IT40 News for Week 6 of 2019

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#2 Thieves and hackers are getting better at bypassing iCloud to unlock iPhones

In yet another sign of the mobile-first world we live in, even muggings and robberies are starting to take on a tech-savvy flair. As was the case during one 2017 incident in Washington DC, for example, when a woman was leaving a metro station and a teenager got the drop on her, grabbing her around the neck. He instructed her to keep quiet. And to delete her iCloud. Then he grabbed her iPhone 6S and took off.

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Philadelphia was hit by a round of similar incidents like that one last month. The common link in all of them was a thief pointing a gun at the victim, demanding their iPhone and commanding them to disable the “Find My iPhone” feature in addition to logging out of iCloud.

Those encounters are part of a revealing new look by Motherboard at how thieves and hackers are getting savvier at bypassing what’s generally regarded as the iPhone’s secure protective features through a combination of low-tech and digital means. As a reminder, iPhones can only be linked to a single iCloud account, which is intended as a way to keep it secure and make it not as tempting a target for thieves — who would have to figure out how to remove the iCloud account from the phone to make it worth selling to someone else.

Per Motherboard: “The iCloud security feature has likely cut down on the number of iPhones that have been stolen, but enterprising criminals have found ways to remove iCloud in order to resell devices. To do this, they phish the phone’s original owners, or scam employees at Apple Stores, which have the ability to override iCloud locks. Thieves, coders, and hackers participate in an underground industry designed to remove a user’s iCloud account from a phone so that they can then be resold.”

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#3 Super Bowl 53: 10 incredible stats from the Patriots’ win over the Rams

The Patriots are Super Bowl champions once again.

New England took home its latest title by pulling out a 13-3 win over the Rams on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It was the lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history.

Tom Brady completed 21 of his 35 passes for 262 yards with an interception in the victory. He and coach Bill Belichick have now won six championships together. Sony Michel added 94 rushing yards and a touchdown for New England.

Here are 10 incredible stats from the Patriots’ win.

2:08 — Tom Brady was picked off on his first pass, which came 2:08 into the game. It was the third fastest interception in a Super Bowl since 1996.

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#4 Northam meets with senior staff and considers options, including resignation

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was scheduled to meet with his Cabinet Monday at 9 a.m. and later with other administration officials as he considers resigning following two days of controversy over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook.

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All 140 members of the General Assembly returned to Richmond for the ongoing legislative session, trying to focus on deadlines for approving a state budget in an atmosphere of uncertainty and drama.

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House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) renewed his call for Northam to step down but in a morning news conference expressed “hesitation” about the possibility that the legislature would try to forcibly remove him.

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#5 Rising Temperatures Could Melt Most Himalayan Glaciers by 2100, Report Finds

NEW DELHI — Rising temperatures in the Himalayas, home to most of the world’s tallest mountains, will melt at least one-third of the region’s glaciers by the end of the century even if the world’s most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a report released Monday.

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If global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by 2100, according to the report, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment.

Those starker numbers would translate to a loss of two-thirds of glaciers in the region, plus radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement.

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#6 PoliticsDemocratic candidate trusts Americans ready for gay president

Washington (AFP) - Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay mayor who is running for US president, said Sunday he believes America will judge him based on the quality of his ideas and experience.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, launched his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in January.

If elected -- which for now seems unlikely -- Buttigieg, a former naval intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, would become the first openly homosexual president of the United States.

He is among a crush of Democrats vying to unseat Republican Donald Trump next year. Other declared Democrats include Trump nemesis Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, a California senator who aspires to be the nation's first black female president.

But are Americans ready for a president who is openly gay and in a same-sex marriage? The question was put to him in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

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#7 PoliticsAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jeremy Corbyn share ‘lovely’ phone callMayors have ‘executive … problem-solving experience’ needed in Washington: ButtigiegBeing president ‘a leap for anybody,’ says 37-year-old 2020 hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Jeremy Corbyn and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have shared their visions of the future in a “lovely and wide-reaching” phone conversation.

The Labour leader revealed he had spoken to the newly-elected Democrat on Twitter on Sunday night.

He tweeted: “Great to speak to @AOC on the phone this evening and hear first hand how she’s challenging the status quo. Let’s build a movement across borders to take on the billionaires, polluters and migrant baiters, and support a happier, freer and cleaner planet.”

Two hours later the Ms Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: ”It was an honor to share such a lovely and wide-reaching conversation with you, @jeremycorbyn! Also honored to share a great hope in the peace, prosperity and justice that everyday people can create when we uplift one another across class, race, and identity both at home and abroad.”

The meeting of minds was celebrated by many of Mr Corbyn’s supporters, with teenage student Hasan Patel – who won a scholarship to Eton College last month – describing it as his “wildest dreams come true”.

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#8 WorldGermany recognises Guaido as legitimate interim president of VenezuelaWhy Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Need to Stop the Billionaire BashingOcasio-Cortez should have looked into Corbyn’s past before their phone call – now she is stuck with the damage

TOKYO (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday recognised Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president and said he should organise new elections as soon as possible.

"Guaido is the person with whom we are talking and who we expect to initiate an election process as quickly as possible and he is the legitimate interim president for this task from the German perspective and also from the perspective of many European partners," Merkel told a news conference during a visit to Tokyo.

"And we hope that this process is as short as possible and of course peaceful," she added.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Paul Carrel)

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#9 WorldRussia warns against ‘destructive meddling’ in Venezuela as UK recognises opposition leader as presidentProtesters Show Support for Juan Guaidó in Maturín, VenezuelaU.S. Aid to Venezuela Will Test Military Loyalties Amid the Spiraling Political Crisis

Russia has warned against “destructive meddling” in Venezuela as Britain recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

The US, Canada and several Latin American and European countries have disavowed Nicolas Maduro over his disputed re-election last year and recognised Mr Guaido, the national assembly president, as the country’s rightful leader.

“The international community’s goal should be to help [Venezuela], without destructive meddling from beyond its borders,” Alexander Shchetinin, head of the Latin America department at Russia’s foreign ministry, told the Interfax news agency.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the UK and its European allies recognised Mr Guaido following Mr Maduro’s decision not to call new presidential elections following a collective ultimatum.

“Nicolas Maduro has not called presidential elections within eight-day limit we have set,” Mr Hunt tweeted. “So UK alongside European allies now recognises Juan Guaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let’s hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis.”

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#10 European nations recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president

The United Kingdom, Spain and France announced Monday that they recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president.

European nations had warned last week that if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro did not call new elections by the end of Sunday, they would officially recognize Guaido as the self-declared leader of the country.

"Nicolas Maduro has not called Presidential elections within 8 day limit we have set. So UK alongside European allies now recognises @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let's hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis," British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt tweeted on Monday.

Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself acting president on January 23, invoking a constitutional rule to open a rare challenge to Maduro's claim to the presidency.

Claudia Rebaza, Arnaud Siad and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.

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#11 Car bomb kills 11 at Somalia shopping mall

MOGADISHU, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded at a shopping mall in Somalia's capital on Monday, killing 11 people and wounding 10 in an attack that police said was probably carried out by Islamist group al Shabaab.

The blast occurred in Mogadishu's Hamarweyne district, a busy area with shops and restaurants.

"Several dead people were removed from a wrecked building at the blast scene. So far death toll is 11 civilians and 10 others injured," police officer Mohamed Hussein said.

Hussein had earlier put the death toll at two.

A Reuters witness saw one dead person at the scene, where four cars burned and a restaurant was destroyed.

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#12 Taliban to take part in ‘intra-Afghan’ talks in Moscow

ISLAMABAD — The Taliban said Monday they will participate in what they call "intra-Afghan" talks in Moscow designed to bring together prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition figures and tribal elders — but no Kabul government officials.

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The two-day meeting in the Russian capital, which starts Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving Afghanistan's 17-year war, a process that has accelerated since the appointment last September of U.S. peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Khalilzad has been holding separate negotiations with the Taliban even as he presses for a dialogue that would bring together all key Afghan players.

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#13 28 Haitians dead after ship sinks off Bahamas: officials

At least 28 Haitians have drowned off the coast of Abaco in the Bahamas, officials said Sunday, the latest tragedy at sea for migrants seeking to leave the Caribbean's poorest economy.

"Thus far, a total of 17 persons have been rescued alive and 28 bodies have been recovered from the water" after two days of dive operations, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force said.

The incident unfolded Saturday when the ship carrying the Haitians sank near Fowl Cay, six miles (10 kilometers) off the coast of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

Fifteen survivors and 13 dead bodies were recovered Saturday in a joint mission between the RBDF and US Coast Guard. On Sunday, two more survivors were found alive on a nearby cay in addition to 15 bodies in the sunken vessel.

In a tweet, the US embassy in Haiti described the ship as a vessel trafficking people out of Haiti, adding: "No journey is worth risking lives - please urge families and communities: Illegal migrant & smuggling operations are dangerous and frequently end in tragedy."

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#14 Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will be one of the first Wi-Fi 6 phones

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will be one of the first smartphones to support the faster Wi-Fi speeds offered by Wi-Fi 6. Regulatory filings from Samsung, spotted by Droid Life, reveal that three models of the upcoming phone will include support for the brand-new Wi-Fi standard.

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Those speed gains won’t do much right away, though. Almost no one has a Wi-Fi 6 router, and you’ll need one to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6’s improvements. Wi-Fi 6 also doesn’t offer immense speed gains for individual devices. It’s supposed to improve performance in homes or on Wi-Fi networks where a ton of devices are connected (say, a home with a bunch of smart gadgets installed), and those devices will need Wi-Fi 6 to really see benefits, too.

Still, it’s a feature worth having. It makes the phone a bit more future-proof, and if you buy a new router in the next couple of years, it’ll likely bring Wi-Fi 6 support to your home.

There haven’t been many Wi-Fi 6 devices so far, but the Galaxy S10 suggests that could be about to change. The phone likely comes with Qualcomm’s new top-of-the-line processor, the Snapdragon 855, which includes support for Wi-Fi 6. That chip isn’t being widely used yet, but it should end up in many of this year’s flagship Android phones, bringing some of the first Wi-Fi 6 devices to the market.

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#15 Elon Musk shows off SpaceX’s dazzling Raptor rocket engine

We know what SpaceX's next-generation Starship looks like. Now we've also got a new look at the Raptor engine that will one day rocket it off our planet -- and a sublime display from its first test firing, too.

Elon Musk posted a pair of images to Twitter late Thursday showing a Starship Raptor engine and saying SpaceX is preparing to fire it at its Texas facility. One of the images shows a worker standing near the engine, giving us a good sense of its scale.

The Raptor has been under development for years, but Musk said in December the latest version is "radically redesigned." Musk spilled a few geeky details on the test engine's thrust and how it's geared toward reaching the moon as fast as possible.

The moon goal is an important one. SpaceX and Musk announced last year that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa had bought up all the seats for a planned 2023 Starship mission to travel around the moon.

Musk says Starship will eventually have seven of the new engines. SpaceX currently has a "hopper" prototype of the stainless-steel Starship meant for takeoff and landing tests, with hopes of unveiling an orbital version by mid-year. 

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#16 NASA scientist demonstrates the speed of light through simple, mind-blowing animations

In an effort to explain daunting astronomical concepts like the speed of light and the scale of the universe, a NASA scientist has turned to animation and created a series of nifty and easy to understand explainer videos that have become popular across social media. 

So far James O’Donoghue, the creator of the videos and a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has six explainer videos on YouTube.

The videos have amassed almost a million combined views, which is quite a feat considering the complicated concepts he deals with.

Dr. O’Donoghue has even used his animation talents to make fun of flat earthers, which of course won us over immediately.

A flat-Earther would have a lot mind games to perform to convince you this is flat, or that Earth is the only flat planet.

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#17 There’s an ’empty trash bag’ circling our planet

There is a lot of space junk streaming around the Earth’s orbit, but few objects are quite as peculiar as one called A10bMLz, which astronomers are describing it as an “empty trash bag.” Farther than the average distance between the Earth and the moon, A10bMLz doesn’t have a stable orbit. It’s moving erratically, unpredictably veering back and forth between a distance of about 372,000 and 334,000 miles from the surface of the Earth, a lot like—you guessed it—an empty trash bag caught in the wind.

A10bMLz is far from run-of-the-mill space junk. Astronomer Daniel Bamberger from London’s Northolt Branch Observatories, which made follow-up observations and ran more analyses on the object after its initial discovery on January 25 by the ATLAS asteroid survey in Hawaii, says he and his team initially had no clue whether the object was natural or artificial. As they tracked its movements, they realized it was defying predictions and moving around almost randomly.

But space is a vacuum—there’s no wind or air pressure to account for this sort of volatility. There are only a handful of forces that could simply bully an object out of a normal orbit. What exactly is A10bMLz, and what kind of forces could possibly shove it around as it blew through interstellar main street?

The first thing to clear up is that while the empty trash bag object (ETBO) moniker is a cute and useful analogy, there is a more technical label that helps describe what A10bMLz is. Moriba Jah, an orbital mechanics researcher at the University of Texas, explains that the object represents a phenomenon called High Area-to-Mass Ratio, or HAMR. When an object possesses a large surface area and a low mass, it’s primed for getting pushed around by solar radiation. Photons from stellar light and radiation are able to interact with the surfaces of other objects and apply a small pressure as a net result of different physical interactions. Solar radiation pressure is a weak force, but it acts continuously and will make a difference over time, eventually building to a point where it is powerful enough to move objects out of their normal trajectories.

Bodies with higher surface areas are hit with more sunlight, so solar radiation pressure has a bigger effect on HAMRs. Like empty trash bags, they have low masses but high surface areas, so they’re more susceptible to outside physical forces. It’s the same sort of mechanics engineers are using to develop space propulsion technologies like solar sails.

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#18 Climate change will change the color of the oceans

The ocean will not look the same color in the future. It won't turn pink or anything radically different; the change will be more apparent through optic sensors than though the human eye. But it serves as anearly warning sign that global warming is significantly altering the planet's ecosystems, according to a new study.

Essentially, climate change will make the blues of the ocean bluer and the greens greener. Scientists figured this out by creating a global model that simulates the growth of a tiny creature that lives in the oceans and affects the color we see. Their research was published Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

The ocean looks blue or green to us because of a combination of how sunlight interacts with water molecules and with whatever else lives in that water.

The molecules in water absorb all but the blue part of the spectrum of sunlight, and the water reflects that blue color back. That's the color we see.

The water looks greener when it has more phytoplankton, tiny, microscopic organisms that, like plants, can use chlorophyll to capture mostly the blue portions of the spectrum of sunlight. They then use photosynthesis to create the chemical energy they need to live. When there are more of these creatures in the water absorbing sunlight, they make the water look greener. Conversely, if there are fewer phytoplankton, the water looks bluer.

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#19 Veggie-eating shark surprises scientists

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, though as filter feeders, they don’t have the same bloodthirsty reputation as their kin. Still, they are sharks, so it’s long been believed these gentle giants rely almost exclusively on animal protein.

That’s not what an intriguing new study published this month in the journal Ecological Monographs found, though. Careful investigation of blood and tissue samples from over a dozen whale sharks suggests that they actually have a pretty omnivorous diet that includes plants and algae.

The research team, led by University of Tokyo biologist Alex Wyatt, used a combination of samples from captive and wild sharks to demystify the feeding habits of these enigmatic ocean travellers. While previous studies had found seaweed in whale shark stomachs, this is the first study to suggest they might ingest such algae as a dietary staple.

“Whale sharks are a very charismatic creature that is globally threatened, but we still don’t know enough about their ecology for effective conservation,” Wyatt tells National Geographic. “I am very keen to contribute to an improved understanding of the species.”

Studying what an animal eats is “fundamental stuff,” says whale shark biologist and vice president of research and conservation at the Georgia Aquarium Alistair Dove, but “it’s also central to the sort of population models that are necessary when you are trying to develop enlightened conservation plans for an endangered species.”

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#20 China deploys new rocket-launching robotic ship, but it’s not built for war

When one of the world’s superpowers deploys a robotic ship capable of launching rockets it’s safe to assume that it’s going to raise plenty of eyebrows. Well, that’s exactly what China just did, but this particular vessel isn’t concerned with protecting territory to fending off invaders.

The boat, which was designed and deployed by Chinese scientists, is far more concerned with the climate and weather patterns than military goals. The autonomous watercraft successfully launched a sounding rocket, which is a tool used by weather researchers to monitor conditions over a massive area, and its maiden voyage was chronicled in a new paper published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

The vessel is an unmanned semi-submersible vehicle (USSV for short) and it was built by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. It’s operated remotely and offers much more control than weather buoys and more versatile than a weather balloon.

“The unmanned semi-submersible vehicle is an ideal platform for marine meteorological environmental monitoring, and the atmospheric profile information provided by [the sounding rocket] launched from this platform can improve the accuracy of numerical weather forecasts at sea and in coastal zones,” Dr. Jun Li, co-author of the paper, said in a statement.

The idea here was to create an ocean-based observation tool that could change positions as needed without requiring a manned presence on the ship itself. The team accomplished that task and proved that the robotic vessel is a viable option for ongoing weather observation over the ocean.

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#21 ‘Liam Neeson is canceled’: Fans react to actor’s story of urge for racist revenge

In a shocking new interview, "Taken" star Liam Neeson says he once sought revenge for a loved one's rape by searching for a black person to kill.

During an interview with Britain's The Independent, the Irish Oscar nominee-turned-action star revealed that when he returned home from an overseas trip and learned a loved one had been raped, he went looking for revenge.

“There’s something primal – God forbid you’ve ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions," he said before launching into the never-before-heard story.

“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” Neeson told the outlet. “But my immediate reaction was... I asked, did she know who it was? No. 'What color were they?' She said it was a black person.

“I went up and down areas with a (nightstick), hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could – kill him.”

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#22 Does the State of the Union mean anything at all?

Even before Donald Trump became president, the annual State of the Union ritual had grown tiresome to those who considered it outdated kabuki theater, just as party conventions have become little more than an extended TV commercial.

Then Trump arrived in the White House. His willingness to say one thing one day and another the next threw Washington into a bizarre reality where what Trump says next, on Twitter, matters more than what he has said before.

In the Trump era, there is no pretending that the State of the Union speech involves a serious political dialogue between the president and the legislative branch. It has descended into political theater, posturing and play-acting.

Ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Trump has created suspense over whether he’ll use the speech to announce that he will use national emergency powers to obtain funding to build a wall along much of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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#23 Sanders on Trump inaugural committee subpoena: ‘This has nothing to do with the White House’

© Evan Vucci
Press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks with reporters outside the White House on Feb. 5, 2019,

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought Tuesday to distance the White House from allegations of misusing money from President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, though she did not explicitly deny that any illegal activity might have taken place.

Trump’s inaugural committee, which is just one more extension of the Trump universe under scrutiny from federal prosecutors, was hit with a subpoena on Monday for documents reportedly related to the nonprofit committee’s donors and whether they received any benefits for their contribution. Prosecutors also sought information about attendees at Trump’s 2017 swearing-in and whether any donations were made on behalf of foreign nationals.

Asked in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” if she was “confident” no illegal activity took place on the committee, Sanders responded that “I'm reading the same reports you are this morning, gathering the information.”

She deferred specific questions to the president’s inaugural committee, which is a separate entity from the White House. But she said that “what I do know at this point is this has nothing to do with the White House.”

Sanders has similarly deflected blame when members of the president’s inner circle, most recently his longtime political adviser Roger Stone, have been wrapped up in probes to examine Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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#24 ‘Medicare For All’ Is Turning Into A 2020 Litmus Test For Democrats

Sherrod Brown has been calling for universal health care since 1992. That’s when he first ran for a U.S. House seat in Ohio, vowing to decline the federally subsidized insurance for members of Congress until his constituents could get similar coverage. He won that race and he kept that pledge, buying policies on his own until 2011, after the Affordable Care Act became law.

He was a senator by that point, and like every other Democrat in the chamber, he voted for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. But before Brown did that, he promoted a series of proposals designed to make the program more generous and comprehensive. One of them was a last-minute amendment that would have replaced Obamacare’s intricate scheme for competing private insurers with a “Medicare for all” program, under which everybody would enroll in a government-run insurance plan.

Nobody seriously thought Democrats were about to scrap legislation they had spent nearly a year writing. By supporting the amendment, Brown was mostly trying to demonstrate his commitment to improving the Affordable Care Act, if not before it became law, then afterward. It was a symbolic act, but a conspicuous one, with only one other senator co-sponsoring it.

The amendment’s author was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the most visible champion of “Medicare for all.” In 2016 he made the idea a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and a year later, he introduced a new version of “Medicare for all” legislation ― this time, with 16 co-sponsors, proving just how popular the idea had become in the interim.

But this time Brown declined to join them, explaining in a prepared statement that while he remained “supportive of ‘Medicare for all,’” he preferred to focus on more incremental, potentially bipartisan measures, like allowing people to buy into Medicare as early as their 50s.

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#25 Madonna Will Receive Prestigious GLAAD Honor For Her LGBTQ Community Support

Through her music and performances, Madonna has been making LGBTQ causes a massive part of her artistic platform for more than 35 years ― and now, the community is set to recognize that contribution in a very big way. 

The Queen of Pop will be presented with the Advocate for Change Award at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards in New York on May 4. She becomes the second person and first woman in the organization’s history to receive the honor, given to those who “changed the game for LGBTQ people around the world” through their work. 

“Madonna always has and always will be the LGBTQ community’s greatest ally and it is only fitting to honor and celebrate our biggest advocate at GLAAD’s biggest event ever,” Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, said Tuesday in a statement to HuffPost. “From the HIV crisis to international LGBTQ issues, she fearlessly pushes for a world where LGBTQ people are accepted. Her music and art have been life-saving outlets for LGBTQ people over the years and her affirming words and actions have changed countless hearts and minds.”

The inaugural Advocate for Change Award was given to former President Bill Clinton in 2013. That same year, Madonna presented Anderson Cooper with the Vito Russo Award at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York. True to form, the superstar arrived at the ceremony dressed as a Boy Scout in protest of the Boy Scouts of America’s since-revoked ban on gay members and leaders. (Check out Madonna’s speech from that event above.) 

News of the honor comes weeks after Madonna made a surprise appearance at New York’s Stonewall Inn on New Year’s Eve. Accompanied by her 13-year-old son, David, the seven-time Grammy winner entertained the crowd with acoustic renditions of her 1989 classic, “Like a Prayer,” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

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#26 Hate Groups Showed Up At Canada’s Oldest Mosque, Reigniting Familiar Fears

Members of far-right hate groups recently entered the Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton, Canada, and gathered outside to harass worshippers on their way to Friday prayers.

The incident evoked memories of the shooting, two years ago almost to the day, that left six people dead and 19 injured at a Quebec City mosque. It also served as yet another illustration of growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the country.

“Over the last three years we’ve seen a rise in two far-right movements in Canada, and those are the anti-Muslim and the alt-right neo-Nazi groups, which sometimes overlap but are two distinct things,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “We have had regular anti-Muslim demonstrations in cities across Canada, mostly in our largest cities, at least every month going back at least two years. This isn’t just an isolated incident. It’s just constant.”

On Jan. 25, two men ― at least one of them wearing clothing embroidered with the Arabic word “kafir,” which translates to “nonbelievers” ― were seen entering the Al Rashid Mosque in “what seemed like an attempt to scout the property and provoke our community,” according to the mosque’s Facebook page. The men entered the women’s section of Al Rashid, mosque communications director Noor Al Henedy told HuffPost, despite signs indicating men are prohibited from that area.

The two men — who were reportedly members of anti-Muslim groups called the Clann and Canadian Infidels — then joined a number of individuals affiliated with far-right groups outside the mosque, where they confronted worshippers. Some of the exchanges were broadcast live on Facebook by Tyson Hunt, the former leader of the Edmonton chapter of the Soldiers of Odin, an anti-Muslim neo-Nazi group.

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#27 More rain? Storm brings mudflows, rock slides, a blizzard to Southern California

Rams fans won't have Southern California's blue skies and sunshine to comfort them after the team's 13-3 Super Bowl loss to New England on Sunday.

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Scattered showers and snow in the mountains are expected throughout the Southland through Tuesday night as back-to-back cold troughs of low pressure move over the area, according to the National Weather Service.

By noon, the heaviest rains had passed through Ventura and Los Angeles counties and a flash flood warning issued from Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills to Pacific Coast Highway had been lifted.

PCH was closed for several hours in both directions from Broad Beach Road to Las Posas Road in Ventura County because of debris flowing into the roadway, according to the city of Malibu. The road reopened about 1:30 p.m.

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#28 WorldJuan Guaido’s taxi driver father reveals son turned to activism after floods devastated his home townDemocratic Women in Spotlight to Counter TrumpAttorney: Fake university sting by ICE was entrapmentLiam Neeson clarifies controversial revenge remarks: ‘I’m not a racist’Trump guests include freed drug offender, bullied studentTrail runner kills attacking mountain lion ‘in self-defense,’ authorities say

When Juan Guaido was 15 years old, a devastating flash flood hit his home province of Vargas.

It was then, his father told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview, that the man anointed Venezuela’s interim president first showed the leadership qualities that have driven his quest to topple Nicolas Maduro.

“He organised everyone and kept the family calm and they all escaped,” said Wilmer Guaido, a 60-year-old taxi driver who fled his homeland for Tenerife in 2003.

Around 20,000 people died in the 1999 flood and the tragedy shaped Juan, his father believes.

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#29 What Mines Mean for South Africa Communities: Violence, Sickness

(Bloomberg) -- Mines in South Africa, which has the world’s fifth-biggest mining sector, are seen as a benefit by only 13 percent of people who live in their proximity, a report on the industry’s social impact said.

Four out of five people see no positive impact at all and 8 percent said mines brought “sickness, dispossessions and damages,” ActionAid said in a report released Tuesday.

South Africa’s economy during apartheid was built on mining and the exploitation of cheap black labor, and the sector still accounts for about half the nation’s exports. Mining communities often complain about people being pushed off their land, pollution and the violence and sexually transmitted diseases associated with the influx of migrant workers.

People who live close to mines “have remained largely excluded from participating in the development of policies and legislation that directly affects them,” ActionAid said. The advocacy group based the report on surveys of communities near mines owned by Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Exxaro Resources Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co., among others, in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces.

The government took 205 billion rand ($15.3 billion) in tax and royalties from mining companies in the 10 years to 2018, ActionAid said, citing a PwC report. That represents 24 percent of “value” generated by the companies, while employees took 47 percent and shareholders 29 percent. Communities received only 7.5 billion rand, or 0.9 percent of the value.

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#30 U.S. sends food, medical supplies to Colombia-Venezuela border

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is sending food and medical supplies to Colombia's border with Venezuela where it will be stockpiled until it can be delivered to the economically shattered nation, U.S. officials with knowledge of the plan said on Tuesday.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aid would be prepositioned at the main Colombian-Venezuelan border crossing at Cucuta.

It is unclear how the aid will get to Venezuela without the blessing of President Nicolas Maduro and cooperation of the Venezuelan military, which has remained loyal to the socialist leader and is stationed on the Venezuelan side of the border.

The U.S. officials said trucks carrying the humanitarian aid were headed to Cucuta at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who last month declared himself to be the South American nation's interim president.

Pressure is growing on Maduro to step down after more than a dozen European Union nations, including Britain, Germany and France, on Monday joined the United States, Canada and a group of Latin American countries in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

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#31 Taliban demand new constitution for Afghanistan at rare talks

The Taliban demanded a new constitution for Afghanistan and promised an "inclusive Islamic system" to govern the war-torn country at a rare gathering with senior Afghan politicians in Russia Tuesday that excluded the Kabul government.

The insurgents' manifesto, outlined in Moscow before some of Afghanistan's most influential leaders, comes a week after the Taliban held unprecedented six-day talks with US negotiators in Doha about ending the 17-year war.

The Doha and Moscow discussions, though entirely separate, both excluded the government in Kabul, where President Ashraf Ghani is seen as increasingly sidelined from key negotiations for peace in his country.

The Moscow meeting -- the Taliban's most significant with Afghan politicians in recent memory -- saw the insurgents praying together with sworn enemies including former president Hamid Karzai as they discussed their vision for the future.

"The Kabul government constitution is invalid. It has been imported from the West and is an obstacle to peace," Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban delegation, told attendees at a central Moscow hotel.

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#32 How hunger is fueling Venezuela’s fast-rising opposition

Caracas -- Venezuela's embattled president is under new pressure after more of America's European allies called for Nicolás Maduro to be replaced. At least 38 countries now support opposition leader Juan Guaidó. China and Russia are Maduro's main supporters. On Tuesday morning, Russia's foreign minister called for talks between the government and the opposition. 

CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer reports from Venezuela, where Roman Catholic leaders are helping Maduro's opponents -- and others who just want to survive.

Mass in La Vega, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Caracas, not only fills the church, it draws an overflow crowd. Father Alfredo Infanta's spiritual message carries a strong political subtext, though he says it's not directly anti-Maduro, as people must decide for themselves. The Church, however, has called Maduro's presidency unconstitutional. His parishioners might call it something else: a disaster.

Father Infanta took Palmer deeper into La Vega, where there's been no running water for four months and where, if not for a free lunch program offering potatoes, cheese and a dose of vitamins, some kids wouldn't eat at all.

Average inflation last year reached a surreal 80,000 percent. Almost no one in La Vega -- or anywhere in Venezuela -- can survive on what they make from work. The economy is so broken that an average teacher's salary, about $6 a month, will only buy a few dozen eggs. Almost half the population of Venezuela would go hungry without charity or food handouts.

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#33 Asia welcomes Year of the Pig with banquets, temple visits

Photo gallery by Reuters

BEIJING — Asia welcomed the lunar Year of the Pig on Tuesday with visits to temples, family banquets and the world's biggest travel spree.

Celebrations took place throughout the region, from Beijing and Seoul to Hanoi and Singapore.

The streets of Beijing and other major Chinese cities were quiet and empty after millions of people left to visit relatives or travel abroad during the year's biggest family holiday.

Families gathered at home for multigenerational banquets. Companies, shops and government offices closed for official holidays that ranged from two days in South Korea to a week in China.

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#34 PoliticsNobel winner Murad, Guaido envoy invited to Trump’s State of UnionArmada of tankers with Venezuelan oil forms in U.S. Gulf: sourcesAP Explains: Cucuta, Colombia _ The gateway into Venezuela

Washington (AFP) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's envoy to Washington are among the top guests invited to attend US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, lawmakers announced Monday.

In keeping with tradition, the 535 members of the US Congress may invite someone to accompany them to the annual speech, to be held Tuesday, where the president is expected to tout his accomplishments and outlines his vision for the future.

It's an occasion for the Democrats, Republicans and independents of the 100-member Senate and 435-member House of Representatives to bring guests who symbolize policy goals and bring attention to the causes they hold dear.

Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman who escaped the clutches of the Islamic State group to become a leading campaigner against sexual violence in war, and Carlos Vecchio, whom the US has recognized as Venezuela's top diplomat in Washington, are among the high-profile guests this year.

Murad was invited by Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican congressman for Nebraska, who said the 26-year-old's tale "is a story the world needs to hear."

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#35 WorldWe are not a ‘political tool’: Afghan women on Taliban talksWorldIsrael’s Uphill Battle with Iran in SyriaBusinessBud Light Super Bowl commercial: Farmer tips beer away in protest amid anger over corn syrup advert

Women who lived under the harsh rule of the Taliban urged senior Afghan politicians to ensure their hard-won freedoms are not bargained away when they talk peace with the insurgents on Tuesday.

The Afghan Women's Network said their rights should not be used as a "political tool" in dealings with the Taliban, who barred women from schools and jobs and drastically curtailed their personal liberties when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Their appeal comes as the Taliban meets with a high-ranking Afghan delegation in Moscow, and a week after the insurgents held unprecedented talks with United States negotiators.

The Taliban said the Moscow meeting -- their most significant with Afghan politicians in recent memory -- would discuss the withdrawal of foreign troops, peace terms and its vision for governance.

The two-day gathering is separate from the US-Taliban negotiations in Doha in January, that ended with both sides touting "progress" and a draft framework which could pave the way for peace talks.

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#36 Death, dogs and a missing $190 million: The strange case of crypto exchange QuadrigaCX

Customers of a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange are reportedly unable to access $190 million of funds after the company’s founder died with the passwords needed to access the money.

A major Canadian cryptocurrency exchange is in the spotlight following the sudden death of its founder, which has left customers unable to access $190 million in funds.

Gerald Cotten, the 30-year-old founder of QuadrigaCX, died in India on Dec. 9, 2018, due to complications from Crohn’s disease, according to a sworn affidavit by his wife, Jennifer Robertson. At the time of his death, Cotten was the only person with the password to access the customer funds.

Robertson says that she has received online threats as a result of the bizarre deadlock.


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#37 Cuomo blames federal tax law for $2.3 billion New York state budget deficit

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the state is facing a $2.3 billion budget deficit 
(AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

New York state is facing a $2.3 billion budget deficit, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes it's largely due to the Trump administration's tax reforms which, on the "flip side," have taxed the rich are encouraging wealthy residents to leave.

President Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which takes effect for the 2018 tax year, places a cap on the state and local tax deduction (known as SALT) that Americans can take. Residents of largely blue states with relatively high state and local taxes are adversely affected, Cuomo says, by the new cap of a $10,000 deduction. New York state's average SALT deduction was around $22,000 before the law changed.

"We've set up reserves, but this is worse than we had anticipated," Cuomo said at a state Capitol news conference in Albany on Monday after referring to the fiscal situation as being "as serious as a heart attack."


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#38 Kimmel, Fallon avoid Ralph Northam controversy in late-night monologues; both have histories using blackface in skits

Despite the controversy surrounding Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam dominating the news cycle for days, late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon avoided the subject in their monologues on Monday night.

On Friday, Northam’s yearbook page from the East Virginia Medical school in 1984 went viral because it included an image of someone in blackface and another in a KKK robe. After apologizing and taking responsibility that night, Northam changed course the following morning, claiming he wasn’t either of the two people in the photo. He did, however, admit to wearing blackface when entering a dance competition as Michael Jackson that same year.

While Northam’s racist yearbook page and bizarre press conference led national news and were mocked by several late-night hosts, they were left unmentioned by Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, both who have worn blackface on comedy skits.

Kimmel wore blackface on numerous occasions, impersonating NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone as well as former daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey in his Comedy Central series “The Man Show.”

Fallon also appeared in blackface during his days on “Saturday Night Live,” impersonating Chris Rock in a sketch. (The sketch was not available on the "SNL" site but some snippets have been used in various related parody sketches like the one below.)

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#39 Tennessee man died of meth overdose before being eaten by bear at national park: autopsy

A man whose body was discovered partially eaten by a bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year actually died of a meth overdose, according to an autopsy released on Monday.

A man whose body was discovered partially eaten by a bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year died of a meth overdose before the bear ever got to him, according to an autopsy released on Monday.

The remains of William Lee Hill Jr., 30, of Louisville, Tenn. were discovered in the national park in September when officials encountered a bear feeding on the body in an area off a trail.

Without knowing the exact cause of death, park officials and wildlife professionals decided to euthanize the bear a few days later for "public safety reasons."

But on Monday, the Knox County Regional Forensic Center revealed Hill died of "accidental methamphetamine intoxication," WATE reported.

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#40 Online retailer’s high-cut ‘front thong’ bodysuit gets backlash: ‘Crime against humanity’

Women are voicing their disgust with a new front thong bodysuit. Some claiming it’s the world’s worst front wedgie and a crime against humanity.

A clothing retailer based in the U.K. is getting some flak over a controversial garment that one woman could only imagine giving her “the world’s worst front wedgie.”

The item, advertised as a “Basic V Neck Ruched Front Thong Bodysuit” and available at, was brought to the attention of the online mommy forum Mumsnet on Sunday, after one member claimed to have seen it pop up as an ad on her Facebook.

“I understand the [bodysuit] trends but surely this would result in being split entirely in two, or the world’s worst front wedgie,” wrote the woman, who shared the post to Mumsnet.


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IT40 News for 02/04/2019

IT40 People in the Media for 02/05/2019