Monday Sunrise Briefs: Taliban rebuff, prisoner swap, no guns

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, sunrise briefing. 

Here are four news events that happened this weekend (while you were curled up with Louise Penny's latest novel, dancing, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to watch for in the news this week. 

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Relatives greet Ukrainian prisoners, freed by Russia, as they arrive at Boryspil airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2019. Two planes, each carrying 35 prisoners, landed almost simultaneously Saturday in Moscow and Kyiv.

The path to peace, paused.

The Afghan government was pleased. The Taliban weren't. President Trump abruptly canceled secret peace talks scheduled for Sunday at Camp David between the US, Afghan, and Taliban leaders. Critics call it another example of Mr. Trump's erratic diplomacy, comparing it to the fruitless meetings with North Korea's leader. Hosting the Taliban (who harbored Al Qaeda) on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11 attacks would have appeared insensitive, say critics. 

But others say aborting the peace deal was the right move in the absence of trust. It's the latest example of a commander in chief willing to take a big risk in pursuit of a foreign policy victory, supporters say. Trump cited Thursday's bombing in Kabul, which killed an American soldier, as reason for the cancellation. The decision could mean a closer alliance between Kabul and Washington in any future Taliban peace talks. The U.S.-Taliban deal reached last week didn't include Kabul in the negotiations or a Taliban ceasefire. 

2. A trust-building step. Russia and Ukraine conducted a major prisoner exchange Saturday. Each side released 35 high-profile prisoners. For Ukrainians, the exchange was the fulfillment of a campaign promise by newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He's ready for talks, he says, with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the war in eastern Ukraine between government troops and Russian-backed separatist rebels. For Russians, the exchange raises hope that European sanctions, imposed because of its role in the conflict, might be lifted. Russia also is under sanctions for its annexation of Crimea in 2014, shortly before the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine began.

3. Guns and groceries don't mix. Albertsons Companies, a supermarket chain in 34 states, said Saturday it would ask customers not to openly carry firearms at its stores. The decision comes as several major U.S. retailers  - including Walmart, Kroger Co., Wegmans Food Markets, and Walgreens - have shifted their position on carrying guns in recent days, in light of several mass shootings. Walmart also announced that would stop selling handguns and ammunition for handguns and some short-barrel rifles. This shift underscores a growing role by businesses and their workers to try to prevent gun violence and to reduce fear.  

4. In the wake of Dorian: Heavy rain and hurricane-force winds swept through eastern Canada Saturday, knocking out power to 80 percent of Nova Scotia and topping a crane in Halifax. As of Sunday evening, more than 230,000 homes were still without electricity. In the Bahamas, an estimated 70,000 people are homeless and are making their way to Florida and other less-damaged parts of the Bahamas. Recovery efforts are underway in the  barrier islands that make up North Carolina’s Outer Banks, especially on the isle of Ocracoke, where homes were hammered by a seven-foot storm surge.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Victory! After an epic battle Sunday evening, Rafael Nadal of Spain takes a victorious rest after match point against Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the men’s final match of the 2019 U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing, N.Y. It was Nadal's 19th Grand Slam title.

Look ahead

Monday, Sept. 9

We're back! With the return of Congress, you can expect debate over gun laws, trade, health care, the federal budget, and impeachment.

Tuesday, Sept. 10

Innovation unveiled: Apple plans to unveil new products, including three new iPhones, a new laptop, and streaming Apple TV, according to media reports. This past week, Samsung introduced a foldable smartphone.

Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Honoring courage: A ceremony will be held at the World Trade Center site in New York, 18 years after the 9/11 attacks.  Many communities and schools will take a few moments to pause and reflect.

Thursday, Sept. 12

Democrats debate, Part Three: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders share the stage for the first time. Watch for Mr. Biden, the centrist vs. the progressive wing, especially, Sen. Warren, who is surging in the polls. The debate, with 10 of 20 candidates on stage, will last for three hours.

Generosity watch

Seeing a need, and stepping up: We’ve seen a surge in donations of food, water, building supplies, etc. for residents of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. But one stranger’s donation of 100 generators caught our eye.  He walked into a Costco in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday, and bought nearly $50,000 in new generators. The Florida farmer, who didn’t want to be identified, told CNN that "It's important that we help each other out ...You see a need and you fill it." The generators and other supplies will be trucked south where the farmer's friend, Errol Thurston, plans to get them on a container ship bound for the Bahamas. If that fails, Mr. Thurston is organizing a flotilla of volunteer boats and planes to make the delivery.

AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa
Look for the helpers: Five-year-old Cattleya Aranha hands out paper towels and other supplies donated by private groups to victims of Hurricane Dorian, in Freeport, Bahamas, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Hidden gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor editors and readers:

Black lawyer, white killer, and the principles of US justice

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about the tight House race Tuesday in North Carolina: Why this race may be important to the 2020 presidential election.

Finally, the Monitor’s five best stories in Friday’s subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. Fort Worth asks, Can a klan hall become a place of healing?
  2. Liberator or oppressor? For many, Robert Mugabe was both.
  3. ‘I’m shooting images instead of people.’ Former guerrilla changes his lens.
  4. Meet America’s top-ranked female chess player
  5. Winning, Canada-style: Bianca Andreescu inspires at US Open

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