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.

News Now
  • Historic floods in South Carolina
  • Did US bomb hospital in Afghanistan?
  • Doctors Without Borders: “War crime”
  • US: More pressure on ISIS in Syria
  • Assad warns: Mid East destruction
  • Hillary Clinton: Gun control today
  • Oregon college shooting: Solace in church
  • Boehner might postpone some elections
Historic Floods in South Carolina (NBC News, Reuters, AP, me)
• Torrential rainfall has dumped more than 20 inches of rain in parts of South Carolina since Friday, the National Weather Service said. The state climatologist forecast another 2 to 6 inches through today as the rain began to slacken. Hundreds were rescued from fast-moving floodwaters
 
• “We haven’t seen this level of rain in the Low Country in 1,000 years,” said Gov Nikki Haley (R) during a presser Sunday. “That’s how big this is.” “If you are in your house, stay in your house. This is not something that you want your kids playing in … this is not something that you want to be taking pictures of.” (you know people will, anyway)
 
• More than 250 roads across the state were closed due to the storm, according to the state’s dept of transportation, which reported it had responded to nearly 1,200 distress calls and more than 300 collisions. Six deaths in South Carolina and two in North Carolina have been reported
 
• A 70-mile stretch of I-95, a major East Coast highway, was closed because of high water. Amtrak canceled its Virginia to Miami auto train. Haley advised people to stay off the roads not only to stay safe, but to keep streets clear for rescue crews and utility trucks working to restore power to 25,000 customers
 
• Haley encouraged local govt offices, businesses and schools to close today and maybe even Tuesday, as the damage to roads and bridges couldn’t be immediately assessed. Some schools had already announced cancellations and several areas announced curfews Sunday night

 

• The U.S. and 11 countries around the Pacific were in the home stretch Sunday on talks to complete a sweeping trade agreement that’s been in the works since 2008. Officials are optimistic a deal will be completed today. A biologics drugs deal and dairy market access remained to be resolved, according to people following the talks (WSJ)

Did US Bomb Hospital in Afghanistan? (NYT, NYT, Reuters, WSJ, me
• SecDef Ash Carter on Sunday promised a full and transparent investigation into whether a U.S. aircraft providing support for American and Afghan commandos was responsible for the explosions that destroyed a hospital in the town of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, killing 22 people

 

• “The situation there is confused and complicated, so it may take some time to get the facts,” Carter said on a plane to Spain. “I don’t see how the situation was confused, this is a fully functioning hospital,” retorted Doctors Without Borders’ (Medecins Sans Frontieres – MSF) Vickie Hawkins, on Twitter

• MSF called on Twitter for an independent investigation “under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed.” “Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the hospital compound prior to the US airstrike on Saturday morning.”


 
• U.S. officials said American special ops forces advising Afghan commandos in the vicinity of the hospital requested air support when they came under fire in Kunduz. The officials said the AC-130 gunship responded and fired on the area, but Carter said it’s not certain yet whether that was what destroyed the hospital (what else?)
 
• MSF said Sunday that it was withdrawing from Kunduz, leaving the remaining residents in the embattled city even more vulnerable. Carter said he told Gen John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to make sure the U.S. provides any medical care needed for those in Kunduz

 

• MSF nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs says: “There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds.” (Independent)
 
Doctors Without Borders: “War Crime”
• MSF released a further statement Sunday, in response to claims from Afghan officials that MSF’s hospital was routinely used by the Taliban for military purposes. MSF said it was “disgusted” and “the statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital…because they claim that members of the Taliban were present
 
• “This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US govt to minimize the attack as ‘collateral damage,'” said the Nobel Peace Prize winning organization. MSF said the bombing continued for 30 minutes after the U.S. and Afghan militaries were informed by telephone that the hospital was being bombed

• President Obama issued a statement offering condolences to the victims in what he called “the tragic incident” but “we will await the results of that

[DOD] inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy.” (no judgment – but U.S has a history of accidental civilian killings. However, note that the Taliban is the real killer of civilians)
 
• The hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked Afghan security forces. (note that – could be a clue – or not – but note it) Kunduz was overrun by the Taliban a week ago, but they’ve since withdrawn from much of the city. Sporadic battles continue, though some shops are said to have reopened

 

• Israel is barring some Palestinians from entering the Old City of Jerusalem for two days unless they live there, after two knife attacks by Palestinians on Saturday, one fatal, on Israelis. Police shot dead both attackers. There are reports of renewed unrest in parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. An Israeli couple was shot dead by Palestinians on Thursday in the West Bank (BBC)
 
US: More Pressure on ISIS in Syria (NYT, me)
• The American-led coalition fighting ISIS has begun preparing to open a major front in northeastern Syria, aiming to put pressure on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s de facto capital, according to military and admin officials. The plan, devised before the Russian buildup in Latakia, hasn’t been coordinated with Russia (I’ll bet)
 
• President Obama last week approved two important steps to set the offensive in motion over the coming weeks, officials said. Obama ordered the Pentagon, for the first time, to directly provide ammunition and perhaps some weapons to Syrian opposition forces on the ground. Obama also endorsed the idea for an increased air campaign from an air base in Turkey
 
• The measures are intended to empower 3,000 to 5,000 Arab fighters who would join more than 20,000 Kurdish combatants in an offensive backed by dozens of coalition warplanes to pressure Raqqa, ISIS’s main stronghold in Syria. As recently as Friday, Obama said he would take all steps necessary combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq (about time?)
 
• The new approach relies on Arab fighters whose commanders have been screened by American forces and Kurdish fighters who are more battle-tested and whose loyalties Washington can count on. Plans are moving forward to have Syrian opposition fighters seal an important 60-mile part of the country’s border with Turkey to cut off critical supply lines of ISIS (not easy)
 
• Whether the new approach can succeed remains to be seen. The new American-led push would be conducted far from the brunt of the Russian air campaign in western Syria, which has largely been conducted at Syrian opposition groups. The new northern front is entirely directed at weakening ISIS by trying to take away the group’s home court advantage

 

• ISIS militants have destroyed the iconic Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, the 1,800-year-old cultural treasure which framed the approach to the Roman city. It was blown up Sunday, eye witnesses said. UNESCO has called ISIS’s destruction of Palmyra’s architectural gems a “war crime” (is a war crime IMO) (CNN)
 
Assad Warns: Mid East Destruction (Politico, BBC, TRNS, me)
• Syrian President Bashar Assad has said on Iranian state TV that a coalition between Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq must succeed “or else the whole region will be destroyed.” Assad also criticized the U.S.-led coalition and its air strikes in Syria and Iraq as counter-productive, saying that terrorism had only spread (er – you haven’t exactly helped)
 
• Meanwhile Russia’s defense ministry said Sunday that its aircraft bombed 10 ISIS targets in Syria over the past 24 hours. It said its air campaign was being expanded. Syrian activists said Russian strikes in Homs province had killed at least two children and a shepherd, and wounded a further 15 people (activists say Russia isn’t bombing ISIS)
 
• Assad’s international opponents say a negotiated solution to the civil war must involve the president stepping down, although some Western nations now say he could remain during a transition period. But Assad insisted: “Discussion about the political system or officials in Syria is an internal Syrian affair.”
 
• At a WH presser on Friday, President Obama said Russia’s bid to prop up Assad is “going to get [Russia] stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work. And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.” Moreover, President Putin’s “more overt” support for Assad could burn Putin at home:
 
• “The Sunni population throughout the Middle East is going to see [Russia] as a supporter and endorser of those barrel bombs landing on kids at a time when Russia has a significant Muslim population inside its own borders to worry about,” Obama said. Russia has a growing Muslim population and radical Islamists have footholds in some Russian regions

• “Why can’t we let ISIS and Syria fight? Let Russia, they’re in Syria already, let them fight ISIS,” Donald Trump said on ABC on Sunday. “I don’t think he understands very well the situation. He’s entitled to his opinion,” Sen John McCain (R-Ariz), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said later on CNN on Sunday (Hill)

 

Hillary Clinton: Gun Control Today (Reuters, NYT, NYDN, me)
• Democratic 2016er Hillary Clinton will outline specific gun control proposals at two town halls near Manchester, New Hampshire, today. In appearances after the deadly Oregon community college shooting last week, Clinton said she wants to begin a “national movement” to counter the influence of the NRA
 
• Among the steps Clinton will outline today is the use of presidential executive authority to close a “loophole” to ensure people buying firearms at gun shows and on the internet undergo the same background checks and pay the same sales tax as when buying from traditional retailers (GOP 2016ers heads will explode)
 
• Clinton will also push Congress to pass laws that prohibit all domestic abusers, including stalkers, from purchasing guns and to close what she will call the “Charleston loophole,” referring to the June shooting at an African American church in Charleston, SC, that left nine dead
 
• Currently if a background check isn’t completed within three days, the gun sale can proceed. The alleged Charleston shooter was able to purchase his gun because of this loophole, as did 2,500 other people in 2014 who would otherwise have been barred from making such a purchase, Clinton’s campaign said (the loophole is ridiculous)
 
• Clinton will amplify on her recent calls to make the background check system more comprehensive and on her calls to keep “military-style assault weapons” off streets by pledging to repeal a 2005 law that she says gives gun manufacturers immunity (GOP-led Congress will do nothing. Dem-led Senate did nothing in 2013)

• Supreme Court’s first public appearance of their new term today. Regulation of abortion clinics, birth control in Obamacare, race in college admissions, drawing electoral districts, labor unions collecting fees from non-union members + a presidential campaign as a backdrop = fun, fun, fun (me, TRNS)

 
Oregon College Shooting: Solace in Church  (AP, BBC, NYT, CNN, AP, me)
• People in Roseburg, Oregon, sought solace in church services Sunday following last week’s deadly shooting rampage. Sitting in pastor Randy Scroggins’ congregation was 18-year-old Mathew Downing, who was spared by the gunman, who gave him an envelope and told him to give it to police. A law enforcement source has said it contained a flash drive – manifesto
 
• Scroggins said earlier the killer ignored his daughter Lacey during the Oregon school shooting because she was covered by the body and blood of another victim. Instead the gunman shot dead another student. Nine people were killed in the shooting at a community college
 
• The killer, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, shot himself dead after exchanging fire with police. The victims ranged in age from 18 to 67. Eight were students while the oldest was a teacher. Two survivors have said the killer asked victims to state their religion and shot dead Christians although one witness differs on that point, saying it was non-specific religion
 
• President Obama said on Friday at a WH presser he plans to keep talking about gun control and “will politicize” the issue for the remainder of his time in office. “The politics has to change,” Obama told reporters. He conceded he was up against the NRA, who, he argued, “know how to stir up fear.” (Hill)

• The killer arrived at a 10 am writing class – was registered – with a small arsenal of weapons that included five handguns, a semi-automatic rifle, five magazines of ammunition and a flak jacket. Described as an awkward loner who had flunked out of basic Army training and lived with his mother, frustrated with organized religion, conservative and studied mass shootings
 

• Chris Mintz, an Army veteran who helped evacuate his classroom, sounded a fire alarm in another building and ran back to help. He was shot as he came through the classroom door. Mintz said it was his son’s birthday and asked the gunman to stop. The killer opened fire again, shooting Mintz, but missing vital organs. Mintz lived (hero)
 
• The gunman told a woman to beg for her life, Randy Scroggins said. She did and he shot her anyway. One woman tried to show sympathy for the killer, saying she way sorry for whatever happened to him. “He said, ‘I bet you are, but it’s not enough,’ and with that, he shot her,” Randy Scroggins said as he began to cry. Roseburg police arrived within six minutes of the call
 
• Two minutes later, they were in a shootout with the killer. Lacey Scroggins said she heard a burst of gunfire, then the shooter said: “You got me. I’ve had enough. I quit,” her father said. And then it was silent. The killer’s father has since called for more gun control

 

• Democratic 2016er Hillary Clinton addressed the LGBT rights organization Human Rights Campaign’s annual event Saturday morning, saying it has been “quite a year” for LGBT rights. She cited the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, but said she would fight to “end the discrimination” whereby it’s possible for a person to be fired for whom they love (TRNS)
Boehner Might Postpone Some Elections (Politico, Politico, Roll Call, TRNS, me)
• Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is considering delaying the internal election for House majority leader and majority whip (No. 2 and No. 3), leaving only the party vote for speaker to be decided on Thursday, according to multiple Republican sources with knowledge of the deliberations
 
• There’s also widespread interest in considering a change in internal party rules that would force candidates to resign chairmanships and leadership slots to run for new office. There’s serious unrest in the House Republican Conference, and delaying the elections might give more time for the mood to settle – sources
 
• But the move would also give the right wing of the conference more time to find a candidate to run against Rep Steve Scalise (R-La) and Rep Tom Price (R-Ga). Scalise told supporters on a call Sunday evening that he has the votes to win majority leader. Boehner hasn’t decided yet, and will discuss it with fellow leaders today and Tuesday
 
• Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) is the favorite for speaker, but he has competition. Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced his bid for speaker this weekend. McCarthy also faces Rep Daniel Webster (R-Fla). “We need a speaker who speaks,” Chaffetz said. “We lose the communication war time and time again.”  – slap at McCarthy, who’s clumsy

• “Hillary Clinton” meets bartender “Val” and bonds on Saturday Night Live – includes “Val’s” Donald Trump impersonation

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___________________
Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Nicholas Salazar, Shane Farnan and Ryan Prete contributed to this report

 

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