Tuesday morning news: August 13, 2019

Feds open multiple investigations into Epstein’s death » New information is raising questions about Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in federal prison over the weekend. Attorney General Willim Barr said prison officials might not have followed proper policy. 

BARR: We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.

Authorities were holding Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while he awaited trial on sex-trafficking charges. 

Prison officials placed him on suicide watch several weeks ago after finding bruises on his neck. But they reportedly lifted that order at the end of July. 

Even so, guards were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes. According to The New York Times, they did not follow that protocol the night the 66-year-old billionaire died. The newspaper also reported that the guards in Epstein’s unit were working overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages.

Barr insisted the case against those who knew of Epstein’s behavior—or enabled it—will not end with his death.

BARR: Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. Victims deserve justice and they will get it.

According to police reports, Epstein had a team of recruiters and employees who lined up underage girls for him. He faced up to 45 years in prison on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

New rule targets legal immigrants on welfare » The Trump administration has finalized new “public charge” rules that will reduce legal immigration to the United States. 

Ken Cuccinelli is acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He announced the policy on Monday and said it encourages self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

CUCCINELLI: Our rule generally prevents aliens who are likely to become a public charge from coming to the United States or remaining here and getting a green card.

The rule change requires the government to consider an immigrant’s need for public assistance along with other factors, like education, household income, and health.

Cuccinelli said the rule has no impact on humanitarian-based immigration programs. But it will affect about 400,000 people a year who already live in the United States and want to become permanent residents.

Immigrant rights groups say the rule doesn’t take into account how much other income an immigrant family might bring in from non-government sources. They say that will significantly lower the bar for what is considered dependency on the government.

Overhaul of endangered species protections » The Trump administration announced another major policy change on Monday. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones has details.

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: The new rule affects enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.

Under the proposal, the government will make public the potential economic impact of placing a plant or animal on the endangered species list. Regulators will also stop applying blanket protections to species recently labeled as under threat.

Officials insist they will not use cost estimates as a factor in determining whether a species is endangered. But environmental activists say even calculating the cost will invite political interference. They argue the proposed changes could speed extinction for some species. 

Several states have already announced plans to challenge the proposed rule in court.

The Endangered Species Act currently protects more than 16-hundred species in the United States and its territories.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.

Protests shut down Hong Kong airport » AUDIO: [Sound of Hong Kong police fire tear gas]

Protesters filled Hong Kong’s international airport on Monday for the fourth day in a row. The massive sit-in prompted officials to cancel all flights in and out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

The shutdown followed clashes between police and protesters across Hong Kong on Sunday.

AUDIO: [Sound of police firing tear gas canisters]

Officers in riot gear fired tear gas canisters at protesters in a train station. 

The ongoing unrest prompted a stern response from China. A government spokesman called the pro-democracy activists “radical demonstrators” and accused them of attacking police officers. He claimed that showed, quote—“the first signs of terrorism emerging.”

Analysts fear Beijing’s ramped up rhetoric could be a precursor to military action against protesters.

Russia admits nuclear accident » AUDIO: [Russia honours five specialists killed]

Russia held a public funeral service Monday for five scientists killed in a nuclear explosion last week. The engineers were reportedly testing a new rocket engine when the accident happened.

Russian officials have released limited and in some cases contradictory information about the accident. It’s not clear how many people died or whether the explosion poses any long-term risk.

Officials in a nearby port city said they detected a spike in radiation but claimed it didn’t pose a health hazard. The Russian Defense Ministry had previously claimed no radiation escaped.

(David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP) United States Attorney General William Barr at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Convention Blvd. in New Orleans, La. Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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