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The Latest: President Trump Arrives in Brussels

The Latest: President Trump Arrives in Brussels

President Trump arrives in Brussels for NATO meetings, his fourth stop on overseas trip.

| May 24, 2017

The Latest: President Trump Arrives in Brussels
The Associated Press

US President Donald Trump, right, and First Lady Melania Trump wave to reporters before boarding the Air Force One to Brussels, at the end of a 2-day visit to Italy including a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, at Rome’s Fiumicino international airport, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad (all times local):

4:12 p.m.

President Donald Trump arrived in Brussels Wednesday afternoon ahead of meetings with NATO leaders.

Trump was harshly critical of NATO as a candidate, declaring the military alliance “obsolete.” He’s also criticized member countries for not following NATO guidelines to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

The president has been similarly critical of Brussels, the Belgian capital that is home to both the NATO and European Union headquarters. After the city’s recent struggles with terrorism, Trump called Brussels a “hellhole.”

 Brussels is Trump’s fourth stop on his maiden overseas tour. His fifth and final stop will be Sicily, where he’ll meet with the leaders of the Group of 7 wealthy nations.

___

3:16 p.m.

Thanks to the Pope and the U.S. first lady, a traditional Slovenian dish is hitting the headlines.

As Melania Trump approached and shook hands with Pope Francis on Wednesday, Pope asked in Spanish through his interpreter pointing toward Trump: “What do you give him to eat? Potica?”

She looked puzzled at first. “Potica, ah yes,” the Slovenian-born first lady smiled before stepping aside.

Potica (pronounced paw-tee’-tzah) is a typical highly nutritious Slovenian festive strudel with nut, poppy seed, cottage cheese, hazelnut, chocolate, tarragon, leek or honey fillings.

It also sounds a lot like “pizza,” which is what reporters originally thought the pope had said.

The dish has been prepared for more than 200 years in earthenware baking-dishes or directly in ovens. Potica remains the pride of each Slovenian housewife.

Born Melanija Knavs, Melania Trump left Slovenia in her 20s to pursue an international modeling career.

___

2:23 p.m.

President Donald Trump says meeting with Pope Francis was the “honor of a lifetime.”

Trump tweeted Wednesday that a private meeting with the pontiff at the Vatican leaves him “more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

Trump met with Francis Wednesday for a half hour. The president and pope have a contentious history, but appeared on good terms after their conversation.

Trump will soon be leaving Rome, en route to Brussels for meetings with NATO leaders.

The president has spent the week traveling to holy Muslim, Jewish and Christian sites during his first official trip abroad.

___

1.45 p.m.

The European Union is hoping that Thursday’s talks with U.S. President Donald Trump will stress continuity in their relations after the early months of his administration increased fears that the trans-Atlantic friendship was on the wane.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says that even if Trump’s policies diverge greatly from his predecessors on many points, continued close contact must avoid fundamental disagreements on climate change and other global issues. She says, “What I am expecting tomorrow is a message of continuity.”

Mogherini adds that, “We do realize there are points of difference where we have different points of view and where we will need to discuss things further, but it is vital to work on climate change” and the role of international organizations like the United Nations.

Mogherini will join EU Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for a short meeting with Trump at EU headquarters early Thursday.

___

1 p.m.

First lady Melania Trump has visited the Vatican’s children’s hospital, meeting with patients, painting pictures with them and taking selfies.

 Mrs. Trump went to the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) pediatric hospital after she and President Donald Trump met with Pope Francis earlier at the Vatican.

She toured the cardiac intensive unit as well as the recreation room, where she painted with the children from nine different countries and took selfies with them. She ended the visit by praying in the hospital chapel.

Before leaving, Mrs. Trump wrote in the guest book that she was praying for the children: “Great visiting you. Stay strong and positive. Much love, Melania Trump.” With a red pen, she drew a small flower and heart.

___

12:39 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he had “a fantastic meeting” with Pope Francis earlier Wednesday.

The president offered brief remarks as he sat down with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome.

Trump tells reporters, “It was an honor to be with the pope.” He adds of the pope: “He is something.”

Trump ignored a question about whether they discussed climate change.

The president arrived at the Villa Taverna shortly after noon, following a meeting with the country’s president at Quirinale Palace.

He’ll be departing Rome for Brussels later today.

___

12:05 p.m.

The Vatican says after a visit by President Donald Trump that it is hoping for “serene collaboration” with the United States to help immigrants and provide health care and education in the U.S.

Trump met for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning with Pope Francis and afterward with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In a statement, the Vatican said the two sides agreed on their “joint commitment in favor of life and freedom of worship and conscience.”

The statement continued: “It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.”

It said talks also covered promoting peace through dialogue with people of other faiths.

___

11:58 a.m.

Ivanka Trump says she came to a Catholic charity in Rome to meet with several women who have been freed from human traffickers so she can hear about “their struggles and how they will build their lives.”

Still dressed in black after her earlier visit at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, President Donald Trump’s daughter spoke briefly to reporters as she stood under a grape arbor in the courtyard of the Rome headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community.

She said the liberated African women she was going inside to meet were testament to “strength, faith, perseverance in the face of unspeakable adversity.”

Community officials said she would be chatting with several women from Nigeria who had been trafficked into prostitution before becoming free in Rome. At least one Eritrean woman was also invited to the closed-door conversation sitting around a square table.

Ivanka Trump has had meetings about the subject at the White House.

___

11:26 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Trump was greeted by Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Wednesday morning. The meeting follows a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Trump is expected to next meet with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Trump is in the middle of his first international trip — a nine-day journey through the middle east and Europe. He will leave for Belgium later on Wednesday.

___

11:01 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at Quirinale Palace for his meeting with the Italian president.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump had been scheduled to have private tour of the Sistine Chapel before the meeting.

The intimate chapel features Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “The Last Judgment,” behind the altar as well as the iconic “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling. Works of other Renaissance greats, including Botticelli and Perugino, line the walls.

The Sistine Chapel is the highlight of tours of the Vatican Museums as well as a functioning part of the Vatican.

Trump also met with the Vatican secretary of state Wednesday following his meeting with the pope.

___

10:40 a.m.

Ivanka Trump plans to meet with human trafficking victims in Rome.

Trump will meet Wednesday with African women who have been freed in Italy from human traffickers. The encounter was arranged by the Rome-based Catholic charity Sant’Egidio Community, which has ties with the Vatican and which has helped Syrian refugees arrive safely in Italy via “humanitarian corridors.”

The president’s daughter and adviser has held meetings at the White House on human trafficking.

Community officials said several women will chat with Trump. She was expected to make a brief statement to the media after the closed-door meeting at the charity’s headquarters.

Ivanka Trump was part of the delegation that met Pope Francis with President Donald Trump Wednesday.

___

10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis shared a light moment with First Lady Melania Trump.

After Francis met with President Donald Trump he was introduced to members of Trump’s delegation, including Mrs. Trump. Smiling for the staff, Francis asked via translator, “What do you give him to eat, Potica?”

He was referring to a local pastry, pronounced paw-tee’-tzah — though some thought he’d said “pizza.”

When it comes to food, the president is known for his traditional American palette. When he traveled in Saudi Arabia, caterers ensured that his favorite meal – steak with a side of ketchup – would be offered alongside the traditional local cuisine.

___

9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has gifted Pope Francis a first-edition set of writings from Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump presented Francis with the books after a private meeting at the Vatican Wednesday. The White House notes that Francis spoke about King and his civil rights legacy during his address to Congress in 2015.

The White House said the set includes the five books King wrote in his lifetime. Each one is custom bound and the books are in a custom display case. A piece of granite from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Memorial in Washington is also included.

The White House says the gift “honors Dr. King’s hope, vision, and inspiration for generations to come.”

Trump also gave Francis a bronze sculpture. Named “Rising Above,” the White House says it “represents hope for a peaceful tomorrow.”

___

9:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump appeared moved by his private meeting with Pope Francis, telling the pope that he “won’t forget what you said.”

The president and pope have a contentious history and disagree on a host of issues, including environmental protection.

The White House did not immediately provide details about what was discussed during their 30-minute private conversation. But the two men appeared on good terms Wednesday, including during a traditional gift exchange.

The pope’s gifts to Trump included a medal by a Roman artist depicting an olive branch, which is a symbol of peace.

The president responded, “We can use peace.”

The pope also gave the president a signed message of peace along with copies of his three main teaching documents.

The president told the pope he’d be reading them.

___

9:28 a.m.

Rome police say Greenpeace activists briefly projected the message “Planet Earth First” on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on the eve of the pope’s meeting with President Trump.

Police said in a statement Wednesday that the officers allowed the action to proceed for “a few moments” given the peaceable nature of the protest. They then identified all of the activists participating, eight total.

Trump met early Wednesday with the pope, and the environment is one key area of difference. Pope Francis has made protection of the environment a keystone of his papacy, issuing a major encyclical on climate change. Trump’s administration, meanwhile, is reviewing policies related to climate change and the reduction of green gasses.

___

9:09 a.m.

President Donald Trump and Pope Francis are exchanging gifts after a private meeting.

Trump and Francis met privately for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning at the Vatican.

Pope Francis gave the president copies of his three main teaching documents as parting gifts, as he typically does for visiting heads of state. The red leather-bound booklets to some degree define his papacy and priorities. Some of the main themes contained in them contrast sharply with President Donald Trump’s policies and campaign promises, particularly concerning approaches to the environment and income inequality.

Trump’s gift for Francis was wrapped in a big blue box. The president said he was delivering “books from Martin Luther King. I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do.”

___

9:03 a.m.

Pope Francis is meeting first lady Melania Trump, Trump’s oldest daughter Ivanka, and other members of the U.S. delegation.

Mrs. Trump smiled and chatted with Francis after the two warmly shook hands.

Francis also shook hands with other members of the president’s team, including former bodyguard Keith Schiller and social media director Dan Scavino.

The greetings happened after Trump and Pope Francis held a nearly 30 minute private meeting.

___

8:31 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting Pope Francis for the first time.

Trump greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace Wednesday morning.

The men shook hands and Trump could be heard saying it was a “very great honor” to be there.

They then posed for photographs and took a seat at the pope’s desk to continue their conversation. They will now meet in private

Prior to the handshake, Trump walked toward the Saint Ambrose room, led by Gentlemen of his Holiness, which is a sort of honor guard of nobility. He was joined by his wife Melania Trump, who had a veil on her head, in adherence to Vatican tradition.

___

8:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.

Trump arrived Wednesday morning at the Apostolic Palace for an audience with the pontiff. The meeting comes midway through his 9-day international trip.

The president and pope have not always seen eye to eye. The two men’s often opposite worldviews collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump’s campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.

 Papal audiences usually last for about 20-30 minutes of private talks, followed by introductions of delegations, a photo and exchange of gifts.

___

6:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is poised to call on Pope Francis, the famously humble pontiff with whom he has publicly clashed.

Trump is midway through his grueling nine-day maiden international journey. He will meet the pontiff at the Vatican early Wednesday where the two will have a private audience laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol.

The meeting will last scarcely more than an hour. But it could provide powerful imagery to Catholic voters back in the United States as well as the possibility for conflict between a president and a pope who have not often seen eye-to-eye.

The two men’s often opposite worldviews collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump’s campaign pledge to build an impenetrable border wall.

___


Manchester Arena Suicide Bombing: Random Acts of Kindness Follow Attack

Manchester Arena Suicide Bombing: Random Acts of Kindness Follow Attack

Image: The first floral tributes to the victims of the terrorist attack

Flowers paying tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack in Manchester. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

MANCHESTER, England — As a dramatic red-sky dawn washed over Manchester early Tuesday, many residents were oblivious to the tragedy that struck this proud northern English city just hours before.

Those early-to-bed didn’t learn until morning that a suicide bomber had targeted an Ariana Grande concert at the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena — an occasion the attacker must have known would be packed full of families and many young girls.

But alongside the grief was an undeniable sense of community spirit.

One man who embodied this ethos was 35-year-old Sam Arshad, who co-owns the city’s Street Cars Manchester taxi firm. He happened to be driving past the arena on his way home when he heard screams.


Sam Arshad Alexander Smith / NBC News

“I was stuck in traffic and that’s when I saw people rushing out,” Arshad recalled. “I spoke to a police officer and he told me there had been an explosion and that we needed to evacuate the area.”

He asked his fleet of drivers to turn off their their meters and not charge families, teenagers and children aiming to get home through the chaos to be reunited with their loved ones.

Arshad said he didn’t think twice about giving free taxi rides to help those stranded.

“The audience was a very young audience and some people had come from far away, expecting to be picked up by their parents,” he said. “It came down to parents ringing us trying to get their kids home to them safely.”

Related: Desperate Parents Hunt for Missing Children After Carnage

He added that he “spoke to the drivers and pleaded with them that, if we could do anything, this was our time to help the people of Manchester. This is our city, at the end of the day … money’s not everything, do you know what I mean?”

His drivers told him: “Whatever you want, gaffer, we’re there for you,” he recalled — gaffer being affectionate British slang for boss.

Moment Blast Shook Manchester Arena Caught on Camera0:33

Many Manchester residents echoed this sentiment, offering up their homes to stranded concertgoers under the trending Twitter hashtag #roomsformanchester.

Arshad, who had been awake for more than 24 hours when he spoke with NBC News at his office on Tuesday morning, said he was particularly determined to help out because of the Islamophobic online messages that often surface after terrorist attacks.

He is a Muslim, as are most of his drivers.

“So, if I can do a gesture of this kind, and the majority of my drivers are Muslim, it just shows that we’re not all what you make us out to be,” he said, directing his comments to those who seek to tarnish Islam as a whole.

“At the end of the day, every religion, every culture, you always have bad apples and unfortunately in our religion you have the same,” he added. “But you can’t group us all in one group … tonight showed, from us, it showed that we’re not that kind of people. We’re the opposite.”

One of the concertgoers-in-need was 34-year-old waitress Alison Pritchard. She traveled to Manchester with her 9-year-old daughter, Carmen, making the 350-mile journey from their home in the Scottish city of Aberdeen.

She tried to leave the event early, concerned that her daughter might get swamped in the crowds attempting to leave the enormous venue. She was in the foyer when the blast struck — but her early exit meant it was behind the pair.

“All of a sudden there was just an almighty explosion behind us,” she said, just yards away from the reams of police tape sealing off all routes to the venue. “We were so lucky because otherwise we would have been caught up in it.”

Image: Eyewitnesses to the Manchester Arena bomb attack
Carole Taylor, 49, (left) with her son Jago Stephens, 9, and Alison Pritchard, 34, with her daughter Carmen Pritchard, 9. Alex Smith / NBC News

“I was so scared,” her daughter chipped in.

“You were scared, we were all scared,” added Carole Taylor, a 49-year-old teacher also from Aberdeen who was watching the concert with the Pritchards. She was with her son, Jago Stephens, also 9.

“We just grabbed their hands and ran, ran, ran,” Taylor said. “We didn’t stop running until we go out down the stairs, round the corner. We had to get out of there really quickly.”

On Tuesday morning, with many streets blocked off, and countless workers stranded, Manchester was far quieter than its usual bustling self.

Haunting remnants of the night before littered the area around the police cordon.

A used makeup brush, a broken black tiara and and abandoned pack of cigarettes all told of a hasty escape in the wake of the worst terror attack to strike British shores since the July 7 bombings that killed 52 people in 2005.

Taylor described the mood in the city as “a sort of stillness this morning that I can’t explain; just a quietness that, for some people, their life has changed forever.”

She said that “to think somebody’s actually targeted that is absolutely disgusting. Awful. I can’t even get my head around it to be honest. I feel so, so sad.”

But she also credited the “amazing” community spirit in the city. “The hotel we were staying at were taking people in, they were opening the bar up, giving people drinks … we felt really safe,” she said.

‘We had to pull nails out of children’s faces’: Steve, a homeless man who was sleeping near Arena, rushed to help young victims

 The residents of Manchester — Mancunians, as they’re known — would agree.

The city is a thriving economic and cultural metropolis, which many inhabitants proclaim as the unofficial capital of England’s north.

Once a thriving textile manufacturer that boomed during the industrial revolution, it is now known for its art, culture and history — with a glut of galleries and museums — as well as enjoying two of the wealthiest soccer teams on the planet: Manchester United and Manchester City.

Perhaps Manchester has an added resilience because it has been targeted before.

In June 1996, the Irish Republican Army detonated the biggest bomb the group had ever exploded on the British mainland.

Image: Emergency workers after Manchester explosion on June 15, 1996
Emergency workers examine a rubble-strewn street following an IRA bomb blast in Manchester on June 15, 1996. Associated Press

Just a few hundred yards from Monday’s attack, it left no building within a half mile unscathed.

The IRA phoned ahead to warn of the blast, but still more than 200 people were injured and much of the city center lay in ruins.

“Manchester will always bounce back,” said Anthony Fisher, a 43-year-old electrician prevented from getting to a job because the police cordon. “Just look at this place,” he added gesturing to the street on which he was stood. “It was wrecked 20 years ago with the IRA bomb. It bounced back then and it will bounce back again.”

For Arshad, the taxi firm co-owner, there was another side to the tragedy of the attack.

“I would say people have woken up to a very horrified city,” he said. “It’s not something that we’re used to. But … people are reaching out, still reaching out, to see if they can help in any way, which is fantastic.”

Robot Performs First-Ever Surgery Inside Human Eye

Robot Performs First-Ever Surgery Inside Human Eye


The technique is being called “a vision of eye surgery in the future.” air009/Shutterstock

In a medical first, surgeons have used a robot to operate inside the human eye, greatly improving the accuracy of a delicate surgery to remove fine membrane growth on the retina. Such growth distorts vision and, if left unchecked, can lead to blindness in the affected eye.

Currently, doctors perform this common eye surgery without robots. But given the delicate nature of the retina and the narrowness of the opening in which to operate, even highly skilled surgeons can cut too deeply and cause small amounts of hemorrhaging and scarring, potentially leading to other forms of visual impairment, according to the researchers who tested out the new robotic surgery in a small trial. The pulsing of blood through the surgeon’s hands is enough to affect the accuracy of the cut, the researchers said.

In the trial, at a hospital in the United Kingdom, surgeons performed the membrane-removal surgery on 12 patients; six of those patients underwent the traditional procedure, and six underwent the new robotic technique. Those patients in the robot group experienced significantly fewer hemorrhages and less damage to the retina, the findings showed.

RELATED: What’s the Best Way to Preserve My Eyesight?

The technique is “a vision of eye surgery in the future,” Dr. Robert E. MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who led the study team and performed some of the surgeries, said in a statement. MacLaren presented the results Monday at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), happening this week in Baltimore.

“These are the early stages of a new, powerful technology,” said MacLaren’s colleague Dr. Marc de Smet, an ophthalmologist in the Netherlands who helped design the robot. “We have demonstrated safety in a delicate operation. The system can provide high precision [at] 10 microns in all three primary [directions], which is about 10 times” more precise than what a surgeon can do, de Smet said. (The three primary directions are up/down, left/right, and towards the head/towards the feet.)

This $500 Mechanical Arm Could Bring Precision Surgery to the Masses 1:01

Membrane growth on the retina results in a condition called epiretinal membrane, a common cause of visual impairment. The retina is the thin layer at the back of the eye that converts light waves into nerve impulses that the brain then interprets as images.

An epiretinal membrane can form because of eye trauma or conditions such as diabetes, but more commonly it is associated with natural changes in the vitreous, the gel-like substance that fills the eye and helps it maintain a round shape. As people age, the vitreous slowly shrinks and pulls away from the retinal surface, sometimes tearing it.

The membrane is essentially a scar on the retina. It can act like a film, obscuring clear vision, or it can distort the shape of the retina. The membrane can form over the macula, a region near the center of the retina that sharply focuses images, a crucial process for reading or seeing fine detail. When membranes form here, a person’s central vision becomes blurred and distorted, in a condition called a macular pucker.

RELATED: 10 Medical Conditions That Sound Fake but Are Actually Real

Removing the membrane can improve vision, MacLaren said, but the surgery is very intricate. The membrane is only about 10 microns thick, or about a tenth the width of a human hair, and it needs to be dissected from the retina without damaging the retina … all while the eye of the anesthetized patient is jiggling with each heartbeat, MacLaren said.

Faced with the need for such precision, de Smet and his Dutch-based group developed a robotic system over the course of about 10 years. Robot-assisted surgery is now commonplace, particularly for the removal of cancerous tumors and diseased tissues, as in the case of hysterectomies and prostatectomies. But it has never been tried on the human eye, given the finer precision needed, the researchers said.

De Smet’s group had a working model of the robotic system in 2011, devised by de Smet and Maarten Steinbuch, an engineering professor at the University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. They demonstrated the system’s utility in 2015 on pigs, which have similar size eyes as humans.

MacLaren’s team first used the system on a human, a 70-year-old priest from Oxford, England, in September 2016. Upon the success of that surgery, MacLaren’s team conducted a study on 11 more patients in a randomized clinical trial, hoping to measure the robotic system’s accuracy compared to the human hand.

Could Robots Create a ‘Jobless Future’ for Humans? 11:56

The robot acts like a mechanical hand with seven independent motors that can make movements as precise as 1 micron. The robot operates inside the eye through a single hole less than 1 millimeter in diameter and goes in and out of the eye through this same hole during various steps of the procedure. But the surgeon is in control, using a joystick and touch screen to maneuver the robot hand while monitoring movements through the operating microscope, MacLaren explained.

During the trial, two patients who underwent the robotic surgery developed micro-hemorrhages, which means a little bit of bleeding, and one experienced a “retinal touch,” which means there was an increased risk of retinal tear and detachment. In the traditional surgery group, five patients experienced micro-hemorrhages, and two had retinal touches.

MacLaren said the precision offered by the robotic system may enable new surgical procedures that surgeons have dreamed about but figured were too difficult to accomplish. For example, MacLaren said he hopes to next use the robotic system to place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it, which could aid in retinal gene therapy, a promising new treatment for blindness.

Related: These ER Docs Invented a Real Star Trek Tricorder

“The robotic technology is very exciting, and the ability to operate under the retina safely will represent a huge advance in developing genetic and stem cell treatments for retinal disease,” MacLaren told Live Science.

The surgical system was developed by Preceyes BV, a Dutch medical robotics firm established at the University of Eindhoven by de Smet and others.

Follow Christopher Wanjek @wanjek for daily tweets on health and science with a humorous edge. Wanjek is the author of “Food at Work” and “Bad Medicine.” His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on Live Science.

 

North Korea accuses US, South Korea of assassination attempt

North Korea accuses US, South Korea of assassination attempt

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Friday accused the U.S. and South Korean spy agencies of an unsuccessful assassination attempt on leader Kim Jong Un involving bio-chemical weapons.

In a statement carried on state media, North Korea’s Ministry of State Security said it will “ferret out and mercilessly destroy” the “terrorists” in the CIA and South Korean intelligence agency for targeting its supreme leadership.

North Korea frequently lambasts the United States and South Korea, but its accusation Friday was unusual in its detail.

The ministry said the spy agencies in June 2014 “ideologically corrupted and bribed” a North Korean citizen who had been working in Russia to carry out the alleged assassination on Kim after returning home.

It said South Korean agents gave $20,000 and satellite communication equipment to the North Korean to attack Kim during a public event with a bio-chemical weapon, such as a “radioactive” and “nano poisonous” substance.

The ministry threatened that a counterattack would begin immediately. “Korean-style anti-terrorist attack will be commenced from this moment to sweep away the intelligence and plot-breeding organizations of the U.S. imperialists and the puppet clique,” it said, referring to South Korea.

Officials at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service were not immediately reachable for comment.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, who is 95, to step down from royal duties this autumn – Buckingham Palace

13 Dead, Dozens Injured After Tornadoes, Storms Batter South

13 Dead, Dozens Injured After Tornadoes, Storms Batter South

The National Weather Service said that in addition to the flooding over the center of the nation, severe thunderstorms were possible from the Mid-Atlantic and into the Northeast on Monday afternoon and evening, bringing damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and possible large hail.

Canton, Texas, Mayor Lou Ann Everett said Sunday that at least four people were killed and 49 others were taken to hospitals after four tornadoes touched down in the eastern part of the state on Saturday afternoon and evening.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the damage was “devastating” during a news conference with local officials Sunday afternoon.

“You saw homes and other buildings that were incompletely flattened, as well as others that were nothing more than rubble,” he said, adding that he saw “large swath after large swath of devastation.”

Tornadoes, floods ravage parts of South and Midwest: At least 15 killed

The tornadoes touched down Saturday as severe storms ripped through parts of the South and Midwest, bringing heavy rain and flash flood warnings for a section stretching from eastern Oklahoma to western Kentucky and parts of Illinois.

The NWS said on Monday that “major to record flooding” continued over portions of the central U.S., including Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Rivers were expected to gradually recede over the next few days, the NWS said.

On Sunday in Missouri, the state highway patrol said that 18-year-old Gideon Jenkins died after his vehicle was swept away by flash floods while trying to traverse a low-water crossing area.

Another man, Clifford Brandt, 77, died after slipping and falling into a creek. And on Saturday, a 72-year-old woman drowned after her car was swept away by floodwaters. The husband of Madelaine Krueger attempted to rescue her, the highway patrol said.

In Arkansas, a total of at least three people were killed including a 10-year-old girl who died after being swept away by rushing waters in Springdale on Saturday, authorities said on Sunday.

Image: The Rustic Barn, an event hall, which suffered major tornado damage, is seen from an unmanned aerial vehicle in Canton, Texas
The Rustic Barn, an event hall, which suffered major tornado damage, is seen from an unmanned aerial vehicle in Canton, Texas on April 30. Brandon Wade / Reuters

The Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Sunday afternoon that Cove Creek Pearson Fire Chief Doug Deckard died during a “tragic accident” while serving in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm.

Another person was killed on Saturday after a tree fell onto a mobile home in Dewitt, Arkansas County Emergency Management spokeswoman Whitney Green said.

In Madison County, authorities were looking for two children, a 4-year-old boy and an 18-month girl, who went missing after they were separated from their mother after her car got stuck in high water on Saturday night. The county sheriff’s office said Sunday that the search for the missing toddlers had become a recovery operation, and that the two were believed to be dead because of their age.

In Mississippi, two storm-related deaths were reported Sunday, in Holmes County and Rankin County, where a child died from electric shock in floodwaters, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said. No details of the Holmes County death were immediately available.

A 2-year-old girl was killed Sunday in Antioch, Tennessee, when a heavy metal soccer goal toppled onto her in high winds, Nashville police said.

Donald Trump sounds like he really misses not being president

Donald Trump sounds like he really misses not being president

“I loved my previous life, I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters. “I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
Then, later: “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work. But this is actually more work.”
That sentiment is, in a word, strange. For a few reasons.
It’s absolutely true that all presidents express — privately and then, eventually, publicly — some level of longing for the life they left behind or the life they will return to. But that usually happens after, say, seven or eight years in the White House. Not after 99 days.
The truth is — and even Donald Trump might admit this in his most candid moments — that he had almost zero idea of what being president would entail when he started running for the office almost two years ago now.
When he entered the race in June 2015, there was no reasonable expectation that he would even sniff the top tier of the Republican field. He was seen as a curiosity, a celebrity calling everyone’s bluff who said he never could, should or would run.
Throughout the campaign — even as he improbably rose to the top of the GOP field and stayed there — Trump would always tell his crowds that being president would be easy, and that he would solve the problems of the country so quickly they wouldn’t believe it.
“Together we’re going to deliver real change that once again puts Americans first,” Trump promised a Florida audience last October. “You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy.”
(Nota bene: Republican attempts to even hold a vote on legislation that would reform and replace the Affordable Care Act died Thursday night. For the second time in as many months.)
It’s, of course, true that no president is ever, really, ready for the job when they come into office. But Trump’s understanding of the office — and of the political process was minuscule. He had never run for or served in any elected office. (Say what you will about the relative inexperience of George W. Bush and Barack Obama before ascending to the presidency but they had been elected and served as governor and senator, respectively.) Trump’s experience in politics, by contrast, amounted to giving money when someone asked him to. And that’s about it.
Which is how someone who has been president for the last 99 days can repeatedly express amazement that the job is hard — far harder than he expected — and wax nostalgic about his old life.
Trump’s old life was, without question, easier than his current one. He starred in a reality TV show. He was the brand manager of a company built around his ostentatious personality. He did, basically, what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it.
Now his life is totally and completely proscribed. He has very little agency in all of it. He goes where he is told when he is told. And much of what Trump does on a daily basis is a radical departure from the “being Donald Trump” role that he had been playing for decades prior to winning the White House. He has to confront problems — the Middle East, North Korea, healthcare — in which he can’t just snap his fingers, make a decision and move on. Nothing — or almost nothing– is black and white. It’s all shades of gray. It’s, um, hard.
Given all of that, it’s easy to see why Trump might pine for the simpler life he led prior to being elected president. It’s just very, very odd he decided to say that publicly less than 100 days into his administration.

Pentagon Investigating Michael Flynn for Foreign Payments

Pentagon Investigating Michael Flynn for Foreign Payments

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the highest ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released a Defense Intelligence Agency letter sent to the former Army lieutenant general as he entered retirement which specifically says Flynn cannot accept fees and gifts from foreign governments “unless congressional consent is first obtained.”

Cummings Releases Documents Showing Flynn Inaction on Russia Payment

“The Pentagon’s warning to Gen. Flynn was bold, italicized and could not have been clearer,” Cummings told reporters.

A second letter released by Cummings shows the Inspector General of the Department of Defense is investigating whether Flynn received proper permission to take the funds. A Defense Department spokesman confirmed the Flynn probe opened April 4.

Flynn, who resigned in February after misleading Trump administration officials about his conversations with Russian officials, is under fire for receiving nearly $34,000 in December 2015 for speaking at a gala celebrating Russian TV, and more than $500,000 for lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government.

Another Defense Intelligence Agency released Thursday also revealed they could not locate any records of Flynn “seeking permission or approval for the receipt of money from a foreign source.”

Earlier this week Cummings, joined by Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, said Flynn may have violated the law by not disclosing the payments.

“I see no information or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz, chair of the oversight committee, told NBC News on Tuesday.

A lawyer for Flynn said in a statement this week that the former Trump adviser “extensively” briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency “both before and after the trip” to Moscow.

Chaffetz and Cummings released a joint statement this week revealing the White House had denied their request for documents relating to Flynn. Chaffetz said he believes the administration simply does not possess the documents, while Cummings has said they are intentionally withholding information about Flynn.

“I don’t understand why the White house is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Cummings said Thursday.

Lawsuit Filed Against Fox News Channel Alleges Racial Discrimination

Lawsuit Filed Against Fox News Channel Alleges Racial Discrimination

NEW YORK — An expanded lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Fox News Channel of racial discrimination “that appears more akin to Plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment.”

The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court, adds eight former and current Fox employees to a case involving three former Fox workers and their accusations against a since-fired Fox financial executive. It also expands the case to include Dianne Brandi, Fox’s chief counsel.

Fox News said it vehemently denies the allegations, calling them “copycat complaints.” It said Brandi denies the claims against her.

Bill O’Reilly breaks his silence, says ‘the truth will come out’3:41

The original lawsuit was filed in late March by two black women who worked in the network’s payroll department, and a third colleague later joined it. The expanded lawsuit, incorporating the other employees, seeks unspecified compensatory damages and an elimination of unlawful employment practices at Fox.

The workers allege that their complaints about the actions of Judith Slater, the fired former comptroller, went unanswered for years. They say Brandi told them it was because Slater “knew too much” about former Fox Chairman Roger Ailes and top-rated host Bill O’Reilly, who have been ousted over the past year because of sexual-harassment accusations.

Related: After O’Reilly, What’s Next for Fox News?

A lawyer for Slater, Catherine Foti, said the actions against Slater are meritless and frivolous. She said “all claims of racial discrimination against Ms. Slater are completely false.”

One plaintiff, on-air personality Kelly Wright, who’s black, said he’d been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a Jim Crow, an insulting slang term to refer to a black man, according to the lawsuit. Wright said O’Reilly, who’s white, refused to show a piece Wright had prepared after racial protests in Ferguson, Missouri, because they showed blacks in too positive a light.

A former employee, Musfiq Rahman, a dark-skinned Bangladeshi, said he was punished after mistakenly walking into Ailes’ office by no longer being allowed on Ailes’ floor without an escort.

Mark LeGrier, a former financial employee who’s black, said he was subjected to retaliation when he complained to Brandi about Slater’s behavior.

“When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” said Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

MARCH 21: The changing landscape and faces at Fox News4:46

Meanwhile, Nielsen company ratings showed that Tucker Carlson moved into O’Reilly’s old time slot at Fox News on Monday night and took over his status as the most-watched host in cable news — at least for a night.

O’Reilly, who hosted “The O’Reilly Factor,” was fired by Fox last week following news about Fox settling sexual-harassment cases involving him for millions of dollars. He has denied the allegations.

Related: O’Reilly’s Departure From Fox News Caps Tumultuous Career

Nielsen said Carlson’s first night at 8 p.m. attracted 3.17 million viewers, beating the combined audience of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who reached 1.52 million viewers, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who reached 1 million.

Carlson did not beat O’Reilly’s nearly 4 million average during the first three months of the year. Carlson had averaged 3.3 million in the 9 p.m. time slot following O’Reilly.

Ivanka Trump in Germany: First Daughter Leaves Some Women Scratching Their Heads

Ivanka Trump in Germany: First Daughter Leaves Some Women Scratching Their Heads

This is a country run by Angela Merkel, a veteran politician with a doctorate in quantum chemistry: someone who grew up in communist East Germany, was elected German leader three times, and who is regularly referred to as the most powerful woman on the planet.

Alongside her husband, senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner, 35-year-old Ivanka Trump has emerged as one of the key powerbrokers in what has become a distinctly family-oriented White House.

The first daughter traveled to the German capital, Berlin, on Tuesday after being invited by Merkel to participate in a panel discussion at the Women20 summit — an international event that aims to “promote women’s economic empowerment.” She arrived having become a prominent champion of working women, and after co-writing an article on the importance of the economic empowerment of women that appeared in the Financial Times newspaper.

Audience Groans as Ivanka Trump Touts Father’s ‘Advocacy’ of Women 1:27

While Ivanka Trump was in Berlin to promote women, the president himself was front and center during a panel discussion at the summit. The first daughter defended Donald Trump after a handful of attendees booed and groaned when she mentioned his name, saying he had encouraged “thousands” of women who worked for him.

“As a daughter, I can speak on a very personal level knowing that he encouraged and enabled me to thrive,” she said. “I don’t take that lightly as a parent now myself. And there was no difference for me and my brothers.”

Ivanka Trump would have reason to know how her father treats women. Before moving into the White House, Ivanka Trump graduated cum laude from her father’s alma mater, the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. And after a brief modeling career, she went into the family business — the Trump Organization.

Some commentators have speculated Merkel’s personal invitation to Trump was the German leader’s way of opening a channel to President Donald Trump, after an awkward meeting last month in which he appeared to decline her handshake.

But many German women do not share their leader’s welcoming spirit.

Image: Ivanka Trump, Angela Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel listens as Ivanka Trump speaks during a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on March 17. Evan Vucci / AP

Some, including 49-year-old creative director Inga Meyer, question Ivanka Trump’s contribution at an affair featuring other uber-qualified speakers such as International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Meyer, the creative director, told NBC News on Monday. “Why does she have the power and the position to meet Angela Merkel?”

Meyer stopped to chat with NBC News before cycling to an appointment along one of Berlin’s wide, cobbled streets, where bikes and trams are given equal billing alongside compact European cars and tourist buses.

“It’s not clear exactly what her position is,” Meyer added, referring to Ivanka Trump’s role as an unpaid presidential adviser. “She obviously has more power than what her official role suggests.”

As well as her presidential duties, she still owns an eponymous clothing and jewelry line.

Insofar that Wednesday’s summit is about women in business, she is a good fit given her previous experience, according to 35-year-old Sandra Toepke.

But “on a political level — I guess not,” said Toepke, who works at the International Film Festival and spoke while walking her dog near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.

“It’s pure nepotism that she’s in that position,” she added. “She’s partaking in negotiations at the White House and has security clearance.”

Image: Inga Meyer
Inga Meyer in Berlin. Alex Smith / NBC News

Lea May, a 22-year-old medical student walking on her way to class, added: “I just don’t know if she’s really into politics like Angela is.”

That a number of successful, professional woman in Berlin expressed dismay that Ivanka Trump was joining such accomplished set should perhaps not come as a surprise.

President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in Europe but particularly so in Germany, where just 6 percent of people said they had confidence in him when it came to world affairs, according to a Pew study last year.

Germany also has a far higher rate of intergenerational social mobility than the United States, according to a study of OECD countries in 2015. This means the future salaries of German children are less dependant on what their parents bank — they make their own way.

Merkel, 62, fits this mold. The daughter of a pastor and a teacher, she was born in the West German city of Hamburg but moved to the rural, communist East after her father was posted to a church there. She later earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry and worked at a science academy. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, she climbed up the ranks of the center-right CDU, the political party she now leads.

In contrast with Merkel’s understated style, many Germans find Donald Trump’s persona-driven politics unpalatable.

“It’s ridiculous, what’s happening in U.S. politics,” said Thyra Guenther-Luebbers, a 21-year-old college student who’s also interning at an art gallery in the German capital. “It’s something that’s never going to happen in Germany or anywhere else in Europe.”

Image: Sandra Toepke
Sandra Toepke. Alex Smith / for NBC News

Taking a stroll down the Unter den Linden boulevard, Guenther-Luebbers gave a similar view of Ivanka Trump: Would she be so successful if it weren’t for her last name? “I don’t think so.”

That’s not to say that everyone on Tuesday’s panel is elected. Among the high-profile guests is Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, who is married to the country’s king. Like Ivanka Trump, she too has a background in business, working in banking before meeting her prince.

It would also be inaccurate to say everyone in Berlin shared dislike for Ivanka Trump and her family-boosted resume.

“I like her because she has the ability to influence Donald Trump,” said 68-year-old Molly Schultz, who runs a book stall outside the Humboldt University of Berlin. “It doesn’t matter so much to me that she isn’t so qualified.”

The ability to influence her father — or at least be a significant voice in his retinue — is something that appears to have been seized upon by Merkel.

The German leader endured an excruciating first official visit to the Trump White House last month, when the president appeared to decline to shake her hand for the cameras. In 2015, the president said Merkel was “insane” to relax Germany’s borders to welcome migrants fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. (Although the same year he also called her “probably the greatest leader in the world today.”)

During Merkel’s visit to Washington last month, some political commentators criticized the decision to seat her next to Ivanka Trump at an official meeting with business leaders, again citing Ivanka Trump’s lack of credentials. A photo of Merkel looking at her neighbor was described by Politico as “a look of bewilderment tinged with disdain enveloping her face.”

View image on Twitter

But it was off the back of this meeting that Merkel invited Ivanka Trump to Berlin, perhaps eager to nurture an ally in a new and unknown White House. In return, the president’s daughter would likely get to increase her international profile and champion a cause she says has long since been close to her heart.

While in Berlin, Ivanka Trump will also visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

In spite of her schedule, editorials and clear hard work, nearly everybody NBC News spoke to here remained unconvinced by their American guest.

“Everybody is someone’s daughter but the question is, ‘Is she qualified for the job?’ And I don’t think being the daughter of Trump qualifies you for this job, you know?” said 33-year-old sports science student Jennifer Benz.

American Airlines flight attendant put on leave after clash with passengers captured on video

American Airlines flight attendant put on leave after clash with passengers captured on video

PHOTO: A passenger on an American Airlines aircraft in San Francisco on April 21, 2017, captured a heated moment between a flight attendant and passengers.Surain Adyanthaya

It’s been less than two weeks since a video of a bloodied passenger being dragged off a United Airlines aircraft ignited a national discussion about the airline industry’s treatment of passengers, and now, yet another onboard incident captured on video is raising eyebrows — and it’s resulted in the immediate grounding of a flight attendant.

A video posted to Facebook on Friday by Surain Adyanthaya — a passenger onboard American Airlines flight 591, from San Francisco to Dallas — shows an intense confrontation between a flight attendant and at least two passengers at the front of the aircraft while it is still on the tarmac in San Francisco.

The heated moment began when a flight attendant took away a stroller from a female passenger, Adyanthaya told ABC affiliate WFAA in Dallas, which reported that the woman was from Argentina and traveling with her two children.

The nearly three-minute video starts with the woman crying and asking the flight attendant to give her back the stroller.

The incident appears to escalate when a male passenger comes to the woman’s defense, saying to the flight attendant, “Hey bud, hey bud, you do that to me and I’ll knock you flat!”

The flight attendant, who is visibly angry, points his finger at the passenger and says, “Hey, you stay out of this!”

A pilot appears to attempt to calm down the flight attendant.

During the entire video, the female passenger continues to be heard crying.

American Airlines responded publicly to the incident shortly after the video began to circulate online, announcing in a statement that the flight attendant had been put on leave while the incident was investigated and that the woman and her family were upgraded to first-class for the remainder of their international trip.

An American Airlines spokesperson told ABC News that the woman passenger brought a double-wide stroller onto a single-aisle plane.

The airlines’ rules for passengers traveling with children say strollers should be checked at the gate.

The airline spokesperson told ABC News that when the passenger tried to jam the stroller down the plane aisle, a flight attendant tried to tell her she needed to gate-check it. The woman began to cry, after which another passenger got involved, and the situation escalated from there, according to the airline spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the flight attendant should not have become confrontational with any passenger.

American Airlines in its statement said, “What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers. We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident.”

The statement continued, “The actions of our team member captured here do not appear to reflect patience or empathy, two values necessary for customer care. In short, we are disappointed by these actions. The American team member has been removed from duty while we immediately investigate this incident.”

ABC News’ Morg

President Trump to Host Unusual Meeting With UN Security Council

 

President Trump to Host Unusual Meeting With UN Security Council

Image: TOPSHOT-US-ITALY-DIPLOMACY

President Donald Trump awaits the arrival of Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni for meetings at the White House in Washington, D.C., April 20, 2017. SAUL LOEB / AFP – Getty Images

President Trump will host members of the United Nations Security Council at the White House Monday, a highly unusual meeting made even more startling because of his harsh criticism of the international institution during the campaign and since taking office.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is serving this month as the President of the Security Council, a role that rotates each month among the five Permanent members: the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia. There are 15 members of the group — but the others, right now including Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay are non-voting members.

Haley will be attending before the group returns to New York for scheduled Security Council meetings on Tuesday.

Managing the North Korean crucible

The president’s budget outline proposed deep cuts in the U.S. contribution to the UN, which could dramatically impair its peacekeeping functions around the world.

Other high profile UN functions include refugee relief and vetting of refugee visa applicants to the U.S, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna — the weapons inspectors who monitor Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal.

Diplomatic sources told NBC News the ambassadors are expecting to have coffee at Blair House — also known as the The President’s Guest House — with members of Congress Monday morning and then go to the White House to meet with the President and have lunch.

North Korea will inevitably be a major point of discussion.

North Korea threatens ‘super mighty pre-emptive strike’ against US

China abstained on a UN resolution last week condemning the latest missile test — instead of vetoing it — a symbolic gesture. But Beijing has so far resisted tougher action.

The Trump administration could unilaterally impose much tougher banking sanctions against North Korea if it wanted to — similar to the Obama administration’s past sanctions on Iran — for instance blocking all foreign banks who deal with North Korea from trading in dollars or banking in the U.S. That would be a direct hit on China’s financing of the regime in Pyongyang.

So far, however, the Trump White House has not chosen that route but has repeatedly said “all options are on the table,” implying military action was possible.

Many experts, including former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have discounted the viability of preemptive military strikes given the proximity of millions of people in Seoul and 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, all within artillery range of North Korea if it were to retaliate.

This all comes as an American citizen, a Korean-American accounting instructor, was detained Sunday at the airport in Pyongyang while trying to leave the country after having been there for a month.

The State Department has reached out to Sweden’s embassy, the protectorate for the U.S. in North Korea, to try to obtain his release.

Paris Police Shooting: Attacker Was French, Had Long Criminal Record

Paris Police Shooting: Attacker Was French, Had Long Criminal Record

PARIS — The gunman purportedly behind a shootout that killed a police officer and wounded two others in Paris has been named as 39-year-old French citizen who lived on the outskirts of the French capital.

Although Karim Cheurfi was known to French authorities he was not on a watch list of people suspected of posing a security risk, a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

Earlier Friday, interior ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet told radio station France Info that a shotgun and knives had been found in the suspect’s car and that he had a long criminal record.

Three people from the suspect’s family have been taken into custody for questioning, he added.

ISIS reportedly claims responsibility for Paris attack that left 1 officer dead

The attacker ambushed three Parisian police officers on the Champs-Elysees on Thursday, killing one and wounding two others in what the country’s president called a terrorist attack.

The gunman — who ISIS claimed as one of their own — was then fatally shot while trying to flee on foot down the famous boulevard, police said.

John Finney, an American tourist from Kentucky visiting Paris with his family told NBC News that he had been 10 feet away when the shooter opened fire.

“I stopped to buy my wife a rose and I think if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be here speaking to you right now,” Finney said. “We saw the shooter get out of the car, he had a gun. To me, it looked like an AR-15 [and] he started popping of rounds.”

Finney added: “It was chaos. People were spreading out, running all over the place, falling down, trampling each other. It was real panic.”

Europe Faces Unique Terror Threat, French PM Says

There were conflicting reports Friday morning of people who had been identified by the Belgian security services as being involved in the attack, and France remained on edge just days before key presidential elections.

French President, Francois Hollande, did not identify the slain suspect. But he was known to French authorities and armed with an AK-47 rifle, two U.S. law enforcement officials briefed on the attack told NBC News earlier. He called the shooting a terrorist attack.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also confirmed Friday after a meeting of France’s National Defense Council that pre-existing arrangements that 50,000 police and 7,000 military personnel would be deployed for security during this weekend’s elections.

Cazeneuve compared the attack to recent incidents in Berlin, Stockholm and London, adding that the whole of Europe was facing a unique terrorist threat.

National security is a burning issue for many in France after attacks by militant Islamists across the country have killed more than 230 people over the past two years.

Image: Police search near the house of the suspected attacker
Police search near the house of the suspected attacker who opened fire on police on Paris’ Champs Elysees. Sarah Brethessarah Brethes / AFP – Getty Images

Presidential candidates Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National party and Francois Fillon of the center right Les Republicans canceled remaining campaign events, the AFP news agency reported.

Reading out a televised statement Friday morning, Le Pen called for the expulsion of foreigners with a security record.

Reuters reported that Fillon said the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be the priority of the next President.

Meanwhile, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he was ready to deal with the terrorist threat.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted early Friday: “Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!”

Syria’s chemical program: Rubio ‘gravely concerned’ about Iran & Russia complicity

Syria’s chemical program: Rubio ‘gravely concerned’ about Iran & Russia complicity

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News he’s “gravely concerned” about the Iran’s role in helping Syria develop its chemical welfare program that ended up killing dozens of people weeks ago.

Rubio, a Republican, said he was troubled by reports that both Iran and Russia were complicit in Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program. While the Trump administration accused Moscow of covering up the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S government has not mentioned Iran’s possible role.

“Congress and the White House should work together to hold the Assad regime accountable for its war crimes and impose harsh sanctions against its enablers,” Rubio told Fox News.

Mounting evidence shows Iran’s regime enabled Assad to develop a lethal gas program that he used on civilians earlier this month and in 2013. Assad’s Air Force dropped the poisonous gas sarin on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April, killing more than 80 people, many of them children.

IRAN ISSUES THREAT OVER US STRIKES IN SYRIA

In response to Assad’s chemical attack, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat Air Base, which served as the departure point for planes carrying the deadly nerve agent. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah have long used the Shayrat Air Base, experts say.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the attack in Khan Sheikhoun “indicate that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used.”

Iran sided with Russia’s denial that the Syrian regime did not use chemical weapons.  Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the “unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.”

Assad first used sarin nerve gas to attack the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, killing nearly 1,500 civilians, including 426 children.

Last July, Fox News reported exclusively that Iran sought chemical and biological weapons technology, according to multiple German intelligence documents.

The British publication Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in 2005 that the Islamic Republic of Iran worked with Assad’s regime to build an “innovative chemical warfare program.” According to the report, Iran provided crucial know-how to build equipment to produce “hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent.”

According to a WikiLeaks cable on the Iran-Syria chemical warfare activities, “New Zealand assesses that the cooperation is mainly driven by Iran’s desire for increased strategic importance in the region. New Zealand also assesses that Iran’s biotechnology sector is far more advanced than Syria’s, and Iran does not mind sharing its knowledge with Syria.”

US LAUNCHES MISSILES INTO SYRIA IN RESPONSE TO CHEMICAL WEAPONS ATTACK

In 2007, a joint Iran-Syria project accidentally caused an explosion while attempting to load a chemical warhead onto a Scud-C missile, wrote Jane’s Defense. The deadly test killed dozens of Syrian military personnel and Iranian engineers.

Sarin gas, along with mustard gas and VX nerve gas, were cited as the lethal toxins during the 2007 explosion at an Aleppo factory.

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the Washington D.C-based American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News that Iran has long viewed Syria as a partner.

“The thing that makes Iran so dangerous is it not only exports its weapons to proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, but it brags about exporting the ability to manufacture weapons,” Rubin said.

Rubin, who has written about Iran’s chemical weapons program, said it makes strategic sense for Iran to help other countries obtain chemical agents.

“Plausible deniability has always been central to post-revolutionary Iran’s strategic calculation,” he said, “and so to proliferate unconventional weapons enables Iran to avoid accountability by raising the number of suspects every time they are used.”

Fox News reported last week that defected Syrian Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat,  who oversaw the regime’s chemical weapons, said Bashar Assad  would not “completely give up” his chemical weapons arsenal.

The recent chemical attack debunked former Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion in 2014 that the U.S. “got 100 percent of the chemical weapons [out of Syria].

A 2017 Congressional Service report released this month said Iran not only has the capability to produce chemical warfare but probably “has the capability to produce some biological warfare agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so.”

The report notes that “this raises questions about Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which Iran signed on January 13, 1993, and ratified on June 8, 1997.”

The emergence of Iran’s role in enabling Syria’s use of chemical weapons comes on the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying: “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods.” Tillerson said this week, however, that a recent review shows Iran has been compliant with its 2015 nuclear deal.

During the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988, both Iran’s Islamist regime and Saddam Hussein’s secular Baath party employed poisonous gas on soldiers.

Iran’s UN diplomatic missions in New York and Geneva did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News for comment.

U.S. May Not Be Able to Shoot Down North Korean Missiles, Say Experts

U.S. May Not Be Able to Shoot Down North Korean Missiles, Say Experts

Top generals have been insisting for years that if North Korea launched a missile at the United States, the U.S military would be able to shoot it down.

But that is a highly questionable assertion, according to independent scientists and government investigators.

In making it, the generals fail to acknowledge huge questions about the effectiveness of the $40 billion missile defense system they rely on to stop a potential nuclear-armed ballistic missile fired by North Korean or Iran, according to a series of outside reviews.

“They are leading political leaders to believe that they have a military capability that they don’t, in fact, have,” says physicist David Wright, who has studied the program for years as co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Related: Maybe Those North Korean Missiles Were Just Big Green Tubes

Chris Johnson, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said the Pentagon “is confident in our ability to defend the homeland against ballistic missile threats.” While the program had reliability challenges early in its development, “we have made significant improvements over the last several years to ensure the system is able to operate as designed,” he added.

The missile defense system relies on 60-foot-tall, three-stage rockets of its own to knock the enemy projectiles out of space, a task that has been compared to shooting a bullet with a bullet. The system is known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD.

North Korea Missile Launch: Why Did It ‘Immediately’ Blow Up?

There are 36 interceptors in operation, according to the Missile Defense Agency — four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and 32 at Ft. Greely, Alaska. Eight more are due online by year’s end. In contrast to the Iron Dome system in Israel, which is designed to counter shorter range missiles and artillery, the GMD is made to hit missiles above the earth’s atmosphere — a more difficult proposition. It is among the heirs to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called Star Wars program launched under Ronald Reagan.

Related: Trump’s Options for North Korea Include Putting Nukes in South Korea

The missiles are based in Alaska and California because the West Coast is the best place from which to intercept missiles that would travel the shortest routes from both Iran and North Korea. Congress has pushed for a third site on the East Coast.

Image: A flight test of the exercising elements of the GMD system launched at the Vandenberg AFB
A flight test of the exercising elements of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is launched by the 30th Space Wing and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency at the Vandenberg AFB, California on June 22, 2014. Gene Blevins / Reuters file

Intelligence agencies don’t assess that North Korea is yet capable of firing a nuclear-armed missile at the U.S., but analysts believe it is on course to reach that goal.

But even through the system has been fielded, it hasn’t been proven to work.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the agency that runs the missile defense system “has not demonstrated through flight testing that it can defend the U.S. homeland.”

In nine simulated attacks since the system was deployed in 2004, interceptors have failed to take out their targets six times, even though the flight tests were far less challenging than an actual attack, according to The Los Angeles Times, which published an investigation of the missile defense system last year that uncovered a previously unknown test failure.

North Korea is putting missile program ‘into overdrive,’ expert warns 2:24

“Despite years of tinkering and vows to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has gotten worse, not better,” The Times concluded.

Last July, the highly regarded Union of Concerned Scientists, which is often skeptical of military programs, weighed in with a 47-page report calling the U.S. approach to missile defense “disastrous.” Of the GMD, it concluded: “Its test record is poor and it has no demonstrated ability to stop an incoming missile under real-world conditions.”

A 2012 National Academy of Sciences study called the GMD “deficient” and recommended a complete overhaul of the interceptors, sensors, and concept of operations. No such overhaul has happened.

A senior Congressional aide who regularly receives classified briefings on the system told NBC News Tuesday: “None of this stuff works reliably. Nothing. Their interceptor programs are not working. They shoot down targets some of the time, but it’s not reliable enough that we would want to risk the catastrophic failure of a miss.”

The Pentagon and its Missile Defense Agency strongly disagree. Officials have repeatedly assured lawmakers and the public that the system, despite its testing failures, is up to the task of protecting the United States.

“Today we have exactly what we need to defend the United States of America against North Korea,” Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 6.

Sen Lindsey Graham asked: “So if a missile were launched from North Korea in the next year we could knock it down?”

“Yes sir,” Robinson replied.

There is no basis for such certainty, Wright and other experts say.

The Pentagon has spent more than $40 billion to field a system that has not been proven in a real world scenario.

Related: Experts Say North Korea Is Showing Off Missiles That Can’t Fly

The system has failed about half the time in tests that are scripted, Wright says — meaning those operating the missile defense system have information about the target they would not have in real life. In 2002, the program was exempted from normal testing and procurement standards so that it could be deployed faster.

The system has still not been tested against realistic targets such as tumbling warheads, warheads accompanied by credible decoys, or warheads traveling at speeds and from distances similar to that of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs),” the Union of Concerned Scientists report said. “Nearly 15 years after the GMD system was put on the fast track, the Pentagon’s own testing officials have said the system has not demonstrated an operationally useful capability to defend the U.S. public from a missile attack.”

Johnson, the missile agency spokesman, disputed that, asserting that the system had relied on “operationally realistic intercept tests.”

Image: Television pictures in South Korea showed file footage of a North Korean ballistic missile.
Television pictures in South Korea showed file footage of a North Korean ballistic missile. Ahn Young-joon / AP

Military officials have acknowledged that the technology is not where they would like it to be. One of the ways they would seek to improve their odds is to fire four or five interceptors at any one missile, under what is known as “shot doctrine.”

“Today the shot doctrine, or number of (interceptors) launched at one incoming long range ballistic missile to ensure success, would be a high number,” says the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a group of contractors that build the systems, on its web site.

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists has calculated that if five warheads were headed to the U.S., and each interceptor had a 50 percent chance of hitting its target, there would be a 28 percent chance that one warhead would get through. Those are not odds a president would want to rely on in the case of a nuclear weapon.

Related: U.S. Begins Shipping Controversial Anti-Missile System to South Korea

Moreover, those odds leave aside the potential use of decoys and countermeasures, which has bedeviled missile defense for years. The GMD relies on heat sensors to distinguish between the real warhead and decoys, Wright said, but that could be defeated by something as simple as using liquid nitrogen to cool the warhead before launch.

Supporters of the program argue that failed tests are part of the learning process.

“In the space business, that’s how you go fast,” said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in a recent appearance before Congress.

“Von Braun, in the early days of the rocket business, he had a 60 percent failure rate; maybe the greatest rocket scientist of all time,” he added, referring to German scientist Wernher von Braun, who is credited with inventing the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany before being secretly spirited to the U.S., where he developed the Saturn V, which propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.

But the problem, Wright and other critics say, is that the generals aren’t leveling with Congress and the American people about the uncertain state of the current technology. And they are spending billions fielding a system that may not work.

“More money to buy more bad stuff is not the answer,” the senior Congressional aide said. “More for research and development is the answer.”

On North Korean border, Pence tells CNN US will drop ‘failed policy’

On North Korean border, Pence tells CNN US will drop ‘failed policy’

“We’re going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we’re going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably,” Pence said in an exclusive interview at the DMZ.
What is the DMZ?

The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is a heavily-fortified buffer, four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide and 250 kilometers (160 miles) long, that separates North and South Korea.

It was established by the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, though both sides technically remain at conflict as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

Numerous US officials have visited military bases overlooking the border, and the Panmunjom Joint Security Area, where North and South Korean soldiers stand watch facing each other and several meeting rooms straddle the border between the two countries.

To achieve this new strategy, the administration is relying heavily on China, a country President Donald Trump spent his entire campaign railing against, but has since stopped as it became clear North Korea would be a top priority requiring China’s help.
“I know the President was heartened by his discussions with President Xi (Jinping). We’ve seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea but there needs to be more,” Pence said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a daily briefing Monday that the onus was on all parties — including the US and China — to reach a peaceful solution.
“Resolving this issue requires all relevant parties, especially parties that bear major responsibility and play a key role in this issue, to work in the same direction and make a joint effort,” he said.

Nuclear ambition

The North Korean regime began its nuclear program in earnest during the Clinton administration, which tried to prevent its buildup with a diplomatic agreement.
It ultimately failed after Pyongyang violated it by continuing its nuclear buildup. Later, the Bush administration tried global pressure with the so-called “six party talks,” but those failed too, and North Korea launched its first nuclear test in 2006. During the Obama administration, the regime launched four more nuclear tests.
Now, some estimates are that North Korea may have the capability to launch a missile that could hit the continental US by the year 2020.
Asked about that, Pence paused for several seconds before answering.
“I know the President of the United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. The presence of US forces here in South Korea are a long-standing commitment to the Asia Pacific. And insuring the security of the continental US will be a priority in this administration.
“Look, we want to be clear: our hope and frankly our prayer is that by marshaling the resources of nations across the Asian Pacific — not just South Korea, Japan, other allies — and China bringing renewed pressure to bear,” he said.

Pence breaks with security plan

The plan was for the vice president to stay inside the glass enclosed Freedom House at the DMZ and not step outside towards the military demarcation line (MDL), where North Korean soldiers are standing.
However, once there, Pence declared he wanted to go outside — and so he did just that. As the vice president stood and looked on, North Korean soldiers quickly came out on their side of MDL and began taking pictures of Pence.
A North Korean soldier takes a photo during US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), April 17.

Military officials here told CNN in advance that snapping photos is what North Korea does when seeing VIPs across the way — both to document their presence and intimidate.
Most US dignitaries go even closer to the North Korean side when here — to a set of blue buildings called conference row that spans the MDL and allows them to actually step foot in North Korea. For security reasons, Pence did not.
He did, however, go to Observation Point Ouellette, a lookout post from where not only are the North Korean hills visible, but its propaganda machine can be heard — music and political messages blast there across the DMZ.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives at Observation Post Ouellette in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), near the border village of Panmunjom.

Pence’s father awarded Bronze Star

For the vice president, this first trip to the Korean Peninsula is an emotional one. His father, 2nd Lt. Edward J. Pence, Jr., US Army, was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War.
US military officials prepared a briefing for Pence about the so-called Battle of Pork Chop Hill, where his father earned his medal.
“It’s very meaningful for me and my family to be here. So many years after my father’s service. To be honest with you, my dad didn’t talk about his combat experience much until we were all grown up. It was a lot of tough fighting here,” Pence told CNN.
“I think, in some way, my Dad just might be smiling from heaven to see the sacrifices that he and other American soldiers and South Korean soldiers made here are now passed on to my generation. That’s not changed out our commitment to the secure and prosperity of South Korea.”

BIG NEWS

BIG NEWS

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s then nominee for Secretary of State, testifies during his confirmation hearing before Senate Foreign Relations Committee January 11, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Awkward Moment—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, as tensions appear to be running high between the U.S. and Russia over the use of chemical weapons by Russian-aligned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the ongoing congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Putin and Tillerson go way back to when Rex was the CEO of Exxon, and they once worked so well together to advance their shared drilling interests in Siberia and the Arctic that Putin gave the Wichita Falls native a friendship award. But Wednesday’smeeting was not a friendly one. Even as late as Tillerson’s arrival in Moscow on Monday, it was uncertain whether he’d actually be able to meet with Putin. The two were finally scheduled to meet on Wednesday, but according to Politico, Putin made Tillerson wait for hours before agreeing to see him. They met behind closed doors for two hours, and apparently did not make much progress. “There is a low level of trust between our countries,” Tillerson said in a press conference after his meeting with Putin, according to the Washington Post. “The world’s two primary nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.” Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov both said in the press conference that Tillerson and Putin talked about a range of issues, including Syria, Ukraine, and North Korea. But not much ground was made on any of those subjects.

EYEWITNESS SAYS SYRIAN MILITARY ANTICIPATED U.S. RAID

EYEWITNESS SAYS SYRIAN MILITARY ANTICIPATED U.S. RAID

Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night’s raid on Syria‘s Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness.

Dozens of Tomahawk missiles struck the air base near Homs, damaging runways, towers and traffic control buildings, a local resident and human rights activist living near the air base told ABC News via an interpreter.

U.S. officials believe the plane that dropped chemical weapons on civilians in Idlib Province on Tuesday, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed 86 people, took off from the same air base.

The attack lasted approximately 35 minutes and its impact was felt across the city, shaking houses and sending those inside them fleeing from their windows. Firefighters responded shortly after the attack was over.

By Friday, shops were closed, traffic was flowing normally, and regime forces were back in the air base to assess the damage. A Syrian Army spokesman announced on State TV that six people were killed and several more were injured in the attack. Both of the air base’s major runways were struck by missiles, and some of its 40 fortified bunkers and some out-of-service planes, parked in a hangar, were damaged as well.

Local residents say the Russian military had used the air base in early 2016 but have since withdrawn their officers, so the base is now mainly operated by Syrian and Iranian military officers. There is also a hotel nearby where Iranian officers have been staying, though it was not clear whether it was damaged.

The city remains on high alert, and there is already a wave of people flowing out of the area surrounding the air base, possibly fearing a followup strike.

The airstrike follows confirmation by the Turkish Health Ministry that autopsies on several victims of Tuesday’s attack confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin in violation of international law and represents an escalation of U.S. involvement in the six-year conflict.

Soon after the strike, President Donald Trump delivered a statement from his Mar-A-Lago retreat, where he was meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the UN security council,” Trump said Thursday night. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.”

Former National Security Adviser and ABC News contributor Richard Clarke said this attack, one of the quickest displays of force by a new president in recent history, is largely “symbolic.”

Following a 2013 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1400 people outside of Damascus, which a U.S. government intelligence assessment concluded likely used a nerve agent, the Obama administration threatened retaliation but ultimately called off planned airstrikes after Assad agreed to turn over the majority of his chemical weapons arsenal to an international watchdog group.

Trump, who was critical of Obama’s decision during his presidential campaign, despite the fact that he in 2013 he urged Obama via Twitter not to take military action, has recently attempted to blame Obama’s “weakness” for the worsening violence in Syria.

“This attack on one air base seems more symbolic,” Clarke said. “I think Secretary of Defense [General] James Mattis gave the president a list of options, this being the smallest. It was a targeted attack not designed to overwhelm the Syrian military … I think the president was trying to differentiate himself from his predecessor.”

BREAKING: China Has Conceded To The U.S. – Trump Has Done Something Obama Never Could!

BREAKING: China Has Conceded To The U.S. – Trump Has Done Something Obama Never Could!

China has offered concessions to the Trump administration in the attempt to avert a trade war. They have wavered and granted market access in a way that Obama never could. From Reuters: China will offer the Trump administration better market access for financial sector investments and U.S. beef exports to help avert a trade war, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing officials familiar with the matter. China is prepared to raise the investment ceiling in the Bilateral Investment treaty and is also willing to end the ban on U.S. beef imports, the newspaper also reported. “China was prepared to (raise the investment ceilings) in the BIT but those negotiations were put on hold (after Trump’s election victory),” the Financial Times also reported citing a Chinese official involved in the talks. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to a new 100-day plan for trade talks on Friday. Read more: (Link: www.reuters.com)

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Launches Missile Strike On Syria

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Launches Missile Strike On Syria

The United States has attacked a Syrian air base with roughly 60 cruise missiles in response to a chemical weapons attack it blames on President Bashar Assad.

U.S. officials say the Tomahawk missiles were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeting a government-controlled air base in Syria.

U.S. officials say Syrian government aircraft killed dozens of civilians by using chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin, earlier this week.

The bombing represents President Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since taking office. The Obama administration threatened attacking Assad’s forces for previous chemical weapons attacks, but never followed through.