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World News

    French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as a global climate crusader but even a watchdog that he created says his government is lagging on its promises to the planet. The High Council for the Climate issued its first report Tuesday night on the French government's climate policy, saying measures are 'too weak' and 'insufficient' to meet Macron's own goals of slashing emissions by 2050. The government promised action within six months. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said climate policies should be 'amplified, given the urgency to fight against climate destabilization, whose effects we are already feeling' — referring to a heat wave currently hitting France and other European countries. The report came the same day as a landmark court ruling holding the French state responsible for failing to rein in health-damaging pollution.
  • North Korean and U.S. officials are holding 'behind-the-scenes talks' to arrange a third summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the fate of the North's expanding nuclear arsenal, South Korea's president said, four months after a second meeting between the leaders in Hanoi collapsed without any agreement. There have been no public meetings between Washington and Pyongyang since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit. But the prospects for a resumption of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy have brightened since Trump and Kim recently exchanged personal letters. Trump called Kim's letter 'beautiful' while Kim described Trump's as 'excellent,' though the contents of their letters have not been disclosed. In a response Tuesday to questions by The Associated Press and six other news agencies, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Trump's and Kim's 'willingness to engage in dialogue has never faded' and that their recent letter exchanges prove that. Moon, a liberal who met Kim three times last year, has made dialogue with the North as a route to forging peace on the Korean Peninsula a centerpiece of his presidency. He has played a central role in facilitating U.S.-North Korean negotiations, even if those efforts have at times been overshadowed by the Trump-Kim talks that he helped broker. Moon said he doesn't see the Hanoi summit as a failure. He said he thinks the meeting served as a chance for both Washington and Pyongyang to better understand each other's positions and 'put everything they want on the negotiating table.' 'The success of denuclearization and the peace process on the Korean Peninsula cannot be determined by a summit or two,' Moon said, adding that discussions in Hanoi will form the basis for future talks. 'Both sides clearly understand the necessity for dialogue,' he added. Despite the deadlocked nuclear negotiations, both Trump and Kim have described their personal relationship as good. When asked whether Kim's recent letter included a mention about another summit, Trump said, 'May be there was.' 'But we, you know, at some point, we'll do that,' Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. 'Getting along very well. He's not doing nuclear testing,' he said. In yet another reminder of North Korea's continued mistrust of the United States, its foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday it won't surrender to U.S.-led sanctions and accused Washington of trying to 'bring us to our knees.' Kim has said the North would seek a 'new way' if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure. Following his setback in Hanoi, Kim traveled to the Russian Far East in April for his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kim also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pyongyang last week for their fifth summit since March last year, and experts say the North's outreach to its traditional allies is aimed at strengthening its leverage with the Trump administration. Moon said he views the North's expanding diplomacy with Beijing and Moscow as a positive development in efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff. 'China and Russia have continued to play constructive roles so far to peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula issue,' he said. 'I hope that China and Russia will play specific parts in helping the North resume dialogue at an early stage.' Moon didn't elaborate whether U.S and North Korean officials had face-to-face meetings and if so where they took place. He also didn't clarify who were interlocutors or how close they were in setting up a third Kim-Trump summit. Trump's top envoy on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is to visit South Korea on Thursday, and some experts said he may use his trip as a chance to meet North Korean officials at a Korean border village. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday the U.S. was prepared to resume talks with North Korea 'at a moment's notice' if the North signaled it wanted discussions about denuclearization. Despite a possible restart of negotiations, it's still unclear whether Washington and Pyongyang can eventually achieve agreements that can satisfy both sides. The Hanoi summit fell apart after Trump rejected Kim's calls for major sanctions relief in return for dismantling his main nuclear complex, something that U.S. officials see as a partial denuclearization step. Kim has since fired missiles and other weapons into the sea and asked Trump to work out mutually acceptable agreements by the end of this December. U.S. officials maintain sanctions on North Korea would remain in place until North Korea takes significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. North Korea has long bristled at the significant U.S. military presence in South Korea, and wants assurances it will not be targeted by the U.S. and South Korea. It sees its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as an insurance policy against military action. In his written replies, Moon said he has found Kim to be a 'flexible yet resolute person' during their talks. He said he believes that Kim's 'unequivocal resolve is to move from the past to the future' by pursuing economic growth over building up a nuclear arsenal. The South Korean leader repeated that Kim has never linked denuclearization with South Korea's military alliance with the U.S. or a pullout of American troops when they met. Separately from the unofficial Washington-Pyongyang talks, Moon said the two Koreas have also been holding dialogue via unspecified 'diverse channels' and repeated that he's ready to meet Kim again at any place and time. 'It depends on Chairman Kim Jong Un,' Moon wrote. 'I am prepared to meet with Chairman Kim in person at any given moment without being restrained by time, place or formalities.' Last year saw a flurry of inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation programs between the Koreas, which have been split along the world's most heavily fortified border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. But North Korea has significantly reduced its dialogue and engagement with South Korea since the end of the Hanoi summit. South Korea is now solely proceeding with a search of Korean War dead at the border, which it was supposed to jointly conduct with North Korea. North Korea has also ignored South Korean proposals for joint efforts to stem the spread of highly contagious African swine fever following an outbreak in the North. Moon, who has stressed that South Korea should be in the 'driver's seat' in international efforts to deal with North Korea, reiterated his view that the resumption of inter-Korean economic projects currently held back by the U.N. sanctions would help induce further denuclearization steps from the North. Following the Hanoi summit, Moon had said Seoul would 'consult' with Washington on resuming operations at an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong and restarting South Korean tours to the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort. While acknowledging that the resumption of such joint inter-Korean projects would depend on a substantive progress in U.S.-North Korea talks, Moon said improved economic relations between the Koreas would be 'conductive' to the larger nuclear negotiations. 'History has shown that North Korean nuclear threats diminish when inter-Korean relations are good,' Moon wrote. He said that the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, which Kim offered in Hanoi, could mean that the North's denuclearization process has entered 'an irreversible stage' if it's completely demolished and verified. He said 'substantive process' in U.S.-North Korea diplomacy could also help the international community seek a partial or gradual easing of the U.N. sanctions. Yongbyon has facilities to produce both plutonium and highly enriched uranium, two key nuclear ingredients. North Korea has called the complex 'the heart' of its nuclear program, while many outside experts say it's an aging facility and that North Korea is believed to have additional multiple secret uranium enrichment facilities. Moon repeated earlier claims that Kim has genuine willingness to trade his nuclear weapons for economic and security benefits, but that it would be important to create an environment where the North could focus on taking relevant steps toward disarmament. 'Chairman Kim should be helped along the path toward that goal in a way that sustains his commitment to nuclear dismantlement,' Moon wrote. 'I think creating a security environment where Chairman Kim can decisively act on nuclear dismantlement without worries is the fastest way to achieve denuclearization diplomatically,' Moon added, without specifying the security concessions Washington and Seoul could make.
  • Turkish officials say a van carrying dozens of migrants ignored orders to stop and sped past a police checkpoint in northwest Turkey before crashing into a wall. Ten migrants were killed and some 30 others were injured in the crash. The governor's office for Edirne province said the incident occurred Wednesday in the town of Meric, near Turkey's land border with Greece. It said the van's driver lost control at the town's main intersection and crashed the vehicle into the wall of a store. There was no immediate information on the injured migrants' conditions. Most migrants try to enter European Union member Greece from Turkey by sea, making a relatively short crossing to nearby Greek islands. Others opt to cross by the northern land route, which is longer.
  • Doctors in Rome are warning of possible health hazards caused by overflowing trash bins in the city's streets, as the Italian capital struggles with a renewed garbage emergency aggravated by the summer heat. Trash disposal is a decades-long problem for the Eternal City. Rome was left with no major site to treat the 1.7 million metric tons of trash it produces every year since the Malagrotta landfill was closed in 2013. Successive mayors from different parties have all proved incapable of solving the city's garbage woes, which have re-emerged dramatically since Mayor Virginia Raggi of the populist 5-Star Movement took the helm three years ago. Raggi's administration is facing frustration and anger from both tourists and Romans over the piles of trash that threaten peoples' health and tarnish the city's image. 'We've become the third, fourth world in my opinion,' said Rome resident Rossana Franza. 'Mrs. Raggi should take a small stroll here once and a while. Because in her neighborhood, which I have been to, it is all in order.' Another woman living in Rome who only gave her name as Alessia told The Associated Press that a rat walked by her the other day and she cannot even go outside in the evenings because 'there's an incredible stink.' Animals like dogs, cats and rats or even birds like seagulls pose a serious health risks as they root around in garbage and spread bacterial infections through their waste or urine, Dr. Roberto Volpe from the National Research Council CNR told The Associated Press. 'The main risk for us comes when we take out and throw the trash away,' Volpe warned. 'There's a risk of taking the contamination back home with us. That's why it's important to wash our hands properly afterward.' Volpe also discouraged angry citizens from setting garbage piles on fire, saying that could cause greater health risks through dioxin contamination, which can lead to cancer. Officials in Rome, who are often at odds over the possible solutions to the constant waste emergency, do agree on one thing: the garbage problem needs a long-term solution. 'Let's be honest ... no waste plan can solve a problem aggravated by 60 years of mismanagement in one year,' said Marco Cacciatore, president of the local commission for environmental and city politics in Rome. 'Let's tell the truth to citizens: We are human. This difficult infrastructural situation cannot be resolved in the short term.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey says an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 has struck western Panama. The quake hit early Wednesday, about 20 minutes after midnight local time (0523 GMT), on the nation's western coast just north of La Esperanza at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the quake in the Central American nation.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held meetings in India's capital on Wednesday amid growing tensions over trade and tariffs that has strained the partners' ties. Pompeo called on India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday morning, and later was meeting his counterpart S. Jaishankar. India's foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Pompeo and Modi exchanged 'views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship.' 'Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership,' Kumar tweeted. Pompeo arrived in New Delhi late Tuesday after visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan on a trip aimed at building a global coalition to counter Iran. His visit is the first high-level engagement between the two countries since Modi's reelection last month. The countries call each other a strategic partner despite retaliatory tariffs they imposed on some of the other's goods this month. India imposed tariffs on 28 American products including walnuts and almonds on June 16 in retaliation for the U.S. ending India's preferential trade status on June 1. The Trump administration imposed higher duties on products including aluminum and steel. The visit also comes ahead of the scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and Modi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Japan later this week. The two countries' officials are also likely to discuss India's plans to purchase Russia's S-400 air defense system. U.S. has shown reservations about the deal. But still the U.S. has become India's top defense supplier in last two years. India's trade with the U.S. has also seen steady growth at $150 billion annually. Indian officials say they have little differences with the U.S. over political and strategic issues including on Iran, but they have cautioned the two countries need to be careful on trade and commerce. India stopped oil purchases from Iran after the U.S. sanctions waiver ran out in May but Indian officials have continued working out for a renewal of the waiver amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Indian officials say while they understand the U.S. concerns regarding Iran, their country has taken an economic hit. Before Pompeo's arrival in India, hundreds of supporters of left-wing groups marched in central New Delhi to protest his visit and denounce American policies in the Middle East. They urged the Indian government not to cut off imports of oil from Iran, as the U.S. has demanded. Pran Sharma, a protester, said there was a 'bigger game' behind 'the trade war' between India and the U.S. 'That is the invasion of Iran, for which it (U.S.) is making preparations. How it can get cooperation from India?' he said.
  • The U.S. military said two of its service members were killed on Wednesday in Afghanistan, but did not offer any details surrounding the circumstances of their deaths. The killings occurred a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a quick visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul where he said Washington was hopeful of a peace deal before Sept. 1. It's not clear if the deaths were the result of the war, which at nearly 18 years is America's longest running. More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition invaded in October 2001 to oust the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan's protracted war accelerated last year with the appointment of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who will begin a fresh round of direct talks with the Taliban on Saturday in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office. Khalilzad has held a series of meetings in Kabul as well, in an effort to restart Afghan-to-Afghan of talks that would also include the Taliban. Such a planned meeting was scuttled earlier this year because neither side could agree on participants. The Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling it a U.S. puppet, but have said they would talk with government officials if they arrive at the meeting as ordinary Afghans. Before leaving Afghanistan for India, Pompeo on Tuesday underscored Khalilzad's strategy in the talks, which involves four interconnected issues: counterterrorism, foreign troop presence, inter-Afghan dialogue and a permanent cease-fire. Wednesday's U.S. military statement announcing the killings of the U.S. service members was a terse, two-paragraph announcement. The statement also said the identities of the soldiers would not be released until their families had been notified. Talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban have focused on U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal and guarantees from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not again become a safe haven for terrorists to plan global attack like 9/11. Pompeo said the United States and the Taliban were close to a deal on countering terrorism. Pompeo added that discussions with the Taliban have also begun on U.S. troop withdrawal. 'While we've made clear to the Taliban that were prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we've not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,' Pompeo said. ___ Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report.
  • The U.N. women's agency says in a new report that families around the world can be loving and supporting but too often are the place for discrimination and violence against women — and home is one of the most dangerous places for a woman. U.N. Women's Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told a news conference Tuesday launching the report that's because of 'the shocking pervasiveness of intimate partner violence.' In 2017, for example, every single day 137 women were killed by a family member, she said. While the report recognizes the vital importance of families to cultures and economies, it also says that in every region there are concerted efforts to deny women autonomy and the right to make their own decisions in the name of protecting 'family values.' 'I am here today to say that this is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to stand,' Mlambo-Ngcuka said. 'Women around the world, and their allies, will not allow a roll-back of everything that we have achieved.' Despite great progress in legally eliminating discrimination against women, she said, 'it's no accident' that the slowest progress has been in family laws that govern a woman's right to choose who and when to marry and her right to divorce and inherit money and property. The 287-page report entitled 'Families in a Changing World' provides data on the variety of family forms, based on U.N. population division data from 86 countries around the world of all incomes. According to the data, 38% of households globally are couples living with children, 27% are extended families including other relatives and 8% are one-parent families, the vast majority led by women often juggling paid work, raising children and unpaid domestic work. Households comprising couples without children accounted for about 13%, and one-person households for 12.5%. The report said same-sex families are increasingly visible in all regions, adding that as of last month, 42 countries around the world have granted same-sex couples the right to marry or form a civil union. At the same time, however, it said some 68 countries criminalize consensual sexual relations between partners of the same sex, and in 11 of those countries such relations are punishable by death. Mlambo-Ngcuka said the report shows authoritatively for the first time that families are diverse. It also counters the push-back against women's independence 'by showing that families, in all their diversity, can be critical drivers of gender equality' provided governments adopt policies with women's rights at their core. Shahra Razavi, U.N. Women's chief of research and data, noted other huge changes impacting women. The age of marriage, for example, has increased in every region of the world from 21.9 in 1990 to 23.3 in 2010, she said, which has enabled women to complete their educations, get a foothold in the labor market and support themselves financially. In some cases, Razavi said, women are choosing to delay marriage or live together. For example, she said, 'in some countries in Latin America, southern Africa and Europe up to three-quarters of women aged 25-29 in a relationship are cohabiting.' The report stresses the importance of women having their own income and recommends greater public investments in child care services and in social protection — and paid parental leave to spur women into the job market. Marwa Sharafeldin, a board member of Musawah International Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family, told the launch that the report's first recommendation — to adopt family laws based on equality and non-discrimination to expand women's choices — poses special difficulties for Muslims. Almost all Muslim families laws are hundreds of years old and were based on rulings by jurists at the time, she said. Some condone marital rape, permit husbands to 'discipline' their wife, allow child marriage and polygamy, and restrict women's movements outside the home without their husband's permission. But despite the risks, Sharafeldin said Muslim feminist scholars and activists are developing 'a brave new family jurisprudence ... with gender egalitarian possibilities that are rooted in Muslim scripture.' In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, for example, a legal ruling has banned child marriage and domestic violence, she said. In India, after relentless advocacy by Muslim women, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the practice whereby a husband can divorce his wife on the spot by just saying 'I divorce you' three times, Sharafeldin said. And Tunisia has banned polygamy and Egypt set the age of marriage at 18, Sharafeldin said. She said Musawah International is campaigning this year for a comprehensive reform of Muslim family laws. 'It is time families, in all their diverse forms, become a safe space for women, men and children together,' Sharafeldin said.
  • North Korea said Wednesday it won't surrender to U.S.-led sanctions and accused Washington of trying to 'bring us to our knees.' The statement is yet another reminder that North Korea keeps mistrust of the U.S. though its leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump recently exchanged letters. Their second summit in Hanoi in February ended without any agreement due to disputes over the extent of sanctions relief North Korea should win in return for a limited denuclearization step. The North's Foreign Ministry said it 'will not hesitate to pull a muscle-flexing trigger in order to defend ourselves' if anyone dares to trample over its sovereignty. It accused the U.S. of maintaining hostility toward North Korea. It cited recent U.S. reports on alleged human trafficking and religious crackdowns in North Korea, and comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that some 80-plus percent of the North Korean economy is sanctioned. Pompeo 'let loose a sophistry as if the sanctions are rendering the bilateral talks possible,' said the statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The statement said all these developments show the 'wild dream of the U.S. to bring us to our knees by means of sanctions and pressure has not changed at all but grows even more undisguised.' It said North Korea is 'not a country that will surrender to the U.S. sanctions.' The letter exchanges between Kim and Trump suggested the two leaders hoped to keep diplomacy alive, though there have been no publicly known official meetings between the two countries since the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Trump is scheduled to arrive for a two-day visit to South Korea on Saturday.
  • Hong Kong activists opposed to extradition legislation urged the leaders of the U.S., the European Union and others on Wednesday to raise the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping at this week's G-20 summit in Japan. Beijing has strongly opposed any such discussion, saying Hong Kong matters are strictly an internal Chinese affair. Groups of protesters gathered outside the U.S. and EU consulates on Wednesday morning to deliver petitions stating their requests. Opponents say the bills could allow citizens of all nationalities to be extradited to mainland China for unfair trials and possible torture, reducing Hong Kong's judicial independence and the civil liberties it retained after its handover from British rule in 1997. Hong Kong is an international city whose residents will all be affected by the legislation, regardless of their country of origin, said protester Mandy Wong, a college student. 'That's why it is necessary for other countries or overseas people to pay attention to this extradition bill,' said Wong, 25. Activists held up placards criticizing the legislation and chanted slogans including 'Free Hong Kong.' Protesters aimed to present petitions at 19 consulates and planned further protests Wednesday evening after a scheduled no-confidence vote by lawmakers in the administration of the territory's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Pro-government supporters have a solid majority in the Legislative Assembly and the measure was not expected to pass. Lam's push to pass the extradition bills prompted hundreds of thousands of people to fill Hong Kong's streets in protest marches, while smaller groups have surrounded government offices, the legislature and police headquarters. They are demanding the total withdrawal of the legislation and accountability for heavy-handed police treatment of protesters at a protest earlier this month during which tear gas and rubber bullets were fired. Lam has shelved the legislation and apologized for her handling of the matter, but has declined to respond to other demands. Several foreign governments, along with legal, commercial, human rights and media groups in Hong Kong, have expressed concern about the legislation as well as the Hong Kong government's handling of the protests. In a statement Tuesday in the House of Commons, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he raised the issue with Lam on June 12. He said Britain urges Hong Kong to establish a 'robust, independent investigation' into the violence against protesters, and will not issue further export licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong 'unless we are satisfied that concerns raised on human rights and fundamental freedoms have been thoroughly addressed.' China says it fully backs Lam's administration and has rejected foreign comments on the protests and the extradition issue as interference in its internal affairs. At a daily briefing Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang criticized British officials for making 'irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs.' 'China has expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to that. We urge the British side to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs in any way,' Geng said. At a briefing in Beijing on Monday, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun ruled out any discussion of Hong Kong at the G-20 meeting in the Japanese city of Osaka. 'I can tell you that for sure the G-20 will not discuss the issue of Hong Kong and we will not allow the G-20 to discuss the issue of Hong Kong,' he said. Hong Kong's government 'has taken a series of measures to safeguard fairness and justice of society and to block loopholes in the legal system. We believe what they have done is completely necessary and the central government supports these measures,' he said. ___ Associated Press video journalists Dake Kang and Nadia Lam contributed to this report.
  • Climate change in the Western U.S. means more intense and frequent wildfires churning out waves of smoke that scientists say will sweep across the continent to affect tens of millions of people and cause a spike in premature deaths. That emerging reality is prompting people in cities and rural areas alike to gird themselves for another summer of sooty skies along the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains — the regions widely expected to suffer most from blazes tied to dryer, warmer conditions. “There’s so little we can do. We have air purifiers and masks — otherwise we’re just like ‘Please don’t burn,’” said Sarah Rochelle Montoya of San Francisco, who fled her home with her husband and children last fall to escape thick smoke enveloping the city from a disastrous fire roughly 150 miles away. Other sources of air pollution are in decline in the U.S. as coal-fired power plants close and fewer older cars roll down highways. But those air quality gains are being erased in some areas by the ill effects of massive clouds of smoke that can spread hundreds and even thousands of miles on cross-country winds, according to researchers. With the 2019 fire season already heating up with fires from southern California to Canada, authorities are scrambling to better protect the public before smoke again blankets cities and towns. Officials in Seattle recently announced plans to retrofit five public buildings as smoke-free shelters.
  • First lady Melania Trump announced Tuesday that her director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, has been named as the new White House press secretary. >> Read more trending news  'I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country,' Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter. The first lady said Grisham will also serve as White House director of communications, a position that's been vacant since former Fox News executive Bill Shine left the role in March. Grisham will replace the current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. President Donald Trump announced two weeks ago that Sanders, plans to step down at the end of June. '(Grisham) will be an incredible asset to the President and the country,' Sanders said in a statement posted on Twitter. 'I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy our team will be in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job.' Axios reported President Trump wanted Grisham in the position and that he's said he likes and trusts her. The news site noted she's one of the few officials who has been with President Trump since his campaign. She will continue to serve as the first lady's spokeswoman as well, CNN reported. Grisham will become the fourth woman to serve as White House press secretary. Before serving as the first lady's spokeswoman, Grisham worked under Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer, The Washington Post reported. She also previously worked on Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, according to the newspaper. “During the campaign, she developed a good relationship with the president, and that’s carried through,” Sanders said of Grisham in an interview late last year, according to the Post. “She has developed a great amount of trust from both the president and the first lady, which is a pretty high commodity here. There aren’t a lot of people who have a lot of regular interaction with both of them.”
  • The Forsyth County, Georgia sheriff's office has released body camera footage of the moments deputies rescued an abandoned newborn found in a plastic shopping bag. >> Read more trending news  Neighbors heard a baby crying and discovered 'Baby India' tied up in the bag earlier this month, WSB-TV reported.  The new video shows deputies tearing open the bag to find the newborn with her umbilical cord still attached. The video shows officers frantically wrapping the crying baby in a jacket. She has since been taken into the custody of the Division of Family and Children services' care and is in good health.  Deputies hope releasing the body camera footage will generate more leads and help find the infant's mother. WARNING: Graphic video below. Police are asking anyone with information to call the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office at 770-888-7308. Callers can remain anonymous. 
  • A sleeping passenger on an Air Canada flight said she woke up “all alone” in a “cold, dark” plane after arriving in Toronto earlier this month after a weekend trip to Quebec. >> Read more trending news  Passenger Tiffani Adams recounted what she called a “nightmare” in a social media post shared by a friend June 19. “I wake up around midnight (few hours after flight landed) freezing cold still strapped in my seat in complete darkness (I’m talking pitch black). As someone with an anxiety disorder as is, I can tell you how terrifying this was. I think I’m having a bad dream [because], like seriously, how is this happening!!? Adams said in the Facebook post. She first tried to call a friend, but her cellphone battery died and there was no power in the plane, so she couldn’t recharge it. She said she was “full on panicking” by the time she reached the cockpit looking for a means of calling attention to her plight, but nothing worked in the cockpit. >> Trending: Mysterious feline species called a cat-fox discovered prowling around French island She said she found a flashlight in the cockpit and tried shining the light out the windows but nobody came to her assistance. Finally, Adams managed to get a cabin door unbolted and was considering the steep drop to the tarmac below when she spotted a ground crew worker, who helped get her out of the jet. After realizing the mistake, Air Canada employees offered her a limo ride and a free hotel stay, but Adams said she refused the offer because she just wanted to get home. Now she’s having a tough time sleeping after the scary ordeal. “I haven’t got much sleep since the reoccurring night terrors and waking up anxious and afraid I’m alone locked up someplace dark,” she said. The airline said it is investigating how the flight crew missed Adams when they deplaned. >> Trending: Enormous, furry head of 40,000 year old Ice Age wolf found in melting Siberian permafrost  The airline confirmed the incident took place, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but refused to comment on disembarking procedures or how Adams could have been left on the plane.
  • A consumer watchdog group says high levels of arsenic were found in bottled water sold at three major retailers. The website Investorplace.com reports testing done by the non-profit Center for Environmental Health found arsenic in the Starkey brand sold at Whole Foods and the Peñafel brand sold at Target and Walmart. The exact levels were not disclosed because the group is in the process of suing Whole Foods and Keurig Dr. Pepper, which makes Peñafel. But they say it's above the level requiring a health warning under California’s consumer protection law. You can read more about the story here.

Washington Insider

  • On the eve of the first major gathering of Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 race for President, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drew over a thousand interested Democrats to a town hall gathering at Florida International University on Monday, pressing the case for the federal government to do more to help working Americans find economic security in the future. 'I don't want a government that works for big corporations, I want one that works for families,' Warren said to applause, making the case for a higher minimum wage for workers, major ethics reforms for government officials, voting reforms, major tax changes, and more. 'Let's start with a wealth tax in America,' said Sanders, as she called for 'big structural change in this country,' rattling off a number of her policy ideas, getting big cheers for new limits on lobbying, action on climate change, and better wages for all workers. “A full time minimum wage job in America will not get a momma and a baby out of poverty,” Warren said.  “That is wrong, and that is why I am in this fight.” Of the ten Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night, Warren is by far the strongest candidate in the first group, as she has been gaining momentum in recent weeks in a variety of polls. The four other top Democrats in the race will be on stage together on Thursday - Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders. Along with Warren, two other Democrats attracted press attention in south Florida before the Wednesday debate, as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State talked about his signature issue of climate change, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas rallied with teachers in Miami. 'It's a great opportunity for me to listen to you, to have the chance to introduce myself,' said O'Rourke, who is one of the better known names on the first night of the Democratic debate. The first debate night in Miami features three Democratic Senators (Booker, Klobuchar, Warren), two House members (Gabbard, Ryan), two former House members (Delaney, O'Rourke), one current mayor (DeBlasio), one former mayor and Cabinet member (Castro), and one Governor (Inslee). While some like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrived in Florida on Tuesday afternoon - getting unsolicited advice along the way from fellow passengers on her flight to Miami - Inslee was for a second day hammering away at his main issue of climate change. 'Today we're announcing a new freedom in America, and that's freedom from fossil fuels,' Inslee said at an event in the Everglades. Inslee followed up his Everglades visit with a Tuesday evening event where he took shots at Big Oil. For most of the Democrats over the next two nights, there is a simple game plan.  'Our goal,' a memo to reporters from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, 'Introduce Cory to Democrats tuning in for the first time,' noting that when you do the math, each candidate is only going to get between seven and eleven minutes of total speaking time. 'I can’t wait to share with you my vision for a more just and fair nation,' Booker said. Meanwhile, Warren was making plans for an impromptu visit on Wednesday to a facility south of Miami, where immigrant children detained by border authorities are being held. “I'm going to Homestead,” Warren said to cheers after being urged to focus on the issue by an activist at a town hall meeting in Miami. “If you can come, come and join us,” Warren urged the crowd, as her campaign set a 10:45 am visit on Wednesday, which seems all but certain to draw extra news media attention, just hours before the first night of the Democratic debates. While Warren was on the move, her colleague Sen. Booker was doing more mundane things at the same time back in Washington, D.C. - helping people put their suitcases in the overhead bin on his flight to Miami.
  • Pressing ahead with work on government funding bills for 2020, Democrats in the House approved a package of five measures worth $383.3 billion on Tuesday, funding an array of programs from the Justice Department to NASA, military construction projects and the VA, while also including a series of policy riders designed to rein in efforts by the Trump Administration to expand offshore oil and gas exploration. 'Offshore drilling anywhere near Florida represents an existential threat to our economy that we cannot risk taking,' said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), as all but one Republican from the Sunshine State supported an amendment to block new oil and gas leasing off Florida, especially in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. 'I saw the tar balls wash up on Florida beaches,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), and he invoked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when he was Governor of Florida in 2010. 'I hope to never see that again.' But it wasn't only Florida lawmakers of both parties making the case against expanded drilling, as the bill also added amendments to block seismic blasting to check for oil and gas deposits in offshore waters along the entire Atlantic coast, along with a full moratorium on new oil and gas exploration on the Eastern seaboard, plus a plan to block any new oil and gas leasing off the Pacific Coast of the United States. 'The Central Coast has endured the devastating impacts of oil spills,' said California Democrat Salud Carbajal. 'I'll do everything in my power to make sure our community doesn't go through that again.' Supporters of expanded offshore oil and gas exploration accused opponents of using 'fear tactics.' 'I believe the ones who don’t want to see the areas mentioned in this amendment opened up for offshore leasing really just don’t want fossil fuel development,' said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). But Duncan's home state colleague - from the Atlantic coast - had a much different view. 'Far too much is at stake in our State,' said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), who argued for plans to squelch new offshore exploration. 'South Carolina’s tourism economy is worth $22.6 billion a year, and two-thirds of that comes from the coast.' 'This is an issue that has been supported by Republican Governor (Henry) McMaster, who has made it clear that he opposes offshore drilling,' Cunningham added. The approval of the underlying 'minibus' funding package means that nine of the twelve yearly funding bills have made it through the House of Representatives; one more could be voted on this week before lawmakers leave for a scheduled break. Those spending bills are supposed to be done by October 1 - but the House only has 25 scheduled work days between the July Fourth break and the end of the fiscal year. The Senate has one more week of work scheduled than the House - but there is little reason to think that Congress will finish its on time - by September 30 - for the first time since 1996. 'The current funding process is designed to fail. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. It will never work,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who has been pressing for a full overhaul of the budget process.  'Since the Budget Act of 1974 was put in place, Congress has only funded the federal government on time four times, and the last time was 23 years ago,' Perdue added. The three funding bills not yet voted on by the House include the spending measure for Congress and the Legislative Branch, a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and a measure funding federal financial agencies. The Senate has yet to bring any of the 2020 funding bills to the floor for action.
  • In a flurry of motions by prosecutors and lawyers for indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), government attorneys submitted to a federal judge a number of examples of how Hunter allegedly used money contributed to his campaign to instead pay for romantic outings with a series of women who were not his wife. 'Shortly after he arrived in Washington, Hunter began to use funds contributed to the Duncan D. Hunter for Congress Campaign to carry out a series of intimate relationships,' a new document filed on Monday detailed for a federal judge. 'At trial, the evidence will demonstrate that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pursue these romances wholly unrelated to either his congressional campaigns or his official duties as a member of Congress,' prosecutors said in a 'statement of facts.' Stating there was a 'voluminous nature' of evidence against Hunter, the document set out an image of a Congressman who had affairs with lobbyists and Congressional staffers, paying for their meals, trips, and nights on the town with campaign funds. 'In March 2010, for example, the couple took a weekend “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach with their friends, one of whom was also a congressman. Hunter spent $905 in campaign funds to pay for the hotel bar tab and room he shared with (Individual-14) that weekend,' the documents related. The documents listed evidence about Hunter's relationships with: + Individual 14 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 15 - a staffer who worked in the office of a member of the House leadership,  + Individual 16 - a staffer in his Congressional office,  + Individual 17 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 18 - a lobbyist. The court submission sometimes left little to the imagination, as it noted Hunter engaging in 'intimate personal activities' with these individuals, which was not related to his campaign or duties as a lawmaker. The release of the information by prosecutors came as lawyers for Rep. Hunter asked the judge in the case to exclude a number of pieces of evidence, as Hunter has alleged he is the victim of a political persecution. 'The investigation of Congressman Hunter by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California began shortly after his public endorsement of candidate Trump,' Hunter's lawyers wrote in one of a series of evidence challenges, alleging that two prosecutors involved in the case were supporters of Hillary Clinton. 'Any explanation the Government gives now for initiating the investigation of Congressman Hunter should be viewed with total skepticism through the lens of their attempts to cover up the partisan political activities of the prosecutors that initiated the investigation,' lawyers for Hunter added.
  • Flanked by several progressive Democrats from the U.S. House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled plans on Monday to zero out well over $1 trillion in college student loan debt held by Americans, part of a broader call by some lawmakers to make tuition much more affordable for students at public colleges and universities. 'If you can bail out Wall Street, you can bail out the middle class of this country,' Sanders said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol. 'We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt,' said Sanders, as he urged older Americans to realize that times have dramatically changed since they were able to use Pell Grants or a part time job to help pay their college tuition. 'It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). There were different pieces of legislation released today on the issue - one from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is titled the 'Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019' - and focuses just on the issue of erasing student debt. Omar's bill would also prevent the loan forgiveness from being considered taxable income for an individual, and does not allow any refunds of payments already made. 'Corporations and the wealthiest Americans have repeatedly gotten tax breaks and bailouts,' said Omar. 'It’s time for a bailout for the 45 million Americans who are shackled with student debt.' The immediate reaction among Republicans and conservatives was skeptical - to say the least. 'Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway,' tweeted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). The plan from Sanders and others would apply to all with student loan debt - no matter their current income levels. His bill would also aim to drastically reduce the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities - with a total cost estimate of $2.2 trillion. 'The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of the bill would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation,' Sanders said in a release about the legislation. The plan would institute a transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .0005 percent fee on derivatives.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that a government ban on the registration of what federal officials believe are 'immoral or scandalous' trademarks violates the First Amendment, saying it was not right that free speech would protect 'good morals,' but not trademarks which 'denigrate those concepts.' 'The registration of such marks serves only to further coarsen our popular culture,' Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court. 'But we are not legislators and cannot substitute a new statute for the one now in force.' The case involved artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who wanted a trademark for his clothing like 'FUCT' - which he says is pronounced not as a word, but with the individual letters, F-U-C-T.  'But you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone,' Kagan wrote for the Court, as patent and trademark officials refused to approve Brunetti's request, labeling it a 'total vulgar.' This ruling overturned those decisions. While agreeing with the basics of the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a concurring opinion that while the decision protects free speech, the results might offend many people. 'The Court’s decision today will beget unfortunate results,' Sotomayor wrote in a concurrence with Justice Stephen Breyer. “Everyone can think of a small number of words (including the apparent homonym of Brunetti’s mark) that would, however, plainly qualify,” Sotomayor added. The decision could have implications past trademarks, as states routinely reject vanity license plate applications because of certain words which would be used. You can read the full ruling here.