Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 23, 2017

Trump defends his Charlottesville remarks, Navy removes 7th Fleet's commander after collisions, and more


Trump defends his Charlottesville response at Phoenix rally

With thousands protesting outside, President Trump spoke to supporters in Phoenix and forcefully defended his condemnations of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, accusing the "dishonest" media of falsely suggesting he had not denounced neo-Nazis and the KKK. Trump did not mention blaming "both sides" for the violence, which left one counter-protester dead, but he accused the news media of downplaying actions by anti-fascists in "helmets and the black masks." Trump accused journalists of "trying to take away our history and our heritage" by favoring calls to remove Confederate statues. He also said his border wall would go up "even if we have to close down our government," and suggested he would pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff convicted of contempt of court.


Navy removes 7th Fleet commander over collisions

The Navy on Wednesday relieved Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin as commander of the 7th Fleet, based in Japan, due to four accidents this year, including two deadly collisions between Navy ships and commercial vessels in the last two months. The incidents have prompted an "operational pause" worldwide to make sure sailors understand good seamanship. "One tragedy like this is one too many, and while each of these four events is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation," said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the latest incident, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided Monday with an oil tanker off Singapore. Ten sailors went missing, and several bodies were recovered on Tuesday.


U.S. targets Chinese and Russian firms with sanctions over North Korea

The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed new sanctions against Chinese and Russian firms and individuals accused of supporting North Korea's controversial weapons programs. The Treasury Department measures targeted six Chinese-owned entities, but held off on an expected swipe against Chinese banks. Four other firms — one Russian, one North Korean, and two based in Singapore — also will be affected, as will six individuals, four of them from Russia, one from China, and one from North Korea. The move came after the United Nations this month stepped up sanctions against North Korea after it successfully conducted its first two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. China said the move could damage bilateral cooperation, telling the U.S. to "immediately correct its mistake."


Barcelona suspect says terror cell planned bigger attacks

One of the surviving alleged members of a Barcelona terror cell told a Madrid court on Tuesday that the group was making bombs in a safe house under the direction of their imam, planning to detonate them at monuments around the city. The suspect, 21-year-old Mohamed Houli Chemlal, said the imam had said he was going to blow himself up in the attack. The statements, made behind closed doors to a special anti-terrorism tribunal, supported suspicions that the Islamist militants, who killed 15 people in two attacks with vehicles, had much bigger plans.


Missouri's governor halts execution due to DNA evidence

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) stopped the scheduled execution of condemned inmate Marcellus Williams after DNA evidence raised questions about his guilt in a 1998 murder and sparked protests calling for Williams to be spared. Williams was convicted in the fatal stabbing of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a burglary, but DNA found on the murder weapon has been determined to match someone else. County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said other evidence left "zero possibility" that Williams was innocent, but Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson, said issuing a stay of execution was "the appropriate thing to do." Greitens said he would appoint a five-member board of inquiry to make a recommendation on whether Williams should be executed.


Jury declines to convict four men over Bundy ranch standoff

A federal jury on Tuesday declined to convict four men accused of crimes linked to the 2014 armed standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada. Jurors acquitted Richard R. Lovelien and Steven A. Stewart of all charges, while clearing O. Scott Drexler and Eric J. Parker on most of them. The jury couldn't reach a decision on charges against Drexler and Parker involving the alleged assault on a federal officer while carrying a firearm. The men were among the armed supporters who tried to stop federal authorities from removing Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle from federal land.


Mnuchin's wife apologizes for Instagram rant

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Scottish-born actress Louise Linton, apologized Tuesday for a rant on Instagram against a critic who called her "deplorable" for calling attention to her expensive designer clothing, and accused her of wasting taxpayer money on her "little getaway." Linton posted a photo of herself exiting a government plane, with the hashtags "#tomford," "#hermesscarf," and "#valentino." Linton shot back, saying, "Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband?" She faced an instant backlash on social media. Her Instagram account was promptly switched to a private setting. "I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response," Linton said. "It was inappropriate and highly insensitive."


India's top court scraps Muslim divorce rule

India's highest court on Tuesday struck down a legal provision that let Muslim men instantly divorce their wives by saying "talaq" — the Arabic word for divorce — three times. The practice is losing acceptance in much of the Muslim world. Two of the judges in the 3-2 majority said the provision was unconstitutional, and the third said the practice violated Islamic law. A Muslim woman seeking divorce in the country has to get permission from her husband, or a Muslim authority such as a cleric. One of the dissenters was Muslim. The other called on Congress to pass a new provision.


Celtics to acquire Kyrie Irving from Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to trade All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn's 2018 unprotected first-round pick, according to numerous reports. Irving, 25, asked to be traded in a July meeting with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, saying he wanted to play outside the shadow of Cavaliers superstar LeBron James. Irving had three years — and $60 million — remaining in his contract, but he can opt out of the last year ahead of the 2019-20 season.


Powerball jackpot reaches $700 million, 2nd biggest ever

The estimated jackpot for Wednesday night's Powerball lottery drawing rose to $700 million on Tuesday, making it the second biggest in U.S. history. The total refers to the sum of 30 payments over 29 years in the annuity option, but most winners choose to collect the jackpot all at once. The current cash prize is $443.3 million, and federal income taxes will siphon off a quarter of the prize. The odds of winning the massive prize are 1 in 292.2 million. Tom Rietz, a professor at the University of Iowa who researches probabilities, notes that a player's chance of winning is therefore roughly like taking the prize while all of the other 324 million U.S. residents lose.


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