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Violence Roils Afghanistan as Taliban Cracks Down on Red Cross

Aug 16, 2018
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In Afghanistan, funerals have begun for 37 people killed after a suicide bomber struck an education center Wednesday in the capital Kabul. Most of the dead were young women and men who were preparing for university entrance exams. The bombing was followed by an assault on an Afghan intelligence service base in Kabul by gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades earlier today. Meanwhile, Taliban fighters overran a military outpost in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province, killing 44 soldiers and police officers. Elsewhere, U.S.-backed Afghan forces claimed to have taken control of most of the city of Ghazni on Wednesday, following some of the heaviest fighting Afghanistan has seen in years. The U.N. estimates 150 civilians died during the 5-day campaign, and local hospitals report they’re overwhelmed with the injured and the dead. This is Omid, a resident of Ghazni.

Omid: “It has been almost four days of insurgence in the city, but the government has not paid attention to the people here, and, as you can see, most of the markets have burnt down in the city.”

The violence came as the Taliban said it would no longer grant safe passage to workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross, accusing the agency of failing to support Taliban prisoners held by the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Trump Revokes Security Clearance of Ex-CIA Director, a Major Critic

Aug 16, 2018
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Donald Trump has revoked the security clearance of his staunch critic, former CIA Director John Brennan, who’s repeatedly called Trump unfit to be president. Brennan served as CIA director under President Obama, where he oversaw the agency’s drone assassination program. Ben Wizner of the ACLU said in response to Brennan’s loss of clearance, “We have been unsparing in our criticism of [John Brennan’s] defense of the CIA torture program and his role in unlawful lethal strikes abroad. But Trump’s revocation of Brennan’s clearance, and his threats to revoke the clearances of other former officials for the sole reason that they have criticized his conduct and policies, amount to unconstitutional retaliation.” At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said other former executive branch officials who’ve been critical of Trump could be next.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr. Security clearances for those who still have them may be revoked, and those who have already lost their security clearance may not be able to have it reinstated.”

Among former administration officials whose security clearance the White House isn’t reviewing: Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over his conversations with Russian officials.

Security Clearance Flap Comes Amid Mounting White House Scandals

Aug 16, 2018
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This all comes as a jury is deliberating over the fate of Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who faces 18 charges related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation—including tax fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. And it comes after former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said that Trump was recorded repeatedly using the “N-word”—and shared a recording of a White House official discussing potential fallout from Trump’s use of the racist slur.

Trump’s Lawyer Prepared to “Unload” on Mueller “Like a Ton of Bricks”

Aug 16, 2018
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Meanwhile, Trump’s legal team said Wednesday it may fight all the way to the Supreme Court to quash a possible subpoena from Robert Mueller for an interview with the president. Trump has so far refused to be questioned by Mueller; his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is saying Mueller should submit his report before September 7, threatening, “If he doesn’t get it done in the next two or three weeks we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks.”

Hundreds of Media Outlets Condemn Trump’s Attacks on the Free Press

Aug 16, 2018
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More than 300 newspapers and media outlets have launched a campaign to counter President Donald Trump’s attacks on the free press. The effort was led by The Boston Globe, which wrote in an editorial, “For more than two centuries, this foundational American principle has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat. And it sends an alarming signal to despots from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.”

Turkish Court Releases Jailed Amnesty International Chair

Aug 16, 2018
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In Turkey, a court has released the honorary chair of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kiliç, more than a year after he was arrested along with other human rights campaigners for allegedly supporting a failed 2016 coup attempt. Kiliç’s arrest drew international condemnation over Turkey’s increasingly harsh crackdown on human rights. This is Taner Kiliç speaking just after his release.

Taner Kiliç: “I hope justice will prevail for everyone. I hope the independent and impartial judiciary will serve for everyone. I am not the one in the worst situation. There are people in a worse situation than I am. I hope there will be a fair trial for everyone.”

Kiliç’s release came amid an escalating trade war between Washington and Ankara—and after the Trump administration brought sanctions against Turkey, demanding the release of an American missionary named Andrew Brunson, who was one of thousands of people detained in Turkey after the failed coup in 2016.

Brazil: Lula Registers from Prison as Presidential Candidate

Aug 16, 2018
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In Brazil, jailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has formally registered as the Workers’ Party candidate for president, even as Brazil’s electoral court threatens to invalidate his candidacy. Lula is currently in jail serving a 12-year sentence on a corruption conviction his party says was politically motivated. Polls show him as the front-running candidate for the October presidential elections. On Wednesday, 10,000 of Lula’s supporters marched through the streets of the capital, Brasilia. Among them, former President Dilma Rousseff and current vice-presidential candidate Fernando Haddad.

Dilma Rousseff: “Today we won with our strength, our conviction and with the certainty that Lula is innocent.”

Fernando Haddad: “We know about the framing of Lula. We know that the trial, which from the start looked to take Lula out of the presidential campaign, is a sham trial, a trial in which no crime was proved, much less a single shred of evidence against President Lula.”

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Malta Allows Migrant Ship to Dock After 5 Days Stranded at Sea

Aug 16, 2018
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In the Mediterranean, an aid ship carrying 141 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya docked in Malta on Wednesday, capping an ordeal that saw European Union member countries deny the migrants a safe harbor for five days. The migrants are mostly Eritreans and Somalis—dozens of them children. Doctors Without Borders, which helps operate the rescue ship Aquarius, said many of the migrants fell victim to sexual violence and slave labor in Libya. Last month, President Donald Trump praised Italy’s newly elected Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for denying harbor to the rescue ship Aquarius as it approached Italy with 629 migrants aboard.

ACLU Says ICE “Trapped” Immigrant Spouses at Green Card Interviews

Aug 16, 2018
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In Massachusetts, the ACLU says it’s uncovered emails showing how a pair of federal immigration agencies worked together to trap and arrest immigrants as they arrived for interviews to seek permanent residency. The ACLU says ICE agents coordinated efforts with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as immigrants arrived with their spouses—who are U.S. citizens—at citizenship offices throughout New England seeking green cards. The agencies reportedly scheduled the arrests at times that would attract less public attention.

CDC Says Record 72,000 Americans Died of Drug Overdoses Last Year

Aug 16, 2018
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a record 72,000 Americans died of drug overdose deaths last year, as the opioid epidemic reached new heights. 2017’s death toll from overdoses increased by about 10 percent from a year earlier, surpassing the number who died from car crashes, gun violence and HIV/AIDS combined.

GOP to Withhold Documents on Kavanaugh from Public and Most Lawmakers

Aug 16, 2018
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Two Senate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016 met with federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh Wednesday, further dimming the prospects of opponents of Trump’s far-right Supreme Court nominee. The meetings by Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana come ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, scheduled for September 4. This comes as some Democrats blasted the process for Kavanaugh’s review. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey tweeted Wednesday, “Chairman Grassley has unilaterally ruled one-third of the Kavanaugh records to be 'Committee Confidential' meaning anyone not on Judiciary Committee cannot see them. That’s 79 Senators & the entire American public. It’s an unprecedented level of secrecy. #WhatAreTheyHiding?”

Puerto Rican Officials Say Electricity Fully Restored After 11 Months

Aug 16, 2018
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The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority—known as PREPA—said Wednesday it has finished restoring electricity across the island, 11 months after Hurricane Maria destroyed most of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Critics warn the grid remains highly vulnerable to future storms as the peak of the hurricane season approaches.

Puerto Rican Teachers Hold 1-Day Strike to Oppose Education Cuts

Aug 16, 2018
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And the Puerto Rico Federation of Teachers marched Wednesday through the streets of Old San Juan, holding a 1-day strike as the fall school semester began amid budget cuts imposed by a federally appointed fiscal control board. Teachers are demanding a reconsideration to the closure of more than 250 public schools, an increase in teacher’s salary and no more privatizations of public schools. This is striking teacher Noelanie Fuentes Cardona.

Noelanie Fuentes Cardona: “They eliminate a budget, but nonetheless in the executive and administrative positions millions and thousands of dollars are wasted on salaries. But in the classroom, nothing is invested like it should. So we have the contradiction of closing job placements but hiring in other executive positions and distributing money in places that are not necessary. If there are budget cuts, they need to redistribute the small amount of money, or lack of, into the real necessities of the Department of Education—more teachers, facilities, structures, and materials for our students. If they speak and say that our children are first, let’s take that word into action. Let’s demonstrate if children are really first or if their pocket is first.”

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