More than 100 cities joined in a national moment of silence Thursday night to honor the memory of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The unarmed African-American teenager was shot to death by police last Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests continued in Ferguson for a sixth night with less tension after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put an African-American highway patrol captain named Ron Johnson in charge of security in the town of Ferguson. Johnson marched with protesters and ordered the riot gear put away. Protests also spread to Los Angeles, to Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, where Brown’s family attended a vigil, to New Orleans, Houston and New York. In Miami, eight people with the group Dream Defenders were arrested after refusing to leave a federal justice building. Ahmad Abuznaid said police brutality is a problem across the country.
Abu Abuznaid: “It’s related to what’s happening in Ferguson. I think across the country we’ve seen police departments abuse their power, gun down innocent, unarmed people. It’s happened in Ferguson. It’s happened here in Miami with Israel 'Reefa' Hernandez just a year ago.”
Israel Hernandez was an 18-year-old graffiti artist who died a year ago last Sunday after police shocked him with a Taser.
The death of Michael Brown has coincided with other police killings of unarmed African-American men. On Tuesday in California, a father of five died in custody after sheriff’s deputies repeatedly hit him with a Taser. San Bernardino County sheriffs say they stopped Dante Parker while he was riding his bicycle, after a resident reported seeing a man flee on a bike following a burglary attempt. Just one week earlier, police fatally shot 22-year-old John Crawford inside a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Witnesses said Crawford was holding a toy gun on sale at the store and was shot after failing to put it down. Human Rights Watch says the killings of John Crawford, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who was placed in an illegal chokehold by New York City police, “raise serious human rights concerns.”
President Obama is vowing to continue airstrikes aimed at protecting U.S. personnel in Iraq. Speaking Thursday, Obama said U.S. efforts have helped thousands of Yazidi minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar following the advance of rebels known as the Islamic State. Obama said humanitarian airdrops would likely end, but airstrikes would not.
President Obama: “We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, we helped vulnerable people reach safety, and we helped save many innocent lives. We will continue airstrikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq. We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines. And perhaps most importantly, we are urging Iraqis to come together to turn the tide against ISIL, above all, by seizing the enormous opportunity of forming a new inclusive government under the leadership of (Iraqi) Prime Minister-designate (Haider) Abadi.”
European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels today to discuss arming Iraqi Kurds against the Islamic State.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to step down, easing the political crisis in Baghdad. Maliki’s initial refusal to relinquish his post had raised fears of a coup.
The United States has blocked a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel and tightened its approval process for future deals. According to The Wall Street Journal, the move came after officials at the White House and State Department discovered the Pentagon had supplied arms to Israel without their approval. Just hours after Israel’s shelling of a U.N. school last month, the Pentagon confirmed it had resupplied Israeli ammunition. An unnamed diplomat told The Wall Street Journal officials were “blindsided” by the deal, although an unnamed defense official said it was handled properly. Britain has said it is prepared to suspend some arms exports to Israel if its assault on Gaza resumes. A new five-day ceasefire began Thursday and appears to be holding. Israel is now facing an inquiry from a U.N. panel over possible war crimes committed during the offensive in Gaza, which killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel were killed. On social media, Palestinians have been posting messages of solidarity and advice on how to deal with tear gas to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
Amidst the ceasefire, five people were killed and several more wounded on Wednesday as Gaza’s bomb disposal team dismantled an Israeli missile. The victims included two journalists with the Associated Press: Italian journalist Simone Camilli, who was killed, and Hatem Moussa, a Palestinian photographer from Gaza, who was seriously injured. AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt paid tribute to Camilli.
Gary Pruitt: “Simone was the first foreign journalist killed covering the Gaza war. He had worked with AP since 2005, when he was hired in Rome. He’s well known and highly regarded throughout AP and highly regarded throughout the entire European media. He brought a unique ability to personalize his stories and portray the human drama in them, with an incredible eye for detail.”
Ukrainian officials have begun inspecting a Russian aid convoy bound for rebel-held cities in the east. Russia says the convoy contains humanitarian aid for areas under heavy assault by Ukrainian forces. But Ukraine says the convoy could be used as cover to sneak in military supplies to the pro-Russian rebels.
Five Muslim Americans have filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the U.S. government of unjustly placing them on the terrorist watchlist. One plaintiff in the suit, Yaseen Kadura, says a federal official tried to pressure him into becoming a government informant in Libya, using removal from the no-fly list as an incentive. The Intercept news site revealed last month the Obama administration has expanded the watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted. Hundreds of thousands of watchlisted individuals are recognized as having no ties to terrorist groups.
Press freedom activists have delivered a petition with more than 125,000 signatures to the Justice Department in support of New York Times investigative journalist James Risen. Risen has risked possible prison time by refusing to divulge the source behind his exposé on a failed CIA operation to deliver faulty nuclear bomb blueprints to Iran. Federal prosecutors believe the leak came from alleged CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, whose trial opens soon. Speaking in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Risen thanked his supporters and said he is seeking to defend the rights of future journalists.
James Risen: “There is just no way to conduct aggressive investigative reporting without a reporter’s privilege of some kind, without confidential sources. And I don’t believe you can have a democracy without aggressive investigative reporting and without freedom of the press.”
An Iranian-born mathematician has become the first woman to win math’s highest honor. Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani said in a statement that she hopes her winning of the Fields Medal will encourage other young female scientists and mathematicians.