Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall on Puerto Rico as Residents Seek Refuge

SAN JUAN, P.R. — Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 storm early Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and winds of up to 155 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.

Shortly after 6 a.m., the eye of the storm hit Yabucoa in southeastern Puerto Rico after crossing the United States Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm. It had weakened slightly but remained “extremely dangerous,” the center said.

As the hurricane moved in, residents across the island were awakened by the clamor of strengthening wind gusts.

“We can hear the wind screaming,” one resident, Jerika Llano, wrote on Twitter. “This is impressive. I am blessed I live in a concrete house but the destruction is imminent.”

By 5 a.m. Wednesday, an estimated 11,229 people had taken refuge in the island’s 500 shelters, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said on Twitter. That represented a significant increase over the roughly 2,800 who had taken shelter by late Tuesday.

The storm has brought new misery to a region that has seen two other powerful hurricanes in recent weeks. Residents of the Virgin Islands whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago were urged by the government to find new shelters to ride out Maria.

The storm began pounding the Virgin Islands on Tuesday evening, and a flash-flood alert was sent to residents’ cellphones at 10:05 p.m., Gov. Kenneth Mapp said. He warned that hurricane-strength winds were likely to batter the islands until Wednesday morning.

A shelter in San Juan on Tuesday. Puerto Rico was grazed by Hurricane Irma but braced this time for a direct hit. CreditHector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The core of the storm passed south of the United States Virgin Islands, with the outer eyewall lashing St. Croix, the hurricane center said.

Maria had battered the island nation of Dominica a day earlier. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described the damage as “mind boggling” and wrote on Facebook that he had to be rescued after winds ripped the roof off his official residence. But little information has emerged since then, with the storm having taken out phone and power lines on Dominica.

Though the storm’s maximum sustained winds dropped somewhat overnight, the authorities warned early Wednesday that it was still “potentially catastrophic,” bearing “fury aimed at Puerto Rico and Vieques,” a southeastern Puerto Rican island.

“Right now Maria is a bit weaker because the very tight circulation of the previous eyewall is suddenly disappearing as the outer eyewall replaces it,” said Anthony Sagliani, meteorological operations manager at weather data company Earth Networks.

The storm will be “a powerful hurricane at landfall regardless but might not be as powerful as it could be,” he said.

In the town of Cataño in northern Puerto Rico, several houses lost their zinc roofs and the roof of a church was ripped apart, Felix Delgado Montalvo, the town’s mayor, said on a local radio station.

“My message now is not to leave your houses until the situation is over,” he told listeners.

Residents of Puerto Rico braced for a more direct hit than from Irma, which killed three people and knocked out power to many. Widespread outages of Puerto Rico’s creaky electrical network were expected again once Maria arrives in force Wednesday.


This Organic, Plant-Based Drive-Thru Chain Wants to Expand Across the U.S. – Yes, Please!

Happy dance! California-based Amy’s Drive Thru, the first organic and vegetarian fast food restaurant in America, with tons of vegan options, is doing SO WELL that they are looking into expanding across the country and becoming a chain!

Right now, Amy’s Drive Thru’s flagship store is located in Rohnert Park, California, with a second location currently being planned in Northern California in an abandoned Denny’s. The ultimate goal is to eventually open up locations across the country, according to Amy’s Director of Operations, Paul Schiefer. Yes, please!

Amy’s menu uses all local ingredients to bring classic meat-free American fast food to the masses, without ever having to get out of your car. Win!

Menu items are often sourced from employee’s family recipe books and given a thumbs up if a handful of Amy’s staff agrees that it tastes good. 


The menu boasts organic pizza with vegan cheese available, non-dairy milkshakes, fresh salads, as well as mouth-watering vegan cheeseburgers, with a single-patty cheeseburger just $3.99, just a dollar more than McDonald’s.

In the past, vegan options at fast food and grab-and-go spots were few and far between. But these days, consumers are moving away from meat and dairy while also seeking out less processed foods. This new shift not only caters to vegans, it also provides healthy options for those who want to reduce their consumption of animal products, whether it be for health, environmental, or animal welfare reasons.

Recent studies have shown that around one-third of Americans are choosing to leave meat off their plates more frequently and a 2015 survey by market analyst Mintel found that 61 percent of consumers say they enjoy menu items that heavily feature vegetables. We can’t wait for Amy’s Drive Thru to come to the East Coast!

To learn more about rising trends in the plant-based food space, check out One Green Planet’s Future of Food.

The world is running out of antibiotics, WHO says

(CNN) Too few new antibiotics are under development to combat the threat of multidrug-resistant infections, according to a new World Health Organization report published Tuesday. Adding to the concern: It is likely that the speed of increasing resistance will outpace the slow drug development process.

As of May, a total of 51 antibiotics and 11 biologicals — medical products often made from natural sources — are being developed, the new report said.
“The idea is that biologicals could replace use of antibiotics, which could help in overcoming the resistance problem,” Peter Beyer, an author of the report and senior adviser to the WHO’s Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products, wrote in an email.
Seemingly, this large number of potential new drugs should suffice, yet it is not nearly enough.
First, just 33 of the antibiotics in the pipeline target priority pathogens. This year, the WHO published a list of a dozen “priority pathogens”: 12 separate families of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.
Among the priority pathogens is a drug-resistant tuberculosis, which kills about 250,000 people around the world each year, and a variety of multidrug resistant strains — Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae — which are responsible for infections in hospitals and nursing homes and among patients whose care requires ventilators and catheters.
Of the 33 potential medicines for treating priority bug infections, only eight are innovative treatments. The other 25 are simple modifications of existing families of antibiotics. At best, then, the 25 will serve as short-term solutions since it is expected bacteria will quickly adapt to and resist these new (though somewhat familiar) drugs, according to the WHO.
“It is difficult to speculate why companies develop specific new medicines,” Beyer noted. “But in general many new treatments do not necessarily constitute advances over existing treatments.”
TB infections require a combination of at least three antibiotics, according to the new report, yet only seven of the new TB medicines are even in clinical trials. Soon, there will be a serious lack of treatment options for this infection, the report warns.
The same is true for gram-negative pathogens, which can cause severe, often deadly infections typically in hospitals and nursing homes.
Gram-negative bacteria have more complex cell walls than gram-positive, explained Beyer. “In a nutshell, it is more complex to develop a novel antibiotic that can penetrate the complex gram-negative cell wall and stay inside the bacterium,” he wrote.
Finally, the WHO sees too few oral antibiotics being developed. These are necessary “to target the critical priority pathogens (and) be accessible in low- and middle-income countries,” Beyer noted.
To address the problem of developing new antibiotics, the WHO and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative set up the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership. However, new drugs alone cannot combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance. The WHO is also working to improve infection prevention and control while developing guidance for the responsible use of antibiotics.
“Always seek medical advice before taking antibiotics and then always follow the advice of the health-care professional,” Beyer noted.
The new report is a “fantastic (and very useful!) summary” of the antibiotic situation, wrote Bill Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an email. Hanage, who has also published studies of antibiotic resistance, was not involved in the new report.
Although the risk of getting a completely resistant infection is low in the United States, about 2 million people each year become infected with “resistant enough” bacteria that are harder to treat, Hanage said. And every year, more than 20,000 people die of these infections.
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“More resistant infections don’t just mean you or someone you care about is more likely to die from one, they also mean healthcare will get even more expensive,” Hanage said. “Many of the procedures we take for granted in medicine, from cancer treatments to surgeries, depend on our ability to handle infections that happen in the course of treatment.”
The number of new drugs in development is simply not enough, he said.
“The great majority will not make it into the hands of doctors or your treatment,” Hanage wrote. “As the report states, for drugs to be used in humans they have to pass 3 hurdles, the phase 1, 2 and 3 trials. Drugs entering that pipeline have just a 14% chance of getting all the way through to be used in humans.”

Why are today’s teens putting off sex, driving, dating and drinking?


When 17-year-old Quattro Musser hangs out with friends, they don’t drink beer or cruise around in cars with their dates. Rather, they stick to G-rated activities such as rock-climbing or talking about books.

They are in good company, according to a new study showing that teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade.

The declines appeared across race, geographic, and socioeconomic lines, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

To be sure, more than half of teens still engage in these activities, but the majorities have slimmed considerably. Between 1976 and 1979, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63 percent had, the study found. During the same period, the portion who had ever earned money from working plunged from 76 to 55 percent. And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93 percent between 1976 and 1979 to 67 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s because teenagers are more responsible, or more lazy, or more boring,’ but they’re missing the larger trend,” said Jean Twenge, lead author of the study, which drew on seven large time-lag surveys of Americans. Rather, she said, kids may be less interested in activities such as dating, driving or getting jobs because in today’s society, they no longer need to.

According to an evolutionary psychology theory that a person’s “life strategy” slows down or speeds up depending on his or her surroundings, exposure to a “harsh and unpredictable” environment leads to faster development, while a more resource-rich and secure environment has the opposite effect, the study said.

In the first scenario, “You’d have a lot of kids and be in survival mode, start having kids young, expect your kids will have kids young, and expect that there will be more diseases and fewer resources,” said Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is the author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

A century ago, when life expectancy was lower and college education less prevalent, “the goal back then was survival, not violin lessons by 5,” Twenge said.

In that model a teenage boy might be thinking more seriously about marriage, and driving a car and working for pay would be important for “establishing mate value based on procurement of resources,” the study said.

But America is shifting more toward the slower model, and the change is apparent across the socioeconomic spectrum, Twenge said. “Even in families whose parents didn’t have a college education…families are smaller, and the idea that children need to be carefully nurtured has really sunk in.”

The postponement of “adult activities” could not be attributed to more homework or extracurricular activities, the study said, noting that teens today spend fewer hours on homework and the same amount of time on extracurriculars as they did in the 1990s (with the exception of community service, which has risen slightly). Nor could the use of smartphones and the Internet be entirely the cause, the report said, since the decline began before they were widely available.

Musser, who lives in Portland, Oregon, has had summer jobs but he has never drunk alcohol and says he is not curious to try. To him, the idea that earlier generations of teens centered evening activities around procuring and drinking alcohol sounded mystifying.

“I haven’t heard of anyone who goes out and specifically drinks with their friends,” he said. “It’s not something you set out to do, like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to go out and get drunk.'”

In a city where it is easy to bike, take buses, or rideshare, he doesn’t see much need to drive. And as for dating, “It seems sort of ridiculous to be seriously dating seomeone in high school. I mean, what’s the plan there? Continuing to date through college and then eventually get married? That seems sort of unrealistic.”

Although the study did not look at people younger than 13, Twenge said she suspects the postponement of adult behavior begins in early childhood, starting with the decrease in children walking to school alone or playing unsupervised. In recent decades parents have become more restrictive about independent activities, and laws in some states have codified this, banning children from going out in public or staying home without adult accompaniment.

(Legislation has also delayed another adult activity: In the 1970s the legal drinking age was as young as 18 in some states; it is now 21 almost universally.)

To Daniel Siegel, an adolescent psychiatrist and author of “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,” it makes sense that adolescents would “remodel” their brains to adapt to a society that has changed since the 19th century.

“In a culture that says, ‘Okay, you’re going to go to high school, go to college, go to graduate school, and then get an internship, and you’re not going to really be responsible till your late 20s,’ well then the brain will respond accordingly,” he said.

Whether the changes are positive or negative depends on the reasons for delaying adult activities, Siegel said.

If the delay is to make room for creative exploration and forming better social and emotional connections, it is a good thing, he said. But “if it’s fear-based, obviously that’s a concern.”

Among teenagers now, “there is a feeling you’re getting of, ‘Wow, the world is pretty serious, so why would I rush to immerse myself. . .Why don’t I stay with my friends and away from anything that has heavy consequences, like pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases?'”

Teenagers are also more conscious now about the possible repercussions of their actions, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families.

“They’re starting to realize, wow, they really do have to worry about their resumes,” she said. “They come in without the kind of reckless disregard of consequence that a more confident generation of kids had, who said, ‘I’ll drop out of school and join the peace movement, what the hell.'”

With fewer career paths available to those without a college degree, she said, young people can no longer afford that kind of nonchalance.

“They’re absorbing the same kind of anxiety about the future that their parents have for them.”

Chiara Power, 15, of San Juan Island, Washington, has no interest in dating, driving, working for pay or drinking alcohol – and the rising costs of college keep her up at night.

“I’m already panicking and having nightmares about the student loans that I’ll never escape, and I’m worried that I’m going to end up homeless,” she said.

Her parents try to assuage her fears. “They’re just like, ‘Dude, that’s not happening for the next three years, so chill. I can’t chill, I have no chill. …There’s just so many people saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to be hard when you get out there.'”

Her mother, Penelope Haskew, 45, feels mixed about her daughter’s preference for spending free time at home with her family.

“On the one hand, I know she’s safe, she’s not out getting pregnant or smoking pot or drinking or doing all kinds of risky stuff that I can imagine would be age appropriate,”she said. But Haskew wonders whether her daughter is missing out on life lessons those behaviors can teach. “Is that stuff necessary for human development, do you have to be risk-taking as a teenager in order to succeed as an adult?”

Still, she agreed with her daughter that the world seems more treacherous now than when she was a teen. “Climate change is super real and it’s obviously happening as we speak,” she said. “Maybe the scary things about being an adult are so much more concrete right now that it’s just safer to not become an adult.”

Hepatitis A outbreak hits Los Angeles after 2 cases confirmed


LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has a hepatitis A outbreak based on two “community-acquired” cases that cannot be traced back to San Diego or Santa Cruz counties, health officials reported Tuesday.

“We are in the situation of a hepatitis A outbreak as of this morning,” Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer told the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Most cases to date have been identified in patients who are homeless or drug users, but include workers at a health care facility working with those patients, the county director of public health said in a news conference.

Ferrer urged anyone working with individuals at high risk of contracting the disease — including health care providers, food-service workers and shelter employees — to get vaccinated.

CBS Los Angeles reports that San Diego County officials earlier this month declared a public health emergency because of the liver disease outbreak that has killed 16 people and hospitalized 300 more since November. Their homeless population has been hit the hardest.

In Santa Cruz County, at least 69 people have been diagnosed with hepatitis A amid a smaller outbreak that broke out in April, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

“The reason we’re particularly concerned (now) is because we have an outbreak in San Diego and we have an outbreak in Santa Cruz, and the contagion is in a population not easily contained,” said Dr. Sharon Balter, the chief of the department’s communicable disease control program.

The county typically sees about 40 to 60 cases of hepatitis A annually from the population at large, with a concentration often found among food-service workers. But those patients can be readily tracked and follow-up can be scheduled by phone or email, something that’s not possible when patients are living on the street.

The virus was identified in a street fruit vendor in Lancaster, LACDPH announced Sept. 4. Anyone who brought fruit from the vendor could have been exposed, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Hepatitis A is transmitted fecal-orally, person to person or through other items such as food, health officials said. Symptoms of acute hepatitis A include fever, malaise, dark urine, anorexia, nausea and abdominal discomfort, followed by jaundice.

County health officials emphasized Tuesday that getting the hepatitis A vaccine is the best protection. Children have been routinely vaccinated since 1999. But many adults lack protection against the virus.

“The safest thing you can do if you work with a high-risk population or if you are worried, is to get vaccinated,” Ferrer said.

A man wrestled a rattlesnake to show off. He was bitten in the face and nearly died. (LOL….)

Victor Pratt knows a thing or two about rattlesnakes, as he made clear to reporters last week, after regaining consciousness in a Phoenix hospital.

Always has. He played with rattlers all the time as a child, he told NBC News 12. Later on, he learned how to cook them.

“You cut the heads off. They taste just like chicken,” he said, a mic clipped to his hospital gown – a bit hard to understand because his face had swollen up.

Pratt even learned long ago what a rattler bite felt like, after a mishap as a teenager, though that of course could not compare to the incident Sept. 7, when he tried to re-create his childhood memories in his late 40s.

It was at his son’s birthday party near Coolidge, outside Phoenix, he told NBC 12. They were at a lake. A rattlesnake happened along, as snakes tend to.

“I showed them how to catch it and I was playing with it like little kids do,” Pratt told Fox 10.

“I was showing off,” he admitted. “Like I always do.”

The photos did look impressive, while the pose lasted: There was Pratt on his back in the dirt, with one end of the snake in each hand. There was Pratt on his feet, beside his son, wearing the snake like a scarf.

A close-up showed the snake’s fanged agape mouth, just inches from Pratt’s faded print T-shirt.

There might even have been a photo of Pratt cooking the snake, the Arizona Republic reported.

Except, not pictured, it got loose before that point in the party, and went right for Pratt’s face.

And now something else he knew about snakes crossed his mind: That the venom would spread within seconds.

“I kept my mind strong,” he told Fox 10. His sons drove him to a nearby emergency room, where a doctor quickly inserted a tube in his airway to keep him breathing as the poison swelled his flesh.

“There is a 100 percent chance he would have died if he’d not have made it to the hospital within minutes,” said Steven Curry, who directs the department of medical toxicology at Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix, where Pratt was airlifted later that day.

“The facial swelling is so immense that even your tongue and lips and the inside of your throat swell,” Curry said. “In simple terms, it would be strangulation.”

Pratt was sedated and in shock when Curry first saw him. He remained unconscious for several days, as doctors treated him with the first of what would eventually be 28 vials of antivenin.

Curry’s department sees about 70 snake bite patients each year, he said. And while facial bites are rare, men like Pratt who fancy themselves snake charmers are not.

“In my career, and I’ve been doing this for about 35 years or so, I’ve only seen one illegitimate snake bite in a woman,” he said, meaning a bite in which the victim saw the snake and didn’t try to escape.

“We find they are far too intelligent to go messing around.”

As for Pratt, he woke up from his sedation last week and entertained reporters while waiting to be discharged from the hospital, which was expected to happen Monday.

He struggled to get his words out through his bloated cheeks, but was not so proud that he couldn’t admit a deficiency in his lifelong knowledge of the snake.

“Think before you go out there and play with rattlesnakes,” he told Fox 10 late last week. “You might not make it next time.”

How Toys ‘R’ Us Collapsed So Quickly

Toys ‘‘R’’ Us Inc., which somehow managed to sustain a crushing debt load for more than a decade after its 2005 buyout, finally succumbed this week to a “dangerous game of dominoes” that toppled the retailer in a matter of days.

Until the past few weeks, markets had reflected little doubt that a rescue deal would get done before the crucial holiday shopping season, as Toys ‘‘R’’ Us negotiated to restructure about $400 million of borrowings due next year. But while creditors held out for a sweetened offer, people with knowledge of the matter said, the company started preparing for a possible Chapter 11 filing. That kicked off a chain of events that showed how quickly a retailer can buckle when key suppliers and creditors get spooked.

“The bankruptcy became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Hugh Ray, an attorney with McKool Smith in Houston. Credit managers and vendors “convinced each other it was a crisis, and the rumors fed on each other.”

The speed of their downfall was reflected in debt markets, where Toys ‘‘R’’ Us bonds that traded at almost par on Sept. 1 plunged to as low as 18 percent of face value this week. The upfront cost to insure $10 million of debt against default skyrocketed from about $300,000 on Sept. 5 to $2.5 million at the end of last week. By Monday, the eve of the bankruptcy filing, it was $7.7 million.

It’s not as if creditors weren’t well aware of troubles at Toys ‘‘R’’ Us. The Wayne, New Jersey-based company has operated for over 10 years with debt that now totals $5 billion and costs the chain around $400 million a year.

Scotch Tape

“They’ve been trying to hold it together with Elmer’s glue and Scotch tape,” said John Lekas, senior portfolio manager at Leader Capital Corp., with about $300 million of assets.

But now cash has run short and Toys ‘‘R’’ Us has fallen behind competitors, without the ability to invest in its business and future, Chief Executive Officer David Brandon said in a court declaration.

The company hired Lazard Ltd., Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Alvarez & Marsal to restructure, and by August it was talking with a group of its term loan lenders to give it more “liquidity and afford breathing room” that would take it through the key holiday season, according to the filing.

What ensued in the eyes of some creditors was a game of chicken, with the prospect of bankruptcy if the company and debt holders failed to reach an agreement, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

To investors, it looked like the company was trying to win concessions such as maturity extensions, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were confidential. Falling bond prices added pressure to negotiate rather see the value on their holdings evaporate, the people said. Creditors in turn demanded more of a stake in exchange for agreeing to take losses on their holdings and keep the company out of court, the people said.

Those talks went nowhere, and on top of that, the news of a potential court filing leaked on Sept. 6 on CNBC. This spooked suppliers, who would have some of the weakest claims in a bankruptcy case, and set off what Brandon in the court filing called a “dangerous game of dominoes.’

Within a week, almost 40 percent of the vendors were refusing to ship toys and other products without immediate cash payment and in some cases, payment of all outstanding obligations. The vendors faced pressure at their end, too, as their credit insurers and financing firms also withdrew.

Daunting Odds

The company had considered a debt extension, according to statements in bankruptcy court by David Kurtz of Lazard. But this would have left the retailer worse off, with too much debt and interest to pay and not enough resources to execute a turnaround, Kurtz said.

By the third week of August, it was apparent that the odds were heavily stacked against the company, and it shifted to preparations for a Chapter 11 filing, Kurtz told the court. The timing was rushed to avoid having to announce the failure to revise the 2018 notes in the September earnings statement, and the company would probably have to include a warning that its survival was in doubt, driving away trade creditors, Kurtz said.

By Brandon’s reckoning, “the timing of all this could not have been worse,” according to the court filing. The moves left Toys ‘‘R’’ Us needing an extra $1 billion of new liquidity as it heads for the holiday sales season, according to the filing.

“For Toys, it probably isn’t something that needed to happen as quickly as it did, but once the vendors got nervous, it became unavoidable,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Noel Hebert said. “Vendors remain the most critical piece for retailers, particularly those — like Toys — who already face tightened liquidity terms.”

Erdogan questions why U.S. has armed Syrian Kurdish ‘terrorists,’ disputes claims of dictatorship



JUDY WOODRUFF: Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister, and since 2014 as president, an office he has remade into the nation’s preeminent leader.

Turkey has been an ally of the U.S. for decades, but that alliance is now tense. A main source of division, U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, and its related organization, the PYD, which the U.S. is helping fight ISIS in Syria.

Both groups are allies of Erdogan’s sworn enemy in Turkey, the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group. There are also concerns about the state of Turkish democracy, in the wake of last year’s coup attempt. Erdogan says the FETO organization orchestrated it. That’s his term for a group run by a former ally, Fethullah Gulen. He lives in Pennsylvania, another source of tension with the U.S.

Erdogan spoke today at the U.N., and he will meet President Trump on Thursday.

I sat down late yesterday afternoon with him in New York for an exclusive interview.

President Erdogan, thank you very much for talking with us.

You’re here to speak to the United Nations and to an American audience.

What should the American people know about the state of Turkey-United States relations right now?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): Of course, Turkey’s relations with the United States date back to a long time in history.

We have been enjoying very serious relations throughout history within the framework of this strategic partnership. And all throughout the years, this process successfully sustained our strategic partnership, peaking within NATO.

We are together. We’re allies within NATO. And Turkey is one of the founding members of NATO. And the strategic partnership was then converted into a model partnership. And we have been enjoying the cooperation in that regard.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask this because there is some tension in the relationship right now. Just today, it’s reported that the Trump administration has decided not to allow the sale of guns and other weapons to your presidential guards.

Is this a problem? What does it say about the relationship between Turkey and the U.S.?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): This is a question that I will be talking about when I get together with President Trump on the 21st, and these are all rumors. There are no statements. And these rumors are not very healthy rumors.

I just want to address the audience and state the following openly. In Syria, the PYD terrorist organization is present, and the YPG is there as well. And they are extensions of the PKK separatist organization in Turkey. And we are all fighting these extensions of the PKK.

I know that the United States officially recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization. However, as long as that is the case, the PYD or YPG, which are extensions of the PKK, I don’t think it is the right move to fight Da’esh in Raqqa with those groups. That fight can be conducted with us.

But I think it’s wrong for the United States to fight terrorism with the YPG or PYD. This is something I have shared with the higher echelons of the United States. We need the fight these terrorists with the United States. And we are not able to acquire those weapons from the United States. Why are you giving weapons to those terrorists, is the question that we ask our friends in the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States, as you know very well, has been saying it depends on the Syrian Kurds to lead the fight, be an important part of the fight against ISIS.

So, are you saying, unless the U.S. stops working with the Syrian Kurds, that is a deal-breaker in the relationship between Turkey and the U.S., or is there some accommodation here possible?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Well, we shouldn’t mix one thing with another.

First and foremost, this issue has got nothing to do with Kurds. We’re just talking about terrorist organizations. Some of the Kurds in the northern parts of Syria are involved in terrorism. And they are to be called terrorists.

And some of them are moderate, and they have positive relations with Turkey, and they defend to maintain those positive relations via Turkey. Both of them shouldn’t be confused with another, or else we will have different interpretations of the issue in Turkey.

I want to highlight this fact, because we’re not against the Kurds. We are against the terrorist organization, and Kurds are our friends.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are saying that there is an accommodation possible.

After Raqqa falls, which many expect it to do, after ISIS is driven out of Raqqa, is there an agreement, an understanding between Turkey and the United States about who will be in charge and what role will the YPG play, will other groups play in that area, the Syrian Democratic Forces?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Whatever the stance we had embraced via the terrorist organizations on a global scale will be exactly the same views of the YPG. And especially the name Da’esh shouldn’t be confused with the others.

We are fighting Da’esh in a very committed fashion and very seriously. We have killed more than 3,000 Da’esh terrorists. But we are very saddened to see the following. We’re trying to eradicate one terrorist organization using another terrorist organization as a vessel.

Right now, the United States is working with the YPG in order to eradicate Da’esh. The United States is using YPG as the land forces to fight Da’esh. But, instead, we said we could be of help there. We are Turkey, and we could do that. Let’s walk hand in hand.

JUDY WOODRUFF: While we’re talking about the Kurds, next door, in Iraq, there could be a time in the near future when there is a separate Kurdish state. There will be a referendum, it appears.

Can Turkey live with an independent Kurdish state in Iraq?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Well, let me be very clear in my remarks.

First and foremost, since day one, we have always defended the territorial integrity of Iraq, even though nobody else seems to be doing the same. This referendum shouldn’t be conducted. How can we accept a referendum, as Turkey, when we have a border line of 350 kilometers of Iraq?

Iran doesn’t seem to agree. The federal state doesn’t seem to agree with the referendum, so how can you make a decision all by yourself as the northern part of Iraq? We do not accept this decision.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Syria. We were talking about Russia is a major player in Syria. Just last week, you announced a multibillion-dollar deal to buy surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Why? And is this a contravention of your commitment to NATO, which you’re a longtime member of?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter):We have asked for those weapons from many NATO allies, primarily the United States, but we were turned down.

That’s why we have to resort to other means, because these systems are very important in terms of our defense. We have had discussions and deliberations with Russia, and Russia is willing to support us all the way to a possible joint manufacturing of these missiles.

It’s quite natural for us to take decisions on our own self-defense mechanisms. The secretary-general of NATO officially declared that every country had the discretion to make up their own mind and take the necessary measures.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does this mean that you cannot rely on NATO for your defense? And NATO was partly created to defend against Russia, in opposition to Russia. So, is Turkey now closer to Russia or closer to NATO? Where do you place Turkey in that divide?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Turkey is a very powerful member of NATO. And why are you standing against such a member of NATO as Turkey? We’re going to pay for these weapons and acquire them.

But terrorists are being supplied these weapons free of charge; 3,000 trucks carrying these weapons were provided for these terrorists, and we, as a legitimate member, failed to acquire those weapons, and we had requested to acquire Predators or drones from the United States.

And, for many years, we have never received them. We were not supplied drones, but terrorists are being supplied all those drones and all those weapons. This is unacceptable, and we have to take care of ourselves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Turkey has for many years sought membership in the European Union. Are you still interested in joining?

And I say so because there has been a dispute recently. Chancellor Merkel of Germany has said this shouldn’t happen. Is Turkey still interested in being part of the E.U.?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Has the E.U. decided to admit Turkey as a full member? They should come up with a statement. Are they going to take us in or not? We are ready for everything and anything, so long as they tell us what they’re going to do.

We are very sincere, and we expect the exact same from the E.U., to be sincere. But I don’t know to what extent we will be able to tolerate this lingering on. But I think this can only be tolerated to a certain level, and after that threshold, I think Turkey will come to the point where we have to make our own decision.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the sources of tension, a great source of the tension between Turkey and the E.U., Turkey and the United States, has been the strength of the democracy in Turkey.

Your moves before and especially after the coup attempt in the summer of last year, many people in Turkey, in the government, in the military, in the journalism field, reporters, and others have either been — have either lost their jobs or have been imprisoned, in jail.

The question from the United States, from many in the U.S. and in Europe, is, is this the permanent course for Turkey, or is this temporary? You have said these people are terrorists, they were attempting to overthrow your government.

But many of them are schoolteachers, low-level government workers, news reporters. And I think it’s hard for people in the West to understand why you believe so many of them are terrorists.

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Why are you not calling terrorists what they are? That’s what I’m curious about. Call terrorists terrorists.

And, secondly, in our country, a terror act involving many individuals with the eventual goal of toppling the government is subject to legal measures to be taken against them, to which we’re committed to staying in the future, because these individuals have infiltrated into law enforcement, into the armed forces.

They were wearing their uniforms, but they had their terrorist agendas in their minds. And they have infiltrated into the police force, into the ministries of the state. There are many echelons within those institutions bearing titles, having different agendas.

All of these individuals are subject to prosecution. And their agendas are being identified as a result of the judicial process. The democracy is quite strong in Turkey. Looking at the number of votes cast throughout the elections, you will see that the turnout was around 80 to 85 percent, demonstrating that democracy is quite powerful in Turkey.

Tayyip Erdogan became the president of the Republic of Turkey with 52 percent of the public vote within the first round of the elections. I was elected as the president, and I’m being called a dictator. However many media outlets in the West, in the United States, I’m being defamed, and they are being very disrespectful.

We are receiving the full support of our people, and we are continuing down our path.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Under President Trump, this administration, there is — there have been charges filed against some of your presidential security detail because of an incident that happened in Washington last — this summer, when you were visiting, outside the residence of the ambassador.

You — you disagreed with these charges. You have said the U.S. judicial system is corrupt. Again, fundamental disagreement. Can you do — how can you get along with President Trump, how can you do business with President Trump when there is this fundamental disagreement over what happened that day?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): I’m very sorry about that.

Actually, President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue. He said that he was sorry, and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.

The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting. The police failed to intervene properly. And similar protests were seen around the White House as well when we were inside of the embassy residence. The protesters were very close to my car, to my vehicle.

The PKK terrorists and the FETO terrorists were protesting. These police officers were officers of the state, not the federal government, but they are in charge of maintaining safety around me and security. They failed to do that.

And, of course, that would be the moment when my personal security would come to my aid and make sure that everything was safe and secure around me.

I’m going to get together with President Trump on Thursday, and I’m going to talk about these developments in a very extensive fashion. I hope and pray that justice will be served as soon as possible, because I know that the United States is very sensitive in terms of judiciary and in terms of the rule of law and the legal aspects.

And there will be many other things that we will discuss with President Trump on Thursday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, President Erdogan, I understand that a number of — there are many Turkish nationals living now in the United States. I think over a million live here in this country.

Do you have a message for them? Have they made the right decision to live in the United States, to work here?

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): I hope and pray that the U.S. administration and the Turkish descendants will build a bridge between us, and they should sustain this relationship on and on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Erdogan, thank you very much for talking with us.

PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Thank you.

Melania Trump (White Slut, White Feminist, Dyke) billboard removed in Croatia after legal action threatened


A billboard showing first lady Melania Trump next to the phrase “just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English” was removed Tuesday in Croatia after Trump’s Slovenian lawyer threatened a lawsuit.

The billboards were advertisements for the English language school Američki Institut, but images Tuesday showed the signs blank.

Trump’s lawyer Natasa Pirc-Musar told the Associated Press that she was “satisfied with the fact that the school admitted that they violated the law and that they are ready to remove the billboards.” Pirc-Musar also said she was still considering other legal options.

School spokesperson Ivis Buric apologized for the billboards and said they were meant to be positive, the Associated Press reported. Buric also called the ads “very successful” because they attracted so much publicity and said the school plans to build more without Trump’s picture.

This is not the first time an image of the first lady has created a legal stir in Europe.

In November, Pirc-Musar issued a statement saying it was against Slovenian copyright law to use Trump’s face on billboards and items for sale, Politico reported. Many in Trump’s hometown of Sevnica were cashing in by using Trump’s face on their goods.

“Judicial practice in Slovenia is clear: the use of the name, surname and photo of someone for commercial purposes without approval is not allowed,” Pirc Musar told the Associated Press in December. However, no legal actions had been taken.

Mueller team’s focus on Manafort spans 11 years

Washington (CNN) Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is reaching back more than a decade in its investigation of Paul Manafort, a sign of the pressure Mueller is placing on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.

The FBI’s warrant for a July search of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia, home said the investigation centered on possible crimes committed as far back as January 2006, according to a source briefed on the investigation.
The broad time frame is the latest indication that Mueller’s team is going well beyond Russian meddling during the campaign as part of its investigation of Trump campaign associates. Manafort, who has been the subject of an FBI investigation for three years, has emerged as a focal point for Mueller.
The search, an unusually hard-nosed tactic in a probe that centers on possible tax and financial crimes, began before dawn as Manafort and his wife lay in bed, according to sources briefed on the matter.
FBI agents entered with guns drawn and insisted on searching Kathleen Manafort for weapons, a standard part of FBI searches but a jarring event for the Manaforts, the sources said.
Mueller’s team has warned Manafort that they are working to charge him with possible tax and financial crimes, the sources said, an indication the investigation could be in an advanced stage.
A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.
Manafort has previously denied financial wrongdoing regarding his Ukraine-related payments, his bank accounts in offshore tax shelters, and his various real estate transactions over the years.
Justice Department prosecutors concluded last year that there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges against Manafort or any of the other US subjects in the Ukraine probe, according to sources briefed on the investigation. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
Mueller’s team could be facing a deadline if they want to bring charges arising from older tax returns: The six-year statute of limitations for Manafort’s taxes filed in 2011 expires October 15. They already may be too late for the years prior to 2011.
But the government could have more time depending on the exact nature of the charges that it wants to bring.
The period mentioned in the search warrant covers much of the decade that Manafort worked as a consultant for Ukraine’s former ruling party. It’s that work, which extended beyond the ouster of the president, Viktor Yanukovych, amid street protests in 2014, that prompted the FBI’s interest in Manafort. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions was accused of corruption and the FBI sought to learn whether the American consultants hired by the Ukrainian party, which also included Mercury LLC and the Podesta Group, were involved. The Justice Department probe also looked into whether the US firms violated the federal law that requires registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Mueller’s office has subpoenaed reams of financial records from Manafort, in addition to the documents agents seized during the search, according to sources.
Investigators also have obtained Manafort’s notes from the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised to provide negative information on Hillary Clinton, the sources said.
Manafort, who attended with Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, wrote notes on his phone during the meeting.
The notes portray a meeting largely focused on a Russian lawyer’s complaints about investment fund manager William Browder and his role in pushing sanctions legislation to punish Russia. The Russian lawyer repeated claims that Browder made campaign donations to both parties as a way to pass a Russia sanctions law, according to sources briefed on the notes.
Manafort’s lawyers also turned over a one-page document containing the notes to Congress, which is investigating as well.
The notes are disjointed, the sources who have seen them said, and appear to focus on Russia’s frustration over a law passed in 2012 that led to frozen assets of powerful Russian officials.
Earlier news reports about the reference to political contributions in the notes have led to speculation that the meeting attended by Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner included a request for donations.
But people who have seen the notes say the reference is to political contributions that the Russian lawyer alleged Browder made.