U.S.-led warplanes are bombarding oil-producing facilities in eastern Syria for a second day in a row in a bid to cut off key revenue from Islamic State militants. According to U.S. Central Command, the refineries net about $2 million per day. On Thursday, the Pentagon rejected accounts that up to 24 civilians have been killed by U.S.-led strikes in Syria, saying there are no "credible" reports of civilian deaths. U.S. planes are also continuing to bomb Iraq with at least 11 airstrikes on Thursday. Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby acknowledged the Islamic State remains strong.
John Kirby: "This organization is still, even after the hits they’ve taken, and they have been hit, they’re still — they still have financing at their fingertips. They still have plenty of volunteers. They still have plenty of weapons and vehicles and the ability to move around. They still control a wide swath inside Iraq, no question about it. This is just, as I said the other day, and I think it’s — I want to state it again: This is just the beginning."
The British Parliament is due to vote today on whether it will join the U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has blamed Western intervention in the Middle East for the rise of the Islamic State. Rouhani made the comments in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.
President Hassan Rouhani: "Certain states have helped create it and are now failing to withstand it. Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westernism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism. Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hands of madmen, who now spare no one. All those who have played a role in founding and supporting these terror groups must acknowledge their errors."
Islamic State militants have killed a prominent Iraqi human rights lawyer. Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy was kidnapped last week from her home in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is under ISIS control, after she posted comments on social media criticizing the group’s destruction of religious sites. She was tortured for days and then executed. In Algeria, militants allied with ISIS executed French tourist Hervé Gourdel in apparent retaliation for French airstrikes in Iraq.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has claimed control of a key district in Ghazni province, killing scores of villagers. Fifteen people suspected of collaborating with authorities were reportedly beheaded.
In the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American attorney general, is resigning after nearly six years as head of the Justice Department. Holder made the announcement on Thursday.
Eric Holder: "I have loved the Department of Justice ever since as a young boy I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the civil rights movement how the department can and must always be a force for that which is right. I hope that I have done honor to the faith that you have placed in me, Mr. President, and to the legacy of all those who have served before me."
Holder will remain in office until a successor is nominated and confirmed. Response to his resignation has been mixed. While civil rights groups have praised his record on voting rights and transforming the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized his role in National Security Agency surveillance and Obama’s drone wars. We will host a roundtable on Holder’s record after headlines.
The news of Attorney General Eric Holder’s departure broke as relatives of black men killed in encounters with police gathered in Washington, D.C., to call for the Justice Department to investigate and charge the officers involved. Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was placed in an illegal police chokehold in New York, said local systems have failed to bring justice.
Gwen Carr: "The police in our case, they’re sitting back. They’re still walking the street. They’re still getting paid. They said they took their gun and badge, but so what?"
Lesley McSpadden: "I’m here in Washington to ask for help in getting justice for my son in Missouri. Missouri has not shown us anything that we’re looking for."
The police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, has issued a video statement apologizing to the family of Michael Brown. More than six weeks after police shot Michael Brown dead and then left his body in the street for four hours, Chief Tom Jackson told the family he was sorry.
Tom Jackson: "I want to say this to the Brown family: No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street. The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day, but it was just too long, and I am truly sorry for that."
Chief Jackson also apologized to "any peaceful protester who did not feel that I did enough to protect their constitutional right to protest." Hours later, the chief took part in renewed protests over Brown’s death. At least four people were arrested.
In Hong Kong, students are capping off a week of action demanding greater political freedom. Thousands of college students launched a class boycott on Monday, and younger schoolchildren joined with them today. Last month the Chinese government rejected demands for Hong Kong to freely choose its next leader in 2017.
In Mexico, an army officer and seven soldiers have been detained over an alleged massacre of 22 people in San Pedro Limón, in the southern state of Mexico. The army had claimed the victims died in a firefight in June, but an Associated Press investigation found evidence of people being shot at chest level while against a wall. A witness said all but one of the 22 people killed was shot after they had surrendered.
Pope Francis has removed a Paraguayan bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, a member of the right-wing Opus Dei movement, had promoted an Argentine priest who was accused of sexually abusing students at a boarding school in Pennsylvania. However, the Vatican’s statement on his removal says nothing about the alleged abuse. The bishop had also alienated colleagues by forming his own more conservative seminary. His ouster came two days after the Vatican announced it was placing a former archbishop under house arrest in a separate case. Josef Wesolowski is accused of paying for sex with children while serving as Vatican ambassador in the Dominican Republic. Last month, in another mark of the Catholic Church’s changing approach in Latin America, Pope Francis reinstated a Nicaraguan priest, Father Miguel d’Escoto, nearly three decades after he was suspended for his role in the Sandinista government.
U.S. aviation regulators have taken a major step toward expanding the use of commercial drones. The Federal Aviation Administration will allow six Hollywood companies to use drones equipped with cameras on film and TV sets. Before Thursday, the only approved use of commercial drones was in the Arctic wilderness.
Yahoo and Google have become the latest companies to sever ties with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, amidst a nationwide campaign against the secretive group. ALEC joins corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers to craft model bills introduced in legislatures nationwide. This week in an interview with NPR, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said funding ALEC had been a "mistake" and accused them of "making the world a much worse place" by lying about climate change.
In South Carolina, a state trooper has been fired and arrested after shooting an African-American man four times as he reached for his driver’s license during a stop for an alleged seatbelt violation at a gas station. Footage from a police dashboard camera shows Levar Edward Jones reaching for his license after Trooper Sean Groubert asked to see it. As Jones reaches into the truck, then turns back around, Groubert shoots him four times. Jones, who has disappeared from the frame, asks why he was shot.
Levar Edward Jones: "Why did you shoot me?"
Sean Groubert: "Well, you dove head first back into your car, then you jumped back out. I’m telling you to get out of your car."
Levar Edward Jones: "I’m sorry, I didn’t hear two words, sir."
The trooper, a former lance corporal, has been charged with aggravated assault and could face up to 20 years in prison.
In California, an African-American woman has won a $1.5 million settlement after she was beaten by a California Highway Patrol officer in July. A passing driver filmed Officer Daniel Andrew pummeling Marlene Pinnock along the side of a highway in Los Angeles. The officer has agreed to resign.
The Associated Press has named the National Football League official who was sent a video back in April that showed Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in a casino elevator. An unnamed law enforcement official said the tape was sent to NFL security chief Jeffrey Miller, and that he received a voicemail confirming its receipt. Miller, however, claims he never received the tape. The NFL has repeatedly said it did not see the video until it was released publicly by TMZ this month, at which point Rice was indefinitely suspended. Meanwhile, ESPN writer Bill Simmons has been suspended for three weeks after accusing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of lying about his knowledge of what was on the tape.
A U.S. Army staff sergeant has been found guilty of sexually assaulting eight female soldiers under his command. Staff Sergeant Angel Sanchez was found to have used his position as a drill sergeant to threaten victims and, in one case, grabbing a female soldier by the hair and forcing her to perform oral sex. During the trial, an Army private said her company was warned that none of them would graduate if any additional sexual complaints emerged.
A new lawsuit accuses a Scott County jail in Mississippi of indefinitely and illegally holding prisoners without charge. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the case on behalf of two men who have been held in a Scott County jail for nearly a year without an indictment or the appointment of legal counsel.
A federal agency has filed a landmark series of lawsuits over discrimination against transgender people in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused businesses in Florida and Michigan of illegally firing transgender workers. It is the first time the agency has sued over discrimination against transgender people.