Russian And Syrian Airstrikes Hit ​Rebel-Held Idlib Province

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Syrian and Russian fighter jets bombarded areas in northwestern Syria hours after President Donald Trump warned against the move.

According to Al Jazeera, at least 24 raids were carried out around the Idlib province Tuesday morning, lasting several hours and killing "at least 10 civilians."

The airstrikes were carried out ahead of an already planned government offensive to retake the region — Syria's government had moved combat helicopters closer to Idlib weeks beforehand. A Kremlin spokesperson said Idlib was "a hornets' nest of terrorists" and "must be sorted out."

President Trump tweeted a warning Monday, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "must not recklessly attack Idlib Province" and that "hundreds of thousands of people could be killed." This came a few days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted similar sentiments, saying the U.S. would consider such a move "an escalation of an already dangerous conflict."

Idlib is home to nearly 3 million people, many of them refugees from other cities taken over by Assad's regime. The U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting Friday to go over what's happening in the Syrian province.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

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Over Half Of FEMA’s Hurricane Maria Responders Were ‘Unqualified’

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The Government Accountability Office published a report Tuesday that said FEMA's response to Hurricane Maria was complicated by multiple issues — including, its deployment of unqualified responders. 

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017. The report says by October, "54 percent of staff were serving in a capacity in which they did not hold the title of 'Qualified.' "

Hurricanes Maria, Irma, Harvey and the California wildfires, created an "unprecedented" demand for resources. It was so bad, the GAO director of emergency management issues said, "by the time Maria hit Puerto Rico, they were down to the bottom of the barrel." 

The unqualified staff likely exacerbated existing response challenges. 

Puerto Rico's distance from the mainland caused logistical problems in providing and distributing aid. The report also pointed out a lack of bilingual workers. That caused delays while the agency shuffled staff members from other disasters to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico also faced infrastructure challenges before the storm hit, which contributed to widespread power outages. A 2016 report by Synapse Energy Associates said parts of the island's power system were "literally" falling apart. 

FEMA efforts in Puerto Rico were the largest and longest single response in the agency's history.

Additional reporting by Newsy affiliate CNN. 

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Amazon Hits The Trillion-Dollar Mark, Catching Up To Apple

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Amazon has officially hit the $1 trillion valuation mark. 

On Tuesday, it became the second publicly-traded U.S. company to reach the goal. Apple crossed the $1 trillion line in August

The milestone comes after Amazon reported second quarter earnings that doubled investors' expectations, thanks in part to the success of its cloud business, Amazon Web Services, and advertising.

Since it was founded in 1994, CEO Jeff Bezos has taken Amazon from an online bookseller to an online retail giant that has its hands in various industries.  Last year, it jumped into the grocery business by purchasing Whole Foods Market. Amazon also announced a move into health care with the acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack.

The e-commerce company's success hasn't come without criticism, though. Experts have expressed concern that Amazon's hold on consumers shutters competition from other companies. It's also faced scrutiny from President Donald Trump, who claims it doesn't pay adequate taxes.

Earlier this year, Bezos hit a milestone in his own net worth. He became the richest person in history, surpassing Microsoft founder Bill Gates, according to Bloomberg's billionaire index.  

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.  

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Document Debate Monopolizes First Day Of SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings

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Confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court kicked off with a bang Tuesday, and it's not necessarily because of the nominee himself.

Just eight seconds after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley began his opening statements, Senate Democrats interrupted him, citing lack of transparency as reason to adjourn or possibly postpone the hearings. The back and forth lasted an hour and a half. It's all in the name of documents. Hundreds of thousands of them from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House. In that role, Kavanaugh was the one responsible for what documents hit the president's desk. 

Because of this position, there are likely more documents related to his work history than any nominee in recent history. Yet the Trump administration withheld more than 100,000 documents claiming executive privilege, something Sen. Dick Durbin says is unprecedented. Democrats say they need the documents to understand Kavanaugh's judicial philosophy. 

Late Monday evening, hours before confirmation hearings began, the Senate was given 42,000 more pages of documents. Democrats say there was no possible way they could have gotten through them in a matter of hours. 

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said during Tuesday's hearing that with technology, it should be possible. But Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said the White House got 57 days to review the same documents before they were released, making the timeline to review uneven. Harris also said the amount released was simply not enough.

This issue is one of the many the Democrats will likely utilize as they grill Kavanaugh in the coming days. Kavanaugh's stance on abortion, presidential power and health care will also remain at the forefront of the debate. Still, Democrats lack the votes to strike down this nomination on their own. They'd need the help of Republicans, and that's an unlikely task. 

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Arizona Governor Appoints Sen. John McCain’s Replacement

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Arizona's governor announced Tuesday former Sen. Jon Kyl will fill Sen. John McCain's seat in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Doug Ducey said Kyl will serve at least until the end of the year.  Kyl said he would not seek reelection to the seat in 2020. If Kyl decides not to remain in Congress in 2019, Ducey will have to make another appointment

Kyl was an Arizona senator for nearly 20 years and served alongside McCain for his entire tenure. Ducey reportedly chose Kyl because he's considered a strong Republican leader and is seen as being in step with McCain's so-called "maverick" political thinking. 

Kyl's appointment will give Republicans back their 51-49 majority in the Senate just ahead of the confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

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College Courtrooms: Why Assault Cases Use Low Standards Of Evidence

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The controversy of Title IX and college sexual assault proceedings is based on a sort of balancing act: Colleges and universities need to support and protect survivors of assault, but not to the point where it infringes on due process.

A possible move from the Department of Education could change what this looks like.

That's because, according to a report from The New York Times, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could give colleges the choice between two standards of evidence for Title IX proceedings: "preponderance of evidence" or "clear and convincing."

The first one was the mandated standard under the Obama administration, as well as the lowest standard in general. When courts use it, they decide if the accused is "more likely than not" to have been responsible for a crime. If courts use the "clear and convincing" standard, they have to decide if the accusation is "highly probable." That's more rigorous than preponderance of evidence, but not as rigorous as beyond a reasonable doubt. 

In order to understand why this matters, let's talk first about why preponderance of evidence was mandated in the first place.

"Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual assault don't occur on their campus," then-Vice President Joe Biden said in 2014. "We need to provide survivors with more support, and we need to bring perpetrators to justice."

SEE MORE: How Colleges Are Handling A High-Risk Time For Sexual Assault

When the Obama administration worked on Title IX and campus sexual assault reform, its focus was on supporting survivors and holding colleges and universities accountable for assault. 

That federal effort was pushed forth years prior with the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

The letter guided schools on their obligation to address sexual violence, and it specifically stated that preponderance of evidence was needed in order to be consistent with other civil rights proceedings.

In higher education, this standard of evidence arguably makes sense

Colleges and universities use their own discretion to choose which students to accept and establish the rules those students have to follow when they arrive on campus.

Because of that, college disciplinary proceedings and punishments are completely different from civil or criminal ones. 

More specifically, a college proceeding could end with a responsible party having to change their residence or class schedule, or leave the campus entirely.

A civil or criminal proceeding carries more serious consequences — such as time in prison — that warrant higher standards of evidence.

Not everyone agrees with that understanding of preponderance of evidence — and one of its most notable critics is Betsy DeVos.

"One rape is one too many. One assault is one too many. One aggressive act of harassment is one too many. One person denied due process is one too many," DeVos said in 2017. 

When DeVos took the helm of the Education Department, she rescinded the 2011 "Dear Colleague" Letter and specifically criticized its recommendation of preponderance of evidence as federal overreach.

Since 2015, faculty members from law schools such as Harvard argued the same thing. Sixteen faculty members from the University of Pennsylvania's law school said in an open letter: "We believe that OCR's approach exerts improper pressure upon universities to adopt procedures that do not afford fundamental fairness."

In 2017, the American College of Trial Lawyers recommended using the clear and convincing standard of evidence. 

A spokeswoman told The New York Times the Ed Department was still deliberating on whether to make the change. But if it goes through, it could have an immediate impact on the hundreds of cases still open or yet to be reported.

As of the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, 310 federal Title IX investigations remain open. Since 2011, 192 cases have been resolved.

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EPA Watchdog Releases Review Of Scott Pruitt’s Security

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An Environmental Protection Agency watchdog found former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent more than twice as much on his security detail than his predecessor.

That's according to a report by the EPA Office of the Inspector General. It also found Pruitt had around-the-clock security and a total of 19 security agents while his predecessor, Gina McCarthy, had six her last year in office.

According to Politico, the EPA claimed the additional detail was because Pruitt was threatened and at risk from protesters. But the report points out the EPA does not have a standard in place to determine the amount of security needed.

The report concluded "The increased costs associated with this undocumented decision represents an inefficient use of agency resources."

The EPA responded to the internal report saying “Some protectees are at risk simply based on the positions they hold." 

Pruitt resigned in July over what he called "attacks" by the media. He's been under investigation for a number of his spending habits while heading the EPA, including expensive taxpayer-funded trips, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth and a D.C. apartment he and his daughter rented from the family of an energy lobbyist.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

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The New Yorker Disinvites Steve Bannon From Festival After Backlash

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A day after announcing Steve Bannon will appear at its annual festival, The New Yorker rescinded its invitation.


High-profile writers, producers, directors slotted to speak started tweeting about the magazine's decision.

Judd Apatow said “If Steve Bannon is at the New Yorker festival I am out. I will not take part in an event  that normalizes hate.  I hope the @NewYorker will do the right thing and cancel the Steve Bannon event. Maybe they should read their own reporting about his ideology.” 

Actress and comedian Bridget Everett said, "Honored and excited to be a part of the @NewYorker festival. But if Steve Bannon is in, I'm out."

And the writer and director of “Sorry to Bother You,” Boots Riley tweeted, "Just found out Steve Bannon is doing event the @NewYorker festival that I was gonna be at until the moment I learned he would be there. I won't be there if he's gonna be there." 

Jim Carrey, John Mulaney, Jimmy Fallon and Bo Burnham expressed similar sentiments on social media.

New Yorker editor David Remnick responded in a statement — pointing out Bannon played a critical role in electing Donald Trump. But after listening to his writers and staffers, he ultimately decided to disinvite him.

Bannon responded on Monday, saying in an email to the AP, "David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob."


Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

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1 Dead, Many Feared Trapped After Bridge Collapse In India

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A bridge in south Kolkata, India, has collapsed, with one confirmed death and several others feared still trapped underneath the rubble.

A portion of the 40-year-old Majerhat bridge crumbled Tuesday afternoon during rush hour, crushing vehicles and injuring commuters.

Rescue teams, including the Indian army and the National Disaster Response Force, have been sent to help recover those trapped by the rubble. According to fire brigade personnel, 25 people have been pulled out from the debris so far.

It's not immediately clear what caused the collapse. The chief minister of West Bengal said in a tweet: "Our priority is relief and rescue. Rest of the investigation will be done later." She also reportedly ordered a probe into the incident, saying in a press briefing, "No one ... held negligent will be spared."

The events echo a similar tragedy back in 2016, when another bridge in Kolkata collapsed while under construction, killing 20 people.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

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Catalonia’s President Will Reportedly Relaunch Independence Campaign

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez proposed giving Catalonia a path to more autonomy through a referendum. But the region's leader might have other plans.

According to Reuters, Catalan President Quim Torra will relaunch a campaign to secede from Spain on Tuesday.

Sánchez is firmly against giving the region full independence. He made it clear that the referendum is "for autonomy, not for auto-determination."

Catalonia has been trying to split from Spain for years. In October, former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont organized an independence referendum. But Spain deemed the referendum illegal, dissolved Catalonia's parliament and took direct control of the region.

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