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May 13, 2014

French photojournalist Camille Lepage has been found dead in the Central African Republic, French President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement Tuesday.

"The corpse of Lepage was found after a patrol by (French) Sangaris troops stopped a car driven by anti-Balaka groups, in the Bouar region," the statement said. Officials are investigating the circumstances of Lepage's death.

Lepage was just 26 years old and had recently relocated to South Sudan. She was interested in capturing populations in the margins, abandoned by their government, according to her website.

This is likely what led her to the Central African Republic, a fragile nation on the brink of genocide. After a coup in January, the country's minority Muslim factions are being forced into camps by Christian militia groups known as "anti-Balaka." Peacekeepers have been deployed, but the violence is ongoing and the situation is increasingly risky for international workers, reports Slate.

In South Sudan, Lepage photographed the sick, injured, and ostracized. In the Central African Republic, according to photos posted on her Facebook page, she took this keen eye and compassion to the Muslim camps to capture those living on the edge of society.

Her work is thoughtful and effortlessly striking, and it's clear that she had talent well beyond her years. Below are a selection of her photos and captions she wrote herself. --Lauren Hansen

Posted on February 20, 2014: A quiet picture to illustrate the dire situation of the Muslim population in Bangui and elsewhere in the Central African Republic. The Muslims have been targeted by the non-Muslim community for weeks: lynching after lynching, the Muslims fled to the airport where they are protected by the African Union Army and the French Army. They wait to be taken to Chad, where the government have offered them shelter. They will leave everything behind... | (Camille Lepage / Hans Lucas - All rights reserved 2014 via Facebook.com)

Posted on February 16, 2004: As a French soldier targets an agitator behind a house, two local sellers hide in their shop. Today in PK12, Bangui, Central African Republic, the French troops intervene to break barricades set up at the entry gate of the capital by the youth to stop humanitarian help from reaching the Muslims displaced by the violence one kilometer away. | (Camille Lepage / Hans Lucas - All rights reserved 2014 via Facebook.com)

Posted on Nov. 18, 2013: In Bossangoa, Central African Republic, about 35,000 Internally Displaced People have fled their village because of the violence carried out either by the Seleka, the rebel group that took power in March 2013 in the country or by the 'Anti-Balaka', an auto defense group that created itself in response to the Seleka's violence. (Camille Lepage / Hans Lucas - All Rights Reserved 2013 via Facebook.com)

8:24 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a conservative think tank that the "intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election," significantly mischaracterizing a report the intelligence community issued in January. A CIA spokesman quickly clarified, "The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had."

The unclassified January report from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) office did "not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election," describing the Moscow-linked activities as unprecedented in scope and aimed at undermining American faith in its institutions and helping elect President Trump. Former DNI James Clapper said on CNN in September that "our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory."

Pompeo, a former GOP congressman, has been accused of downplaying Russian's effect on the election, as does Trump. "This is another example of Pompeo politicizing intelligence," a former senior U.S. intelligence official told The Washington Post. Pompeo "is the most political CIA director since Bill Casey" during the Reagan administration, the official added. "This significantly undermines the intelligence community's credibility." In his talk on Thursday, Pompeo also said the "former CIA talking heads on TV" are required to stay quiet about their work far "beyond the day you turn in your badge." Peter Weber

7:46 a.m. ET
John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump assured critics that he would officially declare the opioid crisis to be a national emergency next week, which was apparently news to his own officials. "They are not ready for this," one public health advocate told Politico after discussing Trump's promise with Health and Human Services officials. A senior Food and Drug Administration official agreed, calling it "such a mess."

Opioids are the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. STAT estimated earlier this year that opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade. But "Trump's off-script statement stunned top agency officials, who said there is no consensus on how to implement an emergency declaration for the drug epidemic," Politico writes.

Part of the disagreement boils down to how to declare the emergency: The Stafford Act, which is normally used for natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, could open up federal dollars for the opioid crisis but might not be legally sound. Trump could instead declare a more narrowly focused public health emergency, but that would rely on the mere $57,000 in available money from HHS. Trump could also look to Congress, but that approach still hasn't been finalized.

“The reaction [to Trump's promise] was universal," one senior health official told Politico. "Believe it when [we] see it." Read more about why if the opioid crisis isn't a national emergency, nothing is, at The Week. Jeva Lange

7:28 a.m. ET

At a ceremony Friday, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared the "total liberation" of Raqqa, Syria, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. The Kurdish-led coalition then formally handed over control of the devastated city to a civilian council, though SDF spokesman Talal Silo said the coalition would continue sweeping the city for ISIS holdouts and explosives and guarantee the safety of the city and province. The SDF had declared military operations over on Tuesday, and Silo said 655 local and international fighters died in the 130-day battle to push ISIS out of Raqqa.

The SDF held its ceremony, attended by local officials and regional tribal leaders, in the sports stadium that ISIS had used as a weapons depot, prison, and torture chamber, and where its fighters made their last stand. The point, SDF commanders told CNN, was "to add insult to injury following the extremist group's defeat there." Clearing Raqqa of explosives and making sure ISIS militants are all gone from the tunnel system they built could take months. Silo cheered the "historic victory" over ISIS and its "brutal" defeat, and paid homage to the fallen SDF and allied fighters, but also asked the international community to help rebuild Raqqa. You can see a glimpse of what's left of Raqqa, after three months of battle and many more months of U.S.-led bombing, in the Associated Press drone video from Thursday. Peter Weber

6:40 a.m. ET
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Joe Arpaio is still legally guilty of criminal contempt of court despite the Aug. 25 pardon from President Trump. Arpaio's lawyers and the Justice Department had asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to vacate her July 31 guilty verdict, to wipe his record clean and prevent the conviction from being used against him in other litigation. She refused. Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5

"The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping," Bolton wrote in her 4-page ruling, quoting a 1990 appeals court ruling. "To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The court found defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The president issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, 'revise the historical facts' of this case."

Arpaio's lawyers immediately filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Arpaio, 85, was sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years before being voted out last year. He is an immigration hardliner and significant Trump supporter. After his pardon, Arpaio suggested that he might get back into politics. Peter Weber

5:43 a.m. ET
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Keeping up with President Trump's stance on the bipartisan health-care bill that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled on Thursday, flanked by 11 Republican and 11 Democratic cosponsors, can be exhausting and frustrating. So Republicans have just started ignoring Trump's opinion, Caitlin Owens reports at Axios, and cracking jokes about Trump's policy inconstancy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said all 48 members of the Democratic caucus, which would give it 60 yes votes if Republicans bring it up for a vote. But if Trump objects, Republicans see a problem. If.

"Which one's he on now?" Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) asked Owens when she brought up Trump's opinion of the bill. "In this town, at this time, change seems to be the norm," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said when asked about Trump's shifting opinion. "It is what it is. So we just work around it." A GOP lobbyist told Owens: "They just need to pass it during the 5 minutes he is supportive." Alexander and others suggest that the bill faces better odds as part of a year-end package of must-pass legislation rather than as a stand-alone bill.

Alexander-Murray aims to stabilize insurance markets by extending for two years the cost-sharing subsidies that insurers use to lower costs for low-income customers — Trump ended them last week — and makes it easier for states to get waivers on ObamaCare requirements. Peter Weber

4:42 a.m. ET

This week, for some reason, the internet went crazy over a rumor that first lady Melania Trump has a body double. "Do you have any idea how dumb that sounds?" Jordan Klepper scoffed on Thursday's The Opposition. "Of course Melania has a body double. We free thinkers have known that for years." In fact, "body doubles are everywhere in politics," and have been since Queen Elizabeth I invented them, Klepper said, with much more elaboration and a few examples.

But "this Melania body-double thing is trying to throw you off the scent, like a perfume that tells lies," Klepper said. "The big story? The double that is happening in health care." He noted Trump's rapid flip-flopping on whether he supports the bipartisan Alexander-Murray health care bill. "I know what you're thinking — Trump's body double went off-book. Shut up, that's absurd — Trump doesn't have a body double. They're not ready yet; they've been only growing beneath the Arizona desert for nine months, give them time."

"No, Trump is using an even more advanced technique: the opinion double," Klepper explained. "You see, opinion doubles let Trump occupy multiple stances on health care at the same time. They allow you to play to whichever room you happen to be in. If you have every opinion, you are guaranteed to be right — it's brilliant." If body doubles and opinion doubles are real, Klepper said, bipartisanship isn't. "You think politicians are going to work with their enemies just to help Americans? What's the catch?" And he had the conspiracy theory to prove his point. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:48 a.m. ET

The National Weather Service issued its forecast for the winter on Thursday, and most of the U.S. should expect warmer-than-average temperatures, on the assumption that a weak La Niña weather pattern develops in the Pacific. While the lower two-thirds of the U.S., Hawaii, and the northern and western parts of Alaska will be unusually warm, said Mike Halpert of the Climate Prediction Center, there will also be "greater-than-average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies, with less-than-average snowfall throughout the Mid-Atlantic region" and a dry winter across the south.

If the forecasts of a warmer-than-average winter are true, it would be the third one in a row — last winter was the sixth warmest on record, and the one before that the warmest ever recorded, The Washington Post notes. "We're not anticipating the kind of record warmth we've seen the last two winters," Halpert told reporters, though "the odds of seeing three Top 10 [warmest winters in a row] is reduced, not eliminated." The warming climate from greenhouse gasses "does, undoubtedly, play a role" in the warm winters, he added, but the "driving force" this year is the La Niña.

The forecast is seasonal and doesn't preclude cold fronts or snowstorms anywhere, Halpert cautioned, and there's only a 55 percent 65 percent chance of a La Niña developing. Peter Weber

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