Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 14, 2019

Harold Maass
Turkish-backed fighters in Syria
BAKR ALKASEM/AFP via Getty Images


Hunter Biden to step down from Chinese firm

Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, said Sunday he was resigning from his position on the board of a Chinese-backed private equity firm. The decision came after President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and members of the Trump administration accused the Bidens of corruption related to Hunter's foreign business ties. Hunter Biden will "readily comply" with any guidelines "a President Biden may issue to address purported conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such conflicts," his attorney, George Misers, said in the statement. "In any event," Misers said, "Hunter will agree to not serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign owned companies." [The Washington Post, Bloomberg]


Kurds strike deal with Russia-backed Syrian government

The Kurdish-led militia that fought alongside U.S. troops against the Islamic State has reached a protection deal with the Russia-allied Syrian government. The alliance-shifting agreement came after President Trump's decision to move American forces out of northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to launch an assault against the Kurds, whom Ankara considers terrorists. Under the protection agreement, announced Sunday, Syrian government troops will be able to enter Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria for the first time in years, The New York Times reported. The Syrian government on Sunday said it would fight the "Turkish aggression." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops had taken control of about 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria. [The New York Times]


U.S. to evacuate all 1,000 troops from northern Syria

The U.S. is "preparing to evacuate" all 1,000 American troops from northern Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday on CBS News' Face the Nation. The statement came as Turkey expanded its military attacks on U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in the region. Before the offensive, President Trump announced the U.S. was moving about 50 Americans who were embedded with Kurdish-led militia, who helped defeat the Islamic State in the area. The decision to extend the withdrawal to cover all U.S. troops in Syria came after Turkey expanded the offensive and the situation deteriorated, raising the risk American forces would get caught in crossfire. More than 100,000 refugees have fled the violence. Hundreds of ISIS family members and supporters reportedly escaped a holding camp shelled by Turkey. [CBS News, The Associated Press]


Schiff says whistleblower might not need to testify

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) suggested Sunday that the whistleblower who called attention to President Trump's push to have Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden might not testify to Congress due to safety concerns. Trump has doubled down on his demand to know the person's identity, and Democrats have said they feared that Trump's Republican allies in Congress might try to unmask the whistleblower. Schiff said the whistleblower's testimony might not be necessary in the House's impeachment inquiry, because Congress now has a rough transcript of the call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden as a "favor." "Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected," Schiff said on Face the Nation. [Politico]


Family demands answers after Texas cop kills woman in her home

The family of Atatiana Jefferson — a 28-year-old black woman fatally shot in her home by a white Fort Worth, Texas, police officer — demanded to know why the officer fired through a window without announcing himself as police. "There was no reason for her to be murdered," family attorney Lee Merritt said Sunday after viewing police bodycam video of the Saturday shooting. Officers went to the house after a neighbor requested a welfare check after seeing the front door was open. The Fort Worth Police Department said the officer saw someone near a window and perceived a threat. A gun was found in the house but police have not said whether Jefferson, who was in the house with her 8-year-old nephew, was holding it. [The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press]


Correspondents condemn video of fake Trump shooting critics

During a three-day conference held by the pro-Trump group American Priority last week, a video was shown depicting a fake President Trump gunning down, stabbing, and assaulting members of the media and political rivals, The New York Times reported Sunday. The conference was held at Trump National Doral Miami, and the footage was recorded by an attendee, who passed it along to the Times through an intermediary. The conference's organizer, Alex Phillips, told the Times the clip was played as part of an exhibit on memes, and the matter is "under review." Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) attended the event. The White House Correspondents' Association was "horrified" by the video and condemned it, the group's president said. [The New York Times, Reuters]


Report: China wants more talks before signing trade pact

China wants to hold more talks with the U.S. before signing the first phase of an agreement designed to end the 15-month trade war between the world's two largest economies, Bloomberg News reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. The talks could take place later this month. One of the sources said Beijing wants the U.S. to cancel tariff hikes President Trump has scheduled for December, in addition to those that were planned for this week. The two sides reached an agreement in principle during last week's high-level talks to delay the next tariff hike, increase Chinese agricultural purchases, and address some concerns about foreign currency levels and intellectual property. [Bloomberg, MarketWatch]


Death toll rises from Typhoon Hagibis in Japan

The death toll from Typhoon Hagibis in Japan climbed to 42 on Sunday, with another 15 people missing. The storm had winds of 90 miles per hour with gusts up to 120 mph, but its rains caused most of the damage. Hagibis' record rainfall caused widespread flooding as it crashed through a wide section of Japan's main island of Honshu after coming ashore near Tokyo. More than 20 rivers overflowed, flooding more than 1,000 homes. The storm, which at one point prompted the government to tell 8 million people to evacuate, sank a Panama-registered cargo ship that was anchored near Tokyo. Five crew members were confirmed dead, and three others were missing. About 200,000 homes remained without power on Sunday. [The Washington Post]


3 share Nobel economics prize for work on alleviating poverty

Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer won the Nobel Prize in economics "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Monday. The committee said the winners' research "involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions — for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health." Kremer and his colleagues used field experiments in the 1990s to test interventions on improving school results in Kenya. Banerjee and Duflo, who are married and work at MIT, followed with similar research in other countries, often working with Harvard's Kremer. "Our approach is to unpack the problems one by one, and examine them as scientifically as possible," said Duflo, the second woman and the youngest person to win the prize. [The Guardian, The Associated Press]


Biles becomes most decorated gymnast at world championships

Simone Biles set a record for the most medals won by a gymnast, male or female, at the world championships on Sunday with wins on the balance beam and floor exercise. Her latest two golds brought her total medal haul at the world championships to 25. The previous mark of 23 was set by Vitaly Scherbo at five world championships. Biles also extended her record for the most gold medals to 19. Biles pulled into a tie with Scherbo on Saturday when she won the vault title. This year marked the first time she won five gold medals at the world championships. [USA Today]