Top News Stories for Today – January 19, 2017
Senegal threatens to invade Gambia
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz flew to Senegal early Thursday for a meeting with President Macky Sall after last-minute efforts to get Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to peacefully step down failed. In a December election, Jammeh was defeated by real estate developer Adama Barrow, but a week after conceding, Jammeh changed his mind.
With the support of other nations in the region, Senegal has threatened to invade Gambia in order to forcefully remove Jammeh, who has ruled for more than two decades and once said he would preside over Gambia for “a billion years.” Barrow was supposed to be sworn in on Thursday at the national stadium, but a spokesman said early Thursday that the president-elect will take the oath of office at the Gambian embassy in Senegal. Reuters
Trump pays $25 million for settlement
Donald Trump quietly paid out $25 million on Tuesday night to settle litigation against his now defunct Trump University, one day before the deadline and three days before he is set to be inaugurated. The funds were deposited into an escrow account by the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative (Trump University had to change its name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative after New York officials told them to stop using the word “university”), and the $25 million will settle three lawsuits that said Trump University misled students into thinking they would learn actual useful tips about real estate by instructors handpicked by Trump.
The settlement was reached on Nov. 18, and $21 million will go to thousands of class members in cases out of San Diego, and $4 million will take care of a suit filed by the New York attorney general. A final approval hearing is set for March 30 in San Diego federal court. Los Angeles Times, The Week
Avalanche buries a hotel in Italy
On Wednesday evening, an avalanche likely triggered by earthquakes buried the Hotel Rigopiano in the central Italian town of Farindola, on Gran Sasso mountain in Abruzzo. There were at least 20 guests and seven staff members in the hotel, according to rescuers and local officials.
Antonio Crocetta, the head of a mountain rescue team, told Italian media “there are many deaths.” Because of days of snow that blanketed Abruzzo, Lazio, and Le Marche, rescue crews did not reach the hotel until about 4 a.m. on Thursday. Earthquakes in the same region of Italy last August killed 298 people. BBC News, Reuters, The Week
Iran high-rise collapses in fire
The 17-story Plasco building in central Tehran collapsed in flames on Thursday. Iran’s state-run Press TV said 30 firefighters battling the blaze were killed and 75 others injured in the disaster. The fire broke out at about 8 a.m. local time, and everybody was evacuated before the building crumbled. Reports of deaths and injuries weren’t uniform — a local TV station said 30 people were injured, and the state-run INRA news agency put the number of those injured at 45.
“It was like a horror movie,” a grocery story owner told Reuters by phone. “The building collapsed in front of me.” The iconic Plasco building, just south of Tehran’s bazaar, was built in the early 1960s by an Iranian Jew, Habib Elghanian, who named it after his plastics business. It was the city’s tallest building when it was completed. Elghanian was executed soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Associated Press, Reuters, The Week
A new drug offers hope for cancers
A new drug is being developed that targets some aggressive cancers that are notoriously hard to cure. If the clinical trials that are underway continue to show promise, the drug may change the way some cancers are treated. Scientists at Pfizer, the giant pharmaceutical company, and Stemcentrx, a small biotech firm in California recently acquired by AbbVie, have developed this novel drug that targets aggressive breast, ovarian and lung cancer stem cells. Marc Damelin at Pfizer has been working on this drug, officially called PF-06647020, with Scott Dylla at AbbVie Stemcentrx.
The drug has already proven safe and effective in mice and in monkeys, and human trials are underway. Right now the researchers don’t know if this new drug would replace standard chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, or would complement those procedures, but Dylla said that is the hope. If it works, it could replace standard chemotherapy and the treatment would be a lot less toxic. VOA
Djokovic knocked out by world 117 Istomin
Defending champion Novak Djokovic suffered a shock defeat by world number 117 Denis Istomin in the second round of the Australian Open. The six-time winner struggled for rhythm and lost 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 in four hours and 48 minutes. It is the first time Djokovic, 29, has lost in the second round of a Grand Slam since 2008 at Wimbledon.
The result leaves world number one Andy Murray as favourite to win his first Australian Open title in Melbourne. Briton Murray, who has already reached round three, has lost five finals in the past seven years in Melbourne, four of them to Djokovic. BBC
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