The US is close to finalizing a plan to begin withdrawing the bulk of its remaining forces from Afghanistan, with sources indicating significant progress was made in talks with the Taliban. The core of the plan, briefed to President Trump Friday, rests on the Taliban renouncing al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and an agreement to sit down with US-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to develop a peace plan between the two. In return, the US would reportedly withdraw 5,000 of the current 14,000 troops in the country. The 18-year-old war has evolved into a balancing act with the US aiming to broker peace between the Taliban (a former enemy) and a weak central government while running counter-terrorism efforts in the region against groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. The latter group struck a devastating blow over the weekend, as a suicide bomber killed 63 and injured 182 at a wedding in the capital city of Kabul.
Protesters in Hong Kong turned out for the 11th straight weekend, marching in a pro-democracy rally against an increasingly cozy relationship between the region's officials and the central Chinese government. Despite the massive crowd size - organizers say as many as 1.7 million turned out, police estimated hundreds of thousands - there was no violence reported. The peaceful tone came in contrast to a string of weekends that saw protesters clash with police, including last weekend's takeover of the city airport. Organizers had aimed for a calm weekend (paywall, Bloomberg), hoping a peaceful march would recapture the momentum of the movement seen in early July. The protests began over a bill allowing anyone suspected of a crime by the Chinese government to be extradited to Beijing, but is rooted in deeper ideological conflict leftover from the British handover of the region back to China.
Separately, Russian protesters clamoring for transparent elections in Moscow were reduced to one-person pickets over the weekend.
Capping a weekend heavy with international news, embattled residents of Sudan celebrated on Saturday as military and civilian leaders signed a power-sharing deal in the capital of Khartoum. The country has been in the grips of a power struggle since April following the ousting of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir. Many civilians, who had sparked the military-led coup with five months of economic protests, assumed a democratically-elected government would be formed. Instead the constitution was suspended and a transitional military government would lead the country for two years - a move that sparked a wave of summer protests and led to the deaths of dozens of demonstrators. Sudan lost 75% of its oil production when the southern part of the country seceded in 2011, leaving a large economic dent that contributed to 20% unemployment with nearly 50% of the population living below the poverty line (more stats).
> Peter Fonda, Hollywood actor and screenwriter best known for starring role in Easy Rider, dies at 79 (More) | Legendary sports broadcaster Jack Whitaker dies at 95 (More)
>Good Boys tops box office with $21M weekend; first R-rated comedy to debut at #1 in more than three years (More) | Filmmaker Kevin Smith announces He-Man animated series for Netflix (More)
> Cincinnati Reds rookie Aristides Aquino has 11 home runs in first 17 games; fastest in history to 11 home runs (More) | ...and Mets rookie Pete Alonso sets National League record for home runs in a season with 40 (More)
Science & Technology.
> Researchers locate "mystery" volcano in El Salvador whose sixth-century eruption led to global crop failure and famine (More)
> Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the second-worst in history, spreads to third province (More) | Comes on heels of news of a successful treatment (More)
> Astronomers believe they may have made the first-ever observation of a black hole consuming a dead star; detectors picked up gravitational waves likely caused by 900-million-year-old event (More)
Business & Markets.
> US stock markets up on Friday (S&P 500 +1.4%, Dow +1.2%, Nasdaq +1.7%) closing wild week on Wall Street where markets moved up or down at least 1% on 4 of 5 days (More) > President Trump holds conference call with bank CEOs – JPMorgan, Citi, Bank of America - this past week to discuss health of banking sector and markets (More)
> Youth US summer unemployment rate (ages 16-24) at lowest level since 1966 (More, paywall)
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Politics & World Affairs.
> Leaked documents say the United Kingdom faces fuel, food, medicine shortages if country exits European Union without Brexit deal in place; deadline is October 31st (More)
> Police largely contain violence, arrest 13, as far-right and far-left anti-fascist protesters clash in Portland, Oregon (More, w/ photos)
> Medical examiner rules disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein's official cause of death was suicide by hanging (More) | Everything we know about the case (More)
Historybook: Fashion designer Coco Chanel born (1883); Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500, hosts first race (1909); HBD president Bill Clinton (1946); RIP comedian Groucho Marx (1977); Operation Iraqi Freedom is ended (2010).
"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." - Coco Chanel
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