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10 things you need to know today: April 19, 2018

Trump vows to leave North Korea meeting if it's not "fruitful," Cuban leaders confirm Raul Castro's successor, and more


Trump vows to leave North Korea meeting if it's not 'fruitful'

During a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday evening in Florida, President Trump said he could meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as early as June, and will do "everything possible" to ensure the summit is a "worldwide success." Trump said the United States will exert maximum pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program, and he wants to see the two Koreas live together in "safety, prosperity, and peace." He said, however, that he will bow out if the talks are not "fruitful." South Korea confirmed that it is in talks with North Korea and the U.S. to formally end the Korean War, which stopped with an armistice in 1953.


Cuba gets its first non-Castro president since 1959 revolution

Cuba's newly seated parliament named First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel as the lone candidate to succeed Raúl Castro, setting him up to be sworn in Thursday morning after a confirmation vote. He will be the communist-run nation's first leader outside the Castro family since the 1959 revolution. Raúl Castro took over as president when his ailing brother, Fidel, now deceased, stepped down in 2006. Díaz-Canel signaled on election day last month that his government would continue a push to update Cuban socialism and make it more responsive to the people. Raúl Castro, 86, is expected to remain influential as head of Cuba's Communist Party.


Legal ties call attention to Sean Hannity's access to Trump

Days after Fox News host Sean Hannity was identified in court as a client of President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, The Atlantic reported that Hannity also has hired at least two other lawyers with ties to the president: Jay Alan Sekulow and Victoria Toensing. Sekulow currently is the only known personal attorney working full-time for Trump on matters related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The legal ties have directed a spotlight onto what Trump aides say is a very close relationship between the president and the Fox News commentator. They reportedly speak several times a week, with Trump often getting advice from Hannity and citing it in conversations with his staff. Hannity has such access to Trump in the White House that "he basically has a desk in the place," one presidential adviser said.


Turkish president calls early elections

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday unexpectedly called early presidential and legislative elections for June, a year ahead of schedule. He said the vote was necessary "for Turkey to overcome uncertainties," which analysts interpreted as a reference to Turkey's military operations against Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq. Critics said Erdogan wanted to hold the vote at a time when his chances of victory are high, due to the possibility that a worsening economy could sour voters on his government later. The announcement lifted Turkish stocks and the country's currency. "The rule of thumb for Turkey is that political stability is more important than anything else," said Jan Dehn, head of research at the Ashmore Group in London.


3 right-wing extremists convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees

A federal jury in Kansas on Wednesday found three right-wing extremists guilty of plotting to bomb Somali refugees. Patrick Stein, 49, Curtis Allen, 50, and Gavin Wright, 50, were convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, as well as conspiring to violate people's civil housing rights. They allegedly plotted for months to bomb an apartment building housing Somali refugees and a mosque in Garden City, Kansas. They will be sentenced in June, and face up to life in prison. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the men clearly planned to kill people because of their religion and place of origin. "That's not just illegal — it's immoral and unacceptable," Sessions said, "and we're not going to stand for it."


Tennessee cuts funding to Memphis over removal of Confederate statues

Tennessee state lawmakers voted to strip $250,000 in funding for a bicentennial celebration from the city of Memphis over the city's decision to take down Confederate statues. "Today is a demonstration that bad actions have bad consequences, and my only regret about this is it's not in the tune of millions of dollars," said Rep. Andy Holt (R), a harsh critic of the city's leaders. Memphis got rid of the statues by selling the parks where they stood to a nonprofit. Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D) said it was "ugly" to punish the city. "It's not fair," said Akbari, who represents the Memphis area. "Memphis is a part of Tennessee."


Puerto Rico hit with island-wide blackout

A power outage struck Puerto Rico on Wednesday, leaving nearly all of the island's 1.4 million utility customers without electricity. Officials blamed an excavator that got too close to a transmission line, and said it could take up to 36 hours to restore power. The island's power grid was nearly fully restored after being devastated by Hurricane Maria in September. About 40,000 customers have not yet had their electricity service restored since the hurricane. The most recent outage affected nearly every home, business, and school in the U.S. Caribbean territory. Puerto Rico has faced numerous setbacks in the effort to rebuild the power grid, including one less than a week ago that cut power to 840,000 people, but this is the first island-wide blackout since the hurricane.


Southwest passengers call pilot a hero

Passengers of the Southwest Airlines jet forced to make an emergency landing after an engine blew apart on Tuesday praised the pilot of the aircraft as a hero, with one saying she showed "nerves of steel" as she calmly diverted the plane to Philadelphia. The pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, was one of the first women to serve as a Navy fighter pilot. One of the plane's engines had exploded and a piece shattered a window, but with panic erupting in the cabin, Shults calmly told air traffic controllers she would have to land, saying, "We have a part of the aircraft missing." Passenger Alfred Tumlinson credited Shults with averting disaster. "That lady, I applaud her," he said.


Bump-stock maker to shut down

Texas-based Slide Fire, the largest maker of bump stock devices, has posted a notice on its website saying it is shutting down. The company said it would stop taking orders at midnight on May 20. Bump stocks can be fitted onto semi-automatic rifles to make them fire continuously, like fully-automatic machine guns. Stephen Paddock had several weapons equipped with the devices when he fired onto a crowd at a concert from a 32nd-floor hotel room in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing 58 people. Gun-control activists and President Trump have called for a nationwide ban on bump stocks.


Deal lets former Playboy model Karen McDougal talk about alleged Trump affair

American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer, reached a settlement on Wednesday allowing former Playboy model Karen McDougal out of a contract that barred her from talking about an affair she says she had with President Trump in 2006 and 2007. In 2016, American Media gave McDougal $150,000 in exchange for the rights to her story, but never ran the article. McDougal's attorney, Peter Stris, said under the terms of the settlement, McDougal can keep the $150,000 payment, while American Media has the right to up to $75,000 of any future profits from the story. Trump, who is friends with American Media Chairman David J. Pecker, has denied the affair ever happened. McDougal said she has no plans to sell her story.


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