The U.S.-led push to bomb Syria is overshadowing the G-20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where world leaders remain divided on whether to support the attack. President Obama is pressing his plan to strike Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack last month in Ghouta during which the administration claims the Syrian government killed more than 1,400 people. On Thursday, Britain bolstered those reports, saying new lab tests had confirmed the use of sarin nerve gas. But the two-day summit is being hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key Syrian ally who rejects the U.S. claims.
On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power criticized Russia outside the U.N. Security Council in New York City.
Samantha Power: “Even in the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities, including as a party to the chemical weapons convention. What we have learned, what the Syrian people have learned, is that the Security Council the world needs to deal with this crisis is not the Security Council we have.”
The Obama administration held another round of secret briefings Thursday for U.S. lawmakers who are set to vote on whether to back strikes on Syria. Many say their constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to military action. Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon tweeted Thursday: “Tally from constituents calling my office, emailing, and writing about #Syria: 1135 opposed to U.S. action, 18 for.”
Human rights activists at the G-20 in St. Petersburg have been staging protests to call attention to Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights, including a recent ban on voicing support for LGBT relationships around minors. On Thursday, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party put forth a new measure that would allow the state to take children away from parents who are gay.
The Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica have jointly revealed the National Security Agency is successfully foiling much of the encryption used by people seeking to protect their privacy online. According to The Guardian, documents revealed by Edward Snowden show the NSA and its British counterpart have “broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments.”
A U.S. drone strike early this morning killed at least seven people in the Pakistani area of North Waziristan. The strike was reportedly directed at a home. The identities of the dead are not known. Pakistani officials say there were militants.
Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim survived an apparent assassination attempt Thursday when a bomb blast rocked his convoy. Ibrahim has helped oversee the bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, which has killed more than 1,000 people. Ibrahim condemned the attack against him.
Mohammed Ibrahim: “All I can do is thank God. It was a vile attempt. The forensics lab informed me that it was a large bomb which was set off from afar, and they targeted the exact timing of my convoy passing through that street because all of the explosion debris is directed at my car. They destroyed my four security vehicles, and many shops in the area were also destroyed. Civilians’ cars were destroyed. A small child had his leg injured. A police officer is in critical condition, and there was another with a leg injury. There were many other injuries in my security team.”
California prisoners have ended a historic hunger strike after two months. The prisoners said in a statement Thursday they had decided to “suspend” the strike, adding that their resistance will continue against what they termed “decades of systemic state-sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units.” While many prisoner demands remain unmet, two Democratic state lawmakers have vowed to hold public hearings on California’s use of solitary confinement. At its height, the prison hunger strike included 30,000 people and was hailed as the largest in California’s history. Last month a federal judge authorized force-feeding of the prisoners.
Thousands of Wal-Mart workers joined a nationwide day of action in 15 cities Thursday, calling for Wal-Mart to provide a living wage, improve working conditions and end retaliation against employees who stand up for their rights. At least 24 people were arrested at actions in New York City and Los Angeles.
In Mexico City, protesting teachers blocked access to the airport for the second time in three weeks Thursday to protest an education overhaul backed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The Mexican Senate passed a measure Wednesday to base teacher hiring and promotions on standardized evaluations. For weeks, tens of thousands of teachers have occupied the main square in Mexico City to defend their labor rights and demand changes that meet the needs of rural students.
In the Philippines, a newspaper editor who wrote about illegal gambling has been murdered, becoming the second journalist killed there in the past week. Vergel Bico was shot by unknown gunmen on Wednesday. His death follows the killing last week of Fernando Solijon, a radio commentator who criticized local politicians and linked a village official to the drug trade. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Philippines is the second deadliest country for reporters, after Iraq.
The wife and two daughters of Chilean folk singer Víctor Jara have filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer they say killed Jara almost exactly 40 years ago. Víctor Jara was shot to death after the U.S.-backed coup that ousted President Salvador Allende in 1973. First, Jara’s hands were smashed so he could no longer play guitar. Next Wednesday — September 11 — marks the 40th anniversary of the coup. Jara’s accused killer, Pedro Barrientos, has lived in the United States for roughly two decades and is now a U.S. citizen. Jara’s family is suing him under federal laws that allow U.S. courts to hear about human rights abuses committed abroad. Last year, Chilean prosecutors charged Barrientos and another officer with Jara’s murder, naming six others as accomplices.
A charter school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is under fire after officials there reportedly sent a seven-year-old African-American girl home from school because of her hairstyle. The Deborah Brown Community School bans “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles.” In a statement, a school official said the girl’s father “elected to choose a forbidden hairstyle” for his daughter. Terrance Parker said the dispute forced him to move his daughter Tiana to a different school. Tiana Parker, age seven, spoke to local news station Fox 23.
Reporter: “Why are you so sad?”
Tiana Parker: “Because they didn’t like my dreads. I think that they should let me have my dreads.”
Google has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against its practice of scanning people’s emails in order to provide targeted ads. Plaintiffs say the tactic is illegal. They note that Google scans emails sent to Gmail users by non-users who have not agreed to its policies. Google’s attorneys defended the practice during a court hearing Thursday. In an earlier motion to dismiss the lawsuit, they cited a decades-old Supreme Court decision, writing “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”
New research has confirmed the link between wastewater from the gas drilling technique known as fracking and a series of earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio. No earthquake had ever been recorded in Youngstown until an injection well began pumping wastewater from fracking sites deep into the ground for storage back in 2010. Over the next year, 109 earthquakes were detected. A new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says the earthquakes corresponded with fluctuating activity at the well.
The Yemeni activist Ibrahim Mothana, who campaigned against the U.S. use of drones and participated in Yemen’s youth-led uprising, has died at the age of 24. The exact circumstances of his death are unclear; one Facebook commenter said he had a heart attack. Last year, in an open letter to President Obama published in The New York Times, Mothana wrote: “Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair … rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends.” In 2011, Mothana spoke about the future of Yemen at an event in Sweden.
Ibrahim Mothana: “As I’m speaking now, we have like drones and air strikes, U.S. air strikes in Abyan, and it won’t work. It will never work, unless you tackle the issue comprehensively, you try to see the whole image, you see why — what is the drivers of extremism, what is the drivers of the lack of security. Then you will be able to solve it. You cannot just isolate it and try to solve it alone; it’s a package.”