Monday, February 19, 2018

Model seen returning to scene of alleged kidnapping in Italy

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Video of British model Chloe Ayling retracing her movements during the week that she was allegedly kidnapped and held for ransom was played in a Milan courtroom Monday during the trial of her alleged abductor.

The video showed Ayling, 20, walking investigators into the supposed photographer’s studio in Milan where her agent had arranged a modeling job. She signaled to police a spot near a doorway where she said she was grabbed from behind.

Video evidence of British model Chloe Ayling is played in court during a trial on the alleged kidnapping of the model, last summer, in a Milan courtroom, Italy, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Investigators into the kidnapping of a the model showed in court video footage of the young woman revisiting with police the places where she was taken and held for six days last July. A 30-year-old Pole, Lukasz Herba, is being tried for the kidnapping and was arrested after he released the 20-year-old model at the British consulate in Milan. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Chloe Ayling appears in video that was played in court at the trial of her alleged kidnapper.  (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

According to prosecutors, Ayling was drugged at the studio, zipped inside a canvas bag and transported to a farmhouse in the Piedmont region near Turin, where she was held captive for six days.

MODEL CHLOE AYLING ON KIDNAPPING: ‘IF IT WASN’T ME, I WOULD THINK IT WAS JUST CRAZY’

Investigator Gianluca Simontacchi told the court that Ayling broke down in tears as they reached the farmhouse, and had to be calmed by her lawyer before being able to continue.

A 30-year-old Pole, Lukasz Herba, who was arrested after releasing Ayling at the British consulate in Milan, is being tried for the kidnapping. Italian prosecutors are seeking to try Herba’s brother, who is in Britain.

Inside the building, Ayling pointed out a piece of furniture where she said she had been cuffed by her hands and feet overnight the first night. She then showed a bedroom, where she said later she shared a bed with her kidnapper; a photograph entered into evidence showed a blanket folded to create a boundary down the middle of the bed.

Finally, she showed investigators where she accompanied her kidnapper to buy food and a pair of sneakers in a nearby town before her release.

30-year-old Lukasz Herba, from Poland, attends a trial on the alleged kidnapping of British model Chloe Ayling last summer, in a Milan courtroom, Italy, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Herba is being tried for the kidnapping and was arrested after he released the 20-year-old model at the British consulate in Milan. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Lukasz Herba sits in court during his trial for allegedly kidnapping model Chloe Ayling.  (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

In court testimony, the grocery store owner’s son said that Herba had come to the store several times to buy fruit and vegetables, and that Ayling waited outside once.

A neighbor of the farmhouse where she was held testified that he had seen Ayling with Herba at least twice, and from a distance that it looked like they were a couple.

Ayling’s lawyer, Francesco Pesce, dismissed any notion that a video showing Ayling walking hand-in-hand with Herba shown at an earlier hearing cast any doubt on the kidnapping allegation.

“She was holding hands with Mr. Herba but she looked, at least in my opinion, she looked frightened, quite scared,” he said.

A police toxicologist testified that tests of Ayling’s hair indicated the presence of the drug ketamin, under the influence of which one remains conscious but disassociated from reality. Napolitano said there was a tiny hole on Ayling’s inner wrist consistent with an injection, but she said there was no way of knowing precisely when the drug had been administered.

“It corresponds perfectly to the picture we have of Miss Ayling she said,” showing a photograph of the model with her eyes half-closed, pupils dilated, that allegedly was circulated on the internet.

Herba’s lawyer, Bozena Katia Kolakowska, said his client would testify at the next hearing, and that he is expected to say that the kidnapping was a ploy to give Ayling’s modeling career a boost.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Oxfam says staff intimidated witnesses in Haiti sex scandal

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Oxfam workers suspected of sexual misconduct in Haiti intimidated and threatened a witness as the charity investigated the original claims, according to the organization’s report on the internal inquiry.

The findings were part of a previously confidential report released by Oxfam on Monday as the charity responds to newspaper stories suggesting it covered up allegations that seven employees used prostitutes on the charity’s property while working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.

“We are making this exceptional publication because we want to be as transparent as possible about the decisions we made during this particular investigation and in recognition of the breach of trust that has been caused,” the charity said in a statement. “We are also meeting with the government of Haiti to apologize for our mistakes and discuss what more we can do, including for the women affected by these events.”

Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam director for Latin America and the Caribbean, met Monday with Haiti’s external planning minister and other officials. Ticehurst said he had shared the report and expressed “our shame and apologies to the Haitian government and to the Haitian people.”

Publication of the report comes as Oxfam seeks to move past the scandal after the British government on Friday suspended new funding to Oxfam’s British affiliate. Oxfam Great Britain received $43.8 million from the government in the 12 months through March 31, 2017, or about 8 percent of its revenue.

Oxfam’s report shows the investigation was triggered by an email alleging that staff members in Haiti had violated the organization’s code of conduct by using prostitutes in Oxfam guesthouses and engaging in fraud, nepotism and negligence.

While the inquiry was still underway, the line manager of one of the suspects leaked a report to another member of staff.

“This resulted in 3 of the suspects … physically threatening and intimidating one of the witnesses who had been referred to in the report,” according to the final report. “This incident led to further charges of bullying and intimidation against these 3 members of staff.”

Overall, Oxfam investigated allegations that seven members of staff used prostitutes on the charity’s property. Two of the seven were also investigated for “sexual exploitation and abuse of employees,” and two allegedly viewed pornography on Oxfam computers.

The director of operations in the country admitted using sex workers in his charity-funded accommodation but was given a “phased and dignified exit” as long as he fully cooperated with the investigation, Oxfam said in the report.

In total, seven staff members either resigned or were dismissed as a result of the investigation.

While the report confirms Oxfam’s previous statements that allegations of workers having sex with minors weren’t substantiated, it goes on to say that “it cannot be ruled out that any of the prostitutes were under-aged.”

The report also suggests that Oxfam failed to heed some of the findings of its own investigation. Recent news reports have criticized the charity for allowing some of those involved in the Haiti allegations to move on to jobs with other aid agencies, and the report highlighted this as area of concern.

In a section on lessons learned from the Haiti scandal, Oxfam agency said it needed to embed “women’s rights at the heart of what we do,” and implement better procedures to stop disgraced workers from moving on to new posts in the aid industry.

Colorado congressman, Columbine survivor, pushes to end gun-free zones in schools

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Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who was a Columbine High School sophomore at the time of the 1999 mass shooting, is pushing legislation that he says would protect students — by getting rid of gun restrictions in schools.

He has introduced the bill annually since he was elected in 2014, The Washington Times reported. Previous attempts have been turned down.

Neville, a Republican, told The Times the current law “creates a so-called gun free zone in every K-12 public school.”

Under Colorado law, concealed-carry permit holders may bring firearms onto school property, according to The Times, but must keep them locked inside their vehicles.

“Time and time again we point to the one common theme with mass shootings, they occur in gun-free zones,” Neville told The Times.

He added law-abiding citizens should be able “to defend themselves and most importantly our children from the worst-case scenarios.”

The massacre on Valentine’s Day of last week in Florida has renewed a nationwide debate about gun violence and how to prevent mass shootings.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, was suspected of opening fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he was a former student, killing 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others.

Neville has contended, according to The Times, that more of his classmates would have survived the attack if faculty had been armed. In April 1999, two teens killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves inside Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado.

The congressman’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Georgia looks to drop electric voting machines in favor of paper ballots

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A unique effort is underway in Georgia to safeguard elections by taking voting machines back to the future.

“The most secure elections in the world are conducted with a piece of paper and a pencil,” said Georgia State Rep. Scot Turner. “It allows you to continue into the future to verify the result.”

Turner has proposed a bill that would retire Georgia’s electronic touch-screen voting machines and switch to paper ballots that voters would fill out and then be counted by optical scan machines. The technology has been in use for decades to score standardized tests for grade-school students.

Voting machines are set up for people to cast their ballots during voting in the 2016 presidential election at Manuel J. Cortez Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S November 8, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker - HT1ECB81RBICM

Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, also a Republican, said the electronic voting machines currently in use in Georgia are accurate and efficient and replacing them with paper would be a step backward.  (REUTERS)

“You can try and hack these machines all day long,” Turner said. “But that piece of paper that you can touch and feel and look at is going to give the voter the confidence that the election is actually being recorded the way it should have been.”

But Georgia’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, also a Republican, said the electronic voting machines currently in use in Georgia are accurate and efficient and replacing them with paper would be a step backward.

“The fraud we see in Georgia is with paper ballots,” Kemp said. “So, I would be very careful going back to the old days of the hanging chad.”

Hanging chad is a reference to incompletely punched card ballots in Florida that put the outcome of the 2000 presidential race in limbo for 36 days. The delay prompted calls nationwide for upgrades in voting technology.

Election workers hand check ballots for "hanging", "pregnant" or "dimpled" chads at the Broward County Emergency Operations Center, November 18, 2000. Republican George W. Bush was pleased that overseas absentee ballots had widened his lead in Florida and hoped the dispute over the state's presidential vote would be resolved soon, his campaign said on Saturday. MS/ME - RP2DRHYZNWAA

Hanging chads are incompletely punched card ballots in Florida that put the outcome of the 2000 presidential race in limbo for 36 days. The delay prompted calls nationwide for upgrades in voting technology.  (AP)

Georgia went to direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs). Voters select candidates on a touch-screen computer, which records their choices on an electronic ballot.

Georgia is one of five states still using DREs statewide without a physical paper trail backup. A sixth state, Nevada, uses DREs with a paper trail statewide.

The rest of the nation uses a patchwork of voting systems that vary from state to state and, often, countsy to county.

“I don’t know that there needs to be one specific way to cast a ballot and record a vote, but there are a number of best practices,” said Jeh Johnson, who served as director of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

Johnson said what’s crucial is redundancy — having a backup system for recounting votes if there’s a technical glitch or deliberate meddling.

paper ballot

Paper ballots have been phased out in much of the country but a proposed bill in Georgia would bring it back.

“The cyber threat to our country is going to get worse before it gets better,” Johnson said. “Bad cyber actors — whether they’re nation states, cyber criminals, hacktivists, those who engage in ransomware — are increasingly aggressive, tenacious and ingenious.”

Last year, DHS declared America’s election systems as “critical infrastructure” — underscoring the importance of protecting how the nation conducts democracy. Solutions are likely to vary from region to region, just as voting technology varies. And experts say that diversity is part of the protection.

Fox News producer David Lewkowict contributed to this report.

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.

Report: California pot growers lagging in getting licenses

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Nearly two months after recreational marijuana became legal in California, less than 1 percent of the state’s known growers have been licensed, according to a report released Monday by a pot industry group.

The 38-page report from the California Growers Association says 0.78 percent, or 534, of an estimated 68,150 marijuana growers were licensed by the state as of Feb. 7. The association cited such obstacles to licensing as cost and regulatory barriers.

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A study published last year by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center estimated the newly created state market for recreational marijuana should produce $5 billion in taxable revenue this year.

At the same time, it estimated the market for medicinal marijuana, which has been legal in California since 1996, would decline from an estimated $2 billion last year to $1.4 billion in 2018, while about 30 percent of pot sales would continue through the black market.

If more of the smaller, independent growers are not licensed by the state, taxable revenue of recreational marijuana is likely to be lower than anticipated as the black market continues to flourish, according to the new report.

“The current system will not achieve its goals without fundamental and structural changes that allow small and independent businesses to enter into compliance,” the growers association report concluded.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control, which regulates the state’s marijuana industry, was closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday, and officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The growers association, which identifies itself as the state’s largest association of marijuana businesses, said it hopes to work with officials in getting more growers licensed.

“We must develop a regulatory framework that will effectively curb the environmental and public safety impacts of cannabis by providing pathways to compliance for businesses currently operating in the unregulated market,” said Hezekiah Allen, the group’s executive director.

“If they are unable to comply, the unregulated market is likely to persist and there will be an unnecessary strain on law enforcement resources,” he said.

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North Carolina teacher fired after video shows him body slamming student, reports say

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A substitute teacher in North Carolina was fired this week after video footage emerged of him apparently slamming a 12-year-old student to the ground.

The incident, which reportedly took place Wednesday at Western Guilford Middle School in Greensboro, was sparked after the teacher apparently took away student Jose Escudero’s Valentine’s Day chocolates.

Escudero told Fox 8 that the teacher took away the candy, and when he tried to retrieve the sweets and put them in his backpack after class, the teacher allegedly tried to stop him.

The teacher, according to Escudero, attempted to grab the box from him, before allegedly grabbing the 12-year-old by the shirt and pinning him against the wall before throwing him over his shoulder and onto the ground.

The substitute teacher was identified as Paul Stennett, 49, according to WXII.

CALIFORNIA TEACHER WHO SLAMMED MILITARY REFUSES TO QUIT, BUT IS CONDEMNED BY CITY COUNCIL

The video circulated Friday when Escudero’s mother posted it to Facebook “asking for justice.” She wrote that Jose was suspended for seven days following the incident.

“This kind of behavior toward a student is disturbing and unacceptable,” Guilford County Schools’ Chief of Staff Nora Carr told Fox 8 in a statement.

“We reported the behavior to law enforcement and will no longer employ this person as a substitute teacher or in any other GCS position,” Carr continued.

Officials told WXII that Stennett, who reportedly owns a daycare center in Henderson, began working for Guilford schools in December.

NORTH CAROLINA TEACHERS MUST REPAY BONUS HANDED OUT IN ERROR

Escudero and his mother plan to take legal action against both the school and Stennett, according to Fox 8.

The Greensboro Police Department told the Daily Mail that the video posted to Facebook “does not capture the entire incident,” and officials “are still interviewing people so it would be premature to place any charges at this time.”

Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com.

Court: Pardoned Peru strongman Fujimori can be tried again

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A court in Peru has determined that former Peruvian strongman Alberto Fujimori can be tried in connection with a 1992 massacre despite his recent pardon from a 25-year jail sentence.

The ruling Monday paves the way for Fujimori to stand trial again for crimes committed during his decade-long rule.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori in December from a lengthy prison sentence for his role in the deaths of 25 Peruvians and sanctioning the use of military death squads.

The pardon sparked protests and drew condemnation from human rights groups.

The new case concerns a 1992 massacre in which six peasants were kidnapped, tortured and killed by a paramilitary group. Members of the group said they received orders from superiors.

Fujimori was at the top of that chain of command.

Fergie's ex husband Josh Duhamel brings flowers following national anthem debacle

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Actor Josh Duhamel and singer Fergie announced their divorce roughly five months ago. However, the backlash from her recent disastrous national anthem performance at the NBA All Star game was so bad that her former hubby was caught bringing her some roses.

The film and TV star was spotted outside his ex-wife’s place on Monday along with their four-year-old son, Axl. The star opted for a dressed-down look in just a t-shirt and sweatpants, but it was his gift-bearing arms that held the biggest surprise.

The star arrived with a bouquet of roses, presumably for Fergie. It seems he’s hoping a combination of time with her son and flowers will help get her out of the post-anthem funk. As previously reported, Fergie appeared at the NBA All Star game on Sunday night, where she attempted to give a jazzy rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” While it was a bold choice, fans weren’t having it.

Josh Duhamel carries red and white flowers to Fergies home in Brentwood after her much ridiculed performance of the National Anthem. <P> Pictured: Josh Duhamel and Axl <B>Ref: SPL1661551 190218 </B><BR/> Picture by: / Splash News<BR/> </P><P> <B>Splash News and Pictures</B><BR/> Los Angeles:310-821-2666<BR/> New York:212-619-2666<BR/> London:870-934-2666<BR/> photodesk@splashnews.com<BR/> </P>

 (� www.splashnews.com)

The star spent most of Monday being lambasted by people on Twitter as well as stars like Roseanne. That would be enough to make anyone in need of a little pick-me-up, but it didn’t stop there. Things got so bad that Fergie actually released an apology for her performance.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA. I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best,” the former Black Eyed Peas singer told TMZ.

As previously reported, Duhamel and Fergie announced they were divorcing in September 2017.

“With absolute love and respect we decided to separate as a couple earlier this year,” the couple said in a joint statement at the time. “To give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public.”

Axl is the duo’s only child together.

North Korea&#039;s failed Olympians hope to avoid dangerous consequences

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As North Koreans return home this week from the Pyeongchang Winter Games, possibly without any medals, Olympians hope to avoid the gulags — a fate the losers of the 1966 World Cup are believed to have experienced.

Twenty-two North Koreans participated in the 2018 Olympics, with the support of the nation’s handpicked cheering squad, for the regime’s ninth representation in a Winter Games.

Competing in figure skating, skiing and ice hockey — as part of a joint team with South Korea — the country failed to medal in any event, surely disappointing leader Kim Jong Un, whose family allegedly sentenced the failed World Cup athletes to concentration camps for the loss.

July 19, 1966 - North Korea 1-0 Italy, World Cup Football, Group 4 match, at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, 19th July 1966. North Korean line-up (Credit Image: © Syndication International/Mirrorpix/Newscom via ZUMA Press)

The North Korean team which lost in the 1966 World Cup was allegedly sentenced to concentration camps for the loss.  (Syndication International/Mirrorpix/Newscom via ZUMA Press)

A survivor of the North Korea gulags, according to the U.K.’s Daily Star, wrote about meeting the World Cup squad at the Yodok gulag, where the team said they were imprisoned for losing 5-3 to Portugal.

In 2010, the losing North Korea World Cup team reportedly endured a six-hour “grand debate” in which they were criticized for their “betrayal of the trust of Kim Jong Un,” South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo reported.

“Considering the high hopes North Koreans had for the World Cup, the regime could have done worse things to the team than just reprimand them for their ideological shortcomings,” an intelligence source told the outlet at the time.

“In the past, North Korean athletes and coaches who performed badly were sent to prison camps,” the source added.

North Korea has only won two Winter Olympic medals: a silver and a bronze, in speedskating and short-track speedskating. Kim has long pushed for stronger athletes, and in 2015 vowed to improve the country’s lackluster record.

February 12, 2018 - Pyeongchang, South Korea - 180212 North Korean cheer team during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round match between Sweden and Korea during day three of the 2018 Winter Olympics on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang..Photo: Petter Arvidson / BILDBYRÃ…N / kod PA / 91962 (Credit Image: © Petter Arvidson/Bildbyran via ZUMA Press)

North Korean cheerleaders, pictured here at the 2018 Olympic Games, are reportedly handpicked by Kim Jong Un and North Korean officials.  (ZUMA Press)

In a statement titled “Let Us Usher in a New Golden Age of Building a Sports Power in the Revolutionary Spirit of Paektu,” Kim called on the ruling party to help athletes win at the Olympics, world championships and other international contests.

“Only sportspeople can cause the flag of our republic to be hoisted in the sky of other countries in peace time,” the statement said.

More on North Korea…

But the North was apparently unprepared for this year’s Games as the country didn’t even have a roster ready until January.

Only two of the 22 athletes that ended up coming to the Olympics had qualified in pre-Games’ competitions. It entered seven men and 15 women. All but three of the women were on the joint ice hockey team, which gave up 22 goals and scored just once in its first four games.

With so few athletes prepared when Kim announced on New Year’s Day that he wanted to send a delegation to the Games, the North instead dispatched more than 140 musicians, a demonstration taekwondo team, the 229-woman strong cheering squad and 21 journalists, despite the Olympics having received virtually no coverage back home in the North.

North Korea's Jin Ok (32), of the combined Koreas team, joins teammates Park Yoonjung (23), Park Ye-eun (11), Kim Selin (8), and Kim Heewon (12) during the third period of the classification round of the women's hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Switzerland won 2-0. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

North Korea’s Jin Ok (32), of the combined Koreas team, joins teammates Park Yoonjung (23), Park Ye-eun (11), Kim Selin (8), and Kim Heewon (12) during the third period of the classification round of the women’s hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Switzerland won 2-0.  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

But, despite their losses thus far, North Korea might have a chance to medal.

Jong Kwang Bom, 16, is entered to compete in Tuesday’s men’s 500-meters short track speed skating race.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com.

Gulf cartel boss captured in Mexican state bordering Texas

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Mexican marines have captured an alleged top boss of the Gulf drug cartel in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

A statement from the Mexican navy says the suspect it identifies only as Jose Alfredo, with no last name, was arrested in the city of Matamoros, which is across from Brownsville, Texas.

It describes him as the “presumed leader of a criminal organization in the region.”

A government official with knowledge of the case confirms the man detained Monday morning is Jose Alfredo Cardenas, nephew to former Gulf cartel leaders Osiel and Antonio Cardenas. The former is in a U.S. prison, while the latter was killed by Mexican security forces in 2010.

The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lucky Charms adds first new marshmallow in a decade

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The magically delicious cereal is adding a little more charm to the mix for the first time in ten years with a new permanent “magical unicorn” marshmallow.

The white horse with pink-and-blue striped mane and horn will be joining the team of other marshmallows, or marbits as they are officially called, this March.

GENERAL MILLS’ NEW ‘LUCKY CHARMS FROSTED FLAKES’ MIGHT BE A JAB AT KELLOGG’S

The mythical horse was chosen in a “unanimous” decision by little boys and girls, General Mills revealed in a press release.

“Our goal is to not only create a cereal that families and cereal fans will love and enjoy, but to inspire magical possibilities and help spark imagination and fun no matter what the age,” said Josh DeWitt, marketing manager of Lucky Charms. “That’s why, after 10 years, we decided to introduce a new charm with the help of the keepers of magic themselves – kids. They spoke, and after hearing their love for the magical unicorn, we listened.”

The unicorn is the first ever to be “inspired by and created by kids,” the press release continued.

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However, the “cool and colorful” addition will be squeezing out another beloved charm – the hourglass marshmallow that has been part of the cereal marbit lineup for over a decade, having been added in 2008.

There have been several other marshmallows that have come and gone – pot of gold in 1994, shooting star in 1998 – but this is the first permanent addition to the cereal in ten years.

The sweet breakfast staple will now feature hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows, red balloons and now magical unicorns, according to the press release.

Californians can go home but told to keep watch on wildfire

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A wind-driven wildfire in rural central California threatened hundreds of buildings Monday, including a historic railroad station, but officials said they made some gains after the flames exploded in size.

The blaze scorched 3½ square miles (9 square kilometers) of chaparral bush and shrub oak in the small town of Bishop on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada that is popular for hiking, fishing, climbing and hunting.

Officials ended most evacuations that were ordered near the town but warned that strong winds were expected in the area and urged residents to remain vigilant.

It comes as California has seen some record-high temperatures and little rain after emerging from a five-year drought, helping fuel some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in state history late last year. U.S. drought monitors this month declared parts of Southern California back in severe drought.

In the most recent fire, several communities and campgrounds in the Pleasant Valley Reservoir area had been told to leave, said Cathey Mattingly, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

It’s not clear how many people had to evacuate after the blaze started Sunday, Inyo County sheriff’s spokeswoman Carma Roper said. But hundreds of structures were threatened, including the Laws Railroad Museum, a railroad station built in the 1880s, Mattingly said.

“We had pretty heavy wind activity overnight and we are expecting more windy conditions today,” Mattingly said Monday. “That is hampering firefighting efforts.”

She said at least 400 firefighters are working to contain the flames north of Bishop, a former mining town of about 3,800 that still celebrates mules each year with country music concerts, mule chariot races, log skidding and parades.

The fire broke out near the Pleasant Valley Reservoir and quickly grew to 900 acres. It forced the closure of a highway that connects rural Inyo County to Nevada.

Confederate statue toppling cases start with dismissals

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Problems identifying protesters on video hindered North Carolina prosecutors on Monday as they sought to hold demonstrators responsible for toppling a Confederate statue last summer.

A judge dismissed the criminal cases against the first two defendants to appear in a series of individual trials, and he found a third not guilty. Trials for five others are to be held at a later date.

Prosecutors showed videos of protesters bringing out a ladder, attaching a rope and yanking down the statue in front of a Durham County government building in August 2017. But defense attorneys successfully argued through a series of objections that investigators had failed to meet stringent standards to prove the first two defendants were the people seen on the video.

In dropping charges against defendant Peter Gilbert, Durham County District Court Judge Fred Battaglia noted “the court must dismiss this case now … because the identification has not been made.” He cited a similar reason for dropping the case against the first defendant of the day, Dante Strobino.

While Battaglia declined to dismiss the third case over similar defense arguments, he nonetheless found Raul Jimenez not guilty on all charges.

The three had faced misdemeanor counts including defacing a public building or monument and conspiracy. The rest of the defendants face similar charges.

The toppling of the statue helped thrust North Carolina into a national debate on Confederate monuments in the aftermath of white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one counterdemonstrator dead last August. The Virginia demonstrations were triggered by a dispute over another Confederate monument.

While statues elsewhere have been vandalized, the Durham case drew widespread attention because protesters succeeded in bringing it down. North Carolina is among a handful of Southern states with the most Confederate monuments. It also has a law preventing local officials from removing the statues.

Some of the Durham protesters have cited the Virginia violence as the reason they gathered Aug. 14 for the demonstration that led to the statue’s toppling. They say removing Confederate monuments is part of a larger fight against racism — an idea echoed by defense attorney Scott Holmes on Monday.

Holmes told the judge that the nearly century-old statue benefited “those who would celebrate the traitorous, violent defense of human enslavement.”

However, some Southerners argue that the memorials honor fallen ancestors and represent history, not racism.

And, prosecutors argued, the defendants broke the law by destroying the county’s property.

“This was not a spontaneous event, but a well-orchestrated plan of organized destruction,” said prosecutor Ameshia Cooper.

The protesters initially faced felony rioting charges, but the district attorney announced earlier this year that he was dropping those counts.

The crumpled statue was taken to a warehouse shortly after the demonstration, and its pedestal has remained empty. Local leaders are convening a panel to study what to do with it and other Confederate memorials in the area.

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Follow Drew at www.twitter.com/JonathanLDrew

Florida shooting survivors recall acts of heroism during deadly gunfire

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A football coach using his body as a shield, a teacher stuffing 19 students into a closet and a janitor’s warning saved countless lives during a deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.

Survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre are continuing to mourn the loss of 17 victims – both students and faculty – though many believe that number could have been higher.

Thanks to a handful of heroes, some of whom lost their lives, students say they were able to escape the shooting unharmed. Here are their stories.

Student shot five times protecting classmates

anthony borges

Sheriff Scott Israel on Sunday paid a visit to 15-year-old school shooting survivor, Anthony Borges.  (The Broward County Sheriff’s Office)

When bullets started flying, students panicked. They weren’t sure what to do. So, 15-year-old Anthony Borges took charge.

Borges ran alongside a group of students toward an open classroom. He was the last to enter and paused to lock the door. That’s when he was hit five times in the legs and back.

“None of us knew what to do. So, he took the initiative to just save his other classmates,” Carlos, Borges’ best friend, told “Good Morning America.”

Despite the bullet wounds, Borges stood his ground. He used his body to shield his classmates as he secured the door.

“He’s my hero,” Borges’ dad, Royer, told “Good Morning America.”

Borges is currently recovering at Broward Health, where he has received plenty of visitors, including Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

Football coach “died a hero,” using body as a shield

aaron feis 1

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, was hailed a hero for saving students during the mass shooting on Feb. 14.  (Facebook)

When gunfire rang out in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, football coach and security guard Aaron Feis immediately went to work. 

Feis responded to the original call on a school walkie-talkie, according to the Sun Sentinel. Someone on the radio asked if loud sounds they heard were firecrackers, football coach Willis May said.

“I heard Aaron say, ‘No, that is not firecrackers.’ That’s the last I heard of him,” May said.

Witnesses say the coach shielded students from gunfire and shoved them through open doors and out of harm’s away. 

Feis was the first shooting victim to be identified. The football team revealed his death in a tweet early Thursday morning.

“It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis,” the team wrote. “He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories.”

Teacher hides 19 students in a closet

When Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, learned there was an active shooter inside the building, she told all of her students to get down.

As she surveyed the students in the room, huddled in a corner, she decided to take an extra step to protect them.

The teacher instructed the students to get into a closet.

“I managed to put 19 kids in the closet with me,” Falkowski told CNN on Thursday. “This is the worst nightmare that could ever happen to you.”

Falkowski and the group of students stood silently in the closet, waiting for authorities to give them the “all-clear.” About 30 minutes later, they were escorted out by a SWAT team.

“Melissa Falkowski is an amazing educator who deserves praise for what she did. I had multiple panic attacks while locked in the closet with 19 other people for numerous hours,” Emma Dowd told blogging site Love What Matters. “She reiterated many times that I would be safe and she won’t let anything happen to me.”

In a tweet, Dowd added she was “beyond thankful” for educators like Falkowski.

Teacher unlocks, blocks door so students can hide

Students said geography teacher Scott Beigel unlocked his classroom to help them avoid the gunman, and he paid for the brave act with his life.

“If the shooter would have come into the room, I probably wouldn’t be speaking to you now,” student Kelsey Friend told Good Morning America.

When Friend heard gunshots, she followed other students who were sprinting toward the classroom.

Beigel “unlocked the door and let us in,” she explained. “I thought he was behind me, but he wasn’t. When he opened the door he had to relock it so we could stay safe, but he didn’t get a chance to.”

Student Bruna Oliveda said she saw Beigel blocking the door.

“I don’t know how we’re alive,” she said.

Teacher covers window with paper, refuses to open classroom door

Shanthi Viswanathan, known by students as “Mrs. V.,” is being praised for her quick-thinking actions during the shooting.

Viswanathan made sure the students in her class were hidden. She led them to a corner and covered the classroom window with a large piece of paper.

“She was quick on her feet. She used her knowledge,” Dawn Jarboe, whose son was in the room, told the Orlando Sentinel. “She saved a lot of kids.”

Viswanathan kept the kids calm and quiet until help arrived. When SWAT officers pounded on the classroom door, Viswanathan refused to open it.

She wanted to ensure she wasn’t being tricked by the shooter.

“She said, ‘Knock it down or open it with a key. I’m not opening the door,’” Jarboe said.

Minutes later, officers knocked out thew window and rescued the group.

Janitor diverts students from the gunman

High school senior David Hogg was running toward an exit with a group of students as gunfire rang out when he was suddenly stopped by a janitor.

The janitor, who Hogg couldn’t identify, motioned for the students to head the other direction.

“After I started running with the people, I realized that wasn’t the best choice because there was a janitor that thank God stopped me and all of my fellow students from going in that direction – towards the shooter,” Hogg told KTRK.

Hogg and his classmates reversed course, searching for a place to hide. A teacher quickly opened the door to her classroom and pulled the students inside.

“Without her, who knows how many of us would have died, ’cause we were easily 100 feet away from the freshman building, and again, we thought this was a drill,” Hogg said.

ROTC student holds door so others can escape

Peter wang

An ROTC member, Peter Wang reportedly held a door open to usher his peers to safety during the shooting.  (Facebook)

Peter Wang, a ROTC student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wasn’t interested in status but wanted to help others, relatives said.

Wang’s cousin, Aaron Chen, told the Miami Herald the 15-year-old was last seen in his uniform, holding a door open so others could escape the gunfire.

Friends and relatives first thought Wang was just missing and checked with area hospitals. They later found out he had been killed.

The Parkland community is now petitioning the government to give a full honors military funeral to the slain junior Cadet student who helped students flee danger during the shooting.

“His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area,” the petition reads. “Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

3 Top Copper Stocks to Consider Buying Now

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While it plays an important role in run-of-the-mill uses such as electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, copper also is vital in the construction of electric vehicles (EV). Demand for the metal, which is used in their batteries and motors, is expected to soar in the coming years as production of EVs accelerates. According to a recent study by IDTech Ex, the growth of the EV market will produce an eightfold rise in copper demand over the next 10 years.

That looming surge in the number of electric cars and buses on the road isn’t the only reason investors should consider adding copper exposure to their portfolios. For those generally interested in metals, copper offers an alternative to gold and silver, one that mitigates the risk of a downturn in the precious metal markets. So let’s dig in and take a look at the most promising opportunities for investing in the metal: Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX), BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP), and Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO).

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The big dog

Recently named to Forbes magazines “Just 100: America’s Best Corporate Citizens” list, Freeport Mc-Mo-Ran is the largest publicly traded copper producer. In addition to its seven mines in North America, Freeport-McMoRan operates two copper mines in South America, and the Grasberg mine — one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits — in Indonesia. Although the company’s operations also produce gold and molybdenum, it is copper that’s primarily responsible for keeping the company’s lights on. In fiscal 2017, for example, copper sales accounted for 67% of the company’s revenue.

Although Freeport-McMoRan made a brief foray into the oil and gas business, that proved unsuccessful and compromised the company’s financial health. In consequence, it has divested itself of most of its oil and gas assets. The company, however, is returning to a more secure financial position. For example, it succeeded in reducing its leverage in 2017: While its net debt-to-EBITDA ratio was 4.6 at the end of 2015, that ratio was down to 1.5 at the end of 2017. In fact, the company’s financial health has improved so much that management was recently inspired to reinstate its cash dividend, which had been suspended since 2015.

Moreover, operational cash flow (OCF) has improved. In fiscal 2017, the company reported OCF of $4.7 billion — a year-over-year increase of 26%. And management foresees further growth, forecasting OCF in excess of $5.8 billion for fiscal 2018 (as long as the price of copper averages $3.15 per pound).

Don’t meddle with this metal producer

Headquartered in Australia, BHP Billiton has been digging metals out of the ground since the mid-1800s, when it began mining tin in Indonesia. One of the world’s largest mining companies by market capitalization, BHP Billiton — currently worth $120 billion — is the fourth-largest copper producer in the world. Moreover, its well-diversified portfolio includes interests in a variety of other commodities: iron, coal, nickel, zinc, potash, and oil and gas.

Committed to remaining one of the world’s premier copper miners, BHP Billiton is in the midst of developing two major projects. Located at the Pampa Norte mine in Chile, the Spence Growth Project is expected to extend mining operations by more than 50 years at the Spence deposit. Management expects capital expenditures of $2.46 billion for the project and foresees initial production commencing in fiscal 2021. Behind that in the company’s pipeline is the Resolution Copper project in Arizona, a joint venture with Rio Tinto.

In its 2017 annual report, BHP Billiton characterized Resolution Copper as “one of the largest undeveloped copper projects in the world,” and suggested it “has the potential to become the largest copper producer in North America.” The next major stage in the project’s development will likely start in December 2018, when the company expects to release a draft version of the Environmental Impact Study.

In fiscal 2017, copper represented the company’s second-largest segment in terms of revenue, contributing $8.4 billion to its top line, and accounted for $3.5 billion in EBITDA — 17% of the company’s total.

The big name in big reserves

While Southern Copper can’t claim the title of world’s largest copper producer, it does win recognition for its copper assets. According to the company’s estimates, it has about 70.1 million tons in copper reserves — the most in the industry. To provide some context, the two companies which most closely trail it on that metric are Codelco and Freeport-McMoRan, which have reserves of 56.7 million tons and 36.6 million tons, respectively. Large reserves notwithstanding, the company should appeal to investors who want the greatest exposure to copper. In its fiscal 2016 (fiscal 2017 earnings haven’t been released yet), copper accounted for 78% of the company’s revenue. Given that there were no significant change to the company’s operations in 2017, investors will likely find that the metal played a similarly prominent role — if not a greater one — in the company’s finances last year.

Looking back on the past year, Southern Copper and its investors had much to celebrate. And it’s not only the company’s renewed dedication to rewarding shareholders in 2017 through the company’s dividend. According to preliminary results, net income before the impact of a one-time tax adjustment due to the recently passed tax overhaul was $1.4718 billion, an increase of 89.5% compared to 2016. Although the 27% year-over-year increase in the price of copper contributed strongly to the bottom line-growth, investors should be pleased by the improvements in the company’s operations.

Speaking to the company’s performance in 2017, Chairman of the Board German Larrea said, “During 2017 we continued seeing the benefit of our expansion and cost reduction programs which, despite the 18% increase in diesel prices during 2017, yielded a cash cost reduction from $0.95 to $0.92 per pound, the lowest in the industry.” And the company is poised for further success in 2018 with the completion of the Peruvian Toquepala expansion project, which management claims will add 100,000 tons to annual copper production, helping the company to reach 1 million tons of annual copper production capacity with an even lower cash cost per pound of copper.

A penny for your thoughts

Interested in adding a more copper hue to your portfolio? Fortunately, there are several compelling choices. Investors looking for more direct exposure to the metal should be drawn to Southern Copper and Freeport-McMoRan, while more conservative investors who want to mitigate their risk by opting for a company with a more diversified portfolio should consider BHP Billiton. All three afford investors the opportunity to benefit from a metal that already plays a pivotal role in our infrastructure, and which will be crucial in the developing EV market.

10 stocks we like better than Freeport-McMoRan Copper & GoldWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now… and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold wasn’t one of them! That’s right — they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

*Stock Advisor returns as of February 5, 2018

Scott Levine has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Here&#039;s How to Retire Early

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Are you dreaming of an early retirement? You’re definitely not alone. Who wouldn’t want an opportunity to enjoy that flexibility at the earliest possible age?

Of course, when we think about early retirement, we tend to picture those folks who strike it rich with a killer investment or make millions on a brilliant Shark Tank-style idea. You know, the lucky folks.

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But here’s the thing: You don’t need to be exceptional or overwhelmingly fortunate to wind up in a position where you’re able to retire early. You just need to set your priorities and focus on the following steps that’ll get you closer to that goal.

1. Start saving early on

If you’re intent on retiring early, you’ll need to start saving early. It’s a concept that’s perfectly simple, yet many folks don’t realize the importance of giving their money time to grow. But if you begin setting money aside for the future at an early age, you’ll have a greater opportunity to take advantage of compounding, which is really the key to building wealth.

The following table further illustrates this point:

Now obviously, it stands to reason that the more years during which you save, the more money you’ll wind up with. But what you really need to pay attention to here is the gains portion of these calculations. In the first scenario, for example, that $1.1 million comes at an out-of-pocket cost of just $288,000. That’s a gain of over $800,000. But as we go down the line, those gains start to decrease. And that’s where savers can really lose out.

2. Invest wisely

As we just saw, the money you save for retirement can’t just sit there doing nothing. Rather, you need to put it to work if you want to capitalize on the gains we just talked about. And your best bet in that regard is to go heavy on stocks, particularly if you start when you’re young and give yourself ample opportunity to ride out the market’s ups and downs.

Are stocks a riskier prospect than bonds, or a mix of cash and bonds? Absolutely. But if history tells us anything, it’s that they’ll make you a lot more money. For example, we just saw how an 8% average return over 30 years could turn $288,000 into well over $1 million, and that 8% is actually a bit below the stock market’s average. But when we apply a 3% return, which is what you’ll get if you mostly stick to bonds, or a bond-cash mix, that same $288,000 becomes just $457,000 after 30 years. And while that’s hardly pocket change, you’ll have an easier time retiring on $1.1 million than you will with less than half that amount.

3. Learn to live on less

You may be looking at that table and thinking, “That’s all fine and good, but there’s no way I can manage to save $800 a month.” But it’s this attitude that prevents so many people from retiring ahead of schedule. A big part of pulling off an early retirement is learning to be content with less — both during your working years, to allow for more savings, and during retirement, to allow you the flexibility to get by on a limited income if that’s what you’re dealing with.

How do you change your outlook and redefine your personal needs versus wants? It might take some soul searching, and some trial and error, so play around with your expenses and see which cuts have the most and least impact on your happiness. It may be that while you’re reluctant to live in a cramped apartment, you are willing to give up restaurant food and fancy gadgets. Or the opposite might come to be true — you’d rather live in a smaller space but have the freedom to enjoy other luxuries. The choice is yours, but prepare to downgrade your current lifestyle to some extent if you want a chance to stop working earlier than your peers.

4. Don’t view retirement as an all-or-nothing prospect

Many of us think of retirement as a period during which all forms of employment cease, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re willing to work in some capacity, you’ll have the flexibility to leave what you consider your full-time career sooner than you’d think.

In fact, retirement is actually the perfect time to start your own business or turn your favorite pastimes into a money-making opportunity. And the benefits of doing so are twofold. First, you’ll be generating income, which puts less pressure on your savings and lifestyle. Just as importantly, you’ll have something meaningful to do with your time. Financial implications aside, the danger of early retirement is getting bored too quickly and growing discontent or depressed as a result. So when you imagine yourself retiring, don’t assume that you won’t manage to earn a dime. Rather, think about retirement as an opportunity to work on your own terms.

So there you have it. Early retirement is a goal you can achieve, even if you’re an average earner who’s unlikely to invent the next big thing. It just requires a modest effort and the right attitude.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

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General Motors confirms new vehicle for Kansas plant

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General Motors says it will build a new vehicle at its plant in Kansas City, Kansas.

The company said Monday it will build the Cadillac XT4 crossover sport utility vehicle at its Fairfax Assembly & Stamping Plant.

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GM spokeswoman Mary Padilla says the announcement means the plant will keep about 500 jobs. The assembly plant currently employs 2,235, including about 2,000 hourly workers, making the Chevrolet Malibu.

The company is spending $265 million to prepare to manufacture the vehicle.

The Kansas City Star reports Fairfax lost its third shift last fall after sales of the Malibu slumped. It had employed about 3,000 with the three shifts.

The Cadillac XT4 is a crossover SUV.

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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The Latest: Most evacuations over California wildfire end

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The Latest on a wildfire burning in central California (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

Most of the mandatory evacuations for a rural California area threatened by a wildfire have been lifted.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly says officials are allowing people to return home Monday.

But she says the blaze near the small town of Bishop on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada is still burning and people need to stay vigilant.

Mattingly says five Inyo County roads and the Pleasant Valley Campground are still closed.

Several communities and campgrounds had been ordered to evacuate after the fire broke out Sunday. Officials say at least 500 structures were threatened, including a railroad station built in the 1880s.

Fire crew made some gains Monday, reaching containment of 15 percent.

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1:55 p.m.

Officials say they’ve made some gains against a wind-driven wildfire in rural central California that’s threatening hundreds of buildings.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the fire burning north of the town of Bishop on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada is 15 percent contained.

It has scorched 3.5 square miles (9 square kilometers).

The agency said earlier Monday that 4 square miles (11 square kilometers) of chaparral bush and shrub oak had burned. It says the size changed after more accurate mapping by firefighters.

Several communities and campgrounds were ordered to evacuate after the fire broke out Sunday. Officials say at least 500 structures were threatened, including a railroad station built in the 1880s.

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9:38 a.m.

Fire officials say a wind-driven wildfire in Southern California tripled in size overnight and is threatening hundreds of structures, including a historic railroad station.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly says that as of Monday morning the blaze burning through chaparral bush and shrub oak has scorched 4 square miles (11 square kilometers) north of Bishop in Inyo County.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carma Roper says mandatory evacuation remain in place for several communities and campgrounds.

Roper says it’s not clear how many people had to evacuate after the blaze started Sunday but Mattingly says at least 500 structures are being threatened, including a railroad station built in the 1880s.

Mattingly says the fire broke out shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday near the Pleasant Valley Reservoir and Highway 395 and quickly grew to 900 acres.

Blac Chyna sex tape a &#039;criminal matter&#039; according to her lawyer

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After a sex tape involving Blac Chyna leaked on the internet Monday, the reality star plans to go to the cops.

Chyna’s attorney Walter Mosley told TMZ the tape’s release is a “criminal matter” and that they’ll be contacting police to investigate. The identity of the male in the video is unknown.

Mosley also made a statement on Instagram.

“Why do we think it’s acceptable to sell, or publish, or seek revenge, or blackmail women in this way and without their consent? It’s not. Men … we have to do better,” he captioned a photo of himself with Chyna. “I’m tired of telling my clients to not make videos because the men will put them out later. It’s like I’m telling them not to wear short skirts because you’re going to entice a man to rape you. #smh And like most rapes, these betrayals often come from those most close to us.”

The post continued, “We need to stop sharing these videos with each other in the club, at the barbershop or (and especially) online. It is a morally corrupt action, which is (at least in California) criminal. Maybe it is time to set an example. #blacchyna”

This isn’t the first time sexually explicit imagery of Chyna, 29, has been released. Chyna’s ex-fiancé Rob Kardashian posted revenge porn of her over the summer. As a result, she hired attorney Lisa Bloom to represent her while seeking a restraining order against Kardashian.

It’s unclear who’s behind this new leak, but Bloom told Page Six on Monday that this type of cyberbullying is still illegal.

“Revenge porn — posting explicit images without the consent of everyone in those images — is a crime, a civil wrong and a form of domestic abuse,” she said. “It’s also a cruel attempt to slut-shame women for being sexual.”

Bloom later tweeted, “Girls have killed themselves over revenge porn. It’s not a joke.”

This article originally appeared in Page Six.

Rep. Tom Rooney won&#039;t seek re-election to Congress

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Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney won’t seek a sixth term in Congress.

Rooney announced Monday that he is retiring after 10 years.

Rooney is a senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating whether Russia meddled with the 2016 presidential election. Earlier this month he said partisanship has poisoned the committee and could lead to national security concerns.

In an announcement released to the media, Rooney thanked his wife and children for supporting him while he pursued his dreams and now it is time for him to help them pursue theirs.

Rooney’s district covers a large, mostly rural area of south central Florida, stretching from just south of Lakeland to Fort Myers and the Gulf coast to the western shore of Lake Okeechobee.

Free concealed carry classes offered to teachers by Ohio sheriff in wake of Florida shooting

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Police officers from across the U.S. have had different responses to last week’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. But one sheriff, in particular, has captured attention with his unique offer: free conceal and carry classes.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones in Ohio announced in a tweet Sunday that he would be offering conceal and carry classes free of charge to teachers in the area.

“I am going to offer free concealed and Carry class free 2 teachers. Limited number,” Jones posted. “Details coming soon on line. Also training on school shootings.”

Teachers interested in the offer were asked to email the sheriff for more information. Attendees will be expected to show proof of employment prior to the class, officials said.

“This class will be limited to 50 candidates. We will contact you this week with the date, time, and location of the class,” the sheriff’s department followed up on Facebook.

The department said they received more than 50 emails in the span of 20 minutes.

“Keep them coming, we will find a plan,” the department wrote. “This community rocks!”

Jones posted a 2-minute video on the sheriff department’s Facebook page on Feb. 15, one day after the shooting that killed 17 people, demanding action.

“Sad to say, I get asked, ‘When is this going to end?'” Jones said. “The current way that we do things in the school system needs to be changed.”

Jones said schools should focus less on fire drills and find more substantial ways to protect students. He recommended adding metal detectors and armed personnel.

“We need to be prepared and we don’t need to have our heads in the sand,” Jones continued in the video that has been viewed more than 130,000 times since it was posted.

Jones’ approach has received a mixture of responses.

Some praised Jones’ plan and announced they would take him up on his offer.

“This teacher is interested!” one Twitter user replied to Jones’ initial tweet.

“Just sent my information. I am responsible for 120 young children and would like to have an opportunity to protect them if needed,” another added.

But others argued that teachers shouldn’t have to worry about handling a weapon at school and Jones should find another way to help.

“Teachers…did not sign up to carry a weapon in their line of work. They’re job is to teach,” one Facebook user responded. “I would like to think…not all…but the majority don’t have the proper mindset that…if it comes to a situation where they need to pull a weapon, that they’re actually able to follow through with it.”

“There are so many other courses of action that are more sound and reasonable than putting guns in the hands of teachers at schools,” another added.

Even if teachers don’t want to operate a firearm, Jones said it’s still a good idea for them to be familiar with guns and learn how to properly respond in an active shooter situation.

“We’re going to teach them about school shootings, what to do when someone brings a gun to the schools and you at least know how to deal with a gun, how to identify the gun, how many rounds that gun can shoot and what a bullet can do,” Jones told WLWT.

After all, school staff will be the first line of defense in a shooting, Jones added.

“Most of these killings that take place in schools are usually over in three and a half minutes. The police get there in five,” Jones added.

Should You Buy Baidu Inc. After its Post-Earnings Pop?

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Shares of Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) jumped 5% on Feb. 14 after China’s top online search provider reported solid fourth-quarter earnings. Its revenue rose 29% annually to $3.62 billion, narrowly missing estimates by $20 million, but its earnings soared 146% to $2.29 per ADS, beating expectations by $0.19.

Baidu rallied nearly 30% over the past 12 months, compared to the NASDAQ’s 25% gain. Therefore, investors might be wondering if they should buy Baidu after its post-earnings pop or wait for a pullback. Let’s dig deeper into Baidu’s numbers to decide.

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What went right for Baidu

Baidu’s online marketing revenues, which accounted for 86% of its top line during the quarter, rose 26% annually. This marks a significant acceleration from its 22% growth in the third quarter and 6% growth in the second quarter.

Baidu’s total online marketing customers grew 2% annually to 460,000. This represents an impressive reversal from a 7% decline in the third quarter and a 21% drop in the second quarter, which were partly caused by the government-mandated removal of “misleading” ads (mostly for healthcare products).

Baidu’s revenue per online marketing customer grew 25% annually to 44,300 RMB ($6,800). This was lower than its 31% jump during the third quarter and 32% increase in the second quarter, but that slight deceleration was easily offset by its growth in total customers.

Baidu also reduced its traffic acquisition costs and bandwidth costs. Traffic acquisition costs accounted for just 10.7% of Baidu’s cost of revenues, compared to 14.5% in the prior-year quarter. Bandwidth costs accounted for just 5.9% of its cost of revenues, compared to 6.8% a year earlier.

Those reduced expenses boosted Baidu’s non-GAAP operating margin by nine percentage points annually to 24%. Its GAAP operating margin also rose from 12% to 20%. That margin expansion produced a 13% jump in Baidu’s non-GAAP net income, as well as a 78% increase in its adjusted EBITDA.

Baidu also provided rosy guidance for the first quarter, with its expectations for 25%-32% sales growth easily topping the consensus estimate of 24% growth.

That estimate is notably based on the new ASC 606 accounting standard, which requires Baidu to exclude value-added taxes from its reported revenues starting this year. Excluding the impact of divested and disposed businesses — like its mobile games and food delivery unit — Baidu expects its first-quarter revenue to rise 29%-36%.

What went wrong for Baidu

The only sore spot on Baidu’s fourth-quarter report was iQiyi, one of China’s biggest video streaming platforms. iQiyi’s rising content acquisition costs caused Baidu’s total content costs to hit 15.9% of its cost of revenues during the quarter, compared to 14.1% a year earlier.

Those rising expenses reduced Baidu’s non-GAAP operating margin by a whopping 12 percentage points for the quarter, but the aforementioned improvements in its traffic acquisition and bandwidth costs offset that decline.

iQiyi’s expenses will likely keep climbing as it ramps up its efforts against Tencent (NASDAQOTH: TCEHY) Video, which is roughly tied with iQiyi as China’s top video streaming platform.

However, Baidu plans to spin off iQiyi in an IPO later this year. Analysts believe the IPO could raise $1 billion and value iQiyi at up to $10 billion. Baidu plans to retain a majority stake in the new company, but bringing in outside investors would greatly reduce Baidu’s financial obligation to iQiyi and significantly strengthen its operating margins.

The road ahead

Analysts expect Baidu’s revenue to rise 22% this year, but for its earnings to slip 4% on higher expenses related to iQiyi and its ongoing efforts to counter Tencent in adjacent markets like online-to-offline (O2O) services, fintech, artificial intelligence, and driverless cars.

However, that estimate doesn’t factor in iQiyi’s IPO, which could significantly improve Baidu’s margins later this year. Baidu currently trades at 24 and 20 times its 2018 and 2019 earnings estimates, respectively. Those valuations would likely drop lower if iQiyi’s spinoff boosts Baidu’s earnings.

I’ve owned Baidu since last January, and I still think it’s one of the essential Chinese tech stocks to own. With solid growth engines, a wide moat, and reasonable valuations, I think that it’s still a great buy after its post-earnings pop.

10 stocks we like better than BaiduWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now… and Baidu wasn’t one of them! That’s right — they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

*Stock Advisor returns as of February 5, 2018

Leo Sun owns shares of Baidu and Tencent Holdings. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Baidu and Tencent Holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Hungary is last front against &#039;Islamization&#039; of Europe, prime minister says

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban used his annual state of the nation speech to ramp up anti-immigration rhetoric Sunday, warning that pro-migration European governments have “opened the way to the decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam.”

Orban, who is favored to win a third term as prime minister when Hungary goes to the polls in April, conjured up the image of a Western Europe overtaken by Muslims, saying that “born Germans are being forced back from most large German cities, as migrants always occupy big cities first.”

“We are those who think that Europe’s last hope is Christianity,” Orban said. “If hundreds of millions of young people are allowed to move north, there will be enormous pressure on Europe. If all this continues, in the big cities of Europe there will be a Muslim majority.”

Orban claimed that his government had “prevented the Islamic world from flooding us from the south” and predicted that Islam would soon “knock on Central Europe’s door” from the west, as well.

In 2015, Orban’s government ordered the construction of fences along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia in an effort to divert the flow of people seeking to reach Western Europe. Since then, the country’s refugee camps have been closed, the support system for refugees greatly weakened and now sometimes only one or two asylum-seekers a day are processed in border “transit zones” made of shipping containers.

Last week, the government introduced legislation that would force  civic groups which organize, support or finance migration to seek permission from the interior minister to operate in Hungary, as well as pay a 25 percent levy on funding received from abroad.

People working with migrants could also be banned from going closer than five miles from most Hungarian borders, which could possibly prevent lawyers and others from being able to meet with asylum-seekers stopped at the border.

The draft legislation has drawn sharp criticism from the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and the German government, among others.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UK vows no &#039;Mad Max style&#039; deregulation after Brexit

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Britain is trying to reassure the European Union that it doesn’t plan to slash regulations and standards in order to boost its economy after Brexit.

Brexit Secretary David Davis will use a speech Tuesday in Vienna to promise that Brexit won’t lead to “an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom, with Britain plunged into a ‘Mad Max’-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction.”

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Britain’s Brexit department said Monday that Davis will tell Austrian business leaders that maintaining similar standards and regulations will allow trade to continue without barriers after Britain leaves the EU in 2019.

Britain wants to retain close economic ties with the EU, while also becoming free to strike new trade deals around the world.

EU leaders warn Britain can’t have both freedom from the bloc’s regulations and frictionless trade.

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What celebrities really weigh

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What celebrities really weigh

Whether they’re curvy or teeny-tiny, we give them all credit for being honest.

http://www.foxnews.com/”>Fox News

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Kourtney Kardashian: 98 pounds

Kourtney Kardashian revealed on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” that she weighs 98 pounds, which is just 36 more than her 8-year-old son, Mason.

Though baby daddy Scott Disick once jokingly told her 93 pounds would be “the dream” weight– (Note to the guys out there: not funny) — we think Kourtney is one hot mama.

(Reuters)

kourtney-kardashian:-98-pounds

Sarah Stage: 137 pounds

(Instagram)

sarah-stage:-137-pounds

Hoda Kotb: 152 pounds

Ringing in 2017 with a resolution to lose weight, the “Today” show co-host bravely posted her weight and a photo of herself on the scale with the Instagram caption reading, “Ok I stood on the scale this am–Time to drop some lbs! #starttoday #teamhoda  post your weight and let’s do this!! Xo.” The TV personality encouraged her followers to join her and post their respective weights as well.

(Reuters)

hoda-kotb:-152-pounds

Kylie Jenner: 136 pounds

In a recent Q-and-A session on her app, the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner family said she’s currently “pushing 136 pounds.” “You know, I used to be 120 [lbs.]. I was really skinny,” she said, according to Teen Vogue “…But it’s alright, I like the chunkiness.” 

(Reuters)

kylie-jenner:-136-pounds

Amy Schumer: 150 pounds

Amy Schumer told Ryan Seacrest at the 2015 Emmy Awards that she weighs “a buck fifty.” The comedian took home the award for outstanding variety sketch series for “Inside Amy Schumer.”

(AP)

amy-schumer:-150-pounds

Jeffrey Dean Morgan: 130 pounds

Jeffrey Dean Morgan dropped 40 pounds to play a character with tuberculosis on the History Channel’s “Texas Rising. The actor revealed he went from 175 pounds to 130 pounds.

(Reuters/History Channel)

jeffrey-dean-morgan:-130-pounds

Bethenny Frankel: 115 pounds

The “Real Housewives of New York City” star is often scrutinized for her thin frame. While the 5’7” Skinnygirl mogul admits at times she can look “too thin,” Frankel told Today that she does eat and weighs in at 115 pounds.

(NBC)

bethenny-frankel:-115-pounds

Ryan Seacrest: 149 pounds

At the TCA Winter Press Tour “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest revealed what it’s like when excited contestants see him after they get their ticket to Hollywood. “At 149 pounds they pick me up and spin me around,” he said. Well, now we know what Ryan weighs.

(Reuters)

ryan-seacrest:-149-pounds

Sofia Vergara: 130 pounds

The Colombian beauty, as well known for her voluptuous body as she is for her role on “Modern Family,” tells Allure she refuses to drop to below 130 pounds.

“My a– gets smaller, and my boobs get smaller,” she said. “In Latin America, if you don’t have a big a–, you’re nothing.”

(Reuters)

sofia-vergara:-130-pounds

Mila Kunis: 117 pounds

The smoking hot actress lost 20 pounds for her role as a ballerina in 2010 thriller “Black Swan,” and she couldn’t wait to gain it all back. “I looked like Gollum,” she said, referring to the scary-skinny hobbit from “The Lord of the Rings.” 

Way harsh, but we agree that she looks much better with some meat on her bones.

(Reuters)

mila-kunis:-117-pounds

Danielle Fishel: 107 pounds

You tell ’em, Topanga!

The former “Boy Meets World” star took to Twitter to speak out against haters who said she looked fat at her October 2013 wedding.

“Ppl saying I was FAT @ my wedding: u r the worst kind of ppl on the PLANET. I weigh 107 pounds & am 5’1″. YOU are the reason anorexia exists,” she tweeted, adding later, “Side note, I plan on coming home from this honeymoon weighing 299 pounds. #love #goodfood #adultbeverages #allday.” 

See more photos of Danielle at X17online.com.

(X17online.com)

danielle-fishel:-107-pounds

Zoe Saldana: 115 pounds

The petite actress caused a stir when she appeared on the cover of Allure’s June 2013 issue with the headline, “115 pounds of grit and heartache.”

“This is how much I weigh, it’s something I can’t control, it’s who I am,” she said, defending the magazine’s editorial decision in an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. “I don’t think it was to make an issue of my weight. I think it was to say for a lightweight person, I seem to be really strong-minded.”

(Reuters)

zoe-saldana:-115-pounds

Amanda Bynes: 135 pounds

amanda-bynes:-135-pounds

Katy Perry: 130 pounds

The sexy singer exudes confidence now, but she has admitted to struggling with body issues in the past.

“I’m generally 130 pounds, which is totally fine for me. But when I was a kid, I was the same height and weighed more like 145,” the 5-foot-7-inch beauty told Elle.

(Reuters)

katy-perry:-130-pounds

Andie MacDowell: 137-138 pounds

The 55-year-old bombshell has never apologized for her curves, and she isn’t starting now.

“I’m about 137 to 138 pounds and I feel pretty good about it,” she said in 2010. “As soon as you get older, your face starts to look drawn — that’s why I think I’m better off with those five extra pounds.”

If that’s what it takes to look this good at Andie’s age, bring on the cheese burgers.

(Reuters)

andie-macdowell:-137-138-pounds

Kim Kardashian: 124 pounds

Kim is known for her killer curves, but she has been working hard to lose the 50 pounds she gained during her pregnancy, telling People magazine she has already lost 43 of them with the Atkins diet. 

Before she became a mom, the 5-foot-2-inch star has said she weighed in at 117, but anyone who saw her bootylicious Instagram selfie knows she’s rocking those few extra pounds.

(Reuters)

kim-kardashian:-124-pounds

Tyra Banks: 161 pounds

She may be a former model, but Tyra is proud not to be stick thin.

While some would hide out after being scrutinized for weight gain, Tyra chose to pose on the cover of People magazine in 2007 with the headline, “You Call This Fat?”

The 5-foot-10-inch stunner’s weight has fluctuated over the years, but she admits to having weighed 20 to 30 pounds more than the average supermodel at the height of her career, and to gaining about 30 pounds since then.

“I have one thing to say to you: kiss my fat a–!” the sassy talk show host says to her critics.

(Reuters)

tyra-banks:-161-pounds