September 10, 2014

President Obama on Wednesday delivered a prime time address from the White House laying out a strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL" — also commonly known as ISIS.

Obama laid out a four-point plan involving:

1. An air campaign against ISIS — including areas of Syria, plus an expansion of the U.S.'s strikes within Iraq.

2. Increased support to the Iraqi Defense Forces — with an additional 475 American service members being sent to Iraq. "As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq," Obama insisted. "But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence, and equipment."

On this point, Obama also asked Congress for authorization to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters, rather than working with the Assad regime in Syria's civil war: "In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost."

3. The use of American counter-terrorism infrastructure to prevent ISIS attacks, cut off the group's funding, and to "counter its warped ideology."

4. Continuing to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians who have been caught in the conflict, including both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as Christians and other minority religious groups.

Obama also stated that there was a "broad coalition" of partners, and a continued American diplomatic effort in this project:

Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid. Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity, and in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria to drive these terrorists from their lands. This is American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity. [Obama] Eric Kleefeld

5:49 p.m.

President Trump's campaign isn't letting up on its request for another presidential debate. And to make the job easier, it has a list of potential hosts already picked out.

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign yet again called for a fourth, earlier presidential debate between the incumbent and former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, arguing the first debate scheduled for Oct. 22 will come after many Americans have already voted early. The campaign submitted 24 people it would like to see moderate the proposed September debate along with that request, and nearly half of them work for Fox News.

Along with the Fox News hosts, many of whom have been constantly sympathetic to and even supportive of Trump in the past, the list includes other members of the conservative media who've supported Trump as well. And to round it all off, there are a few high-profile journalists from ABC News, CBS News, and a few other major outlets.

This isn't Trump's first attempt to get another debate on the schedule, though he previously tasked Rudy Giuliani with advocating for a free-for-all, moderator-less debate where Trump and Biden ask each other the questions. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:44 p.m.

Students at a Georgia high school that went viral this week after a photo of its crowded, mostly mask-less hallways on the first day of school surfaced online told BuzzFeed News they had little choice to attend class in person despite the coronavirus pandemic.

One North Paulding High School student's parents were prepared to keep him home after seeing the photo, but when his mother spoke to the school she learned students who chose to stay home because of concerns over the virus could face expulsion or suspension, BuzzFeed reports.

A parent of a student at a nearby school said she tried to enroll her daughter in the Paulding County School District's virtual learning option, but wound up on the waiting list after it filled up and was told her daughter "would be withdrawn" from the school if she didn't show up in person.

Per BuzzFeed, many parents, students, and teachers at North Paulding High School — where there are reports of positive coronavirus cases among students and staff — are concerned about the situation and think it's irresponsible in-person learning is back in session, but others are in favor, noting that virtual distancing is a challenge for many families. Read more at BuzzFeed News. Tim O'Donnell

4:55 p.m.

In a summer largely without sports, one team is making a triumphant return to entertain you: The U.S. Army esports team.

The team took a brief hiatus from streaming their Call of Duty games on Twitch in July, after a First Amendment controversy when commenters asking about war crimes were banned.

Now, they are reinstating access to the accounts that were previously banned for what the army calls "harassing and degrading behavior." The team is establishing clarified guidelines and will resume streaming soon, the Army told Vice.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force have esports teams, often used as recruitment measures, but the Marines do not have a team. This is "in part to the belief that the brand and issues associated with combat are too serious to be 'gamified' in a responsible manner," Marine Corps Recruiting Command wrote, reports Vice.

The sentiment was echoed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) last week as she defended a proposed amendment to stop the military from using games as a recruiting method, which the House ultimately blocked. "War is not a game," Ocasio-Cortez said. "We can not conflate war and military service with this kind of gamified format."

A specific date has not been set for the U.S. Army esports team's return to Twitch, but they said it will be in the "near future." Taylor Watson

4:54 p.m.

The Pentagon is distancing itself from President Trump's claims about the Beirut blast that killed more than 100 people.

Trump on Tuesday said his unnamed "great generals" told him they thought the massive explosion was a "terrible attack." In the early aftermath, there was speculation that the catastrophe was intentional, but it the consensus quickly became that it was almost certainly accidental — albeit brought on by neglect and mismanagement — and not linked to any foreign power, proxy forces, or terrorist organizations. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other department officials affirmed they believe it was an accident, as well.

The president hasn't repeated his claim from Tuesday, possibly indicating he understands there was no basis for it. But that's what's raised some eyebrows, considering he said he got the information from unnamed high-ranking military officials. A senior Pentagon official, however, told The Associated Press on Wednesday they had "no idea" what Trump was referring to with his comment, leaving some to wonder if it came out of thin air. Tim O'Donnell

3:42 p.m.

A security vulnerability in Twitter for Android could have allowed attackers to access some users' direct messages, the company has disclosed.

Twitter on Wednesday said it has fixed a vulnerability in the Android app that for some users "could allow an attacker, through a malicious app installed on your device, to access private Twitter data on your device (like direct messages), by working around Android system permissions that protect against this." This was "related to an underlying Android OS security issue" on Android OS versions 8 and 9, the company said.

Twitter said it believes 96 percent of Android users have a patch protecting them from the vulnerability, and it doesn't have evidence that attackers actually exploited the flaw, but the company adds it "can't be completely sure" of that. It's sending notifications to the users who may have been affected, requiring them to update the Android app, and promising to identify "changes to our processes to better guard against issues like this."

This disclosure from Twitter comes after the company last month grappled with a massive hack, in which high-profile accounts including those belonging to former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden were taken over to promote a Bitcoin scam. The company said that 130 accounts were targeted, and the attackers accessed direct messages on "up to 36" of them, including that of an elected official in the Netherlands. Brendan Morrow

3:15 p.m.

More than 100 foreign policy experts — including former White House officials in Reagan, (both) Bush, Clinton, Obama, and Trump administrations — laid out six proposals for how the United States should alter its relationship with Russia in an open letter published by Politico on Tuesday.

The letter calls for squelching Russian interference in U.S. elections, while also engaging with Moscow about the matter through negotiations "out of the public square." Another top priority, the signatories believe, is for the White House and Congress to restore "normal diplomatic contacts" with Russia after several were shuttered following the Crimea invasion in 2014. "Too often we wrongly consider diplomatic contacts as a reward for good behavior, but they are about promoting our interests and delivering tough messages," the letter reads.

The other ideas include taking on a dual leadership role with Moscow in nuclear arms control, focusing on "three-way cooperation" between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing, and emphasizing that even in areas of genuine disagreement between the countries — like Ukraine and Syria — "measured and phased steps" are key to improving the "overall relationship."

Finally, the letter argues that Washington's sanction strategy needs to change. While, the signatories agree sanctions should remain part of the U.S.'s Russia policy, they need to be more flexible so they can be "eased quickly" should Russia engage productively in negotiations. At the moment, Moscow lacks the incentive to change course even in the face of sanctions, the letter says, because it considers U.S. sanctions "permanent." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

3:08 p.m.

Facebook has finally gotten around to fact-checking President Trump's claims — except those that come up in his political ads.

In recent campaign ads on Facebook, Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed former Vice President Joe Biden wants to "defund the police." Facebook's own fact checkers have correctly flagged the ads as untrue, but because it's coming from a political figure, Facebook isn't doing anything about it, The Washington Post reports.

Facebook relies on a network of independent fact checking groups to determine whether to flag misinformation on its site, and among at least five fact checkers, there was no question Trump's ad was false. After all, Biden had explicitly said he does not support that movement. But more than 1,400 ads claiming Biden did want to defund the police, costing between $350,000 and $553,000, still went out to Facebook viewers and were seen at least 22.5 million times, the Post reports via Facebook's ad network. None of them had any indication that Trump's ad contained a false message because politicians aren't subject to Facebook's advertising rules about deception.

Facebook has always been resistant to fact checking anything on its platform, and only recently applied a misinformation warning to Trump's claims that mail-in voting will lead to fraudulent elections. It did remove one of Trump's ads in June as well, because it used a Nazi symbol and violated Facebook's "organized hate" guidelines. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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