Peaceful protests continued last night in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. Prosecutors have begun presenting evidence before a grand jury to determine whether the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, will face criminal charges. Wilson remains on paid leave. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson and met with Brown’s parents amidst an ongoing federal probe into possible violations of civil rights.
Eric Holder: “My hope also is that through the trip that I’m making out here today and by stressing the importance of and the way in which this investigation is going, that hopefully will have a calming influence on the area. If people know that a federal, thorough investigation is being done, being manned by these very capable people, my hope is that that will give people some degree of confidence that the appropriate things are being done by their federal government.”
A police officer caught on video threatening to kill peaceful protesters in Ferguson has been suspended indefinitely. Video from Tuesday night shows the officer pointing his semi-automatic assault rifle at protesters and telling them to “go f— yourself.” The officer has been identified as Lt. Ray Albers of the Saint Ann police. Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera America team reports another police officer in Kinloch, Missouri, which is next to Ferguson, ordered them to leave an area where they were shooting video footage, and threatened to “bust your head.” At the time, they were on a public street. We’ll have more on Ferguson after headlines.
St. Louis police have released cellphone footage of the shooting of a 25-year-old black man that appears to conflict with their description of the story. On Tuesday, police shot and killed Kajieme Powell after he was accused of stealing energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. Police Chief Sam Dotson said Powell had been shot three or four feet from the officers after brandishing a knife in an “overhand grip” and refusing repeated orders to drop it. But the cellphone video shows Powell appears to be further away than that and has his hands at his side. It also shows police shot Powell within about 20 seconds of arriving at the scene. The shooting happened about three miles from where Michael Brown was killed.
Israel has continued its assault on the Gaza Strip following the collapse of the latest ceasefire. Three senior Hamas commanders have reportedly died in an airstrike on the Gaza Strip earlier today near the southern town of Rafah. The strike came one day after a failed Israeli strike targeting Hamas’ top commander. The airstrike missed Mohammed Deif but killed his wife and young son. According to Agence France-Presse, at least six Palestinians, four of them children, were killed in Israeli attacks overnight in the northern town of Beit Lahia and in Gaza City. Another four Palestinians died in an airstrike on a graveyard in Gaza City. Speaking Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the assault on Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Only the guarantee of the calm and safety of Israeli citizens (will bring an end to this operation), and therefore I will continue to operate with firmness and insistence. Operation Protective Edge is not finished, not for a minute. We are talking about a continued campaign.”
More than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians and hundreds of them children, have been killed since Israel began its offensive six weeks ago. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died. Protests against the Israeli assault on Gaza have continued across the country and around the world. Here in New York City on Wednesday, a massive Palestinian flag was unfurled from the Manhattan Bridge which connects Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Protesters marched parallel to it along the Brooklyn Bridge. We’ll have more on Gaza later in the broadcast.
In Liberia, residents of a neighborhood in the capital Monrovia clashed with police and soldiers Wednesday after all entrances to the area were sealed off amidst fears of Ebola. West Point is home to tens of thousands of people. Residents there threw rocks and stormed barricades after awakening to realize they were trapped inside. Police fired live rounds and tear gas. Over the weekend, residents in West Point stormed a school where Ebola patients were being held, reportedly without medical treatment. At least 17 patients escaped but were later found and brought to a medical center. The head of Doctors Without Borders told The New York Times all healthcare facilities in Monrovia are “basically closed” as the system has virtually collapsed. Of the four countries affected in West Africa, Liberia has seen the most new cases. The outbreak has killed at least 1,350 people, more than all other Ebola outbreaks combined. In the United States, Dr. Kent Brantly, who received an experimental drug after contracting Ebola in Liberia, has reportedly recovered and will be released from the hospital today.
The Obama administration has launched new airstrikes on Islamic State militants in Iraq. The strikes came after the Islamic State released a video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley and threatened to kill another U.S. journalist if the airstrikes do not stop. On Wednesday, Obama vowed to continue the fight against the militants, who are also known as ISIL.
President Obama: “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant, and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.”
Obama administration officials have revealed U.S. special operations forces tried and failed to free James Foley and other hostages during a secret raid in Syria earlier this summer. The team of commandos battled Islamic State militants but did not find any hostages. It is the first confirmed use of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria since the civil war began. The New York Times reports the United States also refused to pay a multimillion-dollar ransom for Foley’s release.
The parents of journalist James Foley spoke to reporters on Wednesday after the U.S. government confirmed the validity of the video showing their son’s beheading. Diane Foley said she is praying for the release of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, who is also shown in the video, as well as for peace.
Diane Foley: “Jim believed in our country. We’re a great country. Jim was a great American, and he believed in the very best of our country. So I just pray that, as a country, we can come together and help there be peace on Earth, just pray for that, and we pray that somehow Steven and the others might be spared.”
It is unclear exactly how many American captives are being held by Islamic militants in Syria. Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists said over the past three years Syria has consistently been the most dangerous place for journalists, with 69 killed covering the conflict.
Sherif Mansour: “There are more than 80 cases of kidnaps that we know. Many of those kidnappings were not public, were hard to track, but at least there are 20 right now that we know are kidnapped in Syria, including foreign and local journalists, many of whom in ISIS or Islamic State custody.”
The United Nations has launched a massive relief effort aimed at reaching half a million people displaced by the advance of Islamic State militants in northern Iraq. Edward Colt, spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency, said many are in need.
Edward Colt: “The needs are absolutely massive right now. We’ve had 1.2 million people displaced in this country since January, hundreds of thousands just in the last few weeks alone. So in the next 10 days, we’re going to be bringing in some 2,500 tons of aid, sending it out to those in need. And again, they are in need, because we see it every day, people who are living in churches, mosques, by the side of the road, in schools, in unfinished buildings.”
The family members of 12 people killed and others injured in a U.S. drone strike on a wedding party in Yemen last year have received condolence payments totaling more than $1 million. Documents provided by the group Reprieve to The Washington Post show the payment ostensibly came from the Yemeni government, but the high amount suggests the U.S. government is providing reimbursement. The documents also show the identities of those killed. They include a 29-year-old man identified as an associate of a Yemeni group working against Islamist militancy.
Yemen is facing mounting protests from a Shia rebel group known as the Houthis. The group has issued a Friday deadline for Yemen to roll back a hike in fuel prices, which have impacted the poor, and to dissolve the government, which they say is corrupt. Thousands have gathered at protest camps in the capital Sana’a.
In Hiroshima, Japan, at least 39 people are dead and seven others missing following flash floods and landslides caused by torrential rain. In one hard-hit ward, a record of more than eight-and-a-half inches of rain fell in a period of three hours.
In Egypt, a leading activist and blogger has launched a hunger strike to protest his third imprisonment since the start of the 2011 revolution. Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in a protest. During a prior stint in prison, he missed the birth of his first child. He launched his fast Monday after finding out his father is in dire health.
In Afghanistan, the attorney general has ordered the expulsion of New York Times correspondent Matthew Rosenberg, after he published an article on the country’s political crisis. With two candidates claiming victory in the presidential race, Rosenberg reported top Afghan officials are considering forming an interim government, an act that would amount to a coup. Speaking Wednesday in Kabul, Rosenberg said Afghan authorities first ordered him to remain in the country, then ordered him to leave.
Matthew Rosenberg: “Yesterday, when I wasn’t allowed to leave the country, they put that out in the media. Today, when I have to leave the country, they put it out in the media. You know, to us, this looks like a politically motivated thing. We’re trying to respect Afghan due process, and we’re simply — we’d appreciate the same from the authorities.”
Thousands rallied in Dublin, Ireland, to protest anti-choice laws after a teenage rape victim was denied an abortion and forced to undergo a C-section. The woman, who has not been named, said she first sought an abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant, but the state deliberately delayed her case. She reported being suicidal, went on a hunger strike and was ultimately forced to deliver prematurely at 25 weeks. Ireland softened its ban on abortion last year following the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died from an infection after being denied an abortion. While abortion is now allowed if a woman’s life is in danger, including from suicide, critics say the new rules are complex and may be nearly impossible to navigate.
Argentina has floated a new plan to repay its creditors domestically and avoid the jurisdiction of a U.S. court which sent the country into default. A U.S. judge blocked Argentina from making any repayments without also repaying vulture funds led by billionaire Paul Singer. The firms have demanded full repayment after buying Argentina’s debt for bargain prices after its financial crisis. The Argentine government has sent its congress a bill to service the debt through its own central bank instead of through the Bank of New York Mellon.
Bank of America has agreed to pay nearly $17 billion to settle a probe over its sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities that fueled the financial crisis. It is the largest corporate settlement with the federal government in U.S. history.