Live Coverage

Today's News: Nov. 3, 2016

Turkey arrests 11 pro-Kurdish lawmakers, the European Union exposing migrants to unnecessary risk, and more from the United States and around the world.

One of HDP’s leaders, Selahattin Demirtas, was detained Friday. Sertac Kayar / Reuters

—Turkish authorities have detained two co-leaders of the country’s third-largest political party. More here

—Migrants seeking asylum in Italy have allegedly been subjected to abuse at reception centers in the country, according to a new report. More here

—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

Turkey Arrests 11 Pro-Kurdish Lawmakers

One of HDP’s leaders, Selahattin Demirtas, was detained Friday. (Sertac Kayar / Reuters)

In their continued efforts to weed out political dissenters, Turkish authorities have detained two co-leaders of the country’s third-largest political party.

The leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, were detained in police raids Friday along with nine other HDP lawmakers. Authorities accuse them of supporting Kurdish militants, which the party has denied. HDP seats 59 lawmakers in parliament. Reuters has more:

Police also raided and searched the party's head office in central Ankara. Television images showed party officials quarreling with police during the raid, and a Reuters witness said many police cars and armed vehicles had closed the entrances to the street of the HDP headquarters.

Earlier this year, the Turkish parliament threw out the protections against prosecution that lawmakers had previously enjoyed. Now, it seems, authorities are taking advantage of the new law and arresting lawmakers they allege have ties to the terrorist group PKK.

While police conducted raids, social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Whatsapp, were blocked temporarily inside Turkey, the BBC reports.

Since the failed coup of July, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a state of emergency and detailed tens of thousands of academics, journalists, members of the military, judges, and public servants with alleged ties to the putsch.

Court Issues Arrest Warrant for South Korean President's Confidante

Choi Soon-sil stands outside the prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea, on October 31, 2016. (Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters)

A South Korean court issued an arrest warrant Thursday for the woman at the center of a political scandal that has enthralled the country and embroiled its president, Yonhap News Agency reports.

Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend and confidante of Park Geun-hye, the South Korean president, is accused of attempted fraud and abuse of authority—allegations that were first raised last week after it emerged that the 60-year-old woman had allegedly given private counsel to the South Korean president. Prosecutors say Choi used her relationship with the president—described by South Korean media as Rasputin-like—to solicit tens of millions of dollars to her two nonprofit foundations, allegedly in collaboration with An Chong-bum, one of Park’s top secretaries.

An, who resigned from his position Sunday, was placed on emergency detention, though he has denied any wrongdoing. Prosecutors said they will decide whether or not to request an arrest warrant for him Friday.

This latest scandal has embroiled Park, who faces a plummeting approval rating and nationwide calls for her resignation. She is expected to address the situation in a public statement Friday, according to the BBC.

Penn State Fined $2.4 Million for Clery Violations

Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, after his appeal on October 29, 2015. (Pat Little / Reuters)

Penn State University has been slapped with a nearly $2.4 million fine for its apparent failure to comply with the crime-reporting Clery Act, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.

Under the 1990 Clery Act, colleges and universities participating in federal financial-aid programs are required to disclose details of crime on campus to the federal government. In an investigation prompted by the on-campus sexual assault scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s former assistant football coach, the Department of Education reviewed the university’s Clery compliance between 1998 and 2011, covering the 14-year duration of Sandusky’s reported abuse. The Department identified 11 violations, including insufficient training, support, and resources to ensure compliance; failure to properly report crime incidents and statistics; and failure to maintain an accurate daily crime log.

“For colleges and universities to be safe spaces for learning and self-development, institutions must ensure student safety—a part of which is being transparent about incidents on their campuses. Disclosing this information is the law,” Ted Mitchell, the Department of Education under secretary, said Thursday in a statement. “When we determine that an institution is not upholding this obligation, then there must be consequences.” In a statement, Penn State said it was reviewing the department’s findings.

The fine marks the largest penalty ever given for Clery violations.

An EU Commissioner Apologizes for Insulting Chinese, Gays

Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

Gunther Oettinger, the European Union commissioner for Germany, apologized Thursday after video emerged of him calling the Chinese “slant-eyed,” and lamenting the prospect of “obligatory gay marriage” in Germany.

Oettinger, who will soon be the EU budget commissioner, is a high-ranking member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union. During his remarks, made last Friday to a small audience of German business leaders, he described a recent meeting in which Chinese officials “had their hair combed from the left to the right with black shoe polish.”

Oettinger first told German newspapers he had nothing to apologize for, and that his statements were taken out of context. He said his words were meant as a wakeup call to domestic business leaders, and that policies like lowering the retirement age and increasing pensions would make Germany less competitive. "Mothers' pensions, minimum pensions, pensions at 63, welfare payments,” Oettinger griped in the video, “soon it'll be compulsory gay marriages."

Gay-rights groups criticized Oettinger, and a Chinese government spokesperson said his remarks were imbued with “a baffling sense of superiority entrenched in some Western politicians.”

On Thursday, Oettinger apologized. “I had time to reflect on my speech,” he said, “and I can now see that the words I used have created bad feelings and may even have hurt people.”

The EU Is Exposing Migrants to Unlawful Abuse, New Report Says

Migrants disembark at the Italian harbor of Vibo Marina, in southern Italy, on October 22, 2016. (Yara Nardi / Italian Red Cross / Reuters)

Migrants seeking asylum in Italy have allegedly been subjected to abuse at reception centers in the country, according to a report released Thursday by Amnesty International.

Arbitrary detention, beatings, and electric shock were among the practices included in the report, which was based on the testimonies of 174 refugees and migrants in reception centers in Italy. According to Amnesty, migrants who tried to avoid fingerprintinga method used by reception centers to track them—were faced with coercive practices by center officials.

Here’s more from the report:

The implementation of coercive measures to force uncooperative individuals to provide their fingerprints has increasingly become the rule, through both prolonged detention and the use of physical force. It is against this backdrop, that refugees and migrants unwilling to give their fingerprints have been subjected to arbitrary detention and ill-treatment by police. ... consistent testimonies collected by Amnesty International indicate that some engaged in excessive use of force, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or even torture

Italy, often the first stop on a migrant’s journey to Europe, has accepted 150,000 migrants in 2016 so far. Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, called on other European leaders—specifically in Eastern Europe— last week to help relieve the burden by accepting more asylum seekers.

“Italy cannot take another year like the one we’ve just had,” Renzi said.

Two U.S. Service Members, 30 Afghan Civilians Killed in Kunduz

Nasir Wakif / Reuters

Two U.S. service members and 30 Afghan civilians were killed Thursday in the Afghan government’s ongoing battle with the Taliban in the northern Kunduz province, the U.S. military and multiple news organizations reported.

General John Nicholson, commander of the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said the two service members were killed “as a result of wounds sustained during operations in Kunduz.” He said they came under fire during a “train, advise, and assist” mission with Afghan forces in Kunduz. The civilians, meanwhile, apparently were killed by an Afghan government airstrike. A New York Times reporter on scene counted at least 22 bodies, 14 of them children, and four of them women. Later reports have put the death toll at more than 30.

The airstrike was apparently called in to support U.S. and Afghan troops who came under heavy fire in a village on the edge of Kunduz city, the provincial capital, in a battle that began Wednesday night. Last month the Taliban nearly overran Kunduz, and since then U.S. and Afghan forces have fought to push them out. The deaths of the villagers led to protests; Afghan forces reportedly shut the village down.

About 10,000 U.S. soldiers are still fighting in Afghanistan as part of the Resolute Support Mission. Their primary aim is to train Afghan forces and assist them in counterterrorism operations.

The bombing Thursday was a reminder of an airstrike in Kunduz last year that hit a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), killing some 30 people. MSF called the attack a war crime.

From Russia, With Citizenship: Putin Makes Steven Seagal a Russian

Vladimir Putin and Steven Seagal watch the Russian national championship of mixed martial arts in Sochi on August 11, 2012. (RIA Novosti / Reuters)

Why give someone a friendship bracelet when you can grant them citizenship instead?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an executive order giving the American actor Steven Seagal Russian citizenship, the Kremlin announced Thursday.

Putin and Seagal have maintained a bromance for several years, built in part on their mutual interest in martial arts. They’ve eaten lunch together at the president's home and watched a martial-arts competition in Sochi. Seagal once said he considers Putin “one of the greatest world leaders,” and described Moscow’s actions in Crimea in 2014 “very reasonable.”

“It’s a totally normal friendship,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told BuzzFeed News last year. “I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s a huge fan, but he’s definitely seen some of his movies.”

In 2013, Putin suggested to President Obama that the U.S. appoint Seagal an honorary consul of Russia in California and Arizona, but the White House refused.

Seagal, who was born in the U.S., has some Russian heritage through his grandmother, who was from Vladisvostok, in the country’s east. He also played a former Russian gangster in the 2009 film Driven to Kill. Seagal wants to spend several months of out of the year in Russia, according to Russian news agency TASS.

In January, Serbia granted Seagal citizenship after the actor offered to establish a martial-arts school in Belgrade.

National Geographic’s ‘Afghan Girl’ Hospitalized

(B.K. Bangash / AP)

Sharbat Gula, known as the “Afghan Girl” who appeared on the cover of National Geographic, was hospitalized after she became ill while in police custody, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

“Ms. Gula has been receiving adequate hospital treatment,” Nafees Zakaria, the ministry’s spokesman, said.

Gula, who appeared on a 1985 cover of National Geographic in what would later become one of the magazine’s most iconic issues, was arrested last week by Pakistani authorities in Peshawar for allegedly carrying a fake ID. On Wednesday, Gula was denied bail and faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Zakaria said Thursday “there has been no cruel action taken against [Gula].”

Gula’s arrest comes amidst a nationwide crackdown on ID fraud in Pakistan, where the United Nations estimates at least 1 million unregistered Afghan refugees reside.

240 Migrants Drown in Shipwrecks off Libyan Coast


At least 240 migrants are feared to have drowned after two rubber vessels capsized off the coast of Libya, the UN Migration Agency (IMO) said Thursday.

One boat of migrants, believed to be from West Africa, embarked from Libya at approximately 3 a.m. local time and traveled three hours before capsizing, IMO spokesman Flavio di Giacomo said, according to Reuters. The other boat capsized around the same time and was carrying approximately 130 people on board.

At least 27 people survived the shipwrecks. The rest are believed to have drowned; their bodies have not been recovered.

This latest incident puts the total number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean this year at 4,220 peoplefar surpassing the 3,777 deaths recorded in 2015. Though the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has declined since 2015, the UN says the increase in deaths can be attributed to smugglers’ opting for riskier routes, overcrowding flimsy boats, and staging mass embarkations simultaneously, making it more difficult for rescue services to respond to every emergency.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS Leader, Urges Militants to Fight to the End in Mosul


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, appealed to militants to fight to the end in Mosul as Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and Shia militia—backed by U.S. airstrikes—pushed closer to the heart of Iraq’s second-largest city to reclaim it from the group that seized it in 2014.

“Do not retreat,” Baghdadi said, in his first public audio recording in a year. “Holding your ground with honor is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame.”

In the past two weeks, Iraqi security forces have quickly pressed from the east of Mosul toward the heart of the city, with Peshmerga and the Shia militias coming in from other directions. ISIS has used snipers, car bombs, and civilians as human shields to slow the advance. The loss of Mosul, the largest city held by ISIS, would represent a critical strategic defeat for the group. The situation seems dire now for ISIS. Baghdadi has remained silent since last December, not even commenting publicly after his closest associate, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the spokesman for ISIS, died in an airstrike in August.

Baghdadi does not refer to Mosul by name—only to the fighting in the Nineveh Province, the name of the greater region in northern Iraq. There has been speculation that Baghdadi may have been injured, even killed, because he’s stayed silent for so long. But he does mention Adnani in the 30-minute recording, and calls for militants to take the battle beyond Iraq and Syria, imploring fighters to attack Turkey, Libya, and to target Saudi officials and royal family for “siding with the infidel nations in the war on Islam.”

Little is known about Baghdadi, except that he was once captured and held at U.S. camp in Iraq. In 2014, with the rise of ISIS, he declared himself leader of a new caliphate at a mosque in Mosul. Since then, as ISIS’s territory has shrunk, he has remained extremely quiet.

U.K. Lawmakers Must Vote on Brexit, High Court Rules

Financial entrepreneur Gina Miller, one of the claimants who challenged plans for Brexit, speaks to the media outside the High Court in London, Thursday Nov. 3, 2016.
Gina Miller, who challenged plans for Brexit, speaks Thursday outside the High Court in London.  (Tim Ireland / AP)

The U.K. government does not have the authority to invoke Article 50 to set in motion the country’s withdrawal from the European Union, and must put the question to lawmakers, the U.K. High Court ruled Thursday.

The decision is a blow to the government, which said it would appeal to the Supreme Court, and is likely to heighten the political and economic uncertainty triggered after a comfortable majority of U.K. voters chose over the summer to leave the EU. Leaders of the other EU nations have said they will not discuss the shape of the U.K.’s relationship with the bloc until the mechanism for the exit—Article 50—was officially invoked. Theresa May, the U.K. prime minister, was expected to do that in March 2017.

May had argued the government had the right to invoke Article 50, but opponents, including Gina Miller, an investment-fund manager who brought the case to the court, said it did not. The court’s decision was a victory for Miller and others who favor the U.K.’s continued membership in the EU. “The result today is about all of us. It's not about me or my team,” Miller said. “It's about our United Kingdom and all our futures.”

There’s been much hand-wringing in the U.K. following the Brexit vote—even though polls had consistently showed the “Leave” campaign was leading in the days ahead of the June 23 referendum. Ultimately, it wasn’t close: 52 percent of voters chose to leave the EU, and it’s unclear how U.K. lawmakers, even if they personally wish to stay, can ignore the wishes of the public.