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10 things you need to know today: August 12, 2019

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Harold Maass
Trump at the White House
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1.

Democrats criticize Trump for boosting Epstein conspiracy theories

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday criticized President Trump for retweeting conspiracy theories about the apparent suicide of financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in his New York jail cell. "This is another example of our president using this position of public trust to attack his political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories," Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, said on CNN's State of the Union. O'Rourke accused Trump, once a friend of Epstein's, of using speculation about Epstein's death to divert attention from calls for gun control and an end to Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric that were sparked by last weekend's two deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Another Democratic candidate, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), said Trump was "whipping people up into anger." [Reuters]

2.

Hong Kong airport cancels most flights amid large protests

Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world's busiest, announced Monday that it is canceling all flights that have not checked in, blaming anti-government protesters who have flooded the airport and "seriously disrupted" air travel. All arriving flights will be allowed to land, the airport said. Thousands of protesters crowded the airport's main terminal after police were filmed violently cracking down on protesters Sunday night, rallying around a woman bleeding from her eyes, apparently after being shot with a bean bag round at close range. After weeks of protest, police are becoming more aggressive, according to protesters who suspect officers of dressing up as protesters themselves to arrest suspects and divide demonstrators. [BBC News, The Washington Post]

3.

Epstein guards were working extreme overtime shifts due to understaffing

Guards in Jeffrey Epstein's prison unit were working extreme overtime shifts due to staffing shortages when the financier and sex offender apparently hanged himself, the president of the local jail staffers' union said Sunday. The union official said the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan has less than 70 percent of the correctional officers it needs. The New York City medical examiner's office conducted an autopsy but said it hadn't reached a conclusion on the cause of death, "pending further information." Two guards on duty the night before Epstein was found dead (11 days after he was taken off suicide watch) were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes, but didn't, a law enforcement official said. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

4.

Giammattei wins Guatemala's presidential runoff

Alejandro Giammattei, a former prisons director, won Guatemala's presidential runoff election on Sunday. Giammattei, the right-wing Vamos party candidate, beat former first lady Sandra Torres. When Giammattei takes office Jan. 14, he will inherit leadership of a Central American nation shaken by years of political scandal and a wave of migration by people seeking asylum in the U.S. that fueled tensions with the Trump administration. Guatemala is preparing for possible implementation of a "safe third country" agreement with Washington that would require it to consider asylum applications by immigrants from other Central American nations heading to the U.S.-Mexico border. Both Torres and Giammattei criticized the agreement. Torres rejected the notion that Guatemala is a safe country, while Giammattei criticized negotiations by an outgoing government. [The Washington Post]

5.

Scalise pushes back against critics linking Trump rhetoric to shootings

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Sunday said it was wrong to "assign blame to somebody" other than the gunmen in recent deadly mass shootings, which critics have linked to President Trump's anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric. "There's no place" for attacks based on ethnicity, said Scalise, who was shot in June 2017 during a Republican congressional baseball practice in Virginia by a man who once volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign. "But to try to assign blame to somebody else, I think, is a very slippery slope because the president's no more responsible for that shooting as your next guest, Bernie Sanders, is for my shooting ... And he's not, by the way, responsible. The shooter is responsible." Sanders said in a Sunday TV appearance that while Trump "does not want to see" someone get shot, his rhetoric "creates a climate where we are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes in this country." [Politico]

6.

Homeland Security chief expresses regret over immigration raid timing

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Sunday that he regretted the timing of immigration raids that resulted in the arrests of 680 workers at food processing plants in Mississippi last week. Most of the detained workers were Hispanic. The roundup came just after a mass shooting targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas. "The timing was unfortunate," McAleenan said on NBC's Meet The Press. McAleenan said the raid had been planned far in advance and approved by a court. "Those employers are just ignoring the law entirely in what they do," McAleenan said. "That's why a judge gave us a warrant to go after them." McAleenan said the mass shooting in El Paso, which left 22 people dead, made Hispanics feel threatened, and he said his department is working hard to address "domestic terrorism." [CBS News]

7.

Fire kills 5 children in Pennsylvania home with day care center

A fire in a Pennsylvania house with a day care center killed five children on Sunday. The victims ranged from 8 months to 7 years in age, Chief Guy Santone of the Erie Fire Department said. The owner of the Harris Family Daycare was flown to a hospital for treatment. A 12-year-old and a 17-year-old reportedly survived by jumping off a roof. Fire inspectors said the fire apparently started in the living room area on the first floor. It spread quickly, said neighbor Danika Scott. "That fire was just nuts ... nuts," Scott said. Investigators did not immediately determine the cause of the blaze. [The Associated Press, USA Today]

8.

Escaped Tennessee inmate Curtis Watson captured

Tennessee authorities captured escaped inmate Curtis Watson and charged him with sexually assaulting and murdering correctional administrator Debra Johnson. Watson was captured in a soybean field about 10 miles from West Tennessee State Penitentiary, the facility from which he escaped. He was spotted in the area by a home-security camera. Johnson's body was found in her home on the prison campus 30 minutes after Watson went missing last week. Watson was serving a 15-year sentence on a conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping. Watson's daughter, Harley Pole, thanked law enforcement for catching him and said the family "would like to extend their deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to the family of Ms. Debra Johnson." [The Commercial Appeal, USA Today]

9.

Simone Biles wins 6th U.S. women's gymnastics title

Simone Biles won her sixth U.S. women's gymnastics national title on Sunday night, tying a 1952 record. Her overall two-day score — 118.500 — was five points higher than No. 2 Sunisa Lee and about eight points ahead of third-place finisher Grace McCallum. Biles, 22, capped her performance by nailing two moves no woman has never even tried in competition before: A triple-twisting double flip ("triple-double") in Sunday night's floor routine and a double-twisting double somersault ("double-double") dismount on balance beam Friday night. Biles has won every meet she has competed in since the 2013 nationals and won five medals in the 2016 Olympics, four of them gold. [USA Today, The Associated Press]

10.

Hobbs & Shaw leads the domestic box office for 2nd week

Fast & Furious spinoff Hobbs & Shaw fought off four new major releases to hold onto the top spot at the North American box office for the second straight weekend. The Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham action film added $25.4 million to its domestic haul, bringing the total to $108.5 million in North America. It has now brought in $332.6 million worldwide. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark came in second with a better-than-expected $20.8 million. The Lion King followed close behind in third place, bringing in another $20 million in its fifth weekend as it pushed its global total to $1.3 billion. It has now surpassed Beauty and the Beast as Disney's top-grossing live-action release. [The Associated Press]