The United Nations says more than 200,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe last month, the highest monthly total on record. More people made the dangerous crossing in October than in all of last year. Over the course of a single day last month, more than 10,000 people arrived in Greece. U.N. officials say the record flow is expected to continue next year amid upheaval in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.
President Obama has made his first public comments on his decision to deploy U.S. special operations forces to Syria. Speaking on NBC’s Nightly News, Obama denied the move breaks his pledge not to put troops on the ground.
President Obama: “Keep in mind that we have run special ops already, and really this is just an extension of what we are continuing to do. We are not putting U.S. troops on the front lines fighting firefights with ISIL. But I’ve been consistent throughout that we are not going to be fighting like we did in Iraq with a—battalions and occupations. That doesn’t solve the problem.”
The Israeli military has shut down a radio station in the occupied West Bank, destroying equipment, confiscating transmitters and accusing the station of inciting violence against Israelis. Al Hurria radio station director Ayman Qawasmeh told the Associated Press: “We didn’t incite, we just reported the Israeli daily crimes against our people in Hebron. They want to silence our voice.” On Monday, a 22-year-old Palestinian was shot dead after Israeli authorities accused him of stabbing and seriously wounding an Israeli man in the coastal city of Netanya. Hours earlier, a 19-year-old Palestinian was arrested for stabbing and wounding three people near Tel Aviv.
The corporation behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline has asked the Obama administration to suspend its long-running review of the controversial project. On Monday, TransCanada told the State Department it wants to wait until Nebraska, a state along the pipeline’s route, gives its approval. But critics say TransCanada is trying to buy time until President Obama leaves office, since Obama is expected to reject the pipeline. We’ll have more with Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, after headlines.
President Obama has announced a series of steps to help released prisoners readjust to society. Speaking during a visit to a treatment center in Newark, New Jersey, Obama said he was “banning the box”—barring federal agencies from asking potential employees about their criminal records on job applications.
President Obama: “The federal government, I believe, should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before we even look at their qualifications. We can’t dismiss people out of hand simply because of a mistake that they made in the past.”
Over the past few days, the Obama administration has released more than 6,000 federal prisoners early, marking the largest one-time release from federal prison in history.
President Obama has signed a two-year bipartisan budget deal, averting a potential default and raising the debt limit until after he leaves office. The deal boosts military spending caps while cutting Social Security disability benefits and Medicare payments. New revenue would come from sales of U.S. oil reserves and the use of public airwaves by telecommunications firms.
The Pentagon spent nearly $43 million on a gas station in northern Afghanistan. A U.S. special inspector general says the Obama administration has not explained why it spent so much taxpayer money on the project. The station was built as part of an effort to show cars in Afghanistan could run on compressed natural gas. The Pentagon says it lacks the “personnel expertise” to address questions about the $43 million pricetag.
Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, who played a key role in pushing for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, has died at the age of 71. Chalabi was the former head of the Iraqi National Congress, a CIA-funded Iraqi exile group that helped drum up pre-war claims that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and had links to al-Qaeda. Chalabi provided bogus intelligence to the Bush administration, U.S. lawmakers and journalists. As recently as last year, Chalabi was seen as a possible candidate for Iraqi prime minister. During a visit to New York in 2005, he denied his role in the Iraq War.
Ahmed Chalabi: “The fact that I perpetuated a case for war based on weapons of mass destruction is an urban myth which is not rooted in reality, and it continues to have a life of its own, despite the very serious investigations that were conducted by bipartisan bodies of the United States government, such as the Senate Intelligence Committee.”
Ahmed Chalabi provided the Iraqi sources to journalists and congressmembers who said Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction and had links to al-Qaeda, all of which turned out to be false. Former advisers have said they raised major doubts about those sources but were ignored. Ahmed Chalabi died today at his home in Baghdad of a heart attack. He was 71.
The State Department says it’s launched a review after video showed a U.S. security agent helping oust a reporter from a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. During the meeting in Uzbekistan, Washington Post correspondent Carol Morello asked a question about the U.S. critique of Uzbekistan’s human rights record. She was then removed from the room by U.S. and Uzbek agents.
Carol Morello: “Mr. President, would you take a question from the American press? Secretary Kerry’s own State Department has criticized the human rights situation. Would you respond?”
Unidentified: “Take her out. Take her out.”
Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, after the Democratic National Committee changed the rules for the debates. Lessig launched his bid after raising $1 million in a month. He said if he won the presidency, he would serve only as long as it took to pass sweeping campaign finance reform. But in a video message, Lessig said new rules would exclude him from next week’s debate.
Lawrence Lessig: “Until this week, the rule was three polls finding me at 1 percent in the six weeks prior to the debate. Last week we began to get close. Two polls found me at 1 percent. One more, and I would be in the second debate—under the original rule. But under the new rule, the standard is three polls at least six weeks before the debate. That means I would have had to have qualified at the beginning of October, which means that nothing that happens now could matter. Under this new rule, I am just shut out.”
Efforts by Republican presidential campaigns to control the format of the debates appear to have collapsed after a number of campaigns refused to sign a list of demands for TV networks. Republican candidates Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio Governor John Kasich all refused to sign a letter detailing terms for future debates. The short-lived revolt after last week’s CNBC debate had pitted the campaigns against the Republican National Committee.
In a victory for transgender rights, federal officials have determined an Illinois school district violated the anti-discrimination law Title IX by preventing a transgender girl from showering and changing without restrictions in the girls’ locker room. The student was forced to use private facilities instead. The Palatine, Illinois, school district could lose Title IX funding if it doesn’t change its policies.
In South Africa, four police officers have been arrested for murder after video showed them shooting a suspected robber on the ground. CCTV footage appears to show an officer shooting Khulekani Mpanza at close range after he drops his gun and falls to the ground. Another officer then kicks Mpanza. The officers were arrested after media outlets published the footage.
The father of one of the 43 students missing in Mexico has run the New York City Marathon to raise awareness about his son’s case. Antonio Tizapa ran along with Amado Tlatempa, another relative of the students, who have been missing for more than a year following an attack by local police in the state of Guerrero. On the night of September 26, 2014, six people were killed, including three students, and 43 other students were disappeared. The Mexican government claimed the 43 students from Ayotzinapa teachers’ college were killed by a drug gang and incinerated. But after an expert panel questioned that account, the Mexican government has reopened the investigation. Speaking after the marathon Sunday, Antonio Tizapa said he hoped to use running as a way to call for his son to be returned alive.
Antonio Tizapa: “In the world of sports, I think a large percentage of people are not focused on political issues. So if it is something sports-related, they are going to pay attention, anything related to sports. So that’s why I wanted to do this through sports, and through athletics, which is something so marvelous for people who run. And it is also a way to catch people’s attention and see that a father of one of the 43 boys is running and demanding the return of his son and the other boys alive, and justice for the three boys who are dead.”
It’s Election Day today, as people across the United States cast their votes in local races and ballot initiatives. Among the key issues at stake are campaign finance measures in Maine and Seattle, Washington; an initiative to legalize marijuana for both medical and personal use in Ohio; and a proposal in San Francisco to limit short-term rentals, a possible blow to the home-sharing website Airbnb. On the eve of the vote Monday, housing activists occupied Airbnb’s San Francisco headquarters, saying the firm’s model fuels gentrification and homelessness.