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Paul Ryan Is A Lame Duck. Should The GOP Force Him Out Early?

Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): Welcome, everyone. It’s soooooooooo good to be with you all again.

For us to debate today: How much of a lame duck is House Speaker Paul Ryan?

There have been a few news developments that sorta raise this question — White House budget director Mick Mulvaney reportedly talking to supposed-next-in-line House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about replacing Ryan early, the discharge petition (which would force a vote on DACA) gaining steam in the House despite leadership’s opposition, etc.

So, let’s start with how much of a lame duck Ryan is. But I’m also kinda curious how and why that matters.

perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): He’s a lame duck in the most obvious sense that he’s not running for another term, so he will be gone after December. Usually, the speaker of House leads, in part, through the perception that he or she has outsized power (he or she controls committee chairmanships, has access to donors you need, etc.), and I wonder if you lose power if everyone knows you are leaving soon.

I guess the only question is whether he was a lame duck already — before announcing his pending retirement — because of the perception that Democrats will win the House anyway.

clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): I’ve been tuned out of the House shenanigans for a bit, so I’m not as filled in on this discharge petition stuff that Micah referred to, but the basic gist is that Ryan was against bringing an immigration vote to head and told his caucus as much, but then a lot of them ignored him?

Sounds like a loss of power, though can we directly tie it to his lame duck-age? Isn’t the House Republican caucus just generally disobedient?

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): I think he’s a lame duck figuratively — but not literally. Paul Ryan is a person and not a bird.

But more seriously — he hasn’t been an especially effective speaker. He doesn’t really have that much of a hold of his caucus. And there’s no reason for Kevin McCarthy or other people who want to be speaker not to try to oust him early.

clare.malone: Propriety, I guess, is what the counterargument would be

micah: Is there an affirmative reason for them to oust him early? What’s the benefit?

perry: The context here is that conservatives and moderates joined together to kill a farm and food stamps bill that Ryan was pushing on Friday. That increased the buzz that Ryan has no power with his caucus. The conservatives were mad that he wasn’t moving forward on their immigration bill, which is along the lines of what Trump wants. The moderates didn’t like the food stamps cuts. Separately, the moderates are pushing to get a vote on a bill that would basically grant legal status to the “dreamers,” who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, and trying to force it to the floor over the objections of Ryan.

clare.malone: I’m interested in someone explaining the logic of this Mulvaney quote to me:

“Wouldn’t it be great to force a Democrat running in a tight race to have to put up or shut up about voting for Nancy Pelosi eight weeks before an election? That’s a really, really good vote for us to force if we can figure out how to do it.”

natesilver: Yeah, that quote is obvious bullshit.

micah: I don’t think Mulvaney understands how the midterms are shaping up, no?

clare.malone: If the Republicans decide to force a leadership vote on their end, Democrats also get forced into a vote, right?

perry: If Ryan resigns now, there is a vote by the full House for who is speaker.

micah: Yeah, it’s one vote, right?

perry: Democrats would have to vote for either Pelosi or vote present.

It’s one vote of the whole chamber, yeah.

micah: But, Nate, explain why you think it’s BS.

natesilver: First of all, there are very few vulnerable Democrats running in the House. The GOP won almost all the competitive seats in 2014 and 2016.

Secondly, the Democrats have already voted on Pelosi as speaker, so it’s hard to see another vote having any marginal impact.

Thirdly, some Democrats in tough races (and again, there are almost none of them) might appreciate an opportunity to throw Pelosi under the bus when there’s essentially no consequence to doing so.

And fourthly, this is exactly the sort of self-serving excuse that one should be disdainful of. It’s a transparent excuse from McCarthy’s allies to do something they have lots of other reasons to do.

perry: To take Mulvaney’s side, if you think Ryan is suboptimal as leader because he is a lame duck and want to dump him, that’s a reasonable position. And if you are at a Weekly Standard event (that is where Mulvaney made his comments), it might be easier to say, “Let’s use the speaker vote to beat up on Pelosi,” than, “Ryan has no power and couldn’t manage the firing of a chaplain, let’s get him out already.”

clare.malone: Right, Nate, isn’t politics all about saying something that is actually a transparent excuse to get to actually DO something else? Or Congressional politics, at the very least.

natesilver: Of course it is, Clare, but it’s the job of reporters to call out that bullshit.

clare.malone: You wanted more context to the news story, correct?

Or you wanted reporters to thinly editorialize within the piece that this was BS?

perry: Let me also try defending Mulvaney’s view of the politics: Wouldn’t a vote in September on House speaker be a huge media story and basically require every Democratic candidate for the House — and to some extent the Senate — to give their views on Pelosi? Isn’t this a net good for Republicans? Isn’t any day/week that Pelosi’s unpopularity is in the news a good day for Republicans?

micah: That last point seems pretty persuasive to me.

perry: I’m not saying it’s going to win the GOP any seats. But the Republicans don’t have a lot to run on.

natesilver: I think it would be a half-day story.

slackbot: Micah used to taunt people leaving even a few minutes early with, “Half day?” as they walked out the door. He thought he was very funny. Many, many others disagreed.

clare.malone: lol

micah: Haha — someone made that automated reply when anyone says “half day” apparently.

clare.malone: Can we leave slackbot in there?

natesilver: Please leave that in the chat.

perry: Republicans are already investing heavily in the anti-Pelosi strategy in ads and so on.

natesilver: Whereas … replacing the speaker of the House two months before an election would be a bigger story? What if the vote doesn’t go smoothly?

perry: Good point. Any process that relies on Freedom Caucus cooperation will not be smooth.

Imagine what they would ask McCarthy for! “Obamacare repeal votes every day if you are speaker.”

natesilver: Yeah, for me it’s like — if you can do it quietly, sure, go ahead and do it. But if it becomes a big news story, there’s more downside than upside risk for Republicans.

perry: The Ryan question, in part, gets at something broader: What would you do to save the majority if you were Trump/Mike Pence/McCarthy/Ryan? And is Ryan bad at running the House or is the GOP conference ungovernable? Maybe the second question has the more obvious answer: yes and yes.

micah: OK, yeah, so let’s take that one part at a time.

Step 1: Is Ryan’s continued occupation of the speakership hurting the GOP as it heads into the midterms?

Hurting electorally, that is.

clare.malone: Eh, is it?

micah: I’m asking you!

clare.malone: I’m not sure that it is.

micah: I do the asking around here!!!

clare.malone: OK, that’s my answer: I’m not sure that it is!

I’d call it neutral.

micah: Yeah, that’s my view too.

natesilver: Ryan isn’t a popular guy. He and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are really just as unpopular as Pelosi, depending on which polls you look at.

perry: Hard to know. It’s not helping. He says he is great at raising money. I think GOP donors would give to whoever was in that job, because they are focused on the majority.

micah: Ryan is unpopular in the way all Congressional leaders are unpopular.

natesilver: Also, the GOP agenda is quite unpopular. People forget that Trump’s approval ratings hit some of their lowest points in the midst of the health care debate, and then later in the midst of tax debate, when the GOP Congress was dominating the news.

micah: But again, that suggests this isn’t about Ryan.

Whoever occupies that job will represent 1. Congress, and 2. the GOP agenda.

Both of which, as you say, are unpopular.

natesilver: And Kevin McCarthy is not exactly a guy who screams, “Here’s a break from the status quo.”

micah: Very true.

clare.malone: He’s from exotic CALIFORNIA!!!!

micah: lol

OK, Step 2 …

Would a different speaker (McCarthy or someone else) or the process of getting a different speaker, in any way improve GOP’s 2018 fortunes?

natesilver: “In any way” is a pretty big qualifier.

micah: I’m trying to encourage outside-the-box thinking.

natesilver: I think there are probably some consequences to the GOP caucus being in disarray before the midterms. I’m not sure if getting rid of Ryan will lead to more or less disarray, however.

But I don’t think this is really an electoral politics story. It’s more a future-of-the-Republican-Party story.

clare.malone: Love those.

Ryan is publicly “with Trump,” but you can read between the lines and see that he also probably doesn’t like the guy. But he’s gone along with him. I’d be interested to see what a Freedom Caucus speaker would look like — i.e., a super-duper Trump buy-in person.

micah: I mean, isn’t McCarthy pretty super-duper Trumpy?

clare.malone: Sure. But he’s not a radical conservative.

That’s what I mean … like, of the stylistically radically conservative set.

natesilver: I don’t think McCarthy is particularly Trumpy.

perry: Ryan is, “Let Mueller finish.” McCarthy is basically, “Whatever Trump is for.” And a Freedom Caucus speaker would be, “Fire Rosenstein, we need a second special counsel, go Nunes!”

clare.malone: Yes.

Chaos agents.

micah: That’s a good way to break it down.


Go Nunes!

perry: And I think that is what we are really debating ahead of 2018. Ryan wants to do conservative policy (reforming the food stamp program, for example). The moderates don’t, because conservative policy is dangerous politically if you are in a swing district. The Freedom Caucus wants to do conservative policy and anti-Mueller/Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stuff. McCarthy wants to please Trump and become speaker (those goals are related but not necessarily perfectly aligned with one another). He is not particularly policy-oriented, and I don’t mean that as a insult, because being in leadership in Congress is not really a policy role.

And as Nate hinted, these play into visions of the future too.

natesilver: I mean, McCarthy has voted with Trump a lot since he’s been in leadership. But I think he’s sort of a generic conservative Republican, frankly. He’s neither as ideologically-driven nor as wonky as Ryan, I don’t think. He’s just a partisan who votes the way most of the GOP caucus does.

micah: Doesn’t that describe Ryan too?

clare.malone: Zing!

micah: I’m serious!

clare.malone: I know.

natesilver: Ryan has at least the patina of being an intellectual.

micah: *had

clare.malone: The Ryan-McCarthy swap out would be more of the same.

perry: Ryan really wants to do a bill reforming the food program because he believes in that policy. McCarthy, I don’t think, would really push that — unless he was told that was what other people wanted and it would guarantee him speaker votes.

micah: So if that’s true, then maybe getting McCarthy in would marginally help the GOP.

natesilver: Ryan has called out Trump on various occasions. Maybe not when it mattered and not in a meaningful way. But more than McCarthy has.

perry: That is true as well.

I think McCarthy, if you can believe it, might make the House slightly more Trump-aligned than it is now.

clare.malone: Do you think voters actually care about a new speaker pre-midterms?

micah: Noooooooooooooooo

clare.malone: That’s the original q …

I’m not sure they do!

Micah and I are on the “nothing really matters” bandwagon

micah: Team Nihilism!!!

perry: There might be ways to change House policy that would matter in the midterms.

Like if I were them, I would stop doing food stamps and go full culture war — defend the police, build the wall, a bill encouraging NFL players to stand during the pledge, etc.

There are probably ways to run the House that are more Trump-like, in other words,

and I think that might have marginal electoral effects.

clare.malone: OK, that’s fair.

And that would be a definite departure from the current course of action.

But that sounds like a full Freedom Caucus speakership, not a McCarthy one. So it would have to be an upheaval speakership election.

natesilver: It seems like you guys are ignoring some important ways that the House could matter.

In Room, The Elephant

micah: Nate, what you talking about?

natesilver: Mueller.

What if Rudy Giuliani is right about something for the first time in many years, and Mueller actually does come back with findings before Sept. 1?

What if Trump fires Mueller? What if he fires Rosenstein?

What if Trump pardons Jared Kushner after Mueller indicts him?

All of these are very real possibilities.

micah: So?

Nate, what does this have to do with anything!!!!

clare.malone: Nate literally just changed the entire convo.

perry: Would Ryan react differently in any of those situations than McCarthy would?

Would Ryan react differently to that than Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan?

micah: In Room, A Non Sequitur

natesilver: I’m just saying we’re debating all these minutia of what the House’s agenda will be for the rest of the year, and that’ll all be outweighed by an order of magnitude if any of the aforementioned Mueller-related things happen.

So, yes, how would Ryan react (as compared to McCarthy or Jordan) to an obstruction of justice finding, for example?

micah: The same.

natesilver: [citation needed]

micah: The same, according to my gut feeling which is based on not much at all.

clare.malone: Jordan might act differently.

micah: Oh, yeah …


Jordan might.

natesilver: One could maaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyybeee argue that having Ryan still in place as speaker could help the GOP in that instance.

He could try to play like he’s the reasonable man in the room, a framing that the media tends to eat up with Ryan, just so the GOP can buy time and see how the midterms go.

clare.malone: I’ve lost track. Does Nate think Ryan should resign?

natesilver: I think Republicans should do whatever the hell they want. I don’t think the overall electoral effects are liable to be profound either way unless there’s a messy transition or speakership battle, and even then they’ll be like the seventh most important issue.

If somehow that messy transition battle coincided with a big development in the Mueller probe where Congress was compelled to weigh in — I guess that’s the worst-case scenario for the GOP, insofar as this goes.

clare.malone: So you’re lightweight on Team Nihilist.

micah: OK, actually, if we use Trump score as a proxy for “will do what benefits Trump,” then here’s the ranking from most pro-Trump to least:

  1. McCarthy
  2. Ryan
  3. Jordan

perry: The Trump score is broken in this case then. On a Mueller probe scale, it should be, in terms of loyalty to Trump: 1. Jordan 2. McCarthy 3. Ryan. Or maybe: 1. Jordan/McCarthy 2. Ryan. Or: 1. Jordan/McCarthy/Ryan.

micah: lol

OK, closing thoughts?

natesilver: I’d just keep in mind that the next GOP leader will likely face either a Democratic House or a very narrow GOP majority, neither of which is much fun.

clare.malone: Do you think if Netflix offered Ryan a development deal he’d leave early?

I’m half serious. If it’s such a shit job and his leaving will have no real effect, why wouldn’t he leave early?

I guess that’s my ultimate last thought: I don’t think the speakership matters to voters.

micah: Team Nihilism!

natesilver: It’s a bit humiliating, I guess? Ryan tries to brand himself as someone who’s principled rather than transactional.

micah: The Trump presidency has been really bad for the Ryan brand.

However his tenure ends.

natesilver: Arguably Ryan has been bad for the Trump presidency too.

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AFP still has 170kg of silver seized in Panama Papers investigation – politics live | Australia news

So just further to what Christopher was reporting, Andrew Colvin originally said he wanted no threshold for his officers to be able to ask for your ID at airports. He later changed that to “low” threshold. These are paraphrased quotes from the hearing.

Nick McKim: You don’t need threshold to have conversation. You’re not asking for lowering of threshold, you’re asking for no threshold.

Colvin: Correct.

McKim: So AFP officer can go up to someone and demand they show ID. I think this is unprecedented in Australia’s history to give police the powers to demand ID with no suspicion that someone is committing an offence.

Colvin: It’s not unprecedented, unusual. There are instances under state legislation.

McKim: I think this is a step too far down the road to authoritarianism in Australia.

Derryn Hinch, who supports the regulation change, said he was still worried about racial profiling, basing his concerns on what he sees occurring in the US.

Colvin: There is a world of difference between our culture and that in the US. Our officers are well trained, and we ensure our officers do not engage in racial profiling.

Colvin said it is a matter between the government and the airlines about why airlines don’t ask for ID at check in (while they might do it at the desk, they don’t do it at the self-check in stations)

As for whether we will be heading down the pupil scanning route we are seeing in America, Home Affairs chief Michael Pezzullo said if the threat mandates it, then it will be put in place.

Basically, Asio provides the intelligence, AFP and Border Force talk about how it would be implemented and then the government would put the policy in place.

The committee then moved back to what gap the ID check laws filled.

Colvin said the current threshold for asking for ID – reasonable suspicion a crime has been committed or will be committed – did not ‘match the situation’ his officers faced.

So, he said, the AFP put this proposal to the government.

Asked to provide what countries have these sort of powers by Murray Watt, who asked this same question of Pezzullo earlier in the week, Colvin said all adult passengers in the US have to show ID to travel domestically.

But the change being proposed here is not the same in the US – because they have constitutionally protection under their bill of rights – which we do not.

Colvin then corrected the record – the AFP doesn’t want no threshold, just a “lowering of the threshold.”

But they don’t know what that will look like.

Penny Wong jumped in, asking “I understand you don’t have the detail of how that will be operationalised, but you must have a sense of what you are asking for.”

Colvin didn’t answer the question.

McKim was flabbergasted. “Wow,’ was all he said.

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Could Democrats take Virginia’s 7th district?

FOUR years after he defeated Eric Cantor, then the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, in the primary for Virginia’s 7th congressional district, Dave Brat (pictured) has himself become the target of an uprising. National Democrats, energised by voters’ distaste for President Donald Trump, have their sights on the seat, which was last won by a Democrat in 1963. 

The 7th district, which covers some of the suburbs of Richmond and surrounding countryside, includes a Trump-friendly, thinly populated farm belt where Mr Brat is certain to win comfortably. But the vote-rich suburbs could pose more of a challenge. Leafy neighborhoods south and west of Richmond are becoming less reliably Republican, a trend that has accelerated since Mr Trump became president.

These bedroom communities—white, affluent and moderate, in part, because of a burst of out-of-state newcomers—are in two counties that tipped Democratic in last year’s governor’s election. In 2016, Henrico fell to Hillary Clinton. Chesterfield was barely carried by Mr Trump. And the 7th District, overall, went Republican for governor by the skimpiest margin.

This has convinced national Democrats, who need 24 seats to take back the House of Representatives in the mid-terms in November, to make a strong play for the 7th District. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting the seat, committing cash and services to the party’s nominee, who will be selected in a primary in June. By the early spring, Dan Ward, a former adviser to the State Department and Abigail Spanberger, formerly a CIA operative, had each raised more than $724,000.  Mr Brat had raised $860,000. But it is emotion, rather than money, that will probably shape the campaign.

Mr Brat is unapologetically conservative, expressing his views in a manner that alternates between a lecture and a bark. He is a stout defender of the president, depicting Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign as “deep-state stuff”. Hostile on immigration and hawkish on the latest tax cuts, he is a favorite of conservative media and often avoids the mainstream press—voters, too, except in situations he can control.

All this has contributed to a long list of complaints against Mr Brat by an increasing number of voters, many of them women. Most notable among his critics is an organisation called the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County, which emerged, almost overnight, thanks to outrage over Mr Trump.

These women, skilled in the person-to-person communications that can quickly mobilise neighborhoods, were initially infuriated by Mr Brat’s complicity in Republican efforts to unravel President Barack Obama’s marquee initiative, the Affordable Care Act. They stalked Mr Brat, online and in-person, occasionally to comical effect. At one point, he complained that “women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

When Mr Brat does communicate with voters, it is in settings that he can control: a radio chat show, the host which is one of Mr Trump’s Virginia organisers, or the op-ed page of his hometown’s editorially conservative newspaper.

This has not gone unnoticed by the sorts of voters who should be with Mr Brat: centrist Republicans who are pro-business and socially moderate. Because Mr Brat comports himself as Mr Trump’s mini-me, they are looking elsewhere or considering staying home in November.

Such Republicans were generally comfortable with Mr Cantor and willing to occasionally look the other way over his accommodations with the party’s restive right wing. They include William Royall, a former Republican operative-turned-direct mail marketer and art impresario who is supporting Ms Spanberger. He does not conceal his hostility for Mr Brat. “I don’t like his politics,” Mr Royall told the Washington Post recently. “I still consider myself a Republican but the party has gone in another direction.”

Republicans like Mr Royall would have to defect on a grand scale for Democrats to prevail in Virginia’s 7th District. Its boundaries, even after they were reset by judges to eliminate racial gerrymandering in an adjacent district, still favour Republicans. But Mr Brat’s success in making enemies of presumed friends has Republicans wondering if the 7th district might soon turn blue.

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Immigration, education key in primaries for Georgia governor

ATLANTA (AP) – In Georgia’s gubernatorial primaries Tuesday, Democrats were guaranteed the party’s first female nominee for the office while the Republican contest centered largely on who loved guns the most and was toughest on immigration.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office said that voting had gone “smoothly” across the state, though they opened four investigations including one involving a delayed opening in Chatham county.

The two Democratic candidates are former legislative colleagues tussling over ethics accusations and their records on education. Former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and former state Rep. Stacey Evans are both Atlanta-area attorneys. The Stacey who wins will be the first female Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Georgia.

Abrams got a last-minute boost with an endorsement — in the form of a 60-second robo-call — from Hillary Clinton.

Voting in Atlanta as drizzle fell, independent consultant Jen Willsea said she hopes Abrams becomes the first black female governor in the Deep South state. Abrams “excites me more than almost any politician I’ve seen or met or heard about in years,” she said,

But small business owner Corbet Brown says he supports Evans, because it’s time for a change.

The Republican field includes five white men: former legislators, officeholders and businessmen, some with decades of political experience and others positioning themselves as outsiders challenging the establishment.

They include Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of Gainesville, Secretary of State Brian Kemp of Athens, former state Sen. Hunter Hill of Atlanta, state Sen. Michael Williams of Cumming and businessman Clay Tippins of Atlanta.

In the wealthier suburbs north of Atlanta, Republican John Damken of Johns Creek said Cagle got his vote. Damken, who is white, said the economy is more important than any gender or racial precedent.

“I think we’re way past the first woman doing anything, the first black doing anything. We’re way past that,” said Damken, 67. “We should be colorblind. We should be gender blind and go for whomever we think is the best person.”

Kemp supporter Ernest Moosa, 56, described himself as a libertarian, and said Cagle lost his vote by supporting a gasoline tax a few years ago.

“Our sales taxes and our total tax burden is beginning to look more like Northeastern cities than a city in the Southeast,” Moosa said.

JoAnn Walter, 72, also picked Kemp, saying she really liked his provocative ads. One featured him wielding a shotgun alongside a young male suitor of his teenage daughter; in another, he said his pickup could come in handy rounding up “criminal illegals.”

“They get your attention and you remember them,” she said, adding that she supported the messages in those ads.

Voting in Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead neighborhood, Bonnie Mayo, 76, chose Hill, saying she thinks he did very well in a debate she watched.

“I just liked him,” she said, “He represents a change.”

She thinks Cagle will probably end up being her party’s nominee and she’s OK with that, but she was turned off by him killing a tax break that would have saved Delta Air Lines millions each year in retaliation for ending a discount program for members of the National Rifle Association.

“I thought it was unnecessary and a play for attention more than anything else,” she said.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent – a strong possibility given the crowded GOP field – the two with the most votes will advance to a July 24 runoff.

The candidates are vying to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who has held the office since 2011.

All of Georgia’s statewide constitutional offices are up for grabs this election cycle, including those vacated by Cagle and Kemp, as well as the position of insurance commissioner vacated by Ralph Hudgens, who isn’t seeking re-election.

Georgia’s 180 state House and 56 state Senate seats are also up for a vote.

Five of Georgia’s U.S. House members face primary challengers.

Data released by Kemp’s office showed a relatively strong turnout in early voting this year.


Associated Press writer Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Alex Sanz in Johns Creek contributed to this report.


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Trio of survivors from Cuban plane crash in ‘critical’ condition,

HAVANA — The only three survivors of Cuba’s worst aviation disaster in three decades were clinging to life Saturday, a day after their passenger jet crashed in a fireball in Havana’s rural outskirts with 113 people on board.

In the first official death toll provided by authorities, Transportation Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez said 110 had died including five children. He also announced that a flight recorder from the plane had been located.

Carlos Alberto Martinez, director of Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital where the survivors were being treated, said doctors are always hopeful that their patients will recover, but he acknowledged that the three Cuban women were in extremely grave condition.

“We must be conscious that they present severe injuries,” Martinez told a small group of journalists. “They are in a critical state.”

More than 100 killed in fiery Cuban airliner crash near Havana

Cuban officials identified the women as Mailen Diaz, 19, of Holguin; Grettel Landrove, 23, of Havana; and Emiley Sanchez, 39, of Holguin.

Martinez said Sanchez was conscious and communicating, Diaz was conscious and sedated and Landrove was in a coma.

The first secretary of Communist Party in the Cuban city of Holguin, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar (l.) speaks with relatives of the victims of a plane crash, at Holguin airport, after a Cubana Airlines aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Havana's Jose Marti International Airport on May 18, 2018. The Boeing 737 crash killed over 100 passengers.

Cubana Airlines plane carrying passengers in Havana crashes shortly after takeoff

Landrove’s mother, Amparo Font, told reporters that her daughter is a flamenco dancer and engineering student on the verge of graduation.

“My daughter is an angel,” Font said. “They have to save her.”

Meanwhile relatives of the dead gathered at a morgue in the capital, weeping and embracing each other, as investigators tried to piece together why the aging Boeing 737 went down and erupted in flames shortly after takeoff early Friday afternoon.

Yzquierdo said those on board included 102 Cubans, three tourists, two foreign residents and six crew members, who were from Mexico.

Maite Quesada, a member of the Cuban Council of Churches, announced that 20 pastors from an evangelical church were among the dead. They had spent several days at a meeting in the capital and were returning to their homes and places of worship in the province of Holguin.

Relatives of passengers who perished in Cuba's worst aviation disaster grieve as they leave the morgue in Havana on Saturday.

Relatives of passengers who perished in Cuba’s worst aviation disaster grieve as they leave the morgue in Havana on Saturday.

Skies were overcast and rainy at the airport at the time of Cuba’s third major air accident since 2010, and state television said the 39-year-old jet veered sharply to the right after departing on a domestic flight to the eastern city of Holguin.

Eyewitness and private salon owner Rocio Martinez said she heard a strange noise and looked up to see the plane with a turbine on fire.

“It had an engine on fire, in flames, it was falling toward the ground,” Martinez said, adding that the plane veered into the field where it crashed, avoiding potential fatalities in a nearby residential area.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said a special commission had been formed to find the cause of the crash.

State airline Cubana, which operated the flight, has had a generally good safety record but is notorious for delays and cancellations and has taken many of its planes out of service because of maintenance problems in recent months, prompting it to hire charter aircraft from other companies.

The people on the plane included 102 Cubans, three tourists, two foreign residents and six crew members.

The people on the plane included 102 Cubans, three tourists, two foreign residents and six crew members.

Mexican officials said the Boeing 737-201 was built in 1979 and rented by Cubana from Aerolineas Damojh, a small charter company that also goes by the name Global Air.

Aviation authorities in Guyana last year stopped the same aircraft from conducting charter flights because of serious safety concerns, including fears about excessive baggage overloading and other issues.

In November 2010 a Global Air flight originating in Mexico City made an emergency landing in Puerto Vallarta because its front landing gear did not deploy. The fire was quickly extinguished, and none of the 104 people aboard were injured. That plane was a 737 first put into service in 1975.

Mexican aviation authorities said a team of experts would fly to Cuba on Saturday to take part in the investigation.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said two of its citizens had died in the crash.

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Alabama town terrorized by ‘poop train’ gets free Febreze samples

The so-called New York City “poop train” — a trainload of human waste — finally left the small Alabama town it was stranded in, but the smell of excretion was so strong that Febreze stepped in to freshen up the area.

The air freshener brand provided free samples of its products to residents in Walker County’s Parrish, a town with a population of 982, where the train of 200 sludge-filled shipping containers was stuck for more than two months, AL.com reported. 


The train of sludge, a byproduct of New Yorkers’ excrement, was stationed in the town until April, before being transported to a landfill roughly 20 miles away.

This April 12, 2018 photo shows containers that were loaded with tons of sewage sludge in Parrish, Ala. More than two months after the so-called "Poop Train" rolled in from New York City, Hall says her small town smells like rotting corpses. Some say the trainloads of New Yorkers' excrement is turning Alabama into a dumping ground for other states' waste. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

This April 12, 2018 photo shows containers that were loaded with tons of sewage sludge in Parrish, Alabama.

 (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Locals had complained about the stench for weeks. “No one should be immersed in the stink,” Febreze told the outlet, explaining their decision to “finally bring a breath of fresh air to the good people of Parrish.”

The Procter & Gamble company, known for its odor-eliminating products, shared a jokingly dramatic video on Twitter of residents complaining about the “awful, stinky” smell, which some compared to that of “dead bodies.”

“The running joke was when the ‘poop train’ came that we needed to just drop Febreze on top of the train,” one resident said in the video.

While New York has discontinued waste shipments to Alabama for now, experts say some cities send their waste to Alabama and other Southern states due to low landfill fees and lax zoning laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @nicoledarrah.

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Senate curbs Donald Trump’s ability to ease sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE

The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday attempted to curb President Trump’s ability to ease sanctions on ZTE Corp., amid trade talks between Washington and Beijing and growing concerns that the Chinese cellphone maker poses security risks to U.S. national security.

On Tuesday, committee members approved an amendment, in a 23-2 vote, to block the White House from easing sanctions on ZTE by requiring the administration first prove to Congress that the Shenzen-based company is complying with U.S. law.

During a separate Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Treasure Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said any easing of sanctions would heed national security concerns.

“Anything that they consider will take into account the very important national security issues, and those will be addressed,” Mr. Mnuchin told committee members.

He did not confirm that a move was underway to lift the ban.

The ban on ZTE has become snared in trade talks between the Trump administration and Beijing, and alarms are being raised about ZTE’s ability to breach U.S. national security by selling phones to Americans.

Last month, Washington barred ZTE from receiving U.S. exports after the firm failed to comply with a settlement reached after it violated sanctions against North Korea and Iran. The Pentagon previously banned the phones on military bases because of the security concerns.

Earlier this month in response to a personal request by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mr. Trump ordered a review of the ZTE ban, which has the potential to devastate the firm that is China’s second-largest manufacturer of cellphones.

“If the president and his team won’t follow through on tough sanctions against ZTE, it’s up to Congress to ensure that it happens,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Republicans also came out against moves to ease off ZTE. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, on Tuesday said China appeared to be “out-negotiating” the administration by securing concessions “without giving up anything meaningful in return.”

Mr. Rubio tweeted, “Sadly #China is out-negotiating the administration & winning the trade talks right now. They have avoided tariffs & got a #ZTE deal without giving up anything meaningful in return by using N.Korea talks & agriculture issues as leverage. This is #NotWinning.”

• S.A. Miller contributed to this article.

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Rare, brain-damaging Nipah virus spreads panic in India as toll rises

“We’ve sought the help of private hospitals to tide over the crisis,” said the official, U.V. Jose.

Gulf News reported that Kerala “is in a state of panic after many cases of the killer Nipah virus were detected.”

An Indian boy wears a mask as a precautionary measure against the Nipah virus.

An Indian boy wears a mask as a precautionary measure against the Nipah virus.

Photo: AP

The Hindu reported that some ambulance drivers even declined to take a victim’s body to the crematorium for fear that they would contract the illness.

There is no clear preventive or curative treatment for Nipah, a newly emerging disease spread by bats, pigs and people who have become infected, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation.

The outbreak is suspected to have been spread by infected fruit bats.

The outbreak is thought to be spread by fruit bats.

The outbreak is thought to be spread by fruit bats.

Photo: Supplied

India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Tuesday that public health crews found numerous bats in a water well that had been used by three family members who were among the victims. The crews have since sealed the well with florescent nets, according to BBC News.

A nurse who treated some of the victims died on Monday from the disease, according to the BCC.

In her final days, Lini Puthusheri (which has also been spelled Puthussery) wrote a note to her husband from a hospital isolation ward, asking him to take care of their two children.

“I think I am almost on my way. I may not be able to see you again. Sorry,” Puthusheri wrote, according to the Associated Press. “Take care of our children.”

The Nipah virus was first identified in 1999, after farmers and others who had come in contact with infected pigs in Malaysia and Singapore developed severe respiratory problems and inflammation in the brain in 1999.

Nearly 300 people were diagnosed with the disease, and more than 100 of them died, according to the CDC.

Symptoms typically present one to two weeks after exposure and can include fever and headache, convulsions, respiratory and neurological problems, according to the agency.

The virus has a mortality rate of 75 per cent, according to WHO.

Henk Bekedam, WHO’s representative to India, said the agency is monitoring the outbreak.

“WHO has been informed about Nipah virus cases being reported in a family from a village in Kozhikode district of Kerala,” he said. “Both the central and the state health authorities have been quick in responding to the situation and have promptly deployed teams and experts to the village to further assess the situation. WHO is in close contact with the teams of experts deployed to the affected areas. We await the assessment reports of the teams to clarify the situation and guide further action.”

Bekedam said the key to stopping the spread of the disease is identifying any potential victims, testing them and treating them as early as possible. The primary treatment is supportive care.

Shailaja, the health minister in Kerala, said those who have been in contact with the victims have been put into quarantine.

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano spews lava: Follow live

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that two lava flows are entering the Pacific Ocean, which has created a potentially deadly “laze hazard.”

Access to the area is prohibited. Residents are being told to stay away from any ocean plume “since it can change direction without warning,” and the U.S. Coast Guard is enforcing a 300-meter “standoff zone.”

So what’s “laze“? Here’s how the USGS describes it:

When molten lava flows into the ocean, it reacts vigorously with sea water to create a different type of gas plume that results in hazy and noxious conditions downwind of an ocean entry. Referred to as a “laze” plume (for a blending of the words ‘lava’ and ‘haze’), it forms through a series of chemical reactions as hot lava boils seawater to dryness. The plume is an irritating mixture of hydrochloric acid gas (HCl), steam, and tiny volcanic glass particles. 

If anyone comes in contact with the gas plume, it can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as breathing difficulties. It can also be deadly.

The USGS attributes two deaths to laze in back in 2000, when the badly burned bodies of two hikers were discovered near a lava entry point in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Both had died of pulmonary edema caused by the inhalation of steam.

“They unwisely accepted a risk by choosing to enter an area the National Park had closed because of known — and posted — eruption hazards,” USGS said.

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Republicans, no Democrats, invited to see documents on U.S. election probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Republican lawmakers, and no Democrats, are expected to attend a meeting scheduled for Thursday to review classified information relating to U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion the FBI might have used an informant to gather information on his 2016 election campaign, the White House said on Tuesday.

Trump’s closest conservative allies in Congress have been clamoring for access to the classified documents. The lawmakers have accused the FBI and Department of Justice of political bias against Trump in favor of Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his successful presidential campaign.

The meeting attendees will be Representatives Devin Nunes, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, and Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders told the daily news briefing.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O’Callaghan are also expected to attend, she said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a group of Republican lawmakers called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the probe into Trump’s campaign, Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, as Trump ramped up his own criticism of the Department of Justice.

At least 18 Republican lawmakers signed onto a resolution calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the department and the FBI, accusing them of misconduct as Trump campaigned two years ago against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined comment.

Conservatives have been criticizing the department, the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the election for months. Their rhetoric intensified after Trump suggested on Friday that the FBI might have planted or recruited an informant in his presidential campaign for political purposes.

Moscow denies election meddling and Trump denies any collusion between Russian officials and his campaign, calling investigations a political witch hunt.

On Monday, the Justice Department agreed to investigate “any irregularities” in FBI tactics related to Trump’s campaign. The agreement was made during a meeting between Trump, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Wray.

“It is time for transparency and it is time to allow the American people to know the truth,” Representative Mark Meadows, the Republican who leads the conservative Freedom Caucus, told a news conference announcing the resolution.

Representative Lee Zeldin, who led the push for the resolution, said it would be introduced later on Tuesday.

Zeldin, Meadows and about a dozen other Republicans in the House of Representatives insisted at a news conference announcing the resolution that Trump had not requested a new counsel.

They also called for access, for Democrats as well as Republicans, to all documents related to the case.

There was no immediate response from House leadership aides on whether the measure might come up for a vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said repeatedly, however, that he believed Mueller should be allowed to continue his work.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, attends a news conference with 10 other Republican members of Congress announcing their introduction of a U.S. House resolution alleging misconduct in the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation and requesting the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the law enforcement probes into the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Eric Walsh; editing by Grant McCool

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