A hurricane warning has been issued for the northern Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Isaac looms over the Florida Panhandle up to Louisiana. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have declared states of emergency, leading to mandatory evacuations in low-lying coastal areas. The hurricane warning comes nearly seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans.
Tropical Storm Isaac is headed to the Gulf Coast after battering Haiti and southern Florida. At least six deaths were reported in Haiti, which saw heavy flooding in the camps where some 400,000 survivors of the 2010 earthquake still live. In Florida, the storm has led to the cancellation of today’s first full day of the Republican National Convention. Republican spokesperson Kyle Downey said the convention will resume on Tuesday.
Kyle Downey: “We’re in constant communication with state, federal and local authorities, and, you know, we’re going to make safety our primary concern, and we’ll just see how things unfold. But, yes, at this point, we’re very confident that by Tuesday we’re going to be in great shape and we’ll kick off the convention.”
Syrian government forces are being accused of committing what could be the deadliest massacre of Syria’s 17-month-old conflict to date. On Saturday, activist groups said more than 300 bodies were found in homes around Darayya, most of them showing signs of “execution-style” murder. Unverified video shows rows of bodies, including those of children, bloodied and wrapped in sheets. The killings occurred as the Syrian regime retook control of Darayya after three days of fighting. The regime has denied responsibility and accused rebel forces of carrying out the massacre. Overall, activists say more than 400 people were killed across Syria on Saturday — the country’s bloodiest day since the conflict began. Dozens more were killed in violence on Sunday. Earlier today, rebel forces claimed responsibility for downing a Syrian military helicopter over Damascus.
A new congressional study shows U.S. foreign weapons sales tripled last year to a record $66.3 billion — more than 75 percent of the total global weapons market. The Gulf regimes of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman bought U.S. arms at record levels.
The British government has withdrawn its threat to seize WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from his place of refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Ecuador says it received notice from Britain over the weekend that there is “no threat to enter the embassy.” Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa hailed the news.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: “We consider this unhappy incident to be over. A grave British diplomatic error, no? to say they are going to enter our embassy. But we consider (this) over. However, I hope they (the British) don’t distort what happened.”
At least 39 people were killed in Venezuela on Sunday in an explosion at the country’s biggest refinery. It was the deadliest accident ever for Venezuela’s oil industry.
Israel has barred nearly 100 Palestinian solidarity activists from entering the occupied West Bank. The protesters, mostly from Europe, had tried to enter via the Allenby Bridge with Jordan. It was the latest effort by Israel to block a mass visit by international activists following the thwarting of a “fly-tilla” of thousands of people last year. One activist denied entry said Israel is trying to block witnesses to the occupation.
Activist: “They reject us because we openly say that we are in solidarity with Palestinians and because they don’t want any witness to see what they are doing to Palestinians.”
Two members of the Russia’s dissident band Pussy Riot have fled the country to avoid prosecution for a peaceful protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin inside an Orthodox church. Three members of the group were sentenced to two years in prison for the protest earlier this month. A judge rejected the argument their act was a form of political protest, instead ruling it was motivated by religious hatred. The two members who fled the country took part in the initial protest but have not been jailed.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waded into the so-called “birther” controversy over the weekend with a dig at President Obama. Speaking in his home state of Michigan, Romney said that, unlike Obama, he has never faced questions about his place of birth.
Mitt Romney: “I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I was born in Harper Hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
Also at his event in Michigan, Romney shared his message to counter-protesters backing President Obama in this year’s election.
Mitt Romney: “I saw someone outside the zone here that had a sign that said 'four more years,' and I almost felt like stopping and saying, 'Yyou want four more years of 8 percent unemployment? You want four — you want four more years of record numbers of foreclosures and declining home values? Do you want four more years of trillion-dollar deficits to pass onto your kids? Do you want four more years of small businesses finding it hard to hire people? Do you want four more years of government becoming more and more intrusive in your lives and in your businesses?' I don’t want four more years of what we have. Do you?”
Two people died and nine people were wounded in New York City on Friday after a gunman killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building. The gunman, Jeffrey Johnson, was shot after pointing his gun at police officers shortly after shooting dead his former colleague, Steven Ercolino. But in firing on Johnson, the police officers also left nine bystanders with gunshot wounds. It was initially claimed Johnson had fired at the officers, but the police later admitted the fatal bullet that killed Ercolino had been Johnson’s last shot.
A Texas judge is drawing controversy for declaring he is prepared to join a civil war to overthrow President Obama. In a televised interview, Judge Tom Head of Lubbock, Texas, said he thinks Obama will hand U.S. sovereignty over to the United Nations if re-elected.
Tom Head: “He is going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N. OK, what’s going to happen when that happens? I’m thinking worst case scenario here. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not talking just a few riots here and demonstrations. We’re talking — we’re talking Lexington-Concord take up arms and get rid of the guy. OK, now what’s going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He’s going to send in U.N. troops. I don’t want 'em in Lubbock County, OK? So I'm going to stand in front of their first armored personnel carrier and say, ’You’re not coming in here.’ And the sheriff, I’ve already asked him, I said, 'You gonna back me?' He said, 'Yeah, I'll back you.’ Well, I don’t want a bunch of rookies back there. I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers to back me.”
Hundreds of people rallied in Joplin, Missouri, on Saturday in a show of support for a local mosque burnt to the ground earlier this month. The Islamic Center of Joplin was set ablaze on August 6, just over a month after an initial arson attack. Firefighters were unable to contain the fire in time, leaving the mosque completely destroyed. The arsonist was never apprehended. The fire occurred the day after a white supremacist shot dead six worshipers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Organizers of Saturday’s rally say they wanted to show appreciation for the mosque in part for serving as a relief center during the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, which killed 161 people.
The former U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82. Armstrong was the first person ever on the moon, famously announcing what he called “one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.