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Reactor cleanup milestone – World News



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The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant for the first time is removing fuel from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 disaster, a milestone in the decades-long process to decommission the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday workers started removing the first of 566 fuel units stored in the pool at Unit 3. The fuel units in the pool are not enclosed and their removal to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake.

TEPCO says the removal at Unit 3 would take two years, followed by the two other reactors.

The step comes ahead of the real challenge of removing melted fuel from inside the reactors, but details are largely unknown.

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Apr 14, 2019 / 12:40 pm | Story:
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Fallen hero, crippled star, and now a Masters champion again.

Tiger Woods rallied to win the Masters for the fifth time Sunday, a comeback that goes well beyond the two-shot deficit he erased before a delirious audience that watched memories turn into reality at Augusta National.

Woods had gone nearly 11 years since he won his last major, 14 years since that green jacket was slipped over his Sunday red shirt. He made it worth the wait, closing with a 2-under 70 for a one-shot victory and setting off a scene of raw emotion.

He scooped up 10-year-old Charlie, born a year after Woods won his 14th major at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S Open. He hugged his mother and then his 11-year-old daughter Sam, and everyone else in his camp that stood by him through a public divorce, an embarrassing DUI arrest from a concoction of painkillers and four back surgeries, the most recent one just two years ago to fuse his lower spine.

“WOOOOOOO!!!” Woods screamed as he headed for the scoring room with chants of “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger” echoing as loud as any of the roars on the back nine at Augusta National.

“It’s overwhelming, just because of what has transpired,” Woods said in Butler Cabin. “Last year I was lucky to be playing again. At the previous year’s dinner, I was really struggling. I missed a couple of years not playing this great tournament. To now be the champion … 22 years between wins is a long time. It’s unreal to experience this.”

Woods lost his impeccable image to a sex scandal, one of the swiftest and most shocking downfalls in sport.

He lost his health to four back surgeries that left him unable to get out of bed, much less swing a club, and he went two years without even playing a major. It was two years ago at the Masters when Woods said he needed a nerve block just to walk to the Champions Dinner. At that time, he thought his career is over.

Now the comeback is truly complete.

He wrapped his arms around his father when he won his first green jacket in 1997, changing the world of golf.

“Now I’m the dad with two kids there,” he said.

He wanted his children to see him win, once saying they saw him only as a YouTube legend. They were at the British Open when he had the lead briefly. They couldn’t make it to East Lake last September, when he won the Tour Championship for his first victory in five years.

“I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice,” he said. “To let them see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope it’s something they’ll never forget.”

Woods won his 15th major, three short of the standard set by Jack Nicklaus. It was his 81st victory on the PGA Tour, one title away from the career record held by Sam Snead.

“A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger,” Nicklaus tweeted. “I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!!!”

It was the first time Woods won a major when trailing going into the final round, and he needed some help from Francesco Molinari, the 54-hole leader who still was up two shots heading into the heart of Amen Corner.

And that’s when all hell broke loose at Augusta.

Molinari’s tee shot on the par-3 12th never had a chance, hitting the bank and tumbling into Rae’s Creek for double bogey. Until then, Molinari had never trailed in a round that began early in threesomes to finish ahead of storms.

And then it seemed as though practically everyone had a chance.

Six players had a share of the lead at some point on the back. With the final group still in the 15th fairway, there was a five-way tie for the lead. And that’s when Woods seized control, again with plenty of help.

Molinari’s third shot clipped a tree and plopped straight down in the water for another double bogey. Woods hit onto the green, setting up a two-putt birdie for his first lead of the final round.

The knockout punch was a tee shot into the 16th that rode the slope just by the cup and settled 2 feet away for birdie and a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

Xander Schauffele failed to birdie the par-5 15th and scrambled for pars the rest of the way for a 68. Dustin Johnson made three straight birdies late in the round, but he got going too late and had to settle for a 68 and a return to No. 1 in the world.

Brooks Koepka, one of four players from the final two groups who hit into the water on No. 12, rallied with an eagle on the 13th, narrowly missed another eagle on the 15th and was the last player with a chance. His birdie putt on the 18th from just outside 10 feet never had a chance, and he had to settle for a 70.

“You want to play against the best to ever play,” Koepka said. “You want to go toe-to-toe with them. I can leave saying I gave it my all. He’s just good, man.”

Wood finished at 13-under 275 and became, at 43, the oldest Masters champion since Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket at 46 in 1986. That for years has stood as Augusta’s defining moment.

This was one is sure to at least rival it.

“This is definitely, probably one of the greatest comebacks I think anybody’s ever seen,” Koepka said, before rattling off Woods’ total PGA Tour victories and 15 majors.

Is the Nicklaus record back in play?

“I think 18 is a whole lot closer than people think,” Koepka said.

Koepka and Molinari both faced Tigermania in the majors and held their own, Molinari at Carnoustie to win the British Open, Koepka last summer at Bellerive to win the PGA Championship.

Molinari went 49 straight holes without a bogey, a streak that ended on the seventh hole. It was the double bogeys that cost him, and the Italian was gracious as ever in defeat.

“I think I made a few new fans today with those double bogeys,” he said.


Apr 14, 2019 / 6:36 am | Story:
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Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were temporarily down early Sunday.

All three social media platforms, including Facebook Messenger, were affected by the outage.

Downdetector.com, a site that monitors site outages, shows Facebook had been down since 6:30 a.m. EST in much of the world, with thousands of reported outages concentrated in the northeastern U.S., Europe and the Philippines.

It appeared to be back up and running for most users by 9 a.m. EST.

An email requesting comment about what caused the outage was sent to Facebook.

#FacebookDown, #instagramdown and #whatsappdown were all trending on Twitter globally.

Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

There are more than 1.52 billion daily active Facebook users, according to the social media network’s website.

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Apr 13, 2019 / 9:04 am | Story:
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An ace Swedish programmer who was an early, ardent supporter of WikiLeaks has been arrested in Ecuador in an alleged plot to blackmail the country’s president over his abandonment of Julian Assange.

But friends of Ola Bini say the soft-spoken encryption expert is being unfairly targeted for his activism on behalf of digital privacy.

On Saturday, prosecutors said they intend to charge Bini for hacking-related crimes and had him ordered detained for up to 90 days while they compile evidence.

The 36-year-old was arrested Thursday at the airport in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito as he prepared to board a flight to Japan. The arrest came just hours after Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Bini was carrying at least 30 electronic storage devices.

His lawyers said they have not been notified whether he’s been charged. Authorities said the plot hatched with two unidentified Russian hackers living in Ecuador involved threatening to release compromising documents about President Lenin Moreno as he toughened his stance against the WikiLeaks founder.

“It’s up to the justice system to determine if he committed a crime,” Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said Friday. “But we can’t allow Ecuador to become a centre for piracy and spying. That period in our history is over.”

Romo said Bini had travelled at least 12 times to meet with Assange at the London embassy. She said he was also in Venezuela earlier this year around the same time as a close aide to Moreno’s ex-mentor turned arch enemy, Rafael Correa. The former president granted Assange asylum in 2012 and has been leading a campaign cheered on by WikiLeaks to expose alleged corruption by Moreno that has included the release of damaging personal documents and photos, including several that showed him eating lobster in bed.

While the extent of Bini’s relationship with Assange is unclear, the Swede has defended the WikiLeaks founder’s free speech rights in an online blog he’s kept over the years.

“Any official who has called for Assange to be treated as a terrorist or enemy combatant should be seriously considering stepping down from office,” he wrote in December 2010.

In the same blog, Bini condemned Amazon for knocking WikiLeaks off its hosting services and credit card companies and PayPal for refusing to process payments to the secret-spilling site. He also described working on a January 2011 panel about WikiLeaks put on by his then-employer, global software firm Thoughtworks, and including Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame.

An expert on secure communications, Bini arrived in Quito in 2013 after being transferred from Chicago to the Ecuador office of Thoughtworks, which has guiding principles that stress social activism. Around the same time, he started to rethink his online habits and at one point gave up his Gmail account in favour of self-hosted email.

“I am not a huge fan of having all my electronic life hosted under the auspices of U.S. legislation, especially not in light of recent events,” he wrote in a 2013 post.

Friends and loved ones describe Bini as a computer geek who felt most at ease solving complex programming problem for days at a time. At the time of his arrest, he was travelling to Japan, his former wife Malin Sandell told The Associated Press, for two weeks of jujitsu training — one of the few hobbies he indulged in outside of his all-consuming work as a code developer.

His Ecuadorian girlfriend said that she did not recall Bini ever expressing strong support for Assange despite the fact that the WikiLeaks founder has deep ties in Sweden and would have been an obvious topic of conversation in the small Ecuadorian programming circles.

“Ola is not a hacker, if by that you mean a criminal, but he is someone trying to understand how computers work and protect people’s privacy,” Sofia Ramos said in an interview from Brussels.

Ramos worked with Bini on a project at the Center for Digital Autonomy for creating a more secure instant-messaging encryption protocol. In its statement Friday, the centre said Computerworld had ranked him in 2010 as Sweden’s No. 6 developer.

The centre is a small non-profit incorporated in Ecuador and Spain dedicated to private, secure and anonymous communication. Its website says it has contributed to well-known projects including Enigmail and the Tor privacy browser.

In the hours before he went to the airport Thursday, Bini sent a tweet warning of a “witch hunt” by Ecuadorian authorities mopping up after Assange’s forced departure from the embassy. Now his friends say that prophecy appears to have been true.

“I didn’t realize that knowing somebody is a crime,” said Vijay Prashad, who runs a Marxist publishing house in India and last saw Bini a few months ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “He’s the last person who would ever be involved in an attempt to overthrow a government.”


Apr 13, 2019 / 8:53 am | Story:
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Ending a standoff over immigration, Malta on Saturday announced a deal to distribute 64 migrants rescued at sea off Libya 10 days ago among four European Union nations.

Malta’s government said the migrants, who will be distributed among Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg, were being transferred to Maltese army boats at sea and would be brought to port later Saturday.

However, Malta said the German-flagged aid ship carrying them, the Alan Kurdi, will still not be allowed to enter its ports and none of the migrants will remain in Malta.

“Once again, the smallest member of the European Union was put under unnecessary pressure being asked to resolve a case which was neither its responsibility nor its remit,” the government said. “A solution was found in order not to let the situation deteriorate further while making it clear Malta cannot keep shouldering this burden.”

Malta has argued it cannot open its ports to humanitarian rescue ships because their activities off the coast of lawless Libya have encouraged human traffickers.

The German aid group Sea-Eye, which had rescued the 64 migrants, had complained for days about worsening conditions on the Alan Kurdi, which was not designed to handle so many people. Two migrants were evacuated due to health issues.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has repeatedly rejected calls to let the ship enter Italian ports, hailed the deal.

“Excellent news!” he tweeted after the deal was announced. He praised Malta for “doing the right thing by denouncing the dangerous and undue pressures exerted by the NGOs.”

Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right League party, is sticking to a hard-line approach to migration, insisting that Italian ports should be closed to migrants rescued by aid groups in the Mediterranean Sea in a bid to force other EU states to take them in.

The 64 migrants were originally rescued off the Libyan coast, so Italy and Malta claimed Libya should have taken them in. However, parts of Libya have seen escalating fighting in the last week amid one group’s military campaign to take the capital.

A total of 356 people have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.


Apr 13, 2019 / 7:15 am | Story:
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More than 70 British lawmakers have urged the government to make sure that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces Swedish justice if prosecutors there reopen a rape allegation against him.

The lawmakers signed a letter late Friday urging Home Secretary Sajid Javid to “do everything you can to champion action that will ensure Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the event Sweden makes an extradition request.”

Sweden suspended its investigation into possible serious sexual misconduct against Assange two years ago because he was beyond their reach while he was living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London with political asylum status.

He was arrested Thursday after Ecuador withdrew his asylum. Assange is now in Belmarsh Prison in southeast London, waiting to be sentenced for jumping bail in Britain and facing an extradition request from the United States on charges of conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer.

WikiLeaks says he will fight the U.S. extradition request and has been meeting with his legal team to plan his defence.

If Britain receives competing extradition requests, lawyers say the Home Secretary would have some leeway in deciding which takes priority. Considerations usually include which request came first and which alleged crime is more serious.

Most of the lawmakers who signed the letter are from the opposition Labour Party, whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, wants Britain to refuse to send Assange to the U.S. After Assange’s arrest, Corbyn praised him for exposing U.S. atrocities committed in Iraq and Afghanistan when WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of confidential U.S. documents in 2010.

Some Conservative Party members are also backing the move. Prominent lawmaker Alistair Burt, a former Foreign Office minister, said the “minimizing of the issues in relation to sexual assault are really quite disturbing.”

He said the testimony of the women who have been involved makes it “essential” that Assange face justice, to either be cleared or convicted.

British politicians are free to lobby the government for a certain course of action, but it’s up to the courts to decide whether the U.S. request for Assange’s extradition — and a possible future request from Sweden — should be honoured.

The Home Secretary, a senior Cabinet official, has some leeway to block extradition under certain specific circumstances, including cases where a person facing extradition might face capital punishment or torture in that country.

Assange, 47, has denied the sexual misconduct allegations, which he claims are politically motivated. He has not had a chance to enter a plea in response to the U.S. charge, but he has claimed that all of his WikiLeaks actions are those of a legitimate journalist.

When he took up residence inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012, it was to avoid answering the sexual allegations against him in Sweden, which had sought his extradition for questioning. He also sought refuge because of fears that Sweden would ultimately extradite him to the U.S.

Swedish prosecutors opened an investigation into Assange after two women accused him of sexual offences during a 2010 visit to Sweden.

Some of the sexual misconduct accusations are no longer viable because their time ran out. But Swedish prosecutors have said a rape case could be reactivated before the statute of limitations for that ends in August 2020.

After Assange’s arrest, Swedish prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson was tapped to look into a request from a lawyer for one of the accusers, to find out whether the case can be pursued.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the woman who reported being raped by Assange, told The Associated Press that she would “do everything” to have the Swedish case reopened so Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted.

The extradition process is not swift, and Assange could appeal several times if decisions go against him. It’s expected that it would take a year or longer for him to be sent to the United States or possibly to Sweden even if he ultimately loses in court.


Apr 13, 2019 / 7:12 am | Story:
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is open to a third summit with President Donald Trump, but set the year’s end as a deadline for Washington to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage the high-stakes nuclear diplomacy, the North’s state-run media said Saturday.

Kim made the comments during a speech Friday at a session of North Korea’s rubber stamp parliament, which made a slew of personnel changes that bolstered his diplomatic lineup amid stalemated negotiations with the United States. His speech came hours after Trump and visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in Washington and agreed on the importance of nuclear talks with North Korea.

“We of course place importance on resolving problems through dialogue and negotiations. But U.S.-style dialogue of unilaterally pushing its demands doesn’t fit us, and we have no interest in it,” Kim said during the speech.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, Kim blamed the collapse of his summit with Trump in February on what he described as unilateral demands by the United States, which he said raised questions over whether Washington has genuine willingness to improve relations. But Kim said his personal relationship with Trump remains good and that they could exchange letters at “any time.”

Trump responded to the remarks by saying he agreed with Kim about their relationship, and also expressed a desire for another summit.

“I agree with Kim Jong Un of North Korea that our personal relationship remains very good, perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate, and that a third Summit would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“North Korea has tremendous potential for … extraordinary growth, economic success and riches under the leadership of Chairman Kim. I look forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!” he tweeted.

In his speech, Kim repeated earlier claims that North Korea’s crippled economy would persevere through heavy international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program and that he wouldn’t “obsess over summitry with the United States out of thirst for sanctions relief.”

The United States has said the summit in Vietnam broke down because of the North’s excessive demands for sanctions relief in return for limited disarmament measures. In their first summit last June in Singapore, Trump and Kim issued a vague statement calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when or how it would occur.

Kim said the United States has been refusing to withdraw what the North perceives as “hostile policies” while sticking to “mistaken judgment that we would succumb to maximum pressure.” He said the North would not compromise on the “fundamental interests of our country and people, even by a speck,” and blamed the United States for arriving in Hanoi with “completely unrealizable plans.”

“If the United States approaches us with the right manner and offers to hold a third North Korea-U.S. leaders’ summit on the condition of finding solutions we could mutually accept, then we do have a willingness to give it one more try,” Kim added. “We will wait with patience until the end of the year for the United States to come up with a courageous decision. But it will clearly be difficult for a good opportunity like last time to come up.”

Kim also during the speech made a nationalistic call for South Korea to support the North’s positions more strongly and criticized Seoul for acting like an “overstepping mediator” between Washington and Pyongyang. Kim held three summits last year with Moon, who lobbied hard to revive the nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea. Following the collapse of the Trump-Kim summit, the North had been urging the South to break away from Washington and proceed with inter-Korean economic projects that are currently held back by U.S.-led sanctions against the North.

“The South should not act as an ‘overstepping mediator’ or a ‘facilitator’ and should rather get its mind straight as a member of the (Korean) nation and boldly speak up for the interest of the nation,” Kim said.

When asked about Kim’s comments, South Korea’s presidential office said Seoul is committed toward keeping the atmosphere of dialogue alive and helping negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang resume at an early date.

On Friday, KCNA reported that Kim was reelected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the nation’s most important decision-making body, during a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly that praised his “outstanding ideological and theoretical wisdom and experienced and seasoned leadership.”

Experts say the new appointments may be a sign of Kim’s desire to keep recent months of up-and-down nuclear diplomacy alive rather than returning to the threats and weapons tests that characterized 2017, when many feared war on the Korean Peninsula.

But the lack of substantial disarmament commitments from the North and the deepening impasse in nuclear negotiations have fueled doubts over whether Kim would ever voluntarily relinquish an arsenal he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

Some experts say it’s becoming clear the North intends to turn the talks with the United States into a bilateral arms reduction negotiation between two nuclear states, rather than a unilateral process of surrendering its arsenal.

Kim has signed vague statements calling for the “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula in his meetings with Trump and Moon. But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearization that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.


Apr 13, 2019 / 7:11 am | Story:
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A top House Democrat is ratcheting up his demand for access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns, telling the IRS that the law clearly gives Congress a right to them.

The response by Rep. Richard Neal, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, comes after the administration asked for more time to consider his initial request last week.

The Massachusetts Democrat says a 1920-era law saying the IRS “shall furnish” any tax return requested by Congress “is unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues” and that the Treasury’s objections lack merit.

Neal tells IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, a Trump appointee, that he has two weeks to respond.

If Rettig fails to respond, Neal says that’ll be interpreted as denying the request, which could pave the way for a court battle.


Apr 12, 2019 / 8:20 pm | Story:
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A Phoenix man has been arrested on suspicion of killing his wife, two of his young daughters and a man who the suspect thought was romantically involved with his wife, police said Friday.

Austin Smith was booked on suspicion of four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault, Sgt. Tommy Thompson said.

Bail was set at $2 million, court records show. A Maricopa County Superior Court sent Smith’s case to the local public defender’s office. But no specific attorney had been assigned to him by Friday evening.

Smith was arrested Thursday evening as he drove from an apartment complex where officers had responded to a shooting. There, they found the body of 46-year-old Ron Freeman. A woman and another man were shot and wounded at the complex, Thompson said.

Officers who went to Smith’s home later Thursday found his wife, 29-year-old Dasia Patterson, and their 5-year-old daughter, Nasha Smith, dead from gunshot wounds. Their 7-year-old daughter, Mayan Smith, died from apparent blunt-force trauma, and the couple’s 3-year-old daughter was found uninjured under a bed at the family’s home.

“It is my understanding that for whatever reason he elected not to shoot her,” Thompson said.

The suspect told detectives during an interview that he believed “in God’s eyes it was all right for him to deal with someone in this manner who had been involved in adultery or an extramarital affair,” Thompson said.

He described the scene at the apartment complex as chaotic, with firefighters treating victims while authorities did not initially know the shooter’s whereabouts.

Officers searching his car with a search warrant found a 9mm handgun, a .45 calibre handgun and a .223 calibre rifle they believe were used in the shootings, according to a probable cause statement filed in the case.

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Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report.


Apr 12, 2019 / 11:51 am | Story:
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An actor and spokesman for the discount hotel website Trivago.com has been arrested in Texas on a misdemeanour driving while intoxicated charge.

Court records show 52-year-old Timothy Williams was arrested Wednesday afternoon in Houston and freed on $100 bond.

Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said Friday that Williams was stopped in traffic and passed out with his foot on the brake. Silva says Williams, who’s from Houston, failed a field sobriety test and agreed to having blood drawn for alcohol testing. Results weren’t immediately available.

A Trivago statement Friday says the company didn’t have full details on the situation but treats such incidents very seriously and strongly condemns drinking and driving as a risk to others and against the Trivago culture.

Court records didn’t list an attorney representing Williams.


Apr 12, 2019 / 11:20 am | Story:
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Oklahoma’s new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is taking a shot at the “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course outside the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

Organizers of the reality television show that features high-level athletes racing through grueling obstacles say the 47-year-old ex-CEO is the first governor to give the course a try.

Stitt bloodied his elbow completing a rope swing to a landing pad after jumping across a pool of water. A spokeswoman says he finished two of the three obstacles.

Filming for the show will continue Friday and Saturday night for the NBC program’s 11th season. Other stops this season include Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Seattle.

The show qualified for an Oklahoma program that offers a cash rebate of 35% for qualifying production expenditures.


Apr 12, 2019 / 11:10 am | Story:
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A Vermont girl isn’t happy that her disabled pet chicken was joked about on “Saturday Night Live.”

The chicken, named Granite Heart, is learning to walk with a custom wheelchair.

On a recent SNL episode, the television show’s “Weekend Update” co-host said she should “just eat the chicken.”

Ten-year-old Alora Wood of Underhill, Vermont, tells NECN-TV that she knows the segment was meant to be a joke, but says what if it was a dog.

The chicken was born with a deformed foot.

The girl says: “Any creature, no matter how big, no matter how small, they deserve to have a perfect life.”

The custom wheelchair came from a company in Amherst, New Hampshire, that makes pet wheelchairs.

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