France Was Warned of 2nd Church Attacker


French officials have identified the second man involved in the Normandy church attack during Mass on Tuesday. Authorities say his photo was distributed to French police on July 22 with a warning that he might be planning an attack. The 19-year-old, Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean, was identified by DNA testing on his corpse. The French anti-terrorism agency, UCLAT, reportedly warned officials that Petitjean "could be ready to participate in an attack on national territory." Petitjean was spotted in Turkey last month, and officials said he appeared to be heading to Syria before he turned around and returned to France. Another 19-year-old, Adel Kermiche, perpetrated the attack with him, in which they held several nuns and priests hostage before ultimately slashing the throat of Father Jacques Hamel, 86, after forcing him to kneel. ISIS released a video on Wednesday that evidently shows the two suspects pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. News broke on Wednesday that Kermiche was freed from jail before the attack despite his recorded attempts to join militants in Syria. He was awaiting trial. An acquaintance who knew Kermiche said he wasn’t surprised to hear about his involvement in the church attack. “He talked about it all the time. He talked about Islam, the things like this he was going to do. He talked about the Quran and Mecca and he told me ‘I’m going to attack a church.’ He said this two months ago on leaving the mosque. On my mother’s life, I didn’t believe him.”


Trump: I Was Being Sarcastic When I Asked Russia to Hack Hillary

Fox News

In an interview on Fox & Friends, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that comments he made on Wednesday calling for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails were meant to be a joke. “Of course I’m being sarcastic,” Trump replied. “But you have 33,000 emails deleted, and the real problem is what was said on those emails from the Democratic National Committee. You take look at what was said on those emails, it’s disgraceful.” Host Brian Kilmeade also asked Trump to account for comments he’s made praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. “When you look at Vladimir Putin, you say he’s a great leader for his country,” Kilmeade said. But Trump cut him off, declaring: “No, I didn’t say that. I said he’s a better leader than Obama.” He added, “I said he’s a better leader than Obama. Because Obama is not a leader. So he’s certainly doing a better job than Obama is. And that’s all.”


Military Formally Probes Syria Airstrike

© Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

The United States is formally investigating a July 19 airstrike on a Syrian village that is widely considered to be the deadliest coalition strike on civilians since the U.S. began operations in the country. Army Col. Christopher Garver, chief spokesman for the military command in Baghdad, said claims that upwards of 74 civilians were killed when they were mistaken for Islamic State militants in the ISIS-controlled village of Tokkhar were serious and “credible” enough to require a formal investigation. The death toll is heavily disputed. Some activists say the number of those killed in the strike could be as high as 203.

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N. Korea: U.S. Has Declared War

© KCNA KCNA / Reuters

A top North Korean diplomat said on Thursday that the U.S. has “crossed the red line” and declared war against the country by placing the country’s leader Kim Jong Un on a list of sanctioned individuals in connection with alleged human rights abuses in the authoritarian state. Han Song Ryol, the top diplomat in charge of U.S. affairs at the North’s Foreign Ministry, said, “The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].” He added, “The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown. We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war.” North Korea, as a nation, has been sanctioned several times for its nuclear weapons, but Kim Jong Un had not been personally sanctioned before the U.S. announced this new measure on July 6.


Pope Francis Falls in Poland

© Stringer . / Reuters

Pope Francis reportedly fell on Thursday in front of thousands of people during Mass at the Jasna Gora shrine in Czestochowa, Poland. He wasn’t injured, and he was able to finish the event after he was helped to his feet by Vatican Master of Ceremonies, Guido Marini, according to reports. The 79-year-old tumbled near a set of steps that led to the altar. It was displayed live on television to an audience of millions. Emergency vehicles were allegedly on standby for the event, after a Catholic priest in France was killed by Islamic State militants earlier this week.

6. Denial

Putin Calls Athlete Ban ‘Discrimination’

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

At a Kremlin ceremony to send off Olympic athletes on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out over a ban on Russia’s track and field athletes. “We can’t accept indiscriminate disqualification of our athletes with an absolutely clean doping history,” Putin said, in reference to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s allegations that Russia’s Olympic athletes were part of a state-sponsored doping scheme. “We cannot and will not accept what in fact is pure discrimination,” he said. All of Russia’s track and field athletes, with the exception of one, have been banned from taking part in the Rio Games next month, and Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has been blocked by the International Olympic Committee from attending the games over allegations that he personally oversaw the widespread doping of athletes. While sending off those athletes who have been allowed to participate—fencers, triathletes, and table tennis players—Putin described the ban as part of a conspiracy to make Russia look bad on the world stage. “The situation went beyond the legal field as well as common sense,” Putin said. “It’s a well-planned campaign which targeted our athletes, which included double-standards and the concept of collective punishment which has nothing to do with justice or even basic legal norms.”


Obama to DNC on Trump: Don’t Boo, Vote

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

President Obama denounced Donald Trump while calling on Americans to vote for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night. “There has never been a man or a woman—not me, not Bill, nobody—more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States,” Obama told the Democratic National Convention audience. Obama touted Donald Trump as a unique threat to American democracy, telling the audience “don’t boo, vote,” when the Republican nominee was mentioned. Obama praised Bernie Sanders supporters’ unified efforts, while describing Trump as a divider. “Ronald Reagan called America ‘a shining city on a hill,’” Obama said. “Donald Trump calls it ‘a divided crime scene’ that only he can fix.”


Backpacks Banned from French Beaches

Backpacks have been banned from some French beaches, as authorities implement new rules in the wake of recent deadly terror attacks in the country. In particular, large, “non-transparent” bags will be banned from beaches in Cannes. Any bag that could conceal “weapons or explosive substances” will not be permitted, and security has been tightened in other public spaces. Officials said armed police and soldiers will be patrolling beaches, festivals, stations, and airports throughout the summer. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told local officials that any events should be canceled “if conditions do not allow for optimal security.”

9. Fighting Words

Bloomberg: Trump’s Campaign Is a Con

Charles Mostoller/Reuters

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg ripped into Donald Trump in his DNC speech Wednesday night, comparing the Republican nominee’s presidential run to a “con” on the American people. “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business? God help us,” Bloomberg said. “I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one.” Dismissing Trump’s supposedly savvy business smarts, he said, “I’ve built a business, and I didn’t start it with a million-dollar check from my father.” The media mogul, who himself considered a run for president in the 2016 campaign, has known Trump for years and even appeared on Trump’s show, The Apprentice. But he has railed against Trump’s campaign and taken issue with his policies and controversial rhetoric. On Wednesday, he gave Hillary Clinton his full support for president, having scrapped his own plans for a presidential run in March over fears it would boost support for Trump. “I am not here as a member of any party. I am here for one reason: to explain why I believe it is imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States,” he said. 


WikiLeaks Releases DNC Voicemails

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WikiLeaks has released what appears to be 50 voicemail recordings from Democratic National Committee members. This latest leak, published on the WikiLeaks website during the third night of the Democratic National Convention, follows a larger leak of DNC emails, which lead to the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz. The leaks have become a national security interest, after U.S. intelligence organizations announced that the hack on DNC servers appears to have been perpetrated by the Russian government.