Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 15, 2015

President Obama halts Afghan withdrawal, Blue Jays beat Rangers in wild seventh inning, and more

1

U.S. to halt Afghanistan withdrawal as Taliban surges

President Obama is expected to announce Thursday that the U.S. will halt its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending Obama's hope of bringing all American troops home before he leaves office in 2017. The shift came after the Taliban last month scored its biggest victory in 14 years of war by briefly taking control of the provincial capital of Kunduz. Under the revised plan, U.S. troop strength will remain at 9,800 until late 2016 or early 2017, before dropping to 5,500.

2

Walmart stock plunges after warning of earnings drop

Walmart shares fell by 10 percent Wednesday after the company warned that higher wages, lower prices, and online competition would cut per-share earnings by as much as 12 percent next fiscal year. A big part of the slip will come from a $1.5 billion investment in wages and training, including boosting minimum pay from $9 an hour to $10. The stock plunge — Walmart's sharpest one-day dive in 25 years — wiped out $20 billion in market value. The company previously had forecast modest sales growth next year.

3

Democratic debate breaks ratings record

The first Democratic primary debate Tuesday was the most watched Democratic debate in history, with 15.3 million viewers. The previous record of 10.7 million viewers was set in a 2008 clash on ABC between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The most-watched primary debate in history was this summer's GOP debate on Fox, which drew 24 million viewers. After the primaries, debates in presidential general election campaigns typically attract between 46 and 67 million viewers.

4

Activists briefly occupy Baltimore City Hall demanding greater police transparency

Baltimore police arrested 12 activists on trespassing charges for refusing to leave City Hall on Wednesday after the city's interim police commissioner, Kevin Davis, won formal long-term appointment to the job. The activists had vowed to stay in the building until Davis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake met with them to discuss greater transparency and accountability in the police department and city government. Some protesters left after police arrived, but at least 12 who didn't were led out by police.

5

Scottish nurse critically ill again 10 months after Ebola treatment

A Scottish nurse who recovered from Ebola 10 months ago is now back in a hospital and critically ill. The nurse, 39-year-old Pauline Cafferkey, was flown to London last week for treatment and her condition has deteriorated since then. Cafferkey was first diagnosed in January after returning from Sierra Leone. Her case underscored questions about the long-term effects of Ebola, and whether to expect new problems just when a West Africa outbreak that has killed more than 11,000 people appeared to be ending.

6

Judge blocks St. Louis minimum wage law

A judge on Wednesday struck down St. Louis' new minimum wage law hours before it was scheduled to take effect. The law would have pushed the local minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, 60 cents higher than the state minimum. St. Louis' minimum wage would have then increased further, reaching $9 on Jan. 1, $10 in 2017, and $11 in 2018. Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer said the local law was void because it clashed with the state's law. The city plans to appeal.

7

UC Berkeley professor to resign after sexual harassment allegations

Prominent University of California, Berkeley, astronomer Geoffrey Marcy is stepping down after multiple students accused him of sexual harassment. The university's investigation concluded that Marcy had sexually harassed female students over nine years. The school was facing complaints it was going too easy on Marcy. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and provost Claude Steele confirmed Marcy's resignation on Wednesday, saying it was appropriate given his "contemptible and inexcusable" conduct.

8

Government drops call for $92 million more for Exxon Valdez cleanup

Federal and Alaska officials on Wednesday are dropping a request for an additional $92 million from Exxon Mobil Corp. for remaining work to address environmental damage from the 11-million-gallon 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, according to court documents filed Wednesday. Exxon was ordered to pay $900 million in civil damages and $125 million in criminal fines and restitution under a 1991 settlement. In 2006, government officials requested the extra payment. Exxon refused, saying the cleanup had already led to an environmental recovery.

9

Blue Jays beat Rangers to advance in baseball playoffs

The Toronto Blue Jays advanced to the American League Championship Series on Wednesday, defeating the Texas Rangers 6-3 in Game 5 of their best-of-five division series. Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista clinched the victory for his team with a three-run homer in a wild, 53-minute seventh inning. The Blue Jays came back after losing the first two games at home. Next they will play in their first ALCS since 1993 against the Kansas City Royals, who defeated the Houston Astros on Wednesday behind a stellar outing by ace Johnny Cueto.

10

Lamar Odom in dire condition after being found unresponsive at Nevada brothel

Former NBA player and reality TV star Lamar Odom took cocaine and up to 10 sexual-performance supplement pills before he was found unresponsive in a Nevada brothel and rushed to a hospital, according to a 911 call released Wednesday. He has suffered brain damage and at least one stroke, sources told E!. Odom, 35, was on a ventilator early Thursday in a Las Vegas hospital. His father, his two children, and his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian were among family members who rushed to be by his side.

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