Defense secretary blasts Turkey over Syria invasion » Defense Secretary Mark Esper came down hard on Turkey during a speech in Brussels on Thursday.
He blamed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for forcing the United States to choose between two allies.
ESPER: Turkey put us all in a very terrible situation. I think the incursion was unwarranted. I think President Erdogan was fixated on making this incursion, for one reason or another. And there was not a possibility that we were going to start a war with a NATO ally.
Esper also said Turkey is moving away from its ties with Western nations as it draws closer to Russia. But, he said, that doesn’t mean we should widen the gap.
ESPER: I think we all need to work together to strengthen our partnership with Turkey and make sure they trend back to being the strong, reliable ally—responsible ally—that they’ve been in the past.
But the Turkish offensive in northern Syria shows no signs of slowing. The state news agency in Damascus reported that Turkish fighters attacked Syrian forces on Thursday.
Both sides claim they are abiding by a ceasefire agreement that divides up a 19-mile wide strip along the border.
Lawmakers pay tribute to Cummings at Capitol » AUDIO: [Sound of choir singing]
A church choir sang in the old House chamber at the Capitol Thursday as lawmakers paid their respects by the flag-draped casket of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
The longtime Maryland Democrat was the first African-American lawmaker to lie in repose at the Capitol.
Several of his colleagues shared their memories, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. He recalled protests and riots in Baltimore in 2015 when Cummings walked the streets of his hometown, bullhorn in hand, calling for peace.
MCCONNELL: Here’s what he said: Let’s go home. Let’s all go home. And now our distinguished colleague truly has gone home.
Demcratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also paid tribute.
HOYER: In much the same way he saw poverty in Baltimore and elsewhere and worked to alleviate it, he saw injustice and worked to make our country more just.
Cummings was the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. He died October 17th from long-standing health problems.
California wildfires spread » Wildfires in California exploded in size Thursday, prompting officials to order mandatory evacuations.
Authorities ordered at least 40,000 people to evacuate as wind-driven fires rage north of Los Angeles.
And in Northern California, officials ordered evacuations in Geyserville in the Sonoma County wine country.
Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to about half a million people late Wednesday to stop more fires from starting. High winds and low humidity have created the perfect conditions for fast-moving fires.
Some customers complained about the inconvenience of blackouts. Others were grateful for any efforts to avoid more damage.
CALIFORNIA: I know some people have been upset but for me, I just remember how scary it was when the fires did happen and I kind of see it as I would rather take the precaution.
Fire officials have blamed power company equipment for starting several fires in recent years. They caused billions of dollars in damage and killed dozens of people.
British PM seeks early election to break Brexit impasse » British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling for an early general election in the UK. With that, Johnson effectively conceded that Brexit will not happen on schedule, as he had previously vowed. He said he expects the EU will grant the UK’s request for another extension.
British lawmakers this week voted to advance his reworked Brexit agreement with European leaders. But they rejected his effort to fast-track the bill to beat the October 31st deadline. Lawmakers said they needed more time to scrutinize it.
The prime minister said Thursday…
JOHNSON: We’re saying if you genuinely want more time, you can have it. Here it is. But the condition for that is that we all agree to go for a general election on December 12th.
He said a December election will create a “deadline” for lawmakers to finally push a Brexit deal across the finish line. On Monday, they’ll have a chance to vote on whether to hold an early election.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, says he’ll back an early vote—on one condition: Guarantee the UK won’t exit the EU without a divorce deal—a so-called no-deal Brexit.
CORBYN: Take no-deal off the table and we absolutely support an election.
Britain’s next scheduled election is in 2022.
WHO announces polio strain eradicated » The World Health Organization has announced the eradication of a second strain of the polio virus.
There are three different types of polio. They cause the same symptoms but must be targeted separately. Health officials declared the first strain wiped out worldwide in 2015.
News of the second strain’s eradication came on World Polio Day. The last case caused by this strain was diagnosed in northern Nigeria in 2012.
But the last remaining strain of the disease continues to sicken children around the world. Health officials in Zambia confirmed the first local case of polio there since 1995. And it was traced back to a polio vaccine that contained live copies of the virus. In rare cases live virus in the oral polio vaccine can mutate into a form capable of sparking new outbreaks.