10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2015

Putin gets authority to send troops to Syria, Obama meets with Raul Castro, and more

Obama meets with Raul Castro.
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik))

1. Putin gets parliamentary authority to send troops to Syria

Russian lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday to grant President Vladimir Putin authority to send troops to Syria. Putin has to get such approval to send Russian forces abroad, as he last did in 2014 before Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The Kremlin said Putin won't send ground troops to Syria, but needed parliament's permission so Russian warplanes could conduct airstrikes to support Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State.

The Associated Press

2. Georgia executes Kelly Gissendaner

Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner by lethal injection early Wednesday for her role in plotting the murder of her husband, Douglas, in 1997 by her then-boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who is serving a life sentence. She was the only woman on Georgia's death row, and the first woman the state had put to death in 70 years. The state Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Supreme Court denied last-minute requests to halt the execution, despite an appeal by Pope Francis for Georgia to commute Gissendaner's death sentence.

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3. U.S. airstrikes aid Afghans trying to retake city from Taliban

On Tuesday, the U.S. launched airstrikes and sent advisers to support Afghan forces trying to push their way back into the heart of the provincial capital of Kunduz after it was seized by the Taliban. Fighters for the Islamist extremist group put up fierce resistance to block the counteroffensive. The effort to take back the strategically important city, Afghanistan's sixth largest, is a critical test of the Afghan military's ability to take over security duties after the withdrawal of most U.S. and other foreign soldiers.

The Washington Post

4. Planned Parenthood leader tells Congress videos "offensive" and untrue

The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, told members of Congress on Tuesday that secretly recorded videos purporting to show representatives of the organization negotiating to sell tissue from aborted fetuses were "outrageous," "offensive and categorically untrue." The videos fueled a conservative effort to block Planned Parenthood's $450 million in annual federal funding. Richards told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that Planned Parenthood's policies on the use of fetal tissue for medical research "indeed go beyond the requirements of the law."

Bloomberg The New York Times

5. Hillary Clinton to urge repeal of ObamaCare's "Cadillac tax"

Hillary Clinton called Tuesday for repealing ObamaCare's tax on high-end health plans in a break with the Obama administration. The so-called Cadillac tax imposes a tax on employers offering workers expensive coverage. It was designed to both help pay for the health care law and discourage wasteful spending. The tax, which would take effect in 2018, is opposed by unions. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of Clinton's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, and other progressives introduced a repeal bill last week.

Politico The Washington Post

6. Obama asks Raul Castro for more reforms in U.N. meeting

President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met Tuesday at the United Nations for a rare face-to-face talk about continuing to improve diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Castro, in his first U.N. speech since taking over from his brother Fidel, said truly normal relations are impossible until the U.S., a former Cold War rival, ends its trade embargo against the communist Caribbean island and returns the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Obama reportedly pressed Castro to respond to U.S. overtures by doing more to open Cuba's economy and improve human rights conditions.


7. Kim Davis attorney claims she met with Pope Francis

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for six days for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, met privately with Pope Francis during his U.S. visit, one of Davis' lawyers said Tuesday. The 10-minute meeting was held in the Vatican Embassy in Washington. "Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to 'stay strong,'" Davis said in a statement. The Vatican did not confirm or deny the claim. The pope said after leaving the U.S. that public officials had a right to refuse to carry out duties that conflict with their religious beliefs.


8. Burkina Faso's army takes over barracks of elite unit that staged coup

Burkina Faso's army raided and seized control of the camp of the presidential guard that briefly took over the country in a coup last week. Soldiers fired on members of the elite unit after they refused to lay down their arms despite directions from the coup leader, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, to hand over their weapons and "avoid unnecessary bloodshed." There were no immediate reports of casualties. Diendere was not in the camp when the soldiers stormed in.

The New York Times

9. Ralph Lauren stepping down as his company's CEO

Fashion icon Ralph Lauren is stepping down as CEO of the clothing and home decor business he founded 50 years ago, the company announced Tuesday. Lauren will be replaced with Stefan Larsson, the global president of Old Navy, in November. Lauren will continue to serve as the company's executive chairman and chief creative officer. "My job is to think always about the future of our company and how to move it forward," Lauren said in a statement.

The Associated Press

10. Edward Snowden mobbed with followers after joining Twitter

Fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden joined Twitter and posted his first tweet Tuesday, saying, "Can you hear me now?" Snowden, praised by some as a whistleblower for exposing mass-surveillance programs, promptly collected more followers than the NSA, picking up nearly 300,000 in less than two hours. Snowden's attorney, ACLU President Ben Wizner, confirmed that Snowden is controlling the account. Russia has given him shelter as he avoids returning to the U.S. to face espionage charges.

Los Angeles Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.