It’s Tuesday September 26, 2017

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Puerto Rico’s government is asking a judge for up to four extra weeks to meet key deadlines in the U.S. territory’s bankruptcy case, after Hurricane Maria tore through the island, bringing its fragile infrastructure to its knees. In court papers filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in San Juan, the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority sought “urgent” permission from federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who oversees the $72 billion bankruptcy, for a four-week extension on so-called discovery in a slew of legal disputes in the case. Maria was ranked a Category 4 storm, near the top of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of up to 155 miles per hour when it made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years. Earlier this month, a source familiar with the bankruptcy proceedings told Reuters that a team of judges advised parties in the bankruptcy to put their legal issues on hold indefinitely in the storm’s wake. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters in Washington that the administration was engaged in a fact-finding process to figure out how much help Puerto Rico needs.

China is calling for all sides in the North Korea missile crisis to show restraint and not “add oil to the flames” amid an exchange of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump threatened in his maiden U.N. address on Tuesday to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday that targeting the U.S. mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man” on a suicide mission. Asked how concerned China was that the war of words between Trump and North Korea could get out of control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang described the situation as highly complex and sensitive. North Korea, which has pursued its missile and nuclear programmers in defiance of international condemnation, said through its state controlled news agency that it “bitterly condemned the reckless remarks” of the U.S. president, saying they were an “intolerable insult to the Korean people” and a declaration of war. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said it was vitally important everyone strictly, fully and correctly implemented all North Korea related U.N. resolutions which call for both tighter sanctions and efforts to resume dialogue.

The ambassadors to Washington from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union all strongly backed the international nuclear agreement with Iran on Monday, as long as Tehran continues to comply with the pact. President Trump is weighing whether the 2015 deal serves U.S. security interests as he faces a mid-October deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink an agreement strongly supported by the other world powers that negotiated it. David O‘Sullivan, the European Union’s envoy in Washington, said at an Atlantic Council panel discussion, “We agree that the demise of this agreement would be a major loss.” German Ambassador Peter Wittig said anyone advocating walking away should consider “larger issues,” including an increased danger Iran would resume enrichment, danger of a nuclear arms race in an unstable region and impact on global nonproliferation efforts. Wittig asked, “What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea?” He went on to say, “It would send a signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can’t trust diplomatic agreements, and that would affect, I believe, our credibility in the West when we’re not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated.” If Trump does not recertify by Oct. 16, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions suspended under the accord.

New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady said he believes President Trump's comments about NFL players are "divisive" and on Monday said he supports those NFL players who are protesting during the national anthem. Brady customarily gives interviews to a Boston area radio station on Mondays following games, and his comments are especially notable as he is a friend of the 45th President. Brady -- who locked arms with teammates during the national anthem on Sunday -- continued, "Like I said, I just want to support my teammates. Brady also told the Boston radio station that he thinks "everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do. If you don't agree, that is fine. You can voice your disagreement, I think that is great. It's part of our democracy. As long as it is done in a peaceful, respectful way, that is what our country has been all about." Brady was responding to the controversy Trump sparked when he referred to NFL players who refused to stand during the national anthem as "sons of bitches" at a rally in Alabama Friday night, a reference to a protest begun by Colin Kaepernick against policy brutality and racial inequality. A series of high-profile athletes -- including NBA stars Stephen Curry and LeBron James -- condemned Trump's remarks throughout the weekend, and the President responded in a series of critical tweets. By Sunday, dozens of NFL players were kneeling or locking arms during the national anthem prior to games. Some teams even refused to take the field, staying in the locker room during the national anthem.

Violent crime in the United States rose for the second consecutive year in 2016, according to the FBI's annual crime report. The increase was driven by an uptick in several major cities, including Chicago, Baltimore and Las Vegas. FBI statistics show the overall violent crime rate rose by 4.1%, and the homicide rate increased by 8.6%. The 2016 rate of violent crimes - defined by the FBI as assault, rape, murder and robbery - represents the largest such rise in 25 years. The data show a total of 17,250 people were murdered in the US last year. In a statement accompanying the report, Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned of a trend saying, "For the sake of all Americans, we must confront and turn back the rising tide of violent crime." The FBI said the violent crime rate rose in cities of all sizes, as well as in suburbs and rural areas. Chicago led the nation in murders in 2016, with 765 people killed - more than double New York's homicide rate - though Chicago has a much smaller population. Both those arrested on suspicion of homicides as well as the victims tend to be young African-American males, and according to the report, the typical weapon of choice was a gun, used in four out of five crimes.

Several dozen conservative Catholic scholars and clergy have charged Pope Francis with spreading heresy, a bold but perhaps futile salvo against Francis and his reform-minded papacy. The widely publicized, theologically dense letter was delivered to the Pope with 40 signatures back in August, and according to its organizers, it has since gained 22 more signatures. It was made public over the weekend. In a press release, the organizers say they speak for "a large number" of clergy and lay Catholics who "lack freedom of speech." The letter does not accuse the Pope himself of being a heretic, but of supporting "heretical positions" on "marriage, the moral life and the Eucharist." Specifically, the letter charges Francis with promoting seven "heresies," most notably through his openness to allowing some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion. Francis has not responded to the letter publicly and the Vatican declined to comment.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee asked the White House for information about a media report that senior officials used private email accounts for government business. The request by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight Committee follows a Politico report on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, and other current and former White House officials used private emails for their government duties. In a letter to the White House counsel, the committee’s chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy, and top Democrat Elijah Cummings said they would examine whether senior Trump administration officials were “deliberately trying to circumvent (federal) laws by using personal, private, or alias email addresses to conduct official government business.” Politico said the Kushner emails included correspondence about media coverage, event planning and other subjects. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said his client complied with government record-keeping rules by forwarding all the emails to his official account. During Trump’s 2016 election campaign, the Republican attacked Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Some of Clinton’s messages were later determined to contain classified information.

An earlier version of a healthcare bill Republican leaders are trying to push through the U.S. Senate would save at least $133 billion over 10 years, according to Congress’ nonpartisan budget agency, suggesting it meets requirements to clear the chamber on a simple majority vote. But the Congressional Budget Office did not assess the most recent version of the Graham-Cassidy bill, leaving it unclear whether it also complies with Senate rules expiring on Sept. 30 that permit approval by a simple majority. The CBO said the number of people with insurance would be fewer than under Obamacare because enrollment in the Medicaid program would be substantially lower, enrollment in the individual insurance market would decline due to reductions in subsidies and the bill would repeal individual and company mandates.

The Brazilian government has revoked a controversial decree that would have opened up a vast reserve in the Amazon region to commercial mining. The area, covering 17,800 square miles, straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para. It is thought to be rich in gold, iron, manganese and other minerals. From the moment President Michel Temer signed the decree in August opening the reserve to commercial mining, it was widely condemned. Activists and celebrities voiced concern that the area could be badly compromised. One opposition senator, Randolfe Rodrigues of the Sustainability Network party, said at the time that it was the "biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years". Following the criticism, the government revised the decree, prohibiting mining in conservation or indigenous areas. But a court later suspended the measure altogether, saying any change to the reserve's status had to be considered by the Brazilian congress. On Monday, the government decided to scrap the decree and said it said it would reconsider the issue in the future, in a wider debate. Experts say this is a victory for environmentalists.

A car accident at 20 years old left a French man in a vegetative state for 15 years. But after neurosurgeons implanted a vagus nerve stimulator in his chest, the man, now 35, is showing signs of consciousness, according to a study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. Vagus nerve stimulation is already used to help people with epilepsy and depression. This cranial nerve runs from the brain to other parts of the body, including the heart, lungs and gut; vagus means "wandering" in Latin. Researchers believe the study results are challenging the notion that consciousness disorders lasting longer than 12 months are irreversible. Vagus nerve activity is "important for arousal, alertness and the fight-or-flight response," according to Dr. Angela Sirigu. She is an author of the study and a neuroscientist at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France. In the United States alone, an estimated 50,000 patients are in a vegetative state, and about 300,000 are in a minimally conscious state. Dr. James L. Bernat, a professor of neurology and medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, referred to the new case report as "provocative" and "exciting." Dr. Sirigu said she is planning a large study involving collaboration with several research centers to confirm and extend the therapeutic potential of the vagus nerve stimulation technique.

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