FINAL DEBATE TOPICS ANNOUNCED
- Debt and entitlements
- Supreme Court
- Foreign hot spots
- Fitness to be President
The chosen topics may be altered depending on news events leading up to the event.
"I'm the first Fox moderator to do a general election debate and I'm very proud for the news organization,” Wallace recently told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “I think it's a recognition of the fact that we do serious journalism. Some critics say no, but the fact is, you and I know we do. And here's the Commission on Presidential Debates recognizing that."
Donald Trump is charging into Wednesday’s third and final debate against Hillary Clinton armed with fresh evidence of an attempted “cover-up” in her email investigation – but faces the stark reality that so far, the controversies facing both candidates have dented his poll numbers more than hers.
The debate, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, could mark the Republican nominee’s last big chance to shift the momentum in the final three weeks of the race.
Despite the daily drip of revelations from her campaign chairman’s hacked emails and persistent questions about her personal email use as secretary of state, Clinton has weathered those storms -- in part by hammering her opponent over his temperament and personal past, including now-multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
And since their first debate in late September, Clinton’s poll numbers have gradually improved. For the first time this year, Clinton is now above 45 percent in a four-way race, based on the RealClearPolitics average of national polls.
Trump, however, remains in contention in a number of key battleground states and has campaigned aggressively to drive out his core supporters on Election Day – warning of a “rigged” election and describing the allegations against him as fabricated.
Trump is now seizing on the contents of newly released FBI records that include claims senior State Department official Patrick Kennedy offered a "quid pro quo" with federal authorities during the Clinton email probe. According to the file, Kennedy offered additional slots for the bureau overseas if they would de-classify a particular email from Clinton’s server marked “SECRET.” This effort was unsuccessful. (Contributor: Fox News)
As this final debate is broadcast into millions of homes in a last ditch effort to secure votes, pray that viewers would look past personality differences and see the candidates’ true stand on issues affecting the lives of Americans. Never forget God is always on the throne.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)
BATTLE FOR MOSUL BEGINS WITH GUNFIRE AND CAR BOMBS
Two years ago, Iraqi soldiers in Mosul threw down their weapons and fled the city in terror as armed militants overran the streets under the banner of the emerging threat of ISIS.
On Monday, invigorated Iraqi forces and their allies started back down the road to Mosul to try to reclaim the largest city under ISIS control and its last remaining stronghold in Iraq.
The forces got a taste of what's to come.
The 94,000-member Iraqi-led coalition greatly outnumbers its opponents and has the benefit of air support from roughly 90 coalition and Iraqi planes.
Why the battle for Mosul matters in the fight against ISIS
But, if Monday is any indication, "ISIS is showing that it's very willing to put up a fight," CNN's Nick Paton Walsh said.
Intense gunfire and suicide bombings marked the first 24 hours as forces made their way toward Mosul.
ISIS deployed suicide car bombers throughout the day Monday, CNN's Arwa Damon said from near Mosul.
Paton Walsh, who is embedded with a Peshmerga convoy near Mosul, said he saw "staggering scenes" as forces advanced toward the city, with sporadic fighting erupting as they encountered ISIS fighters. ISIS attempted to drive suicide car bombs toward the Peshmerga convoy several times during the advance.
Paton Walsh was caught in an exchange of gunfire as he was filing a dispatch. Paton Walsh and his team, the first Western media outlet to travel along the road into Mosul during the offensive, were unharmed in the exchange.
But on the whole, Peshmerga commanders encountered less resistance than they expected, he said.
Elsewhere, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, which are playing a key role in the offensive, cleared nine villages in an area measuring approximately 200 square kilometers. Forces east of Mosul also secured control over a significant stretch of the Erbil-Mosul road, a key strategic road, the General Command of Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan Region said.
For now, violence is limited to the villages on the city's outskirts. But the coalition is expected to encounter fierce resistance from thousands of ISIS fighters in Mosul's urban center, armed with car bombs and improvised explosive devices.
The battle, which could last months, will be "a hard fight," said US Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the top anti-ISIS coalition general in Iraq. "But the Iraqi security forces are ready."
Before ISIS seized Mosul in June 2014, the oil-rich city had more than 2 million residents. Today, about 1 million residents of the once-diverse city remain.
For ISIS, the capture formed a vital part of its self-declared caliphate across swaths of Iraq and Syria, in addition to assaults on Ramadi, Tikrit and Falluja. One by one, in the past two years, coalition forces have reclaimed those cities.
US military officials have estimated up to 5,000 ISIS fighters are in Mosul, but the terror group's supporters say there are 7,000.
A diverse coalition of as many as 100,000 troops will play a role in the operation, although not all will be directly involved in the assault on the city. Some will secure positions behind the front lines or play other supporting roles.
The force includes 54,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces and 40,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. It also involves 14,000 members of paramilitary units -- 9,000 Sunni fighters, and 5,000 from other minorities including Christians, Turkmen and Yazidis. Shia paramilitaries will not be involved in the assault on Mosul, but will be tasked with securing areas around the city instead.
Only Iraqi army troops and members of the national police force will enter the city of Mosul, Abadi said, amid fears of sectarian retribution during the operation.
The Pentagon, which has lent advisers and air support, has earmarked about 500 of its nearly 5,000 service members in the country for the mission. Most are working on logistics, although there are also special operations forces among that number.
Setting fires to defend itself
ISIS militants have taken measures to combat coalition airstrikes.
Plumes of black smoke rose from burning oil-filled trenches outside northeastern Mosul, an attempt by ISIS to obscure its fighters' positions during airstrikes, military sources said.
Still, one airstrike hit one of Mosul's main bridges.
But retired US Brigadier Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the advantage of the Iraqi military's airpower would be nullified when it came to block-to-block fighting in Mosul's urban center.
Improvised explosive devices would likely play a major part in the city's center, he said.
What happens after ISIS loses Mosul?
Outside Mosul, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in southern Baghdad that killed 10 people and wounded 17 on Monday, a security source said. The victims included civilians, soldiers and police.
Humanitarian crisis looms
Mosul's residents remain in the clutches of a terror group known for exploiting civilians as human shields. Airdropped leaflets told residents to tape up their windows, disconnect gas cylinders, and stay indoors.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that up to 1.5 million people could be affected, with civilians in Mosul facing potential threats from sniper attacks, booby traps, crossfire and explosives.
Humanitarian crisis looms amid Mosul offensive
It could lead to the largest humanitarian operation of 2016, said Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq.
The United Nations is building 22 sites to house an estimated 400,000 Iraqis fleeing the conflict in early days, Filippo Grandi, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees said in Baghdad on Monday. (Contributor: By Nick Paton Walsh, Max Blau, Emanuella Grinberg, and Tim Hume for CNN - Nick Paton Walsh, Hamdi Alkhshali, Arwa Damon and Ben Wedeman reported from near Mosul; Tim Hume reported and wrote from London, Angela Dewan reported from London; and Max Blau and Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Daniel Nikbakht, Ghazi Balkiz, Ingrid Formanek, Hilary Clarke and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.)
Pray for protection of the citizens in Mosul, and for the terrorists to be defeated. Also, pray for our military troops that are in harm’s way, that the Lord would put a hedge of protection around them and bring them home safely.
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” (Ps. 34:7)
RUSSIA AND THE WEST: WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?
US officials have described the joint Russian-Syrian onslaught against Aleppo as "barbarism" and warned that war crimes are being carried out.
For all that, the US and Russia are still in contact over Syria. For all the harsh rhetoric and accusations, they both realise that they have a vital role to play in any eventual settlement of the Syrian drama.
Whatever its immediate strategic intentions, a permanent war in Syria doesn't benefit Moscow any more than Washington.
But without that basic level of trust and understanding between them, any dialogue rests upon shaky foundations. It was never supposed to be like this. The end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in a new era.
For a time Russia retreated from the world stage, but now it is back with a vengeance, eager to consolidate its position nearer home; to restore something of its former global role and to make up for perceived slights perpetrated by the West.
So where did it all go wrong? Why were Russia and the West unable to forge a different type of relationship? Who is to blame? Was it US over-reach and insensitivity, or Russia's nostalgia for Soviet greatness? Why have things now got so bad and is it correct to describe the present state of affairs as a "new Cold War"?
I am not going to try to give a comprehensive answer to all these questions - the intricacies of this story would require a book the length of Tolstoy's War and Peace! But I am going to try to throw out some pointers.
For Paul R Pillar, a senior fellow at the Centre for Security Studies at Georgetown University and a former senior CIA officer, the initial fault lies with the West.
"The relationship went wrong when the West did not treat Russia as a nation that had shaken off Soviet Communism," he told me. "It should have been welcomed as such into a new community of nations - but instead it was regarded as the successor state of the USSR, inheriting its status as the principal focus of Western distrust."
This original sin, if you like, was compounded by the West's enthusiasm for Nato expansion, first taking in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, who had long nationalist traditions of struggling against rule from Moscow.
But Nato's expansion didn't end there as it added countries like the three Baltic States, whose territory had been part of the former Soviet Union. Is it any wonder then, the critics ask, that Moscow should baulk also at the idea of Georgia or Ukraine entering the western orbit?
In short, Russia believes that it has been treated unfairly since the end of the Cold War.
This, of course, is not the conventional view in the West, which prefers to focus on Russian "revanchism" - a stance personified by Vladimir Putin, a man who has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.
There is an interesting debate going on among US think tank experts as to which camp is right. Should one focus on the initial strategic errors of the West in dealing with the new Russia, or look at Moscow's more recent assertive behaviour in Georgia, Syria or Ukraine?
Sir John Sawers, the former head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), is also a former UK ambassador to the United Nations and has watched Russian diplomacy unfold over recent years. He prefers to focus on the more recent period.
In a recent BBC interview he said that the West had not paid sufficient attention to building the right strategic relationship with Russia over the last eight years.
"If there was a clear understanding between Washington and Moscow about the rules of the road - that we are not trying to bring down each other's systems - then solving regional problems like Syria or Ukraine or North Korea - which is coming rapidly down the path towards us - would be easier," he said.
Several experts I spoke to also pointed to the flat-footedness of the Obama administration's diplomacy and the mixed signals it has often sent.
Washington's absolute power may be declining, but it has sometimes appeared equivocal about using the variety of levers of power that remain. Is it pivoting towards Asia and to what extent is it really downplaying its role in Europe and the Middle East?
Is it prepared to back up its rhetoric with force? (In Syria the answer has been no.) And has it really thought through the implications of the positions that it has taken towards Moscow?
In 2014, in the wake of Russia's annexation of the Crimea, Mr Putin spoke to the Russian Duma, noting that "if you compress the spring all the way to its limit it will snap back hard. You must remember this", he stressed.
As Nikolas K Gvosdev noted recently on the website of the National Interest - a US policy magazine dedicated to the pragmatic "realist" view of foreign policy - "The prudent response would either be to find ways to de-escalate the pressure on the spring or to prepare for its snapback and to be able to cushion the shock".
Whatever the errors of the past and whoever may be responsible we are, as they say, where we are. And where is that? Are the US and Russia really on the brink of conflict over Syria? I don't think so, but what about the idea of us all entering a "new Cold War"?
Paul Pillar, for one, thinks this is not the right term. "There is not the sort of global ideological competition that characterised the Cold War and fortunately we do not have another nuclear arms race," he told me.
"What is left is great competition for influence and Russia is a power of a lesser order than the Soviet Union was and than the superpower United States still is."
So what of the future? With the US presidential contest looming, Moscow may clearly believe it has a free hand for the time being. And there is evidence that it intends to use it to shape a variety of conflict zones in a manner that presents the next resident of the White House with a fait accompli.
The situation is reminiscent of 2008 when US-Russia relations went into the freezer in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war. This left the Bush administration's policy towards Moscow in a shambles and it is this mess that President Obama inherited.
Remember the famous "reset" of relations with Russia by a secretary of state called Hillary Clinton? Well, that didn't come to much.
Sir John told the BBC that, in his view, "there is a big responsibility on the next US president (and I very much hope it will be Hillary Clinton - he notes) to establish a different sort of relationship. We are not looking for a warmer relationship with Russia and we are not looking for a frostier relationship with Russia", he asserts.
"What we are looking for is a strategic understanding with Moscow about how we provide for global stability, for stability across Europe between Russia and the US, so that the fundamental stability of the world is put on a firmer basis than it has been."
Pax Americana - the American unipolar moment - he notes, "was very short-lived and it is now over". (Contributor: By Jonathan Marcus for BBC News)
Remembering the mistrust and secrecy of the Cold War can still bring fear of aggression escalating to war. Ensuring stability requires trust and understanding among world leaders who can foster diplomacy built on solid ground, not sinking sand. Pray for these leaders to build on a solid foundation, which can only come by knowing and applying God’s Word.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25)
CIA PREPPING FOR POSSIBLE CYBER STRIKE AGAINST RUSSIA
The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation designed to harass and "embarrass" the Kremlin leadership.
The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Former intelligence officers told NBC News that the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vice President Joe Biden told "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that "we're sending a message" to Putin and that "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact."
When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, "Hope not."
Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. should attack Russia's ability to censor its internal internet traffic and expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates.
"It's well known that there's great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs," he said. "It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we've seen" in Russia's alleged hacks and leaks targeting U.S. public opinion.
Sean Kanuck, who was until this spring the senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analyzing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost.
"If you publicly accuse someone," he said, "and don't follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability."
President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation. Officials told NBC News that for now there are divisions at the top of the administration about whether to proceed.
Two former CIA officers who worked on Russia told NBC News that there is a long history of the White House asking the CIA to come up with options for covert action against Russia, including cyber options — only to abandon the idea.
"We've always hesitated to use a lot of stuff we've had, but that's a political decision," one former officer said. "If someone has decided, `We've had enough of the Russians,' there is a lot we can do. Step one is to remind them that two can play at this game and we have a lot of stuff. Step two, if you are looking to mess with their networks, we can do that, but then the issue becomes, they can do worse things to us in other places."
A second former officer, who helped run intelligence operations against Russia, said he was asked several times in recent years to work on covert action plans, but "none of the options were particularly good, nor did we think that any of them would be particularly effective," he said.
Putin is almost beyond embarrassing, he said, and anything the U.S. can do against, for example, Russian bank accounts, the Russian can do in response.
"Do you want to have Barack Obama bouncing checks?" he asked.
Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell expressed skepticism that the U.S. would go so far as to attack Russian networks.
"Physical attacks on networks is not something the U.S. wants to do because we don't want to set a precedent for other countries to do it as well, including against us," he said. "My own view is that our response shouldn't be covert -- it should overt, for everybody to see."
The Obama administration is debating just that question, officials say — whether to respond to Russia via cyber means, or with traditional measures such as sanctions.
The CIA's cyber operation is being prepared by a team within the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate. According to officials, the team has a staff of hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions, they say.
The covert action plan is designed to protect the U.S. election system and insure that Russian hackers can't interfere with the November vote, officials say. Another goal is to send a message to Russia that it has crossed a line, officials say.
While the National Security Agency is the center for American digital spying, the CIA is the lead agency for covert action and has its own cyber capabilities. It sometimes brings in the NSA and the Pentagon to help, officials say.
In earlier days, the CIA was behind efforts to use the internet to put pressure on Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 1999, and to pressure Iraqi leadership in 2003 to split off from Saddam Hussein.
According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the CIA requested $685.4 million for computer network operations in 2013, compared to $1 billion by the NSA.
Retired Gen. Mike Hayden, who ran the CIA after leading the NSA, wrote this year: "We even had our own cyber force, the Information Operations Center (IOC), that former CIA director George Tenet launched and which had grown steadily under the next spy chief, Porter Goss, and me. The CIA didn't try to replicate or try to compete with NSA… the IOC was a lot like Marine Corps aviation while NSA was an awful lot like America's Air Force."
"I would quote a Russian proverb," said Adm. Stavridis, "which is, 'Probe with bayonets. When you hit mush, proceed. When you hit steel withdraw.' I think unless we stand up to this kind of cyber attack from Russia, we'll only see more and more of it in the future." (Contributor: William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Robert Windrem for NBC News)
God’s strategy on how to navigate this age of vulnerable cyber security outweighs any plans made by man. Pray that the decision to retaliate against these threats would be lined up with biblical principles and that those in charge would seek the Lord on how to move forward.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Prov. 16:9)
RETIRED FOUR-STAR GENERAL ADMITS LEAKING TOP-SECRET INFO TO MEDIA
The former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff pled guilty in federal court Monday, admitting he lied to the FBI when questioned about whether he provided two journalists with top secret information in 2012.
Retired four-star Gen. James Cartwright sat quietly with his attorney, former White House Counsel Gregory Craig, as Assistant US Attorney Leo J. Wise described the facts underlying the single charge of making false statements to federal investigators.
Cartwright, who became vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2007, signed more than 36 non-disclosure agreements related to Department of Defense programs during his tenure, the government said. Cartwright retired in 2011, but kept his top secret security clearance.
After his retirement, Cartwright again signed a "Classified Information Non-Disclosure Agreement," which included warnings "that unauthorized disclosure ... by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation," according to the government's court filing detailing the charge against him.
In 2012, investigators showed Cartwright classified information, including top-secret information, in a book by David Sanger, a national security correspondent for The New York Times, but Cartwright denied providing the material to Sanger, the government said. The government did not reveal the title of Sanger's book. He has written two books on US foreign policy, the second of which was published in 2012 and titled, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power."
Cartwright similarly told investigators that he had not provided classified information to Daniel Klaidman, then at Newsweek.
"So you are pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty?" asked US District Court Judge Leon.
"Yes, sir," Cartwright answered.
As CNN has previously reported, Cartwright has been under federal investigation for providing classified information to reporters since 2013.
While the charge of making false statements to federal investigators carries a five-year maximum sentence, Cartwright's plea agreement states that he should face no more than six months in prison.
Cartwright's sentencing hearing is set for January 17, 2017. (Contributor: By Laura Jarrett for CNN)
The Lord reveals the motives of the heart. Pray that hidden agendas by the leadership of our country will come to light, and that attempts to promote division and strife will be stopped.
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)