Top News Stories For Today – Oct 18, 2017
Xi Jinping: Time for China to take center stage
China has entered a “new era” where it should “take center stage in the world”, President Xi Jinping says. The country’s rapid progress under “socialism with Chinese characteristics” shows there is “a new choice for other countries”, he told the Communist Party congress. The closed-door summit determines who rules China and the country’s direction for the next term. Mr Xi has been consolidating power and is expected to remain as party chief.
The congress, which takes place once every five years, will finish on Tuesday. More than 2,000 delegates are attending the event, which is taking place under tight security. Shortly after the congress ends, the party is expected to unveil the new members of China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, who will steer the country. BBC
Trump criticized for comments about fallen troops
On Tuesday, President Trump called the families of the four US Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger 12 days ago. When calling one of the widows, Myeshia Johnson, he told her that her husband, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, “knew what he signed up for … but when it happens it hurts anyway,” according to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who said she was in the car and heard the comments on speakerphone.
“It’s so insensitive,” Wilson said, explaining that the comments made Johnson cry. Trump denied the report on Twitter: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof),” he wrote. “Sad!” Miami Herald, Politico, The Week
Hawaii judge blocks travel ban
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked most of the newest iteration of President Trump’s travel ban, declaring that the administration cannot restrict the travel of people from six of the eight blacklisted countries.
The order was set to kick in at midnight Wednesday. The third version of Trump’s ban, announced in late September, placed indefinite restrictions on visitors from Chad, Libya, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Somalia. Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii temporarily stopped the ban for all of the countries except North Korea and Venezuela. Two previous versions of the restrictions were also blocked from being imposed. Politico, The Washington Post,The Week
Bipartisan deal on stabilizing Obamacare
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reportedly reached a bipartisan deal to stabilize the Affordable Care Act. Alexander said Tuesday that the deal would “extend federal subsidies for two years and provide states with flexibility,” Reuters writes, though Murray said they are “still ironing out a few details.”
The subsidies lower costs for low-income customers; President Trump decided last week to end the payments, though he seemed to signal approval of the deal Tuesday. “This is a short-term solution,” Trump said. Conservatives are wary of “bailing out” insurers, though, and while Alexander has the support of some Senate Republicans, it is not clear if the plan would pass through Congress. The New York Times, Reuters
Catalans demand release of separatist leaders
Tens of thousands of people protested Tuesday night in Barcelona against the Spanish government’s detention of two Catalan separatist leaders. The demonstrators carried candles and banners demanding the release of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who are being held on possible sedition charges. Prosecutors accuse Cuixart of the Omnium Cultural movement and Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly of provoking violence against police during a pro-independence march last month.
Catalan leaders have called the two political prisoners, which the government denies. Earlier Tuesday, Spain’s top court ruled Catalonia’s independence referendum was illegal, saying that regional law backing the vote violated Spain’s constitution. VOA
Kurdish blames Iran for the fall of Kirkuk
Officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government are accusing Iran of playing a key role in the fall of disputed territories in northern Iraq including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a claim rejected by Iranian officials. This week the Iraqi government forces backed by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) marched into the Kurdish-controlled disputed territories after Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga withdrew from the region.
“Iranians were leading the battle on Kirkuk and our forces had to withdraw to protect the lives of Peshmerga,” Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, the commander of Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk, said in a statement Monday. “The decision [to withdraw] was not a mistake,” he emphasized. The Iraqi army and the PMF started their advances into Kirkuk on Monday after weeks of threats following the Kurdish referendum. VOA
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