In a rare moment of bipartisan unity, House lawmakers have voted to authorize the arming and training of Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation today. The Obama administration had lobbied heavily for the measure as part of its ramped-up offensive against the Islamic State, which has claimed swaths of both Iraq and Syria.
The vote in the House came as President Obama sought to provide reassurance the offensive will not involve ground troops in Iraq.
President Obama: "I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists. As your commander-in-chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq."
Obama’s comments came one day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged ground troops may be needed in Iraq in the future. The Islamic State, meanwhile, has released a video that appears to warn the United States of the violent fate awaiting U.S. troops if they deploy to Iraq. It was released late Tuesday after Dempsey’s comments.
Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday to defend the administration’s plans against the Islamic State. As he appeared on screen, Kerry was flanked by peace signs held by the group CodePink. After referencing his own history as a peace activist against the Vietnam War, Kerry addressed the group directly, saying they should support attacking the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
John Kerry: "I also know something about CodePink. CodePink was started by a woman, and women, who were opposed to war, but who also thought that the government’s job was to take care of people and to give them healthcare and education and good jobs. And if that’s what you believe in, and I believe it is, then you ought to care about fighting ISIL, because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women."
The deaths of several children as part of a measles vaccination program in Syria are now being attributed to a mistake, not to the tainting of vaccines, as previously thought. A preliminary probe shows medics accidentally administered an anesthetic that has similar packaging to the measles vaccine. While the earlier death toll was higher, it is now being reported 15 children between the ages of six and 18 months have died.
The Pakistani military says it has launched airstrikes in the Datta Khel region of North Waziristan, killing 40 people it identified as suspected militants. The strikes come as part of a major offensive launched in June which coincided with the resumption of U.S. drone strikes in the region. In the Pakistani capital Islamabad, meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing continuing calls for his resignation from protesters led by former cricket star Imran Khan, who has accused Sharif of rigging last year’s elections.
In Nigeria, gunmen suspected of belonging to the militant group Boko Haram attacked a teacher training college in the city of Kano, killing 15 people. It is at least the second major tragedy in Nigeria in less than a week, after a church guesthouse collapsed in Lagos on Friday, killing at least 70 people.
In Scotland, voting is underway in a historic referendum to decide whether the country becomes independent or remains part of the United Kingdom. Results are expected early Friday morning. Click here to watch our debate on Scottish independence from Wednesday’s broadcast with British musician Billy Bragg and historian Sam Wetherell.
In Colombia, senator and former president Álvaro Uribe faced questioning by lawmakers over his ties to right-wing paramilitaries. Uribe served as president from 2002 to 2010 and was considered among the strongest U.S. allies in Latin America. At one point during Wednesday’s debate, Uribe stormed out of the chamber, but later returned. Senator Iván Cepeda outlined the case against him.
Senator Iván Cepeda: "Álvaro Uribe has taken all types of decisions that, in one way or the other, have favored people linked to the paramilitary and drug trafficking. He has handed over licenses for hangars, planes and runways to people linked to drug trafficking. He has legalized security companies linked to or run by paramilitaries. He has defended a referendum that at the time sought to eliminate extraditions for the Medellín cartel and drug-trafficking organizations."
Texas has executed a woman for the starvation death of a nine-year-old boy in 2004. Lisa Ann Coleman is only the 15th woman to be executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, compared to nearly 1,400 men. Six of those 15 female executions have been carried out in Texas.
The U.S. Agriculture Department has approved the use of genetically modified corn and soybean seeds that are resistant to the weed killer 2,4-D. The herbicide made by Dow Chemical has been linked to a range of health risks including cancer and Parkinson’s disease. It was an ingredient in the toxic Vietnam War herbicide Agent Orange. Industrial farmers have been pressing for an alternative after many weeds grew resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready weed killer. The EPA would still need to approve the newest version of 2,4-D; if it does, the use of the herbicide could increase by as much as 600 percent in the next several years.
A top Obama administration official in the Interior Department is leaving her post to head a major environmental organization. Rhea Suh will take over as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, replacing Frances Beinecke. Suh had been nominated by Obama to oversee the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but her nomination was stalled after Republicans objected to her past work with foundations that fund environmental causes.
Amazon.com founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has announced a new partnership with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two of the largest weapons contractors in the world. Bezos’s private space company Blue Origin will partner with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of the two weapons makers, to create rocket engines to launch military satellites. Bezos bought The Washington Post and a number of other publications last year for $250 million, less than 1 percent of his wealth which at the time was estimated at $28 billion.
Florida State University quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston has been suspended for half a game for standing on a table and yelling an obscene remark about women. It is Winston’s first suspension from the football team. He was allowed to continue playing after being accused of rape in 2012. A New York Times investigation of the case found "there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university." The Tallahassee police officer who handled the sexual assault case had done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, which is the primary financial backer of sports at Florida State. Winston was later suspended from the baseball team for three games when he allegedly stole $32.72 worth of crab legs. A recent report by the office of Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill found more than one in five schools give college athletic departments oversight of sexual violence cases that involve student athletes.
At the professional level, another National Football League player is facing allegations of domestic violence. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for assault Wednesday for two incidents at his home in July. According to TV station Fox 10 in Phoenix, Arizona, the victim contacted police in last week after receiving threatening text messages from Dwyer. She told police Dwyer had thrown a shoe at their 18-month-old son and thrown a cellphone from the second floor of their home as she tried to call for help. Among the charges against Dwyer is "aggravated assault causing a fracture." The Cardinals said they have immediately "deactivated" Dwyer from all team activities. Another player accused of domestic violence, Greg Hardy, has been added to a list which bars him from practices and games. Like Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings player facing child abuse charges, Hardy will continue to receive his multimillion-dollar salary while on the list.
A fellow NFL player has come to the defense of Adrian Peterson, who is accused of beating his four-year-old son with a tree branch. Speaking on WFAN radio in New York, Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush said he would also discipline his daughter "harshly."
Reggie Bush: "I have a one-year-old daughter, and I discipline her. And obviously, every person is different, and I definitely will use my best judgment to discipline her depending on the situation on what happens. So I definitely will try to — will obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her, but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on, again, what the situation is."
The issue of domestic abuse is not restricted to the National Football League. A new study finds one in five men in the United States has committed an act of domestic violence. The report published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found nearly 20 percent of men admit to "pushing, grabbing, shoving, throwing something, slapping or hitting, kicking, biting, beating up, choking, burning or scalding or threatening a partner with a knife or gun."
In Oklahoma, a third law enforcement officer has been accused of sexually assaulting women while on duty. Tulsa County Deputy Gerald Nuckolls has resigned following his arrest on Tuesday for allegedly assaulting two women while responding to a 911 hangup call. It is believed he may have assaulted at least five other victims. His arrest came a day after Oklahoma State Trooper Eric Roberts was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting three women while on duty. Last month Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was accused of sexually assaulting eight women, all of them African-American.
And activists with the Rolling Jubilee have bought up $3.85 million in student debt and abolished it. The group purchases debt at discounted prices by raising money through donations. The latest move lifts debt from nearly 3,000 students of Everest College, whose parent company, Corinthian Colleges, is now being sued by the federal government for predatory lending.