Things are not looking too good for Democrats in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections, and a new George Washington University Battleground poll is, on the surface, more bad news. The respondents were roughly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, but 64 percent of GOP voters said they are "extremely likely" to vote in November, versus 57 percent of Democrats. President Obama's 44 percent approval rating won't help the Democrats, and a daunting 73 percent said their personal economic situation has stayed the same or gotten worse over the past four years.
But there is one silver lining for Democrats: Marijuana. While 82 percent of respondents disapprove of Congress — with both parties "universally despised," according to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake — 73 percent support medical marijuana in their states, 53 percent back decriminalizing pot, and most importantly, 68 percent said they are more likely to go to the polls if marijuana is on the ballot. Voters in both parties are in favor of looser marijuana laws, but the highest levels of motivation are among younger, single people — a group that skews Democratic.
Prince Mikasa, the oldest member of Japan's imperial family, died of cardiac arrest Thursday in Tokyo. He was 100.
Mikasa, an uncle to Emperor Akihito, was the youngest brother of his father, Emperor Hirohito. Born Dec. 2, 1915, as Prince Takahito, he was the fourth son of Emperor Taisho. Mikasa was a scholar of ancient Asian history, teaching at Tokyo University of the Arts and Tokyo Women's Christian University and serving as the honorary president of the Japan-Turkey Society and Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan. He served in the military during World War II, becoming a major by the time it was over, and afterwards was a vocal proponent of peace, The Japan Times reports. He wrote in a book published in 1984 that he "constantly feel[s] the sting of conscience over my failure to fully grasp the criminality of war."
Mikasa was fifth in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne, which only men can ascend to; out of 19 imperial family members, there are now only four males. In 1941, he married his wife, 93-year-old Princess Yuriko. Together, they had three sons, all now deceased, and two daughters. Catherine Garcia
In Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians, and their 5-1 victory evened out the series at 1-1. Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta allowed just two hits, struck out six, and walked three in nearly six innings. On the batting side, Anthony Rizzo kicked things off for the Cubs at the top of the first inning with an RBI double, and Kyle Schwarber got the first of his two RBIs hitting Rizzo home in the third. The Cubs scored their final three runs in the fifth, and Jason Kipnis got the Indians their only run in the sixth off a wild pitch. Game 3 will be played Friday at Wrigley Field. Catherine Garcia
Sharbat Gula grabbed the world's attention in 1985, when a haunting portrait of the young Afghan girl appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine. Today, she's facing a fine and up to 14 years in jail after officials in Pakistan say she was arrested for carrying false identity papers.
Gula allegedly applied for an identity card in April 2014, using the name Sharbat Bibi, the BBC reports. The UN says there are 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and it's believed there are 1 million more who are not registered. Pakistani officials claim that thousands of Afghan refugees are in the country using false names in order to stay out of the computerized system, and they have discovered 60,675 fraudulent ID cards on non-nationals. Gula was arrested in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan.
Photographer Steve McCurry snapped the famous photo of Gula and her piercing green eyes in 1984, when she was 12 years old and living in a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The National Geographic cover became iconic, and McCurry went on a 17-year search to find Gula, finally tracking her down in 2002 in a remote Afghan village, where she lived with her husband and three daughters. On his Instagram page, McCurry posted that he heard about Gula's arrest, and is "committed to doing anything and everything possible to provide legal and financial support for her and her family. I object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms. She has suffered throughout her entire life, and her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights." Catherine Garcia
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) isn't getting any head pats for his decision to "not defend or endorse" Donald Trump while still voting for him.
I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him. HRC is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA.
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) October 27, 2016
After the Access Hollywood recording featuring Trump making vulgar comments about women came out earlier this month, the House Oversight Committee chairman said he could "no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine." Later, he went on MSNBC and told Lawrence O'Donnell: "How in the world could I look my 15-year-old daughter in the eye and say, 'Honey you know what? Your dad endorses Donald Trump for president,' and I can't do that.... At the end of the day I've got to look at myself in the mirror and say, I call balls and strikes as I see them, and you know what, no matter which party, if you're going to act like that and that's how you think, you're not gonna get my endorsement, you're not gonna get my support. I hope we do that on both sides of the aisle. It's just wrong, and we've got to call it out as wrong."
On Twitter Wednesday night, Chaffetz — whose handle, @jasoninthehouse, sounds like a Disney Channel show from the '90s — announced that he will vote for Trump because "HRC is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA." This didn't sit well with many in the media, including Business Insider's Josh Barro, who told Chaffetz he is a "pathetic, craven hack," The Huffington Post's Sam Stein, who asked him to "explain where the line is between endorsing and voting for someone," and The New Republic's Jeet Heer, who said Chaffetz could "play with words all you want; if you vote for Trump and encourage others to, you are endorsing him. He's on you." Chaffetz is also receiving 140 characters worth of flack from constituents and other random Twitter users, calling him a "shell of a man," a "coward," and "pathetic." Have fun reading your mentions for the next few days, congressman! Catherine Garcia
Rescue workers in the rebel-held Idlib province in Syria say at least 26 people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed Wednesday in airstrikes conducted by either Syrian or Russian warplanes.
The Syrian Civil Defense group said on Facebook the attack was on a residential area and school in the village of Haas, near Aleppo, with 20 children among the dead. The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several locations were hit in Haas, including an elementary school and a middle school, killing one teacher and 15 children.
On Syrian state television, a military source was quoted as saying several militants were killed in the airstrikes, but did not mention children. In a statement, Anthony Lake, the head of UNICEF, said if the attack was deliberate, "it is a war crime." Catherine Garcia
With the battle for Mosul still underway in Iraq, the U.S. and allies are already looking ahead to their next big fight: taking control of Raqqa, Syria, from the Islamic State.
Raqqa is the terrorist group's de facto capital, and there is a sense of "urgency" in capturing the town, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the U.S. commander in Iraq and Syria. "Intelligence feeds tell us there is significant external operations planning taking place, centralized in Raqqa," he said, without elaborating on the plots. The U.S. is still training local forces whose assistance will be needed to take over and hold the city, and also trying to figure out how to get Turkey and Kurdish YPG fighters, known enemies, to work together in the operation.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Raqqa fight will start "within the next few weeks," and there are enough resources to fight for Mosul and Raqqa at the same time. "Yes, there will be overlap, and that's part of our plan and we are prepared for that," he said Tuesday. "And second, there's no delay. This is proceeding on plan, even as Mosul is proceeding on plan." The U.S. anticipates the fight for Raqqa will take longer than the battle for Mosul; that offensive began last week, with Iraqi forces making their way through smaller villages as they head to Iraq's second-largest city, held by ISIS since 2014. Townsend also said ISIS is using drones in a "constant and creative" way; while they typically use them for reconnaissance, during one incident, they pretended a drone was crashing in order to lure the enemy into an explosion, The Guardian reports. Catherine Garcia
Fox News on Wednesday released its latest poll, showing Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by 3 percentage points among likely voters, within the poll's ± 2.5-point margin of error.
Clinton leads Trump 44 percent to 41 percent in a four-way race including Libertarian Gary Johnson, and the Green Party's Jill Stein; last week, Clinton was up by 6 points. Trump's biggest supporters are white evangelical Christians (+56 points) and whites without a college degree (+28), while Clinton's are blacks (+77), unmarried women (+27), voters under 30 (+18), and women (+10). Clinton is seen as better to handle foreign policy (+15 points), immigration (+3), and terrorism (+3), with the economy viewed as Trump's strength (+4). Less than half of likely voters see Trump as being qualified to be president (46 percent) and more than half don't trust his judgment in a crisis (56 percent). In a two-way race, Clinton beats Trump 49 percent to 44 percent. Catherine Garcia