Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 15, 2019

A recession warning sign sends stocks diving, one of Jeffrey Epstein's accusers sues his estate, and more


Stocks dive after bond market flashes recession warning sign

U.S. stocks suffered their worst plunge of 2019 on Wednesday after the yield for long-term U.S. bonds fell below that of short-term bonds, a strong warning sign of a looming recession. It was the first such "inverted yield curve" since just before the Great Recession more than a decade ago. Such inversions, which indicate dwindling investor confidence in the economy, have come before every recession in the last half century. "Investors are tripping over themselves to get out of the way," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all lost roughly 3 percent on Wednesday. Futures for the main U.S. stock indexes gave back early overnight gains after China vowed to respond to new U.S. tariffs.


Epstein accuser sues estate, staff

One of the women accusing Jeffrey Epstein of sexual abuse on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the late financier's estate. The complaint, filed by Jennifer Araoz, also accuses longtime Epstein associated Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed female members of Epstein's household staff of conspiring to "make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape" of Araoz in Epstein's New York City townhouse when she was 14 and 15 years old. "Today is my first step towards reclaiming my power," Araoz said in a call with reporters after the suit was filed. "Jeffrey Epstein and his network of enablers stole from me. They robbed me of my youth, my identity, my innocence, my self-worth." Epstein died Saturday in jail by apparent suicide.


Report: Epstein autopsy finds broken neck bones

Jeffrey Epstein's autopsy found that he had several broken bones in his neck, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter. The autopsy was conducted Sunday, the day after the financier and convicted sex offender was found dead, hanging by a sheet inside his cell at Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center. Epstein's hyoid bone was broken. Experts said this can happen in a hanging, but is more common when someone is strangled to death. Epstein was facing sex trafficking charges. His death, which authorities say was an apparent suicide, triggered conspiracy theories. Multiple women accused Epstein of coercing them into having sex with his rich and powerful friends, and some people believe he was killed to prevent him from revealing secrets.


Pelosi calls McConnell 'Moscow Mitch'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for blocking election security legislation and other bills passed by the Democrat-controlled House, referring to him as "Moscow Mitch." Pelosi, speaking in Illinois, chided McConnell for saying he was the "grim reaper" for far-left legislation. McConnell has called the "Moscow Mitch" label an example of "modern-day McCarthyism." MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, came up with the nickname after McConnell blocked House bills intended to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. Democrats in the House passed the bills after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller warned that Russia was taking steps to meddle in the 2020 election "as we sit here." McConnell called the bills "partisan."


McSally proposes domestic terrorism bill

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking to close a loophole that prevents federal authorities from specifically punishing domestic terrorism. The move followed recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Gilroy, California, that investigators are treating as domestic terrorism. McSally says such violence needs to be called and treated under the law in the same way as "other forms of terrorism." The senator, an Air Force veteran, said that "as someone who fought terrorism overseas, I understand the importance of calling out terrorism wherever it is." The bill would spell out criminal punishment for politically motivated violence, and recognize victims of domestic terrorism.


Trump administration proposes religious exemption for contractor hiring

The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed a rule offering federal contractors a religious exemption giving them greater leeway to hire and fire workers without being accused of discrimination. The Labor Department said the change being published in the Federal Register on Thursday would let companies "make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government." Some religious organizations said the rule clarified rights they already have under current law. Advocacy groups said the rule would give religious organizations and private companies permission to discriminate against LGBT people, single mothers, and others. "This is taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Period," the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted.


Victims file sexual-abuse lawsuits under New York child victims law

Victims of long-ago alleged sexual abuse filed hundreds of lawsuits on Wednesday as New York's Child Victims Act took effect. The act provides a one-year window for civil legal action by child sexual abuse victims who had been constrained by the statute of limitations. One lawyer said his firm — Pfau, Cochran, Vertetis and Amala — was filing seven lawsuits against the Boy Scouts on behalf of 20 people who said they had been sexually abused as scouts between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s. The Boy Scouts of America says it wants abusers held accountable. Individuals affiliated with other institutions, including schools and churches, also are being named in suits.


Suspect apprehended after shooting that injures 6 Philadelphia officers

At least six police officers were shot in the Nicetown-Tioga section of Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon after a gunman opened fire as they served a warrant in a narcotics investigation. The male suspect was apprehended early Thursday after an hours-long standoff, police say. There were two police officers inside with the suspect during the standoff, but authorities said SWAT officers were able to get them out. The injured officers were treated and released from area hospitals. An additional officer was treated for injuries sustained in a car accident that occurred during the incident. The suspect was identified as 34-year-old Maurice Hill, according to law enforcement authorities and the suspect's lawyer.


Report: Hickenlooper to end presidential bid

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is expected to end his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, The Associated Press reported, citing a Democrat close to him. Hickenlooper, a multimillionaire brewpub owner and former Denver mayor, has been running as a moderate, denouncing extreme partisanship. He has fared poorly in polls and had difficulty fundraising. Hickenlooper reportedly has been considering a run for Senate, and a new poll indicates he would have a big lead over other Democrats already in the race. Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is up for re-election and is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in 2020.


A$AP Rocky found guilty in Swedish assault trial

The American rapper A$AP Rocky was found guilty of assault in Sweden on Wednesday, but he won't have to serve any additional time in jail. He received his sentence after being detained in Stockholm last month over a street brawl. Prosecutors accused the rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, and two other men of "deliberately" attacking Mustafa Jafari, while Mayers said he acted in self-defense. He remained in custody pending a trial but was allowed to return to the U.S. last week as he awaited the verdict. The Swedish court decided the offense wasn't "of such a serious nature" as to call for additional jail time. President Trump had weighed in on the case, tweeting "#FreeRocky."


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