December 16, 2017

U.S.

  • California wildfire close to becoming third largest ever in state - December 16 2017 02:16

    California wildfire close to becoming third largest ever in stateA California wildfire was close on Saturday to becoming the state's third largest blaze on record, with more devastation possible from a resurgence of the harsh winds that have fueled the deadly fire's growth. The so-called Thomas Fire has destroyed more than 1,000 structures, including about 750 homes, in coastal communities in Southern California since erupting on Dec. 4, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement. The vast landscape charred by the blaze, which is centered less than 100 miles (161 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is approaching the 257,314 acres (104,131 hectares) destroyed by California's Rim Fire in 2013.


  • N.J. nuclear power subsidy bill could cost $320 million per year - December 15 2017 15:24

    N.J. nuclear power subsidy bill could cost $320 million per yearLast week, Ralph Izzo, chief executive of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, which operates three reactors in the state at the Salem and Hope Creek plants, said he may be forced to shut the units unless the state provides subsidies. Izzo, who made his comments at a joint committee session in the New Jersey legislature, said the reactors were profitable now but could start losing money over the next couple of years because cheap natural gas has depressed power prices. If it ultimately passes and becomes law, it would require utilities to recover 0.4 cent per kilowatt hour from customers to cover the cost of the subsidy.


  • Turkish banker on trial denies helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions - December 15 2017 14:50

    Turkish banker on trial denies helping Iran evade U.S. sanctionsAn executive at Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank took the witness stand in a New York courtroom on Friday and denied charges that he participated in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who has been on trial in federal court for three weeks, told jurors that he "never" conspired with fellow defendant, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, as U.S. prosecutors have charged. U.S. prosecutors have charged nine people with conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions through fraudulent gold and food transactions.


  • Judge blocks Trump administration rules on contraceptive coverage - December 15 2017 14:49

    Judge blocks Trump administration rules on contraceptive coverageA U.S. judge on Friday blocked President Donald Trump's administration from moving forward with new rules that undermined an Obamacare requirement for employers to provide health insurance that covers women's birth control. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone in Philadelphia issued a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of rules the administration announced in October that allowed businesses or non-profits to obtain exemptions on moral or religious grounds. Beetlestone wrote that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who sued to block the rules, was likely to succeed in establishing that the administration did not follow proper notice procedures when issuing the new rules.


  • Former cell phone company executive convicted of text message scam - December 15 2017 14:36

    Former cell phone company executive convicted of text message scamA U.S. jury on Friday found the former chief executive of mobile aggregation company Mobile Messenger guilty of defrauding mobile phone customers by charging them millions of dollars for unwanted text messages. Darcy Wedd, 40, was convicted in Manhattan federal court of wire fraud and conspiracy charges after a two-week trial, the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan said. Robert Caliendo, a lawyer for Wedd, declined to comment on the verdict, which came after Wedd's third trial.


  • Crews wary as gusty winds stoke huge California wildfire - December 15 2017 13:44

    Crews wary as gusty winds stoke huge California wildfireBy Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Crews battled shifting winds and difficult terrain on Friday to stop a mammoth wildfire that has burned for nearly two weeks along the scenic California coastline, killing a firefighter and destroying more than 720 homes. The so-called Thomas Fire, which broke out on Dec. 4 near a private college in the community of Ojai, has since raged across 252,000 acres, or nearly 400 square miles, making it the fourth-largest wildfire since record-keeping began in California in 1932. Fire officials said a return of gusty Santa Ana winds made further progress difficult.


  • Turkish banker on trial denies helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions - December 15 2017 12:57

    Turkish banker on trial denies helping Iran evade U.S. sanctionsAn executive at Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank took the witness stand in a New York courtroom on Friday and denied charges that he participated in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who has been on trial in federal court for three weeks, told jurors that he "never" conspired with fellow defendant, Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, as U.S. prosecutors have charged. U.S. prosecutors have charged nine people with conspiring to help Iran evade sanctions through fraudulent gold and food transactions, although only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities.


  • Florida man sentenced to 15 years in prison for vandalizing mosque - December 15 2017 12:40

    Florida man sentenced to 15 years in prison for vandalizing mosqueA man who vandalized a Florida mosque in January 2016 and left a raw slab of bacon on its doorstep was sentenced to 15 years in prison on a hate crime conviction, a state attorney's spokesman said on Wednesday. Michael Wolfe, 37, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to criminal mischief to a place of worship in a case considered a felony hate crime, said Todd Brown, spokesman for Florida's 18th Judicial District, which includes Brevard and Seminole counties.


  • Florida man sentenced to 15 years in prison for vandalizing mosque - December 15 2017 12:28

    Florida man sentenced to 15 years in prison for vandalizing mosqueA man who vandalized a Florida mosque in January 2016 and left a raw slab of bacon on its doorstep was sentenced to 15 years in prison on a hate crime conviction, a state attorney's spokesman said on Wednesday. Michael Wolfe, 37, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to criminal mischief to a place of worship in a case considered a felony hate crime, said Todd Brown, spokesman for Florida's 18th Judicial District, which includes Brevard and Seminole counties. Surveillance video after the 2016 incident showed a man with a shaved head and camouflage clothing breaking windows, cameras and lights with a machete at the mosque in Titusville, Florida, near Cape Canaveral, police said.


  • Penn State's 'shocking apathy' to drinking blamed in hazing death - December 15 2017 12:21

    Penn State's 'shocking apathy' to drinking blamed in hazing deathPennsylvania State University's "shocking apathy" to alcohol abuse contributed to the death of a student after he consumed 18 drinks in less than an hour and a half during a fraternity initiation, according a report issued on Friday. Grand jury members wrote the report after hearing testimony on hazing and alcohol use within the sprawling university's fraternity system. Prosecutors issued it at Centre County Court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 10 months the death of Timothy Piazza, 19.


  • Pennsylvania man admits to trading on tips about drug company - December 15 2017 12:08

    Pennsylvania man admits to trading on tips about drug companyDaniel Perez, who authorities said lived next door to a former Celator accountant in Yardley, Pennsylvania, entered his plea to one count of securities fraud in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, prosecutors said. Prosecutors at that time announced that three other people, including Evan Kita, the former employee at the New Jersey drug company, had pleaded guilty to participating in the insider trading scheme. Prosecutors said Kita told Perez and another friend, Richard Yu, in 2016 that clinical trials for his company's leukemia drug had produced positive results, allowing both men to place trades before Celator announced the news.


  • Utah lawmaker invites retailer Patagonia to testify in Congress - December 15 2017 11:54

    Utah lawmaker invites retailer Patagonia to testify in CongressThe U.S. House natural resources committee chairman on Friday invited outdoor retailer Patagonia's CEO to testify before the panel after the company criticized the Trump administration's decision to drastically reduce two national monuments in Utah. Patagonia has been feuding with Bishop and Trump administration officials after President Donald Trump said he would reduce the Bears Ears monument, a sacred cultural site for five Native American tribes, by 85 percent and cut the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in half.


  • U.S. court dismisses $3 billion suit against Deutsche Bank by Jewish family heirs - December 15 2017 09:06

    U.S. court dismisses $3 billion suit against Deutsche Bank by Jewish family heirsA U.S. district court in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit by the heirs of a prominent Jewish family seeking $3 billion from Deutsche Bank. The Wertheim Jewish Education Trust, in a suit filed in January, said heirs of the German entrepreneur Joseph Wertheim deposited the family's fortune at Credit Suisse in Switzerland as the Nazis rose to power and they emigrated to Spain. The funds were later transferred to Deutsche Bank but never made it back to the heirs, the plaintiffs said.


  • Trump administration issues new rules on U.S. visa waivers - December 15 2017 08:39

    Trump administration issues new rules on U.S. visa waiversThe Trump administration put new requirements in place on Friday for the 38 countries participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, including that they use U.S. counterterrorism data to screen travelers, officials said. The program allows citizens of mainly European countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. Citizens from the 38 countries are required to obtain a so-called travel authorization to enter the United States.


  • No place like 'Om': Ojai retreats keep their zen in California fire - December 15 2017 03:02

    No place like 'Om': Ojai retreats keep their zen in California fireThe Thomas Fire that has raged through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for more than a week destroyed more than half of Meditation Mount's gardens and a two-story residence and knocked out the electricity, he said. "It's kind of a miracle that it didn't all go up in smoke," Hall said of the center atop a hill in the picturesque Southern California city. "We also feel tremendous gratitude for what we have left because a lot of people have nothing left," added Hall, who said the center may not reopen for another three weeks.