There’s no ‘there’ there. ISIS’s claim to be a “caliphate” governing Islam rested on controlling territory. After advances by government troops and militias in Iraq, though, the group’s only significant center was its putative capital in Raqqa, Syria. Last week, U.S.-backed forces pushed ISIS fighters out of the city, and on Saturday President Donald Trump said “the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight.” Amid the celebrations, difficult questions remain, such as should recently ISIS-allied tribal leaders govern the liberated territory, and will this affect ISIS’s terror campaigns elsewhere?
The Presidential Daily Brief
He wants a reconquista. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Saturday that his government, with likely Senate approval, will suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and remove Catalan President Charles Puigdemont and other regional officials and call new elections. Rajoy has taken a hard line on his nation’s restive northeastern corner ever since its national court-outlawed Oct. 1 independence referendum. National police attempted to stop it, resulting in many hundreds of people being injured. Puigdemont has delayed declaring independence in favor of dialogue with Madrid, which may have forced him to choose between capitulation and outright secession.
They’re turning inward. The Czech Republic’s second-richest man, Andrej Babis, and his party have trounced long-dominant centrist parties in the country’s parliamentary elections Saturday. Promising to cut taxes, boost public investment and curb immigration, Babis’ ANO (Yes) movement has become the central European nation’s biggest party with 30 percent of the vote. The ruling Social Democrats, ANO’s partners in the current governing coalition, received only 7.3 percent of the vote. It also marked the rise of the far-right Freedom and Free Democracy Party, which received 10.6 percent and promises to ban Islam.
Restraint is so last month. Criticism from predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama highlighted a notably defensive week for President Donald Trump. “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty,” Bush said Thursday. It came as Trump was denying reports he’d told a fallen soldier’s widow that “he must’ve known what he signed up for,” inspiring a factually challenged counterattack from presidential chief of staff John Kelly. And that night, House Speaker Paul Ryan unleashed a torrent of jokes at Trump’s expense, referencing tweets “I will have to pretend I didn’t see.”
This poll has a death toll. In a court-ordered rerun of an Aug. 8 vote that favored President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyans are to try again Thursday. The Supreme Court nullified the earlier results following allegations of widespread irregularities in the electronic voting system. Since then, dozens have been killed in demonstrations, and one election official has fled the country. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga withdrew, citing rampant fraud, but on Friday hinted that he might still participate. Meanwhile, the country’s electoral commission chief warned, “If we don’t cap this mess, I fear for the future.”
The carnage continues. Suicide bombers reportedly killed 72 people in two Afghan mosques Friday. One attack left at least 39 dead at a Shiite mosque in Kabul. While nobody has claimed responsibility, ISIS has targeted Shiites in the violence-ridden country, where at least 84 followers have been killed this year. The second attack killed 33, including a targeted warlord, at a Sunni mosque in the central Ghor province. The attacks follow a Thursday assault on a base in southern Kandahar province that killed 43 soldiers, and come as American forces are stepping up their activities.
It’s the opiate of the classes. As the U.S. is fighting a deadly opioid epidemic, the Sackler family is making billions through the drugmaker that markets OxyContin, a pain medication that’s addicted countless Americans. The media-shy family shares a conservative $14 billion among 20 heirs, with the lion’s share earned from the potentially deadly drug used to treat chronic pain. As the U.S. tightens regulations on opioids — they kill around 142 Americans a day — including prescriptions of OxyContin, the Sacklers’ company, Purdue Pharma, is looking abroad to augment its success.
It’s anyone’s game now. The U.S. was Iraq’s power broker — the one to mediate deals among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions. But that influence is waning, and Iran is happy to stand in. The U.S. gave an icy reception to Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum last month. And when the Iraqi national army, with help from Iran-backed militias, wrested Kirkuk from Kurdish forces, the Americans stood back. Now Iran’s brokering talks between the aggrieved parties, leaving the Americans with no place at the table and a shrinking list of allies.
The Week Ahead: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will spend the week visiting Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland with an agenda that includes the conflict in Yemen, the Persian Gulf’s Qatar crisis, containing Iran’s military ambitions and dealing with refugees.
Know This: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to bolster his government and rewrite his nation’s pacifist constitution after today’s snap election, in which some exit polls show his party retaining its two-thirds majority. President Trump has tweeted that he’ll make public the last group of sealed records of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “subject to receipt of further information.” All five former U.S. presidents assembled last night for a Texas concert, featuring country musicians such as Lyle Lovett and Lee Greenwood and surprise guest Lady Gaga, to benefit victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, with President Trump appearing via video. Militants ambushed an Egyptian security forces convoy, killing 16 police officers in the country’s western desert late Friday.
Tune In: OZY and WGBH have teamed up to create a fabulous new show for PBS, Third Rail With OZY. Tonight’s debate: Is marriage obsolete?
They’d been underwater before. After losing three straight in the Bronx, the Houston Astros returned to their hurricane-battered city and swamped the Yankees in two games, clinching their World Series berth last night 4-0 in Game 7 of the ALCS. And it’s truly a Fall Classic that begins Tuesday: Both the L.A. Dodgers and the Astros had 100-plus regular-season wins — the first such matchup since 1970. And while L.A. fans have waited 29 years to be baseball’s best, it would be a first in Houston’s 55-year history.
Let’s ask “Mother.” The vice president already personifies American Gothic, addressing his wife maternally and refusing to be alone with other women. As handicappers give President Trump nearly even odds of surviving his first term, everyone’s trying to understand his understudy. Enacting anti-abortion and anti-LGBT legislation as Indiana governor, he’s to Trump’s right on social issues. And backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, he’s managed to steer the Trump administration away from populism toward tax cuts for the wealthy. But as evidence mounts against the president, will his most unwavering devotee keep the faith?
Pillow talk’s not cheap. As online mattress companies struggled for dollars and Google hits, the multimillion-dollar battle of the mattress bloggers was joined. For YouTube reviewer Derek Hales, it meant being sued by Casper, a top seller. When he refused to settle, things got nasty, with Hale accused of receiving payola from competing retailers and Casper accused of working to cripple the review site’s prominence in search results. Ultimately, money talked: Friendlier reviewers bought out Hale — with Casper’s money — and a blanket of nondisclosure agreements are keeping things quiet and cozy.
These Yankees also need a comeback. Connecticut might be home to some of the richest Americans, but that hasn’t stopped major corporations from leaving the Nutmeg State for greener — and cheaper — pastures. As a result, it’s suffered a three-year-long population decline in addition to a potentially crippling budget deficit. Experts say the state needs a major face-lift aimed at luring back residents who’ll stay for the long term. That means transforming it from a stodgy financial industry locus into a 21st-century startup hub.
No one wants to lose face. Researchers spent years trying to standardize text data to digitize countless languages from around the world. They’ve largely succeeded — but now, emojis are throwing a wrench into the machinery. Facing frustration from users who prefer to communicate in emojis, the Unicode Consortium is struggling to efficiently codify the image-based, often subjective alphabet. Instead, it’s bogged down in debate over how to even approach the technically daunting challenge — while as many as 400 million people wait for their actual languages to be coded.
He’s finally in the zone. In 10 seasons wearing Dodger blue, ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been to the postseason seven times, always falling short of a National League pennant. On Thursday night against the Chicago Cubs, he made sure it happened, and now L.A.’s going to the World Series, which begins Tuesday, for the first time since its 1988 championship. Will Kershaw be the series’ best pitcher? Now that the Houston Astros have eliminated the Yankees and Luis Severino’s blazing fastball in the American League Championship Series, that’ll be Kershaw’s debate to lose.