Beyond the county: Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group
Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The man accused of plowing a car into a crowd protesting a white supremacist rally in Virginia had been photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of one of the hate groups that participated in the event.
Vanguard America on Sunday denied any association with the suspect, even as a separate hate group involved in Saturday’s rally pledged on social media to organize future events that would be “bigger than Charlottesville.”
The mayor of Charlottesville and political leaders of all political stripes vowed to combat the hate groups and urged President Donald Trump to forcefully denounce the organizations that had promoted the protest against the removal of a Confederate statue. Some of those groups specifically cited Trump’s election after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric as validation of their beliefs.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Saturday that federal authorities would pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash. The violence and deaths in Charlottesville “strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions wrote. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
Police charged James Alex Fields Jr. with second-degree murder and other counts after the silver Dodge Challenger they say he was driving barreled through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and wounding at least 19 others. Hours later, two state troopers were killed when the helicopter they were flying in as part of a large-scale police effort at the rally crashed into a wooded area outside the city.
White House scrambles to explain Trump’s response to clashes
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The White House scrambled Sunday to elaborate on President Donald Trump’s response to deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, as he came under bipartisan scolding for not clearly condemning white supremacists and other hate groups immediately after the altercations.
As the chorus of criticism grew, White Houses aides were dispatched to the morning news shows, yet they struggled at times to explain the president’s position. A new White House statement on Sunday explicitly denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups.
Trump himself remained out of sight and silent, save for a retweet about two Virginia state policemen killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the Charlottesville protests.
In the hours after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters on Saturday, Trump addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying that he condemns “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Speaking slowly from his New Jersey golf club while on a 17-day working vacation, Trump added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
North Korean tensions aren’t deterring tourists from Guam
HAGATNA, Guam (AP) – Tourists haven’t been deterred from visiting the tropical island of Guam even though the U.S. territory has been at the center of North Korean and U.S. threats during the past week.
Won Hyung-jin, an official from Modetour, a large South Korean travel agency, said several customers called with concerns, but they weren’t worried enough to pay cancellation fees for their trips.
“It seems North Korea racks up tension once or twice every year, and travelers have become insensitive about it,” Won said. His company has sent about 5,000 travelers to Guam a month this year, mostly on package tours.
The U.S. territory has a population of 160,000, but it attracted 1.5 million visitors last year. One third of Guam’s jobs are in the tourism industry.
Guam is a key outpost for the U.S. military, which uses it as a base for bombers and submarines.
US officials says confrontation with NKorea not imminent
WASHINGTON — Senior U.S. national security officials said Sunday that a military confrontation with North Korea’s is not imminent, but they cautioned that the possibility of war is greater than it was a decade ago.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, tried to provide assurances that a conflict is avoidable, while also supporting Trump’s tough talk. They said the United States and its allies no longer can afford to stand by as North Korea pushes ahead with the development of a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.
“We’re not closer to war than a week ago but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago,” McMaster said, adding that the Trump administration is prepared to deal militarily with North Korea if necessary.
But he stressed that the U.S. is pursuing “a very determined diplomatic effort” led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that’s coupled with new financial sanctions to dissuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from further provocations.
“The U.S. military is locked and loaded every day,” McMaster said, repeating Trump’s threat.
Nearly 1,000 evacuate from fire at campground
GEYSERVILLE, Calif. — An early morning fire at a Northern California campground sent nearly 1,000 people fleeing to safety.
The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports the fire began just before 1 a.m. Sunday at the Liberty Glen campground near the shores of Lake Sonoma. It grew to about 2.7 acres before firefighters put it out.
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineer park ranger said 886 people were booked at the campground at the time.
One of the campers, Tait Smith, told the newspaper the fire sent people shouting and scurrying to get in their cars, leaving behind shoes and camping gear.
He said it took about 10 minutes before fire crews arrived to the scene.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
‘Meet a Muslim’ events hope to dispel misconceptions
FREMONT — When Moina Shaiq realized even her friends were scared to ask her about her religion for fear of offending her or sounding uneducated, she put an advertisement in a California newspaper: “Questions and answers about being Muslim.”
The ad offered ideas for questions: Are women oppressed in Islam? What is the Islamic view of terrorism? How does Islam view other religions?
She set up shop at a coffee house in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont, hoping for good attendance, but brought her laptop to do some work in case no one showed. To her surprise, about 100 people turned out that day last year, and her “Meet a Muslim” program was born.
“It was over overwhelming,” said Shaiq, a mother of four and grandmother. “Fremont is so diverse, you will see women in hijab on the streets all the time. I didn’t think people here would be interested or even need to know about Muslims.”
Shaiq has since spoken about being Muslim and answered questions at dozens of libraries, pizza parlors and coffee shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. She recently expanded Meet a Muslim to churches, service clubs and private homes, and traveled to Arizona and Atlanta with the program.
US condemns killing of 7 White Helmets in Syria
The U.S. State Department says it is “saddened and horrified” by the news of the killing of seven Syrian first responders in their base in the country’s rebel-held Idlib Province.
Spokesperson Heather Nauert condemned the killings in a statement released Sunday.
The Syrian Civil Defense, popularly known as the White Helmets, has been applauded globally for braving air strikes and artillery fire to rescue civilians in Syria’s unforgiving war zones.
Dozens of its first responders have been killed in the line of duty. But seven were killed in their sleep early morning Saturday in Sarmin, Idlib. It was not immediately lear who was behind the killings.
Iran lawmakers raise missile, Guard spending to challenge US
TEHRAN, Iran — Chanting “Death to America,” Iran’s parliament voted unanimously Sunday to increase spending on its ballistic missile program and the foreign operations of its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, part of a sanctions bill mirroring a new U.S. law targeting the country.
While offering hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding, the lawmakers’ bill offered a tactic as old as the slogan shouted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – using America’s own tactics against it.
The vote salves public anger in Iran over U.S. President Donald Trump’s constant threats to renegotiate or abandon the nuclear deal struck by world powers under his predecessor. While lawmakers stressed the bill wouldn’t violate that agreement, it ensures those both home and abroad know Iran will continue confronting America either in the Persian Gulf or legislatively, analysts say.
“They want to show that the pressure that the U.S. is exerting on Iran, they can respond with similar measures,” said Adnan Tabatabai, an Iran analyst based in Germany who is the CEO of the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient. “It’s not that important that those measures may not hurt the U.S. in the same way. … They want to show they are not just standing still and watching this happening.”
In the session Sunday, 240 lawmakers voted for the bill, with only one abstention from the 247 legislators on hand, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani after the vote described the measure as just the first step the country could take.
Russia says Syrian government doubled territory it controls
BEIRUT — The Syrian government has increased the size of the territory under its control by 2 ½ times in just two months, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Sunday, as Syrian forces backed by regional allies and the Russian air force seized thousands of square miles (kilometers) from the Islamic State group in the center of the country.
Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-organized militias and the Russian air force have recaptured much of the country’s central Homs province from the Islamic State group in 2017. Most of the province is desert. It contains several energy fields as well as phosphate minerals.
They are driving toward the city of Deir el-Zour, kept under siege by IS militants since 2015.
Shoigu, in an interview on Russian state-owned Rossiya 24 TV, said recapturing Deir el-Zour “will say a lot, if not everything, about the end of the battle with” the Islamic State group.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported Sunday that government forces killed at least 25 IS militants in a commando operation in the desert region. It said the soldiers rappelled down from helicopters to ambush the militants, under the cover of Russian air strikes.
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