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HeadlinesOctober 14, 2014

ISIS Advances in Iraq, Syria; 180,000 Flee Town of Heet

Oct 14, 2014

Military chiefs from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State are meeting today in Washington as the militant group continues to advance in Iraq and Syria. ISIS fighters have reportedly claimed nearly half of the embattled town of Kobani, along the Syria-Turkey border, despite three weeks of U.S.-led airstrikes. On Monday, security sources told Agence France-Presse that the city of Heet on the edge of Anbar province was entirely under ISIS control after Iraqi government troops withdrew from a key base. Heet is about 115 miles west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The United Nations says as many as 180,000 people have fled the area in and around Heet. Speaking Monday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Iraqi forces must take the lead on the ground.

Philip Hammond: “Of course, we are looking with coalition partners at how best to support the needs of the Iraqi security forces for retraining, for technical support and assistance. And we absolutely are prepared to provide personnel for specialist roles, for training roles, but not to take the combat lead. That combat lead has to come from Iraqi security forces, peshmerga, and in Syria from the moderate opposition, Free Syrian Army forces.”

Report: Iraqi-Backed Shiite Militias Executing Civilians

Oct 14, 2014

A new report accuse Shiite militias backed by the Iraqi government of committing war crimes in their fight against the Islamic State. Amnesty International says the Shiite fighters have kidnapped and murdered scores of Sunni civilians in execution-style killings.

Turkey Denies It Agreed to Let U.S. Use Bases

Oct 14, 2014

Turkey has denied claims by U.S. officials that it has agreed to let U.S.-led troops use its bases in the fight against ISIS. The Obama administration has been pressuring Turkey to take a more active role against ISIS, while Turkey has requested a buffer zone along its border with Syria. Meanwhile, Turkish warplanes have reportedly bombed Kurdish PKK rebels near the Iraqi border. PKK members have played a key role fighting ISIS in Kobani.

Afghan Villagers Say NATO Airstrike Killed 7 Civilians

Oct 14, 2014

Villagers in the Afghan province of Paktia say a NATO airstrike has killed seven civilians, including a nine-year-old child. The villagers said they were gathering firewood at the time of the strike. A spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition confirmed a “precision air strike” in the area, which he said killed eight “enem[ies].” But Abdul Wali Sahi, the province’s deputy governor, said the villagers brought the corpses of seven civilians to the provincial capital.

Abdul Wali Sahi: “The local villagers claim that they were collecting firewood on a mountainside when they were hit by the airstrike. As you can see, there are children among the dead bodies. The Afghan nation is tired of such killings. We are going to seriously investigate this incident, and we strongly condemn such a killing, and whoever committed this crime must be held accountable for their action.”

This month marks the 13th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Over the weekend, hundreds of people marched in the Afghan capital Kabul to protest an agreement to keep 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond this year. Former President Hamid Karzai had previously refused to sign the deal in part over the killings of Afghan civilians.

U.S. Air Force Questioned for Spending $486M on Planes for Afghanistan, Then Reducing Them to Scrap

Oct 14, 2014

The U.S. Air Force is facing questions over its decision to destroy 16 cargo planes purchased for Afghanistan. The United States spent $486 million to purchase and refurbish 20 Italian-made planes for the Afghan air force. But the program encountered what an inspector general called “continuous and severe operational difficulties, including a lack of spare parts.” So the Pentagon scrapped the plan, and 16 of the planes, which were converted to scrap metal worth $32,000 — less than a hundredth of a percent of what the program cost. The Pentagon replaced the planes with four larger ones made by Lockheed Martin. Special Inspector General John Sopko has asked the Air Force to provide records on its decision to scrap the planes, saying he is “concerned that the officials responsible … may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars.”

Pentagon Outlines National Security Risks of Climate Change

Oct 14, 2014

The Pentagon has issued a report on the “immediate risks” to national security posed by climate change. The report says global warming could increase risks from terrorism and infectious diseases, lead to devastating natural disasters, strain water supplies, and fuel droughts and crop failures leading to mass migration. The Pentagon report coincides with a new analysis that finds the rise in sea levels recorded over the past century is unparalleled in the last 6,000 years.

Scores Arrested in Wave of Actions on Final Day of “Ferguson October”

Oct 14, 2014

In Ferguson, Missouri, protesters have wrapped up four days of action with a “Moral Monday” of civil disobedience. Scores of people were arrested in acts of nonviolent resistance across the St. Louis region on the final day of “Ferguson October.” The protests drew people from across the country to protest the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown and the lack of justice for police shooting victims nationwide. Outside Ferguson police headquarters, hundreds of protesters remained for four hours, the same amount of time police allowed Brown’s body to lie in the street.

Woman: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom!”

Protesters: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom!”

Woman: “It is our duty to win!”

Protesters: “It is our duty to win!”

Woman: “We must love and support each other!”

Protesters: “We must love and support each other!”

Woman: “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Protesters: “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Woman: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom!”

Protesters: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom!”

Woman: “It is our duty to win!”

Protesters: “It is our duty to win!”

More than 40 people were arrested, including members of the clergy and civil rights activist Cornel West. Protesters also descended on St. Louis City Hall and a political fundraiser attended by Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. At a St. Louis Rams football game, protesters unveiled banners reading, “Rams Fans Know Black Lives Matter” and “Racism Lives Here.” And demonstrators also shut down three area Wal-Marts in a solidarity protest over the fatal police shooting of African American John Crawford, who was killed while holding a BB air rifle on sale at a Wal-Mart in Ohio. Click here to watch our coverage from on the ground at Ferguson October.

CDC Reconsiders Ebola Prevention Steps After Nurse Falls Ill

Oct 14, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is rethinking its recommended protocols for preventing the spread of Ebola after a Dallas nurse contracted the disease. The nurse has been identified as 26-year-old Nina Pham. It is still unclear how she became infected while wearing a mask and other protective gear as she treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola last week. The CDC has identified what it calls a “large group” of other workers involved in Duncan’s care who may be at risk.

Guerrero, Mexico: Gov’t Building Set Alight in Protest over 43 Missing Students

Oct 14, 2014

In the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, students and teachers have set fire to a government building in the capital Chilpancingo to protest the disappearance of 43 students. The students have been missing for more than two weeks after police ambushed their buses outside the city of Iguala. More than 20 police have been detained and accused of collaborating with a drug gang with ties to the city’s mayor, who has fled, as has the security chief. Despite fears of a massacre following the discovery of mass graves, protesters have continued to call for the students to be returned alive. In a separate incident, also in Guerrero, police opened fire Sunday on a van filled with students traveling back from Acapulco, hitting and injuring a German exchange student. Authorities say 15 to 20 police have been detained.

Gunmen Kill Activist During Live Radio Show in Sinaloa, Mexico

Oct 14, 2014

In the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, gunmen shot and killed an activist and radio broadcaster while he was live on the air. Atilano Román Tirado hosted a weekly radio show and led a group of villagers demanding compensation after they were displaced by a massive dam project. Radio listeners heard the gunshots after the shooter entered the studio.

Catalonia to Hold Unofficial Poll on Independence from Spain

Oct 14, 2014

The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region has canceled a referendum on independence next month, but vowed to press ahead with an unofficial poll. The announcement comes after Spain’s constitutional court suspended the referendum two weeks ago. Hundreds of thousands of Catalans flooded the streets of Barcelona last month to call for the vote.

Topics:

Vatican Document Shows Softening of Anti-LGBT Stance

Oct 14, 2014

The Catholic Church may be softening its opposition to homosexuality. A Vatican document prepared after a meeting of 200 bishops recognizes that LGBT people have “gifts and qualities to offer” and asks whether Catholic communities could provide a “welcoming home” to them “without compromising Catholic doctrine.” While it cited “moral problems” with same-sex unions, it also recognizes the potential for positive aspects in both LGBT relationships and cohabitation among unmarried heterosexual couples. Human Rights Campaign called the document “a dramatic new tone from a Church hierarchy that has long denied the very existence of committed and loving gay and lesbian partnerships.”

Alaska Becomes 30th State with Marriage Equality

Oct 14, 2014

Alaska and North Carolina have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after courts in those states overturned bans on marriage equality. The rulings are part of the broad impact from last week’s Supreme Court decision to decline appeals from states that sought to ban same-sex marriage. In 1998, Alaska became the first state to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It has now become the 30th state where same-sex marriage is legal.

British Lawmakers Vote to Recognize Palestine as a State

Oct 14, 2014

British lawmakers have passed a resolution recognizing Palestine as a state. The resolution is nonbinding and will not change the British government’s official stance, which does not recognize Palestine. But Parliament member Jack Straw said the vote is symbolically important.

Jack Straw: “I believe that the fact of the Israelis’ intemperate reaction to the very prospect of this house passing this resolution is proof that this resolution will make a difference. The only thing the Israeli government, in my view, under its present demeanor of Bibi Netanyahu, understands is pressure, and what this house will be doing this evening will be to add to the pressure on the government of Israel.”

The resolution passed 274 to 12. It comes after Sweden’s new prime minister announced his government would recognize the state of Palestine, becoming the first major Western European country to do so.

Oklahoma Delays Executions Due to Drug Shortage

Oct 14, 2014

Oklahoma is seeking to delay three executions until next year amidst a shortage in lethal injection drugs. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has requested more time to train staff and obtain drugs which have been in short supply due to a boycott by European drug makers. In April, Oklahoma was the site of a 43-minute botched execution. Since then, the state has revamped its protocols and unveiled a new death chamber that will cost more than $100,000 in taxpayer money.

Komen Breast Cancer Charity Under Fire for Partnering with Fracking Firm

Oct 14, 2014

The breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure is facing criticism for partnering with a company that makes drill bits for fracking. For a second year in a row, the company Baker Hughes will donate money to Komen and sell fracking drill bits painted pink for breast cancer awareness. Fracking extracts oil and gas from shale rock by blasting chemicals — including several linked to cancer — deep into the ground, where they are at risk of leaching into water supplies. Over the weekend, more than 200 groups around the world took part in the third annual Global Frackdown to call for an end to fracking.

Philippines: U.S. Marine Held on Navy Ship After Murder of Transgender Woman

Oct 14, 2014

A U.S. marine is being held on board a Navy ship following the apparent murder of a transgender woman in the Philippines. Twenty-six-year-old Jennifer Laude was found dead in a hotel bathroom. Police in the Philippines say they plan to charge Private First Class Scott Pemberton with murder, but under a deal called the Visiting Forces Agreement he will remain in U.S. custody. In Manila, protesters called for the marine to be handed over to local authorities. Activist Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the New Patriotic Alliance, made reference to an earlier controversy, the Subic rape case, when four U.S. marines were accused and ultimately acquitted of raping a Filipina woman.

Renato Reyes: “This is another test of the Visiting Forces Agreement. As we have seen in the past, the VFA has been used by the United States government to shield its personnel from any accountability under Philippine law. And we will not allow a repeat of what happened in the 2006 Subic rape case. So this has to go through Philippine jurisdiction. Anything less is unacceptable.”

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