September 20, 2019

President Trump claimed Friday it "doesn't matter" what he discussed with Ukraine amid the ongoing scandal over a whistleblower's "urgent" concern.

Trump spoke in the Oval Office following days of reporting about a whistleblower's complaint filed in August reportedly about a troubling "promise" Trump made on a call with a foreign leader. The Washington Post reported Thursday it has to do with Ukraine, and weeks before the complaint, Trump spoke over the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But questioned Thursday about conversations with Ukraine, and about whether he spoke about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Trump deflected.

"It doesn't matter what I discussed," Trump said. "But I will say this: somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful."

Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted in a CNN interview Thursday he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden over an allegation he bribed the country's former president to fire a prosecutor investigating his son. The president Friday seemed to be referring to Biden's statement recalling telling Ukraine "you're not getting" a billion-dollar loan guarantee if the prosecutor wasn't fired, although PolitiFact writes this was also "the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions" and "we found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."

The president Friday attacked the whistleblower as "partisan" even though he admitted he has no idea who it is. "I just hear it's a partisan person," he said. He also claimed his conversation was "beautiful" despite subsequently admitting "I really don't know" what conversation the complaint concerns. Brendan Morrow

December 5, 2019

A sad milestone was reached this week, with the Ray Pfeifer Foundation reporting that 200 New York City firefighters have now died from "9/11 illness."

The foundation, which provides assistance to 9/11 first responders with medical bills not covered by insurance, said that Dennis Gilhooly, a retired FDNY captain, and Brian Case, a retired firefighter, are the 199th and 200th FDNY deaths related to the attacks on the World Trade Center, CBS News reports.

Toxins were released when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and more than 50,000 people who were exposed have become sick, CBS News says. Studies have found a high number of deaths from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain malignancies among 9/11 first responders and others who were exposed to the dust cloud after the towers fell. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

Uber released a startling 84-page review on Thursday outlining how many reports of sexual abuse the ride-hailing service received in 2018.

In the United States, there were 235 reports of rape, 280 reports of attempted rape, 1,560 reports of groping, and 970 reports of unwanted kissing. "Each of these incidents represents an individual who has undergone a horrific trauma," Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, told NBC News.

Uber says the victims included both drivers and riders, with passengers accused of sexual assault in 45 percent of cases. "We do four million rides a day," West said. "And when you're operating at that kind of scale, thankfully, 99.9 percent of those rides end with absolutely no safety incident whatsoever." Uber said it has enacted stricter background checks for drivers and added more safety features in the app, including a button that lets users call 911. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

A satellite image captured Thursday shows activity at a rocket launching site that North Korea had previously dismantled, CNN reports.

The image of Sohae Satellite Launching Station, obtained by CNN and analyzed by experts, shows a large shipping container at the facility's test stand, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute. This was the first time analysts have seen this container, he added, and it could indicate that North Korea will soon start conducting engine tests at the site again. These engines would be used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, CNN reports.

While at the NATO summit in London on Tuesday, Trump mused that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "really likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man." Trump also said he has a "good relationship" with Kim, but his remarks still irked Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice-foreign minister. According to North Korean state media, Choe declared that "if any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard." Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

Several West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees have been suspended following the leak of a photo showing more than 30 members of a basic training class giving a Nazi salute, WCHS reports.

Basic Training Class #18 was held Oct. 21 through Nov. 27, and WCHS recently obtained a copy of the photo, with blurred faces, from the office of Gov. Jim Justice (R). In a statement released Thursday, Justice said he has ordered "the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct. This will not be tolerated on my watch, within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation or within any agency of state government."

Jeff Sandy, the cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, condemning the photo. "It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate," he said. Sandy also announced that Betsy Jividen, the commissioner of the state Division of Corrections, has directed that all copies of the photo "be destroyed, sent to this office, or otherwise taken out of circulation to keep its harm from spreading." Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

If you want to get shredded like Star-Lord, why not cut out the middleman?

Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World star Chris Pratt has opened his own Amazon storefront hawking a wide variety of health and fitness products, including rowing machines, boxing gloves, and protein powders. Unfortunately for those who really want to get motivated for their next run, the lineup of products doesn't currently include any live dinosaurs.

Read more at People. Scott Meslow

December 5, 2019

Earlier this year, superhero fans faced the terrifying possibility of a world where the seemingly limitless roster of Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes didn't include Spider-Man, who was caught up in the messy web of a rights and profit-sharing dispute between Sony and Disney.

Spider-Man has since been added back into the Marvel fold — and as it turns out, the hero in this story is none other than Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland, who says he sealed the deal by getting drunk and crying in a phone call with Disney CEO Bob Iger.

For a superhero, it's an admittedly unconventional strategy for saving the day, but hey, who can argue with the results? Read more at Indiewire. Scott Meslow

December 5, 2019

Congratulations to Emma Stone on her brand-new rock!

The Oscar-winning La La Land actress is engaged to Dave McCary, a segment director she met while filming a sketch for Saturday Night Live back in 2017, reports CNN. Who says workplace romances between attractive, talented people who spend a whole day making each other laugh can't work out?

Read more at CNN. Scott Meslow

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