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World News

British Ambassador to America quits over leak storm

The Sun – BRITAIN’S ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch has sensationally quit today after being embroiled in a Donald Trump leak storm.

The US president launched a scathing attack yesterday branding the ambassador “wacky” after a series of damning indictments were leaked from secret cables over two years.

Sir Kim said it had become “impossible” for him to carry out his role after it emerged he dubbed the White House “uniquely dysfunctional” and said Trump “radiates insecurity”.

He also branded the president “inept” – causing Trump to fire back in a series of blistering tweets calling him a “pompous fool”.

In a letter to Sir Simon McDonald, the permanent under secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sir Kim wrote: “The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.

US senator’s bill seeks to push back on Saudis for rights record

Al Jazeera – The Republican chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch, has introduced legislation seeking to push back on Saudi Arabia over its human rights record and criticising Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The bill, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, is the latest effort in the US Congress to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for rights abuses, including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey and a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are fighting Iran-supported Houthi rebels.

However, it does not address weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Risch had said he wanted to introduce legislation that President Donald Trump would sign.

France steps up efforts to save Iran nuclear deal

Al Jazeera – French President Emmanuel Macron’s top diplomatic adviser has held talks in Iran to ease the crisis over Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, prompting Tehran’s praise for French efforts to save the 2015 accord.

U.S. News, Politics & Government

‘Antifa fighter’ indicted for assault over Portland violence that savaged man’s scalp

RT – A 23-year-old Portland man has been indicted by a grand jury over his alleged role in violent altercations during protests in June. The Antifa activist was among those who ganged up on a man and split his scalp open, police said.

Gage Halupowski was arrested along with two other protesters in the wake of clashes in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted him with four criminal charges, including second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, attempted assault of a public safety officer, and interfering with a peace officer, the Oregonian reported.

Acosta defends Epstein plea deal as Dems call for his resignation

Politico – Alex Acosta defended his handling of a controversial plea deal with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Tuesday as the top three Senate Democratic leaders called on the labor secretary to resign.

Acosta took to a Twitter offensive on Tuesday, saying he supports the “horrific” new charges against the billionaire financier while defending his own past actions. The financier is now charged with running a sex ring of underage girls.

“With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator,” he said. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

But Acosta’s comments came amid a swirl of resignation calls from the opposition party, essentially assuring the Labor secretary will stay in the headlines this week. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Acosta should go because of the “sweetheart” deal he cut with Epstein as U.S. attorney in 2008, an escalation from his comments on Monday that Acosta needed to “explain himself” for allowing Epstein to serve 13 months in prison and avoid a federal trial.

Schumer joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in calling for Acosta’s ouster; Pelosi said late Monday that Acosta struck an “unconscionable agreement” with Epstein that was “known” by President Donald Trump at the time.

“I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign. It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor. If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy.”

Appeals court dismisses Emoluments Clause lawsuit in win for Trump

The Hill – The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Maryland and D.C. alleging that President Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, finding that they did not have the standing to sue the president.

The ruling is a major win for Trump, who has frequently sought to prevent others from reviewing his private financial records.

Appeals court seems unsure if Obamacare can survive

Politico – A panel of federal appeals judges aggressively questioned whether Obamacare can survive during Tuesday afternoon oral arguments in a case that could upend the 2010 health care law.

Two Republican appointees on the three-judge panel frequently interrupted attorneys to question whether the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and if not whether the entire law could stand without it. The ACA’s future appeared murky after two hours of oral arguments at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but it’s not clear if the judges were ready to uphold a federal judge’s earlier decision invalidating the law.

This latest legal threat to Obamacare was filed by a group of red states in February 2018, months after Republican-led efforts to repeal the law collapsed in Congress. They argue that Congress’ decision to scrap the individual mandate penalty in its 2017 tax cut rendered the law unconstitutional because the Supreme Court previously upheld the mandate as a valid exercise of taxing power. Congress lowered the penalty for not purchasing health coverage to $0, but the mandate remains on the books.

In December, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor sided with the Republican-led states, shocking legal experts. The lawsuit was once seen as a long-shot, but it’s received serious consideration by Republican-appointed judges.

Appellate Judge Jennifer Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee, on Tuesday posited that lawmakers — who failed to agree on an Obamacare replacement plan two years ago — deliberately eliminated the mandate penalty because they knew the rest of the law would have to fall. She said perhaps lawmakers thought, “Aha, this is the silver bullet that’s going to undo Obamacare.”

Attorneys for the 20 Democratic-led states that are defending the law, as well as the Democratic-controlled House, countered that Congress clearly intended for the rest of the law to survive when it eliminated the mandate penalty.

Cops getting access to PRIVATE license plate readers

AJC – DeKalb police officers will soon tap into private license plate readers stationed in communities across the county.

The county commission voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve an agreement with Flock Safety, an Atlanta-based company that markets itself as a crime-solving tool for neighborhoods.

Communities can purchase one of Flock’s license plate readers for their area, using the device to log the license plate numbers of cars that pass by. They can read plates on cars going up to 75 mph, during both day and night and from up to 75 feet away, according to Flock’s website.

The neighborhoods that have Flock cameras can now opt into the public-private partnership with the DeKalb County Police Department, at no cost to the county.

Police officials said investigators will use the cameras to investigate specific crimes, and not to monitor everyday drivers.

HHS SPENDING $100 BILLION PER MONTH

CNS News – For the first time in our nation’s history, there is now a federal department spending an average of more than $100 billion per month.

No, it is not the Department of Defense, which is charged with the core federal responsibility of defending us from foreign enemies.

It is the Department of Health and Human Services, which, if Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has his way, will run the “Medicare for All” program.

As it now stands, HHS runs Medicare for many and Medicaid for more.

“In 2019, the program will cover an estimated 61 million persons (52 million aged and 9 million disabled),” the Congressional Research Service said of Medicare in a report published in May.

Desperate to get rid of LA homeless, some using prickly plants, fences, barriers

LA Times – With dirt, they can weigh hundreds of pounds. The makeshift planter boxes are Peter Mozgo’s creations — roughly 140 of them lined up on the sidewalk to prevent homeless people from pitching tents outside his business.

Mozgo acquires the boxes from a Bell Gardens company that imports ginger, paints them firetruck red, pays $120 per cubic yard for dirt and then uses a $900 trailer to haul it all back to his neighborhood on the south end of downtown Los Angeles.

Like many L.A. residents and business owners, the 49-year-old says he is frustrated by the growing homelessness crisis — and the city’s often uneven response to it.

So as the city struggles to clear encampments and get a handle on the trash and chaos that sometimes emanate from them, Mozgo and others increasingly are taking matters into their own hands, putting obstacles in public spaces to protect their homes and businesses. By doing that, they can make homeless people feel unwelcome.

Every day, Mozgo says, he evaluates the condition of South Hope Street between Washington Boulevard and 18th Street: “How many tents do we have today? And who came in? And who moved out? And who flipped my boxes? And who graffiti-ed the front of my work?”

L.A. has struggled to stymie the growing number of obstructions that residents and business owners are creating to target homeless people. There are now about 59,000 people without homes in L.A. County. Within the city of Los Angeles, the population soared 16% this year to more than 36,000 — the majority of whom are living outdoors on city streets.

New Florida law targets sex trade and trafficking at spas and hotels

Palm Beach Post – Months after a high-profile prostitution bust netted New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on charges of soliciting sex at a Jupiter spa, a new state law aims to drive down demand in the sex trade industry and curb human trafficking.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 27 signed into law a requirement that spas and hotels teach staff to spot signs of sex trafficking and all law enforcement officers complete four-hour training on how to investigate the crime.

State officials also will put up $250,000 to establish a nonprofit to help agencies track traffickers and care for victims.

To deter the demand for prostitution, the state will build a public registry of “johns” convicted of soliciting a prostitute, similar to the list that tracks sex offenders or the database of state prisoners.

U.S. fighter jets to get ‘UFO trackers’.

Daily Mail – New trackers on U.S. fighter jets could make it easier for them to detect UFOs, an aviation expert has said.

The infrared search and track systems (IRSTs) are designed to hunt down enemy planes – but could also have the side-effect of helping pilots to investigate unexplained objects.

Military writer Tyler Rogoway said the technology has existed for decades but is now ‘exponentially more capable’ and could be a ‘revolutionary’ step in gathering UFO data.

Writing for The War Zone, of which he is the editor, he said the Navy’s Super Hornet fleet and Air Force planes including the F-15C are due to get the sensors in the near future.

The new technology ‘could result in a major breakthrough, or at least a major uptick, when it comes to detecting and gathering information on so-called unidentified flying objects, if they are indeed out there,’ he said.

It ‘could even serve as the final technological element needed to springboard potentially revolutionary data collection on the phenomenon,’ he added.

As a result the Pentagon may get ‘more than it bargained for’ with the new technology, he suggested.

The IRSTs would be able to detect more because of their highly sensitive equipment and fast computer processing, Rogoway said.

Economy & Business

Powell sets stage for rate cut

CNBC – Stocks jumped to record highs Wednesday after testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell bolstered the case for easier monetary policy in the U.S.

The S&P 500 gained 0.6% to break above 3,000 for the first time ever as the energy and tech sectors outperformed. The Nasdaq Composite also hit an all-time high, rising 1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 195 points to a record, led by Chevron and American Express.

Amazon shares rose 1.2% and broke above $2,000 per share. FedEx shares climbed more than 1% after Goldman Sachs added them to their conviction buy list.

In prepared testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, Powell said business investments across the U.S. have slowed “notably” recently as uncertainties over the economic outlook linger.

“Crosscurrents have reemerged,” Powell said. “Many FOMC participants saw that the case for a somewhat more accommodative monetary policy had strengthened. Since then, based on incoming data and other developments, it appears that uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook.”

Gold prices jumped on the remarks, trading 0.7% higher at $1,407.21 per ounce. The 2-year Treasury rate, meanwhile, fell to 1.86%.

Powell will deliver his testimony at 10 a.m. ET and answer questions from lawmakers.

Pelosi: Debt limit vote possible before August recess

Roll Call – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday didn’t rule out voting on a debt limit increase before the August recess, though she indicated the need to raise the discretionary spending caps for fiscal 2020 is still an integral part of the discussions.

“Let’s see how the conversations go,” she said. “We certainly do not want any thought of default on the part of the full faith and credit of the United States of America. That’s never been what we’ve been about, but there are those on the Republican side who have embraced that again and again.”

Estimates from the Treasury Department and the Congressional Budget Office have put the deadline for raising the debt limit, required for the U.S. to continue to be able to pay for all government services and benefits, sometime in the latter half of 2019, likely by early October.

Mexican-made autos stream across border at record rate..

CNBC – Remember President Donald Trump’s threat to slap a tariff on every product the U.S. imports from Mexico? That threat in early June, which the president later dropped, had auto executives worried.

The latest numbers from Mexico shows why so many in the auto industry were so concerned.

Mexican factories sent 1.37 million vehicles north of the border during the first half of this year — making up 16.3% of the U.S. auto market, according to Mexican auto industry trade group, the Asociacion Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz.

That’s up 13% over the same time last year and setting up 2019 for another record-breaking year for Mexican auto imports. A record 2.6 million vehicles were imported from Mexico to the U.S. in 2018, making up 15% of the U.S. auto market, according to the Mexican auto industry’s latest report released Monday.

In June alone, automakers exported just under 250,000 new cars, trucks and SUVs to the U.S., an increase of 9.2% compared with the same month last year.

Energy & Environment

Ridgecrest quake mystery: Why so little destruction?

LA Times – After major temblors on July 4 and 5, structural engineers descended on Ridgecrest expecting to study destruction from the largest earthquake to hit Southern California in nearly 20 years.

They found relatively little.

Yes, mobile homes were torn off foundations, chimneys fell, gas lines leaked and some homes caught fire. But overall, most buildings did fine — and many businesses were up and running within a day or two of the biggest shock, a magnitude 7.1.

“Ridgecrest, I’m just amazed,” California Earthquake Authority structural engineer Janiele Maffei said of the light damage.

Fears over radioactive waste, nuke plant

Mercury News – What would happen to the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in a big earthquake?

The answer, of course, depends on exactly where the quake is centered and how much the ground beneath the plant shimmies and shakes. But one horrific scenario can be ruled out, despite frequent comparisons of San Onofre to Chernobyl and Fukushima:

There can be no core meltdowns at San Onofre, because its reactors have been shut down for seven years. Nuclear fuel has been removed from them. Atoms are no longer split at the site.

Instead, the risks at San Onofre center on how its 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive waste — produced over some 40 years of generating electricity for California — are stored and safeguarded.

Currently, the majority of San Onofre’s radioactive waste cools in spent fuel pools adjacent to the reactor domes. Those pools are far more vulnerable to the elements than the dry storage systems that will eventually house the waste, and where it will likely remain for decades until the federal government finds it a permanent home — but that’s another story.

While pools require electricity and water to keep fuel cool, dry storage systems do not. Earthquake-inspired power outages could cripple pools, but not dry storage systems, which are deemed “passive.”

San Onofre’s dry storage employs massive slabs of concrete designed to withstand more than twice the ground-shake as the spent fuel pools and the reactor itself. Inside those dry systems — designed by Holtec and Areva — nuclear waste is housed in steel canisters.

The thickness of those canisters continues to be a matter of some debate, but experts say that the sooner nuclear waste moves to dry storage, the safer Southern California will be.

“I am more worried about the spent fuel left in the pools at San Onofre than about the fuel that has been transferred to dry casks,” said Edwin Lyman, acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project with the nonpartisan and nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C.

“If a large earthquake tore the liner of a pool, causing a rapid loss of cooling water, there is a risk of a spent fuel pool fire that could cause a large dispersal of radioactive material,” he said. “Although the risk decreases as the spent fuel cools and the pools empty out, it does not go to zero as long as there is fuel in the pools.”

The last fuel assemblies were removed from San Onofre’s reactors in 2012 and have been cooling in the pools for about seven years, said Southern California Edison spokesman John Dobken.

Up to 2 feet of rain to deluge Gulf states as Barry brews offshore

Accuweather – Residents along the Gulf Coast should begin bracing for heavy rainfall and a possible damaging storm surge as the formation of a tropical storm — the second named system of the Atlantic hurricane season — is increasingly looking like a certainty late this week. Tropical Storm Barry has a 90 percent chance of forming, AccuWeather forecasters say, and, depending on the track it takes, the storm could flirt with becoming a hurricane before making landfall.”AccuWeather meteorologists believe this system will become a tropical depression on or before Thursday and Tropical Storm Barry by Friday,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

New high temperature records set in Alaska; Mercury soars to 91

Accuweather – Days after Anchorage reached the 90-degree Fahrenheit mark for the first time in recorded history, all-time and daily records continue to fall as a sweltering heat wave leaves Alaska sizzling.

In the far western portion of the state, the heat sent the mercury to an all-time record high in the city of Bethel. A temperature of 91 F was recorded on Monday, which would surpass the previous all-time record of 90 set on June 17, 1926. However, a technical problem with a weather station at the Bethel airport has left meteorologists with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Anchorage unwilling to declare a record has been set.

Science & Technology

First baby in U.S. born from transplanted womb of dead donor

NBC – The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio says it has delivered the first baby in North America from a womb transplanted from a dead donor.

Uterine transplants have enabled more than a dozen women to give birth, usually with wombs donated from a living donor such as a friend or a relative. In December, doctors in Brazil reported the world’s first birth using a deceased donor’s womb.

Through this research, we aim to make these extraordinary events ordinary for the women who choose this option,” transplant surgeon Andreas Tzakis said in a statement on the hospital’s website. “We are grateful to the donor. Their generosity allowed our patient’s dream to come true and a new baby to be born.”

These types of transplants were pioneered in Sweden, where the first successful procedure was performed five years ago.

The Cleveland hospital said Tuesday that the girl was born in June. The clinic has done five uterus transplants so far and three have been successful, with two women waiting to attempt pregnancy with new wombs.

Health

More reports of rare illness marked by muscle weakness and paralysis

The Philadelphia Inquirer – A mysterious disease marked by muscle weakness or paralysis struck 233 people in 2018, most of them children — marking the worst year since the federal government started tracking the illness in 2014.

The number of confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis included 11 each in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The year’s total was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cause is thought to be a virus, leading to damage to the spinal cord, but much about the illness remains unclear, CDC physicians said in a conference call. A prime suspect is a type of enterovirus called D68, yet most people who become infected with it do not develop muscle weakness.

The disease has struck 11 people so far this year, the agency said. That number is not expected to go much higher, as the illness so far has followed a biannual pattern, spiking in 2014, 2016, and 2018.

Milk tests reveal widespread contamination

Mercola – Recent tests reveal a significant portion of conventional nonorganic cow’s milk sold in the U.S. contain pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics, including some that are not legally permitted in dairy production. Organic milk, on the other hand, was not found to contain these contaminants.

Of the 35 conventional milk samples tested, 60% contained antibiotics, including amoxicillin, oxytetracycline, sulfamethazine, sulfadimethoxine and sulfathiazole.

Between 26% and 60% of the conventional milk samples contained pesticides, including chlorpyrifos (59%), atrazine (26%), diazinon (60%), cypermethrin (49%) and permethrin (46%), which may pose health risks to children.

Organic milk has a healthier ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 than conventional. According to previous research, organic milk contains 25% less omega-6 fats and 62% more omega-3 fats than conventional milk.

While the U.S. FDA and the USDA insist raw milk will increase your risk of death and disease, foodborne illness statistics offer no support for such claims. In fact, data analysis reveals you’re 35,000 times more likely to get sick from any other food than raw milk

‘Astronomical’ US drug prices see people drive to Canada for life-saving insulin

RT – Big Pharma’s price-gouging has forced a group of Americans to take a 15-hour drive across the border to Canada just to buy life-saving drugs and avoid the “astronomical cost” at home, one of the trip’s organizers told RT.

In the US, the price of insulin has nearly doubled in five years. In order the get the life-saving medicine, a group of people from Minnesota recently spent 15 hours driving more than 815 miles in a bus to Canada, where it is much cheaper.

Many Americans just can’t afford to buy the drugs they desperately need at home, the trip’s co-organizer Quinn Nystrom told RT, adding that the price difference across the border is “huge.”

I just went to CVS in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The retail price of the vial [of insulin] is $340. When I went to London, Ontario to pick it up at Walmart pharmacy there, in US dollars the retail price was $26.

“From the high cost of insulin, I’ve had to go into debt because of it,” she said. “I’ve had to put it on credit card. I’ve had to reach out to family members to help me pay for it because it had gotten too expensive, and I can’t cover it because of astronomical cost.”

Pet News

Sweetener in foods deadly for dogs, FDA cautions

USA Today – The Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update Tuesday warning pet parents about the dangers of xylitol, a sugar substitute found in human foods and some health products.

While xylitol isn’t dangerous to humans, it can be deadly to dogs. It’s used in foods such as nut butters and sugar-free desserts, including “skinny” ice cream. Chewable vitamins, mouthwash and toothpaste may also contain the sweetener.

The warning came along with a video that cautioned dog owners to check the label of any human food or treats they are planning on giving their dog to make sure it doesn’t include xylitol.

The FDA encourages pet owners to keep items out of your dog’s reach. For example, if you keep gum in your purse, make sure your bag is put where your dog can’t get to it. If you keep toothpaste on your bathroom counter, make sure your dog isn’t able to hop up and reach it.

“Today’s Consumer Update and video are designed to increase awareness among dog owners that xylitol can be dangerous and deadly, and that dogs who eat it need immediate veterinary care,” FDA spokesperson, Lindsay Haake told USA TODAY in an email.

Foods that can contain xylitol include:

  • breath mints
  • Sugarless gum
  • baked goods
  • cough syrup
  • children’s and adult chewable vitamins
  • mouthwash
  • toothpaste
  • some peanut and nut butters
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • dietary supplements
  • sugar-free desserts, including “skinny” ice cream

The list isn’t exhaustive of all the foods that contain xylitol, so make sure to check the label on any human foods or treats that you’re giving to your dog

Good News

Parents Hiring ‘Coaches’ To Help Raise Kids Phone-Free

CBS – A new type of parenting coach is gaining in popularity. As reported in the New York Times, they are paid to help raise your child to be phone-free.

One woman runs a network of 500 coaches that includes a training system. They charge $80 in smaller cities and up to $250 in larger cities.

Screen consultants come into home or schools, to remind parents how people parented before.

Their recommendations include “movement,” like playing or painting.

Some suggest a lifestyle change, like getting an animal that children can spend time with.

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