April 5, 2019

A former Arizona state representative reportedly told a woman they could "agree to disagree" over whether child sex trafficking is harmful to children.

Former Arizona state Rep. David Stringer, who resigned on March 27 as revelations that he was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting two children came to light, reportedly told an activist last year that he doesn't want to "demonize" child sex trafficking, reports The Arizona Republic.

These comments were surfaced as part of an ethics investigation into the former representative, with two women telling investigators they had this interaction with Stringer in 2018. When one of the women raised the issue of child sex trafficking, he reportedly objected and said he didn't believe there is a lot of child sex trafficking but laughed while saying there are a "lot of 15-year-old prostitutes."

When the woman responded that child sex trafficking is actually a very serious concern, he reportedly responded, "I really don't believe that." Apparently to back up his opinion that child sex trafficking does no "damage" to children, he reportedly said, "If an uncle takes his niece or nephew to a playground, and they go on the merry-go-round and have some ice cream, and then do their thing, that's just part of the experience." The woman adds that Stringer told her they could "agree to disagree" on the issue.

After Stringer resigned from Arizona's House of Representatives, ethics investigators released a police report showing that in 1983, he was arrested and accused of paying two underage boys for sex, one of whom had a developmental disability. He reportedly accepted a plea deal and continues to maintain his innocence. Prior to the sexual abuse charge revelation, Stringer had come under fire for racist comments, The New York Times notes, such as when he said black people "don't blend in" with society. Brendan Morrow

March 25, 2019

President Trump has asked top advisers for ways he can limit federal spending going to Puerto Rico, saying it is "ridiculous" how much money is going to food stamp recipients on the island, senior administration officials told The Washington Post in a Monday report.

Trump first asked how to keep money from going to Puerto Rico during a Feb. 22 meeting in the Oval Office, the officials said. He argued the money should stay on the mainland, and and that no amount will fix the issues facing Puerto Rico. "He doesn't want another single dollar going to the island," a senior administration official said to the Post.

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, the federal government gave extra food stamp aid to the island. Because Puerto Rico is not a state, it funds programs like food stamps and Medicaid through block grants that have to be regularly renewed by Washington.

Congress missed its deadline this month to reauthorize food stamp aid, and about 1.3 million already-struggling people in Puerto Rico saw a reduction in their benefits. House Democrats in January approved giving an additional $600 million in food stamp funding to Puerto Rico, but that stalled in the Senate, and the Trump administration released a letter calling this aid "excessive and unnecessary," the Post reports.

It's not excessive to people like Myrna Izquierdo, who runs the nonprofit Casa Ismael clinic in Toa Baja. The clinic, which serves HIV-positive men and is still damaged from Hurricane Maria, relies on food stamp money from patients. Because of the cuts, Izquierdo says they have to find ways to save money — including not being able to change diapers that have been soiled. "We just don't have the money right now," she told the Post. "It's very hard. It's so unfair. That cut is going to kill us."

To read more about how the cuts are affecting Puerto Rico, visit The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

March 18, 2019

A marine biologist in the Philippines made a startling discovery last week during the autopsy of a young Cuvier's beaked whale.

Darrell Blatchley found 88 pounds of plastic inside the whale's stomach, "compact to the point that its stomach was literally as hard as a baseball," he told NPR. "That means that this animal has been suffering not for days or weeks but for months or even a year or more." Blatchley, based in Davao, drove two hours to see the whale, which was found alive but vomiting blood. The whale died a few hours later.

Blatchley said the whale's stomach contained 16 rice sacks and plastic bags from local grocery store chains. Over the last decade, 57 whales and dolphins within the Davao Gulf have "died due to man," Blatchley said, "whether they ingested plastic or fishing nets or other waste, or gotten caught in pollution — and four were pregnant." So far this year, three whales or dolphins have been found by Blatchley and his team with plastic in their systems.

The U.N. Environment Program says that about nine million tons of plastic winds up in the ocean every year, and the Ocean Conservancy found in 2017 that more than half of all that garbage comes from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China. Blatchley told NPR he hopes the most recent whale death will bring attention to this crisis. "If we keep going this way, it will be more uncommon to see an animal die of natural causes than it is to see an animal die of plastic," he said. Catherine Garcia

February 2, 2019

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent died Saturday morning after apparently jumping from a balcony in the Orlando International Airport.

"At 9:30 a.m., an individual jumped from the Hyatt Regency Hotel into the atrium area of the airport," the Orlando Police Department tweeted. "A male in his 40s was found in critical condition and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Preliminary information suggests an apparent suicide."

Authorities have confirmed the man's role as a TSA employee but have not identified him. This is an isolated incident, police say, and any "reports of suspicious vehicles related to this incident are FALSE."

Dozens of flights were canceled or delayed after the Federal Aviation Administration briefly grounded all flights at Orlando, but as of midday the airport was resuming normal operations. Bonnie Kristian

January 20, 2019

Local authorities by Saturday evening had revised their estimate of deaths in a Friday explosion at a Mexican fuel pipeline to 73, with another 74 people injured in the blast and more still missing.

The death toll was initially put at 21 but quickly rose. Casualties are high because a crowd of hundreds of villagers had gathered in hopes of collecting free gasoline after the pipeline was punctured by fuel thieves. Gas stations in the area have been rationing gasoline because of fuel shortages, and word of the spill from the pipeline spread quickly.

"I trust in the people, and I know that with these painful, regrettable lessons, the people will also distance themselves from these practices" of fuel theft, said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who visited the site of the tragedy Saturday. Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

At least 66 people were killed and dozens more injured Friday when a fuel pipeline in Mexico exploded after being ruptured by fuel thieves. Some 85 people not included in the current death toll are listed as missing as of Saturday morning.

A crowd of people had gathered to collect the spilling fuel in plastic containers when the fireball occurred. Local authorities said the death toll could continue to rise given the severity of the injuries and the number of people whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Illegal pipeline taps like this one, which occurred near the town of Tlahuelilpan about 60 miles north of Mexico City, are a chronic problem in Mexico; an average of 42 taps were drilled daily in the first 10 months of 2018. "Far from stopping the fight ... against fuel theft, it's going to become stronger," said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday. "We'll continue until we've eradicated these practices." Bonnie Kristian

January 12, 2019

Two firefighters were killed and at least three dozen people injured, about a third of them seriously, by an explosion thought to be caused by a gas leak in Paris Saturday morning.

The firefighters were on the scene responding to the leak when the explosion occurred in a bakery. The blast damaged a number of nearby storefronts, flipped at least one car, and filled the street with debris and broken glass.

"I was sleeping and woke up by the blast wave," said a neighbor named Claire Sallavuard. "All the windows in the apartment exploded, doors were blown off their hinges. I had to walk on the door to leave the room. All the kids were panicking; they couldn't get out of their room" Bonnie Kristian

January 5, 2019

Five teenage girls were killed and one other person injured when a fire broke out in an escape room in Koszalin, Poland, on Friday.

The girls were attending a birthday party when a fire thought to be caused by a gas leak was started in an adjacent room. They were likely killed by carbon monoxide inhalation, while the sixth victim was hospitalized with severe burns.

"A devastating tragedy in Koszalin," Polish President Andrzej Duda tweeted. "Five joyous, growing girls have been torn out of their lives. God bless their parents and relatives." Local authorities said all escape rooms will now be required to have evacuation plans including a staff member prepared to help guests make quick emergency exits. Bonnie Kristian

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