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HeadlinesAugust 18, 2016

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Louisiana Floods Worst U.S. Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

Aug 18, 2016

The American Red Cross is calling this week’s flooding in Louisiana the worst disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. At least 13 people were killed after historic rainfall submerged parts of Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. State officials say the destruction may result in the worst housing crisis in the region since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The federal government has declared the area a disaster zone, and state officials say more than 5,000 people remain in emergency shelters. This is a volunteer in Acadia Parish, Louisiana, where public schools remain closed and a curfew remains in place, amid the devastating flooding.

Angel Browning: “It’s very scary. And God has a reason; I just don’t know what it is yet. So, the rain is coming some more, and we just don’t know what to do. We’re trying to do everything we can. And we’re running low on everything at the store, so we’re trying to get stuff coming in, which we can’t, because everything is blocked. So, the owner’s running to Wal-Mart and buying crates and crates and crates of milk, so we can pass out here to our little people in our community.”

The Louisiana Governor’s Office has said at least 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. In Livingston Parish, home to about 138,000 people, it is estimated 75 percent of the homes have been lost.

Aetna to Leave Public Healthcare Exchanges After DOJ Blocks Merger

Aug 18, 2016

Aetna, the U.S.'s third largest health insurance company, says it will cut its participation in the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces next year by two-thirds, after the Department of Justice moved to block its merger with another healthcare company. Aetna claimed it faces more than $300 million in losses this year as a result of the public exchanges. But in a letter sent to the Justice Department in July, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini threatened that Aetna would reduce its participation in the exchange if the Justice Department blocked its merger with health insurance company Humana. Bertolini wrote: “If the DOJ sues to enjoin the transaction, we will immediately take action to reduce our 2017 exchange footprint.” Aetna reported a 38 percent increase in its overall profits last year, despite the loss it reported on the public exchanges. Last month, the Justice Department also sued to block a merger between healthcare giants Cigna and Anthem, which would be the largest heath insurance merger in U.S. history.

Clinton Takes Aim at Trump for Refusing to Pay Employees

Aug 18, 2016

In news from the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took aim at Donald Trump’s record as an employer during a speech in Ohio Wednesday.

Hillary Clinton: “It just really hits me personally when people are standing up and telling their stories. They were small business people, they were plumbers, electricians, painters, who did work for Donald Trump, and he refused to pay them. That violates the basic bargain. If you do your job, you’re supposed to be rewarded for your work, not stiffed, not told to go sue somebody.”

Trump was in New York yesterday for his first classified intelligence briefing with the FBI.

Lawmakers Begin Reviewing Clinton Emails

Aug 18, 2016

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., began reviewing FBI documents on Wednesday detailing the agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. The large binders labeled “secret” were made available to lawmakers after Republicans requested the information last month, following the FBI’s decision to recommend no criminal charges be brought against Clinton over the email use. The State Department has also said it will release some of Clinton’s emails to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign continues to face questions after 44 State Department emails released to Judicial Watch revealed close ties between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department during Clinton’s time as secretary of state.

Ring-Wing Media Influencer Steve Bannon Now Heads Trump Campaign

Aug 18, 2016

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, the chairman of the conservative outlet Breitbart News, has taken over as Donald Trump’s campaign chief. Bannon is a former Goldman Sachs executive who has built Breitbart News into a far right-wing website that regularly sparks controversy with headlines such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Trannies Whine about Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard.” The website regularly attacks mainstream figures of the Republican Party, such as former House Speaker John Boehner and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bannon himself is considered to be the most influential figure in conservative media, after former Fox News chair Roger Ailes, who is also advising Donald Trump’s campaign. A 2015 profile of Bannon called him “the most dangerous political operative in America.”

NYT, Guardian Editorial Boards Call for End to Support for Saudis in Yemen

Aug 18, 2016

In international news, The New York Times and The Guardian editorial boards are calling for the U.S. and British governments to end their support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. In an editorial titled “America is Complicit in the Carnage in Yemen,” the Times wrote on Wednesday, “Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace.” With U.S. and British support, Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen for 17 months, causing the majority of the conflict’s civilian casualties. Last week, the U.S. approved the sale of more than $1 billion of new weapons to the Saudis. Since taking office, the Obama administration has approved more than $110 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

U.N. Admits Role in Causing Haiti Cholera Outbreak That Killed 9,000

Aug 18, 2016

The office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the U.N. played a role in a cholera epidemic that killed more than 9,000 people in Haiti. The U.N. said it would issue a new set of responses to the outbreak in the next two months. U.N. peacekeepers are accused of negligently bringing cholera to the island during their deployment following the 2010 Haitian earthquake. A lawsuit in U.S. federal court seeks billions in damages for the victims. Ban’s admission does not change the U.N.’s stance it has legal immunity under a 1946 convention.

U.N. to Investigate Claim Peacekeepers Failed to Stop Attacks on Civilians

Aug 18, 2016

Meanwhile, in South Sudan, the U.N. is launching an investigation into allegations that U.N. peacekeepers did not attempt to prevent multiple cases of abuse and sexual violence against civilians. Last month, troops fighting on behalf of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir went on a nearly four-hour rampage through a hotel compound frequented by foreign aid workers. Witnesses say civilians were gang-raped and a journalist was executed in the attack. Several witnesses told the Associated Press that U.N. peacekeepers stationed nearby did nothing to stop the violence despite pleas for assistance from those inside the compound.

At Least Five Police Officers Killed in Bombings in Eastern Turkey

Aug 18, 2016

In Turkey, at least five police officers were killed and more than 100 people wounded by car bomb attacks in eastern Turkey on Wednesday and Thursday. The Turkish government blamed the attacks on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. Earlier this week, Turkish authorities shut down a newspaper in Istanbul and arrested some of its staff after claiming the paper supported the PKK. The newspaper’s closure is part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Turkey following a failed military coup in July.

Australia to Close Manus Offshore Detention Facility for Asylum Seekers

Aug 18, 2016

The Australian government says it will close the Manus Island immigration detention center after reports of harsh conditions and rampant abuse there, including for child detainees. Manus is one of the two offshore detention facilities Australia uses for asylum-seeking migrants. Many of those at the Manus Island facility have spent years in detention and suffer from mental health issues. The Australian government has so far said none of the those detained at Manus would be resettled in Australia, but Colin Barnett, the premier of Western Australia, said he would welcome their resettlement.

Colin Barnett: “Particularly for families, as long as they don’t present a security or safety risk, I do welcome them being in Australia. And the one thing I find unacceptable is children in detention.”

Illinois Governor Signs Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Aug 18, 2016

In Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner has signed into law a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which grants domestic workers protections under the state’s labor statutes, including minimum wage, overtime and time off. Domestic workers are not covered by state or federal labor laws, though some states have similar bills. Wendy Pollack of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law said, “This is really historic because the exclusion of domestic workers from federal and state employment laws has an unfortunate history in slavery and anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Hate Crime Charges Possible for Oklahoma Man Who Killed Arab Neighbor

Aug 18, 2016

In Oklahoma, funeral services will be held Friday for Khalid Jabara, the Lebanese-American man police say was killed by his next-door neighbor in a possible hate crime. Police say Stanley Majors will be charged with first-degree murder for Monday’s killing and acknowledged he had a long-standing animosity toward Jabara’s family. Majors, who is white, is already facing assault charges for hitting Haifa Jabara, Khalid’s mother, with his car last year while she was jogging. Before that, Haifa Jabara already had a restraining order against Majors after he had threatened and harassed her. Despite all this, Majors was released on bail earlier this year and returned to his home. The Jabaras say Majors had threatened them and used racial slurs repeatedly since 2013. Majors had been arrested at least once for violating the restraining order before hitting Haifa Jabara with his car. Ten minutes before he was shot on Monday, Khalid Jabara called police to report suspicious activity around the family’s home. Police left without speaking to Majors, but admitted to journalists later that Majors was known to be hostile toward the Jabaras. Victoria Jabara Wiliams, Khalid’s sister, wrote on Facebook: “My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years. Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our repeated protests, he was released from jail with no conditions on his bond—no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, nothing.”

UC Berkeley Chancellor Leaves Amid Criticisms over Handling of Harassment Cases

Aug 18, 2016

University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks will resign after criticism of his handling of sexual harassment cases and the university’s budget. In one case, a law school dean received only a temporary pay cut and orders to undergo counseling after an investigation supported claims he had sexually harassed a subordinate.

Brazil Police Question U.S. Swimmers After Doubt Cast on Robbery Claim

Aug 18, 2016

And in Brazil, American Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were pulled off a plane for questioning as they were preparing to leave Rio, amid suspicions that they and their teammates may have lied about their account of being robbed at gunpoint by people posing as police officers. Their teammate, gold medalist Ryan Lochte, had told authorities they were robbed early Sunday as they were returning home after a late-night party. He has since left Brazil. But Brazilian police say there are discrepancies in the swimmers’ reports. Police also say closed-circuit TV footage contradicts their stories. In Brazil, filing a false police report is a crime.

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