KECI-TV, 340 West Main Missoula, MT
(CNN) - The great-great grandson of Gen. Robert E. Lee condemned last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and said it might be "appropriate" for Confederate statues to be exhibited in a museum.
"Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that's the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine," Robert E. Lee V, 54, of Washington, D.C., told CNN's Polo Sandoval.
"Maybe it's appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard," he added.
Gen. Robert E. Lee's bronze statue in Charlottesville was at the center of violent clashes last weekend between white supremacists -- who converged on a park once bearing Lee's name to oppose a plan to remove the statue -- and counterprotesters.
One counterprotester, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when James Alex Fields Jr., 20, allegedly rammed his car into a group demonstrating against the "Unite the Right" rally. Fields is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.
The Charlottesville City Council had earlier voted to rechristen two parks named for Confederate generals and remove Lee's statue from the park once known as Lee Park. A few months ago, the park was renamed Emancipation Park.
Lee, who works as an athletic director at a Virginia school, called Saturday's incidents "senseless" and "sad" for his family.
"Those sorts of acts on Saturday, that's just not to be tolerated," he said. "We feel strongly that Gen. Lee would never ever stand for that sort of violence."
In a statement, the Lee family said the life of the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia "was about duty, honor and country."
"At the end of the Civil War, he implored the nation to come together to heal our wounds and to move forward to become a more unified nation," the statement said. "He never would have tolerated the hateful words and violent actions of white supremacists, the KKK, or neo-Nazis."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - In the immediate aftermath of the Charlottesville terror attack, the far-right website GotNews posted what seemed like a huge scoop. The website said it could "exclusively reveal" that the person who had run over a group of demonstrators in a Dodge Charger was not a white nationalist, but instead a critic of President Donald Trump.
The Michigan man GotNews had identified was in fact not the driver. He was not even in Virginia at the time. But within hours he and his family had been forced to flee their home at the advice of local police, who expressed concern for their safety after a slew of death threats rolled in.
The family's flight from their home capped off a feverish attempt by right-wing sleuths to discover the culprit behind the Charlottesville attack and dig into his or her history, seemingly in hopes of proving the person was not of a right-wing political persuasion.
To be sure, GotNews wasn't the first outlet to peddle the false report. There had been similar chatter online on places like 4Chan and Twitter, and other far-right publications also ran with the false story. But GotNews wrote about the man who was wrongly identified, Joel Vangheluwe, and his family, in perhaps the most confident terms of any publication. It retracted that story not long after it was published.
"You want to talk about fake news -- dear lord, some of these folks," Andrew Sommerman, an attorney for the Vangheluwe family, told CNNMoney in an interview this week. Sommerman added that the family intends to pursue legal action against the online publications that peddled the misinformation.
The sleuthing performed by these activists was not very complex. Images from the scene of the deadly attack had captured the vehicle and its license plate number. GotNews said in its story, which carried no byline, that it then ran a license plate search which returned a registration result for Jerome Vangheluwe.
"A Facebook crawl of his relatives reveals the car was in the possession of his son, Joel," the GotNews story said, seemingly in reference to one 2011 post in which Joel had taken a photo of the vehicle and said it would be his when he turned 16.
But GotNews and the other sleuths and publications were wrong. The car was not "in the possession" of Joel. The vehicle did once belong to his father, Jerome, but the family had sold it years ago. Moreover, police later identified the driver as James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old who held extremist white nationalist views.
GotNews soon issued a retraction, said it regretted the error, and apologized to the family. Its founder, Charles Johnson, told CNNMoney in an email his website "merely reported on the existence of the evidence" and suggested he'd be happy to discuss the matter further with the Vangheluwe family attorney. (Johnson later tried to retroactively declare his comments off-the-record, said if they were published he would work to get this reporter "fired from CNN," and warned this reporter not to "make the mistake of making me an enemy.")
Yet, as typically happens, before the facts could catch up in the aftermath of the attack, misinformation ran rampant. Before and after GotNews published its story, people on the right passed around the rumor that Vangheluwe was the driver, declaring the attacker to be a person with a liberal worldview. And an excited Internet mob rummaged through Vangheluwe's Facebook page, sharing his anti-Trump posts.
As all this was going on, Sommerman told CNNMoney, Vangheluwe was at a gathering to "say goodbye" to a relative "not doing so well." While at that gathering, he was inundated with messages on social media. He eventually took to Facebook to respond.
"I'm not the one, i'm from f**king michigan you idiots," he wrote in one Facebook post.
In another, Vangheluwe added, "I drive a 2009 chevy impala, not a challenger, f**k the internet."
It was seemingly too late. Sommerman told CNN the misinformation ricocheting around the internet had prompted a stream of threats directed at Vangheluwe and his family.
"It's been really bad. They've been terribly harassed," Sommerman said. "The family has been devastated."
Sommerman said the family received so many threats that the authorities became involved and that the family eventually left their home at the suggestion of police. Lt. Mike Shaw, a spokesperson for the Michigan State Police, confirmed to CNN that authorities advised the family to temporarily stay elsewhere. Shaw also said police increased patrols in the area.
Now the family plans to take legal action. Sommerman wouldn't provide a list of outlets the family could file suit against, and stressed it would take some time to prepare the complaints, but said he was taking a close look at the websites which ran with the inaccurate report.
"There are consequences to fake news," Sommerman told CNN. "There are consequences to false reporting."
"My message to those outlets is that if your words can cause great harm, and has caused great harm, you must suffer the consequences of the law as a result," he added. "And the law does not tolerate this type of behavior."
BILLINGS, Mont. - A federal appellate panel has reversed a lower court ruling that condemned a group of mining claims in northwest Montana owned by a group of investors including former Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Schweitzer and other investors in Optima, Inc. sought $10 million from the owners of the proposed Montanore gold and silver mine as compensation for having their claims condemned.
But U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen rejected Optima's arguments in 2015. He said its mining claims had no value.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in Wednesday's ruling that Christensen should not have allowed the federal case to proceed while a lawsuit in state court was pending.
Schweitzer's current involvement with Optima is uncertain. He could not be reached immediately for comment.
Montanore owner Hecla Mining is reviewing the ruling, spokesman Luke Russell says.
(CNN) - More than 150 years after the Civil War ended, the Confederacy is memorialized with statues, monuments and historical markers across the United States.
Some say they mark history and honor heritage. Others argue they are racist symbols of America's dark legacy of slavery.
A nationwide debate surrounding this issue has been underway since Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015 in an effort to "start a race war." And it flared up again after white nationalists marched last weekend to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was killed amid violent clashes between demonstrators.
The National Register of Historic Places does not keep a detailed list of Confederate memorials. In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 1,503 Confederate "place names and other symbols in public spaces" across the nation but admitted the study was "far from comprehensive." Some Civil War monuments in the South, such as at battlefields, do not have pro-Confederate symbolism.
Many local government officials are now weighing whether to keep Confederate memorials in their cities and towns. Here's a state-by-state breakdown.
The Charlottesville City Council voted in April to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at the newly renamed Emancipation Park, CNN affiliate WVIR reported. The violence there over the weekend came after this decision. The removal is on hold pending litigation.
A Confederate statue called "Old Joe" was removed Monday in Gainesville, Florida. The statue sat outside the Alachua County Administration Building for more than 100 years. The Alachua County Board of Commissioners made the decision to remove the statue in May after two years of debate. It will be relocated by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
The Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners voted in July to remove the Memoria In Aeterna monument, which honors Confederate soldiers, from a county courthouse. The county commission voted Wednesday that the monument will only be removed if donations can be raised to cover the cost, estimated to be as high as $280,000. The money must be raised by September 16, the commission said.
The board is also expected to relocate the Hillsborough County Civil War Veterans Monument.
Protesters toppled over a Confederate statue Monday in front of the old Durham County Courthouse. The monument depicted a soldier holding a gun and had an engraving that said "in memory of the boys who wore gray." The protest was held in response to the Charlottesville violence.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said he will ask the City Council to approve relocating two Confederate-era monuments from a former courthouse. The mayor announced the decision in a series of tweets after the Charlottesville attack.
"I am taking action to relocate the Confederate statues. We have thoroughly examined the issue, and heard from many of our citizens," Gray said. In another tweet, Gray said he planned to make the announcement next week, but said his decision was affected by the "tragic events" in Charlottesville.
Baltimore removed four Confederate statues overnight on Tuesday, one day after the City Council voted unanimously to take down the monuments immediately, CNN affiliate WBAL reported. Mayor Catherine Pugh defended her decision to remove the monuments "quickly and quietly" overnight, saying it was the best thing for Baltimore.
"The city charter says, according to our city attorney, if the mayor wants to protect or feels like she needs to protect the public or keep her community safe, she has the right to keep her community safe. I felt the best way to remove the monuments was to remove them overnight," Pugh said.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, removed a Confederate monument early Wednesday morning, spokesman Theodore Hovey told CNN. The monument memorialized more than 30 Confederate veterans and their families who are buried in the cemetery. It was erected in 1925.
The Long Beach chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the owners of the monument, asked the cemetery to remove it after it was featured in an August 4 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Hovey said. A CNN request for comment from the United Daughters of the Confederacy was not immediately answered. "It was a mutual decision on the part of the cemetery and the monument's owner that it is best for it to be removed," Hovey said. The graves around the monument were not affected, he said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called for the formation of a task force Tuesday to determine the fate of Confederate statues in city parks during the next 90 days, including the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park and the Confederate War Memorial in downtown Dallas, CNN affiliate KTVT reported. "This is simple. We could remove them, the question is, how do we heal on this issue? To do that we have to talk and listen to one another," Rawlings said.
In San Antonio, two City Council members have pushed for the removal of a Confederate monument at Travis Park, CNN affiliate KSAT reported. Councilmen Roberto Treviño and William "Cruz" Shaw jointly filed a consideration to relocate the monument where it could be used in an "educational context."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked city staff to compile an inventory of Confederate statues and make recommendations about whether they should be removed from city property. Members of the public urged the council to take down the statues. "It is my hope that we can, in a very positive and constructive way, move forward," Turner said.
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche said she asked city officials for an inventory of all Confederate monuments and markers. Brosche said in a statement that she plans to submit legislation to relocate the monuments to museums for "appropriate historical context."
Officials in Richmond, the one-time capital of the Confederacy, have started to hold public meetings for community input on the future of the city's many Civil War monuments and statues. According to local reports, the first meeting was civil, with spirited debate on both sides. The city hopes to have a plan in place later this fall.
The city of Atlanta said it is currently reviewing options for the Peace Monument in Piedmont Park. Mayor Kasim Reed asked the public art commission to review the city's art and determine which pieces have ties to racism and slavery, but hasn't asked to remove any.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell ordered plastic draped over a Confederate monument at Linn Park and a plywood structure built around it while officials decide what to do. State law prohibits a city from taking down the monument, he said, but not covering it up. "This country should in no way tolerate the hatred that the KKK, neo-Nazis, fascists and other hate groups spew," he said. "The God I know doesn't put one race over another."
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said he will sue Bell and the city, citing state law that prohibits the "relocation, removal, alteration, or other disturbance of any monument on public property that has been in place for 40 years or more."
Gov. Doug Ducey told CNN affiliate KTVK that he will not remove any Confederate monuments or memorials and will instead leave that decision up to the public.
"It's not my desire or mission to tear down any monuments or memorials. We have a public process for this. If the public wants to be engaged on this, I'd invite them to get engaged in it," Ducey said.
Officials with Gettysburg National Military Park said they have no plans to remove any of the park's 1,300-plus monuments, markers or plaques.
(CNN) - Public figures in Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere have condemned President Donald Trump's latest remarks on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he laid blame on "both sides" for the deadly violence that erupted.
Such international criticism joined that of many lawmakers and commentators from both sides of the aisle in the United States.
A handful of voices from the far right offered veiled or open support for Trump's remarks -- reflecting his enduring appeal to a range of populist and anti-immigrant groups outside the United States.
But they were far outweighed by those expressing outrage.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas directly criticized Trump in a statement early Wednesday, saying: ''It is unbearable how Trump now also glosses over the violence during the march of the right-wing protests in Charlottesville.
"Nobody should trivialize the anti-Semitism and racism of neo-Nazis. When it comes to right-wing propaganda and violence, there is nothing to relativize.
"All democrats should together take a clear stance against it."
Martin Schulz, leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party, tweeted: "One must denounce Nazis definitively. What Trump is doing is inflammatory. Whoever trivializes violence & hate betrays western values."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: "Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism & Islamophobia are poisoning our societies. We must stand up against them. Every time. Everywhere."
UK PM: 'No equivalence'
When asked Wednesday about Trump's comments, UK Prime Minister Theresa May disputed the idea that the two sides in the Charlottesville violence were equally to blame, a Downing Street spokeswoman told CNN.
"I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them," May said at a naval ceremony in Portsmouth, England.
A number of other British lawmakers were heavily critical of Trump's comments.
Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for communities, posted on Twitter that he'd learned as a child that neo-Nazis were bad and anti-Nazis good. "It was pretty obvious," he said.
Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland, tweeted: "The President of the United States has just turned his face to the world to defend Nazis, fascists and racists. For shame."
Prisons and Probation Minister Sam Gyimah tweeted: "Words matter. Silence matters. We must call out hate -- unambiguously -- to preserve the free & tolerant society many have fought & die for." He later added: "The 'leader of the free world' loses moral authority when he cannot call fascism by its name."
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said his country "condemns outright with no equivocation" the views espoused by white nationalists and the "kind of racism and bigotry that we saw unfortunately on our television screens in the United States in recent days."
'Only one side is evil'
Israeli member of the Knesset Tzipi Livni also slammed Trump's comments equating both sides in the Charlottesville rally.
Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, tweeted Wednesday: "In Nazism, anti-Semitism and racism there are never two equal sides -- only one side is evil. Period."
Israeli politician Tamar Zandberg, a Knesset member from the left-wing Meretz party, similarly condemned Trump's stance.
"The doctrine of extremists on both sides is trying to draw an equivalency in a place where it does not exist. Racism and hatred and opposition to racism and hatred are not two sides of the same coin, and the attempt to draw this symmetry gives legitimacy to dark and evil forces that should not have a place in the public discussion," Zandberg told CNN.
"The stubborn denial of President Trump to denounce neo-Nazis and racists and his flattery of organizations that promote these frightening and unacceptable worldviews ... raise serious questions regarding the motivation and the moral consciousness of he who is supposed to be the leader of the free world and the protector of democracy."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only commented after Trump condemned racism and neo-Nazis in remarks on Monday, tweeting Tuesday: "Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred."
Netanyahu was silent about the Charlottesville rally at his weekly statement at the Sunday cabinet meeting. Instead, Netanyahu said Israel would welcome Trump's representatives to the region before switching to talking about domestic security.
A letter from President Reuven Rivlin to the US Jewish community pledged Israel's support and expressed solidarity.
Even Iran weighed in Wednesday on the controversy over Trump's remarks.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei -- himself an on-the-record Holocaust denier -- issued a statement on his official website in reference to Charlottesville in which he said the US should fix its racial-discrimination issues and mind its own business on the international stage.
"If you are a powerful state, then go manage your own country! If you really care, then tackle the insecurities and violence on the streets of Washington DC, New York City, and Los Angeles! If you really care, go fix racial discrimination and the disastrous violations of human rights for both whites and blacks in your own country! Mind your own business, rather than meddling with other nations' affairs!" he said.
Voice of support
Far-right groups around Europe have remained largely silent over the events in Charlottesville and ensuing backlash against Trump's comments.
But Nigel Farage, the former leader of Britain's UK Independence Party and a member of the European Parliament, backed Trump's argument that leftists were forcing the rewriting of US history through efforts to remove Confederate monuments and symbols from public spaces. It was one such initiative that brought white nationalists and others to Charlottesville to protest in a park that is home to a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Commenting on a quote from Trump in which he asked whether statues of former President George Washington would also be taken down, since he was a former slave owner, Farage said: "I am very pleased @POTUS had made this point. We must not rewrite American history to suit the hard left."
(CNN) - New York governor Andrew Cuomo is joining the calls to remove the names of Confederate generals from street signs at Fort Hamilton military base in Brooklyn, New York.
After a white supremacist rally to preserve a Confederate statue turned deadly Charlottesville, Virgina, Cuomo requested that the acting US secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, reconsider his refusal to rename General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive.
The US Army had declined a previous request to remove the names of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson from its streets, saying they were honored at Fort Hamilton "as individuals, not as any particular cause or ideology," according to a letter from the office of the assistant secretary of Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
"Symbols of slavery and racism have no place in New York," the governor wrote in a letter to McCarthy. "Unlike President Trump, we stand together to say that there are not many sides to hatred and bigotry; they do not belong in our communities and must be denounced for what they are. Renaming these streets will send a clear message that in New York, we stand against intolerance and racism, whether it be insidious and hidden or obvious and intentional."
Prior to the violence in Charlottesville, the Army responded to US Rep. Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn, who in June wrote a request of removal with three other members of Congress.
"To honor these men who believed in the ideology of white supremacy and fought to maintain the institution of slavery constitutes a grievous insult to the many thousands of people in Brooklyn who are descendants of the slaves held in bondage," the representatives wrote.
Senior official Diane Randon replied that the Army recognizes "the significance and sensitivity of the issue," but said renaming efforts would be "controversial and divisive ... contrary to the nation's original intent in naming these streets, which was the spirit of reconciliation."
An Army official told CNN that the current policy includes naming military streets "for a soldier who holds a place of significance in our military history. The great generals of the Civil War, Union and Confederate, are an inextricable part of our military history."
Clarke expressed her disappointment with the decision, calling its reasoning "nonsense." Patrick Rheaume, a spokesman for Clarke, said they will continue to explore legislative options.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and its Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups and extremism across the country, there are 1,503 Confederate place names and other symbols in public spaces. Among them are 109 public schools, 80 counties and cities and 10 US military bases bearing the names of Confederate leaders.
All the bases are in former Confederate states, including Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort Hood in Texas and Forts Lee, A.P Hill and Pickett in Virginia.
After a 2015 national debate on the Confederate flag, which emerged after a white supremacist who posed with the flag shot and killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, the Pentagon announced those military bases named after Confederate officers are not expected to be rebranded.
Meanwhile, communities across the South have taken an active part in the heated debate. While some opt to take down monuments, such as the recently removed Confederate Memorial in Forest Park in St. Louis, states like Alabama have signed into law protection of the landmarks.
"There shouldn't be anything honoring the Confederate on public land," Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project, told CNN. "The government who represents all Americans should not have this offensive symbology on public property."
Beirich also mentioned the Confederate Memorial erected at Arlington National Cemetery, which she said depicts and perpetuates the image of the black slave. "The South spent decades reversing the result of the Civil War by honoring the Confederacy infused with this symbology," Beirich said. She added that those names and symbols belong in museums, not on street signs where they "don't give context but honor these people."
CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
(CNN) - Republican lawmakers and administration aides found themselves again Wednesday weighing the costs and benefits of remaining loyal to President Donald Trump, whose equivocal statements about neo-Nazis and white supremacists marked a dramatic shift in presidential rhetoric.
By Wednesday afternoon, most appeared to have made their calculation: deserting Trump now could only harm --- and not help --- their agendas or political fortunes.
Republican leaders in Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, released statements affirming their disavowal of white supremacist groups and neo-Nazis --- but not explicitly condemning Trump, who said Tuesday there were "very fine people" protesting in Charlottesville amid the torch-bearing marchers.
Within the White House, Trump's aides privately expressed indignation at the derailed news conference, which unraveled on cable television Tuesday afternoon and has been replayed endlessly since.
But they, too, stopped short of declaring their consternation publicly, determined instead to remain focused on their agenda and keep the President occupied.
Trump himself has remained largely silent on the matter. But inside the glassed-in confines of Trump Tower --- where he remained inside for nearly two days straight --- the President was defiant in the wake of the ensuing backlash, according to two people who visited the building on Wednesday.
He's plunging forward "without regret," one of those people said, firmly believing the media and East Coast elites are unfairly hyperventilating about the Charlottesville remarks. The two people said it is similar to the posture he took during challenging moments of his winning presidential campaign.
Some Trump aides described themselves as shocked at the President's remarks. But the more common sentiment Wednesday was dismay --- at Trump's words, but also at his repeated inability to remain on the intended message.
For many of the operatives and policy experts who signed on to work for the Republican President, it was a familiar feeling. There have been stumbles and setbacks throughout Trump's presidency that prompted head-shaking and grumbles from even the most unwavering aides.
The shadows this week are darker, the advisers concede, with a greater chance of obscuring whatever message the President hopes to advance as he returns to Washington from his working vacation next week.
No signs of departures from Trump world
But despite those anxieties, there have been no signs of defections from Trump's inner circle. As of Wednesday afternoon, no members of Trump's administration --- including high-profile Jewish advisers Gary Cohn and Jared Kushner --- announced they were resigning. Instead, officials described a heads-down attitude among Trump's staff, despite the growing controversy.
White House chief of staff John Kelly --- who watched grimly as Trump held forth in the lobby of Trump Tower --- was frustrated at how Trump's appearance played out, including the President's unplanned decision to take questions, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
But a day later, Kelly has urged staffers to remain focused on their work rather than stew in recriminations about the press conference gone wrong, one official said.
"We have work to do and we're going to do it," said one administration official when asked about the mood inside the White House.
The two people who visited Trump Tower on Wednesday, speaking about an internal debate on condition of anonymity, said the reaction to Trump's remarks is so far breaking along similar lines that previous arguments inside Trump's orbit have fallen.
The President's sons and those directly around him believe he is in the right and saying out loud what many of his supporters believe. Yet his newer advisers are troubled by the reaction and frustrated that Trump doesn't seem to recognize the damage his remarks pose to his political agenda.
Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, are vacationing in Vermont, but have communicated with the President. They have not responded to CNN requests for comment. First Lady Melania Trump was at Trump's golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, during the press conference and remains there.
Cohn was "enraged" at having to stand at the President's side during his statement, an associate of his told CNN. By Wednesday, however, his anger gave way to being "disappointed" and "embarrassed" in the wake of the brutal news coverage. This friend said he wouldn't be surprised if Cohn quit, but doesn't believe he has made a decision and could also very well stay.
Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, was on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon on a previously scheduled visit, talking about Trump's agenda and the plan for September.
And Stephen Miller, Trump's policy adviser and speech-writer, hosted a mid-morning conference call with conservative operatives and some Capitol Hill aides to discuss Trump's upcoming legislative agenda, a person familiar with the matter said. Miller warned those who joined the call not to stray from his intended topics, which didn't include the President's remarks about Charlottesville.
Trying to move on
Attempting forward momentum, the White House announced Trump would travel Friday to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, to meet with members of his national security team to discuss strategy in Afghanistan.
Vice President Mike Pence, traveling in South America, said he was cutting his trip short to join Trump at Camp David. But he, too, offered only support for the President.
"The President has been clear on this tragedy and so have I," Pence said during an appearance alongside Chile's president. "I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia and I stand with the President and I stand by those words."
On Wednesday morning, however, there were virtually no voices backing Trump on morning television, despite a document circulated by the White House on Tuesday evening providing talking points to regular surrogates for the President.
"Everything will be harder now," a senior White House official said, but dismissed the flood of apocalyptic suggestions from observers of both parties.
In Congress, most Republican lawmakers appeared cautious in their approach to Trump's remarks. While virtually none came out in support of his statements, few called him out by name, either.
Those who did were regular critics of Trump's tactics.
"Mr. President, I encourage you to try to bring us together as a nation after this horrific event in Charlottesville. Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who ran against Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
After a high-profile failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans and the White House are under pressure to deliver on promises to reform the US tax system and advance an infrastructure package --- items that will require some element of cooperation between the White House and Capitol Hill.
More pressing is next month's deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling, which will require Republican congressional leaders to both wrangle their own members --- some of whom want to pair the increase with spending reforms --- and to reach an agreement with Trump.
Failure to strike a deal would cause the nation to default on its debts, roiling financial markets and causing catastrophic effects on the economy --- a potential outcome that has some lawmakers, including McConnell, wary of overly harsh treatment of Trump.
McConnell was privately upset with the President's handling of the episode, according to a source close to the Republican leader. The source said McConnell was deeply concerned that Trump is reopening long-festering racial tensions, something that could fan the flames ahead of demonstrations expected this month in Lexington, Kentucky.
McConnell -- who released a statement Wednesday that declared "there are no good neo-Nazis" but stopped short of criticizing Trump by name -- is taking a cautious approach after Trump lashed the GOP leader repeatedly last week, according to the source.
McConnell, the source said, did not want to immediately attack Trump for fear that it would look like retribution for their fight last week.
The Trump administration has agreed to pay insurers a key Obamacare subsidy this month, the White House announced Tuesday.
President Trump has threatened to end the payments, which would throw insurers and the exchanges into chaos for next year. The uncertainty has prompted many carriers to request big premium hikes for 2018 and others to downsize or exit the market.
The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that ending the payments next year would cause rates to soar 20% in 2018.
Insurers would have hiked premiums on Obamacare silver plans by 20% next year if Trump had stopped funding a key set of subsidies, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday.
The agency's projection, which based its estimates on how premiums would compare to current law, is in line with other analyses that looked at what would have happened if Trump had followed through on his threats to cease the payments for the cost-sharing subsidies.
Though there have been signs that Obamacare is stabilizing, the Republican drive to dismantle the health care law has left insurers very jittery. In particular, they want assurances that the cost-sharing subsidies will be funded through 2018.
Without that promise, many are hiking their rates. Insurers that assumed the cost-sharing subsidy payments would be discontinued added between 2% and 23% to their premium requests for next year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 21 major cities released last week.
Other insurers aren't waiting around to find out. Anthem is among the most recent to downsize its presence, announcing last week it was pulling out of Nevada and Virginia, while cutting its participation in Georgia nearly in half.
MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula County alert is specific to the Seeley Lake community. Smoke from the Rice Ridge fire is causing significant air quality impacts between midnight and noon.
Lolo Peak Fire (Lolo)
- Location: 10 miles southwest of Lolo
- Size: 10,363 acres
- Containment: zero percent
- The EVACUATION ORDER from mile post 20 to mile post 21.7 for both the NORTH and SOUTH sides of Highway 12 has been downgraded to an EVACUATION WARNING. Residents may return to their homes. Residents should remain vigilant and ready to immediately evacuate should the need arise.
- The EVACUATION ORDER remains in place between Fort Fizzle and mile post 21.7, for both north and south sides of Highway 12. This EVACUATION ORDER includes Mill Creek Road and Elk Meadows Road areas.
- Portions of Mormon Creek Road above and including Vann Drive remain in an EVACUATION WARNING.
- For further information call 258-4636.The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Florence Carlton Community Church at 20075 old US Highway 93 at 12 PM today. For animal sheltering call Animal Control at 541-7387 and leave a message.
Rice Ridge Fire (Seeley Lake)
- Location: 2 miles northeast of Seeley Lake
- Size: 11,754 acres
- Containment: 10 percent
- Structures Threatened: 1090
- Evacuations: As a reminder, the evacuation warning issued within areas of Seeley Lake (including Double Arrow Ranch), remains in effect and residents are urged to be prepared. Residents adjacent to these areas should remain vigilant. Residents of the area should sign up for Smart911 at www.smart911.com to ensure they receive any emergency messages about potential evacuations.
- In the event of an evacuation, the American Red Cross will open a shelter. It is located at the Potomac Community Center, 29827 Potomac Rd., in Potomac. The shelter is on standby, anyone seeking to pre-evacuate that requires assistance or sheltering may call the Red Cross of Montana at 1-800-272-6668. Evacuees are urged to call before leaving for the shelter, as cell phone service is limited at the shelter.
- Closures: A closure order is still in effect for the areas surrounding the Rice Ridge Fire. A map and copies of the official closure orders are available on Inciweb. Seeley Lake, the body of water, is still closed to all recreation activities due to aircraft scooping water and will likely be in effect through the weekend.
- An additional community meeting will be held Thursday, August 17 at 6pm at the Seeley Lake Elementary School.
Gibralter Ridge Fire (Eureka)
- Location: East of Eureka
- Size: 2,021 acres
- Containment: 12 percent
- Evacuations: As of 12 p.m. Aug. 14, evacuees of the Gibralter Ridge Fire are allowed back into their homes. All returning residents must sign in with Sheriff deputies at the road check points, where they will be given hazard information and official access passes to put in their vehicles. An area closure remains in effect for all non-residents. Residents in a pre-evacuation area will remain in pre-evacuation status as the fire could still threaten private property.
- Road Closure: Grave Creek road and the Ten Lakes recreation area remain closed beginning at the junction of Grave Creek and Stoken Roads. And please note that Lincoln County is still in Stage II Fire Restrictions.
Sunrise Fire (Superior)
- Location: 11 miles southeast Superior
- Size: 21,482 acres
- Containment: 30 percent
- Evacuations: Cougar Gulch, Quartz Creek, and Trout Creek south of Magone Ranch are currently in Stage 3 evacuation. Riverbend and Diamond Match Road from railway overpass to Magone Ranch are now in Stage 2. Sunrise, Quartz Flat and Verde Creek are at Stage 1.
- An area closure around the Sunrise Fire is from Cedar Creek south to Forest Service Road #341 is in effect. All roads contained within this boundary are closed.
- The Red Cross is prepared to provide shelter at Superior High School for evacuees.
Burdette Fire (Tarkio)
- Location: 13 miles southeast of Tarkio
- Size: 649 acres
- Containment: 70 percent
- Structures Threatened: 0
Sapphire Complex Fire (Rock Creek)
- Location: 25 miles southeast of Missoula
- Size: 30,401 acres
- Containment: 42 percent
- Structures Threatened: Private property and structures in the Rock Creek and Upper Willow Creek drainage are threatened [no numbers given]. Other resources threatened include a Bonneville Power Administration powerline and a communication site.
- Structures Destroyed: 1 cabin, 9 outbuildings
- Evacuations: For the Sapphire Complex, the Granite County Sheriff issued the following evacuation orders: Red Evacuation Order (mandatory evacuation) from Hogback Homestead south to Stony Creek and the Sliderock Mountain area; Yellow Evacuation Orders (pre-evacuation) for the northern portion of Rock Creek drainage from approximately Babcock Creek south to Bobcat Creek, from Butte Cabin south to Hogback Homestead, from Stony Creek south to the Kyle G. Bohrnsen Memorial Bridge, and from the Kyle G. Bohrnsen Memorial Bridge north to McDermott Gulch in the Upper Willow Creek.
- The Rock Creek Road from I-90 south to Harry’s Flat (MP 17.5) reopened last Wednesday. The Rock Creek Road IS CLOSED from Harrys Flat south to Kyle G. Bohrnsen Memorial Bridge, and non-fire traffic is NOT allowed. Upper Willow Creek Road is closed to the public. All other closures remain the same. The Lolo and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests and the Bureau of Land Management have closure orders and maps under the closures tab on Inciweb.
- Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in place on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest (Forest Service land east of Sandstone Ridge). Stage 2 Fire Restrictions are in place (BLM), private and state lands in Granite County and the Lolo National Forest (Forest Service land west of Sandstone Ridge).
Meyers Fire (Philipsburg)
- Location: 25 miles southwest of Philipsburg
- Size: 13, 711 acres
- Containment: 5 percent
- Evacuations: Evacuations are still in place for the FROG POND BASIN, COPPER CREEK CAMPGROUND and the MOOSE LAKE areas.
- Closures: Interagency fire management officials in southwestern Montana began Stage 1 fire restrictions, effective at midnight on August 5, 2017. These restrictions apply to the following areas: Madison County, Beaverhead County, Deer Lodge County, Silver Bow County, Powell County south of I-90 and Highway 12 and Granite County south of I-90 and east of the Lolo National Forest boundary. The current fire danger level across the forest is Very High. Granite County has implemented Stage II fire restrictions for private lands within Granite County.
Liberty Fire (Arlee)
- Location: 17 miles southeast of Arlee
- Size: 5,400 acres
- Containment: 90 percent
- Location: Nine miles northeast of Happy's Inn, MT
- Size: 334 acres
Blue Bay Fire
- Location: Blue Bay, Flathead Lake
- Size: 65 acres
- Containment: 10 percent
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Donald Trump fashions himself as a CEO president. But he's feuding with one of America's most famous, most respected and wealthiest business leaders -- Amazon's Jeff Bezos -- mainly because the company is so successful.
In his latest attack on Amazon, Trump said on Twitter early Wednesday that Amazon "is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt - many jobs being lost."
While it is true that Amazon has wreaked havoc on the traditional retail industry. Macy's, Kohl's and JCPenney are among the many big department stores that recently reported lousy results.
Trump's tweet about Amazon came several hours before he disbanded two advisory groups that included the CEOs of many big U.S. companies -- a decision that followed Corporate America's criticism of Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville.
Bezos was not a member of either of those councils, which had a particular focus on how to create more jobs for American workers. But Amazon is thriving. And hiring.
According to the most recent data on retail sales from the U.S. Census Bureau, sales at "nonstore retailers" -- a category that includes Amazon and other e-commerce sites -- surged 11.5% last month from a year ago.
The president is also correct to note that the changing landscape of retail is hurting some American workers.
According to the most recent figures on layoffs from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, retailers have announced nearly 64,000 job cuts through July -- up 46.7% from a year ago.
But Trump is going overboard by saying that the country is suffering because of Amazon's dominance. Layoffs are just one part of the story. Many other retailers are doing extremely well -- and they are hiring.
Overall retail sales were up a healthy 4.3% from July 2016. Consumers are still shopping until they drop -- and not just at Amazon.
For one, the rise of Amazon has appeared to reinvigorate Walmart, the nation's biggest private employer. The company has employs more than 1.5 million people in the United States and 2.3 million around the world.
Walmart has made a bigger push into online retail in recent years through acquisitions, and it's been rewarded by Wall Street.
And Target, which has struggled lately, might finally be showing signs of a turnaround, too. It reported surprisingly strong results Wednesday morning, led in large part by digital sales growth.
What's more, Amazon is a big job creator. The company employed 382,400 people worldwide as of the end of July, up from 268,900 a year ago. That's a 42% increase. And its workforce will grow more when it completes the acquisition of Whole Foods.
Amazon was not immediately available for comment about how many jobs it has added in the United States in the past year.
The president's comment about Amazon hurting taxpaying retailers seemed to be yet another suggestion that Amazon does not pay taxes -- an assertion he has made, incorrectly, for more than a year.
Amazon paid $879 million in income taxes in the 12 months that ended in June, according to its latest quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that filing, Amazon also indicated that it expected its future taxes to increase.
Bezos was one of several tech CEOs to meet with Trump at the White House in June to talk about jobs and other big issues important to the industry.
Nevertheless, Trump pursues the feud with Bezos. He tweeted in December 2015 that Amazon was a "no profit" company that would "crumple like a paper bag" if it had to pay fair taxes.
This also is not true. Amazon does pay taxes, and it posted a profit (not a loss) of nearly $2 billion for the 12 months ending in June.
Trump added that he thought Bezos was using his ownership of The Washington Post as a "big tax shelter" for Amazon. That, too, is wrong. Bezos owns the paper as a personal investment. It's not an Amazon subsidiary.
Bezos, who is currently worth about $84 billion according to Forbes and Bloomberg, responded by jokingly offering to send Trump into orbit on a rocket owned by his space exploration company, Blue Origin.
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CNN) - Rescuers have recovered over 300 bodies after Monday's deadly mudslide on the outskirts of Sierra Leone's capital, the country's tourism minister said Wednesday.
Sidie Tunis told local radio that 297 bodies have been brought to the overwhelmed city morgue at the Connaught Hospital, including those of 105 men, 83 women and 109 children. A further seven bodies were found at the site on Wednesday morning, raising the death toll to 304 people, Col. Abubakarr Bah, who is leading recovery operations, told CNN.
Residents told CNN that an unknown number of bodies were found on a beach later Wednesday, but that hasn't been confirmed by officials.
A mass burial will be held on Thursday. It was postponed to allow families to identify their loved ones.
Around 600 people are still unaccounted for after heavy rains struck the Regent district in the early hours of Monday morning, causing torrents of mud to wash down Mount Sugar Loaf, about 5 miles outside the capital, Freetown, according to government officials and aid agencies.
Houses that hugged the slopes, many of them little more than wooden shacks with tin roofs, were buried after a chunk of the mountain came down under the force of the water.
Numbers are expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue for a third day in one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit Africa in recent years. A mass burial is planned for Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to free up space in the struggling mortuaries.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people have been displaced, Abu Bakarr, spokesman for the Red Cross in Sierra Leone, told CNN on Tuesday.
Prayers at site
At noon on Wednesday, the country came to a standstill for a minute's silence to honor those who died in the tragedy.
Bishop John Yambasu, head of the United Methodist church, led prayers from the scene of the mudslide. He had come to visit the site to pay his respects where a congregation had held an overnight vigil.
"We have been through 10 years of war, then Ebola and now this. Have mercy on Sierra Leone, Father," he intoned.
James Chifwelu, national director of the charity World Vision in Sierra Leone, described the scenes as "heartbreaking," with the "sounds of wailing and mourning everywhere" as rescuers continued to work against the clock to pull survivors from the rubble.
Many residents of the hilltop community were still asleep when the disaster hit.
"It's disturbing that so many lives have been lost following this heavy rain and mudslide," Chifwelu said.
"But it's most disturbing that many children in their school uniforms were unfortunately fatally caught up in the landslide and many more are homeless, orphaned and will be without food and clothing for days to come. This certainly calls for immediate action.''
Many still coming to terms with disaster
Save the Children staff member Ramatu Jalloh was near the scene as the tragedy unfolded.
"We were driving on the main road out of Freetown past Regent when a lady ran onto the road and started gesticulating wildly. She called out to another lady who had been riding a bike in front of us who, after a brief conversation, started crying and looked very upset," she said.
"It was clear from their reactions that something terrible had happened. Soon afterward, another man ran towards our car. He was crying about the number of lives that had been lost.
"As we continued down the road we could see there was a serious issue. Tons of water was rushing across the road, splitting it in half. We contacted the Save the Children office immediately to tell them that something was seriously wrong."
President Ernest Bai Koroma toured the ravaged Regent district on Tuesday. His spokesperson told CNN that social-welfare teams have been deployed to "ascertain exactly how many people are missing."
He added that a Sierra Leonean and a Chinese construction company had provided heavy-duty excavation equipment to help the military looking for people under the mud and rubble.
Flooding is not unusual in the region, which is experiencing its rainy season.
But this year has been particularly wet, with Freetown receiving more than 27 inches of rain between July 1 and August 13 -- more than double the average of 11.8 inches, according to the US National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.
(CNN) - Following reports that a US Marine who left the service in January leads a white supremacist group called Vanguard America, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said Tuesday there is "no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps."
Splinter, The Military Times and the Guardian reported that former Marine recruiter Dillon Ulysses Hopper is the leader of Vanguard America -- a group which helped organize the "Unite the Right" protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent over the weekend. The Anti-Defamation League identified Hopper as the leader of Vanguard America, which ADL labels a "white supremacist" group, and said Hopper began leading the organization in "early 2016."
According to Hopper's service records, he was a member of the Marine Corps from July 10, 2006 until January 30, 2017. If ADL is correct, that would mean he began leading the white nationalist group while still technically in the Marines.
Following those reports, Neller told CNN: "Our core values of honor, courage and commitment frame the way Marines live and act. Bigotry and racial extremism run contrary to these core values." The US Marine Corps could not confirm if the service branch had knowledge of Hopper's involvement with the hate group.
CNN was not able to determine whether Hopper participated in the Charlottesville protest, and attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.
With his statement, Neller becomes the second member of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff to speak out about events in Charlottesville. Last week, Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, called the events in Charlottesville "shameful" and "unacceptable."
"The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred" Richardson said in a statement posted on Twitter and Facebook. "We want our Navy to be the safest possible place -- a team as strong and tough as we can be, saving violence only for our enemies."
Secretary of Defense James Mattis also told reporters he was saddened by what he saw in Charlottesville.
Hopper was an "average recruiter" who "was kind, attentive, humorous and had friends in the command of all races and sexes," his immediate supervisor, Staff Sgt. Kristen Chambasian, said in a statement provided by the Marine Corps. She added that "Hopper recruited students from high schools in his area of all nationalities and backgrounds," saying those recruits "were screened, interviewed and found basically qualified mentally, morally and physically."
Marine Corps recruiting procedures require perspective recruits to go through multiple levels of scrutiny from multiple people. Of those Marines recruited by Hopper, Chambasian said she did "not personally know of any of them having had any issues with racism" due to their interactions with him.
She added: "I cannot speak to when or what changed in Staff Sgt. Hopper that resulted in his recent and current life choices."
A Marine Corps official told CNN the service is attempting to determine if Hopper may have recruited like-minded individuals into the Corps, but has found no evidence of that so far.
Participation in supremacist or extremist organizations is a violation of Defense Department orders and leads to mandatory dismissal from military service following the first substantiated incident.
Hopper served in at least two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and went on to serve as a Marine recruiter from 2011-2014 before leaving the Marines on January 30, with the rank of staff sergeant. During his service in the Marine Corps, Hopper was a recipient of the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal three times.
A Marine Corps official said Hopper's status is that of a retired Marine, though he did not serve a full 20 years.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - It's the lunar event of the century -- and some companies are cashing in.
August 21 will mark the first total solar eclipse that will be visible coast-to-coast from the mainland United States since 1918.
As people prepare for the main event, U.S. businesses -- from national chains to mom-and-pop shops -- are starting to hawk special eclipse-themed merchandise.
Here are some of the commemorative eclipse products and promotions out there now.
Krispy Kreme's Chocolate Glazer
Krispy Kreme will sell its first-ever chocolate glazed doughnut during the eclipse.
The donut shop lists participating stores on its website. It will also sell the treats on August 19 and 20 during special hours.
"The solar eclipse is a rare occasion -- providing a total sensory experience for viewers across the continental U.S.," Jackie Woodward, Krispy Kreme's marketing chief, said in a statement. "Chocolate will have the same effect as we introduce a first-time chocolate glazing of our iconic Original Glazed Doughnut."
Jackson Hole's Eclipse-themed booze and coffee
The eclipse will be in perfect view for anyone in the Jackson Hole valley area of western Wyoming.
One local brewery there has come up with a fun concoction dubbed "Eclipse" beer, and it's is also hosting a party at its Jackson Hole venue.
Snake River Roasting Co. also has a special product on the market: eclipse coffee.
Ruth Ann, a spokesperson for the coffee house, told CNNMoney that the coffee has been "selling like mad."
Portland's pot tribute
Cannabis dispensaries in Oregon are not shying away from eclipse promotions.
A pot shop in Portland called Oregon's Finest has started selling a strain of weed it's named "moon puppies."
The state is one of only seven (plus D.C.) that has legalized recreational marijuana use. And it's the only state in the path of totality that that allows legal weed.
Viewing glasses made in Knoxville
Tennessee-based Paper Optics usually sells 3D glasses.
But the company has been making some special eyewear in preparation for the eclipse.
Special ultra-dark sunglasses are needed to safely view the event. And Paper Optics has been producing millions of pairs over the past couple of years to prepare for the demand, according to the Associated Press.
In the wake of the demand, there have been some reports of unsafe bogus eclipse glasses that may not be dark enough to protect your eyes.
But the American Astronomical Society lists the glasses made by Paper Optics as having met international safety standards.
The "Total Eclipse Cruise"
You won't even have to be on land to watch this eclipse. One cruise liner is advertising the chance to see the sky show by sea.
Royal Caribbean is offering a "Total Eclipse Cruise" that it calls an "out-of-this-world" weeklong trip. The cruise will sail to "the optimal spot at sea for guests to witness the total solar eclipse," the company said in a press release.
On Wednesday, the cruise line also announced that Bonnie Tyler would be a special guest aboard the trip -- and she would perform her smash hit song, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" during the celestial event.
The the ship will set sail on August 20 from Orlando, Florida and stop by several other destinations -- including Phillipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Nassau, Bahamas -- on the week long adventure. Just days away from departure, the only tickets left on sale cost thousands of dollars.
Oregon's solar eclipse shoes
The small town of Philomath, Oregon isn't usually a tourism hot spot. But because it lies in the path of totality, Philomath is expecting a flood of visitors August 21.
A local handcrafted shoe company, Softstar Shoes, is trying to capitalize on the attention with a special edition eclipse slipper.
"These moccasins are handcrafted in-house and are made of smooth, buttery soft leather and luxurious sheepskin," the company said in a statement.
"The Banana Sun"
Chiquita -- yes, the banana company -- has claimed to have created the "ultimate eclipse-themed (marketing) phenomenon."
The company has cheekily claimed for weeks that they will be responsible for the eclipse. But Chiquita claims the special moment to watch for is just before and after totality.
For "two glorious moments" before and after the the moon fully blocks the sun, it will "turn the burning ball of gas in the center of our solar system into a giant banana," the company said.
If it sounds crazy, Chiquita is owning that fact. It named its new marketing strategy "We Are Bananas."
Chiquita is partnering with the comedy team at Funny or Die for a live stream event the morning of the eclipse. It kicks off at 9:15 am PT.
(CNN) - When Kate Townsend took her kids for their back-to-school health checkups last month, she got a surprise.
The Western Springs, Illinois, mother of three wanted to make sure their vaccinations were up-to-date. The pediatrician did talk about shots, but also mentioned her daughter's body mass index.
"She said to my daughter, 'you are in this percentile, which is in total normal range,' but she made it sound like one more number, and that is too big," Townsend said.
The family was surprised. The girl is an active volleyball player, Townsend said, who grew 2½ inches this year. "My daughter's in great shape. And she was sensitive about this news. I tried to reassure her 'that is just a number' and to move on."
Townsend was right, many experts say, because a growing body of research shows that body mass index, or BMI, may not be the best measure for a growing girl -- or for adults.
An increasing number of scientists are calling BS on BMI.
A tool with a different purpose
BMI is an easy and straightforward tool used to screen for obesity and to gauge whether you should worry about your weight. Divide your weight (in pounds) by your height (in inches) squared, and multiply that number by 703. If the resulting number is 30 or higher, by American standards, you are considered obese. You're overweight if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9. If you're under 18.5, you are underweight. The "normal" range is 18.5 to 24.9.
BMI was invented in the 1800s for use in population studies. In 1972, a key study that tested for the best formula to measure body fat percentage in more than 7,400 people found that the BMI formula best measured body-fat percentage as compared to merely calculating weight and height. It was this study that gave BMI its official name -- and its what popularized its use in research. But that study also warned against using BMI to calculate an individual's levels of fat.
"BMI really was a measurement created for epidemiology to give data that was relative and could be used in research," said Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Up until the 1980s, he said, doctors and scientists had been using a variety of measures to track whether a person had gained so much weight that it could hurt their health. The variety in measurement made it hard to chart trends. And as doctors were noticing that people were getting bigger, they wanted to understand how big a problem it was.
A handful of national and international government agencies then started to recommend that doctors use BMI, as it would be a uniform standard and was seen as more accurate than the insurance company height/weight charts the doctors had been using.
In 1985, the US National Institutes of Health recommended BMI to measure obesity. In 1997, the World Health Organization jumped on the bandwagon. The US Preventive Services Task Force, which sets guidelines for American medical professionals, still includes it as a measure in its recommendations.
It's not only doctors who use it. As the childhood obesity epidemic grew, more than a dozen states started to require schools to chart students' BMIs, with some even recording the measurement on report cards. Life insurance companies may also ask for it to determine whether you should get a policy or are too big a risk.
Yet while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls BMI "a reasonable indicator of body fat," the agency does not recommend that doctors -- or anyone else, for that matter -- use it as a diagnostic tool.
"Over time, BMI has gained a clinical use, but that was not the original intention behind its creation," Mayo Clinic's Lopez-Jimenez said. "That's because it does have real limitations."
Why do they use it?
BMI is a free and easy way to get a gauge on obesity for research, but as doctors started using it for individuals, they noticed that it doesn't tell the whole story.
"Some people who are labeled overweight by BMI have a broader frame or more muscle," said Courtney Peterson, an assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Nutrition Sciences.
Peterson said that the most exact ways to measure obesity can be expensive, so BMI became the "next best thing we use" for adults. But, it's important to think of it as only one of several screening tools that "helps show at a quick glance that this person's health may be hurt by their weight, so it is an important thing to measure." More measurements would be needed to tell the whole story, Peterson noted.
That's because BMI doesn't distinguish between fat and muscle, which could be a real problem for someone who is athletic. The average football player, for instance, has a BMI of 31.35, considered obese by these standards. Yet many of these world-class athletes are solid muscle, and the average player probably does not have a level of fat that will threaten their health.
BMI can also underestimate the threat for people who are "skinny fat," as some doctors call those who tend to be fit, but have big bellies. Studies show that this belly fat can be more dangerous for health than any other kind, and a study in the journal Frontiers in Public Health found that using BMI as the lone measure missed 50% of cases of people who had what was determined to be dangerous fat that could hurt their health.
Paul Laursen, co-author of that study, prefers the term "overfat" to "overweight," because it really is the fat, rather than the weight, that hurts your health, he said.
"We shouldn't be as much worried about weight," said Laursen, an adjunct professor and performance physiologist at the Sports Performance Research Institute in New Zealand. For example, you could have gone on a fad diet and lost three pounds, but that doesn't necessarily make you healthier. Those three pounds could merely have been water weight.
"What we should really be worried about is the fat part and where your fat is concentrated," Laursen said. BMI misses that level of detail.
Growing children can also be shortchanged. Peterson's latest study found that BMI was off 19% of the time in children. The BMI measurements used for children are weighted for age, but when boys go through puberty, they add muscle at a rapid rate; girls add fat. BMI tends to miss these nuances.
BMI can also miss subtle racial differences. Peterson explains that African-Americans tend to have more muscle than fat, compared with Caucasians. Doctors in some countries have had to adjust their BMI ratios because studies have shown that Asians are at a greater risk for heart disease at much lower BMI than non-Asians.
What should doctors use?
One of the most exact ways to measure obesity is an X-ray, which can distinguish between fat and other innards. But that is expensive, and regular radiation exposure is not advised, so hospitals and doctors are trying a variety of methods and tools.
Some hospitals use a highly accurate machine for a bioelectrical impedance analysis, which runs an electric current through body tissue to determine fat composition. The Mayo Clinic's Lopez-Jimenez uses a Bod Pod, which takes measurements based on body volume. He recommends against the scales or handheld devices available on the consumer market, as they are not precise.
Where kids are concerned, if you can't get a bioelectrical impedance analysis, Peterson suggests a measurement called TMI, or tri-ponderal body mass index. The calculation is weight divided by height cubed. Her study showed that this was a much better measure of obesity for kids between 8 and 17, particularly boys. TMI misclassified obesity only 8% of the time (versus more than 19% with BMI).
For adults, Laursen suggests getting out a tape measure. Measure your circumference at your belly button. If your waist circumference is half your height or less, you are at a healthy fat level, if you are over that number, your fat could put you at risk for ill health.
If you want something even simpler, look at your hip to waist ratio. It's something even a doctor could eyeball quickly. "If the waist is bigger than the hips, it tells me that the risk carried with that weight is much higher for that person for premature death," Lopez-Jimenez said.
None of these measurements alone is perfect, and medical associations like the American Society for Nutrition and others are looking for even better measurements than what currently exists. You will likely still see doctors and schools taking BMI measurements, at least as an initial screening, to try and give you a better understanding of how your fat may be impacting your health.
High pressure will continue to dominate the weather across western Montana, with more very dry, warm weather.
Smoke continues to be a problem across the northern Rockies. An AIR QUALITY ALERT is posted for Missoula County where air quality is poor due to smoke from the Lolo Peak and Rice Ridge fires.
Very dry air and gusty west winds will prevail in some areas through Wednesday evening. A FIRE WEATHER WARNING until 9 pm for the Helena and Lewis and Clark National Forests. West winds 10 to 20 mph and humidity levels from 10% to 15%.
Clear, chilly nights and sunny, warm days through the weekend and next week. Lows in the 40s to lower 50s with highs in the 80s to around 90.
Canadian storm systems will bring gusty west winds to the region Friday and this weekend. Gusts may reach 30 mph.