TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

Former top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin testifies today behind closed doors before the House Benghazi committee
A disgusting German hunter has paid nearly $40,000 to kill one of the the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe. Safari guides and conservationists are outraged. The magnificent animal was believed to have been between 40-60 years old (Telegraph) – warning – horrible picture if you click link


News Now

  • Aide: Biden “campaign from the heart”
  • Afghanistan: Obama slows troop withdrawal
  • Bombed Afghan hospital: Latest
  • Summer of 2016ers: $$$$ hauls
  • Trump holds Republican debate hostage
  • No Social Security increase: Millions to lose out
  • The drone papers : A leak
  • Netanyahu urges talks to calm violence
  • Faux Fox News “CIA terror analyst” arrested
Aide: Biden “Campaign From the Heart” (AP, CNN, me)
• VP Joe Biden would run an optimistic and unscripted “campaign from the heart” based on restoring middle-class opportunity, one of his top political advisers said Thursday, laying out for the first time the argument Biden would make if he runs for president (is that also a subtle jab at Clinton – that she’s all head and no heart – or just Joe being Joe?)
• Biden has personally made a series of calls this week to Democratic strategists from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, asking a final round of detailed questions about how – not whether – to launch a 2016 campaign. A senior Democratic official told CNN indications from Biden’s inner circle are that he’ll make a decision within the next three days
• Former Sen Ted Kaufman (D-De), one of Biden’s closest political advisers, said Biden would soon make a decision about whether to enter the race. In an email obtained by AP, Kaufman asked former staffers to stay in close contact and said Biden would need their help immediately if he enters the race
• “If he runs, he will run because of his burning conviction that we need to fundamentally change the balance in our economy and the political structure to restore the ability of the middle class to get ahead,” Kaufman said. “Everything he and the president have worked for – and care about – is at stake.” (so is he saying Obama hasn’t changed the balance in the economy? hmmm)
• Biden’s top consideration is the welfare and support of his family, Kaufman said. Kaufman said if Biden runs, he would mount a “campaign from the heart. A campaign consistent with his values, our values, and the values of the American people. And I think it’s fair to say, knowing him as we all do, that it won’t be a scripted affair – after all, it’s Joe.” (oh goody)


• President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye will hold a joint presser at the WH today at 1.40 pm ET. Earlier they will discuss “a broad range of security, economic and global issues,” according to the WH (TRNS)
Afghanistan: Obama Slows Pace of Troop Withdrawal (Politico, NYT, TRNS, me)
• In a significant reversal of a longstanding pledge, President Obama announced Thursday that 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2016 and when he leaves office in 2017, calling it the “best possibility for lasting progress” in the country (maybe more than 5,500 – or maybe let them get on with it – but middling seems piddling)
• “Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al Qaeda coming into Afghanistan, and we’ve seen the emergence of an ISIL presence. The bottom line is in key areas of the country, the security situation is very fragile, and there’s risk of deterioration,” Obama said at a presser on Thursday
• The overall mission will not change, Obama said. U.S. troops will continue to train Afghan troops (not going so well) and engage in counterterrorism activities to fight al Qaeda. “I do not support the idea of endless war,” Obama said, but added that a continued U.S. troop presence is necessary to protect American and Afghan interests
• After 2016, the plan is to work with NATO allies and partners, as well as continuing to support the Afghan govt. According to the plan, 9,800 troops will remain in the country through most of 2016, with that number dropping to 5,500 by early 2017. Military and govt officials would have liked more to beat back recent gains by the Taliban
• House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was “glad the admin finally admits President Obama’s arbitrary political deadlines are ‘self-defeating.”


Bombed Afghan Hospital: Latest (Guardian, AP, me)
• A U.S. tank has forced its way into the shell of the Afghanistan hospital destroyed in an airstrike 11 days ago, prompting warnings from Medecins Sans Frontieres that the U.S. military may have destroyed evidences in a potential war crimes investigation (that was the plan, maybe?). The 3 Oct attack in Kunduz killed 22 patients and staff
• U.S. special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on the hospital days before the attack, because they believed a Pakistani operative was using it as his base, according a report by AP, citing an unnamed former intel official
• The analysts had mapped the area and drawn a circle around the hospital, the official was quoted as saying. The Pakistani man, described both as a Taliban suspect and a worker for the Pakistani Inter-Service Intel directorate, was killed in the attack, the official told AP. MSF says no Pakistanis were in the hospital at the time
• Of the nearly 200 patients and staff inside the hospital at the time of the attacks, more than three dozen were wounded, said MSF, which has called the attack a violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime. The group has said some patients burned to death in their beds
• It’s unclear whether the analysts’ knowledge that the facility was a hospital was shared by the command that launched the attack. MSF said GPS coordinates identifying the hospital had been shared with U.S., coalition and Afghan military officers and civilian officials “as recently as Tuesday 29 September.”


• The DoJ wants to extradite from Malaysia Ardit Ferizi, a well-known hacker, who they say stole the personal info of more than 1,000 American federal employees and military personnel. The theft, according to a DoJ statement, was part of a plot to hand that info over to people affiliated with ISIS (Buzzfeed)
Summer of 2016ers: $$$$ Hauls (AP, me)
Donald Trump not self-funded: The celebrity billionaire and GOP front-runner raised $3.9 million in the last three months, only $100,000 from his own pocket. That’s a drastic shift from his springtime fundraising report, when he loaned his campaign nearly all of the $1.9 million it had (will it matter to his followers – they loved his self-financing – but will they even notice)
Clinton, Sanders: about the same: Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised $29 million in the three months ending 30 Sept. Bernie Sanders brought in about $26 million. People giving $200 or less accounted for a staggering 3/4 of his money. “We are averaging $30 bucks apiece. We would appreciate your help,” he said in an appearance Tuesday night after the debate
Carson early GOP leader: Ben Carson had the best haul with about $20 million. But his campaign also spent heavily, burning through $14 million – mostly raising money. Ted Cruz raised $12.2 million. Carly Fiorina raised $6.8 million – four times as much as she raised at the start of her campaign
Lower figures for other GOPers: Not so great. Rand Paul raised $2.5 million and Marco Rubio about $6 million. “Yes, I still am running for president. So get over it,” Paul said in a recent internet video. Rubio’s campaign argues it can go the distance because it’s frugal
First looks: Chris Christie and John Kasich entered the GOP race later than other candidates – this is the first look. Christie raised $4.2 million in recent months – $1.4 million in cash left. “We’re doing fine,” he said recently (no you’re not). Kasich raised about $4.4 million – about $2.6 million left to spend. Dem Martin O’Malley netted almost $1.3 million – $806,000 left

• Interactive: Money makes the race go around – who’s winning the cash stakes in both parties? Pics! Charts! (NYT)

Trump Holds Republican Debate Hostage (Politico, me)
• A Republican National Committee conference call to discuss plans for the 28 Oct GOP debate with top advisers to the presidential campaigns spiraled into chaos on Thursday afternoon, as Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the debate if his demands for the format aren’t met (Trump doesn’t want it long because he doesn’t want to be nailed on policy)
• At issue is whether CNBC, which is hosting the debate, to be held in Boulder, Colo, will allow candidates to give opening and closing statements. A day earlier, the RNC and CNBC held a conference call to discuss logistics that turned heated – with CNBC saying it wouldn’t allow opening and closing statements, and several campaigns freaking out
• After Thursday’s call, aides to Trump and Ben Carson submitted a letter to CNBC stating: “Neither Mr Trump or Dr Carson will participate in your debate if it is longer than 120 minutes including commercials and does not including opening and closing statements.” (infomercial bookends and limited time – smart + Trump has nothing to say except soundbites)


• Thursday afternoon, Trump tweeted: “@CNBC is pushing the @RNC around by asking for extra time (and no criteria) in order to sell more commercials.”
• RNC officials on Thursday’s call wanted to know what the “red line” was for each individual campaign, and whether crossing that line would mean they wouldn’t attend. The RNC, they assured the unhappy gathered on the call, would never make a step so drastic as to set up a format without consulting the candidates first. Then things went south
• Cruz campaign: Consider bailing without openings and closings. An aide to Rand Paul: “If we don’t have opening and closing statements, CNBC can go fu*k themselves.” Kasich campaign: The conference call was a “debacle.” Huckabee campaign: Equal time for everyone to speak during the debate (ie poor Huckabee can’t talk enough boo hoo)
• Christie campaign: Worried about stating their position on an open conference call line, saying it could expose the campaign to leaks (horses – barn doors – galloped off). Katie Walsh, RNC’s chief of staff, then tried to abruptly cut off the call! Graham campaign: If any of the top-polling candidates didn’t want to participate, Graham would gladly take their place (I’ll bet)
• Later Thursday, CNBC spox Brian Steel said in a statement the calls were just the beginning of a conversation with the campaigns. “Our practice in the past has been to forego opening statements to allow more time to address the critical issues that matter most to the American people. … We will certainly take the candidates’ views on the format into consideration.” (ie we’re gonna cave on this one, folks)


• Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, will unveil a nonprofit organization today that intends to use athletes and sports to combat racism and discrimination, an effort that has the support of the country’s largest broadcasters and sports leagues. It will run PSAs featuring, over time, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, among others (NYT)

No Social Security Increase: Millions to Lose Out (AP, me)

• There will be no benefit increase next year for millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees, the govt said Thursday. It’s just the third time in 40 years that payments will remain flat. All three times have come since 2010. And there’s more bad news (this story got some play yesterday and is now largely invisible – older people = disposable)

• The lack of a benefit increase means that many older people could face higher Medicare costs, an issue that has advocates lobbying Congress. The main reason for no increase next year is low gas prices. By law, the annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a govt measure of inflation. That gauge came out Thursday

• Almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,224. The COLA also affects benefits for about 4 million disabled veterans, 2.5 million federal retirees and their survivors and more than 8 million people who get Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for the poor

• The CPI-W numbers, based on consumer prices, for September show that gas prices are down by 30% from last year. Airfares have fallen by 5.9% and clothing prices are down by 1.3%. But medical care has risen by 2.4%, housing costs climbed by 3.2% and food prices were 1.6% higher

• “The CPI-W reflects the purchasing patterns of workers, many of whom are younger and healthier than most Social Security recipients,” AARP’s Nancy Leamond said in a letter to lawmakers. “Social Security recipients spend more of their monthly budget on health care, food and housing than do younger workers.”


• “The president is aware of this, frankly, unintended policy consequence resulting from the formula for calculating COLA,” WH spox Josh Earnest said Thursday. “There have been discussions that the admin has had with members of Congress about this issue and about our interest in trying to resolve it. (mega loser for pols: older people vote) (Reuters, me)


The Drone Papers – a Leak (Mother Jones, Intercept, TRNS, me)
• On Thursday, The Intercept published a major package of stories that reveal the inner workings of the U.S. military’s drone program, including how and why people are targeted for assassination. “The Drone Papers,” the Intercept says, is based on classified docs leaked by a whistleblower concerned by the govt’s methods of targeting individuals for lethal action
• Amnesty International called for an immediate congressional inquiry into the drone program, saying the leaked docs “raise serious concerns about whether the USA has systematically violated international law, including by classifying unidentified people as ‘combatants’ to justify their killings.'”
The U.S. govt kills a lot of people who aren’t military targets: The Intercept’s package adds internal U.S. military data to the conversation. Between Jan 2012 and Feb 2013, U.S. drone strikes in northeastern Afghanistan killed more than 200 people, only 35 of whom were the intended targets. Nearly 90% of people killed in one five-month period weren’t intended targets


President Obama had to sign off on each target but he didn’t know when or where the military might strike: The Intercept’s docs include a chart showing how the Joint Special Ops Command got approval for its strikes in Yemen and Somalia at least through May 2013
In some places, a lack of surveillance drones and other equipment makes the intel used to kill people less reliable: The Intercept’s report includes an internal U.S. military study that says there’s a “critical shortfall of capabilities” in the tools used to positively identify people who are targeted in Yemen and Somalia – and a lack of drones for long flights
• The result is that the U.S. is “overly reliant on signals intel from computers and cellphones,” which leads to a much higher number of innocent and mistaken people being killed But that amounted for more than half the intel used to track potential kills in Yemen and Somalia


• Democratic 2016er Hillary Clinton won the backing Thursday of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Asked at an event in San Antonio if Castro might be her VP pick, Clinton said, “I’m going to look really hard at him for anything, because that’s how good he is.” (Reuters)

Netanyahu Urges Talks to Calm Violence (Reuters, BBC, TRNS, me)

• Israeli PM Netanyahu on Thursday at a presser urged Palestinian President Abbas to hold talks to calm the recent surge of violence. Netanyahu said he was “perfectly open” to a meeting that might be “potentially useful.” However, “I am willing to meet him but he isn’t willing to meet me.”

• Netanyahu bristled at U.S. suggestions that Israel may have used excessive force to confront Palestinian stabbings. “What do you think would happen in New York if you saw people rushing into crowds trying to murder people? What do you think they would do? Do you think they would do anything differently than we are doing?” he said

• Thirty-two Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the past two weeks of bloodshed. The Palestinian dead include 10 knife-wielding assailants, police said, as well as children and protesters shot in violent demonstrations

• The violence has been triggered in part by Palestinians’ anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem’s al Aqsa compound, which is Islam’s holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and is also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical Jewish temples

• At a presser Wednesday, State Dept spox John Kirby said Israel, which has set up road blocks in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to try to stem attacks, has a right and responsibility to protect its citizens. “Now, we’ve seen some – I wouldn’t call the checkpoints this – but we’ve certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force.”


• Dozens of Palestinians have thrown firebombs at a West Bank site revered by some Jews as the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph. Palestinian security forces extinguished the blaze early today. SecState John Kerry has said he plans to travel to the Middle East soon to try to calm the violence (AP)


Faux Fox News CIA Terror Analyst Arrested (CNN Money, HuffPo, me)

• Wayne Simmons, a recurring Fox News commentator who has been lying for years about working for the CIA, was arrested on Thursday and is being charged in connection with falsely claiming he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the CIA for nearly three decades. If convicted, he could face up to 35 years in prison

• Fox’s web site lists dozens of appearances and quotes, usually labeling him a former CIA “operative,” “analyst” or “officer.” He’s been interviewed by Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto and has appeared on Fox and Friends, as well as lots of other appearance, where his views are taken as gospel. There’s no mention of the arrest on the Fox News website that I can find (may have missed it, but scoured)

• He’s regularly made extreme and (loopy) statements pertaining to terrorism and national security. In January, he claimed there were “at least 19 paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the U.S.” In a radio interview with Brian Kilmeade this year, Simmons – identified as a Fox News contributor – said the Obama admin is the worst the country will ever know (psychic, too?)

• Simmons has also claimed that waterboarding wasn’t torture – a claim given greater credence because of the perception he was a veteran CIA paramilitary officer. Simmons is a member of the “Citizens Commission on Benghazi,” which has trafficked in (uber-weirdo) conspiracy theories about the 2012 attacks

• U.S. officials told CNN that there have been suspicions about Simmons and U.S. govt agencies have received calls about claims he made on his website about his past work. But because govt security agencies generally don’t comment on people who worked for them in certain capacities, that only added to the myth. (Simmons appears to be a right-wing maybe-nutcase con artist, with a willing audience)


• Rocking – hard – into the weekend with “Throne” – Bring Me The Horizon

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, Brittany Gervais and Anthony Herrera contributed to this report


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