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10 things you need to know today: October 23, 2018

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Harold Maass
A group of migrants in Guatemala
ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP/Getty Images
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1.

Erdogan says Khashoggi case can't be resolved under 'armor of immunity'

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Tuesday followed up on his promise to reveal the "naked truth" regarding the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying that a team including Saudi generals had flown to Turkey to carry out the "savage" murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan said in his much-anticipated speech that he would call on King Salman of Saudi Arabia to let the case be adjudicated in Turkey. He argued that under the Vienna Convention the murder can't be allowed to "be concealed behind the armor of immunity." Saudi Arabia, which at first denied the killing, now says Khashoggi's death was accidental and that the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, did not authorize the operation. [The New York Times]

2.

Trump vows to cut aid to Central American nations over migrant caravan

President Trump on Monday escalated his threats against the Central American nations from which migrants are traveling toward the U.S. in a giant caravan. Trump claimed without evidence that "unknown Middle Easterners" and "criminals" are "mixed in" with the estimated 7,000 migrants. Trump vowed that the U.S. "will begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to" Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, blaming them for failing to stop the caravan before it entered Mexico, the last country between the caravan and the southern U.S. border. He also has threatened to close the U.S. border to keep out the migrants, who say they are fleeing unemployment and violence. [Donald J. Trump, NBC News]

3.

'Potentially catastrophic' Hurricane Willa nears Mexico's Pacific coast

Mexico is bracing for a Tuesday strike from Hurricane Willa, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit its Pacific coast. Willa strengthened into a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm on Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour, but it weakened slightly as it approached the shore between Mazatlan and San Blas, with its top sustained winds falling to 130 mph. "While gradual weakening is forecast today (Tuesday), Willa is expected to be a dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the coast of Mexico," the National Hurricane Center said. Forecasts predict a dangerous storm surge and as much as 12 inches of rain in some parts of western Jalisco, western Nayarit, and southern Sinaloa states, which could cause landslides and flooding. [CNN, National Hurricane Center]

4.

Mnuchin meets with Saudi crown prince

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday met with Saudi Arabia's embattled de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during a tour of the Middle East. Mnuchin had said he would meet with Saudi officials to discuss counterterrorism, but he bailed out of a high-profile Saudi investment conference due to the escalating criticism of the crown prince and other Saudi leaders over the apparent killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Arabia at first claimed it didn't know what happened to Khashoggi, then said he was killed in a fistfight inside the consulate in a "rogue operation." Turkey says it has evidence Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad, and some of the suspects are linked to the crown prince, who denies any involvement. [The Associated Press]

5.

Saudi investment conference kicks off after corporate exodus

Saudi Arabia's big investment conference opened on Tuesday after an exodus of corporate leaders concerned about connections between Saudi leaders and the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been a focus of suspicion due to reports of his ties to some of the suspects, reportedly abruptly canceled plans to speak at the event, dubbed "Davos in the desert." The crown prince denies ordering a hit on Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. The Riyadh event is part of the crown prince's effort to modernize the country's oil-dependent economy. Despite the lack of big names, more junior executives from many companies that backed out will be on hand to discuss business opportunities in the kingdom. [CNN, The New York Times]

6.

Trump announces plan for another tax cut

President Trump on Monday announced that he would propose a tax cut "of about 10 percent" next week for the middle class. He offered few details, but said Congress would vote on the plan soon. "We'll do the vote after the election," Trump said before traveling to Texas, reaffirming his intentions after first mentioning the tax cut on Saturday. Republican congressional leaders referred questions on the tax cut back to the White House, appearing to have been surprised by Trump's announcement. Congress passed a major tax cut package last year, including a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, but there are no current proposals on Capitol Hill for further reductions. Nonpartisan analyses found last year's cuts mostly benefited the wealthy. [The Washington Post]

7.

Bolton meets with Russian counterpart after Trump threat to scrap treaty

National Security Adviser John Bolton met with his Russian counterpart on Monday, less than 48 hours after President Trump said he would withdraw the U.S. from a landmark 1987 nuclear weapons treaty because Moscow had violated it. Bolton and Russian Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev discussed arms control agreements, but also Syria, Iran, North Korea, and counterterrorism. Patrushev stressed that it was important to maintain the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and reaffirmed Russia's "readiness for joint work to consider mutual complaints regarding the treaty's implementation," the Security Council said. In its statement, the Security Council also said that ditching the treaty "would deal a serious blow to the entire international system of nuclear non-proliferation and arms control." [The Associated Press]

8.

North and South Korea agree to ease tensions in DMZ

North and South Korea committed Monday to ending "all hostile acts" in the demilitarized zone that separates them, and agreed to remove all firearms from a Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, a former village in the DMZ now used for diplomatic meetings. Guard postings will be reduced in Panmunjom, and land mines are already being removed from the area. The fresh steps toward normalizing relations between the two governments also include a plan to share information on their surveillance equipment in the DMZ. "We discussed the timeline of the pullout of firearms and guard posts, as well as ways to adjust the number of guard personnel and conduct joint inspections," South Korea's defense ministry said in a statement Monday. [Reuters, The Korea Herald]

9.

Explosive device discovered outside George Soros' home

Police in New York's Westchester County on Monday recovered and "proactively detonated" a suspicious device discovered in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist and conservative bĂȘte noire George Soros. The Bedford Police Department said it has handed over the investigation to the FBI. An employee of the residence "opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device," the police said in a statement. "The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police." Soros, a major donor to progressive causes and frequent target of anti-Semitic smears and conspiracy theories, wasn't home at the time. Right-wing trolls regularly tweet out his home address and threats. [The New York Times]

10.

Mega Millions jackpot hits record $1.6 billion

The Mega Millions lottery jackpot has reached a record $1.6 billion ahead of Tuesday night's drawing. The semi-weekly prize has been ballooning since July 24, and had reached $1 billion ahead of Friday night's drawing, when, again, nobody picked all six winning numbers. It is likely someone will win on Tuesday, as 75 percent of the 302 million possible combinations will be chosen by then, based on sales projections. Roughly 57 percent of the combinations had been chosen before Friday's drawing. "Mega Millions has already entered historic territory, but it's truly astounding to think that now the jackpot has reached an all-time world record," said Gordon Medenica, lead director of the Mega Millions Group and director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming. [Reuters, The Washington Post]