They’re striking at ISIS’ heart. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said today that coalition forces have launched a long-awaited military operation to recapture Iraq’s second largest city, the militants’ de facto capital in the country. Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi government forces, backed by the U.S. military, will have all but banished the terrorist group from the country if they win the battle — but it’s expected to be a tough one. Humanitarian groups worry that as many as a million civilians will be displaced, causing further crisis.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Is somebody on something? Continuing a relentless barrage of ad hominem attacks, Donald Trump has charged that Hillary Clinton was “pumped up” during the Oct. 8 presidential debate and “we should take a drugs test” before Wednesday’s third matchup. And while Trump’s suggested that the Nov. 8 election would be “rigged” for Clinton, his dismal polling numbers got a boost Saturday as a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed him with a four-point national deficit — as he’d had before damaging groping statements — but state polling shows Clinton retains a daunting electoral vote advantage.
It wasn’t written. Syrian rebels backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes say they’ve taken Dabiq, Syria, depriving ISIS of a cornerstone of its cultish world view. Even the group’s magazine is named Dabiq because it’s the prophesied battleground of an apocalyptic clash between the armies of Islam and “crusader forces.” “The Daesh myth about their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” said one rebel commander, using the militants’ Arabic name. The loss with “minimal” resistance was also far from auspicious as the self-declared caliphate prepares for an Iraqi assault on its Mosul stronghold.
Is it all talk? As Syrian and Russian forces pound rebel-held eastern Aleppo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted eight foreign ministers in Switzerland to revive peace talks Saturday. After meeting for four-plus hours, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the talks produced “interesting ideas” that Kerry said might “shape different approaches” to peace. Earlier this week, Moscow deployed nuclear-capable missiles to its Baltic Kaliningrad enclave — within range of European capitals — while Russian TV urged citizens to prepare for war in what analysts interpret as saber-rattling over Syria.
They may take their lives, but they’ll never take their croissants. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday announced plans for a bill launching a second referendum for Scottish independence prompted by Scots’ desire to retain EU membership despite Brexit plans. It didn’t help that British Prime Minister Theresa May denied Scotland a full-time seat on her Brexit cabinet committee. Insisting the 2014 vote preserving the United Kingdom was legal, fair and “decisive,” May rejected a new vote — a view Sturgeon warns could mean May’s “days as prime minister … are numbered.”
Welcome to Iraq. The much-anticipated assault on ISIS’ remaining Iraqi stronghold seems imminent, but anyone who understands the region’s politics is as worried about the aftermath as the operation itself. There’s the Iraqi government, which doesn’t want to cede territory to the region’s fiercest ISIS enemies, the Kurds, who are hated by Turkey, whose forces are ignoring Baghdad’s demands to butt out. Add to that Shiite militias, which intimidate Sunni civilians suspected of being ISIS collaborators, and you’ve got a big job for U.S. advisers and diplomats once the smoke clears.
They’ve found new energy. A planned oil pipeline across sacred ground and water supplies has made North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Reservation a flashpoint for indigenous people. Native Americans “have always paid the price for America’s prosperity,” says one Sioux leader of the most prominent protest since the deadly 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee. This time, there are no U.S. marshals on the scene — just state authorities and private pipeline company guards — but President Obama and courts have intervened in what could push tribal sovereignty issues back onto the national stage.
Know This: The U.S. military’s detected a failed North Korean launch of an intermediate-range missile. The 15-year-old daughter of Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay was fatally shot in Lexington, Ky., in an exchange of gunfire between two cars. Police have arrested the driver of a pickup truck that plunged off of a San Diego bridge, killing four at a festival below. And authorities are trying to reassure Muslim immigrants after foiling an anti-Muslim militia’s plot to bomb Somalis in Garden City, Kansas.
Listen to (and Read) This: The Double is an engaging real-life mystery podcast, but it’s in Danish, meaning subtitles (subscription). Learn how that could make any sense.
Wake up and Smell This: The hottest place for gourmet coffee (subscription) these days is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where traders like Yves-Pascal Suter and growers face mortal danger: “In August, more than 60 people were hacked to death with machetes about 35 miles from (his) local office. ‘When do we say: “Stop working,” and when do we decide it’s a normal risk?’”
There’s still a curse. But Chicago’s North Siders kept the infamous goat at bay in the National League Championship Series opener last night with a tense 8-4 win against the L.A. Dodgers at Wrigley Field. After blowing a 3-1 lead, the Cubs were tied in the bottom of the eighth when pinch hitter Miguel Montero blasted a grand slam, followed by Dexter Fowler’s solo homer to seal the deal. Superstition may be the least of the Lovable Losers’ worries in Game 2 tonight as they face L.A.’s ace-of-ace pitchers, Clayton Kershaw.
They’ll be back. The Donald is arguably toast as a national candidate, but don’t count out his successors, says OZY Editor-in-Chief Carlos Watson. It’s no wonder some people compare Ivanka Trump and her political operative husband, Jared Kushner, to Claire and Frank Underwood. And there’s Donald Jr., provided he can learn to avoid his dad’s penchant for politically poisonous utterances. Before the mogul’s reckoning, Watson predicts Hillary Clinton will “send out the greatest campaigner of modern times” — Hint: He plays the sax — “to focus on helping Democrats retake the full Congress.”
Are you ready to grab the wheel? Airline pilots and train operators haven’t lost their jobs to automation, but it’s making them ill equipped to take over when disaster strikes. The 2009 Air France crash into the Atlantic, for example, might have been avoided if its junior pilots had been as competent as its partially disengaged, human error-dampening control system. As self-driving cars become a reality, some worry that backup drivers who only intervene when a crash is imminent will be useless, as steering out of a crisis will require more experience, not less.
The school of hard knocks doesn’t provide transcripts. For many young Syrians who’ve fled to Turkey, home and a normal life are synonymous with getting back to school. But refugees seeking access to Turkey’s higher education system face a steep learning curve. Language is one major barrier, with few registrars speaking Arabic, and getting financial aid requires documentation often destroyed by war. But education’s vital for starting a new life — especially for young Syrians who are at risk of poverty and radicalization, so some aid agencies are working to streamline enrollment.
The Band plays on. Forty years after it was filmed, Martin Scorsese’s documentary The Last Waltz continues to resonate. Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist and vocalist for The Band, discusses the film about the group’s final concert as a defining moment for rock music in his new memoir, Testimony. It was 1976, with disco exploding and punk emerging as the Woodstock generation burned out. But by inviting collaborators, including Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton and (now Nobel laureate) Bob Dylan, to participate in a farewell show, The Band helped its genre outlive the era’s passing fads.
Early returns are impressive. Known by his colleagues as “the quiet assassin,” Hans Goff may not be drawn to the limelight, but he’s making an impact. The 33-year-old New Jersey native is directing the Clinton campaign in Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and elsewhere — and turnout so far among key demographics indicates he’s doing it well. His political star has risen from filling out constituent requests for Newark’s mayor to firing up North Carolinians for Barack Obama — and he may well find his next desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.