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Manchester VA says threat on media outlet's voicemail prompted police response

MANCHESTER — A threatening voicemail left for a media outlet prompted police response at the Manchester VA Medical Center on Thursday morning.

Kristin Pressly, Manchester VA Medical Center spokesperson, said the outlet notified VA police who in turn notified Manchester police who responded to the center around 9 a.m.

Pressley said the VA activated its "internal safety plan" and a person on campus was identified as being related to the threat. Police cleared the scene by 10 a.m. and have made no arrests.

The Manchester VA has recently been under scrutiny for poor patient conditions.

 

 

Shortly after those accusations surfaced, the hospital also had a pipe burst at the facility causing more problems.

READ: Manchester VA video shows 'extensive' water damage from pipe burst

 

The Manchester VA did not say which media outlet reported the voicemail.


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2 hikers without flashlights, food or water rescued from NH trail

FRANCONIA — New Hampshire Fish and Game rescued two hikers who they called unprepared.

Conservation officers learned that the hikers had no flashlights, food or water and were approximately 3.5 miles from the Falling Waters trailhead Wednesday at approximately 8 p.m. Around 12:20 a.m. Thursday, searchers located 21-year-old Isabella Ramano and her 25-year-old brother, Ethan Ramano, both of Rhinebeck, New York, just north of the Falling Waters Trail.

Officials said the two started their hike around 3 p.m. and had planned to hike to Franconia Ridge and then back down the Falling Waters Trail, but did not realize how long it would take to complete. Along with not having the proper items, they also wore light clothing and carried no extra clothing with them even though conditions were extremely windy and the temperature reached 45 degrees, officials said.

The Ramanos called 911 before being overcome by darkness. Conservation officers used GPS coordinates generated from the 911 call and the description of where the hikers thought they were to locate them hikers. Officials provided them with lights, warm clothing and water before escorting them down the trailhead.

No one sustained injuries during the incident.


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Former NH water park owner who chained self to slide facing fraud charges

CONCORD — The former owner of Liquid Planet water park, who chained himself to the top of a slide for 17 days to try to raise money, has been accused of issuing securities without a license.

READ: Owner chained to slide tower at Candia's Liquid Planet water park abandons quest to delay auction

 

The New Hampshire Securities Bureau filed fraud action against Kevin J. Dumont, who owned Liquid Planet Holdings LLC, saying he issued approximately 3,880 limited liability membership units to 26 investors and raised more than $1.5 million when he didn't have a license to do so.

Liquid Planet Holdings LLC included the water park in Candia as well as a separate business called 446 Raymond Road LLC, which is the real estate that the water park was located on.

The filing states that not only did Dumont not have a license to sell securities, but that he also failed to disclose key information to the 26 investors.

NH1 News spoke to Dumont on Thursday morning and he had not yet heard about the Securities Bureau filing. He had no comment and said he would be seeking a lawyer.

Dumont has 30 days to respond to the filing. 

The Securities Bureau is seeking several penalties against Dumont including fines and restitution of the $1.5 million as well as barring him from ever obtaining a license to issue securities in New Hampshire.

Dumont owned Liquid Planet Holdings from 2007 until 2015, when he lost his property to foreclosure. 

He gained national attention when he chained himself to the top of one of the water slides for 17 days in an effort to raise money to save the water park. A GoFundMe account started as part of that effort raised almost $2,000 of his $1 million goal. 

The park has since been sold and reopened as Candia Springs.

READ: Former Liquid Planet waterpark reopening as Candia Springs

Read the full complaint here.


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Police: Driver side-swipes car pulling out of driveway in NH

NEWINGTON (AP) — Police in New Hampshire say a motorist has been injured in a two-car crash.

The Portsmouth Herald reports the crash happened around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday in Newington. Police say a motorist tried driving around a car that was pulling out of a driveway when they side-swiped the oncoming car. Officials say the impact of the crash spun the oncoming vehicle off the road and into a tree.

According to police, the driver of the car that hit the tree suffered "significant" injuries. Police say there were no passengers in either vehicle.

Police have not released the names of either driver involved in the crash.


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Boston gives permit for free speech rally, sets restrictions

BOSTON (AP) — Boston has granted permission for an event that organizers are calling a free speech rally but that some people fear is actually a white nationalist rally similar to the one that erupted in violence in Virginia last weekend.

The permit for Saturday's event on Boston Common comes with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon.

Barriers will separate participants from a planned counterprotest that its organizers are calling a "racial justice solidarity march."

"We don't want a repeat of what happened in Charlottesville," Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said. "Boston is too united. We have a city that doesn't tolerate hatred and bigotry, and we wanted to make it clear to both groups."

A woman was killed Saturday in Charlottesville when a car plowed into counterprotesters at a Unite the Right rally attended by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city will do what is necessary to head off violence initiated by either side.

"We are going to have a zero-tolerance policy," the Democratic mayor said. "If anyone gets out of control — at all — it will be shut down."

He said in a separate interview that he does not expect violence.

The permit granted Wednesday is for 100 people and a two-hour rally from noon until 2 p.m., with a two-hour setup and an hourlong breakdown time.

John Medlar of the Boston Free Speech Coalition thinks as many as 1,000 people could show up.

"There's a lot of variables we simply can't account for — will the extra controversy drive people away or make it even more popular?" he said.

The group said on Facebook that it is not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

"We are not associated with any alt-right or white supremacist groups we are strictly about free speech," the group said.


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Father charged in baby boy's fatal overdose of opioid combo

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man has been charged in the fatal drug overdose of his 1-year-old son.

Thirty-three-year-old Dorrico Brown, of Trenton, Ohio, was jailed Wednesday on charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering in the death of Dorrico Brown Jr.

Authorities say the man called 911 in May after finding his son on a bed not breathing. The baby was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The Butler County Coroner's Office says tests showed the child died from a combination of drugs including oxycodone, an opioid, and anti-anxiety medication. It wasn't clear how the boy ingested the drugs.

Court records don't indicate if Brown has an attorney.


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NH woman wakes up to bullet hole in wall of home

MANCHESTER — A woman was woken by the sound of gunshots Wednesday early morning, later finding a lone bullet hole in her apartment.

The woman told police she heard gunshots in the area of Lake Avenue around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. She told police that she looked out the window and saw nothing so she went back to sleep.

When she woke up again around 6:30 a.m. she noticed a lone bullet hole in a wall inside the apartment and called police.

No one was injured as a result of the bullet entering the home. Police officers took a photo of the hole that they are not releasing at this time and are investigating the incident.

Anyone with information is asked to call 603-668-8711 or the Manchester Crimeline at 603-624-4040.


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Driver charged with DUI crashed into 'Report Drunk Drivers' sign, highway patrol says

APTOS, Calif. — "Isn't it ironic, don't ya think?" the Santa Cruz California Highway Patrol wrote on their Facebook page after an alleged drunk driver drove into a "Report Drunk Drivers" sign.

 

Stephen DeWitt, 57 of Aptos, faces a DUI charge after police say he rolled his Jeep Wrangler on Highway 1 in Santa Cruz County, KWQC reported. He allegedly hit the sign during the incident.

"He left this behind... Don't drink and drive, it's just not worth it!" the California Highway Patrol wrote.


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Tech companies banishing extremists, including man from NH, after Charlottesville

NEW YORK (AP) — It took bloodshed in Charlottesville to get tech companies to do what civil rights groups have been calling for for years: take a firmer stand against accounts used to promote hate and violence.

In the wake of the deadly clash at a white-nationalist rally last weekend in Virginia, major companies such as Google, Facebook and PayPal are banishing a growing cadre of extremist groups and individuals for violating service terms.

READ: Keene white supremacist: Non-whites have lower IQ's, vote out of stupidity

 

What took so long? For one thing, tech companies have long seen themselves as bastions of free expression.

But the Charlottesville rally seemed to have a sobering effect. It showed how easily technology can be used to organize and finance such events, and how extreme views online can translate into violence offline.

"There is a difference between freedom of speech and what happened in Charlottesville," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, an online racial justice group. The battle of ideas is "different than people who show up with guns to terrorize communities."

A SLOW REACTION

Tech companies are in a bind. On one hand, they want to be open to as many people as possible so they can show them ads or provide rides, apartments or financial services. On the other hand, some of these users turn out to be white supremacists, terrorists or child molesters.

Keegan Hankes, analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence project, said his group has been trying for more than a year to get Facebook and PayPal to shut down these accounts. Even now, he said, the two companies are taking action only in the most extreme cases.

"They have policies against violence, racism, harassment," said Hankes, whose center monitors hate groups and extremism. "The problem is that there has been no enforcement."

Case in point: The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has been around since 2013. But it wasn't effectively kicked off the internet until it mocked the woman killed while protesting the white nationalists in Charlottesville.

SHIFTING LINE

PayPal said groups that advocate racist views have no place on its service, but added that there is a "fine line" when it comes to balancing freedom of expression with taking a stand against violent extremism.

Other companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google struggle with the same balancing act. The fine line is constantly moving and being tested.

Ahead of the rally, Airbnb barred housing rentals to people it believed were traveling to participate. Before and after Charlottesville, PayPal cut off payments to groups that promote hate and violence. GoDaddy and Google yanked the domain name for Daily Stormer following the rally. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are removing known hate groups from their services, and the music streaming service Spotify dropped what it considers hate bands.

"Companies are trying to figure out what the right thing is to do and how to do it," said Steve Jones, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who focuses on communication technology. What happens from here is "partly going to depend on the individual leadership at these companies and company culture — and probably resources, too."

CAT AND MOUSE

While traditional brands such as Tiki had no way of knowing that their torches were being bought for the rally, tech companies have tools to identify and ban people with extremist views.

That's thanks to the troves of data they store on people and to their ability to easily switch off access to users. Airbnb users can link to social media profiles, and the company said it used its existing background checks and "input from the community" to identify users who didn't align with its standards.

Yet these services also allow for anonymity, which makes their jobs more difficult. Banned people can sign up again with a different email address, something they can easily obtain anonymously.

Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja said hate groups also know the site's policies and try to keep things just benign enough to ensure they are not in violation.

For instance, the event page for the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville looked fairly innocuous. Budhraja said there was nothing on the page that would suggest it was created by a hate organization. It has since been removed.

Facebook's technology is designed to automatically flag posts that are on the absolute extreme and clearly violate the company's policies. They are sometimes removed before users can even see them. What Facebook can't leave to automation are posts, events and groups in that ever-growing gray area.

THE BROADEST REACH

The First Amendment offers hate groups a lot of speech protection, but it applies only to government and public settings. A private company is typically free to set its own standards.

Christopher Cantwell, a self-described white nationalist who has been labeled an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he was banned from Facebook, Instagram and PayPal because the companies are trying to silence him for his views.

"Everybody is going through extraordinary lengths to make sure we are not heard," Cantwell told The Associated Press.

Even Cloudflare, a security company that prides itself on providing services regardless of their content, terminated Daily Stormer on Wednesday. This appears to be the site's final blow.

Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said in an email to the AP that these private companies are "de factor monopolies and oligopolies" and should be regulated as "critical infrastructure."

The Daily Stormer and other banned groups could move to darker corners of the web, where extreme views are welcome. But this won't help with recruitment and won't allow them to disseminate their views as broadly as they could on Facebook or Twitter.

"These are the platforms everyone is using," Hankes said. "They don't want to be pushed to the margins because they want influence."

Because of that, the industry's efforts might just be a game of whack-a-mole, with extremist views returning, perhaps in different guises, once public outrage dies down.


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NH1 First Alert Weather: Friday, August 18

A bit of an unsettled weather day can be expected Friday. Prepare for showers! An area of low pressure tracking over the Great Lakes will be directing an area of rain into the Northeast. A warm front will approach, but likely stay south of New Hampshire. Cooler onshore winds with thickening ocean stratus will keep temps in the 60s and lower 70s. 



The best chances for a significant rainfall look to be farther south. But really any where in the state will see a showery day Friday especially during the midday-afternoon time frame. Showers with some embedded storms could last into Friday night and will begin to weaken.

By Saturday, the rain will be over, but the humidity will remain. Expect partly sunny skies and warm conditions with highs in the mid to upper 80s. A good day to be at the beach or lakes for relief. A cold front will swing through by the end of Saturday. High pressure will build back into the region Sunday with lower humidity. Sunshine will take hold into early next week with warming temperatures well in the 80s nearing 90 by Tuesday.


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Baby dolphin dies after beachgoers play with her in Spain

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish environmental group has called on beachgoers to refrain from crowding around, touching or taking photos of stray sea animals following the death of a baby dolphin last week.

Images on Spanish media and social networks showed adults and children touching the small, female dolphin in the sea in the southeastern town of Mojacar.

Equinac, a nonprofit organization that works to protect marine animals in the southern province of Almeria, said that the dolphin died on Aug. 11 before its experts could try to save it.

The group said on its Facebook account that cetaceans were very susceptible to stress and crowding around them to take photographs or touch them can cause great shock and may lead to death.

Further comment from Equinac wasn't immediately possible Thursday.


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Van plows into crowd in Barcelona; Police view it as terror

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A white van jumped the sidewalk Thursday in Barcelona's historic Las Ramblas district, killing and injuring several people as it plowed into a summer crowd of tourists and residents, police said. The El Pais newspaper said police were treating the crash as a terror attack.

READ: Police say van jumps sidewalk in Barcelona, causes injuries

 

Police cordoned off the broad, popular street, ordering stores and nearby Metro and train stations to close. They asked people to stay away from the area so as not to get in the way of emergency services. A helicopter hovered over the scene.

Quoting unnamed police sources, El Pais said the two perpetrators of the crash were holed up in a bar in Tallers Street. There was no immediate police confirmation of the report.

Catalan police tweeted that "there are mortal victims and injured from the crash" without specifying numbers. The Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper reported at least one dead and 20 injured from the van.

In a photograph on public broadcaster RTVE, three people were lying on the ground in the street of the northern Spanish city Thursday afternoon, apparently being helped by police and others. Other videos showed five people down and recorded people screaming as they fled the scene.

Las Ramblas, a street of stalls and shops that cuts through the center of Barcelona, is one of the city's top tourist destinations. People walk down a wide, pedestrian path in the center of the street but cars can travel on either side.

Keith Fleming, an American who lives in Barcelona, was watching TV in his building just off Las Ramblas when he heard a noise and went out to his balcony.

"I saw women and children just running and they looked terrified," he said.

There was a bang, possibly from someone rolling down a store shutter, and more people ran by. Then police arrived and pushed everyone down the street, a full block away. Even people leaning out of doors were being told to go back inside, he said.

He said police are there with their guns drawn and riot police are at the end of his block. He said his street is now deserted.

"It's just kind of a tense situation," Fleming said. "Clearly people were scared."

Cars, trucks and vans have been the weapon of choice in multiple extremist attacks in Europe in the last year.

The most deadly was the driver of a tractor-trailer who targeted Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people. In December 2016, 12 people died after a driver used a hijacked trick to drive into a Christmas market in Berlin.

There have been multiple attacks this year in London, where a man in a rented SUV plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four people before he ran onto the grounds of Parliament and stabbed an unarmed police officer to death in March.

Four other men drove onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, unleashing a rampage with knives that killed eight people in June. Another man also drove into pedestrians leaving a London mosque later in June.


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Man denies charge of spraying manure on Border Patrol car in Vermont

NORTH HERO, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man has denied charges he sprayed liquid manure on a marked U.S. Customs and Border Protection car after confronting an agent about why he wasn't doing more to arrest people in the country illegally.

Fifty-three-year-old Mark Johnson, of Alburgh, pleaded not guilty Thursday to state charges of disorderly conduct and simple assault of a law enforcement officer with fluids. He declined comment afterward.

The Border Patrol agent said in court documents that Johnson sprayed the car after a profanity-laced tirade Aug. 3 in Alburgh, just south of the Canadian border.

Johnson said Wednesday he asked the agent why he wasn't doing more to arrest people in the U.S. illegally. Johnson said he didn't know the car was nearby when he turned on his manure spreader.


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Maine Gov. LePage: Removing Confederate statues like losing 9/11 memorial

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Taking down statues of Confederate figures is "just like" removing a monument to victims of the 9/11 attacks, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday, adding that the white nationalist and far-left protesters in Charlottesville over the weekend were "equally as bad" and "disgusting."

The Republican governor made the comments during an appearance on WGAN-AM when asked for his reaction to the deadly violence in Virginia at a white nationalist protest over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

LePage, echoing President Donald Trump, said he condemns "both sides" that went to the city with the intent of inciting violence. He lamented the deaths of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was struck by a car that drove into the crowd of protesters, and two state police officers, whose helicopter crashed during an effort to contain the violence.

LePage said left-wing protesters who want to remove Confederate statues are ignorant of history and want to erase it. He compared them to "the Taliban in Afghanistan" in their desire to remove monuments.

"How can future generations learn if we're going to erase history? That's disgusting," he said. "They should study their history — they don't even know the history of this country and they are trying to take monuments down. Listen, whether we like it or not, this is what our history is."

He continued: "To me, it's just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that."

LePage also said he didn't find out about the Charlottesville violence until Tuesday because he doesn't watch TV or read newspapers. The governor, who has a long history of feuding with the media, said he thinks newspapers are "pencil terrorists."

Former Maine Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, also appeared on WGAN on Thursday morning to address the Charlottesville violence. He said that Trump's role as president is to "comfort the country" and that the president's comments were "tone deaf." Baldacci didn't directly address LePage's comments.


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Mayor pushes to keep PawSox in Rhode Island as Massachusetts tries to lure the team

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island mayor is pushing state lawmakers to approve a new ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox so they can stay in their current hometown.

READ: Massachusetts city wants to lure PawSox from Rhode Island

 

WPRI-TV reports that Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien's proposal comes after the Worcester, Massachusetts, City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to direct their city manager to try and lure the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate.

Grebien's bill calls for the construction of an $83 million stadium with the team paying $45 million and taxpayers footing the rest. The taxpayer contribution would be repaid through tax revenue from the park and ticket sales.

Grebien says if the Senate Finance Committee doesn't act, Pawtucket would be "seriously in jeopardy" of losing the team.

The Senate Finance Chairman says the committee will hold hearings on the bill this fall.


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Tips and tricks: How to save money as your child heads back to school

CONCORD — About this time each year, parents everywhere are ready to put away the beach blankets and sand toys and get ready to send their kids back to school and back to routines. But getting the kids ready for the fall can really be a burden on mom and dad's wallet. Here's a few tips to lessen the blow of back to school shopping. 

1. Wait to purchase your supplies until a few days after school starts. Some school districts send parents long lists of supplies before the school year starts, but most teachers agree, students aren't expected to have all their supplies on Day 1. Waiting until the students have been in class for a couple days gives them time to figure out exactly what they need and what will fit in their locker.

Kaitlyn Lianza, an eighth-grade teacher at Newmarket Junior/Senior High says, "Usually, the first week of school is a short week. My students are expected to come in the following Monday with school supplies ready to go, that way they have time for clarification with the supply list and the weekend to pick it up. A pencil, paper, and a good attitude for the first couple days is usually enough. That being said, some kids are more anxious than others and might need a bit more in their bag to feel like they are 'ready to go.'"

2. Shop the sales. Several stores like Staples offer deep discounts this time of year. Or shop the discount stores. Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Five Below or even Savers, Goodwill and Salvation Army often carry brand new supplies and backpacks. 

3. Team up with other parents and buy in bulk. Sam's Club offers a 24 pack of backpacks for $160. That's less than $6.70 a piece. They also sell a box of 96 pencils for $15, which breaks down to less than 16 cents a pencil. Remember, stores like Sam's Club require a membership to shop. 

4. Hold off on purchasing several "back to school" outfits. Angela Anderson, a mom of two now-grown girls says she always used to let her kids buy one or two summer-type outfits before school starts, then after a few weeks when the colder weather clothes start to go on sale, she would buy the rest. Anderson says, "I tell them this way you can see what everyone is wearing and get something different."

5. Use coupon apps like RetailMeNot or Ebates for deep discounts. Instead of having to look at a bunch of different website to see if they offer coupons or coupon codes, websites like RetailMeNot puts all the codes in one place. 

 


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Powerball jackpot climbs to $510 million, 8th largest in US history

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Powerball jackpot has climbed to an estimated $510 million, making it one of the largest in U.S. history.

No one matched all six numbers in Wednesday night's drawing, so the national lottery game will continue to grow ahead of the next drawing Saturday night. At $510 million, the drawing would be the eighth largest lottery jackpot.

The prize figure refers to the annuity option, in which winnings would be paid out over 29 years. A winner who took the cash option would snag $324.2 million, though that would be subject to state and federal taxes.

Powerball is played in 44 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The odds of winning the jackpot are one in 292.2 million.


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Police: Vermont man stabs NH man in hands, legs after seeing him with ex-girlfriend

LEBANON — A Vermont man stabbed a 32-year-old Lebanon man after seeing him with a former girlfriend, police said.

Responding officers found the victim with non-life-threatening injuries to his hands and legs after a fight at the 254 Plainfield Road shopping plaza Thursday.

An investigation determined that the victim knew Robert E. Walker, 34, of Hancock, Vermont, who allegedly followed the victim to the shopping plaza to confront him.

The victim said Walker punched him while he was seated in the passenger side of a car before using a folding knife to stab him. Police said the injuries the victim sustained were defensive in nature, and he refused medical treatment at the scene.

Officers arrested Walker nearby after he allegedly attempted to flee in a car, police said. They charged him with first degree assault, a class A felony, along with second-degree assault and criminal threatening, both class B felonies.

Police took Walker to the Grafton County House of Corrections pending his arraignment scheduled for Friday.


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Trump decries monument removals, 'history ripped apart'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump bitingly decried the rising movement to pull down monuments to Confederate icons Thursday, declaring the nation is seeing "the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart."

Trump's new remarks came even as the White house tried to manage his increasing isolation and the continued fallout from his combative comments on last weekend's racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He also tore into fellow Republicans who have criticized his statements on race and politics, fanning the controversy toward a full-fledged national conflagration.

Pressured by advisers, the president had taken a step back from the dispute on Monday, two days after he had enraged many by declining to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose demonstration against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statute had led to violence and the death of a counter-protester in Charlottesville.

He returned to his combative stance on Wednesday — insisting anew that "both sides" were to blame. And then in a burst of tweets on Thursday he renewed his criticism of efforts to remove memorials and tributes to the Civil War Confederacy.

"You can't change history, but you can learn from it," he tweeted. "Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish. ...

"Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"

He wasn't talking about beauty in earlier tweets, lashing at GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

He accused "publicity-seeking" Graham of falsely stating his position on the demonstrators, called Flake "toxic" and praised a Flake primary election opponent.

Graham said Wednesday that Trump "took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency" between the marching white supremacists and the people who had been demonstrating against them. And Flake has been increasingly critical of Trump in recent weeks.

Other Republicans, including the most powerful in Congress, have been making strong statements on Charlottesville and racism, but few have been mentioning Trump himself.

The Senate's top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, condemned "hate and bigotry." House Speaker Paul Ryan charged that, "White supremacy is repulsive." But neither criticized the president's insistence that there were "very fine people on both sides" of the violent weekend clash in Virginia.

The nuanced statements reflect the party establishment's delicate dance. Few top Republican officeholders want to defend the president in the midst of an escalating political crisis, yet they are unwilling to declare all-out opposition to him and risk alienating his loyalists.

In another major sign of discontent within the Republican Party, Trump abruptly abolished two of his White House business councils Wednesday as corporate chiefs began resigning in protest of his racial statements.

"Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!" Trump tweeted from New York. His action came after one of the panels had already agreed to disband earlier in the day.

The White House is trying to deal with the repercussions from Trump's defiant remarks on the Virginia tragedy. Advisers hunkered down, offering no public defense while privately expressing frustration with his comments.

But Trump himself, staying at his golf club in New Jersey, was increasing rather than slowing his tweet-a-thon.

On Wednesday, he had told associates he was pleased with how his combative press conference had gone a day earlier, saying he believed he had effectively stood up to the media, according to three people familiar with the conversations who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about them.

Business leaders felt differently.

Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell Soup, declared she was leaving Trump's manufacturing council, saying, "The president should have been — and still needs to be — unambiguous" in denouncing white supremacists.

CEOs had begun tendering their resignations from White House panels after Trump's initial comments following the Saturday violence. The first to step down, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, drew a Twitter tongue-lashing from the president. Later, Trump called those who were leaving "grandstanders" and insisted many others were eager to take their places.

Members of the Strategy and Policy group, led by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, concluded after a 45-minute conference call in the morning that they would end the council and announce their decision in a statement, according to two people familiar with the discussions. They insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In a subsequent call with Trump, the president agreed it was the right course of action. He tweeted before they could announce the decision they'd reached — making it appear it was his choice.

Publicly criticizing the president and resigning from his councils is a significant step for big-name corporate leaders. Though the policy influence of such advisory groups is sometimes questionable, simply meeting with Trump with TV cameras going is valuable face-time for the executives — and for the president.
___
Bykowicz reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Bridgewater, new Jersey, and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.


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Average US mortgage rates edge lower

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged lower this week.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages slipped to 3.89 percent from 3.90 percent last week. While historically low, that's still above last year's average of 3.65 percent. The benchmark rate stood at 3.43 percent a year ago.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate home loans, popular with homeowners who are refinancing their mortgages, fell to 3.16 percent from 3.18 percent last week.

Record-low interest rates have helped spur home purchases and boosted the housing market. Yet despite the low mortgage rates to lure prospective homebuyers, the housing market has remained hampered by tight mortgage credit, rising home prices and tight supply of homes on the market.

In the latest indication of low inventory constraining home purchases, real estate brokerage Redfin reported Thursday that sales in July declined 3.5 percent from a year earlier. The number of homes for sale fell 11 percent, marking 22 straight months of year-over-year declines in inventory, according to Redfin. There was a three-month supply of homes in July, higher than June's record-low 2.5 months but well below the six months that represents a market balanced between buyers and sellers.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was 0.4 point, down from 0.5 point last week. The fee on 15-year loans was unchanged at 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans rose to 3.16 percent from 3.14 percent last week. The fee declined to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.


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