Top News Stories For Today – Oct 17, 2017
Trump and McConnell meeting
Trump stood next to Mitch McConnell in the Rose Garden and tried his best to have it both ways. Yes, things have been tense between the President and the Senate Majority Leader, but the pair emerged from a lunch at the White House as best buddies, according to Trump. The President knows he needs McConnell’s expertise to have any hope of getting tax reform through Congress this year.
But Trump also knows he’ll need to keep his base with him, and that’s why he also voiced support for Steve Bannon, his ex-chief strategist. Bannon pretty much declared war on the GOP establishment during an appearance over the weekend at the conservative Values Voter Summit and called out McConnell by name. Bannon wants deep-red conservatives to take on traditional elected Republicans in primaries. Trump said he understands Bannon’s frustrations but hopes to talk him out of some of his primary targets. CNN
The Philippines & ISIS
Militants linked to ISIS have been kicked out of a city in the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte said the nation’s security forces liberated Marawi, a city on the southern island of Mindanao. The militants overran Marawi in May, forcing more than 350,000 residents to flee.
A few thousand people were held hostage; most of them have been rescued. Duterte said a handful of militants were still holed up in the city, and it would be a few days before the military could clear them out. CNN
Trump’s claims on Obama disputed
On Monday, President Trump claimed, incorrectly, that his predecessors did not call the families of fallen US troops. “The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens, soldiers are killed,” Trump said, answering a question about four US Special Ops troops killed in Niger two weeks ago.
“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.” Later, Trump conceded that he did not know if Obama had called Gold Star families and said he had not yet called the families of the Niger casualties.
The record is plain that presidents reached out to families of the dead and to the wounded, often with their presence as well as by letter and phone. The path to Walter Reed and other military hospitals, as well as to the Dover, Delaware, Air Force Base where the remains of fallen soldiers are often brought, is a familiar one to Obama, George W. Bush and others. The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Week
Trump voices doubt on drug czar nominee
On Monday, President Trump responded to a report from 60 Minutes and The Washington Post on Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Trump’s nominee for drug czar and the main sponsor of a bill promoted and apparently written by the pharmaceutical industry that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its biggest tool to fight prescription opioids entering the black market.
Trump called Marino a “great guy” and “a very early supporter of mine,” but said that after Sunday’s 60 Minutes, “we’re going to look into the report. We’re going to take it very seriously.” He said he will speak with Marino, “and if I think it’s 1 percent negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change, yes.” The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Week
Plague outbreak in Madagascar
Right now in Madagascar, there’s a plague outbreak that’s spreading at frightening speed. There have been more than 680 cases of the disease on the island nation, with 57 deaths. Madagascar has regular outbreaks of the plague, but this one is different because the infections started much earlier in the year and are in new areas, including cities.
Plague is a bacterial infection that’s typically spread through the bite of infected fleas, frequently carried by rats. Symptoms include painful, swollen lymph nodes, as well as fever, chills and coughing. It’s treated with antibiotics. CNN
US-backed forces reclaim ISIS capital of Raqqa
US-backed forces seized complete control of the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday, a commander told The Associated Press. Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo deemed the victory “the fall of the capital of terrorism.”
Fighting with ISIS militants had been pushed back to a stadium in Raqqa, the terrorist group’s last stronghold in the city, and on Tuesday the Syrian Democratic Forces at last raised their flag over the base. The Kurdish YPG flag was planted in the stadium grounds. ISIS has lost massive swaths of territory this year, including the city of Mosul, Iraq, and its forces have been pushed back into the Euphrates River Valley, where experts expect the militants to make their “final stand.” Reuters, The New York Times
John McCain accepts Liberty Medal
On Monday night in Philadelphia, the National Constitution Center awarded Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the Liberty Medal “for his lifetime of sacrifice and service.” After accepting the award from former Vice President Joe Biden, an emotional McCain mixed self-deprecating humor with a strong endorsement of American leadership and participation in “the international order we helped build from the ashes of world war.”
In what was widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump, whom he did not mention, McCain criticized as unpatriotic those who would “abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe … for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” The Arizona Republic, Medium
Iraqi forces seize Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters
By the end of Monday, Iraqi government forces and allied Shiite militias had taken control of Kirkuk and oil fields around it from the Kurdish authorities who have controlled it since 2014, when Iraqi troops fled and Kurdish peshmerga fighters stepped in amid an assault by the Islamic State.
After an early morning skirmish south of Kirkuk, the Iraqi troops faced little resistance under a deal secretly negotiated with Kurdish forces aligned with a Kurdish opposition party. The Kurdish governor of Kirkuk fled to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and Kurdish troops also withdrew from Sinjar early Tuesday, leaving the town to Shiite militias. Iraq mounted its assault after Kurds voted for independence in a referendum last month. The New York Times, The Associated Press
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