President Obama has claimed progress in fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State while urging U.S. allies to do more. Speaking after a national security meeting at the Pentagon, Obama touted the gains of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq and Syria, claiming it’s hitting ISIL “harder than ever.”
President Obama: “This continues to be a difficult fight. As I said before, ISIL is dug in, including in urban areas, and they hide behind civilians, using defenseless men, women and children as human shields. So even as we’re relentless, we have to be smart, targeting ISIL surgically, with precision. … We are hitting ISIL harder than ever. Coalition aircraft, our fighters, bombers and drones have been increasing the pace of airstrikes—nearly 9,000 as of today.”
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow to meet with Russian leaders and attempt to pave the way for possible peace talks on Syria. We’ll have more on Syria and the Islamic State after headlines.
In the Philippines, at least three people have been killed and millions left without power by Typhoon Melor. In preparation for the storm, the Philippines evacuated nearly 800,000 people, marking one of its largest mass evacuations in recent years.
In Ethiopia, at least five and potentially dozens of people have been killed amid a crackdown on students protesting a government plan to expand the capital, Addis Ababa. Protesters say the move will cause the forcible evictions of farmers from the Oromo ethnic group. Last year, Ethiopian forces opened fire on peaceful Oromo protesters, killing dozens. The Ethiopian government has put the death toll from the past few weeks of protest at five, but opposition reports say more than 30 people have been killed.
Yemen’s rival factions have entered U.N.-brokered peace talks in Switzerland as a seven-day ceasefire takes effect. The truce comes amid reports U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes killed 19 Yemeni civilians in their homes and at a market over the weekend. About half of the nearly 6,000 people killed in Yemen’s conflict are civilians, including more than 600 children.
Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years in Taliban captivity, will face a general court-martial for leaving his post at a base in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl was released by the Taliban last year in exchange for five Guantánamo prisoners. He has said he walked off his post in an attempt to reach another U.S. base and report wrongdoing in his unit. The Army officer who investigated his case testified against any prison time and recommended Bergdahl go before a special court-martial, where his maximum possible punishment would be a year behind bars. But on Monday, Army General Robert Abrams ordered Bergdahl before a general court-martial—the most serious form of trial—where he faces a possible life sentence on charges of desertion and endangering troops. A new report by the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee alleges the White House misled Congress and violated federal law with Bergdahl’s prisoner exchange. The news comes as the second season of the hit podcast “Serial” focuses on Bergdahl’s case.
Donald Trump has reached an all-time high in a new national poll ahead of tonight’s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas. The Monmouth University poll finds Trump has 41 percent support among Republican-leaning voters, nearly three times as much as his closest rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz. At a rally in Las Vegas Monday, Trump was repeatedly interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters. An MSNBC reporter attending the event said Trump’s supporters yelled “Shoot him!” “Kick his ass!” and even “Sieg heil”—a Nazi salute—as one protester was dragged away. Video shot by a BuzzFeed reporter shows rally-goers yelling “Light the (expletive) on fire!” at an African-American protester.
A new report finds the flagship news programs at major networks NBC, CBS and ABC have dedicated 234 minutes this year to stories about Donald Trump—compared to just 10 minutes for Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The gap comes despite Trump and Sanders often having similar levels of support in primary polls. The Tyndall Report found ABC’s World News Tonight, for example, has devoted 81 minutes to Trump campaign stories—and less than one minute to Sanders, for the entire year.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has outlined her policy on immigration. Speaking in Brooklyn, New York, Monday, Clinton promised to waive fees associated with naturalization, close privately run detention centers and help create a path to full citizenship for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States.
Hillary Clinton: “We are a big-hearted country, and we should never forget that, and we shouldn’t let anybody on the public stage say that we are mean-spirited, that we are going to build walls—mentally and physically—that we’re going to shut doors, and we’re going to lose the talents and the contributions of millions of people who are here doing the best they can, building lives for themselves and their children.”
Clinton was interrupted by protesters who criticized her previous remarks on immigration and called for a moratorium on immigrant detention.
A federal judge has blocked Ohio from taking legal action against Planned Parenthood after the Ohio attorney general accused clinics of improperly disposing of fetal remains in landfills. Planned Parenthood filed suit, calling the accusations “flat-out false” and accusing Ohio officials of trying to end abortion access. Ohio’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is part of the fallout from heavily edited anti-choice videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the donation of fetal tissue to medical researchers. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched a four-month probe into Planned Parenthood, but, as in multiple other investigations, he found no evidence Planned Parenthood is profiting from tissue donations.
Attacks against Planned Parenthood clinics have continued across the country. In California, a man has been charged with making death threats against an executive at StemExpress, a tissue research firm that once worked with Planned Parenthood. In St. Louis, Missouri, a woman has been charged with smashing the windows of a Planned Parenthood clinic that provided birth control, cancer screenings and STD testing—but not abortions.
In Tennessee, a woman has been charged with attempted first-degree murder for trying to induce an abortion with a coat hanger. Anna Yocca was arrested last week after being rushed to the hospital, where doctors delivered her 1.5-pound, 24-week baby. In a statement, the Tennessee-based reproductive justice group SisterReach said: “Our greatest fear has come to pass, and it could have been avoided. Women are attempting to self-abort due to restrictive abortion and punitive fetal assault legislation.”
Seattle has become the first city in the United States to allow drivers who work for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to unionize. The Seattle City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance Monday following a campaign by drivers and supporters.
Privacy advocates are sounding the alarm after they say lawmakers tucked a controversial cybersurveillance measure into a key spending bill. Critics say the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, will expand mass surveillance by allowing corporations to share sensitive user data under the guise of cybersecurity. Major tech companies, including Apple, Google and Twitter, have joined a wave of opposition to CISA. Now the group Fight for the Future is calling on Obama to veto the measure amid reports it was added to the so-called must-pass budget bill Congress is due to take up this week in order to avert a government shutdown.
Jurors are deliberating the fate of Baltimore police officer William Porter, the first of six officers to go to trial over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Gray’s family attorney said his “spine was 80 percent severed at his neck.” His death led to an uprising in Baltimore over police abuse of African Americans. Officer Porter faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on charges including involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, a police commander accused of putting his gun in a man’s mouth has been acquitted by a judge. Commander Glenn Evans said he chased the man, Ricky Williams, because he saw a gun in his hand. Commander Evans was accused of holding a Taser to Williams’ groin, shoving his gun in Williams’ mouth and threatening to kill him if he didn’t reveal the gun’s location. The judge acquitted Evans, after questioning Williams’ reliability.
And Monday marked the third anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother, 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself. Since the shooting, Congress has failed to pass a single gun control measure, apart from renewing an expiring ban on plastic guns. An NBC News tally finds 555 children under the age of 12 have died from gunshots since the Sandy Hook massacre—that’s the equivalent of one child shooting victim every other day. At a rally outside the National Rifle Association in Virginia, Reverend Jim Atwood was among about 100 protesters to call for gun control.
Rev. Jim Atwood: “We pray that you would give comfort and peace to all those whose broken hearts need mending. We gather as a people who grieve in front of a powerful NRA, whose only response to mass shootings and the murder of children is to ask everyone to get a gun.”
Wednesday marks the first anniversary of another school massacre. On December 16, 2014, Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing more than 150 people, most of them children from military families. It was the deadliest militant attack in Pakistan’s history.