Top News Stories For Today – Oct 31, 2017
North Korea nuclear test site collapse
More than 200 people are believed to have died in underground tunnels after a collapse at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear facility. The test site was reportedly badly shaken by the aftermath of the country’s sixth nuclear test, a 100-kiloton hydrogen bomb roughly seven times more powerful than the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
North Korean sources told Japanese television channel Asahi TV that the collapse occurred in October during the construction of an underground tunnel at the facility. Around 100 workers were stuck underground and a group that was sent to their rescue were also buried after another collapse, causing a total death toll of around 200. Newsweek
Greenhouse gas emissions highest in 800,000 years
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports greenhouse gas emissions in Earth’s atmosphere have reached the highest level ever in 800,000 years. The figure was made public at the launch in Geneva of the WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The report was released in advance of next week’s UN climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany. It is meant as a wake-up call to nations that time is running out to take the necessary actions to curb global warning.
The WMO reports CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere surged at record-breaking speed last year to historic highs. The WMO says CO2 levels are now 145 percent higher than pre-industrial levels. It warns this has the potential to change the climate systems in unprecedented and disastrous ways. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says this is already occurring. He told VOA scientists have been able to track the variability of carbon dioxide concentrations thousands of years back. VOA
Trump has no plans to fire Mueller
The White House spent Monday insisting that everything was calm after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of President Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his top aide, plus the guilty plea of a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos. But people who interacted with Trump described him as “angry” and “seething” over the indictments, as he watched TV in his upstairs residence.
In an emergency meeting, Trump and aides discussed how to react, with some outside advisers suggesting he attack Mueller. Trump’s legal team insists there are no plans to fire Mueller. “There’s no firing-Robert-Mueller discussions,” said outside counsel Jay Sekulow. Internal lawyer Ty Cobb agreed: “There are no discussions and there is no consideration being given to terminating Mueller.” The Washington Post, CNN, The Week
Russian reached 126 M Americans since June 2015
Facebook will tell Congress this week that its current “best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served” at least one story posted by the Kremlin-linked troll farm the Internet Research Agency (IRA) between June 2015 and August 2017, according to copies of the prepared testimony of Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch.
Facebook has 213 million monthly active users in the US Twitter and Google will also testify that the Russian trolls used social media to reach more of the electorate than previously acknowledged. Most but not all of the Russian accounts and bots were tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm in St. Petersburg. CNNMoney, The Washington Post, The Week
Trump’s approval rating
On Monday, President Trump hit a new low in Gallup’s three-day polling average, at 33 percent approval and 62 percent disapproval, a 29-point favorability deficit. Since Dwight D. Eisenhower, only two presidents have ever recorded Gallup numbers that low: Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.
In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, Trump also hit a new low, 38 percent approval and 58 percent disapproval, a sharp decline from September. Trump’s drop came from independents (34 percent approval), whites (47 percent), and whites without a college degree (51 percent), all parts of his base, NBC News notes. No president in modern times has hit 38 percent this early in his presidency. The Washington Post, NBC News
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates surrendered to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday. Also former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has also pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI after lying about his interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government.
The FBI statement regarding Papadopoulos also states he was involved in an email chain suggesting that a low-level campaign staffer meet with Russian officials interested in the Trump campaign so as not “to send any signal.” As for Manafort and Gates, they were indicted on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, false statements and other charges. CNN
Court blocks Trump’s ban on transgender military service
A federal judge in Washington on Monday blocked Trump from banning transgender people from serving in the US military, handing a victory to transgender service members who accused the president of violating their constitutional rights. Trump announced in July that he would ban transgender people from the military in a move that would reverse former President Obama’s policy of accepting them and halt years of efforts to eliminate barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The service members who sued Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and military leaders in August had been serving openly as transgender people in the US Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. They said Trump’s ban discriminated against them based on their sex and transgender status. VOA
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