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News Briefs: Robocalls, Afghan wedding massacre, Hong Kong and trade, China and drugs

Here’s today’s news briefs:

US authorities struggle in dealing with robocalls

The billions of illegal robocalls inundating Americans are being facilitated largely by small telecom carriers that transmit calls over the internet, but authorities are at odds over what can be done to stop them. These carriers typically charge fractions of a cent for each call, making their money on huge volume. Their outsize role in the robocall scourge has become apparent as large telecom companies get better at tracing robocalls to their source, spurring calls for regulators to hold them accountable.

U.S. regulators have conflicting interpretations of their ability to take the companies to court, however. Also, carriers aren’t explicitly required to try to differentiate between legal and illegal robocalls, further clouding enforcement.

Regulators will continue to look at the issue this week with testimony fro the telecom industry.

Suicide bomber targets Afghan wedding

The death toll is approaching 75 after a suicide-bomb blast ripped through a wedding Saturday night in Afghanistan’s capital. Dozens of people were killed with hundreds injured, a government official said. More than 1,000 people had been invited, one witness said, as fears grew that it could be the deadliest attack in Kabul this year.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told The Associated Press the attacker set off explosives among the wedding participants. Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group carry out bloody attacks in the capital.

The blast occurred near the stage where musicians were and “all the youths, children and all the people who were there were killed,” witness Gul Mohammad said. One of the wounded, Mohammad Toofan, said that “a lot of guests were martyred.”

The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.

Trump: violent Communist crackdown could harm trade talks

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Beijing that any violent crackdown in Hong Kong on protesters would harm the ongoing trade talks between the two countries.

“I think it’d be very hard to deal if they [China] do violence, I mean, if it’s another Tiananmen Square,” Trump told reportersin New Jersey on Aug. 18. He added that he supported liberty and democracy in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, protests are now in the 11th week, as Hongkongers continue to demand that the city government withdraw its suspended extradition bill, which they fear threatens the city’s judicial independence, since anyone in Hong Kong could be transferred for trial in China’s ‘rule by law’ system if accused of criminal activity.

Court gives administration partial immigration victory

The Trump administration scored a partial victory last week when the 9th Circuit of Appeals limited the scope of a nationwide injunction by a San Francisco judge. That judge had blocked a policy aimed at curbing perceived abuses of the nation’s asylum system.

The administration criticized the appeals court for keeping the injunction in effect, but lauded it for allowing enforcement of its asylum policy in states outside the 9th Circuit.

“Although we strongly disagree with the Ninth Circuit’s decision to leave in place the district court’s unjustified injunction of the Government’s lawful action to curb asylum abuse, we are glad the Ninth Circuit recognized that the nationwide application of the injunction was improper,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a press release.

China pushing US drug problem using Mexico

China’s “export-led economic strategy and lack of regulatory oversight” are responsible for most illicit and synthetic fentanyl in the United States, think tank Rand Corporation recently testified to Congress.

The global policy think tank told the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee that the rising opioid epidemic was initially fueled by an oversupply of prescription oxycodone and hydrocodone, but by 2019 morphed into an illicit synthetic opioid crisis causing “approximately two-thirds of all opioid overdose deaths.”

Pharmaceutically-pure fentanyl is an opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. The compound was approved in 1968 as a transdermal skin patch for pain management treatment of very sick cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or hospice.

According to DEA, the lack of international control under the UN system of drug conventions has allowed Chinese manufacturers to export fentanyl-like drugs. The drugs are being illicitly shipped to the US using both air cargo and sold to Mexican drug cartels who are using America’s poor border security to move it from Mexico to border states.