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HeadlinesOctober 23, 2017

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Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan Cap Bloody Week in Which 250 Killed

Oct 23, 2017

In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber ambushed Afghan army cadets as they left their base in Kabul Saturday, killing 15 of them. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, as well as a rocket attack earlier in the day on a military base used by the U.S.-led coalition. On Friday, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in Kabul, killing 56 people and wounding 55 others during prayers. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack. Separately, an attack on a Sunni mosque in central Afghanistan’s Ghor province killed 20 people. The attacks capped a week of violence that saw more than 250 people killed across Afghanistan.

NYT: CIA Sending Paramilitary Officers to Hunt Taliban

Oct 23, 2017

The violence came as The New York Times reported the CIA is sending teams of paramilitary officers to Afghanistan to help Afghan forces hunt and kill Taliban fighters. The move signals an expansion of the CIA’s role in Afghanistan, where agents previously focused on defeating al-Qaeda and aiding the Afghan intelligence service. Speaking last Thursday at a Washington, D.C., conference, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that, under President Trump, his agency will become “much more vicious.”

Mike Pompeo: “We’ve now laid out a strategy for how we’re going to execute our mission with incredible vigor. We’re going to become a more—much more vicious agency in ensuring that we are delivering this work. We’re going to go to the hardest places with some of the hardest people in our organization to crush it. And when we do that, the president has promised that he will have our backs and that he will resource us.”

Air Force Authorized to Call Up Retired Pilots; Nuclear Bombers Placed on Alert

Oct 23, 2017

President Trump signed an executive order Friday authorizing the Air Force to call up as many as 1,000 retired aviators to active duty. Trump’s order came as the Pentagon said it’s facing a large shortage of pilots as the administration prepares to ramp up the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Air Force says it will place nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the Cold War ended in 1991.

Rep. Frederica Wilson: White House Lied in Attacks Over Soldier Killed in Niger

Oct 23, 2017

In Hollywood, Florida, hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday as the body of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson was laid to rest. Johnson was one of four U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush during a patrol in Niger on October 4. The funeral came as President Trump and his administration continued to attack Florida Congressmember Frederica Wilson, after she reported that Trump told Sgt. Johnson’s widow Myeshia Johnson in a phone call, “He knew what he signed up for … but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” Over the weekend, President Trump called Rep. Wilson “wacky” in a series of tweets, without once mentioning La David Johnson or offering condolences to his family. Trump’s attacks came as Congressmember Wilson refuted a false claim made last week by White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly that Wilson claimed credit for securing millions of dollars in federal funding for an FBI building in Miami. Kelly made the claim as part of a personal attack in which Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel.” This is Rep. Frederica Wilson speaking on MSNBC on Sunday.

Rep. Frederica Wilson: “I guess you could say he was a puppet of the president, and what he was trying to do was divert the attention away from the president onto me. And he basically just lied on me. And I don’t like—I don’t appreciate people lying on me.”

On Capitol Hill, the Congressional Black Caucus called on Gen. Kelly to apologize over the remarks, calling them “reckless” and “reprehensible.” At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned reporters against questioning Gen. Kelly.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you. But I think that that—if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Senate to Review War Authorization Following U.S. Troop Deaths in Niger

Oct 23, 2017

The controversy over Sgt. La David Johnson’s death in Niger came as senators expressed surprise over the weekend that there are 1,000 U.S. troops even stationed in Niger. The controversy helped prompt the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to schedule hearings on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF—a bill passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks that’s been used by presidents to justify military actions around the globe for the last 16 years. The committee chair, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, said in a statement, “[It is] perhaps more important than ever that we have a sober national conversation about Congress’ constitutional role in authorizing the use of military force.”

Spanish Prime Minister to Fire Catalan Leaders, Prompting Protests

Oct 23, 2017

In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Saturday he would impose direct rule over Catalonia, after leaders of the northeastern region held an independence referendum on October 1 and moved to secede from Spain. Rajoy’s order—pending the likely approval of the Spanish Senate—would see Catalan leaders fired and new elections held within six months. The announcement prompted outrage in Catalonia’s capital Barcelona, where nearly a half-million people poured into the streets in protest. The speaker of the Catalan Parliament called Rajoy’s order a “coup d’état.”

Carme Forcadell: “Today, Prime Minister Rajoy, in an enormous act of political irresponsibility, has crossed all limits. He has announced the execution of a de facto coup of state through which he intends to intervene and take control of the Catalan institutions—an attack against democracy and against the Europe of the 20th century with the goal of ending a democratically elected government.”

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont called Rajoy’s decision the worst attack on Catalan institutions since General Franco’s dictatorship. Puigdemont said Catalonia’s Parliament would meet in the coming days to discuss their next steps, amid speculation he might unilaterally declare Catalan independence. We’ll have more on the crisis over Catalonia after headlines.

Russia Compares U.S.-Led Bombing of Raqqa to Dresden in WWII

Oct 23, 2017

Russia has accused the U.S.-led coalition in Syria of bombing the city of Raqqa “off the face of the Earth,” comparing it to the allied bombing of the German city of Dresden in World War II. The comments came after U.S.-backed militias claimed victory in a fight against ISIS that left the city completely in ruins. The local journalistic group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reports the U.S.-backed assault killed 1,873 civilians and displaced some 450,000 people.

Egypt: Militant Ambush Kills 59 Police and Security Forces

Oct 23, 2017

In Egypt, militants ambushed a convoy of police and security forces in the desert west of Cairo late Friday, killing 59 officers and seizing their weapons and ammunition. It’s not clear who was behind the well-coordinated attack, though the recently formed militant group Hasm claimed responsibility. Egypt’s government has accused the banned Muslim Brotherhood party of supporting Hasm, a charge the Brotherhood denies.

Somalia: Roadside Bomb Attack Kills 11 Civilians

Oct 23, 2017

In Somalia, a roadside bomb exploded Sunday south of the capital Mogadishu, tearing through a minibus and killing at least 11 people. A witness said he saw a Somali military vehicle pass near the time of the explosion and that the civilians were probably killed in error. There’s been no claim of responsibility for the attack, which came a week after a bombing in Mogadishu killed at least 358 people and wounded hundreds of others.

Japan: PM Abe to Challenge Pacifist Constitution After Election Victory

Oct 23, 2017

In Japan, members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition won a landslide parliamentary election on Sunday, taking nearly 80 percent of seats in the lower house of the Diet. The election bolsters Abe’s bid to do away with Article 9, part of Japan’s Constitution that renounces war and bars Japan from using—or threatening to use—military force.

Chile: Investigators Say Poet Pablo Neruda Did Not Die of Cancer After 1973 Coup

Oct 23, 2017

In Chile, forensic scientists said Friday that famed poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer in 1973, as stated on his death certificate, bolstering claims that Neruda was poisoned under General Augusto Pinochet’s rule. Neruda’s driver has claimed he was poisoned by a stomach injection administered by doctors. Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, was a close friend of the ousted President Salvador Allende. Forensic experts say they’ll need up to a year to determine the true cause of Neruda’s death.

Bill O’Reilly Settled $32 Million Sexual Harassment Claim

Oct 23, 2017

Back in the United States, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly secretly settled a sexual harassment claim for $32 million in January—the sixth and by far the largest such settlement during O’Reilly’s tenure at Fox. Despite the settlement, Fox News renewed O’Reilly’s contract in February, agreeing to pay him $25 million a year before mounting scandals finally forced him from the network in April. The settlement came after longtime Fox News contributor Lis Wiehl accused O’Reilly of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship, and of sending her unwanted pornographic emails.

L.A. Times: 38 Women Accuse Director James Toback of Sexual Misconduct

Oct 23, 2017

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that 38 women are accusing Hollywood screenwriter and director James Toback of sexual assault and harassment. In separate interviews, the women describe how Toback would lure them to a hotel room or movie trailer with the promise of making them a Hollywood star, before masturbating in front of them or making unwanted sexual contact. Toback denied the charges, telling the L.A. Times he had never met any of the 38 women, or if he had, he didn’t remember them.

Jackson, MS to Rename School After Obama, Ditching Confederate Name

Oct 23, 2017

And in Jackson, Mississippi, the local school board has voted overwhelmingly to rename the Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School after President Barack Obama. The campaign began after a former fourth grader at the school wrote a book review of a biography of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis—after whom the school is named.

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