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US officials release findings in deadly Gaza hospital blast: The Morning Rundown, Oct. 25, 2023

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U.S. intelligence officials release their findings on who was behind the deadly blast at a hospital in Gaza. Also, dozens of states sue Meta, alleging it uses addictive techniques, harming kids and teens. These stories and more highlight The Morning Rundown for Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

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IDF launches’ wide-scale strikes’; U.S. issues findings on hospital blast

Israel Defense Forces said this morning it carried out “wide-scale” strikes targeting Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Syrian military. The IDF said airstrikes hit Hamas military headquarters in Gaza, taking out “several terrorists.”

The IDF said it killed five Hezbollah militants in Lebanon after Hezbollah attempted to launch missiles at Israeli forces.

And after two rockets were fired into Israel from Syria, the IDF said it attacked the infrastructure of the Syrian military.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, United States intelligence officials stated with “high confidence” that Israel was not responsible for last week’s explosion at a hospital in Gaza.

Officials with the U.S. Office of the Director of Intelligence said they came to that conclusion after examining multiple videos and using geolocation techniques to trace the blast to a rocket launched inside Gaza that suffered a mechanical failure before crashing into the hospital.

U.S. intelligence officials could not say for certain who fired the rocket but said they assess with “low confidence” that the militant group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was responsible.

One U.S. official said they examined communication between Hamas militants who were speculating that Palestinian fighters were responsible.

U.S. officials added that the strike was not consistent with Israeli munition.

The blast reportedly killed anywhere from 100 to 300 people, with intelligence officials saying they could not offer a definitive number.

House Republicans nominate Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., for speaker

House Republicans have selected their next choice for speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.

The Louisiana Republican was the second nominee on Tuesday, Oct. 24, after Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., defeated Johnson and six others but then dropped his bid after not securing enough support for an official vote on the house floor.

Johnson won the final round of secret ballot voting on Tuesday night, Oct. 24. The next highest vote-getter was former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was ousted three weeks ago in a historic vote.

It remains unclear, however, if Johnson, the GOP conference vice chair, can acquire the 217 votes to become the next speaker of the House.

Some GOP members have raised the idea of having a co-speakership with McCarthy returning as speaker and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was once the GOP’s nominee, act as McCarthy’s assistant speaker.

A floor vote on a speaker could happen as early as Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 25.

Michael Cohen testifies against Donald Trump in civil fraud trial

For the first time in five years, lawyer Michael Cohen was in the same room with his former client, Donald Trump, as Cohen testified in the former president’s civil fraud trial in New York on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

The trial stems from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million lawsuit, accusing Trump, his eldest sons, and his organization of lying about his wealth to get more favorable loan terms.

In his testimony, Cohen said Trump directed him to inflate the former president’s net worth on financial statements “based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected.”

Trump’s attorney began cross-examining Cohen by bringing up Cohen’s guilty plea in 2018, where the lawyer admitted to lying to Congress.

During a break in the trial, Trump told reporters that he was not worried about Cohen’s remarks.

Following his testimony against his former boss, Cohen left the courtroom telling reporters it was a “heck of a reunion.”

States sue Meta, alleging addictive features harm young users

Dozens of states have sued Meta, claiming the company used addictive features to keep kids and teens on its social media platforms for more extended periods and have them return again and again.

According to the complaint filed by 33 attorneys general in federal court on Tuesday, Oct. 24, Meta aimed its Instagram and Facebook platforms at younger users through algorithms, notifications, and endless scrolling feeds.

The attorneys general allege Meta’s use of features, including the like button and photo filters, promotes social comparisons and negatively impacts teenagers’ mental health.

Meta is also accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting data of users under 13 years of age without a parent’s permission.

The bipartisan group of attorneys general from states including California, Louisiana, Nebraska, and New York seeks financial damages and for Meta to end these practices.

In addition to the 33 states, nine other attorneys general are also filing lawsuits in their states and Washington, D.C.

The social media company said it was disappointed the attorneys general took this path instead of working together to “create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use.”

Read full story here.

West Maui to welcome back tourists after deadly wildfire

West Maui is welcoming tourists once again following the deadliest wildfire in more than a century, which killed 99 people and destroyed thousands of homes in August 2023.

According to the mayor of Maui County, Richard Bissen, aside from burned sections of the historic town of Lahaina, West Maui will open up to tourists on Nov. 1.

The announcement comes about a month after Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said that tourism would return in West Maui on Oct. 8. But the mayor modified the governor’s plan, and only a small part of Maui’s northern edge has reopened.

West Maui has 11,000 hotel rooms, and Maui as a whole depends largely on the tourism industry as its economic engine.

Still, not everyone is ready to welcome tourists back, with some petitioning that the community is still healing. Many who lost their homes are concerned they may be forced to leave short-term hotel lodging.

Mayor Bissen said the Red Cross has guaranteed no one will be forced out of their housing.

New Jersey restaurant relinquishes ‘Taco Tuesday’ trademark registration

It may be Wednesday, but we are still talking about “Taco Tuesday.”

The famous phrase is now free to be used by any restaurant in any state, thanks to Taco Bell.

Earlier this year, the fast-food chain filed legal petitions to cancel the country’s two “Taco Tuesday” trademark registrations.

In July 2023, the smaller regional chain Taco John abandoned its trademark registration of the phrase in 49 states, but there was one lone holdout.

Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar in Somers Point, New Jersey, had owned its “Taco Tuesday” trademark for over 30 years. However, that changed when Taco Bell announced on Tuesday that the New Jersey restaurant had relinquished its trademark.

With the trademark canceled in all 50 states, Taco Bell says “Taco Tuesday” now “officially belongs to all who make, sell, eat, and celebrate tacos.”

Read full story here.

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US INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS RELEASE THEIR FINDINGS ON WHO WAS BEHIND THE DEADLY BLAST AT A HOSPITAL IN GAZA

AND — DOZENS OF STATES SUE META — ALLEGING IT USES ADDICTIVE TECHNIQUES — HARMING KIDS AND TEENS

THE MORNING RUNDOWN STARTS NOW.

TODAY IS WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25TH.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

I’M KARAH RUCKER.

ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SAID THIS MORNING IT CARRIED OUT “WIDE-SCALE” STRIKES TARGETING HAMAS, HEZBOLLAH AND THE SYRIAN MILITARY. 

THE IDF SAID AIRSTRIKES HIT HAMAS MILITARY HEADQUARTERS IN GAZA, TAKING OUT QUOTE “SEVERAL TERRORISTS.”

THE IDF SAID IT KILLED FIVE HEZBOLLAH MILITANTS IN LEBANON AFTER HEZBOLLAH ATTEMPTED TO LAUNCH MISSILES AT ISRAELI FORCES.

AND AFTER TWO ROCKETS WERE FIRED INTO ISRAEL FROM SYRIA – THE IDF SAID IT ATTACKED INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE SYRIAN MILITARY.

ON TUESDAY — UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS STATED WITH HIGH CONFIDENCE THAT ISRAEL WAS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LAST WEEK’S EXPLOSION AT A HOSPITAL IN GAZA.

OFFICIALS WITH THE U.S. OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE SAID THEY CAME TO THAT CONCLUSION AFTER EXAMINING MULTIPLE VIDEOS AND USING GEOLOCATION TECHNIQUES TO TRACE THE BLAST TO A ROCKET LAUNCHED INSIDE GAZA THAT SUFFERED A MECHANICAL FAILURE BEFORE CRASHING.

US INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS COULD NOT SAY FOR CERTAIN WHO FIRED THE ROCKET – BUT SAID THEY ASSESS WITH “LOW CONFIDENCE” THAT THE MILITANT GROUP — PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD — WAS RESPONSIBLE.

ONE US OFFICIAL SAYS THEY EXAMINED COMMUNICATION BETWEEN HAMAS MILITANTS WHO WERE SPECULATING THAT PALESTINIAN FIGHTERS WERE RESPONSIBLE.

U.S. OFFICIALS ADD THAT THE STRIKE WAS NOT CONSISTENT WITH ISRAELI MUNITION.

THE BLAST REPORTEDLY KILLED ANYWHERE FROM 100 TO 300 PEOPLE — WITH INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS SAYING THEY COULD NOT OFFER A DEFINITIVE NUMBER.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE SELECTED THEIR NEXT CHOICE FOR SPEAKER — CONGRESSMAN MIKE JOHNSON.

THE LOUISIANA REPUBLICAN WAS ACTUALLY THE SECOND NOMINEE ON TUESDAY — AFTER MAJORITY WHIP TOM EMMER OF MINNESOTA DEFEATED JOHNSON AND SIX OTHERS — BUT THEN DROPPED HIS BID AFTER NOT BEING ABLE TO SECURE ENOUGH SUPPORT NEEDED FOR AN OFFICIAL VOTE ON THE HOUSE FLOOR.

JOHNSON WON THE FINAL ROUND OF SECRET BALLOT VOTING ON TUESDAY NIGHT – THE NEXT HIGHEST VOTE GETTER WAS FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE KEVIN MCCARTHY – WHO WAS OUSTED FROM THE POSITION THREE WEEKS AGO.

IT REMAINS UNCLEAR IF JOHNSON — THE GOP CONFERENCE VICE CHAIR — CAN ACQUIRE THE 217 VOTES TO BECOME THE NEXT SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE.

SOME GOP MEMBERS HAVE RAISED THE IDEA OF HAVING A CO-SPEAKERSHIP — WITH MCCARTHY RETURNING AS SPEAKER — AND HOUSE JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN JIM JORDAN — WHO HIMSELF WAS ONCE THE GOP’S NOMINEE  — ACT AS MCCARTHY’S ASSISTANT SPEAKER.

A FLOOR VOTE ON A SPEAKER COULD HAPPEN AS EARLY AS THIS AFTERNOON.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS — LAWYER MICHAEL COHEN WAS IN THE SAME ROOM WITH HIS FORMER CLIENT — DONALD TRUMP — AS COHEN TESTIFIED IN THE FORMER PRESIDENT’S CIVIL FRAUD TRIAL IN NEW YORK ON TUESDAY.

THE TRIAL STEMS FROM NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL LETITIA JAMES’ $250 MILLION DOLLAR LAWSUIT – ACCUSING TRUMP, HIS ELDEST SONS AND HIS ORGANIZATION OF LYING ABOUT HIS WEALTH TO GET MORE FAVORABLE LOAN TERMS.

IN HIS TESTIMONY – COHEN SAID TRUMP DIRECTED HIM TO INFLATE THE FORMER PRESIDENT’S NET WORTH ON FINANCIAL STATEMENTS – QUOTE “BASED UPON A NUMBER THAT HE ARBITRARILY ELECTED.”

TRUMP’S ATTORNEY BEGAN CROSS-EXAMINING COHEN BY BRINGING UP COHEN’S GUILTY PLEA IN 20-18 – WHERE THE LAWYER ADMITTED TO LYING TO CONGRESS.

DURING A BREAK IN THE TRIAL — TRUMP TOLD REPORTERS THAT HE WAS NOT WORRIED ABOUT COHEN’S REMARKS.

FOLLOWING HIS TESTIMONY AGAINST HIS FORMER BOSS  – COHEN LEFT THE COURTROOM – TELLING REPORTERS QUOTE “HECK OF A REUNION.”

DOZENS OF STATES HAVE SUED META — CLAIMING THE COMPANY USED ADDICTIVE FEATURES TO KEEP KIDS AND TEENS ON ITS SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS FOR LONGER PERIODS OF TIME AND HAVE THEM RETURN AGAIN AND AGAIN.

ACCORDING TO THE COMPLAINT FILED BY 33 ATTORNEYS GENERAL IN FEDERAL COURT TUESDAY —

META AIMED ITS INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK PLATFORMS AT YOUNGER USERS THROUGH ALGORITHMS AND NOTIFICATIONS — ALONG WITH ENDLESS SCROLLING FEEDS.

THE ATTORNEYS GENERAL ALLEGE META’S USE OF FEATURES INCLUDING THE LIKE BUTTON AND PHOTO FILTERS PROMOTE SOCIAL COMPARISONS AND NEGATIVELY IMPACT TEENAGERS’ MENTAL HEALTH.

META IS ALSO ACCUSED OF VIOLATING THE CHILDREN’S ONLINE PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT BY COLLECTING DATA OF USERS UNDER 13 YEARS OF AGE WITHOUT A PARENT’S PERMISSION.

THE BIPARTISAN GROUP OF ATTORNEYS GENERAL  — FROM STATES INCLUDING CALIFORNIA, LOUISIANA, NEBRASKA AND NEW YORK – IS SEEKING FINANCIAL DAMAGES AND FOR META TO END THESE PRACTICES.

[ANCHOR]

IN ADDITION TO THE 33 STATES — NINE OTHER ATTORNEYS GENERAL ARE ALSO FILING LAWSUITS IN THEIR STATES AND WASHINGTON, D.C.

THE SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY ISSUED A STATEMENT SAYING IT WAS DISAPPOINTED THE ATTORNEYS GENERAL TOOK THIS PATH INSTEAD OF WORKING TOGETHER TO QUOTE “CREATE CLEAR, AGE-APPROPRIATE STANDARDS FOR THE MANY APPS TEENS USE.”

WEST MAUI IS WELCOMING TOURISTS ONCE AGAIN FOLLOWING THE DEADLIEST WILDFIRE IN MORE THAN A CENTURY THAT KILLED 99 PEOPLE AND DESTROYED THOUSANDS OF HOMES IN AUGUST.

ACCORDING TO THE MAYOR OF MAUI COUNTY —  ASIDE FROM BURNED SECTIONS OF THE HISTORIC TOWN OF LAHAINA — WEST MAUI WILL OPEN UP TO TOURISTS ON NOVEMBER FIRST.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT COMES ABOUT A MONTH AFTER THE GOVERNOR OF HAWAII SAID THAT TOURISM WOULD RETURN IN WEST MAUI IN EARLY OCTOBER.

BUT THE MAYOR MODIFIED THE GOVERNOR’S PLAN AND ONLY A SMALL PART OF MAUI’S NORTHERN EDGE HAS REOPENED.

WEST MAUI HAS ELEVEN THOUSAND HOTEL ROOMS AND MAUI AS A WHOLE DEPENDS LARGELY ON THE TOURISM INDUSTRY AS ITS ECONOMIC ENGINE.

STILL – NOT EVERYONE IS READY TO WELCOME TOURISTS BACK WITH SOME PETITIONING THAT THE COMMUNITY IS STILL HEALING –

MANY WHO LOST THEIR HOMES ARE CONCERNED THEY MAY BE FORCED TO LEAVE SHORT-TERM HOTEL LODGING.

THE MAYOR SAID THE RED CROSS HAS GUARANTEED NO ONE WILL BE FORCED OUT OF THEIR HOUSING AS THE COMMUNITY CONTINUES TO REBUILD.

FINALLY THIS MORNING — IT MAY BE WEDNESDAY, BUT WE ARE STILL TALKING ABOUT TUESDAY — SPECIFICALLY TACO TUESDAY.

THE FAMOUS PHRASE IS NOW FREE TO BE USED BY ANY RESTAURANT – IN ANY STATE — THANKS TO — TACO BELL.

EARLIER THIS YEAR THE FAST FOOD CHAIN FILED LEGAL PETITIONS TO CANCEL THE TWO TACO TUESDAY TRADEMARK REGISTRATIONS IN THE COUNTRY.

IN JULY – SMALLER REGIONAL CHAIN —  TACO JOHN — ABANDONED ITS TRADEMARK REGISTRATION OF THE PHRASE IN 49 STATES – BUT THERE WAS ONE LONE HOLDOUT –

GREGORY’S RESTAURANT AND BAR IN SOMERS POINT, NEW JERSEY HAD OWNED ITS TACO TUESDAY TRADEMARK FOR OVER 30 YEARS —  BUT THAT CHANGED WHEN TACO BELL ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY THE NEW JERSEY RESTAURANT HAD RELINQUISHED ITS TRADEMARK.

WITH THE TRADEMARK CANCELED IN ALL 50 STATES — TACO BELL SAYS TACO TUESDAY NOW “OFFICIALLY BELONGS TO ALL WHO MAKE, SELL, EAT AND CELEBRATE TACOS.”

THESE ARE YOUR TOP STORIES FOR THIS WEDNESDAY.

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WE’LL SEE YOU BACK HERE TOMORROW.

UNTIL THEN I’M KARAH RUCKER. HAVE A GREAT DAY!