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: to UN for major speech
  • Pope unites Congress – what?
  • Pope to Congress: Pols’ reax
  • Boehner plots shutdown move
  • McConnell maneuvers to avoid shutdown
  • Obama/Xi test limits today at WH
  • US, allied military: Review options for Afghan drawdown
  • Obama to meet Putin at UN
  • Summer of Trump is over
  • Clinton wants power grid upgrades
Pope: To UN for Major Speech (AP, me)
• Pope Francis, who on Thursday became the first pope to address a joint session of Congress, is now set today to speak to world leaders gather for a UN General Assembly summit to adopt new global goals to fight poverty and preserve the environment
• The Vatican has said Francis is expected to discuss the need for peace, the plight of refugees and the role of poverty and bad govt in driving conflict and migration (some of the bad leaders will be in the audience). But inequality, poverty, the environment and religious persecution may also be among the issues he highlights for the international audience
• Francis is also scheduled to confer with UN SecGen Ban Ki-moon today and meet with UN officials and staffers. The pope will head next to the 9/11 memorial. He’s expected to meet relatives of some of the nearly 3,000 victims before heading below ground to the museum for an interfaith service
• First today comes a visit to a school set amid public housing in the Hispanic neighborhood of East Harlem. Francis will meet schoolchildren and offer a blessing to refugees and immigrants. Then he’ll drive through Central Park to mass for 18,000 at Madison Square Garden. Thursday night, Francis waved from his popemobile down Fifth Avenue to St Patrick’s Cathedral for evening prayers

• Madonna said at a concert in Philadelphia Thursday night: “I like this new pope” – so that’s all right, then / Interactive with maps: Pope Francis’s schedule for U.S. visit (NYT)  


Pope Unites Congress – what? (AP, TRNS, me)
• In DC Thursday morning, the pope spoke before a packed House chamber and urged Congress and the nation to abolish the death penalty, fight global warming and embrace immigrants. He spoke strongly against the arms trade – U.S. is the world’s biggest arms dealer – (C-Span camera panned to the generals in the audience…):
• “Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”
• Enraptured lawmakers gave rousing ovations despite obvious disagreements over some of his pleas. Though he offered an agenda more to Democrats’ liking, Republicans applauded his references to the sanctity of life and family relations, reminders that the Catholic Church still condemns abortion and gay marriage (let’s not pigeon-hole him, OK?)
• His historic speech appeared determined to remind the U.S. of its foundations as a country made up of foreigners, addressing the chamber and the American people in personal terms as a son of immigrants to “this great continent.” Later he traveled to a downtown DC church, where he mingled with needy and homeless people


• Today, 193 world leaders will commit to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. End extreme poverty. Fight inequality and injustice. Fix climate change. The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people.

Pope to Congress: Pols’ Reax (Hill, Hill, TPM, Buzzfeed, NYT, TRNS, me)
• Democratic 2016er Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) gushed: “I know that people think Bernie Sanders is a radical, read what the pope is writing about because he is not only talking about poverty and income and wealth inequality, he is getting to the heart of hyper-capitalism and he is saying ‘why as a society are we worshiping money?'”
• Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty. Republican 2016er Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “as a policy matter, I do not agree.” He said, “I believe the death penalty is a recognition of the preciousness of human life, that for the most egregious crimes, the ultimate penalty should apply.” (Francis was saying all life – Cruz is breaking with the church)
• New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), in an oped, praised Francis’s push to create “an inclusive world, rooted in fairness and respectful of our common humanity.” “We know history is on its way to New York City. Let’s use it to push forward real change, in American society, and politics – for all the great people of this city and this nation, not just the lucky few.”
• On immigration: “I think it’s a welcome reminder of the importance of the contributions that immigrants have made to our country,” said Rep Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Ma). “Hopefully there’s a way to build on that reminder to try to move the ball forward. I don’t want to overstate it, but if anybody is able to do it, it’s certainly the Holy Father.”

• Rep Paul Gosar (R-Ariz), a Catholic, said he had no regrets about boycotting the speech, even though the pope barely touched on climate change. “I think I made my point, and I think the point needed to be made,” Gosar said. (no it didn’t) He watched the speech in his office (so – – bit pointless then – a real boycott he wouldn’t even have watched it)


• Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen laid out a detailed case Thursday for the central bank to begin raising short term interest rates later this year. Central to her argument was a belief that slack in the economy has diminished to a point where inflation pressures should start to gradually build in the coming years (WSJ)
Boehner Plots Shutdown Move (Politico, Hill, me)
• House Republican leaders will move next week to approve a “clean” govt spending bill – and avert a shutdown – but only after they hold a vote to bar federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to multiple sources familiar with the GOP’s plan (more pointless votes paid for by us – oh no – we’re all: #SaveJohn’sJob)
• The move, which comes as conservatives are weighing whether to try to remove John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House speaker, was discussed at a closed GOP leadership meeting Thursday. It involves a legislative tactic called an “enrollment correction,” which essentially changes the text of a bill that has passed the House and the Senate
• But it would ultimately be a meaningless exercise: The Senate would reject the measure, and President Obama has said he’ll veto any spending bill that tries to defund Planned Parenthood. Boehner is trying to avoid a repeat of the 2013 shutdown, but at the same time hang on to the speaker’s chair after five years in power
This morning, Boehner is expected to announce at a closed party meeting that the House will ramp up its oversight of PP and immediately begin drafting a budget reconciliation bill that would strip the group of its govt funding. That would only need 51 Senate votes but President Obama would almost certainly veto it (no would about it)
• Boehner met with leaders of the secretive, conservative House Freedom Caucus Thursday afternoon, which has threatened to try to overthrow him. Members wouldn’t say whether they’d try to strip Boehner of his gavel if he can’t block PP’s funding, but “Someone will do it, somebody will move to vacate the chair and we are going to have to act,” said a lawmaker in the meeting


• NSA director Adm Mike Rogers warned Congress Thursday that shuttering the govt would hurt the nation’s security. “Yes,” he responded, to a question from a senator whether a shutdown would “compromise national security.” Rogers said NSA employees warned work stoppages would hurt the NSA’s ability to attract and retain employees (Hill)
McConnell Maneuvers to Avoid Shutdown (Politico, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• The Senate will vote Monday to avert a govt shutdown, leaving the House to either accept it or force federal agencies in Washington to shutter their doors. After a govt spending bill that would also defund Planned Parenthood went down in flames Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) set up clean votes to keep the govt open through 11 Dec
• McConnell now has to round up 13 Republican colleagues to vote with him and the chamber’s 46 Democratic caucus members. Eight Republicans voted against the (pointless) Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas)-backed plan Thursday. The vote was taken with the intention of demonstrating to the GOP base that Cruz’s plan was unworkable – and it was
• The move by McConnell presents House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) with a do-or-die vote on a clean funding bill. House Republican leaders huddled on Thursday afternoon and will meet with the full caucus at 9 am this morning (see above)
• The Senate is likely to finish a govt funding bill by early next week to avoid a 1 Oct shutdown – see above story for House Republican tactics


Obama / Xi Test Limits Today at WH (AP, me)
• President Obama has invested time building personal ties with China’s President Xi Jinping, but there’s been little progress on Beijing’s cyberspying in the U.S. and its disputed territorial claims in the Asian Pacific – both high on the agenda at their discussions this week
• Before plunging into the pageantry of the state visit, Obama and Xi met for dinner Thursday night at Blair House, steps from the WH. They were joined by VP Joe Biden, who has played a central role in building the admin’s relationship with Xi. Also SecState Kerry and national security adviser Susan Rice. Obama and Xi ditched their ties (off campus, no ties!)
• Obama admin officials said Xi was to announce during his visit to DC a blueprint for a nationwide cap-and-trade system beginning in 2017. The plan covers highly polluting sectors ranging from power generation to papermaking. China will also offer a “very substantial financial commitment” to help poor nations transition to low pollution technologies

• Maine lobster poached in butter, served with traditional rice noodle rolls embedded with spinach, shiitake mushrooms and leeks. Grilled cannon of Colorado lamb served with cubes of tempura-fried panna cotta. Poppy seed bread and butter pudding with Meyer lemon curd and lychee sorbet – some of tonight’s menu at the WH state dinner (AP)


• Obama and top U.S. officials have publicly and privately warned China that continued computer hacking will come with consequences, including economic sanctions on business and individuals. China has denied being behind cyberspying in the U.S. and says it, too, it a victim of such espionage (cyberspying, yes – it’s theft the U.S. is livid about)
• Obama and Xi are expected to discuss China’s disputed territorial claims, which have unnerved some U.S. partners in Asia. The U.S. is particularly concerned about China’s building of artificial islands with military facilities in the South China Sea (U.S. will say cut it out. China will say fuggedabahdit)
• The state visit will formally begin this morning with an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the WH South Lawn, two days after the event there for Pope Francis, though with a much smaller crowd (21-gun salute, though, today). The leaders will then hold private talks in the Oval Office before taking some questions in a joint Rose Garden news conference


• Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered a safety review for the Hajj pilgrimage after at least 717 people died in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca. Another 863 people were injured. Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khameini, which lost over 100 citizens, said “mismanagement and improper actions” were to blame (BBC)
US, Allied Military: Review Options for Afghan Drawdown (WSJ, me)
• U.S. and allied defense officials, wary of WH plans to scale back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, are reviewing new drawdown options that include keeping thousands of American troops in the country beyond the end of 2016, American and allied officials said
• The top international commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen John Campbell, has sent five different recommendations to the Pentagon, and to NATO officials in Brussels, each with its own risk assessment, officials said. A senior admin official said the WH remains focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism missions
• The options include keeping the current U.S. presence at or near 10,000; reducing it slightly to 8,000; cutting the force roughly in half; and continuing with current plans to draw down to a force of several hundred troops by the end of 2016. There’s been no formal Pentagon recommendation on changes in the troop presence in Afghanistan
• Some officials worry that too large a cut could cause the Afghan govt to come under increased pressure from the Taliban and other militants, officials said. Others believe a smaller force of several thousand Americans still could be effective at backing the Afghan govt. Looming over the debate are the lessons of the Iraq withdrawal of 2011 and the rise of ISIS
• The recommendations reflect growing concerns among military officers that current force reduction plans could raise the risk of mission failure in Afghanistan to what one senior military official said would be an “unacceptable level.” Some officials said they believe President Obama will display flexibility, given the rise of ISIS and the threat to the pro-American govt in Kabul


• Four foreign students are dead after a tour vehicle and charter bus collided on a bridge in Seattle. Fifty one people were taken to hospitals. An amphibious duck boat signaled to move left, lurched and the front left wheel came off. It then clipped a vehicle before colliding with the bus (BBC)
Obama to Meet Putin at UN in NYC (WSJ, Reuters, Hill, TRNS, me)
• President Obama will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The meeting comes amid increasing tension over Russia’s role in Syria and hopes in the WH that there might be a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. U.S. officials said Putin requested the meeting
• “Given the situations in Ukraine and Syria, despite our profound differences with Moscow, the president believes that it would be irresponsible not to test whether we can make progress through high-level engagement with the Russians,” a senior admin official said. First formal meeting between the leaders since things went south over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine
• Ukraine will be on the agenda, but the driving force behind the meeting was Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria. Moscow has dispatched more than two dozen combat aircraft to an airfield near the city of Latakia. Russia has also sent tanks, air-defense systems, armored-personnel carriers and enough housing for 2,000 people – U.S. officials
• Obama and his advisers are probing whether it’s possible to forge an agreement with Putin to resolve the civil war, remove President Assad from power, and bring Moscow into the U.S.-led fight against ISIS (is that all? should be a cinch)
• Obama and Cuban President Raoul Castro will likely cross paths at UNGA on Monday or Tuesday. There’s no formal meeting scheduled, but it’s expected they’ll have the chance to interact. Obama is not expected to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

• Interactive graphic: Who’s winning the presidential campaign? (NYT)


Summer of Trump is Over (Politico, NYT, Politico, me)
• The summer of Trump is over. After faltering in last week’s debate, Donald Trump showed signs that the campaign grind has taken its toll. He’s taking longer to shake off controversial remarks, delivering relatively subdued performances during interviews and campaign appearances, flailing at opponents and stalling in polls (getting snappy, snippy and lying – even more)
• The latest national Quinnipiac poll, out Thursday, showed Trump still leading at 25%, statistically unchanged from August’s 28%. Trump had an 8-point drop in the CNN poll Sunday. A Fox poll out Wed also showed Trump with relatively stalled momentum and a Bloomberg poll showed Trump holding at 21% (nothing shows him up)
• And even though it’s too soon to tell whether his dip in polls is temporary, it’s coincided with sharp rises from Carly Fiorina and Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla). Trump went out of his way to boast about his standing at two events on Wednesday and on morning talk shows Thursday (someone pass the Viagra)
• Rubio said Trump was reeling on Thursday in an interview with a Kentucky sports radio station. “I think he’s kind of been exposed a little bit over the last seven days, and he’s a very touchy and insecure guy, so that’s how he reacts.”
• Trump totally freaked out at Mic Smith, an AP photog who took a pic showing a significant number of empty chairs at a South Carolina event on Wed – Trump called him a “fu*king thief.” He also railed against NYT reporter Jonathan Martin “dishonest” and Politico “really dishonest” – they also said chairs were empty – Trump said people “wrapped around the podium”
• Feel the Bern! Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) has a 16-point lead in New Hampshire, a CNN/WMUR poll released Thursday revealed. He has 46% from likely voters, while Hillary Clinton has 30%. VP Joe Biden has 14% – and he’s not in yet – tick tock (Hill, me)

Clinton Wants Power Grid Upgrades (Hill, me)

• Hillary Clinton is calling for power grid upgrades to increase cybersecurity, the Democratic 2016er revealed in a sweeping energy infrastructure policy statement released this week. Her plan calls for the creation of a new presidential team that would coordinate threat assessment and response efforts between federal agencies and the power industry

• Clinton’s plan also calls for boosting the digital defenses of “clean energy” technologies, part of an overall strategy of grid modernization, as well as providing resources to local communities to improve grid resilience. Clinton’s plan comes amid growing concerns of power grid vulnerability (not getting attention – this is important stuff)

• Earlier this month, federal docs obtained through a FOIA request revealed that hackers infiltrated the Dept of Energy’s (DOE) computer system more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014. A 2013 report noted “unclear lines of responsibility” for cybersecurity within the DOE, as well as a “lack of awareness by responsible officials.”

• In Nov, the Dept of Homeland Security warned that “numerous” critical industries might have been compromised by hackers form Russia, though officials said they didn’t see any attempts to “damage, modify or otherwise disrupt” any networks. Researchers say the country is testing U.S. networks for vulnerabilities

• The U.S. and China are reportedly working on an agreement under which neither country will be the first to launch cyberattacks on the other’s critical infrastructure, such as power grids or cellphone networks, during peacetime – watch to see if it’s announced today


• Rocking fluidly into the weekend with “How Could You Babe” – Tobias Jesso Jr – the incredibly talented 29-year-old singer songwriter didn’t take up the piano with any seriousness until  he was just about ready to call his music career quits after struggling to make it as a songwriter in LA. Good thing he didn’t

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Luke Vargas, Ryan Prete, Ebony Romero and Washington Desk contributed to this report


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