Briefing: Russia hacks National Security Agency, NRA supports gun control measure, Trump limits contraception

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  • The National Rifle Association, a U.S. gun-rights advocacy organization, announced support for regulation on “bump stocks,” a device that allows semi-automatic weapons to be converted into fully-automatic weapons. The announcement comes in the wake of the recent Las Vegas mass-shooting which left 59 dead.
  • Leaked documents show that the Icelandic Prime Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, sold assets worth millions of Icelandic kronas before the country’s financial crash in 2008. Benediktsson was only a MP during the economic collapse, but the Panama Papers, a trove of leaked documents revealing the relationships between wealthy individuals and public officials, show that he had a close relationship with bank executives.
  • Russian hackers obtained highly-classified documents from the U.S. National Security Agency after infiltrating the personal computer of an employee of the intelligence organization. The materials included sensitive information on how the U.S. conducts spying operations of their own.
  • Spain apologized on Friday for the violent police crackdown on Catalonia’s independence referendum. “When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who was hospitalized, I can’t help but regret it and apologize on behalf of the officers that intervened,” Enric Millo, who represents the the central Madrid government in Catalonia, said in a television interview.
    • Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets to stop people from voting in the referendum on Sunday. The referendum was branded unconstitutional by Madrid.
  • Entrepreneur Elon Musk says he could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid with his solar power technology. Hurricane Maria destroyed the vast majority of the area’s power supply two weeks ago.
  • U.S. employment fell for the first time in seven years. Nonfarm payrolls dropped by 33,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department said on Friday, as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left displaced workers who were temporarily unemployed and delayed hiring. Economists say the drop could be discounted, however, as the labor market, on the whole, could remain solid despite these figures, according to The Financial Times (paywall).


  • President Donald J. Trump is due to announce a rollback on contraceptive coverage on Friday. The New York Times reported that under the new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose birth control benefits. The original Obamacare mandate required most employers to provide free coverage of birth control to their employees. Under this new rule, employers could exempt from covering contraception services “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs.” (Full story.)
  • The Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluis Trapero, is appearing before a judge in Madrid on suspicion of sedition against the state. Another Catalan police officer and two leading independence activists are also being questioned as suspects.
    • Sedition is inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.
  • The Catalan government is going to hold a parliamentary session next Monday despite being blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court according to Catalonia’s foreign affairs minister, Raül Romeva – The Guardian.  The parliament’s leaders could face criminal action if they ignore the court order.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. 122 nations adopted UN treaty designed to ban all nuclear weapons. However, nuclear powers including the UK and U.S. did not sign up.

What we’re reading and watching

  • Bloomberg profiled Mike Moore, a lawyer who brought down the tobacco industry and is now taking on the Opioid Industry. Moore is encouraging states to sue pharmaceutical companies for driving the opioid crisis by misrepresenting the benefits and risk.
  • A Buzzfeed investigation explains how alt-right publication Breitbart and its former tech editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, pushed Nazi and White Nationalist ideology into the mainstream. Since the presidency of Donald J. Trump, Breitbart was a crucial player in spreading “alt-right” ideologies. Its executive chairman is Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist.
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