Biles Dazzles on Floor to Win Record 25th World Championship Medal

American Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history on Sunday when she won the beam and floor finals to take her career tally to 25 medals.Soon after securing a convincing victory on the beam in Stuttgart to overtake Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo’s record tally of 23 world medals, the 22-year-old Biles successfully defended her floor title to win medal number 25.The four-time Olympic champion is now the owner of 19 gold medals across four championships against 12 for Scherbo, who competed in five world events between 1991 and 1996.Making her final appearance of the week in front of a raucous crowd, Biles wasted no time as she landed a superb triple-twisting double back flip — known as the Biles II – on her first pass.Biles’s double layout with a half turn — another skill named after her — put her out of bounds for a 0.1 penalty but she did enough to post a winning score of 15.133.“Honestly, I just couldn’t move. I was so tired,” Biles said of her final pose on the stage.“This is really the best worlds performance I have ever put out.”The Americans took a one-two finish as Sunisa Lee finished with 14.133 for the silver medal, while Russian Angelina Melnikova came third.Olympic Champ Simone Biles Says She was Abused by Doctor

        Simone Biles watched as her friends and former Olympic teammates came forward to detail abuse at the hands of a now-imprisoned former USA Gymnastics team doctor.Drawing in part from their strength, the four-time gold medalist acknowledged Monday she is among the athletes who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar.Biles, who won five medals overall at the 2016 Olympics, released a statement via Twitter outlining that abuse. 

BEAM BRILLIANCEEarlier, Biles delivered a polished routine on the beam before a full twisting double tuck dismount for an impressive 15.066.Although Biles had twice before won the world beam title, in 2014 and 2015, it has not always been plain sailing for her on the apparatus.Her slip on the landing of a front tucked somersault at the 2016 Rio Olympics meant she had to settle for a bronze in the event. Last year again, she dropped off the beam during the women’s all-around final at the world championships.But she has regained her swagger this week, under the watchful eyes of balance beam coach Cecile Landi, and posted top scores in all four attempts — qualifying, the team and all-around finals and Sunday’s apparatus final.“It meant a lot because Cecile has really been working on bringing my confidence back up to where it used to be on the beam,” Biles said.“To go out there and nail the routine, just like I do in practice, it felt really good and I knew she was really proud.”As another title-winning score was announced in the arena, Biles punched the air in jubilation before joining celebrations with the U.S. team.“I was really excited,” she added. “I thought it was going to be at least 14.8, 14.9, but to see 15, I was like well that’s pretty crazy, so I was very proud.”Last year’s winner Liu Tingting of China took silver with 14.433, while team mate Li Shijia won the bronze.Biles finished her campaign in Stuttgart with five gold medals from six events to mark ideal preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.Her barnstorming run included a record fifth all-around gold, an individual vault title, as well as helping the U.S. to a fifth straight world team title. 

Teen’s Parents Fly to US Hoping to Meet Driver Who killed Him

Parents of the British teen killed when his motorcycle collided with car allegedly driven by an American diplomat’s wife are on their way to the U.S. hoping to seek justice.Harry Dunn, 19, died in August in near the Croughton Royal Air Force base in Northhamptonshire, which is used by the U.S. Air Force as a communications center.Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, told the BBC the family hopes to meet with the suspected driver, identified by British police and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as Anne Sacoolas, wife of an American intelligence officer based at Croughton.Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the United States while the case was still being investigated. She has since written a letter of apology to Dunn’s family.But Charles said Sunday, “It’s nearly seven weeks now since we lost our boy, sorry just doesn’t cut it.”That’s not really quite enough,” she told Sky News. “But I’m still really open to meeting her, as are the rest of us. I can’t promise what I would or wouldn’t say, but I certainly wouldn’t be aggressive.”Charles also said the family was thankful to receive a letter Saturday from the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that said since Sacoolas had left Britain, “immunity is no longer pertinent”.The family is hoping Sacoolas will return to Britain.  They have even called on U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene on their behalf.But Trump told a news conference Wednesday that Sacoolas would not return. Harry Dunn’s death was a “terrible accident,” the president said but he noted that driving on the worn side of the road “happens”.  

Poland’s Ruling Party Declares Victory in Divided Nation

Poland’s conservative governing Law and Justice party won the most votes in Sunday’s election in the deeply divided nation and appeared, according to an exit poll, to have secured a comfortable majority in parliament to govern for four more years.The exit poll, conducted by the research firm Ipsos, projected that Law and Justice won 43.6% of the votes. That would translate into 239 seats, a majority in the 460-seat lower house of parliament.The poll said a centrist pro-European Union umbrella group, Civic Coalition, would come in second with 27.4%. The biggest party in the coalition is Civic Platform, which governed Poland in 2007-2015.Coalition leaders cheered and welcomed the result as a spur toward uniting society around common goals.Other parties projected to surpass the 5% threshold to get into parliament were a left-wing alliance with 11.9%, the conservative agrarian Polish People’s Party with 9.6% and a new far-right alliance called Confederation with 6.4%.The exit poll had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. Final vote results, which are expected by Tuesday, could shift, as they have in past elections.A prominent journalist, Konrad Piasecki, said that “at the moment it looks like the largest triumph in the history of parliamentary elections” in Poland. But he also cautioned that results varying even slightly from the exit poll could mean big changes to the distribution of seats in parliament.Law and Justice has governed Poland since 2015 and is popular for its social conservatism and generous social spending. It ran a campaign that highlighted its social programs and vowed to defend traditional Roman Catholic values.It has been accused of weakening the rule of law in the young democracy with an overhaul of the judicial system that has given the party more power over the courts and has drawn criticism as well for using state media as a propaganda outlet and for anti-gay rhetoric.Pawel Zerka, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said the high level of support for Law and Justice, known in Poland by its acronym PIS, “should not be interpreted as a sign that Poles have become nationalist or xenophobic. Rather, it reveals an effective party machine – and an ability of PIS to mobilize voters with policies based on direct social transfers.”Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is considered the real power behind Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government, cautioned that the exit polls weren’t the final results but nonetheless declared victory.“We received a lot but we deserve more,” Kaczynski told party supporters as he held high a bouquet of roses.Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna said the fight wasn’t fair, an apparent reference to the way Law and Justice harnessed state media to pump out positive coverage of itself while casting a poor light on political rivals.“This was not an even struggle; there were no rules in this struggle,” Schetyna said.The left-wing party leaders celebrated their expected return to parliament after failing to get any seats in 2015.Critics fear that four more years for Law and Justice will reverse the democratic achievements of this Central European nation, citing the changes to the judiciary and the way the party has marginalized minorities, for instance with its recent campaign depicting the LGBT rights movement as a threat.Law and Justice’s apparent success stems from tapping into the values of the largely conservative society while also evening out extreme economic inequalities.It is the first party since the fall of communism to break with the austerity of previous governments, whose free-market policies transformed Poland into one of Europe’s most dynamic economies.However, many Poles were left out in that transformation and inequalities grew, creating grievances. Law and Justice skillfully addressed those concerns with popular programs, including one that gives families a monthly stipend of 500 zlotys ($125) for each child, taking the edge off poverty for some and giving others more disposable income. It says it has been able to pay for its programs thanks to a tighter tax collection system.It has also clearly benefited from the sacrifices forced by earlier governments and the growth of Europe’s economy.In his victory speech, Kaczynski referred to his party’s improvement of public finances and said it would continue on that path.“We are finishing a certain stage; we are starting a new one,” he said. “It is not easier, maybe more difficult. But I hope that it will be finished with even greater success.”

California Becomes First US State to Ban Fur Products

California has become the first U.S. state to ban all production and sale of animal fur products.Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill that will make it illegal to make, sell and even donate any new item made using animal fur starting in 2023.The bill excludes used items, taxidemy products, fur taken with a hunting license and fur used by Native American tribes for religious purposes.Violators of the ban will face fines of up to $500, or even $1,000 for repeat offenses.“The signing of AB44 underscores the point that today’s consumers simply don’t want wild animals to suffer extreme pain and fear for the sake of fashion,” Kitty Block, the head of the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement.But the Fur Information Council of America condemned the ban as being part of a “radical vegan agenda” and has threatened a court challenge.Along with the fur ban, Newsom also approved a ban on the use of most animals in circuses. Exceptions will be made for dogs and horses.“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare, and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom said in a statement. “But we are doing more than that. We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames.”

Clowns of the World Call on People to Find Joy, Laughter in Their Lives

Things are tough all over, so some red-nosed, seltzer-spraying, pie-tossing lovers of fun said: Let’s find some joy.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi tells us what it’s all about

Putin Heads to Saudi Arabia, Offers Himself as Peacemaker

Russian leader Vladimir Putin travels to Saudi Arabia, a traditional U.S. ally, Monday, offering to act as a peacemaker between Riyadh and Tehran in a diplomatic offensive aimed at balancing Moscow’s relations across the Middle East.His second aim, say analysts, is to needle Washington. While courting Iran, Russia’s ally in Syria, the Kremlin has also been wooing Tehran’s top foes, Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as other major powers in the region like Turkey, a member of the U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance.Putin’s visit coincides with a Pentagon announcement that it is dispatching 3000 additional troops and two squadrons of fighter jets to the Gulf kingdom in an effort, U.S. officials say, to deter Iranian aggression following the drone and Cruise missile attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last month, which rattled global energy markets and added to war tensions in the Gulf.Saudi Arabia and the U.S., as well as other Western powers, blame Iran for the attack.In recent months, Russia’s president has been assiduously courting Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a move which has been compared by some analysts to trolling the U.S. in the Gulf. The Crown Prince hasn’t discouraged the attention — as much a warning, some analysts say, to Western powers and as a rebuff of their criticism for his human rights record.FILE – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a G-20 session with other heads of state, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov. 30, 2018.At the G-20 summit last year in Buenos Aires, just weeks after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Putin was pictured laughing heartily with the Saudi ruler over a shared joke and giving him a high-five. The bonhomie between the pair stood in marked contrast with the shunning by other World leaders and dignitaries of the Crown Prince, who’s widely blamed, despite his denials, for the macabre killing of the journalist, a U.S. resident, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.“The Russian government declined to criticize the Saudi authorities over the killing [of Khashoggi], and over the last year has made steady progress in offering itself as a new, reliable friend,” says Brian Dooley of Human Rights First, an independent advocacy organization based in the U.S..Saudi and Russian officials are scheduled to announce more than two billion dollars-worth of Saudi investment in Russia during Putin’s visit, his first to the kingdom since 2007. The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, said Moscow and Riyadh will sign ten major agreements covering agriculture, transport, railways, fertilizers, petrochemicals, and industrial intelligence.The RDIF opened an office in Saudi Arabia four days ago, its first ever foreign office. The move is being seen by some as a maneuver by the Kremlin to make up for the reduction in Western foreign investment in the wake of sanctions imposed initially on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea.“I am convinced that the Russia-Saudi summit will give further strong impetus to our multifaceted partnership, contribute to its qualitative growth and strengthen mutual understanding between the two peoples,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week.Speaking to broadcasters Saturday ahead of his trip, Putin decried attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, no matter who was behind them. He also urged Iran’s neighbors to “respect” the interests of Iran, a country that has “existed on its territory for thousands of years.” But at the same time he praised increasing cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia.Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an interview with Al-Arabiya, Sky News Arabia and RT Arabic ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia, in Sochi, Russia, in this undated picture released on Oct. 13, 2019. (Sputnik/M. Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters)…During the interview the Russian leader offered, once again, to sell the Saudis advanced Russian-made air defense systems, either the S-300 which Turkey has purchased, or the S-400, bought by Iran. Last month, during a press conference in Ankara alongside Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin tauntingly suggested Riyadh should do the same and buy from Russia.“We are ready to help Saudi Arabia to protect their people,” Putin said. “And they need to make one clever decision as Iran did, buying our S-300, and as Mr. Erdogan did by deciding to buy the most advanced S-400 Triumph air defense systems from Russia. These kinds of systems are capable of defending any kind of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia from any kind of attack,” he added.His remarks prompted chortles from the Iranian delegation.U.S. defense experts say it would be against Saudi Arabia’s defense and diplomatic interests to be lured by Putin into buying a Russian system. If Saudi Arabia did decide to purchase the S-400 or S-300, it would likely be denied access to the best U.S. defense technologies and military training and the purchase would also prompt a likely withdrawal of all U.S. military aircraft based in the Gulf kingdom, leaving Saudi Arabia reliant on Russia for its defense.Pentagon officials say intelligence-collection capabilities of the S-400 would endanger U.S. planes operating in the vicinity.FILE – First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.When Turkey acquired the S-400, the White House immediately canceled plans to supply the NATO ally U.S. F-35 strike fighters. They also say the S-400 would be a poison pill for Saudi Arabia — the system would likely rely on Russian operatives and codes to identify unfriendly warplanes and as Iran has the most advanced Russian system, it would know its weaknesses and ways to trick the technology.Despite Putin’s offers of a surface-to-air missile system, the Russians appear to be marketing harder their new anti-drone system, the  Pantsir, an anti-UAV system Rosoboronexport, the export agency, is scheduled to put on display at the Dubai Airshow in November.“Recent events in the world have shown that the effective fight against reconnaissance and strike UAVs, as well as other air attack weapons, is becoming increasingly important to ensure the protection of high-priority facilities,” Rosoboronexport said in a press release issued days after the Saudi attacks.FILE – A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.However, the Russian UAV system is likely to be redundant with the U.S. dispatching more air-defense capabilities to Saudi Arabia. On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the dispatch to the Gulf kingdom of  “additional Patriot and THAAD [terminal high altitude area defense] air and missile defense batteries.”“In response to Iranian provocation since May, the U.S. has deployed an array of additional capabilities to the region, including airborne early warning aircraft squadrons, maritime patrol aircraft squadrons, Patriot air and missile defense batteries, B-52 bombers, a carrier strike group, amphibious transport dock, unmanned aircraft, and engineering and support personnel,” he said.Defense purchases aside, Putin’s trip is an historic one, which the Kremlin has been keen to play up at a time Washington is embroiled in domestic political wars and its focus on the Gulf diminished.

74 Migrants Rescued off Libyan Coast, 110 Others Turned Back

Humanitarian groups on Sunday said they have rescued 74 migrants on a rubber boat in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya while Tunisian authorities reported blocking a smuggling boat carrying 110 migrants from setting off for Italy.Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee said their Ocean Viking ship rescued the migrants Sunday morning about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Libyan coast near an oilfield. The groups said six children were among those rescued.Tunisia’s Interior Ministry said three coast guard boats pursued the smuggling boat after it left Friday night from the city of Sfax. Officers shouted through loudspeakers at the boat and passengers threw projectiles that injured two officers and broke windows.The coast guard eventually forced the boat back toward Tunisia and rescued 25 migrants who had jumped into the sea.Meanwhile, three small boats carrying migrants reached Italian shores on Sunday. ANSA, the Italian news agency, said two boats – one carrying 15 people, the other 11 – landed on the island of Lampedusa. The agency says a third boat with 15 Tunisians aboard landed in southern Sicily. 

Washington Celebrates Freedom to Read With List of Banned Books

Banned Books Week happens every year as many children in America begin a new school year. In honor of the occasion, local libraries organize readings of Harry Potter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird and hundreds of other novels. Despite many of them being considered classical literature, they continue to be banned in some school libraries. Natalka Pisnya has the story narrated by Anna Rice. 

Voters in Poland, Hungary Vote in Parliamentary Elections 

Poles are voting Sunday in a parliamentary election that the ruling party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski is favored to win easily, buoyed by the popularity of its social conservatism and generous social spending policies that have reduced poverty.Law and Justice is the first party since the fall of communism to break with the austerity of previous governments. Those free-market policies took a moribund communist economy and transformed it into one of Europe’s most dynamic. However, many Poles were left out in that transformation and inequalities grew, creating grievances that Law and Justice has addressed skillfully. Its most popular program, called 500+, gives away 500 zlotys ($125) to families per month per child, taking the edge off poverty for some and giving more disposable income to all recipients.However, many of the party’s liberal critics fear that another four-year term for Law and Justice will reverse the achievements made three decades ago in this Central European nation, long hailed as a model of democratic transformation. They cite an erosion of judicial independence, pluralism and minority rights since the party took power in 2015.More than 30 million people in this nation of 37 million are qualified to vote. They are choosing lawmakers in the 460-seat lower house of parliament and in the 100-seat Senate.Challenge in HungaryOne country away, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s dominant right-wing Fidesz party is facing a challenge from opposition parties who are backing a joint candidate in many cities in local elections nationwide.Fidesz has been easily winning local, national and European Parliament elections since 2010, but a more unified opposition and the release of a video showing one of the party’s best-known mayors, former Olympic champion gymnast Zsolt Borkai, participating in an orgy on a yacht have shaken up the last days of the campaign.More than 8 million people are eligible to vote Sunday for more than 3,000 mayors and 17,200 local council members elected for five-year terms.

Turkish Forces Say They’ve Captured Key Syrian Border Town

Turkey’s military said it captured a key Syrian border town under heavy bombardment Saturday in its most significant gain since an offensive against Kurdish fighters began four days ago, with no sign of relenting despite mounting international criticism.Turkish troops entered central Ras al-Ayn, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry and a war monitor group. The ministry tweeted: “Ras al-Ayn’s residential center has been taken under control through the successful operations in the east of Euphrates” River. It marked the biggest gain made by Turkey since the invasion began Wednesday.The continued push by Turkey into Syria comes days after President Donald Trump pulled U.S. forces out of the area, making Turkey’s air and ground offensive possible, and said he wanted to stop getting involved with “endless wars.” Trump’s decision drew swift bipartisan criticism that he was endangering regional stability and risking the lives of Syrian Kurdish allies who brought down the Islamic State group in Syria. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces was the main U.S. ally in the fight and lost 11,000 fighters in the nearly five-year battle against IS.Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition fighters have made gains recently capturing several northern villages in fighting and bombardment that left dozens of people killed or wounded. The invasion also has forced nearly 100,000 people to flee their homes amid concerns that IS might take advantage of the chaos and try to rise again after its defeat in Syria earlier this year.Redor Khalil, a Kurdish official in the Syrian Democratic Forces, speaks during a press conference in Hassakeh, Oct. 12, 2019.US moral responsibilitiesThe Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said the United States should carry out its “moral responsibilities” and close northern Syrian airspace to Turkish warplanes, but that it didn’t want the U.S. to send its soldiers “to the front lines and put their lives in danger.”During a meeting Saturday in Cairo, the 22-member Arab League condemned what it described as “Turkey’s aggression against Syria” and warned that Ankara will be responsible for the spread of terrorism following its invasion. The league said Arab states might take some measures against Ankara. It called on the U.N. Security Council to force Turkey to stop the offensive.The Turkish offensive was widely criticized by Syria and some Western countries, which called on Turkey to cease its military operations.Arms exports curtailedFrance’s defense and foreign ministries said Saturday that the country was halting exports of any arms to Turkey that could be used in its offensive.Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also announced that Germany would curtail its arms exports to Turkey. Maas told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that “against the background of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the government will not issue any new permissions for any weapons that can be used by Turkey in Syria.”Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey won’t stop until the Syrian Kurdish forces withdraw at least 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the border.People hold pro-Kurd flags and banner in Paris, Oct. 12, 2019, during a demonstration to support Kurdish militants and protest as Turkey kept up its assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria.During the capture of Ras al-Ayn’s residential center, an Associated Press journalist across the border heard sporadic clashes as Turkish howitzers struck the town and Turkish jets screeched overhead. Syrian Kurdish forces appeared to be holding out in some areas of the town.The SDF released two videos said to be from inside Ras al-Ayn, showing fighters saying that it was Saturday and they were still there.The fighting was ongoing as the Kurdish fighters sought to reverse the Turkish advance into the city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor.Ras al-Ayn is one of the biggest towns along the border and is in the middle of the area where Turkey plans to set up its safe zone. The ethnically and religiously mixed town with a population of Arabs, Kurds, Armenians and Syriac Christians had been under the control of Kurdish fighters since 2013. IS members tried to enter Ras al-Ayn following their rise in Syria and Iraq in 2014 but failed.Syrian patient Fatima al-Issa who was hit by shrapnel during Turkish bombardment of Ras al-Ayn, rests after receiving treatment at a hospital in Tal Tamr in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province, Oct. 11, 2019.Most of the town’s residents have fled in recent days for fear of the invasion.Highway targetedEarlier Saturday, Turkish troops moved to seize control of key highways in northeastern Syria, the Turkish military and the Syrian Observatory said. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said that Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces had taken control of the M-4 highway that connects the towns of Manbij and Qamishli. The SDF said that Turkish troops and their Syrian allies reached the highway briefly before being pushed back again.Kurdish news agencies including Hawar and Rudaw said that Hevreen Khalaf, secretary general of the Future Syria Party, was killed Saturday as she was driving on the M-4 highway. Rudaw’s correspondent blamed Turkish forces for targeting Khalaf’s car, and Hawar blamed “Turkey’s mercenaries.”The Observatory said six people, including Khalaf, were killed by Turkey-backed opposition fighters on the road that they briefly cut before withdrawing.The Turkish military aims to clear Syrian border towns of Kurdish fighters’ presence, saying they are a national security threat. Since Wednesday, Turkish troops and Syrian opposition fighters backed by Ankara have been advancing under the cover of airstrikes and artillery shelling.Thousands displacedThe U.N. estimated the number of displaced at 100,000 since Wednesday, saying that markets, schools and clinics also were closed. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis, with nearly a half-million people at risk in northeastern Syria.A civilian wounded in a mortar strike from Syria on Friday in the Turkish border town of Suruc died, Anadolu news agency reported Saturday, bringing the civilian death toll to 18 in Turkey. Turkey’s interior minister said hundreds of mortars, fired from Syria, have landed in Turkish border towns.The Observatory said 74 Kurdish-led SDF fighters have been killed since Wednesday as well as 49 Syrian opposition fighters backed by Turkey. That’s in addition to 38 civilians on the Syrian side. It added that Turkish troops now control 23 villages in northeastern Syria.Turkey’s defense ministry said it “neutralized” 459 Syrian Kurdish fighters. The number could not be independently verified. Four Turkish soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the offensive, including two who were killed in Syria’s northwest.France’s leader warned Trump in a phone call that Turkey’s military action in northern Syria could lead to a resurgence of IS activity. President Emmanuel Macron “reiterated the need to make the Turkish offensive stop immediately,” his office said in a statement Saturday.A Kurdish police force in northern Syria said a car bomb exploded early Saturday outside a prison where IS members are being held in the northeastern city of Hassakeh. It was not immediately clear if there were any serious injuries or deaths.Kurdish fighters are holding about 10,000 IS fighters, including some 2,000 foreigners. 

UK Long Way From Brexit Deal, Downing Street Source Says

Britain remains a long way from agreeing on a final Brexit deal and the next few days will be critical if it is to reach departure terms with the European Union, a Downing Street source said Saturday.Negotiators for Britain and the EU entered intense talks over the weekend to see if they can break the Brexit impasse before a crucial summit next week and a deadline for Britain to leave the bloc Oct. 31.News of progress in the talks sent financial markets surging Friday after Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar identified a pathway to a deal following months of acrimony.But on Saturday the deputy leader of the Northern Irish party that holds a key role in the talks signaled his concern about the mooted proposal and the Downing Street source said Britain remained ready to leave without a deal if needed.“We’ve always wanted a deal,” the person said, on condition of anonymity. “It is good to see progress, but we will wait to see if this is a genuine breakthrough.“We are a long way from a final deal and the weekend and next week remain critical to leaving with a deal on Oct. 31. We remain prepared to leave without a deal on Oct. 31,” the source said.Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, right, and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson pose for a photograph at Thornton Manor Hotel, Oct. 10, 2019, as they met for Brexit talks.The Sunday Times newspaper reported that Johnson, the face of Britain’s 2016 campaign to leave the EU, was now desperate to secure a deal after security chiefs warned that leaving in a disorderly manner could inflame tensions in Northern Ireland.Ireland has proved the toughest nut to crack in the Brexit talks, specifically how to prevent the British province of Northern Ireland from becoming a backdoor into the EU’s markets without having border controls.Ireland fears controls on the 500-km (300-mile) border with Northern Ireland would undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of sectarian and political conflict that killed more than 3,600 people.Johnson is likely to talk to senior EU leaders Monday to reassess the situation, the source said.

WFP Says 100,000 in Syria Flee Turkish Offensive

Ali Javanmardi from VOA’s Persian Service contributed to this report from Irbil.The World Food Program says more than 100,000 people have been displaced so far by the Turkish invasion of northern Syria.The agency said those displaced have come from the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad.Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces deny that Turkish forces have taken the border town of Ras al-Ayn as Turkey had claimed.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the civilian death toll resulting from Turkey’s offensive has risen to 30.Ankara launched the cross-border operation on Wednesday, saying it wants to clear a buffer zone in northern Syria of Syrian Kurdish forces, whom it sees as terrorist allies of Kurdish separatists in Turkey.An explosion is seen over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, Oct. 12, 2019.Turkey reported its first military fatality three days into its incursion into Syria. The defense ministry said three other soldiers were wounded, without giving any details. Civilian casualties also were reported in the Turkish-Syrian border region.U.S. officials say an American military outpost in Kobane, in northeastern Syria has been evacuated after Turkish artillery shells landed nearby.  The main U.S. base in Kobane was not affected, and the officials said they expect the evacuation of the outpost will be temporary.NATO urged Turkey, an alliance member, to exercise restraint.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged Turkey’s legitimate security concerns about the Syrian Kurdish fighters but warned that the offensive could “jeopardize” progress made against the Islamic State terror group that previously held territory in northern Syria.A man and two boys sit on belongings at the back of a truck as they flee Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Oct. 9, 2019, with smoke billowing in the background during a Turkish offensive.Stoltenberg spoke at a news conference in Istanbul with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Cavusoglu said Turkey expects solidarity from NATO against the threats it faces.“I am very concerned by reports of civilian casualties on both sides of the border, and of large numbers of people moving inside Syria in the hope of avoiding the fighting,” said Mark Lowcock, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief coordinator. He made the comments in a Turkish soldiers stand near military trucks in the village of Yabisa, near the Turkish-Syrian border, Syria, Oct. 12, 2019.Speaking to VOA Persian, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said people in northern Syria were “frustrated and disappointed” that President Donald Trump withdrew dozens of U.S. troops that had been stationed in northern Syria earlier this week, shortly before Turkey launched the offensive. The troops were part of a U.S. military deployment that has partnered with the SDF in the fight against IS.“The United States didn’t stop the Turks from doing this offensive,” Bali said.Trump has said he pulled out the U.S. troops because they had defeated IS and he did not want them to be caught up in an offensive that Ankara long had threatened to carry out against Syrian Kurdish forces. His administration has strongly criticized the Turkish offensive and denied green-lighting it.