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Trump Suggests Defense Chief Could Leave

U.S. President Donald Trump is suggesting Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis could be one of his next key officials to leave the government.

The Republican Trump, in an interview airing Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news show, said he has no indication that Mattis is leaving, but added, “It could be that he is. I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth.”

The U.S. leader described the retired Marine Corps general as “a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”

Trump, during his 21-month administration, has fired or pushed out dozens of key officials, or watched as others he liked have resigned, including United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, who last week said she would be leaving her post at the end of the year.

Mattis, while leading the U.S. military, has occasionally been at odds with Trump and more hawkish Trump administration officials, including national security adviser John Bolton.

Mattis, in mid-2017, pushed for more diplomatic overtures to North Korea in dealing with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, a stance Trump eventually came around to, leading to his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump said there are still “some people” in his administration that he is “not thrilled with.” He has often assailed Attorney General Jeff Sessions but declined to fire him for removing himself from oversight of the lengthy investigation of whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump as president obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

But Trump rebuffed reports of chaos in the White House as “fake news,” adding, “I’m changing things around. And I’m entitled to. I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. They’ll come into the administration, they’ll be phenomenal.”

 

 

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Report: Kushner Likely Paid Little, No US Income Taxes for Years

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, likely paid little or no federal income taxes between 2009 and 2016, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing confidential financial documents.

The documents were created with Kushner’s cooperation as part of a review of his finances by an institution that was considering lending him money, the Times reported. The Times said that Kushner’s tax bills reflected the use of a tax benefit known as depreciation that lets real estate investors deduct part of the cost of their properties from their taxable income.

The Times report said that nothing in the documents reviewed “suggests Mr. Kushner or his company broke the law.”

Paid all taxes due under law

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell, told Reuters Saturday that he would not respond to the newspaper’s assumptions, which he said were “taken from incomplete documents obtained in violation of the law and standard business confidentiality agreements.”

He added, “Always following the advice of numerous attorneys and accountants, Mr. Kushner properly filed and paid all taxes due under the law and regulations.”

The records reviewed by The New York Times did not expressly state how much Kushner paid in taxes, but included estimates for how much he owed called “income taxes payable” and how much Kushner paid in expectation of forecasted taxes known as “prepaid taxes.” The paper said that for most of the years covered, both were listed as zero, but in 2013 Kushner reported income taxes payable of $1.1 million.

Kushner Cos, the family company for which Kushner previously served as chief executive, has been profitable in recent years, the Times said, citing the analysis. Kushner sold his interests in the company to a family trust last year.

The White House and Kushner Cos did not immediately comment Saturday.

Trump tax break

The newspaper noted that the 2017 tax rewrite signed by Trump includes provisions that benefit real estate investors.

Mirijanian said that on tax reform efforts, Kushner “followed his approved ethics agreement and has avoided work that would pose any conflict of interest.”

In December, a group of Democratic lawmakers wrote to Kushner, asking whether in his talks with foreign officials he had ever discussed financing for a deeply indebted property in midtown Manhattan, citing concern he was using his position for financial gain.

Kushner Cos said previously it had more than $2.5 billion in transactions 2017 and has 12 million square feet under development in New York and New Jersey.

Documents released by the White House in June showed Kushner held assets worth at least $181 million, the Associated Press reported. The disclosures also show that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, received at least $82 million in outside income in 2017.

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Report: Kushner Likely Paid Little, No US Income Taxes for Years

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, likely paid little or no federal income taxes between 2009 and 2016, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing confidential financial documents.

The documents were created with Kushner’s cooperation as part of a review of his finances by an institution that was considering lending him money, the Times reported. The Times said that Kushner’s tax bills reflected the use of a tax benefit known as depreciation that lets real estate investors deduct part of the cost of their properties from their taxable income.

The Times report said that nothing in the documents reviewed “suggests Mr. Kushner or his company broke the law.”

Paid all taxes due under law

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell, told Reuters Saturday that he would not respond to the newspaper’s assumptions, which he said were “taken from incomplete documents obtained in violation of the law and standard business confidentiality agreements.”

He added, “Always following the advice of numerous attorneys and accountants, Mr. Kushner properly filed and paid all taxes due under the law and regulations.”

The records reviewed by The New York Times did not expressly state how much Kushner paid in taxes, but included estimates for how much he owed called “income taxes payable” and how much Kushner paid in expectation of forecasted taxes known as “prepaid taxes.” The paper said that for most of the years covered, both were listed as zero, but in 2013 Kushner reported income taxes payable of $1.1 million.

Kushner Cos, the family company for which Kushner previously served as chief executive, has been profitable in recent years, the Times said, citing the analysis. Kushner sold his interests in the company to a family trust last year.

The White House and Kushner Cos did not immediately comment Saturday.

Trump tax break

The newspaper noted that the 2017 tax rewrite signed by Trump includes provisions that benefit real estate investors.

Mirijanian said that on tax reform efforts, Kushner “followed his approved ethics agreement and has avoided work that would pose any conflict of interest.”

In December, a group of Democratic lawmakers wrote to Kushner, asking whether in his talks with foreign officials he had ever discussed financing for a deeply indebted property in midtown Manhattan, citing concern he was using his position for financial gain.

Kushner Cos said previously it had more than $2.5 billion in transactions 2017 and has 12 million square feet under development in New York and New Jersey.

Documents released by the White House in June showed Kushner held assets worth at least $181 million, the Associated Press reported. The disclosures also show that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, received at least $82 million in outside income in 2017.

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California Braces for Powerful Winds, Wildfire Danger

Potentially powerful winds combined with dry weather are raising the threat of wildfires in California.

State firefighters said Saturday that they were preparing for “potential extreme fire weather” this weekend and into early next week.

The National Weather Service issued warnings for increased fire risk across a swath of Northern California on Sunday and Monday.

In Southern California, the expected shift comes after the region was lashed by thunderstorms and rain on Friday and Saturday.

Weather Service meteorologist Keily Delerme said Saturday that increased fire risk in Southern California would run late Sunday into Tuesday.

Wind gusts in the mountains could reach 60 mph, and up to 50 mph in valleys and coastal areas.

Meanwhile, the humidity could dip as low as 5 percent.

State firefighters were adding staff.

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Crowbars, Cadaver Dogs Used in Search for Michael’s Victims

Search-and-rescue volunteers have located hundreds of people who were reported missing in the U.S. Southeast after Hurricane Michael tore through their Florida Panhandle communities, but the death toll of at least 18

was expected to rise.

Crews heard cries for help and used crowbars to pry into a mobile home

crumpled by the storm in Panama City, freeing a mother and daughter, both diabetics who had been trapped in a closet without insulin for two days and were on the verge of diabetic shock, rescuers said Saturday.

“We had another lady who was on her last tank of oxygen. No cellphone, no power, no nothing. There are people out here on dialysis, but there is no power,” said Taylor Fontenot, 29, a roofing contractor from Sugar Land, Texas, and founder of 50 Star SAR, a volunteer search-and-rescue organization.

​520 people located

In door-to-door searches, teams consisting mostly of off-duty police officers and firefighters have found more than 520 of the 2,100 people reported missing since Michael crashed ashore near Mexico Beach, Fla., on Wednesday as one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history.

“We expect that number to go up dramatically today,” said Matthew Marchetti, co-founder of the Houston-based CrowdSource Rescue, adding that hopes were raised by an influx of volunteers on the weekend and the restoration of power in some areas.

“Volunteers are working side by side with first responders. They are cutting holes in roofs. They try to take a picture so we can call the family and tell them we made contact,” he said.

But as roads were cleared to allow wider searches, the death toll was expected to mount. As of Saturday, authorities were reporting at least 18 deaths in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Rescue teams, hampered by power and telephone outages, used cadaver dogs, drones and heavy equipment to hunt for people in the rubble.

Fontenot, who said he alerts authorities when he finds corpses, has a cadaver dog with his group.

“When we pulled into Mexico Beach, she was trying to jump out the window because she smelled so many bodies,” he said.

‘I’m homeless’

In Callaway, Fla., an especially hard-hit town, Catholic Christians barbecued hamburgers on Saturday and Scientologists handed out water.

“I’m homeless,” said nursing assistant Carla Covington, 45, who is caring for her mother and two children after their house was destroyed by falling trees.

Her voice breaking with emotion, she said it felt good to receive comfort, but “I’m used to helping people and not asking for help.”

Panama City port worker Josh Jackson, 29, had three cars damaged. The rented home he lived in with his girlfriend and son was wrecked, as were their possessions.

“I lost everything, so I got to start over,” he said near a tent in a parking lot where an insurance agent was taking claims. Jackson said he planned to move to a community that was not so badly hit, but was concerned that delays in processing his insurance claim might hold him up.

Michael ripped most of two walls out from the red-brick St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Panama City, but parishioners spent Saturday handing out food, water and clothes to others.

‘We will’ recover

“Our whole city was hit. There has got to be a way it can recover,” said Jo Ann Sutter, 73, a volunteer who was married in the church. “We will.”

The tropical storm, which grew in less than two days into a Category 4 hurricane, tore apart entire neighborhoods.

More than 1,700 search-and-rescue workers were deployed, including seven swift-water rescue teams and nearly 300 ambulances, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office said.

Power and phone service were being slowly restored, with about 236,000 homes and businesses still without power in North Carolina, down from a peak of more than 600,000, said spokesman Keith Acree of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

It could be weeks before power is restored to the most damaged parts of Florida.

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US Pledges $90 Million as World Leaders Gather to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade

The United States and dozens of other countries have pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and treat it as a “serious and organized crime” following a two-day conference in London that ended Friday.

Trade in endangered wildlife, such as elephant tusks, rhino horns and tiger bones, is worth an estimated $17 billion a year and is pushing hundreds of species to the brink of extinction.

Speaking to heads of state from across the world, Britain’s Prince William, a passionate conservationist, said he recognized that law enforcement resources are already stretched in many countries.

“But I am asking you to see the connections, to acknowledge that the steps you take to tackle illegal wildlife crime could make it easier to halt the shipments of guns and drugs passing through your borders,” the prince told delegates.

Worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade is booming.

Illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007, while over 1,300 rhino were killed in 2015. Asian tigers have seen a 95 percent decline in population, as their body parts are in demand for Chinese medicines and wine. In the last year, more than 100 wildlife rangers have died trying to tackle poachers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the conference the U.S. will give $90 million to programs that fight illegal wildlife traffickers.

“Their criminal acts harm communities, degrade institutions, destabilize our environment and funnel billions of dollars to those who perpetuate evil in the world. These criminals must be and they can be stopped,” Sessions said.

It is not only big mammals at risk.

For example, a critically endangered water frog from the remote Lake Titicaca in Peru has seen its numbers plummet in recent years, as thousands have been trapped and taken to make a juice that some believe has medicinal properties, despite no scientific evidence.

Delegates at the conference applauded progress made, including China’s decision at the beginning of this year to close its domestic ivory market, hailed as a major step in safeguarding the world elephant population. 

 

WATCH: US Pledges $90 Million to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trade

Aron White of the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency says other animals need similar protection.

“This market was both stimulating demand for ivory and also enabling illegal ivory to be laundered through this legal trade,” White told VOA. “But that same issue still exists for big cats. You know, there’s a trade in leopard bone products [for example], large-scale commercial trade.”

Campaigners say existing United Nations Conventions on transnational organized crime offer firepower for tackling the illegal wildlife trade, but they are not being used effectively.

In the closing declaration, conference attendees pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and recognize it as a serious and organized crime.

The real test is how quickly they will act on those words.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

US Pledges $90 Million as World Leaders Gather to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade

The United States and dozens of other countries have pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and treat it as a “serious and organized crime” following a two-day conference in London that ended Friday.

Trade in endangered wildlife, such as elephant tusks, rhino horns and tiger bones, is worth an estimated $17 billion a year and is pushing hundreds of species to the brink of extinction.

Speaking to heads of state from across the world, Britain’s Prince William, a passionate conservationist, said he recognized that law enforcement resources are already stretched in many countries.

“But I am asking you to see the connections, to acknowledge that the steps you take to tackle illegal wildlife crime could make it easier to halt the shipments of guns and drugs passing through your borders,” the prince told delegates.

Worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade is booming.

Illegal ivory trade activity has more than doubled since 2007, while over 1,300 rhino were killed in 2015. Asian tigers have seen a 95 percent decline in population, as their body parts are in demand for Chinese medicines and wine. In the last year, more than 100 wildlife rangers have died trying to tackle poachers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the conference the U.S. will give $90 million to programs that fight illegal wildlife traffickers.

“Their criminal acts harm communities, degrade institutions, destabilize our environment and funnel billions of dollars to those who perpetuate evil in the world. These criminals must be and they can be stopped,” Sessions said.

It is not only big mammals at risk.

For example, a critically endangered water frog from the remote Lake Titicaca in Peru has seen its numbers plummet in recent years, as thousands have been trapped and taken to make a juice that some believe has medicinal properties, despite no scientific evidence.

Delegates at the conference applauded progress made, including China’s decision at the beginning of this year to close its domestic ivory market, hailed as a major step in safeguarding the world elephant population. 

 

WATCH: US Pledges $90 Million to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trade

Aron White of the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency says other animals need similar protection.

“This market was both stimulating demand for ivory and also enabling illegal ivory to be laundered through this legal trade,” White told VOA. “But that same issue still exists for big cats. You know, there’s a trade in leopard bone products [for example], large-scale commercial trade.”

Campaigners say existing United Nations Conventions on transnational organized crime offer firepower for tackling the illegal wildlife trade, but they are not being used effectively.

In the closing declaration, conference attendees pledged to work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and recognize it as a serious and organized crime.

The real test is how quickly they will act on those words.

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How Wine Corks Help Fight Global Warming

Scientists say climate change is becoming more pressing with news of melting permafrost and rising sea levels. Scientists have been urging people around the globe to reduce emissions of climate warming carbon, but the Salk Institute in San Diego is taking a different approach. There, scientists are working on developing plants that would capture more carbon than plants do now and store it away for centuries, preventing it from being released back into the atmosphere. Genia Dulot has the story.

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