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National News

    A 58-year-old man is behind bars after police said he raped a child nightly over a three-year period. According to the Jackson Sun, William Paul Godwin of Parsons, Tennessee, was arrested Sunday and charged with 12 counts of child rape, as well as one count of continuous child rape, authorities said. >> Read more news stories Godwin is accused of forcing the girl into sexual intercourse nightly beginning in fall 2012, when she was 5, the Sun reported. The victim said the rapes continued until summer 2015, according to court documents. Godwin was jailed on $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court July 8, WBBJ reported. Read more here or here.
  • A man who police said made threats toward children months ago outside an Incredible Pizza restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee, has been arrested. Zantarrian Ferguson was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and evading arrest with third-party injuries, police said. Police told WHBQ-TV that Ferguson was asked to leave the business in November after threatening a group of people about stealing a phone. >> Read more trending news Once outside, Ferguson pulled out an AK-47 and aimed it at a bus filled with children, according to police.  People at the scene pleaded for Ferguson to put the gun away, but he continued to yell at the bus, authorities said. Police said Ferguson eventually got into the driver's seat of a silver SUV and fled the scene. Officers reportedly found Ferguson on Cordova Road fleeing the scene south of Incredible Pizza. Police said they caught up with Ferguson in the Walmart parking lot in the 500 block North Germantown Parkway. When police approached the vehicle, Ferguson fled the scene again at a high rate of speed, authorities said. Ferguson eventually crashed into another vehicle at the intersection of Walnut Grove and Germantown Parkway. Police said Ferguson fled the scene again, but several children were in the car at the time of the crash. The youngest child was only 2 years old. Investigators also located the AK-47 and two Glock pistols inside the vehicle, police said. Ferguson is being held on a $21,000 bond. His next court appearance is July 2 at 9 a.m.
  • A Memphis, Tennessee, family is devastated and trying to cope with the loss of their 4-year-old son.  Ayden Robinson was accidentally shot and killed by his 3-year-old brother Monday at the Pershing Park Apartments in Frayser, authorities said.  >> On Fox13Memphis.com: Boy, 4, accidentally shot and killed by 3-year-old brother, police say When WHBQ-TV spoke with the boys' parents on Tuesday, their emotions were still raw from the tragic death.  Precious Wright and Travis Robinson are not only grieving their child’s loss  but also figuring out how they are going to pay for his funeral. “I wish he could come back,” Wright said. “I just want my baby to come back.” Wright was understandably emotional as she described the loss. On Monday afternoon, Wright rushed Ayden to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital after he was shot accidentally by his brother. Police said Ayden and his little brother, Jayden, found an unattended gun in a dresser drawer inside the apartment. Investigators confirmed that the boys were alone inside that room when the shooting happened. “Ayden, he was always a nice child,” said Travis Robinson, the boys’ father. “He was that child that needed special attention – that love. He always acted like a baby, so I treated him like a baby. Because in my eyes, he still is a baby.” According to police documents, Jayden accidentally shot Ayden. He was rushed to the hospital but later died. Nathaniel Wilkins, Wright’s boyfriend, is now being charged with reckless homicide. Wilkins admitted the gun belonged to him and that he 'left it in an area accessible to the children,' according to the arrest affidavit.  “Jayden, when it comes down to it at night, he’s going to be like, ‘Momma, where’s Ayden at? I want Ayden.’ I don’t even know how I’m going to explain to him where his brother’s at,” said the boys’ father. >> Read more trending news Now, the boys’ parents are dealing with the grief while also making plans to bury their son. “I never thought I’d be wearing a ‘Rest in Peace’ shirt of my son, with his name on it, or put ‘Long Live Ayden,' his picture or his name. I never expected it,” Travis Robinson said. The young parents didn’t have insurance, leaving them with large medical bills and funeral expenses. “Just help me and my baby. Help my family. He didn’t mean no harm. I just love him so much,” Wright said. If you are interested in donating to the family’s GoFundMe campaign, click here.
  • Stability and security are critical to the success of a $50 billion U.S. economic plan for the Palestinians that focuses entirely on infrastructure and development, omitting political aspects that are key to resolving to long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international financial chiefs and global investors said Wednesday. While welcoming the American initiative led by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, panelists at a conference in Bahrain aimed at boosting the ambitious plan said it would struggle without good governance, rule of law and a realistic prospect of lasting peace. The Palestinians have already rejected the proposal because it does not include acknowledgement of their political demands, including an end to Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent state. Despite the absence of those issues from the proposal and the Trump administration's refusal to endorse a two-state solution that has long been seen as the only viable path to peace, panelists sprinkled their comments with repeated references to 'Palestine,' a 'country' and a 'nation-state.' Those words have not featured in U.S. officials' comments about a resolution to the conflict since Trump became president in 2017 and began cutting aid and political support to the Palestinians in what critics have cited as the U.S. administration's pro-Israel bias. Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, suggested that peace is the missing piece of the proposal. The Palestinians have great economic potential that can only be fulfilled with serious reform and protections for investors that must include serious anti-corruption efforts. But those alone are not enough, she said, stressing that a 'satisfactory peace' is imperative for prosperity. 'It's a matter of putting all the ingredients together,' Lagarde said. 'Improving economic conditions and attracting lasting investment to the region depends ultimately on being able to reach a peace agreement,' she said in a statement released by the IMF after her comments. 'Peace, political stability, and re-establishment of trust between all the parties involved are essential pre-requisites to the success of any economic plan for the region. Kushner's 'Peace to Prosperity' proposal depends heavily on private sector investment in the West Bank, Gaza as well as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, where it envisions creating a million new jobs, cutting Palestinian unemployment to single digits, doubling the Palestinian gross domestic product and reducing the Palestinian poverty rate by 50% through projects in health care, education, power, water, tourism, transportation and agriculture sectors. The plan acknowledges that its success hinges on the completion of a long-elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. But that necessity was driven home by participants at the two-day workshop in Bahrain. 'You are going to have to deal with the political thing in order to get investment,' said Daniel Mintz, a founder of Olympus Capital Asia. 'Stability and security is key to investment in every country where we go,' said Selim Bora, the president of the Turkish investment firm Summa. 'Things don't have to be perfect, but we have to have a minimum level to go in.' Others said the plan could not succeed without the Palestinians having rights and dignity within their own state. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are represented by official delegations and many Arab nations that are attending the gathering in Bahrain have sent lower-level officials in a sign of their skepticism of the plan. Also speaking at the conference on Wednesday were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the head of the international football federation FIFA Gianni Infantino, and the lone Palestinian on the agenda, a West Bank businessman who is viewed with deep suspicion by many fellow Palestinians. Infantino, who participated in the event despite a last-minute direct appeal from the Palestinians to reconsider, said he was hopeful that sports, particularly soccer, could have an important role in giving hope to Palestinian communities and improving relations with Israel. 'With football, though football, we can really build bridges,' he said in a discussion about using sport and entertainment as catalysts for development. 'Let's use football as tool to show what is possible. We play footoball in Palestine, we play football in Lebanon, it is possible. Football can play a little role, but an important one.' Infantino's co-panelist, film producer Fernando Sulichin, spoke of the need to change the narrative of 'Palestinian victimization' through entertainment. 'We need to stop the victimization and start telling new stories.' He suggested there could be a 'Black Panther' or 'Billy Elliott' hero for the Palestinians or an uplifting story like 'Roma,' the Academy Award winning film about the life of a live-in housekeeper of a middle-class Mexican family. 'Why don't we have a 'Roma' in Palestine?' he asked. Palestinians on Tuesday protested against the plan, even as Kushner opened the Bahrain conference with a direct appeal for them to consider it.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held meetings in India's capital on Wednesday amid growing tensions over trade and tariffs that has strained the partners' ties. Pompeo called on India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday morning, and later was meeting his counterpart S. Jaishankar. India's foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Pompeo and Modi exchanged 'views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship.' 'Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership,' Kumar tweeted. Pompeo arrived in New Delhi late Tuesday after visiting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan on a trip aimed at building a global coalition to counter Iran. His visit is the first high-level engagement between the two countries since Modi's reelection last month. The countries call each other a strategic partner despite retaliatory tariffs they imposed on some of the other's goods this month. India imposed tariffs on 28 American products including walnuts and almonds on June 16 in retaliation for the U.S. ending India's preferential trade status on June 1. The Trump administration imposed higher duties on products including aluminum and steel. The visit also comes ahead of the scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and Modi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Japan later this week. The two countries' officials are also likely to discuss India's plans to purchase Russia's S-400 air defense system. U.S. has shown reservations about the deal. But still the U.S. has become India's top defense supplier in last two years. India's trade with the U.S. has also seen steady growth at $150 billion annually. Indian officials say they have little differences with the U.S. over political and strategic issues including on Iran, but they have cautioned the two countries need to be careful on trade and commerce. India stopped oil purchases from Iran after the U.S. sanctions waiver ran out in May but Indian officials have continued working out for a renewal of the waiver amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Indian officials say while they understand the U.S. concerns regarding Iran, their country has taken an economic hit. Before Pompeo's arrival in India, hundreds of supporters of left-wing groups marched in central New Delhi to protest his visit and denounce American policies in the Middle East. They urged the Indian government not to cut off imports of oil from Iran, as the U.S. has demanded. Pran Sharma, a protester, said there was a 'bigger game' behind 'the trade war' between India and the U.S. 'That is the invasion of Iran, for which it (U.S.) is making preparations. How it can get cooperation from India?' he said.
  • Defense lawyers planned to go on the offensive Wednesday in the murder trial of a decorated Navy SEAL charged with killing a wounded young Islamic State prisoner in Iraq and shooting at civilians. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday in the San Diego court-martial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a Bronze Star recipient. The judge in the case rejected a defense request to issue a summary judgment finding Gallagher not guilty of murder and attempted murder. On Wednesday, the defense planned to show jurors videotaped testimony from an Iraqi general who handed over the fighter to Gallagher for medical treatment after the adolescent was wounded in an airstrike. The general gave videotaped testimony in June when he visited San Diego. Prosecution witnesses, including a fellow Navy SEAL, testified that Gallagher stabbed the prisoner twice in the neck in May 2017 and that the attack could have been fatal. Defense lawyers say testimony from the Iraqi general and other witnesses will show Gallagher isn't guilty. They already have contended that the witnesses against him offered tainted or even false testimony. They have questioned the methodology of the chief investigator and noted the lack of a body or other physical evidence. Prosecutors called seven SEALs from the platoon to testify in the court-martial at Naval Base San Diego that started a week ago One witness, Corey Scott, a medic, shocked the courtroom last week after he admitted to the killing, saying he plugged the militant's breathing tube after Gallagher stabbed the boy as an act of mercy because he feared he would be tortured and possibly killed by Iraqi forces if he survived. On Tuesday, a computer specialist testified that Gallagher had texted a photo to a comrade in which he clutched the hair of the dead captive in one hand and a knife in the other. The specialist also linked Gallagher to a text message sent to a comrade that bragged: 'Got him with my hunting knife.' Defense attorney Timothy Parlatore called the photos of Gallagher posing with the corpse in poor taste but not criminal. Several of the same SEALs who had testified against Gallagher also posed with the dead body in a platoon photo, he noted. No blood was found on the knife. Gallagher, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder in the case of the prisoner and attempted murder for his alleged shooting of a young girl and elderly man in separate incidents outside Mosul. The defense said the shooting incidents were based on the accounts of one SEAL and one former SEAL who never saw Gallagher pull the trigger. Fellow defense lawyer Marc Mukasey suggested earlier Tuesday that the lead investigator, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Joseph Warpinski, befriended witnesses and encouraged them to speak with each other and go after Gallagher in violation of standard investigation practices. Warpinski acknowledged making some mistakes in the hundreds of text messages he exchanged with witnesses, but denied making friends with them or encouraging them to discuss the case to get their stories straight or to target the chief. He said he had to build rapport with members of the insular special forces community to earn their trust and cooperation. Mukasey also suggested Warpinski had not asked pertinent questions of witnesses, such as the cause of death of the captive fighter and why Gallagher, an 18-year veteran and trained medic, would suddenly kill a patient he was treating for battle wounds. Scott testified that he thought the patient would have survived the stabbing, despite previously telling the prosecution his life could not have been saved. ___ Melley reported from Los Angeles.
  • California has among the most stringent gun laws in the country and on Monday a far-reaching new initiative to curb violence will require background checks for every ammunition purchase. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other proponents said it will save lives but opponents are suing in hopes of eventually undoing a law they said will mostly harm millions of law-abiding gun owners. Voters approved the checks in 2016 and set an effective date of July 1. Ammunition dealers are seeing a surge in sales as customers stock up before the requirement takes effect. 'In the last two weeks I've been up about 300%' with people 'bulking up because of these stupid new laws,' said Chris Puehse, who owns Foothill Ammo east of Sacramento. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence spokeswoman Amanda Wilcox appeared with Newsom at a news conference Tuesday and said the checks are 'the kind of thing that could have prevented' last week's fatal shooting of rookie Sacramento police Officer Tara O'Sullivan. Prosecutors charge that Adel Sambrano Ramos fatally shot the 26-year-old officer using one of two rifles assembled from parts to create assault weapons that are illegal in California. Wilcox and other supporters said ammunition background checks can help authorities discover so-called ghost guns that aren't registered with the state. The state Department of Justice, which will administer the background check program, estimates there will be 13.2 million ammunition purchases each year. But 13 million will be by people who already cleared background checks when they bought guns in California, so they are already registered in the state's gun owners' database. They will pay a $1 processing fee each time they pick up bullets or shotgun shells. Store clerks will run buyers' identification through that database and a second database of those who bought guns legally but are no longer allowed to own them because of certain criminal convictions or mental health commitments. Those who pass get their ammo on the spot. But the Democratic governor and Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said there are still some issues that must be addressed. People who bought rifles or shotguns before 2014 and anyone who bought a handgun before 1996 are likely not in the state's Armed and Prohibited Persons System. 'Sometimes in the drafting process little bits and pieces don't always fit perfectly together,' Thomas said. Wilcox and Matthew Cubeiro, an attorney representing opponents, said owners who aren't in the system will have to pay $19 for a one-time background check that can take days to complete and is good for a single purchase within 30 days. Wilcox said that should encourage owners to register their firearms. Buyers will also have to get their ammunition through registered dealers, ending a practice that Thomas said allowed bullets ordered online to be delivered to their doors 'like a pizza.' But she said the law allows owners to give each other ammunition. The state is also seeking to require owners to prove that they are in the country legally if their drivers' licenses contain the notation that 'federal limits apply.' Republicans in the state Assembly criticized a move that they said will harm the millions of drivers who don't yet have new federally approved REAL ID driver's licenses in part because of a months-long Department of Motor Vehicles backlog. But state officials said older drivers' licenses will also still be accepted. California has 4.5 million registered gun owners. States officials estimate about 3 million are regular shooters and that they will buy ammunition four or five times each year. 'For retailers and the average recreational shooter, these new requirements are going to, at a minimum, create practical and financial problems and friction when trying to make a simple ammunition purchase, and they will do nothing to stop access by criminals who have so many other ways to get ammunition,' said Chuck Michel, an attorney for the National Rifle Association and its state affiliate, the California Rifle & Pistol Association. California's requirement follows similar laws in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Gun violence declined in those states after they required licenses to buy ammunition, though they also tightened other gun laws, said Ari Freilich, California legislative affairs director for the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center. He said requiring vendors to report the brand, type and amount of ammunition will enable the justice department to spot who is buying massive volumes of ammunition, who is buying ammunition when they are barred from owning weapons, and perhaps link purchases of a specific type of ammunition to a nearby crime. Terry McGuire, owner of Get Loaded Guns and Ammo east of Los Angeles, said many owners are buying bulk ammunition now because 'they're more concerned about the government wanting to keep track of what they're buying.' Opponents sued last year contending the background checks violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, impede interstate commerce and are pre-empted by federal law. The lawsuit's star plaintiff is California resident Kim Rhode, who said in a statement that she shoots thousands of shotgun shells each week while trying to become the only person to win seven medals in seven consecutive Olympics. 'Many people will be temporarily inconvenienced, just as they are in an airport security line, just to keep everyone safer,' Freilich said.
  • A nonprofit organization that searches for the remains of U.S. servicemen lost in past conflicts has found what officials believe are the graves of more than 30 Marines and sailors killed in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. A team working on the remote Pacific atoll of Tarawa found the graves in March, said Mark Noah, president of History Flight. The remains are believed to belong to Marines and sailors from the 6th Marine Regiment killed during the last night of the three-day Battle of Tarawa. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency expects to pick up the remains and fly them to Hawaii next month, said Dr. John Byrd, director of agency's laboratories. Military forensic anthropologists will then work to identify them using dental records, DNA and other clues. More than 990 U.S. Marines and 30 U.S. sailors were killed in the 1943 Battle of Tarawa, after the U.S. launched an amphibious assault on the small island some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu. Marines and sailors quickly encountered Japanese machine-gun fire when their boats got stuck on the reef at low tide. Americans who made it to the beach faced brutal hand-to-hand combat. The U.S. military buried its men in makeshift cemeteries where they fell. But Navy construction battalion sailors removed markers for these graves when they hurriedly built runways and other infrastructure to help U.S. forces push farther west across the Pacific toward Japan. History Flight has recovered the remains of 272 individuals from Tarawa since 2015, when it began excavating under a contract with the Defense Department, Noah said. He estimates there are at least another 270 to be found. Tarawa is now part of the Republic of Kiribati. Its government allowed History Flight to demolish an abandoned building in its latest search. Many of the graves were underneath it. A large number of graves also are below the water table, meaning History Flight workers must pump water from the site each day to excavate. Byrd said the Army Graves Registration Service excavated some of Tarawa's temporary cemeteries in the late 1940s but left behind parts of individuals during this process. History Flight is now thoroughly excavating these gravesites, leading them to find some partial remains that have been matched with those already buried as 'unknowns' in a national cemetery in Honolulu. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency dug up these remains in 2017 to make additional identifications. The agency has identified more than 100 individuals excavated from Tarawa and the Honolulu cemetery since 2015.
  • The divide in Oregon between the state's liberal, urban population centers and its conservative and economically depressed rural areas has made it fertile ground for the political crisis unfolding over a push by Democrats to enact sweeping climate legislation. Eleven Republican senators are entering the seventh day of a walkout Wednesday to deny the supermajority Democrats the quorum needed to vote on a cap and trade bill that would be the second of its kind in the U.S. The stalemate has drawn international attention, in part because right-wing militias have rallied to the GOP cause. One Republican lawmaker said state troopers dispatched to hunt down the rogue lawmakers should 'come heavily armed' if they want to bring him back to the Capitol — a departure from traditional bipartisan cooperation. 'This is not the Oregon Way and cannot be rewarded,' said Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. 'The Republicans are driving us away from the values that Oregonians hold dear, and are moving us dangerously close to the self-serving stalemate in Washington, D.C.' Experts say the standoff was inevitable given the state's political make-up. Oregon has a national reputation as a liberal bastion best known for its craft beer, doughnuts and award-winning wine. But while the state's urban centers lean left, about 40% of residents — mostly those in rural areas — consistently vote Republican, said Priscilla Southwell, a University of Oregon professor who wrote 'Governing Oregon.' 'The reality is that it is a much more divided state than people realize,' she said. 'It's kind of like a perfect storm for this kind of thing to happen.' That political divide also translates to an economic chasm for many. As Portland has boomed, huge swaths of the state have been left without enough money to keep libraries open or fully staff sheriff's departments. Logging, which once thrived, has almost vanished because of environmental restrictions and a changing global economy. Rural voters worry the cap-and-trade bill would be the end for logging and trucking. 'It's going to ruin so many lives, it's going to put so many people out of work,' said Bridger Hasbrouck, a self-employed logger from Dallas, Oregon. 'If the guys that I'm cutting for can't afford to run their logging companies, then I have to figure out something different.' The proposal would dramatically reduce greenhouse gases over 30 years by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade from an ever-dwindling pool of pollution 'allowances.' Democrats say the legislation is critical to make Oregon a leader in the fight against climate change and will ultimately create jobs and transform the economy. Republicans say it will kill jobs, raise the cost of fuel and other goods and gut small businesses. They also say that they've been left out of policy negotiations, an assertion the governor called 'hogwash.' Yet that sense of rural alienation gives right-wing groups such as the Oregon Three Percenters a way into the conversation by portraying the climate bill as a stand-in for a number of concerns held by rural, conservative voters nationally, said Chris Shortell, chairman of Portland State University's political science department. 'It highlights the ways in which local politics have become nationalized,' he said. 'It's not just about the climate change bill in Oregon. Now it's about, 'Are Democrats legitimate in acting this way?'' Some also worry the climate standoff could put Oregon back in the crosshairs of an anti-government movement that in 2016 used the federal prosecution of two ranchers to mobilize an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. One militia member was killed and another injured in weeks-long standoff protesting the U.S. government's management of vast swaths of the American West. During the current political crisis, one militia group offered safe passage to the rogue GOP senators and the Capitol shut down last Saturday because of what police called a credible 'militia threat.' Right-wing and nationalist groups have been increasingly visible in Oregon over the past five years as rural voters get more disillusioned, said Eric Ward, executive director of the Portland-based Western States Center. 'In frustration, there are organizations and individuals who have stepped into a leadership gap and are attempting to provide parallel leadership,' he said. 'But that leadership is led by ... bigotry and threats of violence.' For more than 50 years, the rural U.S. West has undergone tremendous change as federal protections for forestland and endangered species reshaped residents' relationship with the land, said Patty Limerick, faculty director at the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 'Sometimes a historical shakeup takes a couple of decades for people to adjust and sometimes it takes a couple of centuries,' Limerick said. 'I think we ought to understand that this is a really different world from 50 years ago — and no wonder that some people feel that it's time for acts of desperation and dramatically staged opposition.' For now, it's unclear how that drama will play out. The governor said late Tuesday that the Democrats no longer have the votes needed to pass the bill even if Republicans were to return, but the GOP still stayed away. ____ Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus
  • Sixty seconds for answers, a television audience of millions and, for some candidates, a first chance to introduce themselves to voters. The back-to-back Democratic presidential debates beginning Wednesday are exercises in competitive sound bites featuring 20 candidates hoping to oust President Donald Trump in 2020. The hopefuls range widely in age, sex and backgrounds and include a former vice president, six women and a pair of mayors. The challenge: Convey their plans for the nation, throw a few elbows and sharpen what's been a blur of a race so far for many Americans. What to watch Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo: ___ WHAT'S HER PLAN? Sen. Elizabeth Warren's task is to harness the recent momentum surrounding her campaign to prove to voters that she has what it takes to defeat Trump. As the sole top-tier candidate on stage Wednesday, she could have the most to lose. The Massachusetts senator and former Harvard professor is known for her many policy plans and a mastery of classical, orderly debate. But presidential showdowns can be more 'Gladiator'-style than the high-minded 'Great Debaters.' This is no time for a wonky multipoint case for 'Medicare for All,' student debt relief or the Green New Deal. So, one challenge for Warren, 70, is stylistic. Look for her to try to champion her progressive ideas — and fend off attacks from lesser-known candidates — with gravitas, warmth and the brevity required by the format. Another obstacle is to do so without alienating moderates any Democrat would need in a general election against Trump. Being the front-runner on stage conveys a possible advantage: If the others pile on Warren, she gets more time to speak because the candidates are allowed 30 extra seconds for responses. ___ WHO'S THAT? There may be some familiar faces across the rest of the stage, such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 50, or former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, 46. But a few names probably won't ring any bells at all. These virtual strangers to most Americans may be enjoying their first — and maybe last — turn on the national stage, so they have the least to lose. Take John Delaney, 56, a former member of the House from Maryland. Look for him to try to make an impression by keeping up his criticism of Warren's student debt relief plan, among others. Or Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, 45, who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He has likened the Democratic primary to 'speed dating with the American people.' ___ BREAKING OUT, GOING VIRAL For several of the candidates onstage Wednesday, the forum is about finding the breakout moment — a zinger, a burn — that stays in viewers' minds, is built for social media and generates donations, the lifeblood of campaigns. For candidates such as O'Rourke, a breakthrough moment on Wednesday is critical to revitalizing a campaign that has faded. The 10 White House contenders have two hours on stage that night and up until the curtain rises on the star-studded second debate the next day to make their mark. Former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, headline Thursday's debate and are certain to take up much of the spotlight. ___ BREAKING OUT BADLY An 'oops' moment can be politically crippling to any presidential campaign. Just ask Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who, in a 2011 debate, blanked on the third agency of government he had said would be 'gone' if he became president. 'Commerce, Education and the, uh, what's the third one there?' Perry said. 'EPA?' fellow Republican Ron Paul offered. Yep, Perry said, the Environmental Protection Agency. Perry's campaign, already struggling, never recovered. ___ WHAT ISSUES? There's simply no time for an in-depth discussion of issues. But listen for shorthand mentions of 'Medicare for All,' free college, climate change and student debt relief as the candidates try to distinguish themselves. It's possible, too, that racial issues surface after an emotional House hearing on reparations for the descendants of slaves — and Booker's criticism of Biden for saying he'd found ways to work with segregationist senators on foreign policy. Speaking of Biden, listen for references to him and questions about whether he is in touch with the Democratic Party or of this moment, both suggestions about his age. The former senator and vice president won't be on stage Wednesday, but he's the front-runner and especially fair game. ___ TRUMP This is the Democrats' night. But Trump has dominated the political conversation since that escalator ride four years ago, and he loathes being upstaged. It's worth asking: Will he tweet during the debates? And if he does, will NBC and the moderators ignore him or respond in real time? It's hard to commit to anything in advance, but NBC News executive Rashida Jones said the focus will be on the candidates and the issues. 'Beyond that, it has to rise to a certain level,' she said. During the first debate, Trump will be on Air Force One on his way to the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The plane's cable televisions are usually turned to Fox News, which is not hosting the debates. For the second debate, he will be beginning meetings at the G-20. ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller and AP Media Writer David Bauder contributed to this report. ___ Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
  • Climate change in the Western U.S. means more intense and frequent wildfires churning out waves of smoke that scientists say will sweep across the continent to affect tens of millions of people and cause a spike in premature deaths. That emerging reality is prompting people in cities and rural areas alike to gird themselves for another summer of sooty skies along the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains — the regions widely expected to suffer most from blazes tied to dryer, warmer conditions. “There’s so little we can do. We have air purifiers and masks — otherwise we’re just like ‘Please don’t burn,’” said Sarah Rochelle Montoya of San Francisco, who fled her home with her husband and children last fall to escape thick smoke enveloping the city from a disastrous fire roughly 150 miles away. Other sources of air pollution are in decline in the U.S. as coal-fired power plants close and fewer older cars roll down highways. But those air quality gains are being erased in some areas by the ill effects of massive clouds of smoke that can spread hundreds and even thousands of miles on cross-country winds, according to researchers. With the 2019 fire season already heating up with fires from southern California to Canada, authorities are scrambling to better protect the public before smoke again blankets cities and towns. Officials in Seattle recently announced plans to retrofit five public buildings as smoke-free shelters.
  • First lady Melania Trump announced Tuesday that her director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, has been named as the new White House press secretary. >> Read more trending news  'I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country,' Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter. The first lady said Grisham will also serve as White House director of communications, a position that's been vacant since former Fox News executive Bill Shine left the role in March. Grisham will replace the current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. President Donald Trump announced two weeks ago that Sanders, plans to step down at the end of June. '(Grisham) will be an incredible asset to the President and the country,' Sanders said in a statement posted on Twitter. 'I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy our team will be in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job.' Axios reported President Trump wanted Grisham in the position and that he's said he likes and trusts her. The news site noted she's one of the few officials who has been with President Trump since his campaign. She will continue to serve as the first lady's spokeswoman as well, CNN reported. Grisham will become the fourth woman to serve as White House press secretary. Before serving as the first lady's spokeswoman, Grisham worked under Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer, The Washington Post reported. She also previously worked on Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, according to the newspaper. “During the campaign, she developed a good relationship with the president, and that’s carried through,” Sanders said of Grisham in an interview late last year, according to the Post. “She has developed a great amount of trust from both the president and the first lady, which is a pretty high commodity here. There aren’t a lot of people who have a lot of regular interaction with both of them.”
  • The Forsyth County, Georgia sheriff's office has released body camera footage of the moments deputies rescued an abandoned newborn found in a plastic shopping bag. >> Read more trending news  Neighbors heard a baby crying and discovered 'Baby India' tied up in the bag earlier this month, WSB-TV reported.  The new video shows deputies tearing open the bag to find the newborn with her umbilical cord still attached. The video shows officers frantically wrapping the crying baby in a jacket. She has since been taken into the custody of the Division of Family and Children services' care and is in good health.  Deputies hope releasing the body camera footage will generate more leads and help find the infant's mother. WARNING: Graphic video below. Police are asking anyone with information to call the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office at 770-888-7308. Callers can remain anonymous. 
  • A sleeping passenger on an Air Canada flight said she woke up “all alone” in a “cold, dark” plane after arriving in Toronto earlier this month after a weekend trip to Quebec. >> Read more trending news  Passenger Tiffani Adams recounted what she called a “nightmare” in a social media post shared by a friend June 19. “I wake up around midnight (few hours after flight landed) freezing cold still strapped in my seat in complete darkness (I’m talking pitch black). As someone with an anxiety disorder as is, I can tell you how terrifying this was. I think I’m having a bad dream [because], like seriously, how is this happening!!? Adams said in the Facebook post. She first tried to call a friend, but her cellphone battery died and there was no power in the plane, so she couldn’t recharge it. She said she was “full on panicking” by the time she reached the cockpit looking for a means of calling attention to her plight, but nothing worked in the cockpit. >> Trending: Mysterious feline species called a cat-fox discovered prowling around French island She said she found a flashlight in the cockpit and tried shining the light out the windows but nobody came to her assistance. Finally, Adams managed to get a cabin door unbolted and was considering the steep drop to the tarmac below when she spotted a ground crew worker, who helped get her out of the jet. After realizing the mistake, Air Canada employees offered her a limo ride and a free hotel stay, but Adams said she refused the offer because she just wanted to get home. Now she’s having a tough time sleeping after the scary ordeal. “I haven’t got much sleep since the reoccurring night terrors and waking up anxious and afraid I’m alone locked up someplace dark,” she said. The airline said it is investigating how the flight crew missed Adams when they deplaned. >> Trending: Enormous, furry head of 40,000 year old Ice Age wolf found in melting Siberian permafrost  The airline confirmed the incident took place, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but refused to comment on disembarking procedures or how Adams could have been left on the plane.
  • A consumer watchdog group says high levels of arsenic were found in bottled water sold at three major retailers. The website Investorplace.com reports testing done by the non-profit Center for Environmental Health found arsenic in the Starkey brand sold at Whole Foods and the Peñafel brand sold at Target and Walmart. The exact levels were not disclosed because the group is in the process of suing Whole Foods and Keurig Dr. Pepper, which makes Peñafel. But they say it's above the level requiring a health warning under California’s consumer protection law. You can read more about the story here.

Washington Insider

  • On the eve of the first major gathering of Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 race for President, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drew over a thousand interested Democrats to a town hall gathering at Florida International University on Monday, pressing the case for the federal government to do more to help working Americans find economic security in the future. 'I don't want a government that works for big corporations, I want one that works for families,' Warren said to applause, making the case for a higher minimum wage for workers, major ethics reforms for government officials, voting reforms, major tax changes, and more. 'Let's start with a wealth tax in America,' said Sanders, as she called for 'big structural change in this country,' rattling off a number of her policy ideas, getting big cheers for new limits on lobbying, action on climate change, and better wages for all workers. “A full time minimum wage job in America will not get a momma and a baby out of poverty,” Warren said.  “That is wrong, and that is why I am in this fight.” Of the ten Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night, Warren is by far the strongest candidate in the first group, as she has been gaining momentum in recent weeks in a variety of polls. The four other top Democrats in the race will be on stage together on Thursday - Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders. Along with Warren, two other Democrats attracted press attention in south Florida before the Wednesday debate, as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State talked about his signature issue of climate change, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas rallied with teachers in Miami. 'It's a great opportunity for me to listen to you, to have the chance to introduce myself,' said O'Rourke, who is one of the better known names on the first night of the Democratic debate. The first debate night in Miami features three Democratic Senators (Booker, Klobuchar, Warren), two House members (Gabbard, Ryan), two former House members (Delaney, O'Rourke), one current mayor (DeBlasio), one former mayor and Cabinet member (Castro), and one Governor (Inslee). While some like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrived in Florida on Tuesday afternoon - getting unsolicited advice along the way from fellow passengers on her flight to Miami - Inslee was for a second day hammering away at his main issue of climate change. 'Today we're announcing a new freedom in America, and that's freedom from fossil fuels,' Inslee said at an event in the Everglades. Inslee followed up his Everglades visit with a Tuesday evening event where he took shots at Big Oil. For most of the Democrats over the next two nights, there is a simple game plan.  'Our goal,' a memo to reporters from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, 'Introduce Cory to Democrats tuning in for the first time,' noting that when you do the math, each candidate is only going to get between seven and eleven minutes of total speaking time. 'I can’t wait to share with you my vision for a more just and fair nation,' Booker said. Meanwhile, Warren was making plans for an impromptu visit on Wednesday to a facility south of Miami, where immigrant children detained by border authorities are being held. “I'm going to Homestead,” Warren said to cheers after being urged to focus on the issue by an activist at a town hall meeting in Miami. “If you can come, come and join us,” Warren urged the crowd, as her campaign set a 10:45 am visit on Wednesday, which seems all but certain to draw extra news media attention, just hours before the first night of the Democratic debates. While Warren was on the move, her colleague Sen. Booker was doing more mundane things at the same time back in Washington, D.C. - helping people put their suitcases in the overhead bin on his flight to Miami.
  • Pressing ahead with work on government funding bills for 2020, Democrats in the House approved a package of five measures worth $383.3 billion on Tuesday, funding an array of programs from the Justice Department to NASA, military construction projects and the VA, while also including a series of policy riders designed to rein in efforts by the Trump Administration to expand offshore oil and gas exploration. 'Offshore drilling anywhere near Florida represents an existential threat to our economy that we cannot risk taking,' said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), as all but one Republican from the Sunshine State supported an amendment to block new oil and gas leasing off Florida, especially in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. 'I saw the tar balls wash up on Florida beaches,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), and he invoked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when he was Governor of Florida in 2010. 'I hope to never see that again.' But it wasn't only Florida lawmakers of both parties making the case against expanded drilling, as the bill also added amendments to block seismic blasting to check for oil and gas deposits in offshore waters along the entire Atlantic coast, along with a full moratorium on new oil and gas exploration on the Eastern seaboard, plus a plan to block any new oil and gas leasing off the Pacific Coast of the United States. 'The Central Coast has endured the devastating impacts of oil spills,' said California Democrat Salud Carbajal. 'I'll do everything in my power to make sure our community doesn't go through that again.' Supporters of expanded offshore oil and gas exploration accused opponents of using 'fear tactics.' 'I believe the ones who don’t want to see the areas mentioned in this amendment opened up for offshore leasing really just don’t want fossil fuel development,' said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). But Duncan's home state colleague - from the Atlantic coast - had a much different view. 'Far too much is at stake in our State,' said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), who argued for plans to squelch new offshore exploration. 'South Carolina’s tourism economy is worth $22.6 billion a year, and two-thirds of that comes from the coast.' 'This is an issue that has been supported by Republican Governor (Henry) McMaster, who has made it clear that he opposes offshore drilling,' Cunningham added. The approval of the underlying 'minibus' funding package means that nine of the twelve yearly funding bills have made it through the House of Representatives; one more could be voted on this week before lawmakers leave for a scheduled break. Those spending bills are supposed to be done by October 1 - but the House only has 25 scheduled work days between the July Fourth break and the end of the fiscal year. The Senate has one more week of work scheduled than the House - but there is little reason to think that Congress will finish its on time - by September 30 - for the first time since 1996. 'The current funding process is designed to fail. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. It will never work,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who has been pressing for a full overhaul of the budget process.  'Since the Budget Act of 1974 was put in place, Congress has only funded the federal government on time four times, and the last time was 23 years ago,' Perdue added. The three funding bills not yet voted on by the House include the spending measure for Congress and the Legislative Branch, a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and a measure funding federal financial agencies. The Senate has yet to bring any of the 2020 funding bills to the floor for action.
  • In a flurry of motions by prosecutors and lawyers for indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), government attorneys submitted to a federal judge a number of examples of how Hunter allegedly used money contributed to his campaign to instead pay for romantic outings with a series of women who were not his wife. 'Shortly after he arrived in Washington, Hunter began to use funds contributed to the Duncan D. Hunter for Congress Campaign to carry out a series of intimate relationships,' a new document filed on Monday detailed for a federal judge. 'At trial, the evidence will demonstrate that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pursue these romances wholly unrelated to either his congressional campaigns or his official duties as a member of Congress,' prosecutors said in a 'statement of facts.' Stating there was a 'voluminous nature' of evidence against Hunter, the document set out an image of a Congressman who had affairs with lobbyists and Congressional staffers, paying for their meals, trips, and nights on the town with campaign funds. 'In March 2010, for example, the couple took a weekend “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach with their friends, one of whom was also a congressman. Hunter spent $905 in campaign funds to pay for the hotel bar tab and room he shared with (Individual-14) that weekend,' the documents related. The documents listed evidence about Hunter's relationships with: + Individual 14 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 15 - a staffer who worked in the office of a member of the House leadership,  + Individual 16 - a staffer in his Congressional office,  + Individual 17 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 18 - a lobbyist. The court submission sometimes left little to the imagination, as it noted Hunter engaging in 'intimate personal activities' with these individuals, which was not related to his campaign or duties as a lawmaker. The release of the information by prosecutors came as lawyers for Rep. Hunter asked the judge in the case to exclude a number of pieces of evidence, as Hunter has alleged he is the victim of a political persecution. 'The investigation of Congressman Hunter by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California began shortly after his public endorsement of candidate Trump,' Hunter's lawyers wrote in one of a series of evidence challenges, alleging that two prosecutors involved in the case were supporters of Hillary Clinton. 'Any explanation the Government gives now for initiating the investigation of Congressman Hunter should be viewed with total skepticism through the lens of their attempts to cover up the partisan political activities of the prosecutors that initiated the investigation,' lawyers for Hunter added.
  • Flanked by several progressive Democrats from the U.S. House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled plans on Monday to zero out well over $1 trillion in college student loan debt held by Americans, part of a broader call by some lawmakers to make tuition much more affordable for students at public colleges and universities. 'If you can bail out Wall Street, you can bail out the middle class of this country,' Sanders said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol. 'We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt,' said Sanders, as he urged older Americans to realize that times have dramatically changed since they were able to use Pell Grants or a part time job to help pay their college tuition. 'It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). There were different pieces of legislation released today on the issue - one from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is titled the 'Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019' - and focuses just on the issue of erasing student debt. Omar's bill would also prevent the loan forgiveness from being considered taxable income for an individual, and does not allow any refunds of payments already made. 'Corporations and the wealthiest Americans have repeatedly gotten tax breaks and bailouts,' said Omar. 'It’s time for a bailout for the 45 million Americans who are shackled with student debt.' The immediate reaction among Republicans and conservatives was skeptical - to say the least. 'Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway,' tweeted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). The plan from Sanders and others would apply to all with student loan debt - no matter their current income levels. His bill would also aim to drastically reduce the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities - with a total cost estimate of $2.2 trillion. 'The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of the bill would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation,' Sanders said in a release about the legislation. The plan would institute a transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .0005 percent fee on derivatives.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that a government ban on the registration of what federal officials believe are 'immoral or scandalous' trademarks violates the First Amendment, saying it was not right that free speech would protect 'good morals,' but not trademarks which 'denigrate those concepts.' 'The registration of such marks serves only to further coarsen our popular culture,' Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court. 'But we are not legislators and cannot substitute a new statute for the one now in force.' The case involved artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who wanted a trademark for his clothing like 'FUCT' - which he says is pronounced not as a word, but with the individual letters, F-U-C-T.  'But you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone,' Kagan wrote for the Court, as patent and trademark officials refused to approve Brunetti's request, labeling it a 'total vulgar.' This ruling overturned those decisions. While agreeing with the basics of the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a concurring opinion that while the decision protects free speech, the results might offend many people. 'The Court’s decision today will beget unfortunate results,' Sotomayor wrote in a concurrence with Justice Stephen Breyer. “Everyone can think of a small number of words (including the apparent homonym of Brunetti’s mark) that would, however, plainly qualify,” Sotomayor added. The decision could have implications past trademarks, as states routinely reject vanity license plate applications because of certain words which would be used. You can read the full ruling here.