The Obama administration is sending up to 300 military advisers to help Iraq’s fight against the Sunni uprising that has taken over large parts of the country. President Obama announced the new U.S. contingent while ruling out the deployment of combat troops. But Obama also said he remains open to launching military strikes at the Iraqi government’s request.
President Obama: “Because of our increased intelligence resources, we’re developing more information about potential targets associated with ISIL. And going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it. If we do, I will consult closely with Congress and leaders in Iraq and in the region.”
According to The New York Times, “a senior administration official” said the potential U.S. bombing campaign “could be extended into neighboring Syria.” In his remarks, Obama also said he is not pushing for the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but renewed calls for Maliki to abandon a sectarian-focused rule. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit the Middle East and Europe this weekend for talks with U.S. allies. Iraqi troops, meanwhile, are massing north of Baghdad for a potential offensive to retake captured towns from Sunni militants.
The City of New York has reportedly agreed to pay $40 million to five men wrongfully convicted of raping a female jogger in Central Park 25 years ago. The five black and Latino men were convicted as teenagers. Media coverage at the time portrayed them as guilty and used racially coded terms to describe them. But their convictions were vacated in 2002 when the real rapist came forward and confessed, after the five had already served jail terms of up to 13 years. We’ll have more on the Central Park Five settlement after headlines.
A Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban has reportedly displaced tens of thousands of people. Agence France-Presse reports more than 90,000 have fled their homes in North Waziristan since last month. According to Al Jazeera, air raids have reportedly killed at least 100 civilians over the past two weeks. The Pakistani army says it’s killed at least 200 militants since launching a new operation on Sunday.
Ukraine says around 300 pro-Russian separatists have been killed in new clashes near the Russian border. Fighting erupted on Thursday when separatists apparently refused to lay down their weapons as part of a Ukrainian government peace plan. NATO, meanwhile, is accusing Russia of resuming a military buildup on the Ukrainian border, a claim Russia denies.
New clashes have erupted in the occupied West Bank as part of an Israeli crackdown over the kidnapping of three teenagers. At least one Palestinian teenager was killed today when Israeli soldiers opened fire near Hebron. On Thursday, Israeli forces traded gunfire with armed Palestinians in the town of Jenin, leaving three Palestinians wounded. At least 300 Palestinians have been detained in Israel’s week-long search for the teens, who were kidnapped while hitchhiking from a Jewish settlement. No group has claimed responsibility, but the Israeli government has blamed Hamas. On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian Authority to sever its recent unity deal with Hamas leaders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “It is an organization that is designated as a terror organization by many countries, and it is a terror organization that is committed to Israel’s destruction. I expect President Abbas to dissolve the union with this murderous terrorist organization. I think that’s important for our common future.”
The United States has scaled back ties to Uganda over a law punishing homosexuality. Enacted earlier this year, the measure imposes a life sentence for repeated homosexual acts and makes it a crime to not report gay people to Ugandan authorities. On Thursday, the Obama administration cut aid, imposed visa restrictions and canceled a regional military exercise with the Ugandan military. Uganda has been a key U.S. government ally in Africa.
The Obama administration is unveiling new rules that grant nearly all marriage benefits to same-sex couples nationwide. Federal marriage benefits have so far only been available to same-sex couples in states where gay marriage has been legalized. But the Obama administration’s move makes them available across all federal agencies in all states. The changes include applying federal immigration law equally to gay and heterosexual couples, and Internal Revenue Service recognition of gay marriages. Federal employees in same-sex relationships will obtain health insurance for their spouses and the right to take a leave of absence in the case of illness.
House Republicans have filled two top leadership positions following the primary loss of Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Kevin McCarthy of California will replace Cantor as majority leader, while Steve Scalise of Louisiana will take McCarthy’s place as party whip. On Thursday, both McCarthy and Scalise welcomed their new roles.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy: “America is struggling. We’re struggling with a stagnate economy, a failed healthcare law, and so many are living paycheck to paycheck. They are looking for individuals that put people before politics. I’ll make one promise: I will work every single day to make sure this conference has the courage to lead with the wisdom to listen.”
Rep. Steve Scalise: “I’m looking forward to bringing a fresh new voice to our leadership table and joining with this team to help confront the challenges that people all across this country are facing. We’ve got solid, conservative solutions that are going to solve the problems facing our country.”
Republicans will see their most heated primary vote next week when Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran faces a runoff against tea party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel. Cochran has made headlines over the past week after appearing to be unaware of Cantor’s primary defeat in Virginia and encouraging Democrats to vote for him in the runoff.
Wisconsin prosecutors have determined Republican Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate fundraising with a number of right-wing groups. The claim from five Wisconsin district attorneys is made in unsealed documents from an investigation into Walker’s campaign during the failed effort to recall him in 2012. Walker has not been charged with any crime, but the documents show prosecutors believe his top aides directly controlled outside groups and their expenditures. That would mark a violation of state donation limits and of laws requiring the full disclosure of political spending. In a statement, Walker dismissed the prosecutors’ accusations as “categorically false,” adding: “This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has marked two years of confinement at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Assange has been holed up inside the embassy since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning on allegations of sexual assault. Assange has voiced fears he would ultimately be sent for prosecution in the United States should he return to Sweden. Speaking via satellite to a news conference in Ecuador, Assange thanked the Ecuadorean government and his supporters.
Julian Assange: “I am proud of keeping my promises to my sources, never buckling to pressure to tend to our material and having kept a publishing organization going in spite of significant pressure over the last four years, keeping up in the black despite an enormous financial blockade similar to the financial blockade of Cuba. Similarly, the Ecuadorean people can be proud that their country has stood up to intense pressure over myself and, indeed, many slanders from press associated with the United States and some associated with the United Kingdom. I am thankful to that resistance and also to the loyalty and resistance of my staff.”
Ecuador says talks with Britain over Assange’s fate are again at an impasse, with Britain refusing to grant Assange safe passage to Quito.
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the killing of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, a pivotal moment in the 1960s struggle for equality. On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were ambushed by a gang of Klansmen. The three were beaten and shot, their bodies found weeks later buried in an earthen dam. They had come to Mississippi to register African-American voters as part of the Freedom Summer campaign. A number of Klan members were convicted on minor charges, with none serving more than six years. It took 41 years before a murder conviction was handed down in the case, with former Ku Klux Klansman Edgar Ray Killen found guilty of manslaughter in 2005.