Top News Stories for Today – October 26, 2016
Battle of retaking Mosul
Efforts by the Islamic State terror group to draw attention away from the Iraqi-led assault on the key northern city of Mosul are having little if any impact, according to US defense and intelligence officials. IS fighters started launching a series of counterattacks hundreds of kilometers away from the main battlefront Friday, carrying out attacks on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and in the town of Dibis. “This type of thing was absolutely expected,” a US defense official told VOA when asked about the IS counterattacks. “It was accounted for in our planning.”
Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday of the dangers civilians face from landmines placed by Islamic State fighters as battles continue to recapture control of areas in Syria and Iraq. The group said its investigation in the northern Syrian city of Manbij turned up the names up 69 people killed by the explosives, and hospital staff reported treating hundreds of people hurt by mines. VOA
Protests against unpopular leader in Venezuela
Venezuela’s opposition leader called for mass protests across the country Wednesday after the government last week blocked an attempt to hold a referendum vote to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power.
The rally Wednesday will mark the first such mass gathering since September 1, when hundreds of thousands of dissatisfied Venezuelans marched through Caracas in opposition to Maduro. In response to the planned protests, Maduro called for a meeting of his National Defense Council Wednesday to coincide with the rallies.
Both sides have accused each other of attempting to launch a coup as the country grapples with massive food shortages and soaring inflation. VOA
Another Iranian-American draws stiff prison term in Iran
A 46-year-old Iranian-American says a court in northeastern Iran has sentenced him to 18 years in prison after convicting him of “collaborating with a hostile government.” Details of the trial and sentencing of Gholamrez Reza Shahini emerged Tuesday, after Shahini made contact with family members in the United States and after he managed to speak by telephone with the Los Angeles Times from a jail cell in the Iranian city of Gorgan.
Shahini said he was convicted Saturday after a three-hour court proceeding. Shahini, who emigrated to the United States in the early 2000s, was arrested in July while visiting his mother near Gorgan. His family said he was detained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps while walking to a restaurant with friends. VOA
Vatican official questioned over sex abuse claims
Australian police have interviewed top Vatican official George Pell in Rome over decades-old sexual assault allegations, but authorities said no charges were filed. A spokeswoman for Australia’s Victoria Police Department said three members of the police force travelled to Rome last week and Pell agreed voluntarily to be interviewed.
“As a result of the interview, further investigations are continuing. We are not prepared to comment further at this time,” spokeswoman Amara Bostock said. The investigation stems in part from the claims of two men who say Pell, the Vatican’s finance chief and a close advisor to Pope Francis, fondled them at a pool in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, in the late 1970’s. The men are now in their 40s. VOA
US Presidential election
New poll shows Donald Trump with narrow lead in Florida: A new Bloomberg Politics poll shows Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 2 percentage points in must-win Florida. In a four-way race, Trump has 45 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 4 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at 2 percent. In a two-way race, Trump leads Clinton by 1 point, 46 percent to 45 percent. Trump’s edge, says pollster J. Ann Selzer, appears to be from his 2-point lead with independent voters in a head-to-head matchup. “This race may come down to the independent vote,” she said. “Right now, they tilt for Trump.” The RealClearPolitics average of polls has Clinton up 3.1 points in the state. Bloomberg, RealClearPolitics, The Week
Newt Gingrich says Megyn Kelly is ‘fascinated by sex’ in blistering TV spat: Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich broke into a fiery back-and-forth during Tuesday night’s Kelly File. Kelly pushed Gingrich on the likelihood of Donald Trump winning the election, particularly in light of the Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted about groping women, and multiple allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. “If Trump is a sexual predator —” she began before Gingrich interrupted her, shaking his finger. “He’s not a sexual predator, you can’t defend that statement.” The two launched into an argument again when Gingrich slammed Kelly for being “fascinated by sex.” Kelly rejoined that she is fascinated by the “protection of women and understanding what we’re getting in the Oval Office.” Signing off, Kelly blasted Gingrich one more time: “You can take your anger issues and spend some time working on them,” she said. Fox News, The Week
Trump winds down fundraising for Republican Party: Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has “kind of wound down” its formal fundraising with the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising endeavor with the Republican National Committee that serves as a major source of campaign cash for the RNC and its ground game, Trump national campaign chairman Steven Mnunchin tells The Washington Post. The joint committee’s last high-dollar fundraiser was on Oct. 19 in Las Vegas, and there are no more scheduled. The Trump campaign called the report “completely misleading,” saying that it is still supporting the RNC with “ad hoc” efforts and online fundraising. Most of the online money goes to the Trump campaign, not RNC, however. Hillary Clinton held her last big scheduled fundraiser on Tuesday night in Miami, though surrogates will appear at 41 events in the next two weeks. The Washington Post, NBC News, The Week
Trump says Clinton’s Syria policy would bring world war 3: Donald Trump says Democrat Hillary Clinton’s Syria policies would lead to another world war. “What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.” VOA
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