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10 things you need to know today: October 21, 2017

U.S.-backed fighters declare 'total liberation' of former ISIS capital Raqqa, House Republicans negotiate budget bill, and more


U.S.-backed fighters declare 'total liberation' of former ISIS capital Raqqa

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces on Friday declared the "total liberation" of Raqqa, Syria, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. SDF fighters formally turned control of the devastated city over to a civilian council, though the Kurdish-led coalition will continue to police and sweep the city for ISIS holdouts and explosives in days to come. The SDF completed military operations on Tuesday, and it held the Friday ceremony in the sports stadium ISIS had used as a weapons depot, prison, and the site of its last stand before defeat.


House Republicans negotiate budget bill

After the Senate on Thursday approved the GOP budget plan 51-49, House Republicans are considering whether to pass the Senate version as-is to accelerate their tax reform agenda. The conservative House Freedom Caucus on Friday agreed to back the Senate bill if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will first pledge to schedule a floor vote on taxes by the second week in November. Ryan has said he intends to complete tax reform by "early November," but many on the Hill consider that schedule deeply unrealistic. President Trump addressed the situation on Twitter Friday and Saturday, decrying Democratic opposition, complaining of inadequate media coverage, and promising historic tax cuts soon.


Mattis mulls expanded military action in Africa after Niger attack

Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, a conversation in which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reports Mattis said he is mulling expanded U.S. military action in Africa in the wake of the attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers. "The war is morphing," Graham said. "You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you're going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less." Meanwhile, other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have argued the Niger incident highlights the need to reconsider the broad war-making authority the executive branch has claimed in the post-9/11 era.


Video suggests Kelly mischaracterized congresswoman's 2015 FBI speech

Video of Rep. Frederica Wilson's (D-Fla.) speech at the dedication of an FBI building in 2015 apparently shows that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly mischaracterized her remarks during a press conference Thursday. In addition to skewering Wilson for sharing the details of a phone call between President Trump and the widow of a U.S. service member killed in Niger, Kelly claimed Wilson once "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for" the FBI building. In the video, Wilson takes credit for naming the building but does not claim to have secured its funding.


White House says it is 'highly inappropriate' to question Kelly

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday strongly discouraged questions about Chief of Staff John Kelly's mischaracterization of Rep. Frederica Wilson's (D-Fla.) 2015 speech. "If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that's up to you," Sanders said. "But I think that, if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate." In later comments to CNN, Sanders backtracked, saying "everyone can be questioned" but that "impugning" Kelly's "credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate." President Trump said on Twitter Saturday Wilson is "Wacky" and "killing the Democrat Party!"


Trump talks social media strategy in Fox interview

President Trump addressed his rationale for his social media habits in a Friday transcript of an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. "Tweeting is like a typewriter — when I put it out, you put it immediately on your show," he said. "I mean, the other day, I put something out, two seconds later I am watching your show, it's up." Trump said his Twitter account is an important way to spread his views, manipulate lawmakers, and keep the public's attention. "When somebody says something about me," he explained, "I am able to go 'bing, bing, bing' and I take care of it." The interview will air on FBN Sunday and Monday.


Bannon: Bush 'embarrassed himself'

Ousted White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon attacked fellow Republican former President George W. Bush while speaking at the California GOP convention banquet Friday evening. "There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's," Bannon said, arguing that Bush "embarrassed himself" with a "high falutin" speech in New York City on Thursday. Bush's talk did not mention President Trump by name, but its decrial of "discourse degraded by casual cruelty" was widely regarded as a critique of Trump. Bush "has no earthly idea of whether he's coming or going," Bannon added Friday, "just like it was when he was president."


Study: Body cameras don't change police behavior

A study by the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., found the use of body-worn cameras had no significant effect on police use of force. Lab @ DC, a policy research group within the administration of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), partnered with the MPD to randomly assign cameras to about 2,600 officers. The study found no indication that officers outfitted with cameras acted any differently, used less force, or received fewer citizen complaints. The results are a disappointment to both law enforcement and community activists who were hopeful the technology could increase police accountability.


Police arrest 3 who allegedly shot at protesters at white supremacist speech

Police in Gainesville, Florida, on Friday said they arrested three men and charged them with attempted homicide for shooting at protesters of a Thursday speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida. The men — Tyler Tenbrink, William Fears, and Colt Fears — drove to Gainesville from Texas to see Spencer talk. They allegedly confronted a small group of protesters at a bus stop after the event, chanting Nazi slogans and shooting into the group. The protesters were not injured. Several hours before the attack, William Fears told CNN the protesters "don't have to fear us" because only the left is violent.


Orionid meteor shower to dazzle skywatchers this weekend

Stargazers are in for a treat this weekend thanks to the Orionid meteor shower, which is set to be particularly dazzling because it coincides with low levels of moonlight. The Orionids are left-behind fragments of Halley's Comet, which won't be visible from Earth again until 2061. Viewers in the eastern and southwestern U.S. will have the clearest skies for meteor-watching, with the best viewing between midnight and dawn. The Orionid meteor shower is one of the fastest and brightest we can see from Earth, as its trajectory hits the planet almost head-on.


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