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Two U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have reportedly killed over three dozen people in Iraq, including at least 20 civilians. Hospital sources told Reuters a strike near the Syrian border killed nine civilians and 17 Islamic State militants, while a separate bombing west of Baghdad killed 11 civilians and six militants.
The BBC and Washington Post have revealed the identity of the British man nicknamed “Jihadi John” who has been featured in several Islamic State beheading videos. The outlets say the Kuwaiti-born man is Mohammed Emwazi, who lived in West London and was known to British security services.
ISIS militants have continued to capture Christians from villages in northeastern Syria during a three-day offensive. Activist groups have put the total number of Christian hostages between 220 and 300.
In other news from Syria, Human Rights Watch says the Syrian government’s use of improvised barrel bombs on rebel-held areas has increased over the past year. Hundreds of bombings have been carried out in Daraa and Aleppo, two key rebel-held battlegrounds in Syria’s civil war. The news comes just as the United Nations seeks to secure a truce in Aleppo after the Assad regime said it is willing to stop the attacks. In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: “For a year, the security council has done nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad’s murderous air bombing campaign on rebel-held areas, which has terrorized, killed, and displaced civilians. Amid talk of a possible temporary cessation of strikes on Aleppo, the question is whether Russia and China will finally allow the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions to stop barrel bombs.”
In Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber has attacked a vehicle belonging to the top NATO envoy in the country. Turkish officials say the attack on the security team of envoy Ismail Aramaz killed a Turkish soldier and wounded at least one other person. The blast took place in the capital Kabul, near a number of embassies.
In northern Afghanistan, more than 200 people have been killed in a series of avalanches amidst heavy snowfall. The avalanches engulfed homes across multiple provinces, burying the people beneath. Agence France-Presse reports at least 168 people were killed in the province of Panjshir, where local authorities say they have not seen so much snow for decades.
In northern Bolivia, thousands of people have been displaced by historic floods after the Acre River overflowed its banks. Footage from the area shows residents paddling in boats through flooded streets. Vice President Álvaro García Linera spoke during a visit to the region.
Vice President Álvaro García Linera: “As you have seen, various houses, various towns have been affected. It is unprecedented. We see flooding each year, but this year it has reached levels we have not seen before. … In our visit through these streets, which have now become rivers, we have seen between 500 and 800 houses affected, at least. That means 800, 1,000, 1,500 families who have had water rising up to the second floor in their houses. In some cases, the water is covering the roof.”
Scientists have warned increased flooding and heavy snowfall are both fueled by human-caused climate change, as are the bitter cold and snowstorms battering swaths of the United States. In Georgia, the weather delayed the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, who was set to become the first woman put to death in the state in about 70 years. The delay marks the first time Georgia has postponed an execution due to extreme weather.
The Federal Communications Commission votes today on historic rules to protect an open Internet. Earlier this month, after receiving a record number of public comments, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler proposed reclassifying the Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. The new rules would prevent Internet service providers like Comcast from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for Internet service. The FCC is expected to pass the rules, setting up a showdown with Republican lawmakers and telecom companies.
Three residents of Brooklyn, New York, have been arrested and charged with supporting the Islamic State. Authorities say one of the suspects was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport while attempting to fly to Turkey and join the militants in Syria. A second man, who had a ticket for next month, was arrested in Brooklyn. A third was picked up in Florida and accused of helping fund their plans. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would increase counterterrorism measures.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “We all take the threat of ISIS very, very seriously. The vigilance levels that we maintain every day are our best shield, but we’re going to continue to deepen our anti-terrorism capacity. And I think so much of what we’re trying to do is making sure that not only do we have the number of officers on anti-terror duty that we need, the training, the equipment, etc., but that we’re also constantly deepening our relationship with communities all over the city, so there’s a flow of information.”
The Brooklyn case involved the use of a confidential informant paid by the government who befriended two of the men and helped them with travel arrangements. The informant apparently helped the 19-year-old suspect with travel documents after his mother became worried and took her son’s passport. The Intercept news website notes: “Crucially, it appears that only after the introduction of the informant did any actual actual arrangements to commit a criminal act come into existence.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments in a landmark religious discrimination case involving a Muslim woman rejected from a job for wearing a headscarf. Samantha Elauf was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, even though she was rated highly by her interviewer, because a manager objected to her hijab. The retailer’s rules on employee attire included a ban on caps. The Supreme Court justices appear poised to reverse a lower court ruling rejecting Elauf’s case because she had not explicitly disclosed her religion or asked for an exemption. Christine Nazer, a spokesperson for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought the case, read a statement from Elauf outside the court.
Christine Nazer, reading statement by Samantha Elauf: “No one had ever told me that I could not wear a headscarf and sell clothing. Then I learned I was not hired by Abercrombie because I wear a headscarf, which is a symbol of modesty in my Muslim faith. This was shocking to me. I am grateful to the EEOC for looking into my complaint and taking my religious discrimination case to the courts. I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work.”
Documents leaked by Edward Snowden have revealed the Canadian government is stashing millions of its own citizens’ emails. Under a massive cybersecurity operation revealed jointly by the CBC and The Intercept, Canada has monitored visits to government websites and collected emails to the government at a rate of 400,000 per day, sometimes keeping the data for years.
Mexico has condemned the police killing of an unarmed Mexican immigrant in Texas, two weeks after another such killing sparked protests in Washington state. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García during a traffic stop after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. The shooting came just days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Authorities say police fired 17 shots at Zambrano, hitting him five or six times. Cellphone video shows Zambrano, who was also unarmed, turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot.
Marijuana has become legal in the nation’s capital. Starting today, adults over 21 can possess up to two ounces of pot in Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed to press ahead with legalization, despite opposition from Republicans in Congress, who even threatened to jail her. Congress has oversight of laws in D.C., and Republicans tucked a measure into a spending bill to block new laws easing marijuana rules in the district. But Bowser says the restriction is invalid, because it passed a month after pot legalization was approved by 70 percent of D.C. voters.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: “We know that the residents of the District of Columbia spoke loud and clear last November 4th when they adopted Initiative 71 to legalize small amounts of marijuana in Washington, D.C. And we are, our government is prepared to implement and enforce Initiative 71 in the District of Columbia.”
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz told The Washington Post the mayor’s move was illegal, saying, “You can go to prison for this.” D.C. joins three states — Washington, Colorado and Alaska — where pot is now legal. Meanwhile, House lawmakers in Georgia have overwhelmingly passed a bill to legalize cannabis oil for patients with seizure disorders and other conditions. This comes as new research in the journal Scientific Reports has found marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. The study found alcohol is by far the riskiest drug, followed by heroin, cocaine and tobacco.
Civil rights groups have condemned the decision by a federal appeals court panel to dismiss a class-action lawsuit over New York City’s 2011 mass arrest of Occupy Wall Street protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. In August, the same panel allowed the lawsuit challenging the arrest of more than 700 peaceful protesters to move forward. But this week, the panel reversed itself, dismissing the case. In a statement, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which filed the lawsuit, said: “The Court has abruptly doubled back on itself to tell the people of New York that if they participate in a police-led and escorted march, peaceful and compliant with all directives from the police, they can be subject to a shocking corralling and mass arrest by the NYPD without any notice that such permission has been revoked or opportunity to disperse.”
Dori Maynard, a journalist and longtime advocate for media diversity and accurate news coverage of people of color, has died of complications from lung cancer at the age of 56. Maynard was president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, co-founded by and named for her father, who became the first African American to own a major daily newspaper when he bought the Oakland Tribune in 1983. In a recent interview posted by the Institute for Black Male Achievement, Maynard answered the question: “Why do you do what you do?”
Dori Maynard: “So, for years, when people would ask me this question, I would tell them, 'Because I don't want my younger brothers to get shot.’ And I think people thought I was being a little overly dramatic. And then Trayvon Martin got shot, and then Jordan Davis got shot, and I think people began to understand what I was saying, which is that that’s happening against the backdrop of a steady barrage of inaccurate and distorted coverage of black men, that pigeonholes them in coverage, makes them look like predators, or riddled with pathology, makes them the face of the problem. And until we change that, no matter what we do to prepare black men to be successful in this society, we’re sending them out into a hostile environment.”
Dori Maynard died at home in West Oakland, California, on Tuesday.
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