New top story from Time: Syrian Forces Enter a Key Border Town, Thwarting Turkish Plans

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (AP) — Syrian forces on Wednesday night rolled into the strategic border town of Kobani, blocking one path for the Turkish military to establish a “safe zone” free of Syrian Kurdish fighters along the frontier as part of its week-old offensive.

The seizure of Kobani by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad also pointed to a dramatic shift in northeastern Syria: The town was where the United States military and Kurdish fighters first united to defeat the Islamic State group four years ago and holds powerful symbolism for Syrian Kurds and their ambitions of self-rule.

The convoys of government forces drove into Kobani after dark, a resident said. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, was one of the few remaining amid fears of a Turkish attack on the town. Syria’s state-run media confirmed its troops entered the town.

Syria’s presence in Kobani puts a firm limit on Turkish ambitions in its offensive. The town lies between a Turkish-controlled enclave farther west and smaller areas to the east that Turkey seized in the past week.

Turkey had talked of creating a 30-kilometer (19-mile) deep “safe zone,” driving out Kurdish fighters from the border region. Turkish forces had shelled Kobani in recent days as part of the offensive but had not advanced ground troops on it.

The battle for Kobani turned the once-nondescript town into a centerpiece of the international campaign against IS, with TV cameras flocking to the Turkish side of the border to track the plumes of smoke rising from explosions in the besieged town. Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declared it would be “morally very difficult” not to help Kobani.

The IS extremists were finally driven out in early 2015 in their first major defeat, and an alliance was cemented that would eventually bring down the group’s “caliphate” in Syria.

Now the Kurdish authority agreed to allow Damascus to deploy its military in the town and other parts of northeast Syria to protect them from Turkey’s offensive launched after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled back American troops working with the Kurds.

On Wednesday, the U.S-led coalition said it had vacated a cement factory south of Kobani, which had served as a coordination center with the Kurdish-led forces. Coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins said that after troops left the base, two U.S. fighter jets launched pre-planned airstrikes to destroy ammunition that was left behind.

The coalition also said its forces had left Raqqa, the former capital of the Islamic State that was liberated in 2017, and Tabqa, a town to the west.

“Coalition forces continue a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria,” Caggins tweeted.

After being effectively abandoned by the U.S., the Kurds’ turn to the Syrian government for protection has allowed Damascus’ ally, Russia, to step in as the biggest power player.

Moscow further asserted that role Wednesday, offering to mediate a resolution to the conflict, one day before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was to begin a mission to press Turkey for a cease-fire.

On Monday, Trump imposed limited economic sanctions on Turkey to raise the pressure on Ankara. The move came five days after Trump raised the specter of sanctions in a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he also said that if the Turkish leader invaded Syria he would be remembered as a “devil.” Trump told Erdogan he wouldn’t want to be responsible for “slaughtering thousands of people,” and warned, “don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

Erdogan defied the sanctions, saying the only way its military offensive would end was if Syrian Kurdish fighters leave a designated border area.

Erdogan also said he had “no problem” accepting an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia soon to discuss Syria. But he threw into doubt a planned Nov. 13 meeting with Trump, citing anger over the sanctions that Washington imposed Monday on the NATO ally.

Despite an outcry among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers over the pullout and the Turkish invasion, Trump insisted a fight between Turkey and the Kurds was not a U.S. problem and that things are “very nicely under control” in northern Syria.

“Syria’s friendly with the Kurds. The Kurds are very well-protected. Plus, they know how to fight. And, by the way, they’re no angels,” Trump told reporters at the White House while meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Trump added that U.S. troops are “largely out” of the region, adding that if Russia wanted to get involved with Syria, “that’s really up to them. It’s not our border. We shouldn’t be losing lives over it.”

Still, the repercussions from America’s abrupt withdrawal were expanding. Assad’s forces are returning to regions of northern Syria they abandoned at the height of the 8-year-old civil war. Moscow has taken a more prominent role as an interlocutor among Assad, the former U.S.-allied Kurds and Turkey.

Erdogan’s office confirmed the Turkish leader would meet Thursday with Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and said he would travel to Sochi, Russia, for talks on Tuesday.

Erdogan said he was not concerned by the U.S. sanctions. He told reporters that chances for his November trip to Washington are “something to be assessed” after the talks with the American delegation, he said, adding that the sanctions and criticisms in the U.S. constituted “great disrespect toward the Turkish Republic.”

In an address to his ruling party legislators, Erdogan said Turkey would not be coerced into halting its offensive or accepting offers for mediation with the Kurdish fighters, which Turkey considers to be terrorists.

“Our proposal is for the terrorists to lay down their arms, leave their equipment, destroy the traps they have created, and leave the safe zone we designated, as of tonight,” Erdogan said. “If this is done, our Operation Peace Spring will end by itself.”

In a speech to Parliament, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey won’t be affected by “sanctions and threats.” He also said Turkey would “give the appropriate answer to these sanctions.”

Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters also battled over the border town of Ras al-Ayn. Turkey said it had captured the town days ago, but its hold appeared uncertain.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Moscow is committed to mediating between Syria and Turkey.

Russia already has announced it had deployed troops outside the flashpoint town of Manbij to keep apart the Syrian military and Turkish-led forces. Syrian forces took control of Manbij as U.S. troops completed their pullout from the town Tuesday.

Lavrov also said Moscow will also continue to encourage Syria’s Kurds and government to seek rapprochement following the U.S. withdrawal. The Kurds are hoping to reach a deal with Damascus that preserves at least some degree of the autonomy they seized for themselves during the civil war.

Lavrov also blamed the U.S. and the West for undermining the Syrian state, saying this pushed “the Kurds toward separatism and confrontation with Arab tribes.”

In another sign of Moscow’s rising profile, France suggested it will also work more closely with Russia in Syria.

French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said told French TV channel BFM that France is now looking to Russia, given their “common interests” in defeating the Islamic State group in Syria.

A U.N. Security Council meeting concluded with no call for Turkey to end its military offensive against the Kurds. Instead, the diplomats issued a brief statement expressing concern about the dispersal of “terrorists” from the region and the humanitarian impact.

___

Mroue contributed from Beirut. Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed.

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New top story from Time: These Are the Most Popular Netflix Shows and Movies—According to Netflix

Netflix has earned a reputation for a couple of things: first, releasing a seemingly endless scroll of series and movies, and second, rarely sharing how many people watch said entertainment.

Over the last few years, Netflix has selectively shared some viewership details, offering limited peeks into the way its internal system works. These revelations, sometimes offered via social media and sometimes in the company’s quarterly earnings reports, have prompted some criticism. For one thing, Netflix does not employ an outside agency to track its viewership. For another, the numbers are often provided in what feels like a vacuum, lacking the context necessary to judge whether the streaming service’s programs are successful.

While television networks offer their own analyses of viewership, they also rely on independent firms like Nielsen, which provide viewership data across multiple channels. While Nielsen has also tracked Netflix data since 2017, and has backed up some of Netflix’s own claims about its viewership, the streaming service has dismissed the company’s findings.

Without independent analysis or additional context, questions have arisen over the accuracy of Netflix’s claims and the way the platform counts its viewers. Among the limited number of times the company has shared viewership information, it’s noted that it counts “views” as one member account watching at least 70% of a movie or series episode. Its numbers also account for total views worldwide, rather than views per country.

Timing also varies in measuring how many people watch something on Netflix—numbers could reveal the total viewers after one week or one month. Alternatively, some data shared by Netflix comprise projections of what a project is expected to garner in views.

Netflix’s spate of original movies also complicates the numbers story the company is telling. Upcoming films from Netflix, like The Irishman, Marriage Story and The King, will be released in theaters before they become available on streaming, and it’s unclear whether information on box office performance will be released. There is no publicly available box office data for the platform’s multiple-Oscar-winning Roma, which saw a brief run in theaters before arriving on the platform last year.

Still, the numbers that trickle out of Netflix do provide some insight into what the company is willing to make public and what it considers its flagship shows and movies. Namely, Netflix appears to share results when certain projects do particularly well or set new viewership records. And the latest round of numbers, which arrived on Oct. 16 with the company’s Q3 earnings report, are the last to be shared before two new competitors, Apple+ and Disney+, wade into the streaming wars in November. Here are the most popular Netflix series and movies, according to Netflix—bearing in mind that many of the numbers below were measured over unequal periods of time.

Orange Is The New Black (2013-2019): 105 million views

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JoJo Whilden/NetflixDanielle Brooks, left, and Dascha Polanco in ‘Orange Is the New Black’

With the release of its seventh and last season in July 2019, Netflix said 105 million households watched at least one episode of the show over the course of its run, making the series its most-watched original ever. The show’s popularity was echoed in an independent poll commissioned by MoffettNathanson earlier in 2019, in which users named Orange their favorite Netflix show, followed by Stranger Things.

Murder Mystery (2019): 73 million views

Also in July, Netflix said its Adam Sander-Jennifer Aniston vehicle amassed 73 million views worldwide in four weeks. The company said the movie was the most successful film from its partnership with Sandler. The actor and comedian signed a four-film deal with Netflix in 2017, adding onto a four-movie deal made between the company and his Happy Madison Productions in 2014. In 2016, Netflix said The Ridiculous Six, one of the films from the Happy Madison Productions deal, was one of the most-watched original films to debut on the platform.

Stranger Things: Season 3 (2016-): 64 million views

Netflix said in October that 64 million member households watched the third season of its hit series Stranger Things in the season’s first four weeks on the platform. According to Netflix, it’s the most-watched season to date.

Triple Frontier (2019): 63 million views

IndieWire reports the high-budget film, which counts stars like Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac among its cast and cost $115 million to make, earned 63 million views, according to a statement from Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

The Perfect Date (2019): 48 million views

The Noah Centineo rom-com (which followed his breakout 2018 role in Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) was watched by 48 million accounts in four weeks, Netflix said in July.

Bird Box (2018): 45 million views

The Sandra Bullock-led thriller was watched by more than 45 million accounts in its first week on the platform, Netflix said in December 2018.

The Umbrella Academy (2019-): 45 million views

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Christos Kalohoridis—NetflixThe Umbrella Academy

Netflix said in April that its series The Umbrella Academy earned 45 million views in its first four weeks.

Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) (2017-): 44 million views

Netflix said in its third-quarter earnings report for 2019 that the third season of the Spanish crime show Money Heist became the most-watched series in its non-English language regions, with 44 million accounts watching.

Tall Girl (2019): 41 million views

A film about a particularly tall high school girl navigating her insecurities, Tall Girl was watched by 41 million households in its first 28 days on Netflix, the company said in October.

The Highwaymen (2019): 40 million views

THE HIGHWAYMEN (2019) - pictured L-R: Woody Harrleson ("Maney Gault")and Kevin Costner ("Frank Hamer") Photo by Hilary B Gayle / Courtesy of Netflix_DSC2612.dng
Hilary B Gayle/SMPSPWoody Harrelson, left and Kevin Costner in “The Highwaymen” on Netflix.

The Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson-led drama, about the Texas Rangers tasked with tracking down Bonnie & Clyde, was projected in April to earn 40 million views in its first month.

You (2018-): 40 million views

The Lifetime original series starring Penn Badgley as a stalker swelled in viewership when it was picked up by Netflix in December last year, with more than 40 million members watching the show in its first four weeks, Netflix said in January.

Sex Education (2019-): 40 million views

sex-education-netflix-otis-thompson
Sam Taylor—NetflixOtis (Butterfield) humors his embarrassing mother (Anderson)

The charming British series in which teens and adults alike navigate the awkwardness of sex was watched by 40 million accounts in its first month, Netflix said in January.

Secret Obsession (2019): 40 million views

Also in October 2019, Netflix said 40 million households tuned into its Brenda Song-starring thriller Secret Obsession in its first four weeks on the platform.

Our Planet (2019): 33 million views

In its second-quarter earnings report revealed in July, Netflix said 33 million households tuned in to the nature documentary, surpassing the 25 million views the company had projected. According to Netflix, Our Planet is now the service’s most-watched original documentary series.

Always Be My Maybe (2019): 32 million

The rom-com starring Ali Wong and Randall Park found 32 million views in its first four weeks, according to Netflix’s July report.

Unbelievable (2019): 32 million views

Based on a 2015 article from ProPublica and The Marshall Project about a real-life serial rapist, the series Unbelievable starring Toni Collette, Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever was watched by 32 million member households in its first 28 days on Netflix, the company said in its third-quarter report released in October.

Dead to Me (2019-): 30 million views

The twisty series starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini as two women who meet in a bereavement group garnered 30 million views in its first month, Netflix said in July.

Otherhood (2019): 29 million views

Bassett, Huffman and 
Arquette try to find themselves anew in Otherhood.
NetflixAnglea Bassett, Felicity Huffman and 
Patricia Arquette try to find themselves anew in ‘Otherhood,’ the next beat in the 50-plus women genre.

The movie about a trio of mothers (Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman) who feel forgotten by their children found an audience of 29 million households in its first four weeks streaming, Netflix said in October.

When They See Us (2019): 25 million views

Directed by Ava DuVernay, the series about the Central Park Five case drew 25 million views in its first four weeks, Netflix said in its earnings report in July. DuVernay said in June 2019 that more than 23 million people had watched the series.

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019): 20 million views

One of two competing documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival (the other one came out on Hulu), Netflix’s take on the music festival that wasn’t found 20 million views in its first month, the company said in April.

Elite (2018-): 20 million views

In January, Netflix said the Spanish-language series about working-class students who attend a private school got more than 20 million views in its first four weeks.

New top story from Time: Opioid Settlement Talks Broaden Ahead of First Federal Trial

CLEVELAND (AP) — Efforts to settle thousands of lawsuits related to the nation’s opioid epidemic intensified Wednesday ahead of the scheduled start of arguments in the first federal trial over the crisis.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press that three major drug distributors plus two manufacturers were working on the outlines of a settlement.

It would include $22 billion in cash over time plus up to $15 billion worth of overdose antidotes and treatment drugs, with distribution of those drugs valued at another $14 billion — a calculation of how much a distributor could charge for them.

Under the proposal, the distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson would pay a total of $18 billion over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson would pay $4 billion over time. Drugmaker Teva would contribute the drugs, but not cash.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing and said the details of the deal could change.

A $50 billion framework was first reported Wednesday by The New York Times. Samantha Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee attorney general’s office, confirmed to the AP that that report “appears to be correct on the details of the tentative settlement framework.”

It’s not clear whether states and local governments will accept the deal.

“We await the fine print of the settlement framework so that we can work alongside the 2,600 communities we represent to determine the best path forward,” the lead lawyers for local governments said in a statement Wednesday. “Our priority when assessing settlement proposals is to ensure they will provide urgently-needed relief in the near term and that these resources will be directed exclusively toward efforts to abate the opioid epidemic.”

The lawyers said the aim is “to secure funds that will aid law enforcement officers, medical professionals, and treatment facility staff around the country for the decades-long recovery process ahead.”

Drug companies and other state attorneys general who are leading the talks either did not return messages or comment.

The talks are picking up as a jury is being selected in Cleveland for a trial on claims against some companies in the drug industry being brought by the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit. They claim the companies engaged in a conspiracy that has damaged their communities should be held accountable.

Jury selection began Wednesday and could wrap up Thursday, with opening arguments scheduled Monday.

Johnson & Johnson has already settled with the two counties. If the other companies settle, too, it would leave only the pharmacy chain Walgreens — in its role as a distributor to its own stores — and the smaller distributor Henry Schein as defendants. It’s not clear whether the trial would go on in that case.

The defendants in the Cleveland trial include Actavis and Cephalon, drug companies now owned by Teva.

All the companies say they complied with the law and supplied only drugs that doctors prescribed.

While the case concerns only claims for the two counties, it is a bellwether intended to show how legal issues might be resolved in more than 2,000 other lawsuits over the opioid crisis.

In court Wednesday, lawyers for the defendants argued that the trial should be postponed in case potential jurors saw any of the coverage and would be tainted when learning of the massive amount of money possibly being discussed.

U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster said he didn’t believe many of the potential jurors would have been exposed to the stories but that he would question them to determine whether they were aware of the coverage.

A delay, he said, could push the trial into next year.

The other major question was how to select a dozen jurors for a trial over opioids in a region hit particularly hard by addictions and overdoses.

Questionnaires were sent to potential jurors in nine northeast Ohio counties, including Cuyahoga, which along with neighboring Summit County was chosen as the first plaintiff in a trial in what could become the most complicated class action lawsuit in U.S. history. Cuyahoga County is home to Cleveland, and Summit to the city of Akron.

The questionnaire asked potential jurors to answer questions about their and immediate family members’ experiences with prescription painkillers and the crisis itself.

They were asked to check off whether they had ever used 11 different prescription opioids. Had they or family members ever used heroin or illicit fentanyl? Have they ever been prescribed painkillers after surgery? Have they or a family member ever been treated for addiction? Have they ever overdosed?

Those with close connections to the crisis are expected to be excluded from serving on the jury.

Counting prescription drugs and illegal ones such as heroin and illicitly made fentanyl, opioids have been blamed for more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.

___

Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

New top story from Time: Netflix Heads Into Showdown With Slowing Subscriber Growth

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix’s subscriber growth is bogging down even before the leading video streaming service confronts high-powered threats from Apple and Walt Disney Co.

The latest sign of the challenges the company is facing emerged Wednesday with the release of its third-quarter results. The numbers provided further evidence that Netflix’s salad days may be over, particularly in the U.S., where most households that want its 12-year-old streaming service already have it.

Netflix added 6.8 million subscribers worldwide from July through September, below the 7 million customers forecast by the Los Gatos, California, company. Just 520,000 of those subscribers were picked up in the U.S., below the 800,000 that management anticipated. The shortfall came after Netflix lost 123,000 subscribers in the U.S. during the April-June period, marking its first contraction in eight years.

The latest miss on U.S. subscriber growth “spells trouble for the company ahead of heightened competition,” said eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom. “The fourth quarter represents a completely new ballgame for Netflix.”

Uncertainty about Netflix’s future growth is the main reason the company’s stock had dropped by about 30% below its peak price of $423.21 reached 16 months ago. Netflix’s shares surged 10% in extended trading Wednesday, apparently because some investors had been bracing for an even bigger letdown in the third quarter.

Netflix said it expects to add another 7.6 million worldwide subscribers during the final three months of the year, down from 8.8 million during the same period last year in an acknowledgment of the fiercer competition.

“The launch of these new services will be noisy,” Netflix advised in its third-quarter letter to shareholders. “There may be some modest headwind to our near-term growth, and we have tried to factor that into our guidance.”

The big question now is whether some of Netflix’s existing subscribers will decide to cancel its service and defect to cheaper alternatives that Apple and Disney will launch within the next month.

Apple is charging only $5 per month for its service, set for a Nov. 1 debut, while Disney is selling a service featuring its vast library of treasured films and TV shows for just $7 per month beginning Nov. 12. Netflix’s most popular plan in the U.S. costs $13 per month.

Netflix is counting on the unique lineup of award-winning TV shows and movies that it has amass since expanding into original programming six years ago to help it retain its competitive edge and attract more subscribers.

It has taken advantage of its head start in video streaming to track the viewing interests 158 million subscribers around the world, giving it valuable insights into the kind of programming that is most likely to appeal to wide swaths of its audience.

That knowledge, in theory, will help Netflix and choose which TV shows and movies to back in the future as it bids for programming against the likes of Apple, Disney and existing rivals such as Amazon and AT&T’s HBO.

Even if Netflix keeps picking winners, some budget-conscious subscribers may be tempted to abandon its service and be content with the entertainment options being dangling by Apple and Disney.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged Wednesday that a U.S. price increase imposed earlier this year is causing some current subscribers to cancel the service and perhaps causing some prospective customers to shy away.

“There’s a little more sensitivity, we are starting to see a little touch of that,” Hastings said during a discussion about the third quarter. “What we have to do is just really focus on the service quality, make us must-have.”

Apple is trying to make its new streaming service even more tempting by offering it for a year to anyone who buys an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer. And Disney already is heavily promoting on Twitter its forthcoming service by highlighting that it will feature classic films such as “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” and “The Lion King.”

Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said he is expecting Netflix to lose some of its appeal. He thinks the company could lose about 24 million subscribers, or about 15% of its customers, during the next 18 months.

As more competitors take aim at Netflix, some of them are also pulling their programming from the service. Disney is yanking its films from Netflix beginning next year. Beloved TV series “The Office” and “Friends’ will disappear from the service in 2020 and 2021 in separate decisions made by NBC and AT&T.

The losses of those popular shows may hurt Netflix even more than the competing streaming services from Apple and Disney, said Michael Pachter, another Wedbush Securities analyst.

“Netflix is going to lose 50% of its most viewed hours during the next two years,” Pachter said. “As that starts to happen, subscribers are going to start to notice and some may start looking elsewhere.”

Netflix has another problem: It has been borrowing billions of dollars to pay for most of its programming. With its debt load already standing at $12 billion and still likely to climb, Netflix probably can’t afford to cut its prices without risking bankruptcy, Pachter said.

New top story from Time: Police and Protesters Clash in Catalonia for a Third Consecutive Night

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Rioting raged in Barcelona and several other Catalan towns for a third straight night Wednesday, with police fighting running street battles with protesters angered by lengthy prison sentences for nine leaders of the wealthy region’s drive for independence from Spain.

Tens of thousands of protesters faced off against police in Barcelona. Some set up flaming barricades in the streets, torching cars and trash cans. They chanted, “The streets will always be ours!”

Catalan police said protesters threw gasoline bombs, stones, bottles and firecrackers at them.

Violence erupted in Catalonia after Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine separatist Catalan leaders to up to 13 years in prison for their part in an October 2017 effort to declare independence for the region.

After a surge in separatist sentiment since the global economic crisis that hit Spain particularly hard, around half of Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents want to break away from Spain and forge a new European country. The divisive issue has divided families and friends, but demonstrations had largely been peaceful until this week.

Outnumbered police used riot helmets, vests and shields for protection. They fired foam bullets and swung batons to keep away the swarming radicals, most of who covered their faces. Police also drove armored vans at high speeds to scatter the crowds.

When police succeeded in dispersing one hot spot, another erupted.

One police helicopter was hit by five “pyrotechnic” objects similar to fireworks, according to the regional police force. The rare passers-by or tourists caught in the middle of the melees scurried to safety. Some residents tossed water from balconies down on burning trash bins and debris while firefighters tried to keep up with the emergencies.

Central Barcelona, a leading tourist destination known for its beautiful architecture and relaxed atmosphere, became a no-go territory.

“(This is) shameful. It doesn’t represent me,” architect Gerard Beltri said. “I think the verdict was very bad, but I think this (violence) is by a minority of the independence movement. The real independence movement is not like this. These people only want to do damage and that’s it.”

Health services in Catalonia said medics attended to 52 people in the region Wednesday. Police said late Wednesday that they had arrested “at least 20 people” throughout Catalonia for violent acts.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the violent clashes wouldn’t provoke him into taking drastic measures in Catalonia, despite calls by rival parties to crack down on the separatist politicians in power in the region.

Sánchez, who is an interim prime minister while awaiting national elections Nov. 10, consulted with other national political leaders in Madrid during the day about the trouble in Catalonia.

The Spanish government will respond with “firmness, calmness and unity” to the confrontations, Sánchez said in a televised address.

Sánchez blamed “organized groups of extremists” for the rioting but said he wouldn’t be drawn into playing their game of an “ascending spiral of violence.”

The protests followed the pattern of previous days as crowds gathered during the day to block roads and hold marches demanding independence. After sunset, marches turned ugly.

Police also reported clashes in Girona, a town near the French border, and other places.

The clashes have injured more than 250 people, including police, over the past three days. On Monday police skirmished for hours to keep protesters from entering the Barcelona airport and shutting it down.

An organization representing Barcelona businesses, called Barcelona Abierta, said the violence had caused “significant losses” and “deeply damaged” its image abroad. Tourism is vital to the city’s economy.

Pere Ferrer, director of Catalonia’s regional police, said the street violence was “intolerable.”

Other protests are scheduled in the coming days as separatists vow no letup in their secession drive.

Most impromptu protesters have responded to an online campaign by Tsunami Democratic, a shadowy grassroots group that uses encrypted messaging apps to call for peaceful disobedience.

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told Cadena SER radio that authorities were investigating the group and “close to” discovering who is behind it.

On Wednesday, the group issued a statement appealing for an end to the violence.

During a daytime lull in the rioting, thousands of people set off Wednesday on five large peaceful protest marches across Catalonia that aim to converge in Barcelona on Friday.

They included families with children, elderly and young people, and banners reading “Libertat Presos Politics” (Freedom for political prisoners) — a reference to the 12 leaders sentenced by the Supreme Court.

Catalan regional president Quim Torra, a fervent separatist who critics have called a xenophobe, joined one of the marches, saying he wanted to be next to the people.

After three days of ignoring calls to criticize the street violence in the region he governs, Torra bent to the pressure late Wednesday and called for the unrest to stop.

“I make a call for calm and serenity. We separatists have not been and are not violent,” he said in a brief and hurriedly organized televised statement. “This must stop right now.”

___

Associated Press writers Aritz Parra in Madrid, Bernat Armangue in Navas and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, contributed to this report.

New top story from Time: Litany of Defeat: Trump Defends Rising Costs of “Strategically Brilliant” Mideast Retreat

Declaring his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops in northern Syria “strategically brilliant,” President Donald Trump Wednesday scrambled to contain the damage from what outraged Republicans and Democrats said was an expanding litany of losses for American national security interests in the region.

Trump welcomed Russia’s rapid takeover of American positions in the region. He said that the Kurds, long Washington’s ally against ISIS, were “no angels” and that some were in fact worse terrorists than ISIS itself. And he described mounting violence that has killed scores of civilians and has included multiple reports of war crimes, as a fight over sand that didn’t concern the U.S.

It was a dizzying series of statements by the President that contradicted policies touted by Trump’s own administration as recently as two weeks ago. The result, said worried foreign policy experts, was not just a short term danger of a resurgent ISIS and the human cost as foreign forces swept through the power vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal, but a larger shift in power in the region. “The world sees a U.S. President with no plan or understanding of the lasting and severe consequences of both his actions and inactions,” said Chuck Hagel, a former U.S. Defense Secretary and Republican Senator from Nebraska.

Trump’s sharp break with his own recent policies reflected how rapidly and unfavorably events in Northern Syria have unfolded in the wake of his Oct. 6 phone call with Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Trump said it was “a good thing” that Russian forces had begun supporting the Kurds. On Tuesday, Russians were already sleeping in bunks at bases that American troops had spent years building and provisioning only to abandon them in haste just hours earlier. Trump’s former counter-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk wrote on Twitter that U.S. forces were “executing [an] emergency ‘break glass’ evacuation procedure reserved for an extreme worst-case scenario.” The result, says Hagel is a big win for Russian president Vladimir Putin. “Russia comes out the big winner in the Middle East,” Hagel said. “Putin now is the go-to guy in the Middle East. Assad will do what Putin wants.”

Trump likewise downplayed his abandonment of the Kurds, who had fought ISIS alongside U.S. troops since 2015. Following the U.S. retreat, the Kurds switched military allegiances for their own survival, aligning themselves this week with Syria’s President Bashar Assad and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. “The Kurds are very well protected,” Trump said, “Plus, they know how to fight. And, by the way, they’re no angels.”

Republican Senators like Lindsey Graham were particularly vocal in criticizing Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds in the fight against ISIS. “I worry we will not have allies in the future against radical Islam, ISIS will reemerge, & Iran’s rise in Syria will become a nightmare for Israel,” Graham tweeted, “I fear this is a complete and utter national security disaster in the making.” Although ISIS is no longer in control of any major city in Iraq or Syria, the fighting is not over. The U.S. had been relying on the Kurds to destroy remaining underground ISIS cells and to guard more than 30 detention facilities that hold about 11,000 ISIS detainees spread across northern Syria.

Trump also dismissed reports of mounting violence, which the U.N. said has displaced 130,000 people and killed scores of others. “It’s a problem we have very nicely under control,” Trump told reporters. “It’s not our problem,” Trump said. “They’ve got a lot of sand over there… There’s a lot of sand they can play with.”

Regardless of how Trump describes the developments, he and his aides spent much of Wednesday scrambling to contain the damage.

Trump sent Erdogan a remarkably undiplomatic letter, first reported by Fox Business, cajoling and threatening the Turkish president. Trump wrote, “History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to travel to Ankara in search of a ceasefire in coming days. But Erdogan has already publicly dismissed the idea. By unleashing chaos and then declaring the U.S. will play no role in containing it, says Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon intelligence official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Trump has left Erdogan “little to gain from backing down from an operation that is extremely popular in Turkey.” If Erdogan halts now, Cordesman says, there “is no clear prospect of the U.S. doing anything to actually bring stability back to the Kurdish parts of Syria.”

On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats joined in a desperate effort to constrain Turkey. The House delivered a rare bipartisan condemnation of the decision to abandon the Kurds with a 354-60 vote. The measure, which is largely symbolic, calls on Turkey to immediately end the military assault in northern Syria. “At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low,” said Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, who introduced the measure and serves as Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.

Trump held a contentious meeting with leaders from both parties in Congress at the White House, during which he argued he was ensuring American security through the withdrawal. Trump told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that fewer that 100 ISIS fighters had escaped, and claimed they were the least dangerous of those who had been detained, according to a Democratic source familiar with the meeting.

Schumer asked Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who was present at the meeting, whether the escapees were in fact not dangerous, and Esper said he could not confirm that, according to the Democratic source. When Trump said his plan was to keep Americans safe, Pelosi retorted that wasn’t a plan, it was a goal, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the meeting. Trump later called Pelosi a “third-grade politician” according to the source, at which point Pelosi and other Democrats left.

Erdogan has dismissed the United States’ calls for a ceasefire and instead advanced deeper into Syria. Turkey, a NATO member, has long wanted to launch a military offensive against the Kurdish militias in Syria because they consider them terrorists. The U.S. had for months promised the Kurds ongoing U.S. support, but Trump backed down when Erdogan threatened invasion during the Oct. 6 call.

As for Trump, he dismissed the fallout of his decision to withdraw the troops. “We’re 7,000 miles away,” Trump said Wednesday, “I campaigned on bringing our soldiers back home, and that’s what I’m doing.” To the regional powers scrambling to take advantage of the hasty American retreat, he added: “I wish them all a lot of luck.”

On Wednesday, after U.S. forces left a military base they had established at a cement facility in Northern Syria, two F-15 fighter jets hit the base with an airstrike to obliterate an ammunition cache and to “reduce the facility’s military usefulness.”

–with reporting by Alana Abramson and Tessa Berenson

New top story from Time: California’s Outages Show How Climate Change and Corporate Accountability Are Entangled

After millions of people in California were left in the dark last week when Pacific Gas & Electric, the giant utility company that provides service to much of the state, preventatively shut off power to avoid possible wildfires, the conversation quickly turned political. Democrats described PG&E’s actions as the result of rampant corporate greed that, they argued, kept the company from preparing for extreme weather associated with climate change.

“Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E’s greed and neglect,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Twitter. “PG&E must be held to account.”

Public officials’ rush to condemn C-suite decisions was the latest sign of how intertwined conversations around corporate influence and climate change have become — and how climate activists have adopted populist language in recent years. Across the country, activists are arguing that the U.S. has failed to address climate change largely because politicians have been enthrall to greedy corporations, particularly in the energy industry, that have put their bottom line ahead of human health and wellbeing.

The preemptive power outage in California is undoubtedly foremost a climate change story. PG&E turned off power because the company feared high winds might push transmission lines into contact with trees that could easily catch fire. It’s a likely scenario given that much of California’s forest land has all but turned into firewood thanks to high temperatures and a persistent drought earlier this decade. But the conversation around PG&E also reflects a larger populist conversation about corporate accountability that Democrats have been having on the national level.

Fossil fuel companies have received the brunt of the criticism. All of the major contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have signed a pledge committing not to accept donations greater than $200 from executives and lobbyists in the oil, gas and coal industries. Candidates have also touted their own work fighting the energy giants when addressing climate change on the campaign trail, often arguing that the history of the oil and gas industry misrepresenting the science of climate change makes them societal pariahs.

“The first thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to attack this corruption head on in Washington,” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said at a town hall last month. “Enough of having the oil industry, the fossil fuel industry write all our laws in this area.”

Though PG&E is a utility company with different interests from oil, gas or coal companies, much of the criticism from local Democrats about the utility has used similar language. In conversations with TIME, Democrats in counties affected by the power outages expressed resentment toward the company, which they described as choosing to prioritize its own profits over the public good.

“People were quite appalled by the way this power outage thing has taken place,” said Pamela Service, who lives in Eureka. “Feeling like PG&E has been lining its pockets and the pockets of its investors and so on at the expense of trying to keep the infrastructure repaired, and now they’re making the people suffer for it.”

PG&E, a San Francisco-based company, provides power to almost 16 million people in California. Thirty five counties were affected by the power outages, and PG&E reported 738,000 customers were without power, which translated to 2.1 million people.

PG&E has a long and rancorous history with Californians, but last year its problems were compounded when state investigators found the company responsible for a dozen fires that caused billions in damage in 2017. The company is also now being held responsible for a subsequent fire, in November 2018, that destroyed 90 percent of the town of Paradise and resulted in 85 people’s deaths, making it the deadliest wildfire on record in California’s history.

The costs of those fires — measuring in the tens of billions — led the company to declare bankruptcy earlier this year and is behind the aggressive approach the company has taken to shutting off power rather than risk the possibility of a wildfire. “We made that decision to keep customers and communities safe,” said PG&E CEO Bill Johnson in an Oct. 14 statement. “That was the right decision.”

In a release, PG&E said it had found more than 100 instances of damage to transmission lines during inspections, any one of which the company said could have resulted in ignition.

Californians say they understand the root of the dilemma. Peter Minett, chair of Nevada County Democrats, pointed to a demonstration on Wednesday against the shutdown, but noted that “other people that felt like they’d much rather have a couple of days of inconvenience than a massive wildfire.”

But much in the same way that climate activists and national Democratic politicians have rejected the fossil fuel industry, Californians have gladly placed blame on the utility. Coco Raner-Walter, chair of Santa Cruz County Democrats, likened PG&E to the banks and the auto industry, both of which received government assistance during the 2008 recession. “This theme kind of goes around and around and around and around,” she told TIME, suggesting that corporations across a variety of industries have caused wreaked havoc while leaving taxpayers in a lurch.

Presidential candidates for the most part did not comment on PG&E’s outages. But Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has made the elimination of corporate influence and climate change central to his campaign, was the one notable exception.

“Corporate greed is now causing Californians across the state to sit for days without power,” he said in a statement on Oct. 11. “The crisis in California proves exactly why we must immediately pass the Green New Deal.”