Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 18, 2017

Van mows down Barcelona pedestrians leaving at least 13 dead, Trump calls removing Confederate monuments "foolish," and more


At least 13 killed in Barcelona attack as van mows down pedestrians

A van plowed into pedestrians along Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas district on Thursday, killing at least 13 people. Witnesses said the white van zigzagged through an area filled with tourists. At least 80 people were taken to hospitals. Spanish authorities arrested two people. Police also fatally shot five men in a car attack that injured pedestrians in a town outside the city hours later, and an explosion at a house in another town left one dead. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, saying through its Amaq news agency that the Barcelona attackers were "soldiers of the Islamic State" responding to calls to target members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Sunni Islamist extremist group. The attack was the latest in a string of deadly incidents in Europe in which terrorists have used vehicles to mow down civilians.


Trump calls removing 'beautiful' Confederate monuments 'foolish'

President Trump on Thursday tweeted a fresh defense of Confederate monuments, claiming, "You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Trump added that "the beauty" being removed from towns and parks will be "missed." Opposition to the monuments has surged since Saturday's deadly violence at a white nationalist rally to protest removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. In two of the latest cases, vandals damaged a Robert E. Lee statue at Duke University's chapel, and Maryland officials removed a 145-year-old statue of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney outside the Maryland State House shortly after midnight Friday. Taney defended slavery in the court's 1857 Dred Scott decision.


Republican senators say Charlottesville response raises questions about Trump

As President Trump faces an intensifying backlash over his response to white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, he is coming under increasingly biting criticism from Republican lawmakers, whose support he needs to pass his agenda. "The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters after a speech in Chattanooga. Corker also said Trump needs "to demonstrate that he understands the character of our nation and works daily to bring out the best of the people in our nation." Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — the Senate's only black Republican — said that Trump's statement blaming "both sides" for the deadly violence between white supremacists and counter-protesters "complicates this administration's moral authority."


Pelosi calls for removal of Confederate statues from Capitol

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement Thursday calling for removing Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol. There is "no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy" in "places of honor" such as the Capitol, Pelosi said. "The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible," Pelosi said in a statement. "If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately." Pelosi's remarks came as President Trump defended Confederate monuments. A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the decision was out of Congress' hands, because the statues in the Capitol are chosen by the states.


Trump responds to Barcelona attack with praise for Muslim execution myth

President Trump revived a debunked story about killing Muslim extremists on Thursday in his response to the terrorist attack in Barcelona. "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught," Trump tweeted. "There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!" He was referring to the myth that Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing killed Muslim rebels in the Philippines by shooting them with bullets dipped in pigs' blood. There has never been any evidence the story was true, but Trump has told it before, including at a South Carolina rally in 2016, to emphasize that fighting terrorism requires harsh tactics.


3 major fundraising groups cancel Mar-a-Lago events

Three major charities canceled fundraisers at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach on Thursday, in fallout against his business empire over his response to deadly violence at last weekend's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. The American Cancer Society said it was moving an upcoming gala, citing its "values and commitment to diversity." The Cleveland Clinic, another longtime Mar-a-Lago customer, moved its winter fundraiser days after saying it would continue using the club. The American Friends of Magen David Adom, which raises money for Israel's Red Cross equivalent, also said it would move its 2018 gala. The head of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, which counts Mar-a-Lago as a member, called the business "morally reprehensible" and predicted more charities would drop it.


Navy relieves commanders of destroyer involved in deadly collision

The Navy on Friday relieved the two top officers and the senior enlisted sailor of the U.S. destroyer Fitzgerald, which collided with a freighter off Japan in June, killing seven sailors. The incident was the deadliest U.S. naval accident in years. The Navy's Seventh Fleet said Cmdr. Bryce Benson and the rest of the ship's leadership were being removed, and about a dozen sailors were being punished, including all of the destroyer's watch. The vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Bill Moran, said a report on the incident showed that "serious mistakes were made by members of the crew," and that as shipping lanes grew crowded in the hours before the accident the sailors on watch "lost situational awareness," leaving them unable to avoid the collision once they became aware of their mistakes.


Fox CEO James Murdoch donates $1 million to Anti-Defamation League

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wrote in a memo Thursday that President Trump's reaction to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend should "concern all of us as Americans and free people," and said he and his wife Kathryn will donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League. Murdoch, whose father is media mogul Rupert Murdoch, said he was so distressed by the "acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob" that he felt the need to comment. "I can't even believe I have to write this," he said. "Standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so."


U.S. and Japan agree to step up defenses against North Korea

The U.S. and Japan agreed to boost their defenses to counter a rising military threat from North Korea after a day of high-level meetings. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis met their Japanese counterparts, Taro Kono and Itsunori Onodera, in an annual security review, and agreed that Japan would "augment its defense capabilities" while Washington would continue "deploying its most advanced capabilities to Japan," the State Department said. Tillerson has reassured Asian allies that the U.S. will respond if North Korea attacks but will not escalate military tensions or launch a pre-emptive strike. He said Thursday that Trump's threat to rain "fire and fury" on North Korea was meant as a reminder that if Pyongyang starts a war, it can't win.


OKCupid joins online backlash against white nationalists

Dating site OKCupid has joined a social media backlash against participants in last weekend's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville by revoking the membership of Chris Cantwell, a white supremacist featured in a viral VICE News report on the event. In the video, Cantwell makes hateful remarks about blacks and Jews, referring to Ivanka Trump's marriage to Jared Kushner by saying it was "disgusting" that President Trump would "give his daughter to a Jew." He also called the rally, which left one dead and 19 injured, a "win," claiming "none of our people killed anyone unjustly." OKCupid announced Thursday that it was shutting down Cantwell's account and said that "if any OkCupid members come across people involved in hate groups, please report it immediately."


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