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In our news wrap Wednesday, in Charleston, S.C., a jury heard opening statements in the trial of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist charged with murdering nine black churchgoers in June 2015. The defense conceded his guilt and focused on preventing a death sentence. Also, Tennessee authorities have charged two juveniles in the fatal wildfires that blazed through the state’s Smoky Mountains.
In the day's other news: A Charleston, South Carolina, jury heard opening statements in the trial of Dylann Roof, the man charged with murdering nine black churchgoers. It happened in June 2015. Today, a federal prosecutor declared Roof had a cold and hateful heart. The defense conceded Roof's guilt, and focused on preventing a death sentence.
Later, a survivor broke down as she testified about seeing her son die in the gunfire.
Authorities in Tennessee have charged two juveniles with setting a deadly wildfire that roared through the Great Smoky Mountains two weeks ago. Fourteen people died and more than 1,700 buildings were damaged or destroyed as high winds blew the flames into the Gatlinburg area. Prosecutors left open the possibility that others could be charged as well.
Recovery efforts came to an end today at the scene of the deadly warehouse fire in Oakland, California. The death toll from the weekend tragedy stands at 36. Investigators have turned their attention to a refrigerator as a possible cause.
The fast-moving fire ripped through the warehouse, where a dance party was under way.
In Indonesia, the earth shook before dawn today, knocking down buildings, and sending terrified people into the streets. At least 97 were killed, with hundreds more injured.
It was a picture of desperation, rescue crews using bare hands to dig through twisted wreckage, while excavators removed heavier debris.
SUTOPO NUGROHO, Spokesman, National Disaster Management Agency (through translator):
We estimate the number of casualties will continue to rise, as some of the residents are still likely under the rubble of the buildings. The search-and-rescue operation is still under way.
The quake hit shortly after 5:00 a.m., registered 6.5, and was centered around the northern tip of Aceh province on Sumatra Island. But it was too shallow to trigger a tsunami.
Still, it was all too reminiscent of the far more powerful quake and tsunami that devastated the same region in 2004, killing more than 100,000 people in Aceh alone. That disaster prompted efforts to improve warnings and readiness.
But Kanupriya Kapoor with Reuters said the quake-prone country still has a long way to go. She spoke to us via Skype from Jakarta.
KANUPRIYA KAPOOR, Reuters:
If I were to speak to the readiness of these communities, the preparedness to deal with a quake, I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't as prepared, if, you know, structures in this area, you know, were clearly not built to withstand even a 6.5-magnitude earthquake.
Indonesia's disaster agency estimates some 245 buildings, including 14 mosques, were either seriously damaged or destroyed in today's quake, leaving thousands of people homeless.
The Indonesian government has officially declared a two-week state of emergency in Aceh.
In the mountains of Northern Pakistan, no one survived an airplane crash today. The head of Pakistan International Airlines says 48 people were on board. Witnesses said the plane burst into flames and went down about 50 miles outside Islamabad.
Junaid Jamshed, a well-known Pakistani-singer-turned-evangelical-Muslim-cleric, was among those who perished. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The U.S. and five other Western nations are calling for a new cease-fire in Aleppo, Syria, in a bid to get civilians out. They also accused Russia today of blocking efforts to end the bloodshed.
Meanwhile, Syrian government troops and their allies pushed deeper into Eastern Aleppo. They now control about 75 percent of what was the rebel-held area of the city.
Back in this country, a bipartisan bill to speed federal drug approvals and bolster research overwhelmingly passed the Senate today. President Obama promised to sign the $6 billion measure. It includes funding for Vice President Biden's Moonshot effort to find a cure for cancer and for a stepped-up campaign to fight opioid abuse.
Senators also paid tribute today to Vice President Biden. He served there for 36 years representing Delaware. He was back today in his official role as president of the Senate, listening as lawmakers praised him for compassion, strength and humor.
And Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski gave her farewell speech after serving 30 years. That makes her the longest serving female senator ever.
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-Md.):
Though I was the first Democratic woman, I wanted to be the first of many. I wanted to help women get elected to the Senate and do what I could to be able to help them to do that. It has been just wonderful to see that now there are over — there are 20 women that are currently serving in the United States Senate.
Mikulski also served 10 years in the House before coming to the Senate.
Wall Street soared today on mounting expectations of faster growth. The Dow Jones industrial average reached another record, gaining nearly 300 points to close at 19549. The Nasdaq rose 60 points, and the S&P 500 added 29, for its own record close.
And thousands of people converged on Pearl Harbor today, marking 75 years since the Japanese attack that brought the United States into World War II. Elderly survivors highlighted the crowd that gathered across the harbor from where the battleship Arizona sank. They observed a moment of silence and then listened to tributes to all those killed on December 7, 1941.
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