10 things you need to know today: October 10, 2021
U.S., Taliban to continue talks, Trump vows to 'take America back' in return to Iowa, and more
U.S., Taliban to continue talks
The United States and the Taliban will continue talks in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday. U.S. officials have said the discussions do not mean Washington is recognizing the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government. Details about Saturday's meeting remain mostly under wraps, though the Taliban's Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said in a statement that his delegation "highlighted that Afghanistan should be assisted" in a vaccination campaign against COVID-19. He added that the Taliban "made it clear" to the U.S. team, which is headed by Deputy CIA Director David Cohen, "that destabilizing Afghanistan and weakening … the Afghan government is in the interest of no one." Other topics reportedly on the table are the safe passage out of Afghanistan for Americans and at risk-Afghans who remain in the country, as well as fighting extremism. On the last point, the Taliban has said it won't work with the U.S. to combat the Islamic State.
Trump vows to 'take America back' in return to Iowa
Former President Donald Trump held a rally in Iowa on Saturday, marking his first visit to the state — which is home to the first primary caucuses in presidential election years — since he lost his bid for re-election in November 2020. Trump once again did not announce that he would make another run at the White House in 2024, but took aim at President Biden and congressional Democrats during a speech that lasted longer than 90 minutes. "We're going to take America back," he told the crowd. Trump also looked backward, repeating false claims that the 2020 election was "rigged." Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was in attendance and received Trump's endorsement for re-election.
Taiwanese president says country won't bow to Chinese pressure
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday said during a defiant speech that "there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure" from China, which is seeking to bring Taiwan into its fold. On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said peaceful reunification must happen, and throughout the last week, Beijing flew dozens of military jets into Taiwan's national air defense zone in an attempt to intimidate the island it claims as its territory. Tsai said Taiwan will continue to bolster its defenses, though she added that she wants tensions to ease and clarified that her government will not "act rashly." Xi's government has refused to deal with Tsai despite her offer to talk.
Lebanon shuts down 2 main state power plants
Lebanon is now effectively without state-provided electricity after the country's two main power plants went out of commission on Saturday. The Deir Ammar and Zahrani plants had been generating very limited electricity in recent months because of a diesel fuel shortage, Al Jazeera reports. Videos of Beirut show the city in nearly total darkness at night, while protests popped up around Lebanon. Authorities are reportedly scrambling to secure fuel from their reserve stock, and one shipment that was expected to arrive Saturday night will be unloaded early next week, with another on its way later this month. The fuel shortage has exacerbated Lebanon's economic and health care crises.
Austrian chancellor steps down amid corruption allegations
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Saturday announced he would step down in the wake of accusations of corruption. Kurz, the leader of Austria's moderate conservative People's Party, maintains that the allegations against him are false, and he's "convinced that I will be able to clarify the matter." But he acknowledged he had little choice to resign from his post because his coalition partner, the Greens, have indicated they would no longer support the government with him at the helm. That said, it appears Kurz will remain in charge of the People's Party and attempt a comeback before too long. The corruption claims suggest Kurz was part of a conspiracy that illicitly channeled taxpayers' money from Austria's finance ministry toward friendly media organizations in 2016 and 2017 when he was foreign minister. If true, that would indicate Kurz was buying positive press coverage, which could have helped push him into the chancellorship.
Iraqis vote in early parliamentary election
Iraqis headed to the polls to elect a parliament on Sunday. The vote is taking place a year earlier than planned in response to a popular uprising in Baghdad and Iraq's southern provinces in late 2019, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against corruption, poor services, and high unemployment numbers. Those protests ended violently, with security forces firing live rounds at the crowds, though authorities did ultimately adhere to the calls for early elections. Despite encouragement to participate, there are concerns that Sunday will see lower turnout than the last elections in 2018, when only 44 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. Per The Associated Press, streets were mostly deserted as of midday. Many Iraqis have said they were intentionally boycotting the process.
Czech opposition coalition narrowly defeats ruling party
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis' centrist party suffered a surprising defeat in Saturday's parliamentary election, with center-right and liberal opposition groups eking out a narrow victory. That means Babis, a billionaire with populist politics, could lose power, though it's not a given. The liberal-conservative coalition took home nearly 28 percent of the vote, while Babis' ANO party finished in second at just over 27 percent. Another opposition coalition, Pirates and Mayors, reeled in more than 15 percent, and will begin talks on forming the next government. Babis conceded defeat. Following the vote, Czech President Milos Zeman, who is 77, was taken to the hospital on Sunday morning for unspecified reasons. In the Czech Republic, the president is involved in the discussions to form a government and can ultimately appoint anyone as prime minister.
U.S. general who commanded forces in Iraq dies at 67
Retired Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who commanded American and coalition forces during the Iraq War, has died, his family said Saturday. He was 67. In a statement, his family said Odierno had been battling cancer. Odierno served three separate tours in Iraq. In 2003-04 he was the commander of the 4th infantry division. During that period he faced some criticism for overly-aggressive tactics that were viewed as spurring an insurgency. He returned in 2006 for two years as commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, and in 2008 took over as the top overall American and coalition commander in Baghdad, a position he held until combat wound down in 2010. He retired from service in 2015.
Performer killed in on-stage accident at Moscow's Bolshoi
A performer at Moscow's famous Bolshoi Theatre was killed on Saturday as a result of an on-stage accident during an opera, the theater said. The incident reportedly occurred during a set change. "The opera was immediately stopped and the audience was asked to leave," the theater said. Investigators are probing the circumstances surrounding the death — at the moment, reporting from Russian news sources have not pinned down what caused the accident. The victim was reportedly a 37-year-old man, but the theater did not disclose his identity.
Texas A&M stuns No. 1 Alabama
Unranked Texas A&M stunned the college football world on Saturday night, defeating No. 1 Alabama 41-38 on a last-second field goal by kicker Seth Small. The Crimson Tide had won 100 straight games against unranked opponents, the longest streak of its kind since the weekly Associated Press rankings have been around. Alabama had also won 19 straight games, including last season's national championship. The Aggies, meanwhile, entered the season with high expectations only to lose two games early, all but eliminating them from SEC and playoff contention. The win probably won't change that, but it's significant for the program, either way.