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Correction

A story on 1A Sunday contained an incorrect date and closing time for the upcoming grand opening of the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center. It should have said the opening will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 2.

A story on 1B Sunday should have said Rick Tefteller is the uncle of Upshur County Judge Todd Tefteller.


US troops in Syria going to Iraq, not home as Trump claims

KABUL, Afghanistan — While President Donald Trump insists he’s bringing home Americans from “endless wars” in the Mideast, his Pentagon chief says all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue operations against the Islamic State group.

They aren’t coming home and the United States isn’t leaving the turbulent Middle East, according to current plans outlined by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper before he arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday. The fight in Syria against IS, once spearheaded by American allied Syrian Kurds who have been cast aside by Trump, will be undertaken by U.S. forces, possibly from neighboring Iraq.

Esper did not rule out the idea that U.S. forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he told reporters traveling with him that those details will be worked out over time.

Trump nonetheless tweeted: “USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!”

The president declared this past week that Washington had no stake in defending the Kurdish fighters who died by the thousands as America’s partners fighting in Syria against IS extremists. Turkey conducted a weeklong offensive into northeastern Syria against the Kurdish fighters before a military pause.

“It’s time for us to come home,” Trump said, defending his removal of U.S. troops from that part of Syria and praising his decision to send more troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom defend against Iran.

Esper’s comments to reporters traveling with him were the first to specifically lay out where American troops will go as they shift from Syria and what the counter-IS fight could look like. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift about 1,000 troops from Syria into western Iraq.

Trump’s top aide, asked about the fact that the troops were not coming home as the president claimed they would, said, “Well, they will eventually.”

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” that “the quickest way to get them out of danger was to get them into Iraq.”

As Esper left Washington on Saturday, U.S. troops were continuing to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion into the border region. Reports of sporadic clashes continued between Turkish-backed fighters and the Syria Kurdish forces despite a five-day cease-fire agreement hammered out Thursday between U.S. and Turkish leaders.

The Turkish military’s death toll has risen to seven soldiers since it launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Trump ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.

The pullout largely abandons America’s Kurdish allies who have fought IS alongside U.S. troops for several years. Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.

Esper said the troops going into Iraq will have two missions.

“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” he said. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”

The U.S. currently has more than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, under an agreement between the two countries. The U.S. pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when combat operations there ended, but they went back in after IS began to take over large swaths of the country in 2014. The number of American forces in Iraq has remained small due to political sensitivities in the country, after years of what some Iraqis consider U.S. occupation during the war that began in 2003.

Esper said he will talk with other allies at a NATO meeting in the coming week to discuss the way ahead for the counter-IS mission.

Asked if U.S. special operations forces will conduct unilateral military operations into Syria to go after IS, Esper said that is an option that will be discussed with allies over time.

He said one of his top concerns is what the next phase of the counter-IS missions looks like, “but we have to work through those details.” He said that if U.S. forces do go in, they would be protected by American aircraft.

While he acknowledged reports of intermittent fighting despite the cease-fire agreement, he said that overall it “generally seems to be holding. We see a stability of the lines, if you will, on the ground.”

He also said that, so far, the Syrian Democratic Forces that partnered with the U.S. to fight IS have maintained control of the prisons in Syria where they are still present. The Turks, he said, have indicated they have control of the IS prisons in their areas.

“I can’t assess whether that’s true or not without having people on the ground,” said Esper.

He added that the U.S. withdrawal will be deliberate and safe, and it will take “weeks not days.”

According to a U.S. official, about a couple hundred troops have left Syria so far. The U.S. forces have been largely consolidated in one location in the west and a few locations in the east.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations, said the U.S. military is not closely monitoring the effectiveness of the cease-fire, but is aware of sporadic fighting and violations of the agreement. The official said it will still take a couple of weeks to get forces out of Syria.

Also Sunday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of American lawmakers on a visit to Jordan to discuss “the deepening crisis” in Syria.

Jordan’s state news agency Petra said that King Abdullah II, in a meeting with the Americans, stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and guarantees for the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees.


Donald Trump Jr.: provocateur, master preacher for father

SAN ANTONIO — The shout of “2024!” from the crowd was unmistakable. It stopped Donald Trump Jr. cold.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son had been in the midst of a humor-laced screed in which he decried Joe Biden as too old and Elizabeth Warren as too liberal and insisted his father’s 2016 campaign was too disorganized to possibly collude with the Russians. As many in the crowd of several hundred laughed, Trump Jr. held a dramatic pause before exclaiming his response:

“Let’s worry about 2020 first!” he yelled.

The son has become the prime warmup act for the father at political rallies, often appearing more than an hour before the president speaks, another bombastic provocateur who revels in the tribal loyalty of the supporters who pack Trump rallies. It is a call to arms to a fawning crowd and Donald Jr. has become a master preacher.

His speeches are laced with the same incendiary, sometimes false rhetoric as his father’s, at times even questioning whether Democrats can call themselves Christians. But in these venues, his word is gospel.

The “2024” call from the audience at a San Antonio convention center room on Tuesday underscored the rising stardom of the president’s eldest son, who has become the swaggering embodiment of the “Make America Great Again” ethos.

By far the presidential scion with the closest connection to conservative voters, Trump Jr. is already key in his father’s reelection effort, especially in deep red Republican districts. But where he was once under the scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller, now he is drawing criticism for seemingly hypocritical attacks on another son of a famous politician.

And he doesn’t seem to care at all.

“In 2016, my father said something very serious. He goes: ‘What do you have to lose?’ And he was right,” said Trump Jr, broadening a pitch the president first made to black voters to reach the entire electorate. “So America, you gave him a chance and he has delivered on those promises. Now, what do you have to lose? A lot.”

And then Trump Jr, who was the headliner on this warm October day, gleefully skewered one of the president’s Democratic foes. “Joe Biden, when on the campaign trail, his whole thesis was that government has failed. No s--t, Joe!”

Trump Jr. was one of the campaign’s potent tools in 2016, frequently sent out to small towns and rural areas where the Republican candidate looked to turn out disaffected voters who hadn’t cast ballots in years. An even more aggressive campaign schedule is in the works for 2020.

“He’s the future,” said Annie Davidson, 65, of Alamo Heights. “He’s just like his father and I can’t wait to vote for him someday too.”

By far the most outspoken of his siblings, Trump Jr. has never shied away from a political fight, even when it leads some to question his own sense of self-awareness.

He has been one of the loudest critics of Biden’s son Hunter, suggesting that Hunter Biden only had opportunities in other countries, including Ukraine, because of family connections.

“When you’re the father and your son’s entire career is dependent on that, they own you,” Trump Jr. told Fox News this past week.

Some critics could not resist noting that Donald Trump Jr. shares both the first and last names of a man who gave him his high-paying corporate job and elevated his standing during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was the president’s push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens that prompted House Democrats to launch an impeachment investigation.

“We’re left with a situation where every presidential action is under a cloud of suspicion for corruption, and that suspicion increasingly seems justified,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Trump Jr. has pushed back, suggesting that his criticism of Hunter Biden was not for having a famous father, but rather for trading access to his father’s office to enrich himself. But neither Biden has been charged with wrongdoing.

Hunter Biden told ABC this past week that while his decision to take the job was not unethical, it showed “poor judgment.” But he also made clear that “Trump Jr. is not somebody that I really care about.”

Despite a pledge to cease all new international business once the president took office, the Trump Organization has continued to work on previously struck agreements and profited from the presidency. Congress has called for investigations into foreign officials being steered to stay at the Trump hotel in Washington, Air Force crew members spending nights at Trump’s Scotland golf resort and Vice President Mike Pence lodging at Trump’s Irish golf course, more than an hour from his destination.

Trump Jr.’s eyebrow-raising attacks on another political son came just days after he had to distance himself from a headline-grabbing tempest when it was revealed that he had recently attended a Florida conference for Trump supporters where a parody video was screened that depicted the president killing members of the news media and political opponents.

Trump Jr. said he never saw the video, which aired as part of a three-day conference at the president’s golf club outside Miami. But Trump Jr., who prides himself in his ability to use social media to poke at liberals, was quick to draw an equivalency on Friday. He used Twitter to point out an apparel company’s Midtown Manhattan billboard that depicted the president being assaulted.

“Since you had time to thoroughly cover a stupid and tasteless meme seen by 8 people with incredible outrage, I figured you should dedicate the same time and outrage to THIS BILLBOARD IN TIMES SQUARE you hypocrites!” he tweeted. “Unless of course you’re just full of s--t.”

Trump Jr. has long relished posting button-pushing tweets. His Twitter feed has traded in conspiracy theories and hardline messages about immigration and gun control and he has a book on the way that hits the same themes. He once circulated a post that compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles candy that contained some that “would kill you.”

Trump Jr. declined a request for an interview for this story.

He is unbowed and unapologetic, and his approach appears to mirror his father’s combative defiance toward the controversies that swirl around the White House and the Trump family.

Though he runs the Trump Organization with his brother, Eric, Trump Jr.’s political obligations frequently keep him far from his office on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. The more politically minded of the two brothers, Trump Jr. has embraced his role as a popular emissary for his father, crisscrossing the country on campaign trips, showcasing his relationship with former Fox News host Kim Guilfoyle and headlining Republican fundraisers.

Though he grew up in Manhattan and Florida’s gilded coast, Trump Jr. has established deep ties among rural Republicans and has become an outspoken defender of the Second Amendment. He is viewed by many close to the president as a more logical political heir apparent than his sister, the far more cosmopolitan and refined Ivanka Trump. Where Ivanka Trump, a senior White House aide, has taken to promoting women’s and economic issues while hovering in diplomatic circles at international summits, Trump Jr.’s Instagram feed is filled with hunting and fishing photos.

In 2018, he did more than 70 events for GOP candidates and state parties and will easily eclipse that next year when his father’s name is on the ballot. Those close to him say he may run for office someday, but probably not until after his five children are considerably older.

His front-and-center role for the campaign is a relatively unusual one for recent presidential offspring. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton had children too young to campaign. While President George H.W. Bush’s adult children, including a future president, were in Washington at times, they did not possess the star presence of Trump Jr.

He has not shied away from the spotlight or criticism, having been battle-hardened by the pressure he faced during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which looked into a 2016 meeting Trump Jr. had with a Kremlin-connected lawyer seeking damaging information on Hillary Clinton. No charges were brought against him.

On the campaign trail, Trump Jr. derides the impeachment inquiry and credits his father’s business skills for economic gains, declaring in San Antonio: “It’s nice to have someone running the country who has signed the front of a paycheck and not just the back.”

The crowd roared and Guilfoyle applauded. After the rally, the eldest Trump son headlined a big-dollar dinner in Texas and, days later, was barnstorming in West Virginia for more Republican candidates.

There was more talk of, someday, a possible Trump political dynasty.

“I expect Don to be a player in the conservative movement for years and years to come,” said Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist who advises Trump Jr.


Gregg
Oil museum exhibit resurrects ghost town artifacts

KILGORE — The East Texas Oil Museum is offering its own twist on a “ghost” story.

“Digging up East Texas Ghost Town History,” is a collection of historical artifacts discovered at the sites of East Texas ghost towns, many of which sprung up more than 100 years ago as sawmills and lumber camps. The exhibit is on display at the museum through Nov. 23.

The artifacts were uncovered and preserved by Terry Smith, a member of Relic Hunters of Texas.

“(Smith) goes to abandoned ghost town lumber camps with permission of the property owner and they find relics from the lumber camps,” said Olivia Moore, museum director.

Moore said museum staff first met Smith at a convention in Carthage. His passion for finding historical relics from East Texas lumber camps meshed well with the museum’s mission of preserving the history of the East Texas Oil Boom.

“It was one of those perfect-match type things,” Moore said. “Of course, the lumber was the boom before the oil boom.”

Workers and lumber barons profited from the East Texas lumber industry from before the time of the Texas Revolution until the Great Depression began in 1929, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The vast, dense pine forests of the region were well-suited to the growing industry, which supplied local and national industries eager for more lumber.

Just as Kilgore grew rapidly after “Dad” Joiner struck black gold with the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well in October 1930, many towns expanded seemingly overnight at the sites of lumber camps and sawmills.

The people who lived in those towns were often paid in tokens or slips they could exchange at the local company store for goods and supplies. Such tokens, along with items residents used in their daily lives, make up the majority of items on display in the museum exhibit.

“(Smith) has an extensive collection of about 20,000 relics, but he has narrowed it down to specifically East Texas, and this is from about six or seven ghost town lumber camps in the area, all the way down to Lufkin and all the way up to Texarkana. It’s a big path through East Texas,” Moore said.

The exhibit includes pay tokens, personal items like combs and buttons, soda bottles and makeup jars. Guests can even spot a few familiar brand names among the collections such as Pond’s makeup containers and glass bottles that once held Clorox products. Some of the tokens are marked with the good for which they could be exchanged, such as ice or meat. Many of the items provide an insight into what life was like for the “everyday people” who made their living in East Texas lumber towns, whether they were buying food, beauty items or tools.

“Most of the lumber camp ghost town items that are here are from about 1875 through about 1920. It’s a big time frame, right up to where the rest of the museum takes over in 1930,” Moore said.

The exhibit also includes folk art murals by artist Ray Smith, which were completed about 20 years ago.

“The folk art murals are depicting what a lumber camp would have looked like. You have the trains with the logs, you have the sawmills and then you have the company store. A lot of the relics that they find are from company stores or would have been purchased at company stores,” Moore said.

Moore said many of the people who have viewed the exhibit have a connection to the lumber industry, either through their current employment or through a family member or ancestor.

“Once they see the parts, they have a connection. It connects us to the past,” she said.