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Scores of tigers rescued from infamous Thai temple have died: media

Top Stories - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 04:47

More than half of the tigers that Thai authorities confiscated in 2016 from an infamous Tiger Temple tourist attraction have died from a viral disease because their immune systems were weakened by inbreeding, media reported. The Buddhist temple west of Bangkok was a tourist destination where visitors took selfies with tigers and bottle-fed cubs until authorities removed its nearly 150 tigers in 2016 in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.


UAW-represented janitors at some GM plants go on strike; impact on auto production unclear

Top Stories - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 01:14

The United Auto Workers had told GM that autoworkers would report for their shifts Sunday even though the union's contract expired at midnight.


Is Texas, long a Republican stronghold, really in play for the Democrats in 2020?

Top Stories - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 01:00

The state has long eluded Democrats, but significant gains in the 2018 midterms and a series of GOP congressional retirements have raised hopes for changeSupporters of Julián Castro gather near the site of the Democratic presidential primary debates on 12 September 2019 in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Eric Gay/APAt a party after the Democratic presidential debate in Houston on Thursday, Texas Democrats reveled in their state’s new status as a “battleground”.There was little effort to conceal their pride in native sons Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke, who are competing alongside top contenders Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.Animated post-debate analysis unfolded in Spanish, English and Spanglish, their conversations strained over the pulse of Selena’s Baila Esta Cumbia and Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello singing Señorita. There were women in cowboy boots and men in bolo ties. As if there was any doubt, posters papered the walls: “We’re Texas Democrats, y’all.”The Lone Star State has long eluded Democrats. But significant gains in the 2018 midterms and a series of Republican congressional retirements – a phenomenon Democrats have gleefully branded a “Texodus” – have raised hopes that 2020 will be a year of sweeping political change.“In my 35 years or 40 years of working for the Democratic party, this has never happened in the state of Texas,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the state party, boomed over the music. “Texas is now the biggest battleground state in the country.”> Beto O’ Rourke lost by 200,000 votes. There were 3.5 million voters last year, Latinos, who did not vote> > Tom PerezIt was John Steinbeck who said: “Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.” More recently, New Yorker writer and Austin resident Lawrence Wright, author of God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, wrote: “Texans see themselves as a distillation of the best qualities of America: friendly, confident, hardworking, patriotic, neurosis-free.”Though Texas as a Republican stronghold is fixed in the popular imagination, significant demographic and cultural shifts – a growing Hispanic population and an influx of newcomers to the cities – are loosening the GOP’s grip. Given the importance of the state in the election of president, accounting for 38 electoral votes and 7% of the electoral college in 2016, this has huge national significance.Suddenly, everyone from House speaker Nancy Pelosi to Republican senator Ted Cruz believes Texas is up for grabs. It was O’Rourke’s spirited Senate run last year, against Cruz, that led many here to believe that the political sands may be shifting.“Texas is going to be hotly contested in 2020,” Cruz said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last week. He was confident that Trump would win, but said the result “will be closer than last time”.Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chair, said his organization chose Houston for the third debate because the state is “in play up and down the ballot”. He said there are millions of Latinos eligible to vote in Texas but who sat out in 2018 and could make a difference in 2020.“Beto O’ Rourke lost by 200,000 votes,” he said at a “Cafecito con Politics” event in Houston on Friday. “There were 3.5 million voters last year – Latinos – who did not vote and could have voted.”Texas has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1976. Donald Trump continued the streak in 2016, but by a far slimmer margin than past nominees.Democrats believe Trump’s unpopularity with suburban women and Hispanic voters could accelerate the political upheaval. ‘1,000 new Texans a day’Texas is often portrayed in popular culture as emblematic of the frontier spirt, populated by God-fearing, gun-loving, rock-ribbed conservatives. The reality is more nuanced. As Wright pointed out, “Texans are hardly monolithic. The state is as politically divided as the rest of the nation. One can drive across it and be in two different states at the same time: FM Texas and AM Texas. FM Texas is the silky voice of city dwellers, the kingdom of National Public Radio. It is progressive, reasonable, secular – almost like California. AM Texas speaks to the suburbs and the rural areas: Trumpland.”Since 2010, 3.5 million new residents have moved to the state. Jobs and affordable housing continue to lure young, college-educated workers to Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, said Lila Valencia, a senior demographer at the Texas Demographic Center.These newcomers, many of them diverse and liberal, are reshaping the political landscape in once-reliably conservative suburban districts. In recent weeks, five Texas Republicans have announced their retirement from Congress, including three who won in 2018 by less than 5%.Among them is Will Hurd, the only black Republican in the House, who beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by less than 1% in 2018. Jones is running again. If she wins, and barring any incumbent losses, the entire 2,000-mile US-Mexico border will be represented by Democrats.After flipping two districts in 2018, Democrats are targeting half a dozen Republican seats in 2020. For their part, Republicans will aim to win back both seats next year. > We have magic in the air right now, so much excitement from all communities but especially the Latino community> > Lina Hidalgo“We have magic in the air right now, so much excitement from all communities but especially the Latino community,” Lina Hidalgo, a 28-year-old Colombian immigrant who beat an incumbent Republican for judge in Harris county, said at an event in Houston. During a later panel, Latina ​organizers and activists ​warned that politicians ​cannot sweep into their communities, “say a few words in Spanish” and expect their vote. The outreach must be sincere - and nuanced. As several speakers stressed, the Hispanic electorate in Texas is not a monolith and immigration is not their only priority.“Every cycle ​[pundits] will start to say ‘Latinos are not going to turn out,’” said Michelle Tremillo, the executive director of the Texas Organizing Project. “It’s infuriating because we know that​ if they have a reason to turn out, they will turn out.”Yet demographic changes​ ​– or anger at Trump – will not transform Texas politics, saids Monica Gomez, the political director of Annie’s List, a progressive group dedicated to electing Democratic women in Texas. She said Democrats must invest heavily in voter registration and mobilization efforts to turn out these new, eligible voters. “We’re going to turn out more Texans than ever in 2020,” she said. “We gain 1,000 new Texans a day. By 2022 there will be more people who are Hispanic than white in the state, so we are really seeing trends that are younger and more diverse.”Despite growing political clout in Texas and around the country, many Hispanic voters say Trump’s nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric makes them feel unsafe.In August, a mass shooting in El Paso left 22 people, many of them Latino, dead. The deadliest attack on Latinos in modern US history, it forced a conversation on immigration, guns and white nationalism. In a Univision Poll released last week, 71% of Texas Latinos said they believed the gunman was a “racist who was influenced by anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican statements made by President Trump”. ‘Keep Texas red’Ahead of the debate, the Texas Democratic party launched an initiative to register 2.6 million new voters, with an emphasis on Hispanics and people under 35. In contrast, Republicans increasingly rely on white, rural voters. The state GOP has duly launched its own effort to “keep Texas red”.In Houston on Thursday, a plane flew above \ the debate venue trailing a banner that read: “Socialism will kill Houston’s economy! Vote Trump 2020!”Amid all the Democratic optimism, some observers say it should be remembered that it has been 25 years since Texas last elected a Democrat to statewide office. And though the state’s electoral votes are a tempting prize, some warn that chasing them will be a waste of time. The party, such critics believe, should focus on winning back traditionally Democratic states in the rust belt, such as Wisconsin and Michigan.In the state itself, Democrats believe the party should absolutely mess with Texas.“Republicans in Texas want us to believe that there was some kind of ‘Beto miracle’ in 2018, that it was a one-time thing and that Democrats are never going to get that close again,” said Tara Pohlmeyer of the liberal advocacy group Progress Texas.“But from everything we’re seeing on the ground it’s clear his campaign was not an outlier. It was just the beginning.”


Saddam Hussein Thought He Knew How to Sink U.S. Battleships

Top Stories - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 00:00

Could it have worked?


Your History Book Lies: Imperial Japan Was Crushed at Pearl Harbor

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 23:42

A major strategic blunder.


Decks collapse during firefighter event; at least 22 injured

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 22:16

A home's multilevel deck collapsed Saturday evening at the Jersey Shore during an event weekend, trapping people and injuring at least 22, including some children, officials said. It was unclear how many people were on or under the decks at the time, or how many were firefighters, but authorities said those who were trapped were quickly removed. The annual convention attracts thousands of current and former firefighters to the resort town.


UK PM claims huge progress in Brexit talks

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 20:35

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday he was making a "huge amount of progress" towards a Brexit deal with the EU, in an interview in which he compared Britain to the Incredible Hulk. "It's going to take a lot of work between now and October 17" when EU leaders gather for their final summit before Britain's scheduled exit from the bloc, he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. In an odd analogy, Johnson compared Britain to the comic book character Hulk.


Over 2,000 fetal remains found at ex-abortion doctor's home

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 18:43

More than 2,000 medically preserved fetal remains have been found at the Illinois home of a former Indiana abortion clinic doctor who died last week, authorities said. The Will County Sheriff's Office said in a news release late Friday that an attorney for Dr. Ulrich Klopfer's family contacted the coroner's office Thursday about possible fetal remains being found at the home in an unincorporated part of Will County in northeastern Illinois. The sheriff's office said authorities found 2,246 preserved fetal remains but there's no evidence medical procedures were performed at the home.


After U.S. court ruling, Honduran newlyweds among migrants clinging to asylum dream

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 16:58

Led by a dream of marrying on U.S. soil, a young Honduran couple traveled thousands of miles from their home in the port city of La Ceiba, narrowly escaping a kidnapping in Mexico before seeking asylum across the border in Texas. First, U.S. authorities sent them back to wait for months in a violent region of Mexico for their asylum hearings. Then a ruling on Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court threatened to scupper their plans -- and those of thousands of other Central American migrants who have traveled through Mexico in pursuit of their own dreams in the United States.


Tropical Storm Humberto likely to become a hurricane after skirting Bahamas

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 16:48

Tropical Storm Humberto in the Atlantic is expected to turn into a hurricane as it moves north of the Bahamas.


Trump lashes out at MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid, tweets that he 'never met' the TV host but that she has 'NO talent' and a 'bad reputation'

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 16:28

Joy-Ann Reid, who recently published a critical book about Donald Trump, was the target of the president's vitriol on Twitter Saturday morning.


W.African leaders agree billion-dollar anti-jihadist plan

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:34

West African leaders on Saturday announced a billion-dollar plan to fight the rising problem of jihadist violence in the region, at a summit in Burkina Faso. The plan, to be funded from 2020 to 2024, was announced at end of the Economic Community Summit of West African States in Ouagadougou, where the ECOWAS nations were joined by Mauritania and Chad. ECOWAS had decided to mobilise "the financial resources of up to a billion dollars for the fight against terrorism", said Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou.


White House says bin Laden son killed in US operation

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:53

The White House announced Saturday that Hamza bin Laden , the son of the late al-Qaida leader who had become an increasingly prominent figure in the terrorist organization, was killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. A statement issued in President Donald Trump's name gave no further details, such as when Hamza bin Laden was killed or how the United States had confirmed his death. Administration officials would provide no more information beyond the three-sentence statement from the White House.


French group to open two hotels in Damascus as airstrikes kill civilians

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:17

Louvre Hotels Group, owned by China's Jin Jiang, has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, it said on Saturday, a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria. The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, also came as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.


Judge rules Confederate statues will remain in Charlottesville despite deadly white nationalist rally

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 13:27

A pair Confederate statues will remain standing in the city of Virginian city Charlottesville where clashes over their removal left a young woman dead.After city officials decided to remove statues of Confederate American Civil War generals Robert E Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, one resident filed a lawsuit to prevent this.


Empty seats give Robert Mugabe fitting farewell in stadium funeral

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 12:32

They came in their thousands, but not - as hoped - in their tens of thousands. There were presidents and heads of government, but none from outside Africa. There was a fly past - but by only six planes. Robert Mugabe’s funeral was a subdued, low energy affair that reflected the host of conflicting emotions surrounding this most divisive of African statesman. It was a fitting send off for a man whose achievements as an African liberation hero and founding father of Zimbabwe will be forever marred by his legacy of economic collapse, international isolation, and political violence.   Harare's 60,000 seat Zimbabwe National Stadium was barely at a third of its capacity as Zimbabwe's military and civilian leadership, a small group of foreign dignitaries, and members of the Mugabe family paid their formal farewell to Mugabe at a five hour ceremony on Saturday. In one of the most discombobulating moments, President Emmerson Mnangagwa praised the man he betrayed and overthrew in a coup two years ago as "our revolutionary icon, statesman, leader, wartime commander, and former president." Robert Mugabe's coffin arrives for a state funeral at Harare's national stadium Credit:  Ben Curtis/AP He went on to pay tribute to Grace Mugabe, the late former president's widow and his political arch enemy, who sat silently throughout the ceremony. Serving and former presidents from Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, paid tribute to him as one of the last of a generation of pan African leaders and icons of the liberation struggle against colonialism. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, the dictator of Equatorial Guinea who has run a brutal and kleptocratic regime since 1979, opened the tributes to Mugabe as a "true African icon in the liberation of the continent from colonialism." Jerry Rawlings, the former president of Ghana, said "he consistently demonstrated his steadfast commitment to our vision of the Africa we want." Large parts of the 60,000 seat stadium were empty during the ceremony  Credit: Themba Hadebe/AP The Chinese and Russian governments appointed their ambassadors to read out tributes rather than sending dignitaries.   The loudest reception from the crowd was for Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, who was booed throughout his speech until he issued an unreserved apology for the recent spate of attacks on migrant workers in South Africa, where thousands of Zimbabweans have moved to seek work.   At that point, the crowd switched to cheering. It was a rare moment of modern statesmanship in a day devoted to the past. After a 21 gun salute from the Zimbabwean army's howitzers and a flypast by six aircraft, the ceremony was over. There was no mention of his record of violence against opponents and allies alike, the thousands slaughtered in the massacres known as the Gukurahundi in the 1980s, or the vast wealth his family amassed while the country was reduced to penury.   In truth, most Zimbabweans are too preoccupied with day-to-day survival to give much thought to the man who liked to think of himself as their liberator. Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa pays his last respects to Robert Mugabe Credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/Reuters The country is in the midst of an economic crisis that has seen running water cut off, electricity reduced to just a few hours a day, and the price of essentials from bread to petrol surge beyond the reach of most ordinary people. Biggie Mutendozora, 45, father of three and a barber, who lives in a working class Harare suburb and stayed away from the funeral, said he disliked Mr Mugabe, but “I do not want to speak bad of the dead." He added: "We got nothing except we all became poor. He was not a good leader." Even those who attended the funeral were preoccupied with daily struggles - although they tended to blame Mr Mnangagwa rather than his predecessor. “When he left office, bread was at two dollars a loaf. Transport was affordable, food was affordable. Right now we are all suffering,” said Fadzai Mutasa, a 42 year old from Harare who attended the funeral. She rejected the suggestion that she was attending as a kind of protest against president Mnangagwa, saying she had come only to pay tribute to Mugabe's "good works." Grace Mugabe walks to pay her last respects to her late husband Credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/Reuters But she then added: “Mugabe would understand when the people were suffering. The current leadership must hear the challenges facing the people - like he did.” It was a sentiment echoed by Itai Chikwenga, 30, who said she credited Mr Mugabe for improving womens’ rights,  then said: "Bread is now 10 dollars. Robert Mugabe would have said “enough is enough, make it one dollar. And it would have been one dollar.” Mugabe may get a less ambivalent reception when his body is flown to his home village of Kutama, a 90 minute drive northwest of Harare for a wake on Sunday. The extended Mugabe family and their neighbours have spent the past week putting up marquees and arranging seating and catering for thousands. Mugabe, who lavished spending on the local Catholic school where he studied as a child, is well respected here. But unease and confusion are following Mugabe literally to the grave.   Mourners hold a portrait of Robert Mugabe Credit: Ben Curtis/AP His body will not be laid to rest for a month, while a mausoleum is constructed at the Heroes Acre national monument, a cemetery where he himself insisted on burying liberation war heroes, including his first wife Sally. His family had wanted to bury him closer to Zvimba, where his mothers and brothers are buried in a patch of rocky ground in a secluded copse. Here there is no fence, no bombastic North-Korean designed monolith, and no armed guards. Only a cluster of black marble headstones shielded from the sun by swaying Massasa trees. In front of his mother and brothers, there is an unused plot just the right size for another modest grave. It is a place where you can imagine a divisive spirit might find rest. But there is no sign of digging.


What El Paso residents really think of hometown presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 11:09

The El Paso native has fought President Trump’s negative portrayal of the border city, but what do residents really think of their hometown presidential hopeful?


Jeered over attacks, S.Africa's president apologises at Mugabe funeral

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 10:45

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa was jeered and whistled at on Saturday during his speech at Zimbabwe ex-leader Robert Mugabe's funeral before he apologised for recent xenophobic attacks. At least 12 people have been killed this month in a surge in violence and mob attacks against foreign-owned businesses in and around Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city. A wave of jeers, boos and whistles interrupted Ramaphosa at the Harare national stadium as he started his eulogy at the state funeral for Mugabe, who died age 95 last week.


US politicians agree on pulling troops out of Afghanistan – but how can they do it and at what risk?

Top Stories - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 10:16

It’s been a week since Donald Trump suddenly cancelled secret talks with the Taliban, after the Afghan group took responsibility for a deadly car bombing in Kabul.Mr Trump’s unprecedented negotiations with the Taliban were aimed at ending America’s longest war and bringing US troops home. It's something the American people have been expecting for a while and both Mr Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, have promised to get done, without success. But disagreements remain on how a withdrawal should happen.


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