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El Paso attack becomes America's 250th mass shooting this year

El Paso attack becomes America's 250th mass shooting this yearTwo gun attacks in the space of 24 hours have taken the number of mass shootings in America to 250 this year.Shortly after an armoured gunman opened fire near a bar in downtown Dayton, Ohio, adding at least nine more names to the list of dead, the mayor of that city wondered why.In a press conference on Sunday morning, Nan Whaley questioned why her city had to be the latest face of mass murder in a country that has seen an epidemic of gun violence that experts say has only gotten worse in recent decades. She was the second mayor to confront the question in 13 hours, after a gunman in El Paso, Texas, had opened fire at a shopping centre and killed at least 20 people Saturday. But she was far from the second mayor to confront the question this year.“Why does Dayton have to be the 250th mass shooting in America?” Ms Whaley asked, apparently referencing a tally compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, which actually pegs her city's tragedy as the 251st mass shooting. “El Paso was 249 , Dayton is 250 this year.”In interviews, experts on gun violence told The Independent that the violence over the weekend in Ohio and Texas underscores the rate of these tragedies in a country that clings to the Second Amendment as one of the pre-eminent definitions of freedom.And, whether Dayton qualifies as the 250th mass shooting of the year — different definitions are employed by various groups — they said that the shootings have only got worse in recent decades, and that the violence has been exacerbated in part by the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump.“At the end of the day the president of the United States, whoever it is, one of his primary roles is to keep this country safe,” said David Chipman, a former Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent and senior policy advisor for the advocacy group Giffords. “The guy’s golfing. People are on vacation. This is a clear and present danger.”Mr Chipman likened the continual violence he sees with firearms in the United States to other major tragedies that spurred massive changes, and noted that tragedies like the 9/11 terror attacks — which brought about a massive restructuring in American government — show that change can happen.But, one major difference he sees is lack of willingness for leaders on the right to address the issues, even if just with their voices.So, he said, it’s less than surprising that, after years of Mr Trump describing immigrants and people of colour as criminals, that a gunman who allegedly wrote an anti-immigrant manifesto would walk into a Walmart near the US-Mexico border in El Paso, and begin shooting people.“It’s a failure of leadership and courage. We are under attack,” he said. “And that attack, unfortunately, is coming from within.”Josh Sugarmann, the director of the Violence Policy Centre, said that the US has seen an increase in the number of shootings since the 1980s, and agreed that the president’s rhetoric has pulled the curtain back on dangerous currents of anger in the country.But, he also noted that the majority of mass shootings that receive national attention are all carried out using similar firearms.In El Paso, in Dayton, in Parkland, Florida last year, and in Las Vegas before that — all of the shootings appear to have been carried out with assault-style weapons, which are semi-automatic versions of the kinds of weapons soldiers take into the battlefield.“The common bloody thread that runs through them is a semi-automatic firearm able to accept a high-capacity magazine, and more often than not that firearm is a military-bred assault weapon,” Mr Sugarmann said.He continued: “Today’s gun industry is a militarized industry. They’re taking weapons designed for the military — full auto rifles — and selling versions of them.”



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California city votes to ban gendered words as 'manhole' becomes 'maintenance hole'

California city votes to ban gendered words as 'manhole' becomes 'maintenance hole'Legislators in Berkeley, California, voted Tuesday to ban some gender-specific words in its city code and replace them with gender-neutral options.



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Donald Trump aide Kellyanne Conway becomes latest to defy congressional subpoena

Donald Trump aide Kellyanne Conway becomes latest to defy congressional subpoenaWhite House counselor Kellyanne Conway will ignore a subpoena demanding she answer questions about whether she broke the law, Trump aides said Monday.



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Race becomes new flashpoint with Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez

Race becomes new flashpoint with Pelosi, Ocasio-CortezThe debate between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other House Democrats over migrant children in detention at the border was wrenching enough. First, the freshman’s chief of staff compared more centrist Democrats to 1940s segregationists. Then Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “singling out” her and fellow newcomers, all women of color.



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Swalwell becomes first major Democrat to drop out of 2020 race

Swalwell becomes first major Democrat to drop out of 2020 raceRep. Eric Swalwell officially ended his presidential bid on Monday after failing to gain traction in a crowded Democratic primary.



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Trump Becomes First Sitting American President to Step Into North Korea—a Win for Kim Jong Un

Trump Becomes First Sitting American President to Step Into North Korea—a Win for Kim Jong UnKevin Lamarque/ReutersSEOUL—Kim Jong Un would have to be declared the easy winner Sunday from his third meeting with President Donald Trump, this one in the dramatic setting of the heavily fortified demilitarized zone that is the border between North and South Korea.In an atmosphere of mounting excitement, Trump clapped Kim on the shoulder as they shook hands exactly on the North-South line. The greetings exchanged between them seemed portentous, laden with hope that this time, perhaps, the yearning for reconciliation would survive the usual recriminations and intimidation.“Nobody had expected this moment,” said Trump. “It’s significant,” said Kim, talking in Korean, an interpreter at his side. “We want to bring an end to this unpleasant past and create a new future.”It was not just that Trump met Kim in the truce village of Panmunjom, or for a few seconds stepped across the line into North Korea, then made his way with Kim through besieging cameramen and security people on the southern side to Freedom House for a extended meeting with the North Korean leader. If Trump was able to proclaim the gesture “a very historic moment,” it was there behind closed doors that he and Kim got down to serious talking. Clearly, Kim had now recovered from the humiliation of the aborted summit with Trump in Hanoi at the end of February.Making up for the debacle in Hanoi, Kim was able on the basis of his talk with Trump at the DMZ to look forward to new talks in which he is sure to go on demanding the deal he wants with the U.S. Trump came out of that extended conversation with Kim in Freedom House, hidden from the pervasive cameras and mics of the media, saying that he and Kim had “agreed to have teams set up” to return to talks that had simply not been happening since Hanoi.If the two said a word on Sunday, however, about “denuclearization” as promised during their first summit in Singapore in June of last year, Trump was not talking about it. Indeed, there was no mention of U.S. demands for shutting down the North’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon 60 miles north of Pyongyang or for a full accounting of where the North is hiding all those other facilities for making nuclear weapons and missiles. Nor, apparently, was anything said about lesser issues, including return of more remains of those missing in action from the Korean War.It was all “classic Trump, a made-for-television moment designed to showcase Trump's relationship with a brutal dictator, but on closer inspection, a progress-free event,” said Evans Revere, a former senior U.S. diplomat here. “The only way Trump was able to secure a North Korean agreement to resume working-level denuclearization talks was by agreeing to meet Kim personally and by stepping across the military demarcation line into North Korea, an act that gave Kim considerable legitimacy and "face."When or if talks resume, said Revere, “the North Koreans will be as firmly committed to the preservation of their nuclear weapons program as they were in Hanoi, and as determined to wring concessions from a tractable U.S. president as they were in Singapore.” Is a Trump-Kim DMZ Photo-Op in the Works?Nonetheless, by his own account of what he called “a very productive meeting,” Trump once again “outlined the tremendous prosperity” that would befall North Korea “when this whole thing gets settled.” In other words, if Kim would just get rid of his nukes or missiles, he could be sure of massive rewards for an economy hobbled by sanctions imposed after missile-and-nuclear tests last staged in 2017. The hope is the economic bait will outweigh the perceived need for a nuclear program. “Kim will face increasing domestic expectations for economic growth,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Woman’s University here, “but benefiting from international trade will require denuclearization and rule of law. “If Kim managed to make up from the tremendous loss of face inflicted by Trump’s walkout from his summit in Hanoi, Trump was also clearly a winner as well. A day after the president had tweeted the idea of seeing Kim while in Korea to meeting Moon, the burst of publicity surrounding the whole occasion enabled him yet again to lay claim to have come up with the solution to North Korea.“When I came into office, it was a fiery mess,” he said at least twice. “Nothing was happening. In two and a half years we have had peace.” In fact, he declared, standing beside South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in before they flew up to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas for the meeting with Kim, if Barack Obama had still been president, “we would have been at war with North Korea.”The fact that Trump, during his first year as president, had threatened the North with “fire and fury” and referred to Kim as “little rocket man” was all forgotten in the sense of triumph surrounding the occasion.Moon appeared overjoyed by Trump’s seemingly spontaneous decision the day before to suggest a meeting with Kim, but he was the odd man out in the interplay between Trump and Kim. Left outside as Trump and Kim talked privately in Freedom House, he could still take credit for having opened up dialog with North Korea with their first summit in the same setting of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone about 40 miles north of Seoul.Moon was full of praise for Trump as they announced that the meeting with Kim was on after their own summit in the Blue House, the South Korean presidential complex. “I hope President Trump will be able to go down in history as the president who has achieved peace on the Korean peninsula,” he said. No way, he made clear, did dialog with the North compromise the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea.Rather, said Moon, “today our leaders have agreed to further expand the Korea-U.S. alliance.”  Together the new policies of the U.S. and Korea “can achieve common ground,” he maintained. “President Trump and I will not forget the history and spirit of our alliance. President Trump is the maker of peace on the Korean peninsula. We would hope for a milestone in the history of our alliance.”For Trump, the meeting with Kim all rested on the personal chemistry, the bond formed between them at the Singapore summit. “We have developed a very good relationship. He understands me, and maybe I understand him.”Trump was at pains, before and after seeing Kim, to defend the record of his previous two summits even though North Korea has done nothing to get rid of its nuclear program—and is assumed to have added several warheads to the 60 or so that it’s believed to have fabricated so far.“We’ve made tremendous strides,” he said. “Only the fake news says we haven’t.”Standing with an American army officer at an observation post looming south of the North-South line, he said “you have 35 million people within range of their weapons.” He did not say, of course, that hundreds of North Korean artillery pieces remain in place behind the hills above the DMZ—not a topic of consideration in demands for the North to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction including, biological, chemical and nuclear.The overriding sense was that the meeting, an extended photo-op, might be seen as representing the aspiration for a lasting deal with North Korea—but with no clue as to how to bring it about. Kim was really the winner here having photo evidence to flash around that he is a distinguished world leader,” said Stephen Tharp, retired U.S. army officer who spent much time during his career for meetings at Panmunjom. “It was easy for Kim to accept this mini-summit since there wouldn’t be any expectations for substantive discussions and hence no chance to fail in a meeting.”“It is very symbolic,” said Joseph Yun, the former U.S. envoy to North Korea, on duty as a commentator for CNN. “At a minimum the meeting has to kick off a major process, and if it doesn’t, I will be very disappointed.”Yun’s successor, Stephen Biegun, was on hand, standing behind Trump as he talked of Kim agreeing to setting up “new teams” to discuss a real deal. Biegun’s top priority will be to get working-level talks going—a process that may or may not lead to agreement.Whatever happens, for Trump the meeting was a moment of glory, a success that he’s sure to claim even if the North never comes to terms on denuclearization. “That was very quick notice, and I want to thank you,” he told Kim right away after shaking hands. “We met and liked each other from day one.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Nuclear talks to resume as Donald Trump becomes first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea

Nuclear talks to resume as Donald Trump becomes first sitting US president to set foot in North KoreaWashington resumed nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang on Sunday after Donald Trump, the US president, made history by becoming the first sitting US leader to step into North Korea, greeting the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, with a warm handshake after months of stalled negotiations. The historic moment had been initiated by a spur-of-the-moment tweet by Mr Trump on Saturday, when the US president invited Kim to come to the highly fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea to “shake his hand and say hello.” In a dramatic made-for-TV-moment, Kim took up Mr Trump’s offer and shot down to the border zone – a 2.5-mile-wide slab of land which has been described as one of the world’s most dangerous places – to meet him shortly before 4pm. “Good to see you again. I never expected to see you in this place,” Kim said as he greeted Mr Trump in an encounter that was beamed live around the world. The US president then took an unprecedented step across the concrete slab that marks the border’s “military demarcation line” (MDL) and walked resolutely, shoulder to shoulder with Kim, several metres inside the North. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Credit: AP Moments later, they accompanied each other to the southern side and joined Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, marking another first in a three-way gathering. “A lot of really positive things are happening,” Mr Trump told a scrum of waiting reporters. “We met and liked each other from day one and that was very important.” The chaotic scene of reporters and secret service bumping into each other highlighted how little planning had gone into the hastily arranged encounter. But the two leaders were oblivious to the confusion as they exchanged invitations to visit each others' capitals. The president was heard extending an invitation for Kim to visit the White House before the two leaders retired to a closed-door private meeting for nearly an hour.  Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the South and North Korea Credit: Getty Kim reciprocated the invite to Mr Trump to visit his capital, Pyongyang, and the two leaders agreed to carry out the trips “at the right time.” Speaking to the press after their impromptu summit, Mr Trump described their meeting as a “very good one, very strong, very solid”, revealing that they had agreed to establish teams to try to overcome the impasse over the dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.  US President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un  Credit: Getty “We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive good deal,” said Mr Trump, although he stressed that speed was not the object. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, later indicated that a fresh round of talks will likely happen “sometime in July.” Sunday’s brief encounter was the third meeting between the two leaders over the past year.   Mr Trump and Kim have held two previous summits in Singapore and most recently in Vietnam but have been unable to strike a deal in which North Korea renounces its nuclear weapons facilities in exchange for reductions of tough sanctions that have stymied its economy. Pope Francis, making his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square, praised the meeting. “I salute the protagonists, with a prayer that such a significant gesture will be a further step on the road to peace, not only on that peninsula, but for the good of the entire world,” he said. Troops respond as President Donald Trump arrives at Osan Air Base in South Korea Credit: RQUE Source:  However, the meeting, while resetting relations between the two countries, did little to move the dial in terms of nuclear disarmament. Analysts remained divided over the significance of the political theatrics. “[It] may have been symbolically potent, but the result was anti-climactic. If the working-level negotiations do go ahead, the question of why these have started only now, remains. I am sceptical that this will lead to concrete progress,” said Edward Howell, an Oxford University international relations scholar. “Kim is likely to use this as a tool to boost his status domestically,” he said. But John Delury, a professor at South Korea’s Yonsei University, struck an optimistic note. “The idea of the president of the United States of America and the leader of North Korea meeting regularly to work on what is really a complex problem is normal now,” he said. At a glance | The Korean DMZ: the world's last Cold War frontier “Everyone is so fixated on working negotiations on the nuclear deal. Yes, that’s a big part of it but it’s not just about denuclearisation, this is about changing relationships and it does start with political leadership and today keeps moving that process forward.” Even as Mr Trump savoured the meeting, he could not hide his resentment for the media and the foreign policy establishment who he believes have not given him enough credit for working toward curbing Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Mr Trump hit back at the critics saying that tensions had eased for everyday Koreans and Japanese and that it was "insulting" to suggest progress has not been made.



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Long Island man becomes 11th to die on Dominican Republic vacation

Long Island man becomes 11th to die on Dominican Republic vacationA pizzeria owner from Long Island has apparently become the 11th American tourist to die in nearly a year after or during a visit to the Dominican Republic.



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Georgia death row inmate becomes 1,500th person to be executed since US brought back death penalty

Georgia death row inmate becomes 1,500th person to be executed since US brought back death penaltyThe United States has executed the 1,500th person since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to a database keeping track of executions.Marion Wilson Jr was killed by lethal injection at 9.52pm on Thursday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia after the US Supreme Court denied a stay of execution.The state’s Department of Corrections confirmed his death. According to their press release, he was the 73rd person executed in Georgia since 1976, and the 51st put to death by lethal injection.Nationally, lethal injection counts for 1,323 of the 1,500 deaths, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.In 1997, WIlson was convicted along Robert Earl Butts Jr in the March 1996 slaying of 24-year-old Donovan Corey Parks.Prosecutors said Parks, a stranger to the two men, was killed after agreeing to give the two men a ride outside a Walmart in rural Georgia.Butts was sentenced to death as well; his death by lethal injection was fulfilled last year.The state’s Department of Corrections says Wilson was given a final statement and a prayer before the state administered deadly injection of pentobarbital."I ain't never took a life in my life," Wilson said.To his friends and family he added: "I love y'all forever. Death can't stop it. Can't nothing stop it."Outside the prison where Wilson's death was administered, protestors of the death penalty held signs that read "1,500 executions and counting. Abolish the death penalty."Around 2,500 prisoners currently face the death penalty in America. The largest numbers are in California (740), Florida (354), and Texas (228).



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Dominican Republic deaths: Tourist becomes eighth American to mysteriously die at Caribbean holiday destination

Dominican Republic deaths: Tourist becomes eighth American to mysteriously die at Caribbean holiday destinationThe FBI has been called in to help investigate the deaths of eight American tourists in the Dominican Republic.One possible line of inquiry reportedly being looked into is whether bootleg alcohol is to blame for the spate of deaths and illnesses in resorts at the popular Caribbean holiday destination.Some of those who died are reported to have consumed alcohol from the minibar in their hotel room before their deaths – however it is not known whether there is any connection at this stage.Officials in the Dominican Republic have said the deaths over the last year are isolated incidents and that the country is still a safe destination.Leyla Cox, 53, became the eighth American to die on the island after she was found dead in her hotel room at Excellence Resort in Punta Cana on 10 June, just a day after her birthday, her family said.The MRI technician’s son Will Cox said his family did not know the cause of his mother’s death and that her body had not yet been returned to her home in Staten Island, New York.Bride-to-be Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Pennsylvania, was the first tourist to die after drinking from a minibar at Bahia Principe hotel in Punta Cana in June 2018.A month later, David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, died from an apparent heart attack at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana.In April this year, Robert Bell Wallace, 67, from California, reportedly fell ill and died four days later after drinking a whisky at the same Hard Rock Hotel. That same month, John Corcoran, the 60-year-old brother of TV star Barbara Corcoran, who appears on America’s version of Dragons’ Den, died from an apparent heart attack while holidaying on the island.In May, Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, from Pennsylvania, checked into the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville with her husband.She is said to have fallen ill after having a drink from the minibar in their room and died a short while later.Five days later, Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, were found dead in their room in neighbouring Grand Bahia Principe resort.Excess fluid in the lungs was listed among the causes of their deaths in preliminary reports, according to NBC news.The US embassy in the Dominican Republic said the FBI had been called in to carry out toxicology reports, but that the results could take up to 30 days.It said in a statement last week: “These incidents are tragic and we offer our deepest condolences to those personally impacted.“Dominican authorities have asked for FBI assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahia Principe, La Romana, cases and our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days. “We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course.”Francisco Garcia, the country’s tourism minister, called the deaths “isolated incidents” earlier this month and said that the Dominican Republic was a “safe destination”.



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