Worldwide News

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Forest fire in Spain threatens renowned national park

A forest fire in southern Spain forced the evacuation of at least 1,000 people and threatened a national park famous for its biodiversity and endangered species, authorities said Sunday.

The fire started on Saturday night on Spain’s southern coast, then advanced east to reach the Donana Nature Reserve, one of the country’s most important wildlife sanctuaries and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1994.

“The fire has entered in the limits of the reserve, and that is where we are focusing our efforts,“ Jose Gregorio Fiscal Lopez from the regional Andalusian authority in charge of the environment told Spanish national television.

The reserve protects over 264,403 acres considered of extreme ecological value for their mix of ecosystems, including wetlands, dunes and woods. It is a key stop for migratory birds home to a variety of animals, including about a fifth of the 400 remaining Iberian lynxes.

Ecologists who work in the park are concerned that the fire could wipe out some of the area’s prized species and terrain.

“We are worried because the impact could be huge,“ Carlos Molina, an ornithologist who works inside the reserve, told The Associated Press by phone from his home nearby.

“Donana is probably one of the most important areas for birds in all of Europe, and we just happen to be in a nesting season for several species,“ Molina said.

While Molina said the reserve’s endangered Iberian imperial eagle should not be in danger, the area in immediate threat from the fire is territory for the extremely endangered lynx.

Juan Sanchez, director of the Andalucia’s forest fire prevention unit, said the fight was “in its critical phase” due to strong winds whipping up the flames.

“Right now the fire is developing how we expected. The wind is shifting, gaining strength, which is normal as we get to the afternoon,“ Sanchez said. “We are managing it, but a change in the direction of the wind could alter the situation.“

Susana Diaz, the regional president of Andalusia, said no people have died in the blaze and “there’s no risk to the population” after about 1,000 were evacuated from campsites and houses near the town of Moguer, where the fire started on Saturday night.

Diaz said fighting the fire was proving difficult due to hot, dry weather, with temperatures reaching 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and shifting winds. Over 550 firefighters, soldiers and police officers supported by 21 air units were combating the blaze Sunday.

“It’s still very early, but we are not ruling out the human factor” as a possible cause of the fire, said Diaz.

Spain’s interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said from a control post near the fire that since “we are taking special measures, even though the wind is pushing the fire toward (the reserve) to keep the damage to a minimum.“

The fire comes a week after wildfires killed 64 people in neighboring Portugal, which like Spain is suffering from a lack of rain and high temperatures.

►  Dali’s bones to be exhumed in Spain for paternity test

A Spanish judge on Monday ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali to be exhumed to settle a paternity suit, despite opposition from the state-run foundation that manages the artist’s estate.

Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealist art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres.

Pilar Abel, a tarot-card reader from the nearby city of Girona who was born in 1956, says she is the offspring of an affair between Dali and her mother, Antonia.

At the time of the alleged affair, Dali was married to his muse, Gala, who died seven years before the painter. Gala had a daughter from an earlier marriage but the couple had no children of their own. Upon his death, at age 84, Dali bestowed his estate to the Spanish state.

On Monday, a Madrid court statement said that tests with DNA from Dali’s embalmed body were necessary because there were no other existing biological remains with which to make a genetic comparison.

Abel’s court litigation started in 2015 when she sued the Ministry of Finance, as the trustee of Dali’s estate, and the Gala Dali Foundation that was created to administer it.

“What she wants is to have a result of the tests with full guarantee in order to finish with this as soon as possible,“ Abel’s lawyer Enrique Blanquez told The Associated Press.

If there’s a match, Abel could use Dali as her surname and pursue further legal action to claim her rights over the artist’s work and property, which according to regional laws could amount to 25 percent of all of the estate.

The Gala Dali Foundation will appeal Monday’s decision, foundation spokeswoman Imma Parada said in an e-mailed statement.

But according to Blanquez, the appeal could not immediately stop the exhuming of Dali’s remains.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled for September 18, the lawyer said.

►  Over 150 dead as overturned fuel truck explodes in Pakistan

Alerted by an announcement over a mosque’s loudspeaker that an overturned tanker truck had sprung a leak, scores of villagers raced to the scene with fuel containers Sunday to gather the oil. Then the wreck exploded, engulfing people in flames as they screamed in terror.

At least 153 men, women and children were killed, with dozens more in critical condition, hospital and rescue officials said.

“I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help,“ said Abdul Malik, a police officer who was among the first to arrive on the scene of horror in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

When the flames subsided, he said, “we saw bodies everywhere. So many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape.“

About 30 motorcycles that villagers had used to rush to the site of the highway accident lay charred nearby along with cars, witnesses said. Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and army helicopters taking away the injured.

As victims cried out for help, residents wandered through the area, looking for loved ones.

Zulkha Bibi searched for her two sons.

“Someone should tell me about my beloved sons. Where are they? Are they alive or are they no longer in this world? Please tell me,“ she pleaded.

Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition, said Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area. They will have to be identified through DNA.

The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis will mark it on Monday.

The fuel truck was traveling from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on a highway outside Bahawalpur.

A loudspeaker atop a mosque alerted villagers to the leaking fuel, and many rushed to the scene with fuel containers, said Rana Mohammad Salim, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur.

Highway police moved quickly to redirect traffic but couldn’t stop the scores of villagers, spokesman Imran Shah told a local TV channel.

When the fire erupted, the same mosque loudspeaker called on the remaining villagers to help put it out.

Mohammed Salim said he ran toward the smoke with buckets of water and sand, but the heat was too intense for him to reach the victims.

“I could hear people screaming, but I couldn’t get to them,“ he said.

Dr. Javed Iqbal at Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital said most of the patients suffered burns to upward of 80 percent of their bodies. Many were evacuated by plane or helicopter to hospitals in the Punjab cities of Lahore and Multan.

►  Jordan to cancel ‘marry the victim’ clause shielding rapists

A pregnant 15-year-old who had been raped by a brother-in-law decided to marry her attacker, hoping this would shield her from other male relatives who might kill her in the name of “family honor.“

A young woman was taken into protective custody after being stabbed 17 times by a brother who accused her of bringing “shame” to the family for running away from an abusive husband.

Jail, forced marriage or the risk of getting killed by family members – these are some of the harsh choices still faced by victims of abuse or sexual violence in Jordan.

In a key step toward reform, the kingdom is now poised to abolish a provision that exempts a rapist from punishment if he marries his victim. Jordan’s parliament is expected to do so in a special session sometime after the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan next week.

Women’s rights advocates say repealing Article 308 would be a victory, but that more work lies ahead in a society with deeply rooted customs of patriarchy and a legal system that often goes easy on the male perpetrators.

“It’s about the patriarchal mentality in a society that never punishes the man or shames him for anything,“ said Asma Khader, a lawyer and activist.

The “marry the rapist” provision has been repealed in Egypt and Morocco, but remains on the books in Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Algeria and the Palestinian territories, according to the international group Human Rights Watch.

Judge Jehad al-Duradi, who handles sexual violence cases at Jordan’s main criminal court, said women who agree to marry their attackers often act out of desperation.

The judge cited the case of the 15-year-old who was raped by her sister’s husband. At the pregnant teen’s request, the judge approved a marriage between the rapist and his victim.

The rapist escaped punishment and expelled his new wife from his home on the day of the wedding, leaving her to fend for herself and her child, the judge said.

Several other Jordanian laws allow lenient treatment of those who kill or assault women.

One provision lightens punishment if a man kills his wife or another female relative for allegedly having sex outside marriage. Another article says a convicted killer could receive as little as a year in prison if he acts in a “state of great fury resulting from an unlawful and dangerous act” by the victim.

If the victim’s family drops a complaint, even that one-year minimum can be cut in half. Some perpetrators in Jordan have been jailed for as little as six months for killing a daughter or sister.

Al-Duradi said Jordanian courts have imposed harsher punishment for such crimes in recent years; no convicted killer has received a sentence of less than 10 years in prison since 2010.

“The text of the law hasn’t changed, but the interpretation has,“ the judge said.

Jordan’s main criminal court heard 182 rape cases in 2015 and 168 in 2016. It also dealt with 39 slayings of women in 2015, including nine labeled “honor crimes.“ In 2016, there were 36 killings, including eight honor cases.

The actual numbers are believed to be higher, with many assaults going unreported, said Samar Muhareb, director of a legal aid group. Communities prefer to handle such crimes in tribal arbitration to avoid public shame.

“Whenever we see informal justice, it’s at the expense of women,“ Muhareb said.

Meanwhile, Jordanian authorities often detain at-risk women.

A decision on protective custody can be made by a provincial governor, without court approval. Detention typically continues until the woman’s family promises not to harm her, or until she finds a man to marry her.

Fidaa, 25, has repeatedly ended up in prison, following a chain of events that began with her divorcing an abusive husband when she was just 15 years old.

Angered by the divorce, one of her brothers stabbed and seriously wounded her.

The brother was sentenced to five years in prison, but the then-teen also ended up behind bars. Desperate to get out of protective custody, she married a 27-year-old man, only to be forced into prostitution.

Her new husband threatened to alert her brother to her whereabouts if she refused to work as a prostitute, Fidaa said in an interview at the Juweida women’s prison on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Fidaa, a petite woman with dark hair and a quiet demeanor, complied for three years. She eventually managed to leave her husband with help from the police’s family protection unit.

Ten years after her first detention, Fidaa is back in prison.

She was arrested in January, during a police raid of a brothel where she said she had found refuge after befriending some of the women there. Fidaa has been cleared of prostitution charges, but is again unable to leave detention without a sponsor.

“If my brothers know about what happened, they will slaughter me,“ said Fidaa, who only gave her first name for fear of repercussions.

Sadeq al-Omari, a senior official in the prison system, said protective custody is often the only solution, adding that “the right to life is more important than the right to freedom.“

Plans to set up shelters with police protection have not materialized so far, he said.

In the meantime, authorities imprison the female victim rather than potential perpetrators because there are too many male relatives who might hurt her, he said. “Should I put 20 people in prison for one person’s protection?“ al-Omari said.

Legislator Wafa Bani Mustafa said change begins with legal reform.

“If we can change the law so that it’s no longer a solution to get rid of the girl this way, we can encourage families to treat their daughters as victims, not as a source of shame,“ she said. “If we cancel the legal umbrella, society will follow.“

►  Polish protesters demand halt to logging in primeval forest

Hundreds marched in Warsaw on Saturday to protest widespread logging in Europe’s last primeval forest, a project undertaken by Poland’s conservative government.

The ruling Law and Justice party has allowed increased logging in the Bialowieza Forest, a vast woodland that straddles Poland and Belarus, alarming environmentalists who say it threatens a natural treasure. The forest has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The government says it has increased logging to fight an outbreak of bark beetle, which has infected many spruce trees. But ecologists see that as a pretext to increase timber production for profit, saying authorities have been felling not only infected trees but also healthy ones, some 100 years old. Young trees are to be planted in their place.

Speakers at the rally organized by Greenpeace and other groups said they want the entire forest to be declared a national park to ensure its protection. They fear the virgin forest, home to a complex ecosystem of bison, woodpeckers and many other species, is being transformed into what will be essentially a tree plantation.

Robert Cyglicki, director of Greenpeace in Poland, called the logging “a crime against our heritage.“

Protesters rallied in central Warsaw and then marched to the Environment Ministry.

Currently only the forest’s core is protected as a national park on the Polish side.

The march came several days after Environment Minister Jan Szyszko called for Bialowieza to lose its UNESCO natural heritage status.

“The Bialowieza forest was granted UNESCO natural heritage status illegally and without consulting the local community,“ Szyszko said. He said a complaint was lodged with prosecutors over the decision, which occurred under a previous government.

Last year he approved a decision to triple logging above a level that had been considered environmentally sustainable.

The European Union says the increased logging is illegal under EU law.

In recent days, protesters have sought to stop logging in the forest, at times by trying to block the heavy equipment.

►  Death toll from Pakistan attacks climbs to 85

The death toll from twin blasts in the northwestern town of Parachinar climbed to 67 Saturday, bringing the overall death toll from three separate attacks in Pakistan to 85, with several others in critical condition, officials said.

Shahid Khan, a government official in Parachinar, confirmed the toll Saturday, saying residents who had been preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan and Eid feast were now in mourning.

He said during the day another 12 critically wounded died at different hospitals. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, claimed the Friday twin bombings at a crowded market in the Shiite-dominated town, linking them to sectarian fighting in Syria.

Dr. Sabir Hussain, an official at a government-run hospital in Parachinar, said they had received 261 victims of the twin blasts, with 62 listed in critical condition.

Another 14 people were killed Friday in a suicide car bombing near the office of the provincial police chief in the southwestern city of Quetta, police spokesman Shahzada Farhat said. That attack was claimed by a breakaway Taliban faction and the Islamic State group. Gunmen in the port city of Karachi attacked police officers at a roadside restaurant, killing four of them before fleeing, senior police officer Asif Ahmed said.

Maj. General Asif Ghafoor, a military spokesman, linked the attacks to alleged militant sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan and promised greater border security. The two countries often accuse each other of turning a blind eye to militants.

Security forces raided a militant hideout in the northwestern city of Peshawar before dawn Saturday, triggering a shootout in which three Pakistani Taliban were killed and two police officers and a soldier were wounded, senior police official Sajjad Khan said. He said the militants were making bombs that likely would have been used to target holiday festivities.

Khan said the identity of the slain militants was not immediately known. But intelligence officials said one of the men has been identified as a wanted militant commander linked to IS. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attacks, which came just days before Eid-al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Parachinar, a majority Shiite town, has been targeted by Sunni militants group several times in recent years, leaving dozens dead.

In March, a car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in Parachinar, killing 24 people, mostly Shiites. In January, a bomb ripped through the crowded market of Parachinar, killing 22 people and wounded over 100. In December 2015, the same market was targeted by a suicide bomber, killing 22.

Friday’s car bombing in Quetta could be heard across the city, and shattered the windows of nearby buildings, said police spokesman Shahzada Farhat. TV footage showed several badly damaged cars and a road littered with broken glass.

Hours after the attack, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility. Later Friday, the IS group said in a competing claim that it was behind the attack, adding that one of its followers targeted the police post in Quetta, detonating his suicide belt there. It also released a photograph of the alleged attacker, identified as Abu Othman al-Khorasani.

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, which has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists and separatists, who want a bigger share of the region’s resources or outright independence. Islamic militants have also carried out several attacks in the province.

►  UK finds 34 high-rise apartment buildings with unsafe siding

Britain’s fire-safety crisis expanded substantially Saturday as authorities said 34 high-rise apartment blocks across the country had cladding that failed fire safety tests. London officials scrambled to evacuate four public housing towers after experts found them “not safe for people to sleep in overnight.“

Hundreds of residents hastily packed their bags and sought emergency shelter, with many angry and confused about the chaotic situation. Some refused to leave their high-rise apartments. Scores of evacuees slept on inflatable beds in a gym while officials sought better accommodations for them.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said it decided to evacuate four blocks in north London’s Chalcots Estate late Friday after fire inspectors uncovered problems with “gas insulation and door stops,“ which, combined with the presence of flammable cladding encasing the buildings, meant residents had to leave immediately.

The evacuation comes amid widening worries about the safety of high-rise apartment blocks across the country following the inferno that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14, killing at least 79 people. Attention has focused on the 24-story tower’s external cladding material, which has been blamed for the rapid spread of that blaze, but multiple other fire risks have now been identified in some housing blocks.

The government said Saturday that the cladding samples that failed fire safety tests came from 34 apartment towers in cities including London, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said further testing “is running around the clock.“

So far, Camden Council has been the only local authority to have asked residents to leave as a precaution. It said about 650 apartments were evacuated, though initial reports put the figure at 800 apartments.

The council said residents would be out of their homes for three to four weeks while it completes fire-safety upgrades.

“I know some residents are angry and upset, but I want to be very clear that Camden Council acted to protect them,“ Gould said in a statement. “Grenfell changed everything, and when told our blocks were unsafe to remain in, we acted.“

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been criticized for her slow response to the Grenfell tragedy, said Saturday that the government was supporting Camden officials to ensure residents have somewhere to stay while building work is done.

In response, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said May needed to “get a grip” and lead a stronger response to what is now a “national threat.“

Residents – including families with babies and elderly relatives – trooped out of the buildings late Friday night with suitcases and plastic bags stuffed with clothes. Council workers guided dozens to a nearby gym, where they spent the night on inflatable mattresses. Others were being put up in hotels or other housing projects.

Many residents complained about a lack of information and confusion. Officials first announced the evacuation of one building, then expanded it to five before reducing it to four. Some residents said they learned about the evacuation from the television news hours before officials came knocking on doors.

Renee Williams, 90, who has lived in Taplow Tower since 1968, told Britain’s Press Association: “No official came and told us what’s going on. I saw it on the TV, so I packed an overnight bag.

“It’s unbelievable. I understand that it’s for our safety but they can’t just ask us to evacuate with such short notice. There’s no organization and it’s chaos,“ she said.

Carl McDowell, 31, said he took one look at the inflatable beds at the gym and went back to his Taplow apartment to sleep there overnight. Other residents were distraught that they were ordered to evacuate, but were told to leave their pets behind in buildings that could be dangerous.

Fire-safety experts say the Grenfell Tower blaze, which police said was touched off by a fire at a refrigerator, was probably due to a string of failures, not just the cladding, which is widely used to provide insulation and enhance the appearance of buildings.

Police said Friday they are considering filing manslaughter charges in the Grenfell disaster and they were conducting a wide-ranging investigation that will look at everything that contributed to it. The Metropolitan Police said cladding attached to Grenfell during a recent renovation failed safety tests conducted by investigators.

“We are looking at every criminal offense from manslaughter onwards,“ Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack told reporters. “We are looking at all health and safety and fire safety offenses, and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.“

The government has ordered an immediate examination of the refrigerator model that started the blaze, the Hotpoint model FF175BP refrigerator-freezer.

The government also urged building owners, public and private, to submit samples of their cladding. One hotel chain, Premier Inn, has calling in experts to check its buildings.

Police say 79 people are either confirmed or presumed dead in the Grenfell blaze, although that number may change, and it will take weeks to find and identify remains. To encourage cooperation with authorities, May said the government won’t penalize any Grenfell fire survivors who were in the country illegally.

►  Madrid hosts – and debates – global gay pride

Madrid is gearing up to be the world capital of gay pride, a colorful mixture of commercialism and all-night partying that has brought vindication for sexual and gender diversity and created fissures among LGBT activists.

“Pride Yes, But Not Like This,“ reads the banner a residents’ association is planning to stretch across Chueca square in the heart of the city’s gay quarter during the 10-day WorldPride celebration that started Friday.

The rainbow flags flying from balconies in and around the square are evidence that the Chueca neighborhood is still the epicenter of Spain’s LGBT movement. But the flags decorating bars and shops, advertising anything from socks to bags of popcorn, have become a symbol of the aggravation anticipated by the people who live there.

“We are against the commercialization of gay pride by business people. It’s an attack on the neighbors of this quarter and on the city,“ Esteban Benito, president of the local residents’ group, which has denounced the dirt, noise and large crowds gathered outside bars that accompany the annual festival.

Lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals grouped in the Critical Pride collective are opposing this year’s event, too. The collective has called for an alternative LGBT parade to highlight how WorldPride is “a direct threat through a stereotyped vision of our identities.“

But Jesus Generelo, who heads the Spanish federation of LGBT people, defended the massive festival that is expected to draw three million visitors to Madrid. The federation is leading the massive demonstration and parade scheduled for July 1, the climax of the 10-day WorldPride that opened Friday.

The festival “rounds out beautifully the transformation we have brought about in the country to achieve equality in the laws,“ Generelo said.

Considered the Olympics of pride celebrations, WorldPride is a franchise that attracts global attention to LGBT events in different cities. London held it in 2012 and Toronto in 2014. New York will be the next host, in 2019, to mark 50 years after the Stonewall riots.

The parade through the center of Madrid will make calls to extend LGBT rights across the world, with particular emphasis on Chechnya and the rest of Russia. It will also demand that the World Health Organization stop categorizing transgender identity as a mental illness.

Fifty-two floats sponsored by businesses, political organizations and popular brand-name companies are registered to participate, a lineup the organizers are calling a “Manfiesta” that highlights the festival’s party element as well as the rights demands.

“It can be both things, because capitalism has transformed gay pride just as it has football or political campaigns,“ Begonya Enguix Grau, an anthropologist at the Catalan UOC open university, said. “We shouldn’t think that just because there are floats no one is making demands for rights,“ she said.

A subway strike is likely to cause some problems but with official predictions of between two to up to three million tourists arriving in Madrid — a city of just under 4 million people — security is deemed to be the main concern.

At least 2,000 police agents are being deployed for the July 1st parade. And while there have been no specific terror threats to the WorldPride celebration, Spain has been on one step below maximum security for the past two years to avert violence similar to the attacks seen in other European cities.

Besides security searches at the entrances to major events, authorities are also restricting traffic and banning heavy trucks in the city center. The floats will be the only big vehicles allowed after their drivers are vetted.

The city is also taking the opportunity to express its support with buildings illuminated with rainbow colors. It has also installed some 300 “inclusive” and “gender equal” traffic signals, featuring women identified by skirts and ponytails and same-sex couples holding hands instead of the familiar figure of a man in mid-stride to let pedestrians know when to cross.

The debate over the essence of pride comes four decades after the 1977 demonstration by transgender people in Barcelona that is regarded as the birth of Spain’s modern LGBT rights movement following the repressive legacy of late dictator Francisco Franco.

Spain stepped ahead of many other countries and legalized same-sex marriages and adoptions in 2005. More than 40,000 such weddings have already taken place since then, according to official statistics. And Parliament is planning a new law to ensure that all government levels remove barriers for LGBT equality.

On a recent hot afternoon in central Gran Via, Sussy Marbella was checking her makeup with her smartphone camera as she waited to be picked up for dinner. Madrid “always welcomes girls like me,“ she said.

Asked about the party vs. politics divide, Marbella said she liked the “super party” emphasis of the festival but stressed that it “should continue to include a message of protest, albeit without being too boring.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  15 bodies found after landslide buries scores in China

Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 100 more people remained missing.

About 3,000 rescuers were using detection devices and dogs to look for signs of life in an area that once held 62 homes and a hotel, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

“We won’t give up as long as there is a slim of chance,“ the agency quoted an unidentified searcher as saying.

The provincial government of Sichuan on Sunday released the names of the 118 missing people. It’s unclear if the 15 bodies have been identified.

Relatives were sobbing as they awaited news of their loved ones. A woman in a nearby village told The Associated Press that she had no information on her relatives in Xinmo, the mountain village that was buried. She said she had only heard that body parts were found.

Xu Zhiwen, executive deputy governor of the Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, the region where the landslide struck early Saturday, said that all 142 tourists who were visiting a site in Xinmo have been found alive.

Three members of one family were located five hours after the landslide. Qiao Dashuai, 26, said he and his wife awoke to cries from their 1-month-old son around 5:30 a.m.

“Just after we changed the diaper for the baby, we heard a big bang outside and the light went out,“ said Qiao. “We felt that something bad was happening and immediately rushed to the door, but the door was blocked by mud and rocks.“

Qiao told state broadcaster CCTV his family was swept away by water as part of a mountain collapsed. He said they struggled against the flood of water until they met medical workers who took them to a hospital. His parents and other relatives were among the missing.

“It’s the biggest landslide to hit this area since the Wenchuan earthquake,“ Wang Yongbo, an official leading one of the rescue efforts, told CCTV. Wang was referring to China’s deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude 7.9 temblor that struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

Mao County, or Maoxian, sits on the eastern margin of the Tibetan plateau and is home to about 110,000 people. Most residents are of the Qiang ethnic minority.

The landslide buried 1 mile of road and blocked a 1.2-mile section of a river. The provincial government said on its website that an estimated 282 million cubic feet of earth and rock – equivalent to more than 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – slid down the mountain.

Experts told CCTV that the landslide was likely triggered by rain. Search may be made easier Sunday as the weather service forecast a sunny day.

►  North Korea Is Hiding Kim’s Ears

Millions of Americans have something in common with Kim Jong Un: He, too, appears to be self-conscious about his body—specifically, his ears. North Korea has strangely taken to photoshopping its leader’s ears, which a pair of non-proliferation experts picked up on, reports Motherboard. While North Korea’s habit of editing photos is well-known, Dave Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey say they’ve noticed several photos in which editing specifically targets Kim’s ears. As Lewis puts it, “He doesn’t like his ears, or so it seems.“

Schmerler may know why. One photo of Kim shows an imperfection at the base of his ear, which doctors suggest could be anything from a cyst to a viral infection. North Korea has a history of covering up illnesses, but erasing the mark, if it is benign, also serves a purpose. This cosmetic alteration and others like it are likely designed “to help Kim look a bit more handsome than he is in real life,“ Lewis says. His ears aren’t Kim’s greatest cause for distress, apparently. The chairman of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee says Kim is limiting public appearances and travel over fears that there’s a plot to cut his head off, per the Korea Herald.

►  Who Wants to Be King? Not Us Royals, Says Harry

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so,“ comes the answer from a person you might not expect: Prince Harry. But in an interview with Newsweek, the 32-year-old assures that “we will carry out our duties at the right time.“ Prince William’s younger brother says the Windsors are attempting to “modernize the British monarchy … not for ourselves but for the greater good of the people.“ To that end, the Telegraph trumpets Harry’s line, “Even if I was king, I would do my own shopping.“ (He is fifth in line to the throne, after William’s kids.) Harry says he attempts to have as ordinary life as possible and adds, “If I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”

But Harry, who has fought to protect his privacy and that of his American actress girlfriend, Meghan Markle, admits to worrying that “someone will snap me with their phone” as he steps away from his supermarket’s meat counter. He calls it a “tricky balancing act” to avoid diluting “the magic” of Team Royal by seeming too ho-hum. Yet the ginger-haired blueblood credits Princess Diana with showing him how the other half lives. “Thank goodness,“ he says. Of the iconic image of Harry, then 12, and his brother following their mother’s coffin through the London streets nearly 20 years ago, Harry says, “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances.“

►  Sniper May Have Made Longest Kill Shot in History

A Canadian sniper in Iraq appears to have taken a shot for the ages. The Globe and Mail reports that a still-unidentified member of the nation’s elite forces killed an Islamic State militant from a distance of 3,450 meters, which translates to more than 37 football fields. If the account is verified—and it was apparently documented on video—it would best the previous longest kill made by a British sniper in 2009 of 2,475 meters. The gunman used a McMillan TAC-50, which Newsweek notes is the standard rifle among Canada’s well-regarded snipers, and took the shot from a high-rise building in an unspecified locale in Iraq. The Globe and Mail spoke to multiple military sources who knew about the shot.

“It is at the distance where you have to account not just for the ballistics of the round, which change over time and distance, you have to adjust for wind, and the wind would be swirling,” one expert tells the Globe and Mail. In fact, at that distance, the shooter would also have to account for the curvature of the earth, he adds. One military source says the sniper “disrupted a Daesh (ISIS) attack on Iraqi security forces.“ Canadian forces in Iraq have been assisting Kurdish fighters battling ISIS, enough so that ISIS has called for retaliatory attacks in Canada.

►  IKEA Serving Bowl Sets Man’s Grapes on Fire

A man found himself in the middle of an unexpected science experiment in Sweden after he set his bowl of grapes in the sun. Richard Walter says he was outside near his Blanda Blank stainless steel serving bowl from IKEA when he noticed his grapes were on fire. “‘How is that possible?‘ I thought. Then I saw there was one intense point where [the sun] hit the twigs, and that’s where it started.“ His friends wanted proof, so Walter posted a video on Facebook of a piece of paper starting to burn after he placed it in the bowl in direct sunlight. For its part, IKEA tells the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet that it’s taking the information “very seriously” and investigating how this could happen.

But a statement to The Local suggests that the fiery mishap is indeed possible, with an IKEA rep saying “it has been established that many different parameters would have to converge” for fire to occur, and the risk is “very low. The round design of the bowl further contributes to a very low risk of spreading, in case of any overheated material in the bowl.“ Business Insider notes that no one has made any fire-related complaints on the US product page, where the bowl is described as a “great size for serving or prep cooking.“

►  Russia warns Norway that hosting U.S. Marines will hurt ties

Russia has told Norway that the extension of a U.S. military deployment in the country will hit diplomatic ties.

The Russian Embassy in Norway warned on its Facebook page Saturday that the move could “escalate tensions and lead to destabilization of the situation in the northern region.“ It said “this step contradicts Norwegian policy of not deploying foreign military.“

Norway announced this week that 330 U.S. Marines will remain in the country until the end of 2018, a year longer than was originally planned. The U.S. force arrived in January and is based near the western city of Trondheim, 900 miles from the Russian border.

Russia and members of NATO have accused each other of ramping up tensions in recent years with increased military activity by both sides.

►  UN: More than 200,000 suspected cholera cases in Yemen

The U.N. health agency says there are now more than 200,000 suspected cases of cholera in an outbreak in war-torn Yemen, many of them children.

UNICEF director Anthony Lake and World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan said in a statement Saturday, “we are now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world,“ with an average of 5,000 new cases every day. The agencies say that more than 1,300 people have died – one quarter of them children – and the death toll is expected to rise.

The U.N. says collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread.

In addition, an estimated 30,000 local health workers have not been paid for nearly 10 months.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  London fire: Tests show other high-rises have suspect panels

Tests so far have found that at least seven high-rise apartment buildings in England have combustible external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed 79 people in London, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Thursday.

Downing Street said 600 buildings in the country have “similar cladding” to that of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, which was destroyed by the June 14 blaze.

The Department for Communities and Local Government later said that figure refers to buildings with all types of cladding and that not all of them necessarily have cladding made from the same aluminum composite material as Grenfell Tower. Landlords are being asked to check what the cladding on their buildings is made from.

The tests are being urgently conducted as authorities try to determine whether cladding contributed to the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower blaze, which engulfed the 24-story building in less than an hour. They still haven’t said where and how the fire started.

May told the House of Commons on Thursday that government facilities have found combustible cladding after local officials submitted samples in the wake of the fire.

“The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and, as I speak, they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents,“ May said.

May encouraged the owners of both public and private tower blocks around the country to quickly forward samples of any similar material for testing. The government will work with local authorities to make sure any dangerous material is removed and residents are safe, she said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would not identify the buildings with combustible panels until landlords have had the opportunity to inform tenants.

The local council in Camden, a borough of London, removed cladding from one of its buildings for further testing after initial tests showed some panels were “not to the standard that we had commissioned.“

It was unclear whether the Camden example was one of the seven mentioned by the government.

However, the company that fitted the cladding to the Camden property towers oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, a document posted on its website shows.

Rydon carried out the refit of the high-rises between May 2006 and October 2009, Britain’s Press Association reported.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

In another area of north London, Tottenham, residents at the Rivers Apartments came home to notices advising them that experts were “carrying out an immediate review of the exterior cladding.“

Newlon, a nonprofit that manages the complex and others in London, said fire officials “made some straightforward recommendations for the building, which we have already started work on.“ It said the fire officials “were satisfied that Rivers Apartments is considered a low fire risk building.“

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called for urgent checks on around 4,000 buildings as Britain comes to grips with the potential ramifications of the disaster. Thousands need urgent assurances about their own safety, he said.

“At least 79 people are dead — it is both a tragedy and an outrage because every single one of those deaths could and should have been avoided,“ Corbyn said.

Corbyn compared the tragedy to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people were killed in the crush of a crowded soccer stadium, and recent sexual abuse scandals involving vulnerable children, arguing that the government had long turned a blind eye to the needs of the poor.

“The pattern is consistent: Working-class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power,“ he said.

May has apologized for mistakes that were made in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and promised that “no stone will be left unturned” in a public inquiry into its causes.

“For any guilty parties there will be nowhere to hide,“ she said.

May’s comments came after the resignation of the top administrative official in the local government that serves the community devastated by the fire. Local residents and the central government have criticized the response to the tragedy.

Nicholas Holgate, chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea council, came under intense pressure following last week’s blaze. The first few days after the fire were marked by chaos on the ground as local authorities struggled to deal with the hundreds of people who were displaced.

Survivors who had lost everything found it hard to get information about missing loved ones or the services available to help them get back on their feet.

►  Pope seeks to encourage Colombian reconciliation with trip

Pope Francis will preside over a reconciliation ceremony between Colombian victims and former guerrillas during a September visit aimed at consolidating the peace process to end Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

Francis will also pay homage to the patron saint of slaves, the 16th century Jesuit priest St. Peter Claver, when he travels to the former slave-trading hub of Cartagena.

The Vatican on Friday released details of Francis’ September 6-11 trip, his fifth to Latin America and the first papal visit to Colombia since St. John Paul II’s pilgrimage in 1986.

Highlights include a Mass in Bogota’s Simon Bolivar park that is expected to draw up to a million people. A day later, the pope is scheduled to preside over a prayer for national reconciliation in Villavicencio, a traditional stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Earlier this week, FARC members began the final handover of individual weapons as part of the nation’s historic peace accord, which was inked last year after an initial one was rejected by Colombians in a referendum.

Francis had said he would only come to Colombia once a peace agreement was sealed. He gave a strong push to Colombian negotiators when he visited Cuba in 2015, telling them they didn’t have the right to abandon peace efforts.

In addition to the main peace and reconciliation thrust of the trip, Francis is likely to use his time in Colombia to press issues close to his heart. Officials say he is likely to touch on drug trafficking and Colombia’s cocaine trade, the environment given Colombia’s location in the Amazon rainforest, as well as poverty and social inequality.

►  Church Admits ‘Inexcusable’ Coverup of Bishop’s Abuse

The Church of England “colluded” with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church said Thursday, per the AP. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologized to the victims who had spoken out and helped to bring ex-bishop Peter Ball to justice as the church published a report that detailed how senior leaders did little about allegations against Ball over years and even appeared to cover up the case. Welby ordered the independent report after Ball was convicted and imprisoned in 2015 for misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men from the 1970s to 1990s. Ball, who admitted to abusing 18 young men, was released after serving 16 months.

Some victims reported that Ball, 85, encouraged them to engage in “spiritual exercises” involving naked praying and cold showers. The report said Ball’s conduct “caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men,“ but at the time the church trivialized it, partly because of a lack of understanding about safeguarding vulnerable adult men. Ball was arrested in 1992 for suspected indecent assault and given a police caution. He retired as bishop of Gloucester, but was allowed to continue work in churches and schools for years. He was not prosecuted until two decades later. The report said church leaders appeared to try to cover up the problem when they failed to pass on letters that raised concerns about Ball to police. Welby described it as “inexcusable” behavior.

►  Report Finds Extreme Torture in Yemen Prisons

Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaeda militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme—including the “grill,“ in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found. The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers, and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen’s government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years.

Senior American defense officials said Wednesday that US forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. They said US senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when US forces were present. However, one Yemeni official said American forces were at times only yards away from the abuse at secret sites inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas, and even a nightclub. In a statement, the UAE’s government said “there are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations.“

►  10 Jarring Population Figures That Are Looming

The world’s population is going to boom over the next 30 years, growing by a billion in just 15 years and 2 billion by 2050, according to a UN report released Wednesday. Half of that growth is projected to come in just nine countries, shaking up the list of the world’s most populous nations and potentially affecting migration and employment patterns around the globe, reports the Guardian. Highlights:

  • The world’s population is currently 7.6 billion. That number will hit 8 billion in 2023, 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.1 billion by 2100.
  • The global population is current growing by 1.1% per year, equal to about 83 million people. That figure is down from 1.2% 10 years ago.
  • More than half of the projected population growth over the next 30 years will occur in Africa. Between now and 2050, Africa is expected to add 1.3 billion people. Asia is expected to be the second largest contributor to the global population during that time, adding 750 million people.
  • India, which currently has a population of 1.3 billion, will replace China as the largest country in the world in just seven years. China currently has 1.4 billion inhabitants.
  • Nigeria, currently the seventh-largest country in the world, is growing the most rapidly among the countries on the top-10 list. The population of Nigeria is expected to pass that of the United States by 2050, making it the third largest country in the world,
  • The nine countries where half of the world’s population growth between now and 2050 is expected to be concentrated: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the US, Uganda, and Indonesia.
  • By 2050, seven of the world’s 20 most populous nations will be in Africa.
  • In contrast, every country in Europe is experiencing fertility rates below replacement levels, meaning their populations will decline without immigration. Eastern Europe, in particular, will be affected by this trend, with population levels expected to drop 15% in Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine.
  • The population aged 60 or over is growing faster than all other age groups. The UN report projects that the number of people aged 60 and above will more than double by 2050 and more than triple by 2100. That group will reach 1 billion people for the first time within the next few years.
  • In 1950, the world’s population was just over 2 billion.

►  Police Find Cause of Grenfell Blaze

In an emotional phone call, Fadumo Ahmed told her mom she was stuck on the upper floors of Grenfell Tower as the deadly blaze raged. “I can’t get out. Goodbye,“ the 32-year-old said, per the Telegraph. In the days that followed, Ahmed’s friends put her photo on missing posters but received no information about what happened to her. On Thursday, however, her family shared unbelievable news: A firefighter had found Ahmed passed out on a fire escape on the 18th floor of the 24-story tower and carried her out. Ahmed, who lived on the 19th floor, was taken to a hospital in critical condition and is now recovering from severe smoke inhalation, her mom tells the Evening Standard, adding the family saw Ahmed being put into an ambulance on the night of the blaze and had no idea her friends thought she was missing.

“He is a hero. He saved her life, it’s that simple,“ she says of the unidentified firefighter. But while her daughter was one of the lucky ones, 79 others died or are presumed dead as a result of the blaze. Metropolitan Police say it started in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer with the model number FF175BP on the fourth floor of the tower and spread quickly, per the Evening Standard. Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack—who has promised an “exhaustive” investigation, per the BBC—adds authorities will now consider manslaughter charges after the building’s insulation and cladding “failed all safety tests.“ Officials say cladding samples from 11 other high-rise buildings in eight municipalities in the UK, including in London, have also failed tests.

►  The Girls Made a Suicide Pact. Now 3 Have Followed Through

A simple text saying goodbye. That was the last anyone heard from 12-year-old Jenera Roundsky, who committed suicide in Wapekeka First Nation in northern Ontario on June 13. Jenera had been part of a suicide pact made by young girls in the community of 400 Oji-Cree, which suffered the suicides of two of Jenera’s 12-year-old friends, Jolyn Winter and Chantel Fox, in January, report CBC News and the Toronto Star. Community leaders learned of the pact last summer and had hoped to prevent the loss of life. Jenera, one of 40 young people deemed at risk of suicide in Wapekeka, received specialized care outside of the community, reports APTN. Three weeks after she returned home, she was found dead at an outdoor ice rink by another 12-year-old, prompting Wapekeka to declare a state of emergency Tuesday.

Following the January deaths, Health Canada set aside $380,000 annually to pay for four youth mental health workers in Wapekeka until 2019. But community leaders say the money has yet to arrive and they’re still floundering. “We don’t have enough personnel to keep watching people on a 24/7 basis that are at high risk. We try, but we just don’t have the resources,“ Wapekeka band manager Joshua Frogg tells the CBC. He hopes the state of emergency will trigger an immediate response. In addition to mental health workers, Frogg says a health and safety plan should be in place for at-risk youth returning to Wapekeka. No such plan was in place for Jenera, he says, adding she was allowed to return home against the advice of a psychiatrist.

►  After Shorts Ban, British Schoolboys Don Skirts

Despite the hottest June temperatures in more than 40 years, the head teacher at Isca Academy in Devon, England, told boys shorts were not an acceptable part of the school uniform—but she didn’t ban skirts. To keep cool and protest the ban, dozens of boys at the secondary school turned up Thursday in skirts that had been borrowed from friends or siblings, CNN reports. One teen described the feeling as a “nice breeze” amid the sweltering temperatures. The mother of a 14-year-old boy tells Devon Live that head teacher Aimee Mitchell sarcastically told boys protesting the shorts ban that they could wear skirts if they liked—but “children tend to take you literally.“

“Children also don’t like injustice,“ another mother says. “The boys see the female teachers in sandals and nice cool skirts and tops while they are wearing long trousers and shoes and the older boys have to wear blazers.“ Boys who wore the school’s regulation tartan skirts did not get into trouble—apart from one who wore his too short. With the protest now spreading to other schools with shorts bans, Mitchell has signalled that she is ready to reconsider. “Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys,“ she said Thursday, per the Guardian. “However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.“

►  ‘Drunken Fool’ Returns Bar’s Mummified Toe

Drinkers at a bar in Canada will no longer have to suffer through toe-less cocktails after the return of a missing mummified digit this week. The toe—used as a garnish in the signature “Sourtoe Cocktail” at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City—was first reported missing Sunday, UPI reports. On Tuesday, an unidentified man told police he was mailing the toe back to the bar, according to Alaska Dispatch News. CBC reports the toe arrived at the Downtown Hotel on Thursday along with an apology note. “I’m deeply sorry,“ the note reads. “I was way too drunk and lost my mind.“ The note was signed, “Sincerely, A Drunken Fool.“ The bar’s “toe captain” says they’re “happy as clams” about the toe’s return.

Downtown Hotel policy states anyone who steals a toe (it does have backups, but this was reportedly the only big toe) will be fined $2,500; it’s waving the fine in this case because the toe was returned in good condition—even packed in salt to keep it preserved. “That was really nice, because it can’t remain out of the salt for very long,“ hotel manager Geri Coulbourne says. She credits the worldwide coverage of the stolen toe for convincing the thief it meant too much to the community not to return. The toe—which was donated by a man who had it surgically removed then dehydrated in salt for six months—will return to customers’ drinks after passing inspection by Downtown Hotel’s “toe master.“ Dawson City is located in the Yukon about 65 miles from the Alaskan border.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  A Defensive North Korea Issues Comment on Warmbier

North Korea—which handed back Otto Warmbier in a coma after imprisoning him for 17 months—is denying that it tortured the young American. In Pyongyang’s first comment since Warmbier’s death on Monday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Friday that the 22-year-old was treated “strictly based on domestic law and international standards,“ the AP reports. The statement slammed South Korea for “slanderous talk about cruel treatment and torture” despite the “humanitarian” treatment Warmbier was given. Warmbier was buried Thursday after thousands of people gathered at his old high school in Wyoming, Ohio, for a funeral service, the BBC reports.

High school friend Andrew Kraner tells CNN the service mixed the serious and the light-hearted, reflecting Warmbier’s character. “He was the nicest kid,“ he says. “It’s tough, and my heart’s very heavy for him.“ Ohio Senator Rob Portman spoke to reporters before the funeral, accusing Pyongyang of showing a disregard for “basic human dignity” and denying Warmbier basic medical care. A day earlier, Portman spoke on the Senate floor, denouncing the “unnecessary and appalling detainment and barbaric treatment of Warmbier,“ his office says. After the service, thousands of supporters lined the road between the high school and the cemetery.

►  Neighbors Order Qatar to Shut Down al-Jazeera

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis, insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter broadcaster al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran, and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. In a 13-point list—presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis—the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.

According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs. They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism and provide detailed information on opposition figures it has funded. Qatari officials in Doha did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. But the list included conditions that the gas-rich nation had already insisted would never be met, including shutting down al-Jazeera. A day earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the demands must be “reasonable and actionable.“

►  Prosecutor: Paris attacker asked family to see him as martyr

The Frenchman killed when he drove a car packed with arms and explosives into a Paris police convoy in a failed attack had pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group and asked his family to remember him as a martyr, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said Thursday.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, citing a letter resembling a will that was dated Monday, the day of the attack on the French capital’s famed Champs-Elysees Avenue, said the man had pledged his allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and practiced shooting “to prepare for jihad.“

The letter to his loved ones asked that his attack plan be treated not as a suicide attack but as a “martyrdom operation,“ Molins said.

The man, whom the prosecutor identified only as Adam D., had been on the radar of French authorities for Islamic extremism. Molins said Tunisian authorities put out a search warrant for him in 2014 on suspicion of ties to a terrorist group. The prosecutor confirmed that, nevertheless, he had authorization to carry various arms.

The operator of a shooting club told French TV that Adam D. practiced his aim there.

Such contradictions appear perplexing in a country that has been in a state of emergency since 2015 after multiple deadly terror attacks.

Police officials earlier identified the suspect as 31-year-old Adam Djaziri. The prosecutor said he was born in the northeast Paris suburb of Argenteuil, but lived south of Paris.

The French government moved Thursday to extend the state of emergency until November and presented to the Cabinet a new security to bill to beef up police powers, one of several pledges by President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron told European newspapers that France must “organize ... for the long term” because the terror threat is lasting.

Monday’s incident was the second time French security forces had been confronted with terrorism on the Champs-Elysees in two months, the prosecutor noted. An officer was killed there in April and there have been three other instances this year in which French police have been targeted.

Molins said the would-be attacker had a huge cache of weapons both at home and in the vehicle he drove. Two 13-kilogram (28.7-pound) canisters of gas, their safety caps sealed, were found in its back seat. Evidence from the investigation shows the suspect wanted to join IS forces in Syria and Iraq, the prosecutor said.

The attack on a sunny day on the tourist-filled avenue was aborted when the car exploded after the driver rammed the lead car in the police convoy, killing himself, Molins said. A strange orange cloud enveloped the car, whose origin has not yet been determined, the prosecutor said.

Police jumped out of the vehicle, ran to the car, smashed its windows and pulled out the driver in an apparent attempt to save him.

Neither passers-by nor police were harmed, and it remained unclear if the police convoy was his real target. Video cameras show his car was cruising in tourist haunts between the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysee in the hour before the attack.

“The arsenal discovered in the vehicle shows that the scope of the terrorist act planned which, if it had succeeded, could have had dramatic human consequences,“ Molins told reporters.

The prosecutor noted the letter the man mailed to several loved ones on the day of the planned attack, saying he had for years supported “the Mujahedeen who fight to save Islam and the Muslims.“ Swearing his allegiance to the Islamic State group leader, the attacker also said his numerous efforts to reach Syria were stopped by “apostates against the Islamic State.“

A huge quantity of weapons — including assault rifles, a Glock handgun, chargers, many thousands of rounds of ammunition and knives — were found on the man’s body, in his car or at his home south of Paris, Molins said, calling the caches “indisputable preparation” of his plans to act.

Married since 2009 to a Tunisian, with whom he had two daughters, Adam D. made numerous trips to Turkey — three times in 2016 alone — and said he was there for his job as a metal importer and jewel trader. Once last year, he had gold, jewels and nearly 5,000 euros on him, Molins said.

►  Virginia Republicans could learn from Julius Caesar

“Men at some time are masters of their fates.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.“

— Cassius, Julius Caesar, Act I Scene 2

Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” has been in the news a lot in recent weeks. The political antics surrounding that stage version aside, the Bard’s work has a few lessons for Virginia Republicans, who enter the general election with a weakened standard-bearer and stale campaign themes.

These are big problems. The response? Fretting over process.

This weekend, the Republican Party of Virginia’s governing body gathers to decide whether to nominate its 2018 Senate candidate by a convention of party regulars or a statewide primary.

This argument is not new. Convention backers say their method produces stronger general election nominees, free of outside interference in the selection process.

Primary proponents argue that conventions are burdensome affairs that on occasion result in the nomination of the kind of “fringe” candidates primaries weed out.

While it appears the Republicans will choose a primary for 2018, the arguments over process miss the point. The problems Republicans face are in themselves, not in the stars.

Republicans are 0-7 in recent statewide elections. That’s reason enough, one would think, for them to put aside debates over the candidate-selection process and ask the deeper questions about why they haven’t won statewide office since 2009.

That would be uncomfortable. It would mean asking hard questions about philosophy, strategy and message.

Party regulars will point to the RPV’s creed as the answer to most thorny problems. If candidates stick to the creed, then the party base will be happy, and electoral victory can be achieved.

But recent election results strongly indicate Virginia voters as a whole want more than the creed’s platitudes - if they know, or care about, the creed at all.

So Republicans should focus on ideas, and how to sell them, right?

Perhaps they will, if they can rid themselves of their populist barnacles.

Such hygiene is essential to building a stronger Republican brand in Virginia. And, in Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie’s case, it will be unavoidable if he wants to appeal to voters outside the GOP tent.

But, like the perennial debate over primaries versus conventions, it doesn’t solve the larger issue.

The GOP lacks fresh ideas, a problem compounded by an idea-free president.

Yes, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam, now the lieutenant governor, is running as the continuity candidate. Under a Governor Northam, we’ll get more of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s brand of politics but without the glad-handing.

It’s not exactly a bold new vision for the commonwealth, but it’s worked before: Tim Kaine successfully ran as the safe, sensible continuation of Mark Warner in 2005.

But from Republicans we get the leftovers of campaigns past.

Tax cuts and regulatory reform may be natural extensions of the party’s creed. And they might even sell in a more sensible political climate where taxes, transportation, public safety and education would dominate.

But as I’ve written before, this election is all about Donald Trump. His disinterest in policy has left candidates to scrounge for scraps while saddling them with having to manage his negatives in their elections.

But even if a Republican victory results, it won’t restock the idea cupboard.

Republicans lack a William F. Buckley to articulate a vision of conservatism, a Jack Kemp to humanize it and a Ronald Reagan to sell it. The age of Trumpian bluster makes their absence more keenly felt.

It’s worse in Virginia. Former governor Robert F. McDonnell, who could have anchored the GOP future, was disgraced. Bill Bolling retreated. Ken Cuccinelli won the battle of process but lost the election.

Couple all this with an intellectual vacuum in Washington, D.C., and it compounds the risk that Republicans will blame the stars – the inscrutable processes – rather than themselves for their electoral frustration.

►  ISIS Blows Up Mosul’s Grand Mosque as Troops Close In

In what American commanders called a crime against the people of Iraq and the country’s prime minister called an admission of defeat, officials say ISIS fighters blew up Mosul’s most iconic mosque Wednesday night as government troops closed in. The Grand al-Nuri Mosque, more than 800 years old, was where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014 during his only public appearance, the BBC reports. ISIS—whose fighters had been seen bringing explosives to the site, according to CNN—claimed the mosque in Mosul’s Old City had been destroyed by American aircraft, but US commanders swiftly denied the claim, saying there had been no strikes in the area.

Aerial photos showed little but rubble remaining at the mosque complex, where the black flag of ISIS had flown since 2014. The destruction of the mosque and its famous minaret “amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat,“ Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement. The Old City is the only part of Mosul still held by ISIS and commanders say the “final chapter” of the offensive to retake the city has begun. The Iraqi military says elite counterterrorism units had fought their way to within 170 feet of the mosque, which is at the southern edge of the Old City, when it was destroyed, Reuters reports.

►  Drinker Steals Bar’s Prized Pickled Toe

The key ingredient in one of the world’s weirdest cocktails is missing and a saloon in Canada’s Yukon Territory wants it back. The Downtown Hotel in Dawson City says the Mounties are investigating the theft of a pickled human toe served in its “Sourtoe Cocktail,“ the Guardian reports. Workers say a customer made off with the toe on Saturday after ordering the cocktail, which consists of a shot of whisky with the blackened toe inside. To be awarded a Sourtoe Certificate, “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have gotta touch the toe,“ according to the rules of the saloon, which has been serving the drink since a riverboat captain found a preserved toe in an abandoned cabin in 1973.

The customer, who spoke with a Quebec accent, ordered the cocktail outside the designated “toe time” hours, and a new staff member served it “to be nice,“ says “Toe Captain” Terry Lee, per the Whitehorse Daily Star. “And this is how he pays her back. What a low-life.“ There are some backup toes available, but this was the hotel’s only big toe, Lee says. A previous toe was swallowed—apparently deliberately—in 2013, and hotel manager Geri Coulbourne tells the CBC that the missing replacement toe is a “really good one” donated by a man who had it surgically removed. The hotel says police have the man’s name because he left his Sourtoe Certificate behind.

►  Canada Is Restoring Historic Trump Family Brothel

At the end of the 19th century in a booming Canadian gold rush town, patrons of the Arctic Restaurant and Hotel could buy moose, cranberries, caribou, and even swan meat. And, of course, sex. The Arctic in Bennett, British Columbia, is the surprising place where “the Trump empire began,“ and now Parks Canada and a local First Nation tribe is restoring it for tours, Maclean’s reports. Bennett became a major hub of the Klondike Gold Rush and got the attention of Friedrich Trump, who was cutting hair in Manhattan after arriving in the US from Germany in 1885. The president’s great-grandfather traveled to British Columbia and opened the Arctic in 1897.

Trump’s biggest profits by far came from alcohol and prostitution. “I would not advise respectable women to go there to sleep as they are liable to hear that which would be repugnant to their feelings,“ a Yukon Sun reporter wrote in 1900. That wouldn’t be too big a problem, as a woman-run hotel in Bennett was fancier than the Arctic. Tourists who come to Bennett today are surprised to find a piece of Trump’s family history. “I think he’s lost touch with his roots,” says one tourist visiting from Delaware.

►  American Cop Missing on Russia’s Tallest Mountain

A police officer and national guardsman from Colorado is missing on Russia’s tallest mountain, the Denver Post reports. Steven Beare, attempting his first solo climb without a guide, was due at a checkpoint June 16 but never arrived. “We know that there was a really bad storm that came in really quick out of nowhere,“ his wife Olivia Beare tells ABC 7. “We’re thinking that’s when he got lost.“ According to Russian media, an eight-person rescue team tried to follow Beare’s route on Mount Elbrus but gave up the search Sunday. Olivia Beare is currently paying a private rescue team $2,500 an hour to continue looking for her husband. The Colorado Police Officers Foundation is collecting donations.

Beare, an Army veteran with a young child and another on the way, has been climbing for five years, KDVR reports. His goal was to summit the world’s seven highest peaks; he had already climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Olivia Beare, who hasn’t spoken to her husband since he arrived in Russia on June 12, says he has the skills to survive a blizzard but may be injured. “I’m really scared,“ she tells ABC 7. She adds to KDVR: “I can’t raise two babies by myself.“ Littleton Police Chief Doug Stephens says cops “fight through and win” when things seem hopeless, and he’s sure Beare is doing just that.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Pentagon Blew $28M on Iffy Afghan Army Uniforms

Just one week after defense chief James Mattis told a Senate panel the US is “not winning in Afghanistan,“ a new report reveals that the US wasted $28 million on the wrong kind of uniforms for Afghan army soldiers. In 2007, the Pentagon allowed the Afghan defense minister to pick expensive woodland-camouflage patterns from a private company rather than free camouflage schemes from the government, reports USA Today. This despite the fact that forest makes up only 2.1% of Afghanistan’s land area. The revelation is in a newly released report from Afghan special inspector general John Sopko. “This is just simply stupid on its face,“ he tells the newspaper. “If he thought pink or chartreuse was it, would we have done that?”

A decade ago, US military consultants decided the Afghan army needed a more distinct uniform, in part to make it harder for the Taliban to stage attacks in counterfeit uniforms, reports the Military Times. The consultants showed then-Afghan defense chief Abdul Rahim Wardak pictures of “forest” uniforms they found on the internet, and he “liked what he saw,“ according to the report. The Pentagon bought more than 1.3 million of the uniforms and 88,000 extra pairs of pants “without conducting any formal testing to determine the pattern’s effectiveness for use in Afghanistan.” The report comes at a sensitive time: Afghan troops are in the midst of a multi-front conflict with both the Taliban and an ISIS offshoot, and earlier this month Trump gave Mattis the authority to increase troop levels.

►  It Just Got Slightly Harder to Visit Machu Picchu

Travelers wanting a glimpse of Peru’s famed Machu Picchu will be restricted to visiting during morning or afternoon tours in a move aimed at conserving the site’s archaeological splendor, the AP reports. The new rules go into effect in July and will allow about 3,600 visitors to enter the ancient Incan citadel from 6am to noon and another nearly 2,700 people to explore during afternoon hours. Previously, travelers could spend the entire day taking in the world-renowned site. The changes are a result of a 2015 study by a US archaeologist and recommendations from UNESCO on how best to ensure that Machu Picchu isn’t hurt by rising numbers of tourists. Visitors will also be required to use a guide-led tour.

►  For First Time, NATO Stages War Games in Baltic ‘Weak Spot’

NATO has a weak spot along the Poland-Lithuania border, a 65-mile-long frontier in an area known as the Suwalki Gap that, if seized by Russia, would cut off not just Lithuania but Latvia and Estonia from the rest of the Western alliance. Over two days recently, the first large-scale NATO defensive drill was conducted there, Reuters reports. US and British troops ran the war games alongside troops from Poland, Lithuania, and Croatia, simulating a defense of the area despite the fact that Russia denies having plans to invade the Baltics. Lithuania’s intelligence service says Russia could attack the Baltics with as little as a day’s notice.

“The gap is vulnerable because of the geography. It’s not inevitable that there’s going to be an attack, of course, but ... if that was closed, then you have three allies that are north that are potentially isolated from the rest of the alliance,“ US Lieutenant General Ben Hodges tells Reuters. AFP further explains that the Suwalki Gap is “sandwiched between Russia’s highly militarized Kaliningrad exclave and Belarus, a close Kremlin ally.“ NATO began building up forces in the Baltic states after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in the Black Sea in 2014, a move that caused NATO to start viewing Russia as more of an adversary. Russia has claimed the build-up is making the area less stable.

►  The World Now Has a Record Number of Refugees

The world broke a grim record last year, with 65.6 million people living forcibly displaced from their homes, an increase of 300,000 over 2015. Most of those people—40.3 million—were displaced but still living within their own countries, per a new report by the UN refugee agency. The rest had fled their native countries, with that figure broken down into 22.5 million refugees and 2.8 million people “seeking asylum.“ Of the total 65.6 million people displaced, 10.3 million of them became so in 2016. The statistics reflect dire situations in countries such as Syria, which has been ravaged by a six-year civil war, and South Sudan, which, the UN report states, has suffered from a “disastrous breakdown of peace efforts.”

The New York Times reports that Syria produced the most refugees last year, with 5.5 million, while nearly 750,000 fled South Sudan. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees (2.9 million), with Lebanon taking in the most displaced persons relative to the size of its population (one in six), reports Thomson Reuters. One glimmer of good news in the UN report is that there has been a slowing in the growth of displacement worldwide. The number of people uprooted within their own countries was down slightly last year, as was the number of asylum seekers. Those numbers were offset, however, by an increase in the number of refugees to 22.5 million, the highest number reported since the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office was formed in 1950.

►  Russia Threatens to Hit U.S. Jets Over Syria

Russia’s defense ministry says it will treat US-led coalition planes in Syria that venture west of the Euphrates River as targets after the US military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday, reports the AP. Moscow also suspended a military hotline the two nations have used to coordinate air missions over Syria, reports the New York Times. Russia condemned the US downing of the Syrian government fighter jet as a “military aggression” and demanded a fuller explanation. The US has said the Syrian jet dropped bombs near its partner forces, but Syria said its jet was attacking ISIS militants.

“All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The downing of the warplane—the first time in the conflict that the US has shot down a Syrian jet—came as Iran fired several ballistic missiles at ISIS positions in eastern Syria in retaliation for two attacks by the extremists in Tehran earlier this month that killed 17 people. Areas of northern Syria west of the Euphrates were controlled by ISIS before Syrian government forces captured most of them in recent months.

►  Police Find Nazi Machine Gun During Routine Traffic Stop

Police have arrested a 40-year-old man in Australia after they found a Nazi sub-machine gun and 60 rounds of ammunition in the car he was riding in during a traffic stop. New South Wales police say they’re performing a forensic exam in order to determine whether the weapon can be linked to other incidents, and the man is being denied bail on a prohibited weapons charge while they do so. “It’s a very robust weapon,“ Shane Casey, senior curator at the Australian War Memorial, tells ABC Australia. “Anyone who is interested in Germany army history or the second World War would recognize this weapon immediately.“

Australia’s strict gun control laws require that all firearms be registered and that people who use them have a license to do so. Just last week, the country initiated a national gun amnesty in response to growing terrorism threats and the flow of illicit firearms across its borders, reports the BBC. Anyone found with prohibited weapons can face up to 14 years in prison or fines that exceed $200,000. In 1996, a similar amnesty went into effect in response to shootings in Port Arthur, Tasmania, that led to 35 deaths. After destroying 650,000 firearms in that amnesty, the BBC notes that gun crimes dropped quickly.

►  Blood Clot, Pneumonia May Have Killed Otto Warmbier

When Otto Warmbier was returned from North Korea last week after being held for more than a year, he was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” but otherwise stable—until he died suddenly Monday. Now NBC News reports doctors are trying to figure out what happened. One expert says Warmbier’s family may have decided not to treat a medical issue—such as pneumonia, or sepsis, or a urinary tract infection—given that Warmbier was unlikely ever to recover from his vegetative state. Another says Warmbier may have suffered a pulmonary embolism, with his long flight from North Korea making a blood clot more likely. Here’s what else you need to know about Warmbier and North Korea following the 22-year-old’s death:

  • We should have more details on Warmbier’s death late Tuesday or Wednesday when the coroner releases initial autopsy findings, Reuters reports.
  • The Cavalier Daily reports the University of Virginia Student Council will hold a vigil for Warmbier at 9pm Tuesday on campus. “The thoughts and prayers of the University of Virginia Student Body are with the Warmbier family and all those who loved Otto,“ the council said in a statement.
  • Warmbier’s funeral will be held Thursday morning at Wyoming High School in Ohio, ABC News tweets.
  • Despite Trump’s apparent willingness to sit down with Kim Jong Un, experts say Warmbier’s death dramatically reduces—if not outright kills—chances for an improved relationship between the US and North Korea. “There is going to be a lot of anger,“ the director of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies tells the New York Times.
  • Time reports South Korean President Moon Jae-in condemned North Korea’s “unjust and cruel treatment” of Warmbier without outright accusing its government of murder. “We cannot know for sure that North Korea killed Mr. Warmbier,“ Moon said. “But I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to Mr. Warmbier’s death.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  New London Attack: Suspect Wanted to ‘Kill All Muslims’

The man accused of driving a van into a group of people outside a London mosque early Monday shouted that he wanted to “kill all Muslims” as he was restrained by members of the public after the attack, witnesses say. The 48-year-old man also yelled “I’d do it again,“ witnesses say. One person died and 10 others were injured in the attack near the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London and police say the incident has “all the hallmarks of terrorism,“ the Telegraph reports. The latest:

  • Witnesses say the mosque’s imam helped protect the attacker after local people detained him after the attack and started hitting him, the Guardian reports “The leader of the mosque said ‘You do not touch him,‘“ one witness says. “He was sitting and holding him like that, people kept holding him. All the police and helicopters came after around eight minutes.“
  • Metropolitan Police spokesman Neil Basu says the person who died was an elderly man who was already on the sidewalk being given first aid when the van was driven into a crowd and it’s not entirely clear whether his death was the result of the attack, the BBC reports.
  • Police say the attacker, a white man, is believed to have acted alone, the New York Times reports. Police are investigating whether the attack could have been an act of retaliation for other recent terrorist attacks in Britain. “No matter what the motivation proves to be, and we are keeping an open mind, this is being treated as a terrorist attack,“ Basu says.
  • Harun Khan, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, says police should increase security at mosques around the country, the AP reports. “It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia,“ Khan says.
  • In a Facebook post, London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the incident as a “horrific terrorist attack.“ “While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect,“ he said.
  • All of the victims, including eight people who were hospitalized and two other injured people treated at the scene, are Muslims, police say.
  • Police say the attacker, who drove a van that had been rented in Wales, has been taken to a hospital as a precaution and will be charged after he leaves, the Telegraph reports. They say he “will also be subject of a mental health assessment” while in custody.

►  Aussie Cops Bust Man With Nazi Machine Gun in Car

Police have arrested a 40-year-old man in Australia after they found a Nazi sub-machine gun and 60 rounds of ammunition in the car he was riding in during a traffic stop. New South Wales police say they’re performing a forensic exam in order to determine whether the weapon can be linked to other incidents, and the man is being denied bail on a prohibited weapons charge while they do so. “It’s a very robust weapon,“ Shane Casey, senior curator at the Australian War Memorial, tells ABC Australia. “Anyone who is interested in Germany army history or the second World War would recognize this weapon immediately.“

Australia’s strict gun control laws require that all firearms be registered and that people who use them have a license to do so. Just last week, the country initiated a national gun amnesty in response to growing terrorism threats and the flow of illicit firearms across its borders, reports the BBC. Anyone found with prohibited weapons can face up to 14 years in prison or fines that exceed $200,000. In 1996, a similar amnesty went into effect in response to shootings in Port Arthur, Tasmania, that led to 35 deaths. After destroying 650,000 firearms in that amnesty, the BBC notes that gun crimes dropped quickly.

►  U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Aircraft for First Time

The US military shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet Sunday that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against ISIS militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict. The US had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the US has said since it began recruiting, training, and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise, the AP reports.

The US-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a statement that a US F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the US partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The shootdown was near Tabqa, a Syrian town in an area that has been a weekslong focus of fighting against ISIS militants by the SDF as they surround the city of Raqqa and attempt to retake it from ISIS. The US military statement said it acted in “collective self-defense” of its partner forces and that the US did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters. “The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,“ the Pentagon said.

►  Tsunami Sweeps Away Homes in Greenland

Some of the most remote settlements on the planet have been hit by a tsunami that followed a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. Four people are missing in the village of Nuugaatsiaq on Greenland’s northwest coast, where the wave swept their home into the ocean, the CBC reports. Some 11 homes were also swept away and around 40 people have been evacuated from the village, reports the BBC. At least two other villages in the area were also affected. Officials believe the tsunami may have been a local one generated by an undersea landslide caused by the earthquake rather than the quake itself, meaning it is unlikely to travel long distances and cause damage in the Canadian Arctic.

►  Museum Won’t Return Spears, Despite Claim of Personal Ties

The British and the Aborigines first crossed paths in 1770, when famed English explorer James Cook landed in what is now Sydney. It was a violent meeting, and Cook departed with some of the Gweagal’s spears—and the UK’s Cambridge University says it won’t give up the four it owns. The request for their return came by way of an Australian man who claims to have personal ties to the artifacts. Reuters reports Rodney Kelly issued a formal repatriation request for the spears displayed at Cambridge’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in November. He claims he is a direct descendant of Cooman, the Gweagal warrior Kelly alleges was injured by Cook’s party during that bloody first encounter, in which two Gweagal men tried to halt the newcomers from landing.

“We lost so much that day. Culture, language families, land, and knowledge,“ says Kelly in an interview with Cambridge News. “My family [was] the first to be in contact and when you come to my tribe you really see what has happened and what has been lost since the British invasion of 1770.“ A rep for the museum says that removing parts of the Cook collection will harm and deprive it “of its integrity,“ and that Kelly’s proposal did not say how the artifacts would be properly housed or conserved. The museum also claims Kelly’s ties to the artifacts are tenuous but says it would listen to requests from “accredited representatives of the Gweagal people.“ Kelly says he will continue to fight; the Australian Senate and state parliament of New South Wales are in favor of repatriation.

►  North Korea: Our Diplomats ‘Mugged’ by U.S. Officials

North Korea, the US, and a demand for an explanation. In this case, the issue at hand isn’t Otto Warmbier but what North Korea is framing as a “mugging” of its diplomats by US officials in New York. Those diplomats were in the process of departing via JFK International Airport Friday following a UN conference when North Korea alleges a package its diplomats were transporting was seized by more than 20 Department of Homeland Security and police personnel, reports the New York Times. No word on what was in the package.

A Foreign Ministry rep is quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying the North Koreans “vigorously resisted” and that the package was taken from them “using physical violence.“ That rep wants the US to offer up an explanation and an “I’m sorry,“ and wants the world at large “to seriously reconsider whether or not New York, where such an outrageous mugging is rampant, is fit to serve as the venue for international meetings,“ Reuters reports. The most biting words: “This clearly shows that the US is a felonious and lawless gangster state.“

►  Hidden Room Yields Trove of Nazi Artifacts

In a hidden room in a house near Argentina’s capital, police believe they have found the biggest collection of Nazi artifacts in the country’s history, including a bust relief of Adolf Hitler, magnifying glasses inside elegant boxes with swastikas, and even a macabre medical device used to measure head size. Some 75 objects were found in a collector’s home in Beccar, a suburb north of Buenos Aires, and authorities say they suspect they are originals that belonged to high-ranking Nazis in Germany during World War II. “Our first investigations indicate that these are original pieces,“ Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich tells the AP. She says there are old photos of Hitler with some of the objects.

Among the disturbing items were toys that Bullrich says would have been used to indoctrinate children, a large statue of the Nazi Eagle above a swastika, and a Nazi hourglass. The investigation that culminated in the discovery of the collection began when authorities found artworks of illicit origin in a Buenos Aires gallery. Interpol agents began following the collector and raided the house on June 8. A large bookshelf caught their attention. Behind it, agents found a hidden passageway to a room filled with Nazi imagery. Investigators suspect the artifacts were brought to Argentina by a high-ranking Nazi or Nazis after World War II, when the country became a refuge for fleeing war criminals.

►  Driver Rams Into Police Van on Paris’ Champs Élysées

An anti-terror investigation has been opened in France after a man rammed a car carrying firearms and a gas canister into a police van on Paris’ famed Champs Élysées Monday afternoon. The driver, reportedly a 31-year-old French national who had known links to suspected extremists and was on a terror watchlist, was killed in the incident; no other injuries were reported. France’s interior minister described the incident as an “attempted attack” on a convoy of police vehicles that were on the avenue, the Guardian reports. An explosion followed the collision, and a journalist on the scene says he saw police break the car’s windows in order to pull the driver out. Bomb squad officers were on the scene, the AP reports.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  4 Foreigners Tunnel Out of Bali Prison

Police in Indonesia are hunting for four foreigners who tunneled out of a prison in Bali, the BBC reports. The men escaped from Kerobokan Prison by crawling through a 39-foot-long tunnel dug under the walls, per Reuters. The prison chief says “we suspect it took more than a week to build” the 20-by-30-inch escape route. It was found filled with water on Monday morning. The inmates are believed to still be on the Indonesian resort island. Kerobokan houses 1,379 inmates, four times the official capacity, many of them foreigners. The men were serving sentences for drug, fraud, and immigration offenses, per Reuters. Australian escapee Shaun Edward Davidson, 33, had only two and a half months left to serve. The other men hailed from Bulgaria, India, and Malaysia.

►  India’s Advice to Pregnant Women ‘Irrational’

A government pamphlet’s advice for pregnant women in India isn’t going over well. The booklet titled “Mother and Child Care” tells the women to “detach themselves from desire, anger, attachment, hatred and lust,“ spurn “impure thoughts,“ look at “beautiful pictures” to benefit their fetus, and avoid meat and eggs, per the AP and Hindustan Times. According to one gynecologist in India, the advice isn’t just “unscientific and irrational,“ but it’s “a national shame” in a country where 174 of every 100,000 pregnancies resulted in the mother’s death in 2015, due in part to malnutrition and anemia. That’s compared to 14 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies in the US, according to UNICEF.

Since women are typically the last to eat and receive medical care in Indian households, the government should be “ensuring that poor pregnant women get to eat a nutritious, high-protein diet,“ says gynecologist Arun Gadre. This would also help prevent stunted births; some 48% of Indian children under 5 have not grown to the proper height and weight. But “if the calories of expectant mothers are further reduced by asking them to shun meat and eggs, this situation will only worsen,“ Gadre says. With its advice against lust, the pamphlet also suggests that engaging in sex is dangerous for pregnant women, contrary to medical evidence. A government minister charged with promoting traditional and alternative medicine says the booklet contains “wisdom accumulated over many centuries” from “the fields of yoga and naturopathy.“

►  Neighbors: London Attacker Was ‘Bloody Psycho’

The man accused of driving a van into worshippers near a London mosque early Monday has been named as 47-year-old Darren Osborne—a man described as “aggressive,“ “strange,“ “cuckoo,“ and “a bloody psycho” by neighbors in Cardiff, Wales. Witnesses say Osborne shouted “I want to kill all Muslims” after the attack, which left one person dead and 11 injured, the Guardian reports. Neighbors say he was always troublesome but his behavior had deteriorated in recent weeks and he had been thrown out of a local pub over the weekend for “cursing Muslims and saying he would do some damage.“ He also allegedly abused a 10-year-old Muslim neighbor, telling him he was “inbred.“

Osborne’s sister tells the Evening Standard that he was “troubled,“ but was so unpolitical she doubts he knows who the country’s prime minister is. Neighbors say Osborne had split up with the mother of his four children in recent weeks and had been living in a tent he put up in woodland or sometimes in the backyard of the home they used to share. Police believe he rented the van used in the attack on Sunday and drove the 150 miles to London, the Telegraph reports. After the Finsbury Park attack, he was restrained by bystanders, with an imam convincing people to stop hitting him. Police say Osborne is being held on suspicion of terrorist offenses and attempted murder.

►  Police Release Images From Inside Grenfell Tower

London police said Monday that 79 people are now believed to have died in a devastating high-rise apartment building fire. Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the new figure includes both people who were confirmed dead and others who are missing and presumed dead. It’s an increase from the previous number of 58. The new total may change as the search and recovery operation in the 24-story Grenfell Tower continues, he said, adding that it has been incredibly distressing for families. “It’s hard to describe the devastation the fire has caused,“ Cundy said, fighting back tears as he spoke. He said it had been “incredibly emotional working in there ... On Saturday, I went in myself and went to the top floor.“

The Free Press WV

Late Sunday, the Metropolitan Police released three photos from inside Grenfell Tower, which showed in close detail how the fire charred the building that once housed up to 600 people in 120 apartments. Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to investigate whether any crimes had been committed in the inferno, reports the AP. Two British officials have said that new exterior cladding used in a renovation of Grenfell Tower may have been banned under UK building regulations. Experts believe the new paneling, which contained insulation, helped spread the flames quickly up the outside of the public housing tower. Some said they had never seen a building fire advance so quickly.

►  1 Dead, 8 Hurt in ‘Terror Attack’ Outside London Mosque

In what authorities say is being treated as a terrorist attack, at least one person was killed when a van plowed into worshippers outside a mosque in north London early Monday. Police say a 48-year-old man was arrested after the vehicle ran into people that had left Finsbury Park Mosque just after midnight, the BBC reports. Witnesses say it was clear that the man was deliberately trying to run people over. “There were loads of people coming out and the van took a left and went straight into them,“ a worshipper tells the Evening Standard. “The crowd caught a guy. He tried to do a London Bridge thing.“ At least eight people were injured.

Some witnesses said the driver attempted to stab people after the attack, though local hospitls say they are not treating anybody with stab wounds. The van is believed to have been rented in Wales. London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the attack as an assault on “innocent Londoners, many of whom were finishing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan”—and on “all our shared values of tolerance, freedom, and respect,“ the Guardian reports. Khan said extra police have been deployed to protect communities celebrating Ramadan. The New York City Police Department says it has also sent additional police officers to protect mosques.

►  In Fire ‘Like Horror Movie,‘ Her Quick Thinking Saved 12

“It was like a horror movie,“ says a survivor of Portugal’s deadliest fire on record, and like in a horror movie, she survived by finding a good hiding spot. The BBC reports Maria do Céu Silva and 11 others made it through the fearsome blaze by hiding for more than six hours in the water tank outside her home in Nodeirinho, which sits adjacent to the IC8 motorway that ended up littered with bodies of those trying to flee. Silva says the idea came to her after she was unable to get her 95-year-old disabled mother in a van to exit the area. More than 2,000 firefighters continue to battle the fires, one of which killed 62 people some 90 miles north of Lisbon, as authorities are coming under mounting criticism for not doing more to prevent the tragedy, reports the AP.

The Free Press WV

Portugal’s leading environmental lobby group, Quercus, issued a statement Monday blaming the blazes on “forest management errors and bad political decisions” over recent decades. The association rebuked authorities for allowing the planting of huge swathes of eucalyptus, the country’s most common and most profitable species—but one that’s often blamed for stoking blazes. Emergency services have been criticized for not closing a road where 47 of the deaths occurred as people fled the flames. Wildfires are an annual scourge in Portugal: Between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded the highest annual number of forest fires in southern Europe, per a 2016 report by the European Environment Agency. Reuters reports that police believe the blaze began when lightning hit a tree.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Tensions rise in Syria as Russia, Iran send U.S. warnings

Russia on Monday threatened aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition in Syrian-controlled airspace and suspended a hotline intended to avoid collisions in retaliation for the U.S. military shooting down a Syrian warplane.

The U.S. said it had downed the Syrian jet a day earlier after it dropped bombs near the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces conducting operations against the Islamic State group, adding that was something it would not tolerate.

The downing of the warplane — the first time in the six-year conflict that the U.S. has shot down a Syrian jet — came amid another first: Iran fired several ballistic missiles Sunday night at IS positions in eastern Syria in what it said was a message to archrival Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The developments added to already-soaring regional tensions and reflect the intensifying rivalry among the major players in Syria’s civil war that could spiral out of control just as the fight against the Islamic State group in its stronghold of Raqqa is gaining ground.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, called on the U.S. military to provide a full accounting as to why it decided to shoot down the Syrian Su-22 bomber.

The U.S. military confirmed that one of its F-18 Super Hornets shot down a Syrian jet that had dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces SDF. Those forces, which are aligned with the U.S. in the campaign against the Islamic State group, warned Syrian government troops to stop their attacks or face retaliation.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that as of Monday, all coalition jets and drones flying west of the Euphrates River will be tracked as potential targets.

Areas of northern Syria west of the Euphrates were controlled by IS before Syrian government forces captured most of them in recent months. The Russians, who have been providing air cover for Assad’s forces since 2015, appear to want to avoid further U.S. targeting of Syrian warplanes or ground troops that have come under U.S. attack in eastern Syria recently.

It was the second time Russia suspended a hotline intended to minimize incidents with the U.S. in Syrian airspace. In April, Russia briefly suspended cooperation after the U.S. military fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base following a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on the Assad government.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Washington is working to re-establish communications aimed at avoiding mishaps involving U.S. and Russian air operations in Syria.

Speaking in Washington, the top U.S. military officer said the two sides discussed the matter as recently as Monday morning but that further talks are needed.

Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described his Defense Ministry’s statement as a warning.

“I’m sure that because of this, neither the U.S. nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,“ he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.“

Ozerov insisted that Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft.“

Iran said the missile strike by its powerful Revolutionary Guard hit Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Sunday night and was in retaliation for two attacks in Tehran earlier this month that killed 17 people and were claimed by the Islamic State group.

It appeared to be Iran’s first missile attack abroad in over 15 years and its first in the Syrian conflict, in which it has provided crucial support to Assad. The muscle-flexing comes amid the worsening of a long-running feud between Shiite powerhouse Iran and Saudi Arabia, with supports Syrian rebels and has led recent efforts to isolate the Gulf nation of Qatar.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,“ General Ramazan Sharif of the Revolutionary Guard told Iranian state TV in an interview.

It also raised questions about how U.S. Donald Trump’s administration, which had previously put Iran “on notice” for its ballistic missile tests, will respond. Israel also is concerned about Iran’s missiles and has deployed a multilayered missile-defense system.

The missile attack came amid recent confrontations in Syria between U.S.-backed forces and Iranian-backed pro-government factions. The U.S. recently deployed a truck-mounted missile system in Syria as Iranian-backed forces cut off the advance of the U.S.-supported rebels along the Iraqi border.

Iranian officials threatened more strikes. Former Guard chief General Mohsen Rezai wrote on Twitter: “The bigger slap is yet to come.“

U.S.-backed opposition fighters said Assad’s forces have been attacking them in the northern province of Raqqa and warned that if such attacks continue, the fighters will take action.

Clashes between Syrian troops and the SDF would escalate tensions and open a new front line in the many complex battlefields of the civil war, now in its seventh year. Clashes between the Kurdish-led SDF and Syrian forces have been rare and some rebel groups have even accused them of coordinating on the battlefield.

Both sides are battling the Islamic State group, with SDF fighters focusing on their march into the northern city of Raqqa, which the extremist group has declared to be its capital.

Syrian government forces have also been attacking IS in northern, central and southern parts of the country, seizing 25,000 square kilometers (9,600 square miles) and reaching the Iraqi border for the first time in years.

SDF spokesman Talal Sillo said the government wants to thwart the SDF offensive to capture Raqqa. He said government forces began attacking the SDF on Saturday, using warplanes, artillery and tanks in areas that SDF had liberated from IS.

Sillo also warned that if “the regime continues in its offensive against our positions in Raqqa province, this will force us to retaliate with force.“

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria’s war, said government forces expanded their presence in Raqqa province by capturing from IS the town of Rasafa.

►  Catholics Tied to Mafia Could Be Excommunicated

The Vatican is looking to develop a new doctrine that calls for excommunicating Catholics for mafia association and corruption, the AP reports. That’s the decision reached this week after the Vatican hosted its first-ever conference on fighting corruption and organized crime. The meeting gathered 50 prosecutors, bishops, victims, and UN officials for a day of talks.

In a statement Saturday, the Vatican said the need had come to develop a new legal doctrine for the Catholic Church about “excommunication for corruption and mafia association.“ Pope Francis has long railed against corruption, writing a short book about it as archbishop. And during a 2014 visit to one of Italy’s mafia strongholds, Francis told mobsters they were excommunicated. But actually developing a doctrine around the concept would mark a new step for the Vatican.

►  Bullfighter Trips Over Cloak, Fatally

In a profession with little room for error, Ivan Fandino made one that cost him his life on Saturday: The 36-year-old Spanish bullfighter tripped on his cape while in the ring in France, sending him to the ground, where a bull gored him in the chest, reports Sky News. Fandino’s lung was injured, and he suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital, reports the BBC. His death is the second of a matador in the past year; Victor Barrio was gored to death on live television in July, an incident which raised renewed calls to end an ancient sport many view as barbaric. Though known for its roots in Spain, bullfighting was legalized in France in 2012; the AFP noted at the time that around 1,000 bulls are killed annually in France. Fandino, who was performing at a festival near the Spanish border, is only the second matador to die in France in nearly a century.

►  UK moves to ease tensions after van attack on London Muslims

British authorities and Islamic leaders moved swiftly to ease concerns in the Muslim community after a man plowed a large van into a crowd of worshippers outside a north London mosque early Monday, injuring at least nine people.

British media named the suspect as Darren Osborne, 47-year-old father of four who was living in Cardiff, Wales. British Security Minister Ben Wallace said authorities were aware of rising far-right activity but the suspect was not known to them prior to the attack.

Police are treating the incident as a terror attack. One man died at the scene, although he had been receiving first aid at the time and it wasn’t clear if he died as a result of the attack or from something else.

The chaos outside the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park follows three Islamist-inspired attacks over the past three months that have triggered a surge in hate crimes around Britain.

The Metropolitan Police Service, already stretched by its investigations of the earlier attacks and a high-rise apartment fire that is believed to have killed 79 people, immediately announced it was putting extra patrols on the streets to protect the public.

Police will assess the security of mosques and provide any additional resources needed ahead of celebrations marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Prime Minister Theresa May announced.

“This was an attack on Muslims near their place of worship,“ she said in a televised address. “And like all terrorism, in whatever form, it shares the same fundamental goal. It seeks to drive us apart — and to break the precious bonds of solidarity and citizenship that we share in this country. We will not let this happen.“

The attack occurred about 12:20 a.m. when a speeding van swerved into worshippers who were giving first aid to a man outside the mosque. That man later died.

Police said the attacker who drove the van has been arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism, including murder and attempted murder. A mob surrounded him and witnesses said the crowd began attacking him. A local imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, said he organized a group of people and shielded the man until police could take him away.

“By God’s grace, we were able to protect him from harm,“ he said.

Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, told Sky News the attack clearly targeted Muslims leaving evening prayers during Ramadan.

“We have a witness saying that the guy who did what he did, the driver of the van, said ‘I did my bit,‘ which means he’s not mentally ill,“ Kacimi said. “This person was conscious. He did what he did deliberately to hit and kill as many Muslims as possible, so he is a terrorist.“

But Kacimi said there was no need for the community to panic, because police and government officials have been “very, very supportive.“

“At this stage, we are calling for calm,“ he said.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, urged residents to focus on their shared values and to stand together during an unprecedented period in the capital’s history. The attack Monday hits a community already feeling targeted in the fallout from the London Bridge killings and other attacks blamed on Islamic extremists.

British security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with official policy, said hate crimes directed at Muslims have increased nearly five-fold in the wake of several attacks in Britain.

“While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect,“ Khan said.

Vowing “zero tolerance” for hate crimes, Khan declared “we will not allow these terrorists to succeed ... we will stay a strong city.“

The attack laid bare the frustrations of Muslims who feel they’ve been unfairly equated with the extremists who carry out atrocities in the name of Islam. Ali Habib, a 23-year-old student, said residents are angry that the mosque attack hasn’t been portrayed in the same light as other attacks across Britain.

“There has been an outpouring of sympathy for all for the recent terror attacks but hardly a whisper on this attack,“ he said. “People are both scared and angry. Parents are scared to send their children to evening prayers. I don’t think people understand how much these attacks affect all of us.“

May attempted to counter that feeling in her speech, declaring that police arrived at the scene within one minute, and that it was classified as a possible terror attack in eight minutes. The prime minister, who has been criticized for failing to show compassion to victims, traveled to the attack site within hours, and met with community and faith leaders.

Standing outside her Downing Street office, May sought to convey that Britain and London would not fold in the face of the unprecedented series of horrific events.

“Diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident and determined never to give in to hate. These are the values that define this city, “she said. “These are the values that define this country. These are the values that this government will uphold. These are the values that will prevail.‘

The attack occurred outside the Muslim Welfare House, a small mosque with about 200 congregants. Nearby, evening prayer services had just concluded at the larger Finsbury Park Mosque, which had been associated with extremist ideology for several years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States. After those attacks, the mosque was shut down and reorganized and has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade.

The mosque’s current leaders say they support inter-faith dialogue and want to serve the nearby community in north London, which is located near Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal soccer club.

Britain’s terror alert level is at “severe,“ meaning security officials believe an attack is highly likely, and a series of extremist attacks have struck across the country in the last few months.

On June 3, Islamic extremists used a vehicle and then knives to kill eight people and wound dozens of others on London Bridge and in the popular Borough Market area. Police shot and killed the three Islamic extremists who carried out the attack.

In March, a man plowed a rented SUV into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before stabbing a police officer to death outside Parliament. He was also killed by police.

To the north, Manchester was hit by a deadly attack May 22 when a suicide bomber killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert.

►  Leaping into water tanks to escape Portugal’s deadly fires

Survivors emerged Monday with stories of leaping into water tanks and other dramatic escapes from the forest fires scorching central Portugal, and authorities came under mounting criticism for not doing more to prevent Portugal’s deadliest natural disaster in decades.

More than 2,700 firefighters were still battling Monday to contain several major wildfires in the area northeast of Lisbon, where one blaze that began Saturday killed 63 people, many of them as they tried to flee the flames in their cars.

Water-dropping planes from Spain, France and Italy arrived as part of a European Union cooperation program but they were grounded in some places because thick smoke limited visibility, officials said. That left firefighters — backed by fire engines and bulldozers — to do the heavy work on the ground in temperatures that approached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Firefighters brought some of the blazes under control, but other wildfires still raced through inaccessible parts of the area’s steep hills, the Civil Protection Agency said.

Portugal is observing three days of national mourning after the deaths Saturday night around the town of Pedrogao Grande, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Lisbon.

Scorching weather, as well as strong winds and woods that are bone dry after weeks with little rain, fueled the blazes. Villages dot the landscape, much of it now scorched.

In Nodeirinho, a hillside village of a few dozen people, 84-year-old Marta da Conceicao said residents called the fire services more than 20 times for help on Saturday.

“Nobody came. They were up in the mountain or somewhere else,“ she told The Associated Press. “Here it was up to God and the people.“

As the flames licked at her, burning her leg, she and her elderly neighbors survived by jumping into a water storage tank.

A British man living nearby also had a hair-raising escape. Like more than half of the dead in Saturday’s blaze, Daniel Starling had jumped in his car and raced away as the flames bore down. He came across a family of four elderly people and picked them up. He said he drove around fallen trees and even off the road in his quest to reach safety.

“We stopped at one point, because we did not know where to go, because there were flames everywhere. But I just carried on the only way that I knew. (It was) just flames over the car and the family and me screaming,“ said the 56-year-old from Norwich, England.

They stopped when they came to a policeman at a junction. “The family,“ Starling said, “got out and they were kissing the car.“

Officials say 47 of the dead in Saturday night’s blaze died on a road as they fled the flames.

Fire experts, meanwhile, pointed to a series of shortcomings in Portugal’s strategy of tackling wildfires, even though the summer blazes have been happening for decades. There is a broad consensus that more work is needed on fire prevention, starting with forest clearing and the creation of fire breaks.

“In Portugal, the main factor in the scale of wildfires is the unbroken stretches of forest,“ Paulo Fernandes, a forest researcher at Portugal’s Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro University, told the AP.

But he noted that around 90 percent of landowners have smallholdings, making it difficult for authorities to keep tabs on them all.

Xavier Viegas, a wildfire expert at Portugal’s Coimbra University, said Portugal needs a long-term strategy, but changes in government often mean changes in forest and farm policies.

He said a key measure would be the creation of “fire-resilient communities” who receive instructions on what to do when faced with a wildfire and don’t act rashly.

“We need to prepare them so that they don’t go dashing off in cars,“ Viegas told the AP.

Portugal’s leading environmental lobby group, Quercus, blamed the blazes on “forest management errors and bad political decisions” by governments over recent decades. It rebuked authorities for allowing the planting of huge swathes of eucalyptus trees — the country’s most common and most profitable species — but one that’s often blamed for stoking blazes.

Emergency services have also been criticized for not closing the road where most of the deaths occurred.

Wildfires are an annual scourge in Portugal. Between 1993 and 2013, Portugal recorded the highest annual number of forest fires in southern Europe, according to a report last year by the European Environment Agency.

The government announced a raft of new measures against wildfires in March. They included restrictions on eucalyptus plantations and a simplified and cheaper program of property registration that seeks to ascertain which land is being neglected.

Not all of those reforms have come into force yet.

Statistics show that 35 percent of Portugal is covered by woodland, slightly above the EU average of 31 percent. The forest industry, especially the production of paper pulp, accounts for around 3 percent of the country’s GDP.

►  Japan investigates delay in reporting U.S. Navy ship collision

Japan’s coast guard is investigating why it took nearly an hour for a deadly collision between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a container ship to be reported.

A coast guard official said Monday they are trying to find out what the crew of the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal was doing before reporting the collision off Japan’s coast to authorities 50 minutes later.

The ACX Crystal collided with the USS Fitzgerald off Japan’s coast, killing seven of the destroyer’s crew of nearly 300. The ships collided early Saturday morning, when the Navy said most of the 300 sailors on board would have been sleeping. Authorities have declined to speculate on a cause while the crash remains under investigation.

A track of the much-larger container ship’s route by MarineTraffic, a vessel-tracking service, shows it made a sudden turn as if trying to avoid something at about 1:30 a.m., before continuing eastward. It then made a U-turn and returned around 2:30 a.m. to the area near the collision.

The coast guard initially said the collision occurred at 2:20 a.m. because the Philippine ship had reported it at 2:25 a.m. and said it just happened. After interviewing Filipino crewmembers, the coast guard has changed the collision time to 1:30 a.m.

Coast guard official Tetsuya Tanaka said they are trying to resolve what happened during the 50 minutes.

He said officials are planning to get hold of a device with communication records to examine further details of the crash. Japan’s Transport Safety Board also started an accident investigation on Sunday.

Adding to the confusion, a U.S. Navy official said it is sticking with the 2:20 a.m. timing for the crash that he said had been reported by the Fitzgerald.

Asked about the earlier time cited by the coast guard, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders said, “That is not our understanding.“ He said any differences would have to be clarified in the investigation.

Nanami Meguro, a spokeswoman for NYK Line, the ship’s operator, agreed with the earlier timing.

Meguro said the ship was “operating as usual” until the collision at 1:30 a.m., as shown on a ship tracking service that the company uses. She said the ship reported to the coast guard at 2:25 a.m., but she could not provide details about what the ship was doing for nearly an hour.

“Because it was in an emergency, the crewmembers may not have been able to place a call,“ she said.

Coast guard officials are investigating the case as possible professional negligence, but no criminal charges have been pressed so far.

On Monday, the Navy’s 7th Fleet identified the seven sailors who died. Navy divers recovered the bodies after the severely damaged Fitzgerald returned to the fleet’s home in Yokosuka, Japan, with assistance from tug boats.

The victims were Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Donald Trump and the entire administration was sending their thoughts and prayers to the sailors’ families. The incident was a “sobering reminder of the dangers” faced by the men and women of the U.S. military every day, Spicer said.

In a statement, acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley said, “We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates. ... As details emerge, we can all be proud of the heroic effort by the crew to tend to the needs of those injured and save the ship from further damage while returning safely to port.“

He thanked “our Japanese allies” for their swift assistance, and said the Navy will fully investigate the cause.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy ordered flags flown at half-staff there in memory of Huynh.

Huynh’s sister, Lan Huynh, told WVIT-TV that the family is coping as best they can.

She described her brother as “selfless” and said he always “had the brightest smile.“

The mother of another sailor on the ship said her son kept diving in his flooded berth after the crash to try to save his shipmates until it began running out of air pockets, while other survivors — believing their ship was under attack — hurried to man the guns.

Mia Sykes of Raleigh, North Carolina, told The Associated Press on Sunday that her 19-year-old son, Brayden Harden, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact and water immediately began filling the berth.

Sykes said her son told her that four men in his berth died, including those sleeping on bunks above and below him, while three died in the berth above his.

She said she hopes her son, from Herrin, Illinois, can come home to be with family as he works through what happened. “You have to realize most of them are 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds living with guilt. But I told him, ‘There’s a reason you’re still here and make that count.‘“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  London Fire Was Comparable to a Cremation

The devastating fire that struck a high-rise tower in London may have been so powerful that it destroyed much of the DNA evidence needed to identify its victims. Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy earlier said there is “a risk that, sadly, we may not be able to identify everybody,“ and the AP digs into why: Though firefighters keep searching the charred ruins of the Grenfell Tower public housing complex with sniffer dogs and drones, experts say the intensity of Wednesday’s fire at the 24-story building will make naming victims extremely difficult, drawing comparisons to the 2001 World Trade Center terror attacks in New York, where 40% of the victims were never identified.

“When you have a fire that takes hold like that, that is literally an inferno. You get a lot of fragmentation of bodies, charring of bones and sometimes all that’s left is ash,“ says Peter Vanezis, a professor of forensic medical sciences at Queen Mary University in London. He says the temperature of the blaze at Grenfell Tower was comparable to a cremation, though if people were protected by any surrounding furniture or debris, it’s possible there might be some viable DNA. But another complicating factor is that much of the DNA material that would normally be used to help pinpoint victims—like toothbrushes or combs—were probably also incinerated in the blaze. “Even if we get some DNA, the question will be, do we have anything to compare it to?“ says a forensic science expert.

►  Iran still world’s biggest natural gas player

A new report shows Iran still has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas and is closely followed by market rivals Russia and then Qatar.

The global energy giant British Petroleum (BP) in its annual report on world energy reserves put Iran’s natural gas reserves at 33.5 trillion cubic meters (tcm).  

The figure was obtained as a result of estimates obtained at the end of 2016 and BP said in its report – named Statistical Review of World Energy 2017– that Iran’s reserves had remained unchanged from last year.

BP further put the reserves of Russia – Iran’s closest rival in terms of gas reserves - at 32.3 tcm.

The world’s third largest reserves at 24.3 tcm belong to Qatar with which Iran’s shares its huge South Pars gas field. 

Iran’s gas reserves account for 18 percent of world’s total.  The reserves of Russia and Qatar account for 17.3 percent and 13 percent of the global total, respectively.  

In terms of production, the United States maintained its market supremacy in 2016 by producing around 750 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas. 

Russia came next with about 580 bcm and was followed by Iran at 202.4 bcm.

The next biggest producers were Qatar (181.2 bcm), Canada (152 bcm), China (139 bcm), Norway (116 bcm) and Saudi Arabia (109 bcm).   

According to the BP report, Iran also has the world’s fourth largest reserves of crude oil at 158.4 billion barrels (bbl). 

At the top of the list stands Venezuela with 300 bbl and is followed by Saudi Arabia (266.5 bbl) and Canada (171.5 bbl).

Iran is followed by Iraq (153 bbl), Russia (109 bbl), and Kuwait (101.5 bbl) in the league of countries with triple digit oil reserves. 

►  Podcast’s Hot Mic Helps Reverse Murder Conviction

The Serial podcast seems to have helped Adnan Syed get a new trial. But a podcast inspired by Serial might have gone one step further. As one person involved puts it to the BBC, “We actually helped free an innocent man.“ Kaj Linna had served 11 years of a life sentence for murder and robbery in Sweden when true-crime podcast Spar drew attention to his case in May 2015. Over eight episodes, journalists Anton Berg and Martin Johnson told how Robert Lindberg had been killed and his brother injured in an attack on a farm and how the brother had thought the attacker might’ve been a former business associate. The associate had an alibi, however, and he suggested Linna as a suspect instead. He steered police to a third man, who became the main witness in Linna’s trial and claimed that Linna had planned to rob the Lindbergs, per the Local.

Linna was found guilty and imprisoned for the crime in 2004. Of particular importance, however, was an interview the main witness gave to Spar years later. After asking that his microphone be turned off, “he came up with a different story to the one he put forward in the trial,“ Berg says. He adds that the main microphone had indeed been turned off, but a secondary one inadvertently recorded everything the witness said. Linna used the audio during an appeal and was granted a retrial in December. On Thursday, the Swedish Court of Appeal acquitted him, citing “insufficient” evidence for conviction. Berg says the podcast team is “happy and relieved” and “frankly impressed that a podcast could have this kind of impact.“ Linna is expected to receive a major payout.

►  Fireproof Material on London Tower Would Have Cost $6.5K

Police officials days ago said they didn’t expect any more survivors to emerge in the London high-rise blaze, and on Friday, things got more grim: There is “a risk that sadly we may not be able to identify everybody,“ Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy tells the BBC. The Grenfell Tower death toll currently stands at 30, per the AP; as for how many dead there could ultimately be, Cundy said he hoped the toll would not end up in the “triple figures.“ The AP reports that officials have said they genuinely don’t know what the toll might be. More:

  • The AP counts one entire family among the missing: Bassem Choukeir, wife Nadia, her mother Sariyya, and three daughters. All lived on the 22nd floor.
  • The Times of London reports at least six of the bodies recovered were found outside—suggesting they jumped to their deaths in a bid to escape.
  • The Times also digs into the building’s cladding, which has been the subject of controversy in the wake of the fire. It reports the building was in 2015-2016 refurbished at a cost of $11 million, which involved the application of aluminium panels made by US-based Reynobond to the exterior. A Reynobond sales rep tells the paper the version used on the building has a flammable plastic (polyethylene) core and is banned on any building over 40 feet tall in the US because of the potential fire hazard. By the Times’ math, the cost of outfitting the building in the fire-resistant version would have tacked $6,500 onto the renovation cost.
  • Why was the cladding added? Per planning documents seen by the Independent, for insulation, but also to “improve [the tower’s] appearance especially when viewed from the surrounding area.“
  • The Guardian delves into the building’s renovation and finds that nine contractors and subcontractors were involved. This raises “concerns among architectural and fire safety experts about the quality of oversight and accountability,“ it writes.
  • The BBC notes a criminal investigation into the fire has been launched. The AP reports the fire’s starting point has been reviewed, and there are no signs it was arson.
  • On the political front, the BBC reports a “political row” emerged over claims PM Theresa May spoke only to London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and other emergency services workers when visiting the site Thursday, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke to residents and their relatives. May will be meeting with the injured Friday.
  • The BBC has a harrowing first-person account of a 15th-floor resident who managed to escape. “On one of the floors I tripped badly and fell, as I looked up I saw the face of a dead man. I can still picture him now.“
  • “He survived Assad, he survived the war, only to be killed in a tower block in London”.

►  Russia Suspects It Killed ISIS Leader Weeks Ago

The Islamic State might have been without a leader for more than two weeks, according to Russia’s defense ministry. The ministry announced Friday that it suspects ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a May 28 airstrike near Raqqa, Syria, the BBC reports. After drones confirmed that ISIS commanders were holding a meeting, “Russian air forces launched a strike on the command point where the leaders were located,“ the ministry said in a statement, per Reuters. “According to the information which is now being checked via various channels, also present at the meeting was Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was eliminated as a result of the strike.“

Russia says several senior ISIS leaders, around 30 commanders, and around 300 fighters were killed in the strike on the meeting, which was being held to discuss a possible retreat from the besieged city that has served as the capital of the ISIS “caliphate.“ The ministry says the US was informed of the strike. The New York Times notes that although Russia has an extensive intelligence operation targeting ISIS, it is possible that the announcement of the leader’s possible death is a tactical move intended to help Russian forces by confusing and discouraging ISIS fighters.

►  One of Europe’s Most Powerful Modern Leaders Is Dead

Helmut Kohl, the physically imposing German chancellor whose reunification of a nation divided by the Cold War put Germany at the heart of a united Europe, has died at 87, the AP reports. Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union Party posted on Twitter: “We are in sorrow. #RIP #HelmutKohl.“ The German newspaper Bild reported that Kohl died Friday at his home in Ludwigshafen. Over his 16 years at the country’s helm from 1982 to 1998—first for West Germany and then for all of a united Germany—Kohl combined a dogged pursuit of European unity with a keen instinct for history. Less than a year after the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, he spearheaded the end of Germany’s decades-long division into East and West, ushering in a new era in European politics.

It was the close friendships that Kohl built up with other world leaders that helped him persuade both anti-communist Western allies and the leaders of the collapsing Soviet Union that a strong, united Germany could finally live at peace with its neighbors. “Helmut Kohl was the most important European statesman since World War II,“ Bill Clinton said in 2011, adding that Kohl answered the big questions of his time “correctly for Germany, correctly for Europe, correctly for the United States, correctly for the future of the world.“ Kohl’s legacy includes the common euro currency that bound Europe more closely together than ever before. Kohl lobbied heavily for the euro, introduced in 1999, as a pillar of peace—and when it hit trouble more than a decade later, he insisted there was no alternative to Germany helping out debt-strapped countries like Greece.

►  Questions Over Ship Crash

US and Japanese vessels and aircraft are searching for seven American sailors who are missing after their Navy destroyer collided before dawn with a container ship four times its size off the coast of Japan. The USS Fitzgerald was back at its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset Saturday, following the crash at 2:20am local time. The USS Fitzgerald’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was airlifted early Saturday to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition with a head injury; two other crew members suffered cuts and bruises and were evacuated, reports the AP. The US 7th Fleet said in a statement that the crash damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room, and the radio room, and CNN says its statement suggests the missing could be in the ship’s crushed mid-right side.

“It remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side ... to methodically continue the search for the missing,“ the statement said. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the pre-dawn crash. The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet. The ACX Crystal weighs 29,060 tons, making it much larger than the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer. The container ship’s left bow was dented and scraped, but it did not appear to have sustained any major structural damage. The Philippine-flagged container ship was berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where officials began questioning crew members about the cause of the crash and are treating the incident as a case of possible professional negligence.

►  Deadly Wildfires Ravage Portugal

Raging forest fires in central Portugal killed at least 57 people, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road, in what the prime minister on Sunday called “the biggest tragedy of human life that we have known in years.“ Nearly 60 other people were injured, including four firefighters and a seriously injured minor, Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes told state broadcaster RTP. A lightning strike is believed to have sparked the blaze in the Pedrogao Grande area after investigators found a tree that was hit during a “dry thunderstorm,“ which are frequent when high temps evaporate falling water before it can reach the ground. “This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we cannot remember a tragedy of these proportions,“ said Valdemar Alves, mayor of Pedrogao Grande. “I am completely stunned by the number of deaths.“

Authorities had previously said that 104-degree heat in recent days might have played a part in the inferno about 95 miles northeast of Lisbon. About 700 firefighters have been trying to put out the fires since Saturday, Gomes said. A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the top of trees near houses in the wooded region. Local resident Isabel Brandao told the AP that she had feared for her life. “Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far. I never thought it would come to this side,“ she said. “At 3:30am, my mother-in-law woke me up quickly and we never went to sleep again.“ RTP showed terrifying images of several people on a road trying to escape the intense smoke that had reduced visibility to a question of a few yards. Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that firefighting crews were having difficulties in approaching the area because the fire was “very intense.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Afghan soldier wounds 7 U.S. soldiers in insider attack

An Afghan soldier opened fire on American soldiers on Saturday, injuring at least seven, the U.S. military said. It was the second such insider attack by an Afghan soldier in the past week.

Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the 209th Army corps, confirmed that an insider attack took place at a camp in Mazar-e Sharif. Araam said the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.

General Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, also confirmed the attack.

The Resolute Support mission announced on its Twitter feed that seven U.S. service members were wounded but said there were no U.S. fatalities. It said one Afghan soldier was killed and one wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid praised the attack in a statement sent to the media. But he did not claim Taliban responsibility.

Last week three U.S. soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in eastern Nangarhar province. In that case Mujahid claimed that the shooter was a Taliban loyalist who infiltrated the army specifically to seek out opportunities to attack foreign soldiers.

►  Hong Kong Parking Spot Sets World Record Sale Price

A parking space in Hong Kong has set a world record, selling for $664,200, the South China Morning Post reports. The 188-square-foot spot is on the first floor of a luxury apartment complex near the harborfront and was purchased by an executive director of an investment firm, AFP reports. Property prices are insanely high in Hong Kong, where last month someone paid $3 billion for a commercial lot in a business and shopping district and small businesses are closing over high rent costs.

►  Doctors: Otto Warmbier in State of ‘Unresponsive Wakefulness’

In a Thursday morning news conference, a rep for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center revealed little about its highest-profile patient, saying only that Otto Warmbier was stable and had experienced a “severe neurological injury.“ Some of the pieces got filled in this afternoon during a press conference with doctors, who say Warmbier hasn’t spoken or “engaged in any purposeful movement” since returning to the US, CNN reports. More:

  • Doctors describe Warmbier, who shows no sign of understanding what’s being said to him, as in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.“ Contradicting the official North Korean line, they say Warmbier shows no signs of botulism. Rather, doctors say Warmbier’s injury is the type often caused by cardiopulmonary arrest brought on by intoxication or traumatic injury.
  • Fred Warmbier had some harsh words for North Korea in that morning news conference. “They’re brutal and they’re terroristic,“ he said, per the Washington Post. “We see the results of their actions, with Otto.“
  • Fred Warmbier said the family only learned of Otto’s medical condition last Thursday, reports CNN. “Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing a coma—and we don’t—there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition a secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long.“
  • The Telegraph reports the elder Warmbier also accused the Chinese tour company that brought Otto into North Korea of “luring” Americans. “They advertise it as the safest tour ever. But they provide fodder for the North Koreans. They took him hostage. And the outcome is self-evident.“
  • Fred Warmbier offered his thanks to the Trump administration for getting Otto home, saying it was his understanding that the directive to secure Otto’s release came from the president. As for the previous administration, it asked that the Warmbiers keep a “low profile. ... Earlier this year, Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over,“ he said, per the Hill. When asked if Obama could have done more, he said, “I think the results speak for themselves.“
  • Danny Gratton, Warmbier’s roommate in North Korea, spoke publicly for the first time Thursday, telling the Washington Post: “I think in the Western world we just can’t understand, we just can’t grasp, the evilness behind that dictatorship.“ He says Otto didn’t do anything to deserve his treatment by the North Korean government.

►  Crafty Politician Channels Frank Underwood, Goes Viral

He might not have the speech-writing skills of Frank Underwood, but it appears he can spin a story just as well: Mexican politician Miguel Angel Covarrubias Cervantes shared a Facebook video Tuesday in which he delivers a speech that will sound awfully familiar to any fan of House of Cards (so long as you know Spanish). That’s because the speech is almost a word-for-word match to a monologue given by Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards character Frank Underwood, per Quartz. “They say that we have the government that we deserve, and I think that Mexico deserves something bigger,“ Covarrubias begins as the House of Cards theme song plays. People were quick to accuse Covarrubias, 27, of plagiarism, but Netflix responded in a different way.

“To the people of Mexico, it’s not a competition. You have no idea where people take their inspiration from,“ Michael Kelly, acting as his sinister House of Cards character Doug Stamper, said in a video shared by Netflix on Twitter Tuesday. Covarrubias then responded with a second video in the style of the first, claiming his speech wasn’t “competition or a mistake” but an attempt to go viral, per the BBC. “Copying was never the objective. The world’s attention, yes,“ he says. As the former mayor of a small Mexican town, it isn’t exactly clear what Covarrubias plans to do from his newfound soapbox. However, Fox News reports he intends to run for mayor again next year, apparently using the slogan, “Let’s do something great.“

►  ISIS Just Seized Osama’s Old Hideout: Tora Bora

The latest territorial conquest by the Islamic State will be familiar to anyone who remembers the US hunt for Osama bin Laden: the mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that ISIS has gained control of the complex of caves and tunnels once used as a hiding spot for bin Laden. (One assessment calls the al-Qaeda’s leader escape from there in the wake of the 9/11 attacks one of the US military’s biggest military blunders.) The Times sees it as a “strategic and symbolic victory” for ISIS over the Taliban, adding that ISIS sought to seize control of the area after the US dropped the “mother of all bombs” on a previous underground stronghold elsewhere in Afghanistan.

Newsweek similarly sees the move as significant, one that is “not only indicative of the group’s power, but of a lack of preparedness on the side of U.S.-backed government forces.“ ISIS released an audio recording boasting of the victory and saying its flag was now flying over the area, the AP. Taliban leaders dispute that the battle is lost, but residents fleeing the area say Taliban fighters were doing the same, and a local Afghan police official confirmed that Tora Bora is now in ISIS hands.

►  Turkish Guards Stomped U.S. Protesters. Now, Charges

It was a brutal display of violence that played out in broad daylight in Washington, DC, and now US authorities are charging members of the Turkish president’s security detail. Police in Washington on Thursday will announce charges against 12 of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s guards who beat and kicked anti-Erdogan protesters on May 16, reports the New York Times. Seven of the men will face felonies, reports the AP. The catch? All have since returned to Turkey, and the chances of their extradition are slim to none. But the men would face arrest if they ever tried to return to the US. Police already have arrested two Turkish-Americans: Sinan Narin of Virginia and Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey, both accused of taking part in the violence against protesters that left nine people hospitalized.

The Times, which did a detailed analysis of video of the melee, reports that Yildirim can be seen kicking a female protester multiple times. He is being held without bail in Newark, and a public defender said Wednesday in court that he was receiving death threats over the incident. Turkey’s official line on the violence is that it was the protesters who provoked Erdogan supporters at the scene and set off the fracas, but video of the day doesn’t support that. All this is playing amid strained ties between the US and NATO ally Turkey.

►  7 Navy crew missing, skipper hurt after collision off Japan

Seven Navy sailors were missing and at least two, including the captain, were injured after a U.S. destroyer collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan before dawn Saturday, the U.S. Navy and Japanese coast guard reported.

Footage from the Japanese TV network NHK showed heavy damage to the mid-right side of the USS Fitzgerald and a person in a stretcher being lifted to a helicopter.

The first, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was taken to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement. It said another injured person was being evacuated but gave no further details on the crew’s injuries. Others hurt in the crash were being evaluated, it said.

The Fitzgerald had limited propulsion after suffering damage on the starboard side below the water line and a U.S. defense official said there was flooding in three compartments. It wasn’t clear yet what caused the nighttime collision between the destroyer and the container ship four times its size. Most of the more than 200 sailors would have been asleep in their berthings, some of which were reportedly flooded.

The Navy, Japanese maritime defense vessels and the coast guard were working to stabilize the destroyer as it headed to shore, said Navy chief Adm. John Richardson.

The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles (103 kilometers) southwest of Yokosuka, which is home to the 7th Fleet. Footage showed the damaged ship moving slowly in calm seas, flanked by a tugboat.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors,“ said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Japan coast guard said it received an emergency call from a Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal around 2:20 a.m. (1720 GMT Friday) that it had collided with the Fitzgerald southwest of Yokusuka, Japan.

Relatives of crew members were awaiting news of their loved ones.

“Of course we’re nervous and scared and just praying,“ Rita Schrimsher said by telephone from Athens, Alabama.

Her grandson Jackson Schrimsher is a 23-year-old sailor aboard the Fitzgerald. She said she last communicated with him via Facebook messenger on Wednesday.

Takeshi Aikawa of the Japan coast guard said that so far no damage or injuries were reported on the container ship, he said. NHK reported that the merchant ship had scratches on the left side of its bow.

The Philippine ship is 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long, the coast guard said.

The fleet said the USS Dewey, medical assistance, Navy tugs and naval aircraft were dispatched. The Japan coast guard dispatched five patrol ships and an aircraft carrying medics to the site for search and rescue operations.

The Navy’s Pacific Fleet said the extent of damage to the Fitzgerald was being determined and the incident was under investigation.

►  Anger erupts over possible flaws at burned London tower

Grief turned to outrage Friday over a deadly high-rise tower fire in London amid reports that materials used in the building’s renovation could have fueled the inferno that left dozens dead and missing as it decimated the public housing block.

Engineering experts say outside insulation panels installed on the 24-story Grenfell Tower may have helped the fire spread rapidly from one floor to the next. The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that contractors installed a cheaper, less flame-resistant type of paneling in the renovation that ended in May 2016.

Tensions were high Friday two days after the overnight fire gutted the huge housing block, killing at least 30 people and leaving dozens missing and hundreds homeless.

Scuffles broke out near the Kensington and Chelsea town hall offices as demonstrators chanting “We want justice!“ surged toward the doors.

London has a chronic housing shortage even in the best of times, and those left homeless by the fire — already angry over what they see as government inequity and incompetence — fear being forced out of the British capital.

The Grenfell Tower housed about 600 people in 120 apartments. Britain’s Press Association reported that some 70 people are still missing after the fire.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said people were frustrated by the lack of information about the missing and the dead as well as a lack of coordination between support services. Residents who survived the tower blaze lost everything and have no idea where they are going to live or how they will get back on their feet.

“The scale of this tragedy is clearly proving too much for the local authority to cope with on their own,“ Khan said in an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May.

After meeting with Grenfell survivors on Friday, May announced a 5 million pound ($6.4 million) fund to help them and expressed sorrow for their plight. The package includes a guarantee to rehouse people as close as possible to where they previously lived — a poor neighborhood surrounded by extreme wealth.

“(This aims) to give the victims the immediate support they need to care for themselves and for loved ones,“ May said.

But the Conservative leader still struggled to overcome accusations that she lacked compassion because she had failed to meet with victims on her first visit to the devastated site. Police surrounded May as she left a church Friday following the meeting with survivors and protesters shouted “Shame on you!“ and “Coward!“

Using drones and sniffer dogs, firefighters continued to search the burned-out housing block that looms over the low-income community in west London.

The fire, which started just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, surprised many as they slept and the speed with which it spread shocked fire experts.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to fears that the number of dead could exceed 100 by saying: “I really hope it isn’t.“

London Police have launched an investigation to determine whether any crimes contributed to the blaze. May on Thursday announced a public inquiry while Khan called for an interim report on the fire to be published this summer.

Grenfell Tower is a public housing project owned by the local government council and managed by a nonprofit known as the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organization. The group last year completed a 10 million pound ($12.8 million) renovation that included new outside insulation panels, double-paned windows and a communal heating system.

Aluminum composite panels essentially consist of two thin layers of aluminum sandwiched around a lightweight insulating material. Standard versions use plastic such as polyethylene for the core, while more expensive variants use fire-resistant material.

The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that Omnis Exteriors supplied the aluminum composite material used in the cladding. The newspaper quoted company director John Cowley as saying the building used Reynobond PE cladding, which is 2 pounds cheaper ($2.56) per square meter than Reynobond FR, which stands for “fire resistant.“

The International Building Code calls for the use of fire-resistant cores in buildings over 40 feet (12 meters) tall to slow the spread of flames.

The company that installed the exterior cladding, Harley Facades, issued a statement this week saying the panels are “commonly used” in refurbishing buildings. It did not address the exact makeup of the panels.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment or for others to speculate on any aspect of fire, or its causes, in advance of these inquiries,“ managing director Ray Bailey said. “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.“

Families searching for loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters. Whole families are said to be among the missing.

Nearly 110 families made homeless from the blaze are being housed at hotels in west London. Churches and community centers are providing meals and support, and donations of clothing, toys and household supplies are flooding in.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William visited an aid distribution site Friday for the tower’s residents and met with volunteers.

It may take some time though, before the families of the victims know the fate of their loved ones.

Forensic experts said the fire at Grenfell was so hot it could be compared to a cremation, which is going to make it difficult to identify those who lost their lives.

“When you have a fire that takes hold like that, that is literally an inferno. You get a lot of fragmentation of bodies, charring of bones,“ said Peter Vanezis, a professor of forensic medical sciences at Queen Mary University in London. “Sometimes all that’s left is ash.“

Vanezis said the best chance to identify victims may be if firefighters find bits of teeth or bone, medical devices like pacemakers or artificial implants.

“The longer a fire burns, the less chance you have that there will be enough DNA left to test,“ Vanezis said.

Even amid the chaos and the frustration, some found a moment to seek unity. A special service was held Friday afternoon at the al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre to pray for the victims — and for the families waiting for news.

“Obviously, the longer people have to wait, especially finding out what happened to their loved ones, (that) can create anger,“ said Abdurahman Sayed, Chief Executive Officer of al-Manaar. “We’re just really anxiously waiting for the authorities really, (to see) what they are going to do.“

►  Excommunicating mobsters? Vatican eyes new legal doctrine

Pope Francis has long railed against corruption and the mafia, but now the Vatican is considering developing a whole doctrine around excommunicating corrupt and mafia-tinged Catholics.

The Vatican this week hosted its first conference on corruption and organized crime, inviting 50 prosecutors, U.N. officials, bishops and victims of organized crime for a day of talks.

Organizers said in a statement Saturday that the time had come to develop a new legal doctrine for the Catholic Church around “the question of excommunication for corruption and mafia association.“

Excommunication is one of the most severe penalties in the Catholic Church, with the guilty party forbidden from participating in the sacraments and effectively excluded from the “communion” of the church.

“Our effort is to create a mentality, a culture of justice, that fights corruption and promotes the common good,“ said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s retired ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, who participated in the conference.

Francis has already declared off-hand that mobsters were destined for hell. During a 2014 visit to the heart of Italy’s ‘ndrangheta mafia heartland, he denounced the ‘ndrangheta for its “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good” and declared that those who follow in the mob’s path were automatically excommunicated.

He has similarly denounced corruption, in politics, business and even at the Vatican. While he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he penned a booklet “Curing Corruption,“ where he makes the distinction between sin and corruption and explores the culture that allows corruption to thrive.

He is up against a tough reality in Italy, however, where both organized crime and corruption are deeply embedded. Transparency International ranked Italy 60 out of 176 in its corruption perception index last year. Only Greece performed worse in Western Europe.

The Catholic Church has produced many anti-mafia campaigners in Italy, some of whom have been killed for their efforts. And a few years ago a Calabrian archbishop proposed a 10-year moratorium on the naming of godfathers when children are baptized to break the “padrino” system that mobsters use to spread their influence over the next generation.

But the church is also deeply integrated in the cultural fabric of the parts of Italy where the mob holds sway. In one famous incident just weeks after Francis’ 2014 excommunication of the ‘ndrangheta, a religious procession carrying a statue of the Madonna detoured from its route in Calabria and went to the home of a convicted mobster under house arrest in a show of honor.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  U.S. to Send 4000 More Troops to Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, the largest deployment of US manpower under Trump’s young presidency, reports the AP. The decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, said a White House official. It follows Trump’s move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels and seeks to address assertions by the top US commander in Afghanistan that he doesn’t have enough forces to help Afghanistan’s army against a resurgent Taliban insurgency. The bulk of the additional troops will train and advise Afghan forces, according to the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A smaller number would be assigned to counterterror operations against the Taliban and the Islamic State, the official said. A spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry was reluctant to comment on specifics Friday but said the Afghan government supports the US decision. “We want to finish this war in Afghanistan with the help of the NATO alliance.“ Former President Obama set a cap a year ago of 8,400 troops in Afghanistan after slowing the pace of what he hoped would be a US withdrawal. Nevertheless, there are at least another 2,000 US troops in Afghanistan not included in the official count. These include forces that are technically considered temporary even if they’ve been in the war zone for months.

►  Egyptian Politician Wants to Make ‘Western’ Baby Names Illegal

While the Senate Intelligence Committee is busy Tuesday hearing testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a committee of the Egyptian parliament is discussing something a little lighter: a proposed ban on “western” baby names. The Independent reports that MP Bedier Abdel Aziz was set to propose a draft law to the Complaints and Suggestions Committee that would prohibit the use of “foreign” names for babies born in Egypt. Violators could face fines up to $270 or up to six months in prison. “Using such Western names and abandoning Arabic ones will lead to an undesired and radical change in our society and culture,” Abdel Aziz told the Egypt Independent. He also claimed foreign names, like Lara and Mark, are difficult for Arabs to pronounce.

The draft law has inspired backlash on social media, with many condemning the proposal as a “waste of time” and an attack on “personal freedom.” According to Newsweek, some commentators have also argued that the law would disproportionately affect the minority Christian population in the country. If it is passed, Egypt would join a few other countries that have laws related to baby names, including Saudi Arabia, which has banned 51 names, plus New Zealand and at least five countries in western Europe. Swedes, for example, are not allowed to name their children Ikea. As for Egypt, the name ban is only one strange piece of legislation up for debate at today’s Parliamentary session. Others would force Facebook users to get licenses and fine couples who break off wedding engagements without good reason.

►  2 Teens in Paris Accidentally Spend 3 Days With 6M Dead

Two teenage boys were safe and sound Wednesday after spending three cold, dark, and no doubt harrowing days lost in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. According to the BBC, the two boys, ages 16 and 17, were rescued early Wednesday following a four-hour effort by search teams with rescue dogs. They were taken to a nearby hospital and treated for hypothermia, though authorities say they were otherwise unharmed. The temperature in the pitch-black passageways is about 59 degrees Fahrenheit, notes AFP.

The catacombs, which house the bones of approximately 6 million dead, form a 150-mile maze beneath the city. Only a small portion of the catacombs are open to the public, but partygoers and enthusiasts known as “cataphiles” have been known to access the other tunnels through secret entrances. Authorities have not reported who sounded the alarm about the missing boys or how they got into the catacombs, but the operator of the official museum says he knows of nobody ever getting lost in the public portion of the tunnels.

►  French Police May Have Break in Notorious Cold Case

A convoluted cold case that has fascinated France for decades may have taken a big step toward resolution. Authorities say three family members have been detained for questioning in the 32-year-old murder of 4-year-old Gregory Villemin. Gregory’s body was found tied up in the Vologne River in eastern France in October of 1984, and from the start, the case was full of twists. Hours before Gregory was found dead, the boy’s uncle said he’d received a call from a person claiming to be his kidnapper, reports the BBC. A day later, Gregory’s parents said they received a letter reading, “Your son is dead, I have been avenged.“ A month after that, Bernard Laroche, a cousin of Gregory’s dad, was arrested when his sister-in-law told police she’d seen Lorache with Gregory on the banks of the Vologne, reports Le Parisien.

When the 15-year-old retracted her statement months later, Laroche was released. But Gregory’s father, Jean-Marie Villemin, then killed Laroche. While Villemin was in jail, his wife, Christine Villemin, was imprisoned for Gregory’s killing after cords similar to those used to tie him up were found in the family home, but she, too, was later cleared, per the Local in a 2013 story. On Wednesday, however, authorities announced they’d detained three people on suspicion of complicity in the murder, failing to report a crime, and failing to helping a person at risk. All three are members of the Villemin family, per Le Parisien and Le Monde. The BBC describes them only as a couple in their 70s, along with a woman. Gregory’s grandmother was reportedly brought in as a witness.

►  They Say Manus Island Was ‘Hell.‘ Now Australia Will Pay

Australia has agreed to pay $52 million to 1,900 refugees and asylum seekers kept in one of its heavily criticized offshore detention centers, which could lead to more settlements with detainees from other camps, reports CNN. If approved by a court, the settlement will cover $20 million in legal fees for those detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island from 2012 to 2016, who claimed they suffered physical and sexual abuse, psychological harm, inadequate medical treatment, and other trauma, report ABC Australia and the Guardian. The rest will be split depending on a detainee’s experience. The lead plaintiff in the case, a 35-year-old Christian man who fled religious persecution in Iran, described his 11 months on the island as “hell,“ noting, “I was in pain every minute of every day and I cried every night until I had nothing left.“

“Most were fleeing religious persecution and violence and came to Australia seeking protection, only to be denied their basic human rights,“ a plaintiffs’ lawyer adds. An Australian politician called the settlement “a stunning admission of the barbaric conditions in the detention center” and “unambiguous proof of the need to shut down all offshore processing immediately.“ But Australia’s immigration minister says the government did not admit liability and “strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings.“ After Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court found the Manus Island camp to be “illegal and unconstitutional” last year, Australia announced it would be closed. However, no closure date has been given. More than 800 men remained at the camp as of April.

►  ‘Otto Is Not in Great Shape’ Right Now, Says Father

North Korea has issued its first official comment since releasing Otto Warmbier, but it’s not one that clears up the biggest questions. “Warmbier, who had been in hard labor, was sent back home on June 13, 2017, on humanitarian grounds according to the adjudication made on the same day by the Central Court” of North Korea, reads the entirety of the report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency, per the AP. Nothing further was said regarding how the release came to be negotiated or how Warmbier ended up in a coma. Pyongyang has claimed the 22-year-old contracted botulism and took a sleeping pill before falling into a coma immediately after his March 2016 trial, but at least one doctor disputes that. More:

  • The Washington Post does have some further details regarding the release part: It reports that after finally being informed of Warmbier’s health, State Department Special Representative for North Korea Joseph Yun helped facilitate his removal from the country.
  • The Post has more on the reaction to Warmbier’s homecoming from those in his hometown of Wyoming, Ohio, population 8,400, and more about Warmbier himself: a salutatorian, homecoming king, and soccer team captain who was attending the University of Virginia on a “prestigious scholarship” awarded to “intellectually curious” students.
  • As for what befell Warmbier, his parents may shine a light on that. Reuters reports Fred and Cindy Warmbier will “detail his mistreatment” during a Thursday morning press conference at their son’s former high school.
  • Fred Warmbier did speak with Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, in an interview that will air Thursday at 8pm EDT on Fox News. We’re “adjusting to a different reality,“ he says. “Otto is not in great shape right now ... [he] has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea.“

►  Rodman Give Kim an Eclectic Bunch of Gifts

Dennis Rodman has delivered a message from Trump to North Korea—sort of. On Thursday, the former NBA player gave the country’s sports minister a copy of Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, a present intended for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It wasn’t signed by Trump, who was Rodman’s boss for two seasons of Celebrity Apprentice. Rodman has said his Pyongyang visit, which has so far been low-key, has nothing to do with the White House, the AP reports. He and his small entourage have been spending time hanging out with young North Korean basketball players and visiting local sights.

Along with the Trump book, other gifts Rodman presented for Kim Jong Un include a copy of Where’s Waldo? The Totally Essential Travel Collection, a mermaid puzzle, two sets of soap and two autographed jerseys. The sports minister made clear Rodman is viewed fondly in Pyongyang. “In the past, our respected supreme leader met you several times and he used his precious time to watch the basketball match with the players you brought here. In the past he met you, so our people all know you well,“ Kim Il Guk told Rodman. “And also we feel that you are an old friend.“ Officials say Rodman had no role in the release of American student Otto Warmbier, who was in a coma when he arrived back in the US on Tuesday.

►  17 Killed in Mogadishu Restaurant Siege

Gunmen posing as military forces were holding an unknown number of hostages inside a popular restaurant in Somalia’s capital at dawn Thursday after an attack that began when a car bomb exploded at the gate, police say. The extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility. At least 17 people, including foreigners, have been killed according to police and an ambulance driver. Two of the gunmen were shot dead and 10 hostages were rescued but five other attackers were thought to remain inside, cutting off electricity to complicate security forces’ efforts to end the siege, Capt. Mohamed Hussein says.

The roofs were blown off the Pizza House restaurant and nearby buildings from the powerful blasts. An ambulance driver with the Amin Ambulance service, Khalif Dahir, said early Thursday they had carried 17 bodies and 26 wounded people. Police said the dead included a Syrian man. Most of the victims were young men who had been entering the Pizza House when the vehicle exploded, Hussein says. The gunmen “were dressed in military uniforms. They forced those fleeing the site to go inside” the restaurant, witness Nur Yasin tells the AP.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Irish Girl Sent to Psych Ward After Trying to Get an Abortion

When a girl in Ireland went with her mother to try to get an abortion last year, she was instead detained against her will in a psychiatric clinic. CNN reports that the girl, who is a minor, had said her pregnancy was making her suicidal. But instead of being granted permission to terminate her unwanted pregnancy, she was told that an abortion was “not the solution for all the child’s problems at this stage,“ and the Mental Health Act was invoked—sending her to a mental health facility against her will. A few days later she was cleared by another psychiatrist and released after a court determined she didn’t have an actual mental health disorder, per Jezebel.

Ireland has the strictest anti-abortion laws in Europe. The 8th Amendment, passed in 1983, declares the life of a fetus equal to the life of a mother, and prohibits abortion in all cases—including rape, incest, and the mother’s health—unless, under the 2014 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, the mother’s life is in immediate danger. In this case, the Mental Health Act seemed to be used as “a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of ... personal beliefs,“ a rep for the Abortion Rights Campaign says. Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Childbirth called the treatment “barbaric,“ “cruel,“ and “regressive,“ reports the Irish Mirror, while a Sinn Fein politician called it “the draconian edge of the Irish state.“

►  Potcoin Sponsors Rodman’s New Trip to North Korea

One of the world’s weirdest bromances appears to be alive and well: Dennis Rodman has returned to Pyongyang for his first visit to North Korea since his former Celebrity Apprentice boss became president, the BBC reports. Rodman, who has described dictator Kim Jong Un as a “friend for life,“ told reporters he was “just trying to open a door” and he is sure Trump will be “happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need,“ the AP reports. In a tweet, Rodman thanked Potcoin, a cybercurrency used in marijuana transactions, for sponsoring his trip. He wore a Potcoin T-shirt at the airport.

Rodman’s visit, the first since early 2014, comes at a time of growing US-North Korea tensions. “I know the Trump administration has been trying half-heartedly to start a dialogue with the North Koreans,“ analyst Joel Wit tells the Los Angeles Times. “It would be strange to use Dennis Rodman as an intermediary,“ he says, “but under the Trump administration a lot of things are possible that wouldn’t have been with other administrations.“ When Rodman suggested in 2014 that Trump was interested in visiting Pyongyang, Trump tweeted: “Dennis Rodman was either drunk or on drugs (delusional) when he said I wanted to go to North Korea with him. Glad I fired him on Apprentice!“

►  One of Taiwan’s Major Allies Just Switched Sides

Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, dealing a major victory to Beijing in its drive to isolate the self-governing island it claims as its own territory. In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela announced the change, which entails breaking off formal relations with Taiwan, saying in a televised address that it represents the “correct path for our country.“ A joint statement released on Monday evening in Panama said Panama and China were recognizing each other and establishing ambassadorial-level relations the same day, the AP reports.

“The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world ... and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,“ the statement reads, adding that Panama has severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and “undertakes not to have any more official relations or official exchanges” with the island. Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island now has just 20 formal diplomatic partners, 12 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island is also excluded from the United Nations and many other multinational bodies at China’s insistence.

►  Mother Loses Arm in Shark Attack While Snorkeling

While snorkeling on vacation in the Bahamas, a North Carolina woman survived a terrifying ordeal when she encountered the one creature most swimmers never hope to see up close: a shark. Tiffany Johnson, 32, was snorkeling with her husband, reports the NY Daily News, when she felt something bump her from behind. When she turned around, she saw what is believed to be a tiger shark, which promptly clamped onto her limb, biting off part of the mother of three’s arm.

“He had my whole arm in his mouth, and he was just floating there staring at me,” she says in an interview with WSOC. Her husband jumped into the water to help after hearing her screams. “I kept trying to yank my hand back and the last time I yanked he had cut it clean off so I was able to actually get free,“ she says of the June 2 ordeal. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $18,000 to help with Johnson’s medical expenses.

►  Doctor Disputes North Korea’s Story About American’s Coma

Blue and white ribbons lined the street near Otto Warmbier’s family home Tuesday night as the American student freed by North Korea arrived back in Cincinnati. The 22-year-old, who is believed to have been in a coma for more than a year, was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for urgent treatment after he arrived on a US military flight. A US official confirmed to Fox that Warmbier is a coma, but said he was unable to confirm Pyongyang’s claim that he contracted botulism and took a sleeping pill before falling into a coma after his March 2016 trial, in which he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for stealing a propaganda banner. The latest:

  • Parents Cindy and Fred boarded the plane when it landed, the Washington Post reports. A few minutes later, Warmbier was carried out on a stretcher by medical personnel. He had a shaved head and a tube in his nose.
  • Well-wishers outside the airport fence held “WELCOME HOME OTTO” signs. In Warmbier’s hometown of Wyoming, just outside Cincinnati, residents say they are happy he is free and they are doing their best to support his family. “Everybody feels a sense of relief that he is coming back to the United States,“ resident Amy Mayer tells the AP. “I think we’re very excited yet very prayerful about what is happening because we’ve heard he is in a coma.“
  • A doctor with the Cincinnati Health Department tells WLWT that it is very unlikely that botulism or sleeping pills caused the coma. “This is not consistent with what botulism causes in terms of symptoms. It may cause paralysis, but a coma means that you are no longer conscious,“ Dr. Steve Englander says.
  • Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert says Warmbier’s release has nothing to do with Dennis Rodman’s latest trip to North Korea, CBS News reports.
  • Ohio’s Senator Rob Portman released a statement condemning Warmbier’s sentence as “unnecessary and appalling.“ “North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior,“ he said.
  • Former ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson said he had spoken with Warmbier’s parents, who were only informed of his condition a week ago. “We received a call from Cindy and Fred Warmbier early today to update us on Otto’s condition,“ he said in a statement, per AFP. “In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma.“
  • White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Warmbier’s release was “a big priority” for Trump and he worked “very hard and very closely” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the issue.

►  Blog Eerily Predicted Deadly London High-Rise Blaze

Lives were definitely lost in the nightmarish blaze that engulfed a high-rise apartment building in London early Wednesday, authorities say. Six deaths have been confirmed and at least 50 other people are being treated in the hospital after the fire at the 24-story Grenfell Tower in west London. The death toll “is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days,“ says Police Commander Stuart Cundy. The fire, which started around 1am, burned through the night despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters. The fire stretched from the second to the 24th floor and witnesses tell the BBC they saw trapped people, including children, screaming for help from the building’s upper floors. The latest:

  • London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said at 9:40am London time that firefighters had been able to access all floors for the first time, the Evening Standard reports. “This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale,“ she said. Cotton wouldn’t speculate on the cause of the blaze.
  • There had long been concerns about fire safety in the building, which was completed in 1974 and renovated last year, reports the Guardian. In the Grenfell Action Group blog, residents repeatedly warned about issues including safety equipment that hadn’t been checked in years. “Only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence” of the building’s managers, they warned in November last year, adding that the event would probably be a fire, and the blog would serve as “damning evidence of the poor safety record.“
  • Relatives are desperately searching for loved ones, including children and elderly people, missing after the blaze, the Telegraph reports. Officials believe there were up to 600 people in the building when the fire broke out.
  • The former chief of the residents’ association tells CNN that amid serious safety concerns, residents tried to get the management association to change its “stay put” policy, which recommended that residents stay in their apartments in the event of a fire.
  • Resident Paul Munakr tells the BBC that he was alerted to the fire not by alarms, but by hearing people in the street shouting “Don’t jump.“ He was on the seventh floor and managed to get out safely. “As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly amazing firefighters that were actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out the building as possible,“ he says. Other survivors also say they did not hear fire alarms go off.
  • Witnesses described harrowing scenes involving trapped residents. Samira Lamrani told the Press Association that she saw a woman drop a baby out of a window to a man who was able to catch it. Other witnesses say they saw people leap from the building or try to use garbage bags as makeshift parachutes.
  • Lucas Alexander, who lives in a nearby building, tells BuzzFeed that he saw flames race up the side of the building incredibly quickly. “There were a lot of people hanging out of the windows, screaming, crying for help,“ he says “There was this one window where they’d tied bedsheets together to make a makeshift rope—two people were hanging off the rope. People’s houses were literally burning from the inside out,“ he says.
  • Churches and community centers opened their doors to survivors, many of whom fled wearing only pajamas. Nearby buildings were also evacuated. LBC reports that centers have been set up for Londoners to donate goods including clothes, blankets, and toys.

►  Singapore PM Involved in Public Sibling Squabble

A tussle that began over their father’s will escalated Wednesday when two siblings accused their brother, the prime minister of Singapore, of using “the organs of state” against them and grooming his son to take up a political role, the AP reports. Business executive Lee Hsien Yang, the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said the situation compelled him to leave Singapore “for the foreseeable future.“ He and his sister, Dr. Lee Wei Ling, said in a statement “we feel big brother omnipresent.“ The feud offers a rare glimpse into cracks in the prominent family after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore with an iron grip for more than three decades and is credited with transforming the resource poor island into a wealthy bustling financial hub.

Lee Kuan Yew died a widower in 2015. Much of the family feud is centered around his will directing to have his house demolished instead of being turned into a museum or heritage site. All three children have publicly supported this. But now the two siblings accuse the prime minister of privately working against their father’s will to “enhance his political capital.“ They said he lobbied a government committee in hopes of preserving the property in order to “inherit the faith Singaporeans had in Lee Kuan Yew through the visible symbol of the house.“ There has been a “misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government ... to drive his personal agenda,“ the statement said. Lee, who is currently away on holiday, denied the allegations.

►  London Blaze Called ‘Corporate Manslaughter’

Anger in Britain is rising in the aftermath of the Grenfell Towers high-rise blaze. With 12 people confirmed dead, almost 80 hospitalized, and many more still unaccounted for after the devastating fire in the 24-floor apartment block, calls for justice have been left alongside messages for loved ones at a wall of condolence near the west London site, the BBC reports. Residents say safety concerns had been ignored at the building, which had no sprinkler system and was refurbished last year with cladding that ignited in the blaze. Labour MP David Lammy denounced the fire as “corporate manslaughter” Thursday. He said arrests should be made and warned that the death toll could be in the hundreds, the Independent reports. The latest:

  • British government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Telegraph reports. Officials have now called for an urgent review of the use of the material, which is on tens of thousands of buildings in the country. Experts say it acted like a “chimney” in the blaze, causing flames to race up the building.
  • CTV reports that the managers of the building, which had around 500 residents, say it is too early to determine the cause. The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization says concerns raised by residents will be looked at during its investigation.
  • Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton says a thorough search of the building has been delayed due to safety concerns. “On the upper floors there are still some very small pockets of fire remaining,“ she told the BBC Thursday. “Due to the nature of the building at the moment we are not sending firefighters in there, because it is not structurally safe for them to go right out to the edges of the building now.“ She said a painstaking fingertip search will be carried out soon as possible.
  • Cotton says up to nine firefighters were injured in the blaze, though she is more concerned about the long-term mental health of the firefighters and everybody else involved in the traumatic incident, the Guardian reports.
  • In one of many tales of heroism to emerge from the disaster, 66-year-old grandmother Clarita Ghavim tells the Evening Standard that her life was saved by two strangers. She says that after leaving her 10th-floor apartment and finding herself in a hallway thick with smoke, two men put her on their shoulders and carried her to safety.
  • Joe Ruane, the former deputy chief fire officer for US Air Force bases in Britain, tells the AP that he has never seen a blaze like this before and it appears that more than one fire protection safeguard failed. Residents also blame a “stay put” policy that advised them to stay in their apartments in the event of fire.
  • LBC reports that collection points have been overwhelmed with donations from Londoners seeking to help survivors. On Wednesday evening, hundreds of volunteers formed a human chain to help sort donations including food, clothes, toys, and toiletries.
  • In an op-ed at the New York Times, Heather Brooke says failure to act on residents’ warnings shows why Londoners have lost trust in the social housing system. She notes that after the Grenfell Action Group raised serious concerns, the local government had a lawyer send a letter alleging defamation and demanding the posts be removed.

►  First Confirmed Victim in London Is a Syrian Refugee

The first victim identified in the Grenfell Tower fire in London has a poignant back story: Mohammad al-Haj Ali is a 23-year-old refugee from Syria who fled the war-torn city of Daraa three years ago. According to the Telegraph, the civil engineering student at the University of West London was trapped in his apartment on the 14th floor of the 24-story building after getting separated from his older brother, Omar. His brother made it out of Grenfell and was being treated for smoke inhalation, but not Mohammad. “He survived Assad, he survived the war, only to be killed in a tower block in London,“ says a friend.

Officials have confirmed that 17 people have died so far in the massive blaze that consumed the public-housing tower Tuesday night, though, officials believe the death toll could rise into the hundreds. As for the reports that residents fruitlessly complained about fire safety concerns, the Guardian has some more specifics: Among other things, they complained about the placement of pipes and boilers, the absence of a fire-alarm or sprinkler system, and piles of trash in common areas.

►  7 Dead in Explosion at China Kindergarten

Seven people were killed and 59 injured in an explosion Thursday at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China as relatives were picking up their children at the end of the school day, local officials said. The blast at the Chuangxin Kindergarten in Fengxian, which struck at 4:50pm, was under investigation, the Xuzhou city government in Jiangsu province said on its microblog. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the explosion was deliberately set or the result of an accident, the AP reports. The official newspaper Global Times reported on its website that the incident was caused by the explosion of a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall, citing a witness identified only by the surname Shi. The blast sent people flying several yards into the air, Shi was quoted as saying.

Kindergartens in China have been targeted before in apparent revenge attacks carried out by mentally ill people or those bearing grudges against their neighbors and society. Videos purportedly from the scene and posted on social media showed children and adults lying on the ground, some bleeding. Clothing, shoes, and other items were strewn on the ground beside pools of blood. The videos showed ambulances arriving and medics wheeling people into an emergency room. The Xuzhou government said two people died at the scene and five others died at a hospital. At least four others were seriously injured, it said. China maintains tight control over firearms and most attacks are carried out using knives, axes, or homemade explosives.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Lady Brexit meets Monsieur Europe: May, Macron hold talks

She wants to escape the European Union, he wants to embolden it. British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron held talks Tuesday from opposite sides of the Brexit front line and agreed that negotiations for Britain’s divorce from the European bloc will start next week as planned.

They also reached common ground on fighting a shared enemy: terrorism. Standing side by side in the garden of the Elysee Palace after a working dinner, the two leaders announced plans to pursue an initiative to require tech companies to better police online extremism and hold them legally liable if they fail to do so.

“We are united in our total condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to stamp out this evil,“ May said.

May arrived in Paris with her leadership hobbled by a catastrophic election last week just as Britain heads into tough talks on leaving the EU.

While May struggles to hold onto power, Macron is on the ascendancy, with his year-old party set to win a huge majority in parliamentary elections Sunday. That should fortify Macron’s standing in Europe as he tries to push the remaining EU nations to stand tough in Brexit negotiations, and to unite even more closely as Britain departs.

Seeking to allay European concerns after her election setback, May reaffirmed Tuesday that “the timetable for Brexit negotiations remains on course and will begin next week.“

British officials had previously suggested they wouldn’t be able to formally start Brexit negotiations as scheduled.

Macron called for the negotiations to “start as soon as possible,“ but also added that the door remains open for the U.K. to remain in the European Union. From a European point of view, he said, as long as the negotiations are not over, there is still a possibility to change the course of events.

Still, he acknowledged, “the decision (to exit the EU) has been taken by the sovereign British people. I do respect that.“

The talks Tuesday also focused heavily on deepening counterterrorism cooperation, especially reducing extremist propaganda circulated online. Britain and France face similar challenges in fighting home-grown Islamic extremism and share similar scars from deadly attacks that rocked London, Manchester, Paris and Nice.

May said major internet companies have failed to live up to prior commitments to do more to prevent extremists from finding a “safe space” online. Macron urged other European countries, especially Germany, to join the effort to fight Islamic extremist propaganda on the web.

After the Islamic State group recruited hundreds of French fighters largely through online propaganda, France introduced legislation ordering French providers to block certain content, but acknowledges any such effort must reach well beyond its borders. Tech-savvy Macron has lobbied for tougher European rules, but details of his plans remain unclear.

Britain already has tough measures, including a law known informally as the Snooper’s Charter, which gives authorities the powers to look at the internet browsing records of everyone in the country. Among other things, the law requires telecommunications companies to keep records of all users’ web activity for a year, creating data bases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers.

After their talks, May and Macron headed to the Stade de France stadium north of Paris to watch a France-England exhibition soccer match honoring victims of the recent attacks in Manchester and London. In an emotional show of support, players from both teams walked onto the field to sounds of the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” played by the French Republican Guard. Then Macron and May joined French and British fans in singing the British national anthem “God Save the Queen,“ followed by a minute of silence.

Two big screens at the stadium projected the red-and-white Cross of St. George and giant flags from both countries were rolled out onto the field.

Three attackers mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed people in nearby Borough Market on June 3. Eight people were killed and dozens more injured. On May 22, a man detonated a bomb as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people.

France’s players were touched by the overwhelming show of support they received from England fans when they played an exhibition match at Wembley Stadium on November 17, 2015— just four days after attacks hit a Paris stadium, cafes and a rock concert, killing 130 people. England fans that night sang along with the French national anthem.

►  Iraq: Food poisoning strikes hundreds at camp for displaced

Food poisoning at a camp for displaced residents of Mosul has made more than 700 people sick, with hundreds hospitalized, Iraqi officials said Tuesday.

The incident at the Hassan Sham U2 camp, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) east of Mosul, has become part of the ongoing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi media accused a Qatari charity of supplying tainted food to the residents of the desert camp.

Iraqi Health Minister Adila Hamoud told The Associated Press that 752 people in the camp became ill following a Monday night iftar — the meal breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. At least 300 people remain in serious condition, he said.

The Health Ministry reported that no one had died from food poisoning. Two deaths cited earlier were from other causes. The provincial governor said there had been one death. The U.N. refugee agency at first reported one death but later said nobody had died. The conflicting reports could not immediately be reconciled.

Amira Abdulhaliq of the UNHCR said it was unclear when the meals had become contaminated, whether it was during its preparation, packaging, transportation or distribution.

“So far, we have received around 800 cases. Around 200 have been transported to the hospitals in Irbil,“ she said.

Irbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said the food was prepared in an Irbil restaurant by a local NGO, Ain el Muhtajeen, and funded by a Qatari charity known as RAF. In Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a recent campaign to isolate Qatar, state media quickly seized on the issue with coverage that implied Qatar was poisoning refugees deliberately.

On Twitter, Saudi state television accused RAF of supplying tainted meals and posted images it said showed the camp’s children “poisoned by the terrorist Qatari RAF organization.“

An Iraqi lawmaker who visited the camp overnight also accused the Qatari charity of providing the tainted food.

At midday Tuesday, medics were treating patients in a large tent at the edge of the camp. About 20-30 patients, mostly children, lay on blankets on the floor as several more serious cases were taken away in ambulances. Most were suffering from stomach cramps and dehydration resulting from vomiting and diarrhea.

Raad al-Dahlaki, chairman of the Iraqi parliament’s immigration and displacement committee, visited the camp overnight and said the meal contained rice, a bean sauce, meat, yogurt and water. He put the number of sick at 850.

Al-Dahlaki said the food was distributed by RAF, adding that Iraqi officials were to meet those from the organization later Tuesday. The Doha-based charity did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At a joint news conference in the camp, Irbil Police Chief Abdulhaleq Talaat said seven people were arrested in connection with the incident.

Since a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia began June 5, Arab media across the greater Persian Gulf have unleashed a daily barrage of reports highly critical of Qatar. Those reports include stories that alleged Qatar has tried to undermine regional security, often presented without attribution or evidence.

RAF is the acronym for the Qatar-based Thani Bin Abdullah Al Thani Foundation for Humanitarian Services, a charity that collects donations for aid work around the world, including meals for needy families during Ramadan.

RAF is also among 12 organizations and 59 people put on what Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini officials described Friday as a list of terrorist entities and individuals.

On Qatari state television, a repeatedly aired program has discussed how the ongoing diplomatic dispute has stopped it from providing meals to Syrian refugees at a major camp in Jordan.

The Hassan Sham U2 camp houses thousands who have fled their homes in and around Mosul after a U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive was launched in October to dislodge the Islamic State group from Iraq’s second-largest city. According to the U.N. refugee agency, it is home to 6,235 people.

Mosul fell to IS in the summer 2014 as the militants swept over much of northern and western Iraq. Weeks later, the head of the Sunni extremist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the formation of a self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Months after the start of the offensive, IS militants control only a handful of neighborhoods in and around the Old City, located west of the Tigris River, which divides Mosul into western and eastern sectors.

►  FARC’s elusive finances undercut support for Colombia peace

As Colombia’s leftist rebel movement begins making its transition to a political party, a crucial question hangs over the process: how much money is it hiding?

Chief prosecutor Nestor Martinez rocked the nation last week by saying he has compiled evidence that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is sitting on an illegal fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars, a political war chest that outstrips the coffers of traditional parties. He asserted that its assets, arising from the FARC’s involvement in the drug trade as well as illegal mining and extortion, include everything from herds of cattle held in the name of front men to offshore shell companies.

Martinez didn’t list the specific properties, but his statement appeared aimed at cornering the FARC as it faces an August 1 deadline to declare its war spoils, which the peace deal signed last year earmarks for compensation of the rebels’ victims. Assets that aren’t itemized can be seized down the road and anyone involved in concealing them faces prosecution for money laundering outside the generous terms provided by the accord.

“That legend of Franciscan poverty is about to end,“ Martinez said, referring to the image the FARC has long cultivated since its origins in the 1950s as a peasant-led self-defense movement.

The FARC was quick to strike back, accusing Martinez of being an enemy of the peace accord aimed at ending a half century of violent conflict.

Chief rebel negotiator Ivan Marquez posted a caricature of Martinez sitting down at a restaurant to eat a peace dove, while FARC commander Rodrigo Londono suggested the nation’s top law enforcement doesn’t show the same zeal going after other political actors with their own ties to illegal armed groups and drug-trafficking organizations.

Indeed, Colombian officials have a long history of conspiring with criminals, dating back at least to cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar’s purchase of politicians in the 1980s. Dozens of lawmakers have been imprisoned over the past decade for financial ties to the FARC’s battlefield enemies, right-wing paramilitary groups.

More recently, President Juan Manuel Santos’ re-election campaign as well as his opponent in the 2014 race are under investigation for concealing millions of dollars in contributions and payments from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in a still-unfolding scandal that threatens to discredit much of Colombia’s political class.

Despite the rebels’ pledge to the contrary, analysts say that the FARC is counting on its money to fund its takeoff as a political party. In the next campaign cycle, it’s likely to need far more than the $1 million in state funding that it, like other political movements, is entitled to receive as a result of the peace deal.

Any solid evidence of the FARC hiding its riches is bound to antagonize Colombians who still distrust the rebels. The FARC only yielded to pressure to make the inventory of its assets after the original peace accord was narrowly defeated in a nationwide referendum.

Further angering the peace accord’s many detractors — and exposing frictions within the government — was Santos’ recent decree allowing some of that wealth to fund development projects, including the creation of a FARC-led institute to train political leaders in areas it has long dominated.

“For the FARC, the subject of money has always touched a nerve,“ said Kyle Johnson, a Bogota-based analyst at the International Crisis Group. “If it’s shown they have a lot of wealth, it adds fuel to the narrative that they are simply drug traffickers.“

While Martinez gave few details about his accusations, he said they were based on the analysis of some 5.5 million documents, many of them found on computers and pen drives seized during jungle raids in the final days of the long conflict. He vowed to continue investigating with the help of the United States as well as other governments in the region, especially in Central America.

Already authorities appear to be tightening their financial noose: so far this year they’ve seized assets linked to the FARC worth about $100 million, or about a quarter of the $380 million taken from the rebels in their entire history, according to Martinez. Last year, Costa Rica turned over to Colombia nearly half a million dollars in cash authorities there found stashed in a house.

Nobody knows for sure how much wealth the rebels managed to accumulate in their long war against the state. Some government analysts reportedly estimated their assets at over $10.5 billion as recently as 2012, but the rebels dismiss such speculations as sheer inventions.

While nobody believes they are penniless, the cost of feeding and equipping a fighting force of 7,000 rebels is believed to have sapped FARC reserves in the war’s finals years as the rebels renounced extortive kidnappings and a string of military setbacks kept them largely confined to their jungle hideouts.

►  Rise of China offers a classic Thucydides trap

Before settling in for pleasurable summer books, read Graham Allison’s “Destined for War: Can American and China escape Thucydides’s Trap?“

A warning label: It’s going to scare the hell out of you.

It starts with the Athenian historian’s chronicle of the conflict between Sparta and Athens in the fifth century B.C. as a way to tackle the larger question of whether war can be averted when an aggressive rising nation threatens a dominant power. Allison, a renowned Harvard University scholar and national security expert, studied 16 such cases over the past 500 years; in 12 there was war.

For three-quarters of a century, the U.S. has been the dominant world power. China is now challenging that hegemony economically, politically and militarily. Both countries, with vastly different political systems, histories and values, believe in their own exceptionalism.

The two nations, Allison argues, are “currently on a collision course for war,“ which he says can be averted only if both demonstrate skill and “take difficult and painful actions to avert it.“

I’ve known Allison for almost four decades. He’s been sweeping in and out of government, serving five Republican and Democratic administrations from Washington and his perch at Harvard. He’s a first-class academic with the instincts of a first-rate politician. He brings to the “Thucydides Trap” an impressive sweep of history and geopolitical and military knowledge. Unlike some academics, he writes interestingly.

Allison analyzes why so many rising powers ended up in wars with established ones, and why some didn’t. The best contemporary examples are the German rise that led to World War I contrasted with the confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which was kept from escalating into hot war for more than four decades.

In the early part of the 20th century, the U.K. was threatened by an emerging Germany, which had been unified decades before by Bismarck, and which was blowing past Britain economically and moving up on its naval dominance. The political leaders in the U.K., Allison writes, were beset by anxieties and Germany emboldened by ambition. Mutual mistrust, an arms race and World War I followed.

After World War II, facing the menacing challenge from the Soviet Union, the U.S. fashioned the policy of containment, starting with the extraordinary Marshall Plan to rebuild war-ravaged allies and adversaries. With smart diplomats and presidents, from John F. Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis through Ronald Reagan’s engagement with Mikhail Gorbachev, war was averted before the Soviet Union collapsed.

The rise of China offers a classic Thucydides trap. In 1980, China’s economy was only a tenth the size of the U.S. economy. By 2040, Allison reckons, it could be three times larger. China considers itself the most important power in Asia, irrespective of U.S. commitments and alliances with allies in the region. With Donald Trump presiding over a White House hostile to international institutions, Chinese President Xi Jinping has at least a claim on the title of premier global leader.

Allison depicts plausible scenarios of how conflicts between these two superpowers could break out: disputes over Taiwan or the South China Sea, or an accidental provocation by a third party – it was the assassination of an Austrian archduke by a Serbian terrorist that triggered World War I – or, less likely, a quarrel related to economic competition.

The most dangerous threat lurks in the Korean peninsula, where North Korea has nuclear warheads and is trying to develop the missile technology to hit San Francisco. What happens if the Pyongyang regime collapses and its strongman, Kim Jong-un is eliminated?

In March, Xi explained the nuances of the Korean situation to Trump, whose White House had warned that “if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.“

If that’s a military threat, consider: An assault on North Korea would be answered by missile attacks against nearby Seoul that could kill as many as a million people. Imagine that followed by an invasion of the north by the U.S. and South Korea to prevent more carnage. Would China sit still for a unified Korean peninsula allied with the U.S.? The answer was no in 1950, to General Douglas MacArthur’s shock, when it was much less powerful, confident and ambitious.

Allison isn’t a pessimist. He argues that with skillful statecraft and political sensitivity these two superpowers can avoid war.

Xi is a ruthless autocrat, but a smart one with a sense of history and China’s customary patience.

In the U.S., by contrast, the current commander-in-chief shows little interest in history and is irrational, insecure and impulsive.

That’s scary.

►  Saudi Media Accuses Qatar of Poisoning Iraqi Refugees

Food poisoning at a camp for displaced residents of Mosul has made more than 700 people sick, with hundreds hospitalized, Iraqi officials said Tuesday. The incident at the Hassan Sham U2 camp, about 13 miles east of Mosul, has become part of the ongoing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi media accused a Qatari charity of supplying tainted food to the residents of the desert camp. Iraqi Health Minister Adila Hamoud told the AP that 752 people in the camp became ill following a Monday night iftar—the meal breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. At least 300 people remain in serious condition, he said. Various reports have put the number of related deaths between zero and three.

Amira Abdulhaliq of the UNHCR said it was unclear when the meals had become contaminated, whether it was during preparation, packaging, transportation, or distribution. “So far, we have received around 800 cases. Around 200 have been transported to the hospitals in Irbil,“ she said. Irbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said the food was prepared in an Irbil restaurant by a local NGO, Ain el Muhtajeen, and funded by a Qatari charity known as RAF. In Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a recent campaign to isolate Qatar, state media quickly seized on the issue with coverage that implied Qatar was poisoning refugees deliberately. The Hassan Sham U2 camp houses thousands who have fled their homes in and around Mosul after a US-backed Iraqi offensive was launched in October to dislodge the Islamic State group.

►  No More Survivors Expected in London Apartment Blaze

The death toll has risen to 12 in the massive blaze at a high-rise apartment building in London Wednesday, and that number is expected to rise, the BBC reports. “Sadly, I don’t anticipate there will be further survivors,“ said a police official, noting that people are still unaccounted for. Hundreds of people were believed to have been in north Kensington’s Grenfell Tower when the fire broke out; the 24-story building was said to be in flames from the second floor all the way to the top floor, leaving many trapped.

A fire official says “almost all” of the building has now been searched, but there are “still pockets of fire yet to be extinguished in places particularly difficult to reach.“ Experts don’t expect the building to collapse, per the Telegraph.

►  Russians Likely Breached Your State’s Voting System

A report at Bloomberg puts a rather startling number on the extent of Russian hacking in the 2016 election: 39. As in, 39 states saw Russian intrusions of some kind into their voting databases or election software systems, according to the report. The states aren’t listed, but that number is about twice the figure previously thought. That’s not to say the hackers manipulated results in any way. It appears that beyond gaining access to systems, the hackers didn’t use the information to alter the vote or otherwise wreak havoc, either because they were technically unable to do so or because a warning from the Obama White House to Moscow on a “red phone” proved effective.

The objective may not have been to boost a particular candidate anyway, with the story saying that the White House feared the Russians “were possibly preparing to delete voter registration information or slow vote tallying in order to undermine confidence in the election.“ That doesn’t appear to have happened, but it doesn’t bode well for future elections now that the Russians have this base of knowledge to build on, write Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson. In his recent Senate testimony, former FBI chief James Comey talked about the Russian threat. “They’re coming after America,” he said. “They will be back.” A recent report by the Intercept, based on documents allegedly provided by Reality Winner, had more details on the Russian hacking.

►  Student Freed by N. Korea Is Reportedly in a Coma

North Korea on Tuesday freed a US college student it has held for more than a year, but the good news is tempered by a report that Otto Warmbier is in a coma. His parents spoke to the Washington Post about his medical condition, saying they were told by North Korean officials that the 22-year-old developed botulism after his March 2016 trial, was given a sleeping pill, and never regained consciousness. He is due back home in suburban Cincinnati on Tuesday evening. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the release, per the AP, though he didn’t mention Warmbier’s medical condition. The news came on the same day that former NBA star Dennis Rodman returned to North Korea, though it was unclear whether there was any connection.

“Our son is coming home,“ dad Fred Warmbier tells the Post. “At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight.“ The University of Virginia student had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last year after he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner in his hotel—an apparent trophy, of sorts— while visiting as a tourist. Warmbier had gone to the country as part of a new year’s tour in January of that year and has been held ever since. Tillerson says the US will continue to try to win the release of three other Americans still held by the North.

►  North Korea Suspected of Spying on THAAD

Dennis Rodman has a new subject to broach with his “friend for life”: North Korea is suspected of spying on America’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system hosted by Pyongyang’s neighbor to the south, reports Reuters. Not far from its border with North Korea on Friday, South Korea’s military came across a drone—almost eight feet wide with twin engines—carrying a Sony camera that had snapped roughly 10 photos of the THAAD anti-missile system, a South Korean defense official tells Yonhap News. “The pictures don’t have high resolution, though,“ the official says. The camera had also taken hundreds of additional photos, but they mostly show “forest land and residential areas” from one to two miles away, the official adds.

It isn’t clear if the drone was able to transmit the photos of THAAD before it crashed in Inje after apparently running out of fuel, reports the AP. If it did indeed come from North Korea, it would’ve traveled close to 300 miles roundtrip to reach the THAAD site in Seongju. Some are wondering how the drone was missed earlier, but a rep for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff says it will “come up with measures to deal with North Korean drones.“ On Monday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed North Korea’s “provocative actions” and nuclear weapons program, noting the country is “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security,“ per Reuters. In warning of a possible war, he added, it would be “like nothing we have seen since 1953.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  10 Cars That Sit Longest on Dealer Lots

Some cars fly off dealers’ lots and some, well, linger. Using data from Kelley Blue Book, 24/7 Wall St looked at which cars sat the longest at dealerships before selling in 2016.

The worst performers, along with the average number of days the models hung around:

  1. Fiat 500L, 174.6 days
  2. Honda CR-Z, 168.4 days
  3. Fiat 500, 166.2 days
  4. Dodge Dart, 150.7 days
  5. Chrysler 200, 150.5 days
  6. Buick Verano, 150.3 days
  7. Fiat 500X, 146 days
  8. Kia Cadenza, 137.6 days
  9. Dodge Journey, 133.1 days
  10. Cadillac XTS, 131.8
Click for the FULL LIST.

Click Below for additional Articles...

Page 1 of 163 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVI The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved