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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Trump heads for golf club holiday – but summer storms loom

NEW YORK (AP) — Now is the summer (vacation) of the president’s discontent.

As Donald Trump prepares to leave Friday for his annual August holiday at his lush New Jersey golf club, he’s confronting a storm of crises, at home and abroad, that could set the course for his upcoming re-election bid.

With his poll numbers stalled and his ability to rally the country questioned, he’s being tested by an escalating trade war with China that may slow the economy, rising tensions with both Iran and North Korea and, in the aftermath of the latest mass shootings, pressure to act on guns and face accusations of his own role in fostering an environment of hate.

The dark clouds are converging as the president’s bid for a second term takes on new urgency. Trump exudes confidence but as the two dozen Democrats eager to take his job sharpen their attacks, the White House — or, for the next 10 days, the clubhouse in Bedminster, New Jersey — will have to mount a multifront effort rooted in maintaining his base rather than trying to expand it.

“There are often presidents facing reelection who face an onslaught,” said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian at Rice University. “Those are the times when you need to heal the nation’s wounds or make your case for a real change. But Trump long ago decided that he was going to try to be a president who divided and conquered to intimidate friend and foe alike.”

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Guam’s ex-archbishop shielded culture of clergy sex abuse

AGAT, Guam (AP) — Walter Denton wanted to grow up to be just like Father Tony Apuron, until the night he says the parish priest raped him in a church rectory. The pastor sent the sobbing 13-year-old altar boy away with a warning: “If you say anything to anybody, no one will believe you.”

Denton told his mother, but says she accused him of making it up. He told another priest, but that man did nothing and later turned out to be an abuser himself. And Denton watched helplessly as Pope John Paul II named his alleged rapist Archbishop of Agaña, the voice of divine authority in the small, overwhelmingly Catholic U.S. territory of Guam.

For decades, Apuron oversaw a culture of impunity where abusers went unpunished. Long after it erupted into scandal on the mainland, clergy sexual abuse remained a secret on Guam. On this island where four out of five people are Catholic, the abusers held the power.

Now, thousands of pages of court documents reviewed by The Associated Press, along with extensive interviews, tell a story of systemic abuse dating from the 1950s to as recently as 2013. They show a pattern of repeated collusion by predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the very top of the church hierarchy.

The archbishop used his power to stymie a lawmaker’s efforts to allow victims to sue the church, which could have exposed his past. It wasn’t until Denton and other victims spoke out in 2016 that the Vatican finally suspended Apuron, nearly 40 years after Denton first reported his rape. Apuron still denies the allegations.

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Weakened but unbowed, NRA head digs in against gun control

In the aftermath of the back-to-back massacres in Texas and Ohio, the debate over gun control has returned to the National Rifle Association and its immense power to stymie any significant legislation on the issue.

The man largely responsible for the NRA’s uncompromising stance is its decades-long CEO, Wayne LaPierre, who has been engulfed in turmoil and legal issues as he orchestrates the group’s latest effort to push back against gun-control measures.

Law enforcement authorities are investigating the NRA’s finances, and the gun group has ousted top officials and traded lawsuits with the longtime marketing firm credited with helping to shape LaPierre’s and the NRA’s image.

LaPierre’s seven-figure salary, penchant for luxury clothing shopping sprees and reports that he sought to have the NRA buy him a $6 million mansion at an exclusive golf community have drawn considerable scrutiny amid allegations of rampant misspending.

Ardent gun-rights supporters have turned on LaPierre in recent months, taking to Twitter and Facebook with the hashtags #changethenra and #savethe2a. Some are calling for his resignation and questioning how he can turn the tide against the push for more robust gun-control measures after the Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, rampages, given all the scandals.

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Police: Bloody stabbing suspect driven by ‘hate, homicide’

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — A gang member who killed four people and wounded two others in random stabbings across two Southern California cities has a violent past, police said Thursday, and court records show he was free on bail for a charge last month of carrying a concealed dagger.

Zachary Castaneda “could have injured or killed many other people” had he not been arrested Wednesday after two-hours of robberies and vicious knife attacks, Garden Grove police Chief Tom DaRe said Thursday.

A blood-covered Castaneda was taken into custody when he walked out of a convenience store in neighbouring Santa Ana, dropping a knife and gun he had taken from a security guard he had just killed, police said.

Castaneda was kept in restraints as detectives tried to interview him.

“He remained violent with us through the night,” DaRe said. “He never told us why he did this.”

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McConnell wants to consider gun background checks in fall

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shifting the gun violence debate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he now wants to consider background checks and other bills, setting up a potentially pivotal moment when lawmakers return in the fall.

The Republican leader won’t be calling senators back to work early, as some are demanding. But he told a Kentucky radio station that President Donald Trump called him Thursday morning and they talked about several ideas. The president, he said, is “anxious to get an outcome and so am I.”

Stakes are high for all sides, but particularly for Trump and his party. Republicans have long opposed expanding background checks — a bill passed by the Democratic-led House is stalled in the Senate — but they face enormous pressure to do something after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 31 people. McConnell, who is facing protests outside his Louisville home, can shift attention back to Democrats by showing a willingness to engage ahead of the 2020 election.

“What we can’t do is fail to pass something,” McConnell said. “What I want to see here is an outcome.”

McConnell said he and Trump discussed various ideas on the call, including background checks and the so-called “red flag” laws that allow authorities to seize firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.

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Kashmir’s streets silent as people’s despair and rage grow

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Silence cloaks the centre of the city. Its once-teeming streets are blocked with spools of concertina wire. Every road is sealed off. The population has been forced indoors while thousands of Indian soldiers in camouflage are on patrol, carrying guns at their waists.

Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, is under siege.

A watershed moment was reached Monday in the disputed and divided region after the Hindu nationalist-led government in New Delhi revoked its special status and stripped it of its statehood.

Thousands of people have been forced indoors, and all communications and the internet have been cut off.

A collective outpouring of anger threatens to consume the long-troubled region. Still reeling from the shock of India’s surprise move, residents discussed it in hushed tones.

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UN climate report: Change land use to avoid a hungry future

GENEVA (AP) — Human-caused climate change is dramatically degrading the Earth’s land and the way people use the land is making global warming worse, a new United Nations scientific report says. That creates a vicious cycle which is already making food more expensive, scarcer and less nutritious.

“The cycle is accelerating,” said NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, a co-author of the report. “The threat of climate change affecting people’s food on their dinner table is increasing.”

But if people change the way they eat, grow food and manage forests, it could help save the planet from a far warmer future, scientists said.

Earth’s land masses, which are only 30% of the globe, are warming twice as fast as the planet as a whole. While heat-trapping gases are causing problems in the atmosphere, the land has been less talked about as part of climate change. A special report, written by more than 100 scientists and unanimously approved by diplomats from nations around the world Thursday at a meeting in Geneva, proposed possible fixes and made more dire warnings.

“The way we use land is both part of the problem and also part of the solution,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist who co-chairs one of the panel’s working groups. “Sustainable land management can help secure a future that is comfortable.”

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Biden, Bullock take on Trump, guns at Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock opened the Iowa State Fair’s 2020 presidential blitz on Thursday by blistering President Donald Trump and promising to push new gun restrictions.

“I believe everything the president’s said and done encourages white supremacists,” Biden said as Trump continued to take criticism for his handling of back-to-back mass shootings. One of the shooters is believed to have written a racist screed echoing some of Trump’s incendiary language about immigrants.

Bullock said Trump’s rhetoric and behaviour — attacking his critics on the day he travelled to ostensibly console victims’ families in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — are beneath the office he holds.

“The lies and the statements that divide us by race, gender, geography — we expect more out of our preschoolers now than we do the president of the United States,” Bullock said.

Biden and Bullock are the first of more than 20 candidates — nearly all Democrats — who will speak at the Iowa fairgrounds over the coming days. It’s a rite of passage for would-be presidents, and for Democrats it highlights their challenges in a state like Iowa, a presidential battleground that mixes cultural conservatives and farm country, liberal college towns and plenty of swing voters in between.

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Experts push for domestic terrorism law after attacks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seven days, three mass shootings, 34 dead.

The FBI has labeled two of those attacks , at a Texas Walmart and California food festival, as domestic terrorism — acts meant to intimidate or coerce a civilian population and affect government policy. But the bureau hasn’t gone that far with a shooting at an Ohio entertainment district.

Even if there’s a domestic terrorism investigation, no specific domestic terrorism law exists in the federal criminal code. That means the Justice Department must rely on other laws such as hate crimes and weapons offences in cases of politically motivated shootings.

The legal gap has prompted many survivors, victims’ families, law enforcement officials and legal experts to call on lawmakers to create a domestic terrorism law that could aid investigators and punish perpetrators.

“Calling something for what it is is an important first step in combating this problem,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

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Shootings prompt other countries to warn about travel to US

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The United States often takes a leading role in calling out the world’s most dangerous places, warning its people about the risks of travelling to countries that are at war, under terrorist threats, experiencing civil unrest or displaying significant anti-American sentiment.

The latest mass shootings have triggered a sharp role reversal, with three countries warning their citizens about the risks of travelling to the U.S.

Venezuela, Uruguay and Japan issued warnings to varying degrees following the deaths of 31 people over the weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Each warning noted U.S. gun violence, and at least one was laced with a dose of political payback.

Without directly naming President Donald Trump, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro blamed the surge in violence on speeches emanating from Washington that are “impregnated with racial discrimination and hatred against immigrants.” It urges Venezuelans to postpone U.S. trips.

The socialist Maduro is ruling over the worst economic crisis in Venezuelan history amid an escalating political battle with the White House, which backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s bid to oust him.

The Associated Press

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