NY attorney general announces Facebook antitrust probe

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FILE – In this Tuesday, April 18, 2017, file photo, a conference worker passes a demo booth at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. New York Attorney General Letitia James says a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general is investigating Facebook for alleged antitrust issues. James said Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 the probe will look into whether Facebook’s actions endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices or increased the price of advertising. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Attorney General Letitia James says a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general is investigating Facebook for alleged antitrust issues.

The Democrat said Friday the probe will look into whether Facebook’s actions endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices or increased the price of advertising.

Facebook had no immediate comment.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources it did not identify, reported that a coalition of attorneys general will announce a separate investigation of Google next week.

James said the coalition she is leading includes the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

The U.S. Justice Department announced in July that it was opening a sweeping antitrust investigation of Big Tech, though it did not name any specific companies. It said it was investigating whether online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.

Carolinas coast braces for flooding, hazards from Dorian

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FILE – In this file image made from Sept. 21, 2018 drone video provided by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, light gray material flows out of a flooded coal ash dump toward the Cape Fear River at Duke Energy’s L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy said Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, that it had completed extensive repairs to the dam that breached during Florence at the L.V. Sutton Power Station. (N.C. Department of Environmental Quality via AP, File)

As Hurricane Dorian blows off the coast of the Carolinas, forecasters are predicting high storm surges and drenching rains that could trigger flooding and unleash environmental hazards in areas still recovering from last year’s Hurricane Florence.

The National Weather Service said hurricane warnings were in effect Thursday for the Carolina coasts up to Virginia, with a “potentially life threatening storm surge” of up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) around the North Carolina-South Carolina line. Coupled with high tide, the storm’s arrival Thursday is expected to push water up the mouths of coastal rivers, causing low-lying areas to flood. There could also be up to a foot of rainfall across much of Eastern North Carolina, raising concerns of flash flooding well inland.

Some areas in the region expected to be affected by Dorian are still rebuilding from Florence, which caused widespread damage in September 2018 that included scores of flooded hog and chicken farms, inundated sewage treatment plants and breached dam at a power plant near a coal ash landfill.

Dorian’s eye was skirting the coast, potentially making landfall before brushing past Cape Hatteras. It was shaping up to be a more glancing blow than Florence, which slowly moved inland a year ago, dumping record-shattering rains of more than 2 feet (0.6 meters) in places.

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Jen Kendrick, spokeswoman for the N.C. Pork Council, said the members of her organization are well positioned to weather Dorian after a relatively dry summer.

“Farmers in North Carolina have seen about 20 hurricanes in the past two decades and have learned much about preparation and readiness,” Kendrick said.

Those preparations include relocating animals from flood-prone farms, stocking up on livestock feed in case roads are flooded and filling up the fuel tanks for the generators used to keep pumps going in the event of power outages.

Duke Energy said Wednesday that it had completed extensive repairs to the dam that breached during Florence at the L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington, North Carolina. The company said it had also competed excavation of a large coal ash dump that flooded last year, removing the gray ash containing toxic heavy metals to a landfill on higher ground covered with an artificial turf cap designed to repeal rainwater.

Though part of that landfill is still under construction, Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said they were not expecting any problems from Dorian at the Sutton site.

“We feel very well prepared for this storm,” Sheehan said.

Duke also operates the Brunswick Nuclear Plant near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The company said it will safely shut down the plant’s twin nuclear reactors at least two hours prior to the arrival of any hurricane force winds.

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Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker reported from Washington. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mbieseck .

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For AP’s complete coverage of the hurricane: https://apnews.com/Hurricanes .

Hong Kong leader fully withdraws contentious extradition bill

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A large crowd of protesters under umbrellas leave an anti-government rally in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on August 18. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 4 (UPI) — After it led to months of often violent protests, Hong Kong’s contentious extradition bill was finally withdrawn Wednesday by leader Carrie Lam.

Officially withdrawing the legislation, which proposed allowing China to extradite fugitives from the territory for trial, meets one of the five demands made by the protesters. The others include setting up a government inquiry into police conduct, granting amnesty to those arrested in the protests, refraining from characterizing the protests as riots and resuming political reforms.

Lam announced plans to investigate the causes of the social unrest and suggest solutions, but stopped short of the full-fledged inquiry demanded by protesters.

Lam’s capitulation follows one of the most violent weekends of protests all summer, when numerous protesters were arrested for tossing gas bombs at police headquarters and government buildings. The demonstration was considered illegal because the government had rejected a permit to assemble.

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Hong Kong lawmaker Michael Tien, who had been a proponent of the extradition bill, said the withdrawal was the right thing to do but it may not satisfy the opponents.

“The focus since the beginning of July has completely shifted now to the confrontation between police and rioters, and how the public perceives it,” Tien said. “The public is totally polarized, but it is no longer about the extradition bill.”

The demand on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app used to rally protesters and organize demonstrations, was for all “five demands, not one less.”

RELATED Thousands of Hong Kong students protest, call for democratic reforms

Lam’s calling for an independent investigation into police activity during the protests is expected to be met with resistance from law enforcement.

The extradition bill had been “suspended” since June but protesters repeatedly demanded it be fully withdrawn, and they’d vowed to continue demonstrating until that happened. Protests continued every weekend of the summer.

At one point, Lam declared the bill “dead” but said she wouldn’t withdraw it, noting that it could be useful to root out criminals who use Hong Kong as a safe haven. China eventually started amassing troops along the Hong Kong border as the civil unrest grew.

Iran releases 7 crew members from captured British tanker

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The crew members were captured from the Stena Impero on July 19. Photo courtesy Stena Bulk
Sept. 4 (UPI) — Iranian officials said Wednesday they have released a British crew of seven from a tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz this summer.

The Iranian Revolution Guards Corps seized the Stena Impero tanker on July 19, accusing it of ignoring distress calls after it hit a fishing boat and traveling the wrong path when it entered the Strait of Hormuz. The capture followed the British seizure of an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar.

Abbas Mousavi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said Wednesday’s release was humanitarian in nature.

“We have no problem with the crew and captain of the ship,” Mousavi said. “The vessel was impounded for committing a violation and, naturally, when a ship is seized, its crew members come under arrest likewise.”

Erik Hanell, the chief executive of Stena Bulk, which owns the Stena Impero, said the news gave him cautious optimism.

“We are very pleased that for seven crew members their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families, however, we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date,” Hanell said.

“We view this communication as a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus.”

Hanell said the ship’s remaining 16 crew members would stay to make sure the tanker is operated safely.

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Dorian scrubs another 800 U.S. flights at major Southeast airports

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The total number of U.S. flight cancellations this week due to Hurricane Dorian are now up around 4,000. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 4 (UPI) — Airlines have canceled another 800 U.S. flights for Wednesday due to Hurricane Dorian off the southeastern coast, bringing the total number caused by the storm this week to about 4,000.

The new cancellations affect flights to, from and within the United States, as the Category 2 storm lashes the central and north Florida coasts and heads for the Carolinas.

Officials said Charleston International Airport in South Carolina will close at 3 p.m. Wednesday, and may not reopen until early Friday. Dozens of disruptions are also expected at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

Orlando International Airport remains closed Wednesday, accounting for nearly half the canceled flights. The airport hasn’t indicated when it could re-open, but the Federal Aviation Administration website shows it will resume operations late Wednesday afternoon.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport reopened Tuesday and showed 38 cancellations, a small amount of disruption compared to the past two days.

More than 3,000 flights were canceled Monday and Tuesday because of Dorian. Travelers whose flights are canceled are eligible for refunds or can be booked on other flights.

Dorian severely hampered air travel to the Bahamas, inflicting severe damage at Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport. One of the terminals has been destroyed and the airport has sustained heavy flooding.

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Trump administration sanctions Iran’s civilian space agency

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Darryl Coote

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the sanctions should stand as a warning to the scientific community against helping Iran develop its missile program. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 4 (UPI) — The Trump administration has imposed sanctions against Iran’s civil space agency, accusing the Middle Eastern country of using it as a cover to develop its weapons program.

“The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile program,” Secretary of Mike Pompeosaid in a statement Tuesday announcing the sanctions.

It is the first time the United States has slapped sanctions against the nation’s space agency.

The new sanctions were also imposed against the Iran Space Research Center and the Astronautics Research Institute, blocking their U.S. assets and prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

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The move also exposes non-U.S. citizens to sanctions who provide material aid to the three shackled entities.

The United States said Iran’s space launch vehicle technologies are “virtually identical and interchangeable” with those used in ballistic missiles.

It said Iran’s civil launch vehicle program allows the country to gain experience and advance technologies necessary for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The sanctions come days after an explosion was detected at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center.

Ali Rabiei, a spokesman with the Iranian government, said the explosion on Aug. 29 was caused by a “technical error” and the satellite being prepared for launch wasn’t on the platform at the time of the incident.

Pompeo said this Iranian effort to launch a space vehicle “underscores the urgency” of Iran’s threat.

Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi seemingly mocked the sanctions, saying space “belongs to everyone, not to a few!”

Pompeo said the sanctions should serve as a warning to the scientific community against collaborating with Iran.

“We call on our allies to join us in deterring the world’s top sponsor of terrorism from growing its ballistic missile program,” he said in a tweet.

New Jersey man charged with possessing explosives near Labor Day parade route

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy had planned to march in the South Plainfield, N.J., Labor Day parade Monday. | License Photo
Sept. 2 (UPI) — Police apprehended a New Jersey man Monday after they discovered several pipe bomb-like devices near the route of a Labor Day parade in South Plainfield, resulting in the cancelation of the annual event.

Thomas Kaiser, 55, of South Plainfield was arrested and charged with possession of a destructive device, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

More charges were expected to follow.

The annual 62nd South Plainfield Labor Day Parade, which was to be attended by Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy, was canceled after several homemade explosive devices were uncovered in a wooded area in the proximity of both Kaiser’s home and the parade route.

Police discovered the devices following an investigation in Monmouth County into a suspicious package containing a “destructive device” that was left at a Sea Bright bar on Sunday, the prosecution said.

The investigation brought police to Kaiser’s residence where they found more explosives, which were not connected to the parade but due to their proximity to the route prompted officials to cancel the event.

Over “half a dozen” devices were found on his large property, an official with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said.

Kaiser, who was described as a “rogue individual,” was transported to the Sea Bright Police Department where he was charged.

Police are asking if anyone finds a suspicious package to contact law enforcement immediately.

The governor also was to appear at a parade in Rutherford at 12:30 p.m., but it was cancelled because of rain.

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Dorian cuts power to Bahamas; several dead; 62K without clean water

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Sept. 3 (UPI) — Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the country is in the midst of a “historic tragedy” after Hurricane Dorian battered the Atlantic islands for most of Monday and killed several people.Minnis said his office in downtown Grand Bahama is flooded, as is the first floor of the hospital. So far, there have been five confirmed deaths from the storm, which battered the islands for most of Monday with 145 mph winds and only began moving away early Tuesday.

“Our focus is search, rescue and recovery,” the Bahamian leader said. “I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders. Many homes, business and other buildings have been completely or partially destroyed.”

More than 62,000 people in the island chain don’t have access to fresh, drinkable water, CBS News reported Tuesday.

RELATED At least 1,300 U.S. flights canceled ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Power was cut to the entire island of New Providence, the most populous island in the commonwealth, utility officials said.

“We are working through the aftermath of flooding on the island, and remained determined to safely and securely return the entire island to service,” Bahamas Power and Light said Monday night.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it’s conducting rescue missions on Abaco Island, where many Haitian migrants live.

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With the storm still lingering, officials said the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency may not be able to reach the island until Wednesday.

Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones has relatives in the Bahamas and said he plans to organize a trip to the Bahamas to join search and rescue efforts.

“Right now, it’s literally all hands on deck,” Jones tweeted. “We just have to get over there and help them as soon as possible.”

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Man fined for driving with car strapped to top of car

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Aug. 30 (UPI) — A Welsh driver was ordered to pay a fine after he was caught on video transporting a disabled car by balancing it on the roof of another car.

Glyndwr Wyn Richards, 51, pleaded guilty in Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court to using a vehicle with a load likely to cause danger of injury after he was caught on video driving his Volkswagen Passat with a Skoda Octavia strapped to its roof.

Richards had been driving through an industrial estate in Aberystwyth, Wales, and he told the court he transported the car less than 1,000 feet.

He admitted the stunt was a “stupid thing to do.”

Richards was given three penalty points on his driver’s license and ordered to pay a $97 fine and $140 in court costs.

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Stars send warm wishes to comedian and ‘good human’ Kevin Hart after crash

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Sept. 2 (UPI) — Hollywood is sending Kevin Hart its best wishes after the comedian was injured as a passenger in a car crash Sunday.

The 40-year-old actor and his driver were hospitalized with “major back injuries,” but his condition is not currently known.

“Stop messing with my emotions brother,” Dwayne Johnson captioned an Instagram photo of him and his Jumanji co-star.

“We have a lot more laughing to do together. Love you man. Stay strong,” Johnson added.

Bryan Cranston also posted a supportive message to his The Upside scene partner on social media.

“I’ve just heard that @kevinhart4real was injured today in a car accident in Los Angeles. Let’s all send him positive energy and healing thoughts. He’s a good human. Get well soon, brother,” Cranston wrote.

“Argued with you @kevinhart4real onscreen but offscreen, Love you so much. Praying for you Kevin and your friends who were in the car with you. We love you! #youarenotdoneyet #kevinhart #ridealong2 #backinjury #healing,” actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd said in another post.

She and Hart worked together on the film, Ride Along 2.

“We need @KevinHart4real to be okay,” comedian Jeff Ross tweeted.

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