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Chefs celebrate ‘culinary freedom’ as federal judge strikes down California ban on foie gras sales

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Foie gras is back on the menu in California, after a federal judge on Wednesday struck down the state’s controversial law banning the production and sale of the culinary delicacy that comes from the enlarged livers of ducks and geese that have been force-fed corn.

While some California chefs planned to celebrate the return of fatty duck liver, animal rights activists said the state’s hard-fought foie gras battle was far from over.

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California’s bill outlawing foie gras passed in 2004 but the ban didn’t go into effect until 2012.

Foie gras producers and restaurants for years have lobbied to remove the ban, which gave rise to underground “Duckeasies” that offered free foie gras or sold it as unlisted menu item.

In their latest legal battle, Canada’s Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Quebec, New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Los Angeles-based Hot’s Restaurant Group argued that California’s sales restriction ran afoul of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

And on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the ban was at odds with federal law overseeing the sale and distribution of poultry products.

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“California cannot regulate foie gras products’ ingredients by creatively phrasing its law in terms of the manner in which those ingredients were produced,” Wilson wrote.

“It’s a good day for restaurants,” said Jot Condie, president and chief executive of the California Restaurant Association, a long time foe of the ban. “Turning chefs into criminals is not something we support.”

But Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), predicted that the celebrations could be short lived. HSUS and other animal rights groups vowed to ask California’s attorney general to appeal Wednesday’s ruling.

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“The state clearly has the right to ban the sale of the products of animal cruelty,” said Shapiro, who expects the federal appeals court to uphold the law as it did in the previous round of litigation.

In August 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s foie gras law, rejecting opponents’ assertion that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from interfering with interstate commerce. In October 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal, a move that allowed the ban to stand.

Chef Josiah Citrin of Melisse, one Los Angeles’ top restaurants, has been an outspoken critic of the ban and plans to serve his legal, personal stash of foie gras to diners tonight.

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“It’s nice to have some culinary freedom back … I plan to have it on the menu as long as it’s legal,” Citrin said.

The case is Association des Eleveur v. Harris, U.S. District Court Central District of California, No. 2:12-05735

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; Additional reporting by Jonatan Stempel in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Chris Reese, Andrew Hay and Bernard Orr)

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Trump announces toughest sanctions ‘ever’ on Iran

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President Donald Trump on Friday announced new sanctions on Iran's central bank, calling the measures the toughest ever imposed on another country by the United States.

"We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

"These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country," he said.

The Trump administration has vowed a response after US officials blamed Iran for weekend blasts on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, which caused a sharp hike in global crude prices.

The United States already maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran including on its central bank, with anyone who deals with it subject to prosecution.

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President Donald Trump on Friday uncorked a strange and nonsensical rant about the virtues of so-called "clean coal" during an Oval Office conversation with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

When asked about the importance of Australia's mineral industry, the president praised the country for doing so much to extract resources in what he described in an environmentally friendly way.

"Coal, as an example, you're the leader of safety in coal digging and we've actually studied it," the president said. "We're doing a lot of coal. You have very little -- you have almost no -- used to have a thing, black lung disease, and in Australia you almost don't have it anymore, you've got all of the dust down."

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Meghan McCain managed to place herself at the center of a debate about a whistleblower complaint filed against President Donald Trump.

"The View" grappled with reports that Trump dangled U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for damaging information against Joe Biden, and co-host Abby Huntsman agreed that was an impeachable offense -- but expressed doubts about the accuracy.

"This is a blown-up story and we have no facts, there's no gray area," Huntsman said. "It's black and white, and that would give Trump all the more ammunition if this isn't even true to say, this is what the media does."

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