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Pompeo defends Trump's decision to invite Taliban to talks at Camp David

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday defended President Trump’s now-scuttled plan to host members of the Taliban leadership and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David, amid a backlash from members of both parties.

In interviews on all five major Sunday morning news shows, Pompeo argued that Trump was willing to take a political risk to strike a deal on reducing the American troop presence in Afghanistan. But he conceded that the talks are dead “for the time being” and said the United States has recalled Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator in the process.

“If you’re going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors,” Pompeo said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “I know the history, too, at Camp David, and indeed President Trump reflected on that. Some pretty bad actors have traveled through that place throughout recorded history.”

The canceled summit would have taken place just ahead of the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which led to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House, was among those who had sharply criticized Trump over the move to invite the Taliban.

“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al-Qaida, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11,” Cheney said Sunday morning on Twitter.

“No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever.”

For months, Khalilzad had been shuttling between the capitals of Afghanistan and Qatar to meet with Taliban leaders and Afghan officials in an effort to forge a peace deal. Last week, he announced that a deal had been reached “in principle” under which the United States would partially withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban renouncing al-Qaeda, which had orchestrated the 2001 attacks.

U.S. officials expected the tentative agreement to advance a comprehensive cease-fire and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

But after a spate of attacks and bombings by the Taliban, including one that killed a U.S. soldier, further talks over ending the 18-year conflict began to waver.

In what appeared to be a last-minute scramble to save the negotiations, Khalilzad traveled to Qatar on Thursday for meetings with Taliban officials after U.S. officials had said negotiations with the militant group had ended.

In his tweets on Saturday, Trump said he “called off peace negotiations” after the Taliban took responsibility for an attack in Kabul “that killed one of our great soldiers, and 11 other people.”

“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?” Trump tweeted. “They didn’t, they only made it worse!”

The president, who was spending his second day in a row at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, had not tweeted again on the topic as of late Sunday morning.

Pompeo said Sunday on ABC News that U.S. officials had made “enormous progress over the last month” in negotiations with the Taliban.

“We finally reached a point where we were close. We’d made real progress. And then the Taliban failed to live up to a series of commitments that they had made. And when that happened, President Trump said, ‘I’m not going to take that deal,’ “ Pompeo said.

The Taliban said in a statement that Trump’s cancellation of the talks would harm the United States and “increase its financial and human losses.” In his ABC interview, Pompeo responded that the United States will continue its effort to “protect our nation from a terror attack ever emanating from that place again.”

Gladewater ISD, GEDCO enter partnership to offer students job skills

Students at Gladewater High School now can gain skills for the workforce, thanks to a partnership with Gladewater ISD and the Gladewater Economic Development Corp.

GEDCO is providing funding and space for students to take a class in metal fabrication and machining, Executive Director Robert Johnson said. In the future, it hopes to add such programs as welding and nursing.

“It’s great to work closely with the school on this endeavor so we can help our business community get people that are work-ready,” Johnson said. “Not everybody goes to college. Some people pursue vocational degrees and are looking to just develop those skills.”

Gladewater ISD Superintendent Sedric Clark said the conversation for the partnership began in the spring of the 2018-19 school year. During the summer, the project was developed and approved by both GEDCO and the district board.

The program started when school was back in session this fall, Clark said.

The space GEDCO is providing will be at the Lee Public Library and Gladewater Center for Community Education, Johnson said. The space will allow students to use the equipment and materials they need to improve in the skills taught.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “We look at skills development and take that very seriously; it’s a critical part of economic development. You want to create jobs in your city, but you also want to have a trained and ready job force.”

Clark said students are identified based on their career goals. After school officials talk with students, the ones who are interested in the skills offered can take the class.

Clark’s hope is his students are prepared for high-paying jobs, even if they do not go to college.

“They can step off the field on graduation night with a diploma and step into a career the next day,” he said. “It’s in its infancy stage; there are 21 students in it now, but if we get five to 10 kids a year who leave high school and get a job in the community, we consider that a success.”

A Purdue bankruptcy would make opioids cases even messier

State and local governments have sought billions of dollars from Purdue Pharma as a way to hold the company and the family that owns it accountable for the nation’s opioid epidemic, a potential payout that is now clouded in uncertainty after state attorneys general said settlement talks had broken down.

The attorneys general directly involved in the negotiations with the maker of OxyContin and the Sackler family said they anticipated Purdue filing soon for bankruptcy protection.

“It seems that there will be little money for plaintiffs, if Purdue takes bankruptcy and the Sacklers are not kicking in any money for settlement,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

Nearly every state and about 2,000 local governments have sued companies in the drug industry over the toll of opioids, which have been linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. over the last two decades. The suits cast Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue as a particular villain, saying the company’s marketing of its drugs downplayed addiction risks and led to more widespread opioid prescribing, even though only a sliver of the opioid painkillers sold in the U.S. were its products.

On Saturday, two state attorneys general leading settlement negotiations with the company — Tennessee Republican Herbert Slatery and North Carolina Democrat Josh Stein — sent an email to their colleagues saying talks were at an impasse and that they “expect Purdue to file for bankruptcy protection imminently.”

A Purdue spokeswoman and a representative of the family declined to comment on the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Purdue has said for months that it wants to reach a deal that would settle all state and local government claims against it, but it also has threatened to file for bankruptcy protection. Bankruptcy would mark a major shift in the multidistrict litigation being overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland. It would likely take Purdue out of the first federal trial over the opioid crisis, scheduled to start Oct. 21.

Paul Hanly, a lead lawyer for the group of local governments, unions, hospitals and others suing the drug industry in federal court, said in a statement that any breakdown in talks didn’t represent his group of clients.

Those plainitffs, he said, “will continue to explore resolution of our clients’ claims against Purdue and the Sacklers, whether with or without the states and within or without bankruptcy court.”

A bankruptcy judge would have a lot of say over how to divide Purdue’s assets.

The value of the private company, already relatively low, could continue dropping, leaving little to split among thousands of plaintiffs. The company also could go out of business. That’s a big change from settlement proposals that would have kept the company operating in some form. Under one proposal, governments could have seen $10 billion to $12 billion over time, including at least $3 billion from the Sacklers as part of a deal that would have Purdue into a “structured bankruptcy.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has been part of the negotiations, said the attorneys general did not believe the deal would have been worth that much.

According to the email sent Saturday, the company rejected proposals from the states that could have been worth less money but came with greater assurances that the Sacklers would deliver $4.5 billion.

If the company files for bankruptcy, the Sacklers could still be exposed to lawsuits. At least 17 states have sued one or more family member, and Shapiro said he intends to join them.

But that could be a legally tenuous option for two reasons.

“One big problem is it may be very difficult for states to convince judges to rule that family members are personally liable,” Tobias said. “And even if that happens, plaintiffs may have problems levying on the Sacklers’ assets, if they are offshore.”

Forbes magazine estimated in 2016 that the Sacklers had assets of more than $13 billion. New York’s attorney general has issued subpoenas for financial records of Sackler-connected entities in an effort to find how the family moved money overseas. The Associated Press found last month that a system of trusts and companies makes it difficult to trace the family’s money.

“This will be a challenging road forward,” Shapiro said in an interview.

AP: Share of women seeking out-of-state abortions increases

ATLANTA — At a routine ultrasound when she was five months pregnant, Hevan Lunsford began to panic when the technician took longer than normal, then told her she would need to see a specialist.

Lunsford, a nurse in Alabama, knew it was serious and begged for an appointment the next day.

That’s when the doctor gave her and her husband the heart-wrenching news: The baby boy they decided to name Sebastian was severely underdeveloped and had only half a heart. If he survived, he would need care to ease his pain and several surgeries. He may not live long.

Lunsford, devastated, asked the doctor about ending the pregnancy.

“I felt the only way to guarantee that he would not have any suffering was to go through with the abortion,” she said of that painful decision nearly three years ago.

But the doctor said Alabama law prohibits abortions after five months. He handed Lunsford a piece of paper with information for a clinic in Atlanta, a roughly 180-mile (290-kilometer) drive east.

Lunsford is one of thousands of women in the U.S. who have crossed state lines for an abortion in recent years as states have passed ever stricter laws and as the number of clinics has declined.

Although abortion opponents say the laws are intended to reduce abortions and not send people to other states, at least 276,000 women terminated their pregnancies outside their home state between 2012 and 2017, according to an Associated Press analysis of data collected from state reports and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In New Mexico, the number of women from out of state who had abortions more than doubled in that period, while Missouri women represented nearly half the abortions performed in neighboring Kansas.

“The procedure itself was probably the least traumatic part of it,” Lunsford said. “If it would have been at my hospital, there would have been a feeling like what I was doing was OK and a reasonable choice.”

While abortions across the U.S. are down, the share of women who had abortions out of state rose slightly, by half a percentage point, and certain states had notable increases over the six-year period, according to AP’s analysis.

In pockets of the Midwest, South and Mountain West, the number of women terminating a pregnancy in another state rose considerably, particularly where a lack of clinics means the closest provider is in another state or where less restrictive policies in a neighboring state make it easier and quicker to terminate a pregnancy there.

“In many places, the right to abortion exists on paper, but the ability to access it is almost impossible,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which operates seven abortion clinics in Maryland, Indiana, Texas, Virginia and Minnesota. “We see people’s access to care depend on their ZIP code.”

Nationwide, women who traveled from another state received at least 44,860 abortions in 2017, the most recent year available, according to the AP analysis of data from 41 states.

That’s about 10% of all reported procedures that year, but counts from nine states, including highly populated California and Florida, and the District Columbia were not included either because they were not collected or reported across the full six years.

Thirteen states saw a rise in the number of out-of-state women having abortions between 2012 and 2017.

New Mexico’s share of abortions performed on women from out of state more than doubled from 11% to roughly 25%. One likely reason is that a clinic in Albuquerque is one of only a few independent facilities in the country that perform abortions close to the third trimester without conditions.

Georgia’s share of abortions involving out-of-state women rose from 11.5% to 15%, while North Carolina saw its share increase from 16.6% to 18.5%. North Carolina had one of the highest shares of out-of-state abortions in 2017. While both states have passed restrictive laws, experts and advocates say they are slightly more accessible than some of their surrounding states.

In Illinois, the percentage of abortions performed on non-residents more than doubled to 16.5% of all reported state abortions in 2017. That is being driven in large part by women from Missouri, one of six states with only a single abortion provider.

Even that provider, in St. Louis, has been under threat of closing after the state health department refused to renew its license.

Missouri lawmakers also passed a law this year that would ban almost all abortions past eight weeks of a pregnancy, but it faces a legal challenge.

About 10 miles (16 kilometers) from St. Louis, across the Mississippi River, is the Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois, which has seen a 30% increase in patients this year and has added two doctors, deputy director Alison Dreith said.

About 55 percent of its patients come from Missouri, and it also sees women from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. All those states have mandatory waiting periods to receive an abortion, a requirement Illinois does not have.

Dreith called it a scary time for women in states with highly restrictive laws and few clinics.

“The landscape that we’re seeing today did not happen overnight, and it was not by accident,” she said.

And Illinois isn’t the only place Missouri women are heading for abortions.

In 2017, Missouri women received 47% of all abortions performed in Kansas. That is in large part because the only access to the procedure throughout western Missouri, particularly the greater Kansas City area, is across the state line in Overland Park, Kansas.


A story on Page 1A Sunday about Tatum ISD’s dress code should have identified the Tatum Primary School principal as Tamara Fite.