Category Archives: Currency

Huge bomb in sewage tanker kills at least 80, wounds hundreds in Afghan capital

A powerful bomb hidden in a sewage tanker exploded in the morning rush hour in the center of the Afghan capital on Wednesday, police said, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds, damaging embassies and sending clouds of black smoke into the sky.

The bomb, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, exploded close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy, killing a security guard and wounding some staff, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Twitter.

RELATED: Photos from the deadly blast

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“Such attacks do not change our resolve in continuing to support the Afghan government in the stabilization of the country,” he said.

Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for city police, said the explosives were hidden in a sewage tanker but suggested that the German Embassy might not have been the target. “There are several other important compounds and offices near there too,” he told Reuters.

The blast, which shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges in houses hundreds of meters away, was unusually strong.

The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Kabul said Afghan security forces had prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone that houses many foreign embassies as well as its headquarters, suggesting it may not have reached its intended target.

A public health official said at least 80 people had been killed and more than 350 wounded. The victims appear mainly to have been Afghan civilians.

The French, Turkish and Chinese embassies were among those damaged, the three countries said, adding there were no immediate signs of injuries among their diplomats. The BBC said one of its drivers, an Afghan, was killed driving journalists to work. Four journalists were wounded and treated in hospital.

Video shot at the scene showed burning debris, crumbled walls and buildings and destroyed cars, many with dead or injured people inside.

Graphic on Kabul blast:

At the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital a few blocks away, there were scenes of chaos as ambulances brought in wounded and frantic relatives scanned casualty lists and questioned hospital staff for news.

“It felt like an earthquake,” said 21-year-old Mohammad Hassan, describing the moment the blast struck the bank where he was working. His head wound had been bandaged but blood still soaked his white dress shirt.


Another lightly wounded victim, Nabib Ahmad, 27, said there was widespread destruction and confusion.

“I couldn’t think clearly, there was a mess everywhere,” he said.

Later, frenzy broke out outside the hospital as ambulances and police trucks began bringing in the bodies of those killed. Some bodies were burned or destroyed beyond recognition.

India and Pakistan condemned the blast.

“India stands with Afghanistan in fighting all types of terrorism. Forces supporting terrorism need to be defeated,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.

The Taliban denied responsibility and said they condemned attacks that have no legitimate target and killed civilians. Islamic State, the other main militant group active in Afghanistan, has carried out high profile attacks in Kabul, including an attack on a military hospital in March that killed more than 50 people.

Wednesday’s attack provided another clear demonstration that Ramadan, which began at the weekend, would provide little respite from the violence across Afghanistan.

The Taliban have been stepping up their push to defeat the U.S.-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster in a Washington-backed invasion.

Since most international troops withdrew at the end of 2014, the Taliban have gained ground and now control or contest about 40 percent of the country, according to U.S. estimates, though President Ashraf Ghani’s government holds all provincial centres.

U.S. President Donald Trump is due to decide soon on a recommendation to send 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to bolster the small NATO training force and U.S. counter-terrorism mission now totaling just over 10,000.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing this year that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a “stalemate” with the Taliban.

(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Madeline Chambers and Michelle Martin in Berlin; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Sean Hannity fans call for Rachel Maddow boycott

Hannity lost a handful of advertisers last week over his pushing of the the Seth Rich conspiracy theory on his Fox News program “Hannity,” even though Fox News has retracted a story about Rich.

The call for a counter-boycott against Maddow was organized by the Media Equality Project, an organization launched by conservative commentators Brian Maloney and Melanie Morgan.

The #StoptheScalpings campaign is described as a way “to push back against the attempt to silence those who dare to ask tough questions and pursue the truth.” Hannity has shared the campaign on his website and Twitter.

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The organization says “the DNC, mainstream media, George Soros, and Media Matters” have attempted “to silence [Hannity’s] voice, because it does not speak in unison with their own.”

“To counteract these fascistic tactics, #StoptheScalpings has decided to fight fire with fire,” the Media Equality Project said in the post on its website announcing the campaign. “As long as Media Matters continues to attack conservatives, we will return them the same kindness. We begin with Rachel Maddow who has been the biggest purveyor of lies and propaganda in the media today.”

The post goes on to call Maddow “an outright liar, and someone who deceives the public and defames conservatives on a daily basis.” The companies that advertise on her MSNBC show are listed on the site, along with contact information for their representatives.

“While we prefer not to be involved in this type of effort, we need to be on equal footing. We will continue to announce the advertisers that finance these efforts and support these hosts who allow lies and conspiracy theories to permeate the airwaves. If Media Matters ceases these type of assaults, we will do the same.”

Hannity’s advertiser loss came just weeks after Bill O’Reilly was ousted from the network amid a sexual harassment scandal. Hannity said on his show early last week that he would drop his pursuit of the Seth Rich conspiracy “at this time” before leaving for an extended Memorial Day weekend vacation on Wednesday.

He is expected to return to the show tonight, and according to the Associated Press, the USAA financial services firm, one of the businesses that halted its advertising, plans to resume it.

Read original story Sean Hannity Fans Call for Rachel Maddow Boycott At TheWrap

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After Portland killings, mayor wants to cancel ‘alt right’ rallies

Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday called on the organizers of two “alt-right” events next month to cancel them and allow the city to mourn after two people were killed protecting a Muslim teen in what he called a bias attack.

“Please back off and give the families and give this community the space it needs to mourn and process this horrific crime of hate and bigotry and terrorism,” Wheeler said, addressing the right-wing groups, during a news conference.

Federal authorities have said it isn’t clear yet if the Friday afternoon killing of Rick Best, 53, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, were acts of domestic terrorism or a hate crime, but Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, was charged with allegedly stabbing them to death aboard a train.

A third person, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was also injured in the attack and remains hospitalized.

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The men were stabbed after they confronted Christian as he was in the middle of an anti-Muslim outburst targeting two girls, one of whom was wearing a headscarf, authorities said.

On Monday, President Donald Trump weighed in on the killings, saying on his official Twitter account: “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Related: Portland Murder Suspect Appears Unlinked to Northwest’s Racist Groups

Wheeler said the organizers of next month’s events were “coming to peddle a message of hatred and bigotry.” Their opinions might be protected by the First Amendment, Wheeler added, but “hate speech is not protected. As the mayor it’s my job to protect the safety of everybody in the community.”

Wheeler asked the federal government, which he said is responsible for permits at Terry Schrunk Plaza, where the events are planned, to revoke a June 4 permit and deny a second one scheduled for six days later.

A spokesman from the mayor’s office, Michael Cox, said the Federal Protective Service was likely responsible those permits. An agency spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The organizer of the June 4 event, real estate investor Joey Bishop, told NBC News that he had no plans to cancel what is being billed as a “Trump Free Speech Rally,” and he disputed Wheeler’s characterization of the event.

“I think he needs to sit down and take a minute and listen to me speak and hear what I have to say,” he said. “What he said is completely false.”

Christian attended a previous free speech rally, held on April 29 and also organized by Bishop, and was captured on video giving a stiff-arm salute. But Bishop said that “Christian has nothing to do with us.”

“I think Mayor Wheeler is trying to pin Jeremy on us and our movement,” he said.

Bishop said the June 4 rally will promote standard conservative ideas about lowering taxes and battling gun laws and other elements of the “nanny state.”

It will also feature Kyle Chapman, a self-described “American nationalist” whose takedown of an “anti-fascist” protester in Berkeley, California, earlier this year vaulted him to cult status on the far right — with the moniker “Based Stickman” — as noted in a New Republic profile published in March.

An image posted on Chapman’s Facebook page last month showed what appeared to be a crude painting featuring the Muslim Prophet Muhammad and activist Linda Sarsour, who helped organize the National Women’s March on Washington and has received repeated death threats over a planned commencement speech at the City University of New York, the New York Times reported.

Related: How Berkeley Became a New Battleground for Free Speech

“We took our Mohamed/Sarsour meme to Times Square and turned it into an art exhibit,” Chapman wrote. “The local Muslims were beside themselves hah hah!”

A “march against Sharia” is scheduled for the same plaza on June 10. The event’s organizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon actually criticized the mayor on Monday, saying in a statement on Twitter that “the government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period.”

A group behind a planned counter-demonstration on June 4, called “Rose City Antifa,” also said it had no plans to cancel.

“As a group focused on the community, our efforts are centered in the community, not the mayor’s office,” the Rose City group said in a statement to NBC News. “The Portland community is clearly opposed to this rally occurring, and on June 4th, we will stand against it.”

During the news conference, Wheeler also said he hoped to memorialize the attack’s three victims. The transit center where the crime occurred was already replete with dozens of bouquets of flowers and moving tributes written in chalk, according to NBC affiliate KGW, but Wheeler said he wanted to make their sacrifice permanent.

“This is a seminal moment in this state’s history and certainly in this community’s history,” he said. “The names of those three men, Rick and Taliesin and Micah, they’ll be up there with the greats. I don’t want future generations to forget that.”

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Denver sportswriter out of job after tweet about Japanese Indy 500 driver

DENVER — A veteran sportswriter left the Denver Post on Monday after he said he was unsettled by a Japanese driver’s victory in the Indianapolis 500 over the Memorial Day weekend, when the United States honors its war dead, including those killed by Japanese forces in World War II.

Terry Frei triggered a firestorm of criticism with his remark, sent over Twitter after Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Formula One motor race. Sato beat 32 other competitors in the prestigious event staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, known as the Brickyard.

“Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend,” Frei tweeted on Sunday.

Social media reaction to the post prompted Frei to issue an apology later on Sunday.

“I apologize to Takuma Sato,” he wrote. “I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II – and in this case, the specific one my father fought against.”

Frei is the author of “Third Down and a War to Go,” which chronicled the University of Wisconsin’s 1942 football squad. The team included his father, who fought against the Japanese in the war after the season.

The United States entered the war in 1941 after a Japanese naval force attacked the U.S. naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Late Monday morning the Post’s publisher, Mac Tully, and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo issued a joint statement on the newspaper’s website saying Frei was out. It did not indicate whether he was fired or resigned.

“We apologize for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters,” the statement said. “Terry Frei is no longer an employee of the Denver Post.”

Frei did not immediately respond to an email message for comment.

After winning the race, Sato, 40, said he understood the significance of what his victory means to his country.

“This will be mega big. I cannot imagine how it’s going to be,” he told reporters. “Nowadays, a lot of Japanese, the fans (are) following IndyCar Series, particularly for the Indy 500.”

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This blame game is driving up health insurance costs

WASHINGTON — The Senate is taking baby steps toward a health care bill amid serious disagreement among lawmakers. But the health care industry waits for no one, and insurers are growing increasingly rattled by a combination of inaction in Congress and outright threats of sabotage from the White House.

Customers could soon be paying the price.

Insurance companies, which are reaching deadlines to submit premiums for the individual health care market and to decide whether to sell policies at all, say the uncertainty is driving their premiums higher and their participation lower. These complaints come on top of existing problems in Obamacare markets that would have demanded attention if Democrats had won.

Regardless of what lawmakers do in the long run, the time may have already passed for Congress to rescue the 2018 insurance market from the negative effects of the current debate. Insurers are putting in their initial bids for premiums and will finalize their plans in September. That means even a temporary fix would likely fail to shield customers from the effects of uncertainty.

“We needed to have the answers three months ago,” Bob Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., told NBC News.

With the market rapidly reaching a point of no return, the political fight in Washington could shift from the future of health care to which party is to blame for its present.

The costs of uncertainty

Last week, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced that it would seek a 22.9 percent increase in premiums for 2018 plans. But it pointedly added that the hike would be just 8.8 percent if Congress and the Trump administration guaranteed subsidies that they’re owed for paying out-of-pocket costs for low-income customers.

The company also reserved the right to withdraw entirely because of the “undecided future” of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Check out protests for and against Obamacare

Tea Party Patriots supporters hold signs protesting the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court as the court hears arguments on the health care reform bill on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Affordable Care Act supporters wave signs outside the Supreme Court after the court upheld court’s Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A man holds signs during a protest on the second day of oral arguments for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today is the second of three days the high court has set aside to hear six hours of arguments over the constitutionality President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sister Caroline attends a rally with other supporters of religious freedom to praise the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby, contraception coverage requirement case on June 30, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which operates a chain of arts-and-craft stores, challenged the provision and the high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

An Obamacare supporter counter protests a Tea Party rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the morning hours of March 27, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court continued to hear oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court as they wait for the court’s decision on Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ron Kirby holds a sign while marching in protest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court, which has set aside six hours over three days, will hear arguments over the constitutionality President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A protester waves his bible in the air as he overpowered by cheers from supporters of the Affordable Care Act as they celebrate the opinion for health care outside of the Supreme Court in Washington,Thursday June 25, 2015. The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans.

(Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Nuns, who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, and other supporters rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case brought by religious groups challenging a process for opting out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

(Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Supporters of contraception rally before Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, 2016.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Protestors hold placards challenging ‘Obamacare’ outside of the US Supreme Court on March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court heard a second challenge to US President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The US Supreme Court faces a momentous case Wednesday on the sweeping health insurance reform law that President Barack Obama wants to leave as part of his legacy. The question before the court is whether the seven million people or more who subscribed via the government’s website can obtain tax subsidies that make the coverage affordable. A ruling is expected in June.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 Linda Door (L) protests against President Obama’s health care plan in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on March 26, 2012 in Washington, DC. Today the high court, which has set aside six hours over three days, will hear arguments over the constitutionality President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, handing a major victory to the president.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

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In other states, insurers are already pulling out of the market. When Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City withdrew, it left 25 counties without an insurer and many others with only one. In announcing the move, the company cited major losses of more than $100 million but also the “uncertain direction” of the market.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly hinted that he might cut off the cost-sharing payments, which are the subject of a House Republican lawsuit against the Obama administration, as a way to put political pressure on Democrats.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, the nation’s leading insurance lobby, has demanded that the White House and Congress resolve the subsidies immediately — or take the blame for hurting consumers.

“This uncertainty is arguably the single most destabilizing factor in the individual market, and millions of Americans could soon feel the impact of fewer choices, higher costs, and reduced access to care,” Cathryn Donaldson, a spokeswoman for AHIP, said in an email.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has urged lawmakers to address the issue.

“Those subsidies are not only important to stabilize the insurance markets, but they’re absolutely vital to low-income individuals,” she told NBC News.

See states hit hardest by Trump’s Medicaid budget


Change in enrollment from before the Affordable Care Act to March, 2017: 100-125%

(Photo via Getty Images)


Change in enrollment from before the Affordable Care Act to March, 2017: 75-100%

(Photo via Getty Images)


Change in enrollment from before the Affordable Care Act to March, 2017: 75-100%

(Photo via Getty Images)

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But others see any fallout as the Democrats’ fault for drafting their bill improperly, which is the basis of the lawsuit: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, blamed former President Barack Obama for “making illegal payments” when asked about the recent insurer news.

The situation is growing turbulent enough that Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, told NBC News that he could support separate legislation to shore up markets while Congress works on a full Obamacare replacement.

“If we have to break this and do something short term to stabilize the markets, I would support that,” Johnson said.

But Johnson added that his take “may be a minority view” within the Republican Party, which is uneasy with any move perceived as bolstering the Obamacare framework. Given Trump’s discussion of using failing insurance markets as a political cudgel against Democrats, the president could also veto such an effort.

Blame game

Policy experts say the cost-sharing subsidies are only one of many factors upsetting the markets. Insurers are also concerned that the White House might decline to enforce the individual mandate or refuse to adequately advertise during enrollment periods, something that happened briefly after the inauguration.

Then there are the many variables in Congress: AHIP and some insurance executives criticized the House bill that passed in May, and there are few clues as to how the Senate will respond, or when, or whether it will be able to get legislation to the president’s desk at all.

“Republicans haven’t really done anything to signal that the non-group market will ever become a viable business proposition,” said Joe Antos, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Finally, there’s Obamacare’s own problems.

In many places, the insurance markets have attracted more sick customers and fewer healthy customers than had been hoped. Even before Trump took office, there was a rash of premium hikes averaging 25 percent nationwide this year, as well as a major decline in the number of available plans, although no counties were left with zero options.

Obamacare’s subsidies made up the difference for many customers, but those whose incomes were too high to qualify have faced steep new costs.

The stew of factors muddies responsibility and has left each party rushing to tar the other with negative headlines.

“Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight, and BCBS [Blue Cross/Blue Shield] itself is leaving Kansas and Missouri as a consequence,” a White House spokesman said. “The rising costs of health care predate the Trump administration.”

Republicans were quick last week to bring up the North Carolina and Missouri news as evidence that Obamacare needed to be replaced.

See the group working on healthcare

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“This plan simply hasn’t worked, it isn’t working, and it is going to get worse before it gets better,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said in a floor speech.

But Democrats were eager to bring up the news, as well. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York spoke on the floor warning of Republican “sabotage” and predicted that his rivals would face the wrath of voters if they tried to pawn off responsibility.

“When people get a bad health care bill, you can blame anyone you want,” he said last week. “You are in charge.”

Looking to seize the legislative high ground, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, introduced a bill that would allow people in counties that lack insurers to access the same exchange plans as members of Congress.

“I knew that the president had expressed his desire to sabotage people’s insurance coverage, so I anticipated that this would happen,” she said, referring to the pullout of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City. The measure, she said, “is an immediate fix, and we ought to get an immediate vote.”

The state of play

Despite Obamacare’s ongoing struggles, outside analysts said the exchanges appeared to be in better shape earlier this year as insurers adjusted their prices to meet the environment.

Sabrina Corlette, a professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University who has been tracking insurers’ quarterly earnings, said companies’ comments to shareholders have grown more upbeat even as they warn that uncertainty in Washington raises new risks.

“There’s probably some blame on all sides, but my perspective is that while many carriers faced significant challenges in the rollout of Obamacare’s marketplaces, things were starting to stabilize financially,” she said.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reached somewhat similar conclusions in its evaluation of the House health care bill last week.

Buried in the report, the CBO assessed that the markets should be “stable in most areas” in the absence of any changes. But the agency added that “several factors could lead insurers to withdraw from the market — including lack of profitability and substantial uncertainty about enforcement of the individual mandate and about future payments of the cost-sharing subsidies.”

There’s also the question of whether the Republican plan would address the growing consumer difficulties on the insurance market. The House bill would cover 23 million fewer people while raising out-of-pocket costs for many customers and hiking premiums for older low-income Americans, according to the CBO.

Democrats, for their part, have suggested a variety of alternative fixes. headlined by a public insurance option, but there’s little sign that the two parties would cooperate without a major shift in the political landscape.

“We’re not going to waste our time talking to people who have no interest in fixing the problem,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said last week.

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North Korea fires unidentified projectile off its East coast

SEOUL, May 29 (Reuters) – North Korea fired an unidentified projectile on Monday from the region of Wonsan on its east coast in an easterly direction, South Korea’s military said, coming after a series of test-launches of missiles in recent weeks.

The launch was immediately reported to President Moon Jae-in, who called a meeting of the National Security Council at 7:30 a.m. (2230 GMT Sunday), the South Korean office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

RELATED: North Korea’s Missiles

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The projectile was likely a ballistic missile, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said citing an unidentified source.

The projectile is likely to fall within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Yonhap news reported citing an unidentified source in Japan as saying.

North Korea last test-fired a ballistic missile on May 21 towards the sea off its east coast and on Sunday said it had tested a new anti-aircraft weapon supervised by leader Kim Jong Un. (Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Peter Cooney and Mary Milliken)

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Blac Chyna posts topless selfie on Snapchat — see the racy pic!

Blac Chyna is showing off her hard work in the gym!

The 29-year-old model shared a sexy topless selfie on Snapchat on Thursday.

RELATED: Blac Chyna Shows Off Her Impressive Post-Baby Body in a Bikini Top: Pics!

Chyna, wearing nothing but a pair of boyshorts and a towel on her head, carefully places her hands over her chest in the revealing mirror shot.

RELATED: Rob Kardashian Pays Tribute to Blac Chyna on Mother’s Day: ‘I’m So Thankful for You’

The mother of two, whose relationship with Rob Kardashian has been on and off for the past few months, recently flaunted her figure for a bridal-inspired photo shoot on the beach.

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Joseph Duggar is engaged to Kendra Caldwell

Another Duggar is headed down the aisle.

Joseph Duggar proposed to his girlfriend, Kendra Caldwell, on Friday – the same night that his older sister, Joy-Anna, married her fiancé, Austin Forsyth.

RELATED: Joy-Anna Duggar Marries Austin Forsyth​ After Three-Month Engagement​

“We are so excited to be engaged and look forward to a lifetime together. We are so grateful for how the Lord brought us together, and we look forward to this special time of engagement and to someday serving Christ as man and wife,” the couple said in a statement.

It was a big day for the Duggar family! Joseph Duggar and Kendra Caldwell are engaged. Find out more on! #CountingOn

A post shared by TLC (@tlc) on May 26, 2017 at 9:18pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Jinger Duggar’s Woodland-Themed Wedding and First Kiss

The 22-year-old Counting Up star and Caldwell, 18, also shared a video announcement on, describing how their engagement came together.

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“We got engaged,” Duggar says. “I asked Joy and Austin a few weeks ago if they would mind if I proposed to her at [their] wedding and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’d love it if you do that.'”

The couple met through church and began their courtship in March. Caldwell added that their engagement is different from their courtship in that they can hold hands and say “I love you.” They also look forward to being able to minister together.

WATCH: Joy-Anna Duggar Announces Her New Courtship Days After Sister Jinger’s Wedding

Joseph’s parents, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, also shared sweet words about their son’s big news.

“There is a lot of love in the air today! We are so pleased to announce that Joe and Kendra are now engaged to be married! Our sweet Joe is on the verge of starting his own family. We are so happy for them both,” they wrote. “Above all, we are so thankful for their love and commitment to Christ. We are so excited about another Duggar wedding in the near future! We know wonderful days are ahead for Joe and Kendra and we are looking forward to every moment! Our entire family rejoices!”

For more on the Duggars, watch above!

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Construction begins on world’s largest telescope in Chilean desert

ATACAMA DESERT, Chile (Reuters) – Construction began in Chile on Friday on the European Extremely Large Telescope, which when completed will be the world’s largest optical telescope, some five times larger than the top observing instruments in use today.

The size of the ELT has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe, say its backers, with its main mirror that will measure some 43 yards across.

Located on a 3,000 meter-high mountain in the middle of the Atacama desert, it is due to begin operating in 2024.

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Among other capabilities, it will add to and refine astronomers’ burgeoning discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, with the ability to find more smaller planets, image larger ones, and possibly characterize their atmospheres, a key step in understanding if life is present.

“What is being raised here is more than a telescope. Here we see one of the greatest examples of the possibilities of science,” said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in a speech to mark the beginning of construction at the site.

The dry atmosphere of the Atacama provides as near perfect observing conditions as it is possible to find on Earth, with some 70 percent of the world’s astronomical infrastructure slated to be located in the region by the 2020s.

The ELT is being funded by the European Southern Observatory, an organization consisting of European and southern hemisphere nations. Construction costs were not available but the ESO has said previously that the ELT would cost around $1.12 billion at 2012 prices.

(Reporting by Jorge Vega, Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; editing by Diane Craft)

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Exclusive: Tillerson declines to host Ramadan event at State Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, two U.S. officials said, apparently breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years.

Since 1999, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state have nearly always hosted either an iftar dinner to break the day’s fast during Ramadan or a reception marking the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the month, at the State Department.

Tillerson turned down a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, said two U.S. officials who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

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According to an April 6 memo seen by Reuters, the office – which typically initiates such events – recommended that Tillerson hold an Eid al-Fitr reception.

His rejection of the request suggests there are no plans this year for any high-profile Ramadan function at the State Department. The month of fasting and prayer for Muslims gets under way in many countries on Saturday.

When asked by Reuters to comment on Tillerson declining a request to host an Eid al-Fitr event in July for Ramadan, a State Department spokesperson said:

“We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”

Muslim activists have accused President Donald Trump’s administration of having an unfriendly attitude toward Islam, encapsulated by its attempts to ban citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

The administration says that while it strongly opposes Islamist militants, it has no quarrel with Islam. Aides point to Trump’s visit this month to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam where he addressed the leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, as evidence of that.

Exxon Mobil Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson speaks at a news conference following the Exxon Mobil annual shareholders meeting in Dallas, Texas May 30, 2007. Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday that the construction of the Mackenzie pipeline project in Canada was not viable at current cost levels.

(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson look on at a signing ceremony in the Black Sea resort of Sochi August 30, 2011. Exxon and Russia’s Rosneft signed a deal on Tuesday to develop oil and gas reserves in the Russian Arctic, opening up one of the last unconquered drilling frontiers to the global industry No.1.

(REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool)

Executives from six major oil companies are sworn in to testify at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the “Consolidation in the Oil and Gas Industry: Raising Prices?” on Capitol Hill in Washington March 14, 2006. The executives are (L-R) Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, David O’Reilly, Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp., Bill Klesse, CEO of Valero Energy Corp., John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company and Ross Pillari, President and CEO of BP America Inc.

(Jason Reed / Reuters)

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo)

Chairman, President and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex Tillerson watches a tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club course in Pebble Beach, California, February 6, 2014.

(REUTERS/Michael Fiala)

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil; John Watson, chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp.; James Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Co.; and Lamar McKay, president and chairman of BP America Inc.; are sworn in during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on their safety practices as oil continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig – operated by BP – exploded last month.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo)

WASHINGTON, DC – May 12: James Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; and Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp.; during the Senate Finance hearing on oil and gas tax incentives.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex W. Tillerson and Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg attends the United Nations Foundation’s global leadership dinner at The Pierre Hotel on November 8, 2011 in New York City.

(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., left, speaks with Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates Inc., during the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. CERAWeek 2015, in its 34th year, will provide new insights and critically-important dialogue with decision-makers in the oil and gas, electric power, coal, renewables, and nuclear sectors from around the world.

(Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Renda St. Clair and Rex Tillerson attend the reopening celebration at Ford’s Theatre on February 11, 2009 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Abby Brack/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, listens during a meeting at the Department of the Interior September 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar hosted Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Gulf Oil Spill National Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen (Ret.), representatives from the private sector and others to discus strengthening the containment abilities to deep water oil and gas well blowouts like the recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

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Members of Congress, Muslim civil society and community leaders, diplomats from Muslim countries and senior U.S. officials usually attend the State Department Ramadan event, a symbol of the U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts with Muslim countries and people.

If Tillerson avoids hosting one this year, that could send a message “that it is not as important to this administration to engage with Muslims,” said former U.S. diplomat Farah Pandith, who served in the Bush and Obama administrations and helped plan Ramadan events at the White House and State Department.

Tillerson issued a statement on Friday to mark the start of Ramadan, which he called “a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection.”

“Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate,” he said.


Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright started the tradition 18 years ago of America’s top diplomat hosting a public event for Ramadan, a lunar month.

The secretary of state of the time usually gives remarks there on the meaning of Ramadan.

In April, the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs made a request to Tillerson’s office that he deliver remarks at an Eid al-Fitr reception this year, and suggested a two-week range of dates in July. The event would serve to “highlight State Department initiatives and the importance of Muslim engagement,” the memo said.

It noted that by hosting a reception just after Ramadan, rather than an iftar – an often sumptuous dinner at sunset – a State Department event could be held any time of the day, thus preventing “a very late evening for the Secretary.”

Several weeks later, that office and other offices at the State Department were alerted that Tillerson declined the request, the officials said.

Reuters was told of the request being declined but did not see Tillerson’s reply. An official with the Office of Religion and Global Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

Several prominent Muslim-American groups in the Washington area who are normally invited to the Ramadan event told Reuters this week that they had yet to receive an invitation from the State Department, which they said was unusual.

A representative for her group has been invited to the State Department event in the past, she said.


Trump’s administration has had a fraught relationship with Muslims. As a presidential candidate, the Republican urged a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, called for more surveillance of mosques and warned that radical Muslims were “trying to take over our children.”

Trump has since toned down his rhetoric and courts have halted his temporary travel ban on people from six mostly Muslim countries.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment on whether they would continue the tradition this year of hosting a Ramadan-related event at the White House.

The State Department celebrates other religious traditions though some of those commemorations are not as well-established as the State Department’s Ramadan event. In 2014, then-secretary of state John Kerry hosted the first ever celebration at the State Department marking Diwali, the Hindu festival.

The White House also traditionally hosts annual Christmas and Easter events as well as a Seder dinner to mark the Jewish Passover.

The top U.S. diplomat has personally hosted a Ramadan event every year since 1999, often in the State Department’s grand Benjamin Franklin room, apart from three years.

In 2006 and 2015, deputies of the secretary of state at the time hosted either an iftar dinner or an Eid al-Fitr reception. In 2014, Kerry hosted a reception for Eid al-Adha, another important Muslim holiday.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Alistair Bell)

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