They’re staying put. Despite long-held plans to withdraw all but around 1,000 American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Obama has had a change of heart. Following a review of U.S. policy in the region, he now plans to keep 5,500 U.S. troops — compared to today’s 9,800 — positioned at Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar bases into 2017. The change will add nearly $5 billion to the bill, and the “limited” U.S. mission will continue to focus on counter-terrorism efforts.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Is Turkey the key? European leaders are holding their fourth migrant crisis summit in six months. Meeting in Brussels today, they plan to make good on pledges of financial support and increased immigration staff while also pushing Turkish negotiators for help in stemming the flow of Syrian refugees to the Continent. Turkey had previously opposed plans to build camps for housing two million refugees — while notably asking for support against ISIS and PKK separatists — but a U-turn could help secure $1.5 billion in funds for resettlements and border patrols.
The anti-Islamist push is spreading. President Obama told Congress yesterday that he’s sending 300 troops to the West African nation to bolster a push against the ISIS-aligned militants who kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls last year, among other atrocities. The military personnel — 90 of whom left on Monday — will aid intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. While some fear U.S. involvement will only solidify ties between ISIS and Boko Haram and aid extremist recruitment, Obama stressed that these American troops will not be involved in combat.
Nobody expected this development. Though Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years behind bars last year, and a release to house arrest scheduled for August was actually canceled when his case was referred back to his parole board, the board has decided to free him to “correctional supervision.” The Paralympian was convicted of a charge equivalent to manslaughter for killing his girlfriend, who he claimed to have mistaken for a home invader. Now the prosecuting team is expected to prepare for a November 3rd appeal to the South African Supreme Court that could earn Pistorius a new sentence.
A “historic gift” for posterity. That’s how President Thein Sein sees his government’s signing of a cease-fire with armed ethnic groups that have been fighting for decades. The declaration follows two years of peace talks, but only eight of 15 rebel groups, excluding the most active ones, have signed. While politicians hope this is a path toward peace — and that they’ll be rewarded in national elections on Nov. 8 — critics point to continued violence along the Chinese border that won’t end until all groups come to the table.
It doesn’t rely on handouts. Unlike donation-reliant al-Qaida, ISIS has a slicker approach: The jihadis controlling parts of Syria and Iraq trade in black gold — to the tune of $1.5 million a day — to fund their reign of terror and provide electricity. Enemies, as well as hospitals and businesses, are forced to buy ISIS diesel in order to survive. But the militants’ oil fields are aging, and as production slowly slides, many hope foreign military interventions will help put the group’s stranglehold over oil on a slippery slope.
Hastert to plead guilty in hush money case, may serve prison time. (USA Today)
Germany orders Volkswagen to recall 2.4 million vehicles. (DW)
Clinton’s debate win complicates VP Biden’s chances. (Washington Post)
Police officers in Hong Kong face protester brutality charges. (BBC)
Tesla’s new autopilot lets cars change lanes by themselves. (The Guardian)
Calif. politician to propose gun reform initiative. (USA Today)
No benefit increase for Social Security next year. (Washington Post)
This is not a typo. The longest suffering team in professional sports is now the frontrunner to win the World Series. After defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, Las Vegas odds makers put Chicago atop their betting lists. In a vacuum, that’s not so crazy. After all, they had the third best record in baseball this year and just knocked out the team with the most wins. But you can’t deny history and not having won a championship since 1908 is daunting. For now, the team must wait to see whether they face the Dodgers or Mets in the NLCS.
Everything has a gender in French … apart from a 64-year-old Tours native. While their birth certificate identified them as male, the newly anointed “ile” — a combination of the feminine and masculine pronouns “elle” and “il” — is the first person in France to legally be granted a neutral gender. The magistrate said this doesn’t mean the country recognizes a third gender, but simply that this intersex individual’s “male” assignment was “pure fiction.” Still, the burgeoning European movement challenging the gender binary will classify this one as a victory.
Call it app-heaval. Around the globe, people are keeping leaders in check via smartphone, building apps to register disapproval, track corruption and organize activism. In the post-Arab Spring era, the masses are harnessing these tools of dissent — from Brazilians organizing protests to Hungarians mapping corrupt projects and Chinese citizens posting photos of officials misbehaving. But a revolutionary spirit doesn’t necessarily bring results, nor does it stop the bad guys from catching the wave: ISIS has also reportedly built an app to share news, videos and its toxic ideology.
Homo sapiens may have migrated earlier than we thought. Fossilized teeth found in China, estimated at 80,000-120,000 years old, predate previous evidence of humans in Asia by tens of thousands of years. If confirmed, this would mean our early ancestors, who originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, migrated to Asia far earlier than to Europe. Scientists must now determine whether this indicates an unsuccessful attempt at mass migration or a radical change to our knowledge of the species’ development, which could shed light on how ancient humans interacted with Neanderthals.
Beyoncé’s other half and Timbaland are involved in a civil trial in Los Angeles over sampling a 1950s Egyptian love song in their 1999 hit about pimping. While the rappers have paid copyright fees, the heirs of composer Baligh Hamdi say they violated his “moral rights” by never getting permission to use the music in a song about promiscuity. Jay Z maintained his right to use the sample in testimony yesterday, but the court’s decision could fine-tune copyright infringement law … and make the men sing for their supper.
Care to wager? The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice are looking into the practices of DraftKings, a popular fantasy sports league operator, to determine whether its business model constitutes illegal gambling. DraftKings and similar companies, which see hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital and player money flow through their industry, contend that they run games of skill and therefore don’t fall under federal gambling restrictions. With more investigations underway in New York and Florida, the odds are uncertain whether paid fantasy sports leagues are a safe bet.