07 30 2016
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The Wake of Vanport
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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Teams of first responders descended on the devastated town of West, Texas, early Thursday where a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant left scores of casualties and turned homes to rubble.


The number of dead remained unclear, with police saying it could be between five and 15. More than 160 people were injured and "three to four" firefighters were missing or unaccounted for, officials said.



Firefighters were battling the blaze that precipitated the explosion Wednesday night. And a storm system heading into the area brought helpful rain -- but also heavy winds that might make it much tougher to contain the fire.



It's unknown how many people may be trapped under rubble, authorities said early Thursday. Nails and other debris from destroyed buildings will pose safety risks for investigators as they comb through flattened areas, Waco Police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton said. Also, the Department of Homeland Security said federal and state authorities were taking steps to secure the area by shutting down local rail freight service and nearby utilities and restricting flights over the area.



 



Cause unknown



"Nothing at this point indicates we have had criminal activity, but we are not ruling that out," said Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the nearby Waco Police Department. A U.S. intelligence official told CNN there is no indication so far that the blast is related to terrorism.



Most of the injured were hurt by the blast -- not by inhaling fumes, officials said. Many people had lacerations and puncture wounds.



Anhydrous ammonia, a gas used in making fertilizer, can cause severe burns if it combines with water in the body. Exposure to high concentrations can lead to death.



The West Fertilizer Co. said it had 54,000 pounds of the chemical, The Dallas Morning News reported.



There is no "chemical escape" that is "out of control," Swanton said.



There have been reports of "a small amount of looting," he said.



While Swanton said the death toll could be between five and 15, Dr. George Smith, the city's emergency management system director, said it could spike to 60 or 70.



"We have two EMS personnel that are dead for sure, and there may be three firefighters that are dead," Smith said.



"There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow," Mayor Tommy Muska warned late Wednesday.



About half the community was evacuated, Muska said, including a nursing home with 133 residents. A middle school is also located near the plant.



Depending how the winds shift, the other half of the town may have to be evacuated.



The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has a team of 20 agents and forensic specialists assisting, a law enforcement source told CNN.



 



The Texas National Guard has sent 21 troops from a civil support team to monitor air quality near the blast, the Pentagon announced Thursday.



The White House said it is monitoring the situation through FEMA, which is in touch with state and local authorities. Federal authorities stand ready to help, a FEMA official said.



"A tight-knit community has been shaken, and good, hard-working people have lost their lives," President Obama said in a statement.



Those affected "will have the support of the American people," he said.



The explosion shook homes as far as 50 miles away. It measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the United States Geological Survey.



"It's overwhelming to us," Smith told CNN affiliate KCEN, with blood spattered all over his face from injuries he suffered. The town has only three ambulances, he said.



Between 50 and 60 homes in a five-block area suffered damage, officials said.



 



Blast struck first responders



The incident began with a fire. Some firefighters came to the scene to quell the blaze, and were there minutes later when the explosion happened at the West Fertilizer Co. at about 7:50 p.m. (8:50 p.m. ET).



"It was like a nuclear bomb went off," he said of the blast. "Big old mushroom cloud."



"(It's) massive -- just like Iraq. Just like the Murrah (Federal) Building in Oklahoma City," said D.L. Wilson of the Texas public safety department.



The blast stripped a nearby apartment complex, with 50 units, of its walls and windows. "It was just a skeleton standing up," Wilson said.



The blast sent a massive fireball into the sky. Flames leaped over the roof of a structure and a large plume of smoke rose high into the air.



"The windows came in on me, the roof came in on me, the ceiling came," said George Smith, the city EMS director.



"It, like, picked you up," a woman told CNN affiliate WFAA. "It just took your breath away. And then it dropped you and it exploded everything around you... It was like a suction and then it just blew it all out. You could feel everything. You could feel it on your skin, your hair was being blown. It was crazy."



She managed to cover one of her children, she said, and "grabbed my little one and dove through a door. It was chaos. All my windows blew out, my doors off the hinges. All I had were my keys in my hand and I just threw the dog, everybody in the car and we took off."



Brad Smith lives 50 miles away and felt his house shake.



"We didn't know exactly what it was," he said. "The forecast said a line of thunderstorms was going to come though. My wife and I looked up and wondered, 'Did it get here six hours early?'"



 



Five hours after the blast, carloads of the wounded continued to stream into hospitals.



While some of the injuries are minor, others were "quite serious," said Glenn Robinson, chief of Hillcrest Hospital in Waco.



Hillcrest reported five patients in intensive care -- two in critical condition, three in serious condition. At least 28 patients will be admitted, said hospital chief Glenn Robinson.



 



Shelter needed



The storm system working its way through the area -- which includings ilghtning and hail -- could cause problems not only for firefighters, but also for those left homeless.



Overnight lows will be just above freezing, said CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado.



And the danger may not be over.



Even though officials have turned off all the gas at the plant, they worry another tank at the facility might explode.



"What we are hearing is that there is one fertilizer tank that is still intact at the plant, and there are evacuations in place to make sure everyone gets away from the area safely in case of another explosion," said Ben Stratmann, a spokesman for Texas State Sen. Brian Birdwell.



West is about 75 miles south of Dallas and 120 miles north of Austin. The town's chamber of commerce touts it as "the Czech point of central Texas."



Czech immigrants arrived in the town in the 1880s, and the community still maintains strong ties to their central European roots, with businesses named "Little Czech Bakery" and "The Czech Inn."



 



The scene



Early Thursday morning, state troopers in gas masks manned roadblocks, waving away cars coming off the highway.



The Federal Aviation Administration instituted a flight restriction over the town.



Authorities closed schools for the rest of the week, and urged everyone to stay away from school property.



So many firefighters and medics descended on the town to help its all-volunteer force that the public safety department pleaded that no more assistance was needed.



"The firefighters and EMS people are coming from hundreds of miles away to help us," Wilson said. "Right now, we are overflowing with help. "



 



Worst-case scenario



In 2006, West Fertilizer had a complaint filed against it for a lingering smell of ammonia, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website shows.



Separately, the plant had informed the Environmental Protection Agency that it presented no risk of fire or explosion, according to The Dallas Morning News. It did so in an emergency planning report required of facilities that use toxic or hazardous chemicals.



The plant's report to the EPA said even a worst-case scenario wouldn't be that dire: there would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that wouldn't kill or injure anyone, the newspaper reported.



But what happened Wednesday night was much worse.



Tommy Alford, who works in a convenience store about three miles from the plant, said several volunteer firefighters were at the store when they spotted smoke.



Alford said the firefighters headed toward the scene and then between five and 10 minutes later, he heard a huge explosion.



"It was massive; it was intense," Alford said.



 



CNN's Pam Benson, Chandler Friedman, Carma Hassan, Ed Payne, Greg Botelho, Amanda Watts, Jake Carpenter, Tina Burnside, Dave Alsup, Tanika Gray, Darrell Calhoun, Ryan Rios, Alta Spells, Travis Sattiewhite and Christabelle Fombu contributed to this report.

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