China feels climate accord flawed, but satisfying

China feels climate accord flawed, but satisfyingThe fallout from the recently-reached global climate agreement has been mixed for world superpowers, as recent statements suggest that the deal is far from being perfect from China, but a good move forward nonetheless.  This is similar to statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama following the all-important 196-nation climate change summit held earlier this month in Paris.

“This accord isn’t perfect,” said China senior climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua to reporters following the global climate summit. “There are parts of it that need to be improved. But this doesn’t affect the fact that history has taken a huge step forward, and so we are satisfied.

“It should provide a lot of impetus for China’s own green, low-carbon development and as we implement it, it will promote our own domestic sustainable development.”

China, which is the world’s leader in greenhouse gas emissions, had gone into the Paris talks with the maxim of “differentiation, transparency, and ambition” in mind, and as the most important features of any agreement. The country’s representatives also did their part to maintain China’s sovereignty. Chinese economic statistics have slowed down noticeably as the country continues its economic restructuring program, which is the reason why officials pushed for adjustments to its climate goals from 2020 to 2030 to be voluntary.

The topic of financing was singled out as one of the main pain points for China, as the climate agreement was not satisfactory in extending a pre-existing pledge for industrialized nations to inject at least $100 billion of funds per year toward poorer countries’ climate change initiatives by 2020.

“On funding, we aren’t that satisfied, especially when it comes to pre-2020 funding which is relatively weak,” said National Centre for Climate Change Strategy deputy director Zou Ji. “On post-2020 funding, they have written in the principle that developed countries have to provide support to developing countries but there are a lot of specifics that were impossible to put in the agreement.”

Mosque fire in California was act of arson

Mosque fire in California was act of arsonAuthorities now claim that a fire that damaged a Southern California mosque on Friday afternoon was an act of arson.

The Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, California was reported as being on fire shortly after noon on Friday, according to statements from the Riverside County Fire Department. This fire, however, was restricted to the mosque’s lobby and was quickly put out, with no reports of injuries. But as authorities draw closer to a conclusion, the Sheriff’s Department announced Friday night that the fire was an “intentional act” and that it would investigate the incident further. California fire investigators and the government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and FBI are now involved in the investigation.

Witnesses at the scene related hearing a “loud boom” and seeing flames shortly thereafter. Acting imam Reymundo Nour, who was not present at the time of the blaze, said that the mosque was “firebombed.” No suspects have been shortlisted by local authorities, nor have they come up with more specifics on how the fire was set.

The mosque is curiously located just 75 miles from San Bernardino, where a couple, supposedly influenced by Islamist extremists, killed 14 people last week. Several Southern California Muslims have expressed fear for their safety and for acts of revenge following the recent killings.

Former President Jimmy Carter says he’s cancer-free

Former President Jimmy Carter says he's cancer-freeA report from the Associated Press states that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, no longer has any signs of the disease.

“We were very, very surprised,” said family friend and fellow Maranatha Baptist Church member Jill Stuckey. “This was just wonderful news out of the blue.” Carter made the announcement in front of a large Sunday school class earlier today, saying that he has “no signs of cancer,” based on a scan he had received the week before.

Carter posted another statement on the Carter Center website, saying that based on his most recent MRI brain scan, he “did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones.” He promised, however, to keep receiving regular treatments for his melanoma. The 91-year-old former President had a small cancerous mass taken out from his liver on August 12, and has been in treatment due to four spots of melanoma that were found in his brain.

“From very beginning [of this], I’ve said that in any battle between cancer and Carter’s brain, Carter’s brain will win,” said former White House communications director and longtime Carter friend Gerald Rafshoon. “I’ve been up against that brain. It’s a tough opponent.”

Carter publicly announced his cancer diagnosis in August, saying that he had just received Keytruda, a drug that’s part of the pembrolizumab family and is designed to leverage the immune system against cancer cells. And while the drug is quite expensive at $150,000 a year, it has been proven to be capable of marked, evident results in patients suffering from different types of cancer. Making Carter’s recovery even more astonishing is that only one-third of malignant melanoma patients respond to Keytruda treatment.

Islamic State claims San Bernardino killers among their followers

RT FarooqThe Islamic State said Saturday that the husband-and-wife team who killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California were among its followers.

Currently, U.S. federal authorities are investigating whether the killings, which were perpetrated by U.S.-born Syed Rizwan Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik, were an act of terrorism. Amid this backdrop, the Islamic State announced in an online podcast that the couple was among their ranks, saying that “two followers” of the group unleashed an attack in San Bernardino.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation believes Farook, 28, and Malik, 27, may have been inspired by foreign militants, but there was no indication that they were affiliated with the Islamic State, or if the militant group knew of them. The two were killed in a subsequent police shootout.

Quotes attributed to President Barack Obama suggest that the FBI and local authorities have yet to come up with more proof that Farook and Malik were involved in organized terrorism. However, Obama was also quoted as saying that there are “several pieces” of evidence that suggest the killers were “radicalized” to violence. The President said in a radio address that if this were true, “it would underscore a threat we’ve been focused on for years, the danger of people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies.”

Should the San Bernardino attack be proven to have been a terrorist act driven by Islamist militants, it would mark the most deadly attack in America since the 9/11 attack of 2001.

Gunman storms Colorado planned parenthood clinic

Gunman storms Colorado planned parenthood clinicA still-unidentified gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs Friday, engaging in a shootout that injured four police officers and a yet-undetermined number of civilians.

According to a police spokeswoman, Colorado Springs police responded to an emergency call reporting shots fired at about 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time. Officers were able to confront the gunman while he was inside the building soon after they arrived on the scene.

“The officers inside the building have encountered the individual,” said police department spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley, speaking to reporters. “They were exchanging gunfire.” She added that four officers were injured in the shooting, while several other people were injured. Authorities have yet to release any information on the nature or extent of the civilians’ injuries.

Buckley added that not all of the injured individuals could immediately be taken to hospitals; at the time she spoke to the media, there was a possibility that some may have remained trapped inside the clinic, which is located some 70 miles south of Denver, on the northwest side of Colorado Springs.

A report from CBS News suggests that the apparently lone gunman started firing shots once he entered the Planned Parenthood clinic, which had security guards on duty, and that the police were worried that he may have also been dealing with explosives. Separately, a Colorado Springs man told a local publication that his daughter works at the abortion clinic and was “in the line of fire.” Officers said that they were “trying to get (the woman) out,” and informed the man that the assailant was using a high-powered rifle.

No details on the gunman’s identity or motive has been released as of presstime.

Brain tumor of baby kissed by Pope Francis is shrinking

Brain tumor of baby kissed by Pope Francis is shrinkingWhen Pope Francis visited Philadelphia in September, several children were brought to the Popemobile, including one-year-old Gianna Masciantonio, who was suffering from a rare brain tumor. And while her parents had spent a lot of time in the cancer ward in the weeks that followed, little Gianna’s tumor appears to have shrunk dramatically in the past week. Reporters are now calling the phenomenon the “Miracle on Market Street.”

In a report from Philly.com, Joe Masciantonio said that the tumor was “basically gone” following rounds of surgery and chemotherapy. After blood cells attacked Gianna’s brain stem mere weeks after she was born last year, a tumor developed, and it had come to the point where it was declared to be inoperable. “They said go home, enjoy the last weeks, maybe months, that you have with her,”  said Joe, speaking to Philly.com. He added that his wife Kirsten insisted that they have Gianna meet Pope Francis, despite his earlier objections.

With the help of a friend, FBI agent Donny Asper, the Masciantonios were informed that the Pope would be visiting Philadelphia on September 26. And while Joe expressed concern that Gianna’s immune system would suffer even more after a long day at a public event, the child’s doctor advised them it would be okay to proceed. They were able to make it from their hometown of Warrington to Philadelphia in 40 minutes, as police officers waved the Popemobile over to the couple and their ailing child.

And, in an interesting twist, Vatican City security head Domenico Giani brought Gianna to Pope Francis, who then kissed her on the head – Giani’s name turned out to be a combination of the Masciantonio children’s names, as their four-year-old son is named Dominic.

“Sometimes coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” commented the FBI’s Philadelphia chaplain, Monsignor Mike Mannion. “The fact that they were literally able to flag the pope down, he stopped and blessed the baby . . . it’s very special.”

Cops arrest bomb threat suspects at Copenhagen airport

Cops arrest bomb threat suspects at Copenhagen airportDanish law enforcement officials arrested two men at the Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen, after the airport was evacuated due to the suspects’ conversation about one of them having a bomb in his bag.

At about noontime local time Wednesday, Kastrup’s Terminal 3 was evacuated as police were notified of the two men’s discussion; a “suspicious” bag was later spotted by authorities. Bomb experts, police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks then made their way to the airport, while transportation going there was briefly put on hold. Check-ins were temporarily moved to Terminal 2 and passengers were notified of potential delays.

The terminal was eventually reopened a few hours afterwards. The suspects, however, denied having an actual bomb with them, according to statements from Copenhagen police. Reports also claim that the evacuation lasted about an hour.

“They said that they were only joking with each other,” said police spokesman Steen Hansen. “Apparently, they are friends, though one was going to Paris and the other was flying to Frankfurt.” Authorities did not disclose the names and nationalities of the suspects.

The incident comes on the heels of Danish police raising Denmark’s threat level by one notch to the second-highest. This was due to increased risk of terrorist attacks in the aftermath of Friday’s Paris terrorist attacks that had killed over one hundred people and injured many others.

The World Cup of Fraud – FIFA Officials Accused of Assorted Forms of Skulduggery

The World Cup of Fraud – FIFA Officials Accused of Assorted Forms of SkulduggeryIn no uncertain terms, U.S. officials said that their ongoing investigation of FIFA is just starting, and that it will be aggressively chasing organization officials accused of different forms of corruption.

“These individuals and organizations engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held, and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” said U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, speaking to reporters earlier today.  She noted that several FIFA decisions were tainted by corruption, including 2010’s World Cup placement, 2011’s FIFA presidential elections, and a recent Brazilian national soccer team sponsorship that involved “a major U.S. sportswear company.”

“Around 2004, bidding began for the opportunity to host the 2010 World Cup, which was ultimately awarded to South Africa, the first time the tournament would be held on the African continent. But even for this historic event, FIFA executives and others corrupted the process by using bribes to influence the hosting decision,” explained Lynch, referring to the World Cup placement fiasco.  This was, however, denied by the South African Football Association, who said that it was “men of high integrity” that brought the World Cup to the country, including former Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.  “The bidding process was never compromised,” added spokesman Dominic Chimhavi.

Multiple federal agencies are currently working with Lynch on the FIFA case, and some of the individuals looking into the probe definitely have clout.  One of these federal officials, IRS Criminal Investigation division head Richard Weber, quipped that they are dealing with the “World Cup of fraud,” and that they hope to issue FIFA a “red card” once they get to the bottom of things.  The FIFA officials in question are accused of taking bribes of over $150 million, providing kickbacks in exchange for “lucrative media and marketing rights” since the early ‘90s.

“The defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” said FBI Director James Comey, on a far more serious note than the aforementioned Weber. “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.”

While current FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not named in the investigation, 14 other high-ranking officials are being charged by U.S. federal authorities.  According to a New York Times report, the officials include Eduardo Li, Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Jack Warner, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin, and Nicolás Leoz.  Officials believe Blatter’s chances of being reelected as president of the soccer governing organization would “depend on where the investigation goes from here.”

In a statement prepared and published on FIFA’s official website, Blatter said that corruption “has no place in football” and that the organization will “ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”  He added that FIFA will “continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”

Obama Celebrates First Memorial Day in 14 Years without Ground War

Obama Celebrates First Memorial Day in 14 Years without Ground WarPresident Barack Obama celebrated a major milestone today, heralding the first Memorial Day in 14 years that didn’t coincide with a significant ground war.

Speaking at the Arlington National Cemetery, Obama honored U.S. military troops who had served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which ended with him as commander in chief, and also soldiers who had served in World War Two and the Vietnam War.

“For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful. It is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end,” said Obama at today’s ceremony. “Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.”

Obama had been a staunch critic of the war against terrorism when he had ran against former President George W. Bush in the 2008 elections, and had recently shown hesitation to re-launch ground operations in Iraq, amid ongoing air campaigns in both Iraq and Syria.

“Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces. We’ll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year,” he continued.  “But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place. And as so many families know, our troops continue to risk their lives for us.”

Spaghetti Bowl Ramps Reopen in Las Vegas Following Magnitude 4.8 Quake

Spaghetti Bowl Ramps Reopen in Las Vegas Following Magnitude 4.8 QuakeLas Vegas was jolted Friday morning by a magnitude 4.8 earthquake, which resulted in Spaghetti Bowl interchanges getting closed for several hours.

It was only in the afternoon when the Nevada Department of Transportation declared roads safe for travel and reopened the closed interchanges.  Due to the closures, traffic was unusually heavy and, according to reports, “backed up for miles” following the quake.  “The joint damage was pre-existing,” said NDOT engineer Mary Martini. “The temblor simply dislodged the protective rubber encasing the bridge seam making it look much worse than it was in reality” and prompting an immediate shutdown of the ramps.”  She added that the ramps are still structurally sound despite the loose rubber casing.

The earthquake struck at 11:47 a.m. local time Friday, and was centered approximately 23 miles south-southwest of Caliente.  Earlier reports had stated the intensity was 5.4, but the figure was lowered twice later in the day.  There have been no reports of flight disruptions at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, while establishments such as Circus Circus and the Las Vegas Monorail were not affected by the quake.

Reports suggest that the quake was felt as far away as San Diego and Salt Lake City, while USGS data shows that there were four notable aftershocks felt between 12:05 p.m. and 12:58 p.m., with magnitudes between 2.5 and 3.8.