Live Coverage

Today's News: Oct. 25, 2016

Volkswagen reached a $14.7 billion settlement, Paul Beatty wins the Man Booker Prize, and more from across the United States and around the world.

Mike Blake / Reuters

—Volkswagen has reached a $14.7 billion settlement with consumers and government agencies, about a year after the German automaker admitted to rigging 11 million cars worldwide with software that cheated emissions standards. More here

—Paul Beatty has been awarded this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Sellout, described as “a searing satire on race relations in contemporary America.” More here

—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).


This live blog has concluded

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Charged With Contempt of Court

Joe Arpaio
Darryl Webb / Reuters

Joe Arpaio, a controversial Arizona sheriff, was charged Tuesday with contempt of court.

Just two weeks before he is up for re-election, Arpaio faces criminal charges related to allegedly ignoring a judge’s order in a racial-profiling case. If convicted, he could face up to six months jail time. The Associated Press has more:

The criminal charges stem from the profiling case that Arpaio lost three years ago that morphed into a contempt case after the sheriff was accused of defying a 2011 court order to stop his signature immigration patrols.

Arpaio has acknowledged violating U.S. District Judge Murray Snow's order but insists his disobedience was not intentional.

Federal authorities maintain, though, that Arpaio violated the order intentionally. Arpaio’s lawyer said the sheriff will not be arrested and will plead not guilty. The Maricopa County sheriff is no stranger to federal investigations, facing previous allegations of corruption.

Arpaio has been a fierce national anti-immigration voice, and ally to Donald Trump in this election. The trial date has been set for December 6.

Volkswagen's Billion-Dollar Punishment

(Mike Blake / Reuters)

Volkswagen has reached a $14.7 billion settlement with consumers and government agencies, about a year after the German automaker admitted to rigging 11 million cars worldwide with software that cheated emissions standards.

The settlement between customers, Volkswagen, California regulators, and the U.S. government was approved Tuesday by a U.S. District Court judge, who called it “fair, reasonable and adequate.” About 475,000 people in the U.S. now have the option to sell their Volkswagen vehicles back to the automaker, or wait for a government-approved repair to come online that would make vehicles compliant with government standards for car pollution. Consumers have until next September to decide.

Here’s more on the payments from USA Today:

Buybacks range in value from $12,475 to $44,176, including restitution payments, and varying based on mileage. People who opt for a fix approved by the Environmental Protection Agency will receive payouts ranging from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on the book value of their car.

Volkswagen began manipulating the engines of its “clean diesel” cars in 2009. The illegal software allowed the cars to release pollutants at EPA-approved levels in test settings, but emit 40 times the levels allowed while on the road. The affected cars included Jettas, Golfs, Passats, Beetles, and Audi A3s.

The company has spent billions of dollars to repair its public image and restore consumers’ trust. It’s currently facing criminal investigations by federal prosecutors in the U.S., Germany, and France.

LGBT-Rights Group Sues Utah Over Classroom Curriculum

Gay-rights supporters march with a rainbow flag during the gay pride parade in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 2, 2013. (Jim Urquhart / Reuters)

An LGBT-rights organization in Utah is suing the state’s board of education, its superintendent, and three school districts over a law that prevents teachers and school staff from discussing homosexuality in the classroom.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in a federal district court in Salt Lake City by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of the organization, Equality Utah, and three public-school students and their parents. The parents say their children were bullied, and claim school administrators did not act to protect them. The suit argues the state law violates the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

Utah is one of eight states that require educators to teach students that marriage between a man and a woman is the only acceptable union. In Alabama and Texas, for example, students must be instructed that being gay is “not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.”

Dave Thomas, vice chairman of the Utah State Board of Education, said Saturday the lawsuit is an “unfortunate” attempt to gain publicity, according to Deseret News.

Clifford Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah and member of the advisory board for Equality Utah, said the state’s anti-LGBT curriculum laws have been dubbed by some as “no homo promo laws.”

“When there’s a culture of silence around LGBT people, LGBT students feel ashamed, stigmatized,” Rosky told me in an interview. “And that's a serious psychological harm that students suffer.”

Heath-Row: London Airport Debate Roils British Politics

A plane lands at Heathrow airport in west London. (Stephen Hird / Reuters)

For a few hours on Tuesday, Brexit was not the largest controversy in British politics.

That dubious honor fell instead to Heathrow Airport’s proposed third runway, which the British government said Tuesday it would approve after years of stalling. The controversial expansion for the world’s busiest airport aims to relieve the overstretched transit hub and reshape air travel throughout London and its surroundings.

The new runway is “the first full-length runway in [southeast England] since the second world war,” Britain’s Department for Transport said Tuesday. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling touted it as “decisive action to secure the U.K.’s place in the global aviation market.”

The announcement is a long-awaited victory for Britain’s business community, which staunchly backed the expansion. But opponents decried the announcement, citing its impact on London’s airspace, increased noise pollution for hundreds of thousands of Londoners, and the growing threat of climate change. The number of aircraft flying daily over the British metropole will jump by 50 percent if the runway, which still requires Parliament’s approval, is built.

Expanding Heathrow will also displace the residents of more than 700 nearby homes, leveling the entire village of Longford as well as half of nearby Harmondsworth. Heathrow’s owners would compensate affected villages, who campaigned against the expansion for years. David Cameron, who resigned as prime minister in July after the British electorate voted to leave the European Union, had vowed in 2009 that the “third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead, no ifs, no buts.”

So intense is the controversy that Prime Minister Theresa May partially suspended the custom that cabinet ministers must publicly support government decisions with which they personally disagree. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who strongly campaigned against the runway while mayor of London, and Education Secretary Justine Greening said Tuesday they wouldn’t support the proposal.

“New York is going to be the city of beautiful skyscrapers. Paris is the city of lights,” Johnson told the BBC. “London, in the future, if we go ahead with this project, will be known as the city of planes.”

Labour’s Sadiq Khan, who succeeded Johnson as mayor, also opposes the runway expansion because of its potential environmental impact on the city. So does Khan’s Conservative election opponent Zac Goldsmith, who promptly resigned from Parliament Tuesday in protest of the government’s decision.

New York Giants Release Kicker Josh Brown

(Matt Rourke / AP)

The New York Giants have said goodbye to NFL kicker Josh Brown just days after his widely-publicized admission of physically and emotionally abusing his former wife.

The team previously re-signed Brown to a two-year, $4 million contract in April, but subsequently suspended him for a single game in August for “violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.” While this was likely related to issues of abuse, the team never gave a detailed reason for the suspension. On Friday, Brown was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list (i.e. given paid leave) and could face further disciplinary action by the NFL.

While Giants co-owner John Mara defended Brown a few months ago, he issued a very different statement on Tuesday. “We believed we did the right thing at every juncture in our relationship with Josh,” Mara said. “Our beliefs, our judgments and our decisions were misguided. We accept that responsibility. We hope that Josh will continue to dedicate himself to rehabilitation, and to becoming a better person and father.”

Although Brown was charged with a fourth-degree domestic violence assault in May 2015, the issue came to a head last week when SNY released a number of his journal entries and emails, along with a letter to friends. In these documents, Brown referred to himself as a sex-addicted "deviant” and a “liar” with “no empathy.”

"I have physically, mentally, emotionally and verbally been a repulsive man," Brown wrote in one journal entry. In another, he said that he viewed himself as “God” and his former wife as his “slave.”

Below is an excerpt from Brown’s official apology, released Tuesday afternoon to ESPN:

I am sorry that my past has called into question the character or integrity of The New York Giants, Mr. Mara or any of those who have supported me along the way. I have taken measures to get help so that I may be the voice of change, not a statistic. It is important to share that I never struck my wife, and never would. Abuse takes many forms, and is not a gray area... The road to rehabilitation is a journey and a constant modification of a way of life.

The Giants released a near-identical statement on Tuesday, although it was noticeably missing the line, “It is important to share that I never struck my wife, and never would.”

Brown joins a growing list of NFL players accused of domestic violence, but a much shorter list of players who have been released from their respective teams.

Paul Beatty Wins Man Booker Prize

(Peter Nicholls / Reuters)

Paul Beatty has been awarded this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel, The Sellout, described as “a searing satire on race relations in contemporary America.”

Beatty will receive a cash prize of 50,000 pounds ($66,400) and join the ranks of some of the most prestigious authors in the English-language literary community. Previous winners include Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children), Margaret Atwood (The Blind Assassin), Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall), and Yann Martel (Life of Pi).

The shortlist of nominees was announced in September, with six out of 13 longlisted authors making the cut. The following shortlisted nominees attended Tuesday’s announcement ceremony in London:

  • Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing

  • Paul Beatty, The Sellout

  • David Szalay, All That Man Is

  • Graeme Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project

  • Deborah Levy, Hot Milk

  • Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen

Beginning in 1969, the Man Booker was awarded yearly to the best full-length English novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe. In 2014, the prize committee extended their qualifications to include any author whose work was written in English and published in Britain. This year’s shortlist includes authors from Britain, Canada, South Africa, and the United States.

Only one author on the list, Deborah Levy, has been previously nominated for the prize for her 2012 book Swimming Home. According to The Guardian, “Booker prize judges normally find a book which has been off most people’s radars.” This year’s chair of judges, Amanda Foreman, described the 2016 list as “uniformly fresh, energetic, and important.”

“The range of books is broad and the quality extremely high,” Foreman told The Guardian. “Each novel provoked intense discussion and, at times, passionate debate, challenging our expectations of what a novel is and can be.”

NAACP Claims White Students in Mississippi Put a Noose Around a Black Student's Neck

NAACP President Derrick Johnson speaks to reporters next to the mother of the alleged victim.
Max Becherer / AP

The NAACP is demanding federal authorities treat an incident between high school students in Mississippi as a hate crime.

Derrick Johnson, the NAACP president, said that on October 13 as many as four white students at Stone High School in Wiggins put a noose around the neck of a black student in a locker room and pulled it tight. “This is 2016, not 1916,” Johnson told reporters Monday. The NAACP, in a statement, followed up:

Allowing students to commit blatant hate crimes without severe consequences sends a message to students that their safety and well-being are not valuable enough to be protected.

None of the students involved in the incident have been charged with a crime, nor has the high school punished them in any way, Johnson says. The high school is more than 72 percent white.

The Stone County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the matter, which only adds to the fraught history of racial segregation and violence in Mississippi.

Cavaliers and Knicks to Face Off in NBA Season Opener

(Julie Jacobson / AP)

The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers take the court Tuesday night as the 2016-17 NBA season begins.

The Cavs, led by Finals MVP LeBron James, will face off against the New York Knicks at 7:30 p.m. ET. Prior to last year’s monumental win, the city of Cleveland had not won an NBA championship in 52 years. Now, the Cavaliers are once again favored to reach the finals.

Although the Cavs have the advantage in tonight’s game, the Knicks have invested in a few key players to give them an edge this year. Among those new to the roster is Derrick Rose, who re-joined the team Saturday after a civil trial found him not liable for allegedly raping his ex-girlfriend.

Other big games Tuesday night include the one between the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz, starting at 10 p.m. ET in Portland. The lineup bodes well for the Blazers, who haven't lost their first home game since the 2000-01 season.

The night concludes with a much-anticipated match between the San Antonio Spurs and last year’s runner-up, the Golden State Warriors at 10:30 p.m. ET. The two teams are projected to be the second- and third-best teams in the league this season by ESPN. The New York Times has already dubbed this the “Game of the Week.”

Between a stellar pre-season and the addition of Kevin Durant to their already star-studded lineup, the Warriors maintain an advantage going into the evening. The Spurs also face their first season opener since 1996 without Tim Duncan, the power forward who brought them at least 50 victories a season for 17 consecutive years.

The remainder of the week will feature a number of high-profile matches, including the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET and the Cavaliers vs. the Toronto Raptors at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.

Ebola-Stricken Texas Nurse Settles Lawsuit Against Hospital Company

Ebola survivor Nina Pham speaks at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on October 14, 2014. (Reuters)

A Texas nurse who contracted Ebola two years ago while treating an infected patient has received a settlement in the lawsuit she brought against the company that owns the hospital where she worked.

Nina Pham contracted Ebola in October 2014 while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person in the United States to be diagnosed with the virus, at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan, who later died, was diagnosed after he returned home to Texas from a trip to Liberia, one of the countries that was affected by the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. Pham tested positive for Ebola three days after Duncan’s death. She was one of two nurses to contract the disease while working at the hospital.

Pham recovered and was released from her treatment at the National Institutes of Health two weeks after first experiencing symptoms. In March 2015, Pham sued Texas Health Resources, which operates the Dallas hospital where she worked. They reached a settlement Wednesday, and said in a joint statement to The Atlantic that “all parties have agreed the terms of the resolution are confidential and will not make additional statements or grant media interviews.”

Pham had accused Texas Health Resources of failing to adequately prepare her for how to treat Ebola. “The hospital had never given her any in-services, training or guidance about Ebola,” her lawyers said at the time. “All Nina knew about Ebola is what she had heard on the television about the deadly outbreak in West Africa.”

They added: “Nina asked her manager what she should do to protect herself from the deadly disease. Either her manager or her supervisor went to the Internet, searched Google, printed off information regarding what Nina was supposed to do, and handed Nina the printed paper.”

The Ebola outbreak of 2014, the deadliest and most widespread of its kind in history, killed more than 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. The virus traveled to the U.S. and other nations, usually carried by passengers who had visited those countries, prompting governments to increase precautions in hospitals, cancel flights from affected countries, and release advisories in an attempt to assuage their panicked publics.

A Robot Truck in Colorado Has Successfully Delivered Beer

Tony Avelar / AP

A commercial truck in Colorado made a 120-mile trip from Loveland to Colorado Springs on Tuesday, carrying 50,000 cans of ordinary Budweiser, and the mundanity of this trip was its success. That’s because there was no one behind the wheel. It was the first commercial delivery made by a self-driving truck.

A police cruiser followed the 18-wheeler, and a driver sat in the back cab as it drove a stretch of Colorado’s Interstate 25. Drivers beside it on the freeway would not have noticed much of a difference, but it’d been outfitted with $30,000 of autonomous-driving technology by Otto, the San Francisco-based company bought by Uber for $700 million in August. Otto has been testing trucks almost since the company launched in January. Uber hopes the trucks will fill a massive driver shortfall that is expected to become much worse.

As WIRED reported, the American Trucking Association puts the current driver shortage at 48,000, which will likely increase to 175,000 by 2024. Uber hopes to become a global delivery service—of meals, of humans, and soon of cargo—and this technology could revolutionize U.S. shipping. Anheuser-Busch alone delivers more than a million truckloads of beer each year. Autonomous trucks could save the company $50 million, the company told Bloomberg.

Truckers scared of losing their jobs to computers can rest at peace, because the technology still relies on humans. The software’s role on Tuesday was limited to highway driving, and still required a person to navigate in and out of the city, where sudden stops and parking would require a new world of engineering development.

So for now, a big red button beside the steering column that switches off the computer still ensures humans have a job.

Venezuela’s Opposition Divided Over Talks With Government

Lawmakers gather in the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela on October 23, 2016 (Ariana Cubillos / AP)

Venezuela’s opposition appears to be divided over Vatican-mediated talks with the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

Jesus Torrealba, the leader of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition, or MUD, had agreed to join talks with Maduro; but others within the coalition were reportedly thrown off by his decision.

Henrique Capriles, the two-time presidential candidate, dismissed news of possible political dialogue, according to Reuters.

“No dialogue has begun in Venezuela,” Capriles said, adding he had discovered news of the talks via reports on television. “These devils want to use the good faith of Pope Francis to buy more time.”

On Monday, Pope Francis met with Maduro and urged him to hold talks with the opposition, the Holy See said.

The talks, set to begin October 30 in Margarita, the Caribbean island, was scheduled to be mediated by the Vatican, the regional bloc of the Union of South American Nations, and three former international leaders. Venezuela is on the edge of economic and political collapse. The opposition had hoped to hold a referendum to remove Maduro, the left-wing leader who was the chosen successor of Hugo Chavez, whose term expires in 2019. But the government annulled the signature drive for the referendum, and the opposition vowed protests to oust Maduro.

On Tuesday, a majority of lawmakers in the opposition-led National Assembly voted in favor of opening a "political and criminal trial" against Maduro, though the move has been dismissed as largely symbolic, Reuters reports.

12 Killed in Al-Shabab Raid Targeting Christians

A man stands at the site of the attack in Mandera, Kenya, on October 25, 2016 (AP)

Al-Shabab, the Somali militant group, claimed responsibility Tuesday for an attack on the Bisharo Guest House in Mandera, near Kenya’s border with Somalia.

The raid occurred early Tuesday when gunmen broke into the house using grenades and homemade explosives. At least 12 people were killed; the attackers reportedly went room to room randomly shooting occupants. According to the al-Shabab radio station, Andalus, the attackers specifically targeted Christians.

Many of the victims were members of Pearls Quality Edutainment, an acting troupe from Nairobi that had been touring schools in Mandera. According to the BBC, Tuesday marked the fourth attempted attack on this particular group. The group’s producer, Daud Otieno, who survived the raid, told the BBC that gunmen were shouting "actors, actors" as they opened fire.

In the midst of the shooting, a few occupants, including Veronica Wambui, managed to hide in a storeroom. Although she suffered injuries to her legs and a bullet wound to her left hand, Wambui said she was spared her life when the storeroom wall collapsed, concealing her from view. Following the attack, witnesses reported that people were still trapped underneath the rubble.

Al-Shabab has pledged to seek retribution against Kenya ever since the nation sent troops to Somalia to fight the Islamist group in 2011. While Kenyan security forces have successfully stymied al-Shabab’s attacks in recent days, Mandera has been particularly vulnerable to conflict. Two weeks ago, a security guard at the Bisharo Guest House was killed, an early sign that al-Shabab was targeting the site. On October 6, the group also attacked a residential building in Mandera, killing six people.

Spain's Mariano Rajoy to Form a New Government

(Francisco Seco / AP)

Spainish King Felipe VI tasked Mariano Rajoy Tuesday with forming a new government, the prime minister and Popular Party leader said.

“I accept the charge of the king to submit myself to the confidence of the Congress. I understand the difficulties, but Spain needs government,” he tweeted Tuesday.

The announcement follows a decision over the weekend by the opposition Socialist Party to abstain from the parliamentary vote and not block Rajoy’s election as prime minister. The move allowed Rajoy, who has served as acting prime minister since the country’s December 2015 election, to formally lead the country and prevent an unprecedented third election in less than a year.

How did Spain get here? After two inconclusive elections in December and June—both of which resulted in a Popular Party victory, though the party never won enough seats to govern alone—Spain has undergone 10 months of political deadlock, as its party leaders failed to form a viable coalition. Though the Socialists do not support Rajoy, the party’s decision not to oppose him stems from its willingness to end the deadlock and not push the country to yet another election.

The first confidence vote will be held Thursday, parliamentary speaker Ana Pastor said, according to Agence France-Presse. If the vote plays out in Rajoy’s favor, Spain could have a new government as early as next week. Even so, Rajoy’s minority government will likely face an uphill battle as it contends with a still heavily fragmented parliament.

Russian Man Protests Power Outage by Brewing Tea at City Hall

(Tumanova Liudmila / Shutterstock)

Russians love their tea.

So when power outages in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk left some residents without electricity to power their kettles for hours, one man decided to take his frustration to city hall—literally.

Alexander Lang brought his kettle to city administration’s building and brewed tea in the lobby after scheduled maintenance outages ran longer than officials had promised, he told Russian television channel STS-Prima on Monday. He said the outages on his street were supposed to last from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but electricity did not return until 10 p.m.

He called city authorities, but they were no help, he said. "No one's listening or they don't want to listen," he said. "So I said, what? Should I come over and have tea at your place?"

Lang described the situation in a video he recorded from the lobby on Monday. He said he took his child to a cafe before school for warm food and hot tea. He spent five hours in the lobby in protest, drinking tea, eating cookies, and charging his smartphone.

Demolitions Under Way at Calais Migrant Camp

(Thibault Camus / AP)

The dismantling of the Calais migrant camp began Tuesday as French authorities continued clearing the facility of its approximately 7,000 residents.

Here’s what the camp looked like during its second day of evacuations:

Approximately 3,113 migrants have been evacuated from the makeshift campsite, known commonly as “The Jungle,”  the French Interior Ministry announced Tuesday. Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, said Monday those evacuated would be transferred to processing centers throughout the country, where they will be given the opportunity to claim asylum. Applicants deemed ineligible will face deportation.

Cazeneuve praised British authorities for their role in dismantling the migrant camp, which sits on the port of Calais between the two countries. In addition to pledging 40 million euros to support the camp’s clearance and closure, he said the British government would take in several hundred unaccompanied minors from the camp.

Although operations to dismantle the camp have occurred largely without incident, there were reports Monday night of a fire within the camp, though it has since been extinguished.

ISIS Executes Hundreds of Civilians as the Battle for Mosul Intensifies

Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

A little more than a week ago, Iraqi government forces and their allies, backed by U.S. airstrikes, began the battle to retake Mosul, the Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Iraq. The effort is expected to take months, but has gone, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, according to plan so far. ISIS appears to be feeling the pressure: Rupert Colville, the UN human-rights spokesman, said Tuesday ISIS is executing hundreds of citizens.

Last week Iraqi security forces found 70 bodies in a home in Tuloul Naser, a village south of Mosul. On Sunday, ISIS reportedly killed 50 former police officers. About 4,000 militants hold Mosul, and as they retreat into reinforced portions of the city, they’re taking civilians with them. In the village of Safina, about 30 miles south of the city, ISIS killed 15 civilians, threw their bodies into the river, then dragged six men related to a tribal leader fighting ISIS behind a car to spread fear. ISIS also killed three women and three girls because they did not evacuate their village quickly enough.

"The victims were lagging behind because one of the children had a disability,” Colville said. “She was apparently amongst those shot and killed."

Colville said reports of these atrocities came from the Iraqi government sources, as well as civilian sources the UN has used in the past. The U.S. and its allies had advertised for months their intention to retake Mosul, partly in hopes the 1.5 million civilians who live there could evacuate, or prepare for the attacks. About 30,000 Iraqi government forces are pushing toward Mosul. The U.S. has carried out 32 airstrikes. It’s believed nearly a quarter million people could be displaced in the next few weeks.

Vatican Bans Practice of Scattering Cremated Ashes, Turning Them Into Jewelry

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, attends a news conference illustrating new Catholic guidelines on burial and cremation, at the Vatican on Tuesday. (Alessandra Tarantino / AP)

The Vatican issued new guidelines on burial and cremation on Tuesday. The Roman Catholic Church has long called on Catholics to bury their dead, but since at least 1963, it has acknowledged that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion.” This was formally incorporated into the Code of Canon law in 1983, according to the Church.

However, as the practice of cremation has become more common, “new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread,” the Vatican said Tuesday. In response, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body which creates, clarifies, and defends Catholic doctrine, has released new instructions about burial rites.

The highlights: The Church still encourages Catholics to bury their dead, and to do so in “sacred places” such as cemeteries or church environments. Cremation is okay, so long as the deceased stated a preference for it and the option is chosen for “sanitary, economic, or social considerations.” As with a burial, the ashes should be laid to rest in a “sacred place.”

Here’s where things get interesting. Apparently, the “new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith” largely refer to symbolic ceremonies involving people’s ashes. The Church does not allow Catholics to scatter the ashes of their loved ones, or preserve the ashes in “mementos, pieces of jewelry, or other objects.” There are no legitimate reasons for Catholics to undertake these rituals, the Church said, and if a person makes a request along these lines, he or she should be denied a Christian funeral. It’s important for Catholics to follow these rules “in order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided,” the Vatican said.

For many people, the kind of death rituals the Church described are meaningful, and even traditional. Especially among people who aren’t part of any faith, rituals involving the ashes of their loved ones, called cremains, are common. As the Baylor University professor Candi Cann told me a few years ago, fashioning jewelry out of cremains is “not that different from wearing a piece of jewelry that your grandma gave you. You’re not wearing the piece of jewelry—you’re wearing your grandma.”

Not so much in the Catholic tradition, it seems.

The Number of Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean in 2016 Is on Pace to Exceed Last Year's Number

A Syrian man swims in front of a dinghy full of refugees that suffered engine failure as they approached Lesbos, Greece, on September 11, 2015.  (Petros Giannakouris / AP)

The UN says the number of migrants who died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean is on pace to exceed last year’s figure.

At least 3,740 people died in the first 10 months of this year, William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Geneva on Tuesday. The number for all of 2015 was 3,771. The figures are despite an overall decrease in the number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean for better lives in Europe, the UN said. The number in 2015 was 1,015,078; this year’s figure is 327,800. That reduction is due, in part, to the European Union’s naval mission to crackdown on smugglers who bring migrants to Europe. But that effort has prompted smugglers to change tactics.

On “several occasions when there have been mass embarkations of thousands of people at a time,” Spindler said. “This may be to do with the shifting smuggler business model or geared toward lowering detection risks, but it also makes the work of rescuers harder.”

About half of those who died drowned in the North Africa to Italy route—one of the most perilous; bad weather was also blamed for some deaths. But the UN also said smugglers are using lower-quality vessels that often do not last the journey.

UNHCR urged countries to do more to make asylum processes more efficient.

Christopher Marlowe Listed as Co-Author of Shakespeare’s Henry VI

(Steven Senne / AP)

Oxford University Press will credit Christopher Marlowe, the poet and playwright, alongside William Shakespeare as the co-author of the three Henry VI plays. Although scholars have questioned Shakespeare’s sole authorship for many years, this is the first time that he will share authorship with Marlowe in print.

The joint credit will appear on the title pages of Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Henry VI in the New Oxford Shakespeare, which is scheduled for release in November. While Marlowe is perhaps most famous for his 16th-century play Doctor Faustus, he has been suspected of contributing to Henry VI as early as the 18th century.

The recent decision by Oxford University Press stems from research by 23 international scholars, who painstakingly combed through individual works by both authors. The scholars also relied on computerized data sets of words and phrases to detect similarities between Marlowe and Shakespeare’s works. In total, they concluded that 17 of Shakespeare’s works had received input from someone other than The Bard himself.

In a statement to The Guardian, Gary Taylor, a general editor of the New Oxford Shakespeare, said of the two authors: “We can now be confident that they didn't just influence each other, but they worked with each other. Rivals sometimes collaborate."

But Carol Rutter, a Shakespeare professor at the University of Warwick, expressed a different opinion to the BBC. “I believe Shakespeare collaborated with all kinds of people,” she said, “but I would be very surprised if Marlowe was one of them.”

Philippines's Duterte, in a Broadside Against the U.S., Says He's 'Not a Puppet'

(Bullit Marquez / AP)

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made it a day without offending anyone. Then as he prepared Tuesday to leave the Philippines for Japan, he held a news conference in which he waved a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and said, “I am not a dog of any country,” that his apology to the U.S. Monday was insincere, that he still planned to kick out the U.S. military, and appeared to call the U.S. and its ambassador a “son of a bitch.”

The strong language isn’t new: Duterte has gained global attention for his remarks. But what’s different about this is it could affect international policy. Since he took office in June, Duterte has threatened to scrap his country’s 70-year relationship with the U.S. for better deals with Russia and China. Last week, he flew to China and signed billion of dollars in deals, and said: “I announce my separation from the United States.”

The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said Duterte’s remarks had caused a “climate of uncertainty”—a statement referenced on the Inquirer’s front page. Duterte apologized Monday, but at the airport Tuesday he said he’d only backtracked because his foreign-affairs secretary asked him to “tone down your rhetoric against America.” He then proceeded to list a litany of grievances against the U.S. dating back more than a century. He raised the Balangiga Massacre; the bombing of Manila after World War II; the U.S. ambassador’s criticism of his “rape joke”; criticism of his war on crime; and that the U.S. raises the “bogeyman war” with China as means to force the Philippines’ cooperation.

“I am not,” Duterte said, “a puppet of any country.”

Quetta Attack: Death Toll Rises to 60

(Arshad Butt / AP)

The death toll in the attack on the Balochistan Police College in Quetta, Pakistan, has risen to 60. At least 117 people were injured, Dawn reported.

As my colleague Matt Vasilogambros reported last night: “Three heavily armed militants wearing bomb vests stormed” the police- training college in southwestern Pakistan. Two militants died after detonating their vests; the third was killed by security forces.

Major General Sher Afgan, the inspector general of the Frontier Corps, said the attack was carried out by Al-Alimi faction of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a militant group. Dawn pointed out the group itself hasn’t claimed responsibility. Separately, ISIS also claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. Sarfraz Bugti, a politician who serves as Balochistan’s home minister, tweeted that the militants’ handlers were in Afghanistan.

Dawn adds that the police-training college was previously attacked by militants in 2006 and 2008. Quetta city was most recently targeted in August when militants attacked a hospital, killing 73 people, including many prominent lawyers. ISIS and Jamaatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for that attack.

Four Killed on Australian Theme-Park Ride

Rescue personnel stand by the Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, Australia, on Tuesday.
Rescue personnel stand by the Thunder River Rapids ride on Tuesday. (Channel 9 / AP)

Four people—two men and two women—were killed Tuesday at the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Dreamworld theme park on Queensland’s Gold Coast, officials said.

They said two people were thrown from a raft on the ride while two were tapped inside. A spokesman for Queensland Ambulance attributed the deaths to a malfunction in the ride in which visitors travel on circular rafts along an artificial river.

The men were aged 38 and 35; the women 42 and 32, officials said. Australia’s 9NEWS reports the victims were possibly from the same family. ABC, the Australian broadcaster, reported: “Early investigations suggest water pushed one raft into another and one of the rafts tipped over, throwing the riders out.”

Dreamworld Park, which calls itself the biggest theme park in Australia, is closed while an investigation is underway.