Man Goes On Stabbing Rampage In Russia, Wounds 7

Police officers stand by the body of a man who was killed after an alleged stabbing attack, in the Siberian city of Surgut, Russia, on Saturday.

Irina Shvets/AP

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Irina Shvets/AP

At least seven people were wounded by a man with a knife who went on a stabbing rampage in the northern Russian city of Surgut.

No one was killed in the attack in the central Siberian city, but four of those hurt were in serious condition, according to state-run Tass news agency, who cited a regional health official.

Islamic State says the man — shot dead by police — was a “soldier” of the extremist group. However, Russian authorities say psychiatric information on the assailant is being sought, suggesting they believe the claim by ISIS may be opportunistic.

A spokesman for Russia’s Investigations Committee tells Reuters that it “is investigating attempted murder.”

Russia’s Interior Ministry said that the assailant has been “tentatively identified” as a resident of the city in his 20s, but he has not named. “The theory that the attack was an act of terrorism is not the main one,” the ministry said.

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President Trump To Skip Kennedy Center Honors, Highlighting Rift With Artists

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will skip the Kennedy Center honors later this year. It will be the fourth time in 40 years of the event, that the sitting president won’t be attendance.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump will skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors this year to allow the “artists to celebrate without any political distraction,” the White House said Saturday.

Three of the five artists set to be honored had either expressed a specific intent to boycott the traditional White House reception before the event, or were said to be considering it.

“First Lady Melania Trump, along with her husband President Donald J. Trump, extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement.

The decision to skip the honors, scheduled for Dec. 3, is a notable one. It will be just the fourth time in the event’s 40 years that a president will miss it.

President Bill Clinton skipped in 1994 because he was headed to Budapest, as the New York Times reports, President George H.W. Bush missed 1989 because of a summit in Malta, and Jimmy Carter skipped in 1979 because of the Iran hostage crisis.

“The President and First Lady have decided not to participate in this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” Sanders said.

In the time since the Kennedy Center announced the award recipients earlier this month, it became clearer and clearer the event would become politically charged.

Legendary television producer Norman Lear, who was a creative force behind the 1970s sitcoms The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and One Day at a Time, was the first to speak out in early August.

“As an artist and a human being, I cannot celebrate this incredible honor … at a White House that has no interest in supporting the Arts and Humanities,” he told NPR’s Elizabeth Blair.

On Twitter, he said “Of course, I’m accepting the honors. What I’m not accepting is the @WhiteHouse reception with @realDonaldTrump.”

This week, two more honorees spoke out.

Dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade posted a statement on her website that said she would not be attending the White House reception “in light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our existing leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for.”

Singer Lionel Richie told Today that he hadn’t yet made a decision about whether he would attend but that he would “play it by ear” as the ceremony got closer.

“I must tell you that I’m not really happy with the controversies. They’re weekly, daily, hourly,” Richie said. “I understand where we are at as a country right now is going backwards but all we can do is sit here and hold our breathes for a while.”

The other two artists being honored are Rapper LL Cool J and singer Gloria Estefan. Both had indicated a willingness to attend events at the White House, although Estefan told The New York Times she planned to use the event to highlight the positive contributions immigrants have made in America.

The Kennedy Center released a statement after President Trump’s announcement, saying the pre-gala White House reception would no longer take place, but that all five artists were expected to attend the rest of the weekend’s events.

A Statement from Chairman David M. Rubenstein & President Deborah F. Rutter Regarding the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors pic.twitter.com/YdkyryF3s7

— The Kennedy Center (@kencen) August 19, 2017

The announcement also unquestionably furthers a growing divide between Trump and the arts community.

In March, Trump became the first president to propose eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as NPR’s Brian Naylor reported at the time.

And on Friday, all 16 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned in protest to the way Trump responded to last weekend’s events in Charlottesville.

“The Administrations refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill,” the committee, which includes prominent artists, authors, architects, and performers, wrote in a letter. “We cannot sit idly by, the way your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.

And in an apparent coded message, the first letter of each paragraph of the letter spelled out the word “resist.”

Dear @realDonaldTrump, attached is our letter of resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities @PCAH_govpic.twitter.com/eQI2HBTgXs

— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 18, 2017

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Boston's 'Free-Speech' Rally Organizers Deny Links To White Nationalists

Counterprotesters assemble at the Statehouse before a planned “Free Speech” rally by conservative organizers begins on the adjacent Boston Common, on Saturday.

Michael Dwyer/AP

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Michael Dwyer/AP

Counter-protesters gathered on the Boston Commons Saturday, preparing to meet a scheduled “Free Speech” rally by conservative activists who say they have no connection to last week’s violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., that drew white nationalists and sparked violent clashes and a deadly vehicle attack.

A speaker who addressed the counter-demonstrators condemned what many see as President Trump’s tepid response to events last week in Charlottesville that led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

“If you don’t condemn it, you condone it,” the speaker said. Demonstrators also chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Our streets.”

Some 500 officers, both uniformed and undercover are deployed to maintain order, according to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, both warned that extremist unrest in the city would not be tolerated.

To all attending tomorrow’s rally on Boston Common, let’s make sure that respectful & responsible behavior rule the day. #RESPECT

— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) August 18, 2017

Speaking with member station WBUR in Boston, an organizer of the self-described free-speech rally insisted that the message from the demonstrators “is one that [is] anti-hate and pro-peace.”

“I think we’ve taken pretty much every precaution, not only with [Boston police], but with the other organizers, to make sure our message is clear, John Medler, of the Boston Free Speech Coalition, said.

However, WBUR reported Friday that a previous “free-speech” rally in Boston in May drew not only more mainstream conservative activists, but also some of the same groups that caused violence in Charlottesville:

“On May 13, a group of veterans, ex-police, Tea Party Republicans and young people affiliated with the self-described ‘alt-right’ — a conservative faction that mixes racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and populism — gathered around the Common’s historic Parkman Bandstand.

“Organizers claimed that they were honoring their First Amendment right to assemble and express radical viewpoints. But the event felt more like a small, right-wing rally than a celebration of the Constitution.”

Police have banned backpacks and signs on sticks. The Boston Globe writes:

“Boston officials said Friday that they will shut down the Saturday event if there are signs of violence.

“‘The courts have made it abundantly clear that they have the right to gather, no matter how repugnant their views are,’ said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. ‘They don’t have the right to create unsafe conditions. . . . They must respect our city.'”

“He urged the public not to confront members of hate groups who show up Saturday and advised residents and tourists to avoid the Common during the rally.”

WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman, reporting from the Commons, tells Weekend Edition Saturday that the site of the Parkman Bandstand, the focus of the rally, is historic because of such speakers as then-candidate Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Frederick Douglass.

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