NOAA assailed for defending Trump’s Hurricane Dorian claim
WASHINGTON — Former top officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are assailing the agency for undermining its weather forecasters as it defends President Donald Trump’s statement from days ago that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama.
They say NOAA’s action risks the credibility of the nation’s weather and science agency and may even risk lives.
Dismay came from those who served under Republican and Democratic presidents alike as leaders in meteorology and disaster response sized up a sustained effort by Trump and his aides to justify his warning that Alabama, among other states, was “most likely” to be hit hard by Dorian, contrary to forecasts showing Alabama was clear.
That effort led NOAA to repudiate a tweet from the National Weather Service the previous weekend assuring Alabamans — accurately — that they had nothing to fear from the hurricane. The weather service is part of NOAA and the tweet came from its Birmingham, Alabama, office.
“This rewriting history to satisfy an ego diminishes NOAA,” Elbert “Joe” Friday, former Republican-appointed director of the National Weather Service, said on Facebook. He told The Associated Press on Saturday: “We don’t want to get the point where science is determined by politics rather than science and facts. And I’m afraid this is an example where this is beginning to occur.”
Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday he canceled a secret weekend meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders after a bombing this week in Kabul that killed 11 people, including an American soldier, and has called off peace negotiations with the insurgent group.
Trump has been under pressure from the Afghan government, lawmakers and some members of his administration who mistrust the Taliban and think it’s too early to withdraw American forces. The administration’s diplomat talking to the Taliban leaders for months in recent days said he was on the “threshold” of an agreement with the Taliban aimed at ending America’s longest war.
“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” Trump tweeted Saturday evening.
“They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great, great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,” he wrote.
Attorneys general: Opioid settlement talks with Purdue fail
CLEVELAND — OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is expected to file for bankruptcy after settlement talks over the nation’s deadly overdose crisis hit an impasse, attorneys general involved in the talks said Saturday.
The breakdown puts the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic on track to begin next month, likely without Purdue, and sets the stage for a complex legal drama involving nearly every state and hundreds of local governments.
Purdue, the family that owns the company and a group of state attorneys general had been trying for months to find a way to avoid trial and determine Purdue’s responsibility for a crisis that has cost 400,000 American lives over the past two decades.
An email from the attorneys general of Tennessee and North Carolina, obtained by The Associated Press, said that Purdue and the Sackler family had rejected two offers from the states over how payments under any settlement would be handled and that the family declined to offer counterproposals.
“As a result, the negotiations are at an impasse, and we expect Purdue to file for bankruptcy protection imminently,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein wrote in their message, which was sent to update attorneys general throughout the country on the status of the talks.
Iran uses advanced centrifuges, threatens higher enrichment
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Saturday said it now uses arrays of advanced centrifuges prohibited by its 2015 nuclear deal and can enrich uranium “much more beyond” current levels to weapons-grade material, taking a third step away from the accord while warning Europe has little time to offer it new terms.
While insisting Iran doesn’t seek a nuclear weapon, the comments by Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran threatened pushing uranium enrichment far beyond levels ever reached in the country. Prior to the atomic deal, Iran only reached up to 20%, which itself still is only a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
The move threatened to push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran’s economy. Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Trump’s decision.
“So far, Iran has showed patience before the U.S. pressures and Europeans’ indifference,” said Qassem Babaei, a 33-year-old electrician in Tehran. “Now they should wait and see how Iran achieves its goals.”
Iran separately acknowledged Saturday it had seized another ship and detained 12 Filipino crewmembers, while satellite images suggested an Iranian oil tanker once held by Gibraltar was now off the coast of Syria despite Tehran promising its oil wouldn’t go there.
From wire sources
Director of MIT’s Media Lab steps down over Epstein ties
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The director of a prestigious research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned Saturday, and the school’s president ordered an independent investigation amid an uproar over the lab’s ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Joi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab, resigned from both the lab and from his position as a professor at the Cambridge school, university President L. Rafael Reif said. The resignation was first reported by The New York Times.
Ito’s resignation comes after The New Yorker reported late Friday that Media Lab had a more extensive fundraising relationship with Epstein than it previously acknowledged and tried to conceal the extent of the relationship.
Epstein killed himself in jail Aug. 10 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors in New York had charged the 66-year-old with sex trafficking and conspiracy, alleging he sexually abused girls over several years in the early 2000s.
In a letter to the MIT community Saturday, Reif called the allegations in The New Yorker “deeply disturbing.”
Nevada, SC, Kansas GOP drop presidential nomination votes
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Republican leaders in Nevada, South Carolina and Kansas have voted to scrap their presidential nominating contests in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging President Donald Trump.
“What is Donald Trump afraid of?” asked one of those rivals, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
Canceling primaries, caucuses and other voting is not unusual for the party of the White House incumbent seeking a second term. Doing so allows Trump to try to consolidate his support as Democrats work to winnow their large field of candidates.
A spokesman for the South Carolina Republican Party, Joe Jackson, confirmed that the state party voted Saturday against holding a presidential primary next year. A similar move followed in Nevada, where party spokesman Keith Schipper said, “The vote to opt out of the caucus has passed. We will vote to endorse and bind the delegates to the President at a later date.”
In Kansas, the state GOP tweeted on Friday that it will not organize a caucus “because President Trump is an elected incumbent from the Republican Party.” Its state committee planned to approve rules for an “internal party process” for selecting convention delegates, according to Kelly Arnold, the party’s former state chairman, and Helen Van Etten, a member of the Republican National Committee.