Up to 7,500 Kurdish peshmerga forces backed by U.S.-led warplanes have launched an offensive against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in northern Iraq. The offensive seeks to retake Mount Sinjar and surrounding areas from ISIL. Last year, ISIL trapped tens of thousands of Yazidi religious minorities on Mount Sinjar, prompting President Obama to authorize airstrikes to prevent what he called a "potential act of genocide." Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fled, and many were raped, murdered or enslaved by ISIL. The offensive also seeks to sever a key ISIL supply route between Syria and the ISIL-held Iraqi city of Mosul.
In the Afghan capital Kabul, thousands of people marched through the streets Wednesday carrying the coffins of seven ethnic Hazara hostages beheaded by ISIL. The demonstrators called for the resignation of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, accusing him of inadequately responding to violence against civilians in Afghanistan.
In the United States, protests against racism on college campuses have spread across the country. Following the resignation of two top officials at University of Missouri, students rallied on the campus of Smith College in Massachusetts and Yale University in Connecticut, where more than 1,000 people packed into a forum on race Wednesday.
At Ithaca College in upstate New York, up to 2,000 faculty, students and staff staged a walkout to call for the resignation of President Tom Rochon. The students lay down on the rainy walkways in a mass "die-in." They expressed solidarity with students on other campuses across the country.
Brittany Gardner: "All over the nation, both on and off college campuses, we have seen those young and old fighting against injustice. We stand here in solidarity. Our hearts are heavy with the pain of Mizzou and Yale and Smith and every person of color on a college campus simply because of the color of their skin and the texture of their hair or their ancestry. This is a problem of the nation. However, how can a campus dedicated to preparing us for the real world not actively foster growth to our consciousness of oppression and privilege?"
The protesters at Ithaca College accuse President Tom Rochon of responding inadequately to racist incidents, including one where an African-American graduate was repeatedly called a "savage" by two white male fellow alumni. The incident took place during a panel discussion in October, when Tatiana Sy said she had a "savage hunger" to succeed. J. Christopher Burch, chief executive of the investment firm Burch Creative Capital, then repeatedly called her a "savage," saying, "I love what the savage here said." In this clip, you also hear the panel moderator, former NBC News correspondent Bob Kur, pointing to Burch and saying, "You are driven," then telling Sy, "You’re the savage." It begins with Burch.
J. Christopher Burch: "I love what the savage here said."
Bob Kur: "You’re driven and have been driven since college. You’re the savage, and you were driven."
J. Christopher Burch: "What empathy means is actually caring deeply for other people’s personal pain, and so as this young—as this savage sits here..."
Tatiana Sy: "All right, I mean..."
J. Christopher Burch: "It’s a compliment. I’m really complimenting you, because I think she’s an amazing young woman."
The protests at Ithaca and elsewhere come amid ongoing concerns over racism at the University of Missouri. On Wednesday, two men were arrested for allegedly posting social media threats against students of color at the university. The threats included, "I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see" and "I’m gonna shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready." The two men arrested are both 19-year-old white college students, but neither is a student at the University of Missouri. Hunter Park, who attends Missouri University of Science and Technology, was in Rolla, Missouri, about 100 miles from Columbia. The second suspect, Connor B. Stottlemyre, attended Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, 200 miles from Columbia. A number of professors cancelled classes, and some African-American students left the University of Missouri campus over the threats. One professor submitted a letter of resignation after he sparked outrage by refusing to reschedule an exam when students said they felt unsafe coming to his class. A university spokesperson said Professor Dale Brigham’s resignation was not accepted.
In another wave of student activism, students across the United States are walking out of class today to protest massive student loan debt. The students are calling for a minimum wage increase for campus workers and free public college tuition. Their protests come two days after fast-food workers walked off the job nationwide calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights.
Newly released video footage shows three South Boston, Virginia, police officers repeatedly tasing an African-American man who died in police custody. During the incident two years ago, police took Linwood Lambert to the emergency room because they said he appeared delusional. He was not under arrest at the time. The video shown by MSNBC shows Lambert kicking out a cruiser window and running for the emergency room entrance. The officers tase him repeatedly, even as he lies on the ground, and restrain him with shackles. They continue to tase him. Then they take him back to the cruiser, where they tase him some more. In total, he was tased 20 times over a half-hour period. The officers then drove Lambert to jail, where they noticed he was unconscious. An ambulance brought Lambert back to the same hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His family has filed a $25 million lawsuit.
Palestinian officials say undercover Israeli agents stormed a hospital in Hebron and fatally shot a 27-year-old Palestinian today. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said undercover commandos shot Abdullah al-Shalaldeh five times after he allegedly attempted to stop them from questioning his cousin, who was receiving treatment after being injured by Israeli security forces. Israeli news outlets said the agents were with the secretive Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet as well as the Israeli army and Border Police. One was reportedly disguised as a pregnant woman. Jehad Shawar, director of Al-Ahli hospital, condemned the attack.
Jehad Shawar: "It is a clear breach of all international laws and all ethics related to hospitals. It is well known that hospitals are a safe place for everyone. So what do you think when a unit of undercover security raid a hospital? They came as undercover security, not even as soldiers, to arrest one of the patients who was lying injured in his bed. The crime even became uglier when they surprised a companion of the patient and shot him with five bullets and executed him in the hospital."
The European Commission has issued new guidelines for the labeling of products from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. Under the new standards, products made in Israeli settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, must be labeled "made in settlements." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the regulations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "The labeling of products of the Jewish state by the European Union brings back dark memories. Europe should be ashamed of itself. It took an immoral decision. Of the hundreds of territorial conflicts around the world, it chose to single out Israel, and Israel alone, while it’s fighting its back—with its back against the wall against a wave of terror."
We’ll have more on Netanyahu’s recent visit to the United States and his ties to the leading progressive think tank Center for American Progress after headlines.
Sweden has introduced new border controls as refugees from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere seek to enter the country. Nearly 200,000 people are expected to arrive in Sweden this year—a higher number per capita than any other EU country. Meanwhile, Slovenian soldiers began erecting a barbed wire fence near the border with Croatia in a bid to stop the flow of refugees. And 14 refugees, including seven children, drowned off the Turkish coast as they attempted to reach Greece.
In what appears to be a massive breach in attorney-client privilege in the United States, The Intercept has obtained a trove of prisoner phone records, including recorded calls between prisoners and their attorneys. Attorney-client phone calls are privileged communications which are not supposed to be recorded. But hacked phone records from Securus Technologies—a leading provider of phone services in prisons and jails—appear to include about 14,000 recorded attorney-prisoner conversations. The company’s contract specifically stipulates telephone calls with attorneys are not to be recorded, and any calls that are recorded must be destroyed. The ACLU said the revelations may constitute "the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history."
And in New Zealand, women members of Parliament have been thrown out of the chamber Wednesday after sharing their stories of sexual assault. Their actions came after New Zealand Prime Minister John Key accused opposition politicians of "backing the rapists" when they raised concerns about the detention of New Zealand citizens by the Australian government. One by one, the women Parliament members rose to say that as survivors of sexual assault, they were offended by Key’s remarks. The House speaker, David Carter, declared their statements out of order, but they continued to rise, one by one, over the speaker’s objections.
Poto Williams: "As a victim and survivor of family violence and an advocate for victims of violence, I take personal offense at the comments of the prime minister and ask him to withdraw..."
David Carter: "Order! Order! Now we’re now getting into the stage when there could be a series of these points of orders. ... I’ll hear from Catherine Delahunty on the assurance that it’s a fresh point of order and not in any way the type of points of order with..."
Catherine Delahunty: "It’s a fresh point of order. It’s not a campaign, Mr. Speaker."
David Carter: "Sorry. Catherine Delahunty."
Catherine Delahunty: "As a victim of sexual assault..."
David Carter: "Order! Order!"
Catherine Delahunty: "I take personal offense and would like to ask for a personal explanation..."
David Carter: "The member will resume her seat."
The women Parliament members continued to rise one by one, until finally the House speaker of the New Zealand Parliament ordered them out.