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MUSIC NEWS

Halsey to sing during “In Memoriam” segment on Emmys on Sunday

ABC/Lou RoccoHalsey isn’t nominated for an Emmy this year, but she’ll be appearing on Sunday’s telecast.

According to Variety, Halsey will perform “a rendition of a classic song” for the traditional “In Memoriam” segment, which salutes those people in the TV community who we lost in the past year.

While the Emmys have no host this year, the presenters on Sunday night will include Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford from The Handmaid’s Tale, Luke Kirby and Jane Lynch from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, 10 members of the Game of Thrones cast, the casts of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Veep, RuPaul Charles, Anthony Anderson, Bill Hader, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Poehler, Ben Stiller, Viola Davis, Stephen Colbert, Michael Douglas, Jimmy Kimmel and many more.

The Emmys will air live from the Microsoft Theater in L.A. this Sunday, September 22, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Fox.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Janet Jackson releases ‘Rhythm Nation’ remix mini-albums, 90 tracks in all

A&M/UMeThursday marked the 30th anniversary of Janet Jackson‘s iconic album Rhythm Nation 1814. If you want to celebrate that milestone by taking a deep dive into the album’s songs, here’s some good news.

Today, Rhythm Nation 1814: The Remixes hit digital platforms for the first time. The digital-only reissues are made up of nine mini-albums that were originally released during 1989-1990 on 12-inch and 7-inch vinyl, CD singles and CD maxi-singles. 

There are 90 tracks in all, including three non-album tracks that were previously only available on rare single releases: “The Skin Game,” “You Need Me,” and “The 1814 Megamix.” 

The album songs that received the remixes include “Escapade,” “Black Cat,” “Miss You Much,” “Come Back To Me,” “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” “Alright,” “State of the World” and the title track.

Among the remixers and producers on the tracks: Shep Pettibone, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson, Junior Vasquez, CJ Mackintosh and David Dorrell.

Janet will celebrate Rhythm Nation’s 30th birthday tomorrow, Saturday, at her concert in San Francisco; at a bunch of shows in Australia and New Zealand November 8-17, and at two shows in Hawaii on November 20 and 21.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

You Can’t Stop the Girl: Bebe Rexha releases new song from Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ sequel

Warner RecordsBebe Rexha was “Meant to Be” part of a Disney movie.

The singer/songwriter has released an anthemic new track from the upcoming film Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to the 2014 movie starring Angelina Jolie as the magical, menacing title character.

The song is called “You Can’t Stop the Girl,” and it’ll get a video from famed director Sophie Muller in the next few weeks.

Bebe co-wrote “You Can’t Stop the Girl,” and she tweeted, “I hope this song gives a little extra courage to any girl that needs it.”

“They tryna take our voices/They tryna make our choices/So we scream loud, loud, loud,” Bebe sings, in lyrics that appear to be a comment on women speaking out about current hot-button issues.

But, the chorus adds, “You can’t stop the girl from going/You can’t stop the world from knowing/The truth will set you free.”

Bebe’s currently opening for the Jonas Brothers on their Happiness Begins tour, which wraps up in December in L.A.    On September 27, she’ll perform at the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, from ABC News’ parent company Disney, hits theaters October 18.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

“One just has to get on with it”: The Queen, and the world, have changed in teaser for ‘The Crown’ Season 3

Netflix(LOS ANGELES) — The tantalizing teaser for the third season of The Crown shows Oscar-winner Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, approving an official photo of herself — and apparently, she’s not pleased at how much she’s changed since her previous one.

As Colman refers to herself as an “old bat,” an underling tries to make her feel better by calling her “a settled sovereign.”

“A great many changes,” she sniffs, scanning the “before and after” photos. “Nothing one can do about it — one just has to get on with it.”

Season three sees the Queen’s kingdom rapidly changing as well: from the Cold War through the Space Age, and into the challenges of the ’60s and ’70s.

As Colman replaces Claire Foy as Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter now plays Princess Margaret, replacing Vanessa Kirby in the role.

This season also stars Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne; Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles; Ben Daniels as Lord Snowdon; Jason Watkins as Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Charles Dance as Lord Mountbatten.

Emma Corrin has been cast as Princess Diana, but she won’t be introduced until season four.

The Crown Season 3 launches globally on Sunday, November 17 on Netflix.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘The West Wing’ turns 20

iStock/izanoza(LOS ANGELES) — Twenty years ago Sunday, America witnessed the start of the Bartlet administration as The West Wing debuted on NBC September 22, 1999.

Created by Aaron Sorkin and written almost exclusively by him for the first four of the show’s seven seasons, The West Wing followed the two-term presidency of the fictional Democratic President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and the lives and duties of the staffers who served with him in the White House.

The ensemble drama also starred John Spencer and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry; Bradley Whitford as McGarry’s deputy, Josh Lyman; Allison Janney as press secretary C.J. Cregg; Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler and Rob Lowe as his deputy, Sam Seaborn; Dulé Hill as presidential aide Charlie Young; Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, Josh Lyman’s assistant; and Stockard Channing as first lady Dr. Abby Bartlet.

Debuting during the final year of the Clinton administration and with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal still in full swing, The West Wing arguably presented an idealized view of a liberal, Democratic White House, with Bartlet depicted as a highly-educated, Bible-quoting devout Catholic, loyal husband and loving father. 

Ensuing seasons showed the West Wing staff dealing with real-world political hot-button issues, from government shutdowns over budget deadlocks, to terrorism, separation of church and state, campaign finance and even an assassination attempt on Bartlet’s life.  It also demonstrated the toll public service exacted on the personal lives of its characters, with everything secondary to their service.

The final two seasons of The West Wing dealt with the impending end of the Bartlet administration and the election of a new president, with Jimmy Smits playing congressman and eventual Democratic nominee Matt Santos, and Leo McGarry stepping up as his vice-presidential running mate. 

During the seventh season, however, actor John Spencer died of a heart attack, echoing a heart attack his character had during a prior season.  Spencer’s death was written into the show.  Alan Alda played against type as Santos’ Republican opponent, Senator Arnold Vinick, who ultimately lost the race to Santos — only to have Santos offer him secretary of state in a final moment of wishful bipartisanship lacking in real-world politics.

Despite frequent criticism from conservatives, who felt the show demonized them, and even some drubbing from liberals for what some said was its unapologetic left-wing bias and sometimes over-the-top idealism, The West Wing was widely hailed by real-life politicos for its realism, and for its showcasing of public service as a noble calling. 

The West Wing was a commercial and critical hit.  It won nine Emmy Awards its first season alone, the most ever won by a show in its inaugural outing.  By the time the final episode aired May 14, 2006, The West Wing had won 26 Emmys and two Peabody Awards. 

In the years since, The West Wing continues to earn critical praise and find new fans on streaming platforms, and is often cited as one of the greatest TV shows ever made.  Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, feels that’s a telling reflection of the times.

“It’s increasing in its intensity, especially because of the current state of our nation,” Schiff tells ABC Radio.  “It’s a refuge for people to go and remember what the country was supposed to be.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘Big Bang’ co-stars Mayim Bialik and Jim Parsons back together for ‘Carla’

Michael Yarish/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved(LOS ANGELES) — That didn’t take long! The Big Bang Theory‘s Mayim Bialik is reuniting with her former onscreen love interest Jim Parsons, barely four months after their sitcom’s finale.

The two will co-executive produce the new Fox comedy Carla, in which Bialik is also attached to star, according to Variety.

Bialik will play the titular character, “a 39-year-old woman who struggles every day against society and her mother to prove that you cannot have everything you want and still be happy,” according to the industry trade. She attempts to prove that by spending “the money her parents set aside for her wedding to open a Cat Café in Louisville, Kentucky.”

Carla is slated to launch in 2020

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

SPORTS NEWS

Nike drops Antonio Brown amid sexual misconduct allegations

Allen Kee / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) —  Nike has cut ties with Antonio Brown amid assault allegations against the Patriots wide receiver. The company hasn’t expounded on its decision to end the contract, but told The Boston Globe Thursday, “Antonio Brown is not a Nike athlete.”

Brown has spoken out for the first time since being signed by New England, but did not address the recent accusations leveled against him.

Watch the full report from ABC’s Good Morning America below:

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 9/19/19

iStock(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Thursday’s sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

INTERLEAGUE

Boston 5, San Francisco 4
Seattle 6, Pittsburgh 5 — 11 Innings

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NY Yankees 9, LA Angels 1
Toronto 8, Baltimore 4
Cleveland 7, Detroit 0
Minnesota 8, Kansas City 5

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Atlanta 5, Philadelphia 4
Milwaukee 5, San Diego 1
St. Louis 5, Chi Cubs 4 — 10 Innings

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Jacksonville 20, Tennessee 7

WOMEN’S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION PLAYOFFS

Connecticut 94, Los Angeles 68
Washington 103, Las Vegas 91

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Yankees pitcher Domingo German suspended for domestic violence

iStock(NEW YORK) — Yankees pitcher Domingo German has been suspended by Major League Baseball under its domestic violence policy.

The Yankees pitcher, who is currently second in the majors in wins with 18, has been suspended for seven days, “barring an extension,” according to the league.

The 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic has been a surprise star for the Yankees this season and carries a league-leading 18-4 win-loss record. He has a 4.03 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 123 innings pitched.

The Yankees currently have the second-best record in baseball to the Houston Astros and German was expected to get a postseason start. He pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday night, just hours before his suspension.

Now, his 2019 future is unclear.

“We’ll wait and see what ultimately comes down, but we have to certainly make plans,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of German’s postseason availability at a pregame press conference Thursday. “He may not be a part of it.”

The Yankees issued a statement in agreement with the suspension, saying, “We fully support all measures being undertaken by the Commissioner’s Office pursuant to the Policy on Domestic Violence. We support this policy which reinforces that domestic violence has no place in our society and cannot be tolerated. We have followed the lead of Major League Baseball and will continue to provide our complete cooperation throughout the investigative process. We reserve any further comment until the investigation reaches its conclusion.”

MLB is still investigating the incident and released no details.

“MLB Department of Investigations has commenced an investigation into the matter that led to his placement on Administrative Leave,” the league said. “MLB will have no further comment until the investigation is complete.”

Boone said he had yet to speak to the team about the incident, but he’d “get up there and talk as a group, as a family, and speak from the heart about it.”

“Set baseball aside,” Boone said. “This is a bigger issue obviously and something that, you know, when you hear the words ‘domestic violence’ it’s one of those things that stops you in your tracks.”

The Yankees are currently in position to face either the Minnesota Twins or Oakland Athletics in the first round of the playoffs with nine games left to play.

“There’s denying the importance of Domingo to our team,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said at a pregame press conference Thursday. “So there is that element of we must continue on and continue to press forward.”

The Yankees host the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Thursday night.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

NATIONAL NEWS

Thousands of young activists challenging lawmakers to act in Global Climate Strike

DisobeyArt/iStock(NEW YORK) — Hundreds of thousands of young people are gearing up for the Global Climate Strike to raise awareness on climate change and urge lawmakers to create policies to help save the planet ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit next week.

The march is building on a “historic surge” of student protests and strikes for climate action, but adults also are formally invited to participate, according to the organizers behind the movement.

The strike has grown to include more than 1,000 locations across the U.S. and 4,500 worldwide, with more than 2,000 scientists pledging to attend as well, organizers said.

The lead organizer for the New York City march, 19-year-old Shiv Soin, told ABC News that more than 15,000 people have marked that they’re interested in attending on the event’s Facebook page.

The youth activists are demanding world leaders stop using fossil fuels, transition to a green economy and hold polluters accountable, Soin said.

“We’re going to hold them accountable,” he said.

Soin, a politics and economics major at New York University, became passionate about the climate fight after returning to New Delhi in 2011 to attend his grandmother’s funeral, where he said he was hospitalized due to the poor air quality.

“I ask myself, will this matter in 20, 30 years if we don’t have a livable planet?” he said. “The answer is no.”

Demonstrators in New York will meet at a rally in Foley Square and march south to Battery Park, where 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg will be among the speakers, Soin said.

On Wednesday Thunberg implored U.S. lawmakers at the House Foreign Affairs Committee to “listen to the science” and take “real action” to curb carbon emissions.

New York City Public Schools will be excusing 1.1 million students from class on Friday — with parental permission — so they can participate in the strike.

Activists began posted photos of the posters created for the strike earlier in the week.

Soon, the teenage demonstrators will have the power to vote themselves and plan to vote out the politicians who don’t heed their message.

“‘We vote next,’ is what we have to say,” Soin said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Imelda dumps nearly 4 feet of rain on parts of Texas

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Texas residents are grappling with the effects of Imelda after the storm dumped nearly four feet of rain on parts of the Lone Star State.

Imelda brought up to 43” of rain between Winnie and Beaumont in the last three days, most of it falling in just 24 hours.

At Houston Bush International Airport, flight arrivals resumed sporadically early Friday morning after more than 900 flights were canceled due to severe rain.

In Houston, multiple barges struck the I-10 bridge over the San Jacinto River Thursday night, shutting down the I-10 freeway in both directions, reported Houston ABC affiliate KTRK.

Earlier, a man in Jefferson County was “electrocuted and drowned” while trying to move his horse, according to the sheriff’s office. The family of Hunter Morrison, the man killed, said he was not trying to rescue any people, as had been reported locally, and wanted to correct false reports.

A second death was reported in Harris County, which includes Houston, as a man drowned after driving his van into floodwaters and became submerged, according to the sheriff’s office.

This week’s downpour represents the fourth highest amount of rain from a tropical system in Texas’ recorded history, as well as the seventh highest amount of rain from a tropical system in the recorded history of the United States.

Harvey brought 60” of rain to Texas two years ago, which remains the U.S. record for most rain from a tropical system.

On Thursday, Houston alone had 9.2” of rain, making it the wettest September day ever recorded in the city.

As of Friday morning, most of the rain had moved away from southeast Texas, but as the deep moisture continues to stream from the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Imelda, more rain is possible in Houston and Beaumont.

National Weather Service flash flood watches and flood warnings continue for Houston and east to Lake Charles, Louisiana, because the ground is so saturated that it can’t handle any more rain — making flash flooding possible with only 1″ more of additional rain.

Most of the rain from Imelda will combine with a cold front in the Midwest and bring heavy rain there, with up to 1” of rain forecast around Houston in the next 24 hours and into the weekend.

Elsewhere, a new storm system will move out of the Rockies and bring severe storms to the Upper Midwest and the northern Plains for the Dakotas, Nebraska and parts of Minnesota.

The biggest threat will be damaging winds, hail and a few tornadoes.

As this system moves east, heavy rain is also expected over the weekend in the Plains and the Midwest and into the Great Lakes, with flash flooding possible.

In the Atlantic, Jerry now a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 105 mph, as it begins to move north of the Leeward Islands.

The worst of Jerry will miss the islands, with just some rain and gusty winds possible in northern Leeward Islands later Friday.

By next week, Jerry will re-curve north and east, away from the U.S., but it could hit Bermuda as a possible Category 1 hurricane.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Prosecutors present chilling scene footage from deadly California synagogue shooting

iStock(NEW YORK) — Prosecutors presented disturbing surveillance video in a court hearing Thursday related to the deadly shooting at a California synagogue in April. The video shows the gunman storming the house of worship and targeting congregants with an assault rifle, killing a woman and injuring three others.

The video was presented as evidence in a preliminary hearing for 20-year-old John Earnest, who is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly killing Chabad of Poway synagogue member Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and shooting other worshipers, including an 8-year-old girl.

Earnest has been charged with a hate crime, which could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The multi-day hearing will ultimately decide if Earnest will face trial or not.

Surveillance cameras from inside and outside of the synagogue near San Diego captured the entire scene on video, starting from the moment the gunman drove up to the church and ending with congregants chasing him away.

In the video, the shooter began to open fire even before he opened the synagogue’s doors. Gilbert-Kaye saw him immediately and tried to flee. She barely managed to turn before the bullets ripped into her.

He continued firing, hitting Rabbi Israel Goldstein, who seemed to leap up when shot and sprint into the sanctuary. The gunman’s weapon appeared to jam and he struggled with it for a bit before a worshiper, Iraq combat veteran Oscar Stewart, chased him outside.

Stewart testified in court Thursday, revealing that he screamed at the shooter and caused him to drop his weapon and flee. He identified Earnest as the shooter in court.

“He was firing in front of me. … I was paying attention to the rifle,” Stewart said. “I told him I was going to kill him. … I screamed it out really loud. I kept screaming at him.”

“I was trying to throw him off. I didn’t say it very politely. I yelled it and used some profanities also,” he added.

Prosecutors also played audio of the suspect’s 911 call in which he said he allegedly told dispatchers that he’d been involved in the shooting and was armed. He said he had weapons in his car, but wouldn’t use them on authorities.

At one point he was heard on the call saying: “I’m just trying to defend my nation from the Jewish. …They’re destroying our people … we’re not going to go down without a fight.”

Earnest, a former nursing student at Cal State San Marcos, also faces federal arson charges in connection with a fire at a mosque in Escondido. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

WORLD NEWS

Trump to welcome Australian prime minister at special state visit

Deejpilot/iStock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has used the Rose Garden at the White House for major policy announcements, Medal of Honor ceremonies, impromptu press conferences and as a backdrop for Twitter videos, but on Friday the first lady will steal it for an evening of al fresco dining in honor of Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be the second foreign leader honored with a rare state visit to the White House since Trump took office.

The day will begin with the military pomp of a South Lawn arrival, then the leaders will hold a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office before more meetings with staff, a press conference in the East Room of the White House, and a lunch at the State Department. The day will end with dinner in a lavishly decorated and illuminated Rose Garden.

On a briefing call, the White House said the visit is meant to highlight the “breadth and depth” of the United States’ relationship with Australia, and their economic and security cooperation — specifically in regard to North Korea and Iran, as Australia recently announced their participation in joint patrols with the United States in the Strait of Hormuz.

The leaders will also roll out a plan related to rare earth elements and minerals security, unveil new space and technology research partnerships, and discuss plastic pollution in the ocean.

“It is the first [Australian] state visit that we’ve had since Prime Minister Howard came to the United States shortly after 9/11. And in those 18 years, the Australians have really been shoulder-to-shoulder with us all over the world in so many different areas and this is really a perfect time to highlight the alliance and the contribution,” a senior administration official said.

Morrison also plans to travel to Wapakoneta, Ohio, on Sunday to tour an Australian-owned plant with Trump.

Trump and Morrison last met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.

“Scott, he is fantastic,” Trump said after their meeting.

After a full day of work on Friday, the Morrisons, Trumps, and an exclusive list of guests will be treated to a special state dinner under the stars. At a preview, string musicians played in a row along the Colonnade and tables were set with gold plates and crystal glasses that sparkled under the lights. The first lady planned the dinner along with her social secretary, Rickie Niceta.

“As the head of the executive branch, one of the president’s most important roles is to conduct diplomacy with foreign nations,” explained Lindsay Chervinsky, White House Historian with the White House Historical Association. “State dinners provide the opportunity to highlight the role of other cultures in American life, cement existing friendships, improve tense relationships, and celebrate important treaties and agreements that improve national security and international relations.”

The menu on Friday will pay “homage to Australia’s special blend of culinary adaptations from its various cultures,” according to officials. It will feature Dover Sole, Sunchoke Ravioli and a Lady Apple Tart for dessert. Guests will be served wines from both United States and Australia, although the president, who doesn’t drink, will likely sip on his preferred beverage of Diet Coke or water.

Guests will also hear a performance from the largest gathering of military musicians from the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.

There are still some details about the dinner that the first lady’s office is keeping secret: The guest list and the designer of the first lady’s gown won’t be revealed until minutes before the dinner kicks off.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US-based Egyptian activist says brother ‘kidnapped’ by government in Cairo

Joel Carillet/iStock(CAIRO, Egypt) — Wael Ghonim, a United States-based activist who was behind a Facebook page that helped ignite a popular uprising in Egypt in 2011, said his brother was arrested at his family’s home in Cairo on Thursday.

Hazem Ghonim, who Wael said is an apolitical dentist, was taken away by security forces to make his elder brother stop posting live videos that have fiercely criticized Egyptian leadership over the past week, the former Google executive said.

He also pleaded with President Donald Trump to intervene and help free his brother, before launching a #savehazem Twitter hashtag that has quickly trended in Egypt.

“My brother has been kidnapped by the Egyptian regime … I received a threat yesterday from the Embassy in Washington and when I rejected their offer. My brother got arrested. I am not going to back out. Please help me deal with those thugs,” Ghonim wrote.

“Hey @realDonaldTrump, @alsisiofficial kidnapped my brother in Cairo after I rejected a threat from the embassy next to your white house,” he wrote in another tweet. “The authorities threatened my father (after they arrested my brother Hazem Ghonim to stop me from speaking up). They took my family members cellphones and broke into my mom bedroom and destroyed her belongings and took their passports.”

Abandoning his usual calm and soft-spoken demeanor, Ghonim has in the past week released a series of profanity-laced videos to attack the regime, which he described as oppressive. He also called for the release of political prisoners and launched tirades against the Muslim Brotherhood group, which was outlawed and forced underground again after late Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was toppled by the military in mid-2013.

Appearing with a shaven-head, Ghonim, who lives in a self-imposed exile in California, said he needed to vent his anger and admitted having suicidal thoughts in the past three years, although he said he has now found his inner peace.

Ghonim is an Egyptian citizen, but is married to an American.

Officials have not commented on Hazem Ghonim’s detention nor Wael Ghonim’s criticism. In recent years, Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied accusations of politically motivated arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances.

Social media war

Egypt has recently shown signs of being increasingly wary of the impact of social media after construction contractor Mohamed Ali, who said he has worked with the military for more than 15 years, posted a series of videos that accused army leaders of corruption. The videos, posted after Ali fled to Spain, went viral on Facebook.

Acknowledging that he was asked by security apparatuses not to address the issue, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi publicly responded to Ali’s accusations in a conference last Saturday, saying they were “sheer lies.”

Stopping short of mentioning Ali by name, Sisi accused him of attempting to undermine the people’s confidence in the army.

“The army is a … very sensitive institution toward any inadequate behavior, especially if it was attributed to its leaders,” Sisi said.

The Cairo conference where Sisi spoke was organized to warn about what the state called the “dangers of social media.” Facebook and Twitter have returned to the forefront of Egyptian politics in the same way they did in the build-up to the 2011 uprising that unseated autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.

Ali has openly called for the overthrow of Sisi and urged people to demonstrate against him on Friday, launching an #enough_Sisi hashtag that topped trends in Egypt for a day. Counter hashtags supporting Sisi also appeared, marking a social media war.

However, with Egypt placing severe restrictions on demonstrations, it remains to be seen whether Ali’s calls will be heeded.

Sisi has launched a fierce crackdown on opponents from across the political spectrum since he was elected president in 2014. He won another term last year and recent constitutional amendments mean he can retain power until 2030.

Critics accuse Sisi of stifling dissent while supporters say tough security measures are needed to stabilize a country that has been suffering from economic hardships because of political upheavals in 2011 and 2013.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Congress grills Trump admin over future of Taliban talks after US airstrike hits Afghan civilians

Adventure_Photo/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration is facing fresh bipartisan criticism for how it has handled its Afghan peace process after President Donald Trump announced that he had invited the Taliban to Camp David and then canceled the meeting.

Amid reports that a U.S. military strike killed at least 30 civilians Thursday — and with no plans for the U.S. and the Taliban to meet again — there are growing concerns about the administration’s road ahead.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the Afghan reconciliation process go off the rails in a spectacular fashion,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday. “With the president declaring the deal ‘dead,’ it’s not clear where we go from here.”

An American team of negotiators led by special envoy Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad had held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban, the militant group that controlled Afghanistan and provided safe haven to al Qaeda when it plotted and executed the September 11th attacks. The two sides had reached an agreement “in principle” earlier this month, but were working out final details and awaiting final sign-off from both sides’ leadership.

The agreement would have seen the U.S. withdraw 5,000 troops within 135 days and close five U.S. bases, with the eventual target of a complete withdrawal — something the Taliban have long demanded. In exchange, the militant group reportedly agreed to cut ties to al Qaeda, not provide safe haven to terror groups, and sit down with the Afghan national government and other Afghan leaders for peace talks that could lead to a ceasefire and new government.

But that deal is in doubt now after Trump invited the Taliban and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani to the august presidential retreat Camp David, only to cancel the meeting last-minute, citing the death of a U.S. service member by Taliban hands.

“The Camp David meeting was an utter disaster and never should’ve happened — infuriated me, and I think even people that wanted to get out of Afghanistan, it ticked them off too,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill, “and I have no clue how that could’ve gone through any kind of filter not just of ideas, but how we actually got to where it was going to freaking happen. So I hope that never happens again.”

Khalilzad himself had been subpoenaed to testify by Engel after he requested three times that the State Department send the chief negotiator to brief Congress on the talks — something that had not happened since the U.S. first engaged the Taliban in summer 2018. Engel said Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called him to offer a public briefing from a different official and have Khalilzad brief Engel and his Republican counterpart Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. The showdown ended late Wednesday when the State Department agreed to let Khalilzad brief the whole committee and Engel agreed to withdraw his subpoena.

“After one year of talking to terrorists, he should be willing to talk to the United States Congress,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.

After Khalilzad briefed lawmakers behind closed doors, acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells bore Congress’s ire and faced questions. A career diplomat, she defended the administration’s approach to talks, but repeatedly declined to answer questions by saying that she couldn’t reveal details of the agreement or that she wasn’t in the room for talks.

The talks with the Taliban have been suspended with no new meetings planned, Wells said, but the administration is actively reviewing “how we get back to a sustainable peace process.” For the U.S., the key to that, Pompeo said Tuesday, is that the Taliban “begin to demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace rather than continue the violence and destruction.”

The Taliban have engaged in violent attacks against Afghan security forces and civilians and American troops throughout the peace process. But in the lead-up to Afghanistan’s national elections scheduled for September 28, the U.S. has accused the militant group of increasing attacks to “use violence as form of intimidation,” as Wells said, which was “inconsistent with the nine rounds of negotiations.”

Wells also defended Trump’s Camp David invitation as evidence “this is an administration that is willing to take risks,” before adding, “But I appreciate your concern” to one lawmaker.

But when pressed by Malinowski, who accused the administration of telling “bed-time stories” about Afghanistan, Wells shot back. “This is the only process that is producing the potential of direct conversations between the Taliban, Afghan government, and Afghan stakeholders.”

While the Taliban would have agreed to meet the government and other leaders as part of the deal on Sept. 23 in Oslo, Norway, critics say the administration’s approach to date has empowered the Taliban by giving it legitimacy and equal standing with the government and undermined the government by leaving it out of the room and in separate meetings with U.S. officials.

Either way, that Afghan national peace process will not begin on Monday, and in the wake of the cancellation, violence has continued unabated.

A spokesperson for U.S. Forces – Afghanistan confirmed there was a drone strike, but said it targeted ISIS forces in the region.

“We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts,” the spokesperson said.

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