October 18, 2019

At least 62 people have died and more than 100 others were injured in explosions at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan.

Multiple bombings caused the roof of a mosque in the Nangarhar province to collapse during Friday prayers, Reuters reports. Rescuers are still excavating the site and pulling survivors and bodies out of the destroyed mosque, a member of Nangarhar's provincial council said.

Explosives were put "under a podium in the main atrium of the mosque where people were praying before they exploded," a spokesperson for Nangarhar's governor tells The New York Times. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the Deh Bala district does border rural ISIS-held areas. Afghanistan's government has so far blamed the Taliban for the attack, but the Taliban has denied involvement, per Reuters.

The attack comes as the United Nations declares violence against civilians has reached "extreme levels" in Afghanistan, CNN notes. At least 1,174 civilians died in the months of July-September, the largest quarterly total in a decade. The rising conflict largely stems from fighting between rival political groups. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:28 p.m.

A growing number of Republicans don't want to party with their party this year.

As of Tuesday, four GOP senators have said they won't be attending the Republican National Convention next month. Their announcements come as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Florida and North Carolina, but not all of those senators are attributing their decisions to the virus.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the oldest member of the Senate, told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday he wouldn't attend the convention for the first time in his Senate career. "And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation," he said. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she never goes to conventions when she's up for re-election, and thus would be skipping this year. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is also reportedly planning to skip, per CBS News' Caitlin Huey-Burns.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) only passively acknowledged the virus when saying he wouldn't attend. "He believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before," a statement from Alexander's team read. The GOP decided to limit the number of delegates who will come to cast their votes in Charlotte, North Carolina, to 336, down from the usual number of 2,500. Meanwhile President Trump wants his keynote address, which will happen in Jacksonville, Florida, to bring together an audience of 10,000. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:10 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's critics think his decision to unveil a draft of a long-awaited report on human rights in person later this month despite the coronavirus pandemic reveals the project's true purpose, Politico reports.

Pompeo previously established a panel called the Commission on Unalienable Rights to re-evaluate how the United States approaches human rights. There's been skeptics since the beginning — some observers have worried the report would prioritize religious freedom while undermining LGBTQ and reproductive rights, for example. Those fears appear to have been enhanced by the fact Pompeo isn't letting the coronavirus stop him from presenting the document and giving a speech at an event in Philadelphia on July 16; per Politico, critics believe the decision to go ahead with the event highlights the political nature of the work.

"I think it sort of reveals Pompeo's true intentions — that this is not about public policy," said Rori Kramer, director of U.S. advocacy for the American Jewish World Service. "It's about his political pet project."

Kramer and others also reportedly find it odd Pompeo is making the draft public two weeks before a final version is issued, since it'll give people time to comment on the report, perhaps suggesting he isn't worried about pushback. The State Department did not respond to Politico's request for comment on Tuesday. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

5:09 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just held a meeting with the organizers of an ad boycott against the company, and it sounds like it didn't go especially well.

Facebook executives including Zuckerberg on Tuesday spoke with groups who organized the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which has called for companies to pause ads on Facebook and demand it change the way it deals with hate speech on the platform. But after the meeting, one of the organizations, Free Press, released a statement expressing disappointment.

"#StopHateForProfit didn't hear anything today to convince us that Zuckerberg and his colleagues are taking action," Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González said. "Instead of committing to a timeline to root out hate and disinformation on Facebook, the company’s leaders delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands. I'm deeply disappointed that Facebook still refuses to hold itself accountable to its users, its advertisers and society at large."

Color of Change head Rashad Robinson also said Facebook seemed to be "expecting an A for attendance" by holding the meeting when "attending alone is not enough," The New York Times reports. And NAACP President Derrick Johnson told the Times that "we thought that they'd at least have a response" to the campaign's list of demands, but "there was just no response."

Zuckerberg previously met with civil rights leaders to defend his position on not removing posts by President Trump that Twitter flagged for glorifying violence; the leaders subsequently released a statement blasting him for his "incomprehensible explanations." Zuckerberg reportedly told employees recently that "we're not gonna change our policies" because of the ad boycott and "my guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough." Brendan Morrow

4:31 p.m.

The Trump administration formally began the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the World Health Organization on Tuesday, notifying the United Nations and Congress of the withdrawal.

President Trump has criticized the WHO throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for not adequately warning the world about the virus, and said earlier this year he would halt funding to the WHO earlier. The withdrawal comes even as case counts in the U.S. continue to skyrocket and other countries see their virus spread slow.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the move "chaotic and incoherent," and even Republican senators had tried to talk Trump out of the decision. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:05 p.m.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) ruled out voting for President Trump in 2016. But this time, as she faces re-election and straddles appealing to both Trump supporters and the moderates she needs to hold on to her seat, Collins isn't making it clear where she stands.

Collins' deciding vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and his subsequent votes against abortion rights sent progressives scrambling to unseat Collins this election cycle. Collins' Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, just announced she pulled in a huge $9 million in the second fundraising quarter of the year, and The Cook Political Report ranks their race a tossup. It all left Collins admittedly concerned about the election, she told The New York Times as she campaigned over the weekend.

But despite threats from Trump to stay in line with his messaging or risk losing this fall, Collins promised she won't attack former Vice President Joe Biden. "I do not campaign against my colleagues in the Senate," Collins said, apparently including former senators. She said she knows Biden "very well" from his days in the Senate as well. "My inclination is just to stay out of the presidential and focus on my own race," Collins added. Read more about Collins' re-election strategy at The New York Times. The Week Staff

3:56 p.m.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has issued an apology for a series of anti-Semitic social media posts that drew outrage this week, saying he "didn't mean it to the extent that you guys took it."

Jackson on Instagram recently praised Louis Farrakhan, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an "an antisemite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power," and posted an anti-Semitic quote that he attributed to Adolf Hitler, The New York Times reports. Hitler is not believed to actually be the source of the quote that Jackson posted, NBC News notes.

Amid the subsequent backlash, Jackson on Tuesday apologized in an Instagram video.

"My post was definitely not intended for anybody of any race to feel any type of way, especially the Jewish community," Jackson said. "When I posted what I posted, I definitely didn't mean it to the extent that you guys took it, and I just want to let you guys know that I'm very apologetic."

Jackson added that he didn't intend to "put any race down or any religion down" but acknowledged he "probably should have never posted anything that Hitler did because Hitler was a bad person, and I know that." The apology itself drew some additional criticism, with The Athletic's Connor Hughes writing, "This is among the worst apologies I’ve ever heard."

The Philadelphia Eagles in a statement on Wednesday condemned Jackson's posts, saying that "regardless of his intentions, the messages he shared were offensive, harmful, and absolutely appalling." The team added that "we are continuing to evaluate the circumstances and will take appropriate action." Brendan Morrow

3:52 p.m.

The fastest man in recorded history has given his newborn daughter a name befitting of a future legend. On Tuesday, eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, 33, introduced the world to his daughter, Olympia Lightning Bolt.

Bolt and his longtime partner, Kasi Bennett, first announced that they were expecting a child back in January, with Bolt writing: "I just want to say a KING or QUEEN is about to be HERE." But Olympia will leave a mark on the world of her own choosing; her parents won't pressure her to follow in dad's footsteps. "I think it's the hardest thing when you have a dad that is a superstar in a supersport, I don't think you should do that sport," Bolt has mused in the past. "I think you should do something else because there is so much pressure on you to live up to expectations." Jeva Lange

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