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US Navy Reports Another Tense Encounter with Iran Drone

An unarmed Iranian drone shadowed a U.S. aircraft carrier at night and came close enough to F-18 fighter jets to put the lives of American pilots at risk, the Navy said Tuesday, reporting the second such tense encounter within a week.

The Iranian Sadegh drone flew without any warning lights during the encounter Sunday night with the USS Nimitz, said Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.

The drone did not respond to repeated calls over the radio and came within 1,000 feet (300 meters) of U.S. fighters, he said.

‘Dangerous situation’

That “created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws,” McConnaughey said in a statement.

 

The drone was unarmed, the lieutenant said, though that model can carry missiles.

Iran’s military and state-run media did not immediately report the incident, which came after a similar encounter Aug. 8, in which the Navy said an Iranian drone came within 100 feet (30 meters) of an F-18 preparing to land on the Nimitz. Iranian vessels and U.S. warships have also had tense encounters in recent months.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to renegotiate the nuclear deal struck by his predecessor amid new sanctions targeting Iran over its ballistic missile tests.

14 encounters during 2017

So far this year, the Navy has recorded 14 instances of what it describes as “unsafe and/or unprofessional” interactions with Iranians forces. It recorded 35 in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

The incidents at sea almost always involved Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force that reports only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some analysts believe the incidents are meant in part to squeeze moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s administration after the 2015 nuclear deal.

Of the incidents at sea last year, the worst involved Iranian forces capturing and holding overnight 10 U.S. sailors who strayed into the Islamic Republic’s territorial waters.

 

Iranian forces in turn accuse the U.S. Navy of unprofessional behavior, especially in the Strait of Hormuz, the mouth of the Persian Gulf, through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes.

 

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Trump: Racism is Evil

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Trump Denounces White Supremacists Who Staged Deadly Rally

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday denounced the white supremacists who staged last weekend’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that their “racism is evil.”

Trump said the neo-Nazi groups, the racist Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists and other hate groups that organized the demonstration “are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

President Trump: Racism is evil

Trump vowed that anyone who committed “racist violence” in Charlottesville would be held accountable.  “Justice will  be delivered,” he said.

He said the hatred and bigotry on display in Charlottesville “has no place in America and as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin we all live under the same laws.  We all salute the same great flag.  And we are all made by the same, almighty God.”

Direct criticism

Trump’s comments followed two days of intense criticism from across the U.S. political spectrum for his failure to explicitly condemn the white nationalists and other groups who organized Saturday’s rally. Many critics praised the president Monday for directly criticizing the groups, but also lamented that it took days for him to call them out by name.  

During a televised statement at the White House Monday, Trump paid tribute to the three people who lost their lives, including Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who had gone to the rally to protest against the white nationalists. She was killed when she was hit by a speeding car driven into a group of counter-protesters.

Two Virginia state police troopers who had been watching the protest from the air were also killed when their helicopter crashed.

Trump spoke after being briefed on the investigation of the rally by two of his top law enforcement officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Christopher Wray, newly installed as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country’s top criminal investigative agency. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Saturday’s violence, marked by hours of street fights between the white nationalists and counter-protesters.

Numerous U.S. political figures, both Republicans and Democrats, had assailed Trump for two days for not specifically denouncing the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups that staged the Charlottesville rally to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Lee was the leader of the Confederate forces in the 19th century Civil War that was fought over the issue of slave ownership in the southern U.S. and statues of him, usually on horseback, have become a flashpoint for demonstrations in several U.S. cities.

The 20-year-old driver of the car that hit Heyer, James Alex Fields Jr., from the midwestern state of Ohio, was arrested and charged with murder and other offenses.

Fields, reported by U.S. news accounts to have voiced Nazi sympathies in recent years, made his first court appearance Monday, but a Charlottesville judge refused to grant him bond, keeping him jailed pending more legal proceedings later this month.

Initial reaction

On Saturday, as street fights between the white nationalists and counter-protesters escalated at the rally 160 kilometers southwest of Washington, Trump denounced “in the strongest possible terms this degree of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.”

But at the time he declined to say whether he was rejecting political support from white supremacists, many of them Trump voters in last year’s presidential election.

Trump’s tepid initial response to the violence seemed to blame the unrest on both the white nationalists and counter-protesters.

On Sunday, the White House said the president “condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists,” the racist Ku Klux Klan, “neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

But Trump, who frequently posts his thoughts on his Twitter account, has not offered any more commentary on the Charlottesville unrest until he spoke Monday.

Hours earlier, Sessions told ABC News, “You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.”

In another interview, he told CBS News, “We will not allow these extremist groups to obtain credibility.”

Merck CEO resigns from Trump panel

Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, a major U.S. pharmaceutical company, quit Trump’s advisory manufacturing council because of Trump at first not “clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Trump, in a Twitter response within an hour, said that since Frazier had quit the manufacturing council, he would now “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

On Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said says the deadly Charlottesville violence “meets the definition of terrorism.”

McMaster, in an interview on ABC News, described the car’s ramming into a crowd of counter-protesters as “a criminal act that may be motivated by this hatred and bigotry.”

Vigils and protests

The victims were remembered at a vigil Sunday in Charlottesville, while people in multiple cities across the U.S. gathered to protest the violence and criticize Trump’s response for not explicitly condemning far-right groups.

In New York, marchers gathered at Trump Tower to voice their displeasure, while hundreds of people rallied against white nationalist groups in Los Angeles. About 1,000 people gathered at another anti-hate rally in Denver.

A Seattle rally planned by a conservative pro-Trump group before the events in Charlottesville was met by counter-protesters, and police used pepper spray to break up crowds after fireworks were thrown at officers.

 

 

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Law Scholars Urge Trump to Keep Program for Young Immigrants

A group of legal scholars is urging President Donald Trump to keep a program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation and is outlining a legal argument to maintain it.

Around 100 law professors and immigration attorneys are scheduled Monday to send Trump an open letter arguing the president has the legal authority to preserve the Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Michael Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center and Santa Fe, New Mexico, resident, told The Associated Press the letter details why the program, which has helped around 750,000 immigrants, is legal.

“It’s a very successful program, and we layout the legality,” said Olivas, one of the authors of the letter. “It is not unconstitutional as some have suggested.”

Federal courts have ruled the president can use “prosecutorial discretion” to give certain immigrants, like these young migrants, temporary protective status, the scholars said.

The Trump administration has said it still has not decided the program’s fate.

A group of Republican attorneys general has called on the Trump administration to phase out the program. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and others have threated to amend a district court case to challenge the DACA program unless the Trump administration acts to phase it out.

Meanwhile, 20 Democratic attorneys general led by Xavier Becerra of California are asking Trump to keep the program.

Last month, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Hispanic lawmakers that the program is likely illegal, though he personally supports it.

The program gives work permits to young people brought to the U.S. as children.

Trump pledged as a candidate to immediately end the program. But as president, he has said those immigrants will not be targets for deportation.

He said his administration is more interested in deporting criminals.

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With Budget Cuts Looming, USAID Chief Vows to Do More With Less

Facing potentially deep budget cuts to U.S. foreign aid, new USAID administrator Mark Green says he needs to do more with less and prove to President Donald Trump that development assistance can further his “America First” agenda.

In a first meeting with Trump back in January, Green made his pitch to the then president-elect, drawing from his experience in Central America to explain how U.S.-funded programs there could help slow the number of immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally.

“I said ‘Mr. President-elect, I believe our development tools can help us achieve just about every one of your strategic priorities,'” Green told Reuters in his first interview since starting last week as head of the U.S. Agency for International

Development.

Green had previously worked on U.S-supported projects with indigenous mayors in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to improve living conditions “so kids hopefully don’t go 1,000 miles through the worst conditions imaginable and jump the border.”

“It works and is a great way to use development,” he said, sitting in a still bare office at USAID headquarters blocks from the White House.

Green brings a unique resume to the job: a former four-term Republican congressman from Wisconsin who served as U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania under President George W. Bush. In his last job as head of the International Republican Institute, he helped promote governance and democracy overseas.

His time on Capitol Hill will be key to his new job. In a sign of his good standing there, Green’s nomination had support across the political spectrum, as well as among aid groups.

Trump staked out his position on foreign aid on the campaign trail, casting it as a waste of U.S. tax dollars. And now his administration has proposed slashing the budget for foreign aid by a third, which could gut programs across a range of issues including health, governance, gender and education.

But U.S. foreign assistance has traditionally garnered bipartisan support in Congress, which controls the aid purse strings. Green has stronger relations with lawmakers than his predecessors, who battled Congress on funding and objectives.

“What’s very different for Mark Green is that his strongest allies are on the Hill,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington. “Where he faces headwinds are with both the White House and the State Department.”

“There is a real potential for conflicts in basic philosophy about what USAID does,” added Morris.

Green is nevertheless sanguine about prospects for a downsized, budget-constrained USAID.

“We can’t do everything,” he said. “The resources are limited, so we have to prioritize.”

Green takes over an agency that has already been through waves of reform in the last decade, adapting to shifting global development patterns featuring deep-pocket philanthropic groups, more private-sector investment in emerging economies, and the rise of China as a financier in the developing world.

New demands have emerged with an unprecedented refugee crisis from wars in Syria and Iraq, along with famine in Africa, and growing violent extremism.

“USAID’s humanitarian work is unrivaled, it is mobilization of American generosity, and it will continue,” Green said, adding that U.S. assistance should both help in times of crisis and prevent crises from occurring.

He wants U.S. foreign assistance to focus on results to show Americans that their tax-dollars are being put to good use.

“I am going to ask every program to show me how it is moving us closer to the day when people can lead themselves,” said Green. “If it is not helping, they’re going to have to tell me why.”

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Charlottesville Victim Was ‘Not About Hate’

Virginia Governor Terry McAulliffe held a moment of silence during a prayer vigil Sunday in Charlottesville for Heather Heyer – the woman killed when a man allegedly plowed his car into a crowd of counter protesters during violent clashes that erupted at a white nationalist rally.

A memorial of flowers, balloons, stuffed toys, and messages in chalk grew throughout the day in central Charlottesville.

Heyer was 32 years old and worked as a paralegal and a part-time waitress.

 Alfred Wilson, a manager at the Miller Law Group where Heyer worked, said he would often find her sitting at her desk with her eyes filled with tears, crying over injustice and racism.

Heyer was a “very strong, very opinionated young woman,” Wilson told interviewers, saying she “made it known to all that she was all about equality.”

Heyer’s job at the law office focused on helping financially-troubled people who were on the verge of being thrown out of their homes, having their cars taken away, or needed help with their medical bills.

Wilson spoke about how Heyer broke up with a boyfriend who was offended that she had black friends.

“Her life was not about hate,” Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said, adding that she was very proud of her daughter.

James Alex Fields, the 20-year-old Ohio man accused of killing Heyer and injuring 19 others, will make his first appearance in court Monday. He is facing charges of second degree murder among other counts.

Police say Fields could be spotted standing among a group of white supremacists moments before the deadly crash.

Fields’ former high school history teacher, Derek Weimer, told various media outlets Sunday that Fields was a longtime Nazi sympathizer and an admirer of Adolf Hitler.

Weimer described a research paper Fields wrote as a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen-SS” and that he “really believed in that stuff.”

Weimer said he tried to steer Fields away from this obsession with the Nazis, but admitted that he failed and said racism is “tearing up our country.”

Fields’ mother appeared to be in shock when she told a television interviewer that although she knew her son was going to Charlottesville, she did not think it had anything to do with white supremacy.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump,” she said.

Virginia Governor McAuliffe also held a moment of silence for two Virginia state troopers who were on their way to Charlottesville to assist in quelling the clashes. They were killed when their helicopter crashed on Saturday.

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Sessions: ‘Violence, Deaths in Charlottesville Strike at Heart of American Law, Justice’

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car ramming Saturday during a protest against a white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official, said: “The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice.” He added, “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”

Virginia’s governor told white supremacists, who had gathered Saturday in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, to “go home” after three people were killed in the violence at a rally and in a helicopter crash that police linked to the protest.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency after fights broke out between armor-clad, shield-carrying white nationalist demonstrators and similarly armed counterprotesters in Charlottesville.

Virginia Governor Tells White Supremacists to ‘Go Home’

“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: Go home,” McAuliffe said at a news conference. “You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.”

McAuliffe said on Twitter that he declared the state of emergency “to aid state response to violence at alt-right rally in Charlottesville.”

“The acts and rhetoric in Charlottesville over the past 24 hours are unacceptable and must stop. A right to speech is not a right to violence,” he tweeted.

Later Saturday night, protesters gathered to hear speakers and march peacefully in California cities, including Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and El Cajon in San Diego County.

‘Egregious display’

President Donald Trump, speaking midafternoon from New Jersey, condemned “the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” in Charlottesville.

Trump, who was preparing to sign a bill to extend a veterans health care program, called for a “swift restoration of law and order” in the city, and added “no citizen should ever fear for their safety and security.”

He did not answer questions from reporters after signing the bill, including a reporter’s request for an explanation of what Trump meant by “many sides.”

Shortly after the rally has canceled in Charlottesville, a car rammed into people in a street as they were leaving a counterprotest. Video showed some bodies flying in the air.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and about two dozen others were injured.

Police said they had the driver of the car in custody, identifying him later Saturday night as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio. Fields was being held on suspicion of second-degree murder.

The Virginia State Police announced late Saturday that Troy Dunigan, 21, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L. Smith, 21 of Louisa, Virginia, was charged with assault and battery; and James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with carrying a concealed handgun. 

The Toledo Blade newspaper in Ohio broke the news to Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, who said she had not been contacted by authorities. She said her son told her he was going to an “alt-right” rally in Virginia, without offering any details about the extremist nature of the gathering.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump,” Bloom told the newspaper. She said she and her son had moved to Ohio about a year ago from Florence, Kentucky.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said on Twitter he was “heartbroken” about the death and urged all those still at the protest site to go home.

Hours later, Virginia state police said one of their helicopters had crashed in a wooded area outside the city. The helicopter was being used to help law enforcement monitor the rally.

Police said Lt. H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian and Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton were killed in the crash.

White Supremacists, Counterprotesters Clash at Virginia Rally

​Violent demonstration

The incident involving the car occurred as people were leaving the area after police deemed the demonstration unlawful; multiple acts of violence had broken out between the white supremacist demonstrators and counterprotesters.

Hundreds from both sides were involved in Saturday’s melee, throwing punches as well as water bottles and other items. Police used tear gas to separate participants.

The gathering at the University in Virginia, dubbed the “Unite the Right” rally, had previously prompted McAuliffe to warn people to stay away from the campus.

In what they called a pro-white demonstration, torch-bearing white nationalists marched Friday night through the university campus and gathered around the statue of General Robert E. Lee, a Confederate Civil War hero. They shouted epithets and slogans such as “white lives matter,” a take on the grass-roots organization Black Lives Matter, which was created after several killings of black Americans by police officers.

The city voted in April to remove the statue, a move being taken by many U.S. cities against such Confederate memorials. Since then, the city has been a focus of white nationalists.

​Criticism

Trump was criticized by members of both political parties for not specifying white nationalists in his comments about the violence in Charlottesville.

“We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. – OGH’’ Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, said on Twitter.

“@POTUS needs to speak out against the poisonous resurgence of white supremacy. There are not ‘many sides’ here, just right and wrong,’’ Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said on Twitter.

Violence Erupts as White Supremacists Clash With Counterprotesters at Rally

Among the white supremacists at Saturday’s rally were alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Duke said the rally “represents a turning point for the people of this country.”

“We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” he added.

Signer, the Charlottesville mayor, said he blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,’’ he told The Associated Press.

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Beleaguered Detroit Relying on Immigrants to Revitalize City

Detroit, Michigan, knows hardship and recovery. One of the hardest hit areas in the country during the Great Recession, the Midwestern Rust Belt city has since found an ingredient to its economic revitalization through empowerment of its immigrant communities. But not everyone is convinced that the solution is viable or helps anyone beyond the immigrants themselves. Ramon Taylor has more.

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