National News, Monday, Oct. 14 – Trump Withdraws Troops from Northern Syria

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Over the weekend, President Trump directed a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. 

Turkish troops have expanded into the area and Trump has decided to accelerated a pullback from the campaign against the Islamic State.

Defense officials said  that many of the 1,000 members of the U.S. force would be moved to Iraq by the end of the month, but wouldn’t specify what other countries might be potential destinations.  A small number of U.S. troops—about 125—would remain in southern Syria, officials said today.

Amid rapidly changing dynamics, the U.S. military says that Turkish artillery deliberately targeted areas within hundreds of feet of U.S. troops on Friday.   Hundreds of relatives of imprisoned Islamic State fighters left refugee camps after Kurdish security personnel fled Turkish shelling.

Reports of atrocities emerged over the weekend.  A Turkish-backed Arab militia was accused of carrying out summary executions of civilians, with one video showing a man being shot on a roadside.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that a Turkish airstrike killed 14 people in a convoy heading to the city of Ras al Ain. A journalist was among the dead, according to the war monitor. SOHR said 64 civilians have been killed since Turkey launched its incursion.

Exploiting the turmoil, Islamic State militants set off a car bomb in Qamishli on Friday, and another outside a prison in Hassakeh, deeper inside Kurdish-controlled territory, on Saturday.

Mr. Trump has drawn blame for the deteriorating situation, with critics saying his move abandoned Kurdish allies and paved the way for the Turkish assault.  Kurdish officials, meanwhile, said they reached a preliminary agreement with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad to help secure areas seized from Islamic State control, given the U.S. departure.

Russia has backed the Syrian government in the eight-year war; the U.S. has long called for a new government in Syria to succeed Mr. Assad.

The Kurdish-led administration governing northeast Syria said the Syrian army would station itself along the border with Turkey “to reinforce the Syrian Democratic Forces to stop this enemy and to liberate the areas where the Turkish army and its mercenaries [have] entered.”

The pressure from President Trump and The White House on the Joe Biden campaign of wondering what his son Hunter Biden is doing and what are his whereabouts, has perhaps lead to the younger Biden to step down the from board of directors of a Chinese-backed private equity firm. 

With the intense scrutiny as of late, Biden announced a pledge not to work on behalf of any foreign-owned companies should his father win the presidency.

Biden, the 49-year-old son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, revealed his plan in an internet post written by his attorney, George Mesires, who outlined a defense of the younger Biden’s work in Ukraine and China, which has emerged as one of Trump’s chief lines of attack against Hunter’s father despite no proof of impropriety.

“Hunter makes the following commitment: Under a Biden Administration, Hunter will readily comply with any and all guidelines or standards a President Biden may issue to address purported conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such conflicts, including any restrictions related to overseas business interests. In any event, Hunter will agree not to serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign owned companies,” Mesires wrote.

He continued: “He will continue to keep his father personally uninvolved in his business affairs, while availing himself as necessary and appropriate to the Office of the White House Counsel to help inform his application of the Biden Administration’s guidelines or standards to his business decision-making.”

Joe Biden, speaking to reporters after a union forum in suburban Des Moines, Iowa, said his son did not discuss that decision with him before posting the statement.

“No one has asserted my son did a single thing wrong,” Biden added, pounding his finger into the podium, “except a lying president.”

And Biden promised to bar his family members from occupying any office within the White House and said they won’t “sit in meetings as if they are a Cabinet member.” That was a jab at Trump, who has daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, as advisers with many roles. Biden did not say if his pledge meant that Jill Biden, his wife, would not get the office traditionally assigned to first ladies, should he win.

The White House released a rough transcript of a call in which Trump asks Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to probe Biden’s family and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election that put Trump in office. Trump has also encouraged China to dig into Hunter Biden’s work in that country, asserting without evidence that earned $1.5 billion from a “sweetheart” business deal there.

The president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is also under increasing scrutiny for his efforts to dig into Hunter Biden’s business background. Late last week, two businessmen involved in Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine were charged with federal campaign finance violations.

Still, Republicans reacted to news of Hunter Biden’s decision to step away from the Chinese-backed BHR Equity Investment Fund Management Co. with deep skepticism.

“I think this is just another way to save a flailing campaign that’s going down,” Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said to reporters on Sunday.

Wildfire devastation from a year ago in Paradise, CA.

Most locals understand but it’s a hot topic as PG&E Corp.’s decision to shut off power to more than two million northern Californians this week represents it’s plan to often pull the plug whenever its equipment threatens to spark destructive and potentially deadly wildfires.

Gov. Gavin Newsom reacted with expected outrage after PG&E plunged swaths of Northern California into darkness, saying that the disruption that ensued shouldn’t happen again.

But even as the company was slowly restoring power Friday, a fast-moving fire in Southern California forced thousands to evacuate the foothills just outside Los Angeles, underscoring the danger of wildfires fanned by high winds. Southern California Edison had shut off power to 20,644 customers by midday Friday, though by Saturday morning only 870 customers were in the dark.

California’s three big investor-owned utilities now have regulatory permission to cut off power to parts of their service territories during strong winds to reduce the risk of their electric lines causing wildfires, after at least 21 fires linked to utility equipment killed more than 100 people and burned tens of thousands of homes in recent years.

The safety-minded shutoffs are to reduce wildfire risk, a strategy that carries consequences for medically vulnerable populations who rely on electric devices to survive, and businesses that could lose customers and inventory.

Such outages are unlikely to end soon because utilities are liable under California law for wildfire damage caused by their equipment, even if they aren’t negligent. That makes fires a serious threat to drive the companies into insolvency.

After going viral last month on live television for his requests for Venmo donations to add to his beer funds, Carson King has donated the money he has received to a children’s hospital.

During the ESPN College GameDay football match-up between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University in September, Carson King was spotted with a homemade sign that stated, “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished.” The sign also listed his Venmo account for viewers to see in the hopes that they would contribute to his beer needs. After receiving much attention and income from his gesture at the football game, Carson decided to contribute the earnings to children in need.

… Busch Beer, Venmo and several other corporations made a promise to match the amount he raised. The football fan has now raised $3 million and is donating the money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

A dog finds a missing 3-year old in about ten minutes.

A 3-year-old in Ohio is home safe with his family after going missing, thanks to the quick work of K-9 who sniffed the boy out in under 10 minutes. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office received a call Tuesday about a child who had disappeared from a home and a deputy his K-9, Bandit, set out to search for the missing boy. Just 10 minutes later Bandit had picked up the boy’s scent. He was found about a quarter of a mile away from his home.

Woman’s marathon world record set in Chicago over the weekend.

Brigid Kosegi of Kenya set a world record for the women’s marathon, beating the previous record by more than a minute at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. Kosegi completed the race with a time of 2 hours, 14 minutes and 4 seconds, finishing 7 minutes earlier than the next closest competitor. Her time was 81 seconds faster than the previous record set by Britain’s Paula Radcliffe at the 2003 London Marathon.

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles broke a world championships record on Sunday, as she picked up her 24th and 25th medals.

Winning gold medals for both her floor routine and the balance beam, Biles became the most-decorated gymnast at worlds, breaking the long-held record of 23, which was set by male gymnast Vitaly Scherbo back in the 1990s.

… Days earlier, Biles had already become the most-decorated woman, when she won her 21st medal in the team competition.

Seth Everman just broke a YouTube record — for a comment. Everman wrote the first-ever comment to reach 1 million likes.

He left the comment on Billie Eilish’s “bad guy” music video five months ago. His comment simply read, “i’m the bald guy.” On Saturday, Everman realized that his comment had reached the milestone and posted on Twitter to celebrate his new world record.

Uh-ohhh.   A high school football player in California had to stop a teammate from turning what should have been a pick-six into a safety. Kha’Ron Thrower’s teammate intercepted a pass, then proceeded to run in the wrong direction. If not for teammate Kha’Ron Thrower’s tackle the intercepted team would have picked up points.

… Thrower mentions in the replies of the tweet that this was his teammate’s first career interception and he was just so excited that he forgot the direction his team was facing. • VIDEO

A teen who created a viral TikTok video exposing how Panera makes its mac and cheese is going viral again — this time for tweeting that she lost her job because of it. Twitter user @BriiRamirezz tweeted: “lol i lost my job for this video” • VIDEO

… Panera’s not said whether or not she lost her job over the TikTok video. A number of commenters pointed out that Panera is fast food, and so shortcuts with food prep will be taken. Panera’s mac and cheese is pre-made in a pouch pulled from the freezer. The pouch is dropped in boiling water, cut open, then poured on a plate.

Looking for the latest diet fad?  
There’s a diet lets you eat whatever you want: pasta, pizza, even chocolate cake — but only 80 bites a day. Instead of counting carbs, calories or fat grams, dieters on this plan count chomps. And a bite has to be a bite: You can’t stuff your face with huge bites like an acorn-packing squirrel.

Canines usually become incredibly attached to their human companions, so much so that it feels like their entire world revolves around their owners. Now, a new study (Linköping University) finds that dogs even take on the stress levels of their owners. That’s right — if you’re feeling particularly stressed out, there is a good chance your pup is feeling the same way.

Cottage cheese should be a new late night snack idea.   If you’ve been on the lookout for the perfect late night snack, researchers (Florida State University) say that cottage cheese before bed has a positive effect on the metabolism and overall health, helps promote muscle recovery, and doesn’t result in any body fat gains. If cottage cheese isn’t exactly your snack of choice, the study’s authors say any helping of 30 grams of protein about a half hour before turning in for the night should do the trick.

Warty pumpkins, ugly gourds and boil-covered squash are all the rage at Halloween. Buyers proudly post their #wartypumpkin pictures on Instagram, displaying gourds covered in green bumps or brown lumps that resemble tumors.

… Cornell University horticulture professor Stephen Reiners said breeders are creating wild varieties because the public is always on the quest for something different.

A bad night’s sleep makes us crave junk food. But doesn’t everything?  Researchers (Northwestern University) say sleep deprivation increases hormones called endocannabinoids, which have been linked to the ‘munchies’. These hormones make eating more enjoyable — but also increase desire for specific types of foods such as biscuits, cakes and chips.

Officials in a southwest Missouri city are planting flags in piles of abandoned dog poop as part of a campaign to get residents to clean up after their pets. Springfield Environmental Services are putting small signs next to piles of poop which read “Is this your turd? ‘Cuz that’s absurd” and “This is a nudge to pick up the fudge.”

… But the city isn’t just giving citizens crap for the fun of it. Although it’s against city ordinance to abandon your pet’s feces, officials say they pick up 25 pounds of poo a week in city parks and parking lots — at an annual cost of $7,500.

According to a new report (Bloomberg) Amazon’s artificial intelligence-based home security system is sending footage of users’ private moments to dozens of human algorithm trainers halfway around the world.

Amazon’s Cloud Cam home security device regularly sends video clips to employees in Romania and India, who help “train” its AI algorithms, according to five current and former employees. The workers review the clips in order to help the system distinguish pet from threat — benign movement from malignant intruder. The only problem? Cloud Cam users have no idea they’re being watched by human eyes.

… The Cloud Cam’s terms and conditions say nothing about humans watching footage from their security cameras, and an Amazon representative insisted that the only clips reviewed by employees are submitted voluntarily, for “troubleshooting” purposes. Other than that, “only customers can view their clips.”

… Amazon acknowledged that clips containing “inappropriate content” are flagged and discarded so they are not used in training the AI, but avoided explaining how the inappropriate content would have ended up in front of the trainers in the first place if all clip submissions were voluntary.

… This isn’t the first time Amazon has been caught secretly using humans to “help” its AI devices along. Earlier this year, it emerged that thousands of Amazon employees and contractors were listening to audio snippets from the company’s Alexa speakers, unbeknownst to customers.

Ahead of the 2020 election, a longtime law enforcement officer running for Colleton County sheriff in South Carolina is owning up to mistakes he says he’s made in the past.

In a video posted Tuesday, Craig Stivender admits to appearing in blackface at a Halloween party he says he attended with other law enforcement officers about a decade ago.

… Stivender starts by mentioning a traffic ticket he got at 16, then shared he’s been divorced and since gotten remarried. Stivender admits he’s lost his temper on the job before, and subsequently been punished for it. He’s also been involved in “fender benders” that were his fault.

… In the video, a photo shows Stivender at the party wearing a large necklace and an earring. The skin tone of his head and arms is noticeably darker. Stivender explains in the video he was attempting to portray “ruthless drug kingpin” Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory, who is African American. Stivender says: “I did it to disparage a criminal whose actions hurt our community and this country.”

A headline like “Teen Refuses to Leave McDonald’s” wouldn’t surprise anyone. Neither would “Teen Refuses to Leave Theme Park.” But “Teen Refuses to Leave Kmart?” That’s weird. Not far from New York City a teenager was charged with juvenile delinquency because he refused to leave a Kmart from which he had previously been banned. Yorktown police said the 16-year-old would have been charged with obstructing government administration and resisting arrest, misdemeanors, and trespass… had he been an adult. No word as to why the teen had been banned from the Kmart.

America, you suck at using the turn signal. In a study (by the Society of Automotive Engineers) we’ve learned that 25% of U.S. drivers “improperly use their turn signals” while out on the road. In the same study nearly half of all drivers don’t use their signal to switch lanes.

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