US to Close Idaho Nuclear Waste Processing Project

Federal officials will shut down an Idaho nuclear waste treatment project after determining it would not be economically feasible to bring in radioactive waste from other states.

The U.S. Department of Energy in documents made public this week said the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project that employs 650 workers will end next year.

Officials said workers are wrapping up processing 85,000 cubic yards (65,000 cubic meters) of radioactive waste at the department’s 890-square-mile (2,300-square-kilometer) site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory.

$500 million plant

A $500 million treatment plant handles transuranic waste that includes work clothing, rags, machine parts and tools that have been contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says transuranic wastes take much longer to decay and are the most radioactive hazard in high-level waste after 1,000 years.

The Energy Department said that before the cleanup began, Idaho had the largest stockpile of transuranic waste of any of the agency’s facilities. Court battles between Idaho and the federal government culminated with a 1995 agreement requiring the Energy Department to clean up the Idaho site.

The Idaho treatment plant compacts the transuranic waste, making it easier to ship and put into long-term storage at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Not cost-effective

Federal officials earlier this year floated the idea of keeping the $500 million treatment plant running in Idaho with waste from other states. The bulk of that would have been 8,000 cubic yards (6,100 cubic meters) of radioactive waste from a former nuclear weapons production area in Hanford in eastern Washington.

Local officials and politicians generally supported the idea because of the good-paying jobs. The Snake River Alliance, an Idaho-based nuclear watchdog group, said it had concerns the nuclear waste brought to Idaho would never leave.

A 38-page economic analysis the Department of Energy completed in August and released this week found “it does not appear to be cost effective due to packaging and transportation challenges in shipping waste” to Idaho.

“As work at the facility will continue into 2019, no immediate workforce impacts are anticipated,” the agency said in an email to The Associated Press on Friday. The Energy Department “recognizes the contribution of this facility and its employees to DOE’s cleanup mission and looks forward to applying the knowledge gained and experience of the workforce to other key activities at the Idaho site.”

The agency said it would also consider voluntary separation incentives for workers.

Unclear where waste to go

With the Idaho treatment plant scheduled to shut down, it’s not clear how the transuranic waste at Hanford and other sites will be dealt with.

The Energy Department “will continue to work to ensure a path forward for packaging and certification of TRU (transuranic) waste at Hanford and other sites,” the agency said in the email to the AP.

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Трамп у відповідь на протести у Франції закликав відмовитися від Паризької угоди з клімату

Президент США Дональд Трамп, коментуючи сутички, в які 8 грудня переросли протести у Франції, заявив, що, можливо, настав час відмовитися від Паризької угоди з питань клімату.

«Дуже сумні день і вечір у Парижі. Можливо, настав час покінчити з безглуздою і вкрай дорогою Паризькою угодою і повернути гроші назад народові – у формі нижчих податків. У цьому питанні США – на крок попереду, і є єдиною країною, в якій обсяг викиду парникових газів в минулому році скоротився», – написав Трамп у Twitter 8 грудня.

В адміністрації Трампа минулого року оголосили про вихід із Паризької кліматичної угоди. Президент США заявляв, що ця угода є невигідною для економіки його країни.

Протести так званих «жовтих жилетів» у Франції тривають вже третій тиждень. Вони почалися з вимоги до влади відмовитися від збільшення податків на автомобільне пальне. Уряд Франції планував запровадити податок в рамках боротьби із забрудненням довкілля.

Учасники протестів частково домоглися мети: уряд президента Емманюеля Макрона, всупереч попереднім обіцянкам голови держави, відступив і вирішив відкласти плановані підвищення цін на пальне. Але ці плани не скасовані, і «жовті жилети» вирішили не припиняти протестів, натомість вони посилили свої вимоги і тепер закликають до ширшого скорочення податків і збільшення зарплат.

Внаслідок сутичок, що спалахнули під час протестів 8 грудня, у Франції були поранені 135 людей, зокрема 17 поліцейських.

 

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Trump Says Chief of Staff John Kelly to Leave at Year’s End

President Donald Trump says chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job at the end of the year.

Trump isn’t saying immediately who will replace Kelly, a retired Marine general who has served as chief of staff since July 2017. But the president says an announcement about a replacement will be coming in the next day or two.

Trump spoke to reporters at the White House before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

He calls Kelly “a great guy.”

The West Wing shake-up comes as Trump is anticipating the challenge of governing and oversight when Democrats take control of the House in January, and as gears up for his own campaign for re-election in 2020.

 

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Трамп: розслідуванню Мюллера не вдалося знайти доказів змови з Росією

Президент США Дональд Трамп заявляє, що слідству, яке веде спецпрокурор Роберт Мюллер, не вдалося знайти доказів, що він змовився з Росією під час виборчої кампанії 2016 року.

«Після двох років і мільйонів сторінок документів (і витрат у понад 30 мільйонів доларів) – немає змови!», – написав Трамп у Twitter 8 грудня.

Днями Трамп заявляв, що його президентський рейтинг міг бути вищим, але на нього погано впливає розслідування ймовірного втручання Росії в американські вибори 2016 року.

Трамп поскаржився на «фальшиве полювання на відьом», заявивши, що його рейтинг повинен бути 75 відсотків, а не 50.

У США триває розслідування ймовірного втручання Росії у вибори президента 2016 року. Йдеться, зокрема, про хакерські атаки, розміщення фейкових новин у соціальних мережах з метою вплинути на громадську думку. Спецпрокурор Роберт Мюллер розслідує і ймовірні зв’язки людей зі штабу Дональда Трампа з Росією.

Трамп неодноразово заперечував факт змови з російськими офіційними особами, називаючи звинувачення «полюванням на відьом». У Кремлі відкидають будь-які звинувачення у втручанні в вибори інших держав.

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У Росії померла правозахисниця Людмила Алексєєва

У Москві на 92-му році життя померла найстарша російська правозахисниця і дисидентка, голова Московської Гельсінкської групи Людмила Алексєєва. Про це 8 грудня повідомляє прес-служба Ради з прав людини при президенті Росії.

«Останнім часом їй було вже важко справлятися з хворобою, але дух її як завжди був набагато міцніший за тіло і набагато сильніший від будь-яких хвороб», – сказав голова РПЛ Михайло Федотов.

За повідомленням, правозахисниця померла ввечері 8 грудня в московській лікарні № 15.

Алексєєва була однією з засновниць правозахисного руху в Радянському Союзі у 1960-х роках. У зв’язку з загрозою позбавлення волі за розповсюдження самвидаву в 1977 році вона була вимушена мігрувати до США, де прожила до 1993 року. Головою Московської Гельсінської групи була обрана в 1996 році.

Людмила Алексєєва виступала з критикою режиму російського президента Володимира Путіна, зокрема щодо російських законів, спрямованих на обмеження чи заборону діяльності неурядових і громадських правозахисних організацій.

У 2017 році, коли Алексєєвій виповнилося 90 років, Путін особисто привітав її, приїхавши до неї додому, а згодом відзначив її державною нагородою за видатні досягнення в області правозахисної діяльності.

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Протести в Парижі: 30 людей поранені внаслідок сутичок протестувальників і поліції

У столиці Франції, Парижі, 8 грудня сталися сутички між антиурядовими протестувальниками і поліцією, влада повідомляє про 30 поранених.

Правоохоронці застосували сльозогінний газ і водомети, щоб не дати протестувальникам піти до президентського палацу. Протестувальники підпалювали автомобілі і сміттєві баки.

За повідомленням влади, у Парижі в акціях беруть участь близько восьми тисяч людей. 500 протестувальників затримали.

По всій країні охорону порядку забезпечують 89 тисяч поліцейських, із них – вісім тисяч – у Парижі. Влада прагне уникнути сценарію минулих вихідних, коли внаслідок спалаху насильства в протестах у Парижі були поранені 130 людей.

Влада Франції застерегла, що новими акціями «жовтих жилетів» можуть скористатися «радикальні» групи.

Акції протесту з вимогою відмовитися від збільшення податків на автомобільне пальне відбуваються у Франції третій тиждень поспіль. Маніфестації організував рух так званих «жовтих жилетів».

У демонстрації в Парижі минулої суботи брали участь, за даними влади, 75 тисяч людей; протести у французькій столиці перейшли у сутички. Постраждали понад 130 людей, близько 400 – були затримані. Чотири людини загинули під час сутичок. Групи осіб у масках трощили вітрини, також серйозно постраждала Тріумфальна арка. Мерія Парижа оцінила збиток в 3-4 мільйони євро.

Учасники протестів частково домоглися мети: уряд президента Емманюеля Макрона, всупереч попереднім обіцянкам голови держави, відступив і вирішив відкласти плановані підвищення цін на пальне. Але ці плани не скасовані, і «жовті жилети» вирішили не припиняти протестів, натомість вони посилили свої вимоги і тепер закликають до ширшого скорочення податків і збільшення зарплат.

 

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Trump Confirms He’ll Nominate Army General Milley as Next Top Military Adviser

U.S. President Donald Trump has confirmed he will nominate Army General Mark Milley to replace Marine General Joseph Dunford as his next top military advisor.

“I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country! Date of transition to be determined,” Trump wrote in a Saturday morning tweet.

Milley is a combat-experienced military leader and the current Chief of Staff of the Army, a position he has held since 2015.

Milley, who commanded troops during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, must be confirmed by the Senate to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Some military officials at the Pentagon had said Air Force General David Goldfein was also a top contender for the job but added that Milley has a good relationship with the president.

Department of Defense spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews said in a statement Saturday, “We are aware of the President’s nomination and share his confidence for Gen. Mark Milley.”

Trump hinted Friday he would make the announcement Saturday while attending the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. Instead, he announced it at the White House before departing for Philadelphia.

As the Army’s top officer, Milley helped lead the effort to allow women to serve in front-line infantry and other combat positions. He has worked to reverse a decline in Army recruiting, which fell far short of its annual goal this year.

Milley is an infantry officer by training, and has also commanded Special Forces units.

His career includes deployments in the 1989 invasion of Panama, the multinational mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Iraq war.

If confirmed, Milley will replace Dunford, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan. Dunford is expected to serve the remainder of his term as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, which ends October 1, 2019.  

 

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In White House Shake-up, Kelly’s Departure Now Seems Certain

President Donald Trump is inching closer to his long-teased major White House shake-up, gearing up for the twin challenges of battling for re-election and dealing with the Democrats’ investigations once they take control of the House.

The biggest piece of the shifting picture: Chief of Staff John Kelly’s departure now appears certain.

Trump announced Friday he was picking a new U.S. attorney genera l and a new ambassador to the U.N. , and at the same time two senior aides departed the White House to beef up his 2020 campaign. But the largest changes were still to come. Kelly’s replacement in the coming weeks is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the administration.

According to nearly a dozen current and former administration officials and outside confidants, Trump is nearly ready to replace Kelly and has even begun telling people to contact the man long viewed as his likely successor.

“Give Nick a call,” Trump has instructed people, referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, according to one person familiar with the discussions.

Like all of those interviewed, the person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.

Trump has hardly been shy about his dissatisfaction with the team he had chosen and has been weighing all sorts of changes over the past several months. He delayed some of the biggest shifts until after the November elections at the urging of aides who worried that adding to his already-record turnover just before the voting would harm his party’s electoral chances.

Now, nearly a month after those midterms, in which his party surrendered control of the House to Democrats but expanded its slim majority in the Senate, Trump is starting to make moves.

He announced Friday that he’ll nominate William Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, to the same role in his administration. If confirmed, Barr will fill the slot vacated by Jeff Sessions, who was unceremoniously jettisoned by Trump last month over lingering resentment for recusing himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.

Sessions was exiled less than 24 hours after polls closed. But Trump’s broader efforts to reshape his inner circle have been on hold, leading to a sense of near-paralysis in the building, with people unsure of what to do.

Trump also announced that State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert is his pick to replace Nikki Haley as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and he said he’d have another announcement Saturday about the military’s top brass.

All this came the same day that Trump’s re-election campaign announced that two veterans of the president’s 2016 campaign, White House political director Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, the director of the office of public liaison, were leaving the administration to work on Trump’s re-election campaign.

“Now is the best opportunity to be laser-focused on further building out the political infrastructure that will support victory for President Trump and the GOP in 2020,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.

The moves had long been planned, and will give Kelly’s eventual successor room to build a new White House political team.

Kelly was not at the White House on Friday, but was expected to attend an East Room dinner with the president and senior staff.

Ayers, who is a seasoned campaign veteran despite his relative youth — he’s just 36 — has the backing of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law and senior advisers, for the new role, according to White House officials. But Ayers has also faced some resistance. During Trump’s flight home from a recent trip to Paris, some aides aboard Air Force One tried to convince the president that Ayers was the wrong person for the job, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Trump and Kelly’s relationship has been strained for months — with Kelly on the verge of resignation and Trump nearly firing him several times. But each time the two have decided to make amends, even as Kelly’s influence has waned.

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps four-star general, was tapped by Trump in August 2017 to try to normalize a White House that had been riven by infighting. And he had early successes, including ending an open-door Oval Office policy that had been compared to New York’s Grand Central Station and instituting a more rigorous policy process to try to prevent staffers from going directly to Trump.

But those efforts also miffed the president and some of his most influential outside allies, who had grown accustomed to unimpeded access. And his handling of domestic violence accusations against the former White House staff secretary also caused consternation, especially among lower-level White House staffers, who believed Kelly had lied to them about when he found out about the allegations.

Kelly, too, has made no secret of the trials of his job and has often joked about how working for Trump was harder than anything he’d done before, including on the battlefield.

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Stocks Drop 4 Percent in Rocky Week on Trade, Growth Worries

Wall Street capped a turbulent week of trading Friday with the biggest weekly loss since March as traders fret over rising trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and signals of slower economic growth. 

The latest wave of selling erased more than 550 points from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, bringing its three-day loss to more than 1,400. For the week, major indexes are down more than 4 percent. 

Worries that the testy U.S.-China trade dispute and higher interest rates will slow the economy has made investors uneasy, leading to volatile swings in the market from one day to the next.

Dispute between U.S. and China 

On Monday, news that the U.S. and China had agreed to a 90-day truce in their escalating trade conflict drove stocks sharply higher, adding to strong gains the week before. The next day, as doubts mounted over the likelihood of a swift resolution to the trade dispute, stocks sank. On Friday, another early rally faded into another sharp drop.

“We’re in a market where investors just want to sell any upside that they see,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA. “The volatility we’ve seen the last couple of weeks has been pretty extreme in both directions.”

The S&P 500 index fell 62.87 points, or 2.3 percent, to 2,633.08. The index has ended lower three out of the last four weeks. The Dow dropped 558.72 points, or 2.2 percent, to 24,388.95. 

The Nasdaq composite slid 219.01 points, or 3 percent, to 6,969.25. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 29.32 points, or 2 percent, to 1,448.09.

The S&P 500 and Dow are now in the red for the year again. The Nasdaq was holding on to a modest gain. 

Markets upset since October 

Volatility has gripped the market since early October, reflecting investors’ worries that the Federal Reserve might overshoot with its campaign of rate increases and hurt U.S. economic growth.

Traders also fear that a prolonged trade dispute between the U.S. and China could crimp corporate profits and that tariffs will raises costs for businesses and consumers. Uncertainty over those issues helped drive the market’s sell-off this week. 

“The Fed has taken the punch bowl away in getting back to rates where they are today,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for Voya Investment Management. “We’re also going to get back to more normal volatility.”

At the same time, traders are also worried about a sharp drop in long-term bond yields as investors plow money into Treasurys, which tends to happen when investors expect slower economic growth. 

Technology stocks accounted for much of the market’s broad slide Friday. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices slid 8.6 percent to $19.46.

Health care stocks take big hit

Health care sector stocks, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 this year, took some of the heaviest losses. Medical device company Cooper lost 12.3 percent to $243.01.

Utilities, which investors favor when they’re fearful, eked out a slight gain. PPL Corp. gained 2.8 percent to $31.09.

Oil prices rose after OPEC countries agreed to reduce global oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day for six months, beginning in January. The move would include a reduction of 800,000 barrels per day from OPEC countries and 400,000 barrels per day from Russia and other non-OPEC nations. 

The news, which had been widely anticipated, pushed crude oil prices higher. U.S. benchmark crude rose 2.2 percent to $52.61 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 2.7 percent to $61.67 a barrel in London.

The Labor Department said U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in November, a slowdown from recent months but enough to suggest that the economy is expanding at a solid pace despite sharp gyrations in the stock market. The unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, nearly a five-decade low, for the third straight month. 

Bond prices rose, sending yields slightly lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.86 percent from 2.87 percent late Thursday. 

The decline in bond yields, which affect interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, weighed on banks, which make more money when rates are rising. Morgan Stanley slid 3 percent to $41.32.

The dollar rose to 112.66 yen from 112.65 yen late Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1418 from $1.1373.

Small gains for gold, silver

Gold gained 0.7 percent to $1,252.60 an ounce. Silver climbed 1.3 percent to $14.70 an ounce. Copper added 0.6 percent to $2.76 a pound.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline climbed 3.7 percent to $1.49 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1.5 percent to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas gained 3.7 percent to $4.49 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX dipped 0.2 percent while the CAC 40 in France rose 0.7 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 jumped 1.1 percent. Major indexes in Asia finished mostly higher. 

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.8 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up 0.3 percent. 

 

            

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Many US-Bound Caravan Migrants Disperse as Asylum Process Stalls

Thousands of Central American migrants spent weeks traveling north through Mexico in caravans, walking and hitching rides when possible, only for many to give up hope and turn back when they met resistance at the U.S. border.

Others hopped the border fence, often directly into the hands of immigration authorities on the U.S. side, while still others dug in at temporary lodgings in Tijuana for the long process of seeking asylum from a reluctant U.S. government.

As rain poured down on a former music venue in Tijuana that holds a diminished crowd of 2,500 migrants, Jessica, 18, grabbed her feverish 1-year-old daughter and took her inside to a friend while she figured out what to do with her broken tent.

Jessica had traveled from El Salvador, and said she and her husband were waiting in the Barretal camp for the right moment to try to cross the border illegally.

“Getting asylum is really difficult,” she said. “They ask you for a lot of evidence and it’s impossible. It’s not like they say it is.”

Other migrants face the same dilemma. Of 6,000 who arrived in Tijuana in the caravans last month, 1,000 have scrambled over border fences, and most of those were detained, the head of Mexico’s civil protection agency David Leon told local media on Wednesday.

A further 1,000 have accepted voluntary deportation, he said, while others are living on the street outside the municipal sports center where they first arrived, or in smaller shelters. The director of the Barretal camp, Mario Medina, said he expected hundreds more to arrive within days.

U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to make it harder to get asylum, but a federal court last month placed a temporary restraining order on his policy that only permitted asylum claims made at official ports of entry.

Under former President Barack Obama a system dubbed “metering” began, which limits how many can ask for asylum each day in Tijuana. Lawyers say Trump is using the system more aggressively to stem the flow at the port of entry.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman said the agency works with Mexico and charities to manage the flow, but denied that people were being prevented from making asylum claims.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, which did not respond to requests for comment, has said in the past it protects migrants rights, while respecting other countries’ immigration policies.

Looking after the large groups of Central Americans is a challenge for Mexico. New President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to issue more work visas and on Friday pledged to do more to improve conditions at the Barretal shelter.

His government is in talks with Washington about an immigration plan, including a U.S. proposal to make asylum seekers stay in Mexico until their claim is decided, a process that can take years. Some believe that would deter people from seeking refuge.

NAVIGATING THE LIST

Despite the wait, more people are adding their names to the semi-formal asylum list. Created a couple of years ago around the time an influx of Haitians arrived in Tijuana seeking to enter the United States, it has been challenged in a U.S. lawsuit that claims it deliberately delays asylum seekers.

Migrants put their names in a black-and-white ledger, controlled by around eight migrant volunteers. Those on the list are given a number and must wait months to pass through for an interview. The list contains thousands of names from around the world.

Each day, CBP officials communicate with Mexican immigration officials who then tell the migrants how many can go through, according to volunteers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said between 40 and 100 per day are usually sent.

At the end of each day, Mexican immigration officials guard the ledger. Lawyers have cited multiple problems with this system. For instance, they have said, some people on the list could be Mexicans fleeing the federal government.

Some migrants expressed distrust of the list. Honduran Anabell Pineda, 26, said she thought the process was not for her as she left behind a daughter in Honduras.

“They say, though I don’t know, that asylum is for people that don’t want to go back to their country, and I do want to go back,” she said.

Pineda, traveling with her son, said that once she gets her paperwork, she plans find a job in Mexico City.

Pineda has applied for a humanitarian visa that will get her a work permit in Mexico, a better bet than trying to get to the United States, she said.

“It’s really difficult to cross, because of what happened last time. I don’t want to put my children in danger,” she said, referring to disturbances in which U.S. officials launched tear gas at migrants last month.

At a jobs fair set up by the federal Labor Ministry, coordinator Nayla Rangel said more than 3,000 migrants, mainly from the caravan, had job interviews.

Rangel said there were more than 10,000 jobs open in the state of Baja California, with salaries around 1500 pesos ($74) per week. For many migrants hoping to send money to families in Central America, that likely would not be enough.

 

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