10 things you need to know today: September 6, 2016



President Obama canceled a meeting planned for Tuesday with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, after the new leader referred to Obama using a derogatory Tagalog phrase. Duterte was threatening to curse Obama if he raised the issue of the extrajudicial killings of more than 2,000 suspected drug dealers by Philippine authorities. “Clearly, he’s a colorful guy,” Obama said ahead of a regional summit both leaders are attending in Laos. Duterte later said he regretted that his words “came across as a personal attack on the U.S. president,” and that he looked forward to “ironing out our differences.”


Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, died Monday at her home in St. Louis after what her daughter said was a long battle with cancer. She was 92. Schlafly was known for her leadership in grassroots campaigns opposing everything from Communism to abortion. She also founded the Eagle Forum, an ultraconservative political group, in 1975. She championed traditional, stay-at-home roles for women, drawing harsh criticism from feminists. Betty Friedan, a feminist leader who debated her over the ERA, compared Schlafly to a religious heretic.


Congress returns to work Tuesday after a seven-week summer recess with just 20 days to avert a government shutdown before lawmakers leave again for a month-long election season break. Federal agencies could run out of money and be forced to temporarily close unless Congress approves a stop-gap spending bill to pay their bills past the end of the month. Lawmakers also face several other pressing issues, including funding the fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

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Hillary Clinton on Monday said she had “a very serious” concern that Russia was trying to influence the U.S. presidential election with Watergate-like spying, citing Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee emails in July. Analysts interpreted her remarks as implying that Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks a victory by Republican nominee Donald Trump would destabilize the U.S. and benefit Russia. “The fact that our intelligence professionals are now studying this, and taking it seriously,” she said, “raises some grave questions about potential Russian interference with our electoral process.”


President Obama, launching the first visit by a sitting president to Laos, said on Tuesday the U.S. has a “moral obligation” to help the Southeast Asian nation repair lingering damage from the Vietnam War. Obama said it was important for more Americans to acknowledge the damage done by covert U.S. bombing in Laos that was meant to cut off communist forces in neighboring Vietnam. Arriving for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hosted by Laos, Obama announced a doubling of spending on clearing away unexploded bombs in Laos to $90 million over three years.


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) campaigned for his Democratic primary season rival Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire on Monday, telling supporters that getting behind Clinton is “about you and your needs and the needs of the American people.” With a few “Bernie or Bust” protesters in the crowd, Sanders emphasized issues on which he largely agrees with the Democratic presidential nominee, including increasing funding for renewable energy and raising the minimum wage. A day earlier, Clinton’s rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump, got help from one of his former rivals, Ben Carson, who urged African-Americans to support Trump because he offered “an alternative to promises that are not kept” by Democrats.

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Donald Trump said Monday that he had done nothing improper in connection with a $25,000 donation his Donald J. Trump Foundation made to a campaign group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) while her office was considering whether to join a fraud lawsuit against Trump University. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the IRS this year over the donation. Hillary Clinton’s campaign slammed Trump for having criticized the Clinton Foundation “when it’s been proven he uses his own foundation to launder illegal campaign donations.” Trump Organization Senior Vice President Jeffrey McConney said the contribution “was just an honest mistake.”


President Obama on Monday defended San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s right to refuse to stand during the national anthem, saying the football player is exercising his right to free speech. Kaepernick says he is trying to call attention to racial injustice and police brutality. A local police union has said officers might stop working at the stadium unless the team disciplines him. Obama said sometimes “active citizenry” like Kaepernick’s is “messy,” but it’s better to be controversial than to “sit on the sidelines.” “If nothing else,” Obama said, “he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”


Afghan authorities closed government offices to the public in Kabul on Tuesday under a state of emergency after a string of Taliban attacks. Gunmen stormed the offices of an international charity — CARE International — in the heart of the capital city on Tuesday and fought an 11-hour gun battle with security forces before being killed. On Monday, a double bombing targeting the Defense Ministry killed 35 people and wounded at least 91.

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The San Francisco 49ers on Monday released tight end Bruce Miller after he was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of assault. Police said Miller tried to enter an elderly couple’s room at the Marriott on Fisherman’s Wharf. The couple’s 29-year-old son was next door, and told Miller, 29, he was in the wrong room. Police say Miller, who was allegedly intoxicated, then attacked the son and his father, who is 70. In 2015, Miller pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. He denied attacking his then-fiancee, but had to attend anti-domestic violence counseling.

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