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Southern California’s Thomas Fire Now Third Largest in State History 

A huge wildfire ravaging the area around Los Angeles has now been deemed the third largest in California history, with the damage eclipsing that from a devastating 2013 fire by more than 800 hectares (3 square miles). Emergency officials say 8,000 firefighters from a dozen states are in California to help battle the blazes, with helicopters and bulldozers to aid in the effort.  The cost of the firefighting operation is estimated at close to $89 million. Fire officials said Saturday that the Thomas Fire, which started December 4, had now…

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Florida Moves to Control Booming Iguana Population

With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has hired a trapper to try to control the iguana population on public land in the Florida Keys. It is also holding workshops to teach homeowners how to trap and ward off the reptiles, The Miami Herald reports . While the iguanas have been in Florida since the 1960s, FWC exotic species…

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UN Council Mulls Call for US Jerusalem Decision to Be Withdrawn

The U.N. Security Council, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is considering a draft resolution that would insist any decisions on the city’s status have no legal effect and must be rescinded. The one-page Egyptian-drafted text, which was circulated to the 15-member council Saturday and seen by Reuters, does not specifically mention the United States or Trump. Diplomats say it has broad support but will most likely be vetoed by Washington. Diplomats said the council could vote as early as Monday or Tuesday. A…

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Two Undocumented Teens Denied Abortions, ACLU Says

Two pregnant girls who arrived in the country as unaccompanied minors are suing the Trump administration for blocking them from obtaining abortions, the American Civil Liberties Union said. The two 17-year-olds are being detained in federal immigration centers, but the ACLU did not give a specific location Friday. “Both minors have asked their respective doctors and their shelters for an abortion, but to date,” the government has “not allowed them to access abortion,” the ACLU wrote. The judge overseeing the case has set a hearing for Monday. It is the same judge…

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Trump Set to Unveil First National Security Strategy

President Donald Trump is set to unveil on Monday his strategy to counter what he considers the most dire global threats to the United States. Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, gave a preview of the administration’s new national security policy on Tuesday at a conference hosted by the London-based policy research organization Policy Exchange. “Geopolitics are back and they are back with a vengeance,” McMaster told the audience. McMaster said Trump’s policy is driven by four key priorities: protecting the homeland, advancing and protecting U.S. prosperity, maintaining peace through…

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Trump Sells Republican Tax Bill to Job Seekers, Middle Class

U.S. President Donald Trump continued to tout the Republican tax bill Saturday, saying “everybody’s going to benefit” if it is signed into law. “But I think the greatest benefit is going to be for jobs and for the middle class, middle income,” Trump said to reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for the presidential Camp David retreat in Maryland. Republican Senate and House negotiators finalized a final version Friday of their compromise $1.5 trillion tax bill, after appeasing Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who demanded an expansion of…

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‘Transgender,’ ‘Science-based’ Now Reportedly Among Taboo Words at US Health Agency

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is reportedly banning a list of seven words or phrases in official documents, sparking a flood of reaction on social media platforms. Policy analysts at the CDC, based in Atlanta, Georgia, were told about the list of prohibited words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials, according to an unnamed analyst who attended the meeting as reported by The Washington Post newspaper. The banned words are “diversity,” “entitlement,” “evidence-based,” “fetus,” “science-based,” “transgender,” and “vulnerable.” The meeting was led by Alison Kelly, a top…

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Hollywood, Business Team Up to Combat Harassment, Advance Equality

Top entertainment and business executives have agreed to found and fund a Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. The new group was established at a meeting in Los Angeles convened by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Nike Foundation founder and co-chair Maria Eite, talent attorney Nina Shaw and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein. It was attended by the heads of nearly every major Hollywood studio. The establishment of the new group follows the recent avalanche of allegations about sexual misconduct and inequality in the entertainment industry. “The…

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Ukraine Foreign Minister: Russia Does Not Live in a Vacuum, Sanctions Are Effective

Ukraine’s foreign minister applauded decisions announced this week by Canada and the European Union (EU) as important in demonstrating the international community’s solidarity with Ukraine and sending a clear message to Russia. “Look, Russia does not live in a vacuum, sanctions are effective,” Pavlo Klimkin said Friday in an interview with VOA. EU Council President Donald Tusk announced Thursday that leaders of the organization’s 28 member states were “united on the rollover of economic sanctions on Russia.” The European Union’s sanctions post constraints for Russia’s access to the coveted EU…

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AP-NORC Polls: Americans Pessimistic About Trump, Country

President Donald Trump frequently casts his first year in office as a string of successes and campaign promises fulfilled. But less than a quarter of Americans think Trump has made good on the pledges he made to voters while running for president, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Among Republicans, just half say Trump has kept his promises, which included vows to overhaul his predecessor’s health care law, withdraw the United States from a nuclear accord with Iran and invest millions in…

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