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    At first, Tomas Monarrez didn't notice the labels when he went shopping for pots and pans. 'Completely toxin free!' said a big green message on a line of nonstick frying pans in the cookware aisle at a store in the nation's capital. 'No PFOA!' boasted the label on a 12-piece kitchen set. 'Will never release any toxic fumes,' another label promised. 'Oh, wow,' Monarrez, an economist at a think tank, said, when asked if he had ever heard of the toxic chemicals that manufacturers were declaring their products free of. 'I didn't know anything. Should I buy these?' Monarrez asked. 'So all these are bad? Federal regulators are sorting out how to handle health risks from a group of widely used nonstick and stain-resistant compounds. But even reading labels may not be enough to guide consumers who want to limit their exposure to the manmade industrial material, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Scientists say there are many steps people can take to minimize their contact with the compounds, which federal toxicologists say show links to health problems. Some changes are simple, such as checking on the safety of your drinking water or buying different pots and pans. Others require spending and lifestyle changes — for example, passing up fast food or other takeout because the containers the food may be packaged in. For those concerned about exposure, there's one critical thing to know about PFAS compounds: 'They're everywhere,' Linda Birnbaum, head of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, told a recent gathering of her agency's advisory council. 'The carpets and the chairs and maybe the clothes you're wearing,' Birnbaum said. She noted she used to love the ritual of spraying Scotchgard on newly bought tablecloths. No more, she made clear. There are thousands of different versions of the compounds, including PFOA and another early version, both now phased out of production in the U.S. PFAS are used in products including nonstick cookware, but also in stain- and steam-resistant bags for microwave popcorn and many other food containers and packaging, shaving cream, dental floss, stain protection for fabrics and rugs and outdoor garb — for starters. Federal studies of people heavily exposed to the compounds have found links between high blood levels of older kinds of PFAS and a range of health problems, including liver issues, low birth weights, and testicular and kidney cancer. High levels also have been found in many drinking water systems. Military installations that use PFAS-laden firefighting foam and businesses that work with PFAS are two big sources of water contamination. It's probably impossible to avoid all exposures, says Leonardo Trasande, a children's environmental health specialist and vice chair for research at New York University's pediatrics department, and a PFAS expert. But there are 'safe and simple steps to limit exposure based on what we know,' Trasande says. Trasande himself recommends two precautions. One is shunning nonstick cookware in favor of cast iron or stainless steel, Trasande said. That's despite statements from industry and manufacturers that newer forms of PFAS in nonstick cookware are safe. The other is eschewing food packaging as much as possible. In practice, that can require changing habits — cutting your consumption of takeout and packaged food, and committing to cooking more at home, from scratch. 'Literature does suggest that diet is a major route of exposure,' Trasande noted. People also can contact their local water utility to find out if their water system is one of those testing with higher levels of PFAS, Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Andrea Drinkard said. Eating certified organic food can guard against PFAS exposure from fields treated with treated human sewage sludge because federal rules prohibit use of the sludge on organically raised crops and livestock, environmental groups say. Older forms of the compounds are known to build up in people's bodies for years. And the chemical bonds holding PFAS compounds together are among the toughest going, so they are expected to take thousands of years to degrade. There's no across the board consensus on whether newer versions of the thousands of kinds of PFAS are safe. Industry says they are and that there's no reason to swear off all nonstick cookware and PFAS-treated food packaging. 'Consumers should have confidence in the safety of products manufactured with today's PFAS because they have been reviewed by regulators globally and found to meet relevant standards that are protective of health and the environment,' Jessica Bowman, executive director of the FluoroCouncil industry trade group, said in an email. 'Studies show that the newer PFAS do not present significant health concerns — they're not carcinogenic and not endocrine disruptors.' Several nonindustry researchers dispute that, and the Food and Drug Administration noted last month studies showing that that newer forms of the nonstick, grease- and water-repelling compounds may also be a health concern.
  • Turkey's vice president says his country is stepping up a search for hydrocarbons off ethnically divided Cyprus with the dispatching of a survey vessel to join two drillships and another research craft operating in waters around the east Mediterranean island nation. Fuat Oktay says Turkey will 'never submit' to sanctions imposed by the European Union over its drilling and won't hesitate to take additional steps in defense of its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area's energy reserves. The EU says Turkey is drilling in waters exclusive to EU member Cyprus and is therefore a breach of international law. Oktay was speaking at celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus that followed a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece.
  • Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker near the Persian Gulf was in response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior figures in Iran said Saturday, prompting condemnation from the U.K. and its European allies as they continue to call for a de-escalation of tensions in the critical waterway. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain's response to Iran's seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz 'will be considered but robust.' In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he said he spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but 'they have behaved in the opposite way.' He wrote: 'This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must & will be protected.' The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the waterway from Mideast exporters to countries around the world. The narrow waterway sits between Iran and Oman. The British-flagged Stena Impero was intercepted late Friday by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard forces. The ship's owner, Stena Bulk, said the vessel was stopped by 'unidentified small crafts and a helicopter' during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was seized with a crew of 23 crew aboard, although none are British nationals. A video released by the Revolutionary Guard shows several small Guard boats surrounding the larger tanker. Several men dressed in military fatigues and black masks rappel onto the ship from a hovering helicopter. Hunt said the ship's seizure shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous and destabilizing path. He also defended the British-assisted seizure of Iran's supertanker two weeks ago as a 'legal' move because the vessel was suspected of breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. The view from Iran was different. In comments on Twitter on Saturday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of Iran's tanker July 4 as 'piracy.' Politician and former Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, wrote that Iran was not seeking conflict, 'but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating.' The spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was also quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency describing Friday's seizure as a legal 'reciprocal action.' The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's views. The council works closely with Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters. The tit-for-tat move by Iran drew condemnation from European signatories to Iran's nuclear accord with world powers. Germany and France both called on Iran to immediately release the ship and its crew, with Berlin saying the seizure undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis. Europe has struggled to contain the tensions that stem from President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for compliance on its nuclear program. Trump has since re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports, and Iran recently increased uranium enrichment levels beyond limits of the deal in a bid to pressure Europe into finding a workaround the crippling economic sanctions. Britain, which remains a signatory to the nuclear accord, has figured prominently in rising U.S. tensions with Iran ever since Royal Marines took part in the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Officials there initially said the July 4 seizure happened on orders from the U.S. Britain has said it would release the vessel, which was carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude, if Iran could prove it was not breaching EU sanctions. However, a court in Gibraltar just Friday extended the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace 1. Stena Bulk, the owner of the seized British tanker, said the vessel's crew members are of Indian, Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationalities. Iranian officials say the crew remain on the tanker. Britain's defense secretary Penny Mordaunt told Sky News the takeover was a 'hostile act' by Iran. She said a British Royal Navy frigate deployed to help protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz was roughly 60 minutes from the scene when the Iranians took control of the tanker. That same frigate had previously warned off Iranian Guard vessels from impeding the passage of a British commercial vessel the navy was escorting through the Strait of Hormuz. There are concerns that with each new maneuver a misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war. In June, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating with airstrikes. The U.S. has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf region in recent weeks. The U.S. will also send more than 500 U.S. troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Iran's rival, Saudi Arabia. It marks the first such deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia since America's withdrawal from the country in 2003. King Salman approved hosting the American forces 'to increase joint cooperation in defense and regional security and stability,' a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency said. ___ Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Gregory Katz in London contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on developments related to tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all times local): 7 p.m. Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency is reporting that the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard has recently issued two warnings to aggressive U.S. drones. The Saturday report quotes Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Gen. Mehdi Rabbani as saying an American MQ-9 drone had twice entered Iranian air space — once on May 26 and again on June 13 — and was confronted with hard warnings. Gen. Rabbani said the advanced drone took off from a U.S. base in Kuwait on May 26 and flew about 20 hours near Iran's airspace. When it approached the Iranian coast, it turned around after determining 'our air defense system targeted and locked in on it.' On June 13, the drone took off from another country and when it crossed into Iran, 'Our air defense systems locked in on it and it made a few warning shots.' Tasnim said the U.S. claimed that Iran launched missiles against the drone. __ 6:40 p.m. Britain's defense secretary says the British-flagged oil tanker that has been seized by Iranian forces was in Omani waters at the time. Penny Mordaunt told Sky News on Saturday that the takeover was a 'hostile act' by Iran. Britain has promised a 'robust' response but there are no indications the use of military force is a likely option. Mordaunt says that a British Royal Navy frigate deployed to help protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz was roughly 60 minutes from the scene when the Iranians took control of the tanker. ___ 6:40 p.m. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says Britain's response to Iran's seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz 'will be considered but robust.'  In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he wrote that he spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but 'they have behaved in the opposite way.' He wrote: 'This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must & will be protected.' ___ 6:30 p.m. Britain's Foreign Office has summoned a senior Iranian diplomat to Whitehall to discuss the crisis brought about by Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The summons to Iran's charge d'affaires came Saturday, one day after Iranian patrol boats backed by helicopter support took control of the Stena Impero tanker and brought it to Iran. Britain has said it is seeking a diplomatic and not a military solution to the situation. It is calling for the immediate return of the vessel and its crew. Britain's government has been holding emergency security Cabinet sessions to try and find a way out of the impasse. The crisis came as Britain's government is in a state of transition, with Prime Minister Theresa May expected to be replaced by a new Conservative Party leader in just four days. ___ 4 p.m. Germany says Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker and the brief detention of another is an 'unjustifiable intrusion' on shipping through a key Persian Gulf route that is increasing tensions in the region. The Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it 'strongly condemns' Iran's actions on Friday against the vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. The ministry is urging Iran to immediately release the ship and crew it seized, and said Britain has Germany's support. It calls the seizure 'an unjustifiable intrusion into the civilian shipping industry which further exacerbates an already strained situation.' It added that, 'Another regional escalation would be very dangerous; it would also undermine all ongoing efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.' ___ 3:35 p.m. France's foreign ministry has called on Iran to quickly free a British-flagged oil tanker and its crew, as well as respect freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. The ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the seizing of the ship 'harms the needed de-escalation of tensions' in the region. It firmly condemned the action while expressing solidarity with Britain. Iran said it seized the tanker on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in what marked a new escalation of tensions in a crisis over the slow unraveling of the 2015 nuclear accord. French President Emmanuel Macron has been leading a bid to de-escalate tensions and resume dialogue. ___ 3:25 p.m. Iran's state TV is showing the first footage of a British-flagged oil tanker after it was seized a day earlier by the country's Revolutionary Guard. The Saturday report published a video showing the Stena Impero docked near the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran near the Strait of Hormuz. Earlier Saturday, the director general of Ports and Maritime Affairs of Hormuzgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, said all 23 crew members would remain on board the ship in order to follow safety regulations. ___ 2:55 p.m. Iran's Guardian Council, a powerful constitutional watchdog, says the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker was in response to Britain's role in seizing an Iranian tanker earlier this month. The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a council spokesman, as saying Saturday that 'The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law.' Kadkhodaei says Iran made the right decision in the face of an 'illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers.' The Council rarely comments on such matters, but when it does, it's seen as a reflection of the supreme leader's views. That's because the council works closely with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters. ___ 2:15 p.m. The Indian and Philippine governments say they're working to get Iran to release nationals from the two countries who were on board a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Persian Gulf. India's foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said Saturday its diplomats were 'in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation' of the 18 Indian crew members on the Stena Impero. Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs also says its ambassador to Tehran is in contact with Iranian authorities to ensure the one Filipino crew member's safety and immediate release. Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola says there have been no reports of injuries among the crew. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency has said the other crew members consisted of three Russians and a Latvian. ___ 12:55 p.m. The chairman of Britain's House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee says military action to free the oil tanker seized by Iran would not be a good choice. Tom Tugendhat said Saturday it would be 'extremely unwise' to seek a military solution to the escalating crisis, especially because the vessel has apparently been taken to a well-protected port. 'If it has been taken to Bandar Abbas then that's an important Iranian military port and I think any military options will therefore be extremely unwise,' he told BBC. He also said it would not be useful to expel Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom because it is important to keep talking. Other senior British figures have said military options should not be used. ___ 11:05 a.m. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency is reporting that the country's seizure of British-flagged oil tanker a day earlier was due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat. Saturday's report says the British tanker caused damage to the fishing boat, then didn't respond to calls from the smaller craft. The fishing boat informed Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, which notified the Revolutionary Guard. The report says Revolutionary Guard vessels directed the Stena Impero to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for an investigation Friday. Iran's attempt to offer a 'technical' explanation for seizing the tanker could signal a possible de-escalation of tensions in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West. Another British ship was briefly detained by Iran on Friday before being allowed to go.
  • The Wall Street Journal says Equifax will pay around $700 million to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over a 2017 data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 150 million people. The Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said the settlement could be announced as soon as Monday. Equifax declined to comment. The report says the deal would resolve investigations by the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and most state attorneys general. It would also resolve a nationwide consumer class-action lawsuit. Spokesmen for the FTC and the CFPB didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Friday night. The breach was one of the largest affecting people's private information. Atlanta-based Equifax did not notice the attack for more than six weeks. The compromised data included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver license numbers and credit card numbers. The company said earlier this year that it had set aside around $700 million to cover anticipated settlements and fines.
  • Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker Friday and briefly detained a second vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, intensifying tensions in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint between Tehran and the West. The seizing of the British tanker marked perhaps the most significant escalation since tensions between Iran and the West began rising in May. At that time, the U.S. announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran. The ongoing showdown has caused jitters around the globe, with each maneuver bringing fear that any misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war. Details of what took place Friday remained sketchy after Iran reported that it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is a shipping channel for one-fifth of all global crude exports. The Stena Impero was taken to an Iranian port because it was not complying with 'international maritime laws and regulations,' Iran's Revolutionary Guard declared. A statement from Stena Bulk, which owns the seized tanker, said it was unable to make contact with the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in international waters. A spokesman for the company's owners said the tanker was in 'full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.' The company said the tanker had 23 crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationalities and there were no reports of any of them were injured. The U.K. has featured prominently in the recent tensions with Iran. Britain's Royal Marines assisted in the seizure of an Iranian oil supertanker on July 4 by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Britain said it would release the vessel if Iran could prove it was not breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. Gibraltar's government said Friday that its Supreme Court had extended by 30 days the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace, which was loaded with over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt initially said two ships were seized Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, the second sailing under a Liberian flag. The owner of the Liberian-flagged tanker later said the ship was briefly boarded by armed guards before being allowed to go. Iran's semi-official Fars news agency tweeted that the Mesdar had left Iran's territorial waters. 'These seizures are unacceptable,' Hunt said as he prepared to enter an emergency government meeting Friday night. 'It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.' 'We're not looking at military options, we're looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved,' Hunt later told Sky News, warning that if the situation is not resolved quickly 'there will be serious consequences.' U.K. Chamber of Shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti said the seizure represented a severe escalation of tensions in the Gulf and made it clear that merchant vessels urgently needed more protection. The British government should do 'whatever is necessary' to ensure the safe and swift return of the ship's crew, Sanguinetti said. President Donald Trump said U.S. officials would talk with Britain about the unfolding crisis. 'This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble,' he said. Central Command said the U.S. has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the seizure. A Central Command spokesman, Lt. Col. Earl Brown, said a small number of additional patrol aircraft are flying in international airspace to monitor the situation. The incident came two days after Washington claimed that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone in the strait. Iran denied that it lost an aircraft in the area. On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment. Tensions in the region have been escalating since Trump withdrew the U.S. last year from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard. Iran's government has desperately tried to get out of the chokehold, pressuring the other partners in the nuclear deal, particularly European nations, to pressure the U.S. to lift the crippling sanctions. The Europeans — Germany, France, Britain, and the European Union — want to maintain the deal, but have not been able to address Iranian demands without violating the sanctions. Iran has begun breaching some of the restrictions on its activities outlined in the agreement to put pressure on them to find a solution. The U.S. has asked Mideast allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in past weeks to contribute financially and militarily to a Trump administration proposal called the Sentinel Program — a coalition of nations working with the U.S. to preserve maritime security in the Persian Gulf and keep eyes on Iran. Late Friday, officials said the U.S. is sending several hundred troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Saudi Arabia to counter Iran. The move has been in the works for many weeks and is not a response to Friday's seizure by Iran of a British tanker. The arrangement was announced by the Saudi government, which said it was meant to 'enhance security' in the region. Before the British ship was seized, Iran and the United States disagreed over Washington's claim that a U.S. warship downed the Iranian drone. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn't happen. Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim. At the White House, Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: 'We shot it down.' But Pentagon and other officials have said repeatedly that the USS Boxer, a Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz, actually jammed the drone's signal, causing it to crash, and did not fire a missile. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology. In Tehran, the Iranian military said all its drones returned safely to their bases. Maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz has deteriorated in recent weeks after six attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. has blamed on Iran — an allegation the Islamic Republic denies. There was also a brief, but tense standoff between the British navy and Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels recently. The British navy said it warned three Guard vessels away after they tried to impede the passage of a commercial British tanker that the navy was escorting. The incidents have jolted the shipping industry, with some of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region on high alert and many ordering their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed. Of the roughly 2,000 companies that operate ships in the Persian Gulf, only a handful of companies have halted bookings outright. U.K.-flagged vessels represented less than 0.6% of the 67,533 ships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz in 2018, with 427 transits, according to maritime publication Lloyd's List, quoting research from Russel Group. Crude oil prices climbed following Iran's announcement about the Stena Impero as traders worried the escalating tensions could affect crude supplies. __ Jill Lawless in London, Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and David Rising in Berlin contributed.
  • Recent seizures and attacks aimed at oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz will raise insurance rates for shipping companies and, if unchecked, reduce tanker traffic in the vital waterway, according to energy experts. Britain's foreign secretary said Iranian authorities on Friday seized two ships, one flying under the British flag, the other registered in Liberia. The events occurred in a passageway that carries one-fifth of the world's crude exports. 'If this kind of problem continues, you might see people start to shy away from the (Persian) Gulf or try to reflag — not be a British tanker,' said energy economist Michael Lynch. The near-term impact will fall most heavily on the shipping industry in the form of higher insurance rates, said Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc. Richard Nephew, a Columbia University researcher who wrote a book on sanctions, also believes the tanker seizures could create 'a real risk premium' for companies that operate in the Gulf and insurers that underwrite them. 'Certainly we've seen concern with this in the past on sanctions grounds, and I would imagine security groups would be a far more complicating element,' Nephew said. On Friday, Iran's Revolutionary Guard said it took the British tanker Stena Impero to an Iranian port because it allegedly violated international shipping regulations. An Iranian news agency said the Liberian-flagged Mesdar was briefly detained and then released after being told to comply with environmental rules. The seizures marked a sharp escalation of tension in the region that began rising when the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and imposed severe restrictions on Iranian oil exports and other sanctions. Many of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region have ordered their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed. But only a handful of the companies have halted bookings. The tensions in the Gulf also pushed oil prices slightly higher. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 0.9% to $62.47 a barrel on Friday, while benchmark U.S. crude gained 0.6% to settle at $55.63. There's a long history of shippers enduring threats in the region. 'There have always been little problems around the Gulf where people will say, 'You're in our territorial waters,' but usually that doesn't go so far as the seizure of tankers,' Lynch said.
  • An appeals court on Friday ordered a federal judge to reconsider letting Justice Department lawyers immediately appeal a case that accuses President Donald Trump of profiting off the presidency. The three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued the order, which included a reprimand of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan for not adequately addressing key legal questions before him and thereby abusing his discretion to deny the appeal merely because the case would proceed quickly. In response to the appeals court's ruling, Sullivan on Friday immediately paused ongoing legal discovery — including 37 subpoena requests for information. The Justice Department had asked the appeals court earlier this month to allow an appeal or dismissal of the case before Sullivan. The effort came ahead of the imminent deadline for discovery at the end of this month, which would have forced Trump-related entities such as his New York and Washington hotels, Trump Tower, the Trump Organization and Mar-a-Lago to turn over business tax returns, receipts and other documents. The lawsuit was brought by nearly 200 congressional Democrats led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who is also chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It argues that Trump has been accepting gifts from foreign governments without congressional approval. Trump, unlike modern presidents before him, has declined to fully divest from his businesses. Ethics experts say the constitutional emoluments clause was created by the Founding Fathers to ensure that government officials act with the interests of the American public in mind instead of their own pocketbooks. The Justice Department declined to comment Friday. The Democrats' attorney, Elizabeth Wydra, who is president of the nonprofit Constitutional Accountability Center, said the D.C. Circuit's decision to return the case to Sullivan's court for reconsideration of an early appeal was understandable, but it should be resolved quickly. 'The courts should not allow the president to run out the clock and evade accountability to his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution— which includes the Foreign Emoluments Clause,' Wydra said in a statement. This was the second time Justice lawyers have petitioned a higher court to take up a case dealing with the emoluments clause, which bans government officials from accepting foreign gifts and money without Congress' permission. Earlier this month, that effort bore fruit when an appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, threw out a lawsuit on the same clause of the U.S. Constitution, unanimously overturning the ruling of a Maryland federal judge. The Democrats' attorneys have argued that Congress not only has a right but is required, as part of their jobs, to weigh in on potential emoluments to Trump, such as a $6.5 million condo purchase by the Qatari government or a Chinese government-owned company's investment in a project that will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course in Indonesia. Justice Department lawyers have argued in court papers that the Democrats suing the president are not being injured by him at all but by their colleagues in Congress, who have refused to take up the emoluments issue. The Justice lawyers also contended that Trump's business activity, such as hotel room earnings, doesn't qualify under the constitutional definition of emoluments. Also at question, as raised by the appeals court Friday and by Justice lawyers, is whether one branch of government can conduct discovery against the president in his official capacity. Friday's ruling was made by judges nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013 to the federal appeals court: Patricia Ann Millett, Cornelia Pillard and Robert Leon Wilkins. ___ Follow Tami Abdollah on Twitter at https://twitter.com/latams
  • Two executives of a Salt Lake City biodiesel company linked to a polygamous group have pleaded guilty to charges filed in what prosecutors have called a $511 million tax credit scheme, according to documents made public Friday. Washakie Renewable Energy once described itself as the largest producer of clean burning and sustainable biodiesel in Utah, but prosecutors said the company was actually creating fake production records to get renewable-fuel tax credits, then laundering the proceeds from 2010 through 2016. Prosecutors plan to seize items including a $3.6 million home in Huntington Beach, California, as well as a Bugatti and Lamborghini as a result of the pleas. Company CEO Jacob Kingston pleaded guilty Thursday to more than three dozen counts, including mail fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. His brother and company CFO Isaiah Kingston pleaded guilty to more than a dozen similar counts. Prosecutors have said both men are members of the northern Utah-based Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group, which practices polygamy and owns hundreds of businesses. Group leaders have condemned fraudulent business practices. The money was used to buy houses and property in Turkey and Belize as well as Utah and Arizona, according to plea documents. Among the homes set to be seized is an upscale six-bedroom house in a Salt Lake City suburb owned by Jacob Kingston that is valued at $4 million, according to county property records. Another home is the multimillion-dollar luxury waterfront property in California. Prosecutors are also seizing other cars and cash. The mother of the two men, Rachael Kingston, also pleaded guilty Thursday to charges including mail fraud and money laundering, as did Jacob Kingston's wife Sally. They are accused of helping the men rotate the same fuel between tanks in Texas, Louisiana and Panama to create the false appearance of buying biodiesel, then helping them launder the money and purge records. Defense attorneys for all four members of the Kingston family did not immediately return messages seeking comment, or declined to comment. Jacob Kingston also had an unidentified contact who tipped him off ahead of a federal raid 2016, allowing the brothers to remove their hard drives from their computers and one belonging to their mother, according to plea documents. A fifth person charged in the case, California businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, has pleaded not guilty to charges including mail fraud and money laundering. That hasn't changed, his lawyer Mark Geragos said. __ Associated Press writers Morgan Smith and Brady McCombs contributed to this story.
  • J.C. Penney, looking to soothe rattled investors, said Friday it hasn't hired any advisers to prepare for an in-court restructuring or bankruptcy. The company's statement came after a report said Penney was hiring experts to help restructure its debt. Reuters reported Thursday that Penney has held discussions with lawyers and investment bankers who work with struggling companies on debt restructurings. It cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. Penney's shares fell nearly 17% Friday. The department store chain based in Plano, Texas, continues to maintain strong liquidity but faces a $4 billion debt bill in the next few years. It said that it routinely hires outside advisers to evaluate opportunities. But it cited its strong liquidity position and noted it doesn't have any significant debt maturities due in the near term. 'As a public company, we routinely hire external advisers to evaluate opportunities for the company,' Penney said. 'By working with some of the best firms in the industry, we are taking positive and proactive measures, as we have done in the past, to improve our capital structure and the long-term health of our balance sheet.' Penney's CEO Jill Soltau, who took the helm in October, faces numerous challenges as it seeks to avoid the fate of Sears and other retailers that have filed for bankruptcy protection, or vanished. Department stores like J.C. Penney are trying to reinvent themselves in an era when Americans are buying more online, or turning to discounters like T.J. Maxx for clothing. But Penney's faces an additional challenge: It is trying to claw its way back after a disastrous reinvention plan in 2012 by its former CEO Ron Johnson, who dramatically cut back on promotions and brought in new brands in an attempt to attract young shoppers. Penney's sales went into a freefall, it suffered massive losses and once-loyal customers moved on. But while sales have stabilized, its business is still weak. Penney had a 5.5% decline in sales at stores opened at least a year for its fiscal first quarter. Its revenue was $2.56 billion, down 5.6%, and losses were a worse-than-expected at $154 million. Soltau jettisoned sales of major appliances, which accounted for 2.7% of J.C. Penney's sales last year, but dragged on the company's operating profit. It's focusing instead on women's clothing, and goods for the home like towels and bedsheets, which carry higher profit margins. Furniture is still available, but only online. That reverses the course followed by predecessor Marvin Ellison, who three years ago began selling major appliances again in an attempt to capitalize on problems at Sears.

News

  • It's been a major distraction for drivers on Florida’s Turnpike in Osceola County. They don't know if she has a home, but a dog, whom some are now calling Ozzy, certainly has a lot of people watching out for her. >> Read more trending news  Dispatchers at the turnpike’s Traffic Management Center have spent months doing everything they can to catch the dog before she or a driver gets hurt. On Friday, Florida Turnpike officials said she was captured. She is very calm and quiet. There's a whole team of people watching hundreds of cameras along the turnpike and keeping an eye out for anything that may be dangerous for drivers. But consistently since May, in one particular part of the road, they kept seeing the same dog over and over. Road Ranger Jonathon Hester patrols a stretch of the turnpike near the Yeehaw Junction. “Our No. 1 job is safety,' Hester said. He's usually routing drivers around wrecks or helping with a flat tire. But lately, he's been determined to find the furry fugitive. 'This one has just evaded us for a long time and we keep trying to find him,” Hester said. For about two months, dispatchers were seeing the yellow Labrador between mile markers 196 and 205 on the turnpike, headed southbound. 'And just kind of runs up and down the roadway. It's a big distraction for the motorists driving by,” Hester said. “People see it and slam on their brakes.' Officials said they have no idea where she came from. 'It's possible it could've come from a vehicle crash,” Hester said. “A motorist could've been traveling with this dog, and crashed and the dog got scared and ran away.' Because she's been living on the road in Osceola County, they have affectionately named her Ozzy. Osceola County Animal Control let Hester borrow a trap in an effort to catch Ozzy. Now that the dog is caught, they plan to scan Ozzy for a chip to see if she has a home. If not, Ozzy may be up for adoption.
  • The Jacksonville Game Center has been burglarized twice in less than a month with thieves making off with nearly $10,000 worth of Magic the Gathering cards.  >> Read more trending news  Store owners told Action News Jax that both times, the thieves busted through a wall to get in. Hector Ortiz is a regular at the game center. Action News Jax caught up with him as customers and staff were preparing for their Friday night Magic the Gathering tournament. “The place is pretty packed, we have anywhere from 20-plus players,” Ortiz said. “It’s like a second home. A lot of people come to get away from issues.” So, when these crimes occur, Ortiz said the customers take it as a personal attack. “The first time it happened was really heartbreaking,” Ortiz said. Action News Jax first reported three weeks ago when thieves busted a hole in the wall to take more than $5,000 rare Magic the Gathering cards. The owner said they came back again overnight Friday. Surveillance video showed the glow of their flashlights. The owner said this time, they left another hole in the wall and stole more than $3,000 in those same, valuable cards.  He said they busted through the wall at the restaurant next door. Friday, Hunan Wok had a board up in the window where the thieves broke their glass to get in.Ortiz had a message for the thieves. “Just grow up,” Ortiz said. “It’s not necessary. You’re attacking us for a quick buck. Just go out there and get a job, man.
  • A woman is in jail facing felony charges after Clayton County authorities said she allegedly sneaked a firecracker into a courtroom and threatened to blow up the place.  >> Read more trending news  Whitney Jefferies, 32, was arrested Monday night after a judge saw the threat the woman allegedly posted on social media, Channel 2 Action News reported.  Judge Michael Garrett said Jefferies was in the front row in his courtroom. He told Channel 2 she seemed agitated that it was taking so long for her case to be called.  Later, he saw a video she posted on her social media page in which she held up a firecracker and said she was going to blow the courtroom apart, the news station reported.  It is not clear how Jefferies got the firecracker into the courtroom, and Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has not commented on the situation. Deputies went to Jefferies’ condo in Morrow to arrest her, Channel 2 reported. Nobody answered when agents first knocked on her door, according to the news station.However, deputies realized someone was inside the home when a pizza was delivered to the house later that evening, Channel 2 reported.  Deputies went back to Jefferies’ door and brought her out in handcuffs, the news station reported.  Jefferies was booked into the Clayton jail, where she remains held on a $35,000 bond. She face three charges, including making terroristic threats and possession of a destructive device.
  • A Charlotte, North Carolina woman and her Australian boyfriend were murdered while they were traveling the world, officials said. >> Read more trending news  Chynna Deese, 24, and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23, were found shot and killed on a remote western Canadian highway Monday near their broken down van, WSOC-TV reported. Officials said they were exploring Canadian national parks and heading to Alaska. Police said this does not appear connected to any other crimes. Friday night, WSOC-TV interviewed Chynna's mother Sheila Deese, who said despite not knowing how her daughter died, she's comforted in knowing her daughter and Fowler were together until the end. 'It is a love story, a southern girl goes out of the country, meets this Australian and they were just the same personality,' Sheila Deese said. Canadian Police said they don't know if Deese and Fowler were targeted or if this was random. They said they are working with the FBI to find the couple's killer. 
  • A 77-year-old convicted murderer who was released from prison after being deemed 'too old' to kill again was convicted this week of fatally stabbing a Maine woman. >> Read more trending news  Albert Flick was found guilty Wednesday of killing 48-year-old Kimberly Dobbie in July 2018 outside a Lewiston laundromat. The attack happened in front of Dobbie's 11-year-old twin boys. 'I'm glad the verdict is done and over and I'm glad he'll never be able to walk the streets again,' said Dobbie's friend James Lipps, NBC News reported. This is Flick's second murder conviction. Flick was convicted in the 1979 death of his wife, Sandra. Similar to Dobbie's death, Flick stabbed his wife as her daughter watched, CNN reported. Flick was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1979 murder. He was released and was released in 2000 after 21 years for good behavior, The Washington Post reported.  By 2010, when he was in his late 60s, Flick had been convicted of assaulting two other women. Despite his record, the judge in the 2010 case sentenced him to four years. “At some point Mr. Flick is going to age out of his capacity to engage in this conduct,” Maine Superior Court Justice Robert E. Crowley said, according to the Portland Press Herald. “And incarcerating him beyond the time that he ages out doesn’t seem to me to make good sense.” Judge Crowley retired in 2010. He hasn't responded to media requests for comment. Flick is scheduled for sentencing August 9. He faces 25 years to life behind bars. “I firmly believe this could have been prevented,” Elsie Clement, whose mother was stabbed to death by Flick in 1979, told the Press Herald last year of Dobbie's death. “There is no reason this man should have been on the streets in the first place, no reason.”
  • Public school students in New Hampshire will be provided with free menstrual products thanks to the passage of a new law. SB 142, signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Sununu, will require public schools to provide feminine hygiene products in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in high schools and middle schools starting January 1, The Concord Monitor reported.  >> Read more trending news  “This legislation is about equality and dignity,” Sununu said. “SB 142 will help ensure young women in New Hampshire public schools will have the freedom to learn without disruption – and free of shame, or fear of stigma.” The idea for the law came from 17-year-old Caroline Dillon, a high school student in Rochester, N.H. The high schooler was inspired to act after learning in U.S. History class about 'period poverty,' where those who can't afford feminine hygiene products miss work or school during menstruation. “It was sad to think about,” Dillon told The Monitor. “Girls in middle and high school would never dream of telling somebody that they have to miss school or use socks because they can’t pay for pads.” Dillon approached state Sen. Martha Hennessey with her idea, and Hennesey became a main sponsor of the bill. Educating some lawmakers was initially awkward, Dillon said. Most lawmakers are men, and wanted to avoid words like 'menstruation,' 'tampon' and 'feminine hygiene products,' The Monitor reported. “They would say ‘the thing’ or just try to avoid saying it all together,” Dillon said. “I would say to them, ‘If this makes you uncomfortable, think about how uncomfortable it is to be in this situation yourself. If you can't really picture it yourself, think about any woman in your life: your mom, your daughter, your aunt – think about how uncomfortable she feels – you are in the position to make it so these women don’t have to feel that way.’ ”  Dillon's efforts were ultimately successful. Funding for the new measure will come from school districts' budgets, according to CNN. Districts can partner with nonprofit organizations to provide the feminine hygiene products. Opponents of the bill said its amounts to an unconstitutional unfunded mandate,  USA Today reported. Similar laws currently exist in New York, Illinois and California.