Afghan militants killed at least nine people in the British Council office in the Afghan capital of Kabul. In a coordinated attack, a suicide bomber destroyed the compound wall to the building, and then a group of armed men attacked the compound. Eight Afghan police officers and a foreign security official died in the attack, as did four of the gunmen. The Taliban said the attack marked the anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1919.
In Pakistan, at least 40 people have been killed and 85 others were wounded in a mosque bombing in Ghundi, a village in the Khyber tribal region. The attack was the first major violent incident in the nation since the holy month of Ramadan began.
For the first time since the crackdown on protests began in Syria five months ago, the United States and European Union have called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. In a statement released on Thursday, President Obama accused Assad of "torturing and slaughtering" his own people. Obama ordered Syrian government assets in the United States frozen, banned U.S. citizens from operating in or investing in Syria, and prohibited U.S. imports of Syrian oil products. This is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes. At the same time, we will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just and inclusive. And we will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime, and Assad personally, to get out of the way of this transition."
At the United Nations, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari criticized the new sanctions.
Bashar Ja’afari, Syrian ambassador to the United Nations: "The United States, through imposing sanctions and calling for President Assad to step down, is launching and waging a humanitarian and diplomatic war against us. This war has one aim: instigating further violence in the country and giving the wrong message to the armed group—terrorist armed groups that they are under American and Western protection, so that they go ahead with their insurrection and disruptive and destructive activities in the country."
Global stock prices are continuing to fall as fears mount over the U.S. economy and the health of the European banking system. On Thursday, stocks indexes in Britain, France and Germany suffered their biggest daily slide in more than two years. On Wall Street, the Dow fell some 400 points. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that U.S. federal and state regulators are intensifying their scrutiny of the U.S. arms of Europe’s biggest banks, worrying about spillover from Europe’s debt crisis into the U.S. banking system.
Bank of America is reportedly considering eliminating at least 10,000 jobs, roughly 3.5 percent of its workforce. In the first round of layoffs, the bank is expected to cut 3,500 jobs by the end of September.
In Atlanta, Georgia, several people lost consciousness while waiting in a massive line at a job fair on Thursday sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. Officials estimate as many as 4,000 people lined up in the heat seeking a job. Nine people were treated by emergency crews for heat-related illness, seven of them were sent to the hospital.
The Obama administration has announced plans to conduct case-by-case reviews of all immigrants facing deportation. The move is expected to ease the way for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and have already spent years in the country to stay and work legally. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano revealed the new policy in a letter to Senators Dick Durbin and Richard Lugar. In April, the senators sent a letter to Napolitano asking her to stop deportations of immigrant students who could earn legal status under the proposed DREAM Act. The new policy was announced just days after a group of Latino groups held a nationwide day of protest against the administration’s deportation policy. The Obama administration has overseen a record number of deportations in each of the past three years. Under the new policy, administration officials have acknowledged the actual number of immigrants deported is not expected to decrease.
The National Immigration Law Center praised the new policy, but expressed concern over what will happen to immigrants already being detained for low-level offenses and minor traffic violations as a result of the Secure Communities program. Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, slammed the new policy as a form of "backdoor amnesty."
On the Republican presidential campaign trail, Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended the teaching of creationism during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Perry made the comment when he was asked by a fourth grader how old the earth is. While scientists say the earth is at least four billion years old, most creationists believe it is no more than 10,000 years old. Perry went on to say he did not know the age of the earth and then began questioning the theory of evolution, saying it has some gaps. Perry said both creationism and evolution are taught in Texas schools.
Texas Governor Rick Perry: "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right."
Republican rival Jon Huntsman took to Twitter to attack Rick Perry’s stance. Huntsman tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann defended her past employment as a tax lawyer at the Internal Revenue Service during a campaign speech in South Carolina. Bachmann claimed she worked at the IRS in an effort to infiltrate the agency. She told the crowd, "The first rule of war is 'know your enemy.'" Her comments were recorded by an audience member who posted them online.
Rep. Michele Bachmann: "How many of you love the IRS? No, it’s time to change it. I once worked in that system, because the first rule of war is 'know your enemy.' So I went to the inside and learned how they work, because I wanted to beat them."
She concluded her comments by saying she went inside IRS to learn how they work, because she wanted to beat them.
Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas outposts in Gaza earlier today while Palestinians fired rockets into southern Israel, as violence escalated following a series of deadly attacks. On Thursday, eight Israelis died and 25 were injured in southern Israel in an attack along the border with Egypt. Israel blamed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees for the attack. Israeli jets later carried out air strikes in Gaza, killing at least six people, including a nine-year-old boy.
A new study by the Japanese government has found that nearly half of the children surveyed in three towns near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have traces of radioactive elements in their thyroid glands. The Japanese government maintains that none of the children showed radiation levels that would be problematic, but the study’s findings have fueled concern over the long-term fallout from the nuclear disaster. Radioactive iodine tends to gather in the thyroid glands of minors, in particular, increasing the risk of developing cancer later in life. In other news from Japan, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has scrapped plans to meet with President Obama in Washington next month. Speculation is growing in Japan that Kan may resign in the coming weeks.
Egypt’s ruling military council has dropped charges against one of the most well-known activists in the revolution, following criticism from human rights groups of subjecting civilians to military trials. Asmaa Mahfouz was arrested last week for allegedly inciting violence against Egypt’s armed forces for comments she made on the social networking site Facebook. The military council also dropped charges against Louai Nagati, who was arrested for disturbing public order during protests in late July. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 10,000 civilians have been sentenced by military courts in Egypt since January.
Elizabeth Warren has filed paperwork in Massachusetts to create an exploratory campaign committee, the next step in a possible challenge to Republican Sen. Scott Brown. Warren is the Harvard Law School professor and Obama administration official who played an instrumental role in forming Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren has been traveling around Massachusetts this week conducting a self-described "listening tour."
Another pipeline has ruptured near the flooded Missouri River basin. As much as 3,300 barrels of natural gasoline leaked on Saturday near Onawa, Iowa. The spill comes just a month after an Exxon Mobil pipeline leaked 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the flooded Yellowstone River in Montana, which feeds the Missouri River.
Hundreds of foreign students taking part in a U.S. State Department cultural exchange summer program walked out of their job at a Hershey’s chocolate plant in Pennsylvania. The students said their jobs are exploitative and in many cases grossly failed to cover the costs they spent on visas in their home countries. The students have reportedly been required to lift heavy boxes, work eight-hour shifts beginning at 11 p.m., and stand for long periods of time while packing Reese’s candies, Kit-Kats and Almond Joys on a fast-moving production line.
A new study finds black scientists are less likely to receive research funding from the National Institutes of Health than their white counterparts. According to the report, a 10-percentage-point gap exists between black and white researchers when it comes to winning the most common type of NIH grant, despite the fact that all hold doctorate degrees and have similar levels of experience. Roughly 27 percent of white applicants won funding between the years 2000 and 2006, compared to just 17 percent of African Americans.