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13 sons, and now a 14th!

There will be no shortage of hand-me-downs for this Michigan kid.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Kateri and Jay Schwandt welcomed the birth of their 14th son on Wednesday, five days before he was due. They have no daughters.

WOOD-TV reports that the boy weighs 8 pounds, 4 ounces. His name wasn't immediately announced.

As with their last few children, the couple from Rockford, north of Grand Rapids, didn't want to know the baby's sex ahead of time. Jay Schwandt said earlier this year that he would have loved to have a girl, but didn't think would be in the cards. He was right.

Kateri Schwandt has said she's used to large families, as one of 14 children herself.

The couple's oldest son is in his 20s.



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N Korea's fudge-it budget

Imagine a national budget that reflects steady growth, gives a healthy boost to science and technology while reserving big slices of the overall pie to defence and social spending. It's generous with infrastructure improvements, and is certain of unquestioning, unanimous approval in parliament.

Congratulations. You are now thinking like a North Korean economist.

North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly passed a budget with all of those features last week in an annual ritual reflecting the country's conflicting desires to keep up appearances, especially for potential foreign investors, while obscuring even the most basic statistics needed to gauge its economic health.

The mysterious manner in which North Korea reports its budgets — and generally hides other economic indicators — is particularly frustrating as experts are now carefully scrutinizing whatever information they can get in an effort to understand the motives of leader Kim Jong Un as he prepares to hold his first summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week and U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.

"North Korea really is unique in this regard," said Benjamin Silberstein, an associate scholar with the Foreign Policy Research Institute and co-editor of the North Korean Economy Watch website. "Going back to the 1960s, even Soviet bloc diplomats recorded their frustrations at how not even basic legal documents were made public."

The budget's typically rosy outlook contrasts sharply with a slew of challenges facing leader Kim Jong Un.

The country has logged significant growth since Kim assumed power in 2011, but is now operating under the toughest set of international trade sanctions it has ever had to endure. Beijing's apparent decision toward the end of last year to tighten restrictions even beyond those mandated by the United Nations is squeezing it further.

North Korea is notoriously reluctant to provide transparency on just about anything.

It stopped revealing its actual budget numbers in 2001, opting instead for percentages of growth or of the total, as it did again this year. It hasn't published macroeconomic performance indicators since 1965. Most foreign experts rely instead on data compiled by the South Korean government.

Because of the way it's reported, it's not even entirely clear if the budget is balanced. That said, the budget's highlights include:

  • Revenues are rising. For fiscal 2017, North Korea forecast a 3.1 per cent revenue increase, which it later revised up, to 4.9 per cent. The increase this year is forecast to be about the same, 3.2 per cent. Total expenditures are expected to grow 5.1 per cent, down in percentage terms at least, from 5.4 per cent for last year's budget. 
  • Despite its official claim of having a centrally planned socialist economy, Pyongyang relies heavily on local governments for nearly a quarter of the funds it needs to pay for itself. Revenues collected by the central government now account for 73.9 per cent of the total — and the remainder, many North Korea watchers suspect, may boil down to profits made on the quasi-official market economy that has flourished under Kim.
  • Sanctions notwithstanding, North Korea is hoping to reap revenues from its special economic and trade zones, which often depend on investment or joint venture arrangements from Chinese and, to a lesser degree, Russian partners. 
  • Defence spending stays at 15.8 per cent, roughly the same as last year.
  • A big umbrella category called "the development of the national economy" now accounts for a 47.7 per cent share, presumably reflecting Kim's vow to improve the people's standard of living.


Tortoise home gets $4K fix

A wayward tortoise that cracked its shell after falling off a 10-foot wall in California is recovering after vets used screws, zip ties and denture material to repair it.

San Diego County Animal Services Director Dan DeSousa says the male 90-pound African spurred tortoise probably was a pet that got loose from a yard.

He says it was found on Sunday after falling over the wall while escaping a dog.

DeSousa says the animal's shell cracked into three pieces. Veterinarians repaired it Tuesday in a three-hour operation.

The $4,000 cost is covered by the county's Spirit Fund. The tortoise will live with a rescue group.

DeSousa says it will take a year to heal but the 35- to 40-year-old tortoise could have many more decades of life.



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Billionaires vs. homeless

Some of the world's wealthiest people have apartments in the half-dozen new skyscrapers built along a stretch of Manhattan's 57th Street known as "Billionaires Row." And soon they may have an unwanted new neighbour: a homeless shelter.

The city has approved a plan to house 140 single men in what was once the budget Park Savoy Hotel on West 58th Street, a modest building right next door to the back entrance of One57, one of the sleek new towers springing up in Manhattan to serve the superrich.

Unit owners at One57 include billionaire Michael Dell, who set a record for the most expensive home ever sold in New York City when he paid $100 million for his apartment in 2014.

The placement of the shelter in such a location is in line with campaign promises by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, who won office by assailing income inequality and public policies tilted to favour the wealthy. But the proposed shelter, steps from Central Park, has been met with howls of outrage from some people who live on the surrounding blocks, many of whom are not rich.

At a recent meeting about the project, angry residents, shopkeepers and restaurant owners booed and yelled, "Not in this neighbourhood!"

"We're completely baffled by how this shelter was planned," said Suzanne Silverstein, president of the West 58th Street Coalition, which is fighting the hotel-to-shelter conversion.

Opponents say the homeless men could be a security risk for both pricey apartment owners and residents of older, rent-controlled buildings on West 58th Street, whose sidewalks are crowded with New Yorkers and tourists, baby carriages and dogs.

"West 58th Street is the billionaires' backyard, but it's the front yard of middle-class families with children, and senior citizens," said David Achelis, a recording producer who has lived in the neighbourhood for 40 of his 67 years.

The project was started "extremely secretively" months ago, lacking work permits or an environmental impact study, Silverstein said.

A stop-work order was issued Feb. 8 by the Department of Buildings after inspectors found ongoing construction in the century-old, nine-story building. The order remains in effect until the building is granted the necessary permits.

"The city approved this project with no notice for the community to be heard," the coalition's attorney, Randy Mastro, said. "The city has acted illegally under the city charter, which requires public notice when a contract is being awarded."

De Blasio has defended the project, which comes as his administration seeks to build new shelters to accommodate a record number of homeless people.

"We said we were going to do it everywhere. We should be doing it in places that are the privileged parts of town as well as every other kind of community," he said on "The Brian Lehrer Show" on WNYC Radio.

Security cameras will be installed, monitored by 24-hour guards, and there will be a 10 p.m. curfew, said Isaac McGinn, spokesman for the city Department of Homeless Services.

Opponents also have raised concerns about the cost, noting the site will be more expensive to operate than others in the outer boroughs.

To run the shelter, the city has a nine-year, $63 million proposed contract with the non-profit Westhab, which is leasing the Manhattan site from the defunct hotel's owner, New Hampton LLC, for $2.6 million a year, to be reimbursed by the city. New Hampton's managing agent, John Pappas, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Westhab.



Quake close to nuke plant

An earthquake of at least magnitude 5.5 struck in southern Iran near the country's sole nuclear power plant on Thursday morning, shaking countries across the Persian Gulf. There was no immediate report of damage or injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 0634 GMT, 100 kilometres east of Bushehr. That's home to the Bushehr Nuclear Power, the only operating nuclear power plant in the Islamic Republic.

The USGS put the earthquake's magnitude at 5.5 while Iranian state television, citing officials, described the quake as a magnitude 5.9. Varying magnitudes are common immediately after a temblor.

Iranian state TV, which put the earthquake's epicenter near the town of Kaki, did not report any damage at Bushehr plant, which has seen other earthquakes in the past and is built to resist damage from a temblor. Authorities later said the quake did not affect routine operations at the plant, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The Iran Red Crescent described the epicenter as being in a sparsely populated area.

In Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia, people said they felt the quake and evacuated from high-rise buildings. Some in Qatar also felt the quake and evacuated tall buildings in Doha's West Bay area. People in Kuwait City also felt the temblor.

The USGS put the earthquake's depth at 10 km below the surface. Shallow earthquakes often have broader damage.

A magnitude 5 earthquake can cause considerable damage.

Iran sits on major fault lines and is prone to near-daily earthquakes. 



"Black Panther" empowers

The "Black Panther" is returning to his alma mater to give the commencement address at Howard University.

The university announced Wednesday that Chadwick Boseman will give the keynote address at Howard's 150th commencement ceremony on May 12.

News outlets report Boseman will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, the university's highest honour.

Howard University President Wayne Frederick said his role in the blockbuster "Black Panther" film "reminds us of the excellence found in the African diaspora and how Howard continues to be a gem that produces the next generation of artist-scholars, humanitarians, scientists, engineers and doctors."

The South Carolina native also starred in movies portraying Jackie Robinson, James Brown and fellow Howard graduate Thurgood Marshall.



Cuba without a Castro

A 57-year-old bureaucrat will take Raul Castro's place as the president of Cuba on Thursday as a government led by a single family for six decades tries to ensure the long-term survival of one of the world's last communist states.

Members of the National Assembly voted Wednesday on Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez's nomination as the sole candidate for president. The result won't be officially announced until Thursday morning but it's already clear because the assembly approves all executive branch proposals by margins of 95 per cent or higher.

The 86-year-old Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, which is designated by the constitution as "the superior guiding force of society and the state." As a result, he will still be the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.

His departure from the presidency is nonetheless a symbolically charged moment for a country that has been under the absolute rule of one family since the revolution — first by revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and, for the last decade, his younger brother.

Facing biological reality but still active and apparently healthy, Raul Castro is stepping down as president in an effort to guarantee that new leaders can maintain the government's grip on power in the face of economic stagnation, an aging population and increasing disenchantment among younger generations.

"I like sticking with the ideas of President Fidel Castro because he did a lot for the people of Cuba, but we need rejuvenation, above all in the economy," said Melissa Mederos, a 21-year-old schoolteacher. "Diaz-Canel needs to work hard on the economy, because people need to live a little better."

Most Cubans know their first vice-president as an uncharismatic figure who until recently maintained a public profile so low it was virtually nonexistent. That image changed slightly this year as state media placed an increasing spotlight on Diaz-Canel's public appearances, including remarks to the press last month that included his promise to make Cuba's government more responsive to its people.



Jet engine explosion action

U.S. airline regulators have ordered inspections on engine fan blades like the one that snapped off a Southwest Airlines plane, leading to the death of a woman who was partially blown out a window.

The Federal Aviation Administration's announcement late Wednesday comes nearly a year after the engine's manufacturer recommended the additional inspections, and a month after European regulators ordered their airlines to do the work.

Pressure for the FAA to act grew after an engine on a Southwest plane blew apart on Tuesday, showering the aircraft with debris and shattering a window. A woman sitting next to the window was partially blown out and died of her injuries. The plane, which was headed from New York to Dallas, made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Investigators said a blade that broke off mid-flight and triggered the fatal accident was showing signs of metal fatigue — microscopic cracks that can splinter open under the kind of stress placed on jetliners and their engines.

The National Transportation Safety Board also blamed metal fatigue for an engine failure on a Southwest plane in Florida in 2016.

That led manufacturer CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and France's Safran SA, to recommend last June that airlines conduct the inspections of fan blades on many Boeing 737s.

The FAA proposed making the recommendation mandatory in August but never issued a final decision.

On Wednesday, the FAA said it would issue a directive in the next two weeks to require ultrasonic inspections of fan blades on some CFM56-7B engines after they reach a certain number of takeoffs and landings. Blades that fail inspection would need to be replaced.

It was not immediately clear how many planes would be affected. Last year, the FAA estimated that an order would cover 220 engines on U.S. airlines. That number could be higher now because more engines have hit the number of flights triggering an inspection.

Southwest announced its own program for similar inspections of its 700-plane fleet over the next month. United Airlines executives said Wednesday that they had begun inspecting some of their planes.

American Airlines has about 300 planes with that type of engine, and Delta Air Lines has about 185. It will not be clear until the FAA issues its rule how many will need inspections.

Tuesday's emergency broke a string of eight straight years without a fatal accident involving a U.S. airliner.

"Engine failures like this should not occur," Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the NTSB, said Wednesday.

Sumwalt expressed concern about such a destructive engine failure but said he would not yet draw broad conclusions about the safety of CFM56 engines or the entire fleet of Boeing 737s, the most popular airliner ever built.

Federal investigators were still trying to determine how a window came out of the plane. The woman sitting next to it, identified by family members as 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, was wearing a seat belt. Philadelphia's medical examiner said the banking executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, died from blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso.

It is unknown whether the FAA's original directive would have forced Southwest to quickly inspect the engine that blew up. CEO Gary Kelly said it had logged only 10,000 cycles since being overhauled.

Before Wednesday's announcement, critics accused the FAA of inaction in the face of a threat to safety.

Robert Clifford, a lawyer who is suing American Airlines over another engine explosion that caused a fire that destroyed the plane, said the FAA should have required the inspections — even if it meant grounding Boeing 737s.

"There is something going on with these engines," he said, "and the statistical likelihood of additional failures exists."



Prince's death probe update

Prosecutors in the Minnesota county where Prince died will announce a decision on criminal charges following a two-year investigation into the music superstar's death from an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz scheduled an 11:30 a.m. news conference Thursday to announce whether anyone would be charged.

Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate in suburban Chanhassen on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.

A confidential toxicology report obtained by The Associated Press in March showed high concentrations of fentanyl in the singer's blood, liver and stomach. The concentration of fentanyl in Prince's blood was 67.8 micrograms per litre, which outside experts called "exceedingly high." The report noted that fatalities have been documented in people with blood levels ranging from 3 to 58 micrograms per litre.

Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. Authorities found numerous pills in various containers stashed around Prince's home, including some counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl. The source of that fentanyl was never determined.

While many who knew Prince over the years said he had a reputation for clean living, some said he also struggled with pain after years of intense performances. Documents released by authorities last year paint a picture of a man struggling with an addiction to prescription opioids and withdrawal, and they also show there were efforts to get him help.

Associates at Paisley Park told investigators that Prince had been "going through withdrawals, which are believed to be the result of the abuse of prescription medication," according to an affidavit unsealed in state court last year.

Just six days before he died, Prince passed out on a plane and an emergency stop was made in Moline, Illinois. The musician had to be revived with two doses of a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

The day before his death, Paisley Park staffers contacted California addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld as they were trying to get Prince help. Kornfeld sent his son, Andrew, to Minnesota that night and the younger Kornfeld was among those who found Prince's body. Andrew Kornfeld was carrying buprenorphine, a medication that can be used to help treat opioid addiction.



Entire nation's power out

An island-wide blackout hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday after an excavator accidentally downed a transmission line, officials said, as the U.S. territory struggles to repair an increasingly unstable power grid nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria.

Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers as outrage grew across the island about the state of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority. It was the second major outage in less than a week, with the previous one affecting some 840,000 customers.

"This is too much," said Luis Oscar Rivera, a computer technician who just got normal power back at his house less than two months ago. "It's like the first day of Maria all over again."

Authorities said the same contractor was involved in the two latest big power failures and had been fired. The outage last Thursday was set off when a tree limb fell on a power line as the contractor cleared land in central Puerto Rico and a backup line failed. On Wednesday, an excavator used by the contractor hit a transmission line near the south coast.

Several large power outages have hit Puerto Rico in recent months, but Wednesday was the first time since the hurricane struck Sept. 20 that the U.S. territory has experienced a full island-wide blackout.

The outage snarled traffic across the island, interrupted classes and work, and forced dozens of businesses to temporarily close, including the largest mall and popular tourist attractions like a 16th century fort in the historic part of Puerto Rico's capital. Long lines formed stations across the island, while authorities offered assurances that there was enough gasoline available.

Backup generators roared to life at the island's largest public hospital and at its main international airport, where officials reported no cancellations or delays. Meanwhile, the power company said its own customer service centre was out of service and asked people to go online or use the phone.

Officials said restoring power to hospitals, airports, banking centres and water pumping systems was their priority. Following that would be businesses and then homes.

By late in the afternoon, power had returned to several hospitals and at least five of the island's 78 municipalities.



Mom didn't fear death: Bush

Former President George W. Bush said Wednesday that his mother, Barbara Bush, didn't fear death because she believed in an afterlife and that she would be "wonderfully received in the arms of a loving God."

Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at age 92 at her home in Houston, was "warm and wonderful, until you got out of line," her son added while appearing with his wife, Laura Bush, on the Fox Business Network. Other relatives also described her as the family "enforcer" while her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, pursued careers in the Texas oil business and, later, politics and public service.

Tributes rolled in from around the world, heralding the former first lady as a warm woman of strength devoted to not only her family, but to child and adult literacy programs.

Current first lady Melania Trump, who will attend Barbara Bush's funeral Saturday in Houston, praised her for putting "family and country above all else." Among her greatest achievements, President Donald Trump added in a statement, "was recognizing the importance of literacy as a fundamental family value that requires nurturing and protection."

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, whose last years in office overlapped the George H.W. Bush presidency, remembered Barbara Bush as warm and astute, saying he was "greatly saddened" by her death. Gorbachev visited with the Bushes at the former president's library at Texas A&M University, where Barbara Bush will be buried.

"Barbara did a lot to build trust and friendship between us. She immediately developed a warm relationship with Raisa (Gorbachev's wife), they communicated easily and at ease," Gorbachev said.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to the former president offering his condolences.

In Kuwait, the Arab nation that has long celebrated George H.W. Bush for securing its freedom from Iraqi occupation in the 1991 Gulf War, the state-run news agency KUNA reported that Kuwaiti leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah sent letters of condolence to the Bush family. Barbara Bush visited Kuwait in 1993 and 2001, and was warmly received by dignitaries and Kuwaiti women.

Former President Barack Obama said he and former first lady Michelle Obama would always be grateful to Barbara Bush "for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in the White House."

"But we're even more grateful for the way she lived her life — as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling; as an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit," Obama said.

Former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter called Mrs. Bush the "matriarch of a family dedicated to serving."

Barbara Bush's funeral will be held at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, which she and her husband regularly attended. Barricades were erected Wednesday, and police were stationed outside a funeral home near the church. The church will host a public viewing Friday. Saturday's funeral will be by invitation only.

An "uplifting celebration" of Barbara Bush's life will be held Thursday evening outside Houston City Hall. City officials encouraged people to wear blue, her favouritecolour, along with pearls, which became her signature neckwear jewelry. City Hall was being bathed in blue lights in her honour.

George H.W. Bush was at his wife's side when she died and had held her hand all day Tuesday, according to Jean Becker, chief of staff at the former president's office in Houston. They'd been married 73 years, more than any presidential couple.



Terror, calm on Flight 1380

There was a loud boom, and the plane started shaking violently. Air whooshed through the cabin, and snow-like debris floated down the aisle as oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Some passengers wondered if they would ever hug their children again. At least one bought in-flight Wi-Fi as the jet descended so he could say goodbye to his loved ones.

A blown engine on a Southwest Airlines jet Tuesday hurled shrapnel at the aircraft and led to the death of a passenger who was nearly sucked out a broken window.

The terrifying chain of events on Flight 1380 brought out acts of bravery among the 149 passengers and crew members and drew across-the-board praise for the cool-headed pilot who safely guided the crippled Boeing 737 to an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Alfred Tumlinson was travelling with his wife back to Corpus Christi, Texas, after attending a Texas Farm Bureau gala in New York City. About 30 minutes after the flight took off from LaGuardia Airport, they heard a boom at about 32,000 feet over Pennsylvania, and the plane started descending.

A second bang followed, said Marty Martinez, a 29-year-old digital marketing specialist heading home to Dallas. That was when he saw a window blown open about two rows ahead of him on the other side of the plane.

"It felt like the plane was freefalling. ... Of course, everyone is like freaking out, everybody is crying. It was the scariest experience," Martinez told CBS News.

Air rushed through the suddenly depressurized cabin, and "all this debris is flying in your face, down to the aisle of the plane, into the back of the plane," Tumlinson said.

As those aboard started putting their masks on and helping others with theirs, passengers and crew members rushed to reach a woman who was being sucked out head-first through the opening. By at least one passenger's account, half her body was outside the plane.

A man in a cowboy hat, rancher Tim McGinty of Hillsboro, Texas, tore his mask off and struggled to pull the woman in. Andrew Needum, a firefighter from Celina, Texas, came to help, and the two of them managed to drag her back inside.

"It seemed like two minutes and it seemed like two hours," McGinty told reporters, a bandage on an arm he scraped while trying to save the woman.

McGinty's wife, Kristin McGinty, who was also on board, later told USA Today: "Some heroes wear capes, but mine wears a cowboy hat."

When a flight attendant asked if anyone knew CPR, retired school nurse Peggy Phillips got out of her seatbelt, and she and the firefighter laid the grievously injured woman down. The two of them began administering CPR for about 20 minutes, until the plane landed.

Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old Wells Fargo bank executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, didn't survive.

"If you can possibly imagine going through the window of an airplane at about 600 mph and hitting either the fuselage or the wing with your body, with your face, then I think I can probably tell you there was significant trauma," Phillips told ABC.

Passengers praised pilot Tammie Jo Shults for her professionalism during the emergency. Shults, one of the first female fighter pilots in the Navy, was at the controls when the jet landed, according to her husband, Dean Shults.

She got a round of applause from the passengers after putting the plane down safely. She walked through the aisle and talked with passengers to make sure they were OK afterward.

"She has nerves of steel, that lady," Tumlinson said. "I'm going to send her a Christmas card, I'm going to tell you that, with a gift certificate for getting me on the ground. She was awesome."



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