Accused Russian agent set to plead guilty in conspiracy case
Accused Russian agent Maria Butina reportedly will plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy Thursday in an agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Butina, 30, is accused of conspiring to infiltrate political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, to gain influence for Russia. In doing so, she built a high-profile persona as the leader of her own Russian gun-rights group. Butina has been jailed, largely in solitary confinement, since July. The case against her was filed by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and is unrelated to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The agreement could free Butina and lead to her deportation.
States to ask court to stop Trump from reviving coal sales
Four states are set to ask at a hearing Thursday that an Obama-era moratorium blocking new coal lease sales from federal lands that hold billions of tons of the fuel should be reinstated. Attorneys for California, New Mexico, New York and Washington argue that burning coal puts the climate and public health at risk due to climate-changing greenhouse gases. They also argue that the low royalty rates have been shortchanging taxpayers. The Trump administration withdrew the moratorium in March 2017 and claims ending it was of critical importance to the economy.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s the Geminid meteor shower
The Geminid meteor shower — often the most spectacular of the year — will reach its peak Thursday night. The shower is active every December, when Earth passes through a massive dust trail left by a rocky object named 3200 Phaethon, NASA said. The dust and grit burn up in a flurry of “shooting stars” in the Earth’s atmosphere. At its peak, Geminid viewers can see 50-120 meteors per hour, according to EarthSky.org. The best viewing weather is expected across the central U.S., while the East and Northwest will see mostly cloudy skies, AccuWeather said.
The Geminid meteor shower will peak this week with up to 100 shooting stars lighting up the night sky.
Meet the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class of 2019!
Will Janet Jackson or Radiohead finally make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? We will find out Thursday at 8 a.m. ET, when the class of 2019 inductees will be announced. Both artists have been nominated before and of the 15 nominees, only a handful of acts — traditionally five or six — will actually be inducted. The other nominees include Def Leppard, Devo, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, The Cure, The Zombies and Todd Rundgren. Voters have cast “a very broad net” with this year’s ballot, says Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris. “It’s exciting, because it represents the diversity of rock and roll.” In order to be eligible, artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination.
Virgin Galactic test flight to push closer to space
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic on Thursday plans another test flight of its SpaceShipTwo in its quest to take paying customers into the cosmos. If all goes as planned, the flight will be SpaceShipTwo’s highest yet and “will see our pilots and spaceship reach space for the first time,” the company said in a blog post (Space officially starts at the 50-mile mark). The flight from the company’s Mojave, California, facility will go high enough so that “our pilots will experience an extended period of micro-gravity.” Virgin Galactic hopes to begin regular customer trips into space in 2019 at $250,000 per person.
Contributing: Associated Press
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