R. Kelly, North Korea, Alex Trebek – 13 News Stories You Need to Know

Good evening, just a quick look at the week ahead and great stories you ought not to miss.

1. R. Kelly’s Explosive Interview

 

R&B singer R. Kelly appeared on CBS This Morning with Gayle King and gave an emotionally-charged interview, denying the aggravated sexual abuse charges against him. The 3-time Grammy award winning artist angrily defended himself and said the widely circulated claims that he sexually abused multiple women, including underage girls, are “rumors” and “not true.” Kelly has pleaded not guilty. The interview that aired Wednesday morning was explosive, with R. Kelly at times shouting, crying, and at one point, he stood up from his seat yelling and violently motioned his arms. Throughout the interview, he fiercely proclaimed his innocence and repeatedly denied accusations that he has had sex with anyone underage and refuted the assertion that he is holding women captive against their will. Kelly faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted on all charges. 

 

 

More R. Kelly

 

R. Kelly is back in police custody Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, Illinois, after being arrested at a court hearing for failure to pay $161,000 in unpaid child support. He was transferred to Cook County jail. He was out on a $100,000 bail over 10 charges of aggravated sexual abuse.

 

2. North Korea Missile Launch Sites

 

North Korea is reportedly rebuilding parts of a missile launch facility as recent satellite images appear to show activity at the site previously used to test long-range missile engines. The satellite images taken sometime within the last few weeks show the rebuilding of the launch pad and engine test stand at the Tongchang-ri satellite launch facility, according to analysts. This would mean that North Korea would have been rebuilding portions of the site either before, during, or after leader Kim Jong Un met with President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam. The new developments further threaten diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea, and appear to contradict North Korea’s prior commitment to cease missile development and testing. After President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in June 2018, reports indicated that North Korea began dismantling the site as part of a deal between the U.S. and South Korea. President Trump said if the reports are true, he would be “very disappointed.”

 

3. Alex Trebek’s Cancer Diagnosis

 

The longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, making the announcement in a video posted on the Jeopardy! YouTube channel. Trebek is reportedly planning to finish out the current season of the game show. In the video, Trebek said he learned of his diagnosis this week, but remained upbeat as he vowed to keep working and beat “the low survival rate statistics for this disease.” Alex Trebek, 78, has hosted the show since 1984 and previously discussed retiring; however, he later extended his contract through the 2021-2022 season.

 

4. Senator Martha McSally

 

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assault in the military, Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) revealed that she had been raped by a superior officer during her service in the Air Force. McSally was the first female fighter pilot to fly combat missions during her career that spanned 26 years in the Air Force before retiring as colonel in 2014. She told the committee that she did not report the crime at the time because she felt ashamed and did not trust the system. The Senator said she is dismayed by how the military and many of its commanders have failed to address the extensive issue of sexual misconduct and committed to finding solutions. McSally is a freshman senator who was appointed to her seat in December after her predecessor resigned.

 

5. Homeland Security Secretary Testifies

 

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, facing questions about the Trump administration’s controversial immigration and border policing policies. The hearing at times was contentious as Secretary Nielsen faced Democrats aimed at holding her accountable for the department’s family separation policy.

 

Highlights:
• Sec. Nielsen said she didn’t know how many children were in custody by Customs and Border Protection.
• She said no immigrant was deported without being given multiple “opportunities to take their children.”
• She defended Trump’s national emergency declaration over the border wall.
• Nielsen defended the “zero tolerance” policy that separated families after being caught illegally crossing the border.
• She claimed the family separation policy was not intended to be an immigration deterrent.
• Nielsen said the cybersecurity threat is likely the “highest threat” to the U.S.

 

6. FDA Approves New Drug to Treat Depression

 

The FDA has approved a new nasal spray drug that is aimed to treat depression in hours rather than weeks as was typical with previously available drugs. The newly approved esketamine drug will be marketed under the brand name Spravato and is designed to be used with a complimentary oral antidepressant. Spravato is developed by Johnson & Johnson and first grabbed headlines last month due to the drug being derived from the popular party drug ketamine, also known by the street name Special K, which causes hallucinogenic effects. Spravato is intended for use by patients who have not responded to other antidepressants Esketamine is the first fast-acting drug aimed to treat depression and the first FDA-approved depression-related drug since Prozac became available in 1988.

 

7. Federal Deficit

 

The federal government recorded a total deficit for the first four months of this budget year that is so far 77 percent higher than the same period last year. The budget year that began October 1, 2018, and ran through February totaled $310 billion, compared to $176 billion during the same time frame last year. The higher deficit is a result of lower tax revenue collected due to the 2017 tax cuts and increased spending in areas like defense, Social Security, and interest paid on the accruing national debt.

 

8. U.S. Journalist Detained in Venezuela

 

American journalist Cody Weddle and his assistant were detained by Venezuelan authorities for 12 hours after a raid was conducted by Venezuela’s counterintelligence service on his home in Caracas. Weddle has lived in Venezuela since June 2014 and has reported for WPLG Local 10 News in South Florida, The Miami Herald, ABC, and others as a freelance journalist. Weedle, 29, is a Virginia native and was reporting on opposition leader Juan Guaido’s return to Venezuela at the time he was taken into custody. He was released late Wednesday following his morning arrest, his mother said.

 

9. TripAdvisor Rape Claims

 

Popular travel website TripAdvisor is defending itself after individuals claim the company has not removed business listings where customers have reported incidents of sexual assault. According to The Guardian, two women were allegedly raped by employees of businesses featured on TripAdivsor.com. The travel company encouraged any person who experiences a “safety issue, including sexual assault,” write an account of the incident on its review platform to serve as a warning to other travelers of the potential danger. TripAdvisor also defended not removing the listing of businesses where individuals have encountered a health or safety threat saying, “it would be a disservice to the public to remove these listings, and therefore withhold valuable information.” In 2017, the company began posting notifications on certain listings where health or safety issues have been reported on an individual basis. TripAdvisor said it encourages travelers to conduct their own research both on and outside of the platform.

 

10. SnapChat Settlement

 

Snap Inc., the company behind social messaging app SnapChat, is facing criticism after the company reportedly paid additional benefits to women who claimed they were unfairly targeted in layoffs. According to the Wall Street Journal, three women Snap laid off last year received additional shares of stock and cash after they questioned the company about disproportionately letting go of women, compared to the number of men laid off. The company has repeatedly faced complaints of unfair treatment toward women and just last year, a former software engineer at Snap criticized its lack of diversity and “toxic” culture.

 

11. Trouble for Family Dollar



Many changes are ahead for the discount retailer Family Dollar as the company announced it plans to close 390 stores this year. Parent company Dollar Tree reported a $2.3 billion loss for the quarter as it attempts to revitalize the Family Dollar brand and increase same-store sales and profitability. The company announced it plans to renovate at least 1,000 stores in 2019, which will include new $1.00 Dollar Tree merchandise, expanded freezer sections, and alcoholic beverages. It will also rebrand approximately 200 Family Dollar stores to Dollar Tree. The company caters to lower income consumers with most of the store’s products under the $10 price point. The closure of nearly 400 stores is anticipated to put thousands of employees out of work. As of February 2, there are 8,236 Family Dollar stores and 7,001 Dollar Tree locations. In the fourth quarter, the company opened 143 stores while closing 84 Family Dollar stores and 10 Dollar Tree locations.

 

12. Volvo Sets Speed Limit

 

Volvo plans to cap the speed limit of all its vehicles to about 112 mph beginning in 2020. The company said the decision was made warn of the dangers of speeding amid high rates of deadly crashes in the U.S. Speeding accounted for over a quarter of car crash deaths in 2017, according to the NHTSA, and both safety advocates and automakers are looking at ways to increase safety on the road. In particular, Volvo has set an audacious goal of zero fatalities or serious injuries in its new vehicles by 2020 and plans to meet this target by introducing innovative safety features into its cars.

 

13. Bugatti Sells Most Expensive Car Ever

 

Bugatti has sold the most expensive new car ever, at an astounding price of $19 million to an unknown buyer. Bugatti’s newest model, La Voiture Noire was available at a pre-tax cost of $12.5 million but after taxes the vehicle came to $19 million, setting a record for the largest price tag on a new car. The luxury and high-performance car manufacturer is known for selling vehicles in the million-dollar price range; for example, Bugatti’s basic model, the Chiron, costs roughly $3 million. However, if you’re looking to purchase Bugatti’s latest model for $12.5 million, you’re out of luck as only one will be made.

 

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