You can’t call them fringe. The anti-Islam, anti-refugee Alternative for Germany (AfD) is on track to win 21 percent in today’s state elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The upstart populists have already won seats in eight other state legislatures, but this Baltic coastal state is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home constituency, where her Christian Democrats — eroded by defections — eked out less than 20 percent and third place after the Social Democrats and AfD, raising questions about how Merkel, who’s weighing her options, would fare in national elections next year.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Was he even invited? When the American president arrives in a foreign land, customarily there’s a red carpet. But when Air Force One arrived in Hangzhou Saturday for the G-20 Summit beginning today, there was a carpet, but no stairs, forcing President Obama to clamber down what appeared to be built-in steps from a lower exit. Then his aides nearly scrapped with Chinese officials over their press restrictions. But Obama downplayed the drama, saying there’s often protocol friction during such visits, and ended Saturday with a chummy moonlight stroll with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Please stand for the national anthem. Unless, of course, you’re sitting with Colin Kaepernick. It’s football season, and the drama isn’t about patriotism; it’s about touchdowns, yards gained, passes completed and the long-term effects of frequent cranial impacts. College ball began Saturday, with Alabama’s No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide rolling over USC’s Trojans, 52-6. The NFL officially kicks off this week without Patriots QB Tom Brady, who is starting his four-game Deflategate suspension, and fans can first tune in Thursday to see the Panthers and Broncos face off.
It’s a high-water mark. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Barack Obama can agree on one thing: The Paris Agreement on climate change, which both leaders said they’d ratify Saturday ahead of the G-20 Summit that started in Hangzhou today. Being the globe’s worst polluters, their assent should induce other nations to follow suit, allowing the agreement — structured to avoid a skeptical Congress’ involvement — to take effect this year. And with water rising into coastal communities — even when it’s sunny — the timing will be auspicious.
He’s cracking down. After a Friday night bombing in his hometown of Davao killed 14 and wounded 70, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared a “state of lawlessness” Saturday, deploying the military to urban centers to help police conduct checkpoints. Abu Sayyaf extremists, who have battled the Filipino government for years, are blamed for the market bombing near the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University and a five-star hotel. Some of the terrorist group’s commanders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, but the military says there’s no evidence of direct collaboration.
He came, he saw, he backtracked. The GOP candidate recently appeared to turn a corner on immigration, softening his signature vow to deport all illegal immigrants. Most stunning was the mogul’s hastily arranged trip to visit Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. But rather than an anticipated policy pivot, it seems that the Donald was just taunting his enemy. He returned to America to lay out a harsh policy of blanket deportation that prompted two members of his National Hispanic Advisory Council to quit — all the while improving his poll numbers.
Message sent. Federal authorities released 58 pages of investigators’ notes Friday containing references to Clinton not recalling specific emails or incidents. She said, for example, that she “could not recall any briefing or training by State related to the retention of federal records or handling classified information.” While the FBI says their investigation found no evidence that the Democratic candidate’s email accounts were compromised, the new disclosures can’t help her flagging poll numbers, dropping within a few points of Donald Trump among likely voters nationwide while she retains a solid electoral vote advantage.
They’re used to it. Since an abortive independence offer after World War I, Kurds have known plenty of betrayal. Now they suspect Washington, having ok’ed a recent Turkish assault into Syria that pushed back against Kurdish gains, is done with them. Western officials say the Kurds are highly effective at thwarting ISIS, yet Ankara prefers to label Kurdish fighters as terrorists. While one Kurdish leader says “we don’t need world powers to survive,” this ethnic group fears that American officials may be selling them out to play nice with Turkish allies.
This is taxing. Ireland is fighting a European Commission ruling that Apple Operations International must pay back taxes to the Irish government. Dublin stands accused of collaborating with the world’s most valuable company in a multibillion-dollar tax avoidance scheme — allegations both deny. The days of the Celtic Tiger enjoying high-paying corporate jobs while offering international giants tax avoidance and an English-speaking workforce may be coming to a close. But the iPad maker and Irish government plan to appeal, making it unlikely that Apple will be cutting a check anytime soon.
Know This: A tanker crashed into a bus on Afghanistan’s main highway, killing 38. The remains of Jacob Wetterling, whose 1989 kidnapping at age 11 inspired numerous child-protection laws, have been found. An earthquake in fracking-lubricated Oklahoma has tied the record for the state’s strongest temblor. And as Tropical Storm Hermine moves up the East Coast, dangerous storm surges are expected from Virginia to New Jersey.
Meditate on This: Saint Theresa of Calcutta became official today, one example of Pope Francis’ fast-tracking canonizations, which critics say diminishes the notion of sainthood as His Holiness brags about holding the saint-naming record.
Forget This: There’s a wide consensus that “We Built This City” is the worst pop hit of all time: “Among the people who now say they hate it are two band members and the guy who wrote the lyrics.”
Prison is a résumé killer … but not for parolees who make their push-ups profitable. The drive to be hardcore at the gym is proving lucrative to some who have done hard time. Studios like New York’s ConBody, whose founder was sent up on a drug rap, now get their clients to sweat amid jail cell decor, complete with mugshot-lined walls. These gyms do more than create jobs: Studies show that a drive for fitness and an entrepreneurial spirit can separate ex-cons from the 76 percent who end up back inside.
But where will it lead? President Xi Jinping wants to revive this legendary trade route that, like the ancient East-West passage, will be driven by trade. Ideally involving 60 countries, the new Silk Road will initially cost $40 billion, substituting pack-animal caravans for a multi-modal approach with new roads, railways, pipelines and revitalized ports stretching from Asia’s Pacific Coast to the Horn of Africa, Middle East and Western Europe. While Beijing insists it’s building a smaller world, many wonder whether it’s a project in global dominance.
They’re in the line of fire. Fifty ATF employees at the National Tracing Center in West Virginia take their best shot at matching U.S. guns and owners without a database. Lobbyists successfully pushed against a national gun registry, and the center is forbidden from having centralized computer data. So, working with microfilm and paper records, tracers field about 1,500 daily requests to help identify gun purchasers. “Urgent” requests get handled in 24 hours, but most take a week, with tracers having to sift through “a bunch of friggin’ boxes.”
Hollywood can keep a secret. The famed Platoon director has wrapped up production on his Edward Snowden biopic after a process worthy of an espionage thriller. To access the data-mining whistle-blower, Stone purchased the rights to a novel written by Snowden’s Russian lawyer — a former Putin campaigner. Snowden himself was initially uncomfortable with the project, butting heads with Stone over content control. And of course the project had a code name, “Sasha,” to conceal Snowden from the likes of the NSA before it hits U.S. cinemas on September 16.
He doesn’t need a cape. Stumbling across a suspicious Craigslist sale, one anonymous Seattleite decided to pose as a buyer to sting his city’s bike thieves, reuniting bicycles with owners who had posted their losses online. Cycling’s Dark Knight was unsatisfied with the work of police, who must prioritize more heinous crimes like burglaries. Despite an overall decline in crime, pricier and increasingly popular bikes have attracted more thieves. But Bike Batman and a league of like-minded pedalers of justice in cities across America are gearing up to save the day.