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Taliban Attacks in Afghanistan Kill 80 and Injure 300

HeadlineOct 18, 2017
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In Afghanistan, a string of Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces Tuesday left 80 people dead and nearly 300 injured, in the country’s worst day of violence in at least five months. In the deadliest attack, Taliban fighters used a series of bombs to breach a police compound in the city of Gardez, entering the building and setting off an hours-long gun battle.

More Headlines fromOctober 18, 2017

Federal Judge Halts Most of President Trump’s Latest Travel Ban

Oct 18, 2017
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A federal judge in Hawaii blocked most of President Trump’s latest version of a travel ban Tuesday, just hours before it was set to take effect. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, who previously blocked plans by the administration to ban refugees and travelers from six majority-Muslim nations, ruled the latest ban “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in violation of the law as well as the “founding principles of this Nation.” The ban would have barred some travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. However, Judge Watson’s order will allow a ban on some North Koreans and Venezuelans to go into effect. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments this month on an earlier version of a travel ban but canceled the hearing after Trump issued new restrictions. The White House has vowed to appeal the latest ruling.

Senate Deal Would Stabilize Health Insurance Markets for Two Years

Oct 18, 2017
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On Capitol Hill, two senators said Tuesday they’ve reached a deal to stabilize health insurance markets, as President Trump wages a campaign aimed at undermining the Affordable Care Act. The limited deal by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington will fund health insurance subsidies for low-income Americans for two years. President Trump said he would back the deal, even though he said last week he was ending billions of dollars in federal subsidies to insurance companies—part of his effort to “let Obamacare implode.”

Trump to Widow of Soldier Killed in Niger: “He Knew What He Signed Up For”

Oct 18, 2017
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In Florida, the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, Myeshia Johnson, wept over the casket of her husband as his body arrived at Miami International Airport Tuesday ahead of a funeral planned for the weekend. Sgt. Johnson was one of four U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush during a patrol in Niger on October 4—a raid that President Trump did not publicly acknowledge until a reporter confronted him about it this week. On Tuesday, Florida Congressmember Frederica Wilson said Trump called Myeshia Johnson as she was accompanying her family to the airport in a car. The congressmember said she heard Trump say over a speakerphone, “He knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” In response, Wilson told the Miami Herald, “I think it’s so insensitive. It’s crazy. Why do you need to say that? You don’t say that to someone who lost family, the father, the breadwinner. You can say, ’I’m so sorry for your loss. He’s a hero.’ I’m livid.”

Trump Doubles Down on False Claim About Gold Star Families and Obama

Oct 18, 2017
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Trump stirred outrage Monday when he falsely claimed that President Obama did not personally call the families of U.S. soldiers killed in combat. The comment prompted Obama’s former deputy chief of staff to call the claim an “eff-ing lie” while blasting Trump as a “deranged animal.” On Tuesday, the president doubled down on the claim in an interview with Fox News Radio.

President Donald Trump: “To the best of my knowledge, I think I’ve called every family of somebody that’s died. And it’s the hardest call to make. And I said it very loud and clear yesterday. The hardest thing for me to do is do that. Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know. I mean, you could ask General Kelly: Did he get a call from Obama? You could ask other people. I don’t know what Obama’s policy was. I write letters and I also call.”

Trump was referring to his chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, whose son, First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, died in Afghanistan in 2010 when he stepped on a landmine. Kelly has previously refused to discuss his son’s death publicly. The Washington Post reports John Kelly attended a 2011 breakfast held by President Obama for Gold Star families.

Somalia: Accused Bomber May Have Wanted Revenge over Deadly U.S. Raid

Oct 18, 2017
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In Somalia, new details about Saturday’s massive truck bomb attack reveal an accused mastermind of the attack may have been motivated by a deadly U.S. raid last summer that left 10 civilians dead, including children. The Guardian reports the suspected bomber is from the specific community targeted by the raid last August, a village near the capital Mogadishu. Saturday’s attack killed more than 300 people and left about 400 others injured.

Kenyan Opposition Leader Calls Off Protests Amid Mounting Deaths

Oct 18, 2017
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In Kenya, opposition leader Raila Odinga called off a protest campaign Tuesday after three people were shot and killed by police as they demonstrated against Kenya’s election commission. With the latest deaths, human rights groups say at least 67 of Odinga’s supporters have been killed in protests over a failed election on August 8. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won that election with 54 percent of the vote, but Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the result, citing irregularities in the country’s electronic voting system. Odinga said last week he would not participate in a revote scheduled for October 26 without electoral reforms.

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Israeli Army Raids Media Outlets Across Occupied West Bank

Oct 18, 2017
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Israel’s army raided TV channels and media outlets across the occupied West Bank overnight Tuesday, confiscating equipment, forcing broadcasters off the air and arresting two Palestinians. In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces accused the media outlets of inciting terrorism. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned the crackdown and promised to rally media workers outside U.N. offices in Ramallah.

Israel Approves 31 New Housing Units in Hebron Settlement

Oct 18, 2017
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The raids came as Israel approved plans to build 31 new housing units in a settlement in the Palestinian city of Hebron. It’s the latest move by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to defy international law by expanding Jewish-only settlements. This is Hagit Ofran of the Israeli group Peace Now.

Hagit Ofran: “This plan is going to be in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron. It’s going to increase the number of settlers by 20 percent. This is a bad decision that Israel is now allowing to expand the settlement, which represents the most ugly face of Israel’s occupation.”

Newly Released Documents Reveal U.S. Approval of Indonesian Genocide

Oct 18, 2017
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Newly declassified documents reveal diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, knew about—and supported—a mass extermination campaign by Indonesia’s government in the 1960s that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians—by some estimates, more than 1 million people. Beginning in 1965, Indonesian military and paramilitary forces slaughtered accused communists and dissidents after overthrowing the democratically elected government. That military was backed by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson and led by General Suharto, who would go on to rule Indonesia for decades. In memos made public on Tuesday, U.S. Embassy officials cheered reports describing the “slaughter” and “indiscriminate killings” of Indonesians. One memo from late 1965 read, “Generally victims are taken out of populous areas before being killed and bodies are buried rather than thrown in river.” Historians have already established that the U.S. provided the Indonesian Army with financial, military and intelligence support at the time of the mass killings.

Drug Czar Nominee Rep. Tom Marino Withdraws over Opioid Scandal

Oct 18, 2017
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Back in the United States, President Trump’s nominee for drug czar, Republican Congressmember Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration Tuesday, after a Washington Post/”60 Minutes” investigation found he led a drug industry-backed effort to weaken the federal government’s ability to crack down on the opioid epidemic. The bill, backed by Marino, made it nearly impossible for the DEA to keep large quantities of prescription opioid pain pills off the black market. In a tweet, President Trump acknowledged Marino was withdrawing, and called him a “fine man and a great Congressman!”

Los Angeles: Chevron Oil Refinery Fire Sends Smoke into Neighborhoods

Oct 18, 2017
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In Los Angeles, a fire erupted overnight at a massive Chevron oil refinery near the L.A. International Airport, lighting up the night sky and sending huge columns of smoke into residential neighborhoods. Police warned nearby residents to close their windows as firefighters spent about a half-hour extinguishing flames. Chevron describes the site as the largest oil refinery in the western U.S., processing more than a quarter-million barrels of crude oil each day.

California: Wildfire Erupts in Santa Cruz Mountains as Death Toll Reaches 41

Oct 18, 2017
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Meanwhile, in Northern California, a new wildfire erupted in the Santa Cruz Mountains southwest of San Jose Tuesday—the latest in a record-setting fire season. The official death toll from the fires has reached 41, the deadliest in California history. Dozens more remain missing, and according to Sonoma County’s sheriff, some victims were reduced to ashes and bones and will never be identified.

Texas: Trump Administration Blocks Undocumented Teen from Getting Abortion

Oct 18, 2017
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In Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union says the Trump administration is barring a pregnant undocumented teenager from getting an abortion. In a lawsuit in federal court, the ACLU says the 17-year-old girl, who’s living unaccompanied in a refugee resettlement shelter, has been granted permission from a judge to terminate her pregnancy—but officials with the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies have refused to transport her to a women’s health clinic for an abortion.

New California Law to Introduce Third “Nonbinary” Gender on State IDs

Oct 18, 2017
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California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will allow residents to claim a third gender when applying for official documents. Beginning in 2019, anyone applying for a driver’s license or birth certificate will be able to identify themselves as “female,” “male” or “nonbinary.” The legislation follows similar bills that passed in Oregon and Washington, D.C., with other states including New York set to follow suit.

Chechnya: Openly Gay Russian Man Describes Torture by Police

Oct 18, 2017
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In Chechnya, a Russian man who says he was kidnapped and tortured by police has become the first openly gay witness to describe what human rights groups are calling a “gay pogrom” carried out by Chechen officials. Thirty-year-old Maxim Lapunov told reporters Monday he was abducted on the street in the Chechen capital Grozny last March and taken to a bloodstained jail cell where he was tortured for 12 days.

Maxim Lapunov: “The cell was really scary. It was about two-by-two meters, and a quarter of the cell was simply covered in blood. It wasn’t blood from yesterday or the day before yesterday. It was fresh. It just soaked into the floor. First, they were beating me with plastic pipes. I cannot say exactly for how long, but it was long. I was falling down on my knees because I could no longer stay on my feet any longer. My legs, my thighs, buttocks, back were all beaten. They would let me take a breath now and then, but afterwards pushed me back up and resumed the beating, shouting threats and accusations.”

Human rights groups say as many as 100 people, mainly gay young men, were swept up by Chechen police and tortured earlier this year.

The New Yorker: Trump Joked VP Pence “Wants to Hang” All Gays

Oct 18, 2017
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Back in the United States, the White House is denying an explosive article published in The New Yorker that reports President Trump joked that Vice President Mike Pence “wants to hang” gay people. According to reporter Jane Mayer, Trump made the comments in a private meeting with a legal scholar, saying of the vice president’s views on LGBT rights, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!” Trump also reportedly mocked Pence over his religious views and his anti-abortion activism. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the remarks never happened, but The New Yorker stands by its reporting, saying the report was meticulously researched and based on interviews with over 60 officials.

Minnesota Judge to Allow “Necessity Defense” at Trial of Climate Activists

Oct 18, 2017
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And in northern Minnesota, a district court judge in Hubbard County has ruled that he will allow activists to present a so-called necessity defense when they go to trial on charges for turning off valves to an oil pipeline in a direct action protest last year. The activists, who say their decision to break the law was necessitated by the clear and present danger posed by global warming, will be allowed to call expert witnesses on climate change. Among those who may be called are former top NASA climate scientist James Hansen and 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who told the website Common Dreams, “The whole planet will be inside a single courtroom the day this trial begins. It’s a rare chance to explain precisely why we need to act, and act now.”

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