U.S. Politics

A Federal Court Orders Wisconsin to Stop Suppressing the Vote

Wisconsin voting sign

(Reuters / Jim Young)

THE NATION

The state must investigate the DMV’s failure to issue voter-IDs in time for the November election.

On Wednesday, The Nation published an exclusive story showing how the DMV in Wisconsin was systematically failing to provide the voter-IDs required to cast a ballot this election. We told the story of two African-American voters, Zack Moore and Claudell Boyd, who brought multiple documents with them to the DMV confirming their identities but were still turned away without the necessary voter-ID. Recordings from the DMV provided to The Nation detailed how Moore and Boyd were not offered certificates for voting within six business days, as required by Wisconsin law.

Today federal district court Judge James Peterson ordered the state toinvestigate the DMV and the voter-ID process. “Recent news stories inMilwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Nation have reported that DMV personnel have provided incorrect information to persons who have applied for Wisconsin IDs for voting,” Peterson wrote. “These reports, if true, demonstrate that the state is not in compliance with this court’s injunction order, which requires the state to ‘[p]romptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters the IDPP or who has a petition pending.’”

He ordered the state to report back to the court by October 7. “The report should explain the scope of the investigation, its results, and any corrective action to be taken,” Peterson wrote.

This is significant because 300,000 registered voters do not have a valid voter-ID, 9 percent of the electorate, and many are still struggling to obtain one. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld Wisconsin’s voter-ID law based on the premise that the state would make IDs accessible to every eligible voter—which it is clearly not doing.

Wisconsin is not the first state to disregard a court order to make it easier to vote. Texas issued misleading information after the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered the state to soften its voter-ID law and counties in North Carolina cut early voting after the Fourth Circuit restored early voting days. Republicans like Scott Walker seem to believe that suppressing the vote is the only way they can win.

Ari Berman

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2016

ABIR SULTAN/AFP/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. World leaders gather in mourning for Shimon Peres
World leaders, including President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, gathered in Jerusalem on Friday for the funeral of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Clinton, who hosted Peres for the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, called the 93-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Israel’s “biggest dreamer.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Peres “a great man of Israel.” Obama noted that the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the funeral was “a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace.” With Peres’ passing, Obama said, “The last of the founding generation is now gone,” and the work is “in the hands of Israel’s next generation and its friends.”

Source: The New York Times, CNN

2. USA Today and Detroit News break with tradition to oppose Trump
USA Today broke with a tradition of not taking sides in presidential races by declaring Donald Trump “unfit to for the presidency,” although its editorial board stopped short of endorsing Hillary Clinton. Similarly,The Detroit News on Thursday endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, breaking with a 143-year tradition of always endorsing Republicans. “We abandon that long and estimable tradition this year for one reason: Donald J. Trump,” the paper said. For Johnson, who served as New Mexico’s governor as a Republican, the support came none too soon. A day earlier, Johnson was flummoxed when MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked him to name a world leader he respected, and he couldn’t think of one.

Source: USA Today, The Detroit News

3. Hillary Clinton stumps in Iowa as early voting begins
Hillary Clinton urged Iowa voters to cast ballots on Thursday, the firstday of early voting in the state. “Are you ready to go to the polls? Luckily in Iowa, you can start today,” the Democratic nominee said in Des Moines. The Associated Press estimates that pre-election votes could account for 40 percent of the ballots cast this year, up from 35 percent in 2012. Clinton’s campaign has identified Iowa, Nevada, and North Carolina as the most promising states for focusing its early voting push.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune

4. New Jersey train crash kills 1, injures more than 100
One person was killed and more than 100 were injured when a New Jersey Transit train crashed at the Hoboken station on Thursday. The woman who was killed, Brazilian-born lawyer Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, was standing on the platform when she was hit by debris after the train slammed through its stopping point, hurtling across a passenger concourse and collapsing a section of a metal shed roof. “It just never stopped,” said train passenger Nancy Bido. “It was going really fast and the terminal was basically the brake for the train.”

Source: NJ.com, CNN

5. Trump Foundation reportedly lacks certification to solicit money
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has never acquired the certification New York requires for groups that solicit donations, according to the state attorney general’s office. Trump set up the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 1987 to give away the proceeds of his book,The Art of the Deal, but in recent years it has been largely funded by outside contributions. Early this year, for example, the foundation set up a website that collected $1.67 million for veterans. If the attorney general finds the Trump Foundation violated the law by raising money without the proper certification, he could order it to stop taking outside contributions.

Source: The Washington Post

6. Obama orders sick leave for federal contractors’ workers
The Obama administration issued a rule on Thursday requiring federal government contractors to give workers paid sick leave. Under the rule, the Labor Department estimates that more than 1.1 million people will be able to get sick leave — up to seven days per year. “This is really part of a broader conversation across America about what a 21st-century social compact should look like,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said. “Back in the day, when Beaver Cleaver got sick and June Cleaver was home, who takes off to stay with the Beav was a non-issue. In today’s world of dual-career couples in the work force, our public policy has not caught up.”

Source: The New York Times

7. Wells Fargo CEO hammered on Capitol Hill for second time
Lawmakers harshly criticized Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf over the bank’s sales scandal for the second time in two weeks on Thursday. Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, told Stumpf that Wells Fargo’s sales abuses amounted to “some of the most egregious fraud we have seen since the foreclosure crisis.” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) accused Stumpf of presiding over “a criminal enterprise.” At a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Stumpf to resign over the scandal, in which Wells Fargo employees opened as many as two million bank and credit card accounts without customers’ authorization.

Source: Reuters, CNN

8. Cuban-Americans want facts on report Trump company violated embargo
Cuban-American Republicans in the potentially key swing state of Florida on Thursday called on GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump to respond to a Newsweek report that his hotel and casino company secretly did business in Cuba in what could be a violation of the trade embargo against the communist-run Caribbean island. Sen. Marco Rubio called the report “troubling.” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami said the report was based on “unnamed sources” and that “it’s important to see what the facts are.” Jake Sullivan, an adviser to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, said the report shows that “Trump will always put his own business interest ahead of the national interest — and has no trouble lying about it.”

Source: The Miami Herald, Newsweek

9. GOP leaders consider fixing 9/11 law approved over Obama veto
A day after Congress overwhelmingly voted to override President Obama’s veto of a law that will allow the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they were open to rewriting the legislation to address potential problems Obama warned about. Before the vote, Obama cautioned lawmakers, saying the law could leave U.S. soldiers open to retaliation by foreign governments. Ryan said he hoped to find a “fix so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the second thoughts despite Obama’s earlier warnings an “abject embarrassment.”

Source: Bloomberg

10. Yosemite chief retires after complaints of toxic work environment
Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher has resigned after facing allegations of sexual harassment and bullying in the park, officials said Thursday. Neubacher ran the California park for nearly seven years, and spent 37 years with the park service. He said in an email to employees Wednesday night that his boss had offered him a transfer to Denver because Yosemite needed new leadership, but he decided to retire instead. The decision came days after a congressional committee said 18 Yosemite workers had complained about a toxic working environment at the park.

Source: Fresno Bee, The Associated Press

 

U.S. Politics

Chuck Todd Pins Trump Spox: You’re ‘Creating A Reality That Does Not Exist!’ (VIDEO)

MSNBC Screen Capture

TPM LIVEWIRE

Over the course of a tense few minutes Thursday afternoon, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd tried to pin down a Donald Trump spokesman on a simple point: From bogus online polls to “rigged” Google results to Sputnik News articles, why does the Trump campaign insist on “creating a reality that doesn’t exist?”

“Why do you think multiple polls, scientific polls have said Hillary Clinton won that debate by a 2-1 margin?” Todd asked communications advisor Jason Miller, noting that Trump had spoken about several instant reaction online polls as if they were methodologically sound.

Miller claimed “The polls that happened the night of the debate, the snap polls, the ones that happen online, those all showed Mr. Trump winning in a huge way.” Todd reminded him that such polls’ respondents are self-selecting, and that results can be easily distorted with computer programs.

“There’s TIME, there’s Variety,” Miller continued, undeterred, mentioning two online instant reaction polls.

“Those are all robot polling!” Todd said. “You’ve been doing this a while, you know those are bogus! They’re beyond unscientific.”

Miller moved on to Trump’s large crowds at rallies. “The energy and excitement are on our side,” he said, before explaining how the debate was rigged against Trump.

“Do you have any concern — he also has been talking about Google being rigged as well?” Todd asked. “There is a constant theme here that when things don’t go well, ‘something is rigged, something is rigged.’ That is not the best way to instill confidence in our democracy. Why does he do that?”

Miller avoided the question, instead pivoting to Clinton’s debate performance and polling among millennials.

The reality-check continued, brutal minute after brutal minute. Todd needled Miller on Trump’s debate prep (“we talked to supporters at a rally in Melbourne who all thought he did poorly!”) and his unfounded Google conspiracies (“An article from Sputnik?!”) before the sweet release of a commercial break.

Watch below:

 

U.S. Politics

Watch this: How highways wrecked American cities

The Interstate Highway System was one of America’s most revolutionary infrastructure projects. It also destroyed urban neighborhoods across the nation. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin and Joseph Stromberg]

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app.

VOX

U.S. Politics

Samantha Bee blasts Donald Trump’s sexism and debate prep on ‘Full Frontal’

Samantha Bee blasts Donald Trump's sexism and debate prep on 'Full Frontal'

Image Credit: YouTube

ARTS.MIC

A Wednesday night airtime — instead of the typical Monday — gave Samantha Bee plenty of time to break down the first presidential debate on Full Frontal, and the late-night host didn’t disappoint. Stressing the importance of this year’s election, Bee noted that even the NFL’s Monday Night Football matchup was skipped by the majority of Americans in favor of the debate.

“For once, concussion-ball was not as compelling as watching American democracy play Russian roulette,” she says.

But while Donald Trump was steady in the opening portion of the debate — or as Bee put it, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway’s “control collar worked for about 20 minutes” — he fell into Hillary Clinton’s trap by succumbing to his sexist tendencies.

“Trump warned us that Hermione Clinton would be cheating by doing something called ‘preparing,'” Bee said. “But Trump never considered the possibility that she might be a Count of Monte Cristo overplanner. She spent months building an elaborate trap for Trump, and he lumbered right into it.”

Samantha Bee blasts Donald Trump's sexism and debate prep on 'Full Frontal'
Samantha Bee
Source: Giphy

“Those wily Clinton bastards knew there are three things Trump can’t resist: Calling women names, doubling down, and making dumb mistakes on Fox & Friends,” Bee added.

That was when Trump doubled down on his remarks about former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado on the Fox program — who, Clinton noted, he called “Miss Piggy.” On Fox, he said that she “gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem,” to which Bee laid out a scathing rebuttal with the help of her staff.

“No, you had a stunningly beautiful Miss Universe winner, but you treated her like garbage — now you have a real problem,” Bee says. “Not only with her, but with any woman who’s ever been called fat, which is all of us. We’ve been dealing with you our whole life.”

Samantha Bee blasts Donald Trump's sexism and debate prep on 'Full Frontal'
‘Full Frontal’
Source: Giphy

Watch Bee’s segments on the presidential debate below.

Source: You Tube

U.S. Politics

How Russia Wants to Undermine the U.S. Election

TIME

What’s behind Russia’s effort to influence the U.S. election

The leaders of the U.S. government, including the President and his top national-security advisers, face an unprecedented dilemma. Since the spring, U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have seen mounting evidence of an active Russian influence operation targeting the 2016 presidential election. It is very unlikely the Russians could sway the actual vote count, because our election infrastructure is decentralized and voting machines are not accessible from the Internet. But they can sow disruption and instability up to, and on, Election Day, more than a dozen senior U.S. officials tell TIME, undermining faith in the result and in democracy itself.

The question, debated at multiple meetings at the White House, is how aggressively to respond to the Russian operation. Publicly naming and shaming the Russians and describing what the intelligence community knows about their activities would help Americans understand and respond prudently to any disruptions that might take place between now and the close of the polls. Senior Justice Department officials have argued in favor of calling out the Russians, and that position has been echoed forcefully outside of government by lawmakers and former top national-security officials from both political parties.

//players.brightcove.net/293884104/SJa0Thl7_default/index.html?videoId=4582123566001

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The President and several of his closest national-security advisers are concerned about the danger of a confrontation in the new and ungoverned world of cyberspace, and they argue that while the U.S. has powerful offensive and defensive capabilities there, an escalating confrontation carries significant risks. National Security Council officials warn that our critical infrastructure–including the electricity grid, transportation sector and energy networks–is vulnerable to first strikes; others say attacks on private companies, stock exchanges and the media could affect the economy. Senior intelligence officials even worry about Russia exposing U.S. espionage operations in retaliation. And while U.S. officials have “high confidence” that Russia is behind what they describe as a major influence operation, senior U.S. officials tell TIME, their evidence would not yet stand up in court.

And so with five weeks to go, the White House is, for now, letting events unfold. On one side, U.S. law-enforcement agencies are scrambling to uncover the extent of the Russian operation, counter it and harden the country’s election infrastructure. On the other, a murky network of Russian hackers and their associates is stepping up the pace of leaks of stolen documents designed to affect public opinion and give the impression that the election is vulnerable, including emails from the computers of the

Democratic National Committee (DNC). Meanwhile, the FBI alerted all 50 states to the danger in mid-August, and the states have delivered evidence of a “significant” number of new intrusions into their election systems that the bureau and their colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security “are still trying to understand,” a department official tells TIME.

All of which makes Donald Trump’s repeated insertion of himself into the U.S.-Russia story all the more startling. Trump has praised Putin during the campaign, and at the first presidential debate, on Sept. 26, he said it wasn’t clear the Russians were behind the DNC hack. But the U.S. intelligence community has “high confidence” that Russian intelligence services were in fact responsible, multiple intelligence and national security officials tell TIME. Trump was informed of that assessment during a recent classified intelligence briefing, a U.S. official familiar with the matter tells TIME. “I do not comment on information I receive in intelligence briefings, however, nobody knows with definitive certainty that this was in fact Russia,” Trump told TIME in a statement. “It may be, but it may also be China, another country or individual.”

Russia’s interference in the U.S. election is an extraordinary escalation of an already worrying trend. Over the past 2½ years, Russia has executed a westward march of election meddling through cyberspace, starting in the states of the former Soviet Union and moving toward the North Atlantic. “On a regular basis they try to influence elections in Europe,” President Obama told NBC News on July 26. With Russia establishing beachheads in the U.S. at least since April, officials worry that in the final weeks of the campaign the Russian cybercapability could be used to fiddle with voter rolls, election-reporting systems and the media, resulting in confusion that could cast a shadow over both the next President and the democratic process.

MORE>>>

U.S. Politics

USA TODAY FIRST EVER ENDORSEMENT: TRUMP ‘UNFIT’

Spencer Platt, GETTY IMAGES

THE HUFFINGTON POST

The popular newspaper urges readers to vote against Donald Trump.

USA Today, for the first time in its 36-year history, is taking a side in a presidential race, urging readers to vote against Donald Trump.

The newspaper, one of the most widely circulated in the country, published a scathing critique of the Republican nominee on Thursday, arguing that no presidential contest until now has warranted such a statement.

“This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences,” reads the editorial. “This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.”

The editorial continues: “From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.”

The editorial lists reasons to vote against Trump, including his prejudiced rhetoric, his erratic temperament, his “checkered” business history and his dishonesty.

The paper stopped short of endorsing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Stay true to your convictions,” the board urged readers. “That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

“Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue,” concludes the editorial. “By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.”

Read the full editorial here.

USA Today’s editorial adds to a string of high-profile, anti-Trump statements by newspapers, including right-leaning publications.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Republic endorsed Clinton, the first time the paper hasn’t endorsed a Republican candidate in 126 years. (The paper has since lost subscribers.) The Cincinnati Enquirer made a similar break with a 100-year tradition by endorsing Clinton. (USA Today, the Arizona Republic and the Cincinnati Enquirer are all owned by Gannett.) The Dallas Morning News endorsed Clinton in June, and the New Hampshire-based Union Leader endorsed Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, breaking a 100-year streak of backing Republicans.

While the influence of newspaper endorsements has declined along with readership, surprising statements still have an impact. A 2008 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that newspaper endorsements matter most when they buck their own traditions.

Mollie Reilly

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar,rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

U.S. Politics

New Jersey Train Crash Injures Over 100

New Jersey Train Crash Injures Over 100

Onlookers view a New Jersey Transit train that derailed and crashed through the station in Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S. in this picture courtesy of Chris Lantero taken September 29, 2016 | Courtesy of Chris Lantero via REUTERS

THE NATIONAL MEMO

HOBOKEN, N.J., Sept 29 (Reuters) – Three people were killed and more than 100 injured, some critically, when a commuter train derailed and plowed through Hoboken station in New Jersey during the morning rush hour on Thursday, U.S. media and a transit official said.

Citing medical officials, U.S. media reports said three people were killed. Well over 100 people were hurt, many of them critically, Jennifer Nelson, a spokeswoman for train operator New Jersey Transit, told reporters at the scene. She did not confirm any fatalities.

Dramatic pictures posted by commuters showed a train carriage that appeared to have smashed right through the station concourse, collapsing a section of the roof, scattering debris and wreckage and causing devastation.

ABC News said on its website that New Jersey Transit was reporting many passengers were trapped. Fox News said the engineer, or train driver, had to be extricated from the front car.

Hoboken lies on the west bank of the Hudson River across from New York City. Its station, one of the busiest in the metropolitan area, is used by many commuters traveling into Manhattan from New Jersey and further afield.

There was no word yet on what caused the crash. Federal investigators were en route to the scene.

Linda Albelli, 62, said she was sitting in her seat in one of the rear cars when the train approached the station. She said she knew something was wrong a moment before the impact.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, he’s not slowing up, and this is where we’re usually stop,’” Albelli said. “‘We’re going too fast,’ and with that there was this tremendous crash.”

Passengers helped each other off the train and onto the platform. They ultimately had to cross the tracks to get to safety, she said: “When we got on the platform there was nowhere to go. The ceiling had come down.”

The injured sat on benches in the station while they waited for first responders, said Albelli, who lives in Closter, New Jersey. She did not know how many had been hurt.

“There was just so much, a lot of people in need of attention,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were really hurt.”

The train had about five or six carriages and was not full because many passengers exit at Secaucus, Albelli said.

‘HARD TO BELIEVE’

New Jersey Transit employee Michael Larson talked to reporters outside the station looking shocked and with blood from one of the injured passengers on the knee of his pants.

“It’s hard to believe. I have no idea what caused it,” Larson said. “The whole roof was caved in.”

A major transit hub, the historic green-roofed Hoboken Station is served by NJ Transit commuter trains connecting much of New Jersey with the country’s largest city, as well as PATH, a more local subway-like service going into Manhattan, a local light rail service and ferry service to New York.

The train was on the Pascack Valley line, which goes through Northern Bergen County, and had originated at Spring Valley, according to media reports. NBC News said it was on track five when it struck the Hoboken terminal building.

Jaimie Weatherhead-Saul, a passenger on train, said the people sitting in front of him were badly injured.

“Once we got off we noticed people were stuck and had to come out windows. And the conductor came off and he was completely bloodied,” Weatherhead-Saul said.

The Federal Railroad Administration said its investigators were en route to the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would send its major incidents team to investigate.

In May 2011, a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey train crashed at the same Hoboken station, injuring more than 30 people when it plowed into a bumping post at the end of the track. An NTSB investigation determined excessive speed was the main cause of the accident.

The worst passenger train crash in recent years in the United States was the crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in May, 2015 that killed eight passengers and injured 186.

(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney and David Ingram in New York, and Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Frances Kerry)

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: September 29, 2016

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Congress overrides Obama veto of 9/11 victim bill
The House and the Senate voted on Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill to let the families of 9/11 victims sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role it may have played in the terrorist plot. The lopsided votes — in the Senate, only Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sided with Obama — marked the first veto override of Obama’s presidency. Obama called the override a “mistake.”Before the votes, he wrote to Congress warning that the law “could be devastating to the Department of Defense and its service members” and create major problems for the U.S. in foreign affairs and intelligence gathering.

Source: The New York Times

2. Senate passes spending bill to avert government shutdown
The Senate on Wednesday passed a stopgap spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown and keep government agencies fully funded through Dec. 9. The 72-26 vote came after Democrats received assurances that Flint, Michigan, would get aid to address its drinking water crisis after the November election. A day earlier, Democrats had blocked the bill because Flint aid was left out. The legislation also provides $1.1 billion in long-awaited money to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The House also approved the measure, sending it to President Obama for his signature before funding runs out Friday.

Source: The Associated Press, The Hill

3. Clinton gets slight bounce in post-debate poll
Hillary Clinton got a small bounce from the first presidential debate, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, led her Republican rival, Donald Trump, 41 percent to 38 percent in the poll, up from a 1 percentage point lead just before Monday night’s debate. Both leads were within the poll’s margin of error. Four scientific polls conducted since the debate found that Americans overwhelmingly believed that Clinton won the debate. In the Politico/Morning Consult poll, 49 percent of respondents said Clinton won, while 26 percent gave the night to Trump.

Source: Morning Consult

4. Kerry threatens to end cooperation with Russia over Syria airstrikes
Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. might suspend cooperation with Russia on resolving Syria’s civil war unless Russia and Syria halt intensifying airstrikes. Kerry, in a phone call with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, “expressed grave concern” over the “drastic escalation” of bombings in the divided city of Aleppo since a ceasefire collapsed last week. Kerry “stressed that the burden remains on Russia to stop this assault and allow humanitarian access to Aleppo and other areas in need,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said. U.S. officials also reportedly have renewed a debate over whether to give moderate rebels more weapons.

Source: Los Angeles Times

5. India hits ‘terrorists’ with cross-border Kashmir strikes
India announced on Thursday that it conducted “surgical strikes” in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir against “terrorists” it said were planning attacks on Indian territory. Pakistan’s ‎military called India’s announcement a “fabrication,” saying that India had only initiated some ordinary but unprovoked “cross-border fire.” Pakistan said two of its soldiers had been killed. “If India tries to do this again, we will respond forcefully,” Pakistan’s defense minister, Khawaja Asif, said. “India is doing this only to please their media and public.”

Source: The New York Times

6. OPEC agrees to oil production cuts
Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreedon Wednesday to modest output cuts, sending oil prices rising by more than 5 percent to higher than $48 per barrel. Oil prices edged down early Thursday as some investors took profits. Global stocks gained, led by energy company shares, although U.S. stock futures struggled as euphoria over the deal faded. The agreement came as Saudi Arabia and other OPEC leaders faced mounting pressure to do something to ease a glut that has dragged down prices dramatically. Iran, which had opposed a freeze until it regains the output it had before now-lifted sanctions were imposed, will be allowed to produce “at maximum levels that make sense,” as will Libya and Nigeria.

Source: Reuters, MarketWatch

7. U.S. adding 600 troops to help Iraq with Mosul offensive
The U.S. plans to send roughly 600 more troops to Iraq to help local forces retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday. The reinforcements will join the 4,565 military personnel already in Iraq. They will assist with training and advising the Iraqi military. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had requested the additional troops to “provide support for security forces” as they try to drive ISIS from the city, its “last major urban stronghold.”

Source: The Associated Press, ABC News

8. Two pupils, one teacher wounded in South Carolina school shooting
Two students and a teacher were injured in a shooting at Townville Elementary School near Greenville, South Carolina, on Wednesday. A teenage suspect was arrested. Authorities said the two students had been shot on a playground and were being treated at a Greenville hospital for injuries that were not life threatening. Teachers, all of whom had taken active-shooter training, locked the school’s doors, preventing the attacker from getting inside. A volunteer firefighter subdued the 14-year-old suspect. Later, the suspect’s father, Jeffrey Osborne, was found dead at his home about two miles away. Osborne, 47, was fatally shot before the school attack.

Source: NBC News, The Greenville News

9. California protesters march against fatal officer-involved shooting
Hundreds of protesters gathered in the streets of El Cajon, California,on Wednesday for a second night of protests against the fatal police shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill black man, Alfred Olango. The 38-year-old Olango had pulled something from his pocket and pointed it at an officer. Police said Wednesday night that the object was a vape smoking device. The protesters were peaceful but loud as they marched, with many shouting, “No justice, no peace.”

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

10. Amnesty International accuses Sudan of Darfur chemical weapon attacks
The Sudanese government has killed more than 200 people with chemical weapons in Darfur since January, according to a new report from Amnesty International. Dozens of the victims were children. Sudan’s United Nations ambassador, Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed, said the allegations were “baseless and fabricated.” “The ultimate objective of such wild accusation, is to steer confusion in the ongoing processes aimed at deepening peace and stability and enhancing economic development and social cohesion in Sudan,” he said. Sudanese forces and rebels have been fighting in the region for 13 years.

Source: BBC News

U.S. Politics

CIA director criticizes lawmakers for backing ‘misguided’ 9/11 bill

Getty Images

THE HILL

CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday criticized Congress for voting to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would let families of 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia, calling them “misguided.”

“I find it hard to believe that they are supporting this override when I think many of them understand what the impact is going to be on U.S. national security issues,” Brennan said during the Aspen Ideas Festival in Washington.

His remarks came just hours after the Senate voted to override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and shortly before the House followed suit.

Brennan called the legislation “badly misguided,” noting that the 9/11 Commission report found no evidence linking the Saudi government to the terrorist attacks.

Other countries, Brennan argued, would be compelled to enact similar laws that would harm U.S. interests abroad.

“Foreign governments are going to start to pass similar types of legislation that is going to haul the United States into court overseas even for the most frivolous charges and allegations,” he said.

Brennan also said that the Saudis are now “among our best counterterrorism partners around the world” and that the legislation could cause them to pull their investments out of the U.S. for fear that they would be vulnerable to lawsuits under the law.

The CIA director said he had made a visit to Capitol Hill earlier in the day. He released a statementjust before the vote Wednesday, acknowledging the emotional baggage that the issue carried.

“The events of that September day will stay with us forever,” Brennan said in the statement. “I can only imagine the lasting anguish that the families of the victims must feel, and I sympathize with their devoted efforts to find justice,” he said in a statement.

“However, I believe that the ‘Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act’ (JASTA) will have grave implications for the national security of the United States. The most damaging consequence would be for those US Government officials who dutifully work overseas on behalf of our country.”

By Harper Neidig