Posts tagged with "NBC News"

Lt. Colonel Vindman testifies: ‘I did this out of a sense of duty’

November 20, 2019

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman—the principal White House adviser on Ukraine to the national security staff and the to the president—said in his opening statement in the impeachment inquiry on November 19 that he “was concerned” as he personally listened to President Donald Trump phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.

As he sat in the Situation Room along with White House colleagues and heard firsthand the conversation between the two leaders, Vindman told the House Intelligence Committee, “…what I heard was improper.”

He clarified, “It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that, if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support; undermine U.S. national security; and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”

He said he never expected to testify about the president’s words and actions, but he did so out of a “sense of duty.”

Indeed, according to a report by NBC News—which obtained a copy of the opening statement and posted it—Vindman’s account is significant because Republicans have attempted to paint previous witnesses as unreliable given their second- or third-hand knowledge about the pressure campaign. Vindman said that he witnessed EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland ask Ukrainian officials to open the investigation in order to get the aid — a meeting then-national security adviser John Bolton cut short. He also said that the July 25 call was “inappropriate” and he reported his concerns immediately

What’s more, he noted, he continued to support the foreign policy objectives of the administration, even after he reported his concerns—both on July 10 about Ambassador Sondland’s message detailing what was expected from Ukraine in return for the nearly $400 million in military aid—and on July 25 about the president’s dialog with Zelensky.

“When I reported my concerns,” Lt. Colonel Vindman said, “my only thought was to act property and to carry out duty. Following each of my reports [to National Security Council attorney John Eisenberg, who placed the transcript of the phone call on a classified server]… I immediately returned to work to advance the President’s and our country’s foreign policy objectives. I focused on what I have done throughout my career, promoting America’s national security interests.”

NBC News reported that Vindman —whose loyalty to the United States has come under attack from some in conservative media—excoriated the “reprehensible” and “cowardly” attacks on career foreign service officers and others who have appeared or were expected to do so, saying they do this work out of patriotism and not partisanship.

In a powerful close, Vindman thanked his father for deciding to emigrate to America from Ukraine, saying his testimony was proof it was the right decision. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said looking into the camera directly at his dad.

Research contact: @NBCNews

NBC News: Chances are slim that Supreme Court will halt handover of Trump’s tax returns

November 6, 2019

President Donald Trump will face strong pushback when he asks the Supreme Court to stop New York prosecutors from getting his tax returns, according to a report by NBC News.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed that he would be willing to hand over his business’ tax returns, but that he was unable to do so, because they were then “under audit.” Now, the explanation for suppressing the filings has changed, but the basic message is the same: Hands off!

Trump’s lawyers have fought back, according to NBC News, arguing that because a sitting president cannot be indicted, he likewise cannot be subject to any steps in a criminal investigation (including evidence collection and documentation).

In rejecting that claim, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said Monday that presidential immunity “does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce nonprivileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the president.”

Past Supreme Court rulings have upheld subpoenas directed at presidents, and this time the local prosecutors are seeking documents from the Trump Organization and Trump’s accountants—not directly from the president himself.

For those reasons, among others, NBC says,the Supreme Court might simply decline to hear the president’s appeal—which would leave the appeals court ruling intact and require the tax filings to be turned over.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is investigating whether any state laws were broken in the payment of hush money to two women who claimed they had a sexual relationship with Trump—allegations that the president denied. The prosecutors also are looking into the claim by Trumps former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen that Trump sometimes misstated his financial situation in order to pay lower taxes.

No court has ever ruled that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but that has been the consistent position of the Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations. The logic behind that position can be summarized simply: The president can’t run the country from jail.

The Supreme Court has never ruled that sitting presidents are beyond the reach of criminal investigations, though. In 1974, the court ruled that President Richard Nixon was required to comply with a subpoena directing him to turn over tape recordings of conversations in the White House. In 1975, President Gerald Ford complied with an order to give a deposition in the trial of a woman charged with trying to shoot him. In 1996, President Bill Clinton gave videotaped testimony in two criminal trials.

The Justice Department’s own position is consistent with these rulings, the network news outlet says. A 2000 memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded that while sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted, they can still be investigated. Even if a president is immune from indictment, “a grand jury could continue to gather evidence throughout the period of immunity, even passing this task down to subsequently impaneled grand juries if necessary.”

A further problem for Trump is that Vance is not seeking any material involving official presidential duties, even though some of it overlaps with the time he’s been in office. For that reason, the president is not making any claim that the material sought by the grand jury is protected by executive privilege.

According to NBC News, the president’s lawyers’ best hope for getting the Supreme Court to take the case may be to argue two points. First, they will likely say that the 1974 ruling in the Nixon case doesn’t apply because that was a subpoena issued for material to be used in a criminal trial of former White House aides. A grand jury subpoena, they might say, is a lower level of need.

And second, they may say that Vance’s request is politically driven. His prosecutors admit that they lifted the wording of the subpoenas directly from subpoenas issued by two House committees controlled by Democrats. Trump’s refusal to make public his tax returns has been a consistent gripe of critics on the left.

At least four justices must vote to hear a case in order for the Supreme Court to grant review. And those four would be reluctant to plunge ahead unless they were reasonably confident they’d get a fifth vote when the case is decided. From the perspective of Trump, and presidential authority in general, it would be better to leave the Second Circuit ruling intact than to have the Supreme Court definitively rule that presidents must comply with such subpoenas.

The lawyers for both Trump and Vance have agreed to submit their court filings promptly. There’s no deadline for the justices to act, but both sides are hoping the court will say by mid-January whether it will take the case.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Democrats deploy new impeachment plan of attack after White House refuses to cooperate

October 11, 2019

House Democrats are now saying that they don’t need any help from the White House to make a case for impeachment, NBC News reports.

To circumvent Executive Branch efforts to impede and obstruct the House impeachment inquiry, Democrats have launched a fresh offensive: They intend to inundate the White House with subpoenas; as well as requests for interviews with people who no longer work in the administration.

Democrats issued additional subpoenas for testimony and relevant documents on October 10 to Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas —two associates of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are alleged to have helped Giuliani dig for dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. They were requested to appear for depositions this Thursday and Friday before Congress, but before they could appear on Capitol Hill, they were arrested Wednesday night on charges tied to campaign finance violations, NBC News says.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) formally announced the impeachment inquiry last month, Democrats have so far issued eight subpoenas—including those to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Office of Management and Budget Acting Chief Russell Vought, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland In addition, they have requested documents from Vice President Mike Pence.

However, few, if any, of the current administration leaders are expected to respond to the Democrat’s subpoenas and requests. Just this week, Ambassador Sondland declined to testify, on orders from the State Department and President Donald Trump.

Therefore, the Democrats are targeting former officials,  who are now private citizens, and would not fall under the White House ‘s claims of executive privilege. Kurt Volker, who recently resigned as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified before Congress last week, several days after he left the administration.

On Monday, Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, volunteered to meet in a closed-door session with several congressional committees. A letter addressed to Hill, obtained by NBC, requested that she turn over several documents that date back to January 2017.

Congress returns next week from a two-week recess and Democrats are expected to speed up their investigation that could lead them filing articles of impeachment against the president. Two sources told NBC News that Pelosi will hold another caucus-wide conference call on Friday afternoon, so rank and file members can receive an update about the impeachment inquiry.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Have your heard? Never kiss a baby’s ear

September 18, 2019

Most new parents are “playing by ear” when it comes to baby care, but there’s one important thing to know: There’s one place you should never kiss a baby—or anyone else, for that matter—and that’s the ear, according to Professor of Audiology Levi Reiter of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Indeed, according to a report by NBC News, an innocent kiss right on the ear opening creates strong suction that can tug on the delicate eardrum, resulting in a recently recognized condition known as “cochlear ear-kiss injury.”

Such a kiss can lead not only to permanent hearing loss, but to a host of other troubling ear symptom—among them, ringing, sensitivity to sound, distortion, and aural fullness.

Dr. Reiter has been studying the phenomenon ever since a woman came to him five years ago with a strange story about going deaf in one ear immediately after her five-year-old kissed her there.

“I thought this lady was a unique case,” says Reiter. After a bit of research, though, he discovered another case of ear-kiss injury reported in the 1950s.

Once the so-called “kiss of deaf” was written up in Newsday, however, Reiter started hearing from people worldwide. He now has identified more than 30 ear-kiss victims (and hopes to hear from more).

Ear-kiss patients exhibit a characteristic pattern of hearing loss, Reiter said, with hearing most diminished in the frequency range of unvoiced consonants, such as “ch” and “sh.”

“There are a lot of cases of unknown unilateral hearing loss in kids, and I am sure that a good portion are from a peck on the ear,” he says.

Babies and small children are particularly vulnerable to hearing damage via kiss, simply because their ear canals are smaller. A baby will cry after such a painful kiss, he told NBC News, but “kids cry for a lot of reasons.” Unfortunately, hearing loss usually isn’t identified until years later, during a school screening.

Unilateral hearing loss can be acquired from a blow to the ear, impulse noise (like an exploding firecracker) on one side of the head, or a Q-tip pushed too far.

An ear-kiss is another cause, formerly undiscovered, Paul Farrell, associate director for Audiology Practices at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, told the network news outlet. “It is a fascinating phenomenon,” he said. “I would consider it an emerging topic in the field.”

Reiter believes that the intense suction on the eardrum pulls the chain of three tiny bones in the ear. The third bone, the stirrup-shaped stapes, then tugs on the stapedial annular ligament, causing turbulence in the fluid of the cochlea, or inner ear.

Reiter is full of horror stories of ear-kiss injuries resulting from normal everyday activities: a hairdresser sending a client off with a nice hairdo and a smack on the ear; a relative’s air-kiss going astray after a quick turn of the head; a mother seeing her little girl off to school with a loving smooch.

Still, the prevalence of the injury is unknown.

“People are going to doctors who are pooh-poohing this,” says Reiter. “One reason these people wrote to me in the first place was that they were getting nowhere. The doctors were making fun of them. They felt humiliated.”

“My granddaughter is a kindergarten teacher and I tell her never kiss any of your little tykes on the ear,” he says.

The professor told NBC News that he is preparing to submit his most recent findings to the International Journal of Audiology and the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

Research contact: @NBCNews

The Vend at New York City’s 30 Rock offers kimchi, an engagement ring, jade face rollers, and emergency socks

September 6, 2019

If you want to buy a jar of kimchi, an RBG action figure, an engagement ring, a chicken pesto sandwich, and a shaving kit at the same place at the same time, that’s now possible at a new storefront in New York City’s Rockefeller Center.

Located in 30 Rock’s downstairs concourse, The Vend has been created by Tishman Speyer, a major player in the real estate industry and the owner of the famed center.

The store has six self-service vending machines—open 24/7—that carry everything you might need in a pinch, such as jade face rollers, emergency socks, and Brooks Brothers dress shirts.

“It’s a very modern twist on the classic, old school New York automat—the place where you’d go to get all the essential things you needed,” Tishman Speyer Managing Director EB Kelly told News 4/NBC Miami.

The machines are divided into several categories: joy, savory, sundries, sweets, and drinks.

In a city that never sleeps, you can get a yellow rose diamond ring from Fitzgerald Jewelry of Williamsburg (Brooklyn) any time day or night, in case you wanted to spontaneously pop the question. The machines also have Polaroid cameras for you to document the occasion.

On a recent afternoon, several New York City shoppers stopped by to check out The Vend. One of them appeared to be concerned about the freshness of the refrigerated food, according to a report by The New York Post.

“Seared tuna from a vending machine,” said David Lepelstat, who works nearby, scrutinizing a packaged lunch dish priced at $13.95. “That chocolate cookie looks safer to me.”

A Vend associate said the fresh fare from Proper Food — which includes gourmet salads and sandwiches—is delivered every morning and donated to charity at night if it’s not sold.

Shoppers have been weighing in on what else they want stocked, the associate confirmed. They want “more energy drinks,” she told The Post. And “phone chargers.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden: Trump doesn’t have ‘intestinal fortitude’ for gun control; ‘no compromise’ with McConnell

September 4, 2019

Former vice president and current candidate for president Joe Biden said Monday that he sees little hope for a compromise in Washington, D.C., that would tighten restrictions on gun sales—adding that President Donald Trump “has no intestinal fortitude” to follow through on his talk of pushing Congress to act in the wake of yet another mass shooting, NBC News reported.

The still-dominant Democratic frontrunner has made his ability to work with Republicans a touchstone of his presidential campaign, the network said—but he told reporters in Iowa that guns will not be an issue that can be dealt with across the aisle.

“I said I’ll work with {Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell where we can agree. But on this one, he’s not going to agree … so we just have to beat him, flat out beat him,” Biden said a Labor Day picnic in Cedar Rapids. “I think there’s no compromise. This is one we have to just push and push and push and push and push. And the fact of the matter is, I think it’s going to result in seeing some of them [Republicans] defeated.”

Guns are an issue on the agenda for Congress when it returns to Washington this month after the August recess, but Biden said he’s not holding his breath for action.

Part of the problem, he told NBC News, is that Trump has on several occasions voiced some support for new gun safety measures, including universal background checks, only to backtrack later.

“I’ve seen nothing,” he said of a possible solution in Congress this fall. “The president has no intestinal fortitude to deal with this. He knows better. His instinct was to say yeah, we’re going to do something on background checks. What’s he doing? Come on. This is disgraceful. This is disgraceful what’s happening.”

Biden’s head-to-head rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), told NBC News, “[W}e know what the pieces are …— universal background checks, assault weapons off our streets, get rid of bump stocks and the ability to fire weapons in a short period of time. There are a lot of things we could be doing. So why doesn’t it happen? And the answer is corruption. It’s corruption. Right now we have a Washington that is held hostage by the gun industry and the NRA. That has to stop.”

Research contact: NBCNews

Universal to build new 750-acre theme park in Orlando, hire 14K workers in central Florida

August 5, 2019

Universal Orlando Resort is building a new 750-acre theme park down the road a few mile from its current attractions, to be called Universal’s Epic Universe, parent company Comcast has announced.

The new theme park will feature an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants, and more. It will nearly double Universal’s total available acreage in Central Florida, Comcast says.

The news breaks just as Universal’s main competition in the area, Disney, is about to open its second Star Wars theme park in Orlando.

According to a statement from Universal, the Epic Universe “will take guests on a journey where beloved stories expand into vibrant lands—and where that journey is as much a part of their adventure as the ultimate destination.”

“Our new park represents the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park business and in Florida overall,” said CEO Brian Roberts .

Universal Orlando currently employees 25,000 people and will hire an additional 14,000 team members as part of Epic Universe, including professional, technical, culinary, and other specialized positions.  The company currently contributes more than $302 million in annual state and local taxes—a number that will nearly double when the new theme park opens.

The majority of the businesses Universal relies on are either regional firms or national firms with a large regional presence.  An economic impact study for Universal conducted by University of Central Florida Economic Forecasting Professor Sean Snaith found that Universal Orlando’s combined direct and indirect economic benefit to the Florida economy since Universal Studios opened in 1990 is $73 billion.  He also found that construction of the new park, alone, will contribute a total of $11.5 billion in direct and indirect economic benefit into the Florida economy.

According to a report by NBC News, in the last decade, Universal has expanded its two parks to include “Harry Potter”-themed lands Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Analysts are speculating that new rides could be based on Universal properties such as Minions, classic monsters, and even Nintendo.

Research contact: @comcast

‘Smart cars’ are too ‘demanding and confusing’ for older drivers

August 2, 2019

“It was a comedy of errors,” said a 71-year-old participant in a recent study conducted by the University of Utah on behalf of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety—during which, among other things, he was asked to program car’s infotainment system.

The new AAA car safety study suggests that tech-laden “smart” cars are too distracting, which can undermine efforts to keep roadways safe, especially when those getting behind the wheel are aged 55 and over, NBC News reports.

Indeed, the researchers say that all of the bells and whistles on new cars may be perceived as demanding and confusing by older drivers.

“The technology we’re putting in cars today [is] unsafe for all of us to use, especially for older adults,” said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research. “Our advice to consumers is that just because technology is built into your car doesn’t mean that it’s safe to do those things.”

In the study, drivers were divided into two groups— a younger group (ages 21 to 36) and an older group (ages 55 to 75). Each participant was asked to drive a 2018 car equipped with a number of “smart” features, including navigation screens and voice activation controls.

Among the tasks drivers were asked to complete: sending a text message, programming music, programming a navigation system, and placing a call.

Overall, the study found, older drivers experienced higher levels of cognitive and visual demand, compared to younger drivers. These differences were even more pronounced for older drivers when completing any in-vehicle information system task, or IVIS. But the study found that older and younger drivers both found some tech features challenging and time-consuming.

“Given the demands associated with IVIS tasks,” the study concluded, “drivers of all ages should use these infotainment technologies only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes.”

Paul Brown, a 71-year-old retired attorney who resides in Salt Lake City, is one of the drivers who took part in the study. “I don’t need something that is going to do everything for me and distract me while I’m driving,” Brown said. “Quite frankly, when I was driving, I found myself feeling as if I was driving dangerously because of all of those distractions.”

Brown said he found the large display screen situated to the right of the steering wheel in the cars he drove for the study especially distracting.

“If I was driving that kind of car, I would probably put a napkin or blanket or something over that screen so that I could concentrate on driving the car,” Brown said, adding that he prefers older, simpler cars.

Nelson said that making cars more user-friendly for older drivers ultimately makes cars safer for everyone. “If we can design a system to make it so that utilizing a car’s features is no more distracting than tuning your radio, if we can achieve that for the older adult driver, we can all benefit from that,” Nelson said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Jews take ‘Never Again Action’ at ICE migrant detention facilities nationwide

July 22, 2019

Serena Adlerstein didn’t expect her Facebook status to turn into a nationwide movement—but somehow her words managed to mobilize thousands of young Jews to the streets, protesting the treatment of migrants in U.S. detention, she told NBC News.

“I made an offhand Facebook post like, ‘What if young Jews occupied ICE detention centers and shut them down?’” Adlerstein, 25, she said in an interview with the network news outlet.

People responded, and by that evening, on June 24, she was on the phone with other young Jews from around the country planning a protest, and hundreds of people had signed up on a Google doc expressing interest in joining.

Their motivation was empathy for those seeking asylum and safety—but they also harbored memories and fears that stretched back more than a century: Indeed, as she watched pundits and politicians debate whether to call migrant detention centers “concentration camps”, Adlerstein was reminded of the Holocaust refrain she was raised on: “Never Again.”

“Never Again,” she thought, is now.

A week later, on Sunday, June 30, about 200 protesters under the banner of the newly formed Never Again Action protested outside a detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. As of that day, 36 activists were arrested and the demonstration had sparked a burgeoning movement.

My intent wasn’t to start an organization or a long-term movement,” Adlerstein explained to NBC News. But now that Never Again Action has spread across the country, she’s leaning into it.

Since that initial protest, just two weeks ago, Never Again Action has organized more than 10 different protests around the country, in states from California to Rhode Island, and more are scheduled in the coming weeks.

In Boston on July 2, more than 1,000 protesters gathered at the New England Holocaust Memorial, where they marched to a nearby jail where ICE houses detainees. In Philadelphia, 33 people were arrested when they blocked the city’s Fourth of July parade, holding sings like ‘Never Again Means Close the Camps.”

Julia Davidovitz, 25, a preschool teacher in Boston organizing with Never Again, told the network news outlet that people like her need to act and bring the community together because institutional leaders aren’t.

“This is an occasion where we have been moral leaders,” she said. “We have not seen as much moral leadership from the stronghold of the mainstream Jewish leadership.”

Her message: “Join us.”

Davidovitz wants to see entire congregations join upcoming actions, and invited her rabbi and mom to join her in action.

“This is a crisis no matter what language you use to describe it” Davidovitz said. “We are a community that’s been targeted. We can’t stand by while it happens to others.”

Research contact: @NeverAgainActn

Last licks: Woman caught on social media licking store ice cream and putting it back faces years in jail

July 8, 2019

A woman who licked more than her lips at a Walmart store may find herself in the “cooler” soon. The “mystery shopper” (who has not yet been identified by authorities) went viral on social media recently for licking a tub of ice cream and returning it to the frozen food display.

Now police say that, when they find her, she faces up to 20 years in prison for the prank, according to a July 4 report by NBC News.

The footage of the escapade—which already has been viewed more than 11 million times— shows the so-far unnamed woman opening a container, running her tongue across the ice cream; then laughing as she places the violated dessert back in the freezer, in a branch of Walmart in the city of Lufkin, eastern Texas.

She could face a second-degree felony charge of tampering with a consumer product, the Lufkin, Texas, Police Department said in an email statement to NBC News. The charge comes with a two- to 20-year prison term and up to $10,000 in fines, according to Texas state penal code.

Police also want to speak to the man she was with, who is thought to have filmed the incident and can be heard encouraging the woman to “Lick it, lick it.”

According to NBC, investigators also are in discussions with the FDA and additional federal charges could be made.

“Our detectives are working to verify the identity of the female suspect before a warrant is issued for her arrest on a charge of second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product,” a police spokesperson said.

“As that portion of the investigation continues, detectives are focusing on identifying the male (in the green shirt) behind the camera seen in images of the two entering the store together.”

Blue Bell Creameries, the local manufacturer of the ice cream brand the woman licked, has called the incident a “malicious act of food tampering.”

All tubs containing the mix of creamy vanilla ice cream with swirls of chocolate fudge and dark-chocolate-covered roasted peanuts have been removed from the store’s shelves as a precaution, the company said. The specific carton believed to be compromised was found among the lot.

In an earlier statement, the company explained that its cartons are frozen upside down in production, which creates a natural, tight seal by freezing the lid to the tub, meaning consumers would notice if any tampering occurred upon opening a fresh tub.

Research contact: @NBCNews