Sam's Top 5 Things To Know for Thursday

1. Fox News Channel dismisses O'Reilly, its biggest star

Associated Press: Fox News Channel's parent company fired Bill O'Reilly yesterday following an investigation into harassment allegations, bringing a stunning end to cable news' most popular program and one that came to define the bravado of his network over 20 years.

O'Reilly lost his job on the same day he was photographed in Rome shaking the hand of Pope Francis. By the evening, "The O'Reilly Factor" no longer bore his name, simply titled "The Factor."

The downfall of Fox's most popular — and most lucrative — personality began with an April 1 report in The New York Times that five women had been paid a total of $13 million to keep quiet about disturbing encounters with O'Reilly, who continued to deny any wrongdoing in a statement hours after he was fired. Dozens of his show's advertisers fled within days, even though O'Reilly's viewership increased.

2. N.Korea warns of "super-mighty preemptive strike" as U.S. plans next move

Yahoo News: North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike" after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from sole major ally China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, did not mince its words.

"In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes," it said.

Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.

 3. Venezuela has erupted into what’s being called the 'mother of all protests' 

Reuters: Racked by food shortages and political unrest, Venezuela swelled with what organizers are calling the "mother of all protests" yesterday. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the capital of Venezuela and other major cities across the country to rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who assumed office precisely five years ago.

Throughout the day, those rallies often devolved into clashes between demonstrators and security forces — chaotic, violent scenes rent by tear gas, tossed rocks and even two reported deaths.

Citing witnesses in the capitol, Reuters reports that Carlos Moreno, a teenage student who had not planned to join the demonstration, was shot in the head after "government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots." The news service says he died in the hospital later.

Later in the day a 23-year-old woman named Paola Ramirez was also shot and killed by pro-government groups, according to The Associated Press.

They were not the first to be felled in the course of the anti-Maduro protests that have been mounting since late last month. As of last week, five protesters — including a 13-year-old boy — had died of injuries suffered in fights with riot police.

4. McDonald's releases statement on heroic employee who stalled Steve Stephens at drive-thru

KARE11: A fast-thinking McDonald's employee is being heralded as a hero for helping bring the nationwide manhunt for Steve Stephens to an end in Erie, Pa.

"We applaud the crew members at this McDonald’s restaurant who recognized the suspect and did the right thing by quickly alerting the authorities of his location," McDonald's officials tell WKYC in an e-mail statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s loved ones and all of those impacted by this horrific crime."

The worker, who recognized Stephens as the wanted Cleveland Facebook killer, is credited with stalling him at the drive-thru window Tuesday so authorities could have extra response time.

Following a brief police pursuit, Stephens died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

5. In honor of 4/20, big brands are trying to reach out to legal marijuana users — but without setting a controversy ablaze.

Star Tribune: It’s no surprise that Ben & Jerry’s, the tie-dyed Vermont ice cream maker that has named ice creams “Half Baked” and “Phish Food” and “Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies,” would capitalize on the spirit of 4/20. “Jerry and Ben started the company in 1978, and they were definitely two hippies that were — enjoying life, if you will,” said spokeswoman Lindsay Bumps.

Two years ago, on 4/20, the brand’s scoop shops debuted the Brrr-ito, an ice-cream filled burrito that definitely seems like a late-night stoner innovation. This year, they’re introducing another new menu item: The Chill-aco, a waffle-cone taco with two scoops of ice cream and caramel drizzle, “which gives it that ooey-gooey component,” Bumps said. “I think a lot of brands aim to stand out on that day.”

The same goes for Lagunitas. The northern California brewery, owned, in part, by Heineken, is bringing back its Waldos’ Ale. The Waldos were students who are said to have coined the term 420 in the 1970s and who worked with the brewery to develop the beer’s dank flavor.

It’s “one of our best-selling beers,” said spokeswoman Karen Hamilton. Alluding to marijuana in names for beer is “just something that we’ve always done, and it’s not only on April 20.”

But it’s not just companies from the liberal enclaves of California and Vermont that are partaking in marketing campaigns aimed at consumers in states where pot use is legal. It’s also big, mainstream brands, such as Pepsi, Chipotle, Burger King and Denny’s, all of which have alluded to 4/20 on social media in previous years.

Denny’s tweeted its favorite, allegedly culinary words: “Baked, cooked, fried, stewed, toasted.” Chipotle’s photo of a burrito bowl came with the caption, “Sometimes you need a huge bowl to get you through the day.” If you make food that’s baked, or comes in a bowl, well, the ad copy writes itself.

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