Trump Calls on 4 Witnesses Who Dispute Pelosi’s Account of White House Meeting

President Donald Trump called on four witnesses from his administration, who all disputed an account by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about a White House meeting.

Trump and Democratic leaders were slated to meet on May 22 and try to reach a deal on infrastructure but Trump walked into the meeting and cut it short, telling Pelosi that he won’t work with the opposition party until they stop the investigations into him and his past.

“I walked into the room and I told Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi I want to do infrastructure,” Trump said at a press conference later that day. “But you know what we can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over.”

Pelosi then claimed that the president was enraged when he spoke to her and her colleagues.

“Sadly, the only job the president seems to be concerned with is his own,” Pelosi wrote in a letter that was sent to reporters, according to The Hill. “He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his administration and he had a temper tantrum for us all to see.”

Trump took to Twitter to say Pelosi’s characterization “is not true.”

“I was purposely very polite and calm, much as I was minutes later with the press in the Rose Garden,” Trump wrote. “Can be easily proven. It is all such a lie!”

At a press conference the next day, Trump solicited accounts from four people who were at the meeting, all of whom said Pelosi was wrong.

“Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?” Trump asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, reported the left-leaning Politico website.

“Very calm. No temper tantrum,” she said.

“The whole Democrat Party is very messed up. They have never recovered from the great election of 2016—an election that I think you folks liked very much, right?” Trump said. “Well, Nancy Pelosi was not happy about it, and she is a mess.”

“You were very calm and you were very direct,” added White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp.

“You were very calm and you laid out your case,” Larry Kudlow, an economic adviser to Trump, said, adding that Trump’s discussion at the brief meeting was “much calmer than some of our trade meetings.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders then said that Trump was “very calm and straightforward and clear.”

“I’m an extremely stable genius. OK?” Trump concluded.

Pelosi took to Twitter herself to respond to Trump, writing: “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”

Prior to the canceled meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi met with House Democrats who have been pushing for impeachment of Trump and accused him, without evidence, of engaging in “a cover-up” of unspecified crimes.

Democrats have struggled to combat the president since the submission of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller’s team said it could not establish conspiracy or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, which debunked two years of accusations by leading Democrats that Trump colluded with Russia to beat Hillary Clinton.

From NTD News

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Author: Zachary Stieber

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New Puzzle Asks People to Find the ‘C’ in a Sea of ‘Os’

A viral puzzle is asking readers to find the letter “C” in a series of “Os” for an  “eye test.”

Some websites claim that 99 percent of people can’t find the “C” in less than seven seconds.

If you can’t find it, the answer is below:

It’s not clear where the puzzle originated.

Another One

The puzzle looks simple, with nine numbers–each a different color.

The creator said: “It’s harder than it looks.”

The answer has nothing to do with the colors or the numbers, but the text. Find the word “the” to get the answer.

Even though it’s a tad bit unfair, that’s the nature of puzzles.

Another Simple Problem Goes Viral

This “simple” math problem stumped many over the years, starting in Japan.

The problem went viral in Japan after a recent study found only 60 percent of people between the ages of 21 and 29 could get the correct answer–down from 90 percent in the 1980s.

Are Americans Bad at Math?

It’s been noted that Americans aren’t great at math compared to other developed countries.

“Americans continually score either in the mid- or bottom-tier when it comes to math and science compared to their international peers,” says BigThink. “Students have a fundamental misunderstanding of what math is and what it can do. By viewing it as a language, students and teachers can begin to conceptualize it in easier and more practical ways.”

It says that Americans worry too much about “rote memorization,” and students have a difficult time learning the concepts in sequential order.

“Unlike the more difficult and comprehensive math tests given to test students’ comprehension, this test was for basic numeracy skills. The United States fell behind in 22nd place,” it says.

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Author: Jack Phillips

Trump Criticizes House Democrats for Trying to Get Mueller to Testify

President Donald Trump has criticized House Democrats for wanting special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, saying Mueller’s more than 400-page report has already made a clear finding that there was no collusion between the Trump administration and Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections.

“I don’t know why the Radical Left Democrats want Bob Mueller to testify when he just issued a 40 Million Dollar Report that states, loud & clear & for all to hear, No Collusion and No Obstruction (how do you Obstruct a NO crime?) Dems are just looking for trouble and a Do-Over!” Trump said.

I don’t know why the Radical Left Democrats want Bob Mueller to testify when he just issued a 40 Million Dollar Report that states, loud & clear & for all to hear, No Collusion and No Obstruction (how do you Obstruct a NO crime?) Dems are just looking for trouble and a Do-Over!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019

This comes after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on May 23 said Mueller is willing to testify in front of Congress, but behind closed doors.

House Democrats have been demanding Mueller and other key witnesses testify in front of Congress after the special counsel’s report concluded there was no evidence that the Trump administration colluded with Russia.

The Democrat-led judiciary committee has struggled to get Mueller to come in to testify on his report after negotiations with the special counsel’s team for the past several weeks. According to sources, Mueller has been hesitant to set a firm date for the hearing because he was seeking instructions on what he can share publicly beyond his redacted report that was released last month, reported Politico.

During his appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Nadler reiterated that he thinks “it’s important for the American people to hear from him.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (C) presides over a mark-up hearing where members may vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not providing an unredacted copy of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“We want him to come in and testify. We want others to come in and testify. There are a lot of people who should come in and testify, who the administration is saying they will not permit to testify. A blanket stonewalling of Congress and of the American people,” Nadler said.

“Mueller … I think I can say at this point, he wants to testify in private,” he added.

When asked why, Nadler said, “I don’t know why. He’s willing to make an opening statement but he wants to testify in private. We’re saying we think it’s important for the American people to hear from him and to hear his answers to questions about the report.”

Nadler added that “We’d see a transcript.”

When pressed further, the committee chairman went on to surmise that Mueller “envisions himself as a man of great rectitude, apolitical” and “he doesn’t want to participate in anything that he might regard as a political spectacle, especially if the Republicans on the committee start asking him about the beginning of the investigation. I’m speculating, really.”

Trump has previously accused the Democrats of launching a variety of probes into him, his businesses, and family members in an attempt to impede his administration’s work. The Democrats began their investigations into the president after gaining control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, increasing the number of probes after the results of the long-awaited Mueller report ran counter to their expectations.

The Democrats have attempted to obtain Trump’s financial records, tax returns, and a fully unredacted version of the Mueller report. The number of inquiries led by House Democrats has since grown to 10.

Meanwhile, the president on May 23 authorized Attorney General William Barr to declassify information or intelligence related to surveillance activities surrounding the campaigns during the 2016 Presidential elections.

“Today, at the request and recommendation of the Attorney General of the United States, President Donald J. Trump directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into surveillance activities….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2019

He said, “Today’s action will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken, during the last Presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions.”

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Author: Janita Kan

Exploring the Island of Hawaii

“Watch your head,” Jericho says, as our kayak enters the tunnel. We duck as we float into a thousand-foot-long tube dripping with spring water. It’s dark, but we have plenty of headroom.

My husband, Benjamin, and I are deep in the hills of North Kohala on the Island of Hawaii, drifting down the hand-dug Kohala ditch system built more than a century ago. Jericho is a guide with Flumin’ Kohala, an adventure outfitter in the town of Hāwī. Their guides are locals, and Jericho knows the region well. As we float through lush green hills, across flumes and through tunnels, he tells us about King Kamehameha, who was born near here, and about life on the Big Island.

On  a tour with Flumin’ Kohala. (Janna Graber)

Big Island or Island of Hawaii?

The island’s name is Hawaii, but it’s called the “Island of Hawaii,” “Hawaii Island,” “Hawaii’s Big Island” and its nickname, the Big Island.

No matter what you call it, this isle offers a diverse experience for travelers. Twice as big as the other Hawaiian Islands combined, it takes eight hours to drive around. The youngest in the island chain, the Big Island’s volcanic roots are easily seen in vast lava flows.

The runway at Kona International Airport is built on an 1801 lava flow. Landing on a sea of volcanic rock can be a shock. But visitors needn’t fear; Hawaii’s colorful flowers, coconut trees, and beaches are just a few minutes’ drive away.

The island’s five volcanoes—Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, and Kohala—create many different climate zones on the island, from wet tropical to hot desert to polar tundra. If you don’t like the weather, drive a little way and it will change.   

Kailua-Kona

The biggest draw to vacationing on the Big Island is the variety of experiences it offers—and we plan to explore as much of it as we can. Like many visitors, we choose to stay in Kailua-Kona, a busy seaside town 15 minutes south of the airport. Once a sleepy fishing village, it’s home to resorts, shopping, dining, and nice beaches.

Others stay in Waikoloa Village, a newer resort area with top hotels, fine dining, upscale shopping, and golfing on the northwest coast of Hawaii, about 25 minutes from Kailua-Kona.

Though both regions have a lot to offer, we want to see more of the island. We throw beach towels, water bottles, and some beach chairs into our rental car and hit the road.

Evening at Kahua Ranch

Not far from North Kahala is Kahua Ranch, a working cattle ranch that welcomes visitors to a sunset dinner each Wednesday night.  

The Big Island’s ranching roots run deep. George Vancouver, an explorer who traveled with James Cook, gifted King Kamehameha with five longhorn cattle in 1793. When the king’s herd grew large, he invited paniolos (Mexican cowboys) to the island to manage them. Today, Hawaiian cowboys are still called paniolos, and ranching plays an important role.  

Perched high on Kohala Mountain, Kahua Ranch covers 8,500 acres in six different precipitation zones. Their “Evening at Kahua Ranch Sunset Dinner” each Wednesday includes a Steak and Chicken dinner, live music, line dancing, s’mores, and even a local astronomer, who shares his telescope with guests. Local Sue Foat hosts the dinner and makes every guest feel like an invited friend.

Kahua Ranch provides bus transportation to the event for those want it. The cost for adults is $115, children 6-12 half price, under age five free of charge. Cost including transportation is $139 per adult.

Spa Without Walls

Spa Without Walls. (Janna Graber)

The next day, we sample a different side of Hawaiian culture—a traditional Lomi Lomi massage at one of the island’s top spas. Hawaiian spas often use outdoor settings—and the Spa Without Walls at the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast is a perfect example. Spa services are provided in cabanas beside a waterfall or the ocean.

I choose the Awa Earth Fire treatment, a Hawaiian detoxifying treatment that begins with Lomi Lomi massage, an ancient Hawaiian healing practice that uses long, flowing strokes. The soothing treatment has me so relaxed that I almost fall asleep, but we have one more memorable experience on tap—a sunset dinner on the beach at Brown’s Beach House. This upscale restaurant at the Fairmont Orchid is known for its fresh seafood, locally grown produce, and inspired cuisine. The romantic setting gets even better as the sun begins to sink below the horizon, painting wide swathes of orange across the sky.

Sunset views from Brown’s Beach House. (Benjamin Rader)

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Punaluu Black Sand Beach. (Janna Graber)

Later in the week, we head south to Punaluu Black Sand Beach. The island has white, black, salt and pepper and even green sand beaches. Punaluu is one of the most beautiful. Its black sand bay is ringed by tall coconut trees. We’re delighted to see four large Hawaiian green sea turtles resting on the shore, and spend the afternoon relaxing at the beach.  

Puuhonua o Honaunau

Puuhonua o Honaunau. (Janna Graber)

Next, it’s on to Puuhonua o Honaunau, also called the Place of Refuge. Puuhonua o Honaunau holds an important place in Hawaiian history and culture. This 180-acre national historic park was once the royal grounds and place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers.

If someone broke sacred laws, their only chance at redemption was to make it to the place of refuge. The site possessed the mana (spiritual power) of the 23 al’i (chiefs) whose bones were protected in the Hale o Keawe temple. Today, the area remains an important part of Hawaiian cultural life.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. (NPS)

The Island of Hawaii is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a huge draw. It’s been just over a year since the historic Kilauea eruption. In April 2018, the floor of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent collapsed, followed by earthquakes. The molten lava that was in the summit lava lake drained and disappeared, then reappeared heading toward the sea and several neighborhoods below. More than 700 homes were lost, and the park was closed for 134 days.

Happily, Kīlauea is quiet once again and most of the park reopened in September 2018. Visitors have returned, eager to see how the landscape has been changed. The Kilauea caldera quadrupled in size and is now more than one square mile. Currently, there is no molten lava on the surface in the park.

One of the most popular hikes in the park is the four-mile Kilauea Iki Trail, which starts in the rain forest and descends 400 feet to the crater floor. We only have time for a short hike along Crater Rim Trail. It’s fascinating to hike the boardwalk trails along the steam vents, their pungent hot steam seeping from the earth below.

More to See

We’ve spent a week on the Island of Hawaii and there is still so much to see. Like many vacations, though, this one is over too quickly. So, we pull out a calendar, and start planning our return.

Janna Graber has covered travel in more than 45 countries. She is the editor of three travel anthologies, including “A Pink Suitcase: 22 Tales of Women’s Travel,” and is the managing editor of Go World Travel Magazine.

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Author: Janna Graber

Facebook Says It Removed 2.2 Billion Fake Accounts in 3 Months

Facebook said it removed about 2.2 billion fake accounts in three months.

In a report on May 23, the social media firm said that “the amount of accounts we took action on increased due to automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”

“We disabled 1.2 billion accounts in Q4 2018 and 2.19 billion in Q1 2019. We’ll continue to find more ways to counter attempts to violate our policies,” the firm wrote.

It has been estimated that there are about 2.38 billion monthly active users who use Facebook around the world.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Paris on May 23, 2018. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

“The health of the discourse is just as important as any financial reporting we do, so we should do it just as frequently,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters about the findings, CNN Business noted. “Understanding the prevalence of harmful content will help companies and governments design better systems for dealing with it. I believe every major internet service should do this.”

The firm added that it saw a “steep increase” in the creation of abusive, fake accounts. Many of these accounts were blocked within a few minutes, but some slipped through.

The company estimates that 5 percent of its 2.39 billion monthly active users are fake accounts, which is about 119 million.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, holds a press conference at their headquarters abouth their new privacy policy on Facebook, in Palo Alto, California, May 26. Zuckerberg outlined Facebook’s new privacy control methods. (Kim White/Getty Images)

Regarding questionable content, the firm said that its enforcement isn’t perfect.

“As soon as we identify a mistake, we work to fix it. That’s why we are including how much content was restored after it was appealed, and how much content we restored on our own — even if the content wasn’t directly appealed. We restore content without an appeal for a few reasons,” it said.

Facebook logo is reflected in glasses in this picture illustration taken on April 1, 2019. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

What’s more, for every 10,000 times people viewed content on Facebook, around 11 to 14 views contained content that violated Facebook’s adult nudity policy, the report said.

“We estimated for every 10,000 times people viewed content on Facebook, 25 views contained content that violated our violence and graphic content policy,” it also wrote.

Between January and March of 2019, the social media network said it “took action” on about 19.4 million pieces of content, CNN reported. Around 2.1 million pieces of content were appealed. As a result, 453,000 pieces of content were restored by the company.

This photo illustration taken on March 22, 2018, shows apps for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networks on a smartphone. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

Rejects Call for Breakup

Earlier this month, the firm rejected a call from its co-founder to break up the social media company.

Facebook has been under scrutiny from regulators around the world over data sharing practices as well as hate speech and misinformation on its networks. Some U.S. lawmakers have pushed for action to break up big tech companies as well as federal privacy regulation, Reuters reported.

“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” Hughes, a former college roommate of Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, wrote in a lengthy New York Times opinion piece.

“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the break up of a successful American company,” Facebook spokesman Nick Clegg said in a statement.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Author: Jack Phillips

Sweating It Out in Finland

Markku pitched a couple scoops of water onto the stones atop an electric-powered stove. From my perch on the bench, I stared at the glowing red number on the thermostat: 65 degrees Celsius. That’s 149 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Sixty-five, eh?” I asked Markku, not exactly coolly.

“Yes, we turned it down for you.”

“Down???”

“Normally for Finnish people it is at least 100 Celsius.”

At least? “Uh, that’s the boiling point.”

He shrugged, sipping his sauna beer with a smile.

To say the sauna is central to Finnish culture might be an understatement. For two weeks my wife Tip and I were hosted by my cousin Irene and her family in Kuusamo and a few places north into Lapland, exploring my Finnish roots. And at every turn we found a sauna: our hotel rooms, cousins’ homes and apartments, at the lakeside near Teeriniemi on what was once my great-great grandparents’ land, in the middle of the forest inside national parks, and even at a Burger King in Helsinki. Want a sauna with your Whopper? Have it your way, Finland!

Finland is Saunaland with an estimate of between 2 and 3 million saunas to 5 million Finns, on average a sauna for every household. The moment of discomfort for a newbie like me was that the Finns go to the sauna the same way they came into the world—buck naked. Even whole families together. For a culture that often jokes about being a bit introverted, that’s unexpected. There’s an amusing meme about the Finns, who typically like their personal space. One photo shows a bus stop with folks in winter coats standing several paces apart along the curb; the other photo has naked people all squished together shoulder to shoulder sitting on a sauna bench.

Before dinner at my cousin Tanja’s home in Kuusamo, I joined her husband Markku in a rather sizeable sauna beyond their laundry room. Markku offered me a “sauna beer” and I stared at it as if it was a plastic bag I was supposed to pull down over my face for the next half hour. To be fair, there is a definite risk to drinking heavily or hitting the sauna with a hangover, but sauna beer is “lawnmower” beer, a pale pilsner with modest alcohol content. After about 15 minutes, Markku said it was time to go outside. We rinsed off, donned bathrobes, and sat on the patio in the chilly evening air. Leaving Markku to his beer, I went back for another round and Tip joined me. She had grown up in tropical heat but was not a fan. I, on the other hand, perhaps sensing an atavistic urge, found the whole thing invigorating. “I could get used to this,” I said.

The history of the sauna goes back at least 2,000 years when they were often just spaces dug out of a hillside. Before indoor plumbing and water heaters, the sauna provided basic hygiene, to sweat off the grime and rinse in a nearby water source. When my Finnish great-grandparents settled in northern Wisconsin they had a sauna out on the farm.

Regular sauna use is purported to be good for the health. A good hot sweat releases toxins, clears minds, burns calories, raises spirits, lowers stress, and improves circulation.

At her home out in the country, cousin Irene fired up the sauna for me and gave me a “vihta,” a freshly cut birch branch. I was instructed to whack the branch all over my skin like an aromatic form of medieval self-flagellation. Good for a massaging effect, a nice smell, and mosquito bite relief. I needed it after cooling off outside the back door where a few clever biters awaited.

Farther north Tip and I spent two nights in a hotel in Inari. Our bathroom featured a small electric-stove sauna in the corner, like a shower stall. We walked to a grocery store while it heated up. As we stocked up on snacks, Tip held up a package of sausages. “Hey, do you think we could cook these on the sauna stove?” I rolled my eyes at her. “Honey…” I said in a scolding tone. “No, of course you can’t.”

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Sauna

Before the modern era, of course, the sauna took its heat from a wood fire. The “savusauna” (smoke sauna) at the Fell Centre Kiilopää/Hotelli Niilanpää is such a spa, and the smell of wood smoke permeates the space. It is public, so everyone wears bathing suits. Built with dark timbers and an earth and grass roof, the sauna sits at the edge of a spring-fed creek where steps descend into the icy water. I opened the door to a deep dark space, and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust enough that I could pick up what resembled a cafeteria tray and fumble along past the jutting knees of a dozen people to take my seat on the tray on the bench along the wall.

No one had set the temperature to amateur foreigner. A man old enough to be a great-grandfather stood up and ladled water on the rocks. Not a sloppy splash, but a slow, steady drizzle to be sure not a single drop escaped instant evaporation on its journey through the hell stones. The steam didn’t hit me in the face. Rather the blistering vapor jumped straight to the ceiling, then curled along its surface to the wall, where it descended like eagle talons into your tender flesh from behind. The darkness hid my contortions of body and face.  

I endured 10 minutes before slipping outside where the water thermometer showed 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Finns lounged in it like it was a hot tub. I eased into the water as far as the bottom of my shorts, and then, blurring the line between literal and figurative, I froze. Nope. I hopped back out, suddenly numb. A total failure.

My pride thawed and I went back into the sauna and parboiled. The old man winter hadn’t even taken a break, and sat there in the dark, cool as a cucumber, moving only to dump more water into the stones. When the heat finally reached my marrow, I rushed outside again, barely pausing at the top of the steps, and jumped right in, all the nerves in my body unsure if it was fire or ice that made them burn so. With as much swagger as I could muster, I hobbled back to the changing room, victorious.  

At the end of the trip, Irene prepared another sauna for us at her home. Irene opened the fridge and asked, “Would you like to cook some sausage in the sauna?” Tip laughed, vindicated: “I told you!” Irene showed us a foil bag specially made for this purpose and she placed a sausage, as mild as ring bologna, inside. It cooked on top of the rocks while we enjoyed our last sauna experience of the trip.

Kevin Revolinski is an avid traveler and the author of 15 books, including “The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey” and several outdoor and brewery guidebooks. He is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and his website is TheMadTraveler.com

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Author: Kevin Revolinski

Democratic Senator Feinstein Dined With Iranian Foreign Minister Amid US-Iran Tensions: Reports

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had dinner with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, amid tensions between the United States and Iran.

Politico revealed late Thursday, May 23, that the Democratic senator’s team said she had dinner with Zarif when he was in the country “a few weeks ago.”

Feinstein’s team said that the dinner had been “arranged in consultation with the State Department.”

“​The office was in touch with State in advance of the meeting to let them know it was happening and to get an update on U.S.-Iran activity,” her office said.

Last week, Politico’s Playbook had reported that Feinstein was spotted walking around the Capitol with Zarif’s contact information pulled up on her phone. According to Playbook, they’d noticed it in an elevator.

“It’s a bit unusual that Feinstein, the former chair and vice chair of the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate minority, is dining with the foreign minister of an adversary,” Politico commented.

“We have reached out to the White House to see if they had anything to say about this, and they did not respond to two emails seeking comment.”

Feinstein is currently a Democratic member of the Senate, and has served as the former chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Zarif had worked with former Secretary of State John Kerry on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about Israeli-Palestinian policy, at the State Department in Washington on Dec. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump in April accused Kerry of advising Iran and said he should be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act, a 1799 law that criminalizes unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments in dispute with the United States. Only two people have been indicted for violating the act, one in 1802 and the other in 1852.

The meeting of the Feinstein and Zarif comes at a time of increasing tension between the United States and the Islamic regime. In early May this year, the Trump administration ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force, and later an assault ship and more defence missiles, to the Middle East in response to increased threats of possible operations against U.S. forces in the region by Iran.

Referring to the above U.S. military moves, Zarif this week said that the United States is playing a “dangerous game.”

“Extreme prudence is required and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,” he told CNN in an interview broadcast on May 21.

Earlier this month, the United States suspected that Iran was behind attacks on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels. Satellite images revealed that Iran had loaded small ships with fully-assembled missiles. The find raised concerns that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was planning to strike the United States or its allies in the Persian Gulf.

On May 20, Trump said on Twitter that any fight would be “the official end of Iran.”

Since then, Iran has reportedly removed missiles from some small ships.

Increasing Pressure on Iran

Trump has been increasing pressure on Iran’s leaders since May 2018, when he quit the Iran nuclear deal and signed an Executive Order to reimpose tight sanctions on Iran previously lifted as a part of the deal. The sanctions are an effort to force the Islamic regime to change a plethora of activities the administration finds unacceptable.

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn as he leaves the White House in Washington on May 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” Trump said at the time. “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”

The Trump administration demands that Iran halts not only its nuclear technology development, but also its ballistic missile program, support for terrorists and militias in the region, and other destabilizing activities.

In April, Trump announced he would designate Iran’s IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian military controlled by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The branch does not respond to the country’s quasi-democratically elected government.

Trump also announced in April that the administration won’t renew waivers from the sanctions for countries still importing Iranian oil, in order to completely shut down Iranian oil exports, which are a lifeline of the regime.

The Epoch Times’ reporter Petr Svab and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report

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Author: Mimi Nguyen Ly

Fire in Tutoring Center Kills 18 Students in Western India

NEW DELHI—At least 18 people were killed when a fire broke out in a four-story commercial building in the city of Surat in India’s western state of Gujarat on Friday, police said.

Television footage broadcast by private channel NDTV showed people jumping off the top floor of the Takshashila building or trying to escape by climbing down, as thick smoke billowed out.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the fire engulfed the third and fourth floors of the building in a shopping district.

Most of the dead were students who had been attending class at a tuition center housed in the building, according to the spokesman for the office of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

“The fire started near the staircase, so they could not get down,” Joint Commissioner of Police Harikrishna Patel said, adding that all of the dead were aged below 20 years.

A crowd gathers to watch a building on fire in Surat, in the western Indian state of Gujarat on May 24, 2019. (Sarju Parekh/Photo via AP)

Fire officer Deepak Satkale said 24 fire engines battled the blaze. The blaze, likely caused due to an electrical short circuit, started between 3.45-4.00 pm local time and spread rapidly, Patel said.

Television footage showed people trying to grab a large banner on the side of the building as they plummeted down.

*Warning: Some readers may find this video disturbing*

Rupani has ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked Mukesh Puri, principal secretary of the urban development department, to submit a report within three days, the spokesman for his office said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter he was thinking of the bereaved families.

“Extremely anguished by the fire tragedy in Surat,” Modi said. “May the injured recover quickly,” he said, adding he had instructed authorities to help those affected.

Building fires are common in India because of poorly enforced safety regulations.

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Author: Reuters

5 Hacks to Save on Summer Travel

As the weather heats up and days grow longer, for many of us, travel is on the brain. But the desire and ability to travel don’t always come as a package; a trip to the next town or the next country may not be in the budget. With some solid planning and strategic thinking, however, you can trade wishes for plans and nurture the travel bug no matter how big or small your budget. Here are my best summer travel hacks to ensure you can get on the road without running on fumes.

Go With the Flow and See Where the Deals Send You

Instead of starting with a set-in-stone date and destination and trying to make a dream trip fit into a limited budget, start with just a budget and a desire to travel. Flexibility is key in scoring summer travel deals.

One of the best tools for flexible travel is HotelTonight. You can score major discounts, even on five-star luxury resorts, if you’re open to snagging last-minute or day-of reservations. Hotels with unfilled rooms post them on HotelTonight at steep discounts compared to standard rates. Plus, HotelTonight also offers the ability to book a couple of weeks in advance rather than just the day-of, so you don’t have to be totally last-minute with your reservations.

Another way to take advantage of travel flexibility is to use the “Everywhere” feature on Skyscanner, ideal for people who just want to get away and don’t really care where. You can score some bafflingly low-priced flights if you’re open to traveling wherever the planes are heading for cheap.

Input your departure airport and, for the destination, select “Everywhere.” You can search based on specific days if your travel dates are locked in, or you can search by “whole month” or even “cheapest month” to see the most affordable time to travel. Plan it right and you can pay hundreds less to fly to the exact same place.

Book Directly—After a Little Negotiating

Sometimes, it pays to book directly rather than scour travel deal sites.

According to Jared Nusinoff, Chief Adventurer and owner of Out Here Travel, in many cases travelers can get bigger savings by booking directly with their provider—but only after taking a few extra steps.

“At the highest level, all these travel booking marketplaces charge providers anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the fees and commissions received,” Nusinoff explains. “These commissions are some of the reasons why group and tour travel is expensive—so many people are getting cuts along the way before your trip even starts.”

He continues, “One of the best tricks is to go ask the provider directly to book with them and ask for a certain percent discount rather than paying it as a commission, showing them where you would book. Tell them you would rather not pay someone else but still want to get the best price you have seen online plus 5 percent and book direct.” This tip generally works best for tours and smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts, Nusinoff says.

“You’ll get the best deal and it provides more money to the provider, even while you pay a lower price than you see anywhere else. You need to mention commissions and such to get it, usually, or else they will assume it’s just someone asking for a deal who is going to book regardless.”

Become a Travel Minimalist

You can save hundreds of dollars—and hassle—by packing light and bringing only a carry-on. Fill it with clothes and fill a medium-sized backpack (your under-seat “personal item”) with toiletries and miscellany. You’ll find it’s more space than you expected.

For many, however, packing light is easier said than done. One of the best strategies is to include only items that coordinate with each other—a neutral travel wardrobe of pieces that easily mix and match.

If you really want to maximize the clothing items you can bring and how far you can stretch their wear, consider a few staple items from Unbound Merino—they’re clothes you don’t have to wash for two weeks or more. (Seriously—the shirts went through rigorous testing, including trips to the sauna and 46 days of continuous wear.)

Unbound Merino items are made of a light and breathable Merino wool, so they’re odor-resistant, but they also dry super fast in case you opt to give them a quick wash in the sink. They’re also wrinkle-proof, so no need to worry about ironing.

Travel Where It’s Off-Season

For travelers who do most of their exploring during the summer, it can be hard to conceive of any place where summer is actually the “off-season,” but such places exist, and often these wintertime destinations are just as desirable in the summer—and far less costly.

Palm Beach, Florida, is a perfect example: Despite the fact that it’s a beach town, November through April is Palm Beach’s social season, so the area is sleepy during the summer. However, summertime is when the beaches clear out, and world-class resorts like The Breakers offer rooms at a fraction of the usual cost. A bit further south at The Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray Beach, summer rates start at $190 per night—39 percent lower than peak season.

Many destinations also offer special summertime promotions, such as the Love Your Summer hotel package in Alexandria, Virginia. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, hotels go as low as $89 per night with added benefits like free parking, water taxi passes, and museum tickets. Families who plan to visit Washington, D.C., can instead base themselves in Alexandria—it’s less expensive (an average daily rate of $146 compared to D.C.’s $218) and provides easy access to the city.

Take Walking Tours

Tours and activities can add up quickly, but they’re a vital part of travel. That’s why a good walking tour is one of the ultimate budget-travel hacks.

In many places, walking tours are free, and they’re almost always available at a lower cost than other types of tours. Walking tours not only showcase a city up close, they also allow you to get a little exercise in and see a city from a local’s perspective.

To find free walking tours wherever you are, use the site GuruWalk. Co-founder Bernard Sury says, “Our online platform gathers more than 1,500 ‘pay what you want’ tours, also known as ‘free walking tours,’ in more than 90 countries. These tours don’t have a fixed price, so travelers can decide what to give at the end of the experience, according to their budget and how satisfied they were with the tour.”

Booking a tour on GuruWalk is free and takes less than a minute to complete. Plus, local guides can give personalized recommendations based on their deep knowledge of a destination, providing travelers valuable insight to help them save even more.

Skye Sherman is a freelance travel writer based in West Palm Beach, Florida. She covers news, transit, and international destinations for a variety of outlets. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter @skyesherman

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Author: Skye Sherman

Arizona Man Buried Dead Mom in Backyard to Collect Social Security Benefits, Sheriff’s Say

An Arizona man allegedly buried his 97-year-old mother in his backyard, telling no one of his deeds, so that he could collect her Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits, officials said.

Daniel Shannon, 66, of San Tan Valley, was arrested on May 22 for hiding the body of his mother, Leonie Shannon, who hadn’t been seen since December 2018, according to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

Police were called to Shannon’s house after someone became worried about her whereabouts. She was under her son’s care.

After a two-month investigation, deputies went to his house. Shannon told the officials that the 97-year-old walked away from the home on Dec. 21.

“He claimed this was not the first time his mother disappeared, adding that they just started getting her VA benefits and did not want to report her missing on the off chance that she returned home,” the office wrote in the statement.

But, over the coming weeks, his story kept changing, said officials.

“When detectives questioned Shannon today, Shannon admitted that his mother passed away” in December, the office said.

They said that he didn’t report her death, but instead, buried her in the backyard to keep getting the government benefits.

What’s more, “Shannon told detectives that he needed to keep getting the benefits to help pay for the patent on his invention,” the sheriff’s office said. It’s not clear what he had invented.

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said that the investigators in the case “did a great job” in bringing Shannon to justice.

“These types of cases are especially troublesome when the crimes involve family members,” noted Lamb.

After a search warrant was executed this week, detectives were able to recover the body of his mother. An official cause of death will be determined at a later date, the office wrote.

Shannon is currently facing fraud and concealment of a body charges, but he could face more charges as the investigation progresses, the sheriff’s office added.

Other details about the case are not clear.

According to the Office of the Inspector General, Americans shouldn’t ignore fraud, abuse, or waste against Social Security.

(Associated Press)

Ex-Chicago Police Commander Guilty of Fraud

A former Chicago police commander who had a good reputation for combating crime in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods has pleaded guilty to stealing Social Security benefits, according to The Associated Press.

Kenneth Johnson was accused of stealing about $363,000 in payments intended for his mother, who died in May 1994. His continued collection of the benefit was discovered by the Social Security Administration in November 2017.

With his guilty plea Tuesday to one count of theft of government funds, Johnson faces about two years in prison. U.S. District Judge Manish Shah set sentencing for Sept. 11.

People line up outside of the Social Security Administration office in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 2, 2005. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

According to his plea agreement, Johnson had a joint bank account with his mother into which Social Security funds were electronically deposited. Johnson failed to notify the government of his mother’s death.

Johnson was a 32-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He was commander of the Englewood District before retiring in August.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Author: Jack Phillips