Pence gives boost to Bevin; Beshear touts police endorsement•Vice President Mike Pence visiting Kentucky in support of Gov. Matt Bevin LONDON, Ky. (AP) — Attempting to turn the Kentucky governor’s race into a referendum on impeachment, Vice President Mike Pence urged voters Friday to register their disgust with the „endless investigations” of President Donald Trump by reelecting his close ally, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.While Bevin basked in the support from yet another Trump surrogate, his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Andy Beshear, touted his support from a prominent police organization. Beshear, doing his best to make the contest about state issues, vowed to protect the pensions of public employees and said Bevin couldn’t be trusted to do so.At a rally during a campaign swing in a key GOP stronghold in southeastern Kentucky, Pence praised Bevin as a „proven conservative,” pointing to the governor’s stances against abortion and for gun rights. The vice president trumpeted Kentucky’s economic performance during Bevin’s tenure.Pence, who bonded with Bevin during his time as governor of neighboring Indiana, tied Kentucky’s election next Tuesday to the drama unfolding in Washington with the impeachment inquiry of Trump by House Democrats.”If you want to send a message to Washington, D.C., that enough is enough, and that Kentucky is tired of the endless investigations and their partisan impeachment, if you want to send a message to the do-nothing Democrats that Kentucky supports President Donald Trump, vote Republican in next Tuesday’s election,” Pence said.Pence said the Kentucky election can „set the stage” for 2020, when Trump will run for another term in the White House. Trump, who is planning his own trip to Lexington on the night before Tuesday’s election, won Kentucky by a landslide in 2016 and remains a commanding figure in the state.”Once we reelect Gov. Matt Bevin for four more years, we can make it clear we’re going to reelect President Donald Trump for four more years,” the vice president said.The loudest cheers from the crowd of several hundred people came whenever Trump’s name was mentioned, which happened often.Bevin, who has made his alliance with Trump a central theme of his campaign, lashed out at the Democratic impeachment probe.”We saw the animosity, the vitriol, the insanity of what was coming out of Washington even just yesterday with the mockery that is being made of the political process,” he said.In an appeal to the state’s conservative Democrats, Bevin declared: „Your party at the national level is leaving you behind” as he urged Kentuckians to vote their values, not their party.”You can come on over,” Bevin said. „Come on in, the water’s fine. It’s pretty good over here.”Beshear spent the day campaigning in northern Kentucky, another traditional GOP stronghold that has emerged as a battleground this year. Beshear, the state’s attorney general, touted his endorsement from the state Fraternal Order of Police, which represents thousands of law enforcement officers.Drew Fox, government affairs chair for the state FOP, said a main factor in the endorsement was Beshear’s promise to protect pensions.Beshear said Bevin couldn’t be trusted to protect public pensions.”I’ve made a promise as governor that I am never going to cut the pensions of our public servants,” Beshear said. „And I’m going to make sure that we have those pensions available for every new officer that comes into this field, because we have to be able to recruit the types of amazing law enforcement officers we have behind me, to also police our communities moving into the future.”Beshear continued to promote his plan to legalize casino gambling to raise revenue that would go entirely to shore up public pensions systems. Beshear estimates the venture would generate up to $550 million in yearly state revenue — money that he says now flows to other states where Kentuckians go to gamble.”My commitment is we’re going to have new dedicated revenue that goes into that pension fund, to make sure these folks behind don’t have to show up at the Capitol every two years to fight for what has already been promised them,” Beshear said at a press conference.Bevin has denounced Beshear’s expanded gambling plan as a „pipe dream,” saying it would never win approval from the GOP-led legislature._Lovan reported from Louisville, Kentucky.
Thanks to Trump, the U.S. hasn’t admitted a single refugee since September by Caitlin Dickson Reporter•A Syrian displaced girl, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive in Syria, looks on at Bardarash refugee camp on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. (Photo: Ari Jalal/Reuters)October was the first full month in at least 18 years in which the United States did not admit any refugees.On Tuesday, the State Department notified refugee resettlement agencies for the third time last month that all flights for refugees who have been approved to travel to the U.S. would be postponed. The delays have ground the resettlement program to a halt, leaving hundreds of refugees, including unaccompanied children who already completed a lengthy vetting process, in limbo in some of the world’s most dangerous locations.Refugee arrivals are typically put on hold during the first week of October while the various federal, international and nongovernmental components of the refugee system adjust to implementing a new plan for U.S. admissions, which is set by the president each fiscal year through an official determination, which is usually signed sometime before the end of September.“We’ve never seen a moratorium last this long,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigrant Refugee Services, one of the country’s largest refugee resettlement agencies.“By law, no refugees may be admitted in any given fiscal year until the President signs and issues the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to Yahoo News earlier this week, confirming the latest extension of the ongoing moratorium on refugee arrivals. “We have now extended it through November 5.”As of Nov. 1, President Trump has yet to sign the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020.According to State Department data on monthly refugee arrivals, which is not available before fiscal year 2001, October 2019 is the first month in which zero refugees were admitted to the United States. Previously, the lowest months for arrivals had been October and November of 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, during which the U.S. received just four refugees each. Even then, the U.S. continued to receive at least a few refugees each month.Somalians at a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. (Photo: Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The State Department said it will work with agencies like LIRS “to plan for a resumption of refugee arrivals, including rescheduling travel for those affected by the extension.” However, Vignarajah emphasized that rescheduling travel for refugees is not as simple as booking a new flight.
“It’s a very intricate system of dealing with international protections, domestic law, international travel, families and communities that are all working on a timeline,” she said. “It’s like a symphony when you synchronize them, but when you continue to throw wrenches into the system, everything comes to a screeching halt. So rather than a symphony, you have kind of a cacophony.”
Vignarajah said, within the LIRS program, there were 107 refugees who were affected by recent flight cancellations who’d been scheduled to fly to the U.S. on Oct. 29, 30 or 31 alone. That does not include those whose flights were cancelled in previous weeks, nor those expected in the week ahead.
One of the 107 is a refugee from Ethiopia who’d been granted a Visa 93, also known as a “follow-to-join” visa, which is designed to reunite refugees with family in the U.S. The Ethiopian refugee, whose name has been withheld to protect their identity, was among those rescheduled to fly to the U.S. on Nov. 5. However, because their visa expires on Nov. 2, the ticket has already been cancelled.
Now LIRS is in the process of trying to renew the visa. “We can’t guarantee that it will be granted,” Vignarajah said. “We can’t guarantee that it will happen quickly.”
Vignarajah gave an example of another refugee family who lives were disrupted by this month’s flight delays: a teenage mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was kidnapped and raped by Mai Mai rebels at the age of 14, and her young daughter, who suffers from serious medical issues. The girl had been referred for resettlement in the U.S. through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program, which provides foster care and a full range of other services to eligible children who don’t have a parent or guardian available to care for them. LIRS had secured placement for her and her child with a foster family in Pennsylvania; however, amid multiple flight postponements last month, she turned 18 and aged out of the URM program, making her ineligible for foster care and other services. LIRS caseworkers quickly searched for a new placement in an adult program, and within a couple of weeks managed to secure a spot for her and her daughter with an affiliate organization in Houston that has a special house for single mothers.
“Of course, our goal was to get her out of harm’s way into the U.S. system so that her child could get the medical care that the baby needed,” said Vignarajah. “But sometimes you don’t luck out.”
A similar scenario now faces another girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo who, along with her two younger brothers, ages 11 and 13, were scheduled to arrive at the home of a foster family in Lewisburg, Pa., earlier this week.
The children, whose names have been concealed to protect their identities, fled sectarian violence in the DRC with their parents and a fourth, younger sibling seven years ago. Since then, they’ve been living in a refugee camp in Rwanda where they experienced the deaths of both their father and youngest sibling, and were abandoned by their mother.
In April, Bethany Christian Services, an affiliate of LIRS that provides refugee resettlement services in Michigan and Pennsylvania, began making arrangements to place the children with a woman named Joya, who asked that her last name not be used out of concern for the security of the children. After about a year of filling out paperwork and attending numerous lengthy training sessions in Philadelphia, a three-hour drive from their home, Joya and her husband completed the process to become refugee foster parents at the end of last year.
Upon learning about the three siblings, Joya and her husband quickly began preparing their house for caseworker visits, replacing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, locking away cleaning products and other chemicals, even renovating part of their house to make sure they would have enough bedrooms to accommodate their new arrivals.
Joya said they received an overwhelming amount of support from members of their small, rural community, including people they didn’t previously know. “Our house was full of people for a week straight” working to get the house ready for the children who were previously scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.
The kids’ flight has since been postponed until Nov. 5, but the possibility of further delays presents serious concern for the older sister, who will turn 18 in the next couple of months.
“We are determined to do everything we can to bring her here before then,” said Nate Bult, vice president of public and government affairs at Bethany. “There are few people in more vulnerable situations than a teenage girl alone in a refugee camp.”
Bult said that, since September, four children who’d been accepted for resettlement through Bethany have aged out of the URM program and, as a result, have been removed from Bethany’s resettlement roster.
“The scary part, from our perspective, [is that] we don’t know what happens to them,” Bult said.
Asked how many refugees have had their flights cancelled or postponed in the last month, a State Department spokesperson told Yahoo News that “refugee arrivals do not proceed at a steady rate throughout the year, so there is no way to provide an exact number.”
Jenny Yang, vice president of policy and advocacy at World Relief, a Christian nongovernmental humanitarian organization that also provides refugee resettlement services, said her program has had 126 flights cancelled since the beginning of October.
Resettlement agencies have reported that there are about 8,000 refugees who have already been thoroughly vetted and approved for travel to the U.S., a process that can take years. However, as Yang pointed out, the medical screenings and security checks required for admission to the U.S. are only valid for a certain period of time.
“If you have a flight cancelled and you don’t have a valid medical form or security check, then you have to go through that whole process all over again,” said Yang, adding that this not only further delays refugees’ access to safety, but “is a waste of government resources as well.”
The White House press office did not respond to multiple inquiries from Yahoo News regarding when the president intends to sign the determination or why it has been so delayed.
Yang said concerns about the future for those 8,000 refugees, and tens of thousands of others already in the resettlement pipeline, goes beyond the current moratorium. While resettlement agencies anxiously await Trump’s signing of the Presidential Determination, they also worry about how refugee arrivals will be further disrupted by the historically low admissions ceiling and strict new categories the determination will impose, as well as the looming implementation of an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide affirmative consent in order to resettle refugees in their communities.
On top of all those new barriers, Robert Carey, former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement during the Obama administration, said he sees the delays as evidence that the refugee program “is being managed to fail.”
“I do think that’s cynical,” he said. “It’s not reflective of the tradition of this country [or] the professionalism with which this program has been managed in the past.”
The rise and fall of Beto O’Rourke: how the Democratic star’s campaign faded•Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters Donald Trump is quick to taunt the Democratic candidates for president as they fall. “Zero per cent Tim Ryan” got the treatment last week when he quit the race. Beto O’Rourke, whose campaign ended with a whimper on Friday night, was soon mocked by the US president.“Oh no,” Trump wrote, “Beto just dropped out of race for President despite him saying he was ‘born for this’. I don’t think so!”Related: Beto O’Rourke withdraws from Democratic race to face TrumpWith his usual blunt branding ability, Trump had zeroed in on a Vanity Fair interview that O’Rourke gave on the eve of entering the race – and from which he never quite recovered.“I want to be in it,” the former Texas congressman told the magazine in March. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.”With a shoot by the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, the Vanity Fair spread gave many the impression of a white male vanity project. And O’Rourke – who later described the cover and his choice of words as a mistake – did little to dispel that during a campaign in which he livestreamed himself having a haircut.At 47 and with a young family, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke had been billed as a new Robert Kennedy, a fresh and dynamic figure of hope who could work across the aisle. He was urged to run for president by many Democrats, including Barack Obama alumni, inspired by his narrow Senate loss last year in the Republican stronghold of Texas. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty ImagesO’Rourke had visited every county in the state, raised a record $80m from donors across the country and used social media and livestreaming to connect directly with voters. A speech about racial injustice went viral. His defeat by the incumbent Republican Ted Cruz by just three percentage points was seen as a moral victory. In his concession speech, O’Rourke told an adoring crowd: “I’m so fucking proud of you guys.”But the swearing, leaping on tables and social media antics that appeared charming against Cruz, a liberal bête noire, became grating when O’Rourke was up against fellow Democrats.Even before entering the race, there was a narcissistic blog: “Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in.”
Days after President Trump announced the death of the self-proclaimed leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during a U.S. special forces operation in northwest Syria on Oct. 26, the terror group has named its new leader: Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi.
But besides a name that implies the new leader is a descendant of the Quraysh tribe of the Prophet Muhammad, we know little about him. ISIS’s statement on Thursday gave no indication of what he looks like, how he sounds, or precise his role in the group before it designated him “caliph” and “emir of the believers.” (A caliph is a spiritual leader of Islam who claims succession from the Prophet Muhammad.)
In the almost eight-minute-long audio recording posted on messaging service Telegram, ISIS introduced its new spokesman as Abu Hamza al-Qurashi—connecting him too with the Prophet’s lineage. (The previous spokesman was killed in a separate joint U.S.-Kurdish operation hours after the one targeting al-Baghdadi.) In the recording, the new spokesman warned the U.S. to “beware vengeance” for al-Baghdadi’s death, swiped at Trump’s erratic leadership, and emphasized the group’s global reach. Here’s what else to know.
What do we know about al-Baghdadi’s successor?
Almost nothing. “Nobody — and I mean nobody outside a likely very small circle within ISIS — have any idea who their new leader “Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi” is,” Paul Cruickshank of the Combating Terrorism Center, wrote on Twitter shortly after the militant group made the leader’s name public.
The audio recording described the new leader as a “prominent figure in jihad.”
But the lack of identifying biographical details should come as no surprise, says Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks online networks affiliated with jihadist and white supremacist organizations. “Any successor that is already known to the world would start his rule with a major security vulnerability,” Katz told TIME on October 30. “I don’t foresee a video message, audio message, or anything that is in any way revealing.”
Still, that’s not prevented speculation as to the new leader’s identity. ISIS officials often change names when their role or rank shifts, one expert notes. The day before ISIS released its recording, National Counterterrorism Center director Russ Travers suggested the name of Hajji Abdullah as a potential successor to al-Baghdadi. Some analysts suggest al-Hashimi could be Abdullah’s nom de guerre.
Trump claimed on Friday morning that the U.S. already knows the identity of the new leader.
How does ISIS select its leaders?
Like al-Baghdadi before him, the new leader was approved by a shura, or governing council, implying the ISIS hierarchy and bureaucracy remains operational. Thursday’s announcement also claimed al-Baghdadi had earmarked his successor before his death: “The sheikhs of the mujahadeen agreed, after consulting with their brothers and acting on the recommendation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to pledge allegiance to the sheikh and mujahid, the scholar, doer and worshipper, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurasyhi,” it said.
Why is the “caliph” designation important?
The claim that ISIS’s new leader is descended from the Prophet Muhammad’s tribe, while difficult to prove, is important to the group’s attempt to assert his legitimacy as a “caliph.” In contrast to deceased Al Qaeda Osama bin Laden, who cast himself as a military leader, al-Baghdadi also declared himself the “caliph” of all Muslims in a caliphate; his caliph name was also appended with al-Qurayshi.
Al-Baghdadi’s positioning was “much more oriented around engineering the perception of leadership in a way that compels actions,” says Michael S. Smith II, a terrorism analyst, and lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Global Security Studies Program. Al-Baghdadi’s own rhetoric emphasized that allegiance to him should be “demonstrated not just by words but actions,” Smith II adds.
ISIS’s claim of al-Hashimi as its new “caliph” conveys an attempt to continue its past operational strategy despite no longer holding territory in Syria and Iraq, experts say.
How have pro-ISIS networks responded to al-Baghdadi’s death?
One of the surprising aspects of al-Baghdadi’s death was the relative lack of online “chatter” on pro-ISIS networks as rumors of his demise gathered pace. According to Smith II at John Hopkins, that’s likely a result of ISIS’s ability to assert control beyond its official propaganda channel. “The group has been incredibly careful about managing perceptions and using propaganda to do that,” he said. “But it’s also been very good at constraining commentaries made by the group’s wider support base online that are not considered to be in line with a strategic communication program.”
Within hours of Thursday’s release, ISIS’s weekly publication Al Naba was offering coverage of the recording. “Troubling that even after past week’s developments, ISIS’ media machine is still chugging along: Naba digital newspaper out on time, communiques rolling out, etc,” SITE Intelligence Group’s director Katz wrote on Twitter. “Cannot be stressed enough: Despite politically driven narratives of victory, ISIS is not “beaten.” She added that based on reactions “already pouring in” from the ISIS community, the group’s supporters appeared re-energized by the developments.
What will the new successor mean for ISIS?
The signs point to business as usual. Besides naming ISIS’s new leader and spokesman, Thursday’s statement emphasized the group’s global reach. “America, don’t you realize that the Islamic State is now at the forefront of Europe and West Africa? It is extended from the East to the West,” the new spokesman said. Counterterrorism experts told the New York Times that in the coming week they expect to see pledges of fealty to the new leader from ISIS’ affiliates in Afghanistan, Sinai, the Philippines and elsewhere.
The enduring threat underscores experts’ assessment that the death of al-Baghdadi will not debilitate ISIS. “We’re not likely to see much of an impact in terms of operational capacity, certainly not to result in the group’s demise, or really even bring about a decline,” Jenna Jordan, author of Leadership Decapitation: Strategic Targeting of Terrorist Organizations told TIME a few days before the announcement of al-Baghdadi’s successor. “An argument I make is that it can, in fact, make things worse.”