AP News in Brief 04-19-19

  • Street artist Oleg Lukyanov shows his painting depicting Notre Dame Cathedral created on a wall of a building in St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Food stamps and online grocery shopping are about to mix

NEW YORK — Amazon and Walmart on Thursday kicked off a two-year government pilot program allowing low-income shoppers on government food assistance in New York to shop and pay for their groceries online for the first time.

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ShopRite will join the two retailers on the program early next week, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The USDA has long required customers using electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, pay for their purchases at the actual time and place of sale. So the move marks the first time SNAP customers can pay for their groceries online.

ShopRite and Amazon are providing the service to the New York City area, and Walmart is providing the service online in upstate New York locations. The agency said the pilot will eventually expand to other areas of New York as well as Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

The pilot program will test both online ordering and payment. SNAP participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items but will not be able to use SNAP to pay for service or delivery charges, the agency said.

Police official: Short-circuit likely caused Notre Dame fire

PARIS — Paris police investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, a police official said Thursday, as France paid a daylong tribute to the firefighters who saved the world-renowned landmark.

A judicial police official told The Associated Press that investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral Wednesday but don’t have a green light to search Notre Dame’s charred interior because of ongoing safety hazards.

The cathedral’s fragile walls were being shored up with wooden planks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak by name about an ongoing investigation.

Investigators so far believe the fire was accidental, and are questioning both cathedral staff and workers who were carrying out renovations. Some 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

From wire sources

The police official would not comment on an unsourced report in Le Parisian newspaper that investigators are looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch or the temporary elevators used in the renovation work, among other things. The prosecutor’s office said only that “all leads must be explored.”

National Enquirer being sold to former newsstand mogul

NEW YORK — The National Enquirer is being sold to the former head of the airport newsstand company Hudson News following a rocky year in which the tabloid was accused of burying stories that could have hurt Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Tabloid owner American Media said Thursday it plans to sell the supermarket weekly to James Cohen. Financial terms were not immediately disclosed for the deal, which included two other American Media tabloids, the Globe and the National Examiner.

American Media said last week that it wanted to get out of the tabloid business to focus on its other operations that include its teen brand and broadcast platforms.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan agreed last year not to prosecute American Media in exchange for the company’s cooperation in a campaign finance investigation. That probe eventually led to a three-year prison term for Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen for campaign violations among other charges.

American Media admitted it had paid $150,000 to keep former Playboy model Karen McDougal quiet about an alleged affair with Trump to help his campaign. Trump has denied an affair.

Judge scales back Weinstein suit, allows sex-traffic claim

NEW YORK — A lawsuit seeking to represent any woman with a claim against Harvey Weinstein can proceed on sex-trafficking grounds, a judge ruled Thursday, as he dramatically shrank the scope of an action trying to treat the disgraced movie producer and various companies like a mob organization.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein eliminated 17 claims against the once powerful movie mogul who has been accused by women in several lawsuits of seeking to trade his influence in Hollywood for sexual favors. Weinstein also faces trial in state court on criminal sexual assault charges.

The judge also reduced the number of named plaintiffs from 10 to four and dismissed all other defendants. The women had alleged they were attacked from 1993 to 2011. Weinstein has denied engaging in any nonconsensual sex.

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Elior Shiloh, an attorney for Weinstein, said in a statement that his lawyers agree with Hellerstein’s dismissal of most of the claims and will “explore all options” to get the final claim thrown out too.

Attorney Elizabeth Fegan, representing the women, said the judge ruled correctly that Weinstein should face the sex-trafficking allegation “that he used his power to deceive and manipulate women, knowing he intended to sexually abuse them.”

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