Trump Asked Comey To Shut Down Flynn Investigation

Then-FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the FBI on Capitol Hill on May 3.

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Updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

President Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to close down the agency’s investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn just one day after Flynn was let go.

An associate of Comey’s who is familiar with the matter confirms that the former FBI director memorialized the conversation with Trump in a memo he wrote immediately after their Oval Office conversation on February 14. The news was first reported by the New York Times.

Comey — who was fired one week ago by Trump amid the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia — wrote in the February memo that Trump asked for the investigation of Flynn to go away — to which Comey gave a non-response response. Then he left and wrote detailed notes, according to the source.

“It was an ask” not a command, the source said. A small number of FBI agents were made aware of the memo and the conversation, and agents kept working on the investigation.

A second Comey associate told NPR that Comey wrote notes for his files after several conversations with Trump.

“He was concerned,” the second source said.

“‘I hope you can let this go,'” Trump told Comey of the Flynn investigation, the same source said.

Flynn was fired on February 13 after it was revealed he had misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak about U.S. sanctions recently imposed on Russia; Flynn had been speaking with Kislyak during the transition period between Election Day and Trump’s inauguration.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was also fired by Trump after she refused to defend his travel ban, testified last week before Congress that she had told the White House more than two weeks before Flynn was asked to resign that he had been “compromised with respect to the Russians” because he had misled Pence.

A White House official denied The Times’ report in a statement:

While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn. The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey.

The FBI has no comment on The New York Times story.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who took over last week after Comey was fired, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”

Comey has a history of memorializing controversial conversations and issues — he did so during the George W. Bush administration, where he served as deputy attorney general, with respect to those controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA on terror detainees in the wake of 9/11. He sent memos to his chief of staff that surfaced years later in TheTimes.

Trump fired Comey last week, with the White House initially claiming it was because of a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that concluded Comey had mishandled the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

But Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt days later that he was going to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s memo, and that is was, indeed, in part, because of the ongoing Russia investigation, which Trump has dismissed as a “hoax.”

“When I decided to just do it [fire Comey],” Trump told Holt. “I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.

— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) May 16, 2017

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Tuesday he intends to subpoena the FBI for the reported Comey memo.

Democrats immediately pounced on The Times’ report and called on their GOP colleagues to push for the truth from the White House.

“Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor shortly after the Times story broke. “The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching.”

“If these reports are true, the President’s brazen attempt to shut down the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy. At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement.

Geoff Bennett contributed to this report.

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Female Broadcaster Set To Make NFL History

Announcer Beth Mowins walks on the field before a 2015 NFL preseason football game between the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams in Oakland, Calif.

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Play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins is set to become the first-ever female broadcaster to call an NFL game televised nationally.

A commentator for ESPN since 1994, she’ll call the Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos game in ESPN’s opening Monday Night Football doubleheader on Sept. 11. Former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan will join her.

“Beth has been an important voice in our college sports coverage and she has experience calling NFL preseason games. She deserves this opportunity,” Stephanie Druley, ESPN events and studio production senior vice president, said in a statement. “ESPN is committed to putting talented women in high-profile positions and we look forward to Beth and Rex’s call of this game on our MNF opening night.”

Mowins “typically does play-by-play at the college level for women’s sports, but has plenty of experience calling college football games,” writes SBNation. She has also called Oakland Raiders preseason games since 2015, and recently signed a multiyear extension with ESPN.

“This is an amazing opportunity and I look forward to working with Rex and our entire ESPN team. As lifelong fans of the NFL Monday Night Football franchise, we want to bring the same passion to the broadcast as our predecessors have all done,” Mowins said in a statement.

She is not the first woman to call an NFL regular season game. That was Gayle Sierens, who in 1987 called a regional NBC broadcast of a Seahawks-Chiefs game.

Sierens received “generally good reviews” and was offered a six-game contract for the following season, according to The New York Times.

But she told the newspaper that “the management at her local NBC station did not want her to call more games the next season. They made it clear that she had a choice: work for NBC, essentially part time, or continue as a full-time news anchor.” Sierens chose the latter, and had a long and successful career as a news anchor at WFLA-TV in Tampa.

Thirty years then passed before ESPN announced Mowins’ assignment.

Why did it take three decades? As Sports Illustrated wrote last year:

“Between all of the NFL rightsholders—CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC, and the NFL Network—there are around 20 spots for play-by-play broadcasters every year. Given a woman has never ascended to even one of the lower-level teams on the networks with multiple broadcast teams (such as CBS and Fox), the implicit message to women who want to enter sports broadcasting is that this job is not for you.”

49ers radio announcer Kate Scott told the magazine that there’s “no pipeline” for women who want to be play-by-play announcers, because there have been so few examples, despite a larger number of women working as sideline reporters.

Sierens called Mowins the “perfect person to carry the torch” in an interview with the New York Daily News. Here’s more:

“This is a woman who is as prepared as anyone, so much more prepared than I was to wear that crown as the first. She is the real deal. There’s no publicity stunt, this is not something somebody’s doing for ratings. They’re doing this because she knows her stuff inside out, and she will be fabulous when she does this game.”

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How Many Teenagers Die Each Day … And Why

The world loses about 3,000 adolescents each day. That adds up to 1.2 million deaths a year. And with a bit more investment, the majority of those deaths can be prevented, according to a global study released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization.

That’s far fewer than the 16,000 babies and children under 5 who die each day. But the WHO report points out that while many programs around the world are dedicated to improving infant mortality, very few programs address for the needs of vulnerable tweens and teens.

We interviewed WHO epidemiologist Kate Strong — one of the study authors — to learn more about those needs, and what it will take to meet them.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us why WHO has released this report now?

Adolescent health has really been overlooked. We’ve had a big focus on newborn and child health, but it’s only within the last decade that we’ve begun to focus on this particular age group.

Maybe it’s not a conscious thought, but the thought [in the global health world] was once you make it past five, you’re pretty much going to have a healthy and long life.

Adolescence is actually a time period when a lot of physiological and mental changes happen, and many of these changes make adolescents particularly vulnerable.

Teen girls in many parts of the world, for example, are especially vulnerable to complications during pregnancy because their bodies are still developing.

Adolescents also seem especially vulnerable to mental health issues compared to other age groups. Self-harm is a leading cause of death. And the report also found that this age group has high rates of depression and anxiety disorders.

Shifting hormones, as well as adolescents’ shifting roles and responsibilities in society, can cause a lot of stress, strain and anxiety.

That’s why the more information we have about mental health for adolescents, parents and teachers, the better. They need to know that help is available and where they can get that help.

There have been a lot of countries that have made very specific interventions in terms of adolescent mental health that we’ve included as case studies in the report.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s school mental health promotion project is aimed at improving students’ self-esteem and reducing fear of exams. That program started on a small level in one community and was scaled up to a national level.

New Zealand has also taken steps with a program to reduce suicide among Maori youth.

Can you break down some of the stats in this report for us? For example, I was surprised to learn that drowning was a leading issue among adolescent boys.

While I can’t comment on the specifics of why certain illnesses and injuries affect certain groups more, the report does suggest that in many communities kids just aren’t taught how to swim. And that can be easily fixed.

Were you surprised by any of the figures in this report?

I will say, I was really struck by the rates of HIV and infectious diseases, which account for about a quarter of adolescent deaths in Africa. The same goes for pneumonia, a leading cause of death for younger adolescent girls in that region. These deaths are entirely preventable.

To encourage young teens to think about risks to their health, WHO created a comic book starring two youngsters called Akilah and Carlos and their imaginary friend (a parrot called Miss P). They help their friend hurts himself while climbing a tree, get to the local health clinic. And they help a classmate who’s depressed find a counselor. And you consulted with kids about the comic book. Why?

With adults when we do interventions we always ask them what they think and what they would be comfortable with.

We need to have those same conversations with adolescents. They can be and they should be part of the solution.

Maanvi Singh is a freelance writer based in London. Contact her @maanvisings

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Why Are Kids Sitting At Their Desks In The Middle Of The Road?

Students placed their desks across the road, blocking morning rush hour traffic.

Moses Muoki/Kenya’s Capital News

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Moses Muoki/Kenya’s Capital News

Some schoolkids might be happy if their school were knocked down.

Not in Nairobi.

On May 15, a group of primary school students sat at desks in the center of a main road to block traffic. Along with their parents, they were protesting the demolition of their school, the Kenyatta Golf Course Academy, over the weekend.

According to a BBC article, the schoolchildren chanted: “We want our school, we need to study in school.

The reason for the demolition was a bit hard to pin down. Foreign Policy writes: “It appears the school was destroyed without any prior warning to parents — who had already paid their children’s tuition for the year. The school was on land that belonged to a church, and the school was destroyed without warning on Saturday over a land dispute, though exact details of the dispute weren’t made immediately clear.”

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“The demonstration ended peacefully,” the BBC notes — a marked contrast to a demonstration by schoolchildren in Nairobi in 2015. Those youngsters were protesting the fact that their playground had been sold to a developer. At that time, says the BBC, “police fired teargas to disperse protesting schoolchildren.”

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Canada academic's Sean Spicer cutouts sprout in bushes across North America

Cardboard cutouts of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in bushes are popping up all over North America, inspired by a British Columbia academic who kicked off the craze in her home town of Victoria.

Spicer, known for his often combative press briefings with journalists, was mocked worldwide last week after a Washington Post article described him huddling near bushes in the White House grounds as reporters waited to ask questions about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

That story was later updated to clarify Spicer was “among” the bushes, not “in” the bushes.

The incident prompted British Columbia academic Lisa Kadonaga to come up with “Garden Spicer,” a blown-up photo of the press secretary’s head that she stuck in bushes near her home and then uploaded to Dropbox.

Her post on Facebook has been shared more than 110,000 times and Dropbox reportedly struggled with the volume of traffic as people rushed to download the image.

“Now you too can have the White House press secretary in — or rather, ‘among’* — the bushes in your yard,” Kadonaga wrote on her Facebook page. “And hey, if you’re concerned that when exposed to the outdoors, the image will run…. no worries, that’s exactly what Sean Spicer does, so it’s totally authentic!”

Images on Twitter show “Garden Spicer” appearing in dozens of locations, including Washington DC, across British Columbia and outside Universal Studios in Florida.

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Why Are Americans Drinking Less Cow's Milk? Its Appeal Has Curdled

glass of milk

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When’s the last time you had a glass of cow’s milk?

Americans are drinking a lot less milk than they used to. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the average person drinks 18 gallons a year. Back in the 1970s it was more like 30 gallons a year. We once hoisted a glass with dinner, soaked our breakfast cereal or dipped into the occasional milkshake. This habitual milk drinking was no accident.

It started in the 1800s, when Americans moved from farms to cities. “First, you had to have the rise of milk trains that would bring milk from the countryside. That milk was refrigerated with ice,” says Melanie DuPuis, a professor at Pace University and author of Nature’s Perfect Food: How Milk Became America’s Drink.

Before that, she says, milk was not a reliable source of nutrition for city dwellers. Nor was it all that safe. In the 1850s there was a major scandal in New York after thousands of babies died from drinking swill milk — the stuff that came from sickly cows, animals fed from the waste of city grain-alcohol distilleries.

This led to reformers calling for safe milk. At the same time, rural and upstate dairy farmers wanted customers. A political bargain was born. “We are going to make this deal, where we’re going to feed those children and enable them to get enough nutrition through this thing that the nutritionists were calling a protective food,” says DuPuis. “That will enable your farmers and your farm regions to have a vibrant economy.”

Milk get its healthy halo

DuPuis says early-20th century nutritionists mounted studies to better understand the health benefits of milk. For instance, they’d feed dairy products or vegetable oil to rats or dogs, and then they’d measure the results.

This 1940s poster from public health agencies promotes drinking cow’s milk for “food” and “energy.”


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Library of Congress

“These rats that had dairy products would be sleek and healthy-looking and larger, and the other animals would look scrawny and unhealthy,” adds DuPuis. Groups that represented milk interests embraced the research and infused their advertisements with glowing claims about milk’s health benefits.

By the mid-20th century, Americans were told to drink two to three glasses of milk a day. And for generations, we did. Dairy companies like Borden boomed. Dairy industry marketing? That was the stuff of legend.

But by the time the famous ’90s-era “Got Milk” advertising campaign hit the airwaves and pages of magazines, liquid milk sales were already on the decline.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of Food Politics, points to the 1970s as a time when new research raised questions about milk’s effectiveness in preventing osteoporosis.

“Milk is the perfect food – for calves,” Nestle says. “There is no question about that. But for humans, it may not be. And it may not be necessary, and there is plenty of evidence that it isn’t necessary.”

The key word there is necessary. Nestle says if you want to drink cow’s milk, go ahead — it’s still a healthy and nutritious option. The problem for the dairy industry is that it’s no longer the only beverage option with a health halo. Juice makers offer calcium and Vitamin D-fortified drinks. Dairy-free diets are widespread. The lactose intolerant no longer believe they need milk to have a complete diet.

Meanwhile, the political debate over how dairy cows were raised also became a factor. The genetically modified growth hormone that was fed to cows to increase dairy production became a major consumer turnoff, says Nestle. “That’s why it’s not being used that much anymore.”

Nestle says the animal rights movement that led many people to become vegetarians or vegans also contributed to the long-term decline in cow’s milk consumption.

More choices for kids — and moms

But the biggest hit to milk drinking in the U.S. may have come from teens and the youngest dairy consumers, kids ages 2 to 8.

That’s what keeps Julia Kadison up at night. Kadison is the chief executive officer at MilkPep – The Milk Processor Education Program. “What’s going on with that decline in the young kids really has a lot to do with their gatekeeper moms, “she explains. Kadison says her group believes moms are still the key decision makers when it comes to what kids are drinking. With moms choosing alternative milks – soy, almond, coconut and the like — kids are embracing those options as well.

“Now there’s so much choice in the marketplace,” Kadison says. “You have all kinds of different waters and sports beverages and energy drinks, so there’s just a lot of choice out there. It’s a culture of choice.”

Kadison points to the fact that sales for dairy in other forms are still doing well – a fact she attributes to simple innovations like changes in packaging.

“When you go to the yogurt aisle, you will see, probably, depending on the store, half or 40 percent of that is dedicated to kid’s products,” Kadison explains. “There are all kinds of flavors, there are all kinds of packages, and I am sorry to say but in the milk category that has not been the case. It’s like carton or jug, basically. “

What’s more, plant-based milks have been steadily gaining ground. According to Nielsen’s, almond milk, for instance, has seen sales grow 250 percent over the past five years.

Milk drinking has always been in part about habit and marketing, and milk alternatives capitalize on both.

Even using the word “milk” has become a source of controversy. “What would you call it? Almond slurry?” asks Nestle. “They are deliberately marketing them as a substitute for cow’s milk, and it’s very successful: More and more people are using those products.” As a result, lawmakers from dairy states earlier this year called on the Food and Drug Administration to better enforce rules on what is labeled “milk.”

Despite the decades-long decline, the dairy industry thinks it can boost milk consumption. The industry still managed to ring up more than $14 billion in North American sales in 2013. Alternative milks sell a fraction of that. There are also some positive trends for the industry — foodies embracing organic whole milk again; athletes taking to chocolate milk as a recovery drink.

But Marion Nestle still has her doubts. “The dairy industry has a lot of public relations that it is going to need to do to convince the public that it is producing a product that is healthy, good for animals, good for people and good for the planet.”

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Pet Rat In Vancouver Overdoses On Heroin, Saved By Narcan

This is what snuggles looked like when she came in to our overdose Prevention Site #vanpolipic.twitter.com/9Osv4HSSjO

— sarah blyth (@sarahblyth) May 15, 2017

Volunteers at an overdose prevention site in Vancouver, Canada, say they saved the life of a rat named Snuggles after the little rodent overdosed on heroin.

Sarah Blyth, who co-founded the organization behind the prevention site, wrote about the rescue on Twitter. While Snuggles was initially described as a mouse, Blyth tells NPR that the pet is actually a rat.

She posted photos of Snuggles before and after volunteers administered nalaxone, also known as Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Blyth also said Snuggles now “has a new home.”

The CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, had some questions. They spoke with the woman who saved Snuggles’ life, Melissa Patton.

This is what snuggles looked like after she responded to narcan treatment #vanpolipic.twitter.com/HFYzIJB77H

— sarah blyth (@sarahblyth) May 15, 2017

She said the pet was brought in on Sunday night by a woman who said it had eaten heroin off a table, the CBC reports:

” ‘It had pretty much passed out and wasn’t really breathing. We weren’t sure what to do, so I gave it some Narcan orally. Because it was so tiny, I didn’t want to puncture anything by giving it an injection.’

” ‘I just put drops on its nose. I know with animals, if you put it on their nose, they brush it off with their paws and lick their paws to clean themselves, so we did that a few times.’ …

“Patton, who is a year away from earning a degree in pharmaceutical sciences, also gave the [rat] oxygen and continued to monitor it through the night.”

Patton fed Snuggles with a syringe and kept the animal warm against her neck, the broadcaster reports.

Then the woman who brought Snuggles in — who is now seeking treatment for addiction — asked Patton to take care of Snuggles.

“How could I not?” Patton told the CBC.

Blythe, who originally tweeted about the story, told the Vancouver Sun that Snuggles is “very, very cuddly.”

She said the staff at the overdose prevention site are “willing to help anybody.”

Pets that consume drugs can overdose, just like humans; police officers and veterinarians in the U.S. have saved the lives of multiple pet dogs and cats that accidentally consumed heroin.

Narcan is being made available for use in a growing number of places that are struggling with the opioid epidemic. It’s not a cure-all for the crisis, but it saves lives.

In 2014, NPR’s Shots blog described how the drug works, and challenges to its implementation:

“Naloxone is a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose of heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin and other opioids. The drug blocks the physical effects of opioids — ending the high, and stopping the depression of the respiratory system that can be their deadly side effect. …

“It’s a prescription drug, but one you don’t take yourself. And you don’t know ahead of time which person — friend, family or stranger — you might need to give it to. To allow people other than doctors and paramedics access to the Narcan kits, states need to pass specific laws.

Some states voted down bills that would broaden access to naloxone this year. But others passed new laws. Police in at least 20 states are now equipped with overdose reversal kits. Thousands more cops across New York started carrying Narcan in 2014, and a state law that was passed this summer made it easier to distribute Narcan to laypeople who believe someone close to them is at risk of overdose.”

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