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Aug. 22 2016 2:37 PM

Arizona Man Arrested for Murdering Roommate After Threatening on Twitter to Murder Roommate

Here's a tweet that a 21-year-old Arizona man named Zachary Penton sent on Friday.

And here's the headline on a story that an Arizona ABC affiliate posted Sunday.

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Screenshot/ABC15

Penton had, in past years, tweeted a number of times about the difficulty of finding roommates. And then there was this:

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What a (bizarre and terrible) world.

Aug. 22 2016 1:38 PM

Donald Trump Isn’t Flip-Flopping on Deportations. He’s Playing Both Sides.

Donald Trump on Monday denied a weekend’s worth of speculation that he is considering softening his hard-line support for the mass deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. “No, I'm not flip-flopping,” he told Fox News. In his next breath, however, the GOP nominee made clear that his current plan remains a work in progress. “We want to come up with a really fair but firm answer,” he said. “That's—it has to be very firm. But we want to come up with something fair.”

Trump’s comments came after BuzzFeed, Univision, and the Washington Post all reported that, during a Saturday meeting with his newly announced Hispanic advisory council, Trump appeared open to allowing some undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally. Trump’s own team then fanned those flip-flopping flames on Sunday, most notably when his brand new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told CNN that it was “to be determined” whether Trump still supports using a “deportation force” as part of immigration plan.

On one hand, the frenzy over Trump’s potential reversal is understandable. Trump has made his deportations-and-wall-building immigration plan a centerpiece of his campaign, and the mere suggestion that it might not be set in stone is stunning. Trump is allergic to policy specifics, but on the topic of mass deportations he’s been remarkably clear for the past 12 months:

  • “All criminal aliens must be returned to their home countries,” declared his original policy statement on immigration, which was released last August (and remains live on his website Monday).
  • “They have to go,” Trump said on Meet the Press that same weekend when asked whether he would deport any immigrant in the country illegally.
  • “We’re rounding ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way,” he said the following month on 60 Minutes.
  • “You're going to have a deportation force, and you're going to do it humanely,” Trump said on Morning Joe in November.
  • “We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally," Trump said during a Republican debate in February. “They will go out. They will come back—some will come back, the best, through a process. They have to come back legally."

So if he were to actually to be shifting his position away from rounding up 11 million people and forcibly removing them from the country, this would be a big deal. But on the other hand, this also appears to be just more of the same vagueness and lack of specificity from Trump. As my colleague Isaac Chotiner put it last week after Trump’s foreign policy speech, the celebrity businessman doesn’t have policy ideas as much as he has moods. “Trump’s policies may loosely cohere into some sort of familiar ideology,” Chotiner wrote, “but his campaign and his ideas all basically exist within his head.” Fortunately for Trump, though, those vague policy notions also exist somewhere else, too: inside the heads of his supporters, who are willing to hear two contradictory statements from their candidate of choice and then simply choose the one they like best and discard the other.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Trump has attempted to use that dynamic to his advantage, either. Consider how he tried to cloud the conversation around his Muslim ban to ease the concerns of those Republicans who thought his original proposal went too far—such as his eventual vice presidential nominee Mike Pence—without fundamentally changing it. What originally was a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” is now a ban on people from “areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States,” a category that Trump refuses to define, allowing his supporters to draw their own conclusions from his Islamophobic remarks.

Trump knows what he’s doing. As he put it last summer when fielding a question about the lack of policy specifics in his immigration plan: “I don’t think the people care. I think they trust me. I think they know I’m going to make good deals for them.” Even while being frustratingly inconsistent on the specifics, then, Trump has actually been remarkably consistent when it comes to his overarching promises: He isn’t actually making any.

Aug. 22 2016 11:32 AM

Whoa, Check Out This Crazy/Terrifying Glass-Bottomed Bridge in China

Look at this [expletive] bridge!

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China Daily Information Corp/Reuters

It is 984 feet off the ground and has a glass bottom!

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Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

It's also 1,410 feet long, which means that it takes about 5 to 10 minutes to cross, which means 5 to 10 minutes in which you could, at any moment, plummet to a grisly death!

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Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

My God, why is this guy hitting the bridge with a sledgehammer? He's going to get us all killed!

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China Daily Information Corp/Reuters

The glass death terror bridge is located in China's Zhangjiajie National Forest. Here's another nearby attraction:

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VCG/Getty Images

Note to self: DO NOT EVER VISIT CHINA'S ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL FOREST, YOU WILL FALL OFF A MOUNTAIN.

Aug. 21 2016 5:49 PM

Clinton Campaign Manager Wonders Whether Trump “Is Just a Puppet for the Kremlin”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign made it clear on Sunday that just because Paul Manafort has stepped down as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, that doesn’t mean they will be letting up in their efforts to tie the Republican candidate to Russian interests. In what looked to be at least partly a way to dodge questions about the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook essentially accused Donald Trump of being a Kremlin puppet. Mook said on ABC News’ This Week that there are still “real questions” about Trump’s connections to Moscow, even after Manafort’s departure.

“Paul Manafort has been pushed out, but that doesn't mean that the Russians have been pushed out of this campaign,” Mook said. “The hand of the Kremlin has been at work in this campaign for some time.”

Clinton’s campaign manager went on to say that it was time for Trump “to explain to us the extent to which the hand of the Kremlin is at the core of his own campaign.” These are all questions that could be answered if the Republican candidate were more transparent about his finances. “There’s a web of financial interests that have not been disclosed,” he said. “And there are real questions being raised about whether Donald Trump himself is just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race?”

Mook’s questions about Trump’s continuing ties with Russia follow the same line as the DNC, which issued a statement calling attention to similar questions after Manafort’s resignation on Friday:

Despite today’s latest staff shake-up, Donald Trump’s campaign still maintains strong ties to Russia and pro-Kremlin elements. At least a half-dozen of Trump’s remaining aides have Russian connections, and let’s not forget about his own financial interests in the region, as well as his repeated praise for Putin.

Rather than clear up the issue, Trump’s campaign has chosen to respond to the questioning about his Russia ties by pointing the finger at Clinton, saying the media are ignoring her links to Russia. “Clinton’s close ties to Putin deserve scrutiny,” reads the headline of an Aug. 15 news release. Still, many of Trump’s claims failed to tell the full story, particularly because it failed to point out that many of the reports mentioned in Trump’s attack were written during Clinton’s stint as secretary of state.

Aug. 21 2016 4:25 PM

Trump Doubles Spending With a Focus on Marketing, Still Far Behind in Ground Game

Donald Trump spent a lot of money to raise money last month. The Republican candidate spent $18.5 million in July, more than doubling the previous month. But it turns out much of that went to fundraising efforts and not into building the type of on-the-ground operations in battleground states that have traditionally been needed to win the presidency. Almost half of the campaign’s spending in July went to Giles-Parscale, a web-design and marketing firm that doesn’t have much experience in national politics. The firm’s president does have experience working with Trump though; he is the digital director of Trump’s presidential campaign and has worked with the candidate’s real estate business since 2011.

Another eyebrow-raising item from the campaign’s financial disclosure form is how Trump paid $20,000 to the consulting firm of Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager he fired in June but later continued to call on for advice.* Yet despite a few highly paid consultants, spending on payroll remained weak, and there were no suggestions that the candidate had spent money to boost his presence in battleground states. That may very well change in the next report, considering Trump’s campaign said it had hired dozens of more people starting on Aug. 1.

Even if it doubled from the previous month, Trump still falls far short of Hillary Clinton, who spent $38.2 million in July in part to maintain a staff of 703, compared to Trump’s 83. And it isn’t that Clinton is some sort of big spender. Trump falls behind other nominees in recent elections, too. In July of 2012, for example, President Obama’s campaign spent almost $59 million, compared to Mitt Romney’s $33 million. And four years before that, Obama had spent $57 million, compared to Sen. John McCain’s $32 million.

*Correction, Aug. 23, 2016: This post originally misspelled Corey Lewandowski’s last name.

Aug. 21 2016 11:43 AM

Is Trump Getting Ready to Abandon Plans for Deportation Force?

Donald Trump’s plans for a “deportation force” to round up the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country always seemed far-fetched. Now it looks like the candidate may be starting to walk away from it, while also hinting he could be open to legalizing at least some of those who are in the country without the proper papers. Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, refused to say during a CNN interview whether the presidential candidate was still planning to set up a deportation force. “To be determined,” Conway said.

In an effort to clarify Trump’s immigration stance, Conway avoided getting into too many specifics about what the candidate’s plans could be if he reaches the White House. “What he supports is to make sure we enforce the law, that we are respectful of those Americans who are looking for jobs, and that we are fair and humane to those who live among us,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Conway was repeatedly asked about immigration after both Univision and BuzzFeed reported that Trump sounded like someone who could be open to legalize some of the undocumented immigrants who are already in the country at a meeting with Hispanic leaders on Saturday. “He said people who are here is the toughest part of the immigration debate, that it must be something that respects border security but deals with this in a humane and efficient manner,” said an immigration lawyer who took part in the meeting with Trump’s Hispanic advisory council.

Univision says Trump will be presenting an immigration plan on Thursday “that will include finding a way to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.” Even though Trump never actually uttered the word “legalization” during the Saturday meeting, BuzzFeed claims “sources in the room said they feel it is the direction the campaign is going.”

The Trump campaign immediately disputed that characterizations of the talk, adding that the candidate didn’t say anything at the meeting “that he hasn’t said many times before.” A senior RNC official also disputed the reports, telling Breitbart that Trump “gave zero indication” that he was open to legalization of undocumented immigrants. Conway continued with that line on CNN, emphasizing that what Trump said at the meeting “varied little from what he has said publicly.”

Although he has repeatedly called for deporting the country’s undocumented immigrants, Trump also told Bloomberg in June that he would not say “mass deportations” are part of his immigration plan. “We are going to get rid of a lot of bad dudes who are here,” he said.

This talk of a possible shift in Trump’s immigration plans comes mere days after the candidate released his first national election television ad that focused on the importance of border security. “Terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out, the border secure, our families safe,” the narrator of the ad says.

Aug. 21 2016 10:11 AM

Child Suicide Bomber “Aged 12 to 14” Kills More Than 50 at Turkish Wedding

A blast tore through a wedding celebration late on Saturday in southeastern Turkey, killing at least 51 people and wounding 69 others, 17 of whom are in critical condition. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately blamed ISIS for what was the country’s deadliest bombing this year, saying the suicide attacker was a child aged between 12 and 14. The bombing took place in a narrow street in the city of Gaziantep, located around 25 miles from the Syrian border, where people had gathered to take part in a Kurdish street wedding.

Witnesses spoke of the horrific scene of devastation where just moments earlier there had been jubilation and dancing. “When we went back to see what had happened, everyone was on the floor, and there were body parts scattered everywhere and blood splattered on the walls,” a local man tells the New York Times. Local journalist Naziım Daştan tells the Guardian: “There were so many dead people. There were body parts.” The bride and groom are in the hospital but their condition is not life-threatening.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said the wedding had been for one of its members and “many citizens, including women and children, lost their lives.” By all accounts the death toll could have been significantly higher considering the attack took place after some families had already left.

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Ambulances arrive at the site of an explosion on Aug. 20, 2016 in Gaziantep following a late-night militant attack on a wedding party in southeastern Turkey.

Ahmed Deep/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey has been hit by numerous deadly attacks over the past year, several of which have been blamed on ISIS. In June, a suspected ISIS attack at Istanbul’s main airport killed 44 people while in October, 103 people were killed by dual suicide bombers at a peace rally in Ankara, the country’s capital. In addition to the bombings, Turkey is still reeling from an alleged failed coup last month that left at least 240 people dead, which the government has blamed on U.S.–based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen. He denies the accusation. Erdogan said there is no difference between ISIS, Kurdish separatist rebels, and Gulen’s supporters, characterizing them all as “bloodthirsty organizations.”

If this indeed was the work of ISIS, it comes at a time when the extremist group has lost a lot of ground in northern Syria, and “there will be speculation it was a revenge attack, intended as a show of strength by a group on the defensive,” notes the BBC’s Mark Lowen.

Aug. 20 2016 8:50 PM

Brother of Boy Who Became Face of Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis Dies

The photograph of a bloodied and dazed 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh was the latest haunting reminder this past week of the suffering caused by the five-year civil war in Syria. The image of the confused Omran trying to wipe the blood off his head while caked in dust and seemingly unaware of his injuries after he was rescued from the rubble of a building in Aleppo gained worldwide attention. But on Saturday the story took an even more tragic turn when Omran's older brother, 10-year-old Ali Daqneesh, died from the injuries he sustained in the blast that destroyed their family’s home on Wednesday.

"He was martyred while in hospital as a result of the same bombardment that their house was subjected to," said the spokesman for the local council of Aleppo.

"Omran became the 'global symbol of Aleppo's suffering' but to most people he is just that—a symbol," Kenan Rahmani, a Syrian activist, wrote on Facebook. "Ali is the reality: that no story in Syria has a happy ending."

Ali’s death came a day after UNICEF’s executive director, Anthony Lake, called on the international community to “extend the same empathy to the more than 100,000 children also trapped in the horror that is Aleppo.” Yet “empathy is not enough,” Lake wrote. “Empathy and outrage must be matched by action.”

Aug. 20 2016 7:42 PM

NYT: Trump Companies Are “at Least $650 Million in Debt”

Donald Trump’s companies have taken on much more debt than the candidate has admitted in public records, and some of that money is owed to institutions he has harshly criticized on the campaign trail, according to the New York Times. The paper carried out a detailed analysis of Trump’s real estate holdings in the country and found a network of complex financial arrangements that means his companies have at least $650 million in debt. That is more than double the $315 million in debt that Trump has publicly disclosed. And that debt isn’t just with anybody. According to the paper’s analysis, Trump’s firms have debts with several financial institutions, including ones he has criticized on the campaign trail such as Bank of China and Goldman Sachs.

Even though Trump’s debt is much larger than what he disclosed, that’s not entirely his fault, explains the Times, noting it is “a function of what the form asks candidates to list and how.” His campaign says Trump “overdisclosed” because the law requires candidates to disclose personal, not corporate, debt.

Besides the numbers themselves though, the one thing that the Times analysis makes clear is just how much Trump’s business “remains shrouded in mystery,” a mystery that is unlikely to end soon considering he has refused to publicly release his tax returns. Due to the complex nature of real estate deals, it is often impossible to know just who Trump’s business partners are, “raising the prospect of a president with unknown business ties.” This is more than a bit worrisome considering how, if elected, “Trump would have substantial sway over monetary and tax policy, as well as the power to make appointments that would directly affect his own financial empire.”

In a recent interview, Trump referred to himself as “the king of debt,” words that have been used against him in the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly attacked Trump’s business practices, characterizing them as dangerous for the country. “Just like he shouldn’t have the finger on the button, he shouldn’t have his hands on our economy,” Clinton said in June.

Aug. 20 2016 10:34 AM

“America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio Could Find Himself Behind Bars

All the tough talk in the world may not end up helping Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio get out of his latest legal mess. A federal judge on Friday referred Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio to the U.S. Attorney’s Office requesting that he be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court. Three of his aides are also included in the referral. Arpaio has made a national name for himself by harassing anyone who appears to be Latino and abusing prisoners by forcing them to sleep in tents outside despite intense heat and feeding them bread and water for a week after they allegedly desecrated American flags.

The move came after a judge said Arpaio and his deputies failed to heed court orders from a years-old racial-profiling case and, among other things, continued his immigration patrols months after they were ordered to be stopped. Arpaio and one of his deputies have already been held in civil contempt for essentially lying under oath but criminal contempt could actually lead to incarceration. Of course, there is no guarantee that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will decide to prosecute the two men, but the judge could still order a special prosecutor to pursue the charges.

Arpaio, who has long raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate, is an avowed supporter of Donald Trump and spoke at this year’s Republican National Convention. He is now running for his seventh term, but the recommendation for his prosecution may very well mark the end of his political career. “Generally speaking, it’s difficult to make the case for why you should continue as the county’s top law enforcement official when you soon may be known as Inmate No. 2944814,” notes the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts.

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