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Fire that engulfed black North Carolina church ruled arson

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A fire that engulfed a church with a primarily African-American congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina early on Wednesday morning has been ruled as arson, fire officials said.

The fire, at the Briar Creek Baptist Church, was estimated to have caused more than $250,000 worth of damage, the Charlotte Fire Department said in a statement.

“We completed our work on the scene and determined this was intentionally set,” Charlotte Fire Department Senior Fire Investigator David Williams said.

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The department said the flames were brought under control within about an hour and 15 minutes, but one firefighter was taken to a local hospital and another was treated on scene after battling the blaze amid “extremely hot and humid conditions.”

The fire came a week after a white gunman entered an historic African-American church in neighboring South Carolina and killed nine people during a Bible study session.

The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston came amid months of intense debate over U.S. race relations after unarmed black men were killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, Baltimore and elsewhere.

Williams told the local Charlotte Observer newspaper that investigators were attempting to establish if the fire was set as a hate crime.

The newspaper said the church was predominantly white when it opened in 1951 under another name, but shifted to becoming a black church over the past few decades as the area’s demographics changed.

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(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Dominic Evans)


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United States, Mexico, Canada finalize Donald Trump’s USMCA trade deal

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The United States, Mexico and Canada signed a deal Tuesday to finalize their new trade agreement, paving the way to ratification after more than two years of arduous negotiations.

However, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the US Senate would likely delay Congressional ratification of the agreement until next year, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In reality, it is the second time the three countries have triumphantly announced the conclusion of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the deal meant to replace the 25-year-old NAFTA, which President Donald Trump complains has been "a disaster" for the US.

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WATCH: Maddow hilariously recaps Trump’s ‘shenanigans in the Oval Office’ with the Russian foreign minister

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday examined President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- on the same day that the House of Representatives unveiled articles of impeachment against the commander-in-chief.

Following the meeting, Lavrov trolled Trump on the issues of foreign election interference and Trump's habit of revealing classified intelligence.

"Given that, given the way the president is being impeached for having done all those things to Ukraine in and way that undermined our alliance with them and specifically their fight against Russian aggression -- which has, you know, led to a five-year-long war in Ukraine -- I mean given the fact he's being impeached for undermining Ukraine in its war against Russia, this is heck of a day to choose to have the Russian foreign minister sitting on your lap in the Oval Office," Maddow said.

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Trump propaganda network tried to get visa for arrested Ukrainian official to give them Biden dirt: report

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On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that One America News Network, a pro-Trump TV channel that competes with Fox News, tried to secure a U.S. visa for Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a former Ukrainian lawmaker who was arrested last week by German authorities on corruption charges.

OAN reportedly was interested in transporting Onyschenko to America to help uncover dirt on Burisma, the energy company linked to former Vice President Joe Biden's son, and the focus of President Donald Trump's attempts to coerce the Ukrainian government to interfere with U.S. elections. They are reportedly also seeking visas for "several other" Ukrainian officials.

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