Woman finds two-headed viper in her flower bed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

Woman finds two-headed viper in her flower bed, state hopes to display it in a zoo

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A state agency has arranged for the care of a rare two-headed Copperhead snake found at a residence in Northern Virginia on Sunday night.

The venomous snake, a member of the viper family, is an “extremely rare” find in the wild, state herpetologist J.D. Kleopfer told USA TODAY. Kleopfer is a reptiles and amphibians specialist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

He said the snake is currently being cared for by an experienced viper keeper, with the hope that it will one day be put on display at a zoo.

Snakes with such a mutation find it difficult to survive in the wild, Kleopfer said. That’s in part because the two heads often want to do “two different things.”

This particular snake was young – about two weeks old, and small – about 6 inches long, according to Kleopfer.

Imaging provided some insight on the physical makeup of the snake: “Thanks to the Wildlife Center of Virginia we were able to determine that the left head has the dominant esophagus and the right head has the more developed throat for eating,” Kleopfer wrote in a Facebook post.

Copperheads often grow to 18-36 inches in length, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While they are not known for being aggressive, they do sometimes attack humans when disturbed.

Kleopfer said the “little guy” probably wasn’t much of a danger. At its age, he said the viper was mainly attacking insects.

The snake shouldn’t alarm anyone, Kleopfer said. It’s his goal to help the snake stay alive.

Stephanie Myers shared photos of the viper on Sunday evening. She said that the snake was found at her neighbor’s flowerbed in Woodbridge, Virginia.

“I wanted to look away but couldn’t stop looking at it. Plays trick on the eyes,” she told USA TODAY in a written message.

Among the hashtags in her Facebook post: #sohardnottolookatit, #nobodyhastimeforthat and #justlookingatthismakesmeswear.

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Judge rules against Trump’s attempt to weaken federal unions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

Judge rules against Trump’s attempt to weaken federal unions

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WASHINGTON – A federal judge struck down significant sections of three executive orders on government workers, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump’s attempts to curtail the power of labor unions representing federal employees.

In an opinion Saturday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump exceeded his authority because Congress has established collective bargaining rights for federal employees through the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act.

The three executive orders, signed in May, were an attempt to make good on a promise in Trump’s State of the Union address to make it easier for the government to reward good workers and fire bad ones.

Earlier: Trump signs executive orders aimed at loosening clout of federal labor unions

But four labor unions representing federal workers sued, arguing that Trump was attempting to unilaterally dictate new terms to labor contracts they had already negotiated.

Specifically, Trump’s orders attempted to cap the amount of time union officials employed by the federal government can spend on union business, speed up disciplinary procedures and unilaterally adopt performance-based pay plans.

Jackson said presidents do have the power to sign executive orders on federal employee-management relations – but only as long as they don’t conflict with the law. On balance, the judge wrote in her 122-page decision, “this Court has decided that the unions have the better of this argument.”

Federal employee unions celebrated the ruling.

“The judge rightly found that the president is not above the law and cannot, through these blatantly anti-union and anti-worker executive orders, eviscerate employee rights and undermine the collective bargaining process established by Congress,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

“Federal employees can return to work on Monday knowing that their rights are intact, and that presidential overreach targeting career civil servants was curbed,” said Suzanne Summerlin, a lawyer for the National Federation of Federal Employees.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

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Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

James Comey book: Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth’

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Police are investigating a “prior relationship” between the gunman who wounded two students inside his Maryland high school Tuesday morning and a female victim. The shooter died during a confrontation with a school resource officer. (March 20)AP, AP

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James Comey’s tell-all book details his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and private interactions he had with President Trump, a man he blasts as “untethered to truth,” according to multiple reports.

Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, is set to hit shelves on Tuesday but copies were obtained by several media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Washington Post and New York Times. 

Comey likens Trump to a mob boss while writing about his career as a prosecutor and highlights “loyalty oaths,” one of which he claims Trump asked of him. The former FBI director describes Trump as creating a “cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us,” according to The Washington Post.

The book is filled with vivid details of his encounters with many of Washington, D.C,’s elite — both Democrats and Republicans, including members of Trump’s Cabinet. It details Comey’s career and “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency” that he says led to the end of it.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes in the book, according to The New York Times. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

In one of the more salacious tidbits, the book alleges Trump asked Comey for an investigation of the alleged “golden shower” tape to reassure his wife that it was fake, according to a report by the New York Post.

The unsubstantiated allegations, which were described in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, say that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate in front of him in a hotel room in Moscow.

“He brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing’ … adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true,” Comey wrote, according to the Post.

Trump continued unprompted, Comey said, “explaining why it couldn’t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. I said it was up to him.”

More: Comey’s book promises ‘truth’ about troubled FBI tenure

Related: Comey: ‘Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon’

Comey cautioned the president that any probe might “create a narrative” that the FBI was investigating him, the Post reported.

Privately, Comey wrote, he wondered why there would even be a 1 percent chance Melania Trump would believe the allegations.

“In what kind of marriage, to what kind of man, does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn’t do that?” he wrote in the book.

Comey also talks about his inner battle with how he handled the Clinton email investigation, even talks he had with President Obama and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view,” Obama told Comey in a private Oval Office meeting, according to The Washington Post. 

Comey describes Lynch as having a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the Clinton investigation and that she had asked him to refer to the probe as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

Rev. Billy Graham’s body brought to his hometown of Charlotte, NC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

ASHEVILLE – World-renowned evangelist Rev. Billy Graham’s body is being brought to his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a procession drawing crowds of well-wishers.

The motorcade carrying Graham began at around 11 a.m. Saturday at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville. At least eight black SUVs and a hearse are a part of the transport.

About 250 family, friends and staffers attended a private prayer service earlier this morning. Onlookers lined the road, some with one hand holding their phones for a picture and the other hand over their heart.

Graham died Feb. 21 at his mountain home in Montreat, North Carolina. He is to be buried at the Billy Graham Library March 2, but his body will first lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington next week.

Iranian oil tanker explodes, sinks off China with no survivors

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER AND ANDY TAI GOOGLE PLUS WEB SITE)

 

Iran oil tanker explodes, sinks off China with no survivors

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A burning Iranian oil tanker that sank in the East China Sea on Sunday in the worst oil ship disaster in decades has produced a large oil slick, as worries grow over damage to the marine ecosystem.Newslook

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TEHRAN, Iran — A burning Iranian oil tanker exploded and sank Sunday after more than a week listing off the coast of China, as an Iranian official acknowledged there was “no hope” of missing sailors surviving the disaster.

The collision and disaster of the Sanchi, which carried 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, had transfixed an Iran still reeling from days of protests and unrest that swept the country at the start of the year.

Families of the sailors wept and screamed at the headquarters of the National Iranian Tanker Co. in Tehran, the private company that owns the Sanchi. Some needed to be taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals because they were so overwhelmed by the news.

“Thirty-two people died without a funeral and without coffins! They burned to ashes while their families were wailing here!” cried out one woman who didn’t give her name. The government “has come after 10 days to sympathize with them? What sympathy are you talking about?”

State TV earlier quoted Mahmoud Rastad, the chief of Iran’s maritime agency, as saying: “There is no hope of finding survivors among the (missing) 29 members of the crew.”

President Hassan Rouhani expressed his condolences and called on relevant government agencies to investigate the tragedy and take any necessary legal measures, according to state TV. In a message, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his condolences and sympathy with the victims’ families, his own website, Khamenei.ir, reported Sunday. The government also announced that Monday will be a nationwide day of public mourning over the disaster.

The cause of the Jan. 6 collision between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, 160 miles off the coast of Shanghai, remains unclear. The CF Crystal had 21 crew members, all of whom were reported safe.

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A tanker carrying Iranian oil and run by the country’s top oil shipping operator was ablaze and spewing cargo into the East China Sea on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese bulk ship, leaving its 32 crew members missing, according to the Chinese government. Matthew Larotonda reports Video provided by Reuters Newslook

But the Sanchi, carrying nearly 1 million barrels of a gassy, ultra-light oil bound for South Korea, burst into flames. Chinese officials blamed poor weather for complicating their rescue efforts. Thirteen ships, including one from South Korea and two from Japan, engaged in the rescue and cleanup effort Saturday, spraying foam in an effort to extinguish the fire.

Around noon Sunday, Chinese state media reported that a large explosion shook the Sanchi, its hull and superstructure completely stripped of paint by the flames. The ship then sank into the sea.

The Chinese say the ship left a 3.8-square-mile area contaminated with oil. However, the condensate oil the ship was carrying readily evaporates or burns off in a fire, reducing the chance of a major oil spill.

Chinese state media also said the ship’s voice data recorder, which functions like “black boxes” on aircraft, had been recovered. Three bodies have been recovered from the sea, leaving 29 crew members still unaccounted for.

The tanker has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according to the United Nations-run International Maritime Organization. The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.

It’s the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.

More: Oil tanker burning off China’s coast at risk of exploding

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