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US Supreme Court backs Sudan over American sailors in USS Cole bombing case

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday prevented American sailors injured in the deadly 2000 al Qaeda bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole from collecting $314.7 million in damages from the government of Sudan for its alleged role in the attack.

In a 8-1 ruling, the justices overturned a lower court’s decision that had allowed the sailors to collect the damages from certain banks that held Sudanese assets. The decision represented a major victory for Sudan, which denies that it provided any support to al Qaeda for the attack in Yemen.

Sudan was backed by President Donald Trump’s administration in the case.

In the ruling, the justices agreed with Sudan that the lawsuit had not been properly initiated in violation of U.S. law because the claims were delivered in 2010 to the African country’s embassy in Washington rather than to its minister of foreign affairs in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

A lawyer for the sailors, Kannon Shanmugam, expressed disappointment with the decision. “The fight for justice for the Cole victims and their families continues,” Shanmugam said.

A lower court had levied damages by default because Sudan did not defend itself against allegations that it had given support to the Islamist militant group. A lawyer representing Sudan and a representative for Sudan’s embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

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The Oct. 12, 2000, attack killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others when two men in a small boat detonated explosives alongside the Navy guided-missile destroyer as it was refueling in the southern Yemeni port of Aden, blasting a gaping hole in its hull. The vessel was repaired and later returned to full active duty.

Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued the government of Sudan in 2010 in Washington. At issue was whether mailing the lawsuit to Sudan’s embassy violated the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a U.S. law governing when foreign governments may be sued in American courts.

Writing for the court’s majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said that other countries’ foreign ministers must be reached where they normally work, “not a far flung outpost that the minister may at most occasionally visit.”

‘RULE OF LAW’
Alito expressed sympathy toward the sailors, writing that the ruling may seem like it is enforcing an empty formality.

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“But there are circumstances in which the rule of law demands adherence to strict requirements even when the equities of a particular case may seem to point in the opposite direction,” Alito said, adding that the case had sensitive diplomatic implications.

Alone in his dissent, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas said that allowing litigants to send notices of lawsuits to embassies would comply with both U.S. and international law.

The Trump administration had told the justices that a ruling against Sudan could impact how the U.S. government is treated by foreign courts because the United States rejects judicial notices delivered to its embassies.

The sailors were highly critical of the administration’s position. “Particularly given this administration’s solicitude for veterans, its decision to side with a state sponsor of terrorism, against men and women who are seeking to recover for grievous injuries suffered in the service of our country, is inexplicable and distressing,” they said in a legal brief.

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In 2012, a federal judge in Washington issued a default judgment of $314.7 million against Sudan. Individual plaintiffs were to receive between $4 million and $30 million each.

A separate judge in New York later ordered certain banks to turn over assets they had held for Sudan to partially satisfy the judgment. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld those orders in 2015.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

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Lawrence O’Donnell throttles Donny Deutsch for saying Elizabeth Warren can’t beat Trump: ‘This is pure guesswork’

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Lawrence O'Donnell and Donny Deutsch had quite the exchange in the post-debate conversation on MSNBC Wednesday.

Deutsch tried to say that Sen. Elizabeth Warren's outstanding debate performance doesn't matter because Warren can't win in a match-up against President Donald Trump.

"I do not believe Elizabeth Warren, on stage with Donald Trump, beats him," he told the MSNBC panel. "And I think if we're honest with ourselves and we look hard at ourselves, I think a lot of people agree with me. It's — and I also think when you can label somebody a socialist, 57 percent of this country thinks that word is un-American. I'm not saying it's fair. When he can blanket Elizabeth Warren as a socialist, and he's on stage with her, the Democrats lose."

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Father and daughter drowning at the border fuels anger at Trump immigration policies

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A shocking photograph of a Salvadoran man and his baby daughter drowned in the Rio Grande fueled a surge of emotion around the world Wednesday -- as US Democrats furiously denounced Donald Trump's immigration policies.

"Trump is responsible for these deaths," said Beto O'Rourke, one of several Democratic White House hopefuls who took to Twitter to lash out at the president.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who is also seeking the presidency in 2020, called the image "gut-wrenching."

"History will judge how we respond to the Trump administration's treatment of immigrant families & children -- we can't be silent," he said.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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