Militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State have reportedly bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, in northern Iraq, in what the head of UNESCO has called a "war crime." The ancient site was founded in the 13th century B.C. Its reported destruction comes a week after video showed ISIS militants smashing priceless statues at the Mosul museum, northwest of Nimrud. Further south, meanwhile, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias are continuing their bid to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIS. The militants have set oil wells ablaze northwest of the city in a bid to slow the offensive.
The United Nations reports nearly half a million people were displaced in the Darfur region of western Sudan last year, the largest amount in a decade. The United Nations blames the uptick in violence on the Sudanese government and government-aligned forces, which have waged a campaign against rebels in Darfur since 2003. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has faced accusations of genocide, but the International Criminal Court suspended its probe in December. Bashir seeks re-election next month to extend his 25-year rule.
Liberia has finished treating its last Ebola patient, as the World Health Organization announced the country has gone a week without any new cases, for the first time in 10 months. Health officials warn the fight is not over, since a fresh outbreak could still erupt. Sierra Leone and Guinea, meanwhile, reported a combined total of 132 new Ebola cases last week. In total, the record outbreak has killed nearly 10,000 people and infected nearly 24,000.
Attorneys for the family of Michael Brown have announced plans to sue the city of Ferguson, Missouri, and Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed African-American teenager. Attorney Anthony Gray made the announcement a day after the Justice Department said it would not bring civil rights charges against Wilson.
Anthony Gray: "We feel, and we’ve always felt from the very beginning, that Officer Darren Wilson did not have to shoot and kill Mike Brown Jr. in broad daylight in the manner that he did, that he had other options available to him, and that he chose deadly force as his option. And we plan to demonstrate in a court of law, to reasonable-minded people, that the choice to use deadly force was unreasonable and unnecessary under those circumstances."
A Muslim Iraqi immigrant has been shot dead in Dallas, Texas, in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime. Relatives told local media Ahmed Al-Jumaili was out taking pictures of the snow with his family, when they walked past two men, who then opened fire. Al-Jumaili had reunited with his wife in Dallas just 20 days ago, after moving from Iraq.
A former FBI informant who posed as a Muslim convert to infiltrate mosques in California has said the FBI instructed him to have sex with Muslim women if it would help him gather information. Craig Monteilh has admitted collecting phone numbers and other personal information about Muslims in the Los Angeles area, even planting a recording device in the local Muslim Student Union. He told HuffPost Live his FBI handlers encouraged him to date Muslim women.
Craig Monteilh: "There were some times that in the dates it would get intimate, so I would ask my FBI handlers what I should [unintelligible]. And they instructed me, if I was getting good intel, to allow it to go into sexual relations."
When he was working as an informant, Monteilh’s extreme talk of violence and jihad alarmed his targets in the Muslim community, who ultimately reported him to the FBI and took out a restraining order against him.
New York City has made history by adding two Muslim holidays to its school calendar. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week New York would become the first major city to close school on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Muslims in New York have spent at least nine years fighting for the holidays’ recognition. Shujaat Khan of the Coalition for Muslim School Holidays celebrated the win.
Shujaat Khan: "We feel grateful that our questions have been answered and we have not just been turned over in the pages of history. We feel included in this melting pot of the country, and we take pride of that. The whole world is watching us, and our fight can come to a successful close. Thank you all for coming. Thank you all for listening. And thank you all for the support. We did it. We just did it! Thank you."
In Argentina, the ex-wife of a late prosecutor who accused the president of a cover-up has said she believes her ex-husband was murdered. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was found dead a day before he was due to testify on his claims Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner helped cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85 people. Investigators initially said his death appeared to be a suicide, but his ex-wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, said the experts she hired concluded he was shot in the back of the head and his body moved to the bathroom.
Sandra Arroyo Salgado: "Nisman didn’t have an accident. Nisman didn’t commit suicide. He was killed, and his death is an assassination of unknown proportions that deserves answers, and in my opinion, on the part of the institutions of the Republic. Our commitment as a family, and mine also as being part of the judicial power of the nation, is to persevere so as to be able to find out the truth about what happened that day."
Indigenous communities in Peru have announced a settlement with oil giant Occidental Petroleum in a landmark case over three decades of pollution in the Amazon rainforest. In 2007, Achuar indigenous communities sued Occidental in U.S. court after a report by Amazon Watch and Earth Rights International accused the firm of dumping millions of barrels of toxic waste directly into rivers and streams, resulting in widespread lead and cadmium poisoning. The settlement was actually reached in 2013, but the terms of the deal kept it secret until Thursday. Occidental will sponsor development projects under the deal, but the sum was not disclosed.
An attorney for the Republican National Committee has asked the State Department’s inspector general to probe presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of personal email during her tenure as secretary of state. Clinton did not use a government email address at all, and her aides failed to save her emails on government servers, a possible violation of both State Department rules and federal law. Clinton says she has asked the State Department to release the emails she recently provided to them, tweeting, "I want the public to see my email." But Reuters reports the review of about 55,000 pages of documents could take several months.
Newly revealed documents from Edward Snowden have shown New Zealand is vacuuming up communications across the Asia-Pacific region and sharing them with the National Security Agency in the United States. Reports published by The Intercept in collaboration with the New Zealand Herald and journalist Nicky Hager describe how New Zealand’s digital spy agency collects data from island nations with whom it has friendly ties, such as Tuvalu, Nauru, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. The spying reportedly includes monitoring of government officials and NGOs in the South Pacific countries. New Zealand shares the data through the NSA system XKEYSCORE, a search engine-like tool which lets the NSA monitor nearly every type of online activity.
A group of activists arrested during the Flood Wall Street action against capitalism’s role in climate change have been found not guilty at their trial in New York City. On September 22, the day after the historic People’s Climate March, more than 100 people were arrested as thousands sat down in Manhattan’s Financial District to protest the role of big banks in backing the extractive industries fueling climate change. Ten of the defendants fought their charges in court, hoping to use the necessity defense to argue the urgency of climate change required civil disobedience. Instead, the judge ruled the New York City Police Department’s order for protesters to disperse was unconstitutional. But defense attorney Martin Stolar said the judge acknowledged the urgency of climate change.
Martin Stolar: "The court found all 10 defendants not guilty, releasing them and basically endorsing the position that they took, that climate change is a serious, urgent problem requiring attention, and basically complimenting the defendants for being out there and protesting. And then, because the police department made a mistake in the way they ordered people to leave the demonstration area, the judge said the order to leave was impermissible under the Constitution, and therefore he found all the defendants not guilty for violating an unlawful order."
Snowy conditions have continued to engulf the United States. In New York, a plane skidded off a snowy runway at LaGuardia Airport, while in Kentucky, hundreds of drivers were stranded on a snowy highway for 20 hours. Scientists warn increased snowfall is part of a pattern of extreme weather driven by climate change.
A train carrying crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota has derailed in northern Illinois, causing a massive fire. The blaze was so intense the firefighters had to retreat to let the fire burn out on its own. The incident follows two previous oil train derailments last month which happened within days of each other in Ontario, Canada, and West Virginia.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has announced it will end its elephant acts by 2018, citing mounting public concern over animal mistreatment. The animal rights group PETA, which has documented Ringling’s abuse of elephants, hailed the decision, but called for an immediate halt to the performances. The Humane Society called the decision "startling and tremendously exciting."
U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has won a court order instructing the military to stop referring to her with masculine pronouns. Manning announced her identity as a transgender woman in 2013 a day after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving a trove of secret documents to WikiLeaks. Last month, she was finally allowed to begin hormone treatment.
Wellesley College in Massachusetts has become the latest all-women’s school to begin accepting transgender women. The school says it will now consider for admission "any applicant who lives as a woman and consistently identifies as a woman." Students who identify as men will not be admitted, but if students come to identify as men while enrolled, they will be allowed to graduate.
The American Library Association has released its list of Notable Videos for Adults — 15 "outstanding" films from the past two years. Included in the list is "Harvest of Empire," based on the groundbreaking book of the same name by Democracy Now! co-host Juan González. In its announcement, the ALA described "Harvest of Empire" as "a comprehensive geopolitical picture of the economic and historical realities that have guided waves of Latin American migration to the U.S." Other films recognized include "Dirty Wars," "The Act of Killing," "The Internet’s Own Boy," "After Tiller," "Five Broken Cameras," "Who is Dayani Cristal?" and other groundbreaking documentaries we have featured on Democracy Now! programs. To see those interviews, search our online archive.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march known as "Bloody Sunday." On March 7, 1965, 600 people tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were attacked by Alabama state troopers. Rev. Frederick Douglas Reese and Sadie Mitchell Moss recall that day.
Rev. Frederick Douglas Reese: "We saw a line of state troopers across the highway, and we were asked to not go any further, that we were going to be denied the right to continue that march. And so we were somewhat concerned about that and decided that we were not going to turn, unless we were turned. And that particular decision caused the state troopers then to move in on us, with their billy clubs clutched on both hands, and literally went down the line of marchers, toppling us over as if you topple bowling pins in a bowling alley."
Sadie Mitchell Moss: "I felt that if we turn around or if we give up, it will never happen. So in order to make sure that this does become a reality, we must continue. And that’s just the way I felt. And I must admit, I didn’t want to die, but Dr. King has always said, and I think I’m quoting him correctly, that anything that’s worth living for is worth dying for. And, of course, I just couldn’t turn back at that time. I thought we had gone too far, especially in Selma."
Activists and politicians, including President Obama and Rep. John Lewis, will converge on Selma this weekend for events marking the anniversary. Democracy Now! is headed to Selma and will broadcast live from Alabama on Monday. Tune in live at 8 a.m. EDT at democracynow.org.