Kabul hotel siege ends; Turkish ground forces cross into Syria

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  • A siege at a Kabul hotel is over – Afghan security forces said they had killed six Taliban militants to end an overnight siege at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel that left at least 18 people dead, including 14 foreigners. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants, who wore suicide vests, pinned security forces down for more than 13 hours after the attack began about 9 p.m. Saturday. The gunmen roamed the hallways and targeted foreigners and Afghan officials inside the luxury, hilltop hotel. The state-owned hotel frequently caters to political leaders and foreigners. The Kabul International was attacked in 2011 by Taliban fighters, the militant group has yet to take credit for this incidence.
  • Turkish troops cross into Syria – Turkish ground forces crossed into northern Syria a move to rid the border area of Kurdish fighters. The Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia is supported by the United States but is seen as a terrorist organization by Turkey. Earlier, the Turkish air force launched strikes on Kurdish militants in the Syrian region Afrin, which lies across its southern border. Read the WikiTribune explainer: Turkey starts shelling after U.S. backs down on Syria border force.
  • Trump urges change to Senate rules – U.S. President Donald Trump urged lawmakers to change Senate rules after negotiations to fund federal agencies broke down. “If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51 percent (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget,” Trump said on Twitter. Senate rules require a super-majority of three-fifths of the chamber, usually 60 out of 100, for legislation to clear procedural hurdles and pass. The government shut down on Saturday after Trump and Republican lawmakers became locked in a standoff with Democrats, largely over differences on immigration.  Trump’s proposal was almost immediately rejected by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Read this WikiTribune piece which explains what the government shutdown is and why it is happening.
  • Alleged Asian wildlife trafficker arrested – Thai police arrested a man whom The Guardian identified in a 2016 investigation as one of the world’s most notorious wildlife traffickers. Boonchai Bach, a 40-year-old Thai of Vietnamese origin, allegedly was involved in the smuggling thousands of tons of elephant tusks and rhino horns from Africa to Asia, according to the British newspaper. Bach was detained in a town on the border with Laos, the BBC reports. The Guardian report exposed what it described as a Bach’s dealings in a global trafficking network in northern Thailand. Bach was arrested for allegedly smuggling 14 rhino horns worth about US $1 million from Africa to Thailand. The charge carries a penalty of up to four years prison.

  • Protesters hit the streets for Women’s March – Hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out in cities across the U.S on Saturday for the second Women’s March. The protests are against U.S. President Donald Trump and mark the end of his first year in office. The rallies occurred in Washington, New York, Los Chicago and about 250 other cities. Los Angeles officials said 600,000 people featured in that city’s demonstration. Speakers at the rallies spoke out against Trump for policies that they said hurt women and urged voters to turn out for congressional elections in November.

What we’re reading

  • An argument for government shutdowns – The Washington Examiner, a political conservative publication, argues that today’s shutdown is a positive testament that American democracy is working. Fierce bipartisan factions is a reflection of politicians fearing their respective electorates.

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