Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 17, 2016

Bonnie Kristian
Donald Trump at a Miami campaign rally
Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Donald Trump acknowledges President Obama was born in the U.S.

Donald Trump, a leading proponent of the falsehood that President Obama was born outside the United States, admitted Friday that the president is in fact an American citizen. "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period," Trump said. The seconds-long speech followed a half-hour preamble of praise from veterans who spoke at the opening of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. While Trump blamed Hillary Clinton for starting the birther movement during her 2008 presidential campaign, he bragged that he "finished it," without any sort of apology or acknowledgement of his years-long backing of the conspiracy theory. Trump implied Obama's birth certificate was a fake as recently as January. [CBS News, Buzzfeed News]


Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson excluded from presidential debate stage

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson will not take the stage for the first presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday. Only Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will appear at the Sept. 26 showdown, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein also fell short of the CPD's qualification threshold. To make the debate stage, Johnson and Stein each needed to average 15 percent support across five specific polls chosen by the CPD; as of Friday, Johnson's average was 8.4 percent. The first debate between Trump and Clinton will take place at Hofstra University in New York and will be moderated by NBC anchor Lester Holt. [Commission on Presidential Debates, Reason]


Trump roils with comments on gun control, Cuba thaw

Speaking at a campaign rally in Miami Friday evening, Republican Donald Trump raised eyebrows by arguing Democrat Hillary Clinton should disarm her personal guards if she likes gun control so much, as well as suggesting he might reverse the thaw in United States-Cuba relations brokered by the Obama White House. "I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons," he said of Clinton. "Take their guns away. She doesn't want guns — let's see what happens to her." On Cuba, Trump noted that the "next president can reverse [recent changes]" because they were made by executive order, and promised to do so unless Cuba concedes "religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners." [The Hill, Reuters]


Michelle Obama makes campaign trail debut for Hillary Clinton

In her first appearance on the 2016 campaign trail Friday at Virginia's George Mason University, first lady Michelle Obama made the case for why it's "excruciatingly clear" Hillary Clinton is the only candidate prepared to be president. Clinton, Obama explained, is "one of the few people on this entire planet" who fully understands the "staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stress" being president entails. "And here's the thing: She still wants to take it on," Obama said, praising Clinton's "love of country." Obama also argued Donald Trump doesn't fit the bill: "When you're making life or death, war or peace decisions, a president can't just pop off." [C-SPAN]


U.S. troops support Iraqi efforts to capture last ISIS-held city in Iraq, Mosul

Several hundred American troops have arrived at the Qayyarah air base near Mosul, Iraq, to assist Iraqi forces working to capture the last major Iraqi city held by the Islamic State. The U.S.-Iraqi attack will begin as early as October; at present, the coalition forces are planning their approach, which will involve first seizing smaller towns near the city's outskirts. The Department of Defense "has made clear that our forces in Iraq are in harm's way," said the Pentagon's press secretary, Peter Cook, on Thursday. Meanwhile, the U.S. will shift additional air power and military personnel into Syria, where ISIS is also active, to target militants as required by the recent cease-fire deal with Russia. [CNN, Associated Press]


Zika virus transmission zone triples in Miami Beach

After the discovery of new cases of mosquito-communicated Zika infections, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday night that the known transmission zone of the virus in Miami Beach has tripled. The area now covers 4.5 square miles, the bulk of the southern and middle regions of the barrier island. The new infections bring the total count of Zika cases in Miami Beach not contracted via international travel to 35. More positively, a separate transmission zone in the Wynwood neighborhood north of downtown Miami is expected to get the all clear on Monday. [Miami Herald, CNN]


F-35 fighter jets grounded due to mechanical deterioration

The U.S. Air Force on Friday announced it has grounded more than a dozen F-35 Joint Strike Fighters about a month after they were declared "combat ready." The planes were found to have "peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks," leaving residue in the fuel itself. The discovery was made during a routine maintenance check and found to affect 15 planes from one particular manufacturer subcontracted by Lockheed Martin. The F-35 is at this point notorious for apparently endless delays, errors, and cost overruns. It is expected to be the priciest single defense project in history. [Defense News, CNN]


Virginia Woolf playwright Edward Albee dies at 88

Acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, perhaps best known for Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?, died Friday at his home in Montauk, New York. He was 88 years old. Hailed by many as the most significant playwright of his generation, Albee debuted on Broadway with Virginia Woolf in 1962, winning a Tony Award for best play and a film adaptation. He continued writing well into his later years. "Mr. Albee has unsparingly considered subjects outside the average theatergoer’s comfort zone," wrote The New York Times' Ben Brantley, "the capacity for sadism and violence within American society; the fluidness of human identity; the dangerous irrationality of sexual attraction and, always, the irrefutable presence of death." [NPR, The New York Times]


White House offers $1.2 million settlement to Italian drone strike victim

The White House has agreed to pay 1 million euros — about $1.2 million — to the family of Giovanni Lo Porto, a 37-year-old Italian aid worker who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2015 while he was being held hostage by al Qaeda. Warren Weinstein, an American, was also killed in the attack. The money is legally labeled as a "donation," not as compensation for Lo Porto's death, and a representative of the U.S. embassy in Rome declined to say whether a similar payment was made to Weinstein's family. "I will not see my son at home with his smile," Lo Porto's mother said after the payment was announced. "They took my precious son and they also killed me. Now all that remains for me is to wait until the last day of my life for divine, not earthly, justice." [The Guardian, Newsweek]


Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan to headline Prince tribute concert Oct. 13

On Oct. 13, purple rain will once again fall in Minnesota, when the official tribute concert to late musical icon Prince takes place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The show boasts several high-profile acts, including Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and Christina Aguilera; and while 15 acts were announced Friday, more performers may be revealed in coming weeks. "It's about celebrating [Prince's] life and music and bringing people together and love for Prince," said L. Londell McMillan, one of the show's organizers. "This is a classic all-star salute." Prince died April 21 due to an accidental overdose at the age of 57. [Star Tribune]