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August 9, 2018

Michael Avenatti is looking ahead to 2020.

Avenatti, the attorney representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump, is in Iowa "exploring a run for the presidency of the United States," he told the Des Moines Register Thursday. He said he wanted to come to Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state, in order to "listen to people and learn about some issues that are facing the citizens of Iowa and do my homework." Avenatti spent Thursday at the Iowa State Fair, where he was stopped by people asking for selfies, and he plans on speaking at the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser on Friday night.

Avenatti is known for his many television appearances, where he blasts Trump and most people in the president's orbit, and he told the Register he would "never think to come to Iowa in order to use the state or the people of the state to raise my profile," adding, "the trust of the citizens of Iowa is going to have to be earned."

He will tell Democrats in the state that they need to take on Trump, and believes "there's a huge appetite within the party for a fighter. I think the party has yearned for a fighter — a fighter for good, if you will — for a significant period of time. And for many, I'm probably seen as that individual." Catherine Garcia

8:25 a.m.

Peter Fonda, who starred in the Hollywood film Easy Rider, died on Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His family said in a statement that the cause was respiratory failure resulting from lung cancer.

Fonda hailed from an iconic Hollywood family. His father, Henry Fonda, and his older sister, Jane Fonda, were both Academy Award winners. Fonda was known for his rebellious nature on and off the screen. His most famous role was the character Wyatt in 1969's Easy Rider, a counterculture film which film critic Roger Ebert once called "one of the rallying-points of the late '60s." He also contributed to the screenplay, for which he and his fellow writers — including his co-star Dennis Hopper — were nominated for an Academy Award.

Many directors, actors, and writers took time to share their appreciation for Fonda, including Edgar Writer, Ana Duvernay, and Rob Reiner.

Jane Fonda, who said she was with her brother over his final days, said "he went out laughing." Tim O'Donnell

8:11 a.m.

Indian authorities on Saturday began lifting restrictions in Kashmir, which has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, following a decision to revoke the special status of the Muslim-majority region earlier this month.

Landline phone and mobile internet services are reportedly being restored throughout the region in phases, and India announced on Friday that schools and government offices are set to reopen on Monday. Despite the easing of restrictions, many residents in Pakistan-administered Kashmir reportedly remain "anxious" and were still unable to contact their relatives in India-administered Kashmir. Asmat Pandith, a Kashmiri student in New Delhi told Al Jazeera that she and her fellow students were under a 'mental siege,' amid the lockdown that has prevented them from contacting their families. Students said they would only believe the Indian government has actually eased restrictions when they can see tangible results.

Critics have called the blackout an attempt to silence voices in Kashmir, a borderland region which has long been the focal point of tensions between India and Pakistan. Protests continued in the region on Friday to which Police reportedly responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.

Further, the United Nations Security Council on Friday met to discuss Kashmir for the first time in 54 years. Pakistan welcomed the meeting, and the country's ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, considered it an achievement. But India maintains that Kashmir is an internal matter and warned against heeding statements from Pakistan that "masquerade as the will of the international community. Read more at The New York Times and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

August 16, 2019

President Trump wasn't wrong to put Anthony Scaramucci on his enemies list.

It's no secret that never-Trump Republican Bill Kristol would like to see someone else at the top of the GOP's presidential ticket. Now, he's adding the former White House communications director turned anti-Trumper to his battalion, confirming they've discussed the matter with a texted "yup" to CNBC.

Kristol's long neoconservative history includes founding the now-defunct Weekly Standard magazine and working for a handful of past Republican presidents. But he's dead-set on ensuring Trump has no chance to be reelected in 2020, preferably by getting another Republican to primary the current president. Scaramucci, meanwhile, announced last week he's officially dumping Trump, apparently prompting Kristol to give him a call. Kristol and Scaramucci have "chatted" about ousting Trump, but "working with him would be an exaggeration," Kristol told CNBC.

It's an odd potential partnership for Kristol, who has publicly criticized Scaramucci in the past. Still, Scaramucci has retained his spot in Trump's mind well beyond his 11-day White House tenure, with Trump firing a tweet storm at his former aide just last week. Yet Scaramucci recently said he received support from current White House staffers, as well as current and former elected officials, after publicly opposing Trump. Kristol, it seems, could be trying to tap into the Scaramucci network.

Read more at CNBC. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 16, 2019

New York City's medical examiner is contradicting any conspiracy theories surrounding Jeffrey Epstein's death.

Epstein, the 66-year-old financier accused of running a sex trafficking ring involving dozens of minor girls, died Saturday of suicide by hanging, the examiner's office announced Friday. The news comes after The Washington Post reported Thursday that Epstein's autopsy was pointing toward confirming he committed suicide, though it didn't dispel swirling conspiracies that suggested otherwise.

The Thursday Post report didn't immediately confirm Epstein's death by suicide, but it did say Epstein had been found to have broken bones in his neck, which are more likely to be found in a strangulation case. This only fueled theories that Epstein's death was actually a homicide, but the medical examiner stymied those suggestions in a Friday statement.

Epstein was arrested last month for alleged sex trafficking and was being held in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correction Center. He was soon placed on suicide watch after an apparent suicide attempt, but was removed from that status shortly before his death over the weekend. Reports have since suggested there were irregular circumstances surrounding Epstein's death, including that the guards looking after him were overworked and possibly even asleep. Attorney General William Barr has pledged to look into these "serious irregularities," including why Epstein was allowed to be alone in his cell. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 16, 2019

Congressional Republicans are ready to point the finger to the other side of the aisle.

A memo circulated by House Republicans advises lawmakers to deflect questions about gun violence and white nationalism to instead blame "the left" and "both sides," reports the Tampa Bay Times.

The talking points falsely described the shooting in El Paso, Texas, and other mass shootings as "violence from the left," though the alleged El Paso shooter targeted "Mexicans" and reportedly wrote a white nationalist, anti-immigrant screed that decried a "Hispanic invasion of Texas," per NPR, echoing President Trump's rhetoric surrounding immigration.

The inclusion of El Paso was actually a mistake, said a spokesperson for Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), who circulated the talking points. It was supposed to mention Dayton, Ohio, where another shooting occurred the same weekend. The alleged Dayton shooter was reportedly a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), though there is no evidence his alleged attack was motivated by leftist political views. The Tampa Bay Times reports that other shootings described as leftist violence are included "despite ambiguous, if not contradictory, evidence."

If asked whether "white nationalism is driving more mass shootings recently," Republican lawmakers are advised to steer the conversation in a way that argues both sides are to blame. FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress most domestic terrorism cases "are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence." The Anti-Defamation League says 73 percent of extremist-related murder in the last decade were committed by right-wing extremists, including white supremacists, while 3 percent were committed by left-wing extremists.

"White nationalism and racism are pure evil and cannot be tolerated in any form," reads the reported document. "We also can't excuse violence from the left." Read more at the Tampa Bay Times. Summer Meza

August 16, 2019

Plagiarism scandals have officially infected the world of podcasting.

Crime Junkie, a popular podcast that BuzzFeed News says is currently the most listened to series on Apple Podcasts, apparently may be cribbing a lot more than just the public records surrounding some mysterious crimes.

The first accusation of plagiarism appeared on Sunday, when journalist Cathy Frye posted a comment on Crime Junkie host Ashley Flowers' Facebook page:

"You relied on my series about Kacie Woody to air your podcast, which, I would assume, profits by the sharing of crime stories. At one point, you quoted a portion of MY copyrighted story almost verbatim. I then started listening to your other podcasts and - SURPRISE! - discovered that you don't cite sources or credit news organizations."

Frye, considered the preeminent expert on the murder of Kacie Woody due to her award-winning coverage for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2003, isn't the only one with an allegation. Fellow true-crime podcaster Robin Warder, host of The Trail Went Cold, wrote a post on Reddit in 2015 summarizing his episode about the death of Henry McCabe. He told Variety that in a recent episode of Crime Junkie, "Ashley Flowers is practically reading [from the Reddit post] verbatim without credit." BuzzFeed News reports that "a handful" of podcasters also felt their work had been plagiarized by the hosts.

Since the controversy started, five episodes of Crime Junkie have reportedly been removed from the show's website and streaming platforms. In a statement to Variety, Flowers said the show's "research process is thorough, rigid, and exhaustive, and those familiar with Crime Junkie are aware that we make clear references to the use of other sources and that comprehensive notes and links to all sources are made available on our show's website."

Sounds like a crime that still needs solving. Cyrena Touros

August 16, 2019

Former President Barack Obama isn't yet sporting a Biden 2020 hat, but that doesn't mean he isn't paying attention to his former vice president's campaign.

Although Obama has gone to great lengths to not endorse an individual in the 2020 Democratic primaries, he has reportedly been more involved in Biden's camp than he's let on. Obama has gone so far as to request briefings with Biden's team to discuss strategy, including one meeting before Biden announced his candidacy in April, reports The New York Times. In some of his meetings with Biden and Co., Obama has tried to emphasize the importance of Biden expanding his inner circle with younger voices, reportedly telling Biden his advisers are too old and out of touch.

Despite his watchful eye, Obama has been wary of Biden seeking the nomination. At one point before Biden entered the race, Obama reportedly said: "You don't have to do this, Joe, you really don't." Biden, who benched himself during the 2016 election, responded by saying he couldn't miss another shot to beat President Trump.

In March, Obama reportedly told Biden's advisers that they needed to make sure the former Vice President didn't "embarrass himself" or "damage his legacy." Coming from Biden's supposed best friend, that one's gotta hurt. Read it at The New York Times. Marianne Dodson

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