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August 10, 2018

On Thursday night, Tennessee executed Billy Ray Irick, 59, for the 1985 rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer. He's the first death row inmate Tennessee executed since 2009 and the state's first one using a controversial lethal cocktail containing midazolam, a drug aimed at stopping pain before the inmate is injected with the paralytic drug vecuronium bromide and finally compounded potassium chloride, the lethal drug.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution, with Justice Elena Kagan's signature and Justice Sonia Sotomayor's scathing dissent. "Although the midazolam may temporarily render Irick unconscious, the onset of pain and suffocation will rouse him ... just as the paralysis sets in, too late for him to alert bystanders that his execution has gone horribly (if predictably) wrong," Sotomayor wrote. "In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody." Previously, the Supreme Court has compared potassium chloride to "chemically burning at the stake."

States have turned to midazolam in recent years as supplies of other lethal-injection drugs have dried up, in large part because drugmakers are refusing to sell states products to kill people. Midazolam has failed several times, and when Tennessee administered the drugs to Irick, The Tennessean reports, "he was coughing, choking, and gasping for air. His face turned dark purple as the lethal drugs took over." Another concern in the case is that Irick was mentally ill, according to Robert Durham at the Death Penalty Information Center. Tennessee is considering a bill barring the execution of people with serious mental illnesses, Durham said, and "it's unseemly that Irick would be executed and then the case ultimately gets resolved in his favor." Tennessee has two more executions scheduled this year. Peter Weber

11:55a.m.

A coalition of human rights and journalism groups including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders on Sunday called for Turkey to instigate a United Nations investigation into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"U.N. involvement is the best guarantee against a Saudi whitewash or attempts by other governments to sweep the issue under the carpet to preserve lucrative business ties with Riyadh," said Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The business ties Mahoney has in mind are likely a major U.S.-Saudi arms deal President Trump has refused to cancel regardless of what happened to Khashoggi.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has already stressed the "need for a prompt, thorough, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi's death and full accountability for those responsible."

After denying knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts for two weeks, Saudi Arabia on Saturday said he died in "a brawl and a fist fight" inside the consulate. However, an unnamed senior Saudi official on Sunday told Reuters a 15-man team "overstepped their orders and quickly employed violence," in Reuters' paraphrase, accidentally killing him with a chokehold intended to smother his shouts. Bonnie Kristian

11:35a.m.

At least 18 people were killed and about 160 injured when a passenger train derailed in Taiwan on Sunday evening local time. The train was carrying 366 people, and rescue efforts continue as several dozen were trapped on board. The line runs in a coastal area and is popular with tourists; an American woman was among those hurt.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pledged "all our strength and efforts for the rescue" in a Facebook post offering condolences for the families of the victims and cautioning against speculation as to the cause of the crash while the investigation is underway. Bonnie Kristian

10:16a.m.

Afghanistan's parliamentary election was extended for a second day Sunday after Saturday's voting was marred by violence, technical difficulties and, in some places, polling stations that did not open at all.

This is the first such election since 2010, and it employs a biometric tracking system to avoid fraud that has not been widely tested. "More than 25 percent of the [voting] centers we observed were not opened," reported Naeem Ayubzada of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan. "We also observed technical challenges with 32 percent of the biometric systems not working in 22 percent of the polling centres. Also, 9 percent of the centers were not equipped with the biometric system."

The Taliban, which remains powerful particularly in rural regions, has told Afghanistan's 8.8 million eligible voters to stay away from the polls, but despite these obstacles, more than 3 million voted Saturday. Bonnie Kristian

10:09a.m.

President Trump said Saturday he is reviewing a list of five candidates to replace outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and he expects to announce a decision soon. "We'll have somebody great," the president pledged. "We're going to pick somebody very quickly."

Two of the candidates are men, and three are women, Trump said, telling reporters he "might prefer" to have a woman in the role. "I think it's become maybe a more glamorous position than it was two years ago," he said. "Maybe, I wonder why, but it is. [Haley has] made it a very glamorous position."

Haley's next step remains unknown, as she has insisted she will not run for the presidency in 2020. Bonnie Kristian

10:02a.m.

President Trump said at a campaign rally in Nevada Saturday his administration is working on new tax cuts for the middle class and expects to reveal the plan before the midterms.

"We are going to be putting in and are studying very deeply right now, around the clock, a major tax cut for middle-income people," he said. "Not for business at all. For middle-income people." He described the timeline for the new cuts, as promised in May, as "sometime just prior, I would say, to November."

Congress is in recess until after the midterm elections and cannot pass any new tax law before November begins. Last December, Trump signed into law the largest tax reform bill since the 1980s. Bonnie Kristian

8:20a.m.

One day after telling reporters he found credible Saudi Arabia's "fist fight" explanation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, President Trump expressed greater skepticism of the account.

"Nobody has told me [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is] responsible" for ordering Khashoggi's death, Trump told The Washington Post in a phone interview Saturday night. "Nobody has told me he's not responsible. We haven't reached that point ... I would love if he wasn't responsible."

The president dubbed the Saudi prince an "incredible ally," but conceded "obviously there's been deception, and there's been lies" about how Khashoggi died. The journalist went missing two weeks ago, and Riyadh previously denied all knowledge of his whereabouts. Saudi Arabia is known for its poor record on human rights, and the alliance has embroiled the United States in the gruesome Saudi intervention in Yemen.

Trump also reiterated his unwillingness to allow the killing to interfere with a lucrative arms deal with Saudi Arabia. "It's the largest order in history," he said. "To give that up would hurt us far more than it hurts them. Then all they'll do is go to Russia or go to China. All that's doing is hurting us."

See the Post's full report here. Bonnie Kristian

8:00a.m.

President Trump said Saturday evening he intends to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Reagan-era arms control agreement with Russia (originally the Soviet Union) that eliminated thousands of short- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

"Russia has violated the agreement. They've been violating it for many years," Trump said. "And I don't know why President Obama didn't negotiate or pull out. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to."

NATO has confirmed Russian missile tests in the past decade likely violate the deal. "Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this month. "All allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner."

In early October, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, United States' permanent representative to NATO, said "countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty" if Moscow does not change course.

The INF Treaty was originally signed in 1987 between then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It took effect in 1988. Bonnie Kristian

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