News and Headlines. 9/18/2019

News and Headlines: In The News, Politics, World News, Commentary/ Opinion.

In The News:

Top officials disciplined over ant bites at Georgia VA nursing home

Logo of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Logo of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
(Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“What happened at Eagles’ Nest was unacceptable, and we want to ensure that veterans and families know we are determined to restore their trust in the facility.

Transparency and accountability are key principles at VA, and they will guide our efforts in this regard,” Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone said in a statement on Tuesday.

The department also plans to “realign” its Office of Network Support, a move it says “will streamline [the] VA’s adverse action reporting processes by ensuring issues are quickly reported from local and regional officials to VHA leaders.”

All personnel will be retrained in how to report urgent issues through the proper chain of the command, the VA added.

The ant infestation enraged lawmakers, who called for VA accountability.

20 Arrested, 18 Charged in String of Violent Robberies in Minneapolis

A still-frame from surveillance footage of a violent robbery in which multiple suspects ambushed a man
A still-frame from surveillance footage of a violent robbery in which multiple suspects ambushed a man in Minneapolis and beat him brutally.
(Minneapolis Police Department/CNN)

Prosecutors with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said on Monday, Sept. 16 that the suspects range in age from 15 to 27 and are believed to have taken part in two separate attacks in downtown Minneapolis in August.

Both robberies and associated assaults were captured on video.

Prosecutors said all the adults and juveniles were charged with a sole count or combination of attempted first-degree robbery, first-degree robbery, aiding and abetting first-degree robbery, and third-degree riot. All the charges are felonies except for the riot charges.

Four of the suspects in the two robberies were 15-years-old and their names and charges were not made public.

Baltimore restaurant’s dress code accused of discrimination: ‘This is racist as hell’

A Baltimore restaurant is under fire before it has even opened.

When an image appeared on social media showing the establishment’s dress code — posted on the gate outside — some users complained that the rules seemed to be discriminating against certain customers.

Others, meanwhile, defended the restaurant for trying to maintain a particular atmosphere.

Alleged Detroit serial killer charged in murders of four women

Deangelo Martin

Deangelo Martin, 34, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of felony murder.

He had already been charged in the stabbing and sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in May and the kidnapping and assault of a 51-year-old woman in June.

Investigators have said they believe all four women were sex workers. All of the victims’ bodies were found face down with a used condom beside them.

A coroner determined that two of the victims died of blunt force trauma but the other two bodies were badly decomposed and the coroner was unable to determine their cause of death.

Worthy said investigators were examining two other homicides to determine whether Martin was tied to those killings.

Inside Trump’s immigration tent courts: Controversial system meant to fast-track asylum backlog

They are the temporary courtrooms set up as part of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — known colloquially as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

That policy, established earlier this year, involves sending migrants who are trying to claim asylum back to Mexico during their proceedings — instead of releasing them into the U.S. while their cases are heard.

This means, officials say, that cases can be heard more quickly — within as little as 40-60 days, as opposed to the years it sometimes takes after family units are released into the U.S.

They say that’s better for the migrants, as it leaves them in limbo for less time.

But they argue it also serves as a disincentive for Central American migrants who do not have legitimate asylum claims but might otherwise get into the U.S. by claiming “credible fear” of returning home.

Rhode Island girl, 6, nearly dies after contracting rare mosquito-borne EEE virus: ‘We could have lost her’

Late last month, 6-year-old Star Jackman, of Coventry, came home from her second day of school complaining of a headache. Her symptoms worsened over the next few days; Star developed a fever and began to vomit.

On Sept. 1, her parents, Reginald and Jessica Jackman, took the young girl to a local clinic. Roughly half an hour later, the little girl was in an ambulance on the way to Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Doctors were unable to pin down exactly what was ailing Star, whose heart-rate plummeted at one point, reported Patch.

The normally vibrant girl was so weak that she had trouble lifting her head.

Facebook auto-generation tech still being used to boost Islamic State, al-Qaeda: complaint

Getty Images

The nonprofit National Whistleblower Center’s updated complaint accuses Facebook of having provided a tool allowing dozens of pages to be produced that promote or represent the two extremist groups.

The update was first reported by The Associated Press.

The filing states that nearly 200 auto-generated pages reference the Islamic State while dozens more point to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

The AP reported that the nonprofit plans to file the update to its complaint this week.

The report comes as members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee were slated to question representatives from a number of social media platforms on Wednesday including Monika Bickert, who is in charge of Facebook’s attempts to curtail extremist messaging.

‘America Was Never Great!’: Communist Group Burns American Flag As Trump Visits

Revolution Club Los Angeles tweeted out a video Wednesday of members burning the American flag and chanting “America was never great!”

A clash broke out shortly after as a pro-Trump counter-protester tried to break into the circle, the New York Post reported.

The group wrote that they had a message for President Donald Trump: “Fuck you & the shithole system u rule over!”

Trump was attending a fundraiser nearby hosted by Republican donor Geoffrey Palmer, the Post reported.

US Navy confirms UFO’s are real

US Navy confirms multiple UFO videos are real.

Navy acknowledges UFO videos in statement; reaction from UFO expert Nick Pope.

Pennsylvania man dropped explosives on ex-girlfriend’s property from a drone: prosecutors

Jason Muzzicato, 44, was taken into custody in Washington Township in Northampton County by the FBI and local authorities after he was linked to the explosions.

Neighbor Charles Carcione, whose surveillance cameras caught at least one of the explosions, told the news outlet he thinks the explosive devices were filled with other dangerous materials.

“One day, I was in the driveway doing something. All of a sudden, I heard them. It rained nails,” he said. “They came out of the sky.

They dropped down from the sky. Nobody was around. Nobody went by and threw them. They dropped from the sky.”

Pennsylvania State Sen Mike Folmer, Grandfather Of 7, Charged With Possession Of Child Pornography


“I will continue to say it — no one is above the law, no matter what position of power they hold. I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable,” Shapiro said when he announced the charges against Folmer on Tuesday night.

Tumblr, a blogging platform, notified the state attorney general’s office after the lawmaker allegedly received a pornographic image of a child to its platform, reported The Washington Post.

Folmer allegedly told police he used Tumblr to view child pornography, and that he was dealing with “some personal problems,” according to the Patriot-News.

Dem donor Ed Buck arrested, charged with running drug den

Prosecutors say Ed Buck injected a 37-year-old man with meth and was operating a drug den; Jonathan Hunt reports from Los Angeles.


CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall

Nine Democratic White House hopefuls will attend the town hall in Los Angeles on Oct. 10 — coinciding with the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, CNN wrote in a news release.

During the 4 ½-hour event, candidates will appear back to back in half-hour interviews in which they will take questions from a CNN moderator as well as the audience, the news release said.

California Adds Iowa to ‘Travel Ban’ Due to its Refusal to Cover Gender Transitions in Medicaid

A 2016 state law prohibits publicly funded travel to states that do not uphold LGBTQ rights. The ban already encompassed Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi, according to Fox News.

Some California lawmakers and state sports teams have transitioned to private funding to work around the travel ban, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“This narrow provision simply clarifies that Iowa’s Civil Rights Act does not require taxpayer dollars to pay for sex reassignment and other similar surgeries,” her spokesman, Pat Garrett, said in a statement, Fox News reported.

“This returns us to what had been the state’s position for years,” he continued.

Poll: Biden leads Democratic field by 10 points in Florida

Getty Images

Biden has support received 34 percent of the state’s Democratic primary voters surveyed in the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) poll.

He’s followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who is backed by 24 percent and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who is got 14 percent of the vote.

The top three have a significant edge over the rest of the field and are the only candidates getting double digits.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) is in fourth place with 5 percent and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) rounds out the top five with 4 percent of the vote.

Kamala Harris plunges in two new Democratic primary polls

The California senator stands at 5 percent support in Iowa in a survey commissioned by the progressive organization Focus on Rural America.

That’s down 13 percentage points from her 18 percent support in the group’s previous poll, which was conducted in July.

The Iowa survey’s release came a day after an NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll has Harris in fifth place at 5 percent.

That’s down 8 points from her 13 percent showing in the July poll.

Congress plans to investigate how social media giants are fighting hate

Mark Wilson via Getty Images

The bill would create a “national commission” at the Department of Homeland Security. The commission would have the authority to hold hearings and issue subpoenas.

It would also create a social media task force to coordinate the government’s response to security issues. The legislation could be introduced as soon as next week, The Washington Post says.

Today, representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared in a hearing before Senate lawmakers.

The hearing questioned whether the platforms have become conduits for real-world violence.

All three companies say they’ve improved their systems, but some lawmakers say they’re not doing enough.

Pelosi comes out against ‘Medicare-for-all,’ tells 2020 Democrats to follow ObamaCare blueprint

On this Sept. 12, 2019, photo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at the Capitol in Washington. The good news is that it doesn’t look like a bitterly polarized Washington will stumble into another government shutdown. But as Democrats controlling the House unveil a stopgap, government-wide spending bill to keep the lights on and pay the troops, there’s scant evidence that power sharing in the U.S. Capitol will produce further legislative accomplishments anytime soon. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pelosi appeared on CNBC’s “Mad Money” Tuesday and was asked by host Jim Cramer what direction the party should take with regard to spending and health care.

“We think the right path is the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi replied. “And that is a path to healthcare for all Americans.”

Pelosi said Democrats can focus on more expansive government options after they win back the White House and control of Congress but should temper their expectations in the meantime.

California governor signs Uber, Lyft bill

“Workers would have to sue for enforcement, and that’s not a very practical way to enforce rights. We thought it would be practical to take the Dynamex decision, to codify it into law rather than have five or 10 years of lawsuits,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), the prime sponsor of AB 5, told The Hill last month.

“We’re in this new economy, this tech economy, but in reality it’s work.”

A Newsom spokesman said the governor would continue to negotiate a middle ground between the legislators who support AB 5 and the technology companies that so vehemently opposed it.

Those companies are gearing up for war. Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, all based in California, said they would put up $30 million each toward a ballot measure meant to overturn the bill.

Trump administration revokes California’s authority to set auto mileage standards

Trump announced the move Wednesday, saying the decision was made “in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer,” while making cars safer at the same time.

“This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

California’s authority to set its own emissions standards tougher than the federal government’s goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970.

The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.

The Trump administration decision revokes that waiver, touching off what is sure to be another high-profile legal fight with the Golden State.

Senior HUD official reprimanded for Hatch Act violations

Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton. | Kathy Willens/AP Photo

The OSC issued Patton a warning letter after determining that both activities violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits executive branch officials from certain political activity while on duty.

But the office also “decided her violations do not warrant disciplinary action,” Erica Hamrick, deputy chief of the OSC’s Hatch Act Unit, wrote in a letter Wednesday to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which brought the initial complaints against Patton.

“Although OSC concluded that Ms. Patton violated the Hatch Act by unwittingly displaying a campaign hat in her office and ‘liking’ partisan political tweets on her official Twitter account, we have decided not to pursue disciplinary action and are closing our files without further action,” Hamrick wrote.

Pa. Sen. Folmer resigns day after being charged with possession of child pornography

PennLive/The Patriot-News FILE: Senator Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, resigned from his Senate seat on Wednesday after being charged with possession of child pornography. Joe Hermitt, PennLive PennLive/The Patriot-News

Folmer, 63, was in the first year of his fourth term of office.

A statement released by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, announcing the resignation, said, “We are sickened and disturbed by the charges brought against Mike Folmer yesterday.

We have reviewed the criminal complaint and spoke with Mike Folmer early this morning to insist on his resignation from the Senate.

We are in receipt of his letter of resignation and the 48th Senatorial District seat is now vacant.”

Trump names Robert O’Brien as new national security adviser

Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso says Robert O’Brien has a long and distinguished history and will serve well in his position as the new national security adviser.

World News:

Trump says there are many options short of war with Iran after attack on Saudis

Saudi defence ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malik displays remains of the missiles which Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility, during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019.
Saudi defence ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Malik displays remains of the missiles which Saudi government says were used to attack an Aramco oil facility, during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

“There are many options. There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we’ll see,” Trump told reporters in Los Angeles. “I’m saying the ultimate option meaning go in — war.”

Trump, who earlier said on Twitter that he had ordered the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase sanctions on the country of Iran!” told reporters the unspecified, punitive economic measures would be unveiled within 48 hours.

Trump’s tweet followed repeated U.S. assertions that the Islamic Republic was behind Saturday’s attack and came hours after Saudi Arabia said the strike was a “test of global will”.

Rare Hong Kong train derailment injures at least 8 amid protests

Paramedics rushed the injured, who suffered neck pain or minor abrasions, to the hospital, Reuters reported.

Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen, chairman of MTR Corp., offered an apology.

“We will work together with the government to find out the truth as soon as possible so as to continue to provide safe services,” he said.

MTR Corp. has closed train stations, a target of vandalism during Hong Kong’s unrest, to stop protests. Train derailments in the region have been rare.

Israel’s Netanyahu Fails to Win Majority in Close Election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Likud party headquarters following the announcement of exit polls during Israel's parliamentary election in Tel Aviv, Israel on Sept. 18, 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Likud party headquarters following the announcement of exit polls during Israel’s parliamentary election in Tel Aviv, Israel on Sept. 18, 2019. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

The outcome, according to almost complete results published on Wednesday, dealt a new blow to Israel’s longest-serving leader who was already weakened by the inability to put together an administration after an inconclusive election in April.

But with coalition-building again key to forming a government, it could be days or even weeks before it becomes clear whether the politician hailed by supporters as “King Bibi” has been dethroned after a decade in power.

With Israeli media reporting more than 90 percent of votes counted in Tuesday’s election, the bloc led by Netanyahu’s Likud party was more or less even with a likely grouping headed by Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party.

U.S. Citizen Whelan Says In Moscow Courtroom He Was Set Up

Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants' cage prior to a hearing of his lawyers' appeal against his arrest-term extension at the Moscow City Court in on September 17.
Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants’ cage prior to a hearing of his lawyers’ appeal against his arrest-term extension at the Moscow City Court in on September 17.

A former U.S. Marine, Whelan, 48, said an officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service with whom he had been friends for 10 years put a flash drive into his pocket while visiting his hotel room.

Whelan then was arrested and caught “red-handed” with state secrets, Russian prosecutors allege.

He said he had “no idea” what was on the drive.

A former U.S. Marine, Whelan, 48, said an officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service with whom he had been friends for 10 years put a flash drive into his pocket while visiting his hotel room.

Whelan then was arrested and caught “red-handed” with state secrets, Russian prosecutors allege.

He said he had “no idea” what was on the drive.

American bookie found dead in Costa Rica year after kidnapping: report

“We can confirm Costa Rican authorities identified the remains of a U.S. citizen in Costa Rica,” a United States State Department spokesperson said in a statement to the outlet.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death.”

The 43-year-old, of West Virginia, was abducted on Sept. 24, 2018, after leaving his office in San Pedro, the OIJ said.

Traffic officers had pulled over Creighton in the Granadilla de Curridabat neighborhood at 10 p.m. when four men in a gray pickup truck grabbed him.

The kidnappers demanded a $5 million ransom from his relatives the following morning, investigators said. They ultimately paid a $1 million sum.


Photographer removes our smartphones to show our strange and lonely new world


US photographer Eric Pickersgill has created “Removed,” a series of photos to remind us of how strange that pose actually is.

In each portrait, electronic devices have been “edited out” (removed before the photo was taken, from people who’d been using them) so that people stare at their hands, or the empty space between their hands, often ignoring beautiful surroundings or opportunities for human connection.

The results are a bit sad and eerie—and a reminder, perhaps, to put our phones away.

Left vs. Fact: Male and Female – What’s So Confusing?

Singer Sam Smith has come out as gender non-binary, identifying as they/them.

It’s all very woke but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s still biologically male.

Ashley McGuire, author of “Sex Scandal:

The Drive to Abolish Male and Female,” explains the confusion surrounding gender identity.

The Narrative vs The Truth: Big Oil

Here is the first episode of our new series, The Narrative vs The Truth.

Jason takes on the narratives around the oil industry.

Do Americans Trust the News Media?

News journalists aren’t even trying to appear neutral anymore. Are Americans noticing the bias?

Will Witt takes the “trust pulse” of the public in front of CNN HQ.