Top News Stories for Today – September 18, 2016
Explosion in New York injures at least 29
An explosion rocked New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues around 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday evening. Described by witnesses as “deafening,” the blast tore through the lower windows of a nearby building and is said to have originated in or near a dumpster, CNN reports. At least 29 people reportedly sustained injuries.
The explosion is not believed to be an act of terrorism, although “early indications are that this was an intentional act,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a press conference late Saturday night. There is no known link between the blast and credible threats against the city, de Blasio said, nor to the Saturday morning pipe bomb blast in New Jersey.
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill ruled out natural gas as a cause and said “it appears the explosion happened on the street.” He also confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into a “second device” on 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.. NY Post, USA Today, Associated Press, The Week
Global fund raises $12.9B to fight AIDS, TB, Malaria
A global fund has raised over $12.9 billion from international donors as part of a campaign aimed at effectively eradicating AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis by 2030, conference organizers said Saturday. The Global Fund, the world’s largest aimed at fighting the three diseases, is credited with saving 20 million lives since it was established in 2002.
“We can declare success, for we have saved the lives of 8 million people in the coming years,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters after attending the conference, which drew several heads of state, singer Bono and Microsoft Corp. co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.
The United States, the fund’s largest donor, in August pledged up to $4.3 billion through 2019. The amount is subject to congressional approval. The three diseases targeted by the fund are believed to kill more than 8,000 people a day.
Russia promises competitive elections
Russian lawmakers under President Vladimir Putin have proven themselves nothing if not efficient. This last session alone, the lower legislative chamber, the Duma, and the upper chamber, the Federation Council, passed nearly 2,000 laws, including a record 160 pieces of legislation by the upper house in one day last June. Despite the presence of three blocs in nominal opposition to Putin’s ruling United Russia party, most of the measures passed nearly unanimously.
Welcome to what the Kremlin calls “managed democracy,” a system that simulates democratic institutions, to some extent. Analysts say the tradition is likely to continue when Russians head to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament.
In 2011, opposition parties were banned from participating, and the results, election observers argued, were marked by widespread fraud. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the results, and Putin’s rule. Analysts say the Kremlin learned from its mistakes. VOA
Visegrad Group of EU states ‘could veto Brexit deal’
A group of Central European EU members known as the Visegrad Four is ready to veto any Brexit deal that would limit people’s right to work in the UK, Slovakian PM Robert Fico says. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Mr Fico said Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia would be uncompromising in negotiations. His comments come a day after the EU’s first major meeting without the UK.
Brexit, though not formally discussed, overshadowed the Bratislava summit. At an end of the summit on Friday, Mr Fico said that he and other Central European leaders whose citizens make up much of the EU migrant population in Britain would not let those people become “second class citizens”.
But in the interview with Reuters news agency on Saturday, he went further. “V4 [Visegrad group] countries will be uncompromising,” he said. “Unless we feel a guarantee that these people are equal, we will veto any agreement between the EU and Britain.” BBC
US Presidential election
Clinton, Trump now neck-and-neck in Electoral College projection: New analysis from Reuters released Saturday finds Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are basically even in terms of Electoral College support. Were the election held today, it “could end in a photo finish,” perhaps similar to the contested George W. Bush vs. Al Gore race in 2000. Where Trump was previously believed to trail Clinton’s Electoral College count considerably, Reuters now considers Florida — with the fourth most electors of all 50 states — a likely win for Trump. Even with this shakeup, neither candidate comes close to 50 percent support nationwide: Clinton has a slight lead of 42 percent national support to Trump’s 38 percent. Reuters
Mike Pence in excellent health, doctor says: Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence is in “excellent general” health, according to a letter from his physician released Saturday. The letter, from Michael Busk of Indianapolis, says Pence has a history of seasonal allergies, heartburn and an “asymptomatic” condition in which there is a delay or obstruction along the pathway that electrical impulses travel to make the heart beat. The letter states Pence underwent “extensive evaluations” of the “asymptomatic left bundle block” with cardiologists, and no problems were found. “The cardiologists feel you have a very good and strong heart,” the letter states. USA Today
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