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In Italy, the death toll continues to rise from a devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake. At least 247 people are confirmed dead. Dozens more people are still missing, as search and rescue teams are using everything from bulldozers to bare hands to scour the rubble for bodies and survivors. The earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday morning. Homes, churches, stores and even a hotel collapsed as people were sleeping. This is a local resident speaking Wednesday about the earthquake.
Alessandro Gabrielli: “Tonight will be our first nightmare night, because last night I woke up with a sound that sounded like a bomb. It was deafening. And then it was also disheartening, because everything was collapsing on me. Tonight, we think we’ll sleep together with our relatives and friends in the tents that they are providing us.”
This comes as a 6.8-magnitude earthquake also struck Burma on Wednesday, killing three people.
In Afghanistan, at least 13 people have been killed in an attack on the American University in Kabul. Seven of the victims were students. The attack began with a car bomb explosion. Gunmen then forced their way into the university and opened fire. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Two weeks ago, American University of Afghanistan temporarily suspended campus operations after two teachers, an Australian and an American, were kidnapped at gunpoint.
In news on Colombia, government officials and FARC rebels signed a historic peace accord during a ceremony in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday. The signing is the latest step in the efforts to end one of the world’s longest conflicts. It began in 1964 and has claimed some 220,000 lives. More than 5 million people are estimated to have been displaced. Speaking in Havana on Wednesday, FARC peace negotiator Iván Márquez celebrated the historic agreement.
Iván Márquez: “I believe we have won the most beautiful of all battles: the battle for peace in Colombia. Today, we closed in Havana, Cuba, the peace process Colombia has most yearned for—land, democracy, victims, policies, weapons, the implementation of the accords as international eyes look on. Among others, these are the elements of an agreement that will need to be converted—sooner rather than later—by a referendum in a norm to guarantee a future with dignity for all.”
In news from the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has slammed a new Associated Press investigation into her meetings with Clinton Foundation donors while she served as secretary of state. The investigation revealed that more than half of the private citizens she met with had donated to the Clinton Foundation. This does not include her meetings with U.S. or foreign government workers or representatives. In response, Clinton has called the investigation “absurd” and said, “There’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.” She’s also said the investigation is incomplete. But the AP says it has been asking for the schedules for three years and that what has been released thus far covers only half of her four-year tenure. We’ll host a debate about the Clinton Foundation after headlines.
British politician Nigel Farage joined Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Mississippi Wednesday. Farage was one of the leaders of Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union, known as “Brexit.” Trump has praised Brexit, saying the British people had “taken back their country.” Farage did not endorse Trump on Wednesday, but he did slam Hillary Clinton.
Nigel Farage: “If I was an American citizen, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. … You can go out. You can beat the pollsters. You can beat the commentators. You can beat Washington. And you’ll do it by doing what we did for Brexit in Britain.”
Donald Trump appeared to flip-flop on his immigration proposals during a town hall hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity that was broadcast Wednesday night. Donald Trump has made the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants one of the cornerstone proposals of his campaign. But at the town hall, Trump appeared to go back and forth, at times saying that he’d be willing to “work with” some undocumented people if they pay back taxes. Many commentators have pointed out this proposal is very similar to the plans put forward by Jeb Bush and his other opponents, whom Trump derided earlier in the campaign as being too soft on immigration. Many have also pointed out that undocumented immigrants already do pay taxes and are already required to pay any owed back taxes as part of immigration processes required to legally stay in the country. Sean Hannity has acknowledged advising the Trump campaign, saying, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”
The Turkish military deployed tanks and special operations troops into northern Syria Wednesday, backed by the U.S. Air Force. The offensive helped the Free Syrian Army take the town of Jarabulus from ISIS control. The operation was a major escalation of Turkey’s role in the ongoing Syrian war, and it came as Vice President Joe Biden visited Ankara Wednesday. The Pentagon says the U.S. launched airstrikes and helped advise the operation.
Meanwhile, a United Nations team has concluded the Assad government and ISIS militants have carried out repeated chemical weapons attacks in Syria in 2014 and 2015. The report accuses Assad of twice using chlorine gas. It also accuses ISIS of using mustard gas.
A new investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek has revealed police in Baltimore have been secretly testing an aerial surveillance system that records the movements and actions of Baltimore residents in real time from a low-flying plane. The technology has been adapted from the U.S. military’s surveillance programs aimed at detecting roadside bombs in Iraq. The plane is equipped with multiple cameras that can record 30-square-mile swaths of the city at a time. The plane is the creation of the private company Persistent Surveillance Systems. The project is bankrolled by John Arnold, a former Enron trader and hedge funder. The plane has been circling above Baltimore since January, without the public ever being notified.
Meanwhile, in New York, a new report says the New York Police Department Intelligence Bureau frequently broke rules while surveilling Muslim American residents after the September 11, 2001, attacks. The report was issued by the Office of the Inspector General for the New York Police Department Tuesday. It says the agency failed to offer information about the role of undercover cops and informants in intelligence gathering and let deadlines pass during investigations. The Inspector General’s Office says the violations demonstrate the need for continued oversight of the NYPD.
In Kashmir, another protester has been killed and as many as 50 people wounded when Indian security forces opened fire and threw tear gas at crowds of protesters. Residents say the confrontation came after Indian troops descended on a neighborhood, beating people and destroying a tent that was to host a meeting about Kashmir’s independence. It’s at least the 70th confirmed death in Kashmir since anti-India protests erupted on July 8, after Indian security forces killed a prominent Kashmiri independence leader. On Wednesday, the Indian home minister traveled to Kashmir for a two-day visit aimed at defusing the protests.
Ethiopian Olympic runner Feyisa Lelisa is expressing concern about going home, after he raised his arms in an “X” as he won a silver medal in the marathon to protest Ethiopia’s human rights abuses against his ethnic tribe, the Oromo people. For over two years, the Oromo have staged massive nationwide protests against the Ethiopian government. The protests were initially sparked by the government’s plan to lease a forest to private developers. Ethiopian forces have responded with a brutal crackdown against the Oromo protesters, killing hundreds of people. This is Feyisa Lelisa’s wife, speaking about her husband’s Olympic protest.
Iftu Mulisa: “I was very scared at the time, but I wasn’t surprised, because I know him. He was burning inside when he sees on social media all these dead bodies, people being beaten and people being arrested. So I was not surprised, because I know he has a lot of anger inside.”
In Louisiana, the Interior Department’s massive lease sale for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico attracted a record low number of bids on Wednesday. Only three companies expressed any interest, bidding on only 24 of the more than 4,000 tracts. Industry experts blamed low oil prices for the low number of bids. On Tuesday, four environmental activists were arrested protesting the lease sale—which came only one day after President Obama toured flood-damaged neighborhoods in Baton Rouge. Some areas are still submerged in feet of standing water, two weeks after the floods. The rainfall in Baton Rouge is the worst it’s been in recorded history, in close to 175 years.
In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people rallied in opposition to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, as a judge delayed his ruling in a federal lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers over the pipeline’s approval. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which filed the lawsuit, says it was not sufficiently consulted before the Army Corps of Engineers approved the 1,168-mile pipeline. The district court judge said he’d announce a decision in the suit by September 9. In North Dakota, thousands of indigenous people from dozens of tribes have gathered at the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp to block the pipeline’s construction. On Wednesday, camp leaders announced they’d continue the camp until the next trial date. This is Vic Camp.
Vic Camp: “We need each other. We have to stand together in unity to protect sacred water and Mother Earth. We stand with our chanunpa. We stand with our wives and our children and our grandparents. We stand with Ozuye to protect Mother Earth.”
Amnesty International says it is sending a delegation to Sacred Stone Spirit Camp to monitor the police and law enforcement response to the ongoing protests.
Scientists have discovered a new planet they say could have Earth-like conditions and maybe even liquid water on its surface. The planet has been named Proxima b. Scientists say the planet may be home to life.
And hundreds of students at the University of Texas at Austin rallied and carried thousands of dildos to their first day of classes to protest Texas’s new open-carry law, which allows license holders to legally carry guns on campus and inside university buildings. The new open-carry laws went into effect on August 1—the same day Texas marked the 50th anniversary of a mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin, when an engineering student and Marine veteran opened fire from atop the university clock tower, killing 14 people on campus, after having killed his wife and his mother.