Live Coverage

Today's News: Oct. 28, 2016

The FBI is once again looking at Hillary Clinton’s emails, Dakota Access Pipeline protests, a plan caught fire at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and more from across the United States and around the world.

Jim Young / Reuters

—The FBI director says the bureau is looking at additional Hillary Clinton emails to “determine whether they contain classified information.” The emails came to light, he said in a letter to congressional lawmakers, in connection with an unrelated case. More here

—Authorities arrested 141 people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in a stand-off at the controversial project’s construction site. More here

—A technical problem caused a fire on a Miami-bound airplane on the tarmac of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, causing around 20 injuries, none of which were serious. More here

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

Updates

This live blog has concluded

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Transgender-Rights Case

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear its first major case on transgender rights on Friday.

The case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., centers on Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old transgender boy who attends a high school in eastern Virginia. Grimm was born biologically as a female but identifies as male. After he began transitioning, he also started to use the boys’ bathroom at his school. The school board, responding to complaints by some parents, then passed a policy that requires students to use the bathroom of their “biological gender.”

Grimm sued the school board in federal court, arguing that the policy violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause as well as Title IX, which forbids sex discrimination in public education. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Grimm in April, citing an Education Department official’s unpublished letter that argued Title IX covers gender identity. In August, the Supreme Court stayed that ruling while the justices considered the school board’s petition to intervene.

In their order granting review of the case, the Court limited its consideration to two issues: first, whether courts should defer to unpublished letters like the one cited by the Fourth Circuit, and second, whether the letter’s interpretation—that Title IX covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity—is valid. The Obama administration adopted the letter’s interpretation of Title IX in May.

That framing could give the Court an opportunity to issue a landmark ruling on transgender rights. As my colleague Emma Green noted in August, lower courts have been divided on whether existing civil-rights laws cover discrimination against transgender men and women. The federal government is currently locked in a major legal battle with North Carolina over HB 2, a state law that overturned local bans on LGBT discrimination and forbade schools districts from letting students use bathrooms or locker rooms that don’t correspond to their birth certificates.

If the justices deadlock in a 4-4 split, the Fourth Circuit’s ruling would be upheld without setting a nationwide precedent. When the Court issued its stay in August, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that he had provided the necessary fifth vote as a courtesy. That may suggest the Court’s liberal and conservative wings are already divided on the issue. Only four justices’ votes are needed to accept a case for review.

A Plane Is on Fire at Chicago's O'Hare Airport

(Bob Strong / Reuters)

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

A Miami-bound American Airlines plane blew a tire during takeoff Friday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, sending thick black smoke from the aircraft. The passengers are reportedly safe.

There was a previously scheduled fire drill at O’Hare earlier Friday, adding to the confusion.

Follow our live blog on this story here.

Russia Voted Off UN Human Rights Council Over Syria

Reuters

Russia lost its seat on UN Human Rights Council Friday following heightened criticism for its military actions in Syria.

In a vote to fill the 14 seats of the 47-member council tasked with promoting and protecting human rights worldwide, the UN General Assembly re-elected the U.S., the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Brazil, Hungary, Cuba, South Africa, Japan, and Tunisia. Newcomers Croatia, Iraq, and Rwanda were elected to the council for the first time.

Russia and Guatemala were the only countries running for a seat not to be elected.

Human rights groups campaigned heavily against the re-election of Saudi Arabia and Russia to the council, citing accusations against both countries of launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen and Syria, respectively. Russia’s latest offensive with the Syrian government in the besieged city of Aleppo has prompted many Western governments to accuse Moscow of war crimes.

“In rejecting Russia's bid for re-election to the Human Rights Council, U.N. member states have sent a strong message to the Kremlin about its support for a regime that has perpetrated so much atrocity in Syria,” Louis Charbonneau, the UN director at Human Rights Watch, told the Associated Press.

With Russia ousted, both Hungary and Croatia will now serve as the representatives of Eastern Europe. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador, said both countries “because of their size … are not exposed to the winds of international diplomacy.”

He added: “I'm sure next time we'll get in.”

China Moves Ships From Disputed Scarborough Shoal, Philippines Says

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

It seems Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s moves have paid off. On Friday his defense minister said China agreed to remove its ships from the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

Chinese vessels had entered the area, claimed by both nations, four years ago. Philippines appealed to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which ruled in its favor in July. But China did not budge. What the tribunal couldn’t do, Duterte appears to have managed: Filipino fishermen will now be able to use the waters around the shoal, something not possible since 2012.

China’s action in 2012 and the tribunal’s decision caused tensions. Beijing went as far as telling its citizens not to travel to the Philippines. The Philippines looked to the U.S. with which it has a mutual-defense treaty, but Washington said it won’t force China to leave. So though it had international law on its side, the Philippines could do little.

Duterte, who took office in June, subsequently opened talks with China. He visited Beijing last week, called for a “separation” from the U.S., and returned with billions of dollars in signed deals—as well as a warmer relationship, as is evidenced by China removing its ships from the shoal.

The Mysterious Death in the U.S. of a Former Putin Aide Is Labeled an Accident

Reuters

A former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who was found dead at a Washington, D.C., hotel last year died after  days of “excessive consumption of alcohol,” according to a statement Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As of Friday, the investigation into Mikhail Lesin’s death was closed.

Lesin helped sclupt Putin’s image and started the TV network Russia Today, the Kremlin’s English-language global broadcaster, now called RT. Lesin was found dead last November in the Dupont Circle Hotel. The cause of his death was at first labeled “undetermined,” though his family told media he’d died of a heart attack. When four months later, the D.C. medical examiner’s office reported Lesin had suffered blunt-force injuries on his head and body, it kicked off an international conspiracy. The Attorney’s office statement Friday seems to douse the speculation around his death.

Investigators said Lesin last returned to his hotel room alone at 10:48 a.m. on November 4, 2015. Video footage and witness statements confirmed Lesin had been drinking heavily for days, and the injuries to his body came from repeated falls when he was alone in his room, according to the statement. His death was labeled an accident, with a contributing factor of “acute ethanol intoxication.”

France and Britain Feud Over the Migrant Minors Left in Calais

Migrants wrap themselves in blankets as they prepare to spend the night in the dismantled migrant camp in Calais, France, on October 27, 2016. (Pascal Rossignol / Reuters)

More than 100 minors remain in the since-cleared out migrant camp of Calais—and France and the U.K. disagree on what to do about them.

Amber Rudd, the British home secretary, said Thursday the children remaining in Calais are the responsibility of French authorities, who are obliged under EU law to reunite minors with their families in France.

“Any child either not eligible or not in the secure area of the camp should be cared for and safeguarded by the French authorities,” Rudd said. “We understand that specialist facilities have been made available elsewhere in France to ensure this happens.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, Rudd’s French counterpart, responded in a statement he was “surprised” by Rudd’s claim and called on British authorities to “quickly execute its responsibilities to take in these minors,” which he said is “the best way to give them the protection they are due.”

Since the clearing this week of the makeshift camp, known commonly as “The Jungle,” French authorities have transferred some 6,000 people to migrant-processing centers across the country, where they will be allowed to seek asylum. British authorities pledged to accept several hundred unaccompanied minors from the camp. Of the estimated 1,451 minors housed near the camp, France says Britain has taken 274.

The number of migrants sleeping on the streets of Paris has increased by at least a third since the camp’s closure, Reuters reports. Here’s a video of migrants camped out near the Stalingrad Metro in the 10th arrondissement on October 25, 2016:

U.S. Markets Dive After News of FBI Review of Additional Clinton Emails

(Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

U.S. stocks went into the red Friday after news emerged that the FBI will investigate additional Hillary Clinton emails to “determine whether they contain classified information.”

But they later recovered somewhat:

The news, which comes less that two weeks before the U.S. presidential election, could have consequences for the Democratic presidential nominee. Although Clinton leads Donald Trump, her GOP rival, in most polls, the issue of the private email server she maintained while U.S. secretary of state has dogged her throughout her campaign for president.

FBI Says Its Investigating More Emails in Case Involving Clinton's Server

FBI Director James Comey, in a letter to congressional lawmakers, says the bureau is looking into additional Hillary Clinton emails to “determine whether they contain classified information.”

Comey had previously told lawmakers the FBI had concluded its investigation into the personal email server Clinton maintained while she served as secretary of state. The issue has dogged the Democratic presidential nominee’s candidacy.

My colleague David Graham is reporting on this development for our Politics team, here’s his story. David has also been reporting on all the scandals related to Clinton. You can read that here.

Syrian Rebels Attempt to Break the Siege of Aleppo

Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff speaks at a briefing at the Russian Defense Ministry's headquarters in Moscow on Oct. 25.
A Russian military spokesman briefs the media Tuesday in Moscow on the situation in Aleppo. (Ivan Sekretarev / AP)

Updated at 12:40 p.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have rejected his military’s request to resume airstrikes in Aleppo in the face of a rebel offensive to break the government’s siege of the eastern portion of the divided city.

“The Russian president considers it inappropriate at the present time to resume airstrikes in Aleppo,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said. But, Peskov added, Russia “reserves the right to use all means at its disposal to provide an appropriate level of support to the Syrian armed forces.”


Our original post from 8:01 a.m.:

Syrian rebels group, including Islamists formerly linked to al-Qaeda, launched a military offensive to break the government’s siege of Aleppo, the last major rebel-held city in Syria where 275,000 people have been trapped for months.

Russian and Syrian airstrikes have pounded the rebel-held eastern part of the divided city. Civilian targets, humanitarian convoys, and hospitals have been struck. The government controls the western portion of Aleppo.

So far, the rebels who struck Aleppo are from outside the city, but the Associated Press cited a rebel spokesman as saying groups inside the city will participate, as well. The BBC adds the groups involved include Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was formerly the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist group. Their presence is likely to incense the West, which supports only moderate groups fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said rebels fired missiles at al-Nayrab, in the east of the city, killing 15 people and wounding 100 others. Two car bombs, including one set off by a suicide bomber, were also used against government positions, the group said.

Eastern Aleppo is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, but taking it won’t be easy. Assad is backed not only by the Russian military—airstrikes and a soon-to-arrive naval fleet in the Mediterranean—but also fighters from Iran, and Hezbollah, the Shia militia from neighboring Lebanon.

141 Protesters Arrested as Police Clear Dakota Access Pipeline Encampment

The stand-off between protesters and police near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 27, 2016. (Reuters)

Authorities said Friday they arrested 141 people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in a stand-off at the controversial project’s construction site.

Police used pepper spray and armored cars to disperse members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmental activists protesting the pipeline, with some reports saying the officers also used plastic bullets. The protesters responded by throwing rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said one female protester allegedly fired a gun at police, though no officers were injured. Another man who police say was not involved in the protest was shot in the hand.

The incident began Thursday when police donning riot gear began clearing out approximately 200 protesters who constructed barriers on private land blocking the 1,172-mile path of the disputed pipeline, a $3.8 billion project that opponents say threatens the tribe’s sacred sites and its only water source.

Authorities were eventually able to clear the encampment, which they say was unlawful as it took place on private property. Those arrested face charges including conspiracy to endanger by fire or explosion, engaging in a riot, and maintaining a public nuisance.

Here’s what the confrontation looked like:

The Bundy Brothers Remain in Jail After Their Dramatic Acquittal

(Clockwise from top left) Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne, and Joseph O'Shaughnessy. Caption (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office/ Reuters)

Ammon and Ryan Bundy remained in jail Friday, a day after the brothers and five of their comrades were found not guilty of federal conspiracy and weapons charges stemming from their armed takeover of a federally owned wildlife sanctuary in Oregon earlier this year.

The seven defendants successfully argued they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat to the public near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. As my colleague Matt Vasilogambros reported last night, the acquittals were unexpected and a blow to prosecutors. Even Robert Salisbury, an attorney for Jeff Banta, one of the defendants, was surprised: “It's a stunning victory for the defense. I’m speechless.”

But the Bundy brothers remain in jail because they still face charges in Nevada related to the armed standoff standoff with federal authorities at their father Cliven Bundy's ranch two years ago. When U.S. District Judge Anna Brown explained that to Marcus Mumford, Ammon Bundy’s attorney, he repeatedly yelled at her, prompting U.S. marshals to tackle him to the ground, used a Taser on him several times, and then arrest him.

The Bundy brothers and their father, Cliven Bundy, will go on trial next year in Nevada for the standoff in 2014.Earlier this year, my colleague David Graham wrote on how the FBI ended the standoff. His piece is worth the read.

Uber Drivers Entitled to Basic Employee Rights, U.K. Tribunal Says

(Neil Hall / Reuters)

A London employment tribunal ruled Friday that Uber drivers are entitled to basic employee rights— such as receiving paid holiday breaks and minimum wage—in a landmark ruling that stands to affect thousands of drivers employed by the ride-sharing company.

"This is a monumental victory that will have a hugely positive impact on over 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for thousands more in other industries where bogus self-employment is rife,” Maria Ludkin, the legal director of the union representing the drivers, said Friday in a statement.

The case was first brought up against the San Francisco-based company in July after two of its drivers in the UK claimed Uber was breaking the law by denying them basic worker’s rights, including paid holiday breaks, paid rest breaks, and minimum wage. Uber said the company’s business model allows drivers to “become their own boss” by making them self-employed “partners,” as opposed to employees, thus not entitling them to benefits.

Though Uber  said it would appeal the tribunal’s ruling, the decision stands to have a significant impact on the company and others like it who compose the U.K.’s so-called “gig economy,” which refers to an independent force composed of on-demand services like Uber, TaskRabbit, and Etsy.

'A Voice' Told the Philippines President to Stop Swearing, He Says

(Eugene Hoshiko / AP)

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has called President Obama “a son of a whore,” said he wants to tell the European Union to “fuck you,” and called the U.S. envoy to Manila a “gay son of a bitch.” Now he says God told him to stop swearing.

“While on up there on my way here, I heard a voice telling me to stop swearing or the plane will crash in midair, and so I promised to stop,” Duterte told reporters as he was returning from an official visit to Japan. “A promise to God is a promise to the people.”

But, the Philippines Daily Inquirer reported, that when he was pressed later whether he would stop swearing while talking about the U.S. or his political opponents, Duterte replied: It depends on the timing.

Duterte is known for being outspoken. Last week, he said he was seeking an economic and military “separation” from the U.S., then backtracked, but later said he wasn’t a “puppet” of the U.S., and wanted American troops out of the country within two years. His war on crime, which has resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, many of them extrajudicial, since he assumed office in June, has been harshly criticized by the West, but is largely popular in the Philippines.

My colleague J. Weston Phippen explored Duterte’s motivations in an article earlier this week.  “Duterte’s novel approach to politics,” Weston wrote, “has kept people guessing if what he said is what he means.”

That’s likely to be the case with his purported advice from God, as well.

U.S. Economy Grew at 2.9 Percent in the Third Quarter

In this June 3, 2015 file photo, container ships are docked at a shipyard, in Jersey City, N.J.
U.S. economic growth in the last quarter was boosted by exports. (Mark Lennihan / AP)

The U.S. economy grew 2.9 percent in the third quarter of the year, the Commerce Department said Friday, boosted by inventories and exports. Growth in the last quarter was 1.4 percent.

“The acceleration in real GDP growth in the third quarter reflected an upturn in private inventory investment, an acceleration in exports, a smaller decrease in state and local government spending, and an upturn in federal government spending,” the department said. “These were partly offset by a smaller increase in [personal consumption expenditures], and a larger increase in imports.”

The 2.9-percent figure is the biggest in two years. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, grew 2.1 percent, less than expected. Bloomberg adds:

The data are in sync with the views of Federal Reserve policy makers that the economy is making slow and steady progress. At the same time, solid employment and steady income gains are a sturdy base for households to continue in the role as the economy’s main driver of growth, a contrast with the drag from business investment.

Friday’s GDP figures are one the last major snapshots of the health of the U.S. economy ahead of the November 8 presidential election. The unemployment figures, another major indicator, will be released November 4.

The World's Largest Marine Protected Area

A colony of Adelie penguins gather in from of the Ross Sea ice shelf in Antarctica.
(Andy Soloman / Reuters)

Twenty-four nations and the European Union signed an agreement Friday to designate Antarctica’s Ross Sea the world’s largest marine protected area.

The agreement, which comes into force in December 2017, makes nearly 600,000 square miles (1.55 million square kilometers), an area roughly the size of Alaska, mostly off-limits to human activities. Fishing will be banned from nearly three-quarters of the marine-protected area; some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research will be permitted in other sections. The U.S. and New Zealand proposed the designation in 2011; it was approved, after years of negotiations, at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia. Russia, a longtime holdout, has signed on, as well.

The Ross Sea, its shelf, and its slope makes up about 2 percent of the Southern Ocean. The area is home to nearly 40 percent of the world's Adelie penguins, 30 percent of the world's Antarctic petrels, and some 6 percent of the world's population of Antarctic minke whales.

    In 2009, CCAMLR established the world’s first marine protected area in the high seas: in the South Orkney Islands southern shelf, a region covering 36,293 square miles (94,000 square kilometers) in the south Atlantic, an area the size of Indiana.