Red, white and extra blue as tight security marks July 4th celebrations

NEW YORK The United States celebrated the July Fourth holiday on Monday with parades, baking contests and picnics draped in red, white and an extra layer of blue, as police ramped up patrols because of concerns about terrorism and gun violence.Millions of Americans marked independence from Britain with celebrations as boisterous as a music-packed party by country music legend Willie Nelson for 10,000 people at a race track in Austin, Texas and as staid as colonial-era costumed actors reading the Declaration of Independence at the U.S. National Archives in Washington. "It's a good day for reflecting on the positive things about America - the sense of freedom that you can go after and achieve whatever you want," said Helen Donaldson, 48, the mother of a multi-ethnic family of four adopted teens living in Maplewood, New Jersey.Donaldson, a white Australian immigrant, cheered with her two New Jersey-born African-American daughters, both 12 and dressed in red, white and blue, as a recording of the Star Spangled Banner played to kick off a children's relay race. Nearby, in the baking contest tent, 13-year-old Nate Fisher entered his cherry blueberry tart into competition."I have high hopes," he said, flashing a smile.History was made in the traditional hotdog-eating contest at New York's Coney Island when long-time champion Joey "Jaws" Chestnut took back the Mustard Yellow International Belt from last year's upstart winner Matt Stonie. Chestnut set an unofficial new world record by downing 70 hotdogs in 10 minutes - topping his previous record of 69 franks. In the women's division, Miki Sudo successfully defended her title by eating 38 hotdogs in 10 minutes. With the holiday taking place days after attacks in Baghdad, Dhaka and Istanbul, the New York Police Department deployed eight new "vapor wake" dogs, trained to sniff out explosives on a moving target in a crowd. Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Friday there was no specific threat to New York City.The department's presence this holiday was increased by nearly 2,000 new officers just days after they graduated on Friday from the New York City Police Academy.CHICAGO BRACED FOR VIOLENCE Police in Chicago, which has seen a spike in gun murders this year, announced a stepped up presence with more than 5,000 officers on patrol over the long weekend, traditionally one of the year's most violent, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Local media reported on Friday that 24 people had been shot over the past 24 hours, three fatally.Dry weather forecasts across the country thrilled fireworks lovers, although some spots in Michigan have been so rain-starved that pyrotechnic shows were canceled in a handful of communities near Detroit because of the risk of fires.Over the weekend in New York, an incident being investigated as a possible fireworks mishap severely injured an 18-year-old Virginia man who stepped on an explosive in Central Park, police said. Police had previously given his age as 19. In Compton, California, a 9-year-old girl's hand had to be amputated when she was injured after unwittingly picking up a lit firework, local media said.Some of the United States' newest citizens were being sworn in at a special Independence Day ceremony in New Orleans for 55 people from countries including Haiti, Nepal and Venezuela. More than 7,000 people will have been naturalized during almost 100 such ceremonies organized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services between June 30 and July 4, the agency said. "These new Americans will strengthen the fabric of our nation," USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez said in a statement. (Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus and Daniel Wallis in New York, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Adam DeRose in Washington, and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Alistair Bell, Frances Kerry and Bill Rigby) Read more

Investors pull $6 billion from U.S. stock funds before Brexit vote: Lipper

NEW YORK Investors pulled $6.1 billion from U.S.-based stock funds during the weekly period ended June 22, data from Lipper showed on Thursday, as they braced for a British referendum on its European Union membership.Taxable bond funds in the United States attracted $2.5 billion during the same period, reversing outflows from the week prior. Relatively safe money-market funds took in $1.2 billion, the research service said. (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chris Reese) Read more

U.S. stands with Orlando shooting victims, attorney general says

ORLANDO, Fla. The U.S. government is providing $1 million in emergency funds to cover overtime for first responders to the Orlando nightclub massacre and stands in support of the LGBT community after the tragedy, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Tuesday.Lynch spoke in Orlando after meeting with relatives of some of the 49 people killed and 53 wounded in the June 12 rampage and said there was no doubt it was a "shattering" attack on the United States, its people and its most fundamental ideals.The massacre at Pulse, a gay dance club, was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman, Omar Mateen, who used an assault rifle and pistol, was killed by police after a three-hour standoff.Lynch said it was a "cruel irony" that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community - one defined almost entirely by who they love - was so often a target of hate. "Let me say to our LGBT friends and family ... this Department of Justice, and your country, stands with you in the light," Lynch told a news conference."We stand with you to say that the good in the world far outweighs the evil; that our common humanity transcends our differences; and that our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love."Lynch declined to give new details on the investigation, a day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Mateen had described himself as an "Islamic soldier" during the rampage. Mateen, a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State militant group in a 911 call from the nightclub, but authorities said he appears to have been "self-radicalized" and to have acted alone.Citing unnamed law enforcement officials, CNN said on Tuesday that Mateen, 29, visited Pulse earlier on the night of his attack. Reuters could not immediately confirm the report. CNN also reported that the day before the rampage he bought plane tickets for himself, his wife and his child to travel in July from West Palm Beach, Florida, to San Francisco.In a transcript of his calls released by the FBI on Monday, Mateen told police negotiators to tell the U.S. government to stop bombing Syria and Iraq, and he threatened to strap bomb vests on hostages, though no explosives were found at the scene. (Reporting by Barbara Liston; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott) Read more

Too fat, too thin: Report finds malnutrition fuels disease worldwide

LONDON A third of people worldwide are either undernourished or overweight, driving increasing rates of disease and piling pressure on health services, a global report showed on Tuesday.Rates of obese or overweight people are rising in every region of the world, and in nearly every country, according to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report - an annual independent stock take of the state of the world's nutrition. Malnutrition comes in many forms - including poor child growth and development and vulnerability to infection among those who do not get enough food, and obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer risks in people who are overweight or whose blood contains too much sugar, salt, fat or cholesterol.According to the report, malnutrition is responsible for nearly half of all deaths of children under five worldwide and, together with poor diets, is the number one driver of disease. At least 57 countries have a double burden of serious levels of under nutrition – including stunting and anemia – as well as rising numbers of adults who are overweight or obese, putting a massive strain on sometimes already fragile health systems.  "One in three people suffer from some form of malnutrition," said Lawrence Haddad, a senior researcher at the U.S.-based International Food Policy Research Institute and a co-author of the report.The report pointed to what it said were "the staggering economic costs of malnutrition", warning that 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) is lost every year in Africa and Asia due to the consequences of it. Individual family costs can also be high. In the United States, when one person in a household is obese, that household spends on average an extra 8.0 percent of its annual income on healthcare. In China, having diabetes results in an annual 16.3 percent loss of income for the patient.Despite the problems, there have been pockets of progress, the report found. The number of stunted children under five is falling in every region except Africa and Oceania, and in Ghana stunting rates have almost halved – to 19 percent from 36 percent – in just over a decade. "Despite the challenges, malnutrition is not inevitable," Haddad said, as long as there was political commitment to tackle the issue. "Where leaders in government, civil society, academia and business are committed... anything is possible," he said in a statement with the report. An independent expert group produces the Global Nutrition Report and the International Food Policy Research Institute oversees it. It is funded by various government and philanthropic donors, including the U.S. and British governments, the European Commission and the Gates Foundation. (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Dominic Evans) Read more

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