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Tensions continue to mount between the United States and Russia over alleged Russian military operations inside Ukraine. On Thursday, NATO released satellite images it says show Russian artillery, vehicles and troops in and around eastern Ukraine. At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power accused Russia of duplicity.
Samantha Power: "Instead of listening, instead of heeding the demands of the international community and the rules of the international order, at every step Russia has come before this Council to say everything except the truth. It has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied. So we have learned to measure Russia by its actions and not by its words. In the last 48 hours, Russia’s actions have spoken volumes."
Russia has questioned the satellite photos, accused the United States of meddling, and blamed Ukraine for failing to honor previous agreements. A new Human Rights Watch report, meanwhile, accuses the Russian-backed separatist rebels of arbitrarily detaining civilians and subjecting them to torture, degrading treatment and forced labor. Ambassadors from the 28 NATO countries and Ukraine are holding an emergency meeting today.
President Obama is sending Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East to help build a regional coalition against Islamic State, or ISIL, the militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the White House, Obama also said he has asked the Pentagon to draw up a range of military options.
President Obama: "I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat. As I’ve said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy."
Obama went on to tell reporters, "We don’t have a strategy yet." The White House is mulling options including expanding U.S. airstrikes on ISIL into Syria from Iraq. The United States admitted this week to flying surveillance missions over Syria to gather intelligence on ISIL.
The potential for U.S. strikes on ISIL in Syria comes as the group continues its bloody fight with the regime of Bashar al-Assad. New video posted to YouTube shows the bodies of some 250 Syrian soldiers reported killed by Islamic State fighters. The video was reportedly taken after the Islamic State seized an airbase in Raqqa over the weekend.
Four Western hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria were reportedly subjected to waterboarding, a key Bush-era torture method that simulates drowning. The Washington Post reports the hostages were waterboarded "several times" early in their captivity, including the murdered American journalist James Foley. The ISIL waterboarding was apparently modeled on the CIA’s use of it to interrogate prisoners following 9/11. President Obama banned waterboarding upon taking office in 2009 and recently described it as torture.
The United Nations continues to warn of a dire humanitarian situation in Syria. The official death toll from more than three years of civil war was recently increased to 191,000 — though the actual number is far higher. Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N.’s deputy emergency relief coordinator, briefed the Security Council on Thursday.
Kyung-wha Kang: "Mr. President, over the past six months [since a U.N. resolution], the plight of people in Syria has not been reduced but has deepened. The violence and conflict continues unabated with more deaths of women, children and men. The social and economic fabric of the country has been ripped to shreds."
More than 1,000 people were killed or injured in Syria last month. The official number of refugees has topped three million, an increase of one million in the last year.
More than 100 people have been arrested in front of the White House protesting the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Demonstrators laid red carnations over photos of loved ones who have been deported. The rally came as part of a national day of action in more than a dozen cities calling on President Obama to take executive action on immigration reform.
Jonathan Perez: "I’m an immigrant, and I achieved the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], so I can manage to work legally now, but I’m the only one in my family, and it saddens me to know that I went over half of what my mom makes in two weeks. So, I want her to have the opportunity to make as much money as I do, and no matter what kind of work she’s doing. So, you know, I feel like I need to be out here in support of everyone, because I want everyone to have equal rights."
Speaking inside the White House, Obama renewed his pleas to Congress for the passage of immigration reform. But he also suggested he would take executive action if it is the only way to act.
President Obama: "I have been very clear about the fact that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. And my preference continues to be that Congress act. I don’t think anybody thinks that Congress is going to act in the short term, but hope springs eternal that after the midterm elections they may act. The good news is, we’ve started to make some progress. You know, what we’ve seen so far is that throughout the summer, the number of apprehensions have been decreasing. Maybe that’s counterintuitive, but that’s a good thing, because that means that fewer folks are coming across."
Nine Mexican immigrants who say they were coerced into accepting deportation have won the right to return to the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the immigrants last year, claiming they were misinformed and pressured into signing voluntary deportation paperwork. Under an agreement unveiled this week, immigration authorities have pledged to change their practices and provide detained immigrants with access to accurate information and outside communication. While the case applies only to nine people deported from California, a judge could potentially expand it to thousands of others.
Argentina is facing its second general strike this year over inflation and unemployment. Labor unions have called a 24-hour work stoppage nationwide, slowing travel and public services. The action follows an initial general strike held in April.
The National Football League has changed its domestic violence policy following public outcry over lax standards. Earlier this year, the NFL came under criticism after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended just two games despite video footage showing him dragging his unconscious fiancée by her hair and dropping her face-first onto the ground. Witnesses say Rice had punched his fiancée moments before. In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said his initial response was inadequate, saying: "I didn’t get it right." Under the new rules, a first offense will result in a six-game suspension, and a second offense will earn a lifetime ban.
A group of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, has filed a lawsuit against local police for alleged abuses in the crackdown on the protests over the killing of Michael Brown. The group Black Lawyers for Justice is seeking $41.5 million on behalf of five plaintiffs who say they were detained, beaten, tear-gassed or shot with rubber bullets in the protests’ first days. One of the plaintiffs says police used racial epithets after shooting him with rubber bullets and almost drowning him in a ditch.
The company behind a video messaging app has authenticated a recording allegedly capturing the moment Michael Brown was shot. An unidentified resident was taping a message for a friend when the gunshots rang out in the background, at least 10 in total. The company Glide has confirmed the recording was made at the time of the shooting.
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