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Tour company used by Otto Warmbier no longer taking Americans to North Korea

The company that organized the trip that took U.S. student Otto Warmbier to North Korea announced Monday that they would no longer take Americans to the Hermit Kingdom after the 22-year-old died, days after he was released back to his home country.

>> Read more trending news

“The devastating loss of Otto Warmbier's life has led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists,” the China-based Young Pioneer Tours company wrote on its Facebook page. “There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality and we have been struggling to process the result.”

Warmbier died Monday in Ohio, where he had been hospitalized since his June 13 release.

He had been detained in North Korea since January 2016, when he was arrested in Pyongyang for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor, according to NPR News.

He was medically evacuated last week and returned to the U.S. in a coma. North Korean officials said he became comatose after he was given a sleeping pill following a botulism diagnosis. Doctors with the University of Cincinnati Health system said last week that they found no evidence that Warmbier had suffered from botulism, but that his condition appeared to stem from a cardiopulmonary arrest.

>> Related: Doctors say Otto Warmbier has 'extensive loss of brain tissue' on return from N. Korea

“The way his detention was handled was appalling, and a tragedy like this must never be repeated,” officials with Young Pioneer Tours said Monday. “The assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high.”

Other high-profile tour operators who take travelers to North Korea also said this week that they are “reviewing” their policies regarding traveling Americans in the wake of Warmbier’s death, The Associated Press reported. Tour operators told the wire service that Americans account for about a fifth of all non-Chinese tourism to North Korea.

Australian PM downplays mocking Trump in off-the-record speech

Malcolm Turnbull downplayed a leaked video that showed the Australian prime minister mocking President Donald Trump during an off-the-record speech at a charity ball, Fox News reported.

>> Read more trending news

Turnbull, speaking at Parliament House, made fun of Trump and the Australian government’s poor showing in opinion polls. He later characterized the impersonation as “lighthearted and affectionate channeling,” Fox News reported.

In an animated performance, Turnbull told the audience that “Donald and I, we are winning and winning in the polls. We are winning so much. We are winning like we have never won before.”

“We are winning in the polls,” Trumbull continued. “We are, we are -- not the fake polls, not the fake polls -- they’re the ones we’re not winning in. We’re winning in the real polls, you know, the online polls. They are so easy to win.

“I have this Russian guy, believe me, it’s true, it’s true.”

Politics editor Laurie Oakes of 9News reportedly decided to reveal the contents of the video. “The idea of the Press Gallery Committee ... declaring it off the record is just ludicrous,” he told 9News.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said “We understand that last night’s event is equivalent to our White House Correspondents’ Dinner. We take this with the good humor that was intended.”

On Friday, Turnbull said the speech had to be seen in an Australian cultural context.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he told Fox News. “I don’t think it demonstrates that I’m up for ‘Saturday Night Live’ yet.”

John McCain says American leadership was better under Obama than Trump

Longtime Arizona senator, former Republican presidential candidate and foreign policy hawk Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., whose line of questioning during former FBI director James Comey’s testimony last week raised some eyebrows, has said in an interview with the Guardian that the U.S. was better off with Barack Obama as president "as far as American leadership is concerned."

“What do you think the message is? The message is that America doesn’t want to lead,” McCain replied to the news outlet, which described the senator as “visibly irked.”

>> Read more trending news

“[Other nations] are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica,” he added.

The response came to a question about President Donald Trump’s Twitter response to the London terror attacks, including his response to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and the world’s perception of it.

When asked if America’s status around the globe was better under Obama, McCain replied, “As far as American leadership is concerned, yes.”

The remark has caused a firestorm on social media.

McCain and Trump have been on-and-off feuding publicly for some time.

A few incidents that come to mind are Trump’s back and forth with the Khans — a Gold Star family — and McCain’s response; the president’s “I like people who weren’t captured” remark; McCain’s criticism of a deadly Yemen raid as a “failure.”

A hung Parliament — 5 things to know

A hung Parliament — where there is no overall winner — has happened six times in Great Britain, occurring in 1909, 1929, 1974, 2010 and 2017.

>> Read more trending news

Here are five things to know:

What is a hung Parliament?

When no political party wins more than half of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Lack of a majority can inhibit the government from passing legislation, and the party with the most seats often has to cobble a coalition to enact laws.

What’s next?

Prime Minister Theresa May, the head of the Conservative Party, will get the first shot at putting together a government. She will present a formal program, also known as the Queen’s Speech. She can form a coalition with one or more parties, or try to govern through a “confidence and supply” arrangement, in which laws are passed in return for concessions.  May said Friday she would be meeting with Queen Elizabeth II to form a government.

Who might support the Conservatives?

The Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland is the most likely candidate. The DUP is projected to win 10 seats, while Conservatives have been tabbed to win 319 once all the votes are counted. That would give May and the Conservatives a working majority.

If the Conservatives cannot form a government, what happens?

If May is unable to put together a coalition, Queen Elizabeth II could ask the Labour Party, which is the main opposition political party, to try and form a government.

Neither party is able to form a government. Now what?

New elections will be called.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

 

Japan passes law that would allow emperor to abdicate

Japan’s parliament passed a historic bill Friday that would allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate and pave the way for the accession of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

The legislation permits the first abdication by a Japanese monarch since Emperor Kokaku in 1817 during the latter part of the Edo Period, CNN reported. The royal male line in Japan is unbroken, records show, for at least 14 centuries.

Akihito, 83, who has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, said last year he feared age might make it difficult for him to continue to fulfill his duties, Reuters reported.

Akihito is the first Japanese emperor who was never considered divine. He has worked for decades to soothe the wounds of World War II, fought in the name of his father, Hirohito. Akihito will be succeeded by Naruhito, 57, the eldest of his three children, probably next year, Reuters reported.

"Abdication will take place for the first time in 200 years, reminding me once again of how important an issue this is for the foundation of our nation, its long history, and its future," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

"In essence, the emperor is resigning, which I feel was an issue of personal thought," said Masayoshi Matsumoto, a 47-year-old animator.

The law applies only to Akihito and not to future emperors, Reuters reported.

May forms government after UK election ends in hung Parliament

Great Britain’s general election ended in a hung Parliament on Friday, but Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to stay on as prime minister and will receive support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to form a government, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

After meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, May said Friday the new government will guide Britain’s exit talks from the European Union, which will begin in 10 days.

May’s Conservative Party failed to achieve a majority in Thursday’s election, the BBC reported.

British voters dealt May a devastating blow, denying her the stronger mandate she had sought to conduct Brexit talks, Reuters reported. A Labour victory in Southampton made a Conservative majority now mathematically impossible, CNN reported. After the results of 633 seats were declared, Conservatives had won 308 of them and therefore were no longer able to surpass 326 — the number needed to claim a majority in the Great Britain’s 650-seat Parliament.

May said after the results were posted that she would not resign, although her Labour rival, Jeremy Corbyn, said she should step down, Reuters reported. 

"At this time, more than anything else this country needs a period of stability," May said after winning her own parliamentary seat of Maidenhead, near London.

"If ... the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do,” May said.

The victory was a technical one for May and her party, but also was a major personal setback for the prime minister. At least one Conservative member of Parliament will lose a seat in an election campaign that did not have to happen for three years, CNN reported.

Sen. Mark Warner: Russian hacking 'much broader' than previously reported, ongoing

Hacking efforts aimed at influencing the November presidential election by Russian military intelligence officials were more widespread than previously reported and are ongoing, according to the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

>> Read more trending news

In an interview with USA Today, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said he has been pushing for intelligence agencies to declassify the names of states recently targeted by Russian hackers before 2018, when voters will go to the polls for midterm elections.

“I don’t believe they got into changing actual voting outcomes,” Warner told USA Today. “But the extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far. … None of these actions from the Russians stopped on Election Day.”

>> Related: FBI arrests NSA contractor for leaking top secret report to press

Warner’s comments came in the wake of a report from The Intercept that detailed a top-secret National Security Agency analysis of Russian attempts to meddle in the election. The Justice Department on Monday announced that federal contractor Reality Winner, 25, had been arrested and charged in connection with the leak.

>> Related: What is The Intercept, the website that published leaked NSA report?

In the analysis, the NSA said Russian military intelligence “executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials” in the run-up to the election, The Intercept reported.

>> Related: What is spear-phishing, Russia’s alleged voter hacking technique?

Warner told USA Today that despite the attempted hacks, Russia was unable to change voting outcomes.

The Kremlin on Tuesday denied involvement in the reported cyberattacks.

U.S. intelligence officials said in January with “high confidence” that Russia meddled in the November election in favor of President Donald Trump. The report sparked worries of collusion between Trump and his advisers and Russian officials. Authorities have not provided any evidence that they worked together.

CNN 'Believer' host Reza Aslan calls Trump 'embarrassment to humankind' over London tweet

UPDATE: Aslan has taken down the tweet and issued the following apology:

ORIGINAL STORY: The host of a CNN documentary series about spirituality is making headlines over his heated reaction to President Donald Trump's response to Saturday's deadly terrorist attacks in London.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan, host of "Believer," took to social media after Trump tweeted following the London attacks in support of his controversial travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations.

>> Read more trending news

"We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!" Trump wrote Saturday evening before posting a separate tweet expressing solidarity with and offering help to the United Kingdom.

Aslan, who is Muslim, tweeted in response to Trump's first message: "This piece of [expletive] is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He's an embarrassment to humankind."

>> Trump tweets ‘ We need the travel ban’ amid reports of London terror attack

Minutes later, Aslan called Trump a "man baby that must be ignored in times of crisis" after NBC News posted that Trump had tweeted unconfirmed information about the attack.

>> London Bridge terror attacks: What we know

Aslan soon became a trending topic on social media, drawing ire from conservative pundits and outlets such as Breitbart.

Cities, states, businesses pledge commitment to Paris climate pact despite U.S. withdrawal

More than 100 businesses, dozens of colleges, 10 states and 83 city mayors announced plans Thursday to continue working toward the goals of the Paris Agreement despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the climate pact, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Headed by billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that it would commit as much as $15 million to support United National Framework Convention on Climate Change and, in particular, the Paris Agreement. The figure represents the U.S. commitment to the climate agreement.

Bloomberg said he is also organizing an effort to have a group of mayors, governors, university presidents and businesses added on to the Paris climate deal.

“Americans are not walking away from the Paris climate agreement,” Bloomberg said. “Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up – and there isn’t anything Washington can do to stop us.”

>> Related: What is the Paris Climate Agreement? 9 things to know

It was not immediately clear how such an idea would be presented to U.N. officials. Christiana Figueres, who served as executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change until 2016, told The New York Times that “there was currently no formal mechanism for entities that were not countries to be full parties to the Parris accord.”

In a letter signed by 83 mayors who collectively represent 40 million Americans, cities pledged to "adopt, honor and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement."

>> Related: Trump withdraws US from Paris climate accord

The letter’s signatories included the mayors of Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Austin, Texas, and Orlando, Florida.

"If the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks,” said the letter. “The world cannot wait — and neither will we."

>> Related: EPA, Hillary Clinton, world leaders react to U.S. withdrawal from Paris Climate Deal 

The governors of three states, California, Washington and New York, on Thursday announced the creation of an alliance aimed at connecting states “committed to taking aggressive action on climate change.”

In addition to the United States Climate Alliance, seven other states pledged continued support for the agreement, CNN reported.

>> Related: The Weather Channel reacts to end of Paris climate agreement

Trump announced plans Thursday to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and seek a new deal on climate change, arguing the accord hurt American businesses and was unfair to taxpayers.

The deal, signed by former President Barack Obama and the leaders of 195 other nations, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

Trump withdraws US from Paris climate accord

UPDATE: President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate accord. The decision was announced Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden.

Trump said he is willing to negotiate a new agreement that is fair to America. 

Read the original story below.

President Donald Trump plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, Axios and other media outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.

Fox News and CBS News soon aired similar reports.

>> Read more trending news

In a tweet Wednesday morning, the president said only that he will announce his decision on whether to withdraw “over the next few days.”

"Pulling out of Paris is the biggest thing Trump could do to unravel (former President Barack) Obama's climate legacy," Axios' Jonathan Swan wrote early Wednesday. "It sends a combative signal to the rest of the world that America doesn't prioritize climate change and threatens to unravel the ambition of the entire deal."

A White House official, who was not identified, told The Associated Press that there might be “caveats in the language” the president uses to withdraw from the agreement, “leaving open the possibility that the decision isn’t final.”

Trump promised to pull the U.S. out of the climate agreement during his presidential campaign, arguing that it was bad for American businesses.

“This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America,” Trump said during a speech last May. “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”

Trump tweeted Saturday that he would make his "final decision" on whether to keep the U.S. in the climate agreement this week.

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