At least 43 Afghan soldiers killed with bombs from Humvees

Oct. 19 (UPI) — Taliban insurgents detonated two Humvees stolen from Afghan security forces, killing at least 43 Afghan soldiers at army camp in the southern Kandahar province, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Nine other soldiers were wounded and six were unaccounted for after the attack, which began at 3 a.m. Thursday at the Chashmo base in Maiwand district, the Afghan defense ministry spokesman, Gen. Dawlat Waziri, said in Kabul.

Two of the 60 soldiers were found unhurt and 10 attackers also were killed, Waziri said.

“The whole base is destroyed,” Waziri said. “When the clashes started, they detonated a car bomb close to the base, then clashes continued for a while and then they detonated another car bomb. They also had Humvees packed with explosives.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it had killed 60 people .

The attack was two days after a similar Humvee bombing at a police training center in the eastern province of Paktia killed police and civilians. In all more than 70 people died in attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday.

“During the fall of Kunduz and some other areas in the country, the Taliban could have seized some Humvees,” Waziri said about the 2015 seizure.

The Taliban previously used Toyota sedans in bombings.

Safar Mohammed, the deputy police chief of Kunduz, estimates that the Taliban have captured about 20 Humvees from Afghan forces in the province and about 60 to 70 Ranger pickup trucks.

Abdul Jabbar Qahraman, a member of the Afghan Parliament, said the Taliban seized seven vehicles — Humvees and Ranger trucks — during the bombing at the base.

After the first explosion, the military base caught fire.

“The explosion was very powerful – it broke our doors and windows and we thought it might be an earthquake or bombs from aircrafts dropped on our home,” Abdul Rahim Maiwandwal, a shopkeeper who lives in the Chashmo area, told The New York Times.

“After the explosion, we heard shootings, and then more explosions. When I was leaving for work in the morning, I saw the camp was totally destroyed and burned.”

After the attack, Afghan security forces said that they had launched air and ground operations in 17 provinces that had killed 102 insurgents.

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Trump nominates antitrust attorney Simons to lead FTC

Oct. 19 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated antitrust attorney Joseph Simons to be chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

The White House also announced consumer protection advocate Rohit Chopra will fill the commission’s open Democratic seat. Noah Phillips, chief counsel for Sen. John Cornyn, also was named to the FTC, White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom told Politico.

The nominations, which last for seven-year terms and which the Senate must confirmed, will bring the FTC to its capacity of five.

Current members are Maureen Ohlhausen, who has run the agency on a temporary basis since Trump’s inauguration in January, and Democratic Commissioner Terrell McSweeny.

Simons is a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He previously led the FTC’s antitrust enforcement, which investigates anticompetitive mergers and business practices, from 2001 to 2003. The White House, in a release, said Simons helped re-invigorate the FTC’s non-merger enforcement program, where he “initiated over 100 investigations and produced more non-merger enforcement actions in one year than in any other year in the prior two decades or since.”

Chopra is a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America, where he focuses on consumer protection issues involving young people and military families. He previously was an assistant director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from 2010 to 2015, when he directed work on problems facing student financial services. He has also served as the agency’s student loan ombudsman.

Phillips worked at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington and at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York, where he focused on civil litigation, according to a biography on the website for the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarians in the legal profession.

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Ticket prices to see Pence in Colorado plummet because of low demand

Oct. 19 (UPI) — Ticket prices to a Colorado Republican Party event featuring Vice President Mike Pence have plummeted due to a struggle to sell seats.

Pence, the headliner for the event, was supposed to be a part of the Colorado Republican Committee’s “largest event” and would serve as a “huge draw,” Colorado Republican Committee executive director Shana Banberger told KMGH.

However, ticket prices originally set at $ 275 are now $ 150. A couple can now also attend the event in a 2-for-1 deal for the original single-ticket price of $ 275.

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays wrote about the ticket price decrease in an email Wednesday: “Due to popular demand, we have made more tickets available at a new lower price,” the the Denver Post reported.

Despite the claim, the invitations say space is limited, and party spokesman Daniel Cole clarified that many people couldn’t afford to see Pence.

“We couldn’t fill the large room at that ticket level,” Cole said.

Party leaders initially estimated the event would bring in 800 people, however, that estimate is now down to 400.

“I think it’s another indication of a lack of enthusiasm – right on the heels of a weak fundraising quarter for Republican candidates in Colorado,” A Colorado Democratic Party spokesman, Eric Walker said.

But Cole noted that Republicans never expected to sell out because of the size of the room. He also disregarded the claim that the poor ticket sales were a reflection on President Donald Trump, Pence or their administration.

The event will take place Oct. 26 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Poland diplomat: North Korean workers will leave

Oct. 19 (UPI) — North Korean workers in Poland will not receive renewed work permits, a senior Polish diplomat said Thursday.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marek Magierowski told Yonhap Warsaw wants all 400 North Korean workers to go home, and that the Polish government has for a long time refused to renew their visas.

“A long time ago, we decided not to issue more working permits for North Korean workers coming to Poland. So as soon as the valid working permits expire, we will not renew them,” Magierowski said. “In a certain period of time, all North Korean workers will have to leave Poland.”

The Polish diplomat also said his government cannot simply expel North Korean guest workers but Warsaw did take measures ahead of a United Nations Security Council sanctions resolution to ban North Korean workers from earning foreign currency for the Kim Jong Un regime.

The number of North Korean workers has been decreasing.

According to Magierowski, about 800 North Koreans worked in Poland in early 2016.

That number dropped to 550 in July 2016, and there are about 400 workers, according to January 2017 statistics.

The senior diplomat said the Polish ambassador to Pyongyang is planning a visit to Seoul, and to meet with South Korean officials and share information, expertise, related to North Korea.

Poland was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties to North Korea, in 1948.

Magierowski’s comments come a few days after the foreign affairs council of the European Union agreed to adopt new measures to sanction North Korea.

The sanctions include a “total ban” on EU investment in North Korea and the blacklisting of three people and six entities supporting illicit programs, according to EU News.

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Samsung Electronics CEO resigns amid corruption scandal

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Samsung Electronics chief executive Kwon Oh-hyun abruptly announced his retirement on Friday, weeks after senior executives were convicted in a corruption scandal.

“As we are confronted with unprecedented crises inside out, I believe the time has now come for the company to start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

Kwon, one of three Samsung Electronics co-CEOs, will remain on the company’s board until next year.

Kwon’s resignation came on the same day the company forecast record quarterly profits, largely due to higher prices for Samsung computer chips. The company announced that it expected third quarter operating profit of nearly $ 13 billion.

Samsung has directed intense investment into memory chips and display units, and is regarded as the primary supplier of those elements for cellphones and other technological devices.

There is concern that Samsung Group, a conglomerate of 60 interlinked and family-owned companies that includes Samsung Electronics, has a leadership vacuum, the Korea Times reported Friday.

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Group’s de facto leader, was convicted in August with other executives in a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment and resignation of former South Korean President Park Guen-hye. Lee will soon stand trial.

Kwon’s letter congratulated company employees on their successes, but noted that Samsung is not seeking new advances.

“We are hard-pressed to find new growth areas right now from reading future trends,” he wrote.

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About 30 percent of Gulf oil production still offline because of Nate

Oct. 13 (UPI) — More than 30 percent of the oil production in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico is offline because the shut-ins from Hurricane Nate, the government said.

Nate bounced along the southern U.S. border during the weekend, making landfall twice as a Category 1 hurricane. On Monday, the government said about 92 percent of the total Gulf oil production and 77 percent of the natural gas production was offline because of the impact from Nate. Two refineries, which at a combined capacity of 587,000 barrels per day represented 6 percent of the total regional capacity, were closed down at the peak of the outage.

In its latest incident report, the U.S. Energy Department said 32.7 percent, or 571,854 barrels, of regional oil production and 20.5 percent, or 660.6 million cubic feet, of natural gas output was still offline because of Nate.

“Now that the storm has passed, facilities will perform integrity checks and begin restart,” the update from Thursday read.

In what it said was the final update on Nate, Anadarko Petroleum, one of the larger operators in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, said its status was back to pre-storm levels as of Tuesday. Meteorologists working from British energy company BP stood down earlier this week.

The latest forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration put total production in the Gulf of Mexico in September at 1.7 million barrels per day, an increase of 70,000 barrels per day from August.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 17 percent of total U.S. crude oil production. The U.S. House of Representatives this week held hearings for legislation aimed at expanding access to oil and gas reserves in territorial waters. Advocates say about 90 percent of U.S. waters are off limits to drillers, while opponents say expanding access would hurt other industries like fishing and tourism.

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