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Fighting continues to rage in eastern Ukraine amidst a worsening standoff between Kiev and Moscow. Separatist rebels have made several gains on Ukrainian forces in recent days. Ukraine says Russian troops are directly involved, with President Petro Poroshenko accusing Moscow of “direct and open aggression.” On Monday, Russia renewed calls for a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and the separatists. But Ukraine has vowed to continue the fight, saying a ceasefire would mark a Russian victory. In a statement, the Ukrainian defense minister, Valeriy Geletey, said: “A great war has arrived at our doorstep — the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II. Unfortunately, the losses in such a war will be measured not in the hundreds, but thousands and tens of thousands.”
The continued violence in Ukraine comes ahead of a NATO summit in Britain later this week. NATO officials say they plan to approve a 4,000-member force that could be rapidly deployed to eastern Europe in response to “Russia’s aggressive behavior.”
President Obama has notified Congress of new U.S. airstrikes on Iraq nearly one month after they began. Over the weekend, U.S. warplanes bombed targets around the Iraqi city of Amerli, which has been under a two-month siege by the militant group Islamic State, or ISIL. Iraqi forces and Shi’ite fighters were able to break the siege on Sunday. The attacks come as President Obama weighs strikes on ISIL in neighboring Syria. Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said when it comes to taking on the Islamic State, President Obama has been “too cautious.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is, he’s very cautious — maybe, in this instance, too cautious. I do know that the military, I know that the State Department, I know that others have been putting plans together, and so hopefully those plans will coalesce into a strategy that can encourage that coalition from Arab nations.”
The United States has carried out more than 100 strikes on Iraq since Obama ordered the bombing campaign on August 8. On Monday, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to investigate the Islamic State for crimes and abuses at the request of the Iraqi government.
The United States has carried out a new military operation in Somalia. The Pentagon says it was targeting leaders of the militant group al-Shabab, but released no further details. Local reports say U.S. drones launched attacks Monday near the port city of Barawe, an al-Shabab stronghold. The strike comes as The Washington Post reports the United States has reached an agreement to open a second drone base in Niger.
Israel has announced what is believed to be its largest seizure of Palestinian land in three decades. The Israeli government says it will take nearly 1,000 acres near Bethlehem to help expand one of its illegal West Bank settlements. Yariv Oppenheimer of the Israeli group Peace Now said the Israeli government is undermining any chances of a negotiated peace.
Yariv Oppenheimer: “This new declaration of expansion of settlement by the Israeli government is very significant. We don’t remember such a big announcement since the last one or two decades. This is a stab in the back of [Mahmoud] Abbas and the moderate people in the Palestinian Authority. Instead of strengthening the Palestinian Authority versus Hamas, Israel is showing its harder side and actually in a unilateral move expand settlement activity and destroy the chance for re-negotiation with the Palestinian Authority.”
The Israeli Cabinet voted last week to seize more Palestinian territory in response to the June kidnapping and murder of three settler teenagers in the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, a U.N.-backed group says it will take 20 years to repair the damage caused by Israel’s recent assault. According to Shelter Cluster, Israel’s seven-week attack on Gaza destroyed 17,000 housing units. Palestinian officials say Israel has continued to ban the import of construction materials since last month’s ceasefire agreement was reached.
Pakistan continues to face a political crisis in the face of massive anti-government protests. Thousands of people have camped out in front of the Parliament building in Islamabad in a call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Opponents accuse Sharif of corruption and vote rigging. The protests have turned violent in recent days, with demonstrators briefly occupying a government broadcaster and street clashes that left three dead and more than 500 wounded. The Pakistani Parliament is holding an emergency session to discuss the crisis today.
Protesters marched in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, three weeks after the police killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. The officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, remains on paid leave as he faces a grand jury investigation.
Protester: “People are beyond angry, and we’re frustrated. We feel that three weeks later there’s been no actionable words. We don’t have an arrest. We don’t even really know why the officer has not been indicted.”
Among those who attended Saturday’s march was Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Rev. Raphael Warnock: “We are here today because while this is an issue that occurred in Ferguson, it really is emblematic of a national problem. The national problem being police brutality, the overpolicing of communities of color. Mike Brown died as a tragic casualty in an ongoing battle, it seems to me, for the soul of America.”
On Monday, a small group staged a symbolic action by blocking a state highway for several minutes, bringing traffic to a halt. A larger highway blockade was called off after a request from Michael Brown’s father. Organizers say they plan to hold another highway blockade at a later date in a bid for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
An Oklahoma police officer has been indicted on allegations of rape and sexual assault against eight women, all of them African-American. Daniel Holtzclaw is accused of carrying out the alleged assaults after threatening victims with arrest if they did not comply with his sexual demands. Holtzclaw faces of charges of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and indecent exposure.
Federal judges have blocked a pair of new laws that could have closed most of the 19 abortion clinics in Texas and all five of facilities in Louisiana. On Friday, a federal judge blocked a Texas law due to take effect Monday that would have required all abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgery centers — even those that offer non-surgical abortions with medication, and simple early surgical abortions. Last year, the controversial rule drew mass protest and an 11-hour filibuster by State Sen. Wendy Davis, who is now running for governor. Meanwhile on Sunday, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a temporary restraining order just hours before a new abortion law would have begun forcing physicians who provide abortion services to have patient-admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice. We will have more on this story after headlines.
The nation’s top immigration court has issued a landmark ruling for immigrant women victimized by domestic violence in their home countries. The Board of Immigration Appeals ruled last week for the first time immigrant women who have faced severe abuse from a spouse or partner can obtain U.S. asylum. The ruling came after the Obama administration abandoned a long-running federal stance in the case of an abuse victim from Guatemala.
President Obama had vowed to take executive action on immigration reform by the end of the summer in the absence of Congress, but he is now reportedly considering a delay. The New York Times reports Obama is weighing whether to put off action until after the midterm elections in November.