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Morning Update: "I Don't Want To Talk About Any Of The Facts"

The Saudi journalist was reportedly tortured, trouble for Trump in the Rust Belt, a powerful obituary. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, October 18.

Posted on October 18, 2018, at 8:01 a.m. ET

There is audio of Jamal Khashoggi being tortured before his death, according to new reports

Interest in the story of the missing Saudi journalist is not going away anytime soon.

Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist and regular columnist for the Washington Post, went into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul more than two weeks ago. Then he vanished.

Tell me a bit about Khashoggi’s work. Well, his last column for the Post decried the lack of free press in the Arab world, and criticized the ways governments shut down dissent.

What’s new with this story? First, the Turkish press published reports saying that the dismemberment of Khashoggi began while he was still alive. A pro-government Turkish paper based its account on audio recordings that Turkish intelligence is said to have taken during the alleged murder.

Do we know if that’s true? A Turkish official confirmed the report to the New York Times. According to President Donald Trump, Turkey has yet to provide copies of the audio to the United States. Trump said that the US has asked that they be turned over “if they exist.”

Is the US taking this seriously? On paper, yes. Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to get to the bottom of what happened to Khashoggi. Pompeo’s fact-finding mission, however, appeared light on facts: Asked by reporters whether Saudi officials had said if Khashoggi was dead or alive, Pompeo said, “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts; they didn’t want to, either.”

Trump’s beloved Rust Belt states look grim for Republican governors

It’s a rough time for Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in the Rust Belt.

Two years after Trump piled up victories and raised expectations of a rising red tide in Pennsylvania and the industrial Midwest, Republicans could be shut out entirely in gubernatorial contests there.

And not just in Pennsylvania — Republican operatives are increasingly pessimistic about Michigan. Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin — places that inspired a lot of confidence before — are now looking like much tighter races.

Henry Gomez looked into the challenges Republicans are facing in the Rust Belt, and what happens next.

Supplementary reading: The Pennsylvania and Ohio Senate races appear to be out of reach for Republicans, too. Tarini Parti put together a smart analysis of why Trumpism isn’t working in two states Trump won.


An explosion has killed at least 19 people at a Crimean college, authorities said. The explosion at a college in the city of Kerch also injured at least 40 others. Authorities confirmed that the attacker was a fourth-year student at the college. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry is sending helicopters and a transport plane with rescuers and psychologists to the scene.

Fertility rates are dropping and the age of new moms is rising across the US. The total fertility rate in the US is decreasing and the average age when women give birth to their first child is increasing — which means women are having fewer children and waiting longer to start a family, if they decide to have children at all. The total fertility rate — the estimated number of lifetime births per 1,000 women — has been declining for decades and dipped lower last year than it has been since the 1970s.

A group of black senior citizens was told to get off a bus that was taking them to vote. They were told to get off the bus by the county clerk, which prompted claims of voter intimidation. According to reports, a county administrator considered the trip a “political activity,” which isn't allowed at county-sponsored events. The bus ride was considered county-sponsored because it originated from a county-run senior center. According to a local official, the event was a “political activity” because a local Democratic Party member helped organize the event.

Twitter won’t suspend Louis Farrakhan for his tweet comparing Jews to insects. Farrakhan, who has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism throughout his career, yesterday tweeted a video clip of a speech in which he denied that he was anti-Semitic, with the caption, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” The tweet appears to violate Twitter’s proposed new policies around “dehumanizing” tweets, defined as “language that treats others as less than human.” However, a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed News the rules have not yet taken effect.

People are hilariously trolling this teen for pouring water on himself. There is nothing more I can say about this; it’s exactly what it sounds like. I blame the internet.

Here’s how Americans can get their hands on Canada’s sweet, legal weed. If you’re into that kind of thing.

The man who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street is retiring. Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who has voiced the characters for nearly 50 years, will retire this week. Spinney has won six Emmys, including a Lifetime Achievement award, and a Grammy for his Sesame Street work.

Anthony Rapp: Kevin Spacey needs to “fully own what he did”

Last year, Anthony Rapp came forward with his story. As powerful men in Hollywood were falling after the Harvey Weinstein story, the actor went public to BuzzFeed News about his experience with Kevin Spacey — who Rapp says made an unwanted sexual advance toward him when he was 14.

The consequences for Spacey were swift. Two days after he came forward, and other allegations surfaced, Netflix suspended production of House of Cards.

A year later, as we evaluate the year in #MeToo and where it goes next, we talked to Rapp about his experience telling his story. He told us what compelled him to come forward was how the women sharing their #MeToo stories on Weinstein were believed.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Rapp discussed how he hadn’t anticipated how quickly those stories would end Kevin Spacey’s career. The interview is well worth your time.

The woman who wrote a powerful obituary about her sister says the system failed her

Obituaries are often difficult reads, because it’s a difficult ask: The writer has to make sense of the whole span of a human life in a few words.

Imagine how moving an obituary has to be for it to go viral.

Kate O’Neill wrote a searing obituary of her youngest sister, Madelyn Linsenmeir. Madelyn had struggled with opioid addiction, and Kate wrote about that struggle in the obit in a way that touched many people.

I’ll let you read it for yourself, but this part really struck me: “To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient.”

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.