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October 9, 2014

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters have captured more than a third of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, Reuters reports, citing the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But Kobani's slow-motion fall is being filmed by the media from across the nearby Turkish border, where Turkish tanks and infantry are also watching, doing nothing to intervene.

The U.S., which has conducted at least 19 airstrikes against ISIS forces outside Kobani, acknowledges that aerial bombardment won't roll back ISIS by itself. The White House wants Turkey, with NATO's second-largest army, to step in with ground forces, shelling, training Syria rebels, or at least letting Turkish Kurdish forces across to the border to help defend Kobani. But it's complicated.

First, Turkey is pretty open about wanting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deposed, so sending troops into Syria is tricky. Second, Ankara has said it will only start fighting ISIS if the U.S. helps set up a humanitarian buffer zone in northern Syria, an idea Secretary of State John Kerry says is "worth looking at very, very closely," but is considered too expensive and knotty for U.S. planners.

Third, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dislikes the Kurdish militias almost as much as ISIS. The Syrian Kurds fighting in Kobani, known as the YPG, are allied with Turkey's Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), a militant group engaged in a long battle for autonomy. "Americans officials fear Turkey could simply choose to remain out of the fray, and let two of its enemies — the Islamic State group and Kurdish guerrillas — fight for Kobani," says The Associated Press. "That would give the militants an opportunity to do as much damage to the Kurdish fighters in Syria as possible."

Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman is more direct. "Erdogan and his [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP disciples view Kobani as an opportunity rather than a threat," she writes at Al Monitor.

Erdogan has chosen to exploit Kobani's imminent fall to wrest maximum concessions from assorted Kurdish leaders.... But Turkey would probably be happy to see Kobani fall.... Kobani's fall would deal a humiliating blow to the PKK and weaken its support among Syria's Kurds. [Al Monitor]

Retired U.S. Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy on ISIS, is in Ankara on Thursday to discuss the situation with Turkey. Peter Weber

9:47 p.m. ET
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

USA Today's editorial board has never before chosen sides in a presidential race, and while they were unable to come up with a consensus for a Hillary Clinton endorsement, they did unanimously agree that Donald Trump is "unfit for the presidency."

Every four years, the editorial board revisits their policy against endorsing a candidate, and every four years, they stick with it. This time around, the board explained, it was different. Trump, the board wrote, "has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness, and honesty that America needs from its presidents." He is "ill-equipped to be commander in chief," with "foreign policy pronouncements" that "typically range from uninformed to incoherent." Further, he is so "erratic" that "attempting to assess his policy positions is like shooting at a moving target," and he "traffics in prejudice," is a "serial liar," and has "coarsened the national dialogue."

The editorial urges voters to "stay true" to their convictions, but "resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." Read the entire damning editorial at USA Today. Catherine Garcia

8:54 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

There's been a drop in the number of people getting the flu vaccination, a trend that's worrying infectious disease specialists.

"Flu is serious. Flu is unpredictable," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Thursday. "Flu often does not get enough respect." In 2015, about 45 percent of the U.S. population received vaccinations, down 1.5 percentage points from 2014, the CDC reports. The largest decrease was in people 50 and up — there was a 3.4 percent drop among people between the ages of 50 and 64, and a 3.3 percent decline among people 65 and over. While most people are hit with mild symptoms, the flu kills 100 children every year, and the elderly are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

While the CDC is urging Americans to get a flu shot now, they are not recommending the nasal spray vaccine, which is often used on kids, due to questions surrounding the vaccine's effectiveness. This year, there are also two new vaccines, NPR reports; one protects against four strains of the flu rather than three, and the other has an "adjuvant," which increases its effectiveness. The CDC expects as many as 168 million vaccines will be available, so "there's plenty for everybody," Frieden said. Catherine Garcia

7:47 p.m. ET

The New Jersey medical examiner has identified the victim in Thursday morning's train crash in Hoboken as Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34.

De Kroon was a resident of Hoboken and native of Brazil, who once worked as a lawyer there at the computer software company SAP, NBC New York reports. She recently moved to Hoboken with her family, and her young daughter was in day care at the time of the accident, which left at least 114 people injured. Officials said de Kroon was waiting on a platform when the New Jersey Transit train came careening into the terminal, and she was hit by falling debris. Catherine Garcia

7:16 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton says a Newsweek story about Donald Trump allegedly violating the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba shows he's "puts his personal and business interests ahead of the laws and values and policies of the United States of America."

While investigating the story, published Thursday, Newsweek interviewed former executives of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and looked at court filings and company records. They found that in 1998, Trump wanted to get into the Cuban market, and sent a consulting firm to Havana on its behalf to find any business opportunities. The company allegedly spent at least $68,000 in Cuba, without U.S. permission, and Newsweek says they made it appear as though the trip was connected to a Catholic charity. In 1999, Trump wrote in a Miami Herald column that he refused to do business in Cuba because "it would place me directly at odds with the longstanding U.S. policy of isolating Fidel Castro. I had a choice to make: huge profits or human rights. For me, it was a no-brainer."

Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on Thursday the money was never paid, giving the only statement so far from the Trump camp, the BBC reports. The Cuban-American vote in Florida is huge, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has endorsed Trump, told an ESPN/ABC podcast he hopes "the Trump campaign is going to come forward and answer some questions about this, because if what the article says is true — and I'm not saying that it is, we don't know with 100 percent certainty — I'd be deeply concerned about it." Catherine Garcia

5:40 p.m. ET

A New Jersey Transit commuter train crashed Thursday morning at a station in Hoboken, New Jersey. At least 114 people were injured, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told CNN on Thursday afternoon, with many in critical condition. At least one person is confirmed dead.

"I got off my train on the way into work and as I was walking through the station, we could see that a train had come through the place where it's supposed to stop, all the way into the station — not into the waiting room but into the outdoor part," said Nancy Solomon of New York radio station WNYC. Photographs of the crash show significant damage to the station, including a partial collapse of the roof.

The crash happened at the height of the morning commute, around 8:45 a.m., though the number and severity of injuries is still unclear. Preliminary investigation suggests the incident was either accidental or caused by operator error. Full service is expected to resume for evening rush hour.

This post has been updated throughout. Jeva Lange

4:51 p.m. ET

There's a reason he won all those Tonys.

Sure, Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda can make theater sensations out of America's founding history or a dynamic three-day stint in a bustling New York City neighborhood — but that's kid stuff. No, the real talent comes out when you're tasked with making musical magic out of a single stump speech sentence:

Miranda is one of GQ's October 2016 cover men, and you can read the magazine's profile of him here. Kimberly Alters

2:39 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton held an early voting campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, focusing on her lifelong fight "for kids and families," which she said would be "the mission of my presidency."

Clinton and other Democrats are hoping to encourage voters to cast ballots early for fear that a lack of enthusiasm this election cycle could lead to lower voter turnout than occurred for President Obama's election, The Associated Press reports. Four in 10 Iowans voted early in 2012, and this year Democrats hope that number will be even higher, as more Republicans tend to turn up for the polls in November.

While early voting is now open in a handful of states, Iowa is the first battleground state to open voting. At this time, Donald Trump leads the state in the RealClearPolitics average, with 43 percent to Clinton's 38 percent in a four-way race. Jeva Lange

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