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Australia has become the latest country to join the U.S.-led military campaign against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australian planes will take part in airstrikes and that special forces would be deployed in Iraq. Turkey’s Parliament has also backed the effort, authorizing the government to order military action against the militants. The news comes as Iraq’s defense minister claimed Iraqi forces have made gains against ISIS, retaking 30 villages east of Baghdad.
The United Nations has released a report detailing possible war crimes and an accelerating death toll in Iraq. Since January more than 9,000 civilians have been killed, more than half of them since the ISIS offensive began in June. In total, at least 26,000 Iraqis have been killed or wounded this year. Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, unveiled the report’s findings.
Rupert Colville: “This is really a devastating report. It covers just nine weeks and such a huge array of appalling human rights abuses, mostly by ISIL. These include rapes. They include murder; summary executions, sometimes of very large numbers of people; abductions; recruitment of children, making children into fighters; destruction of mosques, of churches, other religious buildings—so, a really devastating litany of horrendous abuses affecting many, many thousands of people.”
While the U.N. report focused on ISIS militants, it also found Iraqi government airstrikes had caused “significant civilian deaths,” striking villages, hospitals and a school in violation of international law.
A U.S. marine believed to have been lost at sea has become the first reported U.S. military casualty of the campaign against ISIS. The marine and a colleague, who survived, both ejected from their aircraft after it briefly lost power over the Persian Gulf.
Pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong have agreed to talks with the city’s top leader after days of mass protest. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to step down, despite vows by protesters to remain in the streets and occupy government buildings unless he does so. The protests erupted over China’s plan to select candidates in Hong Kong’s 2017 elections.
Authorities are assessing 100 people who may have had contact with the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States. The partner of Thomas Eric Duncan, meanwhile, says she and three other family members have been quarantined in the apartment where Duncan was staying under threat of criminal charges if they leave. But the sheets and dirty towels used by Duncan remain inside the apartment, too, as authorities struggle to find a company willing and able to safely take them. Duncan was sent home from a Dallas hospital last week despite telling a nurse he had been to Liberia. He was readmitted by ambulance four days later. The hospital blamed a gap in its electronic record keeping that prevented a doctor from seeing the nurse’s note about Duncan’s travels. Duncan’s nephew, Josephus Weeks, told NBC he had personally called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Josephus Weeks: “I called CDC to get some actions taken, because I was concerned for his life and he wasn’t getting the appropriate care, and I was fear –- I feared that other people might, you know, also get infected if he wasn’t taken care of.”
In Liberia, a freelance cameraperson who worked for NBC News has become the fourth American diagnosed with Ebola. Ashoka Mukpo will be flown to the United States for treatment.
A federal appeals court has allowed Texas to begin immediately enforcing a sweeping anti-choice law, effectively gutting access to abortion overnight. Thirteen of the state’s remaining abortion clinics have been forced to close, leaving Texas, the second largest state, with just eight abortion facilities, all of them in four metropolitan areas. Nearly a million Texas women will now have to travel a minimum of 300 miles round-trip to access abortion. The provision, which went into effect following Thursday’s court ruling, requires all abortion clinics to meet hospital-style building requirements, reversing the order of a lower-court judge who found the restrictions posed an undue burden to women. Many other clinics in the state have already closed under another provision of the law requiring providers to obtain hospital admitting privileges. The lower-court judge had also blocked that requirement as it applied to clinics in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also reversed that decision, shuttering Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen, Texas about a month after it was able to reopen, and leaving no abortion facilities west or south of San Antonio. The Rio Grande Valley is home to many undocumented immigrants who can’t travel north due to border checkpoints, and are effectively cut off from legal abortion. In a statement, the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is fighting the law in court, said, “All Texas women have been relegated today to a second class of citizens.”
In Oklahoma, one of just three abortion providers in the state is challenging a law requiring providers to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Dr. Larry Burns says he has been unable to obtain privileges at any of 16 nearby hospitals after many refused to even process his application.
In Alabama, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to block a law they say could force minors seeking abortion to stand trial. The law applies to minors who seek a judicial bypass because they cannot safely obtain parental consent for abortion, which is required in Alabama. It allows the court to appoint a guardian for the minor’s fetus and would let that guardian, the district attorney and potentially the minor’s parents call witnesses to testify against the minor.
Brazilians are heading to the polls to vote in the presidential election Sunday. President Dilma Rousseff faces a challenge from Marina Silva, who served as environment minister under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva before resigning in 2008. She became a candidate in August after her running mate died in a plane crash. Marina Silva grew up in the Amazon rainforest and fought its devastation alongside rubber tapper Chico Mendes. Her supporters say she would become the world’s first “green” president. But critics worry that as an evangelical Christian, she would implement right-wing social policies. They also note her chosen running mate has ties to agribusiness.
Tens of thousands marched in Mexico City Thursday to mark the anniversary of the Tlatelolco student massacre. On October 2, 1968, just days before Mexico City hosted the Olympics, government forces opened fire on students in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, killing up to 350 people. To date, no one has been tried. The anniversary comes as more than 40 students remain missing in the Mexican state of Guerrero following an alleged police ambush last weekend. Witnesses say both police and unknown gunmen attacked buses carrying students from a rural teacher’s college and players from a soccer club, killing six people, including three students and a 15-year-old boy. Enrique Espinosa, who survived the 1968 massacre, said the recent killings are part of a legacy of impunity in Mexico.
Enrique Espinosa: “It seems that we are returning to the same things that happened in those years back in the ’60s: repression, political prisoners, persecutions and injustices, a whole lot of injustices.”
In Venezuela, a lawmaker in the ruling socialist party has been found murdered in his home, along with his partner. Robert Serra was the youngest member of Venezuela’s national congress. The motive remains unclear but Venezuela’s justice minister said the killings were “carried out with great precision.”
In the Gulf nation of Bahrain, the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been detained after posting tweets critical of the government. Rajab, who leads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was released from prison in May after serving two years for his role in pro-democracy protests against the U.S.-backed monarchy.
In Colorado, the Jefferson County school board has passed a proposal to institute a curriculum review committee despite protests by high school students and teachers. The committee will review district courses, adding material to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” Democracy Now! asked the proposal’s author, school board member Julie Williams, about the proposal’s mention of obedience to authority.
Julie Williams: “You know, I took those lines out of the national Republican resolution, as well as Texas, because I thought that it was misunderstood. I just think that what we are teaching our students, it’s not to suppress them. I want to teach them that our country is a great place to live.”
JPMorgan Chase has disclosed one of the largest corporate data breaches in U.S. history. While the hack had been previously disclosed, prior estimates said only about one million accounts had been impacted. Now, the banks says 76 million household accounts and seven million small businesses’ accounts were compromised as hackers penetrated deep into its systems, gathering customers’ names and contact information. The hack went undetected for two months.
Thousands took to the streets to protest austerity and unemployment as the leaders of the European Central Bank met in Naples, Italy. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators, while bank leaders voted to keep interest rates at a record low and announced plans to begin buying private sector assets later this month.
In Missouri, the St. Louis County prosecutor is investigating a possible leak by the grand jury considering whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. A tweet posted to the account of Susan Nichols read, “I know someone sitting on the grand jury. There isn’t enough at this point to warrant an arrest.” Grand jury deliberations are supposed to be secret. Nichols has claimed her account was hacked.
A 79-year-old peace activist has been sentenced to three months in jail for protesting at a base in upstate New York where U.S. drones are piloted remotely. Jack Gilroy is among several activists to face trial in DeWitt Town Court for protesting at Hancock Air Base. He spoke before his sentencing Wednesday.
Jack Gilroy: “We are killing people around the world, and our statement was to take a message, and that’s going to be primarily what I’ll be saying today, First Amendment right, the right to take a message, and not to be killed because you’re the messenger bringing in the information to stop the killing.”
The peace activist and author Fred Branfman has died of ALS at the age of 72. Branfman exposed the covert U.S. bombing of Laos. In the 1960s and 1970s, in what became the largest bombing campaign in history, the United States dropped more than two million tons of bombs on the small Southeast Asian country. Branfman interviewed refugees and helped illuminate their plight for other journalists and activists, including world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, who traveled to Laos in 1970. Speaking at Harvard University last year, Chomsky praised Branfman’s work.
Noam Chomsky: “He’s the person who worked for years, with enormous courage and effort, to try to expose what were called the 'secret wars.' The secret wars were perfectly public wars which the media were keeping secret, government. And Fred — this was in Laos — he finally did succeed in breaking through, and a tremendous exposure of huge wars that were going on.”
Branfman also worked in U.S. domestic politics, including as research director to California Gov. Jerry Brown during Brown’s earlier stint as governor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Later in life, Branfman committed himself to advocating a new “human movement” against climate change and to cultivating what he called a “life-affirming awareness” of death. Last month, in his final article for the website Alternet, Branfman wrote about Israel’s assault on Gaza by directly addressing Israel’s supporters, asking, “How do you justify your support for mass misery inflicted on hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians?” He continued: “I answered such questions for myself 45 years ago, when I discovered that civilians were well over 90 percent of the victims of U.S. leaders’ mass bombing of northern Laos. I concluded then that there is never any moral or legal justification for mass bombing or shelling of civilians. Period.” Branfman died last Wednesday in Budapest, Hungary, where he shared a home with his wife Zsuzsa. He was 72.
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