Published September 12 2018
Updated September 12 2018

ISIS attacks drop sharply in the West

The attacks seemed to come one after another: 130 dead on the floor of the Bataclan concert hall and on the streets of Paris. Eighty-six mowed down on the historic promenade in Nice, France. Twenty-two people killed at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom. Since the lightning rise of the Islamic State group in 2014, law enforcement has scrambled to stop an endless array of plots. It is only now, more than four years after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate, that the cadence has finally slowed. Islamic State attacks in the West fell steeply in 2018 compared with the previous four years, the first time the number has fallen since 2014. The reason, analysts say, is that law enforcement is increasingly foiling the plots. The Islamic State remains the world’s deadliest terrorist organization, and its attacks are on the rise in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the West, the number of attacks and the devastation they inflict has declined. The Islamic State carried out 14 successful attacks in Europe and North America in 2015, 22 in 2016 and 27 in 2017, according to data collected by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. But in the first eight months of this year, it only carried out four. The scale of attacks has also fallen. The largest toll in a single attack fell from 130 in 2015, to 86 in 2016, to 22 at the pop concert in Manchester in 2017. So far in 2018, the worst single-day toll was in the aisles of a supermarket in Trèbes, France, where a man acting in the name of the Islamic State gunned down three people in March.


Trump order seeks
to protect elections

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday authorizing sanctions against foreigners who meddle in U.S. elections, acting amid criticism that he has not taken election security seriously enough. "We felt it was important to demonstrate the president has taken command of this issue, that it’s something he cares deeply about — that the integrity of our elections and our constitutional process are a high priority to him," said national security adviser John Bolton. In the order, the president declared a national emergency, an action required under sanctions authority, to deal with the threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections. The order calls for sanctioning any individual, company or country that interferes with campaign infrastructure, such as voter registration databases, voting machines and equipment used for tabulating or transmitting results. It also authorizes sanctions for engaging in covert, fraudulent or deceptive activities, such as distributing disinformation or propaganda, to influence or undermine confidence in U.S. elections.


Russia, China stage massive war games

Russia and China intend to regularly conduct joint war games similar to the massive ones being held this week, the Russian defense minister said Wednesday. Sergei Shoigu spoke as he and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Wei Fenghe, visited the Tsugol firing range in eastern Siberia, where Russian and Chinese troops will hold joint drills later this week. The maneuvers, the largest war games Russia ever has had, showcase burgeoning military ties between Moscow and Beijing amid their tensions with the U.S. "We have agreed to conduct such exercises on a regular basis," Shoigu said. The weeklong Vostok (East) 2018 maneuvers launched Tuesday span vast expanses of Siberia and the Far East, the Arctic and the Pacific Oceans. They involve nearly 300,000 Russian troops along with 1,000 Russian aircraft and 36,000 tanks and other combat vehicles. China has sent about 3,200 troops, 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft to join the drills at Tsugol. The Chinese media described the People’s Liberation Army involvement in the maneuvers as the country’s largest-ever dispatch of forces abroad for war games.


Democrats select candidate for governor

New Hampshire Democrats on Tuesday nominated former state senator who emphasized her single-mom background as governor and a gay man who worked his way up through local politics as their nominee for Congress in a key swing district. Former state Sen. Molly Kelly defeated former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and will face Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November. Sununu, in his first term, faced no primary opposition. Executive Councilor Chris Pappas won an 11-way race for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional district, where Democrat Carol Shea-Porter’s decision to step down after four nonconsecutive terms resulted in a swarm of candidates seeking to replace her. They included Levi Sanders, son of Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who came up short.


Sports betting soars to $95M in August

Sports betting is a second-inning home run in New Jersey, where gamblers plunked down more than $95 million on sporting events in August, helping Atlantic City’s casinos to one of their biggest monthly revenue increases in three decades. The $95.6 million wagered on sports in August was more than twice as much as the amount bet in July. Nearly $74 million was wagered at on-site betting windows, and $21.7 million was bet on sports via online or mobile phone apps, a market segment that is expected to become the dominant player in the industry as more and more companies gain approval from New Jersey regulators to offer online sports betting. Sports betting became possible when New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May clearing the way for all 50 states to offer it should they so choose.


Experts prepare plan to capture ailing orca

Federal biologists said Wednesday they are preparing a plan to capture and treat a sick, critically endangered orca if there is no other way to save her in the wild. Officials said they will intervene and rescue the orca only if she becomes stranded or separated from the rest of her tightly knit group of whales. They want the 4-year-old orca known as J50 to survive in the wild and contribute to the recovery of southern resident killer whales, without putting the rest of the orcas in her pod at risk. "We don’t intend to intervene while she’s with her family. If we are presented with a situation where a rescue is the only viable alternative, we will rescue her," Chris Yates, assistant regional administrator for NOAA’s protected resources division, told reporters during a call. Veterinarians believe they have exhausted treatment options in the field that included twice injecting the free-swimming whale with antibiotics in Pacific Northwest waters. "This is a very sick whale," said Joe Gaydos, a wildlife veterinarian and science director of SeaDoc Society. "We don’t think she has long."


Volunteer donates $1M to children’s hospital: Louis Mapp, a volunteer who rocks babies in a neonatal intensive care unit, has donated more than $1 million to an Alabama hospital. The University of South Alabama said Louis and his wife, Melinda Mapp, donated to Mobile, Ala.-based USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital’s Hollis J. Wiseman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. On most Tuesdays, Louis Mapp, 81, rocks, feeds or burps any baby who needs loving arms, WKRG-TV reported. "I love to look at their expressions when I rock them," he said.

N.Y.C. to add non-binary ‘X’ to birth certificates: People who don’t identify as male or female will be allowed to change the gender designation on their birth certificates to "X." The legislation adopted Wednesday will also allow transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates without an affidavit from a doctor or mental health professional. And it will allow parents to choose the non-binary "X" for their newborns’ birth certificates. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill. It will go into effect Jan. 1.

Congressional candidate to stay in jail for DUI: A judge on Tuesday refused to release Steve Foster, the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 14th Congressional seat currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Graves, on bond during an appeal. Foster was sentenced last month to six months in jail and six months of probation for the misdemeanor conviction. Federal law does not prohibit people with criminal records from running for Congress. Foster remains on the ballot and has said he will not drop out of the race.

College ex-president sent to prison for kickback scheme: Oren Paris III, the former president of Christian and private Ecclesia College in northwest Arkansas, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty for his role in a kickback scheme involving former state lawmakers. He admitted to funneling bribe money to lawmakers in exchange for state grants. Last week, former state Sen. Jon Woods was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for his role in the scheme.

Times wires