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A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people has exploded and crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, but it is unclear who shot the missile. The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with passengers from at least 10 countries on board, including 173 Dutch nationals, 44 Malaysians and 27 Australians. As of this broadcast, the nationalities of 20 people have not been verified, and it is unclear if any U.S. citizens were on board. The disaster may have dealt a lasting blow to the fight against HIV/AIDS. As many as 100 of the world’s leading AIDS researchers and advocates were reportedly on the plane en route to a conference in Australia, including the pioneering researcher and former president of the International AIDS Society, Joep Lange. The area where the plane crashed is controlled by pro-Russian separatists, who have recently claimed credit for downing Ukrainian military planes. Ukraine has blamed the rebels for the attack, and the Ukrainian intelligence agency has released audio of what it claims are intercepted phone calls between rebels and Russian military intelligence officers, where the rebels admit to shooting down a passenger jet. The crash came a day after the United States hit Russia with a new round of sanctions over its handling of the crisis in Ukraine. We will have more on this story later in the broadcast.
Israel has launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, escalating a military operation that has killed at least 264 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says its aim is to destroy tunnels used by Hamas militants to infiltrate Israel. Thousands of Israeli troops have stormed into Gaza backed by tanks, bulldozers and warplanes. So far today at least 23 Palestinians have died, including three teenagers killed by tank fire. Israel suffered its second fatality of the 11-day offensive when one of its soldiers was killed in Gaza. Israeli media reports the soldier was likely killed by friendly fire. Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel could escalate the assault.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "My and the defense minister’s instructions to the IDF, approved by the Cabinet, are to prepare for the possibility of significantly widening the ground operation, and the chief of staff and the military are prepared accordingly."
Before the Israeli ground assault began, the United Nations had already warned 900,000 people in Gaza were without running water due to damage from Israel’s aerial bombardments. Shortly after Israel launched the ground offensive, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the escalation of the conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "In the past 24 hours, there have been a number of incidents involving the death of civilians, including the appalling killing of four boys on a beach in Gaza City. I urge Israel to do far more to stop civilian casualties. There can be no military solution to this conflict."
NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull veteran news correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza. Mohyeldin personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach Wednesday, kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He has placed the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept reports the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation came from NBC executive David Verdi. NBC executives have reportedly claimed the decision was motivated by "security concerns" ahead of Israel’s ground invasion, but NBC has sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, to Gaza. We’ll speak to Glenn Greenwald about that story and media coverage of Gaza later in the broadcast.
The Pentagon has secretly told Congress it is preparing to send six Guantánamo prisoners to Uruguay, after they were all approved for transfer more than four years ago. Uruguayan President José Mujica has opposed the U.S. treatment of Guantánamo prisoners and offered to receive the six men. The New York Times reports the group includes four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian man. One of the prisoners, Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab, has filed a lawsuit against the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike over their indefinite detention.
A new report says prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan have staged periodic hunger strikes similar to those at Guantánamo Bay. According to The Guardian, non-Afghan prisoners in U.S. captivity at the Detention Facility in Parwan have refused meals to protest their conditions. Their grievances include unsafe drinking water, prison segregation and inadequate access to the Red Cross. The United States no longer imprisons Afghans at Bagram, but around 40 nationals from other countries are still in custody.
The Guardian newspaper has released video from a new interview with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden describes a culture within the NSA of young male co-workers routinely sharing intimate details they intercept that are not related to investigations — such as nude photographs of people they find attractive. The Guardian asked Snowden whether he was happy in Russia, where he has temporary asylum.
Edward Snowden: "You know, I’m much happier here in Russia than I would be facing an unfair trial in which I can’t even present a public interest defense to a jury of my peers. We’ve asked the government again and again to provide for a fair trial, and they’ve declined. And I feel very fortunate to have received asylum."
The United Nations’ top human rights official has suggested Edward Snowden should not face trial. Navi Pillay, the U.N high commissioner for human rights, said Snowden had exposed violations and sparked a global debate about privacy.
Navi Pillay: "Those who disclose human rights violations should be protected. We need them. And I see some of it here in the case of Snowden, because his revelations go to the core of what we are saying about the need for transparency, the need for consultation of all, as what we say, 'multi-stakeholders,' everybody concerned. So we do owe it to him for drawing our attention to this issue."
Pillay added that in light of Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. spying on the United Nations, she cannot be sure that she is not the target of surveillance. Snowden recently applied to extend his one-year asylum in Russia, which expires at the end of the month. On Wednesday, Russia said it expects to grant Snowden’s request within a week.
The top lawyer at General Motors has faced a grilling before a Senate committee over the company’s failure to address an ignition switch defect for more than a decade. The defect, which prompted the recall of millions of cars, has been linked to at least 13, but potentially hundreds, of deaths. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri called the failures of GM’s legal unit "stunning," saying the company’s focus on minimizing its own liability had "killed innocent customers." She asked GM CEO Mary Barra why Michael Millikin, the head of GM’s legal department, had not been fired.
Senator Claire McCaskill: "How in the world, in the aftermath of this (the GM internal) report did Michael Millikin keep his job? I do not understand."
Mary Barra: "As you know, I have made the promise to fix what happened in the company to make sure that we are dedicated to safety, that we’re dedicated to excellence. We are well on our way. We’ve made significant change. To do that, I need the right team, and Mike Millikin is a man of incredibly high integrity."
Microsoft is firing 18,000 workers, about 14 percent of its workforce. The cuts are the largest in Microsoft’s history and among the largest in the history of the tech industry. Most cuts involve the Nokia cellphone unit which Microsoft bought in April.
Missouri has executed a prisoner convicted of three murders despite doubts over his guilt and concerns he may have been mentally ill. Attorneys for John Middleton said new evidence showed that one of the murders took place when he was actually 40 miles away, in a jail in Iowa. Earlier this week, a federal judge stayed Middleton’s execution, saying he met the standard for mental incapacity "showing that he is incompetent to be executed." But an appeals court overturned the stay, and Middleton died by lethal injection on Wednesday. His final statement was, "You are killing an innocent man."