Vehicle involved in MacArthur Causeway hit-and-run crash found abandoned

Police are investigating a hit-and-run crash on the MacArthur Causeway in Miami Beach.

Miami Beach police said a car was traveling west on the causeway about 7 a.m. when it was rear-ended by a vehicle that fled the scene.

Police said the vehicle was later found abandoned near the Dolphin Expressway and Northwest 12th Avenue.

The driver of the car that was rear-ended was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. The driver’s condition was not immediately known.

Two westbound lanes on the causeway were blocked for much of the morning during the investigation.

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Japan needs more workers and it can’t find them

Japan has more jobs than it knows what to do with.

Government data published Tuesday revealed that the country’s labor shortage has reached its most extreme level in more than 40 years.

Japan now has 1.48 jobs for every applicant. That’s the highest number since 1974, when rapid growth pushed the ratio to 1.53. It also exceeds the labor shortage peak Japan hit during its economic bubble years in the early 1990s.

The current situation is generally good news for Japan’s economy.

“There’s lots of people entering the labor market, which is one upside,” said Marcel Thieliant, senior Japan economist at research firm Capital Economics.

The number of older people and women joining the workforce has increased because “the labor shortage is forcing companies to hire people who previously weren’t looking for work,” he said.

That suggests Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to get more women into work to lift the economy is bearing some fruit.

The new labor figures point to a slight fall in Japan’s unemployment rate in the coming months, Theliant said. They are also fueling hopes of a turnaround in sluggish consumer spending, which is expected to rise as more people enter the workforce.

But at the same time, the labor shortage highlights some of the difficulties Japan is facing.

While the Japanese economy is growing, the labor market figures are more indicative of a shrinking pool of workers than a rise in the number of jobs, Thieliant said.

A rise in life expectancy and lower birth rates have created an aging population and dwindling workforce in Japan, posing a threat to the country’s future economic growth. Japan is notoriously adverse to the idea of using immigration to offset the decline.

The tightening labor market hasn’t so far translated into significant increases in pay for most workers. And there are also signs some Japanese companies are shifting jobs abroad because they can’t find enough workers at home, Thieliant said.

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Protest, turmoil rock last day of Texas legislative session

Texas ended its contentious legislative session Monday as protesters packed into the state Capitol over a new ban on sanctuary cities, and lawmakers erupted into a heated argument with alleged death threats on the House floor.

The chaotic last day at the legislature marked a symbolic end to a polarizing session that had considered issues such as sanctuary cities, bathrooms used by transgender teens and religious objections.

One of the most heated debates during the session was around Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. The new law, which goes into effect in September, bans sanctuary cities and punishes local governments that don’t comply with immigration laws and detention requests.

On Monday, protesters filled into the Capitol, wearing red T-shirts, holding signs and chanting slogans, “SB4 has got to go!”

Republican Rep. Matt Rinaldi said in a Facebook post that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the protesters, although ICE said that its officers “received no such call from local lawmakers.”

In retaliation, Rinaldi said he was “physically assaulted” by Rep. Ramon Romero and threatened by Rep. Poncho Nevarez, who called Rinaldi a liar on Twitter. Romero denied any assault happened.

It was a whirlwind last day of the 85th Texas Legislature, but there may be more this summer.

Abbott could call lawmakers back for a special session that could consider bills that didn’t pass, including a bathroom bill. The governor said he’d announce whether he’ll call a special session later this week, reported CNN affiliate KEYE.

Here’s a look at some of the most controversial Texas bills this session:

Senate Bill 4 on sanctuary cities

This new ban on sanctuary cities would levy fines up to $25,500 a day for local entities that violate the law. Sheriffs and police chiefs can be charged with misdemeanors for refusing to comply with federal detainer requests. Elected and appointed officials can be removed from office for violations of the law.

Supporters of this ban on sanctuary cities, including Abbott, touted the new law as “keeping dangerous criminals off our streets.”

Meanwhile, critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, slammed the measure as turning Texas into a “show me your papers state.”

The ACLU painted the law as giving “a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be ‘foreign’ based on how they look or sound.”

Outcome: Signed into law

House Bill 3859 on adoptions and religion

This bill would allow adoption agencies to turn away potential parents they find objectionable on religious grounds.

Opponents say the proposed law would allow faith-based agencies to discriminate against potential parents who are gay, single or of a religion that members of the adoption agency find objectionable.

The bill’s author insists it heads off any potential discrimination by mandating that alternatives be made available for potential parents who are rejected by faith-based providers.

Outcome: House and Senate approved the bill, which has been sent to the governor.

Senate Bill 8: Abortion restrictions

The bill requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated and bans donations of fetal tissue to medical research. It also prohibits certain types of abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Democrats in the House tried to add exceptions for pregnancies resulting in rape, incest or life-threatening emergencies. CNN affiliate KEYE reported that those proposed amendments failed.

The controversial bill prompted protesters to take to the Capitol dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” earlier this month.

Outcome: Passed House and Senate, sent to governor.

Senate Bill 6: ‘Bathroom bill’

This bill would require public high school students to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.

A similar, but broader bathroom bill became law in North Carolina last year and brought condemnation from business leaders and athletic organizations. After numerous entertainers and sports associations canceled major events in the state, North Carolina lawmakers repealed the bill in March.

The Texas House hoped to avoid a similar backlash with its schools-only version, reported CNN affiliate TV station KTRK. Major corporations and groups already have voiced opposition to the bill.

Outcome: Passed Senate, but stalled.

Senate Bill 2095 on transgender students and sports

The stated focus of the bill is steroid use. But because gender confirmation often includes the use of steroids, critics say the true purpose of the bill is to discriminate and to keep transgender kids out of high school sports.

This year, a Texas teenage transgender boy, Mack Beggs, was allowed to wrestle only girls, because his birth certificate says he was female at birth. Some complained that the boy’s prescribed testosterone treatment gave him an unfair advantage over girls.

Outcome: Senate passed the bill, but the measure was left in House committee.

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Manuel Noriega, former dictator of Panama, dead at 83

Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator and convicted drug trafficker who was once one of Central America’s most notorious military strongmen, has died, according to a tweet by Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela on his verified Twitter account.

Noriega, 83, had undergone surgery in a Panama City hospital on March 7 to remove a benign brain tumor. He was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering severe brain hemorrhaging during the surgery, his attorney told CNN affiliate TV Panama at the time.

Noriega, once on friendly terms with the United States because of his country’s location on the Panama Canal, became a US target as relations deteriorated. The United States invaded Panama in 1989 and Noriega was convicted of drug charges in 1991. He spent almost 20 years in US prisons before extradition to France and, ultimately, back to Panama.

Military man

Noriega was born on February 11, 1934, in Panama City, Panama. Abandoned by his parents at age 5, Noriega was raised by his aunt until he left to pursue a career in the military.

He began his career as a lieutenant in the Panama National Guard and quickly rose in rank. Noriega served as head of military intelligence to Gen. Omar Torrijos, who seized power in a military coup in 1968. Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981, and Noriega emerged as his successor. In 1983 Noriega took command of the Panamanian Army and installed himself as Panama’s leader.

The country’s location was critical to the United States because of its location on the Panama Canal, a key strategic and economic waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Due to this regional importance, the US had a vested interest in maintaining good relations with the Central American nation.

Despite the incentives to maintain these relations, the 1980s saw a breakdown between the two countries, with Washington cutting off economic and military assistance and freezing Panamanian government assets.

‘Trial of the century’

In 1989, Noriega was indicted in the United States on charges of racketeering, laundering drug money and drug trafficking. He was accused of having links to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s notorious Medellin cartel and, in the process, amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune.

Amid growing unrest in Panama, US President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama — codenamed “Operation Just Cause” — in December 1989, saying Noriega’s rule posed a threat to US lives and property.

With more than 20,000 US troops on Panamanian soil, Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama City for 10 days, eventually surrendering to US Drug Enforcement Administration officials on January 3, 1990 after US troops had surrounded the compound with loudspeakers playing deafening rock music.

Noriega’s trial in 1991 was dubbed the drugs “trial of the century” by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and eventually saw him found guilty on eight counts and sentenced to 40 years in jail.

Health crises

Noriega was the first foreign head of state to be convicted in a US court, and the trial also led to revelations that Noriega had been a paid CIA asset for many years.

“It’s wrong what people say — that you can buy him,” said Ambler Moss, the former US ambassador to Panama. “You can’t buy him, but you can sure as hell rent him.”

Noriega had since said his relationship with the United States soured when he refused to participate in anti-communist efforts spearheaded by the CIA in Central America during the 1980s The CIA has not commented on Noriega’s claims.

“You are a good person so long as you say yes. However, once you say no, then you become an evil guy,” Noriega recollected in a 1992 interview with CNN.

Noriega was granted prisoner of war status after his trial, and his sentence was later reduced to 30 years.

He was due for release on parole in 2007, but he was held pending a decision on a French extradition request — a Paris court had convicted Noriega in absentia in 1999 on charges that he had laundered $2.8 million in drug money by buying property in France.

As part of an extradition deal in April 2010 and signed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, France agreed to hold a new trial and to uphold Noriega’s prisoner of war status.

After his extradition to Panama from France in 2011, Noriega dealt with several health crises, including a possible stroke in 2012.

Noriega apologizes

While serving his sentence in Panama he sued Activision Blizzard, makers of the popular Call of Duty videogame series, after one edition featured a mission to capture him.

His portrayal “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” in the game damaged his reputation, he alleged, and argued that he was entitled to a share of the game’s profits. A California judge dismissed the suit.

In 2015, he apologized to his country for the offenses of his regime and his own actions that led up to the 1989 US invasion, and his ouster.

Noriega is survived by his wife, Felicidad Sieiro and three daughters Sandra, Thays and Lorena.

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Missile test showed highly accurate warhead, says North Korea

North Korea claims it fired a new type of ballistic missile Monday, demonstrating its ability to carry out a highly accurate strike.

Experts, however, have expressed skepticism, noting there is no way to independently verify the test results.

The warhead atop the test missile fell just 23 feet (seven meters) from its target point, according to a statement from Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The KCNA report did not give a distance the missile covered, but Japanese and South Korean monitors said it flew 248 miles (400 kilometers) over the Sea of Japan/East Sea from a launch point on Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast.

KCNA said Monday’s test proved its ability to launch and guide a warhead equipped “with control wings.” Such a warhead, also known as a “maneuverable re-entry vehicle,” enables it to make corrections in midflight for greater accuracy.

North Korea also claimed to have fired Monday’s rocket from a new tracked, self-propeled vehicle, which, if true, would give Pyongyang the ability to launch missiles far quicker than compared to its previous systems.

The new missile and launch system were first displayed at a military parade in Pyongyang in April, KCNA said.

Bruce Bennett, senior international defense researcher at the Rand Corp, a California-based global policy think tank, expressed doubts about North Korea’s claims of success.

Several experts say the missile tested Monday was also fired two or three times in a string of four unsuccessful tests during March and April, Bennett told CNN.

“My first inclination is to assume that the North Korean missile was not very accurate. After all, Kim Jong Un was anxious to sustain a pattern of missile test successes after so many failures from late March through April,” he said.

Monday’s missile launch was North Korea’s third such test in less than three weeks.

North Korea has fired 12 missiles during nine tests so far in 2017 — this compares with 10 missile launches in the same time period in 2016.

Analysts say all of North Korea’s tests, successful or not, provide information that help bring it closer to its goal of building a missile that could reach the US.

North Korea has dubbed its last three tests successes. And analysts did call a May 14 test Pyongyang’s best ever.

But Bennett says future success is far from guaranteed.

“As North Korea demonstrated last year with its tests of the Musudan missiles, one successful launch after a series of failures does not mean that the missile will always work thereafter. With the Musudan tests, there were five failures, then a success, then two more failures,” he said.

Monday’s missile test drew immediate protests from Japan and South Korea, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promising “concrete action” in response to the test, and South Korean defense chiefs saying the North would face “strong punishment from our military.”

US President Donald Trump tweeted that North Korea showed “great disrespect” for longtime ally China with the test.

China has called on Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear and missile testing while calling on the US to stop military exercises on and near the Korean Peninsula which North Korea sees as a threat to its sovereignty.

KCNA cited one of those exercises on Tuesday, saying a day earlier the US Air Force flew B-1 bombers from Guam over South Korea in what the North called “a grave military provocation.”

US military officials confirmed two B-1s flew over South Korea on Monday. The presence of US bombers “provides assurances to our allies and strengthens security and stability,” said US Lt. Col. Lori Hodge.

Bennett said the frequency of Kim’s missile testing may indicate some instability in North Korea, perhaps some discontent with the regime from North Korean elites.

“His insistence on repeated tests, despite even China being unhappy with the tests, suggests that he has something to prove internally,” Bennett said.

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