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
  • Pope Francis: Meet Congress
  • Pope: Hill leaders crack whip on naughty members
  • Scott Walker out: Leads from behind
  • Carson rides high amid “Muslim” backlash
  • Chinese president arrives in US today
  • UN nuke watchdog defends Iran probe
  • US outrage over Afghans’ rape of boys – but…
  • Clerk Kim Davis: Altered marriage forms?
  • Russia and Iran combine inside Syria
Pope Francis: Meet Congress (NYT, me)
• Pope Francis will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington DC this afternoon to open his first visit to the U.S., and President Obama will be there to welcome him. It’s a gesture the president has extended to virtually no other foreign visitor (and a total win for Obama in every way)
• And little wonder. For Obama, there may be no more potent ally in the world in his quest to bend the arc of history, to use a favorite phrase, than a pope who helped him restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and who has spoken out on issues like economic inequality, climate change and criminal justice reform
• Yet for conservatives assailing the jailing of a clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples and for abortion foes now mounting a bid to cut off federal money to Planned Parenthood, Francis and the teachings of the church offer a timely boost


• The conflicting interpretations underscore the hazards of trying to pigeonhole any pope into the binary left-right spectrum of American politics. But in DC, where everything is political – including religion – both sides hope to make the most of the pope’s three-day visit to the seat of power (and both sides will fail – he won’t play or be played – but he may be vilified)
• Francis will address a joint meeting on Congress on Thursday morning – a first for a pope – at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), a Catholic. All over DC, fliers are urging people to “rally with Pope Francis in the call to moral action for climate justice,” a topic he’ll address at the UN after leaving Washington
• During a stop in Philadelphia, Francis is expected to talk about criminal justice in a way that tracks Obama’s call to stop imprisoning nonviolence offenders for so long. At some point, he may address the thorny issue of race. “I’m sure the pope will make everyone very uncomfortable,” said Rep Joseph Crowley (D-NY), a Catholic (oh yes he will)

• Interactive with maps: Pope Francis’s complete schedule for U.S. visit (NYT)


Pope: Hill Leaders Crack Whip on Naughty Members (Roll Call, me)
• Too many members can’t be trusted to behave themselves when Pope Francis comes to the Capitol, congressional leadership has decided. So each party is assembling teams of lawmakers to essentially act as blocking tackles, willing to restrain any colleague trying to reach out for a papal touch as he walks onto the floor of the House
• The bosses are assuming last week’s “courtesy notice” will be ignored – by the most fervently faithful Catholic lawmakers, who want to kiss the papal ring as well as by many of the most publicity-driven members, desperate to make it into the same TV frame as Francis and get photographed hugging him (oh grow up)
• So leadership is looking for about 50 members known for patience and institutional good manners (they exist?). On the promise they’ll keep their hands to themselves, they’ll be assigned to wear dark colors, show up when the door opens and fill the three chairs on each side of the aisle in the eight rows of fixed seating (and stay there – despite bribery attempts)
• Smartphones, selfies, flash photography and cheering by members are being vigorously discouraged. But the Vatican has relented and said that a standing ovation is OK when Francis makes his way to the well and ascends the rostrum (“You lie!” is not cool and risks thunderbolts from Celestial Leadership)
• After that, genuine silence – not even an audible “amen” – will be expected. Not just for time, but also to prevent any of the applause-on-one-side, silence-on-the-other presidential address ritual if he talks about topics that divide the parties (if? when…)


• Senate Democrats seem certain to prevent Republicans from getting the 60 voted needed today to move ahead on a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks. It’s happening with the backdrop of a looming govt shutdown next week over Planned Parenthood funding, and two days before Pope Francis’s address to Congress (AP, me)
Scott Walker Out – Leads From Behind (Politico, NYT, TRNS, me)
• Scott Walker decided to end his 2016 campaign after burning through cash and disappointing donors who thought the one-time frontrunner would be one of the last men standing. “Today, I believe that I’m being called on to lead by helping to clear the field in this race for a positive conservative message to rise to the top of the field,” he said Monday at a Madison presser
• The sudden decision opens up opportunities for other candidates, among them Marco Rubio, who has already scored some of Walker’s financial backers. The announcement comes on the heels of a new CNN poll that showed Walker registering less than 1%, following a lousy performance in the GOP debate last week (that Canadian wall thing didn’t help)
• The departure represents a stunning fall for the Wisconsin governor, who led polls in Iowa for several months this year after a well-received speech in January. But he struggled with the consistency of his positions, appeared over-scripted and seemed to lack command of the issues, particularly foreign policy (equating beating the unions to destroying ISIS)
• One of the campaign’s biggest mistakes, however, was failing to manage expectations after a hot start. For weeks, Walker’s donors have been grumbling about the campaign’s downward spiral in the polls. Many said they weren’t writing more checks until campaign manager Rick Wiley – blamed – made organization changes. Some contributed to other campaigns – Rubio’s
• Walker appeared ashen and drained at a brief presser late Monday. None of Walker’s rivals appeared poised to take him up on the suggestion of bowing out (hello), though they expressed surprise he was withdrawing so soon. “Holy cow,” Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Fox News


• Democratic 2016er Hillary Clinton is proposing a $250 monthly cap on the amount patients with chronic and serious medical problems would have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs to reduce the effect of skyrocketing drug prices – comes as Daraprim jumped from $13.50 to $750 a pill overnight after the company was bought (should be illegal) (WaPo, me)
Carson Rides High Amid “Muslim” Backlash (Politico, AP, TPM, TRNS, me)
• Republican WH contender Ben Carson’s campaign reported strong fundraising and more than 100,000 new Facebook friends in the 24 hours after he said on NBC Sunday: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Campaign manager Barry Bennett said, “Republican voters are with us at least 80-20.” (speaks for itself)
• As his critics grew louder, Carson retreated slightly late Monday, saying on Fox News that Muslims who are willing to accept the American way of life “will be considered infidels and heretics, but at least then I will be quite willing to support them.” (only considered heretics by ISIS and extremo groups – not 99% + of Muslims – please)
• Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, called on Carson to drop out of the race during a Hill presser Monday. “Not long ago, some people thought that a Catholic cannot be a president, an African-American cannot be a president. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.”
• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) raised Carson’s comments as he paid tribute to U.S. Army Specialist Kareem Khan, a Muslim-American who died in 2007 fighting in the Iraq War. “Shame on Dr Carson. Shame on every person who spews such hateful rhetoric,” Reid said
• But conservatives have repeatedly embraced anti-Muslim sentiment in recent years. Nineteen states introduced bills in 2015 to restrict the use of foreign law in state courts, GOP-backed steps largely designed to block the influence of Shariah. Nine states have already implemented such laws (apparently rampant terror of hands being chopped off in Peoria)


• The U.S. Border Patrol arrested 9,790 unaccompanied immigrant children and families caught illegally crossing the border with Mexico in August, a 52% jump from August 2014, according to agency stats. WH spox Josh Earnest called the numbers “a concern” and “a surprising uptick.” (AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping Arrives in US Today (LAT, NYT, WSJ, me)

• When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Seattle today, he’ll glad-hand titans of industry like Warren Buffett, Apple’s Tim Cook and Disney’s Bob Iger. In Washington, he’ll receive a 21-gun salute on the WH lawn and a formal dinner with President Obama. He’ll deliver a speech at the UN in New York. For Xi, the optics are key

• Facing a slowing economy and in the midst of a contentious campaign to root out corruption in the Communist Party, Xi is keen to use the summit to showcase himself as a strong leader. In an interview appearing today in WSJ, Xi says about the slowdown, “Any ship, however large, may occasionally get unstable sailing on the high sea.”

• U.S. officials hope to get a pledge from Xi that China will help hold Tehran to its commitments in the Iran nuclear deal. President Obama and Xi are also expected to say they’re cooperating on stabilizing the world economy and markets at a jittery moment – a statement that would be welcomed by foreign leaders and investors

• China has spent the last two years building large artificial islands on once-tiny reefs and rock outcroppings in the South China Sea and is now building airstrips and other facilities, apparently to use as military outposts. But Xi isn’t expected to accede to U.S. demands that China stop building the islands



• The biggest cloud hanging over the summit has been the issue of cyberespionage and massive cybertheft. In addition, China is believed to have orchestrated the cyberlooting of security clearance files and personnel records of 22 million people from the Office of Personnel Management

• After news reports broke this month that the WH was drafting sanctions against Chinese businesses and individuals for hacking, China quickly sent a senior official to DC to head off any possible embarrassing announcements in the days before Xi’s visit. There were four intense days of meetings with very senior U.S. officials

• The two countries have been negotiating what could become the first arms control accord for cyberspace, with a goal of announcing a deal during Xi’s visit. The agreement would safeguard critical infrastructure during peacetime, but it’s not expected to cover contentious issues such as the theft of intellectual property or data

• But some U.S. officials are concerned China won’t follow through with its promises after Xi’s visit. Last Wednesday, Obama took a tough stance, warning that the U.S. would take action if attacks continue


• Phan Phan-Gillis, an American businesswoman accused of stealing state secrets, has been formally arrested in China, six months after she was detained there while accompanying a delegation of officials and businessmen from Houston, her husband and a family lawyer said today. Could add to tensions on President Xi’s trip to U.S. (NYT)
IAEA Defends Iran Probe (WSJ, NYT, TRNS, me)
• Iran revealed Monday that it took its own samples at a suspect military site without international inspectors present, sparking fresh criticism in Congress of a UN investigation into whether Tehran once worked on nuclear weapons. Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ark), a chief critic of the Iran deal, said it showed “the verification scheme is an embarrassing charade.”
• Yukiya Amano, director-general of the IAEA, defended his agency’s investigation by saying it had made significant progress a day after Iran allowed him and another top IAEA official access to parts of the Parchin military site that it had kept closed off until now (don’t confuse inspections about past and present activities – Cotton was conflating them)
• But the revelations that Iran, rather than the IAEA, took the samples at Parchin – a key step in the investigation – only deepened concerns that the world will never get a clear understanding of any past weaponization work in the country. Iran has repeatedly denied it had a weaponization program
• Amano said the building he inspected at Parchin on Sunday showed no evidence of recent renovation work and no equipment in the building. But at the same time, he reiterated the IAEA’s view that Iranian construction at Parchin has undermined his agency’s ability to verify what happened there (up to no good)

• An IAEA official told reporters Monday the agency uses video monitoring, camera and GPS systems to ensure the country in question doesn’t cheat. As part of the nuclear deal, the IAEA is supposed to release by Dec a report affirming Tehran cooperated in its investigation as a prelude to sanctions on Iran being lifted

• Vid: A half dozen murals painted around the New York area are helping to draw attention to journalist Maziar Bahari’s campaign for press freedom and freedom for higher educational opportunities for persecuted religious minorities, like Baha’is, in Iran. He spent 118 days in an Iranian jail after making a joke on television (AP)

U.S. Outrage Over Afghans’ Rape of Boys – But… (NYT, NYT, me)
• A report describing how American forces looked the other way as powerful Afghans raped boys with impunity – an issue that long plagued the war effort in Afghanistan – prompted declarations of outrage in DC on Monday, but officials said the problem was ultimately for Afghans to solve (convenient)
• The Pentagon insisted it never ordered troops to ignore any kind of rights abuse. But among American military personnel and civilians who served in Afghanistan, it was well known that many wealthy and prominent Afghans rape boys, and that Afghan officials often turned a blind eye to the practice for fear of alienating allies (sooo sort of same thing)
• Since the start of the war, the criminality often tolerated inside the Afghan govt and security forces, both of which were paid for and nurtured by the U.S,. has run the gamut from opium smuggling by Afghan officials to allegations of murder and torture by Afghan soldiers and police officers (whoa NYT laying it on)
• Though some Americans have tried to write off the practice of raping boys, described in a NYT piece on Monday, as a cultural difference between Afghans and Westerners, many Afghans say that they, too, find it shameful and wrong. In fact, the Taliban banned it when in power (a reason some Afghans welcome them back)
• But it’s rampant among the pro-govt commanders who dominate many rural areas of northern Afghanistan and run militias that at times team with American-led forces. Most often, the American military has looked the other way


• The new Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, has released a message on the occasion of the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha saying that for peace in Afghanistan, it’s necessary to “end the occupation” of the country by foreign forces – a reference to NATO troops (AP)
Afghan Rape: U.S. Buck Passing?
• Troops on the front line, who often shared bases with Afghan forces, often bristled when commanders told them to look the other way. In 2011, two American soldiers beat up an Afghan commander who laughed when confronted with allegations he raped boys. One of the soldiers was relieved of his command and left the military and the other is being forced out
• Monday, WH spox Josh Earnest said, “The U.S. is deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of Afghan boys who may be exploited by members of the Afghan national security and defense forces. This form of sexual exploitation violates Afghan law and Afghanistan’s international obligations.” (he referred most questions to DoD – right under the bus)
• Capt Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spox, called the rapes “abhorrent” but insisted there was no policy instructing service members to ignore allegations. “I can just tell you that there is nothing that would preclude any military member from making reports about human rights violations to their chain of command,” Davis said. He said it was an “Afghan law enforcement” matter
• Davis said each discussion with the Afghan govt would “make its way to a higher level” and get into annual State Dept human rights reports to make clear “that this is a practice we find abhorrent.” (so it can sit on a shelf and gather dust as boys scream)
• But even if reports are passed on to the Afghan authorities – a number of service members and civilian officials say they rarely are – there’s little indication the Afghan govt has the will or ability to prosecute men suspected of rape. That left American forces with little recourse


• Joseph Clancy, the head of the Secret Service, called to personally spologize for how a group of children suffering from cancer and their supporters were treated after they were pushed out of Lafayette Square in DC on Saturday night. Clancy spoke with one of the organizers of CareFest for Childhood Cancer and said he was “very sorry.” (WaPo)
Clerk Kim Davis: Altered Marriage Forms? (Reuters, AP, me)
• A county clerk from Kentucky who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to gay couples in line with a Supreme Court ruling in June that made gay marriage legal nationwide made material changes to the forms on her return and isn’t in compliance with a federal court order, lawyers for couples suing her said Monday
• Rowan County clerk Kim Davis should be ordered to allow the licenses to be issued under the earlier format or the clerk’s office should be put in receivership and fines imposed, the attorneys from the ACLU of Kentucky said in a federal court filing
• Davis has said her beliefs as an Apostolic Christian prevent her from issuing the licenses. Her attorney, May Staver, said Monday, “The ACLU’s motion to again hold Kim Davis in contempt reveals that their interest is not the license but rather a marriage license bearing the name of Kim Davis. They want her scalp to hang on the wall as a trophy.”
• Friday, the lawyer for deputy clerk Brian Mason, who has been issuing licenses since David was jailed, told the court Davis confiscated the licenses upon her return and gave him a document that removed references to Rowan County and Davis’ office and required him to list his title as a notary public. The changes run afoul of Judge Bunning’s order, the filing said
• While Davis has said she doesn’t believe the licenses issued are valid, their legality hasn’t been challenged in court. Bunning has said licenses issued while Davis was jailed are valid and the governor has said he had no problem with altered licenses, if the judge considered them valid


• EU ministers meet today to try to solve a dispute over how to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers who have recently arrived in Europe. A group of central European states is resisting calls for EU members to accept mandatory quotas. Ministers hope to forge a consensus ahead of an emergency meeting of EU leaders Wednesday (BBC)


Russia & Iran Combine Inside Syria (WSJ, TRNS, me)

• Russia and Iran have stepped up coordination inside Syria as they move to safeguard President Assad’s control over his coastal stronghold, according to U.S. and Middle East officials. There have been talks – lots – in Moscow at high levels between Russian and Iranian officials of all types

• The coordinated Iranian and Russian support for Assad poses a formidable obstacle to the diplomatic aims of the Obama admin, which wants to remove the Syrian dictator from power. As support from Moscow and Tehran pours into Syria, the U.S. has moderated its demands that Assad go before a transition takes place (not much attention has been given to this)

• Monday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that his govt is concerned that Iran and its allies could be seeking to open a new military front against Israel from within Syrian territory

• Putin, senior U.S. and European officials said, appears to be using the Syria conflict to try to increase the Kremlin’s influence in the Middle East and in the international diplomacy focused on finding a post-Assad govt. Russia has begun drone surveillance flights in Syria, reports say

• Tehran, meanwhile, wants to maintain Syria’s coastal region and the areas adjacent to the Lebanese border as the key supply route for arms going into Lebanon and the Palestinian territories

• Aaaaand THIS is Pizza Rat – who broke the internet on Monday. A New York rat, naturally, who carried a huuuge slice of pizza nearly all the way down a flight of subway stairs. I hope he came back for it later

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Anthony Herrera and Washington Desk contributed to this report


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