It’s oil or nothing. Hours after Iraqi forces and Shia militias launched an operation to recapture oil fields and a military base near Kirkuk from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, they reportedly seized the key city. Last month, an independence referendum passed by an overwhelming margin in northern Iraq, raising fears in Baghdad that Kurdistan’s secession is imminent. The new country would include Kirkuk, which has a mixed Arab and Kurdish population, and valuable nearby oil fields. Meanwhile, thousands of people have fled the disputed city — controlled since 2014 by Peshmerga forces — amid the Iraqi advance.
The Presidential Daily Brief
His parents must be proud. Early results indicate that Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, is set to become the world’s youngest national leader. His center-right People’s Party is winning with 31.4 percent of today’s votes, and as party leader, he’d become chancellor. The millennial has hardened his party’s stance on immigration, which may have factored into its seven-point gain since the last parliamentary election in 2013. Kurz is expected to move further rightward and form a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, which hasn’t been in government since 2006.
The death toll in a double truck bombing in Mogadishu has exceeded 276, including a journalist, local authorities report. That would make it the deadliest terror attack in a nation where violence is commonplace. At least 300 people were injured by the Saturday blasts, which immolated scores of people, many of them sitting in vehicles that included buses with students fresh from school, who had been stuck in the capital’s heavy traffic. No group has claimed responsibility, but the Somali government is blaming Islamic militant group al-Shabab, which has waged a decade-long insurgency.
And the ignominy goes to… The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors voted overwhelmingly Saturday to expel disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, vowing that the era of “shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.” Celebrities and little-known associates alike have accused Weinstein of serial “casting couch” harassment, and Charmed star Rose McGowan and British actor Lysette Anthony claim he raped them. The mogul, who’s been fired from his namesake production company and reportedly faces criminal investigations in New York and London, denies criminal conduct.
The buck stops there. Announcing he’ll refuse to re-certify the international deal to limit the “rogue” regime’s nuclear development, President Donald Trump didn’t kill it entirely, as he’d promised. This triggers a review by Congress, which could simply reimpose sanctions, but the administration is urging lawmakers to establish conditions that would allow continued U.S. participation, such as halting missile development and aid to militant groups. Iran’s said it won’t renegotiate, and other signatories — even allies Germany, France and Britain — have said they’re committed to maintaining the current version of the pact.
More will probably be found. That’s the warning from authorities after finding 40 bodies — some “nothing more than ash and bone” — as hundreds remain missing in the state’s deadliest spate of wildfires. In one case, a septuagenarian couple sheltered in their Napa Valley swimming pool, but 75-year-old Carmen Berriz stopped breathing as the inferno abated. Theirs was among 3,000 homes destroyed as 21 fires scorched 300 square miles since last Sunday, mostly in Northern California. More than 8,000 exhausted firefighters continue to battle the blazes, reinvigorated by strengthened winds.
He’ll have to put up to shut up. Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee want Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’ll occupy the panel’s hot seat Wednesday, to reveal what President Donald Trump said about FBI Director James Comey’s firing and Russiagate. Otherwise, they insist, Sessions must declare that the president is claiming executive privilege. If he does, the claim can be challenged in court, meaning that the Supreme Court would decide which branch of government prevails, while the president’s lawyers decide if it’s time for their client to see special counsel Robert Mueller.
Misery is their answer. European populist politicians have embraced Australia’s draconian immigration policies as a model for their continent, mainly, say critics, to keep Muslims away. The U.N.’s refugee convention requires nations to care for refugees who reach their shores, but Australia stops them in the water. Migrants are forced back or detained on islands plagued by violence, each costing Australian taxpayers some $315,000 annually. That’s preferable, say populists from French nationalist Marine Le Pen to Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon, to providing rescue boats, housing and hope — thus encouraging the next wave.
The Week Ahead: On Monday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue will join Pope Francis and G-7 agriculture ministers in Rome to observe World Food Day — shortly after suggesting that able-bodied Americans be denied food stamps. And some 21 million people are registered to “drop, cover and hold on” around the world Thursday for the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.
Know This: With unprecedented strength for the eastern Atlantic, Hurricane Ophelia is heading for Ireland and Scotland. U.S.-backed forces say they’re launching their ‘final assault’ on ISIS’s de-facto capital, Raqqa. And the U.S. Army has fired two-star Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, recently commander of U.S. Army Africa, as it continues an investigation into his flirtatious texts with the wife of an enlisted soldier.
Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB quiz.
Call it SodaStream for the planet. For three years, Swiss-based Climeworks has carbonated water and pumped it underground. For an astonishingly cheap $30 a metric ton, demonstrated at a geothermal-powered Iceland pilot plant inaugurated on Wednesday, the process ends with basalt rock absorbing the carbon dioxide after two years, eliminating it from the atmosphere for perhaps millions of years. As with many technologies, experts until recently believed efficient climate-cleansing was impossible. Now it’s up to polluters to partner with Climeworks or competing entities to neutralize their carbon footprint for a fee.
There are wars raging inside all of us. An organism’s identity can be simplified to a cellular compatibility between two genomes — one in a cell’s nucleus, and small copies of another in mitochondria. Researchers have found that they don’t always match, sparking “mitonuclear conflict” and competitive friction that they believe spawns new species. They’ve tested their theory on different populations of tiny crustaceans, where incompatible nuclear and mitochondrial DNA explained their genetic differences. The evidence isn’t irrefutable, but further study could reveal the evolutionary bridge between one species and the next.
They’re down with staying down on the farm. New England’s farmers are aging, and a third of them plan to hang up their overalls in the next decade, with few successors being groomed. Enter Cultivating Community, a Maine nonprofit that’s found a new generation of land-lovers: refugees from war-ravaged Somalia. Lacking English skills, they rely on their children to translate. They also have to adjust to raising cold-weather crops. But unlike their native-born counterparts, they and their progeny are expected to keep the growing going.
It was all a blur. In the 1980s, T La Rock was a hip-hop trailblazer — then tragedy struck. A violent 1994 assault left him brain-damaged and confined to a nursing home, and the New York rapper found himself struggling to piece together his storied musical past. As he formed unlikely bonds with the predominantly elderly, Jewish residents, T eventually overcame the odds to take the stage once more — starting with the facility’s Haym Salomon Talent Show — finding comfort in recollections he’s fought to reclaim.
Shooting wasn’t the answer. In 2014, new Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr and his assistant, Bruce Fraser, first diagrammed a bold offensive strategy with airport hors d’oeuvres. All they had to do was turn the league’s worst passing team into its best — while running revolutionary offensive hybrids that kept defenders guessing. Armed with this devastating strategy, Kerr’s Warriors have won two championships since. And as they launch a new season Tuesday hosting the Houston Rockets, rivals are taking more than a passing interest in how they roll.