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Neighbour held in pit

An Ohio man accused of kidnapping a neighbour and keeping her trapped in a pit has been ordered held on $1 million bond.

A municipal court judge in Wilmington set bond Thursday for 45-year-old Dennis Dunn, who participated via video from jail.

A public defender was appointed to represent Dunn, who was arrested Wednesday when police found the woman after receiving calls about cries from a shed behind Dunn's home in Blanchester, northeast of Cincinnati.

Police found the woman in a pit inside the shed about two hours after she was reported missing. She was treated at a hospital and released.



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Breaking up is hard to do

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday sought to dash British hopes that its exit from the European Union will have only a limited impact on the relations, rights and privileges it now has.

Speaking to German lawmakers ahead of a weekend summit in Brussels to discuss the so-called Brexit, Merkel said to applause that she had "the feeling that some in Britain still have illusions, and that is a waste of time."

While Europe still envisions Britain as a close partner, Merkel said once it leaves the EU it will be an outsider and as such "can and will not have the same rights or be in a better position than a member of the European Union."

"All of the 27 members of the European Union and European institutions are agreed upon that," she said, to applause.

Britain has two years to complete its deal to leave the 28-nation European Union but is currently preoccupied with a snap election taking place in early June.

Merkel said pressing issues like the treatment of citizens living in each other's nations, the bill of remaining costs to be paid by Britain and border issues in Ireland need to be dealt with before a future relationship can even be discussed.



Solar-powered gas station

A government oil company in the United Arab Emirates says it has opened the country's first solar-powered gas station in Dubai.

The Dubai-owned Emirates National Oil Company said on Wednesday the service station on the city's main Sheikh Zayed Road thoroughfare is covered with solar panels that can generate up to 120 kilowatt hours.

ENOC says that is about 30 per cent more energy than the station needs, so the excess power is directed back into the city's electric grid.

Although it is OPEC's fourth biggest oil producer, the UAE has made a push to turn itself into a hub for renewable energy. It is building multiple solar farms and hosts the global headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency.



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911 call: find my drugs

Police say an Ohio man called 911 to request a police dog to help track down heroin allegedly stolen from him.

WEWS-TV reports a 20-year-old man in Bath Township, near Akron, made the call in January. The recording was released this week.

When the call operator asks why the caller needs a police dog, he replies that a female stole heroin from him.

Bath Police Chief Mike McNeely says it's among the most bizarre things he's heard in four decades of policing.

McNeely says the man is expected to face a drug charge after he pulled a brown, waxy substance from his pants while being interviewed by police.

The substance was seized and sent to a lab for testing. The caller was released pending the test results.



Trump won't ditch NAFTA

President Donald Trump on Wednesday told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not immediately pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, just hours after administration officials said he was considering a draft executive order to do just that.

The White House made the surprise announcement in a read-out of calls between Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries," said the White House.

Trump said he believes "the end result will make all three countries stronger and better."

The Mexican government confirmed the conversation in a statement issued late Wednesday.

"The leaders agreed on the convenience of maintaining the North American Free Trade Agreement and working together with Canada to carry out a successful renegotiation for the benefit of all three countries," the statement read.

Trudeau's office issued a brief statement saying "the two leaders continued their dialogue on Canada-U.S. trade relations, with the Prime Minister reinforcing the importance of stability and job growth in our trade relations."



Trump team softens war talk

The Trump administration told lawmakers Wednesday it will apply economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, as an extraordinary White House briefing served to tamp down talk of military action against an unpredictable and increasingly dangerous U.S. adversary.

President Donald Trump welcomed Republican and Democratic senators before his secretary of state, defence secretary, top general and national intelligence director conducted a classified briefing. The same team was also meeting with House members in the Capitol to outline the North's escalating nuclear capabilities and U.S. response options to what they called an "urgent national security threat."

After weeks of unusually blunt military threats, the joint statement by the agency chiefs said Trump's approach "aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners." It made no specific mention of military options, though it said the U.S. would defend itself and friends.

The unprecedented meeting in a building adjacent to the White House reflected the increased American alarm over North Korea's progress in developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the U.S. mainland. A flurry of military activity, by North Korea and the U.S. and its partners on and around the divided Korean Peninsula, has added to the world's sense of alert.

While tensions have increased since Trump took office, they've escalated dramatically in recent weeks as American and other intelligence agencies suggested the North was readying for a possible nuclear test. Trump has sent high-powered U.S. military vessels and an aircraft carrier to the region in a show of force, while the North conducted large-scale, live-fire artillery drills, witnessed by national leader Kim Jong Un, earlier this week.

On Wednesday, South Korea started installing key parts of a contentious U.S. missile defence system that also has sparked Chinese and Russian concerns.

America's Pacific forces commander, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., told Congress on Wednesday the system would be operational within days. He said any North Korean missile fired at U.S. forces would be destroyed.



JFK diary sells for $718,000

A diary kept by John F. Kennedy during his brief stint as a journalist after the Second World War has sold for more than $718,000 at auction.

Boston-based RR Auction says the diary sold Wednesday for $718,750, far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $200,000. It says the winning bid was made in person by JFK collector Joseph Alsop, of Beverly.

The diary was written in 1945 when the 28-year-old Kennedy was a correspondent for Hearst newspapers and travelled through a devastated Europe.

It provides insights into Kennedy's thoughts on world leaders of the era. Kennedy reflects on the legacy of Hitler and presages the future of the United Nations.

The 61-page diary was given by Kennedy to Deirdre Henderson, a research assistant in his campaign office in the late 1950s.



US may pull out of NAFTA

The White House is telling U.S. media that it's weighing a plan to pull out of NAFTA, upping the pressure on Congress to get cracking on negotiations under the threat of having the seminal trade deal obliterated.

Various media say Trump is considering detonating the trade equivalent of a nuclear option: an executive order to withdraw from the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, a prospect that would terrify industry and business-friendly lawmakers.

Those same reports say Trump hasn't yet decided what to do.

The online site Politico says he's looking at an executive order drafted by aides Steve Bannon and economic assistant Peter Navarro. CNN says he might simply go ahead with renegotiations, as originally planned.

What's not at all clear is whether Trump is seriously considering a pullout, or merely using it as a threat.

The leaks to media appeared to jolt markets. The Canadian dollar lost 0.25 cents by early afternoon, while the Mexican peso got hit harder, down almost two per cent by 1:45 p.m. ET.

One trade expert views it as a negotiating tactic — a threat to Congress.

''I think he is bluffing,'' said Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Mark Warner.

''I think by threatening a nuclear option he is hoping to get Congress to speed up... (and) stop getting in the way. If there is an executive order, it's probably more likely to be weaker than his rhetoric.''

The White House has expressed frustration lately at the go-slow attitude of Congress: it has yet to confirm his trade czar or approve a 90-day notice to start NAFTA talks. The administration says it will be hard to get a deal as the Mexican election approaches.



Trump proposes huge cuts

President Donald Trump is proposing "the biggest tax cut" ever, even as the government struggles with mounting debt, in an effort to fulfill his promises to stimulate job creation and middle class prosperity.

White House officials on Wednesday were to release broad outlines of a tax overhaul that would provide massive tax cuts to businesses big and small. The top tax rate for individuals would drop by a few percentage points, from 39.6 per cent to the "mid-30s," according to an official with knowledge of the plan.

Small businesses would see their top tax rate go from 39.6 per cent to the proposed corporate tax rate of 15 per cent, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a Wednesday morning speech.

Mnuchin said the proposed overhaul would amount to "the biggest tax cut" and the "largest tax reform" in U.S. history. He said the lower tax rate for small business owners — a category that under current legal definitions could include doctors, lawyers and even companies such as the Trump Organization — would not be used as a loophole for the rich to reduce their tax burden.

But the Treasury secretary declined to say there would be no absolute tax cut for the wealthy, a promise he made last year during a TV interview. "Our objective is simplifying personal taxes," he said.

The plan will not include provisions to increase spending on infrastructure projects, one possible sweetener that could help gain congressional support.

The proposal faces a massive hurdle in that lower rates would blow a hole in the budget, possibly causing the national debt to soar by more than a trillion dollars over a decade.

Without additional revenue sources to offset the tax cuts, the broad proposal would need Democratic support to clear the required 60 votes in the Senate. Congressional Republicans could pass changes on their own with a simple Senate majority, but that would only be temporary under Senate rules.

Mnuchin said he would like the tax overhaul to be permanent, but "if we have them for 10 years, that's better than nothing."

Trump sent his team to Capitol Hill Tuesday evening to discuss his plan with Republican leaders.

"They went into some suggestions that are mere suggestions and we'll go from there," said GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The White House's presentation will be "pretty broad in the principles," said Marc Short, Trump's director of legislative affairs.

In the coming weeks, Trump will solicit more ideas on how to improve the plan, Short said. The specifics should start to come this summer.



An outpost on the moon?

Representatives of China and the European Space Agency are discussing potential collaboration on a human outpost on the moon and other possible joint endeavours, according to a spokesman for the European agency and Chinese media reports.

The secretary general for China's space agency, Tian Yulong, first disclosed the talks about the envisioned lunar base in Chinese state media. They were confirmed Wednesday by Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesman for the European Space Agency, or ESA.

"The Chinese have a very ambitious moon program already in place," Hvistendahl said. "Space has changed since the space race of the '60s. We recognize that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do international co-operation."

The director general of the 22-member ESA, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, has described its proposed "Moon Village" as a potential international launching pad for future missions to Mars and a chance to develop space tourism or even lunar mining.



China launches carrier

China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defence industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes.

The 50,000-ton carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9 a.m. Wednesday following a ceremony in the northern port city of Dalian, where its predecessor, the Soviet-built Liaoning, also underwent extensive refurbishing before being commissioned in 2012, the Ministry of National Defence said.

Development of the new carrier began in 2013 and construction in late 2015. It's expected to be formally commissioned sometime before 2020, after sea trials and the arrival of its full air complement.

Like the 60,000-ton Liaoning, which was purchased from the Ukraine, the new carrier is based on the Soviet Kuznetsov class design, with a ski jump-style deck for taking off and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant. 

The main hull of the new carrier has been completed and its power supply put into place. Next up are mooring tests and the debugging of its electronic systems, the Defence Ministry said.

China is believed to be planning to build at least two and possibly as many as four additional carriers.



Seattle crushes rain record

Soggy Seattle has broken another rainfall record, and Portland is inching closer to smashing its own record.

Seattle measured 44.7 inches (114 centimetres) of rain between October and April, making it the wettest such period since records began in 1895, the National Weather Service in Seattle said.

It marks the second year in the row that the city has topped the historic rainfall record for that period.

With several days left to go this month, this year's record will likely be padded some more, said Mike McFarland, a meteorologist with the service in Seattle.

"This has been a terrible winter. It was just wet. There's no way around that," he said Tuesday.

Portland residents are weathering a winter that's similarly bleak.

The National Weather Service has measured 45.5 inches (116 centimetres) of rain at Portland International Airport since Oct. 1, making it the second-wettest winter in the city in more than 75 years of record-keeping.



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