Top News Stories for Today – April 5, 2017
UN calls emergency summit on Syria chemical attack
The UN Security Council has scheduled a Wednesday morning emergency session to discuss what appears to be a Syrian government nerve gas attack on a rebel-held area of Idlib province, which killed at least 58 people, including 11 children, and wounded hundreds more.
The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations put the death toll from the attack at 100. Activists on the ground claim an aircraft also fired rockets at the clinics where survivors were being treated. The Syrian government or Russian jets are being blamed for the suspected nerve-agent attack, which, if confirmed, would be the deadliest chemical strike since the Syrian civil war began six years ago. Chemical weapons use is banned under the Geneva Conventions, and using such weapons on civilians would be a clear war crime. BBC News, Reuters, The Week
McCain rips Trump over Syria policy
Sen. John McCain said Tuesday the Trump administration’s decision to no longer prioritize ending the Syrian civil war is “another disgraceful chapter in American history.” “Bashar Assad and his friends, the Russians, take note of what Americans say,” the he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”
“I’m sure they took note of what our Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) said just the other day that the Syrian people would be determining their own future themselves — one of the more incredible statements I’ve ever heard.” “I’m sure they are encouraged to know the United States is withdrawing and seeking a new arrangement with the Russians,” he added. “It is another disgraceful chapter in American history and it was predictable.”
The Trump administration doubled down last week on prioritizing the fight against ISIS over ending the Syrian civil war and getting rid of Assad, the policy under the Obama administration. CNN
Gorsuch faces plagiarism charges
On Tuesday night, as the Senate began debate on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Politico reported that in a 2006 book and earlier academic articles, Gorsuch had “copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material,” throwing a last-minute charge of plagiarism into the bitter partisan confirmation battle.
The White House said there was nothing improper in Gorsuch’s work, releasing supportive quotes from a handful of scholars who have worked with him or overseen his writing. But Politico contacted six other experts on academic integrity, and two of them said Gorsuch committed plagiarism, while a third said the federal appellate judge was guilty of legitimate borrowing that was maybe “sloppy” and “a little bit risky.” Politico, The Week
ObamaCare approval leaps to 55 percent in new poll
Approval of the Affordable Care Act has jumped 13 points in five months in Gallup polling, with 55 percent now approving of the law — the first majority approval of ObamaCare since Gallup started asking in November 2012. The rise in approval comes from Democrats, Republicans, and especially independents, whose approval rose 17 points since President Trump’s election, to 57 percent from 40 percent.
Trump and Republicans are trying to revive their ObamaCare-replacement bill, but in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 63 percent of Americans say it is a “good thing” that bill failed in Congress. Also, 75 percent of respondents said they want Trump and the GOP to try to fix ObamaCare rather than make it fail, and 61 percent say Trump and the GOP are responsible for what happens to the law now. In the KFF poll, opinion on ObamaCare is evenly split, with 46 percent favorable and unfavorable. Gallup, Kaiser Family Foundation, The Week
North Korea launches missile ahead of US China talk
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, ahead of a summit between US and Chinese leaders who are set to discuss Pyongyang’s increasingly defiant arms program. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a short statement late Tuesday confirming that “North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile,” adding: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea.
The missile flew about 60 km (40 miles) from its launch site at Sinpo, a port city on North Korea’s east coast, the South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Sinpo is home to a North Korean submarine base. Reuters, US State Department
Russia arrests ISIS recruiters in St. Petersburg
Six people have been detained in St Petersburg suspected of recruiting for so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and aiding terrorist activity, investigators say. The suspects are from Central Asian countries and have been active since November, Russian officials add.
There is no evidence they are connected with Akbarzhon Jalilov, a Kyrgyzstan-born man suspected of bombing St Petersburg’s metro. Those detained had been recruiting other Central Asian immigrants in St Petersburg “to carry out terrorist crimes” and to join “illegal armed groups”, including IS, Russia’s state investigative committee said in a statement. BBC
Bill O’Reilly face growing public pressure
Fox News and its star primetime host are facing mounting public pressure from accusers, advertisers and women’s rights groups to go further in addressing a report that they and Fox parent company 21st Century Fox paid out a total of $13 million to settle five separate accusations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse against O’Reilly.
Mercedes-Benz, BMW of North America, Allstate and more than a dozen other companies had all pulled their advertising from “The O’Reilly Factor” as of Tuesday evening. Lisa Bloom, the lawyer for one of the accusers, has called for an independent investigation of Fox News. The National Organization for Women has called for O’Reilly to be fired.
Meanwhile, many female employees inside Fox News are too scared to speak out about problems in the workplace, fearing that they have no leverage against powerful on-air talents like O’Reilly, current and former network sources have told CNN Money. CNN
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