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G7 leaders vow to help Brazil fight fires, repair damage

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they are preparing to help Brazil battle fires burning across the Amazon region and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers got ready to join the fight against blazes that have caused global alarm.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the summit leaders were nearing an agreement on how to support Brazil and said the agreement would involve both technical and financial mechanisms “so that we can help them in the most effective way possible.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country and others will talk with Brazil about reforestation in the Amazon once fires there have been extinguished.

“Of course (this is) Brazilian territory, but we have a question here of the rainforests that is really a global question,” she said. “The lung of our whole Earth is affected, and so we must find common solutions.”

Pope Francis also added his voice to the chorus of concern over the fires in Brazil, which borders his homeland of Argentina, and urged people to pray so that “they are controlled as quickly as possible.” He told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square that “we’re all worried” about the Amazon fires. He warned that that green “lung of forest is vital for our planet.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced Friday that he would send 44,000 soldiers to help battle the fires that are scattered across his nation’s share of the vast Amazon, an overall region 10 times the size of Texas that is seen as a global bulwark against climate change. Only a few hundred troops had been sent so far.

The country’s satellite monitoring agency has recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year — with more than half of those coming this month alone. Experts say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland. But the same monitoring agency has reported a sharp increase in deforestation this year as well.

Brazil’s federal police agency announced Sunday it would investigate reports that farmers in the state of Para, one of those most affected by the blazes, had called for “a day of fire” to ignite fires Aug. 10.

Local news media said the group organized over WhatsApp to show support for Bolsonaro’s efforts to loosen environmental regulations.

Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who oversees the police, said on Twitter that Bolsonaro “asked for a rigorous investigation” and said “the criminal fires will be severely punished.”

Critics have accused Bolsonaro’s pro-development policies of encouraging farmers and ranchers to increase efforts to strip away the forest, though the president has issued repeated pledges recently to protect the area, and backed that up by sending in soldiers and other federal forces.

Merkel noted that Bolsonaro is putting “significant forces” into the effort to save the rainforest.

But Bolsonaro has had a tense relationship with foreign governments — including Germany’s — and non-governmental groups that he accuses of meddling in his country’s management of the Amazon. He last week floated the idea, without evidence, that non-governmental groups were setting fires to embarrass him.

Macron’s office on Friday complained that the Brazilian leader “had lied to him” about environmental commitments.

Asked if he would speak with Macron, Bolsonaro said Saturday, “If he calls me, I will answer. I am being extremely well-mannered with him even though he called me ‘a liar.'”

Meanwhile, Bolivian President Evo Morales said Sunday he would welcome aid in fighting his own country’s wildfires, which have scorched more than 2,900 square miles (744,000 hectares) of land in the Chiquitanía region over the past two weeks.

He told a news conference that he had accepted offers of assistance from the leaders of Spain, Chile and Paraguay.

Ex-Rep. Joe Walsh making longshot GOP challenge to Trump

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(AP) –Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman and tea party favorite turned radio talk show host, announced a challenge Sunday to President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, saying the incumbent is unfit for office and must be denied a second term.

“He’s nuts. He’s erratic. He’s cruel. He stokes bigotry. He’s incompetent. He doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Walsh told ABC’s “This Week.” The longshot portrayed himself as a legitimate alternative in party where he said many are opposed to Trump but are “scared to death” of saying so publicly.

His campaign slogan: “Be brave.”

Polls shows Trump is backed by most Republican voters, and the lone rival already in the race is former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, the 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee who is regarded as fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

Undeterred from pressing ahead with his candidacy, Walsh said, “I think this thing … will catch on like wildfire.” The former Trump booster added: “I’m a conservative. And I think there’s a decent chance to present to Republican voters a conservative without all the baggage.”

The one-word response from Trump’s campaign to Walsh’s entry: “Whatever.”

Walsh narrowly won a House seat from suburban Chicago in the 2010 tea party wave but lost a 2012 reelection bid and has since hosted a radio talk show. He has a history of inflammatory statements regarding Muslims and others and declared just before the 2016 election that if Trump lost, “I’m grabbing my musket.”

But he has since soured on Trump, criticizing the president over growth of the federal deficit and writing in a New York Times column that the president was “a racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to rouse his base.”

The road ahead for any Republican primary challenger will be difficult.

In recent months, Trump’s allies have taken over state parties that control primary elections in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere. State party leaders sometimes pay lip service to the notion that they would welcome a primary challenger, as their state party rules usually require, but they are already working to ensure Trump’s reelection.

South Carolina Republicans have gone so far as to discuss canceling their state’s GOP primary altogether if a legitimate primary challenge emerges to eliminate the threat.

At the same time, polling consistently shows that Trump has the solid backing of an overwhelming majority of Republican voters. An Associated Press-NORC poll conducted this month found that 78% of Republicans approve of Trump’s job performance. That number has been hovering around 80% even as repeated scandals have rocked his presidency.

“Look, this isn’t easy to do. … I’m opening up my life to tweets and attacks. Everything I’ve said and tweeted now, Trump’s going to go after, and his bullies are going to go after,” Walsh said.

Asked whether he was prepared for that, Walsh replied: “Yes, I’m ready for it.”

Weld, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said he was “thrilled” that Walsh was in the race and that Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman, was considering joining them, leading to a “more robust conversation.”

“Who knows? The networks might even cover Republican primary debates,” Weld said.

Walsh, 57, rode a wave of anti-President Barack Obama sentiment to a 300-vote victory over a Democratic incumbent in the 2010 election. He made a name for himself in Washington as a cable news fixture who was highly disparaging of Obama.

Walsh was criticized for saying that the Democratic Party’s “game” is to make Latinos dependent on government just like “they got African Americans dependent upon government.” At another point, he said radical Muslims are in the U.S. “trying to kill Americans every week,” including in Chicago’s suburbs.

He lost his 2012 reelection bid by more than 20,000 votes to Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected to the U.S. Senate four years later.

Walsh told Obama to “watch out” on Twitter in July 2016 after five police officers were killed in Dallas. Just days before Trump’s 2016 win over Hillary Clinton, Walsh tweeted: “On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?” Walsh later said on Twitter that he was referring to “acts of civil disobedience.”

On Sunday, Walsh said he apologized for past divisive comments.

“I helped create Trump. There’s no doubt about that, the personal, ugly politics. I regret that. And I’m sorry for that,” he said.

10 arrested after California family tied up, beaten in home invasion robbery

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MORENO VALLEY, Calif. – Eight men and two women accused of conspiring to tie up and beat a Southern California family during an armed home-invasion robbery earlier this year have been arrested, deputies said Friday.

The 10 with alleged gang ties were taken into custody early Thursday morning as multiple SWAT teams descended on several locations across Southern California following a three-month investigation into the May 22 incident, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

A group of robbers suited up in tactical gear and ballistic vests had been lying in wait near the home on the 14000 block of Alba Way while their associates conducted surveillance on the residence, investigators said.

A mother who lives there came home from her morning plans to be met by four individuals armed with an assault rifle and three handguns, officials said.

The woman was forced to unlock and open her front door, allowing the robbers to storm the home with her husband and children inside, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Detectives said the family was attacked and beaten while their hands were bound behind their backs. By the time authorities arrived, the assailants had fled the home.

The victims were treated for minor injuries, deputies said.

Investigators describe the process of identifying the suspects as “complex and lengthy.” They say they were able to use surveillance cameras stationed across the city of Moreno Valley, among other tools.

Officials subsequently obtained $1 million arrest warrants for the 10 suspects.

About 5 a.m. Thursday, three SWAT crews and other law enforcement teams executed the warrants simultaneously at 11 locations across Los Angeles and Riverside counties, stretching as far east as Anza.

Evidence seized upon searches of the residences involved included ballistic vests, an assault rifle, five handguns, three pounds of methamphetamine, enough cocaine and heroin to sell, 100 pounds of processed pot and 1,000 marijuana plants, deputies said.

Detectives said they also found some property and documents from the home invasion victims.

Officials identified the following people arrested on suspicion of kidnapping to commit robbery, conspiracy and weapons and drug offenses:

• Rolando Aguilar, 40, of Compton
• Brandy Aleman, 29, of Grand Terrace
• Thomas Barragan, 47, of Rialto
• Kevin Curiel, 30, of La Puente
• Jose Delgado, 35, of West Covina
• Daniel Lopez, 43, who resides at multiple locations
• Jose Juan Marrero Colon, 37, of Grand Terrace
• Diego Martinez, 21, of La Puente
• Sean Serrano, 30, of Upland
• Elvira Vargas, 27, of West Covina

Tropical Storm Dorian expected to strengthen to hurricane

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(CNN) — Tropical Storm Dorian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Wednesday morning and bring wind, rain and storm surges to the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico over the coming week.

tropical storm watch has been issued for Barbados, which means that tropical storm conditions are possible there within about 48 hours.

In addition, watches and warnings for the Windward and Leeward Islands probably will be required later today, and Puerto Rico and Hispaniola should monitor the storm’s progress, the National Hurricane Center said.

With maximum sustained winds of almost 40 mph, Dorian is moving west at almost 13 mph. It is expected to continue that way Sunday and then move west-northwest on Monday and Tuesday, the NHC said.

Wind shear and dry air are limiting the storm’s ability to organize and strengthen. But as Dorian moves into warmer waters, a weaker wind shear will allow it to strengthen over the coming days.

The tropical storm could develop into a Category 1 hurricane, which means winds between 74 and 95 mph, overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.

The cone of probability that shows Dorian’s expected path takes it just west of Puerto Rico. That still would affect the island but be less damaging than a direct hit.

Dorian is the fourth named storm of this hurricane season. Generally, hurricane season reaches a peak in the eight weeks surrounding September 10. Two-thirds of all the storms produced in a typical season occur during this period.

That is because conditions in the tropics become prime for storm development. Typically, by the end of August, water in the tropics have warmed in many places to at least the mid-80s. Also, wind shear across the Atlantic starts to weaken, allowing for storms to develop.

A Michigan city council candidate says she wants to keep her city ‘white’

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MARYSVILLE, Mich. – A forum for city council candidates in Marysville, Michigan is making national headlines after one of the candidates shared her opinions about diversity in the city.

“My suggestion, recommendation – keep Marysville a white community as much as possible,” the candidate said to an awestruck room.

Sixty-eight-year-old Jean Cramer, the city council candidate whose comments turned heads, said she didn’t know her comments had gone viral until reporters started showing up at her door.

Another candidate, Mike Deising, said he was disappointed shocked by Cramer’s remarks.

“I was floored. I was speechless. I didn’t know how to react to it. Nobody did, sitting at the table,” he said.

When asked why she thought Marysville should stay “white,” Cramer said people like things the way they are.

“Seriously, in other words, no foreign-born … no foreign people,” she said during the meeting.

Cramer said she is not racist.

“If people are coming here to get away from their own country, what they should do is – or need to do is go back to their own country and straighten it out,” she said.

Reporters asked Cramer about a couple in her neighborhood: one partner is American and the other is Canadian. After confirming both partners were white, the reporter reminded Cramer the Canadian partner would be considered “foreign.”

“I don’t know if Canadian – yeah, Canadian would be foreign,” Cramer said, thinking aloud to herself.

Cramer continued explaining her views.

“I have no problems with black people, as long as people marry the same kind I have no problem,” she said.

 

2 New York women plead guilty in plot to commit terror attack in US

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NEW YORK – Two New York women who plotted to build a bomb for a terrorist attack in the United States face 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges, authorities said.

Asia Siddiqui, 35, and Noelle Velentzas, 31, are US citizens and residents of the New York borough of Queens.

In federal court in Brooklyn Friday, both pleaded guilty to “teaching and distributing information pertaining to the making and use of an explosive, destructive device, and weapon of mass destruction, intending that it be used to commit a federal crime of violence,” according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York.

“In an effort to implement their violent, radical ideology, the defendants studied some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in U.S. history, and used them as a blueprint for their own plans to kill American law enforcement and military personnel,” said US Attorney Richard Donoghue in the release.

The women pleaded not guilty in 2015. In the release Friday, authorities said the pair discussed making a bomb between 2013 and 2015; taught each other chemistry and electrical skills; researched how to make a car bomb; and bought materials to make an explosive device, the statement said.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers said the women were “inspired by radical Islam.”

They discussed similar devices used terrorists used in Boston, Oklahoma City and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and were focusing on law enforcement and military targets. Velentzas praised the terrorism of September 11, 2001, and said being a martyr through a suicide attack guaranteed entrance into heaven, according to the release.

When the women were arrested, police found propane gas tanks, soldering tools, car bomb instructions, jihadist literature, machetes and several knives in their homes, the release said.

Police: 15-year-old girl escapes Uber driver who kidnapped her, planned to sexually assault her

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MINEOLA, N.Y. (WCBS) — An Uber driver is facing kidnapping charges in a crime police say was sexually-motivated.

Authorities on Long Island said 32-year-old Sean Williams allegedly abducted a 15-year-old girl, who was a passenger in his car.

Investigators said Williams was supposed to take the teen from Long Beach to Merrick July 12, but instead drove her to Brooklyn.

According to Nassau County’s district attorney, Williams was allegedly trying to convince the minor to come back to his home where he planned to sexually assault her.

“The family of a 15-year old girl relied on a car service to get their daughter home safely after she attended a Sweet Sixteen party, but the defendant allegedly kidnapped her and wanted to sexually assault her after giving her alcohol,” D.A. Madeline Singas said.

“The girl was terrorized by the defendant’s alleged behavior and bravely took action to contact police and free herself,” she continued.

The victim was reportedly able to convince Williams she had to use the bathroom and got him to pull over. She then ran into a McDonald’s to call police.

The 32-year-old driver has been charged with multiple crimes including kidnapping, endangering the welfare of a child, and kidnapping as a sexually motivated felony.

“What has been reported is deeply alarming and the driver’s access to the app has been removed. We stand ready to cooperate with law enforcement,” Uber said in a statement Thursday.

Men in California oversaw a romance scam that targeted women worldwide, feds say

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In March 2016, a man claiming to be a US Army captain stationed in Syria reached out to a Japanese woman on an international site for digital pen pals.

Within weeks, their relationship grew into an internet romance with the man sending daily emails in English that she translated via Google. The man who called himself Terry Garcia asked for money — lots of it — from the woman identified as FK in federal court documents. Over 10 months, she sent him a total of $200,000 that she borrowed from friends, her ex-husband and other relatives to make her love interest happy.

But Garcia did not exist. It was all an international online scam run by two Nigerian men in the Los Angeles area with the help of associates in their home country and other nations, federal officials say.

And Thursday, US prosecutors charged 80 people — mostly Nigerians — in the widespread conspiracy that defrauded at least $6 million from businesses and vulnerable, elderly women.

Of those, 17 people have been arrested in the US so far and federal investigators are trying to track down the rest in Nigeria and other nations.

“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

A plan to smuggle diamonds

The whirlwind online romance between FK and Garcia was all conducted on a Yahoo email address with no phone calls. Garcia told FK he wasn’t allowed to use a phone in Syria, according to federal authorities.

Demands for money started after he told her he’d found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed her help to smuggle it out of the war-torn nation. He said he was injured and could not do it himself — and introduced her to associates he said would help facilitate the transfer, court documents allege. One said he was a Red Cross diplomat who could get the diamonds shipped to FK, court documents show.

Shortly after, another man who claimed to work for a shipping company asked FK for money to ensure the package was not inspected at customs, the complaint alleges. Requests for additional money kept coming, with the fraudsters citing different reasons each time on why the package was stuck at customs.

“FK estimates that she made 35 to 40 payments over the 10 months that she had a relationship with Garcia. During that time, the fraudster(s) emailed her as many as 10 to 15 times each day, and Garcia was asking her to make the payments, so she kept paying to accounts in Turkey, the UK and the US,” the federal criminal complaint says.

The loss of money has left FK angry and depressed, authorities said. “She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her,” the criminal complaint says.

17 arrested and dozens on the run

The scams were not just limited to romance, Hanna said. They included business schemes where fraudsters hack escrow company email systems, impersonate employees and direct payments that funnel money back to themselves.

“In some cases, the victims thought they were communicating with US servicemen stationed overseas, when in fact, they were emailing with con men,” Hanna said. “Some of the victims in this case lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in this way.”

Of the 80 people charged, federal authorities arrested 14 people mostly in Los Angeles, the local US Attorney’s Office said Thursday. At least three other defendants were already in custody. The remaining suspects live in other countries, and investigators said they’ll work with the respective governments to extradite them.

How the scam worked

Investigators detailed an intricate scam traced to two key suspects who oversaw the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million and the attempted theft of an additional $40 million.

Once co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men who lived in Southern California coordinated the receipt of funds, the indictment says.

The two men provided bank and money-service accounts that received funds obtained from victims and also ran the extensive money-laundering network, the complaint alleges.

The two men were arrested Thursday. All defendants will face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Some also will face fraud and money laundering charges.

Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles warned people to be careful as romance scams escalate nationwide. The Federal Trade Commission has said scams that prey on vulnerable people cost Americans more money than any other fraud reported to the agency last year. More than 21,000 people were conned into sending $143 million in such schemes in 2018 alone, it reported.

“Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims,” Delacourt said.

Vettes for Vets brings hundreds of sports cars to LeClaire to raise money for veterans

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LECLAIRE, Iowa-- America's most iconic sports car took over the LeClaire riverfront to help American heroes.

More than 300 classic Corvettes came out Saturday, Aug. 24 for "Vettes for Vets." The money raised goes to supporting veterans in the Quad Cities.

"We owe our veterans pretty much everything we have," organizer Sherry Cassatt says. "We have freedom to do what we want, say what we want... go where we want and feel safe the majority of the time. We all need to thank a veteran every day."

All money raised by the event is going to help veterans who served during the Vietnam War.

Amazon just opened its biggest office building — and it’s not in the United States

WQAD News -

HYDERABAD, India – Amazon just opened its biggest office building in the world in the Indian city of Hyderabad.

The online retail giant’s new campus in the city’s financial district opened on Wednesday. It covers 9.5 acres and has 1.8 million square feet of office space, making it “Amazon’s single largest building in the world in terms of total area,” according to the company.

The building can accommodate up to 15,000 employees, nearly a quarter of Amazon’s full-time India workforce of more than 62,000. The company also has 155,000 contract workers in the country, making India its biggest base outside the United States.

The Hyderabad campus is the first office outside the United States that Amazon fully owns.

Amazon has poured billions of dollars into its India business in recent years. It is expanding its operations and reportedly looking for stakes in local retailers as it battles Walmart for an e-commerce market that Morgan Stanley estimates will be worth $200 billion by 2027.

“This new Amazon campus building is a tangible commitment to that long-term thinking and our plans for India,” Amit Agarwal, the company’s India head, said in a statement.

The prize is huge. India has over 600 million internet users, but the majority of its population still isn’t online. Amazon is trying to cash in on that potential by looking to expand its grocery business, creating more Indian content for its Prime Video streaming service and even making its mobile app available in India’s most popular language, Hindi.

“This is Day One for us in India, and we look forward to creating an environment where diverse contributions are welcomed and innovation encouraged for the long term,” John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities, said in a statement.

The new Hyderabad campus will eventually be expanded to cover 68 acres — roughly the equivalent of 65 football fields, Amazon said. The tech city was Amazon’s first point of entry into India in 2004. It is also home to other big global names, including Microsoft’s India headquarters and Ikea’s first India store.

Johnson County, West Liberty cover services for others to attend Estabrook’s funeral

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COLUMBUS JUNCTION, Iowa -- In order to attend the funeral of fallen firefighter and volunteer EMT, Louisa County Ambulances needed back up.

On Saturday, August 24th, Johnson County and West Liberty ambulances drove a long way from home into open arms.

"It's truly kind of like a brother-sisterhood," said Aimee Buol, a volunteer EMT for Louisa County.

The surrounding EMS family is now down one member after 49-year old, Devin Estabrook, died after being fatally struck by a hit and run driver. Aside from his time spent as a Grandview firefighter, Devin dedicated nearly a decade to Louisa County Ambulances as a volunteer.

"Devin definitely had the heart for this, it was his passion" Buol said. "He loved his job, he loved being a medic and a firefighter."

Bret Carlson, an EMT for Johnson County, said Devin's death has impacted the close-knit community. Now, with his help, he hopes that community will take a chance to mourn.

"Johnson County Ambulance Service and West Liberty Fire Department ambulance felt that that this was the right thing to do," Carlson said. "To come down here and give our time and staff two ambulances so that they can attend the funeral and be together as a community to honor Devin."

A volunteered jesture, g  iving Buol and her co-workers a chance to honor a fellow friend, knowing there is back up at the station.

"As EMS we are there for our community, we’re there for one another, we’re there for the people who call," Buol said. "Very rarely do we think about time for ourselves... so being able to step back and see that this is a time we needed to help our brothers and sisters in the EMS community."

 

 

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