Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2 More Journalists Go Missing in Colombia

While security forces searched for a missing Spanish journalist in Colombia, two more journalists were reported missing Tuesday in the same region.

The two journalists from the right-leaning TV network RCN had traveled to the Catatumbo region to cover the hunt for Salud Hernandez-Mora, a longtime correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo whose weekly column in the Bogota daily El Tiempo is one of the most read in Colombia. 

Authorities declined to call Hernandez-Mora's disappearance a kidnapping, and no one had claimed responsibility for her disappearance, but speculation heightened that she could have been taken hostage by the rebel National Liberation Army, the ELN. It is one of several armed groups and drug trafficking gangs dominant in the mountainous area bordering Venezuela. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News 

The Cost of the War on Terror

In this “Spotlight on Magazines” series, Reason contributor James Bovard discusses his piece on the war on terror, which he says has cost the U.S. $4 trillion since it began in 2001. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

TSA Administrator Testifies on Airport Security Wait Times

Peter Neffenger testified at a hearing on long wait times and delays at airport security checkpoints, as well as staffing challenges faced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

House Minority Leader Weekly Briefing

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) briefs reporters and responds to their questions on a variety of topics, including legislation to deal with opioid abuse and the Zika virus, as well as the leadership of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-SPAN

NY Board Poised to OK $485M for Solar Plant Amid Questions

ALBANY, N.Y. - A state oversight board controlled by the New York Legislature and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to authorize spending another $485 million to complete a solar panel production plant, the centerpiece of Cuomo's "Buffalo Billion" economic development program.

The Public Authority Control Board vote scheduled for Wednesday comes amid questions about the future of solar business after a major player last month filed for bankruptcy court protection and a lack of details about how the money will be spent.

The $750 million SolarCity plant being built with public funds is nearing completion and the money being considered by the board is believed to be the balance of the state's commitment to not only build the million-square-foot factory, but fit it out with manufacturing and other equipment.

But Fort Schuyler Management Corp., a not-for-profit arm of the State University of New York, has not responded to inquiries from The Associated Press about specifics of how money is being budgeted, what equipment is being purchased and who the vendors are. Asia and Europe, where most of the world's solar modules are produced, are also primary sources of manufacturing equipment. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Ledger-Enquirer

New Campaign Aims to Educate New Yorkers About the Dangers of the Zika Virus

Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced the launch of an aggressive public awareness campaign to educate New Yorkers on the dangers of the Zika Virus. The campaign’s launch marks the latest step forward in implementing the Governor’s comprehensive six-step action plan to combat Zika. Already, more than 7,000 larvicide tablets have been distributed to eliminate Aedes mosquitoes potentially carrying the virus. Additionally, New York City and the 57 other counties in New York have all received approval from the state Department of Health on local Zika action plans.

"New York State has put forward the nation's most robust action plan to combat Zika and eliminate this deadly disease at its source," Governor Cuomo said. "This public awareness campaign will ensure New Yorkers understand the threat Zika poses and how we can stop its transmission. By providing New Yorkers with the information they need, we can protect the public health and put an end to Zika once and for all."

As part of the campaign, a public service announcement has begun running in English and Spanish on more than 40 television stations statewide and will continue for the duration of the mosquito season, which ends in September. Radio announcements, also in English and Spanish, were sent to more than 100 radio stations across the state and will run during the same timeframe.

Additionally, billboards and informational posters in subways and on buses will be utilized, digital advertisements will be displayed on travel-related websites and New York State has established a Zika Information Helpline (1-888-364-4723), as well as a dedicated website to provide information directly to residents.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "The Department of Health is focused on reducing the risk of Zika virus transmission in New York State. Governor Cuomo's six-point action plan provides local governments with the support and guidance necessary to address Zika and minimize its impact; and the public awareness campaign provides the information residents need to avoid the risk of Zika transmission."

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in South and Central America. The virus can also be sexually transmitted. Although Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not present in New York, a related species named Aedes albopictus is active in the downstate region. Scientists have not yet determined if Aedes albopictus – the type in New York – transmits Zika. There are 70 different species of mosquito in New York State and Aedes albopictus make up just three to five percent of the total population. Mosquito season in New York runs from April through September.

The greatest danger facing those who contract Zika is a birth defect known as microcephaly. This disease occurs in babies of mothers who are infected with the Zika Virus while pregnant. Zika may also cause a rare disorder called Guillain Barré Syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis. The World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern in February.

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Trump Vitamins: Fortified with B.S.

 Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beas

By Abby Haglage and Tim Mak 

You give the Donald your urine and a stack of money? That’s what he wanted, in exchange for a customized vitamin regimen that a Harvard doctor deems a ‘scam.’

Call it “Vitamin T.” For several years in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Donald Trump encouraged people to take part in a pseudo-scientific vitamin scheme—all without expressing any concern about how it might potentially endanger people’s health.

Through a multi-level marketing project called The Trump Network, the business mogul encouraged people to take an expensive urine test, which would then be used to personally “tailor” a pricey monthly concoction of vitamins—something a Harvard doctor told The Daily Beast was a straight-up “scam.”

And when The Daily Beast asked a doctor for The Trump Network to defend the products, he wound up deriding the idea of “evidence-based” medicine.

The Trump Network ultimately failed, and its assets were sold off. But it was not just a marketing and business disaster—the actions of the all-but-certain GOP presidential nominee reflect his willingness to license his name to a product without fully vetting it: a casual endorsement of a serious matter, all with the flitting nonchalance that characterizes the many falsehoods he utters.

The project is just another example of Trump’s questionable business practices, from his Trump University (accused by many students of fraud) to his casinos (which went bankrupt so often) to his “tasteless and mealy” signature steaks. And it highlights an essential contradiction in his campaign for the White House. While politician Trump says that he cares about average Joe or Jane, his past shows a shocking indifference. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Daily Beast

NY to Launch Major Crackdown on Drunk and Impaired Drivers During Memorial Day Weekend

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that State Police and local law enforcement statewide will be increasing patrols to combat drunk and impaired driving this Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is one of the busiest travel holidays of the year and police will be out in force to remove impaired and reckless drivers from our highways. The initiative starts on Friday, May 27 and runs until Monday, May 30.

"There is zero tolerance for reckless and impaired driving and state police and local law enforcement will be out in full force to help ensure a safe holiday weekend," Governor Cuomo said. "I encourage all New Yorkers to stay safe and celebrate responsibly in order to help keep our roads safe and prevent senseless tragedies."

Drivers can expect to see sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols by State Police and local law enforcement agencies during this holiday weekend.

“On Memorial Day, we take time to honor the brave men and women who died in service to our county, remembering the sacrifice they made for all of us,” said State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico. “As you plan your holiday weekend, we remind motorists to: Drive sober, put on your seat belt and put down your smart phone. State Troopers will be highly visible this weekend and will have zero tolerance for impaired, reckless and distracted drivers.”

According to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, drunk driving killed 317 people and injured more than 5,600 others in New York State in 2014. Another 188 people were killed in drug-related crashes.

“With more vehicles on the road for this busy travel weekend, there is more room for error. This effort is all about saving lives,” said Terri Egan, GTSC Acting Chair and Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. “And safety is our number one priority. Not only are we cracking down on drunk and impaired driving, but state and local law enforcement will be on the lookout for distracted driving and other violations of state law. We thank our partners who keep New Yorkers safe on the roads not just Memorial Day weekend, but each day of the year.”

Troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles as part of this crackdown in order to more easily identify motorists who are violating the law. Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement vehicles allow the Trooper to better observe driving violations. These vehicles blend in with everyday traffic but are unmistakable as emergency vehicles once their emergency lights are activated.

On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, Troopers arrested 187 people for drinking and driving, and issued more than 12,000 tickets. In addition, 33 counties participated in the Memorial Day crackdown resulting in 141 DWI/DWAI arrests, 16 DWAI-drug only arrests, 147 other arrests, and 1,874 summonses for violations of vehicle and traffic laws.

This initiative is partially funded by the Governors Traffic Safety Committee. 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Clinton Broke Federal Rules With Email Server, Audit Finds

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton violated federal records rules through her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, a State Department audit has concluded.

"At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department issues before leaving government service," says an audit by the State Department Inspector General, obtained by NBC News.

"Because she did not do so, she did not comply with the [State] Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act."

The audit found that the non-compliance over personal email went beyond Clinton, and that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, also failed to preserve government-related emails when he was secretary of state. 

Click here for the full article.

First Read's Morning Clips: Unrest in New Mexico

OFF TO THE RACES: Unrest in New Mexico

About last night, from "Police threw smoke devices and used what appeared to be pepper spray on crowds in Albuquerque on Tuesday after protests near a Donald Trump event turned violent, officials said. "Several" officers were injured after being hit by rocks, and at least one person was arrested, according to authorities."

Paul Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong says of reports that Ryan may endorse Trump as early as this week: 

"There's no update and we've not told the Trump campaign to expect an endorsement."

"Nearly three-quarters of likely California voters say the economy and jobs are among the most important issues in deciding their vote ahead of the June 7 presidential primary, according to a USC Schwarzenegger Institute/Field Poll," writes one of us(!). "The poll, which was shared exclusively to NBC News, finds that Democratic and Republican primary voters care almost equally about the economy and jobs: 73 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans say they are among their most important issues in deciding their vote. But that is where the similarities between the parties mostly end."
The Wall Street Journal writes that Ted Cruz's backers are seeking to change convention rules to give conservatives more input. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Microsoft to Trim Smartphone Business, Will Axe 1,850 Jobs

Microsoft said on Wednesday it will trim down its smartphone business by cutting 1,850 jobs, most of them in Finland, and write down $950 million from the operation.

Microsoft, which entered the phone business in 2014 by buying Finnish firm Nokia's handset unit, said it would "streamline" its smartphone business and close down its research and development site in Tampere, Finland. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Monsanto Rejects Bayer Bid, but Is Open to More Talks

Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG's $62 billion acquisition bid as "incomplete and financially inadequate" on Tuesday, but said it was open to engage further in negotiations.

Monsanto's decision, first reported earlier on Tuesday by Reuters, puts pressure on Bayer to decide whether to raise its bid, even as the company faces criticism from some shareholders that its $122-per-share cash offer is already too high. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

OpEd: Scandal, Empire and Bill Cosby, Oh My!

We've seen the season finales of nighttime soaps, Scandal and Empire. And we will speculate all summer long about the cliffhangers. But the best soap opera drama may unfold in real life and in real time.

Today, after many hearings, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge Elizabeth A. McHugh ruled that she would allow the ten-year-old sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby, 78, to move forward in a trial this summer. His next court appearance is scheduled for July, 20, but no trial date has been set at this time. 

Cosby is facing three counts of felony indecent assault from a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand, an employee at Temple University, Cosby's alma mater. She is one more than 50 women who have accused the comedian of sexual misconduct, and is the first and only case to go to trial. If he is found guilty he could serve ten years in prison. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

Mugabe Supporters Rally in Zimbabwe Amid Tensions Over Succession

Robert Mugabe

Reuters, 25/05 16:01 CET

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Robert Mugabe supporters marched in Zimbabwe’s capital on Wednesday in a show of unity as divisions are widening within the president’s party over who might succeed him.

Demonstrators were shipped in from all over Zimbabwe for the “One Million-Man” march, organized by the ZANU-PF party’s youth wing. They sang pro-Mugabe songs as they spilled out of buses in downtown Harare.

“We are here to tell everyone that the youth league is 100 percent behind comrade Mugabe’s leadership,” said Prosper Machado, a youth leader from central Zimbabwe.

“We are saying no to factionalism because President Mugabe is the only center of power that we recognize. He is our candidate for 2018 (elections) and so there is no vacancy.”

Mugabe was due to address the rally later in the day. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: euronews.

Israeli Rights Group Accuses Military of Whitewashing Soldiers’ Abuses

Reuters, 25/05 15:33 CET

By Luke Baker

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – B’Tselem, one of Israel’s leading human rights groups, said on Wednesday it would no longer refer complaints of abuse carried out by Israeli soldiers to Israeli military courts because the system was biased and set up to whitewash cases.

The group, which has monitored Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and incidents of violence and abuse by soldiers against Palestinians for 25 years, said the military’s legal system was too narrowly defined and served to protect its own.

“B’Tselem will no longer play a part in the pretense posed by the military law enforcement system and will no longer refer complaints to it,” it said in an 80-page report.

“The experience we have gained… has brought us to the realisation that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators.”

The Israel Defense Forces said the picture presented by B’Tselem was inaccurate and did not reflect reality. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: euronews.

Mary Beard Wins Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences

Source: euronews.