Tears and hugs as Thai football team meets media, farewells hospital staff

The Thai football boys and their coach spoke to media for the first time today after they were discharged from hospital following their rescue from a flooded cave.

Before they left Prachanukroh Hospital, the 13 Wild Boars team members held a farewell gathering to thank hospital staff for taking care of them.

A handout footage given by the hospital shows members of a Thai youth football team being cheered by hospital staff.

The world has had its first look at the young footballers, and been given a glimpse of the remarkable rescue effort. Source: 1 NEWS

Some were in tears as they delivered a goodbye speech.

Today, the 12 boys and the coach faced the media for the first time since their ordeal, describing their shock at seeing the British divers who found them after they went missing inside the cave for almost 10 days.

The players finally got to tell their story in their own words. Source: 1 NEWS

Donald Trump again forced to 'clarify' comments about Russian interference in US - 'flat-out wrong'

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats' drumbeat of criticism against Russia is clashing loudly with President Donald Trump's pro-Kremlin remarks, leaving the soft-spoken spy chief in an uncomfortable - and perhaps perilous - seat in the administration.

Trump's remarks after today's Cabinet meeting, where he appeared to deny the longtime US foe was still targeting American elections, are just the latest in a growing list of statements that conflict with Coats'.

His job is to share the work of the 17 intelligence agencies he oversees with the president.

Coats, who will be speaking tomorrow at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado, is a former Republican lawmaker.

He was banned from traveling to Russia in 2014 for calling out its annexation of Crimea, and he has continued to raise the alarm on Russia since his appointment by Trump as intelligence chief in March 2017.

That's left Coats in a tight spot. Trump has been determined to forge closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, culminating in this week's extraordinary summit in Helsinki.

The disconnect with Coats was laid bare after Trump sparked outrage back home by giving credence to Russia's denial of interference in the 2016 US election as he stood alongside Putin.

Back in Washington, Coats was quick to issue a statement Tuesday to rebut that position.

He restated the US intelligence assessment about Russian meddling and "their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."

Former intelligence officials say Coats is just speaking truth to power, a mantra often used in describing the intelligence agencies' historical relationship with any president. But in the Trump administration, Coats could be walking into a minefield, given the president's track record of firing officials who don't toe his line.

Michael Morell, former deputy and acting director of the CIA, said Coats and other national security officials in the Trump administration are just doing their jobs, and the president undermines them and the institutions they lead when he makes "inaccurate statements."

"By doing this, the president is undermining our national security," Morell said.

Trump did walk back his post-Putin summit comments yesterday, saying he'd misspoken when he said he saw no reason why it was Russia that had interfered in the 2016 election. He also said he accepted the intelligence agencies' conclusion of Russian meddling.

But he added, "It could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

The president's mixed messaging grew even more confusing today.

He was asked if Russia was still targeting the US and answered "no" - a statement that Morell contended was "flat-out wrong" because the Russians never stopped trying to interfere in the US democracy.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump does believe that Russia may try to target US elections again and the "threat still exists."

When asked today in a CBS News interview whether Trump agrees with Coats that the Russian threat is ongoing, the president said he did.

"Well, I accept. I mean, he's an expert. This is what he does. He's been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Dan Coats, and if he says that, I would accept that. I will tell you though, it better not be. It better not be," Trump said.

Trump has had a tense relationship with US intelligence agencies since before he was elected, largely because of their conclusion that Putin ordered "an influence campaign" in 2016 aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Earlier in the administration, Coats' voice was drowned out by the more outspoken Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director before Trump tapped him as secretary of state.

Now with Pompeo heading the State Department, Coats has been thrust into the limelight as the voice of the intelligence community. In Aspen tomorrow, he's expected to outline the cyberthreats the US faces from Russia as well as other countries, such as China, North Korea and Iran.

Coats, 75, is not known as being flippant.

He's prided himself as being a steady voice, but it's clear he is no fan of Russia.

In comments at a Washington think tank last week, he said, "The Russian bear ... is out of the cave, hungry and clawing for more territory, more influence and using the same tactics we saw in the Cold War and more."

It comes as the President’s own Director of National Intelligence warned of Russian meddling. Source: 1 NEWS


Aerial footage shows ferocious fire blazing across Oregon landscape

A tractor operator who was killed in a wildfire that scorched 181 kilometres in little more than 24 hours in the Pacific Northwest appears to have died trying to stop it, police said.

The blaze east of Portland, Oregon, and near the city of The Dalles started Wednesday and spread into a rural farming area with vast wheat fields.

Authorities found one person dead today near a burned-out tractor.

The person was likely trying to use the heavy farm machinery to create a fire break to hold back flames, the Wasco County Sheriff's Office said.

Dozens of homes have been evacuated because of the conflagration about 130 kilometres east of Portland.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on today, marking the unofficial start to a Pacific Northwest Fire season that's expected to be worse than normal.

Cal Fire says a fire in Santa Barbara County, California burned at least 48 hectares by today. It was 20 per cent contained.

The blaze began near the city of The Dalles before spreading to a rural area with vast wheat fields. Source: Associated Press