In brief

Accused of racism, Trump blasts black congressman as racist

WASHINGTON — Facing growing accusations of racism for his incendiary tweets, President Donald Trump lashed out at his critics Monday and sought to deflect the criticism by labeling a leading black congressman as himself racist.

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In the latest rhetorical shot at lawmakers of color, Trump said his weekend comments referring to Rep. Elijah Cummings’ majority-black Baltimore district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live” were not racist. Instead, Trump argued, “if racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess.”

“His radical ‘oversight’ is a joke!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

After a weekend of attacks on Cummings, the son of former sharecroppers who rose to become the powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Trump expanded his attacks Monday to include a prominent Cummings defender, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who held a press conference in Baltimore to condemn the president.

“Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score,” Trump tweeted ahead of the press conference, adding that the civil rights activist and MSNBC host “Hates Whites & Cops!”

Stakes rising for 2020 Dems ahead of 2nd presidential debate

DETROIT — Democrats gathering in Detroit for a pivotal presidential debate will have to decide, once again, how to respond to President Donald Trump while presenting their own vision for the country.

Candidates are sure to use the high-profile setting on Tuesday and Wednesday to blast Trump’s recent string of racist and incendiary tweets and comments, first about four congresswomen and more recently about Baltimore, a racially diverse U.S. city that, like Detroit, has faced challenges. But they’ll also be under pressure to provide specifics about how they would improve the lives of Americans by lowering the cost of health care or protecting jobs at a time when the economy is showing signs of sputtering.

The second debate of the Democratic primary has higher stakes for a historically large field of more than 20 candidates, 10 of whom will face off each night. For several candidates, the debates will likely offer a last chance to be considered a serious contender for the party’s nomination. Tougher rules set by the Democratic National Committee are expected to winnow the race. To qualify for the next debates in September, candidates must raise money from more donors and hit higher polling thresholds — a bar more than half of the candidates are at risk of missing.

“Everything’s at stake,” said Jill Alper, a Democratic strategist who has worked on seven presidential campaigns. She had simple and direct advice for the White House hopefuls confronting questions about Trump: “protest and pivot” — and “pivot quickly” — to what they can offer American families.

The two leading progressives in the field, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, will be at center stage on Tuesday. Warren’s campaign has gained ground in recent weeks, partially at the expense of Sanders. The debate could offer a high-profile chance for Warren to prove to Sanders’ supporters that she’s worthy of their consideration.

Gunman posted online minutes before killing 3 at festival

GILROY, Calif. — Before a 19-year-old gunman opened fire on a famed garlic festival in his California hometown, he urged his Instagram followers to read a 19th century book popular with white supremacists on extremist websites, but his motives for killing two children and another young man were still a mystery Monday.

Santino William Legan posted the caption about the book “Might is Right” with a photo of Smokey the Bear in front of a “fire danger” sign. He posted another photo from the Gilroy Garlic Festival minutes before he shot into the crowd Sunday with an “AK-47-type” weapon, killing a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a recent college graduate.

Under it, he wrote: “Ayyy garlic festival time” and “Come get wasted on overpriced” items. Legan’s since-deleted Instagram account says he is Italian and Iranian.

The postings are among the first details that have emerged about Legan since the shooting injured 12 others and sent people running and diving under tables. Police patrolling the event responded within a minute and killed Legan as he turned the weapon on them.

He legally purchased the gun this month in Nevada, where his last address is listed. He would have been barred from buying it in California, which restricts firearms purchases to people over 21. In Nevada, the limit is 18.

Analysis: Trump’s political and policy guardrails fall away

WASHINGTON — An unrepentant President Donald Trump has been testing the limits of the nation’s tolerance from the day he took office. Now he has cast off one of the few remaining voices trying to curtail his at times mercurial impulses.

Trump nudged out national intelligence director Dan Coats, a rare cautionary influence in his foreign policy apparatus, while he escalated his attacks on minority members of Congress and went so far as to call a majority-black U.S. city of 600,000 a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” on Twitter. Both moves underscored Trump’s longstanding belief that he is his own best political strategist.

The president’s volatile management style has shocked the nation before. But the drumbeat of provocation emanating from the White House has grown undeniably louder in recent months. Trump aides such as economic adviser Gary Cohn, who blocked impulsive actions by going so far as to remove rogue paperwork from the Resolute Desk, are gone.

The president has rid himself of many of the aides who once challenged him, either by attrition or replacement, and in doing so illustrated his preference for loyalty over know-how. He’s inflamed racial tensions, betting that such divisions will help ease his path to victory in 2020. And he’s replaced gut instinct and tweets for the sober analysis of professionals on matters of war and peace.

On Sunday, Trump had his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, defend the offensive tweets on national television and furthered his divisive attacks on a veteran African-American congressman, claiming without evidence that Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a prominent administration critic, was himself “racist.”

Italy judge: Teen claims he knifed officer in self-defense

ROME — Two American teenagers jailed in Rome in the slaying of an Italian police officer showed “total absence of self-control,” making them highly dangerous to society, a judge concluded in ordering them kept behind bars while the investigation continues.

Judge Chiara Gallo said in the ruling, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, that there were “grave” indications that the California teens carried out the slaying of Carabinieri Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, who was stabbed 11 times Friday after he and a fellow plainclothes officer confronted the Americans as part of an investigation into a cocaine deal the two were allegedly involved in. He died shortly afterward at a hospital.

Gallo cited testimony from witnesses, including the officer’s surviving partner, as well as a porter and a doorman in the Rome hotel where the teens were staying and the Americans’ own, sometimes conflicting accounts, to investigators.

Finnegan Lee Elder, 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, were taken into custody hours after the slaying by police who said a search of their hotel room found the alleged weapon, a military-style attack knife, hidden inside the room’s drop ceiling.

“It can’t be forgotten that the two were looking for drugs in the course of the evening and that both had drunk alcohol as they themselves declared,” the judge said in in her ruling, issued late Saturday. “It’s a matter of circumstances which, evaluated together with their conduct, testifies to the total absence of self-control and critical ability of the two suspects, and, as a result, makes plain their elevated social danger.”

Unmarked buildings, quiet legal help for accused priests

DRYDEN, Mich. — The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators.

They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

Again and again, Opus Bono has served as a rapid-response team for the accused.

When a serial pedophile was sent to jail for abusing dozens of minors, Opus Bono was there for him, with regular visits and commissary cash.

Officials say 57 dead in Brazil prison riot; 16 decapitated

RIO DE JANEIRO — At least 57 prisoners were killed by other inmates during clashes between organized crime groups in the Altamira prison in northern Brazil Monday with 16 of the victims being decapitated, according to prison officials.

Para state prison authorities a fight erupted around 7 a.m., between the Rio de Janeiro-based Comando Vermelho and a local criminal group known as Comando Classe A.

“Leaders of the (Comando Classe A) set fire to a cell belonging to one of the prison’s pavilions, where members of the (Comando Vermelho) were located,” the statement read.

State prisons chief Jarbas Vasconcelos said the fire had spread rapidly, with inmates held in old container units that had been adapted for the prison while another building is under construction.

The fire prevented police forces from entering the building for several hours, he told a news conference.

Jury: Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ copied Christian rap song

LOS ANGELES — A jury on Monday found that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” improperly copied a 2009 Christian rap song, setting up arguments over how much the singer and other defendants will owe.

Monday’s decision returned by a nine-member federal jury in a Los Angeles courtroom came five years after Marcus Gray and two co-authors first sued alleging “Dark Horse” stole from “Joyful Noise,” a song Gray released under the stage name Flame.

The case now goes to a penalty phase, where the jury will decide how much the plaintiffs are owed for copyright infringement.

Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumental line featured through nearly half of “Dark Horse” are substantially similar to those of “Joyful Noise.”

“Dark Horse,” a hybrid of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds that was the third single of Perry’s 2013 album “Prism,” spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014, and earned Perry a Grammy nomination.

It’s official: UK broke temperature record during heat wave

LONDON — Britain has officially had its hottest day on record.

Weather agency the Met Office says the temperature reached 38.7 C (101.7 F) at Cambridge University Botanic Garden in eastern England during last week’s heat wave.

The temperature was recorded Thursday and confirmed Monday after “quality control and analysis” by the Met Office.

The previous U.K. record was 38.5 C (101.3 F), set in August 2003.

Temperature records fell across Europe last week as a suffocating heat wave swept up from the Sahara.

16-year-old Fortnite world champ wins $3 million

NEW YORK — All those hours playing video games have paid off for a 16-year-old.

Kyle Giersdorf, of Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, won $3 million as the first Fortnite World Cup solo champion. The competition took place Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

That payout is more than Tiger Woods made for winning the 2019 Masters Tournament.

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Giersdorf, who goes by “Bugha” in the gamer world, says “words can’t explain it.”

Some 40 million players competed for a chance to play in the finals.

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