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Ben Affleck and ex Lindsay Shookus are talking again: report

Ben Affleck and Lindsay Shookus are talking.

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A source tells ET that the “Justice League” star and his “Saturday Night Live” producer ex are in touch again, saying, “They have been talking. They’re friends.”

“But Ben’s main priority remains his family and children,” the source adds.

Shookus and Affleck split up last August ahead of a tumultuous few months in the actor’s life that led to him choosing to enter rehab for the third time.  At the time, a source told ET that Snookus had been encouraging him to seek help for his drinking.

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“Lindsay wanted Ben to go to rehab, but had trouble getting him there,” that source claimed in August 2018. “He didn’t want to be controlled and ended things with Lindsay.”

Meanwhile, during his recovery, Affleck and ex-wife Jennifer Garner finalized their divorce, three years after getting separated. And while the pair remains committed to co-parenting their children — 13-year-old Violet, 10-year-old Seraphina and 6-year-old Samuel — ET learned last week that Affleck and Garner are seeing less of each other as her relationship with John Miller has gotten more serious.

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“Jen feels so lucky to have met John and their relationship only continues to grow,” a source told ET in late January. “They both wanted to take it slow, but it has gotten serious and they couldn’t be happier.”

As for Affleck, a source told ET in December that he is supportive of his ex-wife’s relationship with Miller.

“Ben regrets so many of his actions in the past,” the source said. “He loves his family and knows his priority should have been them all along. The good news is that [he and Garner] work incredibly hard on keeping their family unit working for the children, despite the fact they are no longer married.”

Amnesty International suffering from ‘toxic’ workplace with rampant racism, sexism, bullying, report finds

Amnesty International, a leading human rights NGO, is facing criticism after a damning report revealed the organization is suffering from a toxic work environment and is in a “state of emergency” due to rampant bullying, sexism, racism and overworking.

The report, written by the KonTerra Group, found an “us versus them” dynamic and breakdown of trust between senior management and other staff members. Numerous instances of bullying and public humiliation by the management were also found.

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“As organizational rifts and evidence of nepotism and hypocrisy become public knowledge they will be used by government and other opponents of Amnesty’s work to undercut or dismiss Amnesty’s advocacy around the world, fundamentally jeopardizing the organization’s mission,” the report read.

“There were multiple reports of managers belittling staff in meetings, deliberately excluding certain staff from reporting, or making demeaning, menacing comments like: ‘You’re shit!’ or: ‘You should quit! If you stay in this position, your life will be a misery,’” it added

“As organizational rifts and evidence of nepotism and hypocrisy become public knowledge they will be used by government and other opponents of Amnesty’s work to undercut or dismiss Amnesty’s advocacy around the world, fundamentally jeopardizing the organization’s mission.”

— Report on Amnesty International

The independent report was commissioned by the organization itself after two members of staff died by suicide last year within a period of six weeks. One victim explicitly blamed the stress caused by the workplace.

Gaëtan Mootoo, 65, was a veteran Amnesty International worker, devoting more than 30 years to the charity. He died inside the organization’s Paris office, the Guardian reported, leaving a note voicing complaints about work pressure and management’s lack of support.

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Five weeks later, Rosalind McGregor, a 28-year-old intern in Amnesty’s Geneva’s office also died by suicide. While an inquiry into her death noted that she had been troubled due to “personal reasons” and cleared the organization of wrongdoing, her family accused the charity of being a factor in her development of “acute anxiety” during her five-month internship.

Gaëtan Mootoo (left) and Rosalind McGregor (right) both died by suicide last year, prompting the commissioning of the report. Mootoo left a note voicing complaints about work pressure and management’s lack of support

Gaëtan Mootoo (left) and Rosalind McGregor (right) both died by suicide last year, prompting the commissioning of the report. Mootoo left a note voicing complaints about work pressure and management’s lack of support (Facebook)

The consultants interviewed nearly 475 Amnesty staff members, with many branding the workplace environment as “toxic.”

“Across many interviews the word ‘toxic’ was used to describe the Amnesty work culture as far back as the 1990s. So were the phrases ‘adversarial’, ‘lack of trust’ and ‘bullying’.”

— Report on Amnesty International

“Amnesty International had a reputation for doing great work but being a hard place to work. Across many interviews the word ‘toxic’ was used to describe the Amnesty work culture as far back as the 1990s. So were the phrases ‘adversarial’, ‘lack of trust’ and ‘bullying’,” the report read.

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Staffers also revealed instances of racism and sexism and anti-LGBTQI sentiments in the workplace, with the report concluding that some examples of alleged abuse of power, discrimination and unfair treatment may warrant a further investigation.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s secretary-general, according to the Guardian, described the report as troubling and pledged to come up with a reform plan by the end of March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Burnt body found in car of missing Wisconsin woman: report

A body burnt beyond recognition was found inside a missing Wisconsin teacher’s car, a report said Tuesday.

The car of Kathleen Ryan, who was last seen Saturday afternoon, was found on fire in the driveway of a home in Lake County, Ill., later that night, Chicago station WGN-TV reported. The coroner will use DNA and dental records to identify the body, which could take weeks or months.

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“At this point, we’re hoping it wasn’t her in the car,” Ryan’s adult son, Maxwell, told the station. “We hope someone took the car, and she’s out there somewhere. … We just love her, and we want her home. It’s as simple as that.”

Ryan, a Milwaukee-area resident, is a teacher at St. Augustine Preparatory Academy, FOX6 Milwaukee reported. She was supposed to meet one of her sons at a basketball game Saturday, but never arrived.

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“We are optimistic that she is somewhere, and that she gets back, because we miss her,” Ryan’s son, Zack, told the station.”It’s her birthday.”

New dinosaur species with spiky backbone discovered in Argentina: report

A new dinosaur species, notable for a row of two-foot spines protruding from its neck, has been discovered by scientists in Argentina.

Scientists have dubbed the new dinosaur, “Bajadasaurus,” an herbivore that lived 140 million years ago, according to the scientific journal Nature, which first revealed the findings. Its name is an amalgam of Spanish, Greek, and Latin, meaning “lizard from Bajada with forward-bending spines.”

The dinosaur’s unusual “spines” have fueled a wave of speculation about what purpose they may have served. Pablo Gallina, a paleontologist who first came across a set of its teeth in 2010, said the “long and sharp spines,” were likely used to “deter possible predators.” Had it not been for the sharp spines, Gallina said, the dinosaur’s structure “could have been easily broken or fractured with a blow or when being attacked by other animals.”

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A reproduction of the dinosaur and its unusual neck was recently displayed in the Cultural Science Center in Buenos Aires. The Bajadasaurus is among a unique family of dinosaurs with “neck spines,” the first of which was discovered in Tanzania more than 100 years ago.

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Gallina said paleontologists are still finding new species of dinosaurs “and the diversity is increasing year by year.”

Former immigrant shelter employee allegedly offered kids candy for sexual favors: report

A former employee of a Texas immigrant shelter was arrested last week for allegedly fondling a Guatemalan teen and is accused of offering other children candy for sexual favors, according to an affidavit.

Edgar Alexander Campos, 23, was responsible for overseeing more than 30 kids at the Houston shelter, the affidavit said. Campos allegedly fondled a 16-year-old boy’s penis after the teen had asked to borrow his cellphone to call his parents in Guatemala, The Houston Chronicle reported. Campos allegedly entered the teen’s bedroom later that night but abruptly left after startling the boy, the report said.

Police said they have video evidence of Campos entering the kids’ rooms at least four times between August and September. They said children have claimed Campos offered them candy for sexual favors, according to The Chronicle. Campos faces a charge of indecency with a child.

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The shelter’s managers said Campos was fired after they became aware of the allegations. A spokeswoman said the organization is cooperating with authorities but couldn’t provide further details while police are investigating.

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Records indicated Campos was in custody at Harris County Jail with a bail of $ 30,000. He faces no additional charges at this time. His next court hearing is scheduled March 7.

Congressional negotiators report progress narrowing gap on border talks

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(CNN)Bipartisan negotiators were upbeat but cautious Tuesday as they signaled publicly for the first time they were moving closer together on long-stalled talks related to President Donald Trump’s demands to fund a border wall with Mexico.

But the big question mark is whether Trump will sign onto what the negotiators agree to or scuttle a potential deal and carry out his threat to declare a national emergency and build the wall without the consent of Congress.
“The gap is narrowing so I would say things are moving down and things are moving up,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican and member of the negotiating committee, suggesting Democrats and Republicans were coming off their hardened positions.
Asked if Democrats were coming up from their original offer on border security and the two sides were moving closer to meet in the middle, Sen. Jon Tester, a Democratic negotiator from Montana said, “that’s correct.”
    The upbeat assessment came in the hours before Trump is set to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress where he is expected to address the talks that could determine if he can keep his campaign promise to build the wall to stem illegal immigration, drugs and other crime.
    It also came a day before negotiators were set to hear testimony from what Republicans described as non-political border security experts in a private session in the Capitol.
    Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee and is spearheading the talks, spoke to Vice President Mike Pence to update him on the progress.
    “I told him the environment improved, the tone’s improved. But we are long way from getting there,” Shelby said. “I think (Wednesday) will be important. How the meeting goes tomorrow. What people take out of the meeting and how we act upon, interpret and act on what we learned.”
    Asked if he agreed with the assessment of others that the talks were narrowing, Shelby replied, “I’m not at liberty to say, I’m just saying the tone’s improved. We are talking about substance.”
    Another Democratic negotiator, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, wouldn’t tell reporters if he was prepared to give Trump more money for the border.
    “I’m not going to bargain with you here. But I’ll just say the conversation is on and it should be. At this point, I still have some hope, unlike the President,” he said.
    Earlier, Durbin said he didn’t believe Democrats would agree for more money for border security.
    “I don’t have any other reason to believe otherwise” he said when asked if wall money won’t be in a final deal. He said talks are on hold because they don’t know what Trump will say Tuesday night.
    “We are on hold until the speech is completed.”
      Shelby defended having the still unnamed border security experts testifying out of public view, arguing they need to be free to be “candid.”
      “And we want them to be free to tell us unambiguously what they need, why they need it, and why it’s important,” Shelby said.

      Pentagon report calls for changes to how the US measures civilian deaths

      (CNN)A newly released study on civilian casualties resulting from recent US military operations calls for a series of changes to how the US measures civilian deaths.

      The study, which then-Secretary of Defense James Matts tasked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, with carrying out in November of 2017, examines military operations from 2015 to 2017 in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia.
      It was led by the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies and its participants included Pentagon officials, think tanks and an advisory panel representing nongovernmental organizations.
      Many NGOs have long been critical of how the US military accounts for civilian casualties, saying the Pentagon routinely undercounts the civilians killed in its operations.
        Last month the US-led military coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria said that “at least 1,190 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes ” since the campaign against ISIS began in August 2014.
        But some outside groups argue that the number of civilians killed is significantly higher.
        The report notes that “NGOs consulted on this study are frustrated with what they see as decreased transparency in US government reporting.”
        The new study recommends that military officials “systematically seek out additional sources of information on potential civilian casualties as part of the self-reporting process,” including social media, NGOs and local sources.
        It says the various regional combatant commands should “expand” their internal teams assigned the job of verifying civilian casualties, known as cells, to “include individuals tasked with reconciling external and US military reports” of civilian casualties as well as having them work with units to declassify and release pertinent information.
        It also says the military should “consider” standardizing accounting processes across the various regional combat commands as well as “clarify guidance and doctrine to address the increased risk of (civilian casualties) when US forces operate by, with, and through partner forces whose interests, priorities, and capabilities may not necessarily align with those of the United States.”
        As the US has reduced the number of combat troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan it has become increasingly reliant on local partners to carry out offensive operations.
        While the report says there was an increase in civilian casualties during the period examined, it says that was not due to the administration’s decision to delegate targeting authority to front-line officers.
        The report also says “the Joint Staff should develop specific guidance, processes and clarifications of authorities for combatant commands” to respond to verified civilian casualties, saying such responses could potentially include financial compensation, community projects, explanations and apologies that are “informed by host nation customs, laws and norms.”
        The report’s recommendations are being considered by the Pentagon as it develops its first ever department-wide policy with regard to civilian casualties, with the goal of instituting the policy this year.
        “The Department is conducting a DOD-wide review to compile best practices from Combatant Commands and the Military Services, and external stakeholders. The review is enabling the creation of a new DOD policy that directs uniform processes for both reducing the likelihood of — and responding to reports of — civilian casualties. The goal is to complete the review and resulting DOD policy in 2019,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Candice Tresch told CNN in a statement.
        Tresch said the recently published Joint Staff report “yielded several recommendations, and we are considering them as part of our policy development process.”
        “In the meantime, our forces continue to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian harm in our military operations, and to identify and implement additional tactics, techniques and procedures to help protect civilians endangered by the enemy on the battlefield,” she added.
        The new policy, which was mandated by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, was first reported by The Washington Post.
        Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy David Trachtenberg was named the policy development lead on this issue late last year.
          Defense officials say Mattis was a major supporter of the initiative.
          “Acting Secretary Shanahan believes strongly that minimizing civilian casualties is fundamental to the American warfighters’ ethos and reflects true expertise in the conduct of war. He fully supports the effort to evaluate and — where possible — improve our ability to minimize civilian harm in our military operations, and to be transparent when civilian casualties do occur,” Tresch added.

          North Korea is hiding nukes and selling weapons, alleges confidential UN report

          North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  (Photo by Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool/Getty Images)

          North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  (Photo by Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool/Getty Images)

          (CNN)North Korea is moving its nuclear and ballistic weapons to hide them from potential US military strikes, according to a UN Security Council diplomat citing a confidential UN report.

          The North Korean nuclear and missile program remains intact and shows no change in North Korea’s behavior, says the bi-annual report, even as US president Donald Trump plans a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
          Last week, Trump praised North Korea for “tremendous progress” in negotiations, but the source told CNN this report indicates Pyongyang is trying to keep its nuclear and ballistic program ready to launch.
          The UN diplomat said the report found “evidence of a consistent trend on the part of the DPRK to disperse its assembly, storage, and testing locations.”
            The panel of experts that compiled the report was established following multiple UN Security Council resolutions aimed at pressing Pyongyang to cease nuclear tests and missile launches. The report was submitted to a 15-member UN Security Council sanctions committee on Friday, the source told CNN.

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            International sanctions are not working effectively to deter North Korea’s nuclear development, says a summary of the report seen by CNN.
            North Korea, which has called for sanctions to be lifted, “continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal” the summary alleges. Previous reports have also charged North Korea with these violations.
            “Global banks and insurance companies continue to unwittingly facilitate payments and provide coverage for vessels in ever-larger, multi-million-dollar, illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products,” states the summary.
            The diplomat cited US and Singaporean banks involved in facilitating North Korean fuel payments, as well as “a leading UK insurer that provided protection and indemnity cover to one of the vessels involved.”
            The diplomat said the report found one petroleum transfer worth more than 5.7 million US dollars.
            The summary also accuses North Korea of violating a UN arms embargo and supplying small arms, light weapons and other military equipment to Libya, Sudan, and Houthi rebels in Yemen, through foreign intermediaries.

            Trump and Kim’s last summit

            Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met last year in Singapore, where Kim agreed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
              Trump later declared that the meeting had eliminated any nuclear threat posed by the North Korea, even though the meeting produced no verifiable proof that the rogue regime will discontinue its nuclear program, as CNN has previously reported.
              In January, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review stated that North Korea remains an “extraordinary threat” to the United States.

              US general expresses support for Saudi coalition after CNN report on weapons in Yemen

              How US arms end up in the wrong hands in Yemen

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              (CNN)The top United States military commander in the Middle East suggested Tuesday that America would continue to back its allies waging war in Yemen, despite new evidence of arms deal violations uncovered by a CNN investigation.

              Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of Central Command (CENTCOM), told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that withdrawing US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen would remove the “leverage we have to continue to influence them” and could further endanger Americans in the region.
              Votel said the military was “looking more closely at the allegations” in CNN’s report, published Monday, which revealed that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had transferred US-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other groups on the ground.
                Votel (R) said the US was looking closely at the findings of CNN's investigation.

                Votel (R) said the US was looking closely at the findings of CNN's investigation.

                The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels, exposing some of America’s sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other war zones.
                By handing off this military equipment to third parties, the Saudi-led coalition is breaking the terms of its arms sales with the US, according to the Department of Defense.
                CNN’s investigation was cited by several US senators on Tuesday, one of whom described it as a “bombshell” report that should serve as a “wake-up call” to end US support for the war.
                Responding to a question during the hearing from Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on CNN’s report, Votel said: “We have not authorized Saudi Arabia or the Emirates to retransfer any of this equipment to other parties on the ground in Yemen.”
                “And as you are well aware, when we do provide equipment, whether it comes government-to-government or commercially provided … the recipients do have to agree to certain stipulations on the use of those and that we do have monitoring and enforcement mechanisms,” Votel added.
                Shaheen pressed Votel on how the Pentagon planned to address the finding in the CNN report that US weapons had ended up in the hands of Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.
                “In legislation that we passed relative to Yemen, there are requirements for us to certify how the Saudis are using weapons, and so far we have not gotten authoritative certification of how those weapons are being used,” Shaheen said.
                “As we’ve seen in Iraq in the past, where we saw our partners overrun, we have seen American equipment provided to them lost in the course of a fight end up in the hands of our adversaries out there. So I think we have to, we will have to examine that better,” Votel replied.

                Senator, citing ‘bombshell’ report, calls for end to US support

                The revelations raise fresh questions about whether the US has lost control over a key ally presiding over one of the most horrific wars of the past decade, and come as Congress considers whether to force an end to the Trump administration’s support for the Saudi coalition.
                Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said CNN’s “bombshell” report was further proof of the need to “get us out of the war in Yemen that has gone horribly wrong.”
                “When the United States indiscriminately sends weapons into war zones, they inevitably get into the wrong hands,” Murphy said, citing US intervention in the Afghanistan and Syria wars.
                “This investigation needs to be a wake-up call,” he added.
                Last week, Murphy joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing a resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
                Saturday is the deadline for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to re-certify to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking adequate measures to avoid harming civilians, thereby allowing US-provided aerial refueling services to the coalition to continue.
                Previous CNN investigations established that US-made weapons were used in a series of deadly Saudi coalition attacks that killed dozens of civilians, many of them children.
                The State Department did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the approaching certification deadline.
                  The Saudi coalition did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A senior UAE official denied “in no uncertain terms” that it had violated its end-use agreements with the US.
                  After CNN presented its findings, a US defense official confirmed Monday that there was an ongoing investigation into the issue.

                  Parents who study with kids promote better grades, report claims

                  New research has found that kids whose parents help them study are more likely to succeed in school. A study published in the Journal of Labor Economics combed through data of about 99,000 children in Israel who lost their parents before the age of 18 through death or divorce.

                  “We found that if a mother dies, her education becomes less important for whether her child passes the test, while at the same time the father’s education becomes more important. If a father dies, the reverse happens,” Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economics at Ohio State University and co-author of the study, wrote in a press release. “These relationships are stronger when the parent dies when the child is younger.”

                  (iStock)

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                  This means that student success isn’t determined by genetics, but by parenting.

                  The study also refutes claims that money has feeds into academic success. If that were the case, researchers argue, then children would be more negatively affected academically by losing their fathers than their mothers, because fathers traditionally earn more.

                  “That’s not what we found. The loss of a mother – who tends to spend more time than the father with her children – had a bigger effect than loss of a father in our study,” Weinberg said.

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                  But the negative impact of losing a mother could be mitigated if the father remarries and the child receives a new step mom. Meanwhile the study also found that moms’ academic achievements were linked to their kids’ academic success in larger families. Researchers say that this could be because mothers with more children tended to spend more time with the kids and less time working outside the home.

                  “Other studies show that highly educated parents tend to spend more time with their children. Our results may suggest one reason why they do: It has a strong impact on academic success,” Weinberg said.

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                  This story was originally published by the New York Post.