Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 9, 2021

U.S., Taliban officials to talk in Qatar, McConnell tells Biden that GOP won't help raise debt ceiling again, and more

1

U.S., Taliban officials to talk in Qatar

Representatives from the United States will hold formal talks in Doha, Qatar, with senior Taliban officials on Saturday and Sunday for the first time since American forces completed a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. Officials from both sides confirmed the discussions, which will reportedly include topics like containing extremist groups in Afghanistan and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans who are still in the country and seeking to leave. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also told The Associated Press the talks will revisit the agreement the group signed with the Trump administration in 2020 that cleared the way for the U.S. exit. Fighting terrorism will likely be a major focus, however, and the talks will take place just a day after the Islamic State's affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed nearly 50 people at a mosque in the northern part of the country.

2

McConnell tells Biden that GOP won't help raise debt ceiling again

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday sent a letter to President Biden in which he said Republicans will not aid Democrats again in raising the nation's debt ceiling after a handful of GOP lawmakers broke a filibuster to advance a temporary lift, which eventually passed along a party line vote, earlier this week. In the letter, McConnell criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for launching into a "rant" against Republicans after the vote, saying that his counterpart's words "only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate this short-term patch." Schumer had said that Republicans "played a dangerous and risky partisan game" by pushing the issue of the debt ceiling to the brink.

3

Biden rejects Trump effort to withhold Jan. 6 records

In a letter to the National Archives, White House Counsel Dana Remus blocked former President Donald Trump's attempt to withhold documents that were requested by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, explaining, "President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents." The White House counsel cited "unique and extraordinary circumstances," saying that executive privilege protections "should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that asserting executive privilege over this first set of documents "is not warranted." This decision applies to a set of documents that was previously identified by the National Archives and shared with Trump's legal team in September, CNN reports.

4

Jobs report disappoints again with 194,000 additions in September

The Labor Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy added 194,000 jobs in September. Economists expected the figure to be around 500,000. The unemployment rate declined 0.4 percentage points to 4.8 percent. "Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade, and in transportation and warehousing," the Labor Department said. This comes after the U.S. jobs report for August also came in significantly under expectations. The Labor Department said last month that 235,000 jobs were added in August when economists had expected around 720,000, though this number was revised on Friday to 366,000. Both reports came amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States driven by the more contagious Delta variant. Infections have since started to decline.

5

Xi says peaceful 'reunification' with Taiwan must happen

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday said that "reunification" with Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, must be fulfilled. Xi suggested the process should happen peacefully and did not mention possibly using force to bring Taiwan into Beijing's fold despite recent displays of aggression in the country's air defense zone. However, he did say that "no one should underestimate the Chinese people's staunch determination, firm will, and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," adding that "Taiwan independence separatism is the biggest obstacle to achieving the reunification of the motherland, and the most serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation." The Taiwanese government did not respond positively to the remarks, with President Tsai Ing-wen's office reaffirming its sovereignty and vowing that "the nation's future rests in the hands of Taiwan's people."

6

Appeals court reinstates Texas abortion law

A United States court of appeals on Friday ruled that Texas' law that bans most abortions after six weeks should be temporarily reinstated after a federal judge blocked its implementation earlier this week. The Biden administration filed an emergency motion to stop Texas from enforcing the law, which allows private citizens to sue anyone they believe helped a woman obtain an abortion, in September, and a judge eventually ordered an injunction, writing that the Constitutional right to "obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well-established." At the same time, the judge acknowledged Texas could appeal the decision, which the state's Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly did.

7

Brazil becomes 2nd country to surpass 600,000 COVID-19 deaths

Brazil on Friday became the second country after the United States to surpass the grim milestone of 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, data from John Hopkins University shows. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been one of the more controversial national leaders throughout the pandemic, and he is frequently criticized for downplaying the risk of the coronavirus and refusing to get vaccinated.  There is hope Brazil has largely turned the corner, however, thanks to a solid vaccination rate — more than 70 percent of Brazilians have received their first dose of a shot. Cases are also down 80 percent from their peak in April, despite the arrival of the more contagious Delta variant.

8

Nearly 140 countries agree to global tax overhaul

Nearly 140 countries on Friday agreed to a plan that sets a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent in an attempt to curb tax avoidance from multinational corporations. The agreement is not binding, however, as it rests on lawmakers in the 136 countries that signed the pact to actually implement the minimum rate. The effort could certainly hit some roadblocks, including in U.S. Congress. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is a firm supporter of the minimum, arguing it will help the government pay for the expanded child tax credit and climate-change initiatives, among other policies touted by the Biden administration. Three lower-tax countries that had previously rejected the idea — Ireland, Estonia, and Hungary — came around to support the agreement, though there are still holdouts, including Nigeria, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

9

2 fathers convicted in first university admissions scandal trial

Gamal Aziz and John Wilson, the first parents to stand trial for their alleged role in the heavily-publicized university admissions scandal, were found guilty of bribery and fraud charges on Friday. The two men, who paid bribes to have their children falsely described as successful athletes so they could be accepted by elite universities, could face up to 20 years in jail. Their sentencing is scheduled for February. More than 50 parents (including some high profile celebrities), coaches, and school administrators are facing federal charges, though several have pleaded guilty rather than stand trial. Both Aziz and Wilson, who are expected to appeal their verdicts, argued that they had been duped by the mastermind of the plan, William Singer, and did not know the money they gave him would be used for bribes.

10

Trump to return to Iowa

Former President Donald Trump is taking his "most affirmative step yet" toward a potential 2024 White House run by visiting Iowa this weekend, a "crucial state on the nominating calendar," for the first time since leaving office, writes The Wall Street Journal. Trump will hold a rally in the state on Saturday evening, amidst "mixed feelings" from Republicans there about a possible bid, reports the Journal. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll released earlier this week indicated Trump has higher favorability in the state than when he was president, "with 53 percent of Iowans — including 91 percent of Republicans — viewing him positively," writes the Journal. The survey did not ask Republicans if they want Trump to run again.

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