07 30 2016
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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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Eric Holder shakes hands with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant in Florrissant, Mo.


PHOTO: In this Aug. 20, 2014 file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant in Florrissant, Mo. The Justice Department plans to open a wide-ranging investigation into the practices of the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department following the shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb, a person briefed on the matter said Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File-Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Moments after making fresh demands that Attorney General Eric Holder open federal investigations into police shootings of unarmed black men, a cluster of civil rights activists learned, courtesy of whispers and a shared e-tablet, that the nation's first black attorney general was stepping down.

Civil rights leaders, liberal activists and black lawmakers are now left wondering what effect Holder's impending departure will have on the high-profile efforts begun on his watch. "There's a lot for us to calculate," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who was meeting with black leaders in Washington.

Holder has been applauded by civil rights and equal rights activists as the most effective attorney general ever for their causes.

"There has been no greater ally in the fight for justice, civil rights, equal rights, and voting rights than Attorney General Holder," declared Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and a former NAACP national chairwoman.

But the first black attorney general could be leaving several things undone as he transitions out:

— Possible federal charges in the deaths of black men including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

— The November monitoring of congressional and statewide elections that will take place after the Supreme Court threw out a major protection in the Voting Rights Act.

— And projects he personally promoted such as the reduction of racial profiling in federal investigations, changes in how federal prosecutors negotiate sentencing, changes in the death penalty system and efforts to reduce tensions between local police departments and minority communities.

"At this critical time for America, we can't afford to lose momentum on civil rights," said Leslie Proll, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Washington Office

For his part, Holder told the Congressional Black Caucus during its legislative conference on Friday that he plans to keep on pushing voting rights and civil rights protections while still in office. He has agreed to stay on until the Senate confirms his replacement, and President Barack Obama has yet to name that person.

"In the meantime, there remains a great deal to be done," said Holder, who got a standing ovation from the crowd as he entered the room. "I have no intention of letting up or slowing down."

Despite Holder having informed the White House around Labor Day of his impending departure, black lawmakers and civil rights activists in Washington were shocked to find out about his resignation Thursday.

At the National Press Club — only a few blocks from the Justice Department — Sharpton, National Urban League president Marc Morial and representatives of other groups had joined with Brown's parents to call for federal charges to brought against the white police officer that fatally shot him. Morial, Sharpton and others could be seen whispering to each other and reading the breaking news from an electronic tablet before Sharpton told the crowd.

On the other side of town, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi broke the news to the Congressional Black Caucus during one of its legislative conference sessions, just moments after Holder's work had been praised. Gasps could be heard in the crowd. "What?" one person said into a microphone.

Sharpton and others hope that Obama consults with the civil rights community before picking Holder's replacement, and Sharpton is pushing Holder to at least make an announcement on Ferguson before he leaves office. Advocates for Brown's family want the Justice Department to take over the criminal investigation of Brown's shooting death at the hands of Ferguson officer Darren Wilson and consider federal charges.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has yet to say whether it will file federal civil rights charges in the Trayvon Martin case against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who said he killed Martin in self-defense in February 2012 and was acquitted in a state trial.

In addition, the department will be monitoring its first elections in decades that will not have the protections of the most powerful provision of the Voting Rights Act — that all or parts of 15 states with a history of discrimination in voting, mainly in the South, get Washington's approval before changing the way they hold elections. The Supreme Court threw out that part of the act last year.

"We cannot let those who try to suppress our voices win," said Rep. Marcia Fudge, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus on Friday.

Not everyone in the rights community gives Holder glowing reviews on other matters.

"We've had profound disagreements with the attorney general on national security issues," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, pointing to Justice-authorized mass surveillance, drone use and leak prosecutions.

And not everyone in the minority community is upset at Holder's impending departure.

"Holder managed to set back race relations, showed disrespect for the rule of law and undermined basic constitutional principles," said Horace Cooper, co-chair of the black conservatives leadership group Project 21. "Hopefully, his replacement will understand the difference between being the chief legal advisor for the implementation of a partisan agenda and being the chief law enforcement officer of the United States."

But others are convinced — and pleased — that the people Holder brought into the Justice Department will continue Holder's efforts.

"We are confident that the DOJ will be thorough and will continue to do its job," said John Gaskin III, member of the NAACP national board of directors and spokesman for the St. Louis County NAACP, which has been monitoring events in Ferguson. "We are confident that he's brought the right people to the Justice Department, (people) that are competent to do the job."

___

Associated Press reporters Jim Salter in St. Louis and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this story.

___

Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland

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