Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 20, 2017

'Boston Free Speech' rally ends without incident, Trump sends mixed messages in Boston response, and more


'Boston Free Speech' rally ends without incident

Thousands of counter-protesters marched in Boston Saturday to demonstrate against an event billed as a celebration of free speech but slammed by critics for ties to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The original demonstration, organized by a group called Boston Free Speech, included two speakers linked to the alt-right, one of whom marched in Charlottesville. Boston Free Speech distanced itself from white nationalism, pruning its speaker list and "denounc[ing] the politics of supremacy and violence," but those changes did not deter counter-protesters. By 1 p.m. ET, the speech rally ended after attracting about 20 people. Police escorted attendees through the crowd of counter-protesters.


Trump sends mixed messages in Boston response

President Trump responded on Twitter Saturday to the Boston counter-protest against a rally with ties to the white nationalists in Charlottesville. In his first two tweets on the subject, Trump praised Boston police and said the crowd seemed to contain "many anti-police agitators." Then, later Saturday, he took a more positive view of the counter-protest, thanking demonstrators for "speaking out against bigotry and hate" and lauding them for helping America heal. Boston police arrested 33 people at the counter-protest Saturday, estimated at as many as 40,000 people. Boston's police commissioner said injury and property damage were minimal because "99.9 percent of the people here were for the right reasons."


North Korea threatens 'merciless strike' for annual military drills

North Korea on Sunday threatened the United States with a "merciless strike" in response to the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises, 10 days of joint drills the U.S. conducts with the South Korean military each year. While Washington and Seoul maintain the exercises are defensive drills, Pyongyang considers them invasion practice, "reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war." The statement from the Kim Jong Un regime also promised the North Korean army is "keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies" when "even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted."


ISIS claims knife attack that wounded 8 in Russia

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack Saturday morning that wounded eight people in the Siberian city of Surgut, Russia. The attacker reportedly ran down a main street, stabbing at random until he was fatally shot by police. The ISIS statement was published several hours later. This attack comes close on the heels of multiple other fatal terror attacks elsewhere in Europe this past week. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the vehicle rampages in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain, on Thursday and Friday, respectively, but has not claimed Friday's stabbing in Finland.


At least 23 killed, 120 injured in Indian train wreck

A train derailment in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Saturday evening killed at least 23 people and injured 120 more, local authorities reported, and the death toll is expected to continue to rise as search and rescue efforts proceed. A team from the state's anti-terrorism squad is involved in investigating the crash, which is the fourth large-scale derailment in India this year. Such accidents are tragically common because of poor infrastructure conditions, so the train network is undergoing a $130-billion improvement program.


2nd officer dies in Kissimmee shooting

Sam Howard, the second police officer shot on duty in Kissimmee, Florida, Friday night, died Saturday afternoon in the hospital. Both Howard and Matthew Baxter, the other officer killed, were shot while responding to reports of drug activity and a suicide attempt. A suspect named Everett Miller was arrested shortly after the shooting and faces charges of first-degree murder and carrying a concealed weapon. "They were surprised," said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O'Dell of Baxter and Howard, indicating the attack may have been a planned ambush.


Duke University removes Robert E. Lee statue

The administration of Duke University in North Carolina removed a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the entryway of its historic campus chapel Saturday morning. The limestone carving, one of 10 figures memorialized near the chapel door, had been vandalized Wednesday. "I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university," said the university president, Vincent Price, in a statement on the decision.


Trumps to skip Kennedy Center Honors Gala to avoid 'political distraction'

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will not attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors, the White House announced Saturday, to "allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction." Also canceled is the White House reception for honorees traditionally held after the ceremony every year since 1978. The Kennedy Center issued a statement expressing gratitude for the cancellation. Before the Trumps' announcement, three of the five artists to be honored said they would refuse to attend the ceremony, reception, or both in protest of the president.


USS Indianapolis wreck found after 72 years

The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, the American warship used to deliver parts for "Little Boy," the atomic bomb later dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was discovered after 72 years Saturday. The World War II heavy cruiser was sunk on July 30, 1945 by a Japanese submarine. It went down in just 12 minutes, too quickly to send a distress signal. About 900 of the 1,197 sailors and Marines on board survived the initial sinking, but only 316 were alive to be rescued several days later, when help arrived. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen led the team that found the wreck.


Civil rights activist, comedian Dick Gregory dies at 84

Activist and comedian Dick Gregory died Saturday, his family announced. He was 84. Gregory became popular with black and white audiences alike in the 1960s while offering sharp racial commentary and forthright advocacy of equality. He was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement, joining the 1963 March on Washington and integration protests in the deep South. Gregory was also outspoken on other issues, including the Vietnam War, police brutality, sexism, and animal rights, often using hunger strikes as a tool of activism. He is survived by his wife of half a century, Lillian, and 10 children.


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