Broadway luminaries all her own. 

In a statement, Boll said “it is with extreme heartache” that she announced “the passing of an original Industry Pioneer, Legend and Icon.”

“I admired her before I met her, and have loved her since the day she stepped ... or fell rather ... into my life,” wrote Boll. “It is so very hard to see the final curtain lower on a woman who has been a daily part of my life for more than a third of it.”

The daughter of prominent newspaper editor George Channing and his wife Adelaide, Carol was born January 31, 1921, in Seattle, Washington, but predominantly grew up in San Francisco. According to her 2002 memoir Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts, her father sent a wire to Detroit when she was born that read, “Carol came into the world singing.” 

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#24 Rockets’ James Harden pours in 57 points to set modern-era record for scoring streak

In the hours after reports emerged of another key injury for the Houston Rockets, it was assumed by most that James Harden would take on an even bigger scoring load. He showed Monday night he's ready to take on the challenge.

Harden poured in a season-high 57 points to lead the Rockets to a 112-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, setting a modern-era NBA record with his 17th consecutive game with at least 30.

Harden shot 17-of-33 overall, 6-of-15 from 3-point range and 17-of-18 from the foul line in 34 minutes. His streak of 30-point games is the longest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 and comes at a time when the short-handed Rockets will need him most. Harden, however, said he doesn't feel any added burden.

"There's no pressure," he said in an interview on the floor. "I do this for a living. I have fun with it."

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#25 At Trump’s Inauguration, $10,000 for Makeup and Lots of Room Service

WASHINGTON — Private donors put up $107 million to usher Donald J. Trump into office in style two years ago, and it is now clear just how enthusiastically his inaugural committee went to town with it.

There was $10,000 for makeup for 20 aides at an evening inaugural event. There was another $30,000 in per diem payments to dozens of contract staff members, in addition to their fully covered hotel rooms, room service orders, plane tickets and taxi rides, including some to drop off laundry.

The bill from the Trump International Hotel was more than $1.5 million. And there was a documentary, overseen by a close friend of Melania Trump’s, that was ultimately abandoned. 

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The details of the expenditures, gleaned from interviews and from documents reviewed by The New York Times and not previously made public, show that the committee spent heavily on nearly every aspect of the events surrounding the inauguration.

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#26 Rescuers hunt for toddler who fell into 360-foot well in Spain

A two-year-old boy is the focus of a major rescue operation Monday, after falling into a 360-foot-deep well in the southern Spanish province of Málaga on Sunday afternoon.

The toddler was in the countryside with his family near the village of Totalán when he fell into the well, Bernardo Moltó, spokesman for Málaga's Guardia Civil, told CNN.

The well is only nine inches in diameter, Moltó said. Rescuers lowered a micro robot with cameras over 260 feet into the hole but were unable to locate the boy, he added.

"We haven't found or heard the child; that is why we are taking the time we need to take to find him," Moltó said.

The rescue team will employ alternative strategies to retrieve the toddler, Moltó said, including digging deeper into the hole and creating a parallel shaft that could be connected with the well.

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#27 Explainer: Protesters in Sudan want end to Bashir’s 30-year rule

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Weeks of protests pose one of the most serious challenges to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's 30-year rule just as his party prepares to change the constitution to allow him to seek another term.

The protests began on Dec. 19 over soaring bread prices, one result of a deep economic crisis that started when the southern part of the country seceded after a referendum in 2011, taking oil wealth with it.

The authorities' heavy-handed crackdown on the demonstrations has fueled the anger. At least 24 people have been killed, officials say, and hundreds more have been injured. Activists say the death toll is at least 40.

Although the protests are small they show no sign of ending, and many are seeking a change of regime.

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#28 Animal Rights Group Leader Accused of Killing Dogs

The leader of one of South Korea’s largest animal rights groups is accused of secretly killing more than 230 rescued dogs in order to procure more donation money.

Park So-youn, the head of Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE), is alleged to have euthanized healthy dogs and then claimed they had been adopted, in order to make room at the group’s shelters.

Read more: Dog meat still on the menu at South Korea Olympics

CARE, which receives around two billion South Korea Won ($1.7 million) a year in donations, often appeals for further funds to carry out rescue missions. Park is said to have ordered that hundreds of dogs be destroyed between 2015 and 2018 in order to free up space and justify asking for more money.

The organization has long assured donators that they never kill any of the dogs they rescue, even if they are not adopted.

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#29 Kumbh Mela: Hindus converge for largest-ever human gathering

© AFP/Getty Images
Hindu sadhus take part in a religious procession before the start of the Kumbh Mela. Photograph: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images

From June last year, Dilip Trigunayak would stride out each morning to the banks of the Ganges and will the holy waters to recede. The clock was ticking. In six months, the floodplains where he stood would be the site of the largest human gathering in the world, probably ever.

“I would watch the water levels going up and down,” the bureaucrat says. “From then my anxiety started.”

More than 120 million Hindu devotees, as well as tourists, are expected to visit the north Indian city of Prayagraj over the next few weeks for the Kumbh Mela, a vast spiritual festival at the point where two sacred rivers, the Ganges and Yamuna, converge.

As the rivers have emptied of monsoon rain in recent months, Indian authorities have swung into action, reclaiming the riverbed and laying the skeleton for a temporary city that at 15 sq miles (39 sq km) is two-thirds the size of Manhattan.

The festival starts on Tuesday morning when tens of thousands of Hindu ascetics will charge – roaring, naked and ash-smeared – into the water, sanctifying it for the tens of millions of pilgrims who will follow in the coming days and weeks.

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#30 Schellenberg death sentence: China executes foreigners all the time. Why not Canadians?

When China handed down a death sentence to a Canadian citizen this week, it sent shockwaves around the world.

China rarely executes Westerners. The last high-profile case was in 2009, when British national Akmal Shaikh was executed for carrying 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin at Urumqi Airport.

Like the sentencing of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg this week, Shaikh's death sentence prompted outrage in the West and appeals for leniency from his government.

But should we be surprised by Schellenberg's sentence for conspiring to smuggle more than 222 kilograms (489.4 pounds) of methamphetamine from a Chinese port city to Australia?

China is the world's top executioner, according to Amnesty International, sentencing thousands to death every year. China does not disclose execution numbers.

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#31 New Migrant Caravan Leaves Honduras for U.S.

Hundreds of Honduran asylum seekers departed their home country with plans to reach the U.S. border on Monday, despite the Trump administration's ongoing crackdown at the southern border. 

Around 600 to 800 people have joined the new caravan, according to an estimate provided to Reuters by Miroslava Serpas, the head of migrant affairs at the CIPRODEH human rights research center, which is accompanying the group. 

Read more: Military expands role at U.S.-Mexico border to focus on "surveillance and detection" 

The caravan will follow in the steps of a number of groups that have made their way to the U.S. border over the past year, including the thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in the Mexican border town of Tijuana in November. 

Hundreds of people who traveled with that caravan, which departed from Honduras in October, are still waiting at the Tijuana border to have their asylum claims processed by U.S. officers. Others have since chosen to return to their home country after being forced to wait for weeks at the border with inadequate shelter. 

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#32 ‘A tragic moment’: thousands gather across Poland to mourn Gdansk mayor

Thousands of people have gathered in cities across Poland after the fatal stabbing of Gdansk mayor PawełAdamowicz in protest at what some say is a creeping pervasiveness of hate speech in Poland’s national discourse.

In Gdansk, thousands gathered for a minute’s silence at the statue of Neptune in the city’s Long Market, which also hosts the city hall, where Adamowicz served as mayor for more than 20 years. Adamowicz died after he was stabbed in the chest on stage at a charity concert on Sunday evening.

They were addressed by European Council president Donald Tusk, a Gdansk native, friend and longtime ally of Adamowicz. In an emotional address, Tusk addressed Adamowicz directly: “My dear Paweł, we are here with you today as your friends. You had to wait so long, until such a tragic moment, to see from up there just how many friends you have here in Gdansk.”

Related: Gdańsk mayor stabbed on stage during charity event in Poland

Aleksandra Nabożny, who came with her father to pay her respects at a candlelit vigil by the statue of Neptune, said: “We are very sad, and deeply, deeply hurt by what has happened.

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#33 Military Takes on Extended Role at Border

The U.S. military will take on an extended role at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Defense (DoD) revealed Monday. 

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In a statement, the Pentagon said it has agreed, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, to keep troops stationed at the southern border until September 30, extending the deployment for another eight months.

READ MORE: Trump quotes Republican firebrand he once branded a 'Hitler lover' and 'anti-Semite' to justify his border wall 

There are around 2,350 active-duty troops currently stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the border mission that began on October 30 and had originally been expected to end on December 15, according to The Associated Press. It was extended to January 31, however, and will now carry on into autumn. 

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#34 ‘Hamilton’ in Puerto Rico: Lin-Manuel Miranda brings his mega-musical to his parents’ troubled homeland

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Lin-Manuel Miranda cried as he grasped the hands of his "Hamilton" costars during curtain call on opening night here, later raising a Puerto Rican flag and waving it high before wrapping it around his shoulders and exiting stage right.

The emotional moment came nearly three hours after Miranda, the musical's 38-year-old star and creator, first appeared onstage and stated his name as Alexander Hamilton, bringing the 2,000-seat house to its feet for a prolonged standing ovation less than a minute into the show.

This first performance of a planned 17-show run marked a high point for island residents still working through the difficult, often heart-wrenching process of recovering from cataclysmic Hurricane Maria in 2017. The prolonged political and social fallout has included a rise in violent crime that was highlighted the night before the opening of "Hamilton" here with the killing of popular trap singer Kevin Fret.

"Things have not been the same after the hurricane," said Yolanda Hidalgo, a doctor from Aguadilla who came to "Hamilton" with her mother, Yolanda Hernandez, a nurse. "It has been more than a year, and there are still so many troubles — towns that have not recovered, people still without jobs who lost houses, who lost everything. And there is a lot of sickness."

Hidalgo said she has no words for how grateful she is for Miranda's presence in Puerto Rico and for the show's pledge to give 100 percent of this run's profits to the island through the Miranda family's Flamboyan Foundation, which is dedicated to helping with the recovery process largely through arts and culture.

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#35 The cotton seeds China carried to the moon have sprouted

Humans have been able to grow plants in the space—including zinnias, sunflowers and leafy greens on the International Space Station—but never on the Moon. Now China’s trying to see if it can keep plants alive there, as part of its research efforts toward one day having a lunar base.

Cotton seeds that traveled to the Moon with China’s spacecraft Chang’e-4 have sprouted, according to CGTN, the global arm of state broadcaster CCTV. The news came about two weeks after the lander and rover touched down on the Moon’s far side to conduct a series of experiments including testing the sustainability of plant life, studying the celestial body’s composition and history, and looking for clues to the universe’s origins.

#BREAKING The latest released experimental picture shows that cotton seeds carried on the Chang'e-4 probe have sprouted, marking the first biological experiment on the lunar surface

— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) January 15, 2019

For the “mini lunar biosphere” experiment, southwestern China-based Chongqing University sent along a 7-inch-tall bucket-like tin with air, water, and soil that contains cotton, potato, and arabidopsis seeds—the latter is a plant in the mustard family—as well as fruit fly eggs and yeast. The team was originally planning to send silkworm cocoons at the time the project was revealed to the public in April but later opted for fruit flies instead, state media Guancha reported in December (link in Chinese). It’s unclear why they swapped, but it could be that fruit fly is a better fit for a demanding growing environment.

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#36 Mass Fish Deaths in Australia Spur Emergency River Health Talks

(Bloomberg) -- A series of mass fish deaths in Australia’s major river system that’s caught global attention in the past few weeks has prompted an emergency national meeting to discuss government responses.

The meeting of river operators, fish scientists and water policy officials from the federal government as well the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia on Tuesday will look to identify all at-risk areas, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority’s Chief Executive Officer Phillip Glyde said on its website.

Drought throughout Australia’s southeast over much of the past two years has devastated farming regions and is now stressing the Murray Darling river system, which runs through the four states and waters crops from cotton to grapes. A heatwave forecast for the next five days may prompt further fish deaths, already in the tens of thousands, as rivers and waterholes dry up.

“The fish deaths in the lower Darling River are a tragic reminder of the impact of severe drought, on an already over-stretched river system,” Glyde said in the statement. “Sadly, fish deaths are common events across Australia, particularly during summer and drought conditions, and we expect more events will happen before the current drought breaks.”

Click here for more on how drought harms Australia’s major river system

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#37 In an open letter, Emmanuel Macron asks every French citizen to answer 20 big questions

France’s “yellow vest” protests, now in their ninth week and showing no signs of stopping, have put president Emmanuel Macron in the unusual position of having to ask for help.

The typically self-assured president has tried different strategies to appease the yellow-vest movement—to no avail. Now, he is trying something new. In an open letter to French people (link in French) published in national newspapers today, Macron announced a nationwide consultation that will run until March 15, allowing people to air their grievances online and in local mayors’ offices. To kickstart the debate, he asked fellow citizens 20 big questions—and pledged to listen to their answers.

The questions, separated into four main categories, apply to any country struggling with economic inequality, austerity, the role of the state, climate change, and democracy. (That is to say, just about all of them.)

Macron writes that “taxes are at the heart of our national solidarity” because they “finance our public services.” France levies some of the highest taxes of any developed country.

One of the yellow vests’ central grievance (link in French) is that taxes are too high and disproportionately affect the working class. The movement also demands more public services, financed by higher taxes on high earners and large corporations. This goes against Macron’s business-friendly economic policies, including ending the so-called wealth tax, or ISF, and instituting a flat capital gains tax rate (paywall) of 30%.

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#38 Hondurans form a new US-bound caravan, drawing fire from Trump

Hundreds of Hondurans have set out on a trek to the United States, forming another caravan that US President Donald Trump cited Tuesday to justify building a wall on the border with Mexico.

"A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe! Stop playing political games and end the Shutdown!"

As the procession left the town of San Pedro Sula under a steady rain Monday night, one of the migrants summed up their plight: "We are leaving because there is crime and no work," said Juan Garcia, 52.

More than 500 people set out from the center of San Pedro Sula, which is 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

It was from the same transport hub that some 2,000 Hondurans left on October 13 in the first of a series of US-bound caravans. That and other migrant flows from El Salvador and Guatemala came to total some 13,000 people.

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#39 R. Kelly Alleged Victim Accuses Singer of Threats, Retaliation

R. Kelly is attempting to intimidate one of his alleged victims into silence, seeming to take "his playbook from Donald Trump," attorney Gloria Allred alleged Monday during a New York City press conference with accuser Faith Rodgers.

Rodgers, who was in a relationship with the R&B singer at age 19, is suing R. Kelly for sexual battery and knowingly infecting her with an STD, claiming Kelly "mentally, sexually and verbally" abused her. Rodgers is one of several alleged victims who participated in Lifetime's six-part documentary Surviving R. Kelly.

Now, Rodgers claims she has been threatened with retaliation by the singer.

Allred, who is representing three alleged victims of R. Kelly, including Rodgers, said during the presser that she has an appointment on Monday with the New York Police Department, which has asked to meet with Rodgers for its "investigation into potential victims of R. Kelly."

Prosecutors in Chicago and Atlanta are also seeking information about R. Kelly in light of the accusations and revelations made in the docuseries, which has thrust R. Kelly into headline news since it released in early January. The sexual misconduct claims involve women and underage girls.

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#40 ‘From Baywatch to billion-dollar movie’: Jason Momoa celebrates Aquaman record

Jason Momoa is taking a victory (swimming) lap in the wake of Aquaman crossing the billion-dollar mark at the box office.

The actor took to Instagram following reports that his superhero movie just became the DC Extended Universe’s first title to cross $1 billion globally.

“BILLION DOLLAR UNDERDOG,” he wrote. “From Baywatch to making what once was the most disrespected superhero into a billion dollar movie. no one gets to the top without the people that love them. My success is from my fans. All my aloha to everyone that had a hand in making this movie. Mahalo Zack [Synder] for choosing me and mahalo James [Wan] for creating this beautiful world. #grateful#lovemyfans #billiondollarunderdog#borntoclimb #outofholes #aquaman2#cheeeehuuuuuu #hhrajahh. Aloha j”

The move followed director James Wan posting on Twitter about the news: “THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported this underdog. For making this non-mainstream character (and yes — with leading POC individuals in front and behind the camera!) connect on such a huge global scale. In the words of Aquaman himself, “MAHALO”

Aquaman crossed box office milestone on Saturday. This marks the first time a DC Comics title has made a billion since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08 billion in 2012). It also edges out long-time DC fan-favorite The Dark Knight (which made $1.004 billion in 2008 — though Aquaman has a decade of rising ticket prices tipping its side of the scale).

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Written by top40

Hello Again and Thanks for reading it is I David "IT40" Ellenberger with an update on the status of my lawsuit against Alphabet inc case # 4:20-CV-04877-SBA  and the website and life in general. By now if you regularly visit you may have read this section "author info" or Bio. So I am adding to it with more bio and more info. I originally liked the idea of voting on the internet 20-25 years ago when I first got online with WebTV (does anyone remember that?).

The technology at that time was not advanced enough to easily be able to vote online or watch videos or much else for that matter but I was hooked and look at what we can do now with videos, IOT, and everything else, but I digress. I started about 5 years ago and the user base has been going up steadily ever since. I wanted to be another Facebook, with music and voting and that is all coming together slowly but surely. BTW if you want to help or have any interest please feel free to email me anytime.

Now in my previous Author Info or bio page I made it clear or at least I thought I made it clear, I am personally suing Alphabet inc. in Federal Court for Fraud. I have evidence to prove they are not counting all the pageviews, among other things and defrauding myself and probably millions of other website owners and content creators out of Billions of dollars. So if I wasn't clear or you didn't know it's true I am suing Alphabet inc. in Federal Court for Fraud the case was recently moved from my state of Kentucky to N. California to make it easier for Alphabet inc. to steam roll me or so they think. Needless to say if you are interested and I hope you are you can look the case up online under my name "David Russell Ellenberger" or the case # which is 4:20-CV-04877-SBA.

Now, I want to make it clear to you and everyone that I am not suing Alphabet inc. aka Google for fraud just because I want a million dollars for nothing. I am suing Google for fraud because I think they are committing  a serious crime with worldwide and societal ramifications, it is a  very serious problem.  I am suing Google for fraud because to put it simply the analytics numbers don't add up at least not in my favor or yours, there is something very fishy going on with the Google analytics numbers. Of course Google has an excuse for every one of them but I have reasons and the actual numbers and they don't add up, more about the numbers later.

Companies like Google are making Billions of dollars a year in profits telling us data is the most valuable thing and misleading us and misdirecting the media and the world every chance they can.  Now data is valuable and they are making billions in profits seemingly like magic but there is no magic to it just corruption and lies. One thing Alphabet inc. aka Google is really making their money from and that is advertising dollars and they are putting all of this advertising on the websites other people have created.

Websites that I have created and  websites you have created and websites millions of others around the world have created websites or content. For example Just writing a text is creating content and that's where Google puts the billions in advertising they receive and keeping most of it for themselves. Yes content others have created and yet somehow they are keeping almost all of these billions for themselves and not distributing it equitably to the real workers the true content creators who actually deserve the advertising monies. Google has made it's billions on the backs of you and me. Think about that for a minute, how can they continue to justify this? They Can't, it has to change.

For example if I were to prevail in the current lawsuit just half of the monies or $20 billion put into a basic account and compounded at 5% annually we could realistically employ over 80,000 people at $24,000 a year, indefinitely.  Sounds unbelievable but its true and if we only employed 40,000 people we could pay them approx. $48,000 a year indefinitely. Its all true. Its simply a matter of having the money and the will to do it. Now is 40,000 people a lot well yes it would be a lot of employees but with more money simply put into a trust account we could employ more people

I David Russell Ellenberger through my website am suing Google to try to help right a wrong. A wrong committed by Google that has simply gotten out of hand. Most people may think they can't do anything about it. Nothing can stop Google, the politicians don't care they use all of Googles data to further their own campaigns and line their own pockets while the rest of us keep on creating the content for Google, nothing can be done, this however is not the case, we can do something.

The politicians and Alphabet inc. aka Google have done nothing to help society at large other than organize it so they can keep more money in secret and pay off all their buddies with their fraudulently obtained money. It's gotten so bad that the politicians and others in control won't even talk about it, they ignore it and hope it goes away, they won't even try to stop google because it is helping them too much and maybe they are scared of Google or who knows what they may be thinking. But it looks like fraud and it's coming to an end.

I'm telling you we can do something and I David Russell Ellenberger an average citizen Content Creator am saying to you, I'm not scared of Google because I have nothing left to loose.  I David Russell Ellenberger am telling you there is something you too can do, if nothing else, tell all your friends to come to aka IT40, believe these words and Create your Content.

Further I promise to you and all who read this if we do prevail in the lawsuit against Alphabet Inc. We will use half of any monies we may receive to pay "content creators" a living wage. I pledge to anyone who is reading this, we will use half of any monies we may receive to help those who really do want to work on the internet and create content and tell us what they think. We will use half of any money so you can Get Paid, we want you to get paid for the content you create and get paid everyday and Get Paid to Vote create data and to be able to do this work online and from your home or anywhere in the world you care to be. Because in the words of an ancient scholar Y-O-U are the business Y-O-U are creating all the data, Y-O-U are the content creators and Y-O-U are all that matters.

Now the main thing I want you to take away form this and to know, Alphabet inc. is and has been committing fraud against you, me and everyone who uses the internet. I don't think Google started out to defraud the world it has just degenerated into this endless morass of corruption and fraud and no one seems to care, Well I care and I know you care too.  Sadly Google has been doing this with impunity for years and it is only getting worse. Please don't let them fool you with their lies and obfuscation. Do some research create some content build a website and research the analytics numbers you will find I am right. Google owes you, me and everyone online thousands if not 10's of thousands of dollars for all the data and advertising dollars they have co-opted from you and the rest of the world. So join with me don't use any Google products or file your own lawsuit in federal court against Alphabet inc. I will be glad to help you any way I can and show you how to do it if need be. It will take a sincere effort on your part but it will definitely help your self esteem, society and the world.

Now that's about all I have to say on this subject for now.  I will tell you this if you want more information or you have questions or comments for me, my email is [email protected] Thank you for reading looking and listening and believing in Please tell all your friends about us and don't forget to vote Thumbs up or down and refresh your page when your done. One last Thing, I need all the help I can get I am only 1 person but together and with todays technology we can move mountains and reframe society and our world the way we want it to be. One final note let me tell you about a new website coming to the world called Thank you ttyl



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