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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 17, 2019

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Tim O'Donnell
Metropolitan Correctional Center.
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1.

Jeffrey Epstein autopsy confirms he committed suicide

New York City's medical examiner on Friday confirmed Jeffrey Epstein died of suicide by hanging. Epstein, the 66-year-old financier accused of running a sex trafficking ring involving dozens of minor girls died while in custody last Saturday. Epstein's autopsy was reportedly pointing toward confirming he committed suicide, though swirling conspiracy theories suggested otherwise. Previous reports said Epstein had broken bones in his neck, which are more likely to be found in a strangulation case, but the medical examiner on Friday sought to shut down rumors suggesting his death was a homicide. Epstein was arrested last month and was being held in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correction Center. He was soon placed on suicide watch, but was removed from that status shortly before his death. [The New York Times]

2.

India says it has begun easing restrictions in Kashmir

Indian authorities on Saturday began lifting restrictions in Kashmir, which has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, following a decision to revoke the special status of the Muslim-majority region earlier this month. Landline phone and mobile internet services are reportedly being restored throughout the region in phases, and India announced on Friday that schools and government offices are set to reopen on Monday. Despite the easing of restrictions, many residents in Pakistan-administered Kashmir reportedly remain "anxious" and were still unable to contact their relatives in India-administered Kashmir. Critics have called the blackout an attempt to silence voices in Kashmir, a borderland which has long been the focal point of tensions between India and Pakistan. Protests continued in the region on Friday, and the U.N. Security Council met to discuss the situation. [The New York Times, Al Jazeera]

3.

Trump discusses withdrawal from Afghanistan with security officials

President Trump met with Cabinet officials on Friday to discuss initial U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Negotiators have reportedly made major advances in talks with the Taliban, and will soon announce plans for withdrawal of roughly 5,000 of the 14,000 U.S. troops. While Friday's meeting may not signal a forthcoming announcement, it involved Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with national security advisers who were reportedly briefed by Zalmay Khalilzad, the envoy to the Taliban talks. In announcing an initial withdrawal, the White House would reportedly also include a statement noting that the Taliban is willing to meet with Afghan officials to "develop a political framework for peace," reports The Washington Post. [The Washington Post]

4.

Rashida Tlaib declines Israel's offer to visit West Bank after initial barring

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on Friday declined Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri's offer after he announced that Israel had decided to let her enter the country after all, allowing her "a humanitarian visit to her 90-year-old grandmother" in the West Bank. Tlaib tweeted that "visiting ... under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in." On Thursday, Israel said Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) would not be allowed to enter Israel for a scheduled visit after President Trump tweeted that allowing them to come would "show great weakness." Democrats quickly condemned the decision, as did the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. Tlaib had applied for a humanitarian request and promised not to promote Israel boycotts during her visit. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

5.

U.S. issues warrant to seize Iranian tanker one day after Gibraltar judge orders its release

The United States Department of Justice has issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker detained in Gibraltar, a day after a judge in Gibraltar order it to be released. In a court document obtained by Reuters, the U.S. said there was evidence that showed the tanker — which was seized by British Royal Marines in July — was taking oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, an accusation Iran has consistently denied. The warrant calls for the tanker and the oil on board to be seized and has also ordered the seizure of $995,000 from an account at an unnamed U.S. bank linked to Paradise Global Trading LLC, an Iranian company. The Justice Department said the ship was in violation of bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism forfeiture statutes. [BBC, Reuters]

6.

Hong Kong teachers march to show solidarity with young protesters

Hong Kong's anti-government, pro-democracy protests continued for the 11th straight weekend on Saturday. Despite heavy rain, thousands of the city's teachers donned the movement's signature black garb in a show of solidarity with young protesters. The event was organized by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union and consisted of a march to Government House, the official residence of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The teachers tied white ribbons to a fence near the building and carried signs that read "Protect the next generation." The rallygoers implored Hong Kong's leaders to answer the protesters' demands and curb police violence during the demonstrations. The teachers' union said more than 22,000 marched. [South China Morning Post, The Associated Press]

7.

Warren unveils policy plan to address issues facing Native American communities

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a Democratic presidential candidate, on Friday released a policy plan geared toward addressing injustices in the Native American community. The plan calls for a Cabinet-level position for Native American affairs; an influx of money toward housing, health care, and infrastructure on tribal lands; a restoration of lands to indigenous communities; and greater attention to the high rates of murdered and missing Native American women. The announcement comes ahead of next week's Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa. Warren has faced criticism for listing her race as "American Indian" in a 1986 Texas bar registration card and for recently releasing a DNA test that found "strong evidence" of Native American ancestry going back generations. President Trump has made the issue a centerpiece of his attacks on Warren. [ABC News, USA Today]

8.

Police violence a leading cause of death for black men, study shows

Black men and boys are 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during encounters with police, and about one in 1,000 black men and boys will die as a result of police violence, a Rutgers University study found. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the particularly high rate among black males means that police violence was one of the leading causes of death for the demographic between 2013 and 2018. The study also found that the prevalence of police violence has had a "toxic effect" on black communities, "in terms of both their physical and mental health," said study leader Frank Edwards. High-profile police shootings have drawn scrutiny from activists who seek to reduce the disproportionate use of force against black Americans. [Los Angeles Times]

9.

Easy Rider star Peter Fonda dies at 79

Peter Fonda, who starred in the Hollywood film Easy Rider, died on Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His family said in a statement that the cause was respiratory failure resulting from lung cancer. Fonda hailed from an iconic Hollywood family. His father, Henry Fonda, and his sister, Jane Fonda, were both Academy Award winners. Fonda is best known for his role as Wyatt in 1969's Easy Rider, a counterculture film which film critic Roger Ebert once called "one of the rallying-points of the late '60s." He also contributed to the screenplay, for which he and his fellow writers were nominated for an Academy Award. Jane Fonda, who said she was with her brother over his final days, said "he went out laughing." [The Washington Post, CNN]

10.

Good Boys set to crush box office competition

Universal's comedy Good Boys is expected to lead the box office this weekend, which would be the first R-rated comedy to be a top-earner since 2016. The Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-produced flick is on pace for a $20 million debut, after earning $2.1 million in Thursday previews. "The film follows a trio of 12-year-old boys who will do anything to gain admittance to a kissing party," writes The Hollywood Reporter. Before the strong start to the debut weekend, analysts were expecting a $12 million-$15 million opening. The box office's second-place film is also by Universal, Hobbs & Shaw. The action movie dominated ticket sales over the last two weekends, helping push Universal to the $1 billion mark in domestic marketshare. [The Hollywood Reporter]