News & Politics
The News of the Day for Friday September 20, 2019
The Pentagon on Friday announced it will deploy additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as President Donald Trump has at least for now put off any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attack on the Saudi oil industry. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters this is a first step to beef up security and he would not rule out additional moves down the road. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more details about the deployment will be determined in the coming days, but it would not involve thousands of U.S. troops. Other officials said the U.S. deployment would likely be in the hundreds and the defensive equipment heading to the Middle East would probably include Patriot missile batteries and possibly enhanced radars. The announcement reflected Trump’s comments earlier in the day when he told reporters that showing restraint “shows far more strength” than launching military strikes and he wanted to avoid an all-out war with Iran.
A tour bus crashed on a highway running through the red-rock landscape of southern Utah on Friday, killing four people from China and injuring dozens more. The bus from of Southern California rolled onto a guard rail, crushing its roof and ramming the rail’s vertical posts into the cab. The Utah Highway Patrol said five passengers remained in critical condition Friday night, and the death toll could rise. All 31 people on board were hurt. and about half of those on board were considered to be in critical condition shortly after the crash, but several of them have since improved. The crash happened near a highway rest stop a few miles from southern Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, an otherworldly landscape of narrow red-rock spires. Authorities believe the driver swerved on the way to the park, but when he yanked the steering wheel to put the bus back onto the road the momentum sent the bus into a rollover crash. The driver, an American citizen, survived and was talking with investigators. The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate.
President Trump urged the new leader of Ukraine this summer to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. That's according to a person familiar with the matter. Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political rival, now at the heart of an explosive whistleblower complaint against the president. Trump defended himself Friday against the intelligence official’s complaint, angrily declaring it came from a “partisan whistleblower,” though he also said he didn’t know who had made it. The complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to two people familiar with the matter. In that call, Trump urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of potential Democratic rival Biden’s son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company, according to one of the people, who was briefed on the call. Trump did not raise the issue of U.S. aid to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo, according to the person. Biden said Trump should release the transcript of his July phone conversation with Zelenskiy “so that the American people can judge for themselves.”
North Korea on Friday praised President Trump for saying Washington may pursue an unspecified “new method” in nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang. Those talks have been stalled for months by disagreements over trade-offs between sanctions relief and disarmament steps. Kim Jong Un said he is optimistic about negotiations with the United States, which the North earlier said could resume in a few weeks. Pyongyang has repeatedly demanded that Washington reconsider its stance following the collapse of a February summit between the North Korean leader and Trump. Trump on Wednesday said comments made by former National Security Advisor John Bolton set the United States back “very badly” in talks with the North. Bolton has been replaced and Trump said, “maybe a new method would be very good.” While the timing of Bolton’s firing could be convenient for talks, experts say the departure of one adviser wouldn’t dramatically alter U.S. policy. The Trump administration has said sanctions and pressure will be maintained until North Korea takes concrete steps toward fully relinquishing its nuclear program.
Gun manufacturer Colt announced Thursday that it would suspend production of its popular AR-15 assault-style rifle for the civilian market. The gunmaker will still make the weapons for its military and law enforcement customers. The move came as pressure mounts for limiting access to assault-style rifles after numerous gunmen have used them in deadly mass shootings. CEO Dennis Veilleux in a statement sought to reassure customers that Colt is still "committed to the consumer market" and the Second Amendment, but he said demand for Colt rifles had dwindled. American Military News noted that Colt's relatively high prices for popular rifle models had dented sales.
Walmart announced Friday it will stop selling all e-cigarettes after health officials linked at least seven deaths and hundreds of illnesses to vaping products. The company said its decision also applies to Sam's Club locations in the United States. The announcement comes one day after the Food and Drug Administration revealed it launched a criminal investigation into suspected vaping-linked lung illnesses weeks ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported 530 confirmed or probable lung illnesses in 36 states -- up from 380 on Sept. 12. On Tuesday, a California man became the 7th person in the United States to die from the lung conditions. Early testing has linked the illnesses to illicit marijuana vapor cartridges, but officials say they cannot rule out nicotine e-cigarettes as also playing a role. In May, Walmart announced a plan to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21 as an added measure to prevent the sale of the items to minors.
Russia's oil reserves have nearly doubled in valuation since last year and now total $1.2 trillion. Moscow's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said Friday the 88 percent increase is largely attributable to newly discovered reserves and higher valuations for the existing reserve supply. In volume terms, Russia's oil reserves grew by nearly 9 percent and its valuation by $385 billion. The production cost per barrel remains about $15.50. Oil accounted for 72 percent of Russia's gross domestic product in 2018. The ministry said the value of Russia's natural gas reserves jumped by $44 billion, to $221 billion, after an increase of 3.6 percent, or 15 trillion cubic meters. The estimates for oil and natural gas only take into account what's commercially viable to produce.
About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once-secret Area 51 military base in Nevada — at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to “storm” the facility to see space aliens — and at least two were detained by sheriff’s deputies. Officials estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the “Storm Area 51” festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates. Millions of people had responded to a June internet post calling for people to run into the remote U.S. Air Force test site - about two hours north of Las Vegas - that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theories. “They can’t stop all of us,” the post joked. “Lets see them aliens.” The military responded with stern warnings that lethal force could be used if people entered the Nevada Test and Training Range.
Researchers from more than a dozen nations prepared Friday to launch the biggest and most complex expedition ever attempted in the central Arctic — a yearlong journey through the ice they hope will improve the scientific models that underpin our understanding of climate change. The 140-million euro ($158 million) expedition will see scientists from 19 countries including Germany, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China work together in one of the most inhospitable regions of the planet. Packed full of scientific equipment, the German icebreaker RV Polarstern will leave the port of Tromsoe in northern Norway accompanied by a Russian vessel to search for a suitably large floe on which to anchor and set up base. Markus Rex of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Ocean Research, who will lead the expedition said, “The Arctic is the epicenter of global climate change. At the same time the Arctic is the region of the planet where we understand the climate system least.”
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