Live Coverage

Today's News: Oct. 20, 2016

Russia extends the cease-fire in Aleppo, recalled airbags killed another American, and more from across the United States and around the world.

Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters

—Russia extended a cease-fire in the war-torn Syrian town of Aleppo for another 24 hours, going until Friday at 1 p.m. GMT. By holding off on bombing the city, it will give time for residents to flee. Rebel leaders have warned it’s a ploy.

—A faulty airbag inflator that was part of the largest auto recall in U.S. history claimed another American life.

—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).


This live blog has concluded

Recalled Airbags Cause Another American Death

Takata airbags
Joe Skipper / Reuters

Yet another person has died from defective airbag inflators that have been recalled by U.S. regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that the woman who died in California last month is the 11th American victim of the Takata Corporation’s faulty instrument. As many as five other people were killed by the same inflators in Malaysia. More from the Associated Press:

The agency said the woman, identified in Riverside County, California, coroner's records as Delia Robles, 50, of Corona, was driving a 2001 Honda Civic. Riverside police said in a statement that a man making a left turn in a Chevrolet pickup truck was hit head-on by the Civic. The woman was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died from her injuries, the statement said.

While Honda sent more than 20 recall notices to affected Civic owners, the owner of the car involved in this latest accident never repaired the vehicle. Honda has urged vehicle owners to stop driving the compromised cars immediately. Nearly 300,000 vehicles have not yet been repaired.

The faulty air bags inflate too powerfully, sending metal shrapnel flying at passengers. This led U.S. regulators to enforce the largest auto recall in U.S. history earlier this year, deeming 69 million inflators too dangerous for use. Worldwide, 100 million inflators have been recalled. The recall has cost the Japan-based company billions of dollars.

The U.S. Sets a New, Uncomfortable Record


Rates of sexually transmitted diseases reached an all-time high in the United States last year, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The annual report, released Wednesday, showed that the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—the three most commonly reported STDs in the nation—all increased to unprecedented levels last year.

One of the reasons for the spike, according to the report, is budget cuts. State and local governments have cut funding for more than half of STD programs, resulting in the closure of more than 20 STD clinics in the country in one year alone. Fewer clinics mean reduced access to STD testing and treatment for those who need these services.

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “STD rates are rising, and many of the country’s systems for preventing STDs have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services—or the human and economic burden will continue to grow.”

Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 and gay and bisexual men continue to face the greatest risk of becoming infected with an STD, and there were “troubling increases” in syphilis among newborns, the report stated.

The CDC estimates STD cases cost the U.S. health-care system nearly $16 billion each year.

Feds Say Former NSA Contractor Violated the Espionage Act

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Federal prosecutors will charge a former National Security Agency contractor with violating the Espionage Act.

For more than 20 years, Harold T. Martin III allegedly stole 50 terabytes of data and several boxes of documents, using his top-secret national security clearance. Some of the documents he allegedly stole were kept at his home, office, and car. The Washington Post describes it as “the largest theft of classified government material ever.” The Post adds:

Martin, who will appear at a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Friday, also took personal information about government employees as well dozens of computers, thumb drives and other digital storage devices.

It is unclear whether Martin passed any of the stolen data to foreign governments. Federal prosecutors warn that if Martin is released on bail, he may flee the country. Martin’s defense team maintains “there is no evidence he intended to betray his country.”

Martin, who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same company that employed Edward Snowden in 2013, was arrested in August and initially charged with stealing government documents, a misdemeanor. If Martin is convicted of these new charges, each count could carry a 10-year sentence.

Ethiopia's Crackdown on Protesters

Demonstrators cross their hands in protest in Oromia, Ethiopia, on October 2, 2016. (Tiksa Negeri / Reuters)

The Ethiopian government detained 1,600 people Thursday in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country, nearly two weeks after it declared a state of emergency in response to a wave of anti-government protests, some of which have turned violent.

The protests, which broke out in Oromia last November and have since spread to other parts of the country, are the result of years of frustration with the government by several ethnic groups who argue they have been marginalized. The Oromo people, who live in Oromia, say the government has excluded them from the political process and limited their economic growth. The group accounts for roughly a third of Ethiopia’s population.

The arrests come after the detentions of about 1,000 people near the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Monday.

The protests reached an international audience this summer when Ethiopian marathoner and silver medalist, Feyisa Lilesa, crossed his hands above his head as he finished the race at the Olympic games in Rio. Protesters have used the gesture during anti-government demonstrations.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told state-run media earlier this month that the government imposed the state of emergency to “put our citizens’ safety first.” Under a state of emergency, the government has restricted access to several television channels and social media, and criminalized protests and certain gestures—including the one made by Lilesa at the Olympics. Police do not require a warrant to detain citizens at this time.

According to Human Rights Watch, government security forces have routinely “used lethal force, including live ammunition, to break up many of the 500 reported protests that have occurred since November 2015.” The human-rights group also claims security forces have entered medical facilities to deny treatment to and detain suspected protesters who are injured.

Instagram’s Mental-Health Check

(Karly Domb Sadof / AP)

Instagram has launched a new feature aimed at suicide prevention that allows users to flag the content of users they believe may be at risk of self-harm.

The tool, released this week, will allow users to anonymously flag posts on the popular social-media app. Instagram will then send the person who posted the flagged comment a message saying, "Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we'd like to help.” The app will then offer tips about where to seek help or encourage users to talk to a family member or friend.

Instagram will have a team of people, rather than an algorithm, reviewing flagged posts 24 hours a day. The company said it worked with mental-health experts and groups like the National Eating Disorders Association and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well as individuals who have had experience with eating disorders, self-harm, or suicide, to design the new feature.

This announcement comes as Instagram has sought to integrate mental-health awareness into its app. The company commemorated National Body Confidence Day on Monday by encouraging users to add #PerfectlyMe to their posts. The campaign, created in partnership with Seventeen magazine, was aimed at highlighting young women and men within the Instagram community.

The new feature is similar to services Facebook introduced in 2011, when it began a partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Facebook allows users to report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend and offers a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.

Russia Extends Cease-Fire in Aleppo

A man rides a bicycle near damaged buildings in eastern Aleppo on October 19, 2016 (Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters)

Russia will extend the cease-fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo by 24 hours, meaning the pause in the conflict will last until Friday at 1 p.m. GMT, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday. Separately, Jan Egeland, the UN’s humanitarian chief, said Russia would maintain the truce for 11 hours a day until Saturday, instead of the eight hours announced by Syria. Russia hasn’t publicly commented on that duration.   

The cease-fire has been in effect since Tuesday when Russian and Syrian troops suspended airstrikes on rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo; Egeland said civilians were able to escape the city in that time. More than 250,000 civilians live in eastern Aleppo.

Rebel leaders have criticized the cease-fire, saying it’s a ploy to recapture their last major redoubt in Syria.

Hundreds of thousand of people have been killed and millions displaced in the Syrian civil war, which began more than five years ago following the unrest of the Arab Spring. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, roughly 2,700 people have been killed or injured in Aleppo since last month. And several Western leaders say the Russian and Syrian airstrikes on civilian pockets in Aleppo amount to war crimes.

The U.S. Suffers Its First Casualty in the Fight to Retake Mosul

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

A U.S. soldier was killed Thursday in northern Iraq by an improvised-explosive device, reportedly during the battle to retake Mosul, which has been under ISIS control since 2014. The soldier’s name was not released. No further details were available.

The effort to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city, began Monday and could be the last major battle against ISIS, which at the height of its power controlled a third of Iraq.

Although the operation to take control of Mosul began earlier this week, the push into the surrounding region has been underway for six months, with Iraqi government troops slowly marching northward. Some 5,000 ISIS fighters and more than 1 million civilians are still believed to be in the city. The Iraqi operation is expected to last several weeks, but the world will not know the full humanitarian cost until the city is completely reclaimed.

Court Ruling Restores Voting Eligibility for Thousands of Ohioans

Voters cast their ballots in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 12, 2016 (John Minchillo / AP)

Thousands of voters in Ohio will have their voting eligibility restored and be allowed to participate in the 2016 presidential election, a federal judge ruled Wednesday night.

Last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio could not remove infrequent voters from listings of people registered to vote in Ohio. The court, however, made no provisions for reinstating those who were removed by the state's voter purges, which have occurred on a rolling basis for several years. The Ohio A. Phillip Randolph Institute, a group that advocates for racial equality and economic justice, along with the Ohio Democratic Party and the ACLU, sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in April to reinstate those voters. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge George C. Smith ruled in their favor.

“Voters who believe they are registered will show up on Election Day and be allowed to cast a provisional ballot under the relief granted,” Smith wrote in the 22-page ruling.

The decision allows those who were removed from the voter rolls, per the Sixth Court opinion, to cast provisional ballots even though the deadline for voter registration has passed. The ruling further stipulates that the voters must live in the same county as where they were previously registered, which means that some voters will not be reinstated. As such, the ruling does not restore voting rights to all of those who were purged.

Husted, who fought to keep the laws in place to prevent what he believed to be rampant voter fraud, said in an interview with PBS NewsHour that his goal was to make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

Every state purges voters from its voter rolls periodically, but historically few have been as aggressive as Ohio. In 2015, the state purged roughly 200,000 people from its voter rolls. Here’s how the process works: If an Ohio voter did not submit a ballot in two years, the state would send a card asking the voter to confirm his or her eligibility. If voters failed to mail the cards back in, their registration would be canceled. Many objected that the cancellations were unconstitutional because the mailers did not specify that the replies were mandatory, and said the process disproportionately and negatively affected low-income and minority individuals.

Husted acknowledged the judge’s ruling in a statement Wednesday. “Our main concern was to protect the integrity of the election by not having to reinstate deceased voters, those who moved out of state, or are otherwise ineligible,” he said. “We will fully comply with the judge’s order to count votes of people who remain eligible in their original county and continue to focus on the important work of administering a smooth election."

NFL’s Josh Brown Admitted Abusing His Wife

Charlie Riedel / AP

NFL kicker Josh Brown admitted to physically and emotionally abusing his now-former wife, calling himself a sex-addicted “deviant” and a “liar” with “no empathy,” police records released Wednesday show.

The documents, obtained by SNY, included entries in his own journals, emails to his wife, and a letter he wrote to friends.

"I have physically, mentally, emotionally and verbally been a repulsive man," Brown wrote in one of his journal entries. In another entry, he said that he viewed himself as “God” and his then- wife, Molly, as “my slave.”

The documents were released by the King County, Washington Sheriff’s Office as part of Brown’s final case file following an arrest in May 22, 2015, after an incident with his then-wife. The sheriff’s and prosecutor's offices initially decided to postpone the filing pending further investigation, with the sheriff's office recommending that the prosecutor's office file charges of two counts of fourth-degree domestic assault. As of September 2016, charges had not been filed.

The New York Giants re-signed Brown during the offseason to a two-year, $4 million deal. Giants co-owner John Mara defended Brown just two months ago, saying in August, “I believe all the facts and circumstances, and we were comfortable with our decision to re-sign him.”

It is not clear if the Giants or the NFL were aware of Brown’s written admissions of abuse released in the police documents.

The Brown case comes as the NFL works to rehab its image following several high-profile domestic abuse incidents with its players.

In 2014, after video surfaced of running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancee unconscious in an elevator, Anna Isaacson, the NFL vice president of social responsibility, acknowledged, regarding domestic violence, that the NFL “has an issue, clearly.”

Since the Rice incident, several other NFL players have been indicted or charged in domestic-violence cases. Defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty in July 2014 of assaulting his girlfriend and threatening to kill her, and running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in September 2014 for reckless or negligent injury to a child.  

U.K. to Pardon Thousands of Men Convicted Under Defunct Anti-Gay Laws

A photo of Alan Turing, for whom the new plan was named after. (Bobby Yip / Reuters)

Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of since-abolished sexual offenses in Britain will be pardoned, the government announced Thursday.

“It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offenses who would be innocent of any crime today,” Sam Gyimah, a British MP and justice minister, said in a statement. “Through pardons and the existing disregard process, we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs.”

The government’s plan, dubbed “Turing’s Law,” comes three years after Queen Elizabeth II issued a posthumous pardon to Alan Turing, the famed computer scientist whose code-breaking skills helped the Allies crack Germany’s Enigma coding machine during World War II. Turing was convicted in 1952 for gross indecency under Britain’s laws criminalizing homosexuality; he committed suicide two years later.

The plan will be implemented through an amendment to Britain’s Policing and Crime Bill, a change that would apply to both England and Wales. Under Turing’s Law, deceased people previously convicted under these since-reversed laws will be automatically pardoned. The estimated 15,000 men convicted who are still alive will also be eligible for the pardon and may apply through the Home Office.

Though a separate bill was put forward proposing an automatic pardon for those living so that they don’t need to go through the Home Office, the government said it would not support it on the grounds it could risk clearing people of sexual offenses still considered criminal under the law.

Though the announcement stands to affect an estimated 65,000 men living and deceased convicted under these laws, not everyone wants a pardon. George Montague, who was convicted in 1974 for gross indecency, told the BBC he wants an apology.

“To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything,” he said. “I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Climate Change Is Coming for Your Malbec

Enrique Marcarian / Reuters

Earlier this week, my colleague Adam Chandler wrote about how climate change could imperil avocado production in Mexico and panic U.S. guacamole lovers. Now foodies have more climate-related food news to worry about: On Thursday, France’s International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), an intergovernmental agency, released a report that found changing weather could also jeopardize global stocks of world-favorite wines, especially Malbec.

Global wine production in 2016 is expected to decrease 5 percent, to 259.5 million hectolitres, as a result of “climatic events,” OIV said. That still meets market demand, but it’s one of the lowest outputs for nearly two decades.

By the end of 2016, Italy and France—the world’s largest wine producers—will see a 2 percent and 12 percent decline, respectively. South America will experience the worst hit. Wine production in Chile will fall 21 percent. Argentina, the largest producer of Malbec, derived from a particularly sensitive grape, is predicted to see a 35 percent plunge in production. These decreases are the result of late frosts and an unusually dry summer this year, the report found.

The report did not specifically blame climate change, but scientific papers have already predicted how weather changes will disrupt the wine world, turning storied wine winners into losers, and losers into winners. And that is the one bright spot—for some—in the OIV report. While total production should fall across the world, some New World vineyards will see modest gains in wine output, like in Australia and the United States, as the climate rearranges some previously less hospitable wine-growing regions into more ideal spots.

Stephen Hawking: Artificial Intelligence Could Be Really Awesome or Destroy Us All

(Dennis Van Tine / AP)

Stephen Hawking warned that powerful artificial intelligence “will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity,” arguing that humans have the capacity to make AI an indispensable force for good—but not without some risks.

The world-renowned scientist spoke Wednesday night at the opening of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, an institute in Britain attempting to harness the potential of AI over the coming decades.

“We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity,” Hawking said. “So it’s a welcome change that people are studying instead the future of intelligence.”

Hawking has been outspoken in his concerns about AI in the past. Two years ago, the theoretical physicist, who uses text-to-speech technology to speak through a computer, told the BBC that the development of full artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race."

Other prominent industry leaders such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have echoed Hawkings’ sentiment. At a symposium in 2014 at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Musk said that humanity risks “summoning a demon” and that AI poses the most serious threat to the survival of the human race.

But on Wednesday, Hawking took a more optimistic look at AI. He touted the rapid development of self-driving automobile technology and said AI could help eradicate disease and poverty while also providing the opportunity to undo some of the damage to the natural world caused by industrialization.

“Every aspect of our lives will be transformed,” Hawking said. “Success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of civilization.”

The Escaped Gorilla in London Chugged Five Liters of Juice Before Being Captured

The London Zoo’s Kumbuka, a 400-pound gorilla, in 2014, probably daydreaming about blackcurrant squash (Neil Hall / Reuters)

Last week, a gorilla escaped from his enclosure at the London Zoo, triggering a lockdown of the grounds, a flurry of breaking-news alerts, and comparisons to Harambe, the gorilla killed in the United States earlier this year whom the internet has immortalized in memes.

But the escape “was less dramatic than some would have you believe,” said David Field, the zoological director of the Zoological Society of London, in a blog post on the conservation group’s website Wednesday, the first thorough explanation of what transpired.

“I can certainly tell you that there were no broken locks, Kumbuka did not smash any windows, he was never ‘on the loose’, and his normal gorilla posturing reported by visitors earlier in the day was unrelated to the incident,” Field wrote.

Here’s what happened. On October 13, zookeepers called Kumbuka, a 400-pound silverback gorilla, into his nighttime enclosure for dinner, where he eats separately from the females. But two doors leading to his den had not been properly locked, and Kumbuka escaped through them and into a corridor where zookeepers work. A zookeeper, with whom Kumbuka shares an “incredibly close bond,” spoke calmly to the gorilla as the zoo went into lockdown and evacuated visitors. Kumbuka, meanwhile, “briefly explored the zookeeper area next door to his den, where he opened and drank five litres [more than one gallon] of undiluted blackcurrant squash.”

That’s a lot of juice.

Kumbuka was then tranquilized, and was back in his den in two hours.

The BBC interviewed a primatologist about any health effects Kumbuka may have experienced from chugging so much blackcurrant squash, since the London Zoo’s gorillas usually drink a diluted version of it:

Gorillas have quite large stomachs so this epic helping of concentrated squash could have caused severe stomach pains and diarrhoea, according to Prof Phyllis Lee, a primatologist at the University of Stirling.

"Five litres is quite a lot for a gorilla to consume in one go but given a gorilla's manual dexterity, I would assume that some would have been spilled," she says.

… Lee added that she would expect the squash to affect the consistency of Kumbuka's poo rather than its colour - even in the case of blackcurrant - though she added that she had not studied the matter closely.

So, there you have it. The great gorilla escape of 2016 was squashed before it ever really began.

Argentines Protest Violence Against Women

A woman looks over hundreds of protesters with umbrellas during a demonstration against gender violence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on October 19, 2016 (Associated Press)

Argentine women marched across the country Wednesday following the brutal rape and murder of a teenager earlier this month.

The protests come as, according to local media, Argentina recorded 226 killings in 2016 in which the victims were women; 19 women were killed in October alone. The case that drew the most attention was that of Lucia Perez. The 16-year-old was reportedly drugged with large amounts of cocaine and then raped and tortured.

"I know it's not very professional to say this," Maria Isabel Sanchez, lead prosecutor on the case, told  local media, "but I'm a mother and a woman, and though I've seen thousands of cases in my career, I've never seen anything like this."

In response to Perez’s killing, along with several other similar cases in recent weeks, Ni Una Menos, a women’s-rights organization, and nearly 50 other groups and unions organized  Wednesday’s “Black Wednesday” protest to mourn those lost.

At 1 p.m. local time Wednesday, thousands of women walked out of their houses or places of work, clad in black, “to make ourselves visible, to be seen, and to be heard.”

In a document released to protesters, organizers demanded an end to the violence and aimed to draw attention to the economic disparity between Argentine men and women.  

Latin America has historically been one of the worst regions for violence against women. Of the 10 countries with the highest rates of female killings, seven of them are in Latin America.

In July, President Mauricio Macri announced a plan to lower that rate, including through the introduction of gender-violence awareness in the school curriculum.

Spain's Top Court Reverses Catalonia's Bullfighting Ban

People protest against bullfighting in Barcelona on September 25, 2011 (Gustau Nacarino / Reuters)

Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that Catalonia’s 2010 bullfighting ban is “unconstitutional and void,” a decision that is likely to upset animal-rights activists and worsen tensions between Madrid and the separatist-minded region.

The court’s 8-3 ruling in favor of reversing the regional ban said bullfighting is a part of Spain’s cultural heritage and thus can only be banned by the country’s central government—not semi-autonomous regions like Catalonia.

Catalonia’s regional parliament voted in favor of banning bullfighting in 2010 after a campaign by animal-rights activists garnered more than 180,000 signatures, making it the first region in mainland Spain to outlaw the tradition. Proponents of the ban call have criticized the practice as being immoral and outdated. Critics, however, see the activity as an integral part of Spanish culture. The court’s ruling is likely to incense Catalonians who have long viewed themselves as distinct from the rest of Spain. The region boasts its own language and national identity, and its leaders have promised to call for an independence referendum next year—one that Madrid strongly opposes.

A 2010 poll by El Pais found that while 60 percent of Spaniards enjoy bullfighting, 57 percent opposed the Catalan government’s move to ban the activity. Of those surveyed, 58 percent believed the move was politically motivated, whereas 36 percent said it was to oppose animal cruelty. Another poll by Ipsos Mori, conducted in 2015 for animal-welfare organization World Animal Protection, found that 19 percent of Spanish adults supported bullfighting, with 58 percent opposed.

Cleveland Indians Head to the World Series

The Cleveland Indians celebrate their win against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on October 19. (Reuters)

The Cleveland Indians are headed back to the World Series after nearly two decades since their last American League pennant.

The Indians, with a patchwork rotation, defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-0, in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Wednesday. They won the series 4-1 and will play for a shot at their first World Series title since 1948.

A World Series victory would put the cherry on top of what has been a banner season for the team. After getting off to a slow start, the Indians finished the regular season with a record of 94-67, and earned their first Central Division title since 2007.

Their last series appearance, a back-and-forth seven-game battle against the Florida Marlins in 1997, ended with a loss in extra innings on a single base hit up the middle from Marlins shortstop Édgar Rentería.

It has not been an easy road back to glory in professional sports for the city of Cleveland. Before the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Championship, the city had not hoisted a major professional sports title in more than half a century. But with that series, the city’s fortunes changed. And the Indians hope they can keep the newfound winning tradition going.

“They broke the curse for Cleveland,” said second baseman Jason Kipnis. “That did a lot for the city, and it lifted the gray cloud over us that Cleveland can’t win. If we are on the verge of winning two titles in the same year, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

For one player, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Wednesday’s win may mark the first act of a literal dream come true. While playing for Double-A Akron RubberDucks in 2014, Lindor tweeted:

The Indians will play the winner of the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, who play Game 5 of the National League Championship tonight. The first game of the World Series will be held next Tuesday in Cleveland—on the same night the Cavaliers raise a banner commemorating their NBA title.

Philippines President Says Goodbye U.S., Hello China


Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president, left a meeting Thursday with Chinese President Xi Jinping having signed deals and loans worth billions of dollars, announcing the Philippines and China would reassess their competing claims of the South China Sea, and with the news of the Philippines’s “separation” of ties with the U.S.

Duterte is angry about the U.S. criticism of his war on crime, which has killed 3,500 people, many of them extrajudicially, since he took office in June. But few people expected such a statement to be made about ending a economic and military relationship that dates back to Philippines becoming an independent country in 1946.

“I announce my separation from the United States, both in military… not in the social… both in military [and] economics,” Duterte told Chinese businessmen in China’s Great Hall of People.

The U.S is the top foreign investor in the Philippines and is one of its top trading partners. It has maintained military bases in the Philippines and the two countries have had a mutual-defense treaty since 1951. In the 1990s, the U.S. withdrew its forces because of Filipino opposition to their presence. But since President Obama visited the country in 2014, that has changed. In January, the highest court in the Philippines approved an agreement to allow the return of U.S. forces. In March, the U.S. said it would heavily invest in five of its bases on the island.

To officially cut military ties, and sever previous agreements, Duterte still needs senate approval.

Snoopy No More: MetLife to Phase Out Iconic Character

(Jim R. Bounds / AP)

MetLife, the insurer, says it’s phasing out Snoopy and other characters from Peanuts after more than three decades.

“We brought in Snoopy over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant,” Esther Lee, global chief marketing officer of MetLife, said in a statement. “Snoopy helped drive our business and served an important role at the time.”

Here’s what the new logo will look like, according to the company:

MetLife's new visual branding is built around a clean, modern aesthetic. The striking new brandmark brings contemporary blue and green colors together in a symbol of partnership to form an M for MetLife. The iconic MetLife blue carries forth the brand's legacy, but has been brightened and now lives alongside a new color – green – which represents life, renewal and energy. The broader MetLife brand palette expands to include a range of vibrant secondary colors, reflecting the diverse lives of its customers.

The new branding will be rolled out through 2017.

Bloomberg adds that Steve Kandarian, MetLife’s CEO, wants the company to focus on group benefits, like dental and disability coverage. Earlier this month, he said MetLife’s retail business in the U.S. will be spun off.

Iraq's Prime Minister Says Mosul Operation Moving 'More Quickly' Than Expected

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks via a videoconference during a ministerial summit in Paris on Mosul.
(Regis Duvignau / Pool / AP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says his forces are advancing toward Mosul “more quickly” than expected.

The operation, which began Monday, pits Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and their allies—backed by U.S. airstrikes—against ISIS in its most prized asset in Iraq. Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, has been under ISIS control since 2014. Kurdish fighters are advancing on Mosul from the east and north. Iraqi troops are coming in from the south. About 5,000 ISIS fighters are believed to remain in Mosul, along with 1.5 million civilians.

“The forces are pushing towards the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had programmed in our campaign plan,” Abadi said via a video link to a conference on Mosul in Paris.

ISIS is reportedly responding using car bombs, but many of its senior leaders are said to have fled the city. Aid groups say thousands of civilians have also left, and are now in camps in Syria.