Trump ousts Steve Bannon: influential, divisive strategist

WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, the blunt-spoken and divisive strategist who rose from Donald Trump's conservative campaign to a top White House post, was pushed out by the president Friday, capping a turbulent seven months marked by the departure of much of Trump's original senior staff.

The former leader of conservative Breitbart News and a favorite in the farther-right portions of the Republican Party, Bannon has pushed Trump to follow through on some of his most contentious campaign promises including his travel ban for some foreigners and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

Barely more than a half-year in, Trump now has forced out his hardline national security adviser, his chief of staff, his press secretary (whose last day will be Aug. 31) and two communications directors — in addition to the FBI director he inherited from Barack Obama.

Bannon's departure is especially significant since he was viewed by many as Trump's connection to his base of most-committed voters and the protector of the disruptive, conservative agenda that propelled the celebrity businessman to the White House.

"It's a tough pill to swallow if Steve is gone because you have a Republican West Wing that's filled with generals and Democrats," said former campaign strategist Sam Nunberg, shortly before the news of Bannon's departure broke. "It would feel like the twilight zone."

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Soothing the nation? Trump struggles like no other president

WASHINGTON (AP) — For Susan Bro, mother of the woman killed at a rally organized by white supremacists, the president of the United States can offer no healing words.

She says the White House repeatedly tried to reach out to her on Wednesday, the day of Heather Heyer's funeral. But she's since watched President Donald Trump lay blame for the Charlottesville violence on "both sides."

"You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying 'I'm sorry,'" she said in a television interview on Friday.

In moments like this, of national crisis or tragedy, presidents typically shed their political skin, at least briefly. They use the broad appeal of the presidency to unite and soothe, urging citizens to remember their humanity, their common bonds as Americans.

George W. Bush famously climbed atop a pile of rubble in New York City to speak through a bullhorn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Barack Obama sang "Amazing Grace" during the eulogy for a black pastor killed in a racially motivated shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Spanish plan for carnage started with botched explosion

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A cell of at least nine extremists meticulously plotted to combine vehicles and explosives in a direct hit on tourists, and managed to carry off most of their deadly plan, killing 14 people, authorities said Friday. Police in Spain and France pressed a manhunt for any remaining members of the group, which Islamic State claimed as its own.

Only flawed bomb construction avoided a more devastating attack, authorities said after taking a closer look at a blast Wednesday evening in the town of Alcanar that was first written off as a household gas explosion. At least one person was killed and several injured in the home where police said the deadly plan took shape.

Eighteen hours later, a rented van veered into Barcelona's crowded Las Ramblas promenade, swerving along the walkway Thursday and killing 13 people. Armed with an ax, knives and false explosives belts, attackers drove a second vehicle to the boardwalk in the resort town of Cambrils early Friday, fatally injuring one person. Five of those attackers were shot to death, among them 17-year-old Moussa Oukabir, according to a Spanish police union official, confirming Spanish news reports.

Oukabir's name was first on a document listing four suspects sought in the attacks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. The Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper, Spanish national broadcaster RTVE and other outlets cited police sources as saying he was the driver of the van in Barcelona.

The arrest order was issued throughout Spain and into France, according to the Spanish official and a French police official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the document. They did not say what became of the other three men listed, who ranged in age from 18 to 24. All had roots in Morocco; only Moussa Oukabir was born in Spain, according to the document.

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Barcelona's victims include US man celebrating anniversary

PARIS (AP) — The dead and injured in Barcelona were a snapshot of the world — men, women and children from nearly three dozen nations — testifying to the huge global appeal of the sun-kissed city.

Families, friends and government officials from Paris to Sydney, San Francisco to Berlin scrambled Friday to discover whether their loved ones and citizens were among those mowed down by suspected Islamic extremists who zig-zagged down Barcelona's always crowded Las Ramblas promenade in a van, killing 13 people and injuring 120 others.

A related attack early Friday morning in the popular Spanish seaside town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona, took the death toll to 14. Here is a look at some of the victims:

Jared Tucker, 42, USA

Jared Tucker has been confirmed as among those killed in a deadly truck attack in Barcelona, Spain, his father said Friday.

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Family: California man celebrating marriage killed in Spain

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California man who was spending his first wedding anniversary overseas was among those killed in a deadly truck attack in Barcelona, Spain, his family said Friday.

Jared Tucker's sister, Tina Luke, told The Associated Press that Tucker, 42, and his wife, Heidi Nunes-Tucker, 40, were celebrating their honeymoon in Barcelona after saving up for the trip. She said they married a year ago.

"We just got the text — Jared's body was identified at the morgue by his wife," his father, Daniel Tucker, told the Daily News of New York. "It's just something we really just don't understand. I don't know what else to say."

Nunes-Tucker told NBC News that they were having drinks at a patio when her husband said he was going to the bathroom.

"Next thing I know, there's screaming, yelling," she said. "I got pushed inside the souvenir kiosk and stayed there hiding while everybody kept running by screaming."

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Trump studying options for new approach to Afghan war

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is "studying and considering his options" for a new approach to Afghanistan and the broader South Asia region, the White House said Friday after the president huddled with his top national security aides at Camp David.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement saying Trump had been briefed extensively on a new strategy to "protect America's interests" in the region. She did not specifically mention Afghanistan.

"The president is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time," she said.

The administration has struggled for months to formulate a new approach to the war. But stepping up the fight in a way that advances peace prospects may be even more difficult, in part because the Taliban has been gaining ground and shown no interest in peace negotiations.

Trump met at the presidential retreat in nearby Maryland with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, top intelligence agency officials and other top military and diplomatic aides. Mattis said earlier this week the administration was "very close" to finalizing a new approach.

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Finnish police shoot man who stabs 8 people in Turku; 2 dead

HELSINKI (AP) — A man stabbed eight people Friday in Finland's western city of Turku, killing two of them, before police shot him in the thigh and detained him, police said. Authorities were looking for more potential suspects in the attack.

A suspect — who police said was "a youngish man with a foreign background" — was being treated in the city's main hospital but was in police custody. Security was being stepped up across the Nordic country, Interior Minister Paula Risikko told reporters at a news conference.

The man's identity and nationality were being investigated. Police said he is likely to have acted alone though it was not possible to completely rule out that other people were involved.

Police did not give any information on the two people killed or the conditions of those wounded in downtown Turku, 170 kilometers (106 miles) west of Helsinki, the capital.

Finland's top police chief, Seppo Kolehmainen, said it was too early to link the attack to international terrorism.

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Trump won places drowning in despair. Can he save them?

ABERDEEN, Wash. (AP) — One-hundred-fifty baskets of pink petunias hang from the light posts all over this city, watered regularly by residents trying to make their community feel alive again. A local artist spends his afternoons high in a bucket truck, painting a block-long mural of a little girl blowing bubbles, each circle the scene of an imagined, hopeful future.

But in the present, vacant buildings dominate blocks. A van, stuffed so full of blankets and boxes they are spilling from the windows, pulls to the curb outside Stacie Blodgett's antiques shop.

"Look inside of it," she says. "I bet you he's living in it."

Around the corner, a crowded tent city of the desperate and addicted has taken over the riverbank, makeshift memorials to too many dead too young jutting up intermittently from the mud.

America, when viewed through the bars on Blodgett's windows, looks a lot less great than it used to be. So she answered Donald Trump's call to the country's forgotten corners. Thousands of her neighbors did, too, and her county, once among the most reliably Democratic in the nation, swung Republican in a presidential election for the first time in 90 years.

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Dems risk culture war fight in Charlottesville response

ATLANTA (AP) — President Donald Trump's widely criticized response to white supremacist violence in Virginia has left Democrats in a quandary: how to seize the moral high ground without getting sucked into a politically perilous culture war.

Democrats have denounced Trump for blaming "both sides" for deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, and, more recently, for defending Confederate monuments.

But the party faces a complex task: While addressing race and history in ways that reflect the party's values, Democrats risk getting sidetracked from issues like jobs and the economy that resonate with voters ahead of the 2018 midterm election.

The party has been looking to answer Trump's populism by crafting its own middle-class brand, yet Democratic leaders across multiple states now are pushing to take down Old South monuments like the one that ostensibly sparked the events in Charlottesville, and a trio of rank-and-file House Democrats wants to pursue a congressional censure of the president.

In interviews this week before his resignation was announced Friday, White House strategist Steve Bannon gleefully suggested Democrats are falling into a trap.

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Taylor Swift left 'a blank space, baby' on social media

NEW YORK (AP) — Taylor Swift had a "blank space, baby" across social media Friday — and Swifties went wild.

There was no immediate word from the Swift camp on what happened, but the "Blank Space" pop star is known for promotional trickery on her social streams ahead of major music drops.

In addition to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, her website went dark and the hashtag "TS6IsComing" — as in her sixth studio album — trended worldwide. Her profile pictures were also removed.

All of this comes days after federal jurors in Denver found a former radio host, David Mueller, assaulted and battered Swift during a meet-and-greet in 2013. And all of this also comes as the three-year anniversary of "1989," her last studio album, approaches in October.

Perhaps more significantly: Aug. 18 is three years on the nose that Swift dropped "Shake It Off" and announced "1989" was on the way back in 2014.

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