In northern Syria, as many as 300,000 civilians have been forced to flee as Turkey’s assault on Kurdish-controlled areas continues. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have arrived in Turkey, where they are expected to meet with Erdogan today. They are said to be pushing for a ceasefire, which Erdogan has so far rejected. Turkey invaded the region after President Trump spoke with Erdogan on the telephone, and then the U.S. abruptly withdrew a small number of U.S. troops from the region. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted overwhelming to condemn Trump’s actions in Syria, in what The New York Times described as “the most significant bipartisan repudiation of Mr. Trump since he took office.” Shortly after the vote, Trump met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders and had what Pelosi called “a meltdown.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “I think that vote, the size of the vote — more than two-to-one Republicans voted to oppose what the president did — probably got to the president, because he was shaken up by it. And that’s why we couldn’t continue in the meeting, because he was just not relating to the reality of it. … What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown, sad to say.”
Trump later said Pelosi was the one who had a “meltdown.” During the meeting, Trump also distributed a copy of a letter he sent to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 9, the day of Turkey’s invasion. In the letter, Trump wrote, “Let’s work out a deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be destroying the Turkish economy — and I will.” Trump ended the letter writing, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I’ll call you later.” The BBC reports Erdogan received the letter and threw it in the trash. Since the U.S. withdrawal, the Kurds have aligned themselves with the Syrian government. A number of former ISIS fighters who were being held by the Kurds have escaped. We’ll have more on the Turkish offensive later in the broadcast.
In Washington, one of the so-called three amigos is slated to testify to House committee lawmakers today as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Gordon Sondland is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a wealthy hotel magnate and real estate developer in Oregon. He received his ambassadorship after donating a million dollars to Trump’s inauguration. His lack of diplomatic experience led one White House foreign policy adviser to complain Sondland was a national security risk. Sondland is expected to testify about now-released text messages between him and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. In one of the messages, Taylor texted Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland texted back, “Call me” — perhaps not wanting to leave a paper trail.
Britain and the European Union say they’ve reached a new Brexit deal ahead of the October 31 deadline for Britain to leave the European Union. The deal will still need to be ratified by both British lawmakers and European leaders. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he plans to put his deal to a vote in the House of Commons on Saturday. Some British political groups, such as the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, say they will not support the agreement. Meanwhile, many residents across the United Kingdom continue to oppose Brexit. This is Johnny Kelly in Northern Ireland.
Johnny Kelly: “We’re all border residents. We all have great concerns about the impact of Brexit. We consider it to be undemocratic in the sense that the people of the North of Ireland didn’t vote for Brexit in the first place. All of the analysis out there would demonstrate very, very clearly that any Brexit will have a detrimental effect on the people and the economy of this island.”
In Spain, massive street protests are continuing in the Catalonia region after nine Spanish separatist leaders were sentenced to prison on Monday for their role in Catalonia’s bid for independence in 2017. On Wednesday night, protesters set up barricades and faced off against police for hours during the region’s third straight night of protests.
The Trump administration has proposed opening up millions of acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging — a move environmental activists say threatens the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America. On Tuesday, Trump told federal officials to reverse long-standing protections against tree cutting in the area. Critics say logging would threaten not only the ecosystem, but also the forest’s profitable salmon fishery and tourism industries.
Up to a half a million children could lose access to free school lunches under the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the food stamp program. That’s according to a newly released analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Critics of Trump’s proposal say the new analysis shows the plan is “even worse than we had feared.”
In Chicago, 25,000 teachers are walking out of Chicago Public Schools today to demand better pay and benefits, smaller class sizes and more nurses, counselors, social workers and librarians. The historic strike has brought the country’s third-largest school system grinding to a halt, with classes canceled for more than 350,000 students as thousands of striking workers and their allies take to picket lines throughout the city. The teachers have long demanded more support staff in schools and are demanding the city put this pledge in writing. Recent polls ahead of today’s strike show Chicago residents support the teachers. After headlines, we’ll go to Chicago for more on the teachers’ strike.
Tens of thousands of General Motors workers are celebrating after the United Auto Workers and the auto manufacturing giant reached a tentative contract deal that could end the longest strike at GM in a half-century. The agreement would include wage increases, improvements to the health insurance plan and a path to full-time work for temporary workers. The announcement came after President Trump called the UAW president on Wednesday night. The workers will remain on strike for at least a few more days as the union decides whether to formally approve the agreement.
The New York City Council is slated to vote on an $8 billion plan to close Rikers Island by 2026 and build four new jails across New York City, in what many are calling a national model for prison reform. For decades, human rights activists have protested the violence, abuse and mismanagement inside Rikers Island and have called for its closure. Yet many activists now oppose the plan to replace Rikers with four new jails, arguing that it would be better to invest the plan’s billions of dollars into communities and criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing the number of people incarcerated, such as bail vouchers. The group No New Jails NYC is staging a protest at 10 o’clock this morning outside City Hall to demand city councilmembers reject the land use proposal that will clear the way for the new jails’ construction.
Maryland Democratic Congressmember Elijah Cummings has died at the age of 68. The longtime African-American politician has for decades championed progressive causes and the rights of African Americans and the poor. He has also been a fierce critic of President Trump, who has called Cummings’s majority-black district a “rodent-infested mess.” Cummings was born in 1951 as the son of a sharecropper. In elementary school, he was told he was “too slow” and that he spoke poorly. He rose to become one of the most powerful orators in the Maryland State House and the first black House speaker pro tem, and then the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressmember Cummings also served as the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In 2016, Democracy Now! spoke to Congressmember Elijah Cummings from the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, asking him about the “Mothers of the Movement” — the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other African Americans killed by police — who had just taken the stage at the DNC.
Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Keep in mind, I have a nephew who, sadly, died five years ago, being robbed. And I went to visit his room the next day, and his brains were splattered on the wall. He was 20 years old, a student at Old Dominion University. And he’s dead at 20. And so, I can really relate to those women, because when a child dies like that, you mourn for what could have been. And so, you know — but I think the key for that, the reason why that was so important and powerful, is so the people understand, just trying to get people to pause and understand the pain, or try to understand it. Those women were very bold. What they did was they took their pain, turned it into a passion to do their purpose. Pain, passion, purpose. And so, I admire them, because they have taken their pain, and now they’re trying to help other mothers not have to go through what they went through.”
Amy Goodman: “Have you ever been stopped by the police over the years?”
Rep. Elijah Cummings: “Many times. Many times. Many times. And keep in mind what then, as a younger man — I got stopped a lot more as a younger man. I’ll never forget one time I was fortunate enough to get an Acura automobile, and I was being stopped almost every week. I was about 32, and I was being stopped every week.”
That was Maryland Democratic Congressmember Elijah Cummings. He died early Thursday morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital at the age of 68.