facebook tracking pixel Beyond the county: Dems gear up for debate, Oregon students return after campus shooting | TheUnion.com

Beyond the county: Dems gear up for debate, Oregon students return after campus shooting

Compiled by The Union staff
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Des Moines, Iowa. The state where Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will meet to debate on Tuesday, Oct. 13, for the first time is evidence of why she's still the front-runner. Clinton has staff organizing on the ground for months in Nevada and they know how to navigate the state's baroque caucus system. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Clinton has edge in Nevada, site of Dems’ first debate

LAS VEGAS — When the Democratic candidates for president take the stage for their first debate this week in Nevada, they’ll do so in a state that serves as a reminder of why Hillary Rodham Clinton is the front-runner for the nomination.

One of the first four states to cast ballots in the presidential contest, Nevada is home to large communities of immigrant families, including many who have only recently arrived in the state. When combined with the state’s baroque caucus system, which is so complex that the rules surrounding it run 51 pages, that means winning the state and the largest share of delegates requires a higher degree of organization and effort to get-out-the-vote than in most others.

And so for all the excitement generated to date by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, and for all the anticipation about whether Vice President Joe Biden will decide to make a late entry into the race, it is Clinton and her campaign that are set up to win when Nevada Democratic caucus next February.

Clinton installed staff on the ground in Nevada six months ago, and she now has 22 paid operatives in the state. They have recruited more than 3,000 volunteers, who have already held events in remote desert towns as well as the state’s urban centers. Clinton herself has made wooing immigrants a keystone of her campaign; she announced her immigration policy approach at a Las Vegas high school this spring.

“That’s a lot of shoe leather, and they’ve been on the ground for 5-6 months,” Billy Vassiliadis, a veteran Democratic strategist in Nevada who isn’t involved in the current race, said of the Clinton campaign’s efforts. “That’s going to be a challenge that I don’t think a Sanders can overcome, that — God bless his heart — I don’t think Joe can overcome.”

Meanwhile, Sanders put a single paid staffer in the state less than two weeks ago, and recently added a few more. Biden has yet to decide whether to run and does not have any formal campaign operation.

None of the other candidates Clinton will debate Tuesday night — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chaffee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — have a campaign organization that can match Clinton’s. All are largely afterthoughts in early preference polls.

The differences in the structural strength of the campaigns were evident this past weekend. While Sanders’ single Nevada staffer had his first meeting with hundreds of Sanders volunteers at a community college on Saturday, Clinton’s campaign flew in Democratic rising star Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas in Las Vegas and former NBA player Jason Collins in Reno to cheer on volunteers and staffers who had been knocking on doors and making calls for months.

“We gave — and we know we have — the best candidate for president of all the candidates for president, Democrat or Republican — Hillary Clinton,” Castro told about two dozen Clinton volunteers who, armed with clipboards filled with computer-generated lists of potential voters, were about to set out for an afternoon of door-knocking in heavily Latino East Las Vegas.

Sanders supporters argue they can catch up. “There is a movement here, even in Nevada, for Bernie Sanders,” said Jim Farrell, Sanders’ Nevada state director. “This is not a normal election cycle.”

Yet neither was 2008, when Clinton won the Nevada caucus. Her state director then was Robby Mook, who is now her national campaign manager. Her field director that year was Marlon Marshall, now the national campaign’s director of public engagement. Emmy Ruiz, who worked on the Clinton 2008 effort and then ran Obama’s successful 2012 race in Nevada, is now overseeing Clinton’s 2016 effort in the state.

Vassiliadis, who worked on the 2008 Obama campaign, said it had staff on the ground in the spring of 2007 and nabbed the coveted endorsement of the Culinary Workers Union, which represents tens of thousands of casino workers in the state. And yet they couldn’t catch up to Mook and the campaign he built for Clinton in Nevada.

Clinton’s team is doing it all over again, including targeting the state’s diverse electorate. The campaign hosts Filipino-style potluck dinners and is courting black pastors as well as Nevada’s influential corps of immigrant-rights activists. And what the campaign does in Nevada, Marshall said, will pay off across the country.

“The diversity of Nevada and the outreach programs you use there can help us reach out to those communities in other states,” he said.

Yet for all her successes in Nevada in 2008, Clinton left the state with one fewer delegate than did Obama. It’s something noted by some Sanders backers, who cite the complex rules that can generously apportion delegates to runners-up as they tout the potential for the enthusiasm for his campaign to ultimately trump Clinton’s structural edge.

“We’ll go to the Democratic clubs and see a Hillary person will get up — they’re all very nice people, but it’s like they memorized a speech,” said Tazo Schafer, 67, a retired academic who is volunteering for Sanders, his first involvement in presidential politics since Eugene McCarthy’s campaign. “Then the Bernie people get up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and there’s real passion.”

—Associated Press

Evidence mounts for El Nino that could ease drought

LOS ANGELES — Evidence is mounting that the El Nino ocean-warming phenomenon in the Pacific will spawn a rainy winter in California.

The extra rain could help ease the state’s punishing drought, but it also brings a risk of chaotic storms like those that battered the region in the late 1990s.

In a report issued last week, meteorologists say that the already strong El Nino has a 95 percent chance of lasting through the winter before weakening in the spring.

The National Weather Service says this El Nino appears to be the second-strongest since 1950. That means people should also prepare for damaging rains.

There’s also the chance that El Nino will be followed by its sister, La Nina, a different phenomenon that generally brings cooler temperatures in the Pacific and a drier winter.

El Ninos in the early 1980s and late 1990s killed more than 50 Californians and caused nearly $2 billion in damage.

— Associated Press

Zimbabwe official: US dentist not wanted for killing lion

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe is no longer pressing for the extradition of James Walter Palmer, an American dentist who killed a well-known lion called Cecil, a Cabinet minister said Monday.

Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a “tourist” because he had not broken the southern African country’s hunting laws, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters in Harare on Monday. Zimbabwe’s police and the National Prosecuting Authority had cleared Palmer of wrongdoing, she said.

Through an adviser, Palmer declined comment.

Palmer was identified as the man who killed Cecil in a bow hunt. Cecil, a resident of Hwange National park in western Zimbabwe, was well-known to tourists and researchers for his distinctive black mane.

Muchinguri-Kashiri had said in July that Zimbabwean police and prosecutors would work to get Palmer returned to Zimbabwe to face poaching charges.

On Monday, she told reporters in Harare that Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a “tourist” because he had not broken this wildlife-rich southern African country’s hunting laws.

“He is free to come, not for hunting, but as a tourist,” Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters. “It turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order.”

Cat expert Alan Rabinowitz, chief executive of the New York-based cat conservation organization Panthera, said in response that “the bar must be raised” for any legal hunting of wild cats because wild lion populations are declining in most parts of Africa.

“Cecil the lion’s killing, sadly, is but one case in a broad-based human assault on these majestic animals, even where they are supposedly protected,” Rabinowitz said in a statement Monday.

Palmer was the subject of extradition talk in Zimbabwe and a target of protests in the United States, particularly in Minnesota, where he has a dental practice, after he was identified as the man who killed Cecil the lion in a bow hunt. Cecil roamed in Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe.

Messages left Monday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was handling a U.S. investigation into Palmer, weren’t immediately returned.

Theo Bronkhorst, a Zimbabwean professional hunter who was a guide for Palmer, returned to court last week on charges of allowing an illegal hunt. His lawyer Perpetua Dube argued that the charges are too vague and should be dropped.

—Associated Press

Students return to Oregon community college after shooting

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Hundreds of people lined the road leading to the Oregon community college where a gunman killed nine people, holding signs reading “UCC Strong” as students returned Monday to the scene of the deadliest shooting in state history.

The Umpqua Community College campus in the small town of Roseburg reopened last week, but students are heading back to class for the first time since the Oct. 1 shooting, which also wounded nine people.

Residents waving American flags and signs greeted students driving into campus. Volunteers and dogs came to offer comfort, and tissues were available in every classroom. State troopers and sheriff’s deputies patrolled the grounds.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown joined interim college President Rita Cavin and student body president Tony Terra in welcoming students who returned for morning classes.

“There was a lot of hugs and a lot of tears,” the governor told reporters. “We are here to help students rebuild their lives.”

The gunman, Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, shot his victims in a classroom in Snyder Hall before exchanging fire with police and then killing himself. Administrators have not started talking about what will happen to Snyder Hall, which is still closed, Cavin said.

It’s also too soon to say how security at the college might change, she said. Campus police are not armed in this conservative town where residents commonly own and carry guns. The shooting has led to calls for more gun restrictions to reduce the bloodshed, while others here and across the country contend that the answer is more people being armed.

The campus was closed to the media for much of the day. Despite that, many students skipped class Monday because they didn’t want to confront reporters, Cavin said.

“We’re hoping they understand this level of press activity is going to diminish really quickly, and it will feel safer to come back,” Cavin said. “Some of them are just holding back and waiting for the campus to look like the campus they left.”

Supporters started lining the street before dawn. Workers from AAA Sweep, a Roseburg parking-lot sweeping company, arrived at 5:30 a.m., even though some of them didn’t get off work until 2 a.m.

“UCC touches everybody in this community in some way,” company owner Carl Bird told The Register-Guard newspaper. “You’ve got displaced workers that come here, you’ve got kids out of high school coming here, I’ve hired people from here.

“And they all put back in the community when they graduate,” he said. “So it’s just something that I felt we should support.”

—Associated Press

Turkey faces period of instability in wake of attacks

ANKARA, Turkey — The suicide bombings that ripped through a rally promoting peace in Turkey’s capital have magnified the political uncertainty ahead of a key election Nov. 1 and raised fears that the country may be heading toward an extended period of instability.

The blasts — Turkey’s bloodiest in years — have further polarized the country as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries again for a ruling majority in parliament. And with political winds blowing against the ruling party, the election could create new power struggles just as the country grapples with more than 2 million refugees and tries to avoid being drawn into the chaos in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

This is a dramatic and dangerous time for the mostly Muslim nation and NATO ally, so often cited as an example of stability in a tumultuous region.

“We are now facing uncharted waters in terms of deadly violence in Turkey,” wrote Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution in Today’s Zaman, an opposition newspaper. “We are also in uncharted waters in terms of political polarization in the country.”

Turkey has suffered a spiral of violence since July, when a similar suicide bombing killed 33 Turkish and Kurdish activists in a town near the Syrian border, ending a cease-fire. Kurdish rebels blamed Turkey’s government, and hundreds have been killed since then in the renewed conflict with security forces.

No one has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s explosions at the Ankara peace rally, which killed at least 97 people and wounded hundreds.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Monday that the two bombers exploded about 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of dynamite each, and that authorities have detained “a large number” of suspects.

Investigators are close to identifying those responsible, and believe they likely infiltrated Turkey from a neighboring country, he said.

Kurtulmus called for unity and solidarity in response to these attacks, which he said were aimed to sow discord and create “deep fissures” within Turkey.

Indeed, the attack in the heart of the capital — far from the conflicts bleeding over Turkey’s southern borders — is rattling nerves around the nation and beyond.

Amid the turmoil, the Turkish lira is losing value and interest rates are spiking, making it more difficult for Turkey to finance its looming short-term debt. Persistent instability also could harm tourism, an important source of revenue and foreign currency.

“These attacks won’t turn Turkey into a Syria,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu also denied accusations that Turkey’s growing involvement in the war in Syria will drag the country into the Middle Eastern quagmire.

But Turkey’s government, which is openly hostile to Syrian President Bashar Assad, has struggled to avoid getting pulled into the chaos, and not just because Syrian and Iraqi refugees are flooding across its border.

Government security forces also have fought for decades to put down a rebellion in southeast Turkey, home to ethnic Kurds whose lands also straddle Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Since 2012, Turkey’s Kurdish rebels have been engaged in a peace process, and their influence has grown since their kinsman became allies in the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Analysts say the bombings inside Turkey could only make the parliamentary election results less conclusive, meaning government stability will depend on the political parties’ ability to form coalitions and cooperate — an elusive capacity as the country becomes more and more polarized.

“The optimistic scenario is that a broad based government will emerge and that it will re-establish stability and revitalize the peace process with the Kurds,” said Sinan Ulgen, who runs the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank.

“The other possibility is that the same picture will emerge, that a coalition won’t be formed, leading Turkey into an even more tumultuous point,” Ulgen said.

For more than a decade, Turkey has been led by a single party, which Erdogan founded and continues to run behind the scenes. Disregarding rules requiring him to be neutral, Erdogan campaigned for a supermajority for the ruling party, which would have allowed it to change the constitution and give his presidency more powers. That backfired and electoral gains in June by Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party left the ruling party without even a parliamentary majority.

Erdogan’s opponents now accuse him and his interim government of rallying nationalist votes by fomenting violence between the Kurdish rebels and security forces; Erdogan denies this, saying government forces are responding to increased attacks.

Government opponents, including a pro-Kurdish party whose members were at the rally, have held the government and Erdogan responsible for the bombings.

The accusations range from failing to take adequate measures to protect the rally, to turning a blind eye on the Islamic State group for too long and even the possibility of having some hand in the attack. Hundreds marched in the capital Monday, chanting “the killer state will be held to account!”

Davutoglu rejected the accusations as “dangerous” and “dastardly.”

—Associated Press

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