More than 30 tornadoes tore through several states in the Plains and mid-South last night, killing at least 17 people and destroying hundreds of homes and buildings.
Arkansas, where at least 16 were killed, was the state hit hardest by the storms. In the northwestern Little Rock suburbs of Mayflower and Vilonia alone, at least 10 people lost their lives and 150 homes were destroyed.
"What I'm seeing is something that I cannot describe in words," Sheriff Andy Shock told NBC News. "It is utter and sheer devastation."
After a half-mile wide tornado ripped through the area, a drone captured the sheer magnitude of the damage left in its wake:
The strong band of storms that caused the tornado are moving east today, putting more states, including Louisiana, Ohio, and the Carolinas, on high alert for severe weather. Jordan Valinsky
Jemele Hill returns to SportsCenter on Monday night, her first appearance on The Six, which she co-hosts with Michael Smith, since being suspended for two weeks over a second violation of ESPN's social media guidelines.
1 — Back tonight at 6 (we’re on ESPN2 tonight). Sitting on a few hot takes, to say the least.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 23, 2017
Hill was suspended after responding to the news that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told players they would be benched if they kneeled during the national anthem. She tweeted on Oct. 8 and 9 that "change happens when advertisers are impacted" and urged a "boycott."
ESPN had previously deemed Hill's tweets "inappropriate" after she called President Trump a white supremacist in September. The Ringer writes: "Hill's [most recent] suspension brought up a larger question, which Bill Simmons wrote about here: Can ESPN carve out an apolitical space while Trump is president? 'The tension is not that they want to be apolitical,' said one ESPN employee. 'The tension is that they want to be fashionably political. They want to be Oscar-speech political.'"
On Monday, following a meeting with ESPN's president John Skipper, Hill tweeted: "Thank you all for standing with me and by me. Trust me, you did not do so in vain. My heart is full. See you tonight." Jeva Lange
Trump called for the deportation of a Chinese dissident because China asked him to in a letter hand-delivered by casino magnate Steve Wynn
President Trump called for the deportation of Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese businessman living in New York City, but was talked out of the plot by aides who, amongst other things, noted that Guo is a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Some U.S. national security officials view Mr. Guo, who claims to have potentially valuable information on top Chinese officials and business magnates and on North Korea, as a useful bargaining chip to use with Beijing," The Wall Street Journal adds.
Guo has been a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, publicly alleging the corruption of high-up officials. Because the U.S. and China do not have an extradition agreement, Beijing has gone so far as to send agents on fraudulent visas to put pressure on Guo at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, where he lives.
The Chinese government has tried to reach Guo in other ways, too — by sending Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn to personally deliver a letter denouncing Guo to Trump:
"Where's the letter that Steve brought?' Mr. Trump called to his secretary [in an Oval Office meeting in June]. "We need to get this criminal out of the country," Mr. Trump said, according to the people. Aides assumed the letter, which was brought into the Oval Office, might reference a Chinese national in trouble with U.S. law enforcement, the people said.
The letter, in fact, was from the Chinese government, urging the U.S. to return Mr. Guo to China.
The document had been presented to Mr. Trump at a recent private dinner at the White House, the people said. It was hand-delivered to the president by Mr. Wynn, the Republican National Committee finance chairman, whose Macau casino empire cannot operate without a license from the Chinese territory. [The Wall Street Journal]
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Monday, where he signaled the U.S.'s desire for a peaceful resolution to the 16-year war in the country. Tillerson appealed to "moderate voices among the Taliban" during the unannounced trip, going so far as to hypothetically offer government posts to such individuals.
"There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. ... So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government," Tillerson said, per The Associated Press. "There's a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence, and being committed to a stable prosperous Afghanistan."
Foreign Policy notes that Tillerson's covert trip is likely a reflection of the Trump administration's larger plans for the country:
Tillerson said the United States wanted to make it clear to the Taliban and other militants that the United States was in Afghanistan for the long haul and the militants would not prevail militarily. [...]
The diplomatic overture signals the Trump administration's eagerness to wrap up the longest war in U.S. history. In August, [President] Trump pledged open-ended support for Afghanistan following fierce internal debates and foot-dragging after having campaigned on ending the costly 16-year war. [Foreign Policy]
The infrastructure devastation and civilian casualties caused by the U.S.-led coalition siege to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria, is comparable to the World War II carpet bombing of Dresden, Germany, the Russian defense ministry charged in a statement Monday.
"Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the Earth by Anglo-American bombardments," said Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, alleging that coalition humanitarian aid projects in the aftermath of the fight are motivated at least in part by an effort to conceal the extent of the damage. Moscow's embassy to the United Kingdom tweeted a photo comparison:
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) October 23, 2017
Russia is not the first to draw attention to the high civilian casualty rate of the anti-ISIS campaign. In June, United Nations war crimes investigators reported that increased coalition airstrikes produced "staggering loss of civilian life" and led to "160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced." U.N. investigators have also accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria by performing airstrikes that violate international law. Bonnie Kristian
Nine months into his administration, President Trump's tweets have fallen into a familiar topical groove: Trump's suffering at the hands of the media, his suffering at the hands of Democrats, his suffering at the hands of Republicans, his suffering at the hands of the basic constitutional structure of governance of the United States — you get it. But one topic on which Trump's feed has been comparatively silent of late is Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, including whether Mueller should be fired.
Per a Monday report from Politico, that's because White House lawyer Ty Cobb, who joined Trump's team over the summer, has convinced the president of the serious legal risks of public comment while the probe is underway.
"It's one thing to have an adviser to tell you, 'Boy, if you say this it's not good politics, it's not good for us,'" said Solomon Wisenberg, who worked on Kenneth Starr's investigation of former President Bill Clinton. "It's another thing to have your white-collar lawyer say, 'This is extremely harmful to you legally to say this.'"
Cobb himself told Politico that he could not "take credit for the change in the president's tone on Russia," praising Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump himself for helping to effect the difference. Still, Cobb said, Trump's new tact on this issue has fostered a "good relationship in terms of trust" between Mueller and the White House. Bonnie Kristian
NBC's Megyn Kelly disputes Bill O'Reilly's claim that no one complained about his behavior: 'I complained'
On Monday, NBC's Megyn Kelly responded to claims by former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that in his 20 years at the network, nobody ever complained about his behavior as being inappropriate. "O'Reilly's suggestion that nobody ever complained about his behavior is false," Kelly said on Megyn Kelly Today. "I know because I complained."
The New York Times reported this weekend that Fox News renewed O'Reilly's contract after agreeing to a $32 million sexual harassment settlement with a longtime analyst. O'Reilly was ultimately ousted from Fox News in April over mounting allegations. Kelly, who accused former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of harassment, worked at the network until switching to NBC in January.
On her show Monday, Kelly quoted O'Reilly, who in 2016 claimed he was not "interested" in sexual harassment because it made his company look bad. "Perhaps he didn't realize that his exact attitude of shaming women into shutting the hell up on the grounds that it would disgrace the company is in part how Fox News got into the decades-long Ailes mess to begin with," Kelly said, reading from a never-before-publicized email she sent to Fox News' presidents in November 2016.
With a deep breath, Kelly concluded: "This is not unique to Fox News. Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored, or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions. They stay silent so often out of fear." Watch below. Jeva Lange
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 23, 2017
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has revealed a secret letter her office received from North Korea asking for help to divert the Trump administration from nuclear war. The letter is believed to be one of several covert communications Pyongyang has sent to multiple Western governments, an unprecedented move by the isolated regime.
"If Trump thinks that he would bring the DPRK, a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat, it will be a big miscalculation and an expression of ignorance," the document warns. "The DPRK has emerged a fully-fledged nuclear power which has a strong nuclear arsenal and various kinds of nuclear delivery means made by dint of self-reliance and self-development. The real foe of nuclear force is a nuclear war itself."
Thus, the letter continues, North Korea's foreign ministry has taken "this opportunity to express belief that the parliaments of different countries loving independence, peace, and justice will fully discharge their due mission and duty in realizing the desire of mankind for international justice and peace with sharp vigilance against the heinous and reckless moves of the Trump administration trying to drive the world into a horrible nuclear disaster."
Bishop said she views the communication as a sign that a firm stance toward Pyongyang is working, while Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed it as "ranting and complaining about Donald Trump." The Independent has inquired whether the United Kingdom received a similar letter. Bonnie Kristian