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World in Brief: July 10, 2017

International, national and regional news

Associated Press

Published on July 10, 2017 9:53AM

Trump’s son changed account of meeting with Russian lawyer


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s eldest son changed his account over the weekend of a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, saying Sunday that the woman told him she had information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A statement from Donald Trump Jr. one day earlier made no mention of Clinton. In his initial depiction of the meeting last June, the president’s son said the discussion focused on a disbanded program that used to allow American adoptions of Russian children.

It appeared that Trump Jr. shifted his account of the meeting after being presented with additional information from The New York Times, which first reported both the discussion and the prospect of negative information about Clinton.

The meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is the earliest known private meeting between key aides to the president and a Russian. Federal and congressional investigators are probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election, investigations the president has called a “hoax.”

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting with Veselnitskaya.


Trump backing off idea of ‘cyber security unit’ with Russia


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appears to be backing away from the idea of working with Russia to create a “cyber security unit” to guard against election hacking.

Trump tweeted Sunday morning about discussing such a unit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yet it’s Russia that U.S. intelligence officials blame for meddling in last year’s election.

Widespread ridicule greeted Trump’s tweet. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina calls it “pretty close” to the dumbest idea he’s ever heard. A Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff of California, says expecting Russia to be a credible partner in any cybersecurity initiative “would be dangerously naive.”

By Sunday evening, Trump was tweeting a different tune. He wrote that just because he and Putin discussed the idea “doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t.”

Another Senate Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, said on Twitter that “partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’” Rubio was referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.”


Survey: US uninsured up by 2M this year as gains erode


WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. adults without health insurance has grown by some 2 million this year, according to a major new survey that finds recent coverage gains beginning to erode.

The new numbers highlight what’s at stake as Congress returns to an unresolved debate over Republican proposals to roll back much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, published today, found that the uninsured rate among U.S. adults was 11.7 percent in the second three months of this year, compared with a record low of 10.9 percent at the end of last year. Though small, the change was statistically significant, survey analysts noted.

While “Obamacare” has remained politically divisive, it had helped drive the uninsured rate to historic lows as some 20 million people gained coverage.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plans to check vital signs on his GOP bill as senators trickle back to Washington from a July 4 break that many spent listening to constituents vent about health care.


Bad behavior is trending online, inspiring it in real life


LOS ANGELES — Young children know that name-calling is wrong. Tweens are taught the perils of online bullying and revenge porn: It’s unacceptable and potentially illegal.

But celebrities who engage in flagrant attacks on social media are rewarded with worldwide attention. President Donald Trump’s most popular tweet to date is a video that shows him fake-pummeling a personification of CNN. Reality TV star Rob Kardashian was trending last week after attacking his former fiancée on Instagram in a flurry of posts so explicit his account was shut down. He continued the attacks on Twitter, where he has more than 7.6 million followers.

While public interest in bad behavior is nothing new, social media has created a vast new venue for incivility to be expressed, witnessed and shared. And experts say it’s affecting social interactions in real life.

“Over time, the attitudes and behaviors that we are concerned with right now in social media will bleed out into the physical world,” said Karen North, a psychologist and director of the University of Southern California’s Digital Social Media Program. “We’re supposed to learn to be polite and civil in society. But what we have right now is a situation where a number of role models are acting the opposite of that ... And by watching it, we vicariously feel it, and our own attitudes and behaviors change as a result.”

Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist and author of “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age,” said she’s already seeing the effects.


Retrial set for defendants in Bundy standoff case in Nevada


LAS VEGAS — Federal prosecutors in Nevada are about to try again to prove that four men should spend decades in prison for bringing assault-style weapons to a confrontation that stopped government agents from rounding up cattle near Cliven Bundy’s ranch more than three years ago.

Jury selection begins today in Las Vegas for the conspiracy retrial of four defendants whose cases were left undecided when jurors weren’t able to reach a verdict in April. Two other defendants were found guilty of some charges.

“They’re going to pare down their case compared to last time,” Jess Marchese, attorney for defendant Eric Parker, said Friday. “The government always fixes their mistakes.”

Todd Leventhal, attorney for defendant Scott Drexler, said prosecutors are now asking the judge to narrow the focus of the trial to the standoff itself, and not let defense lawyers raise arguments about constitutional rights and government land policy. The judge has yet to rule on those requests.


Iraqi troops push to clear last Mosul ground of IS militants


MOSUL, Iraq — Iraqi forces slowly advanced today to retake the last patch of ground in Mosul where Islamic State militants are holding on to a tiny sliver of the Old City, west of the Tigris River, a day after the prime minister visited the soldiers to congratulate troops on the hard-fought battle.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the Iraqi special forces said that said even after his men, closely backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, retake the last areas of IS control, clearing operations in Mosul will continue to rid the city of sleeper cells and booby-trapped explosives.

Iraqi commanders say they believe hundreds of IS fighters remain inside the neighborhood and are using their families — including women and children — as human shields in a fight to the death that has slowed recent Iraqi gains to a crawl.

“There’s no accurate estimate for the Daesh fighters and the families who are stuck there,” said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, a senior special forces commander, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

He said most civilians left in the Old City are believed to be IS family members. “But we will not accuse them of anything,” he continued, “if they don’t carry weapons they are civilians.”


Tillerson on Gulf shuttle diplomacy to ease Qatar crisis


ISTANBUL — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embarks on his first shuttle diplomacy mission this week, hopping between Gulf Arab nations in a bid to resolve a crisis over Qatar that has embroiled the region.

The State Department said Tillerson would shuttle between Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from today to Thursday seeking to ease long-simmering tensions that boiled over last month.

In early June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke ties with and imposed a blockade on Qatar over its alleged support for extremists. Kuwait has been leading a mediation effort but Qatar has rejected the four nations’ demands to end the deadlock.

Tillerson will travel from Istanbul to Kuwait City today for talks with Kuwait’s emir. He will then visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia, using Kuwait as a base, although specifics of those meetings were not immediately announced.


Under the covers: Sleep technology explodes


NEW YORK — Pillows that track your snoozing patterns? A bed that adjusts based on how much you twist and turn? Companies are adding more technology into their products, hoping to lure customers craving a better night’s sleep.

Some specialized businesses are making gadgets that promise to measure and improve the quality of slumber, while mass-market retailers like Best Buy are offering simpler ideas like the effect different lighting can have on falling sleep. But with ever-growing options, people may find items that are getting more sophisticated — but may still not be accurate.

The interest in sleep has intensified. The number of sleep centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine nearly tripled from 2000 to 2015, the group says. People are more likely to brag about how much they spent for a mattress than on their clothes, says Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America.

“Sleep is the new status symbol,” she says.

It’s a big business. One of the more expensive products is Sleep Number’s 360 Smart Bed, which runs from $3,449 to $4,999. It makes adjustments based on how restless people are while they’re sleeping. The Zeeq pillow, which sells for $299 and is from bedding brand REM-Fit, monitors snoring and can gently vibrate to nudge someone into a different sleep position.


Afghan students denied US visa to attend robot competition


KABUL, Afghanistan — Six female students from war-torn Afghanistan who had hoped to participate in an international robotics competition in the U.S. this month will have to watch via video link after their visa applications were denied — not once, but twice.

The girls wanted to show the world that Afghans can also construct a hand-made robot. But of 162 teams who planned to participate, the Afghan girls are the only nation’s team to be denied visas by the U.S. and must participate from afar, watching from their hometown in western Afghanistan.

“When we heard that we were rejected we lost hope,” said 14-year-old Sumaya Farooqi. “We applied again for the U.S. visa and we were rejected again.”

Farooqi and her teammates had already faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to even get to a point where they could seek permission to attend. It took them six months to prepare, often working seven days a week, as they constructed a robot that sorts balls, has the ability to recognize orange and blue colors, and can move objects to put them in their correct places.

The girls traveled from their homes in Herat after convincing family members to let them go — no small feat in a country where young girls are often discouraged from pursuing academic study, especially in hard sciences such as math.



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