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What's Going On Around The World Today?

At least 310 people died after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck Afghanistan. The U.S. sent a warship into the South China Sea. And thousands of sheep stormed the streets of Madrid.

Posted on October 27, 2015, at 8:38 a.m. ET

Unsafe conditions are complicating relief efforts in Afghanistan after a powerful earthquake killed hundreds of people.

A magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck a remote, mountainous region of Afghanistan yesterday and caused heavy damage and panic “across one of the world’s most impoverished and war-torn regions,” the New York Times writes.

More than 1,200 people were injured and thousands of homes were destroyed, as “tremors were felt more than 900 miles away from the epicenter in New Delhi, India, where people streamed out of buildings as the quake hit,” BuzzFeed News’ Francis Whittaker writes.

In Afghanistan, the regions hit hardest by the earthquake are also affected by the Taliban insurgency, which “has made large parts of the affected areas unsafe for international organizations and government troops,” Reuters writes.

USGS / Via

The epicenter of the quake was located in the Badakhshan province, a poor region that suffers from earthquakes and floods. Death tolls are usually low there, because the area is sparsely populated, the Associated Press writes.

And a little extra.

“The damage could have been much worse,” Time writes. Yesterday’s quake’s depth was around 132 miles underground. Had it been more shallow, the damage and casualties could have been much worse. In April, for example, a much more shallow earthquake hit Nepal — the country’s worst in 80 years — killing more than 8,700 people.

Yesterday’s quake in northern Afghanistan was the fifth major one to hit the area in 15 years. In October 2005, Pakistan was struck by the deadliest ever earthquake to hit South Asia. The shallow magnitude-7.6 quake killed at least 75,000 and displaced almost three million people.

Khuram Parvez / Reuters

A man carries a boy injured in Monday’s earthquake at the Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan.


In a direct challenge to China’s territorial claims, the U.S. sent a warship into the South China Sea.

China claims an artificial island chain there is within its territorial borders. The U.S. military didn’t notify China of the “provocative maneuver,” the New York Times writes.

The U.S. says it’s allowed to enter the territory under international law. “You don't need to consult with any nation when you are exercising the right of freedom of navigation in international waters,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said at a news conference.

Over the past few years, China has built port and military facilities on the disputed Spratly Islands in an effort to reclaim the territories. China’s activity there is a point of major tension between China and the U.S., as well as other countries with interests in the South China Sea who dispute the legitimacy of China’s claims.

If you’re wondering why these countries are feuding over some artificial islands, one answer is trade: More than $5 trillion of world trade passes through the South China Sea every year, according to Reuters.

Ritchie B. Tongo / AP Photo

This aerial photo shows China’s alleged ongoing reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, “a disputed scattering of reefs and islands in the South China Sea more than 500 miles from the Chinese mainland,” the Times writes. China isn’t the only country that is expanding its territory in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan have done so as well, but at a much lower scale.

What’s next?

China isn’t pleased. The Chinese government called the American operation “illegal” and said it would keep monitoring any American movements, Reuters reports. “China will resolutely respond to any country's deliberate provocations,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinxing are expected to attend a set of Asia-Pacific summits next month.

Joshua Paul / AP Photo

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right before the East Asia Summit Foreign Minister’s Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August.

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An intersex activist is suing the U.S. government after being denied a passport.

The lawsuit comes after Dana Zzyym, 57, requested to list their gender as “X” on their passport application, but was denied. “Zzyym is claiming the State Department violated their constitutional rights when it denied them a U.S. passport last year for failing to pick either a male or female gender box,” BuzzFeed News’ Leticia Miranda writes.

Intersex is a “general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside,” according to the Intersex Society of North America.


Zzyym was born with ambiguous genitalia and underwent surgeries to pass as male, Miranda writes. On Zzyym’s birth certificate, the gender is listed as blank.

“I went to an HBCU because of The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World.

Campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are “kaleidoscopes of socioeconomic backgrounds, interests, hometowns, and skin colors ranging from milky porcelain to deep obsidian,” BuzzFeed contributor Mark S. Luckie writes. A Different World, which ran from 1987 to 1993, was the first time American viewers — white and black — were introduced to HBCUs.

Luckie remembers how A Different World’s fictional Hillman College inspired his decision to attend Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida. Netflix and Hulu have recently made all the episodes of A Different World available for a new generation of viewers online. “Hopefully they are as inspired by the show as I was. Although the clothes, music, and cultural references on the show may mark a specific moment in black history, A Different World will always be timeless,” Luckie writes.

Courtesy Mark S. Luckie

Mark Luckie (center) with the staff of the college newspaper at Bethune-Cookman University.

Quick things to know:

  • A Yemeni hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) was hit by Saudi-led airstrikes, the medical aid group said. It’s the “latest bombing of a civilian target in the seven-month air campaign in the country.” (The Guardian)

  • U.S. President Barack Obama “won a crucial ally” after Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he plans to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The presidents met at the White House yesterday. (New York Times)

  • Uber’s Indian competitor, Ola, is already doing Uber’s next big thing — the “perpetual ride.” (BuzzFeed News)

  • Portugal is facing a political crisis as leftists say they plan to topple the government. (The Guardian)

  • Top refugee athletes with no home country to represent will be able to compete at the 2016 Rio Games under the Olympic flag. (Reuters)

  • ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a mosque in Saudi Arabia on Monday that killed one person. (Reuters)

  • U.S. Congress and the White House have reached a tentative budget deal that “would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the government’s debt.” (New York Times)

  • A video captures a South Carolina officer picking up and throwing a high school student in class. Authorities are investigating the incident. (BuzzFeed News)

  • These are the victims of the homecoming parade crash at Oklahoma State University. Three adults and a 2-year-old boy were killed when a car drove into the crowd. Another 51 people were injured. (BuzzFeed News)

  • “Napalm girl” received laser treatments to help her burn scars heal, more than 40 years after she was photographed running away from a napalm attack in South Vietnam. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Today in tech: BuzzFeed News’ Alex Kantrowitz spent a week with Facebook Messenger’s virtual assistant, “M.” And it’s both wildly addicting and a bit freaky. (BuzzFeed News) And Siri won’t answer your questions about hit music if you’re not subscribed to Apple Music. (The Verge)

Happy Tuesday

Sheep briefly took control of Spanish capital Madrid over the weekend. Shepherds guided about 2,000 sheep through the streets in an effort to reassert grazing and migration rights –– which they’ve held since the year 1273 –– have become increasingly strained by urban sprawl, BuzzFeed News’ Jason Wells writes.

Francisco Seco / AP Photo

OMG, so many sheep.

The procession of sheep is an annual tradition that’s more than two decades old. Sheepdogs assisted the herders as they led the sheep — with clanking bells and all — through the streets, entertaining tourists and the city’s residents. Holy sheep!

Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP Photo

This is a wooly tra-a-a-dition in Madrid.

This letter was edited and brought to you by Claire Moses and Millie Tran. You can always reach us here.

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A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.