Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion   


Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed a Turkish incursion into Syria, a senior administration official said, deepening confusion around his policy after an uproar from Republicans that he planned to abandon U.S. Kurdish allies.The official said Trump has cautioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will bear responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in the region, as well as a resurgence of violence if the militants are freed and any harm to civilians in areas Turkey occupies.The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.Trump later suggested his move to clear the way for a Turkish invasion was intended in part to pressure European countries including France and Germany that, he said, have refused to accept the return of citizens who joined Islamic State.Trump said at a meeting with military leaders that he had urged U.S. allies to reclaim their citizens, but they had refused.“We’re not going to move the fighters to Guantanamo Bay and take care of them for many, many years into the future, that’s not for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for Germany and France and all of the nations where they came from to take them back and they chose no. Maybe they’re going to change their tune now, I don’t know.”Trump has come under criticism from allies including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, for his announcement late Sunday that the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way of the Turkish incursion.The White House statement was read around the world as Trump abandoning U.S. policy that Kurdish allies would be protected from Turkish aggression in exchange for their help in defeating Islamic State.Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is among the top Democratic contenders to challenge Trump’s re-election in 2020, said in a statement that “once again, an impulsive and erratic president has abandoned friends of the United States with a late-night tweet.”American officials didn’t immediately explain the president’s change in position on Syria. Trump’s order to remove about 50 U.S. troops from a Syria border region Turkey intends to invade doesn’t represent a green light for the incursion, the U.S. official said. The official added that Trump had discussed the decision with officials at the State Department and Pentagon before the White House announcement, and that the agencies should not have been surprised.The U.S. had successfully dissuaded Turkey from an invasion for two years, but if Erdogan orders an operation, the U.S. doesn’t want its soldiers endangered or caught in the crossfire, the official said.I’ve told President Erdogan, I hope he’s going to treat everybody with great respect,” Trump said at the meeting with military leaders. Earlier, he told reporters at the White House: “I have consulted with everybody.”“I fully understand both sides of it but I campaigned on the fact I was going to bring our soldiers home,” he said.The administration official did not say that any U.S. soldiers would be brought home as a result of the withdrawal. The troops moved from the border region, mostly special forces soldiers, would be re-positioned at different U.S. bases in Syria, the official said.(Updates with more Trump remarks, beginning in fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at;Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


California's Next Offshore Oil Spill Will Be Caused, Ironically, By The State's War On Oil   

California’s elected officials’ oil policy can be summed up as: leave it in the ground or under the ocean, and, if it must come into the state, don’t use pipeline or rail. The result of this policy is predictable—an increasing number of crude oil tankers are making their way to California...

Agenda for October 2019 Regular Meeting of the Franklin Town Council Released   


The Franklin Town Council will be holding its regular meeting for October 2019 on Monday night in the lower level of the town hall. The meeting begins at 6pm and is open to the public. Macon Media intends to be there to stream live video of the meeting and to record it for later uploading to the internet.

Copies of the public agenda and agenda packet are posted below. Several readers have said they cannot access documents in a PDF format, so I (Bobby) have attempted to transcribe portions of the agenda packet so they can be read.

Franklin Town Council
October 7, 2019

1. Call to Order - Mayor Bob Scott

2. Pledge of Allegiance - Vice Mayor Barbara McRae

3. Adoption of the October 7, 2019 Town Council Agenda

4. Approval of Consent Agenda for October 7, 2019

A.) Approval of the September 3, 2019, Town Counmtil Minutes
B.) Budget Amendments
C.) Street Closing Request for Jeepers Creepers
D.) Tax Releases
E.) Forward Re-Zoning Petition to the Town Planning Board
F.) Set Public Hearing for Plat Stamp Amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance

5. Public Session (Public Comments)

6. New Business:

A.) Presentation on Growing Outdoor Communities - Cory McCall
B.) Discussion on Love Street Property - Joyce Handley
C.) Discussion on Waiving Tap Fees for Macon County's New Dog Park - Town Manager Summer Woodard
D.) Discussion on W-R Contract for Phase II of the Water Treatment Plant - Town Manager Summer Woodard
E.) Update on Leash Law- Town Manager Summer Woodard and Town Attorney John Henning Jr
F.) Update on Opportunity Zones - Vice Mayor Barbara McRae

7. Legal:

A.) Discussion on Town of Franklin Guardrail Policy - Town Attorney John Henning Jr.
B.) Update on NCDOT SidewalkAgreement along US-441 South to Prentiss Bridge - Town Attorney John Henning Jr.

8. Announcements

A.) Town Hall Movie Night will be Friday, October 8, 2019
B.) Pumpkinfest will be Saturday, October 19, 2019, from 9am to 4pm
C.) Second Annual Town of Franklin Leaf Pickup is available

9. Adjourn

Copy of Agenda Packet sent to media outlets

Expanded Public Agenda

Franklin Town Council
October 7, 2019

1. Call to Order - Mayor Bob Scott

2. Pledge of Allegiance - Vice Mayor Barbara McRae

3. Adoption of the October 7, 2019, Town Council Agenda

4. Approval of Consent Agenda for October 7, 2019

A.) Approval of the September 3, 2019, Town Council Minutes
B.) Budget Amendments
C.) Street Closing Request for Jeepers Creepers
D.) Tax Releases
E.) Forward Re-Zoning Petition to the Town Planning Board

The family of the Lillian Fouts Estate would like to have this parcel rezoned from R-1 to C-3. The parcel is in the ETJ and not in the city limits. It adjoins R-1 to the north and west, C-3 off of US-441 N 9Georgia Road) & Belden Circle to the north, east and south. Currently the only road access is off of Dryman Road. The site is served with city 6" water line, the nearest sewer line is down on the Georgia Road. The only major consideration to review is the traffic on Dryman Road for a commercial development.

F.) Set Public Hearing for Plat Stamp Amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance

The town manager suggests (if approved) set a public hearing for plat stamp amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance for Monday, November 4, 2019 at 6:05pm.

Copy of the proposed change and resolution:

Ordinance No. 2019-008

WHEREAS, there was adopted a unified development ordinance for the Town of Franklin, by a unanimous vote of the Board of Aldermen, at its regular meeting held on the 1st day of October, 2007; and

WHEREAS, the Acts of the State Legislature of the State fo North Carolina empower and authorize the Legislative Body of this Town to adopt ordinances, and to revise, amend, augment, and restate ordinances adopted pursuant to that authority; and

WHEREAS, as the Legislative Body of the Town of Franklin, the Town Council deems it necessary and expediant to adopt certain amendments to the unified development ordinance for the Town of Franklin, and has considered adoption of the same after due advertisement and public hearing;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the Town Council of the Town of Franklin that:

Section 1. §152.052(E)(4)(i) of the Unified Development Ordinance is hereby amended as follows:

"(i) All the following certifications shall appear on the final plat, including the Zoning Certificate of Approved Nonconformity, if applicable:


5. Zoning Certificate of Approved Nonconformity. The proposed [boundary line adjustment, subdivision] depicted herein is not in conformance with the requirements of the Unified Development Ordinance of the Town of Franklin. This recording is now listed as a legal nonconforming use and is hereby approved for recording in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Macon County.

5. 6. Review Officer Certification. State of North Carolina, County of Macon, I, ____, Review Officer of Macon County, certify that the map or plat to which this certification is affixed meets all the statutory requirements for recording.
(Date) (Review Officer)

Section 2. Except as amended hereby, the affected sections of the Unified Development Ordinances shall remain in full force and effect as enacted.

Planning Board Recommendations
Town of Franklin
September 16, 2019


• Applicant - Town of Franklin
• Original apllication was submitted on August 27, 2019
• This addition to the UDO would give the Land Use Administrator another stamp he/she could use to properly apprive of plats for zoning approval to be recorded.
• The only stamp currently allowed has potential to stamp a plat that is non-conforming and say that it conforms to the UDO.

Recommendation Consideration:


1. The proposal will place all property similarly situated in the area in the same, category, or in appropriate complementary categories. Yes

2. There is convincing demonstration that all uses permitted under the proposed classification would be in the general public interest and not merely in the interest of an individual or small group. Yes, so property owners would be made aware of the non-conforming use at the time of recordation.

3. There is convincing demonstration that all uses permitted uder the proposed districty classification would be appropriate in the area included in the proposed change. Yes

4. There is convincing demonstration that the character of any neighborhood will not be materially and adversely affected by any use permitted in the proposed change. Yes, it will just simple be making everyone aware of the non-conforming use.

5. The proposed change is in accord with the principles of growth, sound planning principles and any applicable small area plan. Yes

Recommendation: Planning Board recommends this UDO amendment change.

5. Public Session (Public Comments)

6. New Business:

A.) Presentation on Growing Outdoor Communities - Cory McCall

Macon County Economic Development Commission
July 11, 2019 Meeting
SCC - Macon - Franklin, North Carolina


Present: David Hubbs, Vice-Chair; Barbara McRae, Secretary; Tommy Jenkins, Executive Director; Ken Murphy; Bill Futral, Mark West, Roger Plemons, Cory McCall. Guests: Robin Jenkins, Luke Barber (reporter/Franklin Press)

Absent: Johnny Mira-Knippel, Chair; Brain Stiehler, Jim Breedlove, Brett Murphy, Karl Gillespie, Ronnie Beale, Derek Roland

In the absence of Chairman Johnny Mire-Knippel, Vide-Chair David Hubbs conducted the meeting.

Mark West: Motion to approve minutes of May 9, 2019 meeting.
Bill Futral: Second.
Passed unanimously.

Mr Hubbs introduced Noah Wilson, Director of Growing Outdoor Partnerships, who gave a presentation on this regional effort.

Growing Outdoor Partnerships

Economic development and outdoor recreation are coming together in the region, Mr Wilson said. Last year, partners created 200 outdoor industry jobs in the 25 Western North Carolina Counties his project covers.

Growing Outdoor Partnerships is funded by ARC [editors note: Appalachian Regional Commission URL] and is considered a pilot for other Appalachian communities that are moving toward a goal of healthy people, healthy places. The effort is part of an ARC commitment to replace the economic importance of coal in the region. In Macon County, the loss of the Caterpillar plant was part of a cascade of economic impacts related to the decline of coal mining.
The question ARC considered is: How can we help these rural counties use recreation as a driver?

Noting "You can't outsource the mountains," Mr Wilson explained that, despite the popularity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and other outdoor attractions, the Appalachians have not been as successfully branded as the Rockies.

The project includes six basic areas of focus:

1. Workforce development. The goal: anyone who wnats a job in the outdoor space can get a job and anyone who needs workers can find an employee.

Efforts to build workforce include creation of five or six certificate programs at WCU [editors note: Western Carolina University URL], such as Masters in Recreation. The degrees are given through established departments of the school.

Another aspect of workforce creation is participation by Growing Outdoor Partnerships in a large outdoor-retailers show. EDC member Cory McCall serves on the GOP advisory board and attended the show this year.

Mr Wilson also mentioned the partnership's recruiting efforts and a new textile programs to promote a resurgence of sewing work in WNC 9Tents, outdoor gear and kayaks, for example). This requires specialized sewing skills but build on skills many in thie regional already posses.

2. Expanding entrepreneurship & capital access. Mountain BizWorks is the primary manager & fiscal agent of the customized training portion of this effort. Capital access is through Capital Investment Fund, SW Commission loan fund; and NCI for larger projects.

3. Regional Branding & Marketing. The Most-Visited Places (GSMNP and BR Parkay) are in our backyard, but "all the imagery is Rocky Mountains." How do we fill that brand out? We can leverage it through all partnerships, including regional TDAs and TDCs.

\4. Connecting supply chains. Downloadable data is available through Manufactured NC, supply chain working group. We need to figure out what we can make in NC, and market it well, Mr Wilson said. Who has those capacities? He noted that people want US manufactured items. "There is opportunity, catcvh that wave!"

5. Weaving together regional outdoor community. Organize all segments around supply chains. Identify the parties: Marketing and branding. Infrastructure. Local government. Summer camps. Permitting agencies. Lawyers and accountants who understand seasonal cycles, how pieces fit together.

An annual regional conference bringning all partners together has been held at WCU, but has outgrown it and moved to Asheville:

Outdoor Economy Conference: October 10, Crown Plaza, Asheville.

6. Driving Economic Development. It is important for developers to understand the culture of the outdoors, what makes someone in that industry take notice of you, how you dress. "Make plans to build an industry."

Discussion on an Outdoor Economy

Noah Wilson's presentation stimulated a lengthy discussion on how Macon County can develop its own outdoor economy. Following are some of the questions and thoughts members expressed.

Bill Futral: How do you get the word out?

Noah Wilson: Networking

Ken Murphy: Is Franklin Chamber equipped to get the word out? He suggested mini-courses for merchants and others, so they know how to answer visitors' questions, re "What is there to do here?"

Cory McCall & Ken Murphy: Something like "Heart of Brevard" - map of county with locations of waterfalls, overlays that show mountain bike trails, etc. Perhaps on Outdoor 76 building.

Noah Wilson: Existing businesses are a catalyst for the industry, as anyone who wants to put a business in the county tends to be someone who wants to be outdoors.

Cory McCall: The outdoor industry includes more than just "earthy" pursuits like hiking. ATVs, fishing, and much more are part of it.

Ken Murphy: What activities are going on that we could participate in that include outreach to municipal areas?

Noah Wilson: How do you ensure that we're marketing to right people, being smart with our dollar?

Cory McCall: We need to coordinate branding - run with a strong, consistent brand.

Tommy Jenkins: The thought The thought in the past was that Asheville was the center of this, but you (GOP) are doing a good job of spreading it out.

Noah Wilson: There are 19 projects in this program; every one has a rural focus.

Tommy Jenkins: We have as a community a lack of focus on planning for outdoor recreation. This would be a convenient time to look at how to develop a strategic plan from a community perspective on how to develop our outdoor economy. Cory serves on Growing Outdoors Partnerships' advisory board. I have asked him to develop a working group to do a strategic plan for the county.

Cory McCall: I've been impressed with individuals on the advisory board. There is great potential in our community... I've been shocked at how many people commented on the outdoor recreation economy, asked about interviews, wanted quotes. This is prime time to step up and ride this wave. We need to maximize how we capitalize on this and develop a feasible plan.

Tommy Jenkins: It is important to reach out to others in this sector, include them and get their input. I will get together with Cory next week, develop a timeline, see who we can pull in from the community. We'll depend on Bill Futral for Highlands input.

Ken Murphy: Part of this should be working with other counties in the region.

Cory McCall: Everyone understands that we're all in the same boat. We're more connected than ever. We have no option - we have to work together. The emphasis is on rural.

Tommy Jenkins referred to a handout showing $1.64 billion per year spent on outdoor recreation in 11th Congressional District. [editor's note: the handout was not included in the agenda packet]

Cory McCall: It is exciting to see our region taking a lead on this.

Noah Wilson: We have been building organically. We need to do this as a region, build out brand and run with it.

Motion on Strategic Plan

Barbara McRae moved and Cory McCall seconded that we proceed with deveoping a strategic plan for the county on the outdoor recreation economy. The motion passed unanimously. (As noted above, Mr Jenkins has asked Cory MCCall to lead this effort. He asked Bill Futral to represent Highlands in the working group.)

Director's Report

Mr Jenkins did not have a written report but gave a brief oral report. Highlights include:

• We continue to work on some projects involving new retail on 441 bypass.
• EDC is working on a company expansion that would add quite a few jobs. We are doing a grant application for that project.
• Braodband continues to be a matter of importance. Otto community's Little Tennessee Broadband iniative is going forward. There is movement on their work with Haywood EMC, and that could impact Scaly Mountain as well.

(Aside. David Hubbs: Starlink, Elon Musk's initiative, launched 60 satellites in May. These are the first 60 of about 12,000 he will eventually put in orbit. His intention is to provide internet access from low earth orbit to the entire planet. With an antennaae [editor's note: correct spelling is antenna] the size of a pizza box, that would give you 40 mg. [editor's note: it is unknown what HUbbs was trying to say. The goal is to provide Gigabit service to rural and underserved customers. See x for more information on the project.] Initial launch is expected in May. A few days after launch, a guy in the Netherlands got a video of train of satellites going across. No word on how much the service will cost. Probably by 2024-2025 Starlink will start providing service.)

• Workforce development: EDC is working with NC Career Center, staying on top of demand for employees.


Barbara McRae provided information on several projects:

• Upcoming charette for Franklin Comprehensice Plan (June 17-19).
• Status of work and funding for onumental staue planned for Little Tennessee River and Nikwasi Mound area.
• Recent expansion of Women's History Trail to 14 sites.
• Decision of Cerokee Tribal Council to place $150,000 recurring line item in their budget to fund Nikwasi Initiative. This will allow NI to hire staff and fund other expenses.

Having no additional business, the meeting adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,

Barbara McRae, Secretary

B.) Discussion on Love Street Property - Joyce Handley

C.) Discussion on Waiving Tap Fees for Macon County's New Dog Park - Town Manager Summer Woodard

Macon County has requested that the Town of Franklin waive all tap fees associated with the dog park the county is building on Phillips Street. A transcribed copy is posted below:

Ms Woodard, Mayor Scott and Honorable Councilmembers,

I hope this letter finds each of you well. As you are aware, construction of a new dog park facility is currently underway, on the 7.35 acre tract of land owned by Macon County, located inside the Town of Franklin. The property, which is bordered by Phillips Street to the East, is more particularly describes PIN# 659418589 in records furnished by the Macon County Tax Office. [editor's note: Link to property description on the county website ]

Upon completion, the fenced-in dog park will contain public restrooms, a walking trail and additional parking. We feel strongly, that this $120,000 investment will benefit residents and visitors to both Macon County and the Town of Franklin. In light of the mutual benefits this facility will provide, we would respectfully request that the Town Council consider waiving all tap fees associated with the proposed new dog park facility.

Kindest Regards,

Derek C Roland
Macon County, Manager

D.) Discussion on W-R Contract for Phase II of the Water Treatment Plant - Town Manager Summer Woodard

A copy of the proposed Agreement for Engineering Services to the Town of Franklin for Phase II of the Water Treatment Plant expansion has been extracted from the agenda sent to media outlewts and is embedded below for transparency purposes.

E.) Update on Leash Law- Town manager Summer Wooard and Town Attorney John Henning Jr
F.) Update on Opportunity Zones - Vice Mayor Barbara McRae

7. Legal:

A.) Discussion on Town of Franklin Guardrail Policy - Town Attorney John Henning Jr.

A transcribed copy of the proposed Town of Franklin Streets and Sidewalks policies is included below.

Town of Franklin
Streets and Sidewalks Policies

I. Town Policy

It is the Town's policy to provide for the common good of its citizens by maintaining streets and sidewalks that are the most efficient, useful, and safe condition that can be provided within the Town's resources.

II. Regulations

Where federal and state laws and regulations supercede these policies, they shall be interpreted and enacted to conform to such laws and regulations. Where the Town has previously enacted an ordinance that conflicts with this policy, the ordinance shall prevail. The Town Manager is authorized to adopt changes to this policy that are mandated by applicable law. In situations that are not addressed by law or ordinance, the Town Manager is authorized to act on behalf and in the best interests of the Town.

III. Traffic Safety Devices

A. INSTALLATION OF GUARDRAILS AND OTHER SAFETY DEVICES. Guardrails and other safety devices shall be installed upon the recommendation of the Public Works Director, within funds budgeted by the Town Council. The Public Works Director shall base the recommendation upon current and applicable regulations of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

B.) Update on NCDOT SidewalkAgreement along US-441 South to Prentiss Bridge - Town Attorney John Henning Jr.

A copy of the proposed agreement between the town and the NCDOT has been extracted from the agenda packet and embedded below.

8. Announcments

A.) Town Hall Movie Night will be Friday, October 8, 2019
B.) Pumpkinfest will be Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 9am to 4pm
C.) Second Annual Town of Franklin Leaf Pickup is available

9. Adjourn


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Published at 4:44pm on Monday, October 6 2019


Facebook confirms Donald Trump can lie in ads, but he can't curse (FB)   


President Donald Trump and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

  • From Sep. 25 to Oct. 1, the Trump campaign spent over $1.6 million on Facebook ads, many of which included false or misleading claims. 
  • Facebook took down one of these ads – which referred to Joe Biden as a 'b--ch' — because it violated its ad policy against profanity. 
  • The Trump campaign then revised the ad to include a debunked claim about Biden, and this ad was allowed to stay up because Facebook ads from politicians are not eligible for third-party fact-checking. 
  • Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic officials have challenged Facebook's misinformation policies, asserting that the social media platform is promoting Trump's lies, and making money by doing so. 

Donald Trump is allowed to lie in Facebook ads, but he can't curse.

In the three days after Trump's impeachment inquiry was announced on Sep. 24, the Trump campaign spent $1 million on Facebook ads, many of which included false or misleading claims. 

One of these Trump ads even referred to Joe Biden as a 'b--ch' — which violated Facebook's ad policies against profanity and was taken down upon review, a source familiar with the matter told Business Insider. 

The Trump campaign then revised the ad, updating it to include a debunked claim about Biden. It was accepted because Facebook does not submit ads from politicians for third-party fact checking.  

The ad, which ran on Facebook in a few different variations, claimed that "Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion dollars if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son's company," according to Facebook's ads library.  

trump biden campaign ad lie misleading

Two of Facebook's fact-checking partners — PolitiFact and — had previously debunked this claim.

In its misinformation policy for ads, Facebook says that it "prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise." 

However, a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that ads from politicians are not eligible for third-party fact-checking review. Nick Clegg, Facebook's VP of Global Affairs and Communications, publicly announced these policies in a Facebook blog post on Sep. 24. 

In total, the Trump campaign spent over $1.6 million on Facebook ads from Sep. 25 to Oct. 1, according to Facebook's ads library (comparatively, Elizabeth Warren spent $285,000 and Biden spent $122,000 in the same period).

On Monday night, Warren challenged Facebook on the suspicious timing of its misinformation policies, calling into question a private meeting between Trump and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sep. 19. 


Warren cited Judd Legum's reporting on Popular Information, which asserts that Facebook had recently changed its advertising policies on misinformation, thereby allowing Trump to lie in ads. 

But according to Facebook, its policies have not changed, and political figures have been exempt from the fact-checking process for more than a year now, depicted in its eligibility guidelines. Clegg's speech summarized as much: 

"We don't believe that it's an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician's speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny. That's why Facebook exempts politicians from our third-party fact-checking program. We have had this policy on the books for over a year now, posted publicly on our site under our eligibility guidelines. This means that we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review."

However, it is true that Facebook recently changed the wording of its misinformation policy — instead of "Misinformation," section 13 was previously titled "Misleading or False Content" and largely governed deceptive claims and business practices. 

Facebook has moved this down to section 31 and 32 of its policies, which are now titled "Misleading Claims" and "Unacceptable Business Practices." It appears that Facebook is trying to delineate more specifically between misinformation in a public interest capacity, and misleading content in a business capacity. 

A Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that these recent announcements and policy tweaks are meant to provide transparency ahead of US and global elections. 

With Trump ratcheting up his Facebook ad spending and deceitful rhetoric, the platform's policy decisions will continue to be scrutinized. And while Facebook believes it is staying impartial by doing little to regulate political speech, it may actually be helping Trump in doing so. 

Facebook does not have an envious position. Its policies are complex and difficult to understand, with countless rules and separate exceptions for advertising, original content, fact-checking, and more. 

When Facebook doesn't regulate political speech, it disregards truth and responsibility. But if Facebook did regulate political speech, it would have to devise even more complex policies, and there would be widespread complaints of bias — something it clearly does not want to deal with. 

For now, Facebook is sticking to the former. This choice has resulted in a stunning truth: the Trump campaign is paying Facebook millions of dollars to promote its lies, and this doesn't violate any of Facebook's rules.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here's why phone companies like Verizon and AT&T charge more for extra data


Syria-Turkey briefing: The fallout of an invasion for civilians   


Humanitarians are warning that a Turkish invasion in northeast Syria could force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, as confusion reigns over its possible timing, scope, and consequences.

Panos Moumtzis, the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told reporters in Geneva on Monday that any military operation must guard against causing further displacement. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” he said, noting that an estimated 1.7 million people live in the country’s northeast. 

Some residents close to the Syria-Turkey border are already leaving, one aid worker familiar with the situation on the ground told The New Humanitarian. Most are staying with relatives in nearby villages for the time-being, said the aid worker, who asked to remain anonymous in order to continue their work. 

The number of people who have left their homes so far remains relatively small, the aid worker said, but added: “If there is an incursion, people will leave.”

The International Rescue Committee said “a military offensive could immediately displace at least 300,000 people”, but analysts TNH spoke to cautioned that the actual number would depend on Turkey’s plans, which remain a major unknown.

As the diplomatic and security communities struggle to get a handle on what’s next, the same goes for humanitarians in northeastern Syria – and the communities they are trying to serve.

Here’s what we know, and what we don’t:

What just happened?

Late on Sunday night, the White House said that following a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” adding that US soldiers would not be part of the move, and “will no longer be in the immediate area”.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the Syrian-Kurdish-led militia that until now had been supported by the United States and played a major role in wresting territory back from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Syria – vowed to stand its ground in the northeast.

An SDF spokesperson tweeted that the group “will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to DEFEND ourselves and our people”.

Leading Republicans in the US Congress criticised President Donald Trump’s decision, saying it represents an abandonment of Kurdish allies in Syria, and the Pentagon appeared both caught off-guard and opposed to a Turkish incursion

Since then, Trump has tweeted extensively on the subject, threatening to “totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey” if the country does anything he considers to be “off limits”.

On the ground, US troops have moved out of two key observation posts on the Turkey-Syria border, in relatively small numbers: estimates range from 50 to 150 of the total who would have been shifted, out of around 1,000 US soldiers in the country.

What is Turkey doing?

Erdogan has long had his sights on a “safe zone” inside Syria, which he has said could eventually become home to as many as three million Syrian refugees, currently in Turkey.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in August that only 17 percent of Turkey’s estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees come from the northeast of the country, which is administered by the SDF and its political wing.

Turkish and US forces began joint patrols of a small stretch of the border early last month. While Turkey began calling the area a “safe zone”, the United States referred to it as a “security mechanism”. The terms of the deal were either never made public or not hammered out.

In addition to any desire to resettle refugees, which might only be a secondary motive, Turkey wants control of northeast Syria to rein in the power of the SDF, which it considers to be a terrorist organisation.

One of the SDF’s main constituent parts are People’s Defense Units – known by their Kurdish acronym YPG.

The YPG are an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK – a Turkey-based Kurdish separatist organisation that has conducted an insurgency against the Turkish government for decades, leading to a bloody crackdown

While rebels fight for the northwest, and Russian-backed Syrian government forces control most of the rest of Syria, the SDF currently rules over almost all of Hassakeh province, most of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces, and a small part of Aleppo province. 

How many civilians are at risk?

There has not been a census in Syria for years, and numbers shift quickly as people flee different pockets of conflict. This makes estimating the number of civilians in northeast Syria very difficult.

The IRC said in its statement it is “deeply concerned about the lives and livelihoods of the two million civilians in northeast Syria”; Moumtzis mentioned 1.7 million people; and Save the Children said “there are 1.65 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in this area, including more than 650,000 displaced by war”.

Of those who have had to leave their homes in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and Hassakeh, only 100,000 are living in camps, according to figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Others rent houses or apartments, and some live in unfinished buildings or tents.

“While many commentators are rightly focusing on the security implications of this policy reversal, the humanitarian implications will be equally enormous,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, and a former high-ranking Obama administration aid official.

“All across Northern Syria, hundreds of thousands of displaced and conflict-affected people who survived the horrors of the… [IS] era will now face the risk of new violence between Turkish and SDF forces.”

Who will be first in the firing line?

It’s unlikely all of northeast Syria would be impacted by a Turkish invasion right away, given that so far the United States has only moved its troops away from two border posts, at Tel Abyad (Kurdish name: Gire Spi), and roughly 100 kilometres to the east, at Ras al-Ayn (Kurdish name: Serê Kaniyê). 

Depending on how far into Syria one is counting, aid workers estimate there are between 52,000 to 68,000 people in this 100-kilometre strip, including the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn themselves. The aid worker in northeast Syria told TNH that if there is an offensive, these people are more likely, at least initially, to stay with family or friends in nearby villages than to end up in camps.

The aid worker added that while humanitarian operations from more than 70 NGOs are ongoing across the northeast, including in places like Tel Abyad, some locals are avoiding the town itself and, in general, people are “extremely worried”.

What will happen to al-Hol camp?

The fate of the rest of northeast Syria’s population may also be at risk.

Trump tweeted on Monday that the Kurds “must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families”.

The SDF currently administers al-Hol, a tense camp of more than 68,000 people – mostly women and children – deep in Hassakeh province, where the World Health Organisation recently said people are living “in harsh and deplorable conditions, with limited access to quality basic services, sub-optimal environment and concerns of insecurity.”

Many of the residents of al-Hol stayed with IS through its last days in Syria, and the camp holds both these supporters and people who fled the group earlier on.

Last week, Médecins Sans Frontières said security forces shot at women protesting in a part of the camp known as “the annex”, which holds around 10,000 who are not Syrian or Iraqi.

The SDF also holds more than 10,000 IS detainees in other prisons, and the possible release of these people – plus those at al-Hol – may become a useful bargaining chip for the Kurdish-led group.

On Monday, an SDF commander said guarding the prisoners had become a “second priority” in the wake of a possible Turkish offensive.

"All their families are located in the border area," General Mazloum Kobani Abdi told NBC News of the SDF fighters who had been guarding the prisoners. "So they are forced to defend their families."

(TOP PHOTO: Syrian Kurds demonstrate against threats of a Turkish invasion on the outskirts of Ras al-Ayn, on 6 October 2019.)


‘We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.’
Syria-Turkey briefing: The fallout of an invasion for civilians

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