(171202) -- SHENZHEN, Dec. 2, 2017 (Xinhua) -- A technician shows the monitoring equipment of self-driving buses in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Nov. 30, 2017.  Four self-driving buses began trial operations Saturday in south China's Shenzhen, a city known for its high concentration of hi-tech companies. The smart buses, which are smaller than an ordinary bus, began running on a 1.2-kilometer route with three stops in the bonded zone of Futian. The buses have a designed speed of 10 to 30 kph. Equipped with lidar censors, cameras, and GPS antenna, the buses can avoid hitting pedestrians, vehicles and barriers, safely change lanes and stop at designated sites. (Xinhua/Mao Siqian=Newsis)
(171202) — SHENZHEN, Dec. 2, 2017 (Xinhua) — A technician shows the monitoring equipment of self-driving buses in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong Province, Nov. 30, 2017. Four self-driving buses began trial operations Saturday in south China’s Shenzhen, a city known for its high concentration of hi-tech companies. The smart buses, which are smaller than an ordinary bus, began running on a 1.2-kilometer route with three stops in the bonded zone of Futian. The buses have a designed speed of 10 to 30 kph. Equipped with lidar censors, cameras, and GPS antenna, the buses can avoid hitting pedestrians, vehicles and barriers, safely change lanes and stop at designated sites. (Xinhua/Mao Siqian=Newsis)

Chinese students are known for their focus on rote learning and high test scores, much of which has been attributed to the rise of tutoring companies. Now more and more companies are working on how to alleviate the burdens on students with artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Tomorrow Advancing Life (TAL), a Chinese K-12 education company, unveiled its brain science program in Beijing Thursday, announcing a plan to build six global labs with the assistance of scientists from universities like Stanford.

“The latest brain science research has proven the possibility of nurturing smarter brains using AI technology. Once we know how brains react to one specific course they are learning, we can provide personalized courses to different students so as to fully activate their brains,” said Huang Yan, TAL’s chief technology officer.

Within three years, it will build 500-member research and development team who specialize in AI and brain science application, according to Huang.

“On the one hand, we will monitor trainee’s brain functions with class observation and diagnosis in a bid to build a system that can track learning process effectively. On the other hand, we will upgrade the assessment scale accordingly,” said Yang Ying, head of the program, also a neuroscience researcher.

Products must be designed under scientific guidance and based on the data collected from real learning situations, said Yang.

According to a KPMG study released last year, venture capital investment in China shifted from big data in 2015 towards AI in 2017.
Transformational new technology such as AI or digital technology are bringing new personalized education to both tutoring centers and formal schools.

Chinese high-tech companies like Baidu and iFlytek have spent big in applying their cutting edge technology to the field of education. IFlytek opened a free automated test scoring platform in 2014, which has attracted more than 10,000 schools.

“Teachers can detect a student’s learning pattern from mistakes they have made. The platform has enabled teachers to focus more on class interaction, instead of test scores,” said Jiang Tao, vice president of iFlytek.

Over the past decade, Chinese government spending on research has seen double-digit growth on average annually, according to the KPMG study. China is aiming to nurture well-rounded talent who can face fierce competition in the future, instead of pedants.

“One good thing about the brain science program is it can make learning more efficient allowing students more spare time for arts, PE or projects that can arouse their interests and promote critical thinking,” said Huang. (Xinhua=Newsis)

FILE - This Dec. 11 2017 file photo shows Lactalis group headquarters in Laval, western France. French authorities are searching five sites run by dairy giant Lactalis in an investigation into the botched mass recall of baby milk products after a salmonella scare. (AP Photo/David Vincent=Newsis)
FILE – This Dec. 11 2017 file photo shows Lactalis group headquarters in Laval, western France. French authorities are searching five sites run by dairy giant Lactalis in an investigation into the botched mass recall of baby milk products after a salmonella scare. (AP Photo/David Vincent=Newsis)
French investigators were searching the headquarters of dairy giant Lactalis on Wednesday as part of an investigation over salmonella contamination that affected scores of infants and triggered an international recall, state-run radio reported.

Gendarmes and officers from the National Investigation Service of the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) raided also four other sites of the French company, including factory in Craon, northwest France where the milk had been tainted, France info said.

The search is part of an inquiry opened last month by the health division of Paris prosecutor office for “involuntary injuries”, “putting in danger of the life of others”, ” non-performance of recall procedure.”

“As we have indicated, Lactalis puts itself at the disposal of the justice and will bring all the elements necessary for the good progress of the investigation,” Michel Nalet, Lactalis spokesman was quoted as saying by local media.

Thirty-five infants in France, who had consumed infant milk products manufactured by Lactalis’ factory in Craon have been confirmed with salmonella infection during the last few months.

The food safety affair worsened after France’s retailers including Carrefour, Auchan and Leclerc admitted they sold the products recalled in December.

The salmonella scare had forced the family-owned dairy group, one of the world’s leading dairies to recall more than 12 million tins of baby milk(xinhua=Newsis)

Relatives of Coptic Christians grieve as during the funeral service of victims of the attacked on Mar Mina church in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. At least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, were killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire outside a church in a south Cairo suburb, Egypt's Health Ministry spokesman said Friday. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil=Newsis)
Relatives of Coptic Christians grieve as during the funeral service of victims of the attacked on Mar Mina church in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. At least 10 people, including eight Coptic Christians, were killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire outside a church in a south Cairo suburb, Egypt’s Health Ministry spokesman said Friday. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil=Newsis)
A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire Friday outside a church in a Cairo suburb and at a nearby store, sparking a shootout that killed at least nine people, including eight Coptic Christians, authorities said. It was the latest attack targeting Egypt’s embattled Christian minority.

The gunman was also killed, along with at least one police officer, officials said.

The local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack late Friday, saying it was carried out by a “security detail” and that one of its men was “martyred” in the strike. The claim was carried by the group’s Aamaq news agency.

The attack began when the gunman tried to break through the security cordon outside the Coptic Church of Mar Mina. It was not clear how many assailants were involved. Egypt’s Interior Ministry referred to only one, but the Coptic Orthodox church mentioned “gunmen.”

Five people were wounded, including another police officer, Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said.

The attack came amid tightened security around churches and Christian facilities ahead of the Coptic Orthodox Christian celebrations of Christmas on Jan. 7. Police have been stationed outside churches and in nearby streets across Cairo. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has personally chaired meetings with his top security chiefs in recent days to discuss security during New Year’s Eve and the Orthodox Christmas.

President Donald Trump spoke with Egypt’s president after the attack, condemning it and reiterating “that the United States will continue to stand with Egypt in the face of terrorism.”

“President Trump emphasized his commitment to strengthening efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism in all their forms,” a White House statement said. Trump has promised to make protecting beleaguered Christian communities overseas a priority for his administration.

A video circulating on social media after Friday’s attack apparently showed the gunman lying on the ground with his face covered in blood. Authorities closed off the area around the church.

The Interior Ministry identified the assailant as Ibrahim Ismail Mostafa, who, the agency said, was involved in several previous militant attacks. The Interior Ministry said he was wounded and arrested but made no mention of his death, which was reported by the Health Ministry.

The assailant had earlier opened fire at the nearby store owned by a Christian, the Interior Ministry said.

Islamic militants have for years battled security forces in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency now led by IS. It is centered in the turbulent northern part of Sinai but has also carried out attacks in the mainland.

The militants are targeting mainly security personnel and Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

The latest attack, in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan, showcases the difficulties faced by security forces in containing an insurgency that is growing in sophistication and brutality. The assault came a little more than a month after militants killed 311 worshippers inside a mosque in Sinai, the deadliest attack by militants on civilians in Egypt’s modern history.

Last week, they fired a guided rocket that destroyed an army helicopter at the airport of the city of el-Arish in northern Sinai during an unannounced visit there by the defense and interior ministers. At least one senior officer was killed and two wounded in that attack, which pointed to an unusually high level of intelligence available to the militants.

Samir Gerges, a witness to Friday’s church attack, said people inside the church closed the gates when the shooting began but that some bullets penetrated the building. Gerges said he was walking along a nearby street when the gunfire broke out. He saw people running and some taking cover in a nearby restaurant.

Another witness, 40-year-old Raouth Atta, was praying inside the church when the violence broke out.

“People were terrified and wanted to check on their families in other buildings of the church,” she told The Associated Press by phone. “We stayed inside for 30 minutes before we were able to get out.”

Once she was able to leave, Atta said, she saw blood everywhere.

“We kept praying,” said the Rev. Boules, who was teaching a class in the church complex. On hearing gunfire, he went to check on his students, who were panicking and terrified.

Since December 2016, Egypt’s Copts have been targeted by the militants, who waged a series of attacks that left more than 100 dead and scores wounded. The country has been under a state of emergency since April after suicide bombings struck two Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday.

The local IS affiliate has claimed responsibility for all the bombings targeting Christians.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They have long complained of discrimination in the Muslim-majority nation and claim that authorities have often failed to protect them from sectarian attacks.

Just last week, hundreds of Muslim demonstrators stormed an unlicensed church south of Cairo, wounding three people. The demonstrators shouted anti-Christian slogans and called for the church’s demolition, according to the local diocese. The demonstrators destroyed the church’s fittings and assaulted Christians inside before security personnel arrived and dispersed them.(AP=Newsis)

In this photo provided by South Korea's Ongjin County, South Korean Coast Guard officers try to rescue a capsized fishing boat which collided with a refueling vessel in the waters off Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. The refueling vessel did not suffer damage.(South Korea Ongjin County via AP=Newsis)
In this photo provided by South Korea’s Ongjin County, South Korean Coast Guard officers try to rescue a capsized fishing boat which collided with a refueling vessel in the waters off Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. The refueling vessel did not suffer damage.(South Korea Ongjin County via AP=Newsis)
At least 13 people were dead and two missing on Sunday after a South Korean fishing boat collided with a refueling vessel and capsized, the coast guard said.

An official from the Korea Coast Guard said seven people were rescued and the two missing included the boat’s captain. He said 22 people were aboard the 9.8-ton fishing boat that capsized after colliding with the 336-ton refueling vessel in waters off the port city of Incheon.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules. The refueling vessel did not suffer damage.
President Moon Jae-in ordered authorities to deploy as many helicopters and other aircraft as possible to search for the missing, according to his office.

The coast guard official said 19 coast guard and naval vessels and five aircraft including helicopters were dispatched to the site. Authorities were questioning the crew of the refueling vessel to determine the cause of the collision.

South Korea has seen its share of significant maritime accidents in recent years, including the 2014 sinking of a ferry that killed more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren. More than 50 fishermen died or went missing months later after their vessel sank in the Bering Sea. (AP=Newsis)

 A damaged building is seen in Pohang, South Korea, on Nov. 15, 2017. An earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck an area in southeast South Korea, the country's weather agency said on Wednesday. (Xinhua=NEWSIS) (swt)
A damaged building is seen in Pohang, South Korea, on Nov. 15, 2017. An earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck an area in southeast South Korea, the country’s weather agency said on Wednesday. (Xinhua=NEWSIS) (swt)

South Korea was hit by the country’s second biggest ever earthquake of 5.4- magnitude, with no serious casualty being reported yet, the weather service said Wednesday.

The 5.4-magnitude tremor struck an area, 9 km north of the southeast coastal city of Pohang in North Gyeongsang province at about 2:29 p.m. local time (0529 GMT), according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The seismic intensity was the second biggest in the country’s history after the biggest ever quake of 5.8-magnitude hit the Gyeongju city, just south of the Pohang city, in September last year.

No serious casualty was reported yet. As of 3:00 p.m. local time, four minor injuries were reported, according to the firefighting agency.

The weather service revised the magnitude from an initial 5.5 to 5.4 after a rigorous analysis.

The epicenter, with a depth of 9 km, was at 36.10 degrees north latitude and 129.37 degrees east longitude.

Before the main tremor, earthquakes of magnitude- 2.2 and 2.6 struck areas near the Pohang city. An aftershock of 3.6-magnitude took place in an area 7 km north of the coastal city, followed by third and fourth shocks.

According to local TV footage, some of the buildings saw external wall damaged and window broken. Electric lamp hanging from the ceiling was shaken, with books falling from a bookshelf.

Some passenger cars were seen broken as external walls fell on roof. Students were evacuated from school buildings and people stood on the streets after dashing out of office buildings and apartments.

The quake was sensed across the country, including the capital Seoul, some 270 km away from the Pohang city, as well as the southern resort island of Jeju, according to local media reports.

Nuclear power plants were being normally operated, according to the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, an operator of the country’s nuclear reactors. Most of South Korea’s atomic power plants are located along the southeast coastal area.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was briefed on the quake on his flight to Seoul after ending a weeklong trip to Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Moon convened an emergency meeting with his secretaries. (AP=Xinhua)

FILE - In this March 22, 2007, file photo, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, bottom, anchors as U.S. Aegis Ship passes after they arrive at Busan port for joint military exercises in Busan, South Korea. The United States and South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, File=Newsis)
FILE – In this March 22, 2007, file photo, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, bottom, anchors as U.S. Aegis Ship passes after they arrive at Busan port for joint military exercises in Busan, South Korea. The United States and South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, File=Newsis)

The United States and South Korea on Saturday started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.

The four-day drills that began in waters off South Korea’s eastern coast come as President Donald Trump continues a visit to Asia that has been dominated by discussions over the North Korean nuclear threat.

The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The three carriers will be likely together in the drills around Monday, according to a South Korean military official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.

The exercises will also involve 11 U.S. Aegis ships and seven South Korean naval vessels, including two Aegis ships. The Aegis technology refers to missile tracking and guidance.

They will aim to enhance combined operation and aerial strike capabilities and also display “strong will and firm military readiness to defeat any provocation by North Korea with dominant force in the event of crisis,” Seoul’s military said in a statement.

It’s the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three U.S. carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific, according to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. The U.S. carriers will also participate in separate exercises with three Japanese destroyers on Sunday, according to Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The United States has been sending its strategic assets, also including long-range bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

Trump continued his tough talk against Pyongyang on Friday in a speech to business leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam, saying that the region’s future “must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail,” referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump had also delivered a sharp warning to North Korea in a speech at South Korea’s parliament on Wednesday, telling the country: “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us.”(AP=Newsis)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. European Union leaders gathered Friday to weigh progress in negotiations on Britain's departure from their club as they look for new ways to speed up the painfully slow moving process. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert=Newsis)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. European Union leaders gathered Friday to weigh progress in negotiations on Britain’s departure from their club as they look for new ways to speed up the painfully slow moving process. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert=Newsis)

Exit talks between Britain and the European Union will resume next week, the two sides announced Tuesday, as U.K. Brexit chief David Davis said the divorce settlement is likely to favor the EU financially.

The EU and Britain’s Brexit department said in a joint statement that the two sides will meet Nov. 9 and 10 for a sixth round of negotiations.

Five previous rounds overseen by Davis and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier have failed to resolve big differences on key issues, including the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial obligations to the 28-nation bloc. Britain has suggested a figure of about 20 billion euros ($23 billion), while the EU side puts it at 60 billion euros ($70 billion) or more.

The U.K. is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and the stagnating talks have raised fears it could crash out without a deal, with huge economic and legal consequences.

Britain hopes EU leaders will declare at a meeting in December that talks have made enough progress on divorce terms to move onto future relations and trade.

Davis insisted Tuesday he is confident Britain is “on timetable” to get a good outcome by March 2019.

In a hint that Britain is preparing to raise its offer on the Brexit bill, Davis told a parliamentary committee that “the withdrawal agreement, on balance, will probably favor the Union in terms of things like money and so on.”
He added that “the future relationship will favor both sides and will be important to both of us.”

He also rebuffed allegations that Britain is unprepared for Brexit, saying the tax and customs department would recruit as many as 5,000 new staff next year to deal with expected changes.

The government also says it has committed more than 1.3 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) to cover Brexit costs until 2022.

Britain voted by 52 percent to 48 percent in June 2016 to leave the EU, and the country remains deeply divided over the issue.

On Tuesday the U.K. statistics agency said one of the chief claims by Brexit advocates during the referendum was wide of the mark.

The Office for National Statistics said Britain’s net transfer to the EU in 2016 was 9.4 billion pounds ($12.4 billion). That’s about 180 million pounds per week, around half the 350 million pounds the Vote Leave campaign said could be saved in case of Brexit and spent on health care.

That claim is seen to have boosted support for the campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

Benjamin Lasker, 16, pauses while looking at what remains of his home after a wildfire swept through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently "turned a corner" against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP=Newsis)
Benjamin Lasker, 16, pauses while looking at what remains of his home after a wildfire swept through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP=Newsis)

With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home.

While the danger from the deadliest, most destructive cluster of blazes in California history was far from over, the smoky skies started to clear in some places.

“A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived,” Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos said.

People were being allowed to go back home in areas no longer in harm’s way, and the number of those under evacuation orders was down to 75,000 from nearly 100,000 the day before.

Fire crews were able to gain ground because the winds that had fanned the flames did not kick up overnight as much as feared.

“Conditions have drastically changed from just 24 hours ago, and that is definitely a very good sign,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who noted that some of the fires were 50 percent or more contained. “It’s probably a sign we’ve turned a corner on these fires.”

The blazes were blamed for at least 40 deaths and destroyed some 5,700 homes and other structures. The death toll could climb as searchers dig through the ruins for people listed as missing. Hundreds were unaccounted for, though authorities said many of them are probably safe but haven’t let anyone know.

In hard-hit Sonoma County, Sheriff Rob Giordano said authorities have located 1,560 of the more than 1,700 once listed as missing. Many of those names were put on the list after people called from out of state to say they couldn’t reach a friend or relative.

Sonoma County officials said they will not let people return home until it is safe and utilities are restored. Crews have been working around the clock to connect water and power, in some cases putting up new poles next to smoldering trees, the sheriff said.

Many evacuees grew increasingly impatient to go home – or at least find out whether their homes were spared. Others were reluctant to go back or to look for another place to live.

Juan Hernandez, who escaped with his family from his apartment Oct. 9 before it burned down, still had his car packed and ready to go in case the fires flared up again and threatened his sister’s house, where they have been staying in Santa Rosa.

“Every day we keep hearing sirens at night, alarms,” Hernandez said. “We’re scared. When you see the fire close to your house, you’re scared.”

Evacuation orders were lifted for the city of Calistoga, the Napa Valley city of 5,000 known for its mud baths, mineral spas and wine tastings. The city was cleared out Wednesday as winds shifted, but homes and businesses were spared.

At the Sonoma fairgrounds, evacuees watched the San Francisco 49ers play the Redskins on television, received treatment from a chiropractor and got free haircuts.

Michael Estrada, who owns a barber shop in neighboring Marin County but grew up in one of the Santa Rosa neighborhoods hit hard by the blazes, brought his combs, clippers and scissors and displayed his barbering license in case anyone doubted his credentials.

“I’m not saving lives,” he said. “I’m just here to make somebody’s day feel better, make them feel normal.”

Lois Krier, 86, said it was hard to sleep on a cot in the shelter with people snoring and dogs barking through the night.

She and her husband, William Krier, 89, were anxious to get home, but after being evacuated for a second time in a week Saturday, they didn’t want to risk having to leave again.

“We’re cautious,” she said. “We want to be safe.”

Nearly 11,000 firefighters were still battling 15 fires burning across a 100-mile swath of the state.

In the wooded mountains east of Santa Rosa, where a mandatory evacuation remained in place, a large plume of white smoke rose high in the sky as firefighters tried to prevent the fire from burning into a retirement community and advancing onto the floor of Sonoma Valley, known for its wineries.

Houses that had benefited from repeated helicopter water drops were still standing as smoke blew across surrounding ridges. A deer crossed the highway from a burned-out area and wandered into a vineyard not reached by the flames.

Those who were allowed back into gutted neighborhoods returned to assess the damage and, perhaps, see if anything was salvageable.

Jack Daniels had recently completed a year-long remodel of his Napa house near the Silverado Country Club and watched it go up in flames last week as he, his wife, 7-year-old grandson and two pugs backed out of the driveway.

His neighbors, Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, were the oldest victims identified so far in the wildfires.

Daniels, 74, a wine importer and exporter, said he lost everything left behind, including his wife’s jewelry and 3,000 bottles of wine in his cellar.

“It’s heartbreaking,” the 74-year-old said. “This was going to be our last house. I guess we’ve got one more move. But we’re fortunate. We got away. Most things can be replaced. The bank didn’t burn down.” (Ap=Newsis)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, talks to a reporter after speaking at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Ky, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.  Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming. (AP=Newsis)
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, talks to a reporter after speaking at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Ky, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming. (AP=Newsis)

A coalition of left-leaning states and environmental groups are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s move to kill an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Speaking Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would be issuing a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s drive to curb global climate change.

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt declared, adding that no federal agency should ever use its authority to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”

It was not immediately clear if Pruitt would seek to issue a new rule without congressional approval, which Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for doing. Pruitt’s rule wouldn’t become final for months, and is then highly likely to face a raft of legal challenges.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among those who said they will sue.

“The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change – and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation – is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda,” said Schneiderman, a Democrat.

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two dozen attorney generals who sued to stop Obama’s 2014 push to limit carbon emissions, stymieing the limits from ever taking effect.

Closely aligned with the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Kentucky, a company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.

While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

“A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”

Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states. Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which are also being squeezed by low cost natural gas and renewable power. In the absence of stricter federal regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions, many states have issued their own mandates promoting energy conservation.

The withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan is the latest in a series of moves by Trump and Pruitt to dismantle Obama’s legacy on fighting climate change, including the delay or roll back of rules limiting levels of toxic pollution in smokestack emissions and wastewater discharges from coal-burning power plants.

On Thursday, Trump nominated former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as Pruitt’s top deputy at EPA – one of several recent political appointees at the agency with direct ties to the fossil fuel interests.

The president announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

“This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”

Despite the rhetoric about saving coal, government statistics show that coal mines currently employ only about 52,000 workers nationally – a modest 4-percent uptick since Trump became president. Those numbers are dwarfed by the jobs created by building such clean power infrastructure as wind turbines and solar arrays.

Environmental groups and public health advocates quickly derided Pruitt’s decision as short sighted.

“Trump is not just ignoring the deadly cost of pollution, he’s ignoring the clean energy deployment that is rapidly creating jobs across the country,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. (AP=Newsis)

FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Corker is hardly the only Republican lambasting President Donald Trump and raising dark concerns about harm the president might cause the U.S. and the world. He’s just the only one who’s sounding off in public. (AP =Newsis)
FILE – In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Corker is hardly the only Republican lambasting President Donald Trump and raising dark concerns about harm the president might cause the U.S. and the world. He’s just the only one who’s sounding off in public. (AP =Newsis)

A powerful Republican senator cast the president of his own party as a man-child who could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” as the two engaged in an intense and vitriolic back-and-forth bashing, a remarkable airing of their party’s profound rifts.

In political discourse that might once have seemed inconceivable, Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, felt compelled to answer his president’s barbs on Sunday by tweeting: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.“

In an interview Sunday with The New York Times, Corker said Trump could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” with threats toward other countries. Corker also said Trump acted as if he was on his old reality-TV show and that he concerned the senator, adding: “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.“

Corker also said his concerns about Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican, the paper reported.

In a series of stinging tweets earlier in the day, Trump contended Corker:

_Was “largely responsible for the horrendous” Iran nuclear deal, which the Democratic Obama administration negotiated and Corker considered badly flawed. The senator also tried to require that President Barack Obama submit the accord to Congress for approval.

_Intended to obstruct the White House agenda, though he offered no evidence for saying he expected Corker “to be a negative voice.“

_”Begged” for Trump’s endorsement in his 2018 re-election, then opted against seeking a third term when Trump declined, showing the senator “didn’t have the guts to run.” The Associated Press reported that Trump, in a private meeting in September, had urged Corker to run. Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, said Sunday that Trump called Corker last Monday to ask that he reconsider his decision to leave the Senate. Trump “reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” the aide said.

_Wanted to be secretary of state, and “I said `NO THANKS,”‘ said Trump, who picked Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson for that Cabinet post. Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, was mentioned as a possible pick after the election.

Trump added another tweet Sunday evening: “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!“

Corker always had been one to speak his mind, and even before Sunday’s verbal volleys, his new free agent status promised to make Trump and the party nervous. Already, there was the prospect of even more elbow room to say what he wants and to vote how he pleases over the next 15 months as Trump and the party’s leaders on Capitol Hill struggle to get their agenda on track.

Corker’s comments drew a rebuke Monday from White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who said on “Fox & Friends” that she finds “tweets like this to be incredibly irresponsible.” She added that the president’s door is always open to speak with lawmakers privately.

The top Republican in the Senate, who has been the target of Trump’s ire, deflected questions about the escalating fight between Corker and Trump.

“Sen. Corker is a valuable member of the Senate Republican caucus and he’s also on the Budget committee and a particularly important player as we move to the floor on the budget next week and he’s an important part of our team,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday during a stop in Hazard, Kentucky.

Not long before Trump’s tweeting, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “it’s going to be fun to work” with Corker, “especially now that he’s not running for re-election, because I think it sort of unleashes him to do whatever – and say whatever – he wants to say.“

In his interview with the Times, Corker said: “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.“

Corker delivered a rebuke of the Trump White House after the president’s tweets scoffing at Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis with North Korea. Corker said Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, are “those people that help separate our country from chaos.“

And Corker will be at the center of what may be a stormy debate over the future of the Iran agreement. Trump’s hostility toward the deal has stoked concerns he’s aiming to dismantle the international accord despite Europe’s objections. Corker is opposed to scrapping the agreement outright.

“You can only tear these things up one time,” Corker said. “It might feel good for a second. But one of the things that’s important for us is to keep our allies with us, especially our Western allies.“

Corker is the latest Republican to face Trump’s wrath. The president in recent months has lit into McConnell over the failure of the GOP to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law, and specifically targeted Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for their opposition to GOP health legislation.

Corker, 65, announced last month that his second, six-year term would be his last. (AP=Newsis)