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This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a coalition of civil society organizations known as the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. The Norwegian Nobel Committee says the prize seeks to honor the organizations’ contributions to building a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Tunisian revolution, which toppled the country’s longtime U.S.-backed dictator.
Kaci Kullmann Five: “The quartet was formed in summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest. It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war.”
We’ll have more on the Nobel Peace Prize after headlines.
House Republicans are meeting this morning after California Congressmember Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew from the race for House speaker, throwing Congress into disarray. McCarthy’s withdrawal came as he faced increasing pressure from the right-wing faction of his party. He has also come under fire after suggesting the Benghazi oversight House committee had been set up to discredit former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
He announced his decision Thursday.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy: “I think there’s something to be said, for us to unite, we probably need a fresh face. I’ll stay on as majority leader. But the one thing I’ve found in talking to everybody: If we are going to unite and be strong, we need a new face to help do that.”
Two right-wing members of the Republican Party, Utah Congressmember Jason Chaffetz and Florida Congressmember Daniel Webster, are seeking the position of House speaker.
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, is pushing to keep more U.S. troops in the country than planned under President Obama’s scheduled drawdown, following the Taliban’s seizure of Kunduz last week. California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez pressed General Campbell during his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee Thursday.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez: “So, within your own current testimony, let alone the testimony that Mr. Jones brought before you from before, you basically are saying, 'I don't know that there’s a long-term viability for these security forces.’ We’re paying the majority of that. How much is the majority? How much money does that mean, to have a force that you don’t believe has a long-term viability?”
Gen. John Campbell: “Ma’am, if I could—”
Rep. Sanchez: “How much? How much? That’s the question. How much?”
Gen. Campbell: “Yes, ma’am. Today, for calendar year ’15, the United States put $4.1 billion to build the Afghan security forces.”
Rep. Sanchez: “$4.1 billion.”
Gen. Campbell: “For ’16, $3.86 billion.”
Rep. Sanchez: “Thank you. $4.1 billion.”
Gen. Campbell: “Every year we continue to reduce that by gaining efficiencies. We’re not providing infrastructure that—”
Rep. Sanchez: “General, I’ve heard this. I’ve heard this for 14 years.”
This comes as Doctors without Borders says 24 of its staff members are still missing following the U.S. airstrike on its hospital in Kunduz on Saturday. That’s in addition to at least 22 people who have died in the strike, including 12 medical workers and 10 patients.
The Obama administration is abandoning the $500 million program to train and arm so-called moderate rebels in Syria. The move is an acknowledgment that the program had failed to create a ground combat force capable of challenging ISIL. The Pentagon is expected to officially announce the end of the program today.
An Iranian general has reportedly been killed by ISIL in Syria. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards say General Hossein Hamedani had been advising Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops. This comes amid an escalation of the conflict in Syria, with the Syrian government launching a ground offensive against rebel groups and Russia’s launch of cruise missiles into the country earlier this week.
New declassified documents show former Chilean General Augusto Pinochet directly ordered the 1976 assassination of a Chilean diplomat on U.S. soil. Diplomat Orlando Letelier had served as a foreign minister under President Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup in 1973. Letelier fled to the United States after being tortured and incarcerated under Pinochet’s dictatorship. He was killed in a car bomb in Washington, D.C., only a mile from the White House. The declassified documents also show Pinochet was so concerned about covering up his role in ordering Letelier’s assassination that he also planned to assassinate his head of intelligence.
The Guardian has obtained data showing diesel cars from four major car manufacturers are emitting significantly more pollution on the road than in their regulatory tests. Tests conducted by the company Emissions Analytics show that models of Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi all emit far more toxic pollution than previously thought. This comes as Volkswagen CEO Michael Horn apologized for the emissions cheating scandal in his testimony to Congress Thursday.
Michael Horn: “On behalf of our company and my colleagues in Germany, and me personally, I would like to offer a sincere apology—sincere apology—for Volkswagen’s use of a software program that served to defeat the regular emissions testing regime.”
The Guardian reported similar revelations about higher pollution emissions from cars made by Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroën, Fiat, Volvo and Jeep last week. Nick Molden, whose company has tested the cars, said: “The issue is a systemic one.”
In news from Japan, a new study says children living near the Fukushima nuclear plant during the 2011 meltdown have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a rate between 20 and 50 times higher than children on average. The report will appear in the November issue of Epidemiology. Thyroid cancer in children is the one illness the medical world has definitively linked to radiation, based on studies following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Benton County, Washington, for operating a “modern-day debtors’ prison.” The suit says Benton County routinely fines people more than $1,000 as part of criminal proceedings. If they can’t pay, they are sent to jail or forced to work manual labor. ACLU attorney Vanessa Hernandez says: “On any given day, scores of indigent persons sit in jail or do manual labor for the county simply because they are too poor to pay the government.”
In South Carolina, the family of unarmed African American Walter Scott, who was shot in the back by white police officer Michael Slager in April, has settled with the city of North Charleston for $6.5 million. Officer Slager was charged with murder after video showed he shot Scott in the back as Scott ran away. Officer Slager remains in jail after he was denied bail by Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who concluded releasing Officer Slager would “constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.”
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has sparked a new round of outrage over comments that the Holocaust might have been avoided if European Jews had carried more guns. Carson told CNN Thursday: “The likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.” This comes after Carson sparked controversy when he told Fox News that he would have fought off the shooter who killed nine people at an Oregon community college one week ago.
And in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has announced that the city of Flint will reconnect to Detroit’s water system amid a public health emergency over contaminated water. This follows more than a year of protests by residents who began experiencing health issues after the city’s unelected emergency manager decided to begin drawing water directly from the polluted Flint River in order to save money. Resident and community organizer LeeAnne Walters spoke about the contaminated water in a video produced by local journalists Kate Levy and Curt Guyette.
LeeAnne Walters: “In April, beginning of April, we found out my child had lead poisoning, and that’s when the city came out and shut my water off. On Detroit, we didn’t have these issues.”