ECOWAS orders 'immediate activation' of standby force in Niger



CNN
 — 

West African leaders on Thursday ramped up the rhetoric against Niger’s coup leaders, ordering the “activation” and the “deployment” of a regional standby force to restore constitutional order in the coup-hit country.

Meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, after the expiration of the one-week ultimatum they gave to Niger’s military junta, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for a deployment “to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” according to a statement read by Omar Alieu Touray, President of the ECOWAS Commission.

It was not immediately clear what the “deployment” and “activation” of the force would entail. The statement also emphasized a “determination to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.”

Nor is it clear the size of the force involved. Following the ECOWAS announcement, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said his country would provide between 850 and 1,100 troops “as soon as possible” to supplement the standby force.

“They will start preparing, mobilizing and putting in place everything they need to deploy to Niger as soon as possible,” he said.

Before the coup, Niger’s defense ministry said its army was 25,000-strong.

Niger has been engulfed in political chaos since late last month, when President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted in a coup d’etat by the presidential guard. ECOWAS responded days later by enacting sanctions and issuing an ultimatum to the ruling military junta: stand down within a week or face a potential military intervention.

That deadline came and went on Sunday, August 6, without any change in the political situation. ECOWAS leaders have said their preference is to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis and would send in troops as a last resort.

The regional bloc will “uphold all measures and principles agreed upon by the extraordinary summit held on Niger on 30 July 2023,” at which strong sanctions were decided against the military junta in Niger.

Touray also warned of consequences for “member states who by their action directly or indirectly, hinder the peaceful resolution of the crisis.”

In a separate televised interview, the Ivorian president revealed that all heads of ECOWAS, which is made up of 15 countries, had tried dialogue with the junta, but was told they would keep the president “as a hostage”.

“We cannot let this continue, we have to act,” Ouattara said.

He said the military junta should fight militants “and not try to kidnap a democratically elected president,” adding that he had instructed his country to mobilize troops in anticipation of the ECOWAS operation.

Mali and Burkina Faso, led by soldiers who seized power, have expressed solidarity with Niger’s junta and warned that any military intervention would be seen as a declaration of war. Guinea has also said it backs Niger.

Niger’s armed forces appeared to be preparing for possible military intervention this week, a military source told CNN. A convoy of about 40 pick-up trucks arrived in the capital at nightfall on Sunday evening, bringing troops from other parts of the country.

Amid the heightened tensions, thousands of supporters of the junta gathered near the French military air base in Niamey on Friday, chanting slogans hostile to France and ECOWAS.

Some demonstrators chanted “Down with France, down with ECOWAS.” Others waved Nigerien and Russian flags.

Another student, Ismael Karim, said ECOWAS “is not playing its role in Africa,” adding the West African community was “not there for Africans but for France.”

Niger was a French colony for more than 50 years before its independence in 1960. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were strong before Thursday’s putsch, but many Nigeriens believe France has continued to act as imperial power when dealing with Niger.

There are some 1,500 French troops in Niger, according to the French Armed Forces. The French military has been using Niger as its main partner in the Sahel region and set its deployable air base in Niamey since its forced disengagement from Mali last year.

Russia has, in recent years, attempted to capitalize on that anti-colonial sentiment to bolster its influence across the continent. On Friday the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Moscow supports ECOWAS’ mediation efforts, but warned that military intervention could lead to drawn-out conflict.

“We believe that the military way of resolving the crisis in Niger can lead to a protracted confrontation in this African country, as well as to a sharp destabilization of the situation in the Sahara-Sahel region as a whole,” the ministry said.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Chief Volker Türk expressed his concern on Friday following reports that the ousted Nigerien president currently detained by the military had been deprived of electricity, necessary medicine and clean water.

He accused the military of violating international human rights law for the “rapidly deteriorating conditions” in which the president and his family have been “arbitrarily detained”.

“Those responsible for the detention of the president must ensure the full respect and protection of his human rights, and of all others being held,” he went on to say in a statement.

Several analysts told CNN that a military intervention in Niger would probably not be imminent, as it takes time to assemble the ECOWAS troops.

The communique is “about mobilizing the required resources should an intervention be needed, but it’s also a signal to the junta in Niger that ECOWAS is prepared to take necessary actions including force should talks fail,” Abuja-based defense and security analyst Murtala Abdullahi told CNN.

The bloc did not give any timelines and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu who’s the current chair maintained that the use of force would be a last resort. However, the news could be received in more urgent terms in Niger, security analyst Abdourahamane Alkassoum told CNN, pointing out that the Nigerien military has been gaining support locally as ECOWAS continued to talk tough.

Another expert recalled that it took seven weeks for ECOWAS to deploy to Gambia in 2017 – a less complicated mission than Niger would be.

“The mission to Gambia was much more straightforward,” says Cameron Hudson, a senior associate at the Center for the Strategic and International Studies. “Niger would not be just an intervention, it’s a hostage rescue of a president who is under house arrest and being used as a human shield by the junta.

“Niger has a significant army trained by the US, battle-tested from years of a counterinsurgency,” he added.

Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement Friday it supports ECOWAS “in calling for the restoration of constitutional order and democracy in Niger.”

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Jake Tapper questions 'odd' special counsel appointment of David Weiss: 'Maybe the whistleblowers were right'

Many Republicans are wary of U.S. attorney David Weiss overseeing the Hunter Biden probe, and CNN anchor Jake Tapper agreed Friday that some of their concerns “have merit.”

Weiss, the federal prosecutor who faced backlash for a “sweetheart” plea deal for Hunter Biden that fell apart upon scrutiny, will now serve as a special counsel in the ongoing investigation into the president’s son. Weiss was appointed as special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday, granting him broader authority when it comes to bringing charges.

In a statement, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., called Garland’s announcement “part of the Justice Department’s efforts to attempt a Biden family coverup in light of [House Oversight Republicans’] mounting evidence of President Biden’s role in his family’s schemes selling ‘the brand’ for millions of dollars to foreign nationals.” 

“I think there are some legitimate questions about this whole situation,” Tapper said on “CNN News Central.” “First of all, I do think it’s fair to question why would U.S. Attorney Weiss be appointed to special counsel. Usually, a special counsel is an outside attorney. Now, it has happened before. Durham came from inside, and the attorney general has the right to do that, but it is odd.”

CNN’S DANA BASH DECRIES DOJ LACKING ‘HUMANITY’ FOR ‘STRINGING ALONG’ HUNTER BIDEN: ‘THAT’S NOT REALLY FAIR’

Jake Tapper

CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper spoke about the controversial appointment of David Weiss to becoming special counsel over the Hunter Biden case.

Tapper went on to ask why they would stick with the person who was responsible for the “colossal failure” of the Hunter plea deal and referenced questions about whether the original deal was “strong enough.”

HUNTER BIDEN SCANDAL: CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC SUNDAY SHOWS COMPLETELY AVOID DEVON ARCHER TESTIMONY

He also spoke about the mixed messages regarding Weiss’ jurisdiction and whether he already had the necessary power to charge outside of Delaware before he was made a special counsel, recalling that the U.S. attorney had made different claims about his power in private versus in public, according to whistleblowers. 

“The Justice Department and Weiss denied what the whistleblowers were saying, but this move makes it seem as though, well, maybe the whistleblowers were right. Maybe what they were alleging is true, and he didn’t have the ability to charge whatever he wanted to charge, and now he does. So I do have a lot of questions about that, and I do think some of the political questions being raised by Republicans have merit,” Tapper said.

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on August 11, 2023 in Washington, DC. Controversial allegations about his alleged business ties with his son Hunter Biden have been an ongoing scandal throughout his presidency. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

CNN’S JAKE TAPPER CHALKS UP BIDEN FAMILY MONEY REVELATIONS AS ‘SLEAZY’ BUT NOT CRIMINAL DURING COMER CLASH

This was a sharp shift in Tapper’s tone compared to the previous day when he said House Republicans finding Biden family members had been wired over $20 million from shady foreign entities was “sleazy” but not criminal during an interview with Comer.

“So let’s pause it for the sake of argument that Hunter Biden is sleazy and the president’s relatives tried to profit off the Biden family brand, something CNN has reported on, what’s new in this memo?” Tapper kicked off the interview before repeatedly saying he saw “no evidence” that President Biden did anything wrong.

Comer warned during the interview that multiple agencies appeared to be blocking the progress of the investigation.

Hunter Biden

DELAWARE, UNITED STATES – JULY 26: United States President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, exits in J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Delaware, United States on July 26, 2023. (Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“The Biden attorneys are obstructing, they’re intimidating witnesses, the DOJ will not cooperate with us, the FBI will not cooperate with us, the IRS will not cooperate with us,” he told Tapper. “Thank God we had whistleblowers from the IRS testified to our committee that they were told to stand down by the DOJ.” 

IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley claimed Weiss alleged to multiple witnesses that he was told by the DOJ he could not bring charges against Hunter in California and Washington D.C. Garland denied there being any interference in the probe.

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Jessica Chasmar and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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China's sitting on a goldmine of genetic data — and it doesn't want to share


Hong Kong
CNN
 — 

Better cancer treatments, advances in longevity, groundbreaking medicines and vaccines: these are just some of the potential prizes on offer in an emerging global race to advance the biosciences.

And China has been pouring billions of dollars into its efforts to become the preeminent force, with experts claiming its massive population of 1.4 billion people can provide a treasure trove of data.

Vast amounts of this data already exists in biobanks and research centers around the country – but the government is now launching a “national genetic survey” to collect information about and assert more oversight over these resources, say experts.

In recent years, authorities have also been tightening controls around foreign access to this data – in contrast to the many Western nations that have pledged to open up information for global sharing.

The national survey and restrictions on foreign access are part of new regulations on China’s genetic resources, which came into effect in July.

A Chinese scientist works at a medical genetics laboratory  at the Central South University in Changsha, China, in 2006.

However, some experts have warned that this genetic hoarding could make global research cooperation more difficult – and potentially backfire on China.

“The government wants to have a very tight hand in this area as they realize this has a huge economic potential, but … China needs international collaboration to realize that potential,” said Joy Y. Zhang, director of the Centre for Global Science and Epistemic Justice. Zhang attended consultation meetings during the drafting of the new regulations.

“Currently you’re just having a gold mine right at your door, but you actually don’t know how to mine it,” she said.

There’s a lot at stake: the genetic building blocks that make up our bodies could unlock discoveries with wide-ranging effects, from health care and the economy to national defense and biosafety.

In recent years, Chinese scientists and authorities have emphasized how genetic material could be useful in studying and treating diseases; developing pharmaceuticals and medical devices; and in better understanding how birth defects are formed or how genes contribute to a person’s longevity – particularly important given China’s looming demographic crisis as its birth rate falls and workforce ages.

And the country’s genetics could offer a “strategic resource and a treasure trove,” thanks to the sheer number of people and its “healthy and long-lived populations,” officials have claimed – though scientists caveat that each country’s genetic population is valuable in its own way.

A medical worker performs genetic testing on embryos at the Shanxi Province Reproductive Science Institute in Taiyuan, China, on November 29, 2018.

Reflecting this heightened focus, new research centers have popped up in various parts of China, with publicly listed biopharma companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars. In 2015, the government said its database was the world’s largest, with some 44 million entries, according to Chinese academics.

The ruling Communist Party has thrown its support behind the boom, identifying biotechnology as one of the “strategic emerging industries” the country will focus on developing in the government’s latest five-year policy plan.

“China has amassed the largest genomic holdings of anywhere in the world,” Anna Puglisi, director of biotechnology programs at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, told a US Senate hearing on national security in 2021.

A medical worker performs genetic testing at the Shanxi Province Reproductive Science Institute in Taiyuan, China, on November 29, 2018.

Understanding what genes do is “one of the most important questions in the next generation of both medicine and also biological research,” Puglisi added. “Access to that kind of data, both their own and from other places in the world, gives them an advantage in figuring out some of those problems.”

There are signs the United States – China’s longstanding rival in technology, regional influence, military might and economic power – is feeling the pressure. Several reports from think tanks and research groups warn that the US risks losing its competitive advantage.

But others say it could take years yet for that gap to close. And, Zhang said, the disorganized, scattered nature of China’s existing databases poses a challenge – one the government is now attempting to tackle.

Biobanking in China – meaning the collection of biological samples – is still “very fragmented,” and in an “embryonic stage,” said Zhang.

For starters, it’s difficult to share data even domestically, such as trying to access data banks in different provinces with separate jurisdictions, she said. Furthermore, many smaller institutions don’t have the proper infrastructure to curate, identify and store genetic material in a way that makes it “usable in scientific research.”

“Running a biobank costs a lot of money, and not being able to use the data or material that’s been collected is a waste of resource,” she said.

China is hoping to take better stock of this data with the recently enacted rules, which expand upon a previous set of regulations introduced in 2019. One of the biggest developments includes the outlining of a “national survey of human genetic resources,” which aims to centralize and standardize existing data, from institutes and research centers, said Zhang.

The survey will be held every five years, with provincial authorities compiling information in their regions then submitting it to the national science ministry, according to the new rules. The rules place emphasis on “important genetic families” and residents of “specific regions,” such as people with hereditary diseases or “special physical characteristics or adaptive traits.”

But the rules published are vague, with few specifics on the scope or methodology of this survey, including what kinds of institutions or data will be included.

Katherine Wang, a partner at global law firm Ropes & Gray who focus on life sciences, said the science ministry hadn’t yet specified the “contents or areas of focus of this exercise.”

However, she said, the survey would likely “involve analysis of data already captured by the (ministry),” such as information on important genetic pedigrees submitted by “organizations and individuals” – as well as “newly collected data.”

The ministry will likely create a “catalogue of important genetic pedigrees” and conduct security reviews of the outbound transfer of relevant data, Wang added.

The passing of the rules come alongside questions how to protect individuals’ privacy in the age of biodata, especially in a country with heavy digital surveillance.

The regulations assert that the collection of genetic resources in China will respect the “privacy rights” of their donors, come with “written informed consent,” and comply with an ethical review.

A signboard of Chinese genome giant BGI Group in Wuhan, China, photographed on September 10, 2018.

But several recent incidents have highlighted the risk of data breaches.

For instance, a massive online database with the personal information of up to one billion Chinese citizens was left unsecured and publicly accessible for more than a year – until an anonymous user offered to sell the data in 2022.

There have also been longstanding concerns from the international community about China’s use of genetic data in policing – especially after reports that authorities were collecting DNA samples and other biometric data from millions of residents in the far-west region of Xinijang, home to the Muslim Uyghur community and other ethnic minorities. China has long faced accusations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, which it has repeatedly denied.

But these concerns aren’t new – and the national genetic survey seems to be geared more toward scientific research than other purposes, several experts agreed.

“The government has always had the intention to have better visibility over important genetic pedigrees and important genetic resources concerning minority races,” said Wang. “So in this context, I think the survey is trying to provide a tool or means for the government to establish that visibility.”

CNN has reached out to the Ministry of Science and Technology for comment on its privacy protection measures.

The human genome has finally been decoded. Here’s why this discovery is a game changer

With DNA increasingly seen as a valuable natural resource like oil or land, China is keen to protect its people’s genes – to the alarm of some scientists who fear the loss of international collaboration.

The initial 2019 regulations forbade foreign entities from collecting Chinese genetic material or providing that material abroad, largely to prevent them from using it for “typical commercial purposes” such as genomic sequencing services, Wang said.

Though research collaborations like clinical studies are still allowed, they face much tighter scrutiny, with “foreign parties” and their Chinese partners required to notify the authorities and receive governmental approval – with the new regulations including additional details on this process and stipulations for mandatory security reviews in certain circumstances.

The changes come alongside an increasing emphasis on national security under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, with Beijing ramping up laws across a range of priority concerns from counter-espionage to biosecurity.

The approach on human genetic resources is so stringent it “basically grants exclusive access to Chinese nationals based in China to conduct this research,” said Zhang, the global science center director.

Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks at a conference on human genome editing in Hong Kong on November 28, 2018.

There are a few reasons for this approach.

Officials have said tighter restrictions are necessary to prevent “the illegal outflow” of Chinese genetic material – perhaps reflecting the lingering impact of an infamous case near the turn of the century, when a Harvard scientist was accused of collecting genetic samples from poor Chinese farmers without proper informed consent, Zhang said.

Other unethical examples cited by Chinese authorities include He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who was widely condemned after creating the world’s first gene-edited babies in China in 2018.

But China has another motive, too: establishing what some experts call “genomic sovereignty,” meaning full control of the genetic material within their country.

While many other countries also have laws regulating the use and transfer of their population’s genetic material, few are as strict as China’s.

For instance, the UK Biobank, a database supported by the government’s National Health Service, provides anonymized genetic data from UK residents to “researchers around the world who use it to make new scientific discoveries,” according to the biobank’s site.

A medical worker performs genetic testing at the Shanxi Province Reproductive Science Institute in Taiyuan, China, on November 29, 2018.

Similarly in the US, the government agency National Institutes of Health (NIH) runs a database of genomic information generated by NIH-funded research – which eligible scientists around the world can apply to access. The NIH website calls genomic data a “critical shared resource,” adding that the “timely sharing of research results can accelerate discoveries” benefiting the wider scientific community.

By contrast, Zhang said, “China seems to have adopted the exact opposite approach … China is closing things down, it just wants to keep everything domestic and looking inward.”

CNN has reached out to the Ministry of Science and Technology for comment on these data-sharing concerns.

This could have broader implications for scientists’ ability to work with international peers – with US-China collaborations already plummeting thanks to worsening political tensions, and Chinese researchers’ isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. All this could ultimately hinder China’s own hopes to break boundaries and rise above the competition.

“Chinese life sciences is a major power in the world, but is not yet a superpower. In a lot of cutting edge areas it still relies on international collaborations,” Zhang said.

Scientific advancement today looks very different from just a few decades ago, she added: “Nowadays we’re talking about big data, we’re talking about mining the data. And in this context, restricting access will only be harmful to China.”

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Tori Spelling shows off RV adventure with 5 kids as divorce rumors swirl

Tori Spelling is taking the high road and bringing her five kids along for the ride. 

The “Beverly Hills, 90210” star posted a glimpse into her time with her family while they shared an RV together. 

“as long as we have each other… #summer2023 #familytime #pricelessmemories #ontheroad #backtoschool,” Spelling wrote in her Instagram caption. 

TORI SPELLING SNUBS DEAN MCDERMOTT AMID DIVORCE RUMORS: ‘DARKEST TIMES’

tori spelling

Tori Spelling shared photos of her five children having fun in an RV. (Tori Spelling/Instagram)

The carousel of photos included snaps of her cuddling in bed with one of her daughters, while some of her other children were all smiles giving a thumbs up in the candid pictures. 

Tori Spelling kids

Tori Spelling included snaps of her children all smiles and giving a thumbs up in the candid pictures inside an RV. (Tori Spelling/Instagram)

The 50-year-old actress also shared a few photographs of her kids at the beach and included scenic photos of the coastline. 

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Spelling’s “priceless memories” moment with her children comes on the heels of divorce rumors with her husband of 17 years, Dean McDermott, who was not featured in any of her new photos.

McDermott, 56, announced in June that he and Spelling are on the verge of a divorce.

TORI SPELLING, DEAN MCDERMOTT GOING ‘SEPARATE WAYS’ AFTER 17-YEAR MARRIAGE, 5 KIDS: REPORT

“It’s with great sadness and a very very heavy heart that after 18 years together and 5 amazing children, that @torispelling and I have decided to go our separate ways, and start a new journey of our own,” McDermott wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post, according to the New York Post.

He added, “We will continue to work together as loving parents and guide and love our children through this difficult time. We ask that you all respect our privacy as we take this time to surround our family with love and work our way through this. Thank you all for your support and kindness.”

Tori Spelling kids red carpet

Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott pose for a photo with their five children. (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images)

The couple married in 2006 and have five children together: Liam, 16, Finn, 10, Beau, 6, Stella, 15, and Hattie, 11.

Spelling has not yet publicly commented about the separation.

TORI SPELLING SAYS SHE AND HER FAMILY NEED BRAIN SCANS BECAUSE OF MOLD POISONING

The possible divorce is not the only thing that the actress’ family has been dealing with. In May, Spelling claimed the “mold infection” of her rented home has been “slowly killing” her family for the past three years.

The “Saved by the Bell” actress took to Instagram to ask for recommendations for a “mold lawyer.”

Tori Spelling with her children at urgent care

Tori Spelling previously took her children to Urgent Care because of mold poisoning. (Tori Spelling/Instagram)

“Does anyone know how to find a major great MOLD lawyer in CA that can help our family?” the actress wrote on her Instagram story. “Our troubles are next level with our mold problem and the house that’s been slowly killing us for 3 years.”

“My kids and I are so sick and can’t get well and our family needs help. Overwhelmed,” she continued. “We do need to start with an amazing lawyer who can guide us through this.”

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Close up of Tori Spelling

Tori Spelling has dealt with ongoing worried after mold was discovered in the home her family shares. (David Livingston/Getty Images)

Spelling previously shared her family had been in a “continual spiral of sickness” before finding out her rented home was infested with “extreme mold.”

“Here we are again at Urgent Care,” Spelling posted on Instagram in May along with photos of her and her children in an examination room. “We’ve all been on this continual spiral of sickness for months. Sick. Get better. To get sick again.”

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Fox News Digital’s Lauryn Overhultz contributed to this report. 

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US consumers are feeling less optimistic about the economy for the first time this summer


Washington, DC
CNN
 — 

Americans became slightly less optimistic about the economy this month, following two straight months of growing confidence.

Consumer sentiment tracked by the University of Michigan fell to 71.2 in August from the prior month, down from a reading of 71.6 in July, according to a preliminary estimate. Sentiment had been on an upswing throughout the summer, mostly due to slower inflation, and is well above the record lows reached this time last year.

“In general, consumers perceived few material differences in the economic environment from last month, but they saw substantial improvements relative to just three months ago,” said the University of Michigan’s Director of Surveys, Joanne Hsu, in a release.

Expectations for inflation rates in the year ahead inched down to a 3.3% rate from 3.4% in the previous reading.

Gas prices, which are highly visible indicators of inflation for consumers, have risen in recent weeks, which could weigh on sentiment in the future. And the Consumer Price Index rose 3.2% in July from a year earlier, up from June’s 3% annual rise, though underlying price pressures continued to ease.

“The University of Michigan’s measure of consumer confidence edged lower in August but is likely set to drop even further because of the recent increase in retail gasoline prices,” wrote Ryan Sweet, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, in an analyst note. “Rising gasoline prices have economic costs and they can escalate quickly.”

If inflation continues to cool down in the months ahead, that will likely bode well for consumer sentiment. Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco argues that shelter inflation is poised to fall significantly, reaching 0% in 2024 then turning negative by the second half of the year. Still, consumers face the resumption of student loan payments later this year, and that could weigh on household budgets.

“The Michigan survey puts a large weight on perceptions of personal finances, which are likely to take a hit when repayments on student loan debts restart in October,” wrote Kieran Clancy, senior US economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note Friday.

if sentiment sharply deteriorates and remains subdued for months, that could prompt a pullback in spending since US consumers would limit their purchases in an uncertain economic environment.

Consumer spending cooled steadily from a strong start in January, but it picked up in June by 0.5%, following a more moderate pace in prior months, according to Commerce Department data. US consumers opened up their wallets this summer, with many flocking to the smash-hit “Barbie” movie, attending concerts by Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, or traveling abroad.

At its policy meeting next month, the Federal Reserve is set to debate whether to hike interest rates once again or hold them steady. A sharp resurgence in economic growth might keep some upward pressure on prices, complicating the central bank’s mission of bringing inflation down to its 2% target.

The Atlanta Fed’s real-time GDPNow tracker estimates that gross domestic product will post an annualized rate of 4.1% in the third quarter. That would be a significant pickup from the second quarter’s 2.4% rate.

The first estimate for third-quarter GDP is set to be released on October 26, just a few days before the Fed’s meeting that month.

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California judge charged with murder in wife's shooting; 47 weapons seized from home

A Southern California judge was charged Friday with murder in the shooting death of his wife and 47 weapons were seized from the house, authorities said.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson, 72, was arrested last week after his adult son called 911 to report his mother, Sheryl Ferguson, had been shot at the family’s home in the upscale neighborhood of Anaheim Hills, the district attorney’s office said in a statement. He was released a day later on $1 million bail.

AI CAN DETERMINE PERSONAL INFORMATION THROUGH AR, VR USERS’ MOTION DATA, STUDIES SAY

CA Fox News graphic

Prosecutors said a California judge who was charged in his wife’s killing had dozens of weapons in his home.  (Fox News)

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Now prosecutors are requesting a hearing to impose additional bail conditions on Ferguson because authorities recovered 47 weapons and more than 26,000 rounds of ammunition during a search of his home. A rifle registered in his name is not accounted for, the statement said.

They want Ferguson to surrender his passport and wear an ankle monitor.

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After reported suicide of participant, human research studies suspended at psychiatric institute affiliated with Columbia University



CNN
 — 

The US Department of Health and Human Services has suspended research studies involving human subjects at a psychiatric institute affiliated with Columbia University after the suicide of a research participant, according to research documents.

A spokesperson for HHS told CNN on Thursday the agency’s Office for Human Research Protections was investigating the psychiatric institute “and has restricted its ability to conduct HHS-supported human subject research.”

“The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) is committed to protecting the rights, welfare, and well-being of people participating in research conducted by or supported by HHS. OHRP takes very seriously the protection of people who volunteer for research studies and has procedures to ensure that those protections are in place,” the HHS spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

The New York State Psychiatric Institute, which is affiliated with Columbia University, said it voluntarily paused all research studies involving human subjects in early June.

The investigation began after reports that a participant in a study testing a Parkinson’s drug for late-life depression died by suicide while enrolled in the study, according to a research document held by the US National Library of Medicine. The patient was part of a group of participants receiving a placebo rather than the medication, according to research documents.

When asked about the patient’s reported suicide, the psychiatric institute said it is unable to “provide specific details about any individual involved in a research study.”

The study was led by Dr. Bret R. Rutherford, who was an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. It was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Rutherford’s research has received about $15 million in funding from NIMH since 2010, according to the US National Institutes of Health database.

According to New York State Psychiatric Institute, Rutherford resigned from his position there effective June 1, and he is no longer a Columbia faculty member. CNN has attempted to contact Rutherford for comment.

Rutherford began testing the central nervous system drug Levodopa as a medical treatment for late-life depression in 2018, according to documents on clinicaltrials.gov.

The central hypothesis of the institute’s study is that Levodopa could help alleviate late-life depression “by enhancing dopamine functioning in the brain and improving cognitive and motor slowing,” according to the study’s Protocol Summary Form.

For the eight-week trial, Rutherford aimed to recruit 90 adults ages 60 or older who had depressive disorder, decreased processing speed or decreased gait speed, as outlined in the Protocol Summary Form. In total, 51 participants were enrolled, according to documents on the trial.

Of the 51 participants, 20 subjects were found to be ineligible or did not continue in the study after enrolling, and the remaining 31 were divided into two groups, one of which received daily doses of Levodopa while the other was administered placebo doses, as indicated in documents regarding the study.

About two weeks after the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s pause, HHS restricted funding for research involving human subjects at the institute, according to a statement. The review is expected to be completed next month, according to an institute spokesperson.

A representative from the NIH, Amanda Fine, said the agency is in close collaboration with the Office for Human Research Protections, which is currently investigating. Fine said the NIH is unable to comment on matters currently under review.

Editor’s Note: If you or a loved one have contemplated suicide, call The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to connect with a trained counselor.

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'One Tree Hill' star Bethany Joy Lenz' co-stars attempted to 'rescue' her from cult: ‘I was really committed’

Bethany Joy Lenz’ “One Tree Hill” co-stars attempted to “rescue” her from the cult she was a part of for 10 years and the alleged “spiritual abuse” she faced.

“It was open with them. It was the whisper behind the scenes, like, ‘You know, she’s in a cult,'” Lenz told Variety in a new interview. “For a while, they were all trying to save me and rescue me, which is lovely and so amazing to be cared about in that way.”

“But I was very stubborn,” she noted. “I was really committed to what I believed were the best choices I could make.”

‘ONE TREE HILL’ STAR BETHANY JOY LENZ SUFFERED ALLEGED ‘SPIRITUAL ABUSE’ DURING YEARS IN CULT

close up Bethany Joy Lenz on a red carpet

Bethany Joy Lenz revealed her “One Tree Hill” co-stars tried to “rescue” her from the cult she spent 10 years with. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

“The nature of a group like that is isolation; they have to make you distrust everyone around you so that the only people you trust are, first and foremost, the leadership and then, people within the group if the leadership approves of them, and isn’t in the middle of pitting you against each other, which happens all the time also,” the actress explained. 

“It built a deep wedge of distrust between me and my cast and crew. As much as I loved them and cared about them, there was a fundamental thought: If I’m in pain, if I’m suffering, I can’t go to any of these people. So you feel incredibly lonely.”

Lenz fully believes that filming “One Tree Hill” ultimately saved her. The drama series filmed from 2003 until 2011.

Cast of One Tree Hill - Hilarie Burton, Chad Michael Murray, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz, and James Lafferty

From left to right, Hilarie Burton, Chad Michael Murray, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz and James Lafferty starred alongside each other in “One Tree Hill.” (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

“I was there nine months out of the year in North Carolina,” she explained. “I had a lot of flying back and forth, a lot of people visiting and things like that, but my life was really built in North Carolina. And I think that spatial separation made a big difference when it was time for me to wake up.”

Lenz also revealed she lost family during this time in her life.

“Family members who expressed concern or who were like, ‘What are you saying? This is crazy,’ – anyone who kind of went against what I was experiencing in my reality – became a bit of the enemy.”

A representative for Lenz did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

Bethany Joy Lenz smiling

Bethany Joy Lenz starred as Haley on the 2000s drama series. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

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The actress first opened up about her 10 years in a cult in July during an appearance on the “Drama Queens” podcast with her former co-stars Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton. Lenz has since revealed more insight into her experience in a handful of interviews.

Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush attend a radio event

Bethany Joy Lenz first opened up about her time in the cult during a podcast episode with her co-stars Hilarie Burton and Sophia Bush. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio)

Lenz has gone through “lots of therapy” as she recovers from the “spiritual abuse.”

“Recovery looks different for everyone, depending on your experience of trauma,” she recently told People magazine. “I had to start from a baseline of my personal understanding of God and the experiences I had had. And then there was a lot of going back to who I was before and remembering that, and then acknowledging that there was so much I just didn’t know.”

The “Just My Type” actress has been revisiting the painful moments as she writes her memoir. “I’m a writer at heart, so turning a phrase is easy for me. Exploring the memories, and really facing them, can be challenging – but I’m doing it,” the actress told the magazine. “There’s a lot to tell.”

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Teen pleads not guilty to hate crime in killing of O'Shae Sibley, who was fatally stabbed while dancing at a Brooklyn gas station



CNN
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A teenager pleaded not guilty Friday to nine counts in the stabbing death of a dancer who was vogueing at a Brooklyn gas station, according to court records and his attorney.

Dmitriy Popov, 17, is being charged as an adult in the killing of O’Shae Sibley, his attorney and prosecutors said. A grand jury indicted Popov Thursday for murder in the second degree as a hate crime, manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime, weapons possession and other charges.

Defense attorney Mark Henry Pollard said his client is not guilty, is remorseful and might claim self-defense. His next court date is October 10.

The family of the suspect – his mother and grandmother – were in court and declined comment to CNN. The teen gave them a thumbs up as he exited the courtroom.

Pollard said there is nothing in his client’s past that shows he is the type of person to commit such a crime.

“I strongly suspect that we will be going self-defense, and that he had a reasonable grounds to reasonably… believe that he had to defend himself in this situation,” Pollard said.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Thursday called Sibley’s death “tragic and senseless.”

“O’Shae and his friends were allegedly targeted, because they were dancing, they were being themselves, dancing joyfully to Beyoncé music at a Brooklyn gas station, harming no one, and refusing to stop even when confronted with anti-Black and homophobic slurs demanding that they stop dancing,” Gonzalez said.

Sibley, 28, was approached on July 29 by a group of men who allegedly began shouting homophobic slurs. An altercation broke out and Sibley was stabbed in the chest. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“The entire community has been victimized by this senseless victimization of Mr. Sibley. This crime, while clearly impacting his family and loved ones, have impacted the entirety of Brooklyn, and the entirety of the city and I dare say the entire nation,” Gonzalez said.

“The allegations made against this 17-year-old are of tremendous import to this city and to this country and I’m assuring the community that we are taking this case very seriously and we’re going to make sure that justice prevails in this case.”

Many witnesses have come forward, according to the DA. “We believe that there were two groups confronting each other and the group that Mr. Sibley was in was the people who were being assailed with anti-gay and anti-Black statements,” Gonzalez said.

The DA refused to answer if any more people would be charged over the incident.

“O’Shae came to New York to follow his dream, like many New Yorkers,” Gonzalez said. “He came here, he was a choreographer, he was a dancer, he was here to shine a light on himself and really shine a light on this community and New York City and his light was shut off, he was killed, for senseless reasons that I think have to be addressed.”

Regarding his client’s mental state, Pollard said, “Obviously he’s sorrowful, he’s sad, he’s afraid as he should be at 17 years old, but he… has faith and he prays and he has great family support and he’s hanging in there.”

“He regrets what happened, certainly does, but that doesn’t mean he’s guilty of a crime – those are two different things,” Pollard said.

Popov lives with his mother, has maintained two gig jobs and is going to be a high school senior, according to Pollard.

Pollard said Popov also has many Black friends and a Black sister-in-law.

“I just don’t see an anti-Black thing going on here,” Pollard said.

Pollard said, to his understanding, his client did not utter any slurs.

Popov is being held at a juvenile facility in Brooklyn, his attorney said.

Before the brief arraignment wrapped up Friday, Judge Craig Walker said to Popov that while he’s in the facility, “I’m expecting you to take advantage of whatever programs they have there for you.”

The judge added, “Most importantly stay out of trouble. It’s surprisingly easy to get in trouble at the facility and you don’t need anything else going on.”

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London council blocks China’s plan to build embassy near Tower of London

  • Tower Hamlets, a local government council in London, has blocked China from continuing a project that would have created the biggest diplomatic compound in Britain.
  • Bejing’s proposed embassy near the Tower of London would have been 18% larger than the city’s new U.S. embassy. 
  • The local council said Beijing’s proposed embassy could increase the risk of terrorism, protests, and traffic in an area millions of tourists visit annually.

China’s plans to build a new embassy near the Tower of London have stalled following local opposition to what would be the biggest diplomatic compound in Britain.

The borough of Tower Hamlets, the local government council in London responsible for the area, blocked the project in February, citing concerns about the increased risk of terror attacks, protests and traffic in an area visited by millions of tourists each year.

Chinese authorities had until Thursday to appeal the decision to the U.K. government but did not, Tower Hamlets said.

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“If the applicant wanted to appeal through the public inquiry procedure then they would have already needed to have given notice to us as the local planning authority,’’ Tower Hamlets said in a statement. “We haven’t received any such notification from the applicant.”

China’s plans called for comprehensive redevelopment of a 5.2-acre site that was home to the Royal Mint from 1811 to 1968, demolishing some of the existing buildings and restoring others. The new embassy compound would include some 57,000 square meters of floor space, including offices, a cultural exchange building and 225 apartments.

The Tower of London

A view of the Tower of London on Aug. 29, 2022, in London, United Kingdom. China’s plan to build the biggest diplomatic compound in Britain with a new embassy located near the Tower of London has been stalled amid local opposition. (Steve Christo – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

That’s about 18% bigger than the new U.S. embassy in London, which opened in 2018 with 48,000 square meters of space.

While Tower Hamlets planning officials recommended authorizing the project, the borough council voted on Feb. 10 to refuse planning permission.

The Chinese Embassy in London called on the British government to intervene.

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“It is the international obligation of the host country to provide facilitations and support for the construction of diplomatic premises,” the embassy in a statement. “We urge the U.K. side to fulfill its relevant international obligations.”

British authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The embassy decision comes amid growing concerns in the U.K. about Chinese investments in critical infrastructure, as well allegations that it has attempted to influence British politicians and university researchers.

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That decision came four months after a pro-democracy protester had to be rescued by police after he was dragged onto the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester. After that incident, Britain’s foreign secretary summoned the Chinese ambassador’s deputy to his office and demanded an explanation.

The Tower Hamlets council said the proposed embassy compound would strain local police resources, increase road congestion and have a negative impact on the area surrounding Tower of London.

“The proposed embassy would result in adverse impacts on local tourism, due to concerns over the effect of potential protests, acts of terrorism and related security mitigation measures on the sensitive backdrop of nationally significant tourist attractions,” the council said in announcing its decision.

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